Inslee’s office worried about ‘increased threats to our utilities’

Gov. Jay Inslee

Gov. Jay Inslee

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is one of many people concerned about what appears to be the intentional sabotage of several electric substations in his state, cutting off thousands of people from electricity during extreme winter weather events.

“We are aware of increased threats to our utilities and are monitoring threat activity, as we play a support and coordination role with federal and local governments and individual utilities,” Jaime Smith, director of communications for the governor’s office, told The Center Square Tuesday.

At present, the Governor’s Office is offering reinforcement, not recommendations.

“We defer to utilities and the appropriate law enforcement agencies working with them to describe any specific threats they've received or experienced,” Smith added.

Four electricity substations in the Tacoma area were attacked Dec. 25 – Christmas Day – affecting thousands of customers, according to authorities.

The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department estimated that 14,000 homes and businesses were affected at one point on Dec. 25 when a person or people broke into the three facilities and vandalized equipment.

On Christmas night, the department indicated there was one more incident that evening at another Puget Sound Energy substation.

“This is the 4th incident at a Power Substation in South Pierce County on Christmas Day. All law enforcement agencies in the county have been notified of the incidents and will be monitoring power substations in their area,” the department said in a same-day statement. “At this time power has been restored to most of the affected homes.”

A wintry mix comprised mostly of freezing rain covered the Pacific Northwest in traffic-snarling ice right before the Christmas weekend and shut down Seattle-Tacoma International Airport for a time. Warmer weather moved through the Puget Sound area on Christmas Eve and melted some of that ice right before Christmas Day.

There have been a recent string of electrical grid attacks beyond Washington, including substations in Oregon, Florida and North Carolina being struck.


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