TUKWILA, Wash. - What happened along East Marginal Way in Tukwila has gotten the nation’s attention. The fact that 26 poles came crashing down in a cascading effect is very unusual. It’s left Seattle City Light baffled over a cause.
All 26 fallen poles have been hauled off as evidence and they will be inspected by a third party independent investigator.
As of Tuesday, crews were still at the scene repairing and replacing all the damage left behind.
We’ve seen the jaw dropping aftermath, a pole on top of a car. The terrifying incident happened Friday afternoon.
But new video shared by Tukwila Police on Tuesday takes us back to the very second it happened.
In a blink of an eye, a massive power pole crashes down onto Linda and Tom Cook.
“If it had hit the windshield and sunroof or it would have been off center one side or another it would have collapsed the roof on top of one of us,” Tom Cook said.
The couple were trapped inside their mangled SUV for about an hour with power lines in between them.
“The car could blow up, all types of things were going through my head,” Linda Cook said.
Another video from another angle captured a flashing light and another pole leaning then falling down near a cyclist.
“I would like to stand here and tell you that I know what caused it, but I don’t. We’ve ruled things out, but we've not ruled anything in,” Seattle City Lights CEO Debra Smith said.
Seattle City Light says they ruled out lightning as a cause. The flashing light caught on video was a spark from the power lines coming down. But they have not ruled out the weather and other aspects that could have played a role. What is puzzling is how fast the poles came down and on just one side of the street.
Right now the incident remains a mystery.
“Cascading events are very rare,” John Nierenberg with Tacoma Public Utilities said.
TPU cannot speak for what happened in Tukwila, but they are assuring their customers in Tacoma that the 48,000 power poles they are responsible for are checked thoroughly.
“We have an inspector that goes out that actually physically drills the poles, that we know the amount of the remaining strength of the pole, they do an assessment of the whole pole,” Nierenberg said.
TPU says they are also training workers all the time. Utility employees are trained to look out for various red flags.
“When we do our testing we are trying to dig down below the ground,” Nierenberg said.
He also added that weather plays a role.
“It’s very damp here, we end up with ground line rot that's the kind of thing we typically look out for,” Nierenberg said.
TPU says they look for damages after a storm event, and he encourages people to call in if they see a pole that needs work.
“If you notice branches or other things threatening our power systems let us know,” Nierenberg said.
Nierenberg also says to call them if you see vines or infestation growing on power poles.