BELLINGHAM -- Several dozen businesses in downtown Bellingham closed their doors early Wdnesday, Dec. 19, after problems at a transformer knocked out power shortly after 1:30 p.m. Puget Sound Energy spokesman Roger Thompson said the outage affected about 100 commercial customers on portions of North State Street and Railroad Avenue, including the Herald Building.
Crews initially found charring on a fuse in a transformer on Railroad Avenue, Thompson said, but it was unclear if Wednesdays windy weather caused the damage. The strongest wind gusts recorded at Bellingham International Airport around the time of the outage were about 40 mph, according to the National Weather Service. PSE also responded to other small outages in the county.
Some time in the afternoon, crews were able to reroute power to restore service to about half of the downtown customers affected by the outage. The other half had longer to wait, as crews found more extensive damage to insulators that required significantly more work to replace. Power was restored to all customers about 7:15 p.m.
A woman who was in an elevator in the Herald Building at the time of the outage became trapped between floors, but firefighters were able to get her to safety.
At Jimmy John's restaurant on Railroad Avenue, owner Lothar Taylor had to rent a refrigerated truck to store frozen foods, and employees put perishables on ice in coolers and into the back of Taylor's truck. "The biggest refrigerator we have is Mother Nature right now," he said.
Bob's Burgers & Brew, 20th Century Bowling and Key Bank were among the more than 40 businesses from Magnolia to Chestnut streets that had to close early because of the outage.
The outage affected intersections at Railroad and Holly, State and Chestnut, State and Holly, and State and Magnolia. Without lights, there was plenty of honking as some drivers were blowing through the intersections without stopping or weren't properly waiting their turn.
The Bellingham Police Department didn't have enough manpower to direct traffic at all the intersections, said Sgt. Mike Scanlon, noting that handling unlit intersections is one of the basics covered in driver's education.
"Hopefully, driver's ed returns to everybody when they see a darkened intersection," he said.