Substations damaged in Christmas attacks as thousands left without power

Three substations in Pierce County, Washington were destroyed on Christmas Day, cutting off power to 14,000 people.

According to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, two of the incidents were reported at Tacoma Public Utilities (TPU) substations, while another break-in occurred at a Puget Sound Energy station.

The first was reported at 5:26 a.m. Dec. 25 at the TPU substation at 22312 46th Ave E., according to the sheriff’s office.

“The deputies arrived on site and saw that the fenced off area was being entered by force. Nothing was taken from the substation, but the suspect destroyed the equipment and caused a power outage in the area,” the sheriff’s office said in a release.

In this photo, the Naughton substation at the Naughton Coal Power Plant on November 22, 2022 in Kemmerer, Wyoming. Three substations were destroyed in Washington state on Christmas Day, leaving thousands without power.
Natalie Behring/Getty Images

A second incident was later reported at the TPU substation at 8820 224th St E, where deputies found signs of forced entry and damage to equipment, but again reported nothing had been taken from the site.

At 11:25 a.m., Puget Sound Energy reported being without power since the early hours of the morning. Deputies called to the site found signs of forced entry and damage to the facility.

Police have yet to arrest a suspect, and they don’t currently know if the three burglaries are linked. “It is not known if there is any motive or if this was a coordinated attack on power systems,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement.

While investigations are ongoing, thousands are still affected by the attacks.

On Christmas Day, Tacoma Public Utilities reported that 7,300 were without power as a result of the attacks on the three substations. Later in the day, the company wrote that the impact on their system “was more severe in some places than initial testing indicated.”

According to the company, some customers will have to wait until 8 a.m. local time on Monday for their power to be restored.

“We know this incident has impacted many people’s holiday celebrations and our crews are working hard to safely restore power to all customers as soon as possible,” the company said wrote on twitter.

news week has reached out to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office for comment.

The incidents are the latest in a long line of attacks targeting substations in the Pacific Northwest.

The US power grid has reportedly been attacked at least six times in Oregon and western Washington since mid-November.

Last month, the Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin warning of potential attacks on critical U.S. infrastructure, saying that “individuals and small groups motivated by a range of ideological beliefs and/or personal grievances” continue to face “an ongoing and “pose a deadly threat” to the country.

“Targetes of potential violence include public gatherings, religious institutions, the LGBTQI+ community, schools, racial and religious minorities, government agencies and personnel, critical US infrastructure, the media and perceived ideological opponents,” the bulletin said.

Three days later, two substations in North Carolina were destroyed, cutting off power to up to 45,000 people and prompting local officials to declare a state of emergency.

The incidents are still not attributed, but the move has delighted far-right communities, which have long waged a campaign threatening to attack the country’s power grid.

Federal law enforcement is now investigating the attacks, along with gunshots that were fired days later near a South Carolina power plant. Substations damaged in Christmas attacks as thousands left without power

Rick Schindler

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