Three substations attacked in Washington state
Three electrical substations in the Tacoma, Washington state area were attacked on Sunday, affecting up to 14,000 customers, authorities said.
The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department described the morning attacks on two Tacoma utility substations and a Puget Sound Energy facility as acts of vandalism, the officials unidentified.
“It is unclear if there are motives or if this was a coordinated attack on electrical systems,” the sheriff’s department said in a statement.
The agency estimated the number of homes and businesses affected was 14,000 at one point on Sunday.
Tacoma Public Utilities said more than 7,000 of its customers in the communities of Graham and Elk Plain were without power Sunday and it was continuing to work on restoration late into the day.
Puget Sound Energy said on its website that more than 1,200 customers were without power on Sunday – the vast majority having been reconnected – but it was unclear whether this was related to the attack. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
It appears power for many of those TPU customers has been restored – national outage tracker PowerOutage.us reported late Sunday afternoon that fewer than 5,000 customers remained in the dark across the state .
In a statement, TPU said, “Two of our substations were deliberately targeted with physical attacks.”
The sheriff’s department said one or more people broke into facilities and vandalized equipment during each of those attacks, the first of which was reported at 2:39 a.m.
TPU said federal law enforcement this month alerted it to the possibility of attacks and recommended a security assessment. He would not say what action, if any, he took.
At the same time, Oregon Public Broadcasting and Seattle-based public radio KUOW reported that separate attacks on six substations operated by Portland General Electric, the Bonneville Power Administration, Cowlitz County Public Utility District, and Puget Sound Energy in Washington and Oregon had taken place in mid-November. The incidents allegedly included violations of utility properties, the outlets said.
On December 3, vandals attacked two Duke Energy substations in Moore County, North Carolina, leaving 45,000 customers in the dark for more than three days, officials said. Persons armed with guns opened fire and, in one case, entered a facility, they said, and remained unresolved nearly a month later.
As power was restored to the last of North Carolina’s customers on Dec. 7, someone opened fire near a Duke Energy hydroelectric facility in Ridgeway, South Carolina, about 130 miles north. southern Moore County. Federal investigators were comparing ballistic evidence from the two attacks to determine if they were related.
Investigators investigating the North Carolina attacks were looking at online conspiracy theories to determine if any played a role, two senior law enforcement officials briefed on the matter said this month. affair.
One prevailing theory was that the outages were to shut down a drag show, “Downtown Divas,” at the Sunrise Theater in Southern Pines, North Carolina. Anti-LGBTQ protesters targeted the spot in the days leading up to the Saturday night event, which continued in the dark before ending early.
Power infrastructure has long been on the wish list of white supremacists and other right-wing extremists seeking American “destabilize,” said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. . in February.
Earlier this year, three men pleaded guilty in connection with a conspiracy to disrupt the power grid, sow civil unrest and economic uncertainty, and ultimately start a race war, federal prosecutors said at the time. .
There is no indication that the attacks in Washington, Oregon and the Carolinas shared similar motives. Saturday’s attacks in the Tacoma area were still under investigation.
Eric Mendoza contributed.