As The Utility Company Repairs Vandalized Washington Substations, A “New Issue” Hampers Power Restoration: The power went out for even more homes in Pierce County, Washington, after a suspect or suspects broke into a fourth substation, damaged the equipment, and started a fire, according to an update from the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. On Sunday, thieves broke into three energy substations and damaged them, leaving thousands of customers without power.
Police told CNN in Pierce County that they have not found a motive or a suspect in the Christmas Day attacks. Public Information Officer Sgt. Darren Moss told CNN that law enforcement couldn’t say anything about how bad the damage was or how it was done. No one knows how much damage was done, but the police say that about 14,000 people lost power.
It’s only been a few weeks since another attack in North Carolina knocked out power for thousands of people for days and prompted the government to warn of extremist threats to the power grid. Tacoma Public Utilities said in a tweet on Tuesday afternoon that the power should be back on by 2 p.m. PT, which is three hours later than what was first expected.
“We know that our customers have been without power for a few long days,” the tweet said. During the final checks, our crews found another problem that needs to be fixed before a mobile substation can be used to restore power to about 650 customers.
The vandalism near Tacoma on Christmas Day was the latest of its kind in the state. In November, the FBI looked into two attacks on Puget Sound Energy substations. Last month, vandalism and intentional damage were found at substations in the southern parts of Washington and Oregon.
No suspects are in custody in the latest case affecting Puyallup and Graham, Washington. The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement on Sunday that they don’t know if there were any motives or if this was a coordinated attack on the power systems.
The FBI’s Seattle Division knew about the reports of vandalism, but it would neither confirm nor deny that it was involved in any investigation. It told CNN on Sunday, “We take threats against our infrastructure seriously and urge anyone with information to contact law enforcement.”
In a bulletin sent to private industry on November 22, the bureau warned about reports of threats to electricity infrastructure by people with racially or ethnically motivated extremist ideas who wanted to “cause civil disorder and inspire more violence.” Monday, Tacoma Public Utilities said that all customers should have power by the afternoon.
Nothing To Be Learned From Holiday Events
The sheriff’s office said that the Tacoma Public utility substation was broken into for the first time at 5:26 a.m. PT. “When deputies got to the scene, they saw that someone had broken through the fence,” the statement said.
“Nothing was taken from the substation, but the suspect broke the equipment, which caused the power to go out in the area.”
Then, a second break-in was reported at a different Tacoma Public utility substation, where equipment was damaged, and the door was forced open. In the same way, nothing was stolen. “Puget Sound Energy told us at 11:25 that they, too, had lost power at 2:39 a.m. this morning. The fenced area was broken into, and the equipment was damaged, so deputies are at the scene right now,” the statement said.
The sheriff’s office said that at 7:21 p.m. local time on Sunday, a call came in about a fire at another substation. When firefighters and people from Puget Sound Energy got there, they were able to put out the fire and secure the substation. Most of the homes that lost power have since had it turned back on, the update said.
Increased Dangers To Power Grids Have Been Observed
Anti-government groups have utilized internet forums over the past two years to encourage their supporters to launch attacks against vital infrastructures, such as the electrical system. They have published materials and instructions that outline vulnerabilities and propose using high-powered guns. This information and education have been uploaded online.
According to law enforcement sources quoted by CNN, investigators looking into the attacks on substations in Moore County, North Carolina, last month have zeroed in on two possible threads: extremists’ writings in online forums encouraging attacks on critical infrastructure and recent disruptions of LGBTQ+ events across the nation by domestic extremists. The attacks on the substations took place last month.
Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields stated at the time that the perpetrators of the crime “knew precisely what they were doing.” As a result of the outages that were caused, around 40,000 consumers were left in a state of disarray while the temperature dropped to the middle 40s. Schools and businesses were forced to close for several days before the power was restored.
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