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Chinatown Copes With Long Power Outage

Liz Jones

The power is back on Wednesday in Seattle's International District. The city scheduled a 20–hour outage there to make some electrical upgrades.

Residents and businesses planned for a full night and day without lights, refrigerators and TV, but the work finished ahead of schedule, as KUOW's Liz Jones reports.


The outage covered a six–block area in Seattle's Chinatown neighborhood. That includes the large Asian market, Uwajimaya.

Alan Hamada is the store director. He says they spent up to $20,000 to keep the store open. That went toward a generator and extra security.

Hamada: "For us, yeah, it's really was a no–brainer. It's really no choice for us. Just to stay open and lose money is better than losing a lot of money."

He says business slowed down a little, but he understands it's a tradeoff.

Hamada: "So hopefully there are benefits that if there are power outages in the future, it's, you know, it'll just be a blip. We're keeping our fingers crossed."

Seattle City Light scheduled the outage to install a new power line. A spokesman says that upgrade means future outages here should be quicker to fix.

The outage ended in the morning, about eight hours ahead of schedule.

By then, several smaller businesses nearby had already posted handwritten signs reading "closed for the day."

But a few brought in generators to keep their fish tanks and refrigerators running.

Market Owner: "Debit? No. No debit."

It was cash only at Union Street Market. The generator only had enough juice for the register and ice cream freezer: No ATM, no credit card transactions.

The owner declined to give his name. He said he was too upset. He owns a second store in the outage area and he'd already given employees the day off. So even with the shortened outage, he says he couldn't open his store and re–coup some losses.

Market Owner: "I know life is sometimes unfair, but this is one of the days. No microwave, no hot water."

Seattle City Light says it has no plans for similar work in other parts of the city.

I'm Liz Jones, KUOW News.

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