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Power restored at vandalized Washington state substations


Power is back on in thousands of homes that were left in the dark after four electrical substations in western Washington were vandalized on Christmas Day, local authorities said Monday, adding that it was unknown whether the incidents were connected. 

The attacks on Sunday cut power to more than 14,000 utility customers in south Pierce County, near Tacoma, the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office said. 

The burglaries were reported at two substations belonging to Tacoma Public Utilities and two belonging to Puget Sound Energy. 

Deputies saw forced entry into the fenced-in area at all four substations. Equipment was vandalized, but “nothing had been taken” from the substations, the department said. 

“At this time deputies are conducting the initial investigation. We do not have any suspects in custody. It is unknown if there are any motives or if this was a coordinated attack on the power systems,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement. 

Power was restored to all affected Tacoma Public Utilities customers by Monday afternoon after the utility deployed a mobile substation in the final hours of the restoration, it said on Twitter. Puget Sound Energy also restored power to all customers impacted by damaged substations, spokesperson Gerald Tracy told USA TODAY Tuesday morning.

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Authorities have not said what type of vandalism was involved, but a fire was reported at one of the substations belonging to Puget Sound Energy and Tacoma Public Utilities called the damage “intentional” on Twitter. 

Tacoma Public Utilities was warned by federal authorities earlier this month of a “security alert” on their electric grid, the utility said in a statement.

The four attacks follow other warnings and advisories from federal officials of possible domestic terrorism attacks on the U.S. power grid. Similar attacks have been reported in Washington, Oregon and North Carolina since November. 

A large outage in North Carolina that began on Dec. 3 cut power to tens of thousands of people and took days to repair. Officials had called the outage a “targeted” attack. 

Days before the incident, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin through its National Terrorism Advisory System warning that “lone offenders and small groups” may attack various targets, including critical infrastructure. 

In January, DHS warned that domestic extremists have been developing “credible, specific plans” to attack electricity infrastructure since at least 2020. 

Oregon Public Broadcasting and KUOW-FM in Seattle reported earlier this month that numerous power companies had reported six separate attacks on electrical substations in Washington and Oregon in the previous weeks. 

Contributing: The Associated Press

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