How Washington agencies are gearing up for stormy weather, preparing for outages

Waking up after a storm can be a little scary. Not “hide under the covers” scary, more like you missed your morning alarms because your phone died after the storm caused an overnight outage and now, you’re running late for work, and it’s rush hour scary.

Luckily agencies like Tacoma Public Utilities, Lumen Technologies (formerly CenturyLink), and Washington’s Department of Transportation are just some of the power, internet, and government agencies in the area that understand how important it is to keep customers connected and protected from weather elements at all costs.

“Normally around this time of year, or just before, we work on brushing up on our incident command structure and making sure we have all the roles filled so we can assist all of our normal system operations,” said John Neirenberg with Tacoma Public Utilities on Tuesday afternoon.

Neirenberg also told us that like many agencies handling power, water, or utility needs, “we’re working with other emergency management teams so that we’re in concert with the work that they’re doing.”

Washington’s Department of Transportation also turns to other emergency management teams, even relying on forecast information from NOAA or the National Weather Service to make decisions regarding their seasonal operations.

As we buckle down and face the weather that comes with Fall, Tina Werner, a spokesperson for WSDOT told us that some of the operations right now include but are not limited to, “storm drain clearing, they may be out sweeping shoulders of a roadway and making sure those storm drains are actually draining in the way that they are intended too.”

We also reached out to Lumen Technologies (formerly CenturyLink) because we have all experienced at one time or another the frustrations that come when your internet is down. When asked about their Fall weather preparations, Lumen Technologies replied and said in a statement:

At Lumen, being prepared for severe weather is a priority for us and one we take very seriously. Customers in the Seattle area can rest assured that our teams are engaged and monitoring the weather situation and our equipment to protect customer services. Should there be a significant storm, we have taken steps to confirm that our backup systems and emergency generators are in place at core sites in the event commercial power becomes unavailable. Vendor support teams have also been engaged and are on standby to assist should it be necessary. - Lumen Technologies

Now it’s often said that preparation is the key to success and the best way to navigate unpredictable weather events is to know what resources are available to you.

When asked, both Tacoma Public Utilities and WSDOT told us that social media (X, Instagram, and Facebook) are the best channels to receive current and up-to-date information about specific events.

For power outages, Tacoma Public Utility customers can check the outage map, here. Puget Sound Energy customers can check the outage map for their area, here. Both maps will also share estimated restoration times for those experiencing an outage.

For your home or car, another useful item to keep close is a “bug out bag” or roadside emergency kit (both if you want to be double prepared). These bags/kits are full of basic items to get you by in the event of a weather or roadside emergency. What you need or want will vary but Puget Sound Energy has a comprehensive list of items that are certainly good to have and a great place to start if you’re stumped.

You can also find pre-made kits online.