Mayor Ed Murray came to Greenwood at 12:50 p.m. today to tour the site of this morning’s major explosion in downtown Greenwood. At a press conference later, he said, “This is a significant devastation of a neighborhood district in the city of Seattle.”
The explosion made national news today, with an NBC reporter even flying up from Los Angeles to cover the story. Dozens of reporters and photographers were crowded under and around a tiny tent during the soggy press conference with Mayor Murray, Fire Chief Harold Scoggins, Puget Sound Energy spokesman Andy Wappler and several other officials from city departments, including the Department of Neighborhoods and the Office of Economic Development. Murray said those city departments will work with affected businesses to assess their needs.
Wappler said natural gas lines are inspected every three years, but he didn’t know the date of this line’s last inspection. He said the investigation would determine that, as well as how old the line is.
Ray Lane with Puget Sound Energy told me, “We don’t have a lot of specifics right now” on what caused the blast, but Fire Chief Harold Scoggins did say they determined the cause to be accidental.
The mayor said up to three dozen businesses were affected by broken windows and other damage. He said Seattle Police would have an increased presence in the neighborhood while all windows are replaced, to keep those businesses safe.
All nine firefighters who were hurt in the explosion have been released from Harborview Medical Center. Some of those firefighters were on 85th Street while others were on Greenwood Avenue, investigating the initial gas leak and were injured by flying debris from the explosion. Seattle Fire Public Information Officer Corey Orvold told me that four of the firefighters were from Station 21 just up the street from the blast site, four were from Station 31 in Northgate, and the Battalion Commander was from Station 17 in the U-District. Station 21’s motto is “Defenders of Greenwood.”
As of this afternoon, Greenwood Avenue was closed to vehicles from North 80th to 87th streets. Pedestrians can walk on Greenwood sidewalks between 80th and 83rd before access is cut off. This afternoon the street was filled with Seattle Fire Department incident response trucks, Puget Sound Energy trucks, backhoes and vans from businesses replacing glass in storefront windows.
Tony’s Greenwood Autobody shop more than two blocks away had a sign in the window saying they were closed as a precautionary measure. Coyle’s Bakeshop, a block and a half away from the site, had one large window blown out and was closed for the day. A neighbor told me Coyle’s employees set up a table near the site this morning to provide free baked goods to first responders.
Crews continued to clean up broken glass this afternoon.
And fire crews were still spraying water on the hot spots, despite the pouring rain.
Jeannette Hayes lives at 80th and 5th Avenue NW and was woken up by the explosion, telling me she thought something hit her house. PhinneyWood has received dozens of tips from people saying they felt the explosion as far away as Shoreline.
Chris Maykut, owner of Chaco Canyon Organic Café, which is directly across the street from the site, said most of his windows were blown out and chairs and tables knocked over, but the business still has electricity, so his food won’t spoil. This is especially good news since the Greenwood café is the commissary kitchen for Chaco Canyon’s other two locations, in West Seattle and the U-District.
“It could be a two-hour cleanup or it could be a lot worse. We won’t know until we get back in there,” he said. He went on to say how thankful he was that no one was seriously hurt. “This is a bummer, but not a tragedy,” he said.
The Phinney Neighborhood Association has set up a special web page with information on how neighbors can help. There’s a link to a secure donation page, a list of other fundraising efforts, and a link to sign up to help when volunteer needs are determined. Donations can also be mailed to: PNA – Greenwood Relief Fund, 6532 Phinney Ave. N.; Seattle, WA 98103.