Something went very wrong Thursday morning when a Simpson Lumber train hauled a log loader through downtown Shelton.
The log loader, a towering piece of heavy equipment used to move logs, did not have clearance under the power lines in a residential neighborhood as the train moving it lumbered through town.
When the top of the log loader on the moving train caught on a power line about 10:20 a.m., it snapped five power poles like twigs and dragged them into Cota Street from Eighth to Tenth avenues. The snapped lines resulted in a loss of electricity to 700 customers, Joel Myer, Mason County PUD 3 spokesman, said Thursday.
As of 2 p.m. Thursday, the number of outages in Shelton was down to 400, Myer said. The utility hopes to have the main power line on Cota Street repaired by 7 p.m. Thursday, but it could take longer than that before everyone’s power is restored in the affected neighborhoods, he added.
One woman driving on Cota Street had a bundle of power lines fall directly on her car during the accident, but she knew to remain in her vehicle until Mason County PUD workers could safely remove her, Myer said.
It was a chaotic scene in downtown Shelton Thursday morning, with power lines lying in the street like limp spaghetti, and broken power poles leaning sideways against the sides of homes.
Luckily, the Mason County PUD 3 system worked exactly as it is supposed to in such circumstances, and a breaker at a substation automatically cut electricity to the affected lines, so the wires in the street were not “live,” Myer said. The breaker detected a short when the cables were being damaged and pulled by the train, and a nearby circuit breaker opened at the substation cutting the flow of electricity, Myer said.
Myer cautioned that even though the wires were not live, when a downed wire is lying in the street it should always be treated as though it is live, and people should not go near them or touch them. “The wires are dead, but we treat them as live, just in case,” he said.
Officials at Simpson Lumber could not be reached for comment Thursday. Simpson Lumber employees at the scene Thursday morning declined to comment.
Onlookers in Shelton said Simpson should have know it was making a mistake when it decided to haul the log loader through town on a train.
“Look how high that is, that’s ridiculous,” Shelton resident Gerald Goldsby said, pointing at the log loader. “There should have been more discretion than to load that. That should never have happened.”
Shelton Police Lt. Les Watson said Thursday that officers are still gathering information about what happened. He said it’s possible that another agency, perhaps with the state or federal government, will wind up investigating.
Shannell Yorke, arrived to her Cota Street home Thursday to find that a downed power line had ripped the gutters off her roof, and a power line was lying sideways against the side of the residence. She said she has insurance, so she’s not too worried.
Barbara Herman, who lives on Cota Street directly across the train tracks where the power lines fell, said she was frightened by a loud “pop,” Thursday morning. “They should have known it was too big just to go across there,” she said of the log loader.