About 800 electric customers in downtown Erie were still without power around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday and are expected to remain in the dark for much of the night.
Thick black smoke billowed from underground electrical systems after an underground electrical fire was reported at 5:54 p.m. at the northeast corner of East 10th and State Streets in downtown Erie.
No injuries were reported in the incident, but Erie County 911 dispatchers said power to the city center would be cut from 7:30 p.m.
Todd Meyers, a spokesperson for Penelec, said that around 9:30 p.m., the high temperatures in what Penelec calls an underground safe – described as the size of two freight vans – made the temperature too high for crews to be able to use. safely access or repair damage.
âWe suspect the fire could have been caused by a failed transformer. We believe two large underground cables may also have been damaged,â Meyers said.
âThey closed the network around 7:30 am,â he continued. “It was so that the guys who walk in it can safely make the necessary repairs.”
He said Erie firefighters poured water into the underground vault. In about two hours, temperatures dropped from about 200 degrees to 150 degrees.
âWe’re starting to go into the manholes on the outskirts to find out what we can from there,â Meyers said.
Because some of the backbone cables will likely need to be cut, “It’s probably going to last overnight and into the wee hours before we can pick up some of these clients,” Meyers said.
Millcreek Township residents Jonilee Hlusko, 66, and Chris Bowler, 62, said they were having a drink at Cloud 9 Wine Bar, 25 E. 10th St., about 150 meters away, when they were heard a loud explosion. They said it looked like a big fireworks display. Then they saw flames and smoke rising from the sidewalk on the south side of Jekyl & Hyde’s Gastropub, 8 E. 10th St.
Smoke was visible from 12th West and Greengarden Boulevard to the West.
This is a developing story. Return to GoErie.com for updates.