VIDEO: Underground fire causes exploding manholes


ST. PETERSBURGS, Fla. (WFLA) – Duke Energy crews worked Tuesday morning to restore power to businesses in downtown St. Petersburg after a transformer blew Monday night.

A massive underground fire caused the huge explosion. Man hole covers shot up on 3rd Street, near Central Avenue.

The fire caused 18 businesses to close. Burrito Boarder was one of them.

“We had to shut down the doors in the middle of business yesterday. Employees, customers were evacuated from the building,” manager Ryan Seal said.

Seal said they had to throw away all their food and start from scratch. He wasn’t going to be ready for Tuesday’s lunch rush.

“Today is Taco Tuesday, which is a very big day for us. Unfortunately we’re going to miss the beginning of that,” Seal said.

Other restaurants, including Crowley’s, were up and running when power was restored around 9 a.m.

“It was really wonderful. It was God sent almost,” Crowley’s manager Donna Lahra said.

The intense fire was captured on cell phone video. Smoke bellowed from the vault covers as firefighters stood by. The manhole covers rattled right before a loud explosion.

Crews replaced the transformer with a temporary one. A permanent fix will take several days, Duke Energy said.

Representatives with the company also said it will be a few days before an analysis team can say what happened.

Trouble with the transformer begin Sunday. Duke Energy crews shut the power off to do maintenance work because the transformer was smoking.

Duke Energy spokeswoman Suzanne Grant said she’s confident this won’t happen again.

“We have no reason to believe that this is going to be a repeat occurrence. We maintain our system regularly. We have excellent reliability. We’ve been looking at this system and we don’t believe they’ll be a problem in the future,” Grant said.

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