Downtown Long Beach power is out again after another underground vault explosion, according to police.

As of 7 a.m. Friday, most power was restored, with Southern California Edison reporting about 300 customers left without power. City Hall is open. SCE says crews will start inspections of every underground vault in the area beginning at 10 a.m. today.

The explosion and fire took place about 4:45 p.m. Thursday at 10th Street and Locust Avenue. Streetlights were out all around the downtown area — initially from roughly Spring Avenue to Shoreline Drive and from Santa Fe Avenue to Alamitos Avenue — in the middle of the rush hour. Drivers reported traffic at a near standstill all around the downtown area.

A notice from the Long Beach Police Department urged people to stay away from the area between Pine and Locust avenues from Seventh to Anaheim streets, where there was concern that manhole covers would explode.

A second fire took place at Eighth Street and Pine Avenue, according to Fire Chief Mike DuRee. Both City Hall and the Police Department headquarters buildings are without power, and the Emergency Communications and Operations Center has been activated, with emergency operations being coordinated from there.

“This outage is actually larger than the one we had two weeks ago,” DuRee said. “SCE (Southern California Edison) is on site and trying to figure out what happened, but we have no indication of how long it will take to repair at this time.”

DuRee said that about 11,000 customers have lost power.

“That’s customers, not people,” DuRee said. “The Villa Riviera is one customer.”

SCE tweeted at about 6:30 p.m. that as many as 30,000 customers could be without power, but at 7:45 p.m. they reported that power had been restored to all except about 1,000 customers. Full service restoration is not expected until at least Friday daytime, SCE said.

City, police and fire public information officers are on site and will be tweeting every 15 minutes with updates. The Twitter handle to follow is @longbeachcity. Gazette Newspapers also will provide updates at @GrunionGazette.

This is the second major power outage this month. Similar fires on July 15 knocked power out downtown for nearly four days. Emergency relief efforts took place downtown, with a relief center set up at Cesar Chavez Park.

DuRee said the city response to the latest outage will be the same as two weeks ago, but faster and more coordinated because of the lessons learned. The vault fires are out, and no injuries have been reported, he added. One building downtown did suffer damage from a flying manhole cover, however.

The fire department issued a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) activation alert at 6:35 p.m. The alert asked CERT members to report to Locust Avenue and 10th Street to provide additional support. They were being asked to bring flashlights and water.

City officials at an 8 p.m. press conference said generators are currently being brought in to power the busiest intersections as well as keep the lights on at priority buildings, including senior living communities. The overnight emergency shelter was set to open at 11 p.m. Thursday at Chavez Park, near Fourth Street and Golden Avenue.

Throughout the outage, unlit intersections should be treated as four-way stops. Residents also are being urged not to use elevators and to use flashlights rather than candles.

Check back for further updates.

 

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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