- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 21, 2006

Traffic lights are still dark at a Logan Circle intersection near the site of an underground explosion earlier this month that popped manhole covers, shattered windows and caused hundreds of power outages.

The signals at the intersection of 13th and Q streets Northwest have been out since Oct. 7, following a series of explosions involving underground Potomac Electric Power Co. equipment.

Temporary orange stop signs have been placed at the intersection until the utility company repairs at least some of the damage.

Erik Linden, a D.C. Department of Transportation spokesman, said Pepco is expected to say tomorrow when the agency can go under the streets to restore the lights.

“Our goal is to have the signal up and running by Friday,” he said.

The blasts occurred in the early afternoon near the intersection, knocking out power to about 250 customers. No injuries were reported, but pedestrians were prevented from walking through the area.

The broken windows were limited to a seminary on the corner and two homes. The blasts were followed by smoke coming from the manholes. The D.C. fire department was called to the scene while utility crews checked the underground equipment for damage.

Fire officials said wires shorted, then burned through insulation. Old manhole covers without vents to release gasses and moisture also could have been a contributing factor.

The cause of the blast hasn’t been determined, but Pepco officials said Wednesday a large cable that brings power into the area developed problems that might have been related to the moisture, caused by heavy rain.

“The problem is … when you have cable burning up, your evidence is burning up, too,” said Pepco spokesman Robert Dobkin. “Often, you never really know the exact cause.”

The secondary cable likely burned into the primary cable, causing the larger explosion, he said.

“When you have 13,000 volts of energy grounding … it is a lightning bolt that creates an arc or bolt,” Mr. Dobkin said. “That creates a pressure wave that blows the manhole.”

The line failure could have been caused by rats chewing on the cable or normal expansion and contraction, he said. Occasionally gas, methane or another source aids the explosion, but Mr. Dobkin said it’s unknown if that was the case.

No formal investigation was conducted by the District, but Pepco will report anything it finds to the D.C. Public Service Commission, he said.

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