- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 8, 2006

Potomac Electric Power Co. officials say they will begin a formal investigation today into what caused a series of underground manhole explosions in Northwest over the weekend.

The blasts occurred in Logan Circle at about 1 p.m. Saturday near 13th and Q streets, shattering windows in nearby buildings and leaving dozens without power.

“Maybe by the end of the day we will know what happened,” Pepco spokeswoman Mary-Beth Hutchinson said yesterday. “It is too early to know what caused the explosions.”

Company officials so far have said only that a secondary power line was burned and that they do not think the explosions were caused by their equipment.

“People were describing explosions, but our transformers would only pop loudly,” Miss Hutchinson said.

She also said there were five explosions, including three while the D.C. fire department was on the scene.

Utility crews restored power to about 30 customers several hours after the incident, Miss Hutchinson said.

Alan Etter, a fire department spokesman, said Saturday that most of the damage was to a Baptist seminary on the corner and to two homes.

Fire officials did not respond to calls yesterday.

No injuries were reported, but pedestrians were prevented from walking through the area.

Miss Hutchinson said D.C. agencies likely will be involved in the investigation.

Manhole explosions in 2000 in Georgetown and near the White House that prompted investigations by D.C. and federal officials. The blasts led to a massive, multimillion-dollar upgrade of underground utilities in Georgetown.

Another manhole explosion in 2001 left 16 businesses in Chevy Chase Center without power, and last year an underground transformer explosion caused the evacuation of several buildings in Northwest, including the World Bank headquarters.

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