A roaring sound and smoke coming from the street is how some residents described an explosion below street level that resulted in a power outage on Christmas Eve in the area around the intersection Indiana Street and Thurman Ave. in Porterville. 

“At first we thought someone was racing in one of those vehicles [because of the] loud roaring sound, then the smoke and explosion, then it happened again,” described Mary Hunt, an eyewitness who was driving through the area as the incident happened. “We pulled up behind a pickup on the other side of that driveway and called 9-1-1. We then were able to see it was the road.”

Several utility trucks gathered shortly afterward at the scene of the explosion, which was strong enough to dislodge large slabs of pavement several inches thick on street level.

Mary Ann Milbourn, media advisor for Southern California Edison, said the outage began at 3:18 p.m. and affected 2,095 customers. The outage was caused by an underground cable problem on Indiana south of Morton, and all power was restored an hour later at 4:19 p.m. SCE gave no further information on what caused the explosion.

“Underlying power lines are aesthetically nice because you don’t see them, but one of the issues is when you have a problem with them, sometimes it takes a while for them to figure out what the problem is,” added Milbourn. “Fortunately they were able to connect those volts to different circuits to restore power fairly quickly while they fixed the actual underground power.”

The outage affected residents as far south as Olive Ave. and as far north as Mulberry Ave. in an area between Porter Street and Woods Street.

Michael L. Knight, deputy public works director field services manager for the City of Porterville, said there was no water leak that contributed to the explosion. 

“To our understanding this was not caused by any of the city water or leaks or anything like that,” said Knight. 

Will Lloyd, a Porterville resident, described the scene of the outage. 

“The explosion created a big, deep pavement hole,” said Lloyd, adding there were two cars parked on each side of the hole, and neither were occupied by people. “It looked like a five - foot by four - foot hole, which exposed about a three-foot giant pipe that was coming vertical out of the ground.”

For emergency services and outages, the public is encouraged to call 1-800-611-1911, or if you see a fallen wire, leave it to the experts, stay away and call 9-1-1 immediately.

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