Downtown Transformer Explosion Under Investigation

POTTSTOWN PA – An underground electrical transformer explosion early Friday (March 19, 2021) sent a heavy steel manhole cover flying skyward in downtown Pottstown, shattering a few windows in nearby buildings, and was accompanied by tentacles of a below-street fire that extended for up to three blocks. It is now extinguished, but remained under investigation more than 12 hours later.

No one was reported injured.

Downtown Transformer Explosion Under Investigation

The first of several alerts from emergency dispatchers, urging fire departments and companies within a 25-mile radius (above) to respond to the scene at High and Hanover streets in the borough, went out at 3:53 a.m. A shelter-in-place order to some residents in downtown apartments followed, and wasn’t lifted until 5 p.m.

Vehicular traffic at the heart of downtown was re-routed by fire police for two blocks in any direction. Ironically, the trains still ran on time. Norfolk Southern locomotives, their horns blaring, twice cut through the borough during the morning chaos along tracks near Queen Street at the southern edge of the fire site.

Downtown Transformer Explosion Under Investigation

Electrical power to a portion of downtown was cut by PECO Energy (above), reportedly so firefighters could flood tunnels beneath the streets to douse the flames. The utility company estimated between 100 and 300 people were without power at some point during the day.

Downtown Transformer Explosion Under Investigation

Squads of suited firefighters waited patiently (above) to be assigned tasks by commanders on scene, operating in part from a Montgomery County mobile communications center brought in for the purpose. Some of them went from door-to-door in the area, talking to store owners and apartment dwellers individually about what was happening down on and beneath the streets. Some were evacuated, and provided with alternative lodging for a time.

Photos by The Post