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Boom downtown caused by cable failure

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A boom followed by a flash and smoke from a Financial District manhole was not an explosion but a cable failure, according to PG&E.

Joe Molica, PG&E spokesman, said officials are trying to determine the 6:30 a.m. incident at the intersection of Battery and Pine Street. The failed cable will be sent to a forensics lab, he said.

San Francisco Fire Department Battalion Chief Denise Newman said three passersby reported what sounded like an explosion, followed by flames.

“Just a boom, a flash, and then smoke,” Newman said. “Someone down the block said their lights flickered.”
Molica said there was no fire.

“Sometimes when a cable fails, it can produce a loud noise and smoke,” he said. No customers lost power during the incident.

Battery Street was briefly closed to traffic while PG&E crews worked to fix the problem.

“Luckily, nothing bad happened except a little traffic jam,” Newman said.

Downtown traffic has been disrupted by other malfunctions in recent years.

On July 6, a morning explosion under a manhole near the Ross clothing store on Fourth and Market streets. The store lost power due to a failed network connector, PG&E said. No one was injured and a handful of Muni buses had to be rerouted.

A fireball erupted from a manhole at O’Farrell and Polk streets June 12, knocking out power to 8,600 PG&E customers. Four blocks were closed for days and a shelter-in-place order was issued due to toxic smoke.

Record-breaking heat April 20 caused another manhole to blow at Geary Boulevard and Baker Street, cutting power to the nearby Sutter Health’s California Medical Campus.

On Jan. 3, a small fire resulted following an underground explosion in the Tenderloin. No one lost power or was injured and the fire was quickly controlled.

tbarak@sfexaminer.com