Officials at JCP&L had determined by Thursday evening that an equipment failure in an underground electrical vault on South Street was the cause of a fire that sent thick black smoke into the air from several grates in front of
As a result, some 1,700 JCP&L customers located south and east of the area had still been without power several hours after the incident was first reported. That number had been reduced to 700 by about 10 p.m. Thursday.
Mayor Tim Dougherty said the row of businesses where the underground blast had occurred–, and –remained without power and some residents of nearby streets had reported power outages. The mayor said that part of South Street, from Hamilton Road to James Street, was expected to be closed off during repairs, which were expected to last through the night, according to a report from JCP&L spokesperson Stan Prater.
By early Friday afternoon, South Street had been reopened. However, maintenance crews continued to work on the equipment failure, and Walgreens, Rite Aid and Coldwell Banker remained closed.
Officials on scene initially described the incident as an apparent transformer explosion that occurred at about 4:30 p.m., but JCP&L spokesman Ron Morano said that hadn't been confirmed and later said it had been an equipment failure in an underground electrical vault. Smoke continued belching from street grates for about an hour, but had calmed down significantly by about 6 p.m. By that time, a storm appeared ready to start, and officials were contending with high winds.
Work to address the fire forced and onto backup power, and closed South Street from Hamilton Road to James Street. No injuries were reported in the blast.
Late Thursday afternoon, Dougherty said the hospital was having "no issue at this time" while on backup power. He also said officials were trying to reduce power at the Hamilton Court apartment building without having to completely cut off power to residents.
Morano said the hospital had been restored to full power by 6:40 p.m. Thursday.
Dougherty said a cooling center at Town Hall was reopened for Hamilton Court residents without air conditioning. Officials expected air conditioning to continue working at town hall while it was on backup power.
"It'll be open as long as we need," Dougherty said.
Business Administrator Michael Rogers said the fire department believes the apparent explosion was heat-related.
This incident follows several other recent underground blasts in Morristown, including the most recent––and perhaps the most infamous–.
When asked if there was any relation to any of these incidents, Morano said, "Morristown's network system has things under ground. If it was above ground, issues (could also) occur. This just so happens to be subterranean.
"This occurred in one of the vaults. There are many that serve Morristown," he said. "It's an equipment failure. An equipment failure can happen at any point along an electrical system. ... We'll continue to investigate."