10 Underground explosions send smoke flying through Atlanta, officials say

Major streets in Atlanta were blocked due to an underground electrical explosion Feb. 6.

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Major streets in Atlanta were blocked due to an underground electrical explosion Feb. 6.

Ten "very large explosions" sent thick smoke into the air in Atlanta's Midtown neighborhood and shut down major streets during the height of the Wednesday morning commute, according to authorities.

Atlanta Fire Rescue spokesman Sgt. Cortez Stafford said rainwater runoff may have caused an underground transformer to explode in the area. No one was injured in the explosions and there was no apparent damage to Emory University Hospital Midtown, which next to where the explosions occurred, he said.

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When firefighters arrived at 8 a.m., Stafford said the breakers on another street had already tripped.

“That cut the power that was going to those transformers, which in turn put the fire out and caused the explosions to cease,” he said. The smoke eventually dissipated.

Authorities closed a multiple streets, most of which reopened before 3 p.m.

Witnesses tweeted videos from the scene showing a series of quick, loud pops and flashes of light coming from grates under the sidewalk near the hospital. According to Georgia Power, those grates are intended to ventilate the underground area, where the transformer is housed.

When things quieted down, thick plumes of smoke were seen rising several stories into the air over Peachtree Street. John Kraft, a spokesman for Georgia Power, said it appears the issue is isolated to a single transformer.

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Initially, officials said two or three manholes were "blown off" from the power of the explosion.

"After further investigation and speaking with Georgia Power representatives, we can confirm that no manhole covers were 'blown off' as initial reports from 911 calls indicated," Atlanta Fire Rescue said in a statement posted to Twitter Wednesday afternoon.

The hospital operated on backup power for a time, officials with Emory Healthcare told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Power has since been restored to the hospital.

"There were no injuries and patient care continues at the hospital as normal," spokeswoman Janet Christenbury said in a statement. "No evacuations were necessary, but some patients were moved within a care unit to ensure their safety."

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