Tonawanda News

The City

November 22, 2012

Electrical mishap darkens city block

Tonawanda News — Power was lost to an entire block home to several City of Tonawanda businesses Wednesday evening following what officials believe was an underground electrical fire and possible explosion.

A business plaza home to Beijing Garden restaurant, Dollar General and other storefronts between Main and Seymour streets sat darkened on Thanksgiving eve, after proprietors reported feeling the building shake before black smoke could be seen pouring from a nearby manhole.

No significant structural damage or injuries were reported. 

“All of a sudden we felt some shaking and there was dark smoke coming out of the sewer,” Ming Ong, owner of the Chinese restaurant, said.

City of Tonawanda Fire Chief Charles Stuart said the grate issuing smoke was located next to a manhole leading to an underground power junction, where some sort of fire accompanied by an explosion had taken place.

Ong said that was followed by lights blinking on and off in her restaurant, before going out completely.

“Today’s a busy day — the day before Thanksgiving,” she said, adding the restaurant probably lost about a half day’s worth of business to the outage.

The plaza, also home to a Subway franchise, is owned by Benderson Development. Across the parking lot, the outage and subsequent response also darkened nearby Rite Aid, McDonalds and a Citizen’s Bank branch.

Employees of the pharmacy were seen toting coolers into the store just before 7 p.m., and firefighters and officials from National Grid worked to investigate the cause of the smoke, which had ceased.

An acrid smell of burning electrical components hung in the air.

Stuart said a 911 call came in at 5 p.m., but the explosion happened around 3 p.m.

In the meantime, it appears business tenants were unsure of what exactly had happened, and Stuart said Benderson reported getting calls about the smoke during the ensuring two hours, which were related to responders.

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