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Explosion At Norristown PECO Site

By KYW's Kim Glovas An explosion at a PECO Energy substation sent black smoke billowing into the sky over Norristown Sunday night. PECO says, however, it will be some time before the cause can be determined.

The explosion rocked the Barbados Island substation, and at one point, sent flames shooting 100-feet into the air. PECO's Mike Wood:

"We had a fire resulting from a failure of two large power transformers at Barbados substation. These are huge power equipment and they contain oil, large quantities of oil, to insulate the equipment. It's an oil-fueled fire, and it was quite active at one point."

Wood says the fire was contained to the substation, by moats around the facility. Some customers lost power temporarily, but PECO rerouted service.

No one was hurt in the fire. The substation was not staffed.

The Department of Environmental Protection, local fire crews and PECO's own fire brigade stayed on site through the night, to monitor the fire.

-- Carl Jenkins (, October 17, 2000


There seem to have been a lot of these substation fires and explosions this year. Mostly unexplained. Does anyone knows any actual reasons why transformers or circuit-breakers should be exploding?

-- clivus nondog (, October 17, 2000.

Maybe carbon dust. They should be cleaning this switch gear.

-- David Williams (, October 17, 2000.

clivus, could some of this be due to voltage spikes induced by Solarmax (the current peak in the 11-year solar cycle)? if so, one would expect a relationship to specific dates of peak solar activity (see and latitude (more danger closer to the poles).

One of the astronomy magazines ran a photo of the exploded transformer that caused the 1989 sun-induced Canadian outbreak. Very impressive damage. (I think it was Sky and Telescope earlier this year.)

Just clueless speculation from an amateur astronomer but non-engineer.

--Andre in southcentral Pennsylvania

-- Andre Weltman (, October 17, 2000.

Squirrels. I think the mild winter increased the squirrel population and they have taken over the electrical system. I can't count how many stories I have posted where the furry little varmits have done damage to the system. Just an opinion from a retired Meteorologist.

-- Martin Thompson (, October 17, 2000.

Umm, I wrote "outbreak" but I meant "blackout." (You can tell what I do for a living, investigating disease outbreaks...)

In any event, the loss of power to some 6 million people was blamed quite specifically on solar storms. Not the first time nor likely to be the last time that occurs, although the electric cos are said to be more prepared this time than they were a decade ago.

-- Andre Weltman (, October 17, 2000.

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