Video: Close call as underground transformer explodes

- Video taken by two women in downtown St. Petersburg illustrates just how violent Monday afternoon's underground transformer blast was.

The footage, shared by Vanessa Herring and Hannah Rebholz, shows dark smoke billowing from a manhole along 3rd Street N, between 1st Avenue and Central.  That's not far from where the women work, they explained.

"We were super close because we called [the fire department] in the first place," Rebholz explained.  "We saw the little bit of smoke coming from the same grates that blew the day before. We work right there so it was pretty important to get [firefighters] out there in time."

With popping from the underground fire clearly audible, emergency crews cordoned off the sidewalk.  The footage shows several firefighters standing just outside the caution tape, monitoring the increasingly menacing-looking smoke.

"Stand back, guys," one of the women can be heard yelling to the firefighters in the footage, just before an explosion.

The blast sent everyone running as flames erupted from the manhole.  Luckily, Rebholz said, no one was injured.

The transformer fire caused a wide blackout.  Power was out for much of the area through the night, but had mostly been restored by 9 a.m. thanks to a temporary transformer. Within a few days, Duke Energy says a permanent transformer will be in operation. 

Meanwhile, Duke Energy officials remain on the scene, working the with St. Pete Fire Rescue deputy fire marshal to determine what caused the fire.

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