Several hundred businesses and homes along Lycoming Creek Road were without power for about an hour late Tuesday morning after a member of a private contractor's crew accidentally struck an underground main feeder cable line in the 2800 block of Lycoming Creek Road.
"There were fireballs shooting out of the hole," said an employee at Alexander Subaru. "They were like the size of softballs," the employee, who did not give his name, added.
The contractor reportedly was digging a hole in order to inspect the condition of the base of a utility pole when the incident occurred just before 11 a.m., according to people at the scene.
PHILIP A. HOLMES/Sun-Gazette
PPL crews respond to Alexander Subaru on Lycoming Creek Road late Tuesday morning in order to restore service to nearly 1,200 customers.
No one was hurt, but the worker, an employee of Osmose Utility Services Inc., was shaken up and became ill from the ordeal, according to witnesses. The employee was treated at the scene by paramedics, but declined to go the hospital.
It initially was reported that someone had been electrocuted, but that was not accurate.
"There were three explosions, about 5 to 10 seconds apart," Rome Malizia, another employee at the dealership, said.
"There were puffs of smoke (coming from the hole)," he added.
A PPL spokeswoman said 1,180 customers were without power for about an hour after the mishap.
The employee was wearing protective gloves when he accidentally struck the cable with a fiberglass shovel, the spokeswoman said.
When the power went out, Old Lycoming Township volunteer fire police scrambled to assist with directing traffic at traffic lights that suddenly stopped working.
Cash registers at many businesses could not be opened during the outage. A customer having his car served at a repair shop on Lycoming Creek Road received a call from the garage reporting that the work on the vehicle was done, but that the car was stuck on a lift that could not be lowered until the power was restored.
PPL crews arrived very quickly on the scene and began making the necessary repairs so that service was restored by around noon.
This is the second outage in the area in as many days.
About 150 customers in the city's Newberry neighborhood lost power Monday morning for about 40 minutes after a tractor-trailer truck stuck a utility pole near the city's main post office on Reach Road.