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Underground Fire Near Ziggurat Monday, Causes Traffic Snarls Tuesday Morning

Orange County Sheriff's deputies responded to a report of two loud explosions at the intersection of Alicia Parkway and Aliso Creek Road around 7:15 p.m. It was determined that the cause was due to a blown underground So Cal Edison transformer.

(Editor's Note: Thanks to reader Jeanne Gorski for alerting Patch to this story.)

Orange County Sheriff's deputies responded to a report of two loud explosions and an underground fire in the area of Alicia Parkway and Aliso Creek Road near the  Monday around 7:15 p.m. 

When deputies arrived, they discovered a manhole cover had been blown off the street and smoke pouring from the manhole. The Orange County Fire Authority determined the cause of the fire to be a blown underground transformer. Power was out in the general area of the explosion, said Lt. Lynn Koehmsted.

No one was injured and So Cal Edison responded and handled the incident, he added. According to So Cal Edison, power was restored to homes in the area of Alicia Parkway and Highlands Road at 2:28 p.m Tuesday. 

The problem didn't stop there though, as it caused traffic issues early Tuesday morning.

According to resident and reader Jeanne Gorski, "I drove past utility trucks at the intersection of Alicia and Aliso Creek around 9 p.m. to see they were working to fix the problem ..."

This morning however, the power company chose to repair the line at the worst possible time: rush hour, when the high school traffic and commuters are flowing through that intersection, she said.

"The traffic light was out, and a 'four-way stop procedure was enacted at this NINE lane intersection at the height of traffic! It took 30 minutes to go from Highlands to Aliso Creek along Alicia Parkway, a total of one mile. That's 2 miles per hour...

"Having nothing better to do, I snapped a photo of my fellow traffic-mates, and am forwarding it to you. Believe me, there were hundreds of local residents snared in this one!," she wrote.

Koehmstedt said all calls for service are prioritized.

"During power outages, we still have to respond to emergency calls and other calls for service where there is a likelihood of violence and we are needed to keep the peace. These types of calls take priority over traffic control," he continued. "Also, if the outage effects numerous intersections, resources are limited and it becomes impossible to staff all the intersections and still provide other services. During a power outage, if a traffic signal goes out or flashes red, then per the California Vehicle Code, the intersection becomes a four-way stop and motorists should treat it as such."    

Not only did Gorski take photos, but she said she tried, "calling the Laguna Niguel sheriff's phone number, and got a recording, so I left a message suggesting they they assign someone to directing the flow of traffic at this intersection. After sitting there for 20 more minutes, I determined my call was ignored. Maybe it's time to reconsider our contract with the Orange County Sheriff, something to bring up at the next meeting of the
OCFA confirmed Tuesday night that it did respond but had no further information.

Representatives from So Cal Edison confirmed the outage was due to "underground equipment failure."

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