(Courtesy of Tea Storm Chasers)

Xcel Energy crews have been working to repair damage to the underground electricity system in downtown Sioux Falls and to restore power to some 200 customers who are still without power.  Company officials say the outage began at 4:37 a.m. and the cause is still under investigation.

More than 500 customers were affected at first, but power was restored in about an hour to around 300 customers.  Xcel Energy spokesman Jim Wilcox says manhole covers were blown off and a sidewalk buckled when the incident began.  Sioux Falls Fire Rescue  has been helping Xcel Energy workers safely assess the damage.

Additional Xcel Energy crews are coming from the Twin Citites to assist with the repairs and power restoration.  Wilcox says an estimated time for full restoration won’t be available until crews have been able to assess the damage.  A worst-case scenario would put fully-restored power in downtown Sioux Falls as late as Sunday.

Thick black smoke could be seen coming from one of the manholes.  The area affected is between 8th and 11th and from Phillips to Minnesota Avenue.  Earlier there was a threat of gas leaks, but Chief Jim Sideras of Sioux Falls Fire Rescue says the area is secure. Since it could take a couple of days to restore power, the Red Cross has set up an emergency shelter for those displaced by the outage at 808 West Avenue North.

SFFR continues a long day as a late afternoon house fire broke out just after 4 p.m. in Sioux Falls.  According to scanner reports, a car in a garage at 1711 W. 18th Street started ablaze then spread to the adjoining two story house.  As crews arrived, rising smoke was visible for a couple of blocks.  Occupants of the house were able to escape unharmed.  Adjacent streets were closed to allow Sioux Falls Fire Rescue to battle the blaze.