A large explosion rocked the Hoover Dam in Nevada on Tuesday morning while tourists were at the facility. A shocking video, posted by a male tourist, shows a huge explosion, followed by a red flare and yellow flames, and a thick black mushroom cloud after a transformer exploded at the dam that is frequented by tourists.
Although there were no reports of injuries, the hydroelectric complex on the border between Nevada and Arizona was badly damaged. Officials said that the explosion and subsequent fire occurred in the turbine house of the massive power-generating dam, which supplies electricity to parts of three states.
The explosion happened when several visitors were at the dam on Tuesday morning. For a moment many felt something worse has happened. However, it was soon revealed that a transformer exploded in the turbine house of the Hoover Dam.
A video shared on Twitter by a tourist around 10 am shows a massive cloud of smoke rising from the Colorado River dam on the border of Nevada and Arizona.
In the video, which was first posted by Kristy Hairston, a woman can be heard saying, ""Touring the #hooverdam and heard an explosion #fire. My goodness, something's just blown up." The voice of a man voice reporting on the explosion and fire at the dam below is also audible; it could be the security guard or tour guide.
Visitors were instructed to get their iPhones and cameras to record the explosion by an official giving a tour of the 726-foot concrete building. "There's just been an incident here at the dam," the guide said of the explosion and subsequent fire. "We're going to be leaving now so we don't get trapped in here."
It was not immediately clear what led to the explosion although many on social media speculated that the facility's generators may have caught fire and blown up.
Major Accident Avoided
Boulder City firefighters were on their way to the dam after receiving an emergency call, according to department authorities in Nevada. However, according to a later tweet from the department, the fire was put out before Boulder City firemen arrived.
According to the Bureau of Reclamation, which manages the Hoover Dam on behalf of the U.S. Department of Interior, a transformer caught fire and was doused about 30 minutes later by the Reclamation/Hoover fire brigade.
"There are no injuries to visitors or employees," Michelle Helms, spokesperson for the Bureau of Reclamation, said. "There is no risk to the power grid and power is still being generated from the powerhouse. We are investigating the cause of the fire and will provide additional updates as they are available."
Due to a continuing mega-drought in the region, which on Tuesday also experienced high temperatures, Lake Mead, the reservoir built by the dam, has record low water levels. It's unclear whether the fire was caused by a surge in electricity consumption or a reduction in generating capacity as a result of low water levels.
Authorities stated that they were looking into the fire's origin. "There is no risk to the power grid and power is still being generated from the powerhouse," said Jacklynn L. Gould, regional director for the federal Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the dam.
The Hoover Dam sits on the border between Nevada and Arizona, about 30 miles outside Las Vegas.
The dam, which was constructed during the Great Depression in the 1930s impounds Lake Mead, which at full capacity is the largest reservoir in the US by volume. However, as a megadrought ravages the western US, Lake Mead has just dropped to its lowest levels on record.
The reservoir's capacity is currently under 30 percent. Its water level has dropped 170 feet since 1983 when it reached its highest point.