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Fire in the holes KOs parts of downtown, Back Bay

Channel 4 reports fires erupted from manholes this morning when an NStar cable failed a bit catastrophically.

Boston Police report emergency crews first responded to an exploding-manhole report at 5:38 a.m. at Stuart and Tremont streets.

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Comments

Is that like being sort of a little pregnant?

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Engineering terms, doesn't sound too exacting either.

Cables don't explode, causing manhole covers shooting into the air. They do short, causing sparks, which in turn ignite gases. Or they could short, causing an underground PCB-laden transformer to blow itself to smithereens.

Blaming the cable seems simplistic.

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Cables don't explode, causing manhole covers shooting into the air.

Wrong, wrong, and finally- WRONG.

Dead dude: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4bBvmPRqfmo

Test dummy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4w4h7gnc3qM

Kiloamp arc-fault demonstration which vaporizes thick busbars in a second or two: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-iClXrd50Z8

Two dudes knocked back a good ten feet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h10ALIpD0R4

Now, picture any of those in a cable tunnel or manhole (ever seen the PBS special on explosives? Remember the demonstration between black powder burned on a plate vs. in a sealed piece of pipe?)

Also, do you really think anyone is stupid enough to run gas service and electrical in the same tunnel/manhole?

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Also, do you really think anyone is stupid enough to run gas service and electrical in the same tunnel/manhole?

There are other explosive gases that could accumulate in an underground space besides leaking natural gas from a pipe. Why do you think landfills always have vents?

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...aren't nearly as good as the real ones.

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Given enough of a shock wave and a confined space, it can compress, become pressurized (and hot) and, given a convenient release area (manhole cover), rapidly equalize with the surrounding air pressure.

There doesn't need to be a chemical reaction behind an explosion.

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Youtube is graphic, as always. I should search on video clips of transformers exploding instead. Indeed, such explosions dwarf those of cable dielectric breakdown.

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Hard to do any software work without power ... wonder if they'll get it back on today?

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I always keep telling myself that one of these days I am going to open a gay club/bar in the South End called "Flaming Manholes".

Unfortunately, with Turner and Wilkerson gone, I have no idea whose palm I'd have to grease to get a liquor license.

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Flaming Manhole or Manhole Flaming ...

Better yet, just have a manhole cover on the sign with flames and no words.

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This has been happening alot lately, I think its time that we start paying attention to these little infrastructure problems. When times are bad people say we cant afford it, when times are good they say we dont have time to deal with it.

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Came back on 15 min ago.

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Channel 4 is now reporting that every RMV branch across the state - all 35 of them - had to shut down this morning because the flaming manholes took out the power to the RMV's main office in Chinatown.

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n/t

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They might have a UPS for the servers, or a generator, but it might only be enough to allow somebody to get to them and shut things down properly.

There may have been a cable or two melted in the main catastrophe, too.

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Im suprised there is no contigency plan for if the main building was to say burn down or something. Many large companies (and the RMV is large enough to be a large company) that do business have more then one server location in case of local issues to maintain continuality. I even remember reading that after 9/11 many of the companies in New York that had their secondary servers in the same Borough moved them farther away once they realized that there were events capable of shutting down all of Manhattan.

The RMV records are a pretty big deal, they really shouldnt have all their eggs in one basket.

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Olympia, the capital of the state of Washington, ran into such issues in early 2001 when they got slammed with a 6.8-7.0 quake a few years back. I don't know about the DMV, but I know people who worked in WA state government at that time and there were some problems getting various state servers back up and running, in part because the quake messed things up from the Canadian border south to Portland (where my brother's employer - an insurance company - has since put in a policy of widely geographically distributed systems). The problem was compounded by utility disruption and access to unstable and even condemned buildings.

Makes me wonder if MA has a policy of backups in other parts of the state or even outside the region? One would think that September 11 2001 would have been a wake up call even if February 2001 could be rationalized away as "we don't get earthquakes".

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for something more problematic than an area power failure.

The RMV isn't a critical enough of a service to need to guarantee five nines of uptime. However if Chinatown were to burn down or if the power failure were expected to take days to fix, I'd imagine that the RMV would kick in their contingency.

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We determined that the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) did not have a disaster recovery and business continuity plan to provide for the timely restoration of mission-critical and essential business functions should systems be rendered inoperable or inaccessible.

Office of the State Auditor's Report on IT Controls at the RMV

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That report also says the RMV's data center is in Chelsea, not in Chinatown, so why would a power loss downtown affect the data center? My head hurts.

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Perhaps all their connectivity is routed through Chinatown.

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A thorough and professionally-executed report, presumably done in-house by Joe DeNucci's group?

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I work across the street from the Chinatown RMV and we haven't experienced any power loss...

Plus, the manhole fires were on Tremont and Stuart, not Essex and Washington...If the servers for the RMV crapped out today, its a coincidence and perhaps little more than a convenient excuse for their problems.

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Transportation Building, not Chinatown. So that would explain the impact from a power failure at Stuart and Tremont, again, assuming they have no backup.

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