Power restored after outage in downtown St. Louis

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The lights — and perhaps more importantly, the air conditioning — came back on Thursday afternoon in downtown St. Louis after an underground fire knocked out electricity for much of the city’s urban center.

Crews for Ameren Missouri restored power, but not before several offices and business closed for the day, including City Hall, an adjacent building known as City Hall West and the Carnahan courts building. The city police department building remained open, but the city health department, administrative offices and municipal courts also closed, said Maggie Crane, spokeswoman for Mayor Francis Slay.

Extreme temperatures and aging infrastructure were believed to be culprits for a fire that started at about 8:30 p.m. Wednesday inside a manhole at Seventh and Market, just a few blocks from Busch Stadium, Ameren spokeswoman Trina Muniz said.

The fire, which reached a temperature of about 400 degrees, was out by midnight, but it was so hot inside the manhole that workers couldn’t get inside to make repairs, delaying the restoration of power. Several circuits were inside the manhole.

The outage affected about 2,100 customers, mainly homes and offices in high-rise buildings. Ameren said most had power restored by Thursday afternoon.

The outage also meant that most traffic lights downtown stopped functioning for several hours.

The temperature was 98 degrees by mid-afternoon Thursday, with a heat index topping 100 degrees for the fifth straight day.

Many businesses sent workers home or to alternative locations for the day.