Shawnee transformer explosion knocks out power for 22,000 in Johnson and Wyandotte Counties

Investigators found pieces of porcelain from the transformer in the neighborhood around the power substation. Photo credit Mike Frizzell.

Approximately 22,000 customers were without power for a time Thursday evening in parts of Johnson and Wyandotte counties.

A transformer explosion was reported at an Evergy substation near Shawnee Mission Parkway and Lackman Road in Shawnee about 8:30 p.m.

Recorded radio traffic from Shawnee police indicates that dispatchers were being “flooded” with 911 calls about an explosion and fire at the substation. A few minutes later, an officer can be heard asking dispatchers if the fire department is responding. The dispatcher replies that they have transferred “25-30 calls” to the fire department.

Authorities waited for the oil in the transformer that was on fire to burn itself out. Photo credit Mike Frizzell.

Firefighters arrived to report a small fire on some of the equipment inside the substation.

Police and firefighters found small pieces of porcelain from the transformer scattered around the immediate area at the scene. One piece was found by a group of teenagers walking near 65th Street and Lackman Road when the explosion occurred.

Evergy workers arrived shortly before 9 p.m. and began their work to contain the fire and restore power to customers. An Evergy worker told firefighters that the fire would have to burn itself out before making complete repairs. However, he estimated that power could be restored to many customers by 10 p.m.

The fire knocked out power to just over 12,000 Evergy customers in northern Johnson County and almost 10,000 BPU customers in Wyandotte County.

In a statement, BPU said the explosion in Shawnee knocked out their Nearman Power Plant, located in northern Kansas City, Kansas, along with three BPU substations.

“We restored power to our substations, and our plant is back up and running,” BPU said in the statement. “We are working on an investigation with regard to this impact on our utility.”

Power was restored to all BPU customers around 9:30 p.m.

Evergy had most customers’ power restored by 10:00 p.m. Fewer than five outages remained in Shawnee by 11:30 p.m.

No injuries were reported. There were also no reports of property damage outside of the substation.

Mike Frizzell is a freelance crime and fire reporter who runs Operation 100 News.