Explosions at Jacksonville FPL Cedar Bay Plant cause shockwaves

Residents near plant caught off-guard by implosion that jolted the ground

By Allyson Henning - Reporter, Steve Patrick - News4Jax digital managing editor, Roxy Tyler - Web producer, Ashley Spicer - Reporter, anchor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Six weeks after the JEA imploded the cooling towers at its St. John's River Power Park with great fanfare, a smaller implosion at a closed coal-fired power plant on Eastport Road caught the community and the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office by surprise.

Despite claims that Florida Power & Light had notified the Sheriff's Office, Jacksonville Fire & Rescue Department, media and local residents, News4Jax has confirmed that no notification was given to police. Chief Kurtis Wilson said the fire department was aware of the implosion.

FPL plans more implosions at the same plant at various times throughout Saturday but the messages have been mixed and confusing. 

The demolition crew on site has given contrary information about exactly when the explosions or implosions would happen.  

One worker on site said they ran out of dynamite and there would be no more explosions today but a short while later blasts were heard and another tower came down.

FPL closed the Cedar Bay coal-fired power plant nearly two years ago, and the Jacksonville Daily Record reported that New York-based demolition contractor DEMCO Inc. filed the application last August to begin tearing down the plant. They estimated the plant could be dismantled by March 2019.  

News4Jax -- and apparently nearby residents who flooded the newsroom with calls and messages Saturday morning -- were given no notice of when that would happen.

JEA spokeswoman Gerri Boyce confirmed that Saturday morning's explosion was from the FPL plant implosion.

News4Jax meteorologist Rebecca Barry was one of the people jolted by the implosion, saying it was louder than the implosion of the cooling towers.

"I was out in the backyard washing windows and the windows vibrated, patio furniture moved," said Barry.

The implosion was so loud and jarring that it shook homes around 8 a.m. Neighbors were upset that no one knew the implosion was planned.

"I was sound asleep, and it sounded just like the one a couple of months ago when they blew up power plant over there, but it was like three different booms, so it scared me to death and I jumped up and my two little dogs were just barking all over the place, but we didn’t know what it was," said resident Mary Lou Farris.

Officials with JEA said that the first attempt at bringing down a 600-foot tower failed. 

However, it eventually came down hours later Saturday afternoon after demolition crews set off more blasts to knock the tower over as you can see by the video at the top of this story.

Many people who heard the explosions were wondering why they were not told about FPL's demolition, which was in stark contrast to when JEA imploded its' huge cooling tanks.

"I knew nothing about it. The one they did on Alta and Heckscher, we knew all about that. I mean people were lining the streets ready for that and that was exciting, but this was scary because you had no idea what it was," said Farris. 

She's not the only resident that was taken back by the blasts.

"I think everyone should be notified for something of that magnitude, believe me, it was not small," said resident Terino Kelso.

Jim Bradley lives along the Broward River not far from the plant. He said his homes' foundation was shaking from the loud bang.

'It's very bizarre that they wouldn't have said something," Bradley said.

It appears residents and media outlets were not the only ones taken by surprise by the early morning implosion.

Robert Raines lives down the street from the FPL plant and said he felt the ground shake and saw emergency crews take action.

"I must have seen 11 firetrucks race down the road. I know JFRD (Jacksonville Fire-Rescue Department) couldn't have known about the implosion," Raines said.

News4Jax asked about FPL about notifying the JFRD and Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

"I don't know the specifics of how the contractor reached out to them, but part of the process is that they do reach out to local emergency management so that they know it's going to happen. Our contractor said that they did that, but I don't know the details of how or when, but it should've been before this morning," Gatewood said. 

No media outlets throughout the city reported the implosion ahead of time. FPL claims that the media was notified, but News4Jax has no record of that call.

Drone video from above FPL Cedar Bay Power Plant

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