Widespread power outages sweep Washington, D.C.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) — Widespread power outages hit across Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, affecting government and privately-owned buildings and the city’s public transit rail system intermittently early in the afternoon.

The power outage in the Washington area was caused by a small explosion at a power transfer line in southern Maryland, according to a U.S. official. CNN has been told that The Department of Homeland Security is closely monitoring the ongoing power outage.

The outage struck everything from the White House to the State Department, where government employees and reporters saw lights and power flicker out.

Power at CNN’s D.C. bureau twice flickered off and on early in the afternoon.

The power went out during the daily State Department briefing, with Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf using a phone light to continue taking questions from reporters. Power remained off for the State Department as of 1:15 p.m., though most other affected buildings appeared to have power restored within seconds of it going out.

Police and fire officials were dispatched to the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative’s Ryceville power substation, which appears to be the cause of the D.C. outage, Charles County Sheriff spokeswoman Diane Richardson told CNN.

Charles County spokeswoman Donna Fuqua said fire department officials were responding to “a substation that caught fire on Ryceville road,” as of 2 p.m.

A spokesman for Pepco, the city’s major electric utility, told CNN that the company is aware of the outages and is investigating the source of the problem.

The outage also forced the Smithsonian to evacuate four of its museums in D.C.

The power outages did not appear to affect major buildings outside of the District besides the power substation. Neither of the city’s two major airports, which are both located in Virginia, were affected.

A White House spokesman says the power outage that affected many parts of the city also affected the White House complex. The White House was on a backup generator and is now back on normal power.

In addition to the briefing room, power went out very briefly in the West Wing and other portions of the White House. Building maintenance workers were circulating through office space ensuring power had been restored, which it had.

A spokesperson for the city’s Metro rail system says 14 stations are on backup power, meaning no escalators or elevators working — but lights are on and trains are running.

CNN’s Jim Sciutto, Shimon Prokupecz, Matthew Hoye and Jamie Crawford contributed to this report.

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