By Heather Janssen

CARMICHAEL (CBS13) – A shocking situation developed for one Carmichael neighborhood after a power problem sent sparks flying inside some houses – but quick-thinking neighbors jumped into action to save their homes.

Kevin Cobel described the feeling “like a haunted house” and the sound like fireworks when a piece inside his power box broke.

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“If you look in there at the plug, it just blew it,” Cobel said as he gave CBS13 a tour of his home and the appliances still affected.

“It came on and tried to reset it – it just blew in my hand,” he said as he showed the electrical box of his backyard spa.

A SMUD power box across the street from him was the source of an emotional evening for him, and his neighbors.

“Shocked. I’m still a little shaken,” Cobel said. Some of his worst fears, he felt, almost came to light. “What can I say? I didn’t want to lose my house – I didn’t want to lose my stuff.”

SMUD came out to investigate overnight and said a piece of the transformer, the neutral, broke.

“It’s pretty rare – it doesn’t happen a lot,” said Jake Holladay, an electrician with Essential Electric – who came out to check out some of the homes impacted.

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He said the neutral is a critical part of the electricity flow.

“When you do lose that neutral, you lose the return path back to ground,” Holladay said. “There’s no way back, so it goes into ground wherever it can.”

Its failure, he said, can be unpredictable and at times doubling the volts sent to homes – like what happened inside Cobel’s house.

Burnt power strips showed the small, smoky fires Cobel said he put out. His fan was on inside as electricians tried to figure out why his A/C was broken.

“I tried to turn it on and nothing is coming out,” Cobel said.

The reason behind this shocking situation is still a mystery for neighbors, while crews investigate the cause.

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Cobel and other neighbors said they’re incredibly thankful SMUD has been so responsive and sent out electricians to check on the damage. SMUD representatives also went door to door to help people file claims in an effort to replace what’s broken.

Heather Janssen