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Transformer explosion at ConEd substation turns New York's night sky blue


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Transformer explosion at ConEd substation turns New York's night sky blue

SNL Image

The Dec. 27 "electrical arc flash" at the ConEdison substation in Queens, as seen from New Jersey, recreated ominous scenes from the 1984 movie Ghostbusters.

Source: Simone Bachmann

A transformer explosion at a Consolidated Edison Co. of New York Inc. substation the evening of Dec. 27 lit the New York City skyline in bright neon blues and greens for several minutes and caused a power outage for LaGuardia Airport.

The flickering lights over the Big Apple lasted for two to three minutes after an electrical fault and brief fire started around 9:12 p.m. ET at the Consolidated Edison Inc. subsidiary's substation at 20th Avenue and 32nd Street in Astoria, Queens. At 10:15 p.m., the New York City Fire Department tweeted that everything was under control and that there was no fire at the substation.

Numerous social media postings from local Queens residents showed neighborhood streets become "bright as day" as the sky flashed different colors and booms echoed from the substation. The lights also sent "Ghostbusters" trending on Twitter as New Yorkers recalled apocalyptic scenes from the 1984 movie, but the New York Police Department took to Twitter to assure the public that the lights did not mean Ghostbusters villain Gozer the Gozerian had returned or that an alien invasion was underway.

In statements after the incident and again Dec. 28, Con Edison said it was still investigating the root cause of the incident but blamed the "sustained electrical arc flash" and resulting local "transmission dip" on faulty 138-kV voltage monitoring equipment at the substation. There were no serious injuries, but one employee at the substation reported eye irritation associated with the arc flash, the utility said.

SNL Image

Another view of the "Astoria Borealis."

Source: Benjamin Passikoff

Con Edison said the substation fault and brief fire caused electric lights to flicker throughout most of the utility's service area and several facilities, including hospitals, LaGuardia Airport and the Rikers Island prison complex, reported that their electrical systems switched to backup generation during the event.

Along with delaying flights because of a brief blackout at LaGuardia, ConEdison said electric service to the New York subway's Seven Train in Queens was also impacted for about 30 minutes while track equipment was reset.