New York City sky turns neon blue after explosion at power plant in Queens

'Not aliens', says the mayor's spokesman, after bright blue hue from transformer fire stuns the city

Dave Maclean
New York
Friday 28 December 2018 10:00

An explosion at a New York City power plant turned the night sky an eerie bright blue for several minutes – temporarily shutting down nearby LaGuardia Airport and sending social media into a frenzy.

At least two transformers blew up at about 9.20pm, causing the sky over the Con Edison plant in Astoria, Queens to light up with a neon blue hue. No-one was hurt, and the fire was quickly brought under control.

The power supply to homes in the neighbourhood briefly cut out, and hundreds of locals left their homes and ran into the streets, which were bathed in a near-daylight glow.

One resident, Lucas Espinoza, 28, told The Independent: “The whole sky lit up with a pulsating greenish-blue light. I’ll admit that seeing the sky light up like that at night – in New York City of all places – put a bad feeling in my gut.”

The Con Edison power plant sits just a mile away from Manhattan, across the East River. Dozens of fire trucks and police vehicles were seen speeding down multiple streets towards the scene, as at least one helicopter hovered overhead.

Some residents living in the streets nearby said tremors from the explosion shook buildings and rattled windows, while the resulting light could be seen from as far away as New Jersey.

LaGuardia airport was temporarily closed as a result of power disruption, with no flights taking off between 9.22pm and 10.23pm, according to data from FlightAware.

This image, captured by local Valerie Scott, shows the powerful light emitted by the transformers
The night sky was suddenly illuminated across Astoria, Queens, sending residents out onto the street and emergency services scrambling to the scene

In a conversation with air traffic control, one Delta pilot coming in to land at JFK airport sounded unnerved by the situation unfolding just a few miles away.

“It looks like a massive fire,” he said, according to dispatch logs cited by NBC New York. “It’s on the ground lighting up the sky. Blue-green colour, does not look like typical flames.”

The incident had a knock-on effect on subway services, with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority warning of delays on some lines.

Before the cause of the glow emerged, some Twitter users joked that they thought there was an alien invasion. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s spokesman later posted a message re-assuring residents that this was not the case.

The bright light ended as suddenly as it began – around five minutes after the blast, the sky suddenly darkened.

A Con Edison spokesman called the incident an “abnormal event”, adding, ”It did create a spectacular effect on the sky, and certainly caused a lot of concern.”

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