The Thursday night display of a pulsating blue light over New York City that the authorities insisted was unrelated to an alien invasion was due to an "electrical arc," Con Edison said today.
The incident occurred just after 9 p.m., at Con Ed's Astoria substation near 20th Avenue and 32nd Street. The utility explained, "An electrical fault on a section of 138,000-volt equipment in one of our Astoria substations caused a transmission disturbance and a sustained electrical arc flash, creating the blue light people witnessed. The equipment that malfunctioned is associated with voltage monitoring within the substation."
Lorraine Klimowich was in her apartment near the substation when "lights in the whole complex flickered and then turned back on." She said, "There was a loud bang and then the sky was an electric blue, bright as daylight. Judging from the direction of the light, I figured it was the plant, so I grabbed my phone and my dog and ran outside to check it out."
Looks like a transformer at the Con Ed plant blew. Fire seems to be out now. Is everyone ok? pic.twitter.com/lydIkhYMy5
— Lorraine Klimowich (@MsKlimowich) December 28, 2018
"I know it may not seem like a smart thing to do, but when the world didn’t end with the first flash, I figured it was safe enough. Half the neighborhood was out there already, anyway," she said. "Thank goodness no one was hurt."
Klimowich added, "Fingers crossed that I wake up with some awesome superpowers tomorrow."
Wikipedia describes an electric arc as "an electrical breakdown of a gas that produces an ongoing electrical discharge. The current through a normally nonconductive medium such as air produces a plasma; the plasma may produce visible light." An explanation of "electric blue" states, "Electric arcs can cause a variety of color emissions depending on the gases involved, but blue and purple are typical colors produced in the troposphere where oxygen and nitrogen dominate."
David Levine was leaving his gym in Astoria when the lights flickered, but he thought it was just a power surge, because then everything was fine. As he walked outside, "I realized it looked a lot brighter than usual. At first I thought it was just my brain playing tricks on me, like maybe some really bright neon lights from a shop nearby, but as I stepped outside, it was as bright as an overcast day at noon."
Levine started to film, "Everybody on the street was looking in that direction, in awe of the lights. Many people had their phones out just like I did. Everybody seemed pretty calm with befuddled looks on their faces, myself included. Some people asked me what was going on and I just replied that I didn't know, but it probably had something to do with ConEd." In his video, you can hear a hum from the substation:
"After a few minutes, without warning, the lights disappeared. It was like Astoria was a living room with the lights on and someone just flipped the switch to the off position. That was kind of weird, going from this semi-daytime lighting to nighttime in less than a second," Levine said. "Then right on cue, since this is New York, everybody started watching the videos they recorded and then a few moments later, started going back to doing what they were doing, myself included."
And, yes, for a moment, like many, many others, the thought of extraterrestrials crossed briefly Levine's mind. "Isn't this how Independence Day started? Like right before the spaceships came through the clouds," he said. But "the rational part of my brain said it was probably just some sort of electrical issue at the plant, though I had never seen anything like this before too."
No one was injured, and some buildings briefly lost power. A number of flights scheduled to land at LaGuardia Airport were diverted or delayed. Numerous representatives of the city said it has nothing to do with any close encounters of the third kind:
— NYPD 43rd Precinct (@NYPD43Pct) December 28, 2018
*Not* aliens. Blown transformer at Queens Con-Ed facility. Scattered power outages, including LGA. Con-Ed, FDNY, PD, OEM all working on it. https://t.co/xX60Ph8SWw
— Eric Phillips (@EricFPhillips) December 28, 2018
— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) December 28, 2018
Kent Wilhelm, an Astoria resident whose apartment is near the power plant, told Gothamist that he first became aware something was awry when the electricity in his apartment briefly went out, shortly before 9 p.m.
"I could see this syncopated pulsing and incredibly bright light on the house across from me," Wilhelm, 33, said. "When the lights first went out, I heard some kind of blast. I definitely felt something because I live very close to that power plant. I think it was the visceral sensation of that rumble, and the humming you can hear in the video."
Wilhelm's video offers a visceral sense of what it was like right outside the Con Ed plant:Video by Kent Wilhelm
Wilhelm rushed outside, where he said at first he could only see a "big blue light in the sky. But once I got onto 33rd Street, which runs into the power plant, I could see a blinding light coming from whatever was going on, a blinding blue light. It was a matter of me shielding my eyes and keeping my camera on it. It didn't seem that I was in any kind of immediate danger. Then it kind of went out."
Asked if the so-called Con Ed "electrical fault" is merely part of an elaborate cover story for an alien invasion, and if he himself is in on it, Wilhelm replied without hesitation, "Absolutely. I'm absolutely in on it."
The phone line went dead soon after Wilhelm's admission, at the precise moment both parties hung up.
Well, believe what you want:
Additional reporting by John Del Signore