An explosion and fire at a power station in Astoria transformed the night sky over New York City into a strange turquoise light show on Thursday night.
A spokesperson for FDNY tells Gothamist that the explosion was first reported at 9:13 p.m in the vicinity of the Con Ed station on 20th Avenue. Since then, the fire department has received "several different reports of a flash of fire lighting up the sky, some sparks and crackles, a lot of things," the spokesperson said.
The ominous plume could be seen in all five boroughs across the city, and is reportedly causing scattered power outages in Queens. LaGuardia airport was temporarily shut down, though power appears to have been turned back on at Terminals C and D. A spokesperson for the Port Authority could not immediately be reached for comment.
— Erik Wicker (@ekwicker) December 28, 2018
“We saw the sky turn a bright blue and then teal color. It was intensely bright and frightening,” Jessica Kirk, a resident of East Midtown, told Gothamist. "It seemed unusual in color, and very oddly high in the sky.”
— Peg Samuel 🤩 (@socialdiva) December 28, 2018
The NYPD says that no injuries have been reported. According to the MTA, there are "extensive delays" on the 7 train as a result of the explosion.
UPDATE 10:50 P.M.: LaGuardia Airport has confirmed on Twitter that there are currently partial flight operations. “Many flights are departing, some are not," a spokesperson for the airport said. Passengers are reporting that all flights out of American Airlines have been canceled.
— Beth Fertig (@bethfertig) December 28, 2018
Just a little “brief electrical fire” causing a little “transmission dip.” Meanwhile it lit up the sky to Jersey and LGA has no power. GTFOH. https://t.co/N3zraKmzAP
— Akash Goyal (@akashgoyal) December 28, 2018
Con Ed has also addressed the situation on Twitter, noting that "there was a brief electrical fire at our substation in Astoria which involved some electrical transformers and caused a transmission dip in the area." An investigation is underway.
UPDATE 11:30 P.M. Bill San Antonio was waiting to board a flight to Dallas when the lights in the American Airlines terminal went out, sometime around 9:45 p.m.
"Everyone went to the windows and that's when we saw a weird blue light in the sky, followed by flashes of white," San Antonio, 28, told Gothamist. "We didn't know what was going on. My girlfriend and I grabbed our bags and got out of there. I was a kid here on 9/11 and we tried to be as safe as possible to get out of there."
San Antonio said the lights in the airport were out for about 20 minutes. After the lights came back, San Antonio said he and his girlfriend were among the first to pass through the TSA screening. But shortly after clearing security, San Antonio said "another security agent told us to turn back around because all the American flights were canceled." They then proceeded with the other "unhappy" travelers to baggage claim to collect their luggage.
San Antonio was still at LaGuardia at 11:15 trying to get a ride back to his parents' home, while simultaneously scrambling to book a new flight. During a phone interview, a loud buzzer could be heard sounding, but San Antonio said the general mood was one of calm frustration.
"Alarms keep going off, it's sort of being ignored," he said
just landed to this at LGA. total blackout in the airport, emergency sirens blaring. nobody hurt but weird as fuck. looking fwd to seeing Agent Cooper walk out of the torn sky shortly https://t.co/Wx3FACJFWE
— rachel handler (@rachel_handler) December 28, 2018
Meanwhile, Emilia Olsen's Delta flight from Madison, Wisconsin, landed at LaGuardia around 9 p.m. She was waiting on line at a ladies' restroom when the lights went out. "It flickered off and went black. Everybody laughed," Olsen said. "I figured someone hit a switch."
In the rest of the terminal, the lights were also out, with emergency lighting on. "I thought it was just the terminal," Olsen said. "There were no announcements, nobody was panicking.... Besides, it's also LaGuardia, so who knows?"
Olsen made her way to the baggage claim, which was "very eerie, because it was super dark with emergency lighting." Travelers were using their phone's flashlights to look for their bags.
Olsen only became aware of the transformer fire after she tweeted about LaGuardia being dark. "My friend told me about the blue light." She easily got a taxi back to her apartment in Brooklyn, and saw that the rest of the city looked fine. "I'm glad it didn't cause a panic, and no one was injured," she said.
Additional reporting by Jen Chung and John Del Signore.