NEW YORK (FOX 5 NY) - Electric utility Con Edison is working to figure out what caused a high-voltage equipment failure that unleashed an otherworldly flash of bright blue light in the night sky over New York City on Thursday night.
"Electrical equipment is electrical equipment and sometimes things do fail," Con Edison's Michael Clendenin said. "We will get to the bottom of what caused this to fail."
Residents of northwest Queens reported hearing loud bangs and seeing the very bright blue light flashing on the city's skyline Thursday night.
Police and firefighters converged on 20th Avenue and 31st Street, which is the site of a large power plant in Astoria.
Although Con Ed initially described a "brief electrical fire" at a power substation in Queens, on Friday the company clarified that a malfunction in some equipment that carries 138,000 volts of electricity 20 feet up in the air created what is called an "arc flash," somewhat like a bolt of lightning, with flames and smoke.
At a news conference on Friday, Con Edison chairman John McAvoy said the flames quickly burned themselves out and that the FDNY didn't have to come on the property.
"The system also had a device, which is essentially a circuit breaker device that did not trigger and that is something that is going to be looked at," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at the news conference. "The Public Service Commission will be working with Con Ed to review the equipment and to see if there are any modifications that can be made to make sure it doesn't happen again."
Mayor Bill de Blasio's Twitter account tweeted on Thursday night 44that an "electrical surge at a substation" caused the light show.
The Port Authority reported a partial power outage at LaGuardia Airport, which is near the power plant. Planes were landing at the airport but departing flights were temporarily held. Con Ed confirmed that the airport ran on generator power for some time.
Residents of Astoria, Long Island City, Jackson Heights, and Forest Hills all reported similar sounds and sights. Photos and videos posted to social media show that the blue light was visible from parts of Manhattan and even further.
SkyFoxHD was over the facility, which showed damage to a structure but no signs of a massive explosion. Video from the helicopter showed crews examining equipment.
"*Not* aliens. Blown transformer at Queens Con-Ed facility," Eric Phillips, the mayor's press secretary, tweeted, "Scattered power outages, including LGA. Con-Ed, FDNY, PD, OEM all working on it."
With the Associated Press