ASTORIA, N.Y. — An electrical explosion Thursday night at a power plant in the densely populated Queens neighborhood turned the sky bright blue for a few minutes as residents watched in terror.
Shortly after the explosion, the New York Police Department informed residents that the blue light was the result of a transformer explosion at a Con Edison power plant.
During the explosion, LaGuardia Airport in Queens experienced a blackout in at least two terminals, causing flight delays.
More than an hour later, Con Edison officials on Twitter called the incident a “brief electrical fire” involving electrical transformers, which caused a “transmission dip in the area.”
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said that delays should be expected on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority 7 train and at LaGuardia Airport.
New York fire officials said they were investigating the “transformer incident” after receiving numerous reports of “explosions” in Long Island City and Astoria.
Residents rushed out to the streets as lights flickered around the city. Residents in New York City and neighboring areas began posting photos of the dazzling scene online, showing a neon blue glow emanating from the northwestern corner of Long Island.
Reacting to photos of the brilliant display, social media users wondered if the explosion was an alien invasion or a source of superpowers.
Deputy Inspector Benjamin Gurley of NYPD’s 43rd Precinct quickly assured residents that there were no aliens involved in the incident, and the Fire Department of New York said in a tweet that the situation was under control.
When a utility employee pulled up in an SUV at 10:25 p.m. and asked one of the three NYPD officers at the entrance of the Astoria Generating Station if it was safe to go in, the officer nodded and waved the worker through the gate.
“I was so scared,” a 30-year-old man who said his name was Belkei and declined to give a last name told HuffPost.
He was standing nearby on 21st Street at 21st Avenue in the Ditmars Steinway neighborhood of New York City. “I thought it was a plane crash.”
Ziad Elnokrashy, 18, was at home playing PlayStation with his friend, waiting for his cousins to arrive from Montreal. Suddenly the lights went out. Elnokrashy and his friend, Andrew Joussef, ran upstairs in his building, just across the street from the power station’s entrance, and saw the burst of blue light. He called his cousin Ayman Ihan, who was due home shortly from the Canadian road trip. From the Triborough Bridge, Ihan and another cousin, Rhammi Oussam, recorded the blue light and tried to ease Elnokrashy’s nerves.
“I thought it was a terrorist attack,” Elnokrashy said, repeatedly mouthing a fake cigarette he was using to quit smoking.
“I thought it was aliens,” Joussef, 17, said.
“I thought it was a party,” said Oussam, 17, who was visiting New York for the first time from Montreal.
New York City Councilman Costa Constantinides, who represents Astoria, described the incident in a tweet as a “generator explosion” and said there was no reported damage to nearby homes.
State Sen.-elect Jessica Ramos, who rushed over from Jackson Heights after seeing the blue glow, told HuffPost that FDNY tested the air quality and determined it was safe to breathe. The plant burns more than 3 million gallons of No. 6 fuel oil a year, making it one of New York’s dirtiest power stations.
Ramos warned that officials need to be “very cognizant of what could have gone on here.”
“We really do need to think about how we collectively use energy and how we’re going to be moving forward as a state,” Ramos said. “That’s going to end up being a big role we’re going to play here to figure out what the future of this plant should be.”