Brooklyn Boro

Weather precautions cause transformer explosions across city

January 31, 2019 By Todd Maisel Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Manholes across the borough containing Con Edison power lines and transformers exploded on Wednesday, after rain from the previous night washed salt from the roads into underground vaults containing vital power conduits.  

Department of Sanitation workers spread salt over the streets on Tuesday night to prevent icing on the roads, but the salt, when washed into the vaults, caused damage to the cables of power systems in Midwood, Canarsie, Bushwick and Flatbush, according to fire officials.

In Midwood, a transformer vault on Avenue N and East 16th Street exploded around 9 a.m. Wednesday morning, causing two metal plates weighing several hundred pounds to strike two vehicles, one of which caught fire.

Two multi-million dollar homes on Avenue N were also damaged when a power surge from the transformer vault overloaded breaker boards in their basements, fire officials said.  

“Salt certainly is a big culprit in these things,” said Bob McGee, a spokesperson for Con Edison. “We typically see a spike in these things two or three days after a melt from a storm, after salt washes into the vaults through rain [and] street clearing. So it’s not unusual.”

McGee asked that residents of Brooklyn call Con Ed and the Fire Department if a manhole in Brooklyn is seen smoking.

“In Manhattan, we have steam pipes, and when water hits them, steam comes from the street, but Brooklyn doesn’t have steampipes,” he said. “If you see smoke coming from a manhole — or often, you can smell combustion — it is wise to call Con Ed or 9-1-1.”

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