Manholes Exploding Across NYC in Wake of Storm

Hundreds of manhole fires have been breaking out across the city in the aftermath of the blizzard, a result of the snow runoff mixing with the salt, officials say. 

Sunnyside, Queens residents were startled Wednesday when three manholes exploded in that neighborhood alone, causing the covers to blast off and leaving about 60 customers in the dark.

"The lights just start fiddling, and all of a sudden the kitchen light was fiddling," said Rosemary Thornton.

Sandra Avila said: "I started smelling something, and neigbors said call 911. I didn't know if it was a gas leak or something." 

There have been a total of 400 manhole fires since Friday, and there were nearly 80 fires on Wednesday alone, according to Con Edison.

"This is happening with the snow runoff and the salt getting into the underground electrical structures," said Con Ed spokesman Mike Clendenin. "Water and salt is not a good mix." 

Salt plus water can trigger a spark, a fire or even an explosion, according to the utility.

It's not an unusual sight in New York City after snowstorms like this. But in the last few days after the weekend blizzard, the manhole explosions have been especially common. They've also caused power outages: over 1,500 were reported in Brooklyn Wednesday, and Queens was next with about 300. 

Manhattan had about 170, Bronx 10, and Staten Island 20, according to Con Ed. 

Being in the dark has left customers anxious.

"We saw darkness and smelled smoke," Avila recalled. "I was like, 'oh not, we gotta get out.'"

Con Ed says people should use common sense to avoid serious injury: stay back from a smoking manhole and contact Con Ed or FDNY immediately. 

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