Con Edison says a brief electrical fire involving transformers broke out at the substation on 20th Avenue and 32nd Street in Astoria, causing a transmission dip in the area.
The explosion lit the sky so brightly that it briefly appeared to be daytime in neighborhoods like Astoria and Woodside, residents reported. Smoke arose from the source of the blue light, visible from as far as Manhattan.
Con Edison is investigating the cause of the transformer fire. Utility spokesman Bob McGee says no one was hurt.
"It did create a spectacular effect on the sky, and certainly caused a lot of concern," he told News 4, calling it an "abnormal event."
Firefighters responded along with the utility crews. They were initially called for a transformer fire there, radio transmissions on Broadcastify show.
"There's a high-voltage emergency going on the ConEd plant, heading that way now," one firefighter says. "Can we have a representative from Con Ed meet us out on 20th Avenue? It just seems like whatever it was just shut down. We'll meet them at the main gate."
"Yeah, whatever was arcing the skyline, it turned off, it seems like," he continued. "Just advise Battalion 49, we have a visible fire in the ConEd plant. We're going to enter off of 31st Street."
People in Queens reported the electricity briefly flickering off in their homes, and LaGuardia Airport saw a total blackout at one point. A News 4 staffer picking up his daughter in Terminal A said the lights started to flicker, then turned off completely while the emergency lights stayed on.
The FAA initially instituted a ground stop at LaGuardia until Friday morning, saying it wouldn't lift it until power was restored. The power came back on late Thursday night, but there were hourlong delays for both arriving and departing flights.
A pilot near JFK Airport described the stunning scene when the transformer exploded, dispatch recordings show.
"11 o'clock, it looks like a massive fire," he's heard saying in a dispatch with the JFK tower.
"JetBlue 1186, you see that light out there? You know what that is?" one voice is heard in the tower transmissions.
"Yes sir, and no, we do not, not at all, sorry," another voice responds.
"We see colors like that off the clouds."
In another tower transmission, a voice is heard saying, "Delta 1197 heavy, let me know if you're able to see what that light is out there."
The Delta pilot said, "It's on the ground lighting up the sky."
The tower responded, "You don't know what it is?"
"Negative," the pilot said. "Blue-green color, does not look like typical flames."
The NYPD is asking people to avoid the area of 20th Avenue and 31st Street in Astoria while they investigated.