Exploding Manhole Covers Rock Queens
It was a story that, quite literally, sounded a lot worse than it actually was. On Monday, February 20th residents of Forest Hills, Queens reported hearing explosions (three to be exact), near Queens Boulevard and 68th Street. Buildings were physically rocked by the force of the blasts, and power went out in the immediate vicinity but, fortunately, no injuries were reported.
The cause? Exploding manhole covers- startling, but not altogether uncommon events, the cause of which will be explained fully later in this article.
In the aftermath, emergency hotlines (and Twitter) lit up an otherwise quiet Sunday evening, as these explosions and their subsequent fires rattled borough residents. It took two hours for firefighters to put out the resulting fires. Even the subway was affected. E train riders at the 71st Street / Forest Hills stop reported loud sounds and noted that the train itself shook.
ConEd temporarily shut down power servicing the area as a precautionary measure, but power has since been restored.
What causes manhole covers to spontaneously explode? And what can you do to keep yourself safe as you stroll NYC sidewalks? Below, we’ll address both of these pressing questions!
Why Do Manhole Covers Explode?
Most times, when a manhole cover explodes, it is the culmination of a chain reaction that starts with damaged underground cables. Manhole covers allow city service workers to access pipes and power cables that exist underground. However, over time, they become prone to aging or other forms of damage, such as erosion via water and chemicals. They’re also subject to physical damage; rats have been known to gnaw on their rubber exteriors. The wires within these cables can hold up to 13,000 volts of electricity, and if they make contact with flammable material, they can create a fire. Simultaneously, the material which is burnt emits combustible gasses, which will expand to fill the area. If this happens, the enclosed space of the sewer or access-area under the manhole transforms into a giant combustion chamber, like one you might find in a car engine. The electrical wires act as a spark plug, igniting the ambient gasses, causing an exponential build-up of pressure in the chamber. When this rapidly increasing pressure becomes too much for the manhole to withstand, the manhole will be jettisoned into the air, sometimes accompanied by a trail of smoke and fire.
How much force is required to skyrocket a manhole cover? Well, typical cast-iron manhole covers weigh somewhere between 85 and 300 pounds. And there have been reports of manhole covers sailing up to 50 feet in the air! Short answer: lots.
Sidewalk Survival Guide
Here are a few brief tips to that’ll keep you safe on sidewalks:
- Heads Up: Be aware of your surroundings. Walking at a steady pace and not interfering with the flight paths of your fellow pedestrians is good etiquette, but staying alert to bikes, cars, and trucks as you use the crosswalk could be a matter of life and death. Never use your phone as you walk, only cross streets when you’ve got the green light, and stay vigilant at all times.
- Stick to the Sidewalk: Most Manhattanites know how congested sidewalks can get, especially during rush hour. Resist the temptation of darting into the street, or cutting corners outside of designated street-crossing lanes. Shaving a few seconds off your commute time isn’t worth hazarding a trip into a bus lane or the path of quick-turning cars.
- Watch for Water: Most NYC sidewalks and stairs are textured for increased traction, but nonetheless can become slippery in the rain or snow. Decrease your speed and walk with added caution in the event of inclement weather.
- Be Kind: Be considerate of your fellow walkers. Pushing through or edging around other people isn’t only inconsiderate, it could lead to injuries.
Kaplan Lawyers PC
The streets of New York City can be dangerous. Cars, trucks, and taxis are constantly switching lanes, trying to beat traffic. Delivery people, couriers and other cyclists weave their way between lanes, adding an extra dimension of moving obstacles. Near-constant construction creates an ever-present risk of something falling from overhead. That’s all to say nothing of the always-changing landscape, where sidewalks are often paneled over with temporary walking platforms, cross-walks are cordoned off by traffic cones, and patches of jack-hammered street pose hazards that must be navigated around very carefully. If you or someone you know has been injured as they traversed this perilous metropolis, it is of utmost importance that you retain the counsel of New York’s premier accident law firm. Tripped on a neglected segment of sidewalk? Struck by a tool or piece of debris that slipped and fell from a construction site? At Kaplan Lawyers PC, we’ve got a team of compassionate and professional attorneys skilled in all areas of accident law. We can win you compensation that will help ease the burden of expensive medical bills and keep you financially comfortable as you recover from your injuries. So, if you or a loved one has been hurt on or near a construction site – don’t hesitate. Contact Kaplan Lawyers PC today to schedule a free consultation.