Wednesday, March 4, 2020

It's "manhole explosion season" in New York

The City:
The blast that injured Bah was among nearly 4,000 FDNY dispatches for manhole explosions logged between 2009 and 2018, Fire Department records obtained through a Freedom of Information Law request show.

Those were among more than 45,000 emergency manhole incidents, including smoke and fire episodes, logged during the span, according to the FDNY.

At least 57 people were injured during that period, along with nine more injuries in 2019, according to an analysis of lawsuits and local news reports. The explosions also caused significant property damage, building evacuations, power outages and traffic disruptions.
Business Insider from 2015:
Manholes are entry points to a labyrinth of electric cables, many of them aged and decaying, that snake underneath the city streets. In winter melting snow mixed with de-icing salt can seep through, causing frayed low-voltage cables to fail. That can trigger fires, smoke and explosions that can send manhole covers flying.

"These incidents are yet another example of New York City's outdated infrastructure. It's well-known that saltwater and exposed electrical wires are a dangerous combination," said New York's Public Advocate Letitia James. "If we want a safer city, we must do more to address this issue."


Con Ed has teamed with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Columbia University to develop a tool that predicts manhole incidents through statistical modeling, taking into account factors such cable age and failure history.