It’s February, and you know what means — manhole fire season. While this might not be common knowledge, it’s becoming an increasingly common sight in Manhattan, where manholes are reportedly blowing up left and right.
According to a report by NBC, there were more than 400 manhole fires in the city during January. Many were due, in part, to the blizzard that nearly shut down Manhattan in mid-January.
And the fires are causing even more problems around the city, leading to power outages across the five boroughs. In Brooklyn alone, there were 1,500 power outages; there were an additional 300 in Queens, 170 in Manhattan, 20 in Staten Island, and 10 in the Bronx.
So why does this happen? The answer is a combination of several factors.
When snow begins to melt with salt, electrical wires start to corrode. Once corroded, these wires are susceptible to catching fire and unleashing harmful gases that can ultimately cause the manhole to explode.
For many, this can be a surprising revelation. When it comes to manholes, manhole theft is typically the serious problem and issue that comes to mind — and not just in America. In the city of Calcutta, India, more than 10,000 manhole covers were taken in just the span of two months.
However, this isn’t the problem Manhattan has been facing lately. While power outages are a danger and threat in and of themselves, people have been injured directly from these exploding manholes. Just last year, a 71-year-old man was hit in the head after a manhole exploded, sending the cover hurling towards him.
Authorities such as the FDNY and Con Ed urge people to avoid stepping on any and all manhole covers, as they may be electrified. The carbon monoxide can also run off into neighboring homes, and open manhole covers are a danger to unsuspecting passersby.