Manhole Covers Are Still Exploding

March 5, 2015 | Prachi Gupta

Thanks to the continued snow, ice and road salt, manhole covers are still popping off all over the city. According to ABC7, up to 13 covers exploded into the air on Greenpoint’s Norman Avenue early Thursday morning, a manhole fire broke out in Richmond Hill, and on Wednesday afternoon, officials responded to a manhole fire in Chelsea (video above).

The New York Daily News reports that no one was hurt after the Greenpoint incident, and there was no loss of power.

Though it’s technically just weeks away from spring, explosions like this are common when there’s lots of snow. The Village Voice recently explained the phenomenon:

Con Ed spokesman Phillip O’Brien says the flying manhole covers often appear at this time of year, when heavy snowfall is followed by the spreading of salt on the roads. This salt-and-snow combo subsequently escapes underground into the electrical system, he explains, where some of the cables already sport nicks and tears from overhead traffic vibrations, natural wear and tear, and gnawing rats. The briny mixture seeps into those cuts and erodes the insulation on underground electrical wires, causing them to spark, smoke up, and, in extreme cases, explode. O’Brien says it’s not necessarily related to NYC’s aging infrastructure. Some cables are old and some are new, and either can be affected by corrosion due to salt and snow.