What you see above is an electrical fire in Queens, New York, that I took last night at around 8pm local time (11am AEDT). My dad and I walked outside to check the damage Hurricane Sandy had done to our neighbourhood in Douglaston. Winds were very powerful, but nothing seemed too crazy. Not just yet.
Then we saw a transformer sparking just half a block up. We walked over until we were several metres away from it, and I pulled out my iPhone to capture some video. I know, I know. It’s dangerous. But I’m a reporter and my dad is just too curious a creature.
Before we knew it, the transformer sparks set fire to the cable, burning its encasing and spreading rapidly. My father grabbed my arm and dragged me backwards to get us a safer distance away. The firework-like sparks that followed made me jump, and my father made his last pull for protection behind a nearby tree where I continued to film the second transformer sparking.
It was terrifying, to be sure, but it was also fascinating. As someone whose job it is to capture and share information, I felt a drive to record as much as I could. And my father’s reassuring presence made it easier for me to stand my ground.
My video seems to have been making its rounds on the internet — caught by BoingBoing and Buzzfeed — and even on The Weather Channel, which you can see an image of below thanks to Epic Games’ Dana Cowley.
Several hours later, my dad and I took a drive around the neighbourhood. We stopped by where the electrical fire had taken place, and it still smelled like burnt plastic. A tree across the street from it had since been uprooted, pulling a hefty amount of grass out from around it.
Driving further we saw more uprooted trees, and even several dislodged footpaths. Amazingly, many people’s houses were safe from fallen trees. A few houses, however, and several cars, were slammed into by trees. We saw downed electrical wires, and a few other sparking ones, as well.
Several people walked around with torches. We drove by the dock that is near my parents’ house and I tried to capture video of the flooding that had taken over the boardwalk, spilling into the street. I grew up in Douglaston, and so it was shocking to see this place transformed.
Things have since quieted down for now, and we only lost power once, but my father managed to salvage it. (He’s an engineer, so he jumped one dead electrical phase to the remaining live one, and we now have power again — in case you were interested in how we did that.)
I promise I’ll stay safe with any future iPhone adventures, but there are some serious situations in New York that I feel need to be publicised. Everyone should stay inside and be safe.