NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A spectacular light show caused by an electrical emergency in Queens created moments of panic for some at LaGuardia Airport Thursday night.
Airline passengers were left in the dark inside the transit hub’s terminals, but why? Runways were also temporarily shuttered following the Con Edison voltage monitor malfunction which illuminated the New York skyline with an eerie blue-green hue.
The 13 minute power outage delayed some 15 flights from taking off for up to an hour and rerouted nine planes to other airports.
“I was on my phone and then the WiFi goes out and then the entire building goes black and everyone’s crowding around a window and I see this white-blue big ball of light and all of it goes dark,” one woman said.
It left many wondering how an airport the size of LaGuardia, in a city the size of New York, shut down from a mere power outage. Shouldn’t there be an uninterrupted source of power on backup to keep the airport running right away?
“A power outage of this nature could happen at any airport,” LaGuardia General Manager Lysa Scully said. She defended the airport’s handling of the situation, saying the backup system worked as planned.
But tell that to the people who were taken off guard Thursday night. Scully said she had not seen, nor did she have any desire to see video of the scene posted to social media Thursday.
“We have generator power,” she said. “Generator power came on immediately in all of the terminals, and that was to provide life safety.”
When asked to view video showing LaGuardia’s terminals darkened after the Con Edison malfunction, Scully once again declined. Nearby, Rikers Island prison reported no sustained power outage thanks to its backup system.
On Friday, Governor Andrew Cuomo chimed in.
“LaGuardia has backup power, but it’s basically emergency backup power and not really a backup system that would allow the LaGuardia Airport to operate safely,” Cuomo said.
Scully says the airport runway never lost light, and that the runways were closed for 13 minutes as a precaution to make sure everything was safe.
“It’s very concerning,” she admitted regarding the temporary terminal outages. “We don’t want people in the dark.”
Cuomo has lauded his administration for rebuilding LaGuardia, but no backup power system was installed. So what’s the plan going forward to prevent what happened Thursday from happening again?
“Having LaGuardia backup generators that allowed LaGuardia to function is something that we’re going to further explore,” the governor said.
Cuomo is asking the Public Service Commission to investigate the electrical failure and the safety of Con Edison’s equipment.