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Author Topic: City block electrified in Chelsea  (Read 2232 times)

Mike Sokol

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City block electrified in Chelsea
« on: June 06, 2014, 09:02:54 am »

From Mike Holt's Forum:

February 19, 2014

This winter, New Yorkers have been told time and again to look down and watch their step. And they have been told to look up for snow and ice tumbling from towering buildings.

On Wednesday, on one block in the Chelsea neighborhood, they were told to look everywhere. The entire block was electrified.

As utility workers rushed to find the cause of the problem, the authorities closed down Avenue of the Americas between 26th and 27th Streets to traffic and pedestrians.

While no injuries were reported, stray voltage can be deadly, and the risk is usually greatest after heavy rains and snows, when water and salt can cause short circuits and damage power lines.

Veronica Villahermosa, 36, a receptionist at Serenity Spa, on Avenue of the Americas, said police officers and firefighters came in after noon and told the employees and the customers to leave “because it was dangerous.”

“There could be a shock to anybody,” she recalled them saying.

Shortly after 4 p.m., the street was reopened. The problem, according to Consolidated Edison, was a faulty service line in the street. The line was cut, officials said, and the area is now safe.

In January 2004, a Columbia University graduate student, Jodie S. Lane, was killed after she stepped on an electrified metal plate near a bakery on East 11th Street. After her death, rules were established requiring citywide testing for stray voltage.

Con Edison now performs a survey of its entire system — which includes 94,000 miles of underground cables; 35,000 miles of overhead cables; 206,000 utility poles; and 278,000 manholes, service boxes and transformer vaults — a dozen times a year.

A utility truck equipped to measure stray voltage was surveying Chelsea when, at around 4 a.m., workers detected a single stray volt on Avenue of the Americas.

As they investigated, the measurement shot up to 44 stray volts. When the rain picked up on Wednesday morning, it combined with the salt on the ground to become an effective conductor of electricity, quickly spreading the voltage to other objects. The metal grates in the sidewalk on the east side of the street were electrified, as were many other metal objects in the area.

“They were also picking up stray voltage on nearby doorknobs,” said Bob McGee, a spokesman for the utility.

By late morning, the Fire Department was alerted and helped to close the street to cars and pedestrians. People were asked to stay in the buildings, according to fire officials.

By 2 p.m., people were allowed to come and go from homes and businesses on the west side of the street, but the east side remained closed.

The beating New York City’s infrastructure has taken this winter probably played a factor.

Nearly half a million tons of salt have been spread over the city’s streets in recent months, and when the snow melts that salt finds its way underground, where it can damage wires and erode those that are already compromised.

Forty-one confirmed cases of people being shocked by stray voltage and 16 cases of animals being shocked were reported in 2012, Con Edison’s most recent survey.

It is unusual for an area as large as a whole city block to become electrified, Mr. McGee said.

There are often small areas that become electrified after storms. Sometimes they deliver no more than a small jolt. Other times, the stray voltage can prove more dangerous.

In 1997, Philip Vanaria, a teacher, was crippled and suffered brain damage after being shocked while using a pay phone in Greenwich Village.

“I was holding the phone with my left hand,” Mr. Vanaria said in court papers, “and I got a very sharp jolting feeling that ran — it was like a current that ran up my left bicep into my left shoulder down toward my heart.”

Two years later, Jackie, a 7-year-old carriage horse, stepped on an electrified Con Ed service box cover. She kicked her driver in the head, then collapsed and died.

This winter, there have been scattered reports of dogs’ being shocked, including on Monday, when a woman on Watts Street in TriBeCa reported that her dog yelped in pain after stepping on a subway grate.

On Wednesday, firefighters warned passers-by to avoid stepping on metal manhole covers. At one point a Con Ed worker approached a man walking a Chihuahua and said: “Hey chief, you want to pick up your dog. There’s stray voltage all over the place.”

A version of this article appears in print on February 20, 2014, on page A17 of the New York edition with the headline: Stray Voltage Temporarily Electrifies Chelsea Block

Mike Holt’s Comment: It's not stray voltage; it’s 'contact voltage.'
« Last Edit: June 06, 2014, 09:07:54 am by Mike Sokol »
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Mike Sokol
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Jerome Malsack

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Re: City block electrified in Chelsea
« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2014, 02:26:47 pm »

What are the chances that the deterioration could be attributed to effects from the Sandy Hurricane?

Combine this electrical problem with the manhole problem around DC and other cities and you could have some real problems. 

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/03/28/1786281/are-exploding-manhole-covers-in-washington-dc-caused-by-shocking-levels-of-leaking-natural-gas/

I don't want to have a 150 lbs of manhole cover falling out of the sky. 
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Cailen Waddell

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Re: City block electrified in Chelsea
« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2014, 07:49:19 pm »


What are the chances that the deterioration could be attributed to effects from the Sandy Hurricane?

Combine this electrical problem with the manhole problem around DC and other cities and you could have some real problems. 

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/03/28/1786281/are-exploding-manhole-covers-in-washington-dc-caused-by-shocking-levels-of-leaking-natural-gas/

I don't want to have a 150 lbs of manhole cover falling out of the sky.

I don't want even half a pound of manhole falling on me......


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Stephen Swaffer

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Re: City block electrified in Chelsea
« Reply #3 on: June 06, 2014, 09:24:26 pm »

Just to be difficult-if the whole block was electrified, what was the reference point?  Strictly speaking, to have a voltage or potential you have to have a point of reference-usually we use ground?  If "everything" is at the same potential there is no hazard-that is the principle behind grounding and bonding grids around pools, etc.  I assume they had a high voltage leak and thus had crazy voltage gradients, but the wording of the article doesn't really make sense?
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Mike Sokol

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Re: City block electrified in Chelsea
« Reply #4 on: June 07, 2014, 10:11:28 am »

Just to be difficult-if the whole block was electrified, what was the reference point?  Strictly speaking, to have a voltage or potential you have to have a point of reference-usually we use ground?  If "everything" is at the same potential there is no hazard-that is the principle behind grounding and bonding grids around pools, etc.  I assume they had a high voltage leak and thus had crazy voltage gradients, but the wording of the article doesn't really make sense?

Yeah, I thought the same thing. But you realize that reporters know nothing about electricity, so they often make up their own statements. For instance, how many times have you read about someone being electrocuted the night before and they're on camera talking about it. Just yesterday I saw a video on the Today Show showing a pickup truck in Canada being hit by lighting, blowing the airbags and trashing all the electronics. Al Roker stated that the driver was safe because "the rubber tires grounded the vehicle". WTF???

I sent a comment to both the Today Show and the Weather Channel explaining a little about the Faraday Cage effect and how that's what protects you from lightning if you're inside a metal vehicle. I then offered to set up a seminar for their staff and on-air personalities teaching them the basics of electrical shocks and the proper wording describing these accidents. I also offered to do an on-air segment about lightning for lightning safety week the end of June. Don't know if that will do anything, but at least I made the effort.   
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Mike Sokol
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Re: City block electrified in Chelsea
« Reply #4 on: June 07, 2014, 10:11:28 am »


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