Last night at 5:57 p.m., about twenty minutes after I left work, an explosion at 41st Street and Lexington Avenue sent an eruption of mud, bricks, and debris 30 stories into the air, steeping surrounding blocks in steam and smoke.
A gaping hole opened in the intersection. The explosion caused a middle-aged woman to have a heart attack, which killed her. A truck driver in his twenties, crossing through the intersection, was swallowed into the hole with his truck and is now in a coma at a local hospital with 80% of his body covered in burns. Dozens of others were injured.
At first many suspected it was another terrorist attack. It turned out that the explosion was caused by the rupture of a nearly 100-year-old underground steam pipe after cold morning rain seeped into it.
I heard about the explosion just as I got home. Josh K. called my cell phone and asked if I'd heard about the explosion. I automatically assumed it was a terrorist attack, too, but he quickly explained that it wasn't.
My jaw did drop a bit when I found out the location of the explosion. I work close to the site of the explosion and missed being a bystander by a matter of twenty minutes.
This morning a few trains were still out of service, and I found myself walking across town to work with hundreds of other New Yorkers. When I got near Grand Central, however, I saw that most of the surrounding streets were blocked off.
I told a police officer standing outside of Grand Central where I work and he shook his head. "All these buildings are shut down. No work today."
It was bizarre seeing 42nd Street closed, and seeing the streets and avenues beyond closed as well. Construction crews ripped into the concrete, working on repairs.
Not knowing what else to do, I turned around and headed back home.
"Shock is etched on the face of a woman covered in blood and mud as she is led away from the scene of a steam pipe explosion near Grand Central Terminal yesterday. Hundreds of emergency workers rushed to the midtown hub to help terrified commuters and passersby after the blast. Debris from the geyser pelted some of the city's most famous skyscrapers. Then it rained on the streets like a sudden hail storm, striking some pedestrians." [via New York Daily News and New York Times]
Update: I just got word that our offices will be closed tomorrow, too, as ConEd works to reroute power and make repairs in the area so that people can return to work on Monday.