Downed Wire Leaves Beach 116th In the Dark


Beach 116th Street had an eerie similarity to the days and weeks after Hurricane Sandy on Tuesday, December 17. After a rainy evening and a fire on Rockaway Beach Boulevard, power was out on the commercial strip and for more than 2,000 PSEG LI customers on the peninsula. However, the blackout, caused by an arcing downed wire, was temporary, and power was fully restored by late night.

At around 5 p.m., locals and businesses around Beach 116th Street were startled by the sound of an explosion. An electric wire had fallen in front of Rockaway Crown on Beach 115th and Rockaway Beach Blvd., and sparks created a massive fire that appeared to be shooting up from the street. The fire was so intense that it burned a hole right through the asphalt.

“Everybody started coming out to watch the fire” Mujib Muharram, an employee at Pickles and Pies said. “Like fireworks.” Meanwhile, nearby businesses went dark and traffic lights and some homes all the way up to Neponsit lost power. FDNY immediately responded to the scene to get the fire under control. Traffic, including buses, was diverted away from the area. No injuries were reported. “Lucky no one was driving at that time,” Muharram said.

For some places, business continued, as much as it could. Those at Pizza D’Amore continued to make pizza in their ovens, which still functioned. Owner Andrew Guastella speculated the incident was related to over-salting that corroded wires. As PSEG crews worked to solve the problem, businesses were informed that it would be a long night, as power was expected to be restored by midnight.

Early into the incident, the only businesses that continued to have power were Rogers, the Beach 116th corner store and the Polish deli. Eventually power was cut to these businesses as PSEG needed to turn off remaining power sources to work safely. In true Rockaway fashion, sitting in the dark did not deter customers from finishing their beers at Rogers.

Oddly enough, some parts of Beach 116th Street continued to glow. Sunny’s Nail Salon remained aglow, as did the Beach 116th Street Christmas tree, even though the firefighters in the neighboring firehouse continued to work through the dark.

In a follow-up with PSEG LI, spokesperson Amy Di Leo explained to The Rockaway Times that Tuesday’s stormy weather caused a cross arm near Beach 116th and Rockaway Beach Blvd. to break and a primary wire to fall into the street. The downed wire caused the fire and the following blackout. The blackout immediately impacted more than 2,000 customers, but most service was restored within two minutes. However, addressing the full problem took longer, as Rockaway’s electric poles are placed high. “The bucket truck could not reach it and we needed to get a different team to respond to get high enough to fix it,” Di Leo said. About 254 customers, mostly the businesses and residences on Beach 116th Street, were without power for nine hours and 30 minutes, but everything was back and running by 2:28 a.m.