Power back on in NYC after outages
(New York-WABC- June 27, 2007) (WABC) -- Con Ed officials say all power is restored for nearly 350,000 people after a major outage in New York City earlier Wednesday.
The power outage briefly darkened parts of Manhattan and the Bronx on Wednesday, knocking out traffic lights, snarling subway service and forcing the evacuation of the Metropolitan Museum of Art on one of the hottest days of the year.
At an evening press conference, Con Ed Chief Executive Kevin Burke said the blackout affected around 385,000 people. "We view this as a significant event."
Power was fully restored within an hour, but that did not stop the city from experiencing some of the confusion it endured during blackouts last year and in 2003.
"All the traffic lights were out. It was chaos," said motorist Edward Ankudavich.
The city was in the second day of temperatures hovering around 90 degrees. Visitors to the Met were forced to sit on the outside steps in the sweltering heat. Traffic lights up and down the east side of Manhattan and the Bronx were out, causing heavy gridlock. Lights went out around Yankee Stadium, and subway and train service was disrupted all around New York, which consumes more power on a hot summer day than the entire nation of Chile.
"People came in off the street and we were selling flashlights, bottled water, candles, ice," said Barry Newman, a pharmacist at a Gristede's Pharmacy on the Upper East Side. "People stood outside their apartment buildings, looking nervous. Everyone was saying, 'What's going on? What's going on?"'
Burke said the outage began at 3:42 p.m. and all power was restored by 4:30 p.m.
The cause was under investigation but Burke said lightning was a possibility. The problem started in a Queens substation that's connected to two others in the Bronx and Upper East Side, Burke said.
Burke added that the "likelihood of this happening again is very low." He said the disruption had nothing to do with the level of electricity Con Ed customers were using at the time.
Con Edison said the blackout affected 136,700 customers. A customer can consist of a single-family home or an entire apartment building, so one customer often translates into four people.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg lost power at his private home and at the official mayoral residence that he uses for ceremonial events, both of which are on the Upper East Side. He said the outage was a "minor inconvenience," adding, "I think it's fair to say that resetting your clock was probably the worst thing that happened."
Nancy Marcus, a manager at an optician's store on 77th Street and Lexington Avenue, had ominous thoughts when the store went dark and said "It doesn't bode well for the rest of the summer, but I'm impressed they got it back on so fast. ... I wouldn't have been happy if I had been stuck on the subway."
Officials say the power outage caused suspensions and delays along the city's subways, but the blackout mainly affected track signals and not the movement of trains or air conditioning in the cars.
Metro-North, meanwhile, had to reduce the number of trains it was using, resulting in delays and crowded trains, said spokeswoman Marjorie Anders. But she said the problems were fixed by the evening rush hour.
At the Met, museum staff started moving people out of galleries shortly after the blackout hit. About 2,500 people had to leave.
It was not clear if there were any injuries related to the blackout. But a man fainted in the Bronx courthouse in a stuck elevator, said Sgt. Glenn Kane, a court officer.
The power outage was reminiscent of previous summer blackouts that struck New York City but Burke said none of the substations were involved in last year's outage.
Last summer, about 174,000 people were affected by a blackout in Queens. Residents sweltered without air conditioners on some of the hottest days of the year, and estimated business losses ran into the tens of millions of dollars as stores were forced to throw out perished goods.
The Public Service Commission issued a blistering report earlier this year, charging Con Ed's performance was "unacceptable and a gross disservice to its customers."
Con Edison acknowledged that its performance last summer "was not up to the standards our customers have come to expect." But the utility said it was learning from that experience and "implementing many infrastructure improvements and new emergency response procedures."
That includes a $1.4 billion investment to meet this year's summer power demand, including upgrades to substations and the distribution system.
"Our 14,000 employees have been hard at work preparing for this summer, and we continue to make substantial investments in our electric delivery system to provide New Yorkers with the high level of service reliability they deserve," Burke said two weeks ago as Con Ed unveiled a $300 million substation complex in the Bronx, not involved in Wednesday's blackout.
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