Hundreds of Thousands of People Lose Power in Manhattan

The blackout hit 42 years to the day after the massive 1977 power outage…

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The Manhattan skyline (Wikimedia Commons)

(Thomas Tracy and Bill Sanderson, New York Daily News) Broadway went dark along with much of Midtown and the Upper West Side on Saturday night when a Con Ed equipment failure cut power to hundreds of thousands of people in Manhattan.

Straphangers were led out of subway tunnels, firefighters responded to numerous reports of people trapped in elevators, and more than a dozen Broadway shows went dark for the night after the outage hit just before 7 p.m.

The blackout hit 42 years to the day after the massive 1977 power outage that wiped out electricity across nearly all of the city.

“We are responding to extensive outages on the west side of Manhattan,” said Con Ed spokesman Michael Clendenin. “It’s equipment issues, and we are working to restore customers.”


Clendenin didn’t know how long the power might be out. City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said Con Ed executives told him they hoped to have power back by midnight.

Subway service was stalled in Manhattan and Queens on all the lines designated by letters, which the MTA calls its “B Division.”

“We’re trying to get people out of subways. We’re trying to get people out of elevators. It’s a big mess,” said an MTA source.

Subway riders were walked through tunnels and led to the station at Columbus Circle, an MTA source said.

Josh Martin said he spent 45 minutes stuck aboard a Brooklyn-bound D train that was stuck on the express tracks beneath Central Park West. He said he and fellow straphangers watched helplessly as several trains passed them on the local tracks.

“People generally stayed in good humor,” he said.

Martin said he and others aboard the train were finally rescued when the MTA ran a train up from Columbus Circle. That train linked to the front of the stranded D train, and took aboard the stranded D train passengers for a ride to Columbus Circle.

Giant electronic billboards in Times Square went dark.

Mayor Bill de Blasio was absent from the crisis as he pursued his long-shot presidential candidacy with a campaign trip in Iowa.

A spokeswoman said he would not return to the city until Sunday.

“This appears to be something that just went wrong in the way that they transmit power from one part of the city to another,” de Blasio told CNN. “It sounds like it is addressable in a reasonable amount of time.”

Early reports said the blackout may have started with an underground equipment explosion and fire around W. 64th St. and West End Ave. around 6:55 p.m.

“The explosion came from below. It took two, three minutes for the smoke to go away,” said Dawa Sherpa, 30, a Queens resident who witnessed the blast.

“People were running — they all covered their faces and noses and started running,” said Sherpa.

“It looked like a real bomb, It smelled so badly, I felt dizzy and I had a headache.”

More than an hour later, the smell of burning rubber lingered in the area.

In the blink of an eye, the blast cut power to thousands of people who live in the area.

“I was sitting at my computer, and all of a sudden, it went down,” said Eddie Borges, a former New York Daily News reporter who lives in a 44-story building on W. 55th St.

The hallway of his building was dark — but neighbors soon emerged from their apartments and swapped stories.

“Perfect timing — I just opened a bottle of wine,” one of Borges’ neighbors announced.

“No one is worried. We know the building will take care of it,” Borges said.

At an intersection near Lincoln Center, a sidewalk fruit seller took it upon himself to direct traffic.

Several shows on Broadway were canceled — including “Hades Town,” “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune,” “The Lion King” and “King Kong.”

©2019 New York Daily News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.