NY Blackout
Manhattan skyline during the blackout. Credit Rupak Venugopal

On Saturday, 13 July New Yorkers experienced a blackout which impacted 73,000 residents and businesses, closing theatre's, causing concerts to be cancelled and shutting down transport across the city.

Consolidated Edison has apologised for the power failure which lasted for five hours, and have said they will be investigating the cause of the outage.

According to a statement by Con Ed: “a significant electrical transmission disturbance” occurred at 6:47 p.m. on Saturday leaving 72,000 customers on the West Side of Manhattan without power until late into the night.

However, further explanations into the outage have not been forthcoming.

Coincidentally enough, the blackout occurred on the 42nd anniversary of one of the largest blackouts to hit the city. In 1977, New York was hit by a massive blackout. A Time article from 2015 reported:

"The blackout that hit New York on this day, July 13, in 1977 was to many a metaphor for the gloom that had already settled on the city. An economic decline, coupled with rising crime rates and the panic-provoking (and paranoia-inducing) Son of Sam murders, had combined to make the late 1970s New York’s Dark Ages.

Then lightning struck, and the city went dark for real. By the time the power came back, 25 hours later, arsonists had set more than 1,000 fires and looters had ransacked 1,600 stores."

Read more about the 1977 blackout here

The 2019 blackout is said to have impacted more than 40 blocks of Manhattan. CBS News reported that the outage may have been caused by a malfunctioning transformer.

“I saw on the corner of 64th and West End Avenue that one of the manhole covers, there was some black smoke coming out of it, then the power went completely out and I ended up calling 911,” a witness told news crews.

Con Edison released this statement on Sunday:

“Con Edison sincerely regrets the power disruption to our customers on the west side of Manhattan last night and will be conducting a diligent and vigorous investigation to determine the root cause of the incident. As we reported yesterday, a significant electrical transmission disturbance occurred at 6:47 p.m., impacting multiple circuits in the area, and leading to the loss of service to approximately 72,000 customers. We restored power to all affected areas shortly before midnight.

“Over the next several days and weeks, our engineers and planners will carefully examine the data and equipment performance relating to this event, and will share our findings with regulators and the public. We applaud the work of all emergency responders and our employees who helped restore power swiftly and keep the public safe. We also commend the patience and understanding of all New Yorkers who remained calm and poised during this incident.”

Weighing in on the outage, Governor Andrew Cuomo said: “You just can’t have a power outage of this magnitude in this city. It is too dangerous. The potential for public safety risk and chaos is too high. We just can’t have a system that does this.”

Cuomo continued: “It’s just unacceptable. It is unacceptable. We need a better power system, a better grid with redundancies.”

Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, Senator Chuck Schumer said: “Con Ed has improved, but they still have to do a lot more. They’ve improved because, unlike the Queens blackout that occurred in 2006, this was fixed quickly. It was fixed in a relatively short amount of time. That is good. On the other hand, it shouldn’t happen at all, and God forbid if someone were stuck in an elevator and had a heart attack or a stroke and couldn’t get out of that elevator, things would have been worse.

"Thank God that didn’t happen, but we cannot have these blackouts in cities as densely populated as ours. Is Con Ed putting in all the money to upgrade its infrastructure … so these don’t happen again? They are happening with less frequency and this was restored quickly. That’s better, but not good enough.”

One post on Twitter shared a video of the Hell's Kitchen area with during and after the outage.