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New York City's power restored after outage

A power outage darkened a large swath of Manhattan and the Bronx on Wednesday, knocking out traffic lights, cutting subway service and forcing the evacuation of the Metropolitan Museum of Art on one of the hottest days of the year.
New York City commuters wait on the 59th
New York City commuters wait on the 59th Street subway platform for news after a power outage in the Bronx darkened a large swath of Manhattan and the Bronx, knocking out traffic lights and cutting subway service Wednesday.Timothy A. Clary / AFP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A brief power failure darkened a large swath of Manhattan and the Bronx on Wednesday as a storm blew through, knocking out traffic lights, cutting subway service and forcing the evacuation of the Metropolitan Museum of Art on one of the hottest days of the year.

A utility said lightning may have been responsible. The strike would have come during storms that also swamped roads and train tracks and tore down tree branches in the area.

The blackout affected approximately 385,000 people, said Kevin Burke, chief executive of the Consolidated Edison utility. Power was restored in about an hour, but that did not stop the city from experiencing some of the confusion it endured during blackouts last year and in 2003.

Museum visitors 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, including the area around Yankee Stadium, went dark.

The city was in the second day of temperatures well over 90 degrees.

“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.

In the street, “people stood outside their apartment buildings, looking nervous. Everyone was saying, ‘What’s going on? What’s going on?”’

Suspensions and delays were reported along subways. The Metro-North commuter railroad had to reduce the number of trains, resulting in delays and crowded cars as the evening rush hour approached, said spokeswoman Marjorie Anders.

Burke said that the power failure began at 3:42 p.m. and that all electricity 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 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.” The disruption had nothing to do with how much electricity Con Ed customers were using at the time, he said.

The blackout affected 136,700 customers, Con Edison said. A customer can consist of a single-family home or an entire apartment building.

The storms believed responsible for the blackout also stranded commuters as the Long Island Rail Road suspended some service for more than an hour. Flash flood warnings were in effect for parts of the city into the early morning, and the rain flooded basements and stranded motorists, said Jeffrey Tongue, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

The storms also left thousands without power in upstate New York, near Albany, and caused flight delays as long as three hours at LaGuardia and Kennedy airports in New York City.

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 this year, and said Con Ed needed to make “critical and substantial” improvements.