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Thousands Lose Power In New York City


A major power outage plunged parts of New York City into the dark for five hours last night. More than 70,000 homes and businesses were left without power on a hot summer night. The blackout left some ticket holders for Broadway shows stranded out on the sidewalk, where they were serenaded by cast members of musicals, including "Hadestown."


UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) Ooh, it's a blackout.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) Let me tell you about the blackout band.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) Ooh, it's a blackout.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was "Hadestown." NPR's Hansi Lo Wang has been following this story. And he joins us now from New York.

Good morning, Hansi.

HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: Good morning, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Do we know what caused the power outage?

WANG: Apparently, there was a problem with a substation on the West Side of Manhattan. The local utility company Con Edison says they're still investigating a potential equipment problem and that it was not because of any increased electricity usage. And New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said, more specifically, that maybe a transformer blew up, and there was a domino effect that affected other substations. He talked to reporters last night. Let's listen to what he said.


ANDREW CUOMO: When you are talking about a blackout or potential blackout or a significant area of the city having a blackout, you are really dealing with potential chaos and public safety threats. And the system has to be better than that.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I don't know. If you hear that...

WANG: (Unintelligible).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You hear that singing, though, and it seems like things went OK. How did New Yorkers get through the outage?

WANG: Well, it cut power in one of the busiest parts of the city - from Times Square all the way up past Columbus Circle up to Lincoln Center just outside of Central Park. People were stuck in elevators and also disrupted the entire subway station for all of New York City because of this power outage. And there were also no traffic lights in the parts that were affected in Manhattan. And - really interesting to see pedestrians walking into the middle of the street, trying to direct cars and taxis and buses passing by and trying to, you know, make sure there are no accidents in intersections as pedestrians are also trying to get around the city.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So what's it like in New York right now?

WANG: Well, Con Edison says that all the customers who lost power last night - they have power now. And everything seems to be back to normal. What's interesting is that this blackout happened the same exact day that another blackout happened in New York City back in 1977, 42 years ago. That one lasted more than a day, and there were looting. People were setting fires in the city. Last night, in comparison - much shorter and, fortunately, no major issues. But it is - it caused some people to change their Saturday night plans.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's NPR's Hansi Lo Wang.

Thank you so much, Hansi.

WANG: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Hansi Lo Wang (he/him) is a national correspondent for NPR reporting on the people, power and money behind the U.S. census.