New York City experiences brief power outage

A brief power outage darkened large parts of Manhattan and the Bronx on Wednesday, knocking out traffic lights, cutting subway service and forcing the evacuation of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Power was restored within about an hour, but not before traffics lights up and down the east side of Manhattan and the Bronx went out and subway and train service was snarled all over the area.

Consolidated Edison spokesman Chris Olert said the outage began at 3:42 p.m. (1942 GMT) and all power was restored by 4:30 p.m. (2030 GMT).

The cause was under investigation, with lightning a possibility, Olert said. The Con Edison utility said the blackout affected 136,700 customers, or more than 500,000 people. A customer can consist of a single-family home or an entire apartment building, so one customer often translates into four people.

At the Met, museum staff started moving people out of galleries shortly after the blackout hit. They had about 2,500 people leave.

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.

Last summer, about 174,000 people were affected by a blackout in Queens. At the height of the crisis, 10 of the 22 feeder cables that carry electricity through the Con Ed system were malfunctioning. Residents sweltered without air conditioners on some of the hottest days of the years, 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, charging the local utility'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, nor did it meet the expectations we have set for ourselves."

But the utility said it was learning from that experience and "implementing many infrastructure improvements and new emergency response procedures."

New York was also hard hit by a 2003 blackout that cut power to a large chunk of the Northeast.