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.
Strap-hangers were led out of subway tunnels, firefighters responded to numerous reports of people trapped in elevators, and nearly a dozen Broadway shows shut down for the night after the outage hit at around 6.55pm.
Electricity started to come back at around 10pm.
Con Edison said all power was back on at around 11.40pm.
The blackout hit 42 years to the day after the massive 1977 power outage that wiped out electricity across nearly all of the city.
At its peak, the blackout cut power to more than 73,000 Con Ed customers, said John McAvoy, the company’s CEO.
Exactly how many people were affected was unclear, but the figure was certainly in the hundreds of thousands.
A single Con Ed customer in the blackout area could include hundreds of apartments.
McAvoy told reporters the blackout resulted from a “significant disturbance on the west side of Manhattan at one of our electric transmission stations.”
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,” an MTA source said shortly after the blackout struck.
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 stalled on the express tracks beneath Central Park West.
He said he and fellow passengers watched helplessly as several trains passed them on the local tracks. “People generally stayed in good humour,” 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 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.
“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.”
As the problems spread across six of the company’s local networks, a manhole exploded and caught fire around 6.55pm near W 64th St and West End Ave.
“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.”
At an intersection near Lincoln Center, a sidewalk fruit seller took it upon himself to direct traffic.
In Midtown, someone appeared to hand out yellow safety vests and glow sticks to people who voluntarily directed traffic.
The blackout didn’t stop everything around Midtown.
The Winter Garden, Nederlander and Lyceum theatres stayed open, and backup generators kept the Port Authority Bus Terminal running.
No one was reported seriously hurt in the outage.