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Manhattan transformer fire knocks out power to thousands in Midtown, Upper West Side

Manhattan transformer fire knocks out power to thousands in Midtown, Upper West Side

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A transformer fire caused a large-scale power outage in parts of New York City Saturday evening, knocking out traffic lights, stalling elevators and limiting subway service.

As of 10 p.m. Saturday, Con Edison reported that more than 61,000 customers were without power in an area that included Midtown Manhattan and the Upper West Side. The New York Fire Department said the outages impacted an area from 71st Street south to 42nd Street and east from the West Side Highway to 5th Avenue.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said late Saturday that Con Ed was hoping to begin restoring power to affected customers by midnight.

Looking north on 6th Avenue at approximately 9:50 p.m.

Looking north on 6th Avenue at approximately 9:50 p.m.
(Fox News Channel)

“While fortunately no injuries occurred as a result of this incident, the fact that it happened at all is unacceptable,” Cuomo said. “I am directing the Department of Public Service to investigate and identify the exact cause of the outages to help prevent an incident of this magnitude from happening again. Until the recovery is complete, we will continue to take all necessary actions to ensure the safety and security of New Yorkers.”

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) tweeted Saturday evening that signals on the A, B, C, D, E, F, and M subway lines were affected and four stations were closed to the public due to lack of power: 59th St-Columbus Circle, 47-50th Sts-Rockefeller Ctr, 34th St-Hudson Yards, and 5th Av/53rd St.

Some service had been restored in Queens.

The agency added that service was limited on the Seventh Avenue and Lexington Avenue lines as well as the 7 line between Manhattan and Queens.

“However, *our entire system is affected* by the Con Edison outage,” the agency tweeted shortly after 9 p.m. “In Manhattan, the bus is your best bet.”

New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson tweeted that Con Edison had reported a “major disturbance” at a substation on West 49th Street. The New York City Fire Department said the fire started at West 64th Street and West End Avenue but did not say if that was the source of the outage.

ConEd spokesman Sidney Alvarez told Fox News that the utility experienced an “equipment failure at one of its substations, but wasn’t sure of the specific location.

Straphangers tweeted photos of blacked-out train stations and non-working traffic lights.

Social media was full of reports of ordinary citizens directing traffic at some Midtown intersections. Police officers were directing traffic at other major thoroughfares. The New York Fire Department said it received reports of people stuck in elevators on the Upper West Side and subway passengers stuck on trains

The outage occurred just before 7 p.m. The temperature was warm, above 80 even as the sun set, but not as steaming as Manhattan can get in July.

Mayor Bill de Blasio initially said the city’s emergency management agency was working with police and fire personnel to respond to impacted areas.

In a later statement, De Blasio said police had “confirmed that there’s no foul play. This was a mechanical issue.” A spokesperson for de Blasio tweeted late Saturday that the mayor was returning to New York from Iowa, where he had been campaigning for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination earlier Saturday.

Ginger Tidwell, a dance teacher and Upper West Side resident, was about to order at the West Side diner on Broadway and West 69th Street just before 7 p.m.

“When the lights started flickering, and then were out,” she said. “We got up and left, walking up Broadway with all the traffic lights out and businesses dark.”

Once they got to 72nd Street, they found another restaurant open with power.

“It was still sunny and everyone just came out to the street because they lost power and air conditioning; it was super-crowded,” she said. “Everyone was hanging out on the street on a nice night. All you could hear was fire trucks up and down Broadway. All of Broadway was without traffic lights.”

Multiple Broadway shows like “Frozen” were canceled as some theaters lost power, forcing thousands to exit darkened theaters into crowded streets, according to Playbill. Castmembers from “Come From Away” and “Hadestown” put on an impromptu performance outside a venue, according to social media posts.

Emily Totero’s plans to take out-of-town guests to see “Moulin Rouge” were ruined when they arrived to find the theater district without power.

“You could see all the theater lights across the street, all the marquees went out. That’s what we noticed first,” she said.

Much of Rockefeller Center was also without power, though some buildings did have lights on.

An evacuation was ordered at Madison Square Garden, where thousands of people were expected to attend a concert by pop singer Jennifer Lopez.

Saturday marked the 42nd anniversary of the 1977 blackout, which affected much of the city for 48 hours and resulted in widespread looting, arson and other criminal activities.


This is a developing story; check back for more updates. Fox News correspondent Bryan Llenas contributed to his report and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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