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http://m.nydailynews.com/new-york/lightning-strikes-blackout-1977-article-1.2284170

AP

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"Hospitals throughout the city reported only minor disruptions, as emergency generators were quickly brought into service." 

The New York City skyline is almost black, except for a few lights from generators, during the blackout of July 13, 1977.

(Originally published by the Daily News on July 14, 1977. This story was written by Dick Brass.)

A massive power failure plunged New York City and most of Westchester County into darkness in sweltering midsummer weather last night, stranding millions in buildings, disrupting communications, slowing fire-fighting efforts, encouraging looting and evoking grim memories of the great 1965 Northeast power collapse.

A Con Ed spokesman blamed the blackout on severe lightning strikes at about 8:40 p.m. on a 345 kilovolt transmission cable suspended across the Hudson River to the company’s nuclear plant at Indian Point on the Hudson. The lightning strikes led to what the spokesman called a “cascading effect” that shut down the power system at about 9:30 p.m.

PETE HAMILL: CURSING THE DARKNESS IN THE BLACKOUT

LOOTERS PREY ON THE CITY DURING THE BLACKOUT

The company attempted to prevent the shutdown by reducing voltage by 5% at 9:15 p.m. and by 8% at 9:20, but their efforts failed. By 10 p.m., officials predicted it would take “several hours” to reestablish power.

The failure stranded millions of New Yorkers in buildings and on elevators and subway trains. A Transit Authority official said that although passengers had been trapped in sweltering subway cars, within an hour emergency power had moved the trains to nearby stations.

Reports of Widespread Looting

Within minutes of the blackout, there were reports of widespread looting and major fires at various locations. Looters smashed into stores on Broadway in the West 40s, and in Queens young looters quickly turned baseball bats against telephone coin boxes at the end of the Queensboro Bridges. Stores also were being looted in the Bronx.

Firemen labored to extinguish blazes in the darkness. At 11:14 p.m., the police radio reported that the Bronx House of Detention was on fire.

Elsewhere, youngsters danced and played transistor radios while a tenement burned at 95th St. and Columbus Ave.

Daily News Frontpage July 14, 1977

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Other youngsters rushed to help. Within minutes of the blackout, teenagers appeared at various intersections throughout the city to help direct traffic. In a 16-story apartment house at 102nd St. and West End Ave., youngsters helped elderly women navigate the darkened stairways.

“This Is Bad Indeed”

Mayor Beame, accompanied by top aides, rushed to City Hall from a political meeting at Co-op City in the Bronx to map emergency procedures. “This is bad indeed,” Beame said as he reached the hall at 10:15 p.m.

Hospitals throughout the city reported only minor disruptions, as emergency generators were quickly brought into service.

“There was a split second of confusion and some of our patients are little bit uncomfortable because of the loss of air conditioning, but our backup generator was on within seconds to provide power for vital services,” said Mrs. Caroline Alba, evening administor at the 308-bed Beekman-Downtown Hospital in Manhattan.

“As long as our generators have gas, we should have no problem,” said Dr. Robert Shaver, associate director at Manhattan’s Mount Sinai Hospital.

A spokesman for the city’s Health and Hospitals Corp. said that backup generators were working at all of the city’s 17 hospitals.

As the power failed, hundreds of diners found themselves trapped temporarily in the plush Windows on the World restaurant atop the World Trade Center. Emergency power in the trade center quickly restored lights. Most diners were able to finish their meals while the city below struggled in the darkness.

Lincoln Center and Shea Stadium, where the Mets were playing the Chicago Cubs, were evacuated.

According to a Con Ed spokesman, “Sometime between 8:30 and 9 p.m. very severe thunder and lightning storms, particularly in Westchester County, short-circuited a major transmission line bringing power into the city.

DAILY NEWS PHOTO

Cops contain suspected looters at Grand Concourse and Fordham Road in the Bronx.

DAILY NEWS

View of 34th St. in New York City during power outage which caused 1977 blackout.

AP

Owners and employees of a sporting goods store on New York's Upper West Side stand guard outside the store with baseball bats as police walk by after the store was looted during the massive blackout.

AP

Firefighters in the Bronx battle flames in one of the many fires raging in stores throughout New York City during the blackout.

LLARANA, RAFAEL, NEW YORK DAILY

The Manhattan skyline reflects isolated pockets of emergency generating light late Wednesday night after blackout. Lights are provided by generators of moored ships. Picture was taken from West New York, N.J.

“The started a sequence of events. First, Indian Point No. 3 tripped out, having no place to send its power. Meanwhile, because of the hot weather there was a very heavy demand on the system and we began to take steps to meet this.

“Spread Available Power”

“We began to reduce voltage on the system to spread available power around. This didn’t work. We began to cut off customers in Westchester County. During this event, Ravenwood Plant No. 3 (a giant 1 million kilowatt generator known as Big Alice) in Queens also tripped off, because of very heavy demand.”

Con Ed officials warned customers to turn off their lights and appliances to prevent another failure when power is restored.

Across the city, hundreds of off-duty police reported to handle the emergency. All those on duty were held over. To help cope with the situation, Gov. Carey ordered nine armories open for public shelters in Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Yonkers.

The Public Service Commission said the initial short circuit caused within moments what the commission labeled a “cascade of other trip outs and power failures.” The first such trip out was a third 345-kilovolt line between Millwood, N.Y. and Pleasant Valley, N.Y. The forth failure was a “tie line” connecting the Long Island Lighting Co. power system with Con Edison. The fifth failure came on a Con Ed line, under the Hudson River, which connects with the power system of the Public Service Electric and Gas Co., a New Jersey utility.

The spokesman said that all the above power failures are “supposed to happen. It is supposed to isolate the effects of the failure and prevent it from spreading all over the state and the Northeast like the power failure in 1965.”

“This all worked as it should have,” the spokesman said. “However this caught Con Ed with a heavy power load and limited capacity.” Since Con Ed was left without backup power from the New Jersey and Long Island utilities, the power demand from Con Ed customers caused the Indian Point No. 3 nuclear generating plant to “trip out.” The “trip out” was compared with a circuit breaker in a home, which turns power off when too many appliances are put on at once.

Con Ed had trouble getting repair crews into the city because of the massive breakdown in transportation.

 

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