NEW YORK A brief power outage darkened a large swath of Manhattan and the Bronx on Wednesday, knocking out traffic lights, cutting subway service and forcing the evacuation of the Metropolitan Museum of Art on one of the hottest days of the year.
The blackout affected approximately 385,000 people, said Kevin Burke, chief executive of the Consolidated Edison utility. Power was restored in about an hour, but that did not stop the city from experiencing some of the confusion it endured during blackouts last year and in 2003.
Museum visitors were forced to sit on the outside steps in the sweltering heat. Traffic lights up and down the east side of Manhattan and the Bronx, including the area around Yankee Stadium, went dark.
The city was in the second day of temperatures well over 90 degrees.
People came in off the street and we were selling flashlights, bottled water, candles, ice, said Barry Newman, a pharmacist at a Gristede s Pharmacy on the Upper East Side.
He said: People stood outside their apartment buildings, looking nervous. Everyone was saying, What s going on? What s going on?
Burke said the power failure began at 3:42 p.m. and that all electricity was restored by 4:30 p.m.
The cause was under investigation, but Burke said lightning was a possibility. The problem started in a Queens substation connected to two others in the Bronx and Upper East Side, Burke said.
Burke added that the likelihood of this happening again is very low. The disruption had nothing to do with how much electricity Con Ed customers were using at the time, he said.
The blackout affected 136,700 customers, Con Edison said. A customer can consist of a single-family home or an entire apartment building.
A severe storm in upstate New York the same day left about 45,000 people without power near Albany.
New York 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. The power failure was a minor inconvenience, he said.
I think it s fair to say that resetting your clock was probably the worst thing that happened, he said.
Suspensions and delays were reported along subways. The Metro-North commuter railroad had to reduce the number of trains, resulting in delays and crowded cars as the evening rush hour approached, said spokeswoman Marjorie Anders.
Last summer, about 174,000 people were affected by a blackout in Queens.
Residents sweltered without air conditioners on some of the hottest days of the year, 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, and said Con Ed needed to make critical and substantial improvements.
New York was also hard hit by a 2003 blackout that cut power to a large chunk of the Northeast.
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