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New York struggles to recover from blackout

Source: NDTV.com
Date: August 16, 2003

BlackOut A massive power blackout retreated stubbornly on Friday as power officials struggled to understand why the historic outage spread in minutes through the northeastern United States and southern Canada.

Lights flicked on and air conditioners restarted for some, but millions of others baked in stuffy rooms.

In New York City, power was restored Friday morning to parts of all five boroughs and some suburbs, but millions faced a morning rush hour without subway service or many traffic lights and no timetable for full restoration of power.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg asked essential city workers to come in but told nonessential counterparts to stay home and urged citizens to use judgment about working Friday.

Search for an explanation

While terrorism was swiftly ruled out by President Bush and other officials, there was scant indication of what had caused the outage, which began on the cusp of Thursday's afternoon rush hour in Eastern cities.

Michehl Gent, president of the North American Electric Reliability Council, said Friday on ABC-TV's "Good Morning America" that the crisis started perhaps in Ohio.

Gent, whose nonprofit council was formed after the 1965 Northeast blackout to promote the reliability of the bulk electric systems, did not say what those indications were but expressed confidence that terrorism was not involved.

But Governor of New Mexico and former US Secretary of Energy, Bill Richardson said sabotage and cyber-terrorism should not be ruled out.

The New York Independent System Operator, which runs the state's wholesale electricity market and monitors power usage, said it had detected a sudden loss of power generation at 4:11 p.m.

More generally, industry and government experts blamed a system composed of interconnected grids that has not been upgraded to meet power demands.

Stranded commuters

In New York City, thousands of stranded commuters were forced to sleep in bus and train terminals and even in the streets.

Hundreds of out-of-towners at the Marriott Marquis slept on sidewalks because the hotel did not have a generator to power its electronic room keys.

However, businesses from Manhattan through the Midwest were anxious about technical glitches and more power outages a day after the biggest blackout in US history.

New York Governor George Pataki praised his constituents for pulling together to help each other.

Electric industry and government officials said the nation's power grid has needed major upgrades for years, but industry experts said there were three major obstacles in the way: the expense, environmental opposition and people who didn't want power facilities near their back yards.

Both federal and state agencies, as well as congressional committees, are expected to investigate the blackout and try to determine why measures put in place to isolate grids and keep power disruptions from spreading failed to do so.

Wall Street unaffected

Despite the outages in Manhattan, New York's financial markets had no intention of shutting down.

The American Stock Exchange, New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq reported minimal interruption after the close of trading.

All had backup power generators and opened on Friday. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg rang the stock exchange's opening bell at 0930 local time (1330 GMT).

Power was restored to the Wall Street area after 0600 local time (1000 GMT) but stock market officials had said they had backup power generators and could operate even if the outage continued.

The Nasdaq stock market also reported it was fully operational.

But the nearby American Stock Exchange said its trading was delayed due to problems at a Consolidated Edison substation that prevented the trading floor from being air conditioned.

Even though everything was up and running, it was expected to be a quiet day on Wall Street, with some traders unable to make it to work and others away on vacation.

August is generally a slow time for the market.

The subways weren't running for the morning rush and some commuter rail lines were also shut down.

Some workers who did make it to Wall Street said it was unusually quiet.

About 300 traders and staff members had stayed overnight at the NYSE in the boardroom and cafeteria because they didn't want to go home due to the blackout.

The blackout, which also affected other parts of the Northeast and southern Canada, started at 1611 local time (2011 GMT) on Thursday, shortly after stock trading ended for the day.

Stocks barely budged on Friday as trading resumed as investors in Asia and Europe largely shrugged off the news. (AP)

Original article at: http://www.ndtv.com

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