NEW YORK — The root cause of Saturday’s massive five-hour blackout that put thousands of New Yorkers in the dark remained a mystery Sunday afternoon, city officials said.
Con Edison launched a review of the Manhattan power failure immediately after electricity was restored to nearly 73,000 customers shortly before midnight Saturday, utility President Timothy Cawley said.
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Cawley and city officials said they are confident the blackout was not the result of a terrorist attack, the electrical system’s age or an excess demand for power. But determining the exact cause of the cascading failure will take time, they said.
“To get to the definite cause is going to take a lot more work,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday at a news conference on Manhattan’s West Side.
The blackout darkened Times Square’s electric billboards, canceled Broadway shows, halted subway trains and disabled traffic lights once it started just before 6:50 p.m. Saturday.
The FDNY rescued people from more than 400 elevators and NYPD cops helped evacuate Madison Square Garden, where Jennifer Lopez was performing, police and fire officials said.
The blackout started when breakers opened up at a Con Ed West Side transmission station, “de-energizing the neighborhoods” surrounding it, according to Cawley. Utility workers turned back on most of the equipment involved but left off some that needs additional inspection or may need repairs, he said.
“The cascading or sort of the widespread nature of the failure is really what we’re going to dig into,” Cawley said.
De Blasio was on a presidential campaign trip to Iowa when the blackout started and said he decided to come back to the city after it became clear it would not be immediately resolved.
He defended his Saturday night absence, saying he was “talking constantly” with city officials while away.
“You have to take charge wherever you are, and I did that,” de Blasio said.