Lights flicker across NYC as brief power outage affects subways, elevators

Lights flicker across NYC as brief power outage affects subways, elevators

Lights flickered, subway service was disrupted and firefighters rescued scores of people trapped in elevators after a small explosion at an electrical facility caused a momentary power outage in New York City.

The brief outage just before midnight Thursday affected most of the city, officials said.

“Essentially people saw a flicker in their lights for about a second a little bit before midnight and then voltage recovered or kind of went back to normal,” Matthew Ketschke, the president of the power utility Con Edison.

Ketschke told reporters early Friday that a piece of equipment at a Brooklyn substation short-circuited. He said a protective system akin to a circuit breaker isolated the failed equipment, leading to a brief voltage dip.

A video posted on X, formerly Twitter, shows smoke from the power plant blast floating above the Manhattan Bridge.

The outage halted subway service between Grand Central Terminal and Wall Street, New York City Transit officials said in a statement on X.

Long Island Rail Road officials said in a separate statement that all of Grand Central’s elevators and escalators went out of service as well.

A Fire Department of New York spokesperson said the department responded to 137 calls for stuck elevators, most with people inside, between 11 p.m. Thursday and 2 a.m. Friday. The average number of calls about stuck elevators in a three-hour period is 15, the spokesperson said.

A security employee was trapped for about an hour at a Wegman’s grocery store in Brooklyn, a store spokesperson said.

Zachary Iscol, the city’s commissioner of emergency management, said elevators went out at nine city Housing Authority buildings.

Though inconvenient for scattered transit and elevator passengers, the episode rates as barely a flicker in the history of New York City outages.

Widespread vandalism followed a July 13, 1977, blackout that was confined to the city and its immediate surrounding area.

Twenty-six years later, New Yorkers were among the 50 million people across the Northeast who lost power on Aug. 14, 2003.