Massive Power Outage Hits Manhattan After Report Of Possible Explosion On 42nd Anniversary Of 1977 Blackout

Large part of Manhattan, New York City, lost power on Saturday — exactly 42 years after the 1977 blackout that led to widespread anarchy and looting.

The Manhattan skyline stands against they sky.
Chris Hondros / Getty Images

Large part of Manhattan, New York City, lost power on Saturday — exactly 42 years after the 1977 blackout that led to widespread anarchy and looting.

A massive power outage hit New York City’s main island of Manhattan on Saturday afternoon, shutting down subways and causing chaos as traffic lights stopped working, according to a report by WABC TV News. Notably, the outage hit on the 42nd anniversary of the 1977 New York City blackout that put nearly the entire city into darkness and led to widespread anarchy and looting for 25 hours.

Saturday’s blackout, though widespread, appears to be limited to upper and midtown Manhattan — though according to a Washington Examiner report, the blackout extended to LaGuardia Airport in the borough of Queens, across the East River from Manhattan, where flights were delayed and terminals shut down.

According to freelance journalist Evan Siegfried, posting on Twitter, a “loud boom” preceded the blackout at approximately 6:50 p.m. Eastern. Siegfried said that he was located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan when he heard the “boom.”

The WABC TV report said that there were unconfirmed reports of a “transformer fire” at 64th street and West End Avenue on the Upper West Side, though the cause of the outage remained unknown as of 8 p.m. Eastern. State Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal on her Twitter account said that police reported a “manhole explosion” at 65th Street and West End Avenue, though other Twitter users noted that an underground transformer explosion could blow off a manhole cover.

Reports via Twitter said that the blackout extended at least as far down as Times Square, one if the world’s busiest tourist destinations and home to 41 Broadway theaters.

The iconic Rockefeller Center between 5th and 6th Avenues in midtown Manhattan was also reported to be running on generators, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Rockefeller Center is home to NBC News, as well as several popular TV shows, including Saturday Night Live. Another iconic Manhattan building, Radio City Music Hall was also reported to be without power.

The blackout struck on a day when New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, was reported to be out of the city campaigning in Iowa. But The New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson posted updates on the power outage on his Twitter account. The Mayor’s absence drew a stream of sarcasm from Twitter users.

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The Fire Department of New York said it had received numerous calls reporting people stuck in elevators. Meanwhile, subway service into Manhattan was restricted, coming in from the outer boroughs. More than 27,500 power customers were affected by the blackout as of 8 p.m., according to Con Edison, the power company servicing New York City, as quoted by WABC.

The AMC Lincoln Square 13 multiplex movie theater on the Upper West Side was evacuated due to the power outage, according to an Associated Press report.

On July 13, 1977, a massive power outage hit all five boroughs of New York City. By the time the power was restored the following day, looters have struck about 1,600 businesses throughout the city, and arsonists have set approximately 1,000 fires, according to a Time historical account.