Transcript: Mayor Bloomberg's press conference
(CNN) -- New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave a press conference about the Northeast blackout late Thursday afternoon. Here is an edited transcript of that press conference:
BLOOMBERG: Well, good afternoon. Let me first tell you, I've just gotten off the phone with Gene McGrath, who is the chairman of the board of [power company] Con Edison, and he is pleased to inform us that power is starting to come back from the north and from the west.
What that means is that we will be starting up power in the city. It will take a decent amount of time, hours, not minutes, and nobody really can be any more specific than that.
The first thing that everybody should do is to understand that there is no evidence of any terrorism whatsoever. For some reason or other, there was a power failure in northern New York or southern Canada. That cascaded down through the system and affected the power grid as far east as Connecticut, as far south as New Jersey and as far west as Ohio.
To the best of our knowledge, nobody has been injured during the evacuation procedure from tall buildings or from the subways. There are people who are still in the subways as of last report, but the police are saying that the evacuation procedures are working, people are calm, and that they are getting out.
A lot of people are inconvenienced, clearly. Most hospitals have power. ...
The police commissioner and the fire commissioner and the deputy commissioner for Office of Emergency Management are all here. What they report, in summary, is a very quiet city. There are no fires of any size going on at the moment. There's no criminal activity of any size taking place or hasn't been reported. 911 is working; 311 is working.
Things like traffic lights are not working. The police department has dispersed people to major intersections to try to help with traffic direction. The fire department and police department have called in all of their staff, those that had been on earlier and those that were scheduled to come on. So we are fully staffed.
Our advice to people is to be very careful in going home. It is very hot out there. The water supply is safe and you should drink a lot of water. You should keep your refrigerator doors closed. You should open your windows.
It is also important that you turn off all electrical appliances, particularly air conditioners, because as the power comes back Con Ed and the other power companies will have a very difficult time if the demand is 100 percent. So by turning off your air conditioners you will in fact help yourself get air conditioning a lot quicker.
At the moment, people are doing what you would expect them to do in New York City: They're cooperating. And if you are walking and you feel the least bit faint, go into a police precinct, go into a firehouse, go into a restaurant, sit down, have some water, and just be sure that you don't make an inconvenience into a tragedy.
At the moment, you should know that I've talked to Andy Card, who is the president's chief of staff, and to Gov. Pataki. Both have offered aid. But there's nothing at the moment that we think they can provide us with. We believe that our internal capacity is adequate to maintain public safety and to continue the process of recovery from a power failure.
We've talked to the MTA [New York's transit authority]. As I said, I've talked to Con Ed. Everybody has been as helpful as you could possibly ask them to be.
And with a lot of luck, later on this evening we will look back on this and say, "Where were you when the lights went out?" but nobody will have gotten hurt.
I think it's a fair statement to say that for most events that were planned tonight, the power will probably not be back in time, and I would assume that most people would cancel any events that they had planned.
Be happy to take a question or two. Sir?
QUESTION: There was some discrepancy. Earlier you said that the smoke that was coming out of [the 14th] Street Station was normal. ...
BLOOMBERG: There was no fire whatsoever. ...
Gene McGrath, the chairman of the board of Con Ed, assures me that that smoke is what should happen when the boilers are turned off at Con Ed.
What happens is, Con Ed has to turn off their generating facilities when they don't get outside power. They can only generate power in the same order of magnitude as they are receiving from outside. When they get none from outside, there's no place for the power to go. They shut down their boilers. They were done, to the best of their knowledge, with no damage whatsoever. When that procedure is done, you tend to get some thick, black smoke coming out of the stacks. That's exactly what people saw.
There is -- let me repeat again -- no evidence whatsoever of terrorism.
QUESTION: You indicated that with luck we'd have power tonight. Did you get any indication from Con Ed about -- I mean, is there a reason for you to believe that other than hope?
BLOOMBERG: No, no. Power is starting to come back from the various facilities. The power generation capacity of Con Ed and of most power facilities, maybe all -- because we still don't know exactly what happened in Canada -- is intact.
It's just once all of this shuts down, it is a very complex and time-consuming process that has to be very carefully choreographed to bring it back up. That is starting to take place. It is very encouraging.
But I don't want anybody to think that the power is going to be back for everybody in the next hour. It is not going to be. ...
QUESTION: Will the city have to be deploying lights at any major intersections?
BLOOMBERG: We have. The Office of Emergency Management has started to do that. With a lot of luck the power will be back before it's dark and maybe they'll never be needed. But we have a careful plan which we've rehearsed and practiced to deal with exactly this emergency. And as of this moment, virtually everything that we had expected to be able to do, we have done. And New Yorkers are cooperating exactly in the ways you would expect them to.
QUESTION: So at this point there's no need or no plan to call up the National Guard for any ...
BLOOMBERG: There is no need and no plan to call out the National Guard. The governor has certainly volunteered to do anything that we asked for, but there is no need. The New York City Police Department can certainly maintain order. And when you see all of New Yorkers on the street cooperating, it's probably in some senses an easier job for the police department and for the fire department. Everybody cooperates and everybody is careful.
QUESTION: Is the NYPD taking steps to prevent looting at this point or tonight?
BLOOMBERG: The NYPD has people at most major intersections, and I don't think that this is a city in this day and age where that's a real risk. But you may rest assured that the entire NYPD is out protecting the people of this city.
QUESTION: Mr. Mayor, do you know how many people are still in the subways or in elevators?
BLOOMBERG: We don't know. The MTA thinks that there's not that many. There are some trains under the river. They are getting them out one by one, and with every moment that passes, there are fewer and fewer.
At the moment, it would appear that nobody's life is in jeopardy. I'm sure as people come out they'll say they were worried, that it was hot, that it was inconvenient, that they sweated, that they didn't know what was happening, the normal kinds of things. The procedures, as far as we know as of this moment, all are working and particularly the evacuation procedures.
QUESTION: Where were you when the lights went out?
BLOOMBERG: I was just across the river in the city, in Brooklyn, as a matter of fact.
QUESTION: How did you become aware that something had happened? Were you inside?
BLOOMBERG: Well, I was actually sitting at a table and it was pretty bright, and I did not notice that the lights went out. And somebody tapped me on the shoulder and said the lights went out.
But it's a bright sunny day, as you know here, and I think a lot of people had that experience. Just all of a sudden a few things weren't working. And then you realize just how dependent we are on electricity.
QUESTION: Has there been any mobilization activated by the PD? Are we in a level 1 or level 2?
BLOOMBERG: We're at level 2. ... The police department has a plan where local precincts take over command in case their communication system doesn't work. It is another one of those things that we have worked at very carefully. Coordination between police, fire, OEM, department of health is here.
One of the great risks that we run is that people die because of heat or lack of water, and so that's why the department of health and mental hygiene is here.
QUESTION: Do you have any more indications what the root cause is ...
BLOOMBERG: No. At the moment Con Ed does not know, and we're relying on them and the other power companies for it.
There will clearly be an investigation of two things -- one, what happened; and two, why did it affect the whole system, why were the safeguards that were put in the last time it affected the whole system not working?
QUESTION: I just want to get more of your personal observations if you noted how people are orderly walking across the bridge and what you noticed returning to this office.
BLOOMBERG: There's nobody that's a bigger fan of New Yorkers than I am, and I think you're seeing the very best of the best. When the going gets tough, New Yorkers pull together. They are very proud people. They are people who understand that we live in a very complex world together.
Tragically, we had experience of dealing with adversity back on 9/11, but New Yorkers every day cooperate.
QUESTION: Can you say that the city will be back to business tomorrow morning?
BLOOMBERG: I would expect everything to be back to business tomorrow. You probably will have some traffic lights out of sequence, although maybe we can even get those done.
But our expectation, assuming that the plan to bring back power continues without anything else going wrong -- and at the moment that is what's happening -- by later on this evening it will be back to speculating, "Where were you when the lights went out?"