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Power Returns as Questions Begin

Aired August 15, 2003 - 06:32   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: As I said, about 15 million are still without power this morning. They're in the Canadian cities of Ottawa, Toronto, on down into the United States into Albany, New York City, Newark, New Jersey, west to Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland and Erie, Pennsylvania. The good news is the power should be back on in a couple of hours, at least we hope so, in Cleveland, and water should be restored there as well.
Our correspondents are spread out across this huge affected area. Let's go to Times Square right now, America's crossroads. The sun is up; so is Gary Tuchman. And some of the lights are coming back on.

Good morning -- Gary.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol, but not here yet in Times Square. The absolute brightest part of this biggest city in America still is without power; 4:11 Eastern Time is when the power went out, so it's been 14 hours and 20 minutes that about 80 percent of New York City has been without power. That's the number we're getting -- between 20 and 25 percent of the power in New York City and Westchester County, which is just to the north of here, has its power back.

As a matter of fact, we were standing here in the street in Times Square looking to our north at about 4:20 a.m. Eastern Time this morning when we saw the lights shine about five blocks north of here. So, we actually saw that people thought that the power would then come back on in Times Square. So, all of the tourists started gathering here, looking up at the sky -- it looked like a religious experience -- for the lights to come back on, but they still haven't. And now, if it does happen, it won't be as dramatic, obviously, because it's daylight.

But this is the exact area where we stand to bring you the ball dropping on New Year's Eve from that tower, and this is where we stand to do stories about big snowstorms in New York City. But we have never stood here before doing this type of story, because the last time there was a blackout like this in New York City was before CNN was a glimmer in Ted Turner's eye. That was back in 1977 before CNN was on the air.

So, this is a first for us, and it's a first for a lot of people, because the fact is that was 26 years ago, so most of the people who live here in New York City are probably around that age. So, most of the people who live here probably weren't alive the last time or remember the last time when it happened. But we can tell you the most important news. The headline is that the police say it was actually a safer night overnight in New York City last night than a typical night. They say there was almost no crime, and part of that is attributed to the fact they had more than 9,500 police officers in the streets compared to the normal 1,000 to 2,000. But they say people were truly on their best behavior, helping each other out.

As a matter of fact, many hotels put sheets and pillows out in front of their hotels, because their lobbies were jammed, the rooms were jammed, but they said, please, we will give you our linens, you can sleep out, it's warm outside. And people all over New York were sleeping outside in fine hotel linens on the sidewalks.

COSTELLO: OK, on that note, Gary, let me ask you this: If I have a ticket to New York City this morning because I want to visit there this weekend, is it worth coming?

TUCHMAN: It certainly is worth coming. As a matter of fact, Newark Airport was open all last night. LaGuardia and Kennedy are expected to open up today. And I'll be honest with you, if you're not a commuter, it will be a lot easier, because it's easy to walk, there are not many people on the sidewalks or the streets right now. So, it's a great place to come over the weekend for a vacation. The power should be back on -- that's what we're being told -- they hope sometime today.

COSTELLO: Oh, we hope so. Gary Tuchman live from Times Square, many thanks to you.

As Gary said, New Yorkers are known for adapting, and the blackout is really putting them to the test.

CNN's Peter Viles reports on the longest commute.


PETER VILES, CNN FINANCIAL NEWS (voice-over): It was the longest and slowest rush hour in New York City history. The streets of Manhattan turned into a sea of humanity, as New Yorkers calmly evacuated darkened office buildings and made their way home, even if they had to walk along abandoned subway tracks or across bridges.

Traffic came to a standstill. This was real gridlock. On some corners, ordinary New Yorkers took it upon themselves to get out and direct traffic, an afternoon commute all New Yorkers will remember.

(on camera): So, it was like a sea of humanity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was. Although this time it wasn't -- the sea of humanity wasn't freaked out. They were just calmly walking across the bridge, and they were in a much better mood than they were two years ago.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've been here during 9/11 and today. I think New York actually shows its best spirit during crisis. You see people just pull together and do what needs to be done, and you see funny sides of people just waiting it out and doing what they have to do. And now we're here just relaxing, because, you know, there is nothing else to do this evening.

VILES: When they arrived in Queens, commuters looked back and saw an unusual, even historic, sight: the world's greatest skyline. Somewhere in this picture is the Empire State Building shrouded in darkness.

Peter Viles, CNN, Queens, New York.


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