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Power Outages

Aired August 15, 2003 - 05:03   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: We want to go -- we're going to stay live in New York City now and go to New York City Hall. Our producer, Rose Arce, is with us right now.
Are you with us by phone -- Rose?

ROSE ARCE, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: Yes, Carol, good morning.

COSTELLO: All right, describe the situation there.

ARCE: It's quite different -- quite a different picture here in Lower Manhattan. It's incredibly dark, very cavernous. Every now and then you'll see a flicker of a light here or a light there. It's mostly generators and the municipal buildings, a little bit of light in City Hall, some tower over at police headquarters where they have a skeleton staff. 911 is up and operating. Occasionally you see headlights from taxicabs or police officers, but there is very little traffic on the streets.

The sidewalks are virtually empty. An occasional pedestrian will come by and say that they are trying to get to work because they have a job that's a necessary job, but virtually nobody on the streets tonight in Lower Manhattan. The temperature has cleared up a little bit. You see that some folks, who apparently were sleeping outside earlier I am told, have gone back inside their homes.

There's limited water also down in parts of Lower Manhattan and the boroughs. Police headquarters, which is nearby, I just checked in with them, they are telling me that they still have only four reports of criminal activity in the entire city overnight, three burglaries in Brooklyn and one burglary in Queens.


ARCE: That's really quite unbelievable. You know they are breathing a sigh of relief saying if that turns out to be the entire crime report for this blackout, they are going to be quite pleased.

COSTELLO: That's pretty darned amazing. I know Mayor Bloomberg was busy all night long. Is he -- is he at home now? Will he make an early appearance do you think?

ARCE: Yes, I was told by the guards at City Hall that he went to bed some hours ago, but be prepared for an early morning briefing at City Hall. He's expected in here at about 7:00 in the morning to give us an update on the power outage. Right now the police department is telling me that they are hopeful that they'll have some power down town by the time he is in to his office. They already have reports that there is power in southern Brooklyn and parts of midtown Manhattan and all of the south Bronx and Westchester, scattered areas of Queens and most of the Jersey waterfront that faces New York. So things are looking pretty good.

And again, as Gary told you, probably no subway service for six to eight hours after that. I do see quite a bit of bus service and the buses seem to have people on them so people are moving around.

COSTELLO: Yes, trying to get to work this early in the morning. You know yesterday they were saying the power would be back on by 1:00 a.m. that would be Eastern Time this morning, but of course as we can see that wasn't the case. So it's a bigger endeavor than they originally thought perhaps?

ARCE: Yes, and a remarkable number of people actually stayed up waiting for the power to come back on. I mean where I live in Greenwich Village, it's just north of City Hall, there were people out on the streets in lawn chairs, there were barbecues going, the supermarkets had opened their doors and you know basically sold everything out. There was one man, there was a building superintendent across from where I live who set up a barbecue, bought all the hamburgers at the local grocery store and was having a cookout, just giving the food away. There were people on the waterfront playing guitar. You know it was like one big long lover's lane, couples walking around. It was actually quite pleasant, surprisingly pleasant.

COSTELLO: You know I think that surprised many people. And just looking at the people yesterday when this -- when this happened, people just walking calmly, not seeming to have a care in the world, although I am sure they were very frustrated. But it was just a bizarre scene just to see people calmly walking, no problem, people helping direct traffic, amazing.

ARCE: Yes, and everyone was telling their stories of being trapped in the subway or this elevator in quite a calm, almost nostalgic, kind of voice like you know where were you during the blackout of 2003 sort of tone to it all. There wasn't really a sense of doom or panic or you know, there wasn't -- there weren't really questions about what had happened, not a lot of wild speculation. People said well the lights are out.

I think one thing that helped quite a bit is that about an hour or two after the power went out the weather also got a little bit better. It had been extraordinarily hot and humid all day and a nice cool breeze came through the city, the humidity went down, so it was actually quite nice to be outside.

COSTELLO: Yes, you know it's funny that you should say that, I think people outside of the New York area were panicking more, because I was really trying to call my friend in Fairfield, Connecticut. I could not get a hold of him. And I was really angered when he finally called me and I said why didn't you call me? And he said what, it was just a power outage. He had no idea that it had affected so many people because, of course, he didn't have TV to watch.

ARCE: Well you know there was quite a few people sitting outside with radios on last night. It was really kind of old fashioned, you know. And in fact at one point water service was cut to various parts of a city in a related problem with the -- with the electricity being out, and people took that in stride. And sometime overnight while I was asleep for a couple of hours, we lost phone service and people seem to have taken that pretty much in stride. The cell phones are up and working. And you know the few people that have been out in the streets have told me look, you know this is a free day, no one's going to work so what's the big deal.

COSTELLO: Yes, who are they blaming for the blackout?

ARCE: You know so far I don't hear a lot of anger and I think that that may be in part because there is a lot of speculation as to what happened. You know most people heard conflicting reports yesterday evening about, you know, Canada and lightning or a power station or Pennsylvania. It was clear at one point that nobody did know exactly what had happened, so I think people were sort of reserving judgement. And also I think there was a sense of well, you know whoever is to blame for this, we don't have lights, it's August, a lot of people on vacation, the kids are out, let's not get worked up about it.

COSTELLO: Yes. Rose Arce, thanks so much. We'll get back to you during DAYBREAK.

ARCE: Thank you.


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