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New York City Is Calm In Spite Of Black Out

Aired August 15, 2003 - 20:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: You know, John, if anyone's ever been to that power grid near Niagara Falls on the U.S. side or, indeed, on the Canadian side right near Niagara Falls, the Niagara-Mohawk power grid, I grew up not very far from there, it's a huge complex.
And, if in fact lightning hit that complex totally understandable it would cause this kind of disruption because so much of the power generated by the power of the Niagara River flowing over those Niagara Falls emanates, at least in southern Ontario as well as in the northeastern part of the United States from those power generator along the Niagara River, Niagara Falls on the U.S. side as well as the Canadian side.

We'll continue to monitor that situation obviously if, in fact, lightning is the cause of all of these problems. It is getting dark now in New York City. We have a shot we want to show our viewers from Queens, showing the skyline of New York City as dusk clearly develops and it's going to get darker momentarily, pretty dark throughout this city.

CNN's Jason Carroll is in Manhattan. He's on the phone as well. Jason, tell our viewers where you are and what's happening.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I've been camped out here in front of Penn Station where there's literally tens of thousands of people, stranded commuters, trying to figure out some way of getting home and just a few minutes ago a bit of good news has been announced.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has announced that they have managed to restore limited train service on Amtrak as well as on New Jersey Transit. Again, I say limited service because they say they have managed to get some of the trains running westbound.

So, you can imagine that was greeted with certainly good news here from a lot of people that we talked to, commuters, one woman who was trying to get back to Philadelphia, another man that was trying to head to Massachusetts, a lot of people out here some of them trying to get to Long Island.

As I look over now at Penn Station they're letting people in in small groups, in small waves, starting to move into Penn Station, starting to make their way home after what some have called a very frustrating day here in Manhattan.

But, once again, to report the Metropolitan Transportation Authority now saying that limited train service has been restored on both Amtrak and on New Jersey Transit. Those are for trains heading westbound only at this point -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jason, are people reluctant or are they anxious to get on those trains, the limited service that is just being restored right now?

CARROLL: I got to tell you, Wolf, in terms of the excitement about any train moving at this point, people are really just being as patient as possible in terms of trying to move through the front door but a lot of these people are anxious to get home. It was a hot day, a lot of people patiently waited out here, camped out on the sidewalks.

There were thousands of people camped in front of the post office, some with their newspapers out here. Several cars have pulled over, you know, letting their radio, turning their radios up so people could hear the latest reports. People are very anxious to get home, get home to their loved ones but people are patient here but definitely wanting to get on the trains as soon as possible.

BLITZER: And just to be precise, Jason, as far as you can tell from your eyewitness reporting everyone is calm. There's been no incidents, no negative incidents, nothing ugly.

CARROLL: Very calm here, Wolf, at Penn Station and, again, I want to emphasize there are thousands of people who are here who have been waiting patiently here for the past several hours for news of when some service would be restored and for some people the wait is not over.

I want to point that out. Again, this is limited service so you've got thousands of people who are still waiting to hear if perhaps their train will be running again and when that will happen.

But, as I've been out here, camped out here, I see nothing but patient people, a lot of people asking questions wanting to know what was going on. But one woman told me, hey, you know, this is New York. We're used to it by now.

BLITZER: Jason, they say that power is slowly being restored in some areas, certainly I haven't seen any evidence of that from where I am in Manhattan. Have you seen any evidence that any lights are going on anyplace around you?

CARROLL: I do see some generator lights here at Penn Station. They're telling me that they're slowly getting some of their lights back on but in terms of if that's a backup system or some other type of system, you know, that is unclear at this point.

But in terms of the MTA, officials that I spoke to, it seems very apparent at this point that they are slowly getting train service running again and that certainly is going to relieve a lot of the congestion.

And, let me point out that you have so many people who are out here on the streets and on the sidewalks it's really creating somewhat of a traffic problems for some of the people who are out here along Eighth Avenue, along Seventh Avenue, on the other side of Penn Station. So as you can imagine the civil authorities here are anxiously trying to get as many people off the streets onto busses or back onto trains.

BLITZER: All right, Jason, because we're going to be getting back to you. I just want to recap a little bit for our viewers who just are joining us. It's getting dark in New York City along the eastern part of the United States, the northeastern corridor, huge chunks of this area still without power as well as in Ontario.

Apparently, according to Canadian officials, lightning responsible for hitting an important power grid on the U.S. side of Niagara Falls in Niagara Falls, New York. That's where huge generators or huge portions of the Niagara-Mohawk power grid causing this kind of disruption in a part of Ontario as well as in southern Ontario, as well as in the northeastern part of the United States, especially here in New York City.

Earlier, we were talking on the streets here with a young woman who was in the dentist's chair when the power went off. They were drilling her teeth and then all of a sudden everything stopped. Dita (ph), we interrupted Dita, you were telling us your story, so what happened when the power went off and your teeth were being drilled?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They had holes. My teeth had holes. We had to move to another room where there was some natural light coming in and my dentist had to manually put stuff in. She felt like she was working in, you know, a time zone of 30, 40 years ago when there was no electricity but all the lights were out.

I was in the Met Life Building. We then closed up shop, went downstairs, went to Bryant Park and everyone was lying outside having a very nice relaxing. I think once the official fear of it not being a terror attack people were very calm, you know, and they felt that togetherness that, you know, we felt not so long ago, two years ago, feel very calm.

And, I think the biggest handicap that people felt was not being able to dial through their cell phones. We're all very used to having that stuck to our ears but very calming together and I heard mixed feelings. Some people were like oh this is horrible. This is horrible. And some people were like I think it's kind of nice. We're going to hang out and actually relax and, you know, be together.

BLITZER: What was the biggest difference that went through your mind? You lived through 9/11. You're living through this. What, if anything, was the big difference?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the initial response to it even when people didn't know what exactly what was going on. We were not as panicked as we were, you know, during 9/11. I'm sure, I work on the trading floor and I'm sure the markets kind of went havoc for a while just in response to that but people generally around New York City since we've been through so much very calm and very together and the biggest thing I felt was that togetherness.

BLITZER: Dita thanks very much for that eyewitness personal account of what happened what you lived through here in New York City.

We're going to continue to monitor all of the developments here in New York City, get back to some more information but for now I guess we're going to throw it back to John King in Washington -- John.


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