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Power returns to most areas hit by blackout

U.S.-Canadian task force charged with investigating outage

Twilight falls on Manhattan after electrical power has been restored to most of the island and New York's other boroughs Friday.
Twilight falls on Manhattan after electrical power has been restored to most of the island and New York's other boroughs Friday.

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New Yorkers might one day ask: Where were you when the lights went out?
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CNN's Bill Hemmer interviews New York Gov. George Pataki on the status of the power crisis.
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CNN's Peter Viles on New Yorkers trudging home in the worst commute in city history.
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New Yorkers' reactions to the power outage.
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PRINCETON, New Jersey (CNN) -- Power was restored Friday night to most of New York and other parts of the United States and Canada affected by the widespread blackout that struck those areas Thursday.

New York Gov. George Pataki said about 8 p.m. that power had been restored to virtually every customer in New York City.

"It is hard to believe that less than 30 hours ago, New York state was facing the largest blackout in the history of America," Pataki said. "Less than 30 hours ago, we had lost more than 85 percent of power in New York state, and now it is virtually back."

Toronto Deputy Mayor Case Ootes said officials there hope to restore all power by Sunday night. Canada was experiencing rolling blackouts Friday night, but Ontario Hydro was working to re-establish power in the province. (Full story)

Earlier in the day, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm said it might be late Sunday before power is restored to all of Detroit Edison's 2.1 million customers. (Full story)

"The vast majority will be returned to service by the end of the day," said Michehl Gent, president of the watchdog North American Electric Reliability Council.

Investigators continue to hunt for clues to the cause of the outage that cut electricity from east of New York, north to Toronto and west to Detroit, Michigan -- an area home to about 50 million people.

Gent said the exact cause remains unknown, but indications so far point to a downed 345,000 volt power line east of Cleveland, Ohio, on the "Lake Erie loop" -- a series of transmission lines around the lake -- as the source of the outage. (Full story)

Within three minutes, starting at 4:10 p.m. Thursday, 21 power plants in the United States shut down, according to Genscape, which monitors power transmissions.

The White House said Friday that a joint U.S.-Canadian task force will be formed to "identify the causes of the recent power outage." In addition to trying to find the cause of the outage, the task force will "seek solutions to help prevent future outages," according to the statement. (Full story)

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin, a Republican of Louisiana, said Friday that he is launching an investigation into the blackouts. (At a glance: Areas affected)

Tauzin said a full committee hearing will be held when Congress returns to work in early September.

Outages were also reported in Erie, Pennsylvania; Ottawa, Canada; Niagara Falls in New York and Ontario; and other cities in Connecticut, Vermont and New Jersey. (Map of affected areas)

The outage also shut down cellular telephone service in many areas. High demand caused busy signals for some users. Others lost service because there was no power to supply cell sites, which house the antennas that transmit calls. (Full story)

Three major hub airports -- New York's La Guardia and Kennedy airports, as well as Detroit International Airport -- had only sporadic power through midday Friday. About 400 flights were expected to be canceled, which created a jam that affected virtually all major airlines. (Full story)

Electric pumps were stalled in Michigan and parts of Ohio, stopping the flow of drinking water.

The National Guard set up several sites around Cleveland to distribute drinking water. Most customers' power was restored Friday, but Mayor Jane Campbell warned that until midday Sunday, residents must boil drinking water to eliminate possible contamination. (Full story)

Fading in

A New York City police officer keeps watch Friday on a darkened Manhattan corner.
A New York City police officer keeps watch Friday on a darkened Manhattan corner.

Times Square, for many the glittering symbol of New York under normal circumstances, sprang back to life about 7:45 a.m. The opening bell on Wall Street rang a couple of hours later.

The Great White Way lit up Friday, signaling that the show will go on the night after Broadway theaters went dark.

The power outage has cost New York City over a half-billion dollars in lost revenue, according to preliminary estimates from the City Council.

Chris Policano, a council spokesman, estimated losses of $500 million to $750 million in lost income; $35 million to $40 million in lost tax revenue; and $6.5 million in overtime costs to emergency crews and other city workers.

In addition, power has been restored in about five of the 15 Ohio counties affected by the outage, according to state emergency management spokesman Jeff Grayson.

Most of Connecticut's power customers were back online Friday afternoon. According to the state's Office of Emergency Management, 17,300 customers were without power at 4 p.m. That was down from 280,000 customers without power at the peak of the outage.

With most of his state back on line, Pataki said a power failure of this magnitude "shouldn't have happened." (Flash animation: Power grids explained)

Electric regulatory agencies have some "tough questions" to answer, Pataki said Friday. (Gallery: Images from the blackout and day after)

Other developments

Gerald Carson waits for gas Friday during a power outage in Michigan.
Gerald Carson waits for gas Friday during a power outage in Michigan.

• Long Island Railroad officials said Friday that train service will resume its normal weekend schedule at midnight for all branches of the railroad. Service has been disrupted since Thursday.

• Three reported deaths have been tied to the outage. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at least one person died as a result of the blackout, and at least one firefighter was injured. In Canada, Ottawa Director of Emergency Services Tony Dimanti said a 15-year-old died from injuries suffered in a fire, and another person died after being hit by a car during an altercation.

• In New York, about 3,000 fire calls were reported, Bloomberg said, many from people using candles. Emergency services, he said, responded to 80,000 calls to 911 for help, more than double the average.

• At least 850 people were arrested in New York City in the past 24 hours, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Friday -- fewer than on a normal summer night. Of those 850, about 250-300 of those people were arrested for burglary and/or looting, Kelly said. The figure represents a drop in crime: On a typical summer night, Kelly said, there are usually about 950 arrests in New York.

• The Internal Revenue Service granted a one-week extension for taxpayers who had a Friday deadline. "The IRS will consider as timely any tax returns or payments due from today through Friday, August 22, 2003 if they are completed by August 22, 2003," a statement from the Treasury Department said. To qualify for relief, affected taxpayers should put "NORTHEAST BLACKOUT" in red ink at the top of the return, the statement explained. Interest will continue to accrue on overdue taxes, but penalties will be waived.'s Greg Botelho contributed to this report.

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