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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Skeptecism About The Veracity of Mayor Bloomberg's Prediction

Aired August 14, 2003 - 20:46   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, we want to continue our coverage. Whereas we said earlier, we're still waiting for a statement coming from President Bush.
Let's go now to Maria Hinojosa, who is at Con Ed in New York. And Maria, what have been you able to find?

MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Leon, it's the sight that you never imagined that you would think to be seeing, that in front of Con Ed headquarters, the workers are walking around with their flashlights. That's the only way that they're getting around.

So in the lobby of Con Ed headquarters, what you're seeing are people just walking around with flashlights.

And just ahead of me, I'm on 14th Street, and I'm able to see just the shadow of the Chrysler Building now disappearing. There have been some lights coming on around this area, because we're in backup generators now. So there has been a strange sight. Actually just one -- half a block south of where we are in front of the Con Ed building is a huge, let's say, 14-story NYU dormitory, which is the top three floors, which are fully lit up.

Now, that should not be mistaken as electricity returning to this part of Manhattan. Those are backup generators. And a lot of what's happening inside Con Ed headquarters here on the 14th floor, which is where they are heading up the distribution and engineering, and on the 16th floor, which is where all of the management and administrative offices are.

They're making decisions about where they're going to be sending backup generators throughout the city. Of course, some places have those backup generators in place. Also across the street from the Con Ed headquarters is a part of the Beth Israel Hospital Center. And so I can see maybe about 10 offices that have lights on. It's just very sporadic, so it looks quite strange to see just a few lights on there.

There is less traffic in the area, no doubt. The strange sight, again, of seeing people walking through Manhattan streets with flashlights. And in some of the restaurants, one of the restaurants right across the street here from Con Edison, they've got candles out in the front, and actually have put candles in the restrooms, because that's one of the things that people are looking for as they're trying to make their way home.

But inside Con Ed, no light in the entire building. Only emergency lighting along the stairwells and in some of the key offices. And in the management offices, we are hearing that they do have computers set up, where this is where they're getting the information in and making determinations about where they're sending out their crews.

And just a few minutes ago, a group of women came down, and they all work in the payroll department of Con Edison. And I was asking them, Well, what are you doing? Are you working in payroll in the middle of this emergency? They said, no, but the fact is that they live in Queens or in Brooklyn. They said it just doesn't make any sense for us to walk home.

HARRIS: Maria, I'm sorry to cut off, but I just want to give people the first shots that we're getting coming in from Cleveland. Power has been restored there in that city. You're seeing here a shot that's looking -- I can't quite tell where this camera here is pointed. This looks like it may be pointing south over the city there. This is coming from our affiliate WJW there in Cleveland.

We had heard earlier that the airport in Cleveland, Cleveland Hopkins Airport, had been restored. They had restored operations there. We now understand now that power has fully been restored there to the Cleveland area, and perhaps that means that the flights that had been on a ground stop may be restored to the operations fairly soon in Cleveland.

Now, we're also hearing that power is coming back online in Detroit as well. Do we have the pictures there of Detroit? There we go. There we go. That is a shot coming in from our affiliate WDIV there.

And it's hard to tell exactly -- there you can see what appears to be perhaps some street lights or building lights there off in the distance. and those buildings there, once again, though, cannot confirm whether or not that -- cannot confirm whether or not that is a widespread power restoration process under way right now in Detroit.

Now, I'm also hear -- getting some information in my ear about other city in Ohio. I believe Akron and Toledo are also coming back online as well. Is that the story? We're getting this, I believe, coming in from our different affiliates, who are telling us this, as those reports on the Associated Press.

I'm sorry, that what we're being told now is that it may be several days before power is fully restored in Akron or in Toledo.

And as you may know by now, this entire area is all interconnected with this Eastern interconnected -- interconnector grid system. This is a system of power lines and power plants that run from the Rockies to the East Coast. And this area here, as you see there, around the Great Lakes, is the area that has been hardest hit this morning -- this afternoon, we should say, around 4:00 Eastern.

Still no confirmation on exactly what it was that triggered all of this. We have heard reports this evening that the cause may have been a lightning strike at the Niagara power plant there on the border of New York and Canada. But we also have heard reports from officials there in New York, who have said adamantly that it was not a lightning strike at that plant there.

Once again, looking here at live pictures of Cleveland. And as you can see there, more and more lights are coming back online there in that city.

Let's go now to our John King, who is standing by in Washington, for more -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Leon, as we continue to track this developing story, we should urge our viewers to stay with us. A number of significant developments still to come. A statement from the president of the United States, we will play it to you shortly. He is in San Diego, California. He says this is not a terrorist attack. The federal government is doing all it can to help out.

The New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has a news conference scheduled at 9:15 p.m. this evening in New York, that's about 27 minutes away from now, if I'm still doing my math right at this hour. Mayor Bloomberg shortly, we will bring you that as well.

And we have on the line with us another official affected by this today. Jerry Jennings is the mayor of the capital city of New York, Albany.

Mayor Jennings, as you join us, tell us about the impact in your city. But first, can you answer the question, a dispute between New York officials and Canadian officials, about where this started and how it started? Do you know the answer, sir?

MAYOR JERRY JENNINGS, ALBANY, NEW YORK (on phone): I don't. But I had a lot of conversations with the governor's staff, and we're working very closely together. That's something we'll have to deal with once we get by -- we pass this little crisis we're faced with, you know, and hopefully people will be forthright and say the right thing and own up to whatever problem there is.

But meanwhile, we have a city that, you know, we have some issues with, and we're dealing with them.

KING: And we are seeing some lights come back on in Manhattan. We are -- Governor McGreevey told us the lights were coming back on in New Jersey, lights coming back on in Cleveland as well. What's your situation in Albany this evening, sir?

JENNINGS: We're gradually coming back on. We're probably about 25 percent of the city is off right now. It was probably over 50 percent when it first started. And most of it, initially, but some for 10 minutes.

But, you know, we don't -- we anticipate some lengthy delays here in my discussions with Niagara Mohawk and other officials. So we're taking the necessary steps to make sure that, you know, people are taken care of, our senior citizens, our neighborhoods that are without power. And I called in my police and all of my fire so that they're visible and available in case of any emergencies.

KING: And sir, like in New York City and elsewhere, where we have spoken to officials tonight, is the good news, in your perspective, no fatalities, no major problems?

JENNINGS: Right, we have not had any fatalities, thank God. We've had no major problems. People are cooperating. It was a challenge for quite a while, and it's going to be a challenge over the next several hours, I'm sure. But, you know, we've -- we kind of took our Y2K plan. We had embellished on it anyway since 9/11. And we were kind of prepared for this.

So we -- it's worked out very well, and people have been very, very cooperative in helping each other as well.

KING: And once more, sir, I just want to revisit this issue of how did this happen. The Canadian government says a fire at a Con Ed plant on the New York side of the border up near Niagara Falls. Do you not know that to be true, know it to be false? Any information on that?

JENNINGS: The information I had was that the fire in the Con Ed plant was just a -- when they shut down, if they shut down, there's emissions. And there's no documentation of any fire, as far as I've heard from any state official.

But I've been, as I've said, I've been focusing more on the results of what's happened. And we'll get into that once we clear up this picture a little better.

KING: And Mr. Mayor, if I heard you correctly, you say about 25 percent of your city back up now?

JENNINGS: No, 25 percent is down.

KING: Is down.

JENNINGS: We're about 75 percent now, yes. Yes, we're not that bad...

KING: My apologies.

JENNINGS: So we're about 25 percent down. One of the problems is that there's no real pattern to it, and some might -- it might come on for a while and then go back off. We're finding that occurring. So we're kind of all over the place. But it's localized to about four different neighborhoods, and we're dealing with the issues we're confronted with in those neighborhoods.

KING: Do you have confidence or afraid at this point to make a projection as to whether things will be back to normal by the morning?

JENNINGS: I don't think we can make that projection, because I've had ongoing discussions. I mean, once this grid totally shuts down, you have to phase it back in. And that's a major, major accomplishment. And I don't want to raise expectations for anyone. I just want people to be prepared in case it is lengthier than we anticipated.

KING: Mayor Jerry Jennings of Albany, New York, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us tonight...

JENNINGS: OK.

KING: ... this evening, sir. And we'll ask you here at CNN, if you get any updated information as to how this started, please check in with us as well. We thank you, sir, for your thoughts.

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