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Con Edison power outage leaves people stranded in elevators overnight across NYC

Electrical equipment failure results in over 100 stuck elevators across NYC
Electrical equipment failure results in over 100 stuck elevators across NYC 02:06

NEW YORK -- A Con Edison power outage caused issues citywide overnight, with reports of people stuck in elevators and delays on the subway. 

CBS New York's John Dias reported from the Con Edison substation in Downtown Brooklyn where it all started. 

"This incident caused brief power drops citywide and led to increased calls regarding elevator malfunctions and disruptions in MTA subway service," Mayor Eric Adams said Friday morning.

The Con Ed president was on the scene early Friday where he told reporters there was a very brief power outage for just a fraction of a second, but he suspects nearly every single home across the five boroughs, as well as Long Island and Westchester County, were impacted. 

"The electrical system for all of, really, North America is interconnected, so the power that flows here is also interconnected to the systems that serve Long Island and Westchester County," Con Edison President Matt Ketschke told Dias.

Smoke was seen billowing from the Farragut Electrical Substation just before midnight. Ketschke said employees were restoring a transmission line when a piece of high voltage electrical equipment failed. 

"Basically, it short circuited. That caused a large flash that was seen by some residents around the neighborhood," he said. "These are pretty infrequent events. We have multiple redundant sets of transformers so that the lights stay on if you have one of these. We actually have one of the most reliable electrical systems in the United States."

Watch John Dias' report

NYC power outages leaves people stranded in elevators 02:57

"They had safety protections in place, similar to circuit breakers in your home but on a much larger scale. They were able to isolate that issue almost immediately," New York City Emergency Management Coordinator Zachary Iscol said.

While it was a brief outage, it caused serious issues for those in elevators citywide, including at Grand Central and Penn Station where they were out for around three hours. 

MTA Chairman and CEO Janno Lieber said there were also sporadic subway signal issues and blown fuses. By midday, 10 elevators were still either not working or having issues. 

"There were 178 elevators and escalators taken out or impacted, and two folks who got struck in elevators," Lieber said. 

Social media users started posting videos of their lights flickering and some reports of internet outages. Many said they thought they heard a rumble when the power flickered.  

"The building moved a little," said the superintendent of a nearby building. "Big explosion... I don't know what was going on, but it was a big one."  

Ketschke said as many as 10 people had to be rescued from elevators citywide.

"Electrical equipment for things like elevators and escalators sometimes is sensitive to momentary fluctuations of power and will reset, and then sometimes the systems need to be reset," he said. 

The FDNY had to rescue a security guard who became stuck inside an elevator at the Wegmans grocery store in Brooklyn. One witness said he was in there for an hour.  

According to the FDNY, between 11 p.m. Thursday and 2 a.m. Friday, they responded to 137 calls for a stuck elevator, most with people inside. For perspective, that same three-hour window normally gets about 15 elevator calls, they say, with an average of 80 calls in a 24-hour period.

Officials say something like this is a rare occurance.

"Thank god there was no loss of life that was connected to this," the mayor said.

The FDNY says in addition to elevator calls, there was an increase in carbon monoxide and smoke alarm calls and electrical emergencies, all due to the power surge.

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