On Saturday, July 13, 72,000 customers on Manhattan's West Side, which includes Times Square, Broadway and Central Park, unexpectedly lost power. Coincidentally, the blackout occurred 42 years to the day after the city's infamous 1977 blackout. In addition to shutting down shows on Broadway, the blackout also suspended subway service throughout the area.
Initially, it was reported that the outage was caused by a significant transmission disturbance. However, subsequent investigation found the source of the outage was a failed relay protection system in a substation. The substation sustained an explosion and fire, affecting four other neighboring substations.
ConEd said its preliminary conclusion is the system designed to detect electric faults failed. Working properly, it would have directed circuit breakers to isolate and de-energize those faults.
"The relay protection system is designed with redundancies to provide high levels of reliability," said ConEd in a statement last week.
In this case, though, the primary and the backup relay systems failed to isolate a faulted 13-kilovolt distribution cable at the first substation.
ConEd is now in the process of trying to find out why the system failed.
As a result of the outage, city and state police officers were dispatched to the area to direct traffic.
In a statement, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, "This could have been much worse. When you're talking about a city like New York with a significant piece of the city basically suffering a blackout, that could be a very chaotic situation. We saw the exact opposite, actually. We saw New Yorkers at their best."
He added that, "While this situation was luckily contained, the fact that it happened at all is unacceptable. I have directed the PSC [Public Service Commission] to do a full and thorough investigation into the cause of tonight's blackout, and we will hold all parties accountable in ensuring this does not happen again."