2003-08-15 / Front Page

Blackout!

Electrical Fault Halts Wave Production
By Howard Schwach
Blackout! Electrical Fault Halts Wave Production By Howard Schwach


Beachgoers and residents join in a long line in front of the subway station on Beach 116 Street. Buses left fully loaded with many erstwhile riders still waiting at the curb. Bus service was slowed by gridlock on many of the roads leaving Rockaway.Beachgoers and residents join in a long line in front of the subway station on Beach 116 Street. Buses left fully loaded with many erstwhile riders still waiting at the curb. Bus service was slowed by gridlock on many of the roads leaving Rockaway.

For the first time in more than 35 years, since the great blizzard struck Rockaway in the early 1970’s, The Wave did not publish on schedule this week.

Along with much of the Northeast and large parts of Canada, Rockaway lost its electric power at 4:11 p.m. on Thursday, just as The Wave staff was completing the front page.

The entire peninsula was plunged into darkness. The lights did not come back on until 2 a.m. on Friday.

Power in Broad Channel, which is supplied by Con Edison while Rockaway is supplied by the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), remained out on Friday morning.


Police officers from the 100 Precinct direct traffic on Beach 116 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard. With every traffic light in the peninsula inoperative, police could only cover the major intersections.Police officers from the 100 Precinct direct traffic on Beach 116 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard. With every traffic light in the peninsula inoperative, police could only cover the major intersections.

What caused the blackout is unsure. American and Canadian officials have been pointing fingers at each other, saying that the blackout that took out everything from Ontario, Canada to New Jersey originated in the other’s country.

What is clear is that it did not originate in this region and that local grids were shut down automatically by computers before they suffered a fault due to an overload situation.

"This was not a problem that started here," says Michael Lowndes, a spokesperson for LIPA. "There are no answers as yet as to what happened, but we are not concerned with the reasons, but with maintaining electricity for our customers today."

Lowndes said that about 800,000 customers on Long Island had restored power on Friday morning, but that the grid was very fragile.


An A train is stopped dead on the trestle nearby Beach 108 Street. People were evacuated from stuck trains and some had to walk precariously on trestles over the bay as well as over Rockaway streets.An A train is stopped dead on the trestle nearby Beach 108 Street. People were evacuated from stuck trains and some had to walk precariously on trestles over the bay as well as over Rockaway streets.

"There is going to be a very tight electric supply on Friday," he said.

Calls to Con Edison as to when electric power would be restored in Broad Channel went unreturned.

The lack of electricity caused many problems on the peninsula.

Police and EMS workers spent many hours pulling people from stuck elevators and bringing medical aid to people who regularly use oxygen or a respirator.

In one case, near midnight on Thursday, police and EMS workers had to climb 22 flights of stairs at a senior citizens’ building on Seagirt Boulevard for an elderly man who had tried to climb the stairs to his apartment and had collapsed in the hallway.

In some cases, groups of young people took advantage of the darkness to cause mischief.

The only reported attempted looting of a jewelry store in the city took place on Mott Avenue in Far Rockaway. Although police had assisted in removing the jewelry from the store earlier in the day, three men attempted to break into the store through the back door. A backup alarm on a battery system alerted police, however, who arrested three men.

In addition, there were a number of garbage fires set at both the Hammel and Redfern housing projects. Police and fire units were kept busy much of the hours prior to midnight with those types of fires.

Many locals reported that they had to walk down from their high-rise office buildings and then walk long distances before they could get back to Rockaway. One woman said that she walked seven miles over the Brooklyn Bridge and then down Flatbush Avenue before she could get transportation home.

By and large, the residents responded well to the blackout. Groups of residents on the west end and in Bays­water joined together for impromptu barbeques, ridding themselves of excess meat in freezers that no longer had the power to keep them cold.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that he was proud of New York City residents.

"New Yorkers have a lot to be proud of this morning," he said in a prepared statement. "Our police officers, firefighters, emergency management personnel and health professionals have worked incredibly hard to get us through the night safely. And New Yorkers got together to help and care for each other, as they always do."

With subway service halted when the electricity went down, many people had to exit trains and walk to nearby stations.

In what a number of commuters said was a harrowing experience, several dozen people had to walk on the subway bridge over Jamaica Bay to the Broad Channel Station when their A Train stopped in mid-bridge. Others had to walk the Trestle to get to nearby stations on the Rockaway peninsula.

When told that Rockaway’s lights were back on while those in Broad Channel were not, Lowndes joked that "Perhaps Broad Channel should join LIPA."

With many areas in the Con Edison grid still without power at press time on Friday morning, perhaps he was not joking.


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