Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Power Outrage In NYC; 40K Plus Customers In The Dark; Con Edison Investigates Power Outage. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired July 13, 2019 - 20:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

Our breaking news right now, a large power outage affecting parts of Manhattan tonight. Look at your screen right now. That is Times Square. That's where the ball drops on New Year's Eve. Usually, you see lights all over the place, flashing lights, billboards. Right now, it's dark, 42 years to the day since New York City experienced the famous blackout of 1977.

Just look at that shot from Times Square. Con Edison right now reporting more than 38,000 customers are without power. We're seeing these numbers grow since the initial power outage was reported. And, just moments ago, we got this update from Mayor Bill De Blasio.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: I just want to give an update for people interested in the situation on the West Side of Manhattan. We have a Con Edison electrical outage. Very preliminary information says about 20,000 people affected, but we're waiting for a lot more information.

I spoke to our police commissioner, our emergency management commissioner, my chief of staff at city hall. Everyone's coordinating. We'll have a better picture, excuse me, in the next few minutes or, you know, the next half hour or so.

But all of our emergency personnel are being deployed to address the situation. And it appears to be a limited power outage, but still affecting a meaningful number of people for sure. So, if there's any questions on that or otherwise on anything you want.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Again, Mayor Bill De Blasio there. He's on the campaign trail right now, not in New York. But he says he's in communication with people here in New York City. We're showing you pictures from around the city.

I want to get to CNN's Brian Stelter, joining us on the phone. Brian, I know you've been personally impacted by this. Since you weren't here at work when all of this began, we're seeing these incredible images, dark Radio City Music Hall, dark subways. What are you seeing?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): (INAUDIBLE.) Around me, Ana, a lot of fire trucks (INAUDIBLE) high- rises in midtown Manhattan. (INAUDIBLE.)

CABRERA: Obviously, we're having a lot of trouble with Brian's audio. Brian, let's try to establish a better connection so we --

STELTER: Sure.

CABRERA: -- can hear what you're -- what you're saying. I know you've been tweeting out a whole bunch about this. I know your wife, who's pregnant, has had to take stairs instead of the elevator.

STELTER: Exactly.

Because in New York, when one of these high-rises runs out of power, the elevators obviously stop working. We know that fire and police have been called to a lot of those reports of people who are stuck in elevators. Traffic lights all around this part of New York City are out right now. And traffic in New York City is notoriously bad.

We also know the subway stations aren't necessarily working the way they are supposed to with New York City Transit Authority tweeting out moments ago that they're advising everybody to come out from underground if they're trying to take the subways. They're trying to get those working as well.

Polo Sandoval is out and about, gathering more information for us. Polo, tell us what you are seeing and what you've learned.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well. Ana, for many people here in Midtown Manhattan, what was supposed to be a Saturday night, catching a Broadway show, is resulting, basically, in standing on a sidewalk here on a summer evening. This is a reality for many people, both New Yorkers and tourists.

I'm going to be right off of Eighth Avenue and West 52nd. So, if you don't know New York too well, basically Times Square is just a couple of blocks that way, as I pan over to show you what the situation looks like here on 52nd. Though some of the people that you're looking at, all these people who are standing on the sidewalk are waiting to go inside to catch a musical. But, obviously, about an hour ago, their plans interrupted. And now, they're, basically, forced to wait out here.

And as we pan over to give you, kind of, a shot, we're going to be looking north down Eighth Avenue which is a major, major avenue here, a major thoroughfare in New York. You see a lot of people are resorting now to the buses, because there are many subway stations that are closed. The one at Columbus Circle that I was at just a few moments ago, there was an attendant there that basically said that because of this partial blackout, that that subway station was going to remain closed.

And then, finally, I will mention something that I noticed a little while ago, there were many employees from area businesses that, essentially, stepped into the streets to try to, essentially, direct traffic. You're -- keep in mind that the traffic lights do not work here.

And so, the issue here is that a lot of people have to, basically, certainly look both ways before crossing. And so, the employees, at some of these businesses, are now, essentially, manning these crosswalks and stopping traffic, because police are -- obviously, have a pretty tough task ahead of them right now, Ana.

[20:05:03] So, I'll keep showing you some of these pictures, again in Midtown Manhattan, as the streets look extremely packed with people who were planning for an evening, perhaps a dinner or a show, are instead forced to simply wait on a sidewalk to see what comes next.

CABRERA: And, Polo, do you get the sense -- are people panicking? What are you hearing from these people?

SANDOVAL: I think people are just wondering what's going on. There are a couple of people that I've overheard a couple of jokes, right? There was a -- I overheard one young woman who was just checking into her hotel for a week here in New York. And said to me, it's going to be a long week, obviously, if this keeps up, as they continue to get reports of people who -- or whether updates from authorities.

Of course, they're certainly hopeful that this would get resolved before tonight. But I can tell you, having lived in New York here just a few years compared to many others, it really is a sight to see. It is, to a certain extent, even a little bit eerie. Because as you look inside the businesses that would usually be bustling on a Saturday night, like your restaurants, your movie theaters, your Broadway theaters as well, they're all blacked out. The iconic radio city music hall lights are dark on this Saturday night.

CABRERA: And, Polo, we're getting some new reporting. We understand the New York Fire Department now is responding to numerous transformer fires. The first of which occurred on West 64th and West End Avenues. We know that the power outages, themselves, are a part of the Upper West Side, part of Midtown where Times Square is. Those are the areas that are currently impacted.

But we did not, here at Hudson Yard, experience initial power outage and it eventually hit us as well. So, it seems like the outage is growing rather than becoming more limited with Con Ed tweeting that they're trying -- still trying to determine the root cause of this power outage.

And, Polo, it's hot right now in New York City, right?

SANDOVAL: 85 degrees a little while ago. And I should -- there was something that -- similar that took place yesterday. I was in Queens having dinner with my wife. And in the middle of dinner, the lights, basically, went out. So, obviously, I should point out, there's no way of telling whether or not that's directly related to these incidents. But I can tell you for sure that in Queens, there was a very similar incident that took place and it got extremely hot in that restaurant extremely quickly. And so, I can only imagine what it's like for many of the people who are here in Manhattan today who are having to experience -- have to put up with the heat.

And then, of course, we all know Manhattan goes upward. So, you can just imagine being in some of these apartment buildings. The power is out. That's one of the main reasons why you're seeing these sidewalks just covered with people. They are everywhere.

CABRERA: Right.

SANDOVAL: It is much busier than a normal Saturday night in Manhattan, that's for sure.

CABRERA: And the thought being it's safer to be outside than inside right now with this power outage going on.

SANDOVAL: Absolutely.

CABRERA: Polo Sandoval, stand by. I want to bring in CNN's Richard Roth, also joining us on the phone from Lincoln Center. Richard, walk me through what you're experiencing there.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm probably living the experience of thousands of New Yorkers. I'm 18 floors up in my apartment with no electricity or power, looking out and seeing thousands of apartments in the canyons of Upper Manhattan, New York dark.

The sun is still out but fading. People checking for flashlights. Neighbors in New York who don't talk to each for five years, opening their door to offer help and then going back inside their apartment. Memories of the big blackout of 1965 in November, and the memories of the 2003 blackout coming rushing back. I was watching television, and, suddenly, all the power went off.

Last night, my microwave lost power and I thought, initially, I blacked out the whole city but that does not appear to be true. And you hear a lot of police sirens and see a little bit more on a Saturday night. I mean, on a summer night like this, in a -- the weekend, you wouldn't have that much activity outside.

But things are picking up a bit. But I can't say I'm seeing any signs of many people going downstairs because you've got to walk, maybe in some cases like me, 18 floors before you decide to do that relatively (ph) in the dark -- Ana.

CABRERA: Richard, have you ever experienced a power outage like this in New York?

ROTH: Yes. Well, when I was a young boy, there was the excitement of the lights going off in Queens, New York in 1965. CABRERA: You're talking about, yes, decades ago. But I was actually thinking more recently since then. I'm an -- I'm a relatively new New Yorker and haven't experienced anything like this. And you think about just how many people are packed into a relatively small area in this city. And this just seems so unusual and, obviously --

ROTH: Well, we had this -- we had this 14-15 years ago, very soon after 911. And there was much more concern and panic.

CABRERA: Yes.

ROTH: Not panic but deep concern. And that happened in the middle of the week sort of toward the rush hour. So, this is happening on a weekend and -- but, presumably, far fewer people are here on Manhattan Island at that moment.

[20:10:02] CABRERA: Now, do most of these apartment buildings have generators and other ways to pump electricity through?

ROTH: Well, if they do, I do not see a single light on here. I got a notice from the building management, saying we heard reports of widespread power outage on the West Side of Manhattan and we're checking and doing anything we can. But there really is nothing to do.

So, of course, I happen to have purchased a large quantity of food to go in the refrigerator for the first time last night, so you start making plans with limited sunlight now. You try to position your apartment, so you're ready when everything's out. Of course, this is far from the nightmare conditions people are having to undergo in Louisiana and elsewhere. But that's where we are at this moment.

Subway disruptions, of course. But people are walking on the street. I don't see any -- you wouldn't know there was a blackout, if you're looking down from high above. But you'll know it later on when the sun is completely down and you won't see a single light on.

CABRERA: Right. And we are seeing some of these images. The sun shining down these streets. And you can tell it's in the process of setting. 8:10 here local time in New York City right now. Richard, stand by. I want to go back to CNN's Brian Stelter. I believe we've re-established a better connection with him.

STELTER (via telephone): Yes.

CABRERA: Brian, are you with us?

STELTER: Yes, I'm here. I've switched to another cell phone. I think a lot of people are on their cell phones in the neighborhood right now.

CABRERA: That's a great point. And what are you going through?

STELTER: So, we live near Columbus Circle. And as you all have been talking about, this extends from Lincoln Center to Columbus Circle. It goes to Rockefeller Center. This entire West Side of Midtown Manhattan. You know, the primary thing I noticed was the Wi-Fi and the air-conditioning going out about an hour and a half ago.

And now, the sound of the air-conditioning unit has been replaced by the sound of whistles. These are crossing guards at the intersections now, because all the intersections have turned into four-way stops. And to the credit of the New York City Police and Fire and Rescue, I noticed a very quick response, Ana. Crossing guards at intersections right away. And fire department units arriving at buildings right away to get stuck elevators reopened. There was a very quick response from fire trucks and EMTs to make sure people were out of elevators.

So, as Richard was mentioning, you know, right now, it is still light out. It's one of those long summer days. I think an hour from now, they're going to see a lot more tourists starting to head home. Right now, I think the people out on the street, the tourists who are visiting Manhattan, are just intrigued by this.

But, in some cases, their hotel rooms don't have power either. You know, when you hear about the number of units or the number of locations without power, in some cases, that could be dozens or hundreds of people at a single location, given the high-rise nature of Manhattan. So, it'll take a little bit of time to find out just how many people are affected.

And, of course, it is a really warm evening, so we'll start to see if tourists and locals decide to just open the windows and wait it out or try to leave the neighborhood for the night.

CABRERA: Right. And, again, nobody knows how long this is going to last because the first and foremost thing that needs to happen is determining the root cause of this. And, again, transformer fires have now popped up.

Stand by with me, Brian.

STELTER: Sure.

CABRERA: I want to head back out to the streets and Polo Sandoval who is in downtown in the middle of all of this in Manhattan. Polo, we're seeing, in some of these images, a lot of -- a lot of flashing lights. You're seeing a lot of authorities out there now trying to do traffic control? Or what do you see happening?

SANDOVAL: Well, authorities are certainly trying to keep up here with the need to man these kinds of indexes intersections, Ana. I'm showing you a live phone shot here of Eighth Avenue and West 53rd Street in midtown. And you're right, the only lights that we're able to see are -- aside from the head lamps on some of these vehicles, are authorities that are, obviously, scrambling throughout town to answer to various calls. Obviously, this would be a bulk of their call load.

But what's interesting, that I noticed a little while ago, and we talked about it shortly here, was that some of the -- I noticed that some of the business employees actually took to the streets and were manning some of these crosswalks with neon vests to, essentially, try to stop traffic to prevent any kind of incident, any sort of auto- pedestrian incident and such. So, as we look at these pictures, as I show you these images of looking down Eighth Avenue, it really is quite the sight to see. Just pegging off of what our colleague, Richard Roth, just mentioned, there certainly is no sense of panic at all. It's just, kind of, people wondering what is actually happening.

Obviously, word is circulating very quickly because of social media about what's happening in this partial blackout. And so, people are, really, just asking themselves exactly what's going to come next. The line that you're looking at, these are folks who were preparing to go into one of the theaters here. The iconic Broadway stretch here in Times Square. Obviously, their plans are now changing. Many of the people you're looking at here traveled a long way to be here to be able to catch this show. And now -- unfortunately, now, they're left wondering what is exactly going to happen next -- Ana.

[20:15:00] CABRERA: So, are you saying, Polo, a lot of the shows tonight on Broadway are not going on as planned?

SANDOVAL: I spoke to one member of this crowd here that were here to see "Mean Girls," and they said that, obviously, they're not going to be able to go into the theater, especially if it's going to be pitch dark. Now, my understanding is that the show hadn't actually started yet. Many of these people still have their tickets in hand. So, now, it's really questionable what will happen next.

CABRERA: OK, let me --

SANDOVAL: And exactly how many -- how many of the shows have been affected.

CABRERA: You know, I think that the biggest question a lot of people have on their mind, when it's New York City and this is an unknown cause, is it could it be anything nefarious, you know? And what exactly is happening right now? And the fact that authorities don't seem to know what's happening is extremely concerning.

We do have a tweet from the fire department here in New York, saying they're addressing a spike in call volume by relocating resources to Manhattan. The loss of power is from Fifth Avenue to Hudson River and West 40s to 72nd Street. They write, please be patient. Call 911 only if you have a true emergency, because they're being flooded with calls. Obviously, people are scared and wondering what they need to do, what they need to know. And people are caught in elevators. And that's one of the things that they're responding to.

I'm going to bring in Corey Johnson, New York City Council Speaker. Do you, sir, know what caused this? Was it anything nefarious?

COREY JOHNSON, SPEAKER, NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL (via telephone): Well, we don't have information on that yet. But we know where it initiated from which is there in the (INAUDIBLE) neighborhood which is in the council district that I represent on West 49th Street between 11th and 12th Avenues. So, pretty far on the West Side of Manhattan. There is a Con Edison substation. That Con Edison substation saw what Con Edison is describing as a major disturbance. They're not specifying what exactly that means. But, clearly, something significant happened there.

And so, as you just mentioned, Ana, from the West 40s, West 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue, which is, sort of, the heart of Times Square, all the way up into the West 70s to the heart of the Upper West Side, there is a significant power outage which is affecting nearly 40,000 Con Edison customers.

There are five subway lines which anyone who has been to New York City knows how important the subway is to be running. Five subway lines that are currently not running. The A line and the C line, which run on the same line. The A is the express. The C is the local. And the F, the D, and the M train as well. Those five lines currently have trains sitting (INAUDIBLE.)

On the West Side, though, there are three subway lines that are currently running. The one, the two, and the three. There is a hospital in Hell's Kitchen, which is a significant hospital called St. Luke's Roosevelt. And that hospital lost power. It's now running on a backup generator, though I'm told it still doesn't have air- conditioning because it's on a backup generator. And I guess hence (ph) lost power momentarily but then it went right back on.

So, that's what I have so far. Con Ed has mobilized an emergency response but they haven't given specific or exact information about what caused this, initially.

CABRERA: And so, you've actually spoken, I understand, with the head of Con Ed. That's where you're getting your information?

JOHNSON: Yes, I spoke with the CEO of Con Edison. I called him and that was the information that he gave me about 25 minutes ago.

CABRERA: And what is the plan now?

JOHNSON: Well, the plan is they have to get the power back on. And how to do that, I'm not an expert. But they've mobilized the full emergency response center and they have crews on the scene at that West 49th Street substation.

And so, my hope is that they can figure out what caused this disturbance and get things up and going, again. Because, you know, it's not, you know, super hot but it's hot. It's in the 80-degree range in New York City. And there are people, senior citizens and folks that need power. And we have a hospital there and other things. We want to make sure it comes on right away.

You heard -- I just heard, a few minutes ago, from the chief of the department, from the NYPD, Terrence Monahan, who said, if there are any emergencies, people should call 911. If there's someone that needs help. And so, the city right now needs to mobilize to ensure that we get the power back on. We provide accurate and calm information to the public. And we make sure we get help to anyone who needs it.

CABRERA: What is the biggest concern you have right now? Is it people trapped in elevators? Is it chaos on the streets? What do you think? Are you still with me, sir? Corey Johnson? I think we may have lost him.

Again, we do know that a lot of people are making phone calls right now, and so we may have some of these disturbances when we're trying to communicate via phone right now.

Josh Campbell is here with us. He is a former FBI supervisory special agent. And, Josh, what are you experiencing? What are your thoughts on what's happening right now?

[20:20:05] JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Ana, we often take city services for granted until they suddenly stop working. And that's, obviously, being felt in a very large way right now in Manhattan.

One thing that's important to note is that the New York Police Department, the FDNY, they prepare constantly for a number of public safety issues, both man-made and accidental. And as we look at these pictures here, and we obviously get these continuing reports, as investigators are trying to determine what happened, and then obviously ensure public safety, there are two phases that are happening simultaneously. You have that public response, obviously, when you have power that's gone out. You have intersections that are no longer traffic controlled. You have people that are possibly in buildings and in elevators. You have that initial response and, again, in order to ensure public safety.

In addition to that, you have the investigation that's going on to -- quickly to try to rule out anything nefarious to try to get to the root cause of what's happening.

CABRERA: OK, we just lost Josh Campbell. We'll try to get him back. Again, the latest reporting right now that we have from Con Edison is up to 42,000 customers in New York City are without power right now. They're working to restore power, they write. It's primarily on the West Side of Manhattan right now, near Midtown, in the Upper West Side.

I want to bring in Chad Myers who can talk us through a little bit about that's power outages and what we're seeing happening.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Ana, very much a touristy area, Upper West Side from the 60s sounds like down to the 40s, certainly Times Square, the Time Warner Center, Columbus Circle there. And then, just on the West Side of the park itself.

So, right here, I'm going to zoom in for you and show you truly where this is. And I'll try to draw you a little map here. So, Upper West Side, there is the Hudson River. All the way down to 40-something, and then back up through here. And that's the box that we're talking about, 42,000 customers.

But I think, as Brian Stelter was talking about, there's a lot of people stacked on top of each other, to really figure out whether we have 42,000 homes, 42,000 buildings, or just addresses with some being 101, 102, 103 and the like. So, here's where we would talk about Columbus Circle. All the way down through here would be Broadway. And then, into Times Square, itself. So, an area that has a lot of stop lights, a lot of cross streets, a lot of pedestrians, and cars that aren't really used to pedestrians walking cross at any time. There's always a walk or a don't walk. So, this could be a little bit of a problem for a while, certainly.

We're talking about 85 degrees, so nothing that would be deadly, I think, to most people out there with a window open or two. Certainly not comfortable. But not the 100 degree or 105 heat index, like we might see next week or even a week from now. This is going to be a hot place to be next week, as the heat index is just going soar.

At least for right now, 85 is bearable. But we'll see. We'll see what happens to this. But still lots of power out here and a lot of people walking around, not knowing what to do. Not being able to buy anything because all the computers are out as well. And not being able to go to all these shows, because, well, that's Broadway.

CABRERA: And how concerning is it, Chad, when we speak with this New York City Council speaker, who tells us that there's a hospital right now running on backup generator.

MYERS: Sure.

CABRERA: But they can't run their AC. And we're talking about a hot summer night.

MYERS: Absolutely. There's no question about that. When you get onto the backup power there, that everything is being used for absolutely the most important items. Everything that's plugged into that little red socket. If you ever go to a hospital and you see it's red, that's the one that actually has power no matter what. It could be a different color. But, but for the most part, these are the most essential things; the breathing apparatuses, the heart machines and all those things.

But the air-conditioning being out, yes, that's not going to take long to heat those places up, especially still that the sun is still out -- Ana.

CABRERA: OK, Chad Meyer, thank you.

And please stand by. We're going to continue to cover this breaking news story. A power outage in New York City right now, really darkening the entire downtown area, or I should say Midtown area near Times Square, the Upper West Side.

Right now, Con Ed, the power supplier, is working to determine exactly what the caused what they're calling a major disturbance at one of their stations, a substation on West 49th Street, we're told, according to New York City Council speaker, Cory Johnson. We're going to continue to follow this story as subway lines aren't running. Theaters aren't admitting patrons right now. And traffic is in a bit of chaos with streetlights out. Stay with us. You're watching CNN.

[20:24:35]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: Our breaking news. We're following news of a major power outage in New York City. More than 40,000 people without power right now as night falls in Manhattan, on the 42nd anniversary of the 1977 blackout.

And you can see how dark it is right now at Times Square. Subways are down. Streetlights are out. A city that thrives on night life. The city that never sleeps is in trouble tonight. Restaurants are shut down. Broadway shows are dark. And, as you can see, Times Square is too.

CNN's Josh Campbell is back with us now. Josh, as night falls, what is your biggest concern?

CAMPBELL (via telephone): So, this has been the big issue here, and that is time. It's just now getting to be official sunset time which is, obviously, going to make the job of law enforcement and emergency services that much harder. Both due to the response to this incident, but also the typical public safety and enforcement that goes on, on any given day. That still has to continue as well, in order to ensure public safety.

Let's talk about what law enforcement is doing and then what the public can do to make their jobs easier. The NYPD has a 24-hour command center that is always operational. Whenever there's a major incident, whether man made, whether it's an accident, something involving public safety, they will surge personnel to that operation center and then out to the city as well to the various precincts.

Again, in order to ensure public safety. We heard those reports earlier of people that were possibly trapped in elevators. And, again, that will be their main focus, just to ensure the safety of those people, the protection of loss of life.

And, again, the second phase also is this investigation. Until they have actually ruled out anything nefarious, that will be, obviously, a key focus, is what actually caused this to happen.

[20:30:00] Now, finally, for those who are listening who are impacted, what they can do to make the job of law enforcement and emergency services easier.

The first thing you want to do is make contact with your neighbors. You might want to check on in on them. It's about 83, 84 degrees right now. Obviously, if there are elderly neighbors that you have, you want to make sure that they're OK, that they have access to medication and the like, again, as the sun goes down, that will make it more difficult to even navigate one's home.

And then secondly, Ana, is stay off the streets. Again, officers are going to be out there responding. They're going to be controlling intersections, they're going to have the FDNY emergency services units that are trying to possibly rescue people that maybe out there. They don't need people onlookers and, you know, folks who just want to take pictures and experience what's going on out there in the streets so to make their jobs easier right now. If you're in Manhattan, it could be best to stay home.

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: OK. And, Josh, we're just getting a tweet from Mayor Bill De Blasio in which he says that New York City emergency management is working with the NYPD, the FDNY, and city agencies to respond to these power outages in Manhattan. He says, due to a manhole fire, earlier this evening, disruption, he says, is significant. We'll have updates soon. We are hoping to talk with the mayor here any moment now, as we get some live pictures from New York City and some video from earlier as well.

These pictures where you can see there's still some power outages that are spotty. Again, it's not all of Manhattan, but significant because the part of Manhattan where it's impacting people are some of the key touristy spots, some of the very, you know, congested areas where there are these giant high-rise buildings, people who have been trapped in elevators tight. And so there's major concern from the safety perspective and beyond.

Josh, if it's a manhole fire, what are your thoughts about that?

CAMPBELL: So again, you know, police and fire department, they constantly prepare for any type of incident that may impact public safety. And, again, that includes manmade incidents. Obviously, we've seen those in the past. And then things that are accidental, things happen when it comes to the power. We've seen that in New York, we've seen that in other cities. And emergency services are constantly training with each other, again, when something happens, again, they want to ensure that the public is safe.

Now, when we hear the report here that it's a manmade cover and possibly a fire, that tends to lend itself to less of a nefarious, possible intentional act. Again, authorities will want to rule that out 100 percent. And so that part will actually give them a little bit of comfort now that they can focus their attention exclusively on, again, you know, patrolling the streets, ensuring that anyone who might be trapped that they are rescued.

And again, just the public safety throughout the night here. They don't know when power will actually be restored. So the investigative side will continue again until they rule that out 100 percent, but that is a good sign, obviously, to hear that it doesn't appear right now to, at least, be manmade, when you hear that it was possibly an accident.

Again, but we're not out of the woods yet for emergency services. We see these pictures here where a city that is often lit up has now been plunged into darkness. You can bet that FDNY personnel, NYPD personnel, will be recalled to work throughout the night, again, to assist the public until they can get the power up and running. CABRERA: Right. Some of these pictures, this is from WABC, one of our affiliates here in New York, showing what looks to be the Times Square area. Although it's hard to decipher where exactly it is, because it is so dark. I know some of the other images that we've seen were from the dark subway stations, New York City transit authority is asking anybody to come up from those underground stations again for safety concerns. We do know there are a number of subway lines that are not running. However, it does appear there are, at least some that still are, so it's not completely been shut off.

Josh, stand by, I do want to bring in Juliette Kayyem, the former assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security. Juliette, what is crucial to public safety at this time?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST (through telephone): So there's a couple of things, of course. Obviously, you're just going to want a footprint of public safety personnel just to calm people down, sort of a preemptive thing to make sure that the areas that are impacted by the blackout are safe going into the evening.

So just what Josh was saying, you know, a little bit, it's just sort of a physical presence. There's no reason to think that there's going to be people taking major advantage of the situation. It's a limited area in New York City. I know it doesn't feel that way to people that are there now.

But I do want to put that in perspective in terms of what's going on. As I just tweeted out, and just what I can tell from my experience, there is a little piece of good news here, at least in the sense that -- well, two pieces. One, is we don't think it's anything nefarious. The other is that you're really seeing how systems have been built since the major blackouts of the past. We've built our critical infrastructure from a Homeland Security perspective to ensure that it has what we call failsafe systems, so that if something does go bad, it doesn't impact a rather large area.

So I think what we're seeing and what we're going to probably learn is that the way the system was built is that it really shut itself down to ensure that the blackout did not impact any other areas.

[20:35:04] I know that's not great news for the people in the blackout now, but certainly, the difference from a public safety perspective of a city all in darkness and a limited area in darkness is huge. So that's sort of what I'm looking at from the homeland security perspective right now.

CABRERA: OK. Juliette Kayyem, stand by. We want to squeeze in a quick break.

Again, for those viewers who may just be joining us right now, our breaking news tonight, what is a significant power outage in New York City right now? Many important parts of the city shut down in the dark. Subway lines are not working, a hospital, we know, is now running on a backup generator.

We will be talking with New York City mayor, Bill de Blasio, and 2020 presidential candidate when we come back. Stay with us. You're watching CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: Our breaking news tonight, a large blackout affecting midtown Manhattan. Here is what we know so far. More than 40,000 people in New York City have no power on this hot summer night. No lights, no air conditioning. People are trapped in elevators. We are hearing the blackouts, which are centered in midtown and parts of the upper west side, very busy parts of Manhattan. The theater district is included, Times Square is included in this. Radio City is included in this.

We're told it's all because of a manhole fire. The most important concerns right now are rescuing people who are trapped and getting on working to get the power back up and running, of course.

[20:40:07] Right now, we're going to go to Mayor Bill de Blasio who's in Waterloo, Iowa right now on the campaign trail tonight. Mayor, give us an update. What happened?

MAYOR DE BLASIO (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ana, we are getting the preliminary reports, what it appears to be is a transmission problem. Con Ed in New York City is working to address it now. We hope to have news soon on when power will be restored. Your numbers are right at this moment. The information we have is

about 40,000 customers affected. All of our first responders have been deployed now, so folks who are in elevators will be responded to by our fire department, our police department. So this situation is being addressed very rapidly. A lot of personnel are being sent to the west side of Manhattan to address it. Our first deputy mayor is on the scene, our emergency management commissioner.

But what it appears to be, Ana, is a specific transmission problem and that hopefully means that it can be resolved in a -- in a relatively quick time.

CABRERA: When you say specific transmission problem, you tweeted out that there was a manhole fire. Is that believed to be the cause?

DE BLASIO: We're still getting more information. This is very early on in the situation, Ana. So we're waiting to get all of the facts. But what I'm trying to make clear is it's something within the normal electric grid, something that obviously didn't work.

But no other kind of external influence here. This appears to be something that just went wrong in the way that they transmit power from one part of the city to another to address demand. Con Ed is going to give us an update again soon on resolving it.

But in the meantime, our focus is making sure that anyone who has immediate needs, our first responders will be getting to them right away.

CABRERA: So, are you confident nothing nefarious is going on here?

DE BLASIO: At this point and, Ana, very important to say, when we're an hour or so into a situation, we should never overstate the facts. But I've talked to our police commissioner and our deputy commissioner who handles counterterrorism. From what we're seeing at the moment, this is simply a mechanical problem, and one again that sounds like it is addressable in a reasonable period of time.

CABRERA: Do you know -- has Con Edison identified exactly what the problem is?

DE BLASIO: I don't have the details, but I know that they know where the problem occurred in their system. It is there in the West Side of Manhattan where it occurred. To the best of my understanding, one of the lines between some of their substations had a problem.

But at this point, limited, even though it is a very busy part of the city, as you indicated, it is limited to that one part of the city, and hopefully from everything we're seeing, it will stay right there.

CABRERA: When you said it's limited, but initial reports were 20,000 people without power, then it was 27,000 people without, then it was 40,000 people without power, now it's 42,000 people without power. It seems like it's still growing. If it's limited and they've identified what it was, why are the numbers still going up?

DE BLASIO: Ana, I think the point is, again, everything is preliminary information. We should be really clear about this. Until all is looked at, we can give all the facts, I don't want to overstate anything. What I do know at this point is it's a limited part of Manhattan, not something that, at least at this moment, seems to have any impact beyond the West Side of Manhattan. And that's still a real problem, but it does seem to be contained.

CABRERA: And we're talking about high-rise buildings, streets that are always congested, subway systems, mass transit used by millions of people. How often do you prepare for something like this? How do you do it? How do you prepare?

DE BLASIO: It's rare, Ana, I have to say. No, we prepare all the time. We have in the office of emergency management that prepares with fire department, with police department, for exactly these kind of scenarios.

But I have to tell you, blackouts have become pretty rare in New York City. I'm hopeful, again, this is something that will be a very limited duration. But no, we used to have a fair number of them. And lately, certainly in the six years I've been mayor, they've been very rare in the scheme of things.

CABRERA: Are you planning to return to New York City?

DE BLASIO: I'm going to get more information in the next hour or so, and we'll adjust my schedule accordingly, depending on what I hear.

CABRERA: What are your biggest concerns right now?

DE BLASIO: My biggest concern, initially, was to make sure that there was no foul play. And again, until everything is resolved, everything is looked at, we can never say anything definitively. But at this moment, again, it appears to be a mechanical issue. That's the first concern I had to have.

The NYPD confirm to me, and obviously working with our federal partners, that what we're seeing is something mechanical. The next concern, of course, is for anyone in a situation where they need immediate help. That's the folks in the elevators, especially. I understand there's two subway trains as well that help is going to right now. They have air conditioning, they have lights on, I'm told. And those passengers will be gotten off those trains immediately. Those are the folks that I'm concerned about first.

[20:45:05] But then, of course, we're going to do everything we can with Con Ed to get that power back on.

CABRERA: It's so unusual to see New York City in the dark, and that's what we're seeing right now. While you're on the road, who is the point person in charge in New York City, on the ground right now?

DE BLASIO: First, deputy mayor Dean Fuleihan, is going to the scene as we speak. Our police commissioner, obviously, Jimmy O'Neill, our emergency management commissioner, Deanne Criswell, all those folks are attending to the issue right now.

CABRERA: And what do you think about this timing, 42 years to the day of the famed New York City blackout of 1977?

DE BLASIO: I'll tell you, that was one of the most difficult days in terms of nothing compares to a 9/11, but for a day in the everyday life of New Yorkers, that one lives in legend, because it was so shocking. And it was in the middle of the night. And, you know, folks were so scared. That was something we all remember. My wife was on a subway train, in fact, stuck between stations in the Bronx when it happened.

We haven't seen anything like that in a long, long time, thank God. And again, hopefully, here we have a situation that could be handled quickly and really limit the number of people affected and the impact and just get things back to normal quickly.

CABRERA: I mean, for those who have left their apartments, or their hotel rooms, or their grocery store, wherever they were, and gone outside because they don't know what else to do, what do you tell them? What should New Yorkers do right now, if they're affected by this blackout?

DE BLASIO: Well, we're going to get -- yes, Ana, first of all, we're going to get information out to people constantly. I wanted to be with you here to give people the facts as we know them at this minute. We're going to be getting information out constantly over the next few hours.

Most important thing is to take care of folks with immediate needs. Other folks, if they -- if they think it's important to get out of the building, get outside, and maybe more comfortable outside I those buildings right now, that makes sense. The rest of the city, obviously, the rest of Manhattan, operating normally. But what we want to do is get down to the bottom of how long it's going to take to fix it and get that word out to people immediately, and then we'll be able to give them some bigger instruction about how to handle the coming hours.

CABRERA: OK. We want to get that word out as soon as you have any information, please, please let us know. We know you have a lot of to tend to right now. Mayor Bill de Blasio, we appreciate you taking the time. Thank you.

DE BLASIO: Thank you, Ana.

CABRERA: OK. Again, if you're just joining us, New York City is in the dark a portion of the city. 40,000 customers do not have power. These are images right now, aerial pictures over the busiest parts of Manhattan. We're going to continue our coverage of the New York City blackout here on CNN. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:50:23] CABRERA: We're back with our breaking news. Large areas of New York City are experiencing a power outage tonight. I want to show you some video that were just getting into CNN here.

This is from Manhattan, this is from a subway station after the midtown blackout hit. And according to the person who took this video, passengers were apparently stuck on the Q train for about 45 minutes. This was between 63rd and Lexington Avenue, and 57th Street and 7th Avenue for those of you who are familiar with Manhattan.

And when the passengers finally got off, they walked backwards to exit the subway system. They tell us.

Let's go live to CNN's Polo Sandoval who is out on the streets talking to some stunned tourists, I'm told. Polo?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Heartbreak, that's certainly what we're encountering as we get closer and closer to Times Square. And just -- before we let you hear from some of the folks who are on the streets. Just take a look at this picture behind me, Ana. You're looking down 7th Avenue, a few blocks that way is Central Park. You're basically looking north here.

And it's really incredible to see how dark it is. We're basically standing right on the line. Just south of 51st. You got some electricity here, you have some businesses, some gift shops, hotels, some theaters that we see up and running.

But on this side, it's completely dark. And we mentioned theaters, that really is where the heartbreak comes in. You're talking about a massive tourist presence here, people who have come here from all over the world to catch a show, including Brandy (ph) from Arizona. You didn't have to come too far. But tell me a little bit about what was -- what was it like for you when things started getting dark? What were you doing and what did you see? BRANDY, NEW YORK CITY TOURIST: Yes. Well, my kids and I were on our way to Frozen. And we've been waiting all week to see it. And when the lights just started shutting off, we're like, hopefully, it's not our theater. But as we got closer to the theater, there were so many people there. And nobody knew really what was going on. So it was kind of a little stressful.

But then they tell us that the show is cancelled and we were really bummed about it.

SANDOVAL: Stressful, but at the same time, not -- no panic. How would you -- how would you describe the scenes on the streets?

BRANDY: Everybody was impatiently waiting to know if we were going to see the show or not. But no craziness.

SANDOVAL: So what's next for you? Unfortunately, you don't get to catch frozen.

BRANDY: I know, I don't know. Maybe serendipity for some hot chocolate.

SANDOVAL: Ultimately, you guys are OK?

BRANDY: Yes, we're great.

SANDOVAL: Brandy, thank you so much for talking to us.

BRANDY: Thank you.

SANDOVAL: Ana, you heard just from one of many voices, these are people who are basically crowding the streets right now, waiting to see what happens next. For some, yes, they already have their exit plan.

I had been told by several people that they're hearing that their hotel still has power. There are many generators that are set up.

But at the same time, what we're also seeing is many of the people who are in some of those dark out buildings, they're now basically going into the ones that do have electricity to get a little bit of air conditioning, to get maybe something called to drink as they wait to see when power's actually going to get restored.

But again, the picture that you see behind me is something you don't see every day. Particularly on a Saturday night. That is 7th Avenue and very little lights.

CABRERA: And from what I can tell, it looks like the traffic lights are out, is that true?

SANDOVAL: They are. And it's -- actually, if you go one block south, you see the traffic lights are working. But if you go one block north, then that's where things are obviously dark.

We talked to a little while ago and they told you, it was interesting that some of the regular civilians and also employees that's an area of business, were essentially stepping into crosswalks with brightly colored vests to try to direct traffic. So it really does speak to the sense of action that we saw from many of the people here in New York.

It really is an incredible city, especially during these times. People do come together, obviously, to -- in those kind of reassuring displays and that obviously a reassuring sight for many people. Those tourists, just like the ones you just heard from, Brandy who travelled here from Arizona.

[20:55:08] CABRERA: She has such a great attitude about not being able to go see Frozen. I know a number of other shows are also currently having to postpone their performances from tonight from the Lion King, to Chicago, to Cher's show, according to all their Twitter accounts.

Polo Sandoval, thank you for staying on top of this story for us and trying to learn more about what's going on. How people are reacting to it. Again, a power outage in New York City affecting roughly 42,000 Con Edison customers, is the latest update we have. You can see areas around Times Square in the dark tonight. You're watching CNN.

Much more of our breaking news coverage when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN BREAKING NEWS.

CABRERA: You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. It's breaking news right now here on CNN.

Much of Manhattan is in the dark, no lights, no electricity, it's a blackout in parts of the city tonight. Tens of thousands of people now without power in the Big Apple.

[21:00:00]