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Power Being Restored After Large-Scale Manhattan Blackout; Con Edison Reports, At Peak, 72,000 Customers Lost Power In Manhattan; Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) Says Blackout Is Not Acceptable; Slow-Moving Tropical Storm Barry Drenches Gulf Coast. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired July 13, 2019 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN NEWSROOM: You are live in the CNN Newsroom. I am Alex Marquardt in Washington, D.C., taking over for Ana Cabrera.
It is breaking news right now on CNN and great news for the people living in and visiting New York City on this summer weekend. A power outage that plunged much of Manhattan into darkness a few hours ago is gradually, fingers crossed, coming to an end. The building lights are coming back on, the streetlights also coming back on.
The power company, Con Edison, which runs the electric grids, are hopeful that most of their New York City customers will have power once again restored by midnight Eastern Time. That is in one hour from now.
Police officials and Con Ed engineers say that the blackout was caused by a fire that happened inside a manhole. And despite the widespread subway outages and traffic chaos, as well as general confusion that ensued, officials are reporting that no injuries or other significant emergencies happened.
The best news for New York City on this hot July Saturday night is the power is coming back on, as you can see right there with those pictures and the Empire State Building.
For more, I want to bring CNN's Brian Stelter who has been on the ground for us. He's in Columbus Circle. For those who are ot familiar with New York, Brian, that is at the south side of Central Park. You are in the only power network where power has not yet been restored. What are you seeing there now?
BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Right. That's right. And that's why there are police officers behind us here directing traffic, because these traffic lights are still out. This part of the city, this neighborhood, really, of Manhattan is still without power at 11:00 P.M. Eastern. You can see some of the crossing guard workers behind us here. And yet life still goes on in the big city, right, Alex? You still got the ice cream trucks out here and the hot dog vendors.
But these buildings around us Central Park South are still without power. You can see The New York Athletic Club, for example, lights out in these buildings. Some of these are hotels. Some of these are high rise rental buildings. Some of these high rise apartment buildings, a wide variety here.
And that is ultimately why this such a newsworthy story. We're talking about a tourist heavy part of New York City, one of the biggest cities in the world, suddenly blacked out at 6:45 P.M. Eastern Time. I was up in my apartment, you know, 15-plus storeys up.
I noticed something was amiss, the air conditioner turned off, and I looked outside and saw that this was not one building or one block, this was an entire stretch in Manhattan, from Lincoln Center and the upper west side to Columbus Circle, to Times Square, to Rockefeller Center, and later, to Madison Square Garden and Penn Station, virtually, all of midtown Manhattan from 5th Avenue over to 12th Avenue on the Hudson River.
An incredibly rare event, the kind of thing most New Yorkers take in stride but also wonder what the heck is going on. I think in the front of your mind, it's just an inconvenience for most people, but in the back of your mind, you always worry about something more nefarious. And so far, of course, no indication of that, all the evidence is to the contrary, and Con Ed, the power company here, is getting to the bottom of it.
The most interesting sight to me, Alex, just as a resident tonight, looking down from up in a high-rise building, hoping not to have to use the stairs or anything, looking at all the people walking by on their cell phones as it was getting dark, they were like little fireflies. Because now a blackout in a cell phone age, a social media age, means that people did at least have their flashlights for a little while.
Now, as you mentioned, power has been restored to five of the six parts of Manhattan that lost power. We are in the one part of the city that still does not have power. And as you mentioned, authorities are hoping to have that back online by midnight.
MARQUARDT: Yes. And, Brian, you are in one of the most trafficked parts of the city. In just moments ago, we saw one of those horses go behind you, tourists using those to ride through Central Park. It is incredible for me as a former resident of New York to think of this happening right where you are. We've seen people walking behind you, still clearly quite happy. What is the mood there? It doesn't seem chaotic at all. What are people telling you?
STELTER: I would say it's a mixed mood. Because, yes, most people are taking this in stride but we still do have emergency vehicles driving by and the sound of sirens has been the main sound for the past four hours.
In just the last half-an-hour, Alex, I would say, things have become more normal out here on Central Park South because all of the other areas have started to regain electricity. That means the traffic is back, cars are driving by in much greater numbers and tourists are starting to head back to where they were earlier. But for a few hours, this part of the city really did get quiet except for the whistles of crossing guards at intersections and the fire trucks that were moving from building to building helping people out of elevators. That's one of the scariest things for people to live in these buildings, whether you're in a hotel or an apartment building, it's to be up on the 40th floor and have the elevator suddenly stop.
So the fire officials were very busy at first, trying to make sure everybody was accounted for. And in some of these apartment buildings, they've been handing out flashlights and glow sticks for people to get inside, again, for most individuals, an inconvenience.
But if you're an elderly resident who's not able to get down 20 flights of stairs -- and this was a more serious matter, and it's something that is so rare that New York City or other big city to see a blackout of the commercial zone of the city. It's a reminder how fragile the grid can be.
MARQUARDT: Absolutely right. And, Brian, those are important points. This is obviously an extremely serious incident. So far New York officials have said that there have been no injuries and so far indications of no nefariousness. You are in one of the few remaining parts of the city that has yet to get its power back. We do hope you and all those around you do get that back soon. Brian Stelter in Columbus Circle, thanks very much.
We're going to head a little bit farther south, closer to Times Square, where we find our Polo Sandoval who has been speaking with tourists in New York City, getting their impressions, how it's impacting their night and their visit. Polo, what are they telling you?
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Alex. To give you some perspective, we're just a couple of blocks from our friend, Brian, who is in Columbus Circle. I can see Times Square, the billboards that were dark, those are lit up. We were keeping our eye on this stretch of 7th Avenue. It really is eerie when you look down this stretch about ten blocks before you get to Central Park. It is pretty much dark.
There are some buildings though that have been lit up but certainly has added up to a bit of a headache for many tourists. I've talked to people from as far as Europe, parts of the Middle East who have come here, and even as far as Ohio, such as you.
Diane (ph), welcome, you're live with CNN. I want you to tell us a little bit about what it's been like for you and your husband the last few hours as you take all of this in.
DIANE (PH): Well, all we've been doing is sitting. We actually are sitting at Sheridan and just waiting for the electricity to go on so that we can get up to our room, which is up on the 49th floor. So we don't want to go up there yet. Some people are going up, like on the generators, but I don't want to do that. SANDOVAL: And, ultimately, if you make your way up there, what would you do? You've mentioned the water is running but there's not much else.
DIANE (PH): Yes. They told us there was no electricity up there. There was no air conditioning. The water is running. So --
SANDOVAL: What is it that brought you to New York?
DIANE (PH): Well, our oldest daughter lives here and our youngest son wanted to come and spend a couple of days with her. So it's all due to my son, Michael, that we are stuck in this.
SANDOVAL: So we have Michael to thank for this.
DIANE (PH): We have Michael to thank for this, yes.
SANDOVAL: You even were telling that you guys even -- or this is a vacation. It is a vacation. You guys splurged a little bit to be able to get a bit of a roomier accommodation.
DIANE (PH): $30 more to get up on the 49th floor so that we can have a king size bed. I shouldn't have done it.
SANDOVAL: had you not splurged, you probably would have been on the second floor.
DIANE (PH): Yes.
SANDOVAL: Diane (ph), well, thank you for keeping your spirits so high, good luck to you and your husband and you do win the prize for the highest floor that we've spoken to, 12 25, I think, and now 49. Good luck to you, thank you, ma'am. Good luck tonight.
DIANE: All right.
SANDOVAL: You heard it there, Alex. Again, spirits are certainly high. People are hopeful that the power will be restored very soon. Yes, as they look up around them, they see more lights that are going on on. It's a sign that they could be next. They're certainly keeping their fingers crossed and their spirits high in this part of Manhattan. Alex?
MARQUARDT: Yes. Polo, you've been speaking with people all night. It is remarkable how happy people have remained despite a wrench really thrown in the works of their vacations, but clearly happy that the power is slowly coming back on. Polo Sandoval near Times Square --
SANDOVAL: And then nobody got hurt. Once they find out that nobody got hurt, it certainly changes things for them.
MARQUARDT: Absolutely. Thankfully, so far, officials are saying no one has been hurt. Polo Sandoval near Times Square, thanks very much.
So as we just mentioned, Polo, the power is slowly coming back on. We are hearing from New Yorkers about what it was like during those hours that the power was out. Take a quick listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID FORMAN, NEW YORK RESIDENT: I was on the sixth floor. We lost power very quickly. And my understanding is that there's a wire underneath our building, 101 West End, that caused the transformer to explode. Timing was right around 7:00, give or take. That explosion caused the blackout up and down the West End.
REPORTER: You're safe. You were -- tell me about the glow stick.
FORMAN: You like the glow stick? So the safety of our building, high tech, was they pulled and gave us glow sticks to go down the stairwell.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUARDT: Enterprising rescue item there, glow sticks being handed out to New York City residents.
Now, joining me now is CNN's Alexandra Field. Alex, you were driving through the streets of New York, I understand, as the power went out. Of course, we hope that you and your nerves are okay.
What were you seeing as you drove through those darkened streets?
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alex, I'm in the back seat, so that's a good vantage point to be in. And, frankly, it just requires a lot of patience from everyone. We were making our way from Lower Manhattan all the way up 10th Avenue. I've been told that the traffic lights are back on, the traffic is starting to move, we're still seeing a number of office buildings and residential buildings with power out.
This was about an hour and 20 minutes again to get from Lower Manhattan to midtown, bumper to bumper traffic. We were certainly seeing people who had poured out of their buildings, who were standing on the street corners, trying to figure out what is exactly is going on, certainly hoping that their lights are going to come back on, that the air conditioning are going to come back on on a hot night in New York City and subway drivers for (INAUDIBLE).
As the traffic goes by (ph), one just (INAUDIBLE) were asking us what was going on on, you know, what was causing the chaos. We did definitely see a number of emergency vehicles, Alex, that seemed to be moving into positions across the west side of Manhattan, the fire trucks and police cars certainly being deployed on the city and state level, fanning out to help where needed and if needed. They were trying to make their way through the traffic.
I can tell you, it wasn't a lot of chaos, just a heavy amount of traffic. (INAUDIBLE) to see more and more of the lights come on as we got farther north. That's going to be a lot relief for people who were certainly wondering if they were going to have to make it through the night without power, wondering if (INAUDIBLE) just to get down many types (ph) of stairs or, you know, spend the night elsewhere. But we are seeing more and more people who appear to be able to reach their buildings.
Certainly we also saw police officers who were trying to get a handle on the heavy traffic by diverting cars. We were diverted to the west side highway for a while. Lights are back on on the west side highway, traffic moving along there, and that's going to be one way to try to ease congestion from midtown. But certainly a very positive sign now. We see more and more of these buildings lit up this evening.
MARQUARDT: Yes. Alex, how were both the drivers coping with the lights being out, but also who is helping direct traffic? I heard anecdotally that New Yorkers themselves, civilians, were going out into the streets, into intersections to help direct. The police, as you just mentioned, we heard Governor Cuomo tell our colleague, Ana Cabrera, that he would be using the National Guard for traffic control. Have you seen them? And so who was actually directing the traffic?
FIELD: I have not seen guardsmen or women at this point. We did police officers. I did see fire trucks out. I did see others in vests. I don't know if it's a great idea for people in Manhattan to get out and start directing traffic, but, you know, I think everyone probably had the best of intentions.
Alex, certainly, you've been in New York City, traffic jams galore, it can be an unpleasant place to be. I was actually surprised we were not hearing much of the symphony of horns that you often here.
And I was south of the Lincoln Tunnel for about half-an-hour. People seem to be keeping their heads, having patience, keeping their cool. I think at this point, words have certainly spread, people (INAUDIBLE) affected. That is going on. And they know that if they were out in their cars, you know, they were in for a bit of a night. Certainly, they're relieved again that these traffic lights are back on and officers are trying to do their best by diverting some of the traffic.
But for the most part, people are remaining pretty calm. They've been through power outages before. This is certainly widespread. This is certainly the kind of thing that can be very stressing for them if they're on a high floor or in your car.
But, yes, absolutely, you know, we're talking about a matter of hours now where we've seen a lot of the power restored. That's a very positive sign for many.
MARQUARDT: All right. Alexandra Field there in New York, thankfully, you are safe, and as you said, everything seemed to have gone quite smoothly. And that seems to be the good news item out of all of this, that no one has been injured, that there was no chaos, that both drivers and people on the streets managed this quite calmly and went about their business, waiting for the power to come back on.
Con Edison, the power company of New York, now saying that the number of people who are still without power is 16,000. That is down from a far higher number. So slowly, gradually, the power coming back on in New York.
We're going to take a quick break. We'll have more news right after this.
MARQUARDT: Breaking news on the New York City blackout, Con Edison, the power company, now telling CNN that 16,000 customers are still without power. Though the hope is to have everyone restored, they say, between midnight and 2:00 A.M. Eastern Time, and it's now 11:15 on the East Coast.
For many New Yorkers, the power outage brought scary moments when elevators across much of the city stopped working and people got stuck inside. This is what that looked like inside the Knickerbocker Hotel on 42nd Street in Broadway right after the power outage. You can see those firefighters there working to rescue people who were stuck in the elevator at that hotel after the power went out.
There was another incredible scene across town. I want to show you this moment from Madison Square Garden, the arena where Jennifer Lopez was set to perform for excited concertgoers, obviously a hard ticket to get, then the power went out. All those lights, you can see there, those are the emergency lights in the Garden and this is what it looks like for Jennifer Lopez herself. This is what she posted.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNIFER LOPEZ, AMERICAN ACTOR Hi, guys. So we're backstage. They just told me to get offstage. I was waiting there. Obviously, all the power went out in the city and obviously here at Madison Square Garden while we were in the middle of our show. Actually, we have just started our show. They're asking everybody to evacuate, very slowly and calmly and that's what we're going to have to do.
Obviously we're going to reschedule this show. There is the alarm going off telling everybody and the announcements to evacuate. I am obviously heartbroken and devastated.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Attention, attention.
LOPEZ: Here we go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This the building engineer. Due to a citywide power outage, we're going to interrupt this event.
LOPEZ: Very sad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the interests of safety and precautionary measures, we are requesting that all occupants leave the building.
LOPEZ: I love you. I am so sorry that this happened in the middle of our moment, this time. I'm going to get back to you guys as soon as I can with when we're going to reschedule the show. Okay.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUARDT: All right. Jennifer Lopez is saying that she's going to reschedule her show there. As parts of the city, Manhattan specifically, start to get their power back, restaurants, shops, tourist attractions, they were all forced to close during this power outage.
And during the blackout, one of the most iconic parts New York, Broadway, was forced to cancel shows. Of course, that's on a Saturday night when you have many, many, many visitors from all across the country and around the world there to -- specifically to go see those Broadway shows. And in that video there, you can see hundreds of disappointed ticket holders pouring into the streets outside as the sun was setting, as the power went out.
But those cancellations didn't stop one group of actors from performing.
So that is an amazing moment from the cast of the Broadway musical, Come From Away, along with others from other theaters, their show was canceled so they took it outside.
All right, for more, I want to bring in CNN's Brian Stelter. He has been at Columbus Circle all night.
Brian, we spoke to you just moments ago. The power was still out where you were. As we've been saying, the power has been coming on gradually, Con Edison saying just moments ago that just 16,000 people, down from 72,000, are still without power. Where you are, the power just came back on?
STELTER: Alex, did I lose you?
MARQUARDT: Brian, can you hear me?
STELTER: Alex, if you can hear me, there were fire trucks just going by, it got pretty louder. But I think we're going to hear from Con Ed that the number is now very low. We are out here on Central Park South and the power has come back on in the last ten minutes. You can tell it's much brighter out here than it was before. This is 7th Avenue in Central Park South, where the streetlights are back. The police officers have wrapped up in these intersections and they're letting the traffic lights do their jobs. And we can see the lights in the nearby hotels and nearby apartment buildings all coming back to normal.
This is a relatively happy resolution for the locals and the tourists who have been awaiting for this for the past four-and-a-half hours. We've heard from the New York City Public Advocate, Jumaane Williams, telling constituents, thank you for responding with such calm tonight. He said powers are being returned in many areas. Please continue to exercise caution as operations are in the process of being restored and adjusted. So that's the word from the New York City Public Advocate.
When I was out here about 11:05, lights came back on, there were cheers from the people that are on the streets, by Carnegie Hall, over at Columbus Circle, there were cheers by the mall at Time Warner Center when the lights went on back there as well. And I can look down to Times Square, see all the billboards coming back online, the 2019 sign coming back online.
This was reminiscent in some ways of Hurricane Sandy when the southern half of Manhattan Island lost power. But, of course, that went on for many days. In this case, it was the western half of the Island of Manhattan in midtown on the upper west side that lost power, thankfully, only for four to five hours. This was something that was an inconvenience for most, stressful for others. It was striking to me how most New Yorkers just took it in stride.
And at this point, Alex, I'm interested in the people in Louisiana and on the Gulf Coast who are without power. Hopefully, they'll have the lights back almost as quickly as midtown Manhattan.
Alex, my IFB cut back -- cut out, so I'm going to toss it back to you. But the news from Central Park South is the lights are returning. It seems like this neighborhood now back to normal just after 11:00 P.M. Eastern Time.
MARQUARDT: Our thanks to Brian Stelter, great news for him and the other residents of that part of the city and the tourists visiting.
Again, Con Edison, the power company, is saying that now some 16,000 people, New Yorkers, are without power. That is down from 72,000. That is the good news. The lights are coming back on.
We're going to take a quick break. We'll have more after that.
MARQUARDT: We're staying on top of the situation in Manhattan where power is gradually being restored after that blackout. But, of course, we don't want to lose track of what's happening farther south with Tropical Storm Barry. CNN's Derek Van Dam has the latest for us. Derek, in the weather center, we're hearing that the Governor of Louisiana is saying that the worst is still to come.
DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, that's correct, Alex. In fact, it's important that people and residents of Louisiana don't let their guard down because the bands of heavy rain have not yet moved onshore for most locations. Mobile, Alabama had a band of rain that produced about six inches of rain earlier this evening. That has since moved on.
There were some tornado warnings in and around the greater New Orleans area. Those have since been lifted. But the worst is still yet to come in terms of the heavy precipitation and the potential for flooding. This storm has been anything but typical to forecast. It has very uncharacteristic features of a tropical system. And it's been quite challenging for meteorologists because what's actually is with this counterclockwise circulation is taking in dry air and keeping the heavy rain offshore.
I mean, we're talking about 15, 20 miles just off of the Louisiana Coast where the heaviest rain bands currently sit. But the center of this circulation of Tropical Storm Barry needs to eventually move inland. That is the direction it's traveling. And with it, it will bring the heaviest of rainfall.
This is the latest information from the National Hurricane Center, 50 miles per hour sustained winds when we do get up a lot of this rain to setup overnight. I remember that is going to saturate the soils. And with 50-mile-per-hour wind gusts, you have the potential to bring over some trees and power lines. So keep that in mind, power outages still about 110,000 customers at the moment across Louisiana.
You can see the latest radar across the area, look at the heavy rain bands again, just offshore from Morgan City, New Orleans, just a few scattered raindrops at the moment, but it's not over yet. When you're looking at observed rainfall, the heaviest rain has, again, been in Alabama but it is still coming.
We do still anticipate some significant impacts across this area and staying off the roads is your best bet tonight and into the day on Sunday, as the moisture gets drawn in from the Gulf of Mexico eventually moving up the Mississippi River Valley. And you see this on the forecast radar some of the heavier bands that will eventually be drawn in as the center of Tropical Storm Barry moves across Louisiana.
Remember, we have about a 250-mile stretch from the Coastline of the Gulf of Mexico to the border of Arkansas. And the storm is moving so incredibly slow that that is really going to help enhance the potential for flooding. The Weather Prediction Center still has a high risk of flash flooding from Alexandria, just outside of Lake Charles and Baton Rouge area for the day on Sunday right into Monday.
But look at how far the moderate risk stretches into Western Tennessee. So look out, Memphis, you have the potential for significant rainfall as well, the flooding just exacerbated by the weeks and weeks of heavy rainfall we've had so far this spring and early summer.
Back to you, Alex.
MARQUARDT: And, Derek, this is what the Governor has been saying from the beginning, that this was not necessarily going to be a storm event, a wind event in terms of the potential danger that it was always going to be a water event, the storm surge, the rivers, the rain, that was really going to do the most damage.
Derek Van Dam in the Weather Center, Atlanta, thanks so much for breaking that down for us. Now, most people of course try to avoid severe weather. Joining me now is Aaron Jayjack, who heads straight into it. He's an extreme storm chaser. He's in Louisiana down there.
Aaron, we've been following you on Twitter this evening as this storm progresses. You've shown trees coming down, power poles falling down all over the place. We know that the storm itself has slowed. But, of course, there is this huge potential for danger when it comes to the water. What is it like right now and what are you seeing?
AARON JAYJACK, EXTREME STORM CHASER: Yes. So I've been in Morgan City, Louisiana for pretty much the entire day here. I was up on the levy earlier taking a look at the water. And the surge has come up here in Atchafalaya River and in the coast -- along the coast here in Louisiana.
As you mentioned, the storm is slowly moving to the north right now. The center of rotation is actually to the north of us right now. But the rain, the big rain is still just south of us off the coast. And it's just -- and I don't know if you can see in my shot here but it has just started raining again here.
But the winds have weakened. We don't have strong winds anymore. But I expect this rain to just continue to increase and flooding continue to potentially cause threat here through Louisiana through the evening and into tomorrow.
MARQUARDT: And, Aaron, you shot some incredible video, and specifically that video that you shot in the Marina that shows the boats sinking. Describe that scene for us.
JAYJACK: Yes. That's actually -- it's just down the road here from higher ground here at the Hampton Hotel. Just down the road, there's a levy system that keeps the water back and they had left one of the floodgates open so I was able to get into there and look around. And, yes, as you can see in the video, those boats start to take on water there.
But I actually -- I hopped into a boat with the local officials here, the city that I'm in, and they have a ferry there and they were worried about the ferry sinking or getting stuck on land because it had moved in with the surge and the wind and the chain that holds that boat was -- kept it locked up on the land there, and they were afraid as the water recedes and the boat might get stuck.
So I jumped on the boat with them as I try to help them get that ferry moved out.
MARQUARDT: This, of course, is not your first rodeo. You were really in the thick of things, we understand, during Hurricane Harvey in Texas a couple of years ago. I understand you rescued somebody's dog. How many hurricanes is this for you?
JAYJACK: I've lost track of hurricanes. I mean, it's probably at least, you know, a couple of dozen hurricanes and tropical storms and depressions and whatnot. I've been in a lot of Cat 4, Cat 5 hurricanes. So this one has actually been a little bit more laid back, if you will, for a hurricane. the winds are a little lighter. The wind hasn't been as much damage. So I'm used to big time -- you know, power poles down every, trees down everywhere.
So the power has been out here since 3:00 in the morning. Outside of that, it hasn't been too intense. But, you know, like you said, there are trees coming down. So if you are a resident and you are in the path of the storm, it is still wise to stay indoors. It doesn't take much as these trees get waterlogged from all this rain, so these older, weaker trees, they get brought down by just the lightest of winds.
MARQUARDT: All right. Aaron Jayjack, we know that you are an experienced hand but we do hope that you stay safe out there. Thanks so much for joining us tonight.
And on cue, we lost him.
All right, we're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.
MARQUARDT: Lots of breaking news tonight. Right now, we are focused on the breaking news out of the Gulf Coast. All of Louisiana, parts of Texas and Mississippi being hammered right now by the storm that was Hurricane Barry.
So for more, let's get inside the storm zone for a look at the conditions on the ground as they were, as they have been.
CNN's Randi Kaye is in Baton Rouge. Nick Watt is in Lafayette.
NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I thought it was some good news. The levies at the Mississippi around New Orleans did not break. The flood surge risk in New Orleans is over. But Barry is far from over.
The Mayor of New Orleans warning there is still a flood risk and there is still a flood risk for huge chunks of Louisiana.
Now, that storm surge, as Barry came ashore, they have already had partial evacuations of four counties or parishes, as they call them in Louisiana, down on the coast. They've had trouble getting people out before the water swept over one of the main highways down there. Here further inland here, we are still waiting for the real problem that Barry brings, which is the rain.
Now, Saturday evening, Barry's eye was onshore. Barry's eye is, in fact, not far away from where we are now. But the bulk of the storm, the bulk of the rain, the bulk of the water, that is still offshore and will move slowly into Louisiana and Mississippi. Barry is moving just a little bit more than a walking pace right now. And it is all this rain that is going to cause problems over the coming days. 3,000 National Guard fanned out across the state to help emergency responders deal with the situation. Here where we are in Lafayette, this could be the problem. The Vermillion River was running at about 3.5 feet Saturday morning. By Sunday morning, it could be up to 15 feet. That is what they're watching here in Lafayette.
Nick Watt, CNN, Lafayette, Louisiana.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The situation here in Baton Rouge does seem to be deteriorating. The winds are kicking up, certainly gusting. We're here on the banks of the Mississippi River. We're just outside the Bell Casino.
And we've seen some small whitecaps here in the river which is already high due to some recent flooding. And you can see out there the trees, they are blowing pretty strongly and also dipping into the water. And some of the water here is coming up on the edge of the steps, much closer to us.
But this is a real concern is that the main concern here in Baton Rouge isn't so much the wind, even though it is strong, it's the water. Because in 2016, just a few years ago, they had a pretty major depression that hung around and sat over this area and dropped about a foot-and-a-half of rainwater, and those people are still struggling to get through that.
I spoke to one woman who has been living in a FEMA trailer for three years, another woman who just moved back into her home and now, again, has evacuated because of this storm.
Right now, we know that the National Guard is here. They have high water vehicles because they are expecting so much rain and flooding here in Baton Rouge. They're hoping to get to folks who may be trapped in their homes. They've also had the Public Works teams out all day today checking the drainage systems all around the city to make sure that this water has somewhere to go.
The problem is, is that the Gulf is pushing the wind and water up this way and this water coming down from the rain doesn't really have anywhere to go. So they're very concerned about surging and flooding here in this area.
One last thing, they do have the shelters open. While they are urging people to stay home and shelter in place, if they do leave, they are allowed to bring their pets along with them to the shelters here because they don't want them to just stay home if it is dangerous just because of their animals.
So certainly some conditions to be concerned about here in Baton Rouge, the latest from here is that it's windy and rainy, and the worst really could be yet to come as the rain and the storm hits this area.
This is Randi Kaye reporting, CNN, Baton Rouge.
MARQUARDT: Our thanks to Randi Kaye and to Nick Watt down there in Louisiana. We're going to take a quick break, and on the other side, go back to our breaking news out of Manhattan on that blackout.
And we -- actually, we will not be taking a break. This is what you're seeing right now are live scenes in Manhattan after the widespread Manhattan blackout this evening that lasted for hours. The power has been coming slowly back on. This is the Head of Con Edison, the power company, and the Governor, Andrew Cuomo. We're going to listen in.
JOHN MCAVOY, CEO, CON EDISON: We experienced a significant electrical disturbance on the west side of Manhattan. It eventually resulted in the loss of 73,000 customers. We divide the electrical system into networks. They're roughly equivalent to neighborhoods and we lost six of the networks on our electric system. I'm happy to report that as of a few minutes ago, all six networks and all 73,000 customers have been restored.
We'll be continuing to work through the evening to re-establish full reliability of our system and then most importantly to identify exactly what caused this disturbance. Our reference to date have been focused more on restoration and isolation of potentially faulty equipment than it has been on understanding exactly what occurred. But that's going to start right now.
REPORTER: So everybody's back on now?
MCAVOY: All customers are restored at this point.
REPORTER: Mr. McAvoy, the Governor put out a statement tonight saying whatever the explanation, this is unacceptable, (INAUDIBLE) irresponsible.
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): First, that's good news that we heard from Con Ed. I just flew over the city, and most of the lights are back on, that's clear. It's also clear that not all of the lights are back on. There are a lot of traffic signals that are out. Still, the roads are chaotic. So we would not encourage New Yorkers to go out if you don't have to go out. Let all the power get back on. Let's stabilize this situation, because it is chaotic now on the west side, certainly.
I want to commend all the emergency workers who did a fantastic job, the NYPD, the State Police, the State Power officials, all the emergency workers. 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. We saw New Yorkers helping other New Yorkers, stories of New Yorkers getting out and managing traffic at intersections, New Yorkers helping neighbors, New Yorkers bringing neighbors who had medical devices that needed power to places where they could get power. So I applaud all New Yorkers, when things are at their worst, New Yorkers are at their best and they were at their best tonight.
As I said, job one is restore the power, get it up and running, and make sure that's 100 percent. Job two is finding out exactly what happened. I'm going to go with Mr. McAvoy and we're going to look at the first transformer that blew tonight. We have to make sure the system is designed in a way that this does not happen.
When you are talking about a blackout or a potential blackout or significant area of the city having a blackout, you are really dealing with potential chaos and public safety threats, and the system has to be better than that, period, period. And we're going to work with Con Ed. But that's what New Yorkers deserve and that's what New Yorkers will get.
I'll turn it back to --
REPORTER: There's been a lot of discussion in the country about our aging infrastructure. Do you believe that could have played a role in this? And how can you address that when dealing with the electric grid?
CUOMO: Yes. This is not going to be a question, I believe, of aging infrastructure. Con Edison routinely upgrades their equipment, changes their equipment. The maintenance level is very high. Con Ed is a utility, but people pay for their power. And that funding goes to Con Ed. And Con Ed, one of their missions is to make sure the system is always 100 percent operational, all the backups are in place, the best design is in place. So if one substation fails, you don't have a domino of other substations.
This is not the first time that I've been with Mr. McAvoy going to look at a substation that failed, right? I've seen this movie. And the system has to be designed in a way that one substation can fail but it doesn't domino, it doesn't ripple, and we have to have a system that has redundancy and has backups.
We were lucky tonight, and again, the emergency workers did a great job, but we don't have any reports of people stuck on subway trains. That could have very well happened. People could be stuck in elevators, people could be in hospitals or nursing homes that don't have backup generators. So this is a potentially very dangerous situation. And we have to make sure it doesn't happen again. And the system is designed in such a way that it doesn't happen again.
REPORTER: Are you saying anything to New Yorkers tonight, should they keep their power down, should they not use as much? Is there anything like that that there is a potential for any further problems?
CUOMO: Yes. Con Ed has said it was not a load issue. We're not in the summer months. There wasn't a high use of air conditioners. It was basically a fairly quiet weekend night in New York City anyway.
I would say stay off the roads. There are many traffic lights that are still out and that is pandemonium. Even with New Yorkers at their best, and they have been, it is still chaotic. And until the system is up 100 percent, it's late at night, stay in, go to sleep, but let the system become fully operational before uyou venture out.
REPORTER: So to clarify, the power is completely available? The power is completely available except for some (INAUDIBLE), just to clarify that everyone is back on?
MCAVOY: That's correct, all the networks, all the power supply to the customers that were interrupted have been restored.
REPORTER: But some of those traffic lights are still out?
MCAVOY: I'm not familiar with the condition of the traffic lights. It's not unusual that in some local cases, some buildings may have to reset some of their equipment to restore service. But the supply to all of our customers have been restored.
REPORTER: Is Con Ed telling people anything that they need to worry about (INAUDIBLE) tonight, tomorrow, should people be worried about any particular problems?
MCAVOY: No, no. We will be working to establish the normal levels of reliability with the tense and depth (ph) that we normally have and not that we (INAUDIBLE). We are not advising customers or asking them to use power any differently than they normally would. As the Governor said, we do not have any indication that this was a load or a power usage issue.
REPORTER: Governor, have you been given any update as to what could have caused the south explosion in the area? Because there are residents who say just before the power outage, they've heard a sound of explosion and others have said they don't believe any manhole (INAUDIBLE). Can you give any update?
CUOMO: No. But, look, we'll look at the transformers. Is it possible that a transformer, quote, unquote, blew? Yes. Or a piece of electrical equipment blew and made a noise, that's possible. But when we go back now and do an analysis of the system and what failed, we'll have a better answer.
REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) because I think there's still a question where the vicinity of this has happened. Why (INAUDIBLE)?
MCAVOY: Really, it is not difficult. We knew what areas were lost and I believe we communicated well what the parameters were, what the boundaries of the outages were. It changed over time. Everybody didn't all lose power at 6:47 because some items became overloaded and we had to actually take action to shut off power to other customers to prevent equipment failures.
But over that period of time, we knew very well exactly what customers were affected.
REPORTER: John, do you already know at this point is and there's anything that would indicate a risk to any part of the network in the days ahead or moving forward or do you consider this already a one- off?
MCAVOY: So we have nothing to indicate that. That being said, we don't have the -- we have not done the root cause analysis that will identify exactly what caused this to occur (ph). So you can't exclude that until you actually know exactly what the conditions were that caused this.
CUOMO: Yes. And, look, our goal has to be -- and I've spoken to Mr. McAvoy about this in the past, and we'll have more conversations and we're going to go and look at the system itself. We have to have a system that is designed to handle disruptions, and rather than domino, we have a redundancy in the system so this doesn't happen.
You just can't have a power outage of this magnitude in this city. It is too dangerous. The potential for public safety risk and chaos is too high. We just can't have a system that doesn't. It's that simple at the end of the day. And that's what we're going to work on.
And I want to see with my own queen's eyes the transformer that started it all.
REPORTER: Thank you.
CUOMO: Okay. Guy, thank you.
MCAVOY: All right. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo right there briefing reporters and the public as well as John McAvoy, the CEO of Con Edison, the power company.
The headline there that all of the power has been restored in Manhattan, the 73,000 customers, according to McAvoy, they have gotten their power back. That is the positive headline from Con Edison.
The Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, not necessarily as positive. He had already said that this was not acceptable. He says that the system has to work. You simply cannot have a power outage in a city like this. You cannot have an event like this happen. He says that the investigation into exactly what happened will be launched right away.
The Governor also saying that despite the fact that all the power is back, that there are some lights that are still out in buildings and streetlights. And he actually called the situation chaotic. He said there was pandemonium. He called on New Yorkers, despite the fact that the power is back, to still stay in their homes. He encouraged them to go to bed, to stay off the streets and not go out if they don't have to. He said the situation is resolved, but it has been dangerous, and it could have been much worse.
I want to bring in CNN's Polo Sandoval who's been out in the streets of New York all night. Polo is between Hell's Kitchen and Times Square. That's on the west side of Manhattan, at midtown. Polo, you heard the Governor there and, of course, many people weren't listening to him because they're out and about it for whatever reason. But he said that people should stay inside. He used words pandemonium, chaos. Is that what you're seeing?
And despite the fact that people may not have heard his message, do you think that people are heeding it themselves? Are they going inside themselves? Are they deciding that now is not the time to be out on the streets?
SANDOVAL: Well, I can tell you that it certainly was quite the opposite, at least what we saw here close to Times Square, right, Alex. It almost set in in stages. At first, there was sort of a sense of disbelief and amazement of what's happening, and to certain extent, even concern. But once we started getting reports that things were -- there was essentially no foul play involved, began to find out exactly what's behind it, and people did began to sort of keep their spirits high and even make light of it to a certain extent.
And now that the power is back up, and now, we're beginning to hear some of those stories from those people who were affected, including members of the Millennial Choir and Orchestra, members that traveled here from all over the country to perform for a few. That chance never came because of tonight's blackout, and that includes Elena Geollis (ph).
Elena, thank you for stopping to chat with us. You were going to perform tonight at the magnificent Carnegie Hall. You were on stage and then the lights went out. Tell me about what that was like for you.
ELENA GEOLLIS: Well, at first I thought it was just light that was tracking and then all of a sudden the emergency lights came on and I looked over to my friends and I'm like is this part of what's supposed to be happening for our performance? And then people started coming out and saying we need to go outside and evacuate you. And we're like, what is going on?
And so we started to go out. We waited there for a while.
And then my professors came up and are standing on a box and then we started singing our songs for everyone on the street.
SANDOVAL: In the middle of the street in Manhattan, you and the rest of the members of the Ensemble (ph) had your moment.
GEOLLIS: It was amazing. It was just -- everyone was there. People stopped and stand near us and just taking a video, and it was just amazing.
SANDOVAL: It wasn't Carnegie Hall, but you were on the streets of Manhattan and you were essentially serenading the entire city.
GEOLLIS: Yes. I mean, I was very disappointed at first. And then I realized this is a once in a lifetime thing. And we heard that we were the only performance ever in Carnegie Hall to have a blackout and to cancel. So we're part of Carnegie Hall's history now.
SANDOVAL: Elena, well, thank you so much for taking the time. Thank you for keeping your spirits high and for keeping your calm along with the rest of the members of the choir and the orchestra and serenading us for a few brief moments. So congratulations, you made it to New York one way or another, right?
SANDOVAL: Safe travels back to Orange County.
Alex, one of many examples of people still making the best of the situation. Look, they couldn't perform on the famous stage of Carnegie Hall that was the scene of performances from Billy Holiday to Duke Ellington, but they had their moment in the spotlight, even if it was in the darkness of the Manhattan streets. Some of the stories that we're now is the lights are back on here in midtown. Back to you.
MCAVOY: All right. Polo, thanks very much for your reporting throughout this evening. Thanks to all of our other correspondents who sprang too during this breaking news. Many questions still to be answered.
But for now, that will do it for me. I'm Alex Marquardt.
Up next, the CNN Original Series, "The Movies." They take us back to the '80s. Have a good night.