NEW YORK CITY — A large section of Manhattan was in the dark Monday night after Hurricane Sandy flooded ConEdison substations and left roughly 670,000 customers in New York City and Westchester without power.
More than 250,000 customers lost power in Manhattan — in addition to another 400,000 in the outer boroughs and in Westchester — after flooding and an explosion at an East Side substation caused major outages from East 39th Street down to the tip of Lower Manhattan, the utility said.
The explosion alone knocked out power to roughly 230,000 residents, Con Edison officials said.
Officials said it is not yet clear how long it will take to repair that facility, located at East 14th Street and the FDR Drive, but they hope to have it up and running by the end of the week or sooner.
"We are in a bit of unchartered territory here," said John Miksad, a senior vice president at Con Edison, who added that officials will have to wait until the water recedes to assess the damage.
"What we didn't anticipate was flooding to continue to rise even after the forecasted 10-12 foot tides."
Another substation was also flooded in Staten Island, blowing power there, ConEd officials said, and the Battery experienced 14-foot tides that inundated facilities, causing damage.
At NYU Langone Hospital on First Avenue, officials reported a back-up generator had failed after the power went out. Patients were being evacuated, Bloomberg said.
ConEd also shut down power to nearly 35,000 customers across Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, including the New York Stock Exchange — in a preemptive move that could leave much of the city's financial center dark for days.
ConEd said the shutdown — which plunged many customers that previously had power into the dark — would help prevent devastating damage to electrical equipment, which is often housed in building basements, and is much more vulnerable if power is on.
"We're doing that to reduce the likelihood of damage to both our equipment and our customers' equipment," said ConEd Chair Kevin Burke to reporters at a press conference Monday evening at the City's Office of Emergency Management.
The shut-off included three sets of power networks. In Manhattan, one that spans the southeast tip of Lower Manhattan, all the way from Frankfort Street in the north to South Street in the south, and east of Williams Street to the river north of Wall Street; the other spanning east of Broadway to the river, and south of Wall Street to the edge of Manhattan.
In Brooklyn the area is bounded by Shell Road, Gravesend Neck Road and East 15th to East 16th Street on the north, Coney Island Creek to the west, Sheepshead Bay to the east, and the Atlantic to the south. The networks served a combined 34,700 customers, ConEd officials said.
Brooklyn's neighborhoods would see all traffic lights and street lamps could go dark as the worst of the storm rolls in, ConEd said.
The Manhattan range includes numerous high-profile buildings, including the Federal Reserve Bank and New York Stock Exchange.
ConEd officials said it could take "three, four days" to restore power to those networks that were shut down as part of the preventive measure.
ConEd was also considering shuttering power to another 20 large, high-voltage "installations" mainly around Manhattan, that could impact 7,900 customers in more high-density locations, such as the Kips Bay Towers, if flooding is severe, Burke said.
ConEd is also monitoring other vulnerable sections of Flushing and Jamaica for potential shutdowns, and officials were placing calls to thousands of customers in Manhattan south of 36th Street as well as flood-prone areas of Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, warning them the company may have to shut off power if the surge rises as high as forecasters think.
While shutdowns will be likely if the storm reaches the upper heights of the projected 10- to-12- foot storm surge, staff are planning to wait until seawater begins to actually infiltrate the system to make the final call about turning off power, which can happen remotely almost immediately, officials said.
But officials refused to say how long a possible outage could last — only saying that it could take “days" to restore the system if it floods. If equipment is flooded, crews would have to wait for the tides to recede to get back in and pump out equipment, which would then need to be dried, cleaned and repaired before power could be restored.
Repairing damage from downed overhead lines is expected to take about a week.
ConEd has also shut down steam service to 15 miles of power mains serving 140 buildings in areas of Manhattan prone to flooding, including Stuyvesant Town in the East Village, and outages could expand all the way up to 14th Street. If hot steam pipes — which are often used to heat water — are inundated with cool flood water, they can explode, officials said.
Scattered gas outages have also been reported in Throgs Neck in the Bronx and Governors Island.
In addition to its usual field crews, which are working around the clock, the company has hired an extra 700 contractors to assist with repairs.
Officials are advising residents to steer clear of any downed power wires and immediately report them to ConEd.
If your power goes out, turn off all lights and appliances to prevent a circuit overload when power is restored, they advise.
In the meantime, check to make sure you have working flashlights, radios and extra batteries, collect extra water in pots and the bathtub, turn your fridge and freezer down as low as they will go, and avoid opening your freezer to keep food colder longer.