MANHATTAN — Con Edison asked 7,000 customers uptown and an additional 3,500 in Midtown to temporarily conserve electricity Thursday as damage from this week's snowstorms knocked out power to 265 customers across Manhattan.
The outages likely occurred because salt used to clear roadways during the recent heavy snowfalls damaged underground electrical cables, Con Edison spokesman Sidney Alvarez said.
"We're dealing with the wrath of Mother Nature," Alvarez said.
Officials asked customers who live and work in parts of West Harlem, Hamilton Heights, Midtown and Times Square to refrain from using non-essential electrical devices, such as washers and dryers and delivery elevators, to prevent the remaining cables from failing.
The utility told customers in those neighborhoods that they could resume normal power usage over the weekend.
The underground electrical cables in these areas are normally salt-resistant, but they're struggling to keep up with demand as vibrations from traffic above ground can cause rips and tears in the wiring over time, Alvarez said.
Affected areas that Con Edison asked to conserve electricity include a 20-block area bounded by Riverside Drive, Broadway, West 153rd Street and West 131st Street; and a 12-block area bounded by West 52nd Street, West 39th Street, Fifth Avenue and Broadway.
Customers in Manhattan, including 95 in Harlem, had already experienced power outages due to the weather by mid-afternoon Thursday, and if people don't conserve, the problems could get worse, Alvarez warned.
"It would eventually impact the system in a harder fashion, which would cause more outages and take longer to restore," Alvarez said.
"As the situation rectifies itself, hopefully we'll be able to ease up on the conservation effort."
Con Ed has already begun repairs to downed wires as they appear and rerouting electricity as needed, but Alvarez could not say how long the repairs would take or how long the conservation efforts would be in effect.
The utility had already reduced power voltage by 5 percent in Harlem and in Midtown, but most people would not notice a difference, Alvarez said.
The uptown area has had trouble this year responding to the regular winter electrical problems — unlike Queens and Brooklyn, which have been plagued by outages yet have bounced back more easily, Alvarez said.
"If we all work together to try to get through this, we can make sure to restore power to customers faster," Alvarez said.