Blackout: American Experience

Blackout: American Experience

Tue, 07/14/2015 - 9:00pm

Pictured: 1977 Blackout Power Failure - Blackout - shows NYC skyline from Queens during the power blackout. Lights glow in a midtown Waterside Con Ed plant as traffic passes on East Side Drive.

Credit: Courtesy of Dan Farrell/NY Daily News via Getty Images

As July 13, 1977 dawned hot and humid, New Yorkers prepared themselves for another sweltering day. But high temperatures weren’t the only thing making them sweat: the crimeridden city was on the verge of bankruptcy; unemployment was high; police and firefighters had been laid off; municipal services, including sanitation and after-school programs, had been cut; and a serial killer named Son of Sam was still on the loose, keeping everyone on edge.

That evening, a severe thunderstorm hit, and lightning struck a power line in Westchester County; when that line went out, the demand was increased on the surrounding lines. As Con Edison engineers struggled to control the cascading effects of the downed lines, their only choice was to start shedding load, disconnecting customers from the grid in order to prevent a catastrophic failure of the system. But despite their efforts, the lights went out, plunging some seven million city residents into darkness.  Blackout, produced by Mark Samels and directed by Callie T. Wiser, premieres Tuesday, July 14, 2015, at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV.