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'Unprecedented breakdown' on NYC subway system strands 300 people

'Unprecedented breakdown' on NYC subway system strands 300 people
Officials said the disruption affected more than 500 passengers and 80 trains. About 300 people were stranded between rail stations in the Bronx, and some had to be helped out by firefighters. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 30 (UPI) -- A power surge that lasted for a split second stranded hundreds of people on dozens of trains along New York City's subway system Sunday night -- a mishap that New York Gov. Kathy Hochul called an "unacceptable" and "unprecedented" failure.

Hochul called for an investigation of the breakdown that left half of the New York subway system without power from late Sunday to early Monday.

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New York City utility Consolidated Edison, or ConEd, said the momentary disturbance occurred in an underground transmission feeder. Officials said it affected more than 500 passengers and 80 trains. About 300 people were stranded between rail stations in the Bronx, and some had to be helped out by firefighters.

"Let me be very clear. Last night was unacceptable," Hochul said in a statement provided by New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

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"If you're one of those riders or people relying on safe transport, the system failed you. The MTA is the lifeblood of the city, and a disruption of this magnitude can be catastrophic."

Hochul said two power plants and generators went offline at the same time, causing a momentary outage that went to the backup system.

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When the system tried to return to normal, it created a surge that resulted in the subway losing signalization and communication ability between the command center and the trains throughout the system.

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"This ended up leading to evacuations in the tunnels and two of those evacuations were orderly and directed by the emergency personnel," Hochul added. "In two other cases, the experience was what was known as self-evacuation, where riders decided to leave on their own.

"We never, ever want riders to do that. It is dangerous and it caused a delay in the restoration of power."

"The disturbance lasted a fraction of a second for all customers throughout our service territory," ConEd said, according to WABC-TV. "We remain in contact with the MTA to understand why they lost this communication at their rail center during the voltage disturbance."

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An MTA spokesman said the affected cars were initially still receiving power -- allowing them to stay lit and air conditioned -- but workers had to cut the power for safety reasons when passengers in two cars decided to self-evacuate.

"The confluence of events that led to this has never happened before to our knowledge," added Hochul, who took office and replaced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week.

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