50 Years Ago – New York’s Big Blackout

Tuesday, November 9, 1965 – The Night The Lights Failed

Blackout Grand Central stranded 1965 11 10Nov. 10, 1965 – New Yorkers During Blackout – People sleep sitting up and lying down in New York’s Grand Central Terminal early today during the power failure. This area is lit up with emergency lighting. (AP Wirephoto)

In the past 50 years New York has experienced three huge blackouts; August 14, 2003; July 13-14, 1977; and the first large scale blackout that affected much of the northeast, November 9-10, 1965.

30 million people were affected when the electricity went off, cascading from Ontario to Buffalo to New Hampshire and on through to New York City where at 5:40 pm the power failed, plunging the city into darkness. Trains, elevators, traffic lights and all electric ceased to function as many New Yorkers were literally stopped in their tracks.

Blackout: Using a candle for a light passengers look at another passenger sleeping on the floor of a stalled subway train during power failure. November 10, 1965 (AP Wirephoto)

Blackout: Using a candle for a light passengers look at another passenger sleeping on the floor of a stalled subway train during power failure. November 10, 1965 (AP Wirephoto)

There was no looting or abnormal amount of crime. New Yorkers generally helped each other.

As the sun rose on November 10, 1965 power was mostly restored to the city, But for those eerie 14 hours, New Yorker’s who never gave a dynamo a second thought, came to¬† realize how dependent we are on electricity.

A week later, after an investigation, the cause of the massive blackout was determined: a single faulty relay at an Ontario, Canada power station. The bad relay caused a series of escalating line overloads which weakened the entire electric system of the northeast.

Blackout Automat 1965 11 9

New York, Nov 9 – Dining With Atmosphere – It was dinner by candlelight in New York tonight as a massive power failure blacked out the city. Here diners at a midtown New York automat have unexpected atmosphere. (AP Wirephoto) 1965

One fallacy that needs to be cleared up is that nine months after the blackout city hospital officials saw a drastic increase in births in New York City. The theory being a lot of New Yorkers had nothing better to do during the blackout than procreate. The myth was created by a series of articles in the New York Times August 10 -12 that pointed out that there was a report of increased births by area hospitals. Later analysis of the figures showed that the birth rate was not much different during the same time period for the previous five years.

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One thought on “50 Years Ago – New York’s Big Blackout

  1. Kate Collins

    Earlier in the day I went over to College Point, NY to pick up my mother and father and bring them to Dumont, NJ (our home) for dinner. Of course, the radio told us that NYCity was in the dark and we could see its blackness from our high windows. My husband drove them home later in the evening…over the GWBridge…the CrossBronx and the Whitestone Bridge and arrived home again……..it all still worked ……..God Bless a Great City.

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