home Latest News A massive blackout hit New York City 40 years ago today — here's what it looked like – Business Insider

A massive blackout hit New York City 40 years ago today — here's what it looked like – Business Insider

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NYC blackout 1977AP Photo/Suzanne Vlamis

On July 13, 1977—40 years ago today—at approximately 9:36 p.m., New York City was plunged into darkness. Trains screeched to a halt, airports were shut down and baseball games were forced to postpone.

A lightning strike hit near Consolidated Edison’s Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant in Westchester County roughly 36 miles north of Manhattan, the New York Times reported the next day, setting off a destructive chain of events. Two other strikes from the same storm system overloaded substations and transmissions lines.

An hour later, the entire city’s electrical system shut down.

Traffic was virtually non-existent, but hundreds of fires raged throughout the night, especially in Brooklyn where arson and looting were rampant.

A congressional study released a year later estimated the total damage at $300 million.

Luckily, news photographers and their analog cameras were still hard at work documenting the day. Here’s what the blackout looked like from the streets:

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Manhattan’s famous skyline became a silhouette when all five boroughs lost electricity around 9:30 pm on July 13, 1977

Manhattan's famous skyline became a silhouette when all five boroughs lost electricity around 9:30 pm on July 13, 1977

AP Photo/Suzanne Vlamis

Commuters waiting on trains home were stranded at Grand Central Terminal after the power failure.

Commuters waiting on trains home were stranded at Grand Central Terminal after the power failure.

(AP Photo/Carlos Rene Perez

The station’s famous opal-faced clock kept the correct time, but the larger one behind it is stuck on the time it lost power.

The station's famous opal-faced clock kept the correct time, but the larger one behind it is stuck on the time it lost power.

AP Photo/Steve Oualline

In Queens, the Mets and Cubs were six innings deep when the lights at Shea Stadium went out. The game was postponed until next month, when the Cubs won by a single run.

In Queens, the Mets and Cubs were six innings deep when the lights at Shea Stadium went out. The game was postponed until next month, when the Cubs won by a single run.

AP Photo/Ray Stubblebine

Seen from across the river in New Jersey, only the base of the World Trade Center’s twin towers flickered with light.

Seen from across the river in New Jersey, only the base of the World Trade Center's twin towers flickered with light.

AP Photo/LM

New Yorkers that had been out were forced to walk home through empty streets.

New Yorkers that had been out were forced to walk home through empty streets.

Brian Alpert/Keystone/Getty Images

But others opted to take advantage of the situation.

But others opted to take advantage of the situation.

AP Photo/Suzanne Vlamis

Drinkers in a midtown Manhattan bar continued their drinking by candlelight.

Drinkers in a midtown Manhattan bar continued their drinking by candlelight.

AP Photo/Steve Oualline

These revelers don’t seem to be too downtrodden by the blackout.

These revelers don't seem to be too downtrodden by the blackout.

AP Photo/Steve Oualline

The outage didn’t stop the Plaza Hotel’s famous Palm Court from continuing dinner service.

The outage didn't stop the Plaza Hotel's famous Palm Court from continuing dinner service.

AP Photo/Calvin C. Cook

But things weren’t so peaceful in other parts of the city where looting was rampant, like at this store on the Upper West Side where the owners stand guard with baseball bats.

But things weren't so peaceful in other parts of the city where looting was rampant, like at this store on the Upper West Side where the owners stand guard with baseball bats.

AP Photo/Suzanne Vlamis

Overnight, looting and arson wreaked havoc in Brooklyn. Firefighters responded to 1500 alarms, 400 of which turned out to be real fires.

Overnight, looting and arson wreaked havoc in Brooklyn. Firefighters responded to 1500 alarms, 400 of which turned out to be real fires.

AP Photo/Suzanne Vlamis

In the 24 hours of the blackout, police arrested an estimated 3,000 looting suspects

In the 24 hours of the blackout, police arrested an estimated 3,000 looting suspects

AP Photo

Here firefighters battle a blaze above a row of looted stores in Brooklyn.

Here firefighters battle a blaze above a row of looted stores in Brooklyn.

AP Photo/Suzanne Vlamis

New Yorkers woke up to headlines explaining the power failure’s cause next to reports of looters and trapped commuters.

New Yorkers woke up to headlines explaining the power failure's cause next to reports of looters and trapped commuters.

New York Times via Times Machine

When the sun finally rose 12 hours into the outage, streets were littered with people and debris.

When the sun finally rose 12 hours into the outage, streets were littered with people and debris.

AP Photo

Wednesday’s morning rush hour was almost silent. The Long Island Expressway and approach to the Queens-Midtown Tunnel was deserted.

Wednesday's morning rush hour was almost silent. The Long Island Expressway and approach to the Queens-Midtown Tunnel was deserted.

AP Photo/Dave Pickoff

Streets that were normally clogged with traffic, like Manhattan’s Madison Avenue, were completely devoid of traffic.

Streets that were normally clogged with traffic, like Manhattan's Madison Avenue, were completely devoid of traffic.

AP Photo

Good Samaritans like this man helped keep the few remaining motorists safe by directing traffic.

 Good Samaritans like this man helped keep the few remaining motorists safe by directing traffic.

AP Photo

Here a cyclist takes advantage of a car-less Fifth Avenue, which would have normally been a parking lot at this time of the afternoon.

Here a cyclist takes advantage of a car-less Fifth Avenue, which would have normally been a parking lot at this time of the afternoon.

AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler

Wall Street was also empty after the New York Stock exchange was forced to close because of the power failure.

Wall Street was also empty after the New York Stock exchange was forced to close because of the power failure.

AP Photo

This subway platform at Rockefeller Center was empty at 5 p.m., when it would have usually been jam packed with rush hour commuters.

This subway platform at Rockefeller Center was empty at 5 p.m., when it would have usually been jam packed with rush hour commuters.

AP Photo/Suzanne Vlamis

Eventually, night fell once again on the powerless city, but resilient New Yorkers knew how to keep spirits bright.

Eventually, night fell once again on the powerless city, but resilient New Yorkers knew how to keep spirits bright.

Brian Alpert/Getty Images

Power was finally restored just over 24 hours after the blackout began. Even without power, the view of Manhattan over the East River is a magnificent sight.

Power was finally restored just over 24 hours after the blackout began. Even without power, the view of Manhattan over the East River is a magnificent sight.

AP Photo/Suzanne Vlamis