Power Slowly Coming Back in New York City

New York City began to light up slowly but surely throughout the day Friday, after thousands spent a blacked-out night homeless, hot and unable to see.

New Yorkers — many of whom slept at their workplaces — scrambled to find an open coffee shop after the steamy, dark night. They improvised to cope with the spotty phone service, disabled public transportation and increasing frustration.

"It's about what you can do with your arms and legs without electricity," said Isaac Sprachman, a 21-year-old architectural metal worker from Brooklyn as he leaned against his bike in Times Square. "New Yorkers are so dependent on juice and this will give them a feeling for what it's like not to have it."

Consolidated Edison (search) spokesman Chris Olert stressed that there was no timetable for full power restoration, as temperatures began to soar toward a sweltering 90 degrees for the second day in a row.

As of midmorning, 1.5 million of 3.5 million ConEd customers had power restored, said spokesman Michael Clendenin. Most of Staten Island (search) and Westchester County had power back, but some customers who had regained power lost it again, or were operating under reduced power.

"We're starting to cook," Olert said.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (search) said he expected the rest of the city's power to be restored by the end of Friday.

Bloomberg said city emergency services responded to 80,000 911 calls — more than double the average for a 24-hour period.

About 3,000 firefighters put out 60 fires, many of which appear to be accidental from all the candles used to light buildings. Ten thousand police officers patrolled Manhattan's streets, directing traffic and making sure the peace was kept.

One person died from a heart attack during a fire, Bloomberg said, and one firefighter was seriously injured. Emergency medical services responded to 5,000 calls - 600 more than the city's record for a 24-hour period. Over 800 elevator rescues were made by the fire and police departments.

While upscale stores like Saks and Cartier on 5th Avenue remained closed, street vendors selling pretzels, hotdogs and water were inundated with customers.

All of Staten Island, parts of the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan are back online.

"If you prepare and if you practice ... when you have an emergency, it does work," Bloomberg said. "That's what we showed last night."

Bloomberg asked essential city personnel - such as public safety and health care workers and utility staff - to report to work, but encouraged others to stay home. The stock exchange should be up and running at its normal time.

"New Yorkers should use their best judgment as to whether to go to work," the mayor said. "As I said last night, there are worse things than taking a summer Friday off of work."

Many workers toiling through Friday to service New Yorkers often worked without breaks.

"Does anyone on this bus have a peppermint, or candy or something?" the driver of an uptown M15 bus asked by intercom. "I've been driving this bus for eight hours now without a break." A man in the front offered a butterscotch.

Most ATM screens were still black, and the few that worked quickly attracted long lines.

Bloomberg stressed that the city's water supply is safe, but that the public beaches are shut down for the day, due to some sewage spills.

There was no subway service for the morning rush, and the Long Island Rail Road (search) and Metro-North (search) commuter lines warned suburban train riders they may be no better off.

Once the power returns, it will take six to eight hours for the commuter rail lines and subway system to resume track service. Only a few trains left Grand Central Station. Penn Station was virtually at a standstill.

But the Port Authority (search) of New York and New Jersey said PATH commuter trains were operating on normal schedule; some bridges and tunnels would handle traffic as usual and all three major airports were open.

Telephone service — both land lines and cell phones — was only working part of the time.

Verizon spokesman Mark Marchand said many of the problematic phones were connected to privately run and powered networks.

Hundreds of out-of-towners staying at the Marriott Marquis slept on the sidewalks Thursday night, because the hotel did not have a generator to power the electronic room keys.

"We're from California, so we're not strangers to power outages, but nothing like this," said Laurie Couto, 41, who was visiting from San Jose, Calif. "This is phenomenal."

On Friday morning, people lined up outside of hotels with their luggage, trying to get cabs to leave town. At Penn Station, people lined up around the block to try to get a train out of the city.

Fearing that terrorists had struck the city for the second time in two years, New Yorkers were relieved when officials quickly ruled out a terrorist attack.

Although the power went out right before the evening rush hour Thursday, the city adapted and overcame most of its problems. Bloomberg praised New Yorkers for handling the blackout in style.

"New Yorkers have a lot to be proud of this morning," the mayor said.

There was one reported looting incident at a Brooklyn sneaker store, police Commissioner Ray Kelly said. Shortly before midnight, about 20 people were arrested there. Another handful of arrests followed for other attempted burglaries elsewhere.

The generally mellow city stood in contrast with the rampant lawlessness that followed the 25-hour 1977 blackout, when property damage estimates were as high as $150 million. Mayor Abe Beame described it as a "night of terror."

Power was lost from the top of the 102-story Empire State Building (search) to the 214 miles of subway tunnels. The outage affected the power grid from Connecticut to Ohio.

People were stranded in elevators and stuck inside subway trains, and there were tales of extraordinary escapes, including straphangers who climbed to safety from a train stuck on the Manhattan Bridge.

"In short, New Yorkers showed that the city that burned in the 1970s when facing similar circumstances is now a very different place," Bloomberg said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.