New York Faces Blackouts as Extreme Heat Strains the Grid

New York Faces Blackouts as Extreme Heat Strains the Grid
The sun sets behind 42nd Street in Manhattan during a power outage in New York City on July 13, 2019. A similar scene could play out on Wednesday as extreme heat strains the grid. (Photo: Johannes Eisele, Getty Images)

On Wednesday afternoon, New Yorkers’ phones started shrieking as an emergency alert warned them to conserve power or face the prospect of widespread blackouts. The city along with large parts of the East Coast are blanketed under an oppressive heat wave that is taxing the electricity grid, much as the record-setting West Coast heat wave did earlier this week.

Amid sweltering temperatures, several neighbourhoods in New York City have seen electricity outages, leaving more than 3,000 people residents without power, data from New York utility company Con Edison shows. The majority of the outages occurred in Brooklyn, including the largest one that affected 1,7000 Con Edison customers in the neighbourhood of Williamsburg.

In some areas, Con Edison has been taking extreme measures in its attempt to keep the grid running as demand skyrockets. On Wednesday afternoon, the utility reduced power voltage by 8% to some neighbourhoods in the borough of Queens while crews worked to repair power equipment, affecting some 64,000 customers in more than a dozen neighbourhoods. To help residents manage the heat, the firm also began distributing dry ice at one location in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

By late afternoon, a city emergency alert went out, stating “NYC is urging all households and businesses to immediately limit energy usage to prevent power outages as the intense heat continues. Please avoid the use of energy-intensive appliances such as washers, dryers, and microwaves. Limit the unnecessary use of air conditioning.”

Push alert asking New York City residents to conserve power. (Screenshot: Gizmodo) Push alert asking New York City residents to conserve power. (Screenshot: Gizmodo)

At a press conference, Mayor Bill de Blasio urged New Yorkers to “urgently, urgently” conserve power to help prevent more blackouts from occurring. He said Con Edison’s president informed him that widespread power failures could take place Wednesday evening — usually a time of peak demand — if New Yorkers did not seriously conserve.

“Our electric system is dealing with real strain right now because of the severity of heat we are experiencing today, after four days in a row of intense heat,” de Blasio told reporters. “We have a real challenge on our hands. Immediately, immediately reduce the use of electricity in your home or business. This is very serious stuff, we need to assure our electric supply is protected and avoid any disruption.”

The outages come less than a year after the relatively mild Hurricane Isiais left thousands of people without power for days.

If you’re in New York, make sure you stay hydrated. Look for a list of cooling centres here.