NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Crews have finally restored power to customers following an underground cable fire on the Upper West Side.
Con Ed said it appears the combination of heat and rain sparked the fire around 5 p.m. Thursday along West 71st Street near Broadway.
Photos and videos from the scene showed thick black smoke spewing into the air from two manholes located feet apart in the middle of the southbound side of Broadway.
“I saw smoke gushing out of the ground, boom, boom!” one witness said.
It took firefighters nearly five hours to get the situation under control.
Forty nearby buildings were without power overnight, 1010 WINS reported.
Restaurants and entire apartment buildings were left pitch black and steaming hot for nearly 24 hours, CBS2’s Reena Roy reported.
“Walking down the stairs it’s completely black,” one woman said.
“It’s been really hot. That’s all I can say — hot, hot,” another added.
Elevators were out, air conditioners were off, and people were just desperately trying to stay cool and get on with their days.
“I’m out here because I have no air conditioning,” a woman said.
Some were avoiding home altogether.
“My husband didn’t come home last night. He had to stay at my son’s, because it was pitch black in the hallways and it was impossible to walk up nine floors in the pitch black darkness,” resident Ruth Kinory said.
The outage also made it impossible for some businesses to make money. Restaurants workers said they lost all their food and their customers.
The refrigerator was out at Café 71, where one worker said, “A lot of stuff has to go in the garbage.”
“They keep saying two hours. Two hours turned into six hours,” a nearby worker added. “It’s been long enough. They should do something about it, so we can survive too.”
A Con Ed spokesperson originally said power would be fully restored by 11 a.m. Friday, but the last customers were finally restored Friday evening.
“We just have to wait to see what happens. What else can we do?” said Fernando, who works at Gigi Café on Broadway.
Several streets were blocked off as crews went into the manholes and dug underground. Check traffic here.
“They should give everyone in the neighborhood a reduction for suffering through this,” Kinory said. “A big discount.”