The Great Power Blackout Of 1965 - November 9, 1965

On this day 45 years ago, New York City and most of the Northeastern United States was plunged into almost complete darkness as the result of the first great Power Failure in U.S. history - November 9, 1965.


The thought crossed a lot of peoples minds that when the power went out in Manhattan and practically all of the Northeastern United States, it had to be a: an enemy attack or b: those Science Fiction stories were right. But the bottom line was - millions of people were suddenly plunged into darkness and had no idea why.

For over twelve hours everything came to a grinding halt. During the height of rush hour subways, trains, elevators, lights, anything electric and not hooked up to an emergency power generator went dead.

November 9, 1965 the fragile power grid, via a remote switching station up and quit. Engineers from Con-Ed went into panic mode trying to locate the source. The Defense Department quickly sent out word that it was not an enemy attack, but that didn't prevent churches all over the Eastern seaboard from being jammed to capacity with terrified citizenry, convinced the end was just around the corner.

Surprisingly, there was almost no crime and virtually no looting in Manhattan. Hospitals however, were filling up with people who were hit by cars and buses careening into street corners and spilling on to sidewalks.

Covering the event with emergency power was WCBS-AM and a somewhat stunned Douglas Edwards:

Douglas Edwards (CBS News): “Hawkers are now selling candles, they’re selling candles along The Great White Way, which is Broadway . . .picture that. Selling candles on Broadway in New York!”

I'm sure now the response would be different. A lot different.

About Gordonskene


We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.