Blackout: American Experience | ThinkTV

Blackout: American Experience

Last Updated by Elyssa Steffenson on

As July 13, 1977 dawned hot and humid, New Yorkers prepared themselves for another sweltering day. But high temperatures weren’t the only thing making them sweat: the crime ridden city was on the verge of bankruptcy; unemployment was high; police and firefighters had been laid off; municipal services, including sanitation and after-school programs, had been cut; and a serial killer named Son of Sam was still on the loose, keeping everyone on edge.

That evening, a severe thunderstorm hit, and lightning struck a power line in Westchester County; when that line went out, the demand was increased on the surrounding lines. As Con Edison engineers struggled to control the cascading effects of the downed lines, their only choice was to start shedding load, disconnecting customers from the grid in order to prevent a catastrophic failure of the system. But despite their efforts, the lights went out, plunging some seven million city residents into darkness.

Told through the memories of ordinary New Yorkers who lived through the events, including first responders, journalists, shop owners, and those inside the pressure-packed control center of Con Edison on West End Avenue Blackout examines what happened when the lights went out in the city that never sleeps. American Experience “Blackout” premieres Tuesday, August 14 at 9pm on CET and ThinkTV16.