In late August, half of New York City’s subway system lost power for more than an hour, leading to hours of disruption while city workers tried to figure out the problem.
The Associated Press reported that the problem “was likely caused by someone accidentally pressing an ‘Emergency Power Off’ button,” according to a report of the investigation released on Friday.
“Outside investigators looking into the disruption on the night of Aug. 29 said there was a ‘strong possibility’ that the button was accidentally pressed since the plastic guard designed to prevent accidental activation was missing, according to a pair of reports released by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul,” the outlet reported.
The button was apparently pushed after a quick power dip “lasting several milliseconds at 8:25 p.m.,” the AP reported. After that power dip, workers discovered that “several pieces of mechanical equipment at the New York City Transit Rail Control Center stopped functioning.”
While control center staff were trying to fix the equipment, someone apparently accidentally pushed the “Emergency Power Off” button around 9:06 p.m. This caused every electrical part connected to one of the main power distribution units to turn off. It appears center staff didn’t realize the power needed to be turned back on until it was restored around 10:30 p.m.
“Officials blamed the loss of power on human error and the failure to restore power for 84 minutes to inadequate organizational structure and a lack of guidelines,” the AP reported.
New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) acting chair and CEO Janno Lieber said following the investigation that the MTA would reorganize how the maintenance and management of key systems at the control center were operated.
“New Yorkers deserve absolute confidence in a fully functioning subway system, and it is our job to restore that confidence,” Gov. Hochul, a Democrat, said in a statement.
As the AP noted, the “unprecedented breakdown affected more than 80 trains,” affecting all numbered lines and the L train.
Just days after the power outage, the NYC subways faced flooding due to the remnants of Hurricane Ida. It was the second time in 2021 that the subway system had flooded due to hurricanes. As The New York Post reported on September 1, “flash flooding turned platforms and stairwells into waterfalls as the century-old system ground to a halt.”
“At least a half dozen subway trains stuck between stations were evacuated, according to the MTA, which said service remained ‘very limited’ Thursday morning due to historic rainfall which dumped as many as six inches of rain on the city in a matter of hours,” the outlet added.
That flood occurred barely a week after Hurricane Henri also caused the subway system and city streets to flood. Videos and pictures from both incidents showed people attempting to traverse the filthy, flooded subway stations in order to get to work.
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