The Blackout of 1965

Updated February 12, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

The Question:

We need info on The Blackout . . . thinking this was in New York City?

The Answer:

"The Blackout" you are referring to happened just before 5:30 p.m. EST on November 9, 1965. A breakdown in electricity systems connected to Con Edison's Northeast grid sparked a chain reaction of outages across the Northeast.

Suddenly everyone was searching for power. Burdened by the strain, Con Edison's 11 operating plants in the Northeast were shut down automatically by their emergency system, leaving millions of people without electrical power for at least the next 12 hours. Four million homes in the New York metropolitan area went black. Between 600,000 and 800,000 subway commuters were trapped in darkness and elevators all over New York City were motionless.

A terrific interactive web site, the Blackout History Project, is dedicated to retelling the story of the 1965 blackout and a more recent NYC blackout in 1977. The site combines an archive of news articles and first-person accounts of what it was like to be in New York City on the night of November 9, 1965.

A more recent blackout hit much of the Northeastern U.S. and eastern Canadian provinces-beginning in Ohio, and spreading to include New York City, Detroit, Toronto, and other cities-on August 14, 2003. It was the largest blackout in U.S. history, affecting an estimated 50 million people.

-The Editors

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