* Around 25 percent of NYC customers without power
* Some of city's toniest neighborhoods in the dark
* Explosion at Con Edison Manhattan power station
By David Sheppard and Scott DiSavino
NEW YORK, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Residents of lower Manhattan faced up to four days without power on Tuesday as Consolidated Edison, New York City's power provider, scrambled to repair the damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy.
Almost every street below Times Square in the city's Midtown district was plunged into darkness on Monday night after an explosion at a Con Edison power station on 14th Street threw the electricity provider's plans for controlled shutdowns into disarray.
The prolonged blackout in the most populous and wealthiest of New York City's five boroughs is in stark contrast to last year's Hurricane Irene, when the island of Manhattan was largely spared the power cuts that hit the surrounding region.
Almost 250,000 homes and businesses on Manhattan were without power as of 2pm EDT on Tuesday, Con Ed said, more than the total outages in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx combined. The vast majority of those were below 39th Street in Midtown.
The figures cover buildings rather than individuals, meaning the total number of people affected will be far higher.
"This is the largest storm-related outage in our history," said Sara Banda, a spokeswoman for Con Edison.
"We try to restore lines that will get power to the most customers possible, but it will depend on the equipment."
Con Edison said it estimated customers served by underground electric equipment, like in Manhattan, should have power back within four days.
Banda said customers affected by the explosion at the East River power station should be among those. Some customers may see power restored sooner, but on Tuesday Con Edison appeared keen to manage expectations.
It was not clear if the explosion was caused by the near-14 foot (4.2 meter) storm surge or by something else.
Remarkably, no one was injured in the huge explosion that was captured on video by residents of Brooklyn and put on YouTube. ()
Customers served by overhead power lines could be without power for at least a week, Con Edison said.
In total, around a quarter of New York City's buildings are without power as of Tuesday afternoon.
THE NEW BLACKOUT
The area below Times Square, includes some of Manhattan's trendiest -- and wealthiest -- neighborhoods.
In areas like Tribeca, Chelsea and Gramercy Park that are popular with celebrities, the fashion world, hedge fund managers and media figures, two bedroom apartments routinely rent for more than $6,000 a month according to New York City rental website nakedapartments.com. That is more than $5,000 above the average monthly rent across the nation.
Beyond the power cuts, damage was relatively limited around the West Village. Some scaffolding had fallen down in the area and maintenance men were in the process of cleaning up.
On Tuesday afternoon, Hudson River Park from Houston Street to 14th Street, people were trying to get back to normal. The park was filled with hand-holding couples, joggers and owners of high-maintenance pets. Many people looked like they were enjoying an unexpected day off.
Outages on Manhattan outstripped the 180,000 in the the suburbs of Westchester County to the north of the city, where overhead power lines normally mean it is more exposed to storms than the island's largely subterranean electricity network.
A further 109,000 homes and businesses in Staten Island were without power, Con Edison said. Across the Hudson River, almost two-thirds of New Jersey's residents were enduring black outs, according to the Department of Energy.
In total, over 8.2 million homes and businesses lost power in the United States because of Sandy, the DOE said. The blackouts stretched from North Carolina to the Canadian border and as far inland as Ohio and Indiana.
In seven states, including Pennsylvania and Connecticut, 20 percent or more of all customers were without power.
11/04/2012 12:26 AM EDT
PHOTO: A Marathon Wedding Proposal, Minus The Marathon
HuffPost's Katie Bindley reports:
Like all the competitors who trained for the 2012 NYC Marathon, Hannah Vahaba will not be running the race this year. But she also will never forget her moment at the finish line. After traveling in from Atlanta, Vahaba picked up a marriage proposal in Central Park on Saturday without having to traverse the 26.2-mile course.
"This is my fiance," said Vahaba, 31, who had tears running down her face as she stood in Central Park where the race would have ended, just moments after Martin O'Donoghue had proposed.
Photo by Damon Scheleur
11/04/2012 12:25 AM EDT
Check Donation Lists
Be sure to check donation lists to see what items are needed. For example, at one Staten Island donation center, there is a critical need for batteries batteries batteries, candles, matches, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, pet food, baby supplies, deodorant, shampoo and conditioner. Clothing isn't needed as much at that center.
-Catharine Smith, HuffPost
11/03/2012 10:42 PM EDT
Brooklyn Regions Still Lack Electricity, Heat and Water Days After Storm
HuffPost's Tim Stenovec reports:
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which killed at least 48 people in New York when it battered the Northeast last week, frustrated residents in this corner of South Brooklyn are coping without electricity, heat and running water.
11/03/2012 10:18 PM EDT
On Long Island, Cuomo demands Accountability from Utilities
At a massive food distribution event at Republic Airport in Farmingdale, Cuomo said power has been restored to 60 percent of the New York metropolitan area.
LIPA reported Saturday evening that 460,000 customers remained without power, down from more than 900,000 initially.
"I've warned the utility companies repeatedly they operate under a state charter, essentially," Cuomo said. "The utility companies are not happy with my warning and frankly, I don't care."
"The customers are not happy. The bill payers are not happy and the people without power are not happy," Cuomo said. "People are suffering. It is an issue of safety and if the utilities were not prepared we will hold them accountable."
Read the full story on Huntington Patch.
11/03/2012 9:38 PM EDT
Gasoline Shortage Likely To Last For Several More Days
Even as power returns to parts of the region assailed by Hurricane Sandy, millions of drivers seeking gasoline appear likely to face at least several more days of persistent shortages.
11/03/2012 8:50 PM EDT
Behind @ConEdison: The 27 Year-Old Preventing Panic, One Tweet At A Time
HuffPost's Bianca Bosker:
On Saturday, 27-year-old Kate Frasca was manning Con Edison’s Twitter account, @ConEdison, responding to customers’ frustrations, questions, praise and criticism at an average clip of one tweet every six minutes.
11/03/2012 8:35 PM EDT
Estimate Says 600 Million Gallons Of Water Hit Mass Transit System
@ USACE_HQ :
Roughly 600 M gallons of storm water infiltrated the nation’s busiest and oldest underground mass transit system... http://t.co/5jMXDhRc
11/03/2012 8:15 PM EDT
$12 Million Donated So Far To NYC Mayor's Fund For Recovery
@ MikeBloomberg :
If you would like to donate: visit http://t.co/9w8egqxD So far $12 million has been contributed. 100% of funds go to #Recovery efforts.
11/03/2012 7:52 PM EDT
Don't Touch Downed Power Lines
@ usNWSgov :
Post #Sandy reminders: never touch a downed power line or anything touching one. Washing your hands prevents illness. #NWS #CDC