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Homeland Security

SLUG: 3-768 Power Blackout
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=8-15-03

TYPE=INTERVIEW

NUMBER=3-768

TITLE=POWER BLACKOUT

BYLINE=JAMES BERTEL

DATELINE=WASHINGTON

INTRODUCTION

Millions of people are coming out of the dark, as electricity returns to much of the Northeastern U.S. and portions of Canada. But questions are still left unanswered about the exact cause of what is being called the largest blackout in North America's history. Tiffany Townsend, of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, talks about the issues.

MR. BERTEL

And now joining us on the phone to talk about the power outage in New York City is Tiffany Townsend, a spokesperson for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Ms. Townsend, thank you for taking the time to speak to us and our viewers around the world. Let's begin by explaining what it is exactly the Port Authority is responsible for in New York City.

MS. TOWNSEND

Well, we are responsible for the region's four major airports, which are John F. Kennedy International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, LaGuardia Airport, and Teterboro Airport, as well as the Hudson River crossings, which include the George Washington Bridge and the Staten Island bridges, the Bayonne, the Goethals and the Outerbridge Crossing.

MR. BERTEL

So then you were hit very hard by the events of yesterday. Perhaps you could give our viewers some idea of the problems that you faced.

MS. TOWNSEND

Well, our major problem is obviously loss of power, which affects the services that we can provide, whether they're by air or bus or allowing motorists to travel between New York and New Jersey.

MR. BERTEL

Just to be a little more graphic so our viewers understand, what were some of the major problems that the Port Authority had to deal with when this all occurred yesterday?

MS. TOWNSEND

One of our major problems was actually our rail system, called the PATH system, which we had to evacuate, and we successfully evacuated more than 5,000 people without injury yesterday after the power went out. We've also had to deal with the airports, with thousands of stranded passengers who are trying to get to their destinations. So we've been helping them by giving them cots and blankets and water and to help them make accommodations to stay overnight or to get where they need to go using other means, whether it's bus or car or train.

MR. BERTEL

The airports in New York City are the gateway for many people when they come to this country for the first time. Are they back operating at full capacity at this time?

MS. TOWNSEND

The Newark Liberty International Airport is operating normally at this time. John F. Kennedy International Airport and a significant portion of LaGuardia Airport continue to operate on emergency power. So we're urging travelers that unless you are going to pick somebody up or unless you have a confirmed flight, we're urging people not to go to those airports under any circumstances.

MR. BERTEL

Now we know Mayor Bloomberg today asked New Yorkers to stay home. And I'm sure after the commute yesterday it wasn't hard to persuade them. When do you expect you'll be back at full capacity and able to handle a regular commute, by Monday?

MS. TOWNSEND

We're really not sure, but obviously we're working [to get it back up] as soon as possible. Our tunnels and bridges are moving clearly in both directions. Obviously we always urge people to proceed with caution. As far as our flights and our bus routes, obviously we are working as quickly as possible to restore normal operations.

MR. BERTEL

Now, to many around the world New Yorkers are perceived as a little impatient and maybe even harried at times. Are you surprised at all by how calm and compassionate your fellow New Yorkers were yesterday?

MS. TOWNSEND

Actually I'm not. I like to think that in times of crisis New Yorkers and the folks who live in New Jersey and Connecticut, the people who live in the region, tend to band together pretty quickly and like to help each other out in a time of need. So I think it's absolutely wonderful the things that people have been doing for one another to help them out.

MR. BERTEL

Well, here we are 24 hours after we lost power. Give us a rough idea of the situation in New York at this time.

MS. TOWNSEND

Well, obviously power is still down. I think a lot of people are probably taking advantage of being outside, and we're urging people to conserve electricity in any way they can. So I think we'll see more people outside than you normally would and also lighter travel. People are heeding that advice and are staying home rather than going places or doing things that they would normally do. So they're doing other things today.

MR. BERTEL

All right. Well, Tiffany Townsend from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, we appreciate your taking time to bring us up to date. Thank you very much for being with us.

MS. TOWNSEND

Thank you.

(End of interview.)

NEB/PT



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