LOOK BACK:1977 New York City blackout on its 40th anniversary

ByAlexa Friedman via WABC logo
Thursday, July 13, 2017
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Eyewitness News coverage of the 1977 power outage

New York City (WABC) -- July 13, 2017 marks the 40th anniversary of the "Great New York Energy Crisis of 1977," when a 24-hour power outage made most of New York City go dark and caused a crime wave.

During this outage, residents went without water or electricity for a two-night, 24-hour period. A thunderstorm triggered a Con Edison system malfunction, which caused the blackout.

PHOTOS: 40 year anniversary of the 1977 New York City blackout

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New York's Wall Street is deserted Thursday, July 14, 1977, after a massive power failure that lasted overnight from Wednesday forced the closing of the New York Stock Exchange.
AP Photo

According to Eyewitness News's 1977 coverage of the event, the NYPD arrested more than 3,000 people for looting and disorderly conduct. More than 850 fires burned through the city, and 150 state troopers were called in to patrol the highways.

"As for the looters, vandals and arsonists, it was Christmas in July, a fiesta, a carnival, a holiday," former Eyewitness News Reporter Milton Lewis said about the outage. "They especially enjoyed throwing eggs at me and my crew."

A looter even tried to sell stolen jewelry to an Eyewitness News reporter on air.

Amid the pandemonium, six inmates escaped from Rikers Island prison.

Former New York City Mayor Abraham "Abe" Beame called the cause of the outage "gross negligence," but Con Edison claimed that it was an extremely unlikely "act of god" scenario.

Beame asked religious leaders to ride with police officers during patrols to try to appeal to their communities.

Public transportation was significantly impacted by the outage. After the outage, only 65 percent of subways were running.