With power recovering after the biggest blackout in U.S. history, investigators are vowing to find answers, some officials are pointing fingers, and critics — including President Bush and a former energy secretary — are calling for a fix of America's "Third World" electrical grid.
Electricity returned today to many previously dark parts of New York, Ohio, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Connecticut and Vermont, though some suppliers imposed rolling blackouts to control electricity use as service came back.
Power had been restored to all of New York City as of 9:03 p.m. ET, Con Edison said. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said all Broadway shows and a New York Mets baseball game were going on as scheduled after cancellations Thursday night.
However, some areas continued without any power at all.
Michigan officials warned parts of the state could be without electricity over the weekend. In Detroit, one of the state's worst-hit areas, some traffic lights began turning on shortly before 4 p.m. ET. Five hours later, the city's skyline was fully illuminated again.
After some looting incidents Thursday night, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick said authorities would strictly enforce a curfew tonight for minors under 16.
"The party has to happen in your homes tonight," Kilpatrick said. "Let's learn to love one another a little bit more. Let's get to know our family members. All special events in the city of Detroit are canceled. There's no festival downtown, there aren't any concerts. Stay home."
Detroit and Cleveland were recovering from water-pumping problems that left supplies short. The National Guard delivered water tankers to Cleveland, and residents of both cities were advised to boil drinking and cooking water.
Sewage accidentally escaped into New York and Cleveland waterways when the power went off, and officials warned people against swimming.
New York City remained without subway service, which was expected to resume Saturday, though commuter train lines had partial service.
New Yorkers endured darkness Thursday night largely without widespread disorder, such as that spawned by an infamous blackout in 1977. There was a heat-related death, scattered looting reported in Brooklyn, and an increase in fires, largely attributed to candle use. But the 750 arrests in New York over a 24-hour period roughly following the loss of power were slightly down from the norm of about 800.
"New Yorkers showed that the city that burned in the 1970s when facing similar circumstances is now a very different place," Bloomberg said.
In Canada's capital, Ottawa, authorities reported two possible blackout-related deaths, as well as 23 cases of looting during the blackout, The Associated Press said. Toronto reported 114 cases of looting overnight Thursday.
‘We Need to Figure Out What Went Wrong’
Speaking to reporters in California today, President Bush said the blackout served as a "wake-up call" for a better national energy policy and an upgrade of the nation's "antiquated" power grid.
"The grid needs to be modernized, the delivery systems need to be modernized," he told reporters during a visit to the Santa Monica mountains.
He did not provide details about a modernization plan or its likely costs.
While hailing the response of people in affected areas, Bush warned that it would take some time to figure out what went wrong.
"We need to figure out what went wrong, analyze the problem and come up with a solution," he said.
Experts still were uncertain about what caused the blackout.
However, data shows the blackout first struck two General Motors plants in Lansing, Mich., seconds after 4:09 p.m., setting off a chain reaction, ABCNEWS has learned. FBI investigators believe a fateful event along the chain may have occurred when an Ohio power company apparently failed to separate from a national electric grid, as it was supposed to. (Where It All Began)
As an investigation led by the North American Electric Reliability Council got under way, Michehl Gent, the man leading the inquiry, promised answers. (No Cover-Up)
"We will get to the bottom of this and fix it," Gent, president of the North American Electric Reliability Council, told ABCNEWS' Good Morning America today. "We will not cover anything up. We'll name names [to] find out what happened.
"Within nine seconds, over 100 regulating units were relayed off-line," he added. "We don't know what initiated it."
Others also will investigate. Among several calls for investigation, Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., said the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which he chairs, will hold public hearings on the blackout when Congress returns next month.
This evening, the White House announced a task force to identify the causes of the blackout that will be jointly chaired by U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham and Canadian Minister of Natural Resources Herb Dhaliwal.
Trouble Getting Around
About 50 million people across the Eastern Seaboard and into the Midwest and Canada experienced power outages at about 4:15 p.m. ET Thursday leaving residents stranded, sweating and in the dark.
This morning, second by second, street by street, some cities began to flicker alive as power services limped back into operation.
Mayor Bloomberg rang the 9:30 a.m. bell at the New York Stock Exchange as trading resumed on schedule.
Without specific figures, several economists concluded that the financial impact of the blackout probably was the equivalent to a large snowstorm. Timing of the outage was relatively fortuitous — coming on a Thursday afternoon in mid-August, a time when people are on vacation and businesses winding down for the week.
However, travel disruptions were substantial. Airports across the affected areas re-opened today, but there were long delays, cancellations and continued transportation snafus:
Delta Air Lines said all international flights scheduled to leave New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport this evening have been canceled with the exception of one flight to Paris. Other flights were canceled amid congested terminals at JFK and nearby LaGuardia Airport, both of which were operating on emergency power.
Air Canada canceled all flights in its worldwide network after emergency power systems crashed at its main operations control center near Toronto. Limited service was promised to return at 4 p.m. this afternoon.
In Toronto, city officials said the subway service would not resume until full electrical service was in place.
Looking for a Cause
Officials were quick to rule out terrorism as a cause of the outage, but some pointed fingers back and forth across the U.S.-Canada border. (The Terror Question)
As power returned, the spat appeared to cool, and then the White House announced the joint U.S.-Canadian investigative task force.
Former Energy Secretary Bill Richardson — who described the United States as a "superpower with a Third World electricity grid" — argued the problem was due to an antiquated infrastructure. (Experts in the Dark)
"We have a huge demand for electricity with computers, technology, more people, but we have not fulfilled the infrastructure needed to deal with that new demand," he told Good Morning America today. "In other words, we don't build new transmission lines. The American people in many regions don't want them in their back yard."
The problem, according to Richardson, was essentially because almost the entire Eastern Seaboard was run by the Niagara-Mohawk grid, which, "has been overloaded for years."
Thursday's blackout surpassed the outages in some Western states on Aug. 11, 1996. Back then, heat, sagging power lines and unusually high demand for electricity caused an outage for 4 million customers in nine states.
A blackout in New York City in 1977 left 9 million people without electricity for up to 25 hours. In 1965, about 25 million people across New York state and most of New England lost electricity for a day.
ABCNEWS' Michael S. James, Ron Claiborne, Gary Nunn, Justin Anderson and Vic Ratner contributed to this report.