15 years ago: Northeast blackout plunges NYC into darkness (PHOTOS)

WASHINGTON — Fifteen years ago Tuesday, a power company software glitch plunged large swaths of the Northeast U.S. — including New York City — into darkness. A total of 50 million people were without power for up to two days before the lights came back on.

At the height of summer, air conditioners in hotels, office buildings and homes shut off and New York’s iconic Times Square went dark. Millions of weary residents and tourists were forced to trudge across the city to get home — with some taking refuge in candlelit bars and restaurants for refreshments.

See dramatic photos of the Northeast blackout 15 years later.

** FILE ** Cars try to navigate their way through New York City during a blackout that hit U.S. and Canadian cities in this Aug. 14, 2003, file photo. A year after the nation's worst ever blackout, utilities have made improvements and New York has spent millions of dollars on new high-tech gadgets to avert the chaos that followed. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)
** FILE ** Cars try to navigate their way through New York City during a blackout that hit U.S. and Canadian cities in this Aug. 14, 2003, file photo. A year after the nation’s worst ever blackout, utilities have made improvements and New York has spent millions of dollars on new high-tech gadgets to avert the chaos that followed. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/FRANK FRANKLIN II)
** FILE **People try to board the back of a crowded New York bus during the blackout that left U.S. and Canadian cities in the dark in this Aug. 14, 2003, file photo. A year after the nation's worst ever blackout, utilities have made improvements and New York has spent millions of dollars on new high-tech gadgets to avert the chaos that followed. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)
** FILE **People try to board the back of a crowded New York bus during the blackout that left U.S. and Canadian cities in the dark in this Aug. 14, 2003, file photo. A year after the nation’s worst ever blackout, utilities have made improvements and New York has spent millions of dollars on new high-tech gadgets to avert the chaos that followed. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/GREGORY BULL)
FILE- In this Aug. 14, 2013 file photo, passengers wait inside a stranded New York City subway train during a blackout. About 50 million people lost power Aug. 14, 2003, when a tree branch touching high-power transmission lines in Ohio started an outage that cascaded across a broad swath from Michigan to New England and Quebec.  (AP  Photo/Robbie Bailey, File)
FILE- In this Aug. 14, 2013 file photo, passengers wait inside a stranded New York City subway train during a blackout. About 50 million people lost power Aug. 14, 2003, when a tree branch touching high-power transmission lines in Ohio started an outage that cascaded across a broad swath from Michigan to New England and Quebec. (AP Photo/Robbie Bailey, File) (AP/Robbie Bailey)
A police officer helps people negotiate subway tracks and return to the Shea Stadium Willets Point subway station, after they were evacuated from a Number 7 subway train stuck on the tracks because of a massive power failure that hit the Northeast region of the United States, Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
A police officer helps people negotiate subway tracks and return to the Shea Stadium Willets Point subway station, after they were evacuated from a Number 7 subway train stuck on the tracks because of a massive power failure that hit the Northeast region of the United States, Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/KATHY WILLENS)
The New York City skyline is shown Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003. A massive power outage struck the eastern United States and parts of Canada on Thursday afternoon, stranding people in sweltering subways and sending office workers streaming into the streets in 90-degree heat. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
The New York City skyline is shown Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003. A massive power outage struck the eastern United States and parts of Canada on Thursday afternoon, stranding people in sweltering subways and sending office workers streaming into the streets in 90-degree heat. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/FRANK FRANKLIN II)
** FILE ** Pedestrians leaving Manhattan flood New York's 59th St. Bridge to Queens in this Aug. 14, 2003 file photo, after a power blackout crippled the city. A year after the nation's worst ever blackout, utilities have made improvements and New York has spent millions of dollars on new high-tech gadgets to avert the chaos that followed. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg, File)
** FILE ** Pedestrians leaving Manhattan flood New York’s 59th St. Bridge to Queens in this Aug. 14, 2003 file photo, after a power blackout crippled the city. A year after the nation’s worst ever blackout, utilities have made improvements and New York has spent millions of dollars on new high-tech gadgets to avert the chaos that followed. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg, File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/TINA FINEBERG)
Crowds of people pour onto 42nd Street near Grand Central Station in New York City after a power outage forced them from  surrounding buildings Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003. The outage that hit cities in northeastern United States and Canada, also disrupted cell phone service in New York, the subway system and trains going in and out. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Crowds of people pour onto 42nd Street near Grand Central Station in New York City after a power outage forced them from surrounding buildings Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003. The outage that hit cities in northeastern United States and Canada, also disrupted cellphone service in New York, the subway system and trains going in and out. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson) (AP/JULIE JACOBSON)
Commuters walk up the ramp to the Queensborough (59th) Bridge as a police officer directs traffic after a massive blackout knocked out power in New York, Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003. (AP Photo/David Karp)
Commuters walk up the ramp to the Queensborough (59th) Bridge as a police officer directs traffic after a massive blackout knocked out power in New York, Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003. (AP Photo/David Karp) (AP/DAVID KARP)
Thousands of commuters wait for a chance to board a ferry from Manhattan to the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003, in New York, after a massive blackout shut down trains and subway lines.  (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Thousands of commuters wait for a chance to board a ferry from Manhattan to the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003, in New York, after a massive blackout shut down trains and subway lines. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/JULIE JACOBSON)
Crowds line up for buses at Port Authority bus terminal in New York during a massive power outage Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003, that stretched from New York to Detroit and into Canada. (AP Photo/Christie Johnston)
Crowds line up for buses at Port Authority bus terminal in New York during a massive power outage Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003, that stretched from New York to Detroit and into Canada. (AP Photo/Christie Johnston) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/CHRISTIE JOHNSTON)
Bystanders gather outside Grand Central Station after a power black out in New York City, Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003.  The biggest power blackout in history hit steamy U.S. and Canadian cities Thursday, stranding people in subways, closing nuclear power plants in Ohio and New York state and choking streets with workers driven from stifling offices. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Bystanders gather outside Grand Central Station after a power blackout in New York City, Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003. The biggest power blackout in history hit steamy U.S. and Canadian cities Thursday, stranding people in subways, closing nuclear power plants in Ohio and New York state and choking streets with workers driven from stifling offices. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer) (AP/MAY ALTAFFER)
A darkened New York City is visible just before dawn through power lines from Jersey City, N.J., shown in foreground, with some lights visible, Friday, Aug. 15, 2003. The Empire State Building is in background.  (AP Photo/George Widman)
A darkened New York City is visible just before dawn through power lines from Jersey City, N.J., shown in foreground, with some lights visible, Friday, Aug. 15, 2003. The Empire State Building is in background. (AP Photo/George Widman) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/GEORGE WIDMAN)
Joung Yun of Flushing, Queens, reads a newpaper by flashlight as he sits on the sidewalk at New York's Fifth Ave. early Friday morning Aug. 15, 2003. A power outage hit most of northeastern United States Thursday afternoon, leaving the city in the dark. (AP Photo/Joe Kohen)
Joung Yun of Flushing, Queens, reads a newspaper by flashlight as he sits on the sidewalk at New York’s Fifth Ave. early Friday morning Aug. 15, 2003. A power outage hit most of northeastern United States Thursday afternoon, leaving the city in the dark. (AP Photo/Joe Kohen) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/JOE KOHEN)
Commuters walk up the entrance ramp to the Queensborough (59th Street) Bridge in New York, as a police officer directs traffic after a massive power outage Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003, that stretched from New York to Detroit and into Canada. (AP Photo/David Karp)
Commuters walk up the entrance ramp to the Queensborough (59th Street) Bridge in New York, as a police officer directs traffic after a massive power outage Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003, that stretched from New York to Detroit and into Canada. (AP Photo/David Karp) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/DAVID KARP)
A view of the Upper West side of Manhattan is seen from  Weehawken, N.J., Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003. A massive power blackout hit U.S. and Canadian cities Thursday. (AP Photo/George Widman)
A view of the Upper West side of Manhattan is seen from Weehawken, N.J., Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003. A massive power blackout hit U.S. and Canadian cities Thursday. (AP Photo/George Widman) (AP/GEORGE WIDMAN)
Patrons eat and drink outside Leon's Pizza in midtown Manhattan in New York, under the lights of a parked car, during a blackout, Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003. Night descended on New York shortly after 4  p.m., Thursday, when power went out throughout the five boroughs and most of its suburbs.  (AP Photo/Joe Kohen)
Patrons eat and drink outside Leon’s Pizza in midtown Manhattan in New York, under the lights of a parked car, during a blackout, Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003. Night descended on New York shortly after 4 p.m., Thursday, when power went out throughout the five boroughs and most of its suburbs. (AP Photo/Joe Kohen) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/JOE KOHEN)
A view of the Upper West side of Manhattan is seen from a Weehawken, N.J.  park Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003.  The largest power blackout in U.S. history rolled across a vast swath of the northern United States as well as southern Canada on Thursday, driving millions of people outdoors into stifling rush hour streets, then darkness. (AP Photo/George Widman)
A view of the Upper West side of Manhattan is seen from a Weehawken, N.J. park Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003. The largest power blackout in U.S. history rolled across a vast swath of the northern United States as well as southern Canada on Thursday, driving millions of people outdoors into stifling rush hour streets, then darkness. (AP Photo/George Widman) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/GEORGE WIDMAN)
Patrons crowd a Mister Softee ice cream truck to buy ice cream as darkness envelops Weehaken, N.J. during a massive power outage Thursday Aug. 14, 2003. A massive power blackout hit U.S. and Canadian cities Thursday. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)
Patrons crowd a Mister Softee ice cream truck to buy ice cream as darkness envelops Weehaken, N.J. during a massive power outage Thursday Aug. 14, 2003. A massive power blackout hit U.S. and Canadian cities Thursday. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/JACQUELINE LARMA)
Commuters walk over the Queensborough Bridge with traffic stopped in gridlock in New York, Thursday, August 14, 2003 during a massive blackout which knocked out power in most of the Northeastern United States.  (AP Photo/Sean M. Thompson)
Commuters walk over the Queensborough Bridge with traffic stopped in gridlock in New York, Thursday, August 14, 2003 during a massive blackout which knocked out power in most of the Northeastern United States. (AP Photo/Sean M. Thompson) (AP/SEAN M. THOMPSON)
**FILE** In this Aug. 14, 2003 file photo, bystanders gather in Times Square in midtown Manhattan after a  blackout in New York. Five years after the nation's worst blackout, executives at some of the nation's largest power generators fear the U.S. could run short on electricity if it does not quickly spend more on infrastructure projects. (AP Photo/Joe Kohen, file)
**FILE** In this Aug. 14, 2003 file photo, bystanders gather in Times Square in midtown Manhattan after a blackout in New York. Five years after the nation’s worst blackout, executives at some of the nation’s largest power generators fear the U.S. could run short on electricity if it does not quickly spend more on infrastructure projects. (AP Photo/Joe Kohen, file) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/JOE KOHEN)
NEW YORK - AUGUST 15:  People sleep on the sidewalk outside the Renaisance Hotel during the east coast blackout August 15, 2003 in New York City. Power is slowly returning to parts of the city after the worst blackout in history. (Photo by Matthew Peyton/Getty Images)
NEW YORK — AUGUST 15: People sleep on the sidewalk outside the Renaisance Hotel during the east coast blackout August 15, 2003 in New York City. Power is slowly returning to parts of the city after the worst blackout in history. (Photo by Matthew Peyton/Getty Images) (Getty Images/Matthew Peyton)
NEW YORK - AUGUST 14:  People walk down Brooklyn Bridge during a massive blackout August 14, 2003 in New York City. Officials from the Department of Homeland Security said there were no indications that terrorists were responsible for the blackout that has also affected Ohio, and Canada. (Photo by Jonathan Fickies/Getty Images)
NEW YORK — AUGUST 14: People walk down Brooklyn Bridge during a massive blackout August 14, 2003 in New York City. Officials from the Department of Homeland Security said there were no indications that terrorists were responsible for the blackout that has also affected Ohio, and Canada. (Photo by Jonathan Fickies/Getty Images) (Getty Images/Jonathan Fickies)
NEW YORK - AUGUST 14:  People walk down Brooklyn Bridge during a massive blackout August 14, 2003 in New York City. Officials from the Department of Homeland Security said there were no indications that terrorists were responsible for the blackout that has also affected Ohio, and Canada. (Photo by Jonathan Fickies/Getty Images)
NEW YORK — AUGUST 14: People walk down Brooklyn Bridge during a massive blackout August 14, 2003 in New York City. Officials from the Department of Homeland Security said there were no indications that terrorists were responsible for the blackout that has also affected Ohio, and Canada. (Photo by Jonathan Fickies/Getty Images) (Getty Images/Jonathan Fickies)
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** FILE ** Cars try to navigate their way through New York City during a blackout that hit U.S. and Canadian cities in this Aug. 14, 2003, file photo. A year after the nation's worst ever blackout, utilities have made improvements and New York has spent millions of dollars on new high-tech gadgets to avert the chaos that followed. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)
** FILE **People try to board the back of a crowded New York bus during the blackout that left U.S. and Canadian cities in the dark in this Aug. 14, 2003, file photo. A year after the nation's worst ever blackout, utilities have made improvements and New York has spent millions of dollars on new high-tech gadgets to avert the chaos that followed. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)
FILE- In this Aug. 14, 2013 file photo, passengers wait inside a stranded New York City subway train during a blackout. About 50 million people lost power Aug. 14, 2003, when a tree branch touching high-power transmission lines in Ohio started an outage that cascaded across a broad swath from Michigan to New England and Quebec.  (AP  Photo/Robbie Bailey, File)
A police officer helps people negotiate subway tracks and return to the Shea Stadium Willets Point subway station, after they were evacuated from a Number 7 subway train stuck on the tracks because of a massive power failure that hit the Northeast region of the United States, Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
The New York City skyline is shown Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003. A massive power outage struck the eastern United States and parts of Canada on Thursday afternoon, stranding people in sweltering subways and sending office workers streaming into the streets in 90-degree heat. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
** FILE ** Pedestrians leaving Manhattan flood New York's 59th St. Bridge to Queens in this Aug. 14, 2003 file photo, after a power blackout crippled the city. A year after the nation's worst ever blackout, utilities have made improvements and New York has spent millions of dollars on new high-tech gadgets to avert the chaos that followed. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg, File)
Crowds of people pour onto 42nd Street near Grand Central Station in New York City after a power outage forced them from  surrounding buildings Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003. The outage that hit cities in northeastern United States and Canada, also disrupted cell phone service in New York, the subway system and trains going in and out. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Commuters walk up the ramp to the Queensborough (59th) Bridge as a police officer directs traffic after a massive blackout knocked out power in New York, Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003. (AP Photo/David Karp)
Thousands of commuters wait for a chance to board a ferry from Manhattan to the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003, in New York, after a massive blackout shut down trains and subway lines.  (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Crowds line up for buses at Port Authority bus terminal in New York during a massive power outage Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003, that stretched from New York to Detroit and into Canada. (AP Photo/Christie Johnston)
Bystanders gather outside Grand Central Station after a power black out in New York City, Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003.  The biggest power blackout in history hit steamy U.S. and Canadian cities Thursday, stranding people in subways, closing nuclear power plants in Ohio and New York state and choking streets with workers driven from stifling offices. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
A darkened New York City is visible just before dawn through power lines from Jersey City, N.J., shown in foreground, with some lights visible, Friday, Aug. 15, 2003. The Empire State Building is in background.  (AP Photo/George Widman)
Joung Yun of Flushing, Queens, reads a newpaper by flashlight as he sits on the sidewalk at New York's Fifth Ave. early Friday morning Aug. 15, 2003. A power outage hit most of northeastern United States Thursday afternoon, leaving the city in the dark. (AP Photo/Joe Kohen)
Commuters walk up the entrance ramp to the Queensborough (59th Street) Bridge in New York, as a police officer directs traffic after a massive power outage Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003, that stretched from New York to Detroit and into Canada. (AP Photo/David Karp)
A view of the Upper West side of Manhattan is seen from  Weehawken, N.J., Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003. A massive power blackout hit U.S. and Canadian cities Thursday. (AP Photo/George Widman)
Patrons eat and drink outside Leon's Pizza in midtown Manhattan in New York, under the lights of a parked car, during a blackout, Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003. Night descended on New York shortly after 4  p.m., Thursday, when power went out throughout the five boroughs and most of its suburbs.  (AP Photo/Joe Kohen)
A view of the Upper West side of Manhattan is seen from a Weehawken, N.J.  park Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003.  The largest power blackout in U.S. history rolled across a vast swath of the northern United States as well as southern Canada on Thursday, driving millions of people outdoors into stifling rush hour streets, then darkness. (AP Photo/George Widman)
Patrons crowd a Mister Softee ice cream truck to buy ice cream as darkness envelops Weehaken, N.J. during a massive power outage Thursday Aug. 14, 2003. A massive power blackout hit U.S. and Canadian cities Thursday. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)
Commuters walk over the Queensborough Bridge with traffic stopped in gridlock in New York, Thursday, August 14, 2003 during a massive blackout which knocked out power in most of the Northeastern United States.  (AP Photo/Sean M. Thompson)
**FILE** In this Aug. 14, 2003 file photo, bystanders gather in Times Square in midtown Manhattan after a  blackout in New York. Five years after the nation's worst blackout, executives at some of the nation's largest power generators fear the U.S. could run short on electricity if it does not quickly spend more on infrastructure projects. (AP Photo/Joe Kohen, file)
NEW YORK - AUGUST 15:  People sleep on the sidewalk outside the Renaisance Hotel during the east coast blackout August 15, 2003 in New York City. Power is slowly returning to parts of the city after the worst blackout in history. (Photo by Matthew Peyton/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - AUGUST 14:  People walk down Brooklyn Bridge during a massive blackout August 14, 2003 in New York City. Officials from the Department of Homeland Security said there were no indications that terrorists were responsible for the blackout that has also affected Ohio, and Canada. (Photo by Jonathan Fickies/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - AUGUST 14:  People walk down Brooklyn Bridge during a massive blackout August 14, 2003 in New York City. Officials from the Department of Homeland Security said there were no indications that terrorists were responsible for the blackout that has also affected Ohio, and Canada. (Photo by Jonathan Fickies/Getty Images)


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