The great blackout of 2003 occurred on August 14 and lasted about 24 hours.
Here's what I wrote at the time:
We were totally affected by the blackout. Lost power at 4:10pm and lost network connectivity at the same time. Waited 45 minutes, then decided to shut down computers (all systems in our office are on big battery backups). Shutdown took about 90 minutes - going through servers, hitting power buttons in the rack - fun. Luckily, the markets close at 4, so it wasn't totally damaging for my company.
From our windows, we couldn't see much activity. There were more people on the streets than usual, and the lines for the ferries were extremely long. However, we didn't see any smoke or other unusual activity - except for a large number of people walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, reminiscent of the stories of 9/11.
Elevators were out at 7 when we left, so the three of us who stayed to do the shutdown walked down 53 flights of stairs - then we found out they could have sent the elevator to us!
Walked about 2 miles up Manhattan to my friend's Jake's house as the sun set - tons of people on the street because the subways weren't running. What cars there were on the street were going nowhere fast. Lots of people having impromptu parties out on the street. Lots of cops outdirecting traffic. As it got dark, they began lighting flares to mark intersections, so all you saw as you looked down the avenues were lines of red dots stretching into the distance.
I meant up with with Jake and R at Jake's place on 5th Ave. and 1st. street. We all three decided to make our way to our house in Greenpoint. There were a few cabs running, but we couldn't find one to pick us up so we walked south to the Manhattan Bridge. It was pretty much pitch black by this time. Everyone on the street was fairly friendly, and the police were very helpful when we asked for directions. We walked across the bridge to Brooklyn, by which time it was about 10:30pm. The almost full moon rose a very ominous red color, although as I say, it didn't feel dangerous to be out.
On the Brooklyn side of the bridge, a group of Orthodox Jews were dispensing cups of water which were much appreciated by the crowd. Everyone threw their cups on the ground, so it was like walking through a plastic snowdrift.
We waited about 30 minutes to try and get a bus north to Greenpoint from there. Tremendous confusion all around, of course. Finally we left the main bus stop and walked a couple of blocks up Broadway to another stop based on someone's advice for the best place to catch our bus. That was the only really creepy part of the night - once we were a few blocks from the bus stop, everything was empty and very quiet.
Just as we got to the bus stop, a delivery truck showed up and the driver offered us a ride! Another Orthodox Jewish guy (props to the jews!) who was driving a pastry delivery truck to Greenpoint. He finally dropped us off at our house at 11pm. We celebrated by cracking a few beers and passing out from exhaustion at midnight.
This morning, we still didn't have power, and our Cingular cell service was out. I walked to a pay phone and called in to work to find out that they had power and needed my help. R gave me a ride to the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn bridge and I hoofed it in to work. Finally arrived just before noon.
We're working now to get all our computer systems restored again. The NYSE is trading today but we're basically just watching and not doing any trading ourselves. Everyone on Wall St. is pretty much taking the day off and waiting for full power to be restored.
I guess now I can say I survived the great Blackout of 2003.