Powerless

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Cable operators in the Northeast and Great Lakes spent much of the weekend mopping up after the mammoth power failure that struck the region Aug. 14, darkening power grids from as far west as Toledo, Ohio eastward to New York City and northward to Canada.

The outage affected some 50 million people in major metro areas also including Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, Newark and Toronto. Power went down at approximately 2 p.m. Eastern on Friday, and as of today power to most areas has been restored.

Information is still sketchy about the impact of the failure among cable operators, but it appears they have restored service and are maintaining operations in the affected areas.

Time Warner Cable's New York City system saw power restored throughout the day Friday, and by the end of the day the juice was on for the majority of customers in upstate New York and parts of its New York City Division.

The blackout forced many Time Warner Cable New York City employees to work through the night in order to keep the system operating for the few subscribers who were able to watch TV or surf the Internet on Road Runner.

One of the company's backup generators ran out of fuel Thursday night, prompting two senior system executives to go up to the roof of the building where they bailed fuel from a gas tank, carrying it across to the other side of the roof where they filled up the generator.

Michigan back

New York-centric MSO Cablevision Systems Corp., meanwhile, issued a statement Friday afternoon saying things were pretty much back to normal in its service area.

"As was the case yesterday and through last night, all of our central facilities are fully functional and continuing to operate on back-up power sources," according to the statement. "All systems are being monitored on a continual basis by our network operations center."

As of Monday, Comcast Corp. has restored service to the vast majority of its customers in Michigan as electricity has been restored in each community, according to spokeswoman Jenni Moyer.

Under emergency orders Friday, many cable employees had stayed home, and customer service calls in the state were rerouted to call centers elsewhere, causing some delays in response time. But as of Monday, all of the MSO's Michigan call centers were back online.

"At the peak of it, there may have been some video, high-speed and some phone customers that were out, but the bottom line is that we're back up and normal operations have resumed," Moyer said.

While the power outage did not affect any of its cable systems, Insight Communications employees at the MSO's headquarters on the 41st floor of a mid-town Manhattan office building found themselves in the dark. Despite the long tramp down the stairwells, all 130 or so employees made it out of the building unharmed, spokeswoman Kim Messina said. "Most of our employees had to walk home to the outer boroughs, so they were walking three or four hours over the bridges," she added.

Power was restored to the building early Friday morning, "although it was apparently a ghost town here. With the subways out nobody could make it in."

Cox Communications Inc. spokeswoman Leigh Ann Woisard said that backup power supplies kicked in on most of its Connecticut network. But of the 60 generators that power its telephone network, six backup generators did not work properly, causing some telephone customers to lose service for about 20 minutes on Thursday.

Cox generates

"By and large our telephone customers in those areas did not experience a loss of telephone service," Woisard said. Commercial power was restored by 3 a.m. on Friday.

Cox systems in several Cleveland suburbs were also affected by the blackout, including Parna, Lakewood, Brooklyn Heights, Rocky River and Seven Hills. The MSO offers video and high-speed data service in those markets, but it doesn't offer telephone service, spokesman Bobby Amirshahi said.

Amirshahi added that a Cox customer call center in Cleveland also lost power during the blackout, so calls were rerouted to a contractor's call center in Augusta, Ga.

All of Cox's headends in the Cleveland area reverted immediately to backup power during the blackout, so any subscribers who were able to power their TVs or cable modems during the blackout would have been able to receive service, Amirshahi said.

Charter Communications Inc., which has several systems in the affected area, was taking stock of the situation as of Friday, but there were no indications the outage did any real damage.

"I've surveyed our guys — I have not heard anything. I have to assume no news is good news," said spokesman Dave Anderson on Friday.

Steve Donohue contributed to this report.

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