As Torontonians try to stay cool on a warm night, a power outage put thousands in the dark - and without air conditioning, if they had it to begin with - in parts of the city’s downtown and Port Lands on Thursday night.

Toronto Hydro expects to restore electricity at some point early Friday morning. After days of warm weather, overwhelming demand on the city’s power system may be to blame for the outage.

Toronto Hydro spokeswoman Tanya Bruckmueller told CP24 at 10:30 p.m. electricity would be restored in three to four hours in a “best case scenario.”

As of 10:30 p.m., about 6,500 hydro customers were without electricity in a general area bordered by Carlton Street to the north, York Street to the west, the city’s waterfront to the south and the Don Valley Parkway to the east, in addition to part of the Port Lands.

One hydro customer may represent an entire high-rise apartment or condo building populated by hundreds of people, or a single business.

Traffic signals went dark at some intersections. In those circumstances, the intersection should be treated as a four-way stop, unless authorities are on hand to direct traffic.

Equipment overheated, hydro says

The outage occurred when a circuit breaker in a transformer substation, at George Street and Adelaide Street East, overheated and sparked a small fire at about 8:30 p.m.

The cause of the failure is under investigation, but Bruckmueller said the piece of equipment may have overheated because of a surge in electricity usage in recent days. Air conditioners and fans have been on overdrive due to temperatures that have soared as high as 36 C.

Hydro equipment cannot cool down when there is an increased load on the city’s power grid, raising the risk of a failure, Bruckmueller said.

Toronto Hydro asks people to conserve energy or shift their usage to off-peak times to take pressure off the grid, especially during hot weather.

People make the most of it

While the outage is a big inconvenience due to the heat, some people are having fun with it. Many turned to Twitter and Facebook to make quips or post pictures as they passed the time in candle-lit rooms.

At one point, the hashtag #darkTO was the top Twitter trend in Toronto.

On her Twitter account, Leslie Walsh, whose suite in the St. Lawrence Market was affected, uploaded a picture of two candles and a glass of water.

“It’s been an easy thing to weather,” Walsh told CP24. “Nobody seems to be overly concerned.”

Walsh said she wasn’t aware of the outage until her neighbour mentioned it, so she went onto her balcony and looked at the buildings below.

“We could see the buildings around us were dark,” Walsh said.

@ChrisKitching is on Twitter. Don't forget, for instant breaking news, follow @CP24 on Twitter.