Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Four Year Anniversary of The Northeast Blackout of 2003

On August 14th, 2003, four years ago today, shortly after 4 p.m., a blackout of over 2 days occurred, affecting much of the United States' Northeast area, including New York City and the surrounding areas. No matter what country blackouts occur in, they expose modern technological societies' dependence on electricity.

The events that led to the largest power failure in U.S. history began in Ohio, officials said, when several high-voltage transmission lines failed. Investigators said that an alarm that should have alerted power controllers also failed. These events triggered the shutdown of power lines and some 100 power plants across the North East and Canada. However, officials could not yet account for why the safety measures that should have isolated the power failures did not work.

An estimated 50 million people in Canada, Ohio, Michigan, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York lost electrical power at approximately 4:10 p.m. on Thursday, August 14, 2003. In New York City, subway trains shut down and thousands of riders had to be evacuated. All travel in and out of Penn Station and Grand Central Station ceased. Travel on New Jersey Transit, Metro-North, PATH trains, and the Long Island Rail Road and area airports came to a halt.

Millions of people walked out of their office buildings and tried to figure out how to get home. Tens of thousands of commuters and tourists had no where to go and ended up sleeping on city streets, buying what food and drinks they could from stores that stayed open. Many neighbors organized their own festivities, with outdoor parties extending late into the night.

The New York Stock Exchange opened on Friday morning, powered by a generator, but much of the city took a summer "snow day", with many businesses and summer school and day care programs closing for the day. All power was fully restored in the city by 9 p.m. on Friday; the Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan was the last to see the lights go on. By 6 a.m. on Saturday, the subway system was running on its regular schedule.

By Sunday morning August 17, 2003, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg declared that the city was back to normal.

The blackout of 2003 caused power in waste water treatment plants to go out, leading to their shutdown and consequent sewage spillage. Environmental effects of that were sea-life, beach, and tap-water contamination. The economic effect of the contamination was the costs of cleanup.

There were no riots, looting or serial killer in NYC during the blackout of the summer of 2003 as there was in the blackout of the summer of 1977.

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