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Tuesday, September 7, 2010 Issue 3   VOLUME 1 ISSUE 3  
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Disaster Management When the Power Goes Out
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Who Pulled The Plug?
Who Pulled The Plug?

In 2003, there was a massive widespread power outage that became known as the Northeast Blackout. It occurred throughout parts of the Northeastern and Midwestern U.S. and Ontario, Canada on Thursday, August 14, 2003, at approximately 4:11pm EDT. At the time, it was the second most widespread electrical blackout in history, after the 1999 Southern Brazil blackout. It affected an estimated 10-million people in Ontario and 45-million in eight U.S. states. Also shutting down were 265 power plants.

The increased demand triggered by the blackout left many circuits overloaded. Water systems in several cities lost pressure. Cellular service was interrupted as mobile networks overloaded with an increased volume in calls. Major League baseball games, aiports, even Wall Street and the United Nations were shut down. In areas where power remained off after nightfall, the Milky Way and orbiting artificial satellites became visible to the naked eye in metropolitan areas where they ordinarily cannot be seen due to the effects of light pollution.

Who pulled the plug? A 2004 report from the U.S.-Canada Power System Outage Task Force stated that a generating plant in Eastlake, Ohio went offline amid high electrical demand, putting a strain on high-voltage power lines which later went out of service when they came in contact with "overgrown trees." The cascasding effect resulted from a software bug that stalled a control room alarm system. The rest is history.


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