In anticipation of Earth Hour, 8 – 9 pm this Saturday, at which time we are all requested to turn off lights and appliances and take part in community activities that encourage energy savings and acknowledge global warming, let’s remember the blackout that blessed this city on a hot day in August, 2003.
The Northeast Blackout of 2003 was a massive widespread power outage that occurred throughout parts of the Northeastern and Midwestern United States, and Ontario, Canada on Thursday, August 14, 2003. It was the largest blackout in North American history.
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 cannot ordinarily be seen due to the effects of light pollution.
There was speculation about terrorism, then finger-pointing at Canada. But a joint federal task force finally identified that the main cause of the blackout was FirstEnergy Corporation’s failure to trim trees in part of its Ohio service area. The report said that a generating plant in Eastlake, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, went off-line amid high electrical demand, and strained high-voltage power lines, located in a distant rural setting, and later went out of service when they came in contact with “overgrown trees.” The cascading effect that resulted ultimately forced the shutdown of more than 100 power plants.
It was a magical time here in Toronto, when you could share the camaraderie in a neighbour’s yard where they had a wind-up radio, and marvel at the total blackness, and finally see the stars.