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Remember the Blackout in August 2003? December 23, 2009

Posted by dataduchess in Uncategorized.
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Yesterday’s post about the increase in visits to the New York Times website on the day of Michael Jackson’s death sparked an interesting comment from pupfiction about other notable days in recent history. I, in turn, recalled the Blackout of August 2003, including some some fascinating satellite images of the northeast from before and after the failure.

NOAA satellite imagery one day before the blackout.

NOAA satellite imagery the night of the blackout.

In trying to find the images shown above, I read the Wikipedia entry about the Blackout, and it was really interesting. Through an official investigation, they created a sequence of events that caused the blackout, and even traced the cause back to some overgrown trees near an Ohio power plant. This is worth reading.

I remember the blackout quite vividly: I lived in NYC at the time and was lucky enough to have only my regular 15-block walk home. My brother who was commuting to a summer job in the city was about to get on a subway when he felt the city shut down around him, and he turned and climbed the stairs back to the street before he could be trapped. He walked about 50 blocks to my apartment and then we set out to find a payphone (cell towers were overloaded, and I didn’t have a land line in my apartment) to call our parents and let them know we were together and safe. We spent the evening playing cards by candlelight, and turned a crazy event into a fun memory. The next morning, we ventured down to Grand Central, in the hopes that trains would be running, and fortunately we were able to get on one. We couldn’t buy tickets with no power in the station, but the conductors were just letting everyone on anyway… it was kind of nice that they just wanted to help people get home.

Do you remember where you were during the blackout? Did it affect you? Did the event turn out to be a positive, like it did for me?



1. pupfiction - December 23, 2009

I was in a quaint country town but still somehow “felt” that the power had gone out in a large area. It’s amazing how something as ubiquitous as electricity isn’t noticed (tactilely) until it is gone. A few minutes after getting into my car the radio station announced what the cause had been and I headed to the local bar where everyone drank by candle light, an indescribable feeling of camaraderie in the air, as if we had faced (and survived) a natural disaster together. Hahaha.

2. Elizabeth - December 23, 2009

I remember that night. I lived in Middletown, an hour north of NYC. That night I was supposed to get together with friends at my friend’s house in Walden to hang out, a standing weekly engagement. Everyone still managed to get safely to there. His entire block was outside, barbecuing and mingling. It was a great block party 🙂 We spent the night talking, making new friends, and having a lot of fun! There are moments when i wish something like that would happen again… so long as it’s not in the winter!

3. mikedoyle - December 24, 2009

Another before and after pair of pictures I remember were all the jet contrails over the US on 9/10/01 and the virtual lack of any activity on 9/12/01. Very eerie. We’ll have to find that pair somewhere.

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