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Northeast Blackout of 2003

This massive power outage impacted several U.S. states and parts of Canada, including the metropolitan areas of New York City and Detroit.

In 2003, the largest area blackout in history hit the northeastern United States and parts of Canada, resulting in a total loss of electric power across the entire region. The outage was traced to FirstEnergy Corporation, an electric utilities company in Ohio that had failed to detect and remove trees that came into contact with some of its power lines. This caused one of FirstEnergy’s plants to shut down, and led to a chain reaction in which multiple power plants across the northeast shut down in under three minutes. Power was lost  throughout the region, including in the major metropolitan areas of New York City, Detroit, Cleveland, Toronto and Ottawa, Canada.

More than 45 million people were without power. In some places, power was restored within two hours of the shutdown; elsewhere the power remained off for several days. The event led to 11 deaths and cost over $5 billion in losses and recovery. In New York City, people were stranded on stalled subways for several hours. In Detroit, residents were advised to boil water for several days after the outage as a preventative measure, as water pressure was lost throughout the city. Several metropolitan areas experienced sewage overflows into waterways and beaches.

A power outage such as this is possible still today; a single fault on a hot summer’s day could lead to a wide area blackout. Prescient’s power outage prevention risk assessment service can determine power system responses to triggering events such as those described above. Our innovative technology can prevent wide area blackouts from occurring. Contact us to learn more about how to increase the resiliency of your power system.

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