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This Day in History, 2003: The Great Northeast Blackout

Can you believe it has been exactly three years since the Great Blackout of 2003? The blackout hit much of the northeast United States and parts of Canada. Where were you?

I was at home (in Brookline, Massachusetts, which did not lose power) on the computer when the phone rang at 4:33 PM. It was my younger brother, Josh, in New York City, calling to ask me if I knew what was going on. As I had left the TV news on in the living room, and the TiVo was recording its buffer, I was able to start describing the news to him and I learned of the blackout as I told him what was going on.

I served as the point person for my younger brother, my sister-in-law, and my mother for the next few hours. Josh had to sleep overnight in Manhattan. Rachel had to care for their new baby daughter, and I gave her information on New York City emergency lines and hospitals. And my Mom stayed home.

I recorded NBC Nightly News that evening and the Today show the next day, and a few months later I gave the tape to Josh so he could see what he missed.

Comments

I was on a tech support call at the time (working in the call center).
The caller lost power, but still wanted assistance and spent a little time in the dark describing the problem.

The rest of my shift was verrrrry quiet. :)
I was driving home from work, and had made it almost all the way when the traffic lights suddenly stopped working.

I drove the remaining 3 blocks very carefully, then pulled out the battery-operated radio to get the news. I recall it was a very hot night, with almost no breeze. Very hard to sleep.
I was home alone, painting my son's bedroom. He was out of town at his grandparents' house. My husband was at work. I couldn't get a hold of anyone on the phone. I ended up finishing the painting project by lamplight. I don't recommend it.
My cousin lived on the lower east side at that time, and I enjoyed hearing her accounts of the roving blackout parties. Nice to see people making the best of a bad situation.
I was home taking a nap. I woke up because the air conditioner wasn't on anymore and it was getting stuffy. At first I thought a fuse was blown, but I was relieved of that notion in fairly short order. Thankfully, I had a laptop with a charged battery, so I was able to get online and find out what was happening in the world. I was also grateful for terri_osborne and my love of candles.....

I was working on Wall Street. The market had closed about 10 minutes before the lights went out. After 20 or 30 minutes with what looked like no chance of them coming back on, I realized Kit was wandering around mid-town Manhattan, and that, since she'd only recently moved to Brooklyn, she had no idea how to get home. So I decided I simply had to get home in order to be there when she called to give her directions (this was before cell phones in my family).

I walked over the Brooklyn Bridge and through Brooklyn, about 12 miles, and got home about 9pm. Called my sister in Massachusetts to find out what was going on.

Meanwhile, Kit called her parents in Ohio (we neither of us thought to call the other's contact: my stupidity). About 10:30, I realized I ought to call her parents, found out she was spending the night in Bryant Park, and went to sleep. The next day was hot, but not terrible. Kit managed to make it in about noon with a somewhat grumpy story of Bryant Park: she was fairly comfortable (had a chair at a table with a couple of pleasant people). About midnight, folks started quieting down, trying to get some sleep. Then, at 2 or 3 in the morning, the noise started up with generators and flood lights, as the crew started setting up a stage for the muscial guest for the morning's morning television program (don't recall which one). So no sleep for the Bryant Park people, and many of them were grumpy, realizing the generators on the trucks meant air conditioning inside, to which they were not privy.

All in all, an adventure, but not one I'd care to relive.
I'm happy to say that I too was safe in the Boston area with full power. But the news coverage...man.
i remember NBC nightly news coverage as well. also conan o'brien doing the beginning of his show on backup power, explaining why they were about to show a rerun because security wouldn't let that night's guest in to the building.

also a week later on our local news, a viewer submitted a satillite photo of the entire US during the blackout after sunset to the "photos from viewers" segment the 10p weatherguy hosts.
I was getting ready for the end of the workday (8:30-4:30) along with the rest of the office. The power went off, then on, and then off again, so at first we thought it was just local to (part of) our building.

Someone had a battery powered radio (or possibly a car radio - that office is down a half-flight from the sidewalk, so peoples' cars were very easy to access) so we got the news that way. A colleague insisted on driving me home instead of letting me take two buses as usual, even though the buses were running, because she was worried about me crossing a couple of major streets with no working lights.

My brother was on his way in from Boston to spend the weekend in NYC before the two of us flew to California on Sunday, so our mom called his cell - his reaction was that he couldn't do anything 'cause he was already en route on the intercity bus... He ended up staying overnight with sdelmonte at G's apartment in Manhattan ("you had a sleepover party without me?" *mock-pout*) and then taking the bus to our parents' place on Friday morning before the power was back for the subways.

The next day was my last one at that job (this had been planned months before) and there were jokes that during my time there we'd had a blizzard, flooding, and now a blackout, and what other disasters could we expect by the end of the day? As it turned out there were none, other than my leaving: they still haven't been able to find a good lasting replacement and most recently they seem to have given up, which is hard on the people who are still there.
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