[Blackout front page] forum/surveys/Blackout Experience Survey/Blackout Survey Results
<< Return to prior page
Contributed by: Patroba Onyango
Contributed on: August 14, 2003

Which blackout(s) did you experience?
Other (please specify)

In your own words, tell the story of your experience in the blackout(s). Try to recall specific events and the people, places, and things involved; also include more general reactions, images adn last impressions?
I was at work in Piscataway, when two times the lights dimmed and computers rebooted. Everyone thought it was just a regular power surge probably caused by faulty switch, or slightly increased demand for power.

Slightly later on we heard it in the news that there was a massive power outage affecting the North Eastern states, as well as parts of Canada, and the Great Lakes. We then were able to connect it to the power flickering earlier on.

By all accounts we in Middlesex County middle of NJ were not at all affected by the event. We had continous supply of power (at least until now as the time that I am writing this entry : 1030pm AUG 14 2003).

I called a friend in Harlem and she said they were still in darkness. She said a lot of her friends are stuck in Manhattan due to tarnsportation problems.

Earlier on I remember hearing Mayor Bloomberg on the radio assuring New Yorkers and the country in a very calm and reassuring voice that some sense of normalcy would surely follow with power being restored systematically. The impressions I have from the news too is that New Yorkers are cooperating with the authorities in this occurence.
Traffic is only allowed out of New York, and not into New York, because of the existing road grid jam.

Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
As of this writing, neither Con Edison nor any authority has offered an explanation for the outage.
I can merely speculate that it may be lightning as a substation in Niagara Falls as earlier claimed by Canadians and quickly denied by American authorities.

And it may well be an act of sabotage, not neccessarily rising to the level of Terrorism as in the case of Al Qaeda, rather, and act of Cyber Vandalism. Hackers can and wouldn't hesitate to overwhelm the computer systems that control the power grid. They have tried to shut down the Internet before after all.

What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
Poorly designed "fail safe" mechanisms, and systems. I also think that obsolete equipment, interfaced with newer equipment may not hold their ground when faced with a precarious situation.

Nature and disruptions brought about by weather still remains the primary cause of outages in my opinion.

Did either blackout seem significant or shocking at the time?
Neither was significant

Why did you consider the blackout(s) to be significant or insignificant?
It is significant because New York city and the country is already in a heightened state of alert owing to terrorism attacks done on New York less than Two years ago on September 11 2001.

How did the blackout(s) affect you?
It didn't. I came home and found my computers had shut off.
Nothing else other than that.

What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
nothing changed my perception

How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
no. This is severe!

What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
I think they are a wonderful company.

If you experienced both the 1965 and 1977 blackouts, please compare them (describe the ways in which they were similar/different):
I didn't

Did the blackout(s) have any larger meaning in your mind?
Yes (please explain)

If yes, please explain:
It showed me how vulnerable we are with a dependency on a single source of energy. With the terrorist threat looming we cannot afford that.

Did the blackout(s) cause any profound crisis?
Yes (please explain)

If yes, please explain:
To the people directly affected, they had a problem with it.
Especially people trapped on elevators in tall buildings in NYC. I can imagine how someone felt as he or she descemded down the stairs while evacuating. This considering September 11.

How did the blackout(s) affect your daily reliance on electricity?
No effect / same reliance

This is how the story goes: In November of 1965 the lights went out in New York and crime rates temporarily dropped; there were widespread reports of extraordinary cooperation and trust between strangers caught together in the power failure. In July of 1977, little more than a decade later, the lights went out again in New York. This time, a devastating wave of looting and arson broke out. Does this story ring true to you? Explain why or why not:
Yes. People took their frustrations to the streets, with the less than acceptable reasons Con Edison gave for the outage. Also the then Mayor helped fan the flames.

Cite as: Patroba Onyango, Story #225, The Blackout History Project, 14 August 2003, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/225/>.
<< Return to prior page


[Blackout home]

Copyrights for materials in the Blackout History Project are retained by the original creators.
All else 1998-2002 The Center for History and New Media