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Contributed by: Debbie Patt
Contributed on: August 15, 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 own a bakery, and we were affected by the power outage. I was out of the bakery
on a sales call when my bakery manager called and told me there was no power(about 4:20 pm
EST). She wanted to know what to do with the cheesecakes that were still in the oven, only
half baked. Luckily I was only five minutes away. After checking the fuses and circuit
breakers, I called neighbors to see if their power was on. I couldn't get a hold of anyone,
when my friend who is a cameraman for the local news called. He was covering the PGA which was
in town (in Rochester, NY), and informed me that the power outage was the Northeast Coast, and
that all three of our local tv stations were down at the time. He said he had heard that it
wouldn't be til late in the evening when the power comes back on.

We have five freezers, 2 coolers, and two refrigerators of cheesecakes and fresh dairy
ingredients. You can imagine how nervous I was, and my first thought was would the insurance
cover a loss of thousands??? I decided to take action and not find out the hard way.

Since we ship our cheesecakes throughout the USA, we make our own dry ice. I put on my gloves
and made dry ice to pack around the cheesecakes inside the freezers, and put a smaller amount
of dry ice in the center of the cooler, hoping that it was just enough to keep the ingredients
cold, but not so much that it would freeze the cream cheese and eggs and render them unusable.

Around 7pm, my husband and I went to pick up the generator. By the time we returned(9:30pm),
the power had come back on and we did a mad scramble to remove the dry ice from the freezers
and coolers. The dry ice raises the temperature in the freezers sensors, and the freezer
thinks it's cold enough so it doesn't kick on.

The dozen or so cakes that were in the oven has to be scrapped, and there was a little cleaning
up we had to do. Luckily for us, it only cost us a few hundred dollars in dry ice and
spoilage, as opposed to to the potentially thousands of dollars in losses we could have had.


Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
I'm not sure if it was outdated equipment, terrorism, or an overuse of electricity.

What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
It seems that there are many factors involved, and I sure hope we not only find out why this happened, but that we can prevent it from happening again.

Did either blackout seem significant or shocking at the time?
Both were significant

Why did you consider the blackout(s) to be significant or insignificant?
It seems amazing that so much of the US was without power.

How did the blackout(s) affect you?
Luckily, the worst thing that happened to us is that we are on well water which means that if there is no electricity there is no water.

What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
I couldn't imagine what had happened!

How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
Normal power failures are an inconvenience, but it doesn't seem so terrible when it's just a small community that it has happened to.

What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
Is the term I want to use UNconsolidate or DEconsolidate???

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

If yes, please explain:
My first thought was of terrorism, second thought of some massive natural disaster.

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

If yes, please explain:
A few hours of deep anxiety!!!

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:
I believe it...times were different in 1965 and 1977. I would be willing to bet that there wasn't much looting this time around. Since 9/11, I think our whole country has taken a different attitude to disasters and is pulling together and helping their neighbor more.

Cite as: Debbie Patt, Story #263, The Blackout History Project, 15 August 2003, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/263/>.
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