A Brief History
Because the Northeast blackout of August 14–16, 2003 came only two years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the first thought in the minds of many people was that a terrorist attack had occurred. Of course, the US government quickly reassured the public that no such attack had taken place, even though they did not have an answer as to why the outage occurred.
The problem turned out to be a software bug in the portion of the electrical grid controlled by FirstEnergy, an Akron, Ohio based electrical utility. Tree branches contacting power lines triggered the problem. Power was restored to most areas within about 7 hours.
About 100 deaths were attributed to the power outage, and around 55 million people were affected by the blackout. Rail and air traffic were adversely affected as well. The 2003 blackout remains the largest American electrical blackout in history to date.
(See our other article about this event for a more in depth account.)
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For more information, please see…
Newsweek Magazine. Newsweek Magazine Blackout of 2003. Newsweek, 2003.
United States Congress. Blackout 2003: How Did It Happen And Why? BiblioGov, 2010.
The featured image in this article, satellite imagery from the Northeast blackout of 2003, is in the public domain because it contains materials that originally came from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, taken or made as part of an employee’s official duties.
You can also watch video versions of this article on YouTube.