Blackout of 2003

The blackout occurred at 4:11 EDT
In Iraq it was 11:11.
In the UK it was 9:11.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

In the late afternoon, my friend Paul called from Hawaii. Suddenly my portable phone went dead as did the other electrical appliances, including the computer and air conditioner. On this date and time, the massive North American Blackout occurred, taking down three power grids simultaneously.

I am a person who is always prepared, flashlights, candles, batteries, water, etc. As it was a hot summer day, I immediately removed my plants from the window sills, then closed the vertical blinds to keep the apartment cool.

I looked outside my window and saw people in the park talking and trying to figure out what was going on. Initially I thought it was a power outage in the area, but later I would find out how extensive the problem was as people called me. I have many phones, two are portable, and three have cords. I also have a cell phone which I turned on after the blackout began. Call me crazy, buy I always carry a backup battery in my purse for the cell phone and charge both cell phone batteries on a regular basis. As for clocks, I always feel like the time keeper here as I have many clocks and watches, some of which are not electric. I also have a portable radio.

Paul called back to see what happened. Where he lives on the Big Island, he has a backup generator which lasts for hours, which he said is not uncommon in Hawaii. I also spoke to my two daughters in northern NJ. Their husbands had both taken the day off, so all was well with my family. They wanted me to come to their homes, but I knew there would be too much traffic getting in and out of the city.

About a half hour later I took my flashlight, and walked down the 6 flights of stairs to mingle with the people in the lobby of my apartment building, those on the street, and others trying to keep cool in the park. Everyone was calm as they talked about the blackout. Some people were able to use their cell phones while other phone services were offline. Most were making the best of the situation. Though there were no traffic lights, the traffic flowed smoothly. Verizon trucks and other emergency vehicles were seen and heard everywhere, yet there was a calmness in the energies. After 9/11 we got used to anything in NY and the US in general. Are these practice drills for something more serious in the future?

Back in the lobby, where the building staff was hanging out, I met my neighbors, who live just across the hall, Julie, Jim and their baby daughter, Grace. As the stairwells were dark, I walked back upstairs with them using my flashlight to guide several other neighbors who had found their way home.

Many people were stranded in the city and slept outside.

Traffic could move out of the city, but could not enter Manhattan

Subways were not running, but buses and cars were able to leave the city. I heard stories people trapped in stalled trains, walking through the tunnel system, coming up through manhole covers in the street. With the temperatures hovering around 90 humid degrees, this was not pleasant.

I ate dinner with Jim and Julie on their terrace and relaxed in the breeze that had taken hold. Below us, children played in the park. As I sat there, one small white bird feather gracefully flew in front of me, just outside the terrace. It flew in a zigzag fashion.

Just before dark, I went home, left the hall light in the ON position, opened my bedroom window, spoke to family and friends who live out of state and were concerned, then fell asleep with little effort.

4:00 am: Suddenly a light jolted me back to physical consciousness. "Was it morning?" I thought, opening my eyes. I discovered that my hall light had come on, power restored. Quickly I put on the AC, and went back to sleep, awakening at 7:30 am. By 8:30 am on Friday, the cable for my TV and Internet connection returned. And so I began another day and another blog. As all things are linked in the grid system, everyone will be affected by the blackout of 2003, one way or another. But all grids teach lessons, this one in preparedness. After Y2K we learned that we should always have an emergency back-up system.

On a remote view, I saw the next terrorist attack being in Michigan with terrorists coming in from Canada during the blackout.