The Great Blackout of 2003

14 08 2013

Ten years ago today, there was a massive power cut that affected most of eastern North America. See this image of the blackout taken from space.

2003 Blackout Seen from Space

I was in the reading room of the National Archives in Ottawa. Power went out in the building but the lights were on on the opposite of the river, in Quebec, which has a separate power grid. The staff soon evacuated all researchers from the building. As we filed through the lobby, we passed by an archivist, who repeatedly announced in a loud voice that the outage had been caused by the power workers’ union, which opposed to the privatization of Ontario Hydro. He gleefully declared “This is the end of the Ontario PC Party.” A CBC reporter who was there doing research then rushed back to the CBC Ottawa studio to share the information she had gained from this reputable source. I don’t think this misinformation was broadcast.

National Archives of Canada

Ottawa was in chaos and cars were driving everywhere, including one that went over the lawn of the Supreme Court. (Take that rule of law!) I also saw a man urinating on a busy street, which seemed like a somewhat unusual response to a power cut that did not affect toilets, only the power supply. I guess he figured he could get away with it, since the police were busy directing traffic.

I then walked over to the bridge to Quebec and had an early dinner.



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