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'Great Northeast Blackout of 2003' 10th anniversary

3:38 PM, Aug 14, 2013   |    comments
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Wednesday is the 10th anniversary of the Great Northeast Blackout of 2003.

It put 55 million people in six states and Canada in the dark and it's blamed on a perfect storm of problems that started right here with FirstEnergy.

Could something like this happen again?

The Eastlake FirstEnergy power plant was the first plant to shut down. Before it was done, more than 100 plants were out of commission.

It was a chain reaction of small things that snowballed, starting with trees pressing on a power line and a software bug that kept an alarm from going off.

It became a memorable two days no one wants to relive.

The power went out in the middle of Little Italy's Feast of the Assumption celebration. Some say it was nice but others said that, happening two years after 9-11, it was scary.

It was a lot of small problems that spread like wildfire, causing 50 million people to lose power and eventually costing $10 billion.

The U.S./Canadian report put most blame on FirstEnergy, for tree limbs that that smacked a power line in Walton Hills and software problems kept an alarm from going off that snowballed, putting New York City and parts of Canada in the dark.

Cleveland's water system lost pressure and filtration. Its planners weren't ready but that's changed.

FirstEnergy's spent a hundred million dollars on improvements -- new monitoring equipment, better computers, worker training, better maintenance and serious tree trimming.

The $45 million Akron Control Center will show workers the big picture for half of its operations and two back-up diesel generators are ready just in case.

Lots of utilities are learning FirstEnergy's lessons. Two Generators that were shut down at the Eastlake Plant are being rebuilt into equipment to to help control conditions on the grid by stabilizing voltage.

The other big-ticket item for FirstEnergy? Tree trimming. It has spent $320 million to cut trees and control vegetation since the blackout.  

WKYC-TV

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