It was the electrical equivalent of an earthquake. A sudden and lengthy power outage hit Toronto and parts of the province, along with several major cities in the Eastern U.S. Thursday. It came without warning, when electricity was lost around 4:15pm.
It stretches from Toronto to Ottawa, Windsor and North Bay. There are reports some power has been restored to certain portions of the Niagara region, but no one's sure when Toronto will get it back.
The loss hit locally, creating chaos on the streets, with traffic lights out everywhere, streetcars unable to move, commuters trapped in subways, cell phone spotty in many areas, and some places â€“ like the airport and hospitals â€“ forced to rely on emergency back-up generators. There was also concern for people stuck on elevators in office towers, and on the subway, with air conditioning out and temperatures in the 30s.
Itâ€™s still not clear what caused the outage, which has also turned off the juice in New York, Buffalo, Detroit and Cleveland. U.S. authorities are adamant that terrorism isnâ€™t responsible for the blackout, with the Big Appleâ€™s Mayor blaming an overload of the Niagara power grid in Ontario for the problem. Other reports blame a fire in a New York City power station, while the Prime Ministerâ€™s office claims the fault lies in Niagara Falls, New York.
An earlier check with the provinceâ€™s Independent Market Operator by Pulse24.com had one spokeswoman insisting there were no anticipated problems in Ontario due to the heat on Thursday. A spokeswoman revealed power was being imported from Winnipeg and New York. The fact parts of that state are blacked out, too, likely isnâ€™t helping the situation.
Areas affected by Thursday's massive power blackout:
All of Toronto was without power. The city's transit system shut down, grinding rush hour to a halt and stranding commuters in 31 C heat. Those trying to make it home by car were snarled in gridlock; some commuters directed vehicles as traffic lights were out. Hospitals were functioning on backup power systems. Flights at Pearson airport were allowed to land, but only some international flights were allowed to take off, on a case-by-case basis.
Windsor dispatched police officers to all major intersections during the rush hour traffic.
Much of New York state was without power, including New York City. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it was likely the blackout started in the Niagara Falls area and quickly spread. Across Manhattan, people poured out of skyscrapers and started trudging home on foot. Traffic lights were out, and subways and buses stopped. New York's three major airports were without power.
Much of northern New Jersey was affected. Train service was cancelled and the state emergency management office was activated. There were no reported power problems in the eight southern New Jersey counties covered by Conectiv, the company said.
Power was out across a wide stretch of northern Ohio, from Toledo to Cleveland. Other cities reporting power outages included Akron, Elyria, Mansfield, Sandusky and Tiffin. FirstEnergy spokesman Matt Slagle said the company was getting reports of outages from customers throughout its coverage area in northeast Ohio. The company has 700,000 customers.
Power was out from Detroit to the state capital in Lansing. Detroit Metropolitan Airport remained open with some delays. The outage closed the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel between the United States and Canada.
Power flickered across Connecticut and some areas of the state lost electric service completely. Northeast Utilities said nearly 58,000 customers were without power. Fairfield County and Connecticut shoreline towns appeared to be the hardest hit.
The northwestern corner of the state was without power. Power went out to much or all of Erie, Forest and Venango counties, according to emergency management officials.
A handful of northern Vermont towns were hit. A portion of the Northeast Kingdom near Sheldon lost power for about an hour, according to the Central Vermont Public Service, which covers about three-fourths of the state. Some customers in Franklin County, including in Highgate and Swanton, also lost power briefly.
Talk about a wake up call! It's amazing when your in a city of 3 million people and all the street lights go out, traffic lights go out, subways and streetcars stop service, gas pumps are down, ATM's are down. Some people were stuck in the subway tunnels, others were stuck in elevators in the downtown core.
In Toronto this morning, they are requesting that only emergency service staff go to work this morning. I think 50% of Ontarians have their power restored as of right now, by 9am the rest should be up and running.
It kind of felt like the pioneer days, in a 21st century sort of way!