The Great Blackout of 2003

So at around 16:10 Thursday afternoon, the power went off. With a couple of quick cell-phone calls we determined that the power outage was city-wide; never a good sign, because there are three relatively separate grids in Toronto. It was only once were in the car, listening to the radio, that we found out that it was most of Ontario _and_ the north-eastern USA.

People were very well behaved. Traffic was pretty bad, but most drivers were stopping at all intersections, and many civilians were in the intersections directing traffic. It took us 1.5 hours to get home, about twice as long as usual. Lots of people ran out of gas, though; no electricity to run the pumps :-). Fortunately, we filled up on Monday.

We had a very nice BBQ dinner, and sat and played Pirateer (by candlelight) and talked until about midnight. Somewhere in there we dragged the kids outside to look up. It was a beautiful clear night, and (just before moonrise) we could actually see the Milky Way, from inside a large city! That doesn’t happen often. We saw mars, of course, and about 10 satellites and several shooting stars before the mosquitos drove us back inside.

The power at our house was still off this morning when we got up. Officials have declared a state of emergency, meaning only essential personnel are supposed to be going to work. There’s no GO Transit and no subways running. Of course, the financial companies consider everyone essential all the time (and the markets _are_ open :-). There are four of us in the office today, working on critical customer issues; everyone else is home.

The kids’ camp was up and running this morning, but they’ve been informed that there is a scheduled blackout at 1300; apparently they’re rotating power across sections of the city until they can get the full grid up and running. They’re asking everyone to turn off air conditioners and other non-essential things, but I wonder how many people will actually do so.

It was interesting walking through the underground. Tim Horton’s was open, and most food places were getting ready to open late. The mom ‘n’ pop businesses (print shops, shoe repairs, newsstands, etc.) were all open, but the large chain stores were all closed. That’s the difference between being an owner and an employee, I guess.

Anyway, we survived :-). We’ll probably lose the food in our fridge, but other than that, it’s been an inconvenient adventure, not a crisis. We were lucky; some people spent the night in elevators, and it took hours to evacuate the subway system…

posted at 12:03 pm on Friday, August 15, 2003 in Current Events, Personal | Comments (3)


  1. Jeff K says:

    I have a generator, so I was able to save my fridge and freezer food, but I shudder to think of the losses and shortages at the grocery stores. Driving around though, I could hear the rumble of diesel generators here and there, I wonder who was using the biggees. I only found one other dwelling with a small generator like mine.

  2. Debbie says:

    Glad to hear you guys were ok through the blackout. We lost power again this afternoon, but it seems to be back…for now. (fingers crossed)


  3. Oshilekem says:

    During the time of the blackout me and my family spent the whole time playing cards and talking. It was really cool to be able to see the stars without any lights on.

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