NYC Blackout: Deja Vu

What an anniversary: 70,000+ lose power in Manhattan; largest outage since ’77

On July 13 and 14, New York City experienced its biggest blackout since the famous outage of 1977, and (coincidentally) around 77,000 people on Manhattan’s Upper West Side losing power. The blackout reinforced a growing concern about power grid stability. Fortunately, New Yorkers know how to make the best of these situations:

Con Edison, the city’s utility, came under scrutiny for failing to immediately identify the trigger, but said by July 15 that it was caused by a faulty, 13,000 volt cable. It later rectified this explanation to state that “failed relay systems”, not transmission equipment, were the official cause. Con Edison ultimately said the system that was supposed to detect and isolate the problem that caused Saturday night’s massive blackout didn’t work. This boils down to an unreliable security response system, which might ring a bell—the same cause was given for last month’s massive blackout that started in Argentina.

A trend is developing with unstable power grids after South America saw over 50 million in four countries lose power last month. Dayton, Ohio, a city of about 140,000, lost some of its power during a series of tornadoes in May-June, as well. Ukraine in 2015 was probably a Russian cyberattack, but still exposes the fragility of grids. The NYC blackout of ’77—permeated parts of all five boroughs. Saturday’s was confined to mostly Manhattan and parts of Staten Island and Queens, and was not as long, lasting around five hours. The craziest part of it all? The infamous ’77 blackout was also on July 13-14 of that year.

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