I was on vacation. Fresh off my roller coaster fun at Michigan’s Adventure and working in my yard when the roofers next door ran out of power. I thought “they” blew a transformer until word started to spread that the whole region was out. My son was hanging out with a friend miles away and I was unable to contact him. After a few frantic hours and figuring out that “land lines” worked, we met up at my parents house and hunkered down until lights started to come back on. All the while, I was in tremendous pain, thinking I was just experiencing stomach issues from the roller coasters… turns out it was appendicitis and I had to have emergency surgery the very next day. Ahh, memories… what about you?
Michigan’s two largest utilities spend millions of dollars each year maintaining their electric grids in an effort to curb outages and avoid another blackout like the one that swept the state’s east side and much of the northeast U.S. 10 years ago.
On Aug. 14, 2003, a massive outage cut power to 50 million people in eight states and part of Canada. The Northeast Blackout, as it’s known, was sparked by a tree touching high-voltage power line in Ohio. Most areas had power restored by that evening, but some areas were out until Aug. 15th or 16th.
The incident led to new rules for tree trimming near power lines, technology upgrades for responding to outages and fines for utility companies that risk the grid’s dependability. And while the grid has improved in the last decade, it remains vulnerable to increasingly extreme weather, cybersecurity threats, and stress caused by shifts in where and how power is produced, AP reports.
For the 10th anniversary of the blackout, the federal government released a report on the impact of severe weather-related power outages and called for more investment in modernizing the electric grid. Weather-related outages cost the U.S. economy an inflation-adjusted annual average of $18 billion to $33 billion from 2003 to 2012, the report found.
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