Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Kelly Hannan's view on Natural Disasters

Environmental Studies PHS 100A

Warner Pacific College

September 19, 2011
Great Northeast Power Blackout of 2003 and My Experience:

On August 14, 2003, parts of the Northeastern United States and Southeastern Canada experienced widespread power blackouts. The US states of New York, New Jersey, Vermont, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts were affected.

Among the major areas touched by the electrical power outage in the United States were the cities of New York City, Albany, Buffalo in New York, Cleveland and Columbus in Ohio, and Detroit. Ottawa and Toronto in Canada were also affected.

Power was suddenly lost around 4pm Eastern Standard Time. New York State and Ohio, and air traffic was slowed as flights into affected airports were halted. Lightning seemed to be the likely suspect and terrorism was quickly ruled out as a cause for the incident by federal authorities. Approximately 50 million people were affected by the outage.

The cause of the outage was still being debated the following day, as efforts were still underway to restore power to affected areas. Industry and government experts were appearing to place the blame on an outdated interconnecting grid system.

The Detroit Area

About 2.3 million households and businesses were affected, including almost all of Metro Detroit, as well as Lansing, Ann Arbor, and surrounding communities in southeast Michigan. The blackout affected three Michigan utilities; Detroit Edison (whose entire system went down), Lansing Board of Water and Light, and a small portion of Consumers Energy's system in the southeastern corner of the state. Word quickly spread to the surrounding areas without power and many flocked to surrounding areas that still had power, resulting in crowded stores, packed restaurants, booked hotels, and long queues for the gas stations in these towns. Locales closest to the affected areas in the northern Detroit suburbs that did not lose power included the areas of Oxford and Holly, communities along M-24 and M-15, and into the Lapeer and Flint/Tri-Cities area. The city limits of Brighton and Howell were unaffected as well. Television and radio stations were temporarily knocked off the air and water supplies were disrupted in Detroit due to the failure of electric pumps. Because of the loss of water pressure all water was required to be boiled before use until August 18. Several schools which had planned to begin the school year 18 August were closed until clean water was available. A Marathon Oil refinery in Melvindale, near Detroit, suffered a small explosion from gas buildup, necessitating an evacuation within one mile (1.6 km) around the plant and the closure of Interstate 75. Officials feared the release of toxic gases. Heavy rains on Friday coupled with the lack of sewage pumps closed other expressways and prompted urban flood warnings. Untreated sewage flowed into local rivers in Lansing and Metropolitan Detroit as contingency solutions at some sewage treatment plants failed. In the midst of a summer heat wave, Michiganders were deprived of air conditioning. Several people, mostly elderly individuals, had to be treated for symptoms of heat stroke. In the Detroit area, local television stations' news helicopters were told by each station's management to "stay above the cars' headlights" at night, and to not venture into Downtown Detroit (due to the hazard of flying into an unlit skyscraper). During the days immediately after the blackout, many stations were back on the air, but with limited resources (in one case, WXYZ-TV's news anchor was wearing a T-shirt and shorts, as opposed to his normal news suit, and apologized to viewers for the "rather warm conditions" in the station, as they only had one air conditioner and a couple fans working).

How this affected me:

It was approximately 8:30 in the morning on August 15, 2003, when I received a call from my father (who just recently passed). He called to tell me that my brother had died in a fire. At that time I started to cry and told my father to stop playing this sick joke on me. My father then began to cry and I knew that in fact this was no joke. My whole entire life; I never had see nor heard my father cry. Not once. This is how I knew it was true my little brother was dead.
He had gone out with some friends the night of the blackout. Apparently he had a little too much to drink so rather than drive; he spent the night on a friend’s sofa. They had lit candles because most of the Detroit area was still with out power. They joked and talked until they passed out in the wee hours of the morning. The candles burned down and the table caught fire and spread rapidly. According to the rest of the story, the friend awoke in the middle of the night with her place engulfed in flames. She ran outside and made it out alive but my brother and her dog did not. My brother’s cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning. I am very thankful he did not suffer. Very thankful.
Amazing how this chain of events affected my family. I almost lost my baby when I received the news but pulled myself together for my mother and sister. My sister has not been the same since the fire. She had to be on medication for 2 years after his death and has a very hard time now just getting though everyday life. They were very close. Naturally my mother is still devastated and cries frequently over the loss of her youngest child.
My son never got to meet his uncle. But he is alive in my son every time he smiles.

Note: Also see fatalities under wiki link above under “Belleville man”

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