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Massive Power Outages are Caused by Severe Storms and Human Error – Boston, Hartford

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, March 13, 2014

March has so far been a cold and snowy month. Right now the Northeast is under a high wind advisory, which has already caused power outages in some areas.

Major power disturbances can be triggered by storms, heat waves, solar flares, and many other sources, but all have roots in the mechanical and human vulnerabilities of the power grids themselves. "Power delivery systems have a lot of parts, wires, transformers, and other components all nicely tied together—which means there are a lot of things that can go wrong," explained Clark Gellings of the nonprofit Electric Power Research Institute. "Pieces break down and people make errors. A system is designed to tolerate a certain amount of disruption but past a certain point, it's simply gone too far and it falls apart."

The "great Northeast blackout," which began when a power surge near Ontario set off a chain of power failures across New York State and beyond, covered 80,000 square miles. "Within four minutes the line of darkness had plunged across Massachusetts all the way to Boston," reported NYT on the day of the outage. "It was like a pattern of falling dominoes—darkness sped southward through Connecticut, northward into Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Canada."

Utility companies across New England seek the help of ElecComm for maintenance and repair of power lines after storm damage. For more information, contact ElecComm.

news.nationalgeographic.com


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