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US/Canada Power Outage Task Force Event Timeline 303

Posted by michael
from the alone-in-the-dark dept.
bofus writes "The U.S./Canada Power Outage Task Force issued the Aug. 14, 2003 Sequence of Events at noon today. While no conclusions are drawn at this point, it does paint a pretty good picture of what happened and when it happened."
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US/Canada Power Outage Task Force Event Timeline

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  • by glassesmonkey (684291) * on Friday September 12, 2003 @04:58PM (#6947373) Homepage Journal
    12:05:44 - 1:31:34 PM - Four Generator trips

    2:02:00 - 2:02:00 PM - Transmission line disconnects in southwestern Ohio

    3:05:41 - 3:41:33 PM - Transmission lines disconnect between eastern Ohio and northern Ohio

    3:45:33 - 4:08:58 PM - Remaining transmission lines disconnect from eastern into northern Ohio

    4:08:58 - 4:10:27 PM - Transmission lines into northwestern Ohio disconnect, and generation trips in central Michigan

    4:10:00 - 4:10:38 PM - Transmission lines disconnect across Michigan and northern Ohio, generation trips off line in northern Michigan and northern Ohio, and northern Ohio separates from Pennsylvania

    4:10:40 - 4:10:44 PM - Four transmission lines disconnect between Pennsylvania and New York

    4:10:41 - 4:10:41 PM - Transmission line disconnects and generation trips in northern Ohio

    4:10:42 - 4:10:45 PM - Transmission paths disconnect in northern Ontario and New Jersey, isolating the northeast portion of the Eastern Interconnection

    4:10:46 - 4:10:55 PM - New York splits east-to-west. New England (except Southwestern Connecticut) and the Maritimes separate from New York and remain intact.

    4:10:50 - 4:11:57 PM - Ontario separates from New York west of Niagara Falls and west of St. Lawrence. Southwestern Connecticut separates from New York and blacks out.

  • by Brahmastra (685988) on Friday September 12, 2003 @05:00PM (#6947395)
    A taskforce to survive power outages.... Lets show the world that we are stronger than ice-cream.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 12, 2003 @05:00PM (#6947396)
    n/t
  • The blame game (Score:5, Interesting)

    by trolman (648780) * on Friday September 12, 2003 @05:00PM (#6947409) Journal
    The really bizarre part that has not been explained is that the frequency [meinberg.de] deviated. I saw frequency deviation alarms on my equipment (ups and pdus) on the data center floor in NY, NJ, and CT and this is the first time in my 20 years that this has happened. A glaring ommission is is that PJM [pjm.com] stayed up as an entity. Kudos to PJM.

    The blame will be put onderegulation and lack of government oversight.

    • Re:The blame game (Score:2, Interesting)

      by twofidyKidd (615722)
      Well, what exactly causes frequency deviation? I'm not terribly familiar with it, and I can only imagine that there are a few things associated with it?
      • Re:The blame game (Score:5, Informative)

        by morcheeba (260908) on Friday September 12, 2003 @05:26PM (#6947699) Journal
        If they're using AC generators (which I suspect provides most of the power - they're used in coal, nuclear, and hydro plants, but not solar, and not newer high-voltage DC transmission lines), then the frequency output is related to the spin of the shaft. Two things control the speed of the shaft - power in (water pressure) and power out (load demand from the grid), and a control system tries to keep the frequency a constant 60 Hz.

        The trick is that the control system can only react so fast - suddenly disconnect an entire town, and the load drops, causing the power in to spin the generator too fast. If the control system overcorrects, then you'll get too low of a frequency. If a far-away generator drops out and you've got to supply more current to your local region, then the demand has gone up, slowing the frequency.

        If you've been around generators, you can hear this exact phenonemoa - if the load changes suddenly, the motor will hunker down a little and then catch back up to normal speed. Usually a flywheel can damp out extremely short transients, but it would be prohibitively big if it were sized to handle transients as large as the control system (throttle) will allow.
      • Re:The blame game (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        The frequency changed as generators tried to cope with overloads. In general, the only way to increase a generator's power output is to make it rotate faster- i.e. increase the frequency. Normally this happens on a very slow scale (generally variations of +/- 200ppm excursions over the course of day, with an average of 10pmm or so during the same period to keep clocks accurate). Obviously this is somewhat coordinated among different generation plants, since they need to be more or less in sync.

        Anyway, s
      • by 4of12 (97621) on Friday September 12, 2003 @05:29PM (#6947727) Homepage Journal

        what exactly causes frequency deviation? I'm not terribly familiar with it

        Glad you asked.

        It's a highly technical term that refers to the frequency of the AC sine wave of electric power that is delivered over your lines.

        This frequency is related to the 60 Hz rate of revolution maintained by most generators.

        Occassionally, something will happen to upset this steady rate of revolution of the generators.

        In particular, Homer, a donut that falls into the space between the stator and armature will cause this problem.

        Lubrication from jelly-filling in the donut can help stave off the inevitable disaster of frequency deviation, but it is simply an old-wive's tale to believe that pouring coffee into the space will ungunk the works in time.

      • My guess is that the dropping of load in such a short timeframe allowed the generators to spin up faster than the regulating systems reduced power to the generator. This would drive the frequency on the line up. Then, very quickly, the generator safeguards realize that the load of power they are generating no longer has anywhere to go and does and emergency shutdown to keep from entirely destroying the generator.
      • Re:The blame game (Score:2, Interesting)

        by PD (9577) *
        You can try this for yourself. Get a little bitty electric motor. DC will work fine. An electric is basically the same as a generator, and if you turn the motor, it will generate an electric current.

        Spin the thing by hand and see how easy it is to turn. Pretty easy. Now, short out the connections to the motor and you will find that it's considerably harder to turn it. There's some resistance to the turning there.

        When you shorted out the leads on the motor (which is operating as a generator), you've increa
    • That was most likely a sign of power grid problems. Fluctuations in frequency are caused when generators get out of sync with each other and the grid. That's pretty much what caused those lines to trip and the generators to disconnect. When you have en masse transmission line tripping, you will see power spikes and frequency fluctuation.

      The important thing in the investigation is the root cause of it and the reason why one problem caused a domino effect.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Finally someone gets to the heart of the matter. As someone who works in the power industry, and knows about UFR's, I can say that they do clear the lines quite quickly in an event. :)

      "A place I worked" went dark a few years ago in a similar event. A large generator's main breaker tripped, system went unstable and underfrequency, and UFR's (which are set in multiple stages) cleared the lines. Took 8 hours to recover the 2000 MW that were lost (light load).

      It's all part of standard protection equipment doi

    • Re:The blame game (Score:5, Informative)

      by Orne (144925) on Friday September 12, 2003 @05:43PM (#6947867) Homepage
      It's not that bizarre if you think about it... the bulk power frequency is actually one big juggling act between all of the generators that are synchronized on the system...

      The Eastern Interconnection (everything in North America east of the Rockies and north of Texas) is tied together at many stations, such that there are many parallel paths to deliver energy to a customer load, providing an excellent level of stability. Simply put, the frequency is the prime measure of the balance between energy production and consumption. Energy generation is not a smooth process, it spikes as fuel is delivered and burned. If enough generators are synchronized with one another, they can automatically cover for each other's dips, and thus the frequency stays balanced.

      Now, when the system split, imagine you had all of the generation on the west side, and all the load on the east side. For those of us in PA, we saw a huge loss of load, and the frequency shoots up. For those on the wrong side of the blackout, you suddenly lost your generation source, and your frequency drops.

      Transmission equipment is easily damaged at low frequencies, so many are equipped with underfrequency relays that open breakers to protect themselves. What happened is that lines tripped and load sheds, forming smaller and smaller zones, until there were only small pockets of load and generators remaining (see the notes on western NY). Without the rest of the interconnection to syncronize with, your local generator was trying to maintain the frequency by itself as best it could, and was probably all over the map due to uneven fuel burn. Then, a few minutes later, you might have auto-reclosing of breakers (try-backs). If a line trips, some are programmed to auto-reclose, which, in an event like this, can suddenly add thousands of MW of load to an already stressed system, pulling the frequency down even more until everything is black.
    • by Spamalamadingdong (323207) on Friday September 12, 2003 @06:07PM (#6948103) Homepage Journal
      Others have kind of poked at this, but they haven't really explained it for the neophyte. I've had some education in electrical power engineering, so I'll try to fill that gap.

      There are two things you need to keep in mind here. The first is that phase in AC systems performs much the same function as voltage in DC systems; just as power flows from higher voltage to lower voltage across a DC connection, power flows from leading phase to lagging phase along an AC connection. (This has to do with reactance; all power lines are inductive.) Counterintuitively, voltage helps move power but it mostly balances VARs (volt-amperes reactive); if you have a local low-voltage situation, you can connect a capacitor to add some VARs and the voltage will come up. This is part of why big inductive loads cause line voltage to dip.

      The second thing is that frequency variation is just a phase change over time. If the local frequency falls for a bit, it means that the local phase is moving behind the rest of the grid. This is what you would expect if some large load was added (or a generator lost) and more power had to come from elsewhere on the grid; the delta-phase across the interconnecting lines has to shift to allow more power to flow. What little energy buffering there is is mostly the rotational energy of generators and motors, so phase changes don't quite happen instantaneously.

      If you had a serious local power shortage leading to shutdown, under-frequency is exactly what you would expect. Generators trip off-line, and the phase of the local grid backs off to pull more power from outside. It would take a full second at 59 Hz to shift one cycle, so this can go on for a fair fraction of a second. If the phase change over a transmission line increases past 90 degrees it will have to trip off-line, and once the local grid is an island you can have just about any frequency that the system will try to operate at. It's my understanding that most generators trip off-line at more than a fractional Hz off 60, if for no other reason than that they aren't designed or certified to operate on a grid that's obviously malfunctioning and such a condition means trouble. Mechanical resonances at off-operating rotational speeds are another reason to shut down.

      Last, I suspect your conclusion is correct.

      • Hello

        Just to correct you:
        1. Not all power lines are inductive. Underground cables (like NY underground high voltage power network) are mainly capacitive.
        2. Frequency variation has nothing to do with phase shifts. As it says, it has to do with the fact that, in a transient state of the network after a load change, the generators have to balance the new load (electrical torque the generator "sees") with a change on its mechanical torque (acting on the prime mover). This doesn't happen in all generators, only th
  • Future Prevention (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LamerX (164968) on Friday September 12, 2003 @05:03PM (#6947432) Journal
    Hopefully this is something that they can actually use to learn from. Seems to me that they should put safeguards in between each one of these events. Because if just ONE of these events could have been stopped, it would have stopped the whole east coast from losing power.
    • here is the solution:

      Build more power plants!!!!

      • The trick is to build the power plants in the same area that the load is located in. This reduces the amount of power that must be imported or exported from any given area. Unfortunately, some people and politicians prefer to have the generating capacity, and its associated pollution, somewhere else (see NIMBY).
        • The trick is to build the power plants in the same area that the load is located in. This reduces the amount of power that must be imported or exported from any given area.

          No, the trick is to USE the power plants in the same area that the load is located in. First Energy has at least 2 nuclear power plants in Northern Ohio and one of them was shut down. Energy companies are finding it cheaper to buy electricity on the open market instead of generating their own. Yes kids, de-regulation was a horrible

          • You are right about deregulation sucking, but the reason the David Besse plant is shut down is that it is bar none the worst run plant in the country. They had a FOOTBALL size hole in the reactor containment unit. Furthermore First Energy is losing a LOT of money having that plant down, check their most recent SEC report. The problem is that most of us within the 50 mile death zone do NOT want to see it restarted unless there is a wholesale change of management and lots of government oversight. Ralph Nadar
          • Re:Future Prevention (Score:3, Informative)

            by dirc (254647)
            Energy companies are finding it cheaper to buy electricity on the open market instead of generating their own.

            If a supplier finds it cheaper to buy from someone else rather than produce his own, it indicates either: (a) the supplier is a less efficient producer. Someone else is able to do it more cheaply., or (b) the cost of building new capacity is so high that the cash flow from the new capacity does not justify the cost to build it.

            If the problem is (a), then as a consumer, you want the supplier to

    • yeah, but that would have meant, that the power providers had to provide money too. All of this could have been prevented with a bit more modern equipment. And modern equipment is expensive. In a deregulated market the power companies don't have the money to buy it. (well, usually) And to refer to a point made a bit further up: yes, this stuff matters, because there are people who care about what the masters of the power are doing. Because i like my screen to have another color than a forced black. Thus I l
      • It would have been a cinch to handle such problems if we had good DSM (demand-side management). If you could dump load incrementally as required to maintain margins, the massive outages (theoretically) wouldn't be possible (DOS attacks against the communications for the DSM notwithstanding). However, DSM is still "out there" despite at least a decade of talking about it. If you couldn't buy an air conditioner, electric water heater or other big load without DSM hardware, we'd be far less vulnerable than we
  • by fuckfuck101 (699067) on Friday September 12, 2003 @05:07PM (#6947485)

    12.04 - power on
    14.11 - power off
  • MSBlaster.exe (Score:5, Interesting)

    by devphaeton (695736) on Friday September 12, 2003 @05:11PM (#6947535)
    Has anyone followed up or concluded anything regarding the possibility of the power grid's SCADA systems (which habitually run a stripped down Win2K) getting nailed by the Blaster worm? The timing is right, and there are a number of indications thereof:
    See:

    this [pbs.org]or
    this [automationtechies.com]or
    this. [heise.de]
    • Re:MSBlaster.exe (Score:5, Insightful)

      by insecuritiez (606865) on Friday September 12, 2003 @05:26PM (#6947702)
      A lot of people suspect that. I personally think it's the best explanation. However, even if Blaster caused the outage and every "expert" at the plant knew it, it would NEVER be published that way. That would open up a whole new can of worms in the public eye. A security and publicity nightmare. No, if Blaster caused anything that issue will be quietly swept under the rug. Maybe Microsoft will suddenly not get a contract with the power generators anymore, but that's as far as we'll ever hear of it.
      • Re:MSBlaster.exe (Score:3, Interesting)

        by MagikSlinger (259969)
        Maybe Microsoft will suddenly not get a contract with the power generators anymore, but that's as far as we'll ever hear of it.

        Obligatory response: Woo-hoo! Linux all the way baby!

        BTW, the EULA specifically prohibits NT and up from being used in "critical" situations where life and environmental damage are on the line. So it would be the utilities' fault, not Microsoft's.

      • East coast switches to linux powered servers

        All east coast power generating stations, from nuclear reactors to hydroelectric dams, have suddenly decided to switch to Linux. When asked for the reason behind this decision, the response was:
        "Well, erm, it was because of bl*cough* erm, I mean just a financial decision from the boys upstairs, I don't know anything about it"
      • I can't believe this would happen. Unless the number of people were tiny and were convinced that it was in the public interest to cover it up.

        Usually the "experts" are responsible professionals, perhaps engineers. They know they have a responsibility to the public good and let them know that systems out there (even if now their own systems are fixed) are vulnerable to this "flaw". It would be worth it to protect the X millions of dollars to the economy.

        How hard would it be to say "Yes we got hit just l
    • Re:MSBlaster.exe (Score:2, Interesting)

      by 00420 (706558)
      The best part is they decided it wasn't the Blaster worm before they even started the investigation.
    • Re:MSBlaster.exe (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gregmac (629064) on Friday September 12, 2003 @05:37PM (#6947803) Homepage
      Has anyone followed up or concluded anything regarding the possibility of the power grid's SCADA systems (which habitually run a stripped down Win2K)

      I've still never understood this. I think most systems are actually based on NT, but maybe they are migrating to 2k now. Either way, the fact that these automation systems are based on a system like windows is very strange to me. OPC (the protocol used to communicate between sensors and databases) is based on DDE (or OLE), which seems so incredibly strange to me.

      I've been developing a linux-based SCADA system. I took a look at quite a few systems, and I just didn't feel comfortable running any of them for a number of reasons. Stability and security being two major issues. Another was cost - these are being deployed in small installations, mostly for remote monitoring, which wouldn't typically have a SCADA system due to the cost. Between a mixture of existing open source software, some nice hardware, and in-house development (mostly me), the system has cost us about $20k to develop, which is less than it would cost to licence most software per site.

      Anyways, that was a bit OT, but the point is, very early on we decided that deploying on windows would be a pain. These are all remote installations, with no one on site that can service them. If something goes down, I want to be able to remotely fix it as much as possible. I just don't feel comfortable deploying a remote windows system and relying on it to stay running, not to mention the fact that people's health could be affected (water treatment). To me, windows is not the proper platform to be using for this situation.

    • Re:MSBlaster.exe (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Nucleon500 (628631)
      Well, there isn't much evidence, but would there be? That's the type of thing that gets covered up. (Notice how the media is careful to call msblaster.exe blaster, stripping the ms?) Yeah, my guess is someone brought an infected laptop onto the SCADA net. What would happen?

      The systems are designed to run without monitoring. However, without human intervention, the systems aren't very good at staying up in exceptional circumstances. My guess is a computer failure made the grid much more vulnerable, to

      • Something else to add: a while ago in Ohio, a nucler power plant had its control systems down for a while as a result of msblaster.exe.

        The article you cites says it was a safety monitoring system (the backup digital one, not the old analog one running in parallel) that went down. This had nothing to do with control systems.

        While it is worrisome that any system at a nuke plant could be disabled by worm traffic (appalling breach of good network operating practices), the criticality of a backup radiation m

    • I had a story rejected about this last week.

      It's in my journal [slashdot.org].

      The important bits are:
      Win2K/XP
      Commercial Internet used on these systems
      - and now: -

      I didn't write it at the time, but a major power generator in Akron, Ohio got bit in the ass by SQL.Slammer earlier this year. Now that we know this came out of Ohio, it's more significant. Follow the link from my story for more.
    • If MSBlaster got into the SCADA network, then more than just First Energy would have been hit by high network traffic... yet only First Energy reports network issues. Besides, "habitually" you use a Unix mainframe to communicate on the SCADA network, and and Win* machine to pull the data from the mainframe into a form you can view it.

      I find it entirely more plausable that they were having network issues on their local networks that communicated with their mainframe, not the mainframe communicating with SC
    • Are you suggesting that a piece of software could actually have caused a consequence in the physical world?? That's crazy talk! Madness I tell you.
  • Bloomberg (Score:5, Interesting)

    by oZZoZZ (627043) on Friday September 12, 2003 @05:14PM (#6947577)
    Mayor of NYC decided to publicly blame Canada for this before any facts surfaced.. while Lastman, the mayor of Toronto said something along the lines of "Do you expect the US to take blame for anything?", after *some* facts surfaced
    Neither responses were politically acceptable, however the media coverage of the blame game seemed to evaporate as soon as it was clear that it wasn't Canada's fault.
    I found that more than a little interesting.
    • Re:Bloomberg (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ergo98 (9391) on Friday September 12, 2003 @05:46PM (#6947906) Homepage Journal
      To be fair, before Bloomberg made his idiotic statement (which included the words "absolutely certain") various levels of the Canadian government had blamed it on a New York power station, and then a Pennsylvania nuclear power plant fire (information they got from the US Department of Defense, as a sidenote, but nonetheless it was irresponsible to repeat it verbatim so early on). I think a big difference though is that when I hear that it's a New York power plane or a nuclear station in Penn, most Canadians don't think "Those damn Americans!", or any "us versus them" nonsense. Instead it's a power plant going down, and why the hell is this grid so fragile? I suspect for Bloomberg and crew, though, it's nothing of the sort: Not only is it not "Ontario", it's "Canada" (which gives you an idea of the perception right there), but there's a definite slant of "Well that explains it right there!". This is par for the course for the various levels of government in New York state, though: Hillary Clinton has made countless nonsensical statements about how Canada is to blame for every fault in her little fantasy world.
  • by GSpot (134221) on Friday September 12, 2003 @05:18PM (#6947614) Homepage
    A couple of days after the blackout, I was staying up late and unfortunatley listed to some late night radio. Two different kooks were speculating on the cause of the blackout. One was positive that the Federal government was testing out some "advanced" weapon and the other freak was convinced that the culprit was the power companies looking for an edge to justify raising rates to build more infrastructure.

    just my .02$
  • by Not_Wiggins (686627) on Friday September 12, 2003 @05:20PM (#6947634) Journal
    "We're can't say for certain what happened and when, but we can say with almost 90% certainty that when the power went out, people went without power. We think it might be related to some electrical do-hickey thingy that someone was supposed to be watching carefully in case it broke, but we're not confident enough to make that bold a statement... nor to claim that anything actually 'broke'.

    "But what we *can* say is that we feel strongly that we feel something different should have happened. An appropriate amount of blame will be laid... oh yes... and we'll make the bad people pay."
  • "it does paint a pretty good picture of what happened and when it happened."

    4:10:50 - 4:11:57 PM
    Technician 1: "Hey I wonder what this big red button does?" {Click}

    Technician 2: "NOOOOOO!!!!"
  • Imagine if someone *really* wanted to cause problems. They could attack a number of our power generators (say 10-15), cause them to go down. Now you have this nice cascading effect where all of the power plants in the US go down. We're left in the dark. *SHUDDERS*
    • Re:Imagine if... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by NerveGas (168686) on Friday September 12, 2003 @05:36PM (#6947796)

      I'm all for it.

      I have a propane camping stove, plenty of propane, and plenty of canned food around. The servers I'm responsible for will stay running, the data center has its own generators, but our office will be dead.

      That means I'd get to sit at home and play Monopoly all day. If I get bored of that, there are about a hundred things I can do for fun that don't require a bit of electricity.

      Shoot, it would probably even be beneficial to people in my neighborhood. I'll bet that the park down the street from me would be teeming with people outside, enjoying wholesome activities and human interaction.

      Instead of neighbors walking around the block looking for code violations to report to the city, they'd probably be actually interacting with each other, maybe even solving their problems without running to a baby-sitting city government!

      I'm sure there would be consequences. Analysts would talk about how many hundreds of trillions of dollars were lost, but in the end, we'd all go back to work, take care of the stuff that didn't get done, and we'd have had a good time while it lasted.

      Now, if the power outtage also included me being somewhere like the island of Manhatten or on a subway when it hit, that might be a bit less enjoyable, but unbeknownst to New Yorkers and Californians, the rest of the country works a whole lot differently than they do.

      steve
    • They don't have to attack the generators (which is hard to do), just the transmission lines somewhere in the bush (a couple of shotguns aimed at the insulators will do fine).

      Done near peak load, everything goes bye-bye again :-(

    • It's happened same weekend (august/18) right after August/14 [lenta.ru]. In Georgia (not american state - the former Soviet republic in Caucasian mountains between Black and Caspian Seas) the separatists used the sniper rifle to hit few wires in the inter-regional grid lines. Boom. The whole country was without electricity for a couple of days.

      I guess those georgian (or perhaps chechen) snipers used August/14 as an idea for their attacks. Or did they wait until their American brothers will do the job first?

      So what

    • That was tried in the early 1980's on Vancouver Island by the Squamish Five [wikipedia.org]

  • BitTorrent link (Score:5, Informative)

    by mskfisher (22425) * on Friday September 12, 2003 @05:26PM (#6947700) Homepage Journal
    I've started up a BitTorrent mirror of the PDF here:
  • 12:05:44 - 1:31:34 PM - energy.gov publishes timeline

    2:02:00 - 4:50 PM - Business as usual. Interested parties are viewing the published timeline.

    04:58:00PM - Existence of timeline is revealed to slashdot.org

    05:00:03PM - energy.gov? what's that?

    I wonder if it's bad when we slashdot effect gov't sites...

    • In related news, attorney general John Ashcroft is expected to announce tonight that justice department has successfully identified and are in the process of bringing to justice yet another terrorist organization. Online community known as "slash/dot" has been widely recognized as an organization with differing views from current White House administration. Most recently members of this organization have been responsible for hacking and bringing down the U.S./Canada Power Outage Task Force website containin
  • by shoemakc (448730) on Friday September 12, 2003 @05:32PM (#6947760) Homepage

    Did anyone else notice a strobing effect in their fluorescent lighting in those 20-30 seconds before the full power outage? My understanding is that any sort of arc lamp (fluorescent, metal halide) will extinguish if the voltage sags beyond a certain point, so I doubt it could have been a voltage sag before the full blackout.

    It almost seemed as if the power frequency itself had gone unstable...say from a nominal 60Hz to like 5Hz. Then again, with the modern electronic ballasts used today, who knows how they respond to a voltage sag. Maybe they strobe. Any one have any thoughts on this?

    -Chris
    • I was at my home computer. Speakers started making odd noises, like it was suffering a power drop before coming back up (it makes a whoomph whenever I turn it on or off). This happened a couple times in the half-minute before the oddest thing (in my power outage experiences anyway) happened: first my computer shut off, but the monitor, speakers and DSL modem and router were still running (monitor wasn't receiving a signal anymore of course, but was nevertheless still "on" because the power light was still l
    • I live an North Eastern Ohio. I had two CRT monitors on and plugged into normal power. Both of my computers are on a UPS. I specifically remember my monitors dimming and then comming back a few times, all the awhile my UPS is going nuts, supplying extra battery power to keep the voltage up. My lights remained on, but dimmed. Then a few seconds later, maybe 10-15, the power totally went out.

      So of course I shut down my Windows machine as fast as I could, as this isn't a beastly UPS by any means, and t
      • Re: powering down linux boxes: If you're using a journaling filesystem, as long as it's not doing a sync, you won't hose the fs by pulling the plug. (Doing a sync is the last thing you want to do when the power is sagging - you won't write dependably to disk). Want to save your fs and your box - cut the power w/o doing a save.

        Always freaks Windows users when I say - look, you want proof linux is better? just reach over there and pull the plug out of the wall. They refuse to, and look at me like I'm crazy w

    • We had a flourescent tube that had been "burned out" for about 6 months suddenly come on about 2 minutes before we lost power here in Toronto.
  • Alternate Source (Score:5, Informative)

    by Hal The Computer (674045) on Friday September 12, 2003 @05:36PM (#6947794)

    http://www.nrcan-rncan.gc.ca/media/documents/Black out_Summary.pdf [nrcan-rncan.gc.ca]

    I think I will be fair and equitable and allow Slashdot to take out a Canadian website as well. Please be kind to Natural Resources Canada.
  • Ohms and amps (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 12, 2003 @05:47PM (#6947909)
    Most writeups of this event blather about "power flow" and "electricity sloshing". I wish someone would explain this in terms of resistance, impedance, and current.

    "Suddenly the impedance in Michagan dropped. With Ontario as a constant-current source, the current through Niagara increased ..."

    That'd make more sense, no?
    • Power (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Orne (144925) on Friday September 12, 2003 @06:35PM (#6948379) Homepage
      No. The Voltage component of Power is important when managing the health of the bulk power grid. For those that don't remember, Power is Volts Amps, and because current is directional, power is directional also. This is why people often use "power flow"...

      The impedence in line in a function of the amount of energy flowing through it; as current increases, capacitive losses increase, causing the voltages at the ends to drop. This is sometimes called surge impedence loading. Impedence across a power line is constantly changing, and it is easier to wrap both variables into Power.

      Next, the use of transformers makes amps by themselves meaningless. Power is near constant across a transformer, so High Amps Low Voltage can become Low Amps High Voltage. By talking about everything in the form of Power, then you can easily measure the transfer of energy between the various voltage levels of your system, which eases explaining the system.

      Finally, Power is an easily understood market concept. If I run a generator at a low voltage (13kV), and produce 10 Amps, I'm generating 130 kW. I pipe that through a large number of transformers & lines, and deliver it to a load running at 23kV, and maybe tomorrow I sell it to someone at 9kV. By keeping everyone running in Power notation, we can all agree that money is exchanged for work, and the proper energy is delivered and paid for.
  • Meanwhile, my local electric utility stands acused of pulling power off-line in an attempt to jigger the price of power. Pioneer Press Article [twincities.com]

  • The U.S./Canada Power Outage Task Force

    We ACUTALLY have a task force dedicated to this?
  • by kosibar (671097) <slashdot@@@teneblok...com> on Friday September 12, 2003 @06:14PM (#6948157)
    It took this long to get an official timeline? Hmm. Makes me think that maybe there's some of this [dilbert.com] going on.
  • by Jack Schitt (649756) on Friday September 12, 2003 @06:35PM (#6948369)
    i wonder what would happen if you called Time in New York right after the power came back on... "At the tone, Eastern standard time will be, 12:00 Exactly... BEEP "At the tone, Eastern standard time will be, 12:00 Exactly... BEEP "At the tone, Eastern standard time will be, 12:00 Exactly... BEEP" Click
  • by shoemakc (448730) on Friday September 12, 2003 @06:50PM (#6948504) Homepage


    "It's a highly technical term that refers to the frequency of the AC sine wave of electric power that is delivered over your lines."

    Wait a minute, could that be the problem? I hear in Canada they use cosine waves. ;-)

    -Chris

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Did you notice that the effect stopped at the Quebec border? They also have a seperate and distinct power grid (in addition to a seperate and distinct culture) as a remnant of the repairs after the 98(?) Ice storm. They were quite pleased that the effect could not propogate through the DC buffers at the NY and Ontario borders

"In matters of principle, stand like a rock; in matters of taste, swim with the current." -- Thomas Jefferson

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