NY blackout forces look at power systems, July 13, 1977

-July 13, 2017


In 1977, EDN was in its 21st year. What else was happening in 1977?:


Read all of our coverage of EDN's 60th anniversary here.

On July 13, 1977, New York City experienced an electricity blackout that would roll into the next day. The events would force a deep look into power systems and distribution.

The city at the time was experiencing a heat wave, which, through energy-hogging air conditioners and other cooling elements, already had its power systems taxed.

Starting at 8:37pm eastern time, lightning strikes around New York took out substations, causing major transmission lines to become loaded over their normal limits. Within the next 60 minutes, various additional substations were struck by lightning, with overloading making an already difficult situation more difficult.

Recovery attempts by power company Con Edison included calling for operators to "shed load." In doing so, Con Ed operators initiated a 5% system-wide voltage reduction followed by an 8% reduction.  As the situation grew darker, Con Edison began to shed load by dropping customers.
Relief was also sought by assistance from other local power authorities, including the Long Island Lighting Company. For various reasons, including miscommunication, these attempts also failed.

New York’s generators eventually gave in and the city found itself in darkness at 9:36pm. Making matters worse, public emotions were already impacted by New York’s financial crisis and scorching heat wave.

As a result of the 1977 blackout, the operating entities and power systems in New York were fully investigated. While significant changes were implemented to avoid a repeat blackout, New York, along with much of the Northeast and Mideast, once again found itself in the dark in August 2003. The 2003 blackout was caused by a power system failure in Ohio.

New Yorkers, where were you during the blackout of 1977? Share your story below.


For more moments in tech history, see this blog
EDN strives to be historically accurate with these postings. Should you see an error, please notify us.

Editor's note: This article was originally posted on July 13, 2012 and edited on July 13, 2017.

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