• United States
Senior U.S. Correspondent

Power outages hit broad swath of U.S., Canada

Aug 14, 20033 mins
NetworkingTelecommunications Industry

Power failures hit broad regions of the eastern U.S. and Canada Thursday, including New York, Boston, Detroit, Cleveland, Ottawa and Toronto. Initial reports suggested that no injuries resulted and there were early signs that the Internet had survived the incident without disruption, although cellular networks were clogged in some areas.

The series of blackouts began at about 4 p.m. Eastern time and there was no immediate indication they were linked to a terrorist act.

“There is no evidence of terrorism whatsoever,” said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, at a televised press conference. “There was a power failure in Northern New York or Southern Canada that cascaded down through the system.”

“To the best of our knowledge no one has been injured during the evacuations from tall buildings or subways,” Bloomberg said. “There are people in the subways but the police say evacuation procedures are working.”

The massive blackout left the Internet largely untouched, except for certain news Web sites that were slowed by high volumes of traffic, according to Web performance management services company Keynote Systems.

“We see no problems in terms of performance of the Internet nationwide. We would not expect any as all the major Internet infrastructure providers have data centers with backup generators. They can go for days without commercial power,” said Lloyd Taylor, vice president of technology and operations at Keynote Systems.

The “flash crowd” effect that hit news Web sites such as and affected performance of those sites a bit, Taylor said. Availability of the CNN site dropped about 5% in the hour after the power outage, and USAToday saw about the same effect, he said.

“The American public is trained to go to the Web for breaking news. Most of the major news sites now know how to handle this kind of situation,” Taylor said, referring to past instances when news sites have been crippled because of sudden increases in traffic.

The long-distance voice and Internet backbone network of MCI continued to operate normally, Linda Laughlin, a spokeswoman for the company, said about two hours after the blackouts began. Some New York switching facilities of MCI, the long-distance and Internet backbone provider based in Reston, Va., are operating on generator power after automatically switching over when commercial power failed, she said.

Technicians from Nextel, which operates mobile phone networks in most of the affected metropolitan areas in the U.S., were monitoring the situation, said spokeswoman Elizabeth Renz, in Reston, Va.

“This is a real-time situation and it’s too early to determine any customer impact,” Renz said.

New York Governor George Pataki declared a state of emergency across the state. People were advised to walk home and avoid driving their cars.

(Additional reporting by the IDG News Service’s Martyn Williams and Joris Evers.)