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1999 Outage News
The North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) compiles reports on outages. Click to go to their web site for a list of outages sorted by year.
The following is a list of news summaries of major power outages and related stories as reported in the media for this time period. The most recent are listed first.
Stockpiling causes explosion
BENTON TOWNSHIP, Mich.-A man who was stockpiling food and fuel to prepare for possible year-2000 problems escaped serious injury after some of the propane gas he was storing in his basement exploded. The blast pushed out sections of the cement-block foundation, bowed walls and sprayed shards of glass over Mr. Anderson's lawn, but he suffered only singed hair and a burn on his cheek. The explosion was caused by gas leaking from one of several 120-pound propane tanks he planned to use for heat if utilities failed on Jan. 1.
The Washington Times, December 12, 1999
Risk and magnitude of grid failures increasing
"We may not be able much longer to keep the interstate electric grids operating reliably" without mandatory reliability rules, said David R. Nevius, a vice president with the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC). His testimony was in response to H.R. 2944, "Electricity Competition and Reliability Act" introduced on Sept. 24 by Rep. Joe Barton. "The longer it takes to establish this new system, the greater becomes the risk and magnitude of grid failures," Nevius said. Transmission system users and operators cooperated voluntarily under the old, regulated system. Now, however, they are competitors and don't have the same incentives to cooperate. "NERC is seeing a marked increase in the number and seriousness of violations of its reliability rules, yet there is no recourse under the current voluntary model to correct the behavior."
Electric Light & Power, November 1999
Earthquake hits California Desert near LA
JOSHUA TREE, California -- A 7.0 magitude earthquake in the Mojave Desert shook millions awake early Saturday morning in three states. The quake derailed a passenger train, knocked mobile homes off foundations and caused a power outage affecting up to 90,000 utility customers.
The Washington Times, October 17, 1999
Hurricane Irene brings more rain and outages to east
WILMINGTON, NC -- Hurricane Irene left Florida and moved up the east coast toward flood-wearied North Carolina. In its wake it knocked out power to more than 1.5 million customers according to Florida Power & Light. About half of these customers had electricity restored the next day.
The Washington Times, October 17, 1999
Floyd Fails Power Systems in Eastern US
Hurricane Floyd caused wide spread power outages as it churned northward along the east coast of the US. In Virginia nearly 300,000 people were without power and Governor Gilmore said it could be up to five days before all service is restored. In Maryland more than 100,000 customers experienced outages. At least 10,000 customers in New Jersey were affected. To the south, the totals were higher: North Carolina - 845,000 customers affected, South Carolina - 330,000 customers affected. Many areas received a foot of rain. And because the heavy rain hit at the same time power was lost, people with non-working sump pumps found they had flooded basements.
Various media and utility reports, September 17-18, 1999
Chicago Financial District Counts Losses Due to Power Outage
Many of Chicago's businesses were forced to close on August 12 due to a major power outage. Closures included the nation's largest futures market, the Chicago Board of Trade. With very little warning, workers had to use dark stairways to leave skyscrapers. The outage was caused by three of four transformers failing at a substation. An angry Mayor Richard M. Daley said that Commonwealth Edison has had major infrastructure problems for years and should be taken to "ground zero" and rebuilt with new management. "We're sick and tired of it. They better change, and if not, the consumers will change it," Daley said.
Various media and utility reports, August 13, 1999
Con Ed may get Sued by New York City
Officials of New York City are threatening legal action against Consolidated Edison accusing the utility of an unacceptable response to the heat wave in early July. The increased demand led to a 19 hour blackout July 6-7 in northern Manhattan for 200,000 customers. The utility was also accused of cutting power to that area to spare the city's wealthier neighborhoods.
Various media and utility reports, July 8, 1999
Northeast heat wave causes power outages
Record breaking temperatures continued for the third day in the Northeast US causing power outages and deaths. The peak recorded at Washington's Reagan National Airport was 102F on Monday and 103F on Tuesday. Electric power demand was also at record levels due to air conditioning load. Utilities throughout the region instituted brownouts (temporary voltage reductions of about 5%) to save some power. But in many areas, rolling blackouts had to be implemented to avoid a total system collapse. In other cases, unplanned blackouts occurred. In New Jersey more than 50,000 GPU customers lost power. Similar numbers of customers on Long Island NY were affected. About 400,000 customers of Conectiv endured 20 minute rolling blackouts due to a generator failure. Other areas hit with rolling blackouts included New England and the Washington.
Various media and utility reports, July 6, 1999
Hurricane season expected to break record
Cyclical changes such as African rainfall and ocean temperatures could signal an upswing in storm activity not seen for 50 years as the Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1. William Gray, the Colorado State University professor noted for his accuracy in forecasting hurricane frequency, has never predicted a season with more than 11 named storms -- until this year. For the six-month hurricane season, Mr. Gray predicts 14 storms strong enough to be named -- nine hurricanes, four of them major.
The Washington Times, May 24, 1999
New Year's Plans Fizzle for Technology Workers
Thanks to the year-2000 computer bug, thousands of employees at companies across the nation will have to work instead. Fearing the unexpected problems that might occur when midnight strikes, companies like Virginia Power and Potomac Electric Power Co. are enacting no-vacation policies that could last from a couple days to as long as several months. In addition to utility workers, computer technicians and bank employees are also affected.
The Washington Times, April 6, 1999
Tornadoes hit South a second time
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Tornadoes ripped through the South for a second time in a week yesterday. Officials say more than 100,000 homes were without power in Tennessee and Arknasas.
The Washington Times, January 23, 1999
Ice Storm Hits Maryland
Nearly half a million Washington-area electric customers lost power after an ice storm began on January 14th. Montgomery County was particularly hard hit with about half of all customers affected. Power was expected to be restored to the last few thousand customers five days after the storm. Pepco called the storm the worst disaster, at least locally, in the company's 102-year history.
The Washington Times, January 16 & 20, 1999