Colin's Journal

Colin's Journal: A place for thoughts about politics, software, and daily life.

August 16th, 2003

41 hours later, the power returns

It took 41 hours for our power to return, from 4:08 when the kitchen clock stopped on Thursday afternoon, to 9:04 this Saturday morning. The house is starting to cool down, all be it very slowly, as the air conditioning kicks in, and we can use our fan to help keep things bearable in the meantime. The fridge is slowly cooling down, with the freezer compartment almost below zero.

Last night we did a barbecue, using all the meat from the freezer that had thawed out over the previous night and day, supplemented with some corn on the cob. We’ve been warned to expect rolling black outs, and some of our friends have already seen the power come and go, so we’re avoiding restocking the freezer for the moment.

Hopefully we’ll keep power from now on, with life returning to normal by Monday…

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August 16th, 2003

The day the lights went out (delayed post)

After an evening like this I would normally write up a journal entry, but due to the lack of power I’m instead preparing this entry offline on my laptop – for publication when the power eventually returns.

I decided that, with planes being the unreliable things that they are, I would fly down to NJ tonight (Thursday) ahead of meetings tomorrow morning. I dashed to the airport in a bit of a hurry, having spent most of the morning wrestling with patching my laptop with the latest and greatest service packs and patches.

Upon getting to the airport I joined the inevitable check-in line, which was progressing fairly smoothly. Then black smoke started to pour out of the side of the terminal building, clearly visible through the end window (the check-in desk was the last one in the hall). It was persistent and thick enough that I left my baggage and wandered across to the window where the source was visible. There was a large rusty pipe sticking out of the side of the building from which all the smoke was issuing.

For the fast thinking among those reading this, it will clear that what I was witnessing was the starting up of the emergency electricity generation system for the airport. It started with enough smoke however to prompt the lady manning the check-in desk to make a phone call, shortly followed by a brief visit by a couple of fire engines.

It was a good twenty minutes before we realised that the check-in wasn’t just slow, but actually stopped. I noticed a message board at another airline’s desk, which said, “US Immigration Computers are down”. We had to wait another 10 minuets before it was announced that not just was Toronto Airport not accepting any flights in and out due to power loss, but also New York had the same problem. I called home to find out that our apartment was also suffering from a lack of power, a rather suspicious coincidence. It was shortly after this that, enterprising and mobile equipped that most passengers are, we soon discovered that “north-east America and SE Ontario is without power”.

To cut an increasingly long story short, I eventually decided to set off back home, having to take the TTC bus because there didn’t appear to be any taxis or limos available in either departures or arrivals.

The journey home was hot, long, and crowded. At each major intersection there were police, and the odd person not in uniform who had decided to help out, directing traffic. As we got closer to downtown we started to get some information regarding this state of the subway (not running, but shuttle buses instead), and the streetcars (also not running, and no replacement services). As we passed college I saw a streetcar standing dead without power, abandoned by everyone except the driver.

During the trip I made and received many calls on my mobile, which tells you something about both the telephone and mobile networks of Toronto. It was through these calls that I learnt about just how wide spread the power outage is, and it’s fairly staggering. As soon as power is once again available I’m sure I’ll be able to see maps which demonstrate it and estimates of the number of people affected.

Upon finally getting home there was just enough light left in the day to get together our considerable collection of candles and light a few. We’ve come up to the deck, to avoid the heat now trapped in the apartment. Now that the sun has completely set we have by far the best view of the stars that we have ever, and probably will ever, see in Toronto.

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Copyright 2015 Colin Stewart

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