List of major power outages

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Skyline of Toronto during the 2003 North American blackout

This is a list of notable wide-scale power outages. To be included, the power outage must conform to all of the following criteria:

  1. The outage must not be planned by the service provider.
  2. The outage must affect at least 1,000 people and last at least one hour.
  3. There must be at least 1,000,000 person-hours of disruption.

In other words:

  • 1,000 people affected for 1,000 hours (42 days) minimum, but if fewer than 1,000 people, event would not be included (regardless of duration)
  • One million people affected for a minimum of one hour, but if duration is less than one hour, event would not be included (regardless of number of people)
  • For example, 10,000 people affected for 100 hours or 100,000 for 10 hours would be included

Largest[edit]

article millions of
people affected
location date references
July 2012 India blackout 670 India 31 July 2012 [1]
July 2012 India blackout 330 India 30 July 2012 [1]
January 2001 India blackout 230 India 02 January 2001
2005 Java–Bali blackout 100 Indonesia 18 Aug 2005 [2]
1999 Southern Brazil blackout 97 Brazil 11 March 1999 [3]
2009 Brazil and Paraguay blackout 87 Brazil, Paraguay 10–11 Nov 2009 [4]
Northeast blackout of 2003 55 the United States, Canada 14–15 Aug 2003 [5]
2003 Italy blackout 55 Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia 28 Sep 2003 [6]
Northeast blackout of 1965 30 the United States, Canada 9 Nov 1965 [7]

1960–1969[edit]

1965[edit]

On the evening of 9 November, the Northeast blackout of 1965 affected portions of seven northeastern states in the United States and the province of Ontario in Canada.

1970–1979[edit]

1971[edit]

On the evening of 2 February, power in parts of the New York City boroughs of Manhattan, The Bronx and Queens was lost following an explosion at Con Ed's Waterside power facility on 40th Street and 1st Avenue in Manhattan. New York City television and FM radio stations who transmit from the Empire State Building were knocked off-the-air, AM radio stations were not affected due to the fact that most of their transmitters are located in either Northern New Jersey or on High Island in the Bronx which was not affected by the blackout. Several lines of the New York City IND and IRT subway lines were affected when the power went out stranding passengers in the cars and in tunnels. At Grand Central Terminal power in the terminal itself was lost but power on the tracks was unaffected due to the fact that it runs on DC power. The New York Daily News was also affected when the blackout hit it caused their printing facility to halt operations.[8]

1976[edit]

On 4 July, a major power failure affected most of Utah and parts of Wyoming for 1.5 to 6 hours.[9]

1977[edit]

  • On 20 September, almost the entire province of Quebec, totalling 6M people, was affected. Power was restored to scattered rural areas within an hour and within 2 hours service was brought back to parts of Montreal and Quebec City; but it took several hours to fully restore power.[11]

1980–1989[edit]

1981[edit]

On 8 January, prisoners on a work assignment burning trash and debris at the Utah State Prison in Draper, Utah, accidentally caused a major power failure when something they were burning exploded, causing a fireball that shorted out transmission lines above them. 1.5 million people lost power, in almost all of Utah, as well as parts of southeastern Idaho and southwestern Wyoming.[12]

1982[edit]

On 22 December, a transmission tower near Tracy, California collapsed onto an adjacent tower bringing down two 500-kV lines and a pair of 230-kV lines that passed underneath the 500-kV right of way. Total loss of 12,530 MW affected approximately five million people on the west coast.[13][14]

1983[edit]

On 27 December, two-thirds of the Swedish network was shut down when a single component in a switching station failed, causing a short-circuit in a transformer. This affected about 4.5 million people in the more densely populated southern half of Sweden.[15][16]

1985[edit]

On 17 May, most of South Florida was blacked out after a brush fire in the Everglades damaged overhead transmission lines. Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and the Florida Keys lost power for about 3.5 hours. About 4.5 million people were effected.[17]

1987[edit]

On 16 October, the Great Storm of 1987 the High Voltage Cross-Channel Link between the UK and France was interrupted, and the storm caused a domino-effect of power outages throughout the Southeast of England.[18]

1989[edit]

1990–1999[edit]

1991[edit]

On 7 July, a powerful wind storm affected a large portion of central North America and knocked power to about one million customers from Iowa to Ontario.[23]

1995[edit]

Hurricane Opal approaching Pensacola, Florida in October 1995

On 4 October, Hurricane Opal, which killed at least 59 people, knocked out power to over two million customers across eastern and southern North America.[24]

1996[edit]

  • On 10 August, the Western Intertie buckled under the high summer heat of the 1996 Western North-America summer blackouts, causing a cascading power failure affecting nine western states of the United States and parts of Mexico. Four million people were affected.[25] Power was out in some locations for four days.

1998[edit]

  • The early-January North American Ice Storm of 1998 caused prolonged blackouts in northeastern North America, particularly in Quebec, where many transmission towers were destroyed by ice. Over 3.5 million customers in total lost power during the event.[27]
  • On 31 May, a powerful wind storm knocked out power to nearly two million customers across much of Central North America.[29]
  • On 8 December, affecting San Francisco, California, and its environs, over 350,000 customers(buildings) or 940,000 people were affected by an outage caused when the PG&E utility placed a San Mateo sub-station online at 08:17 PST, while the station was still grounded following maintenance. This drew so much power from the Peninsula transmission lines that 25 other sub-stations in San Francisco automatically and immediately shut down. Power was not fully restored until almost 16:00 the same day. Economic costs were estimated in tens of millions of dollars.[30]

1999[edit]

  • On 26–28 December 1999 Cyclone Lothar and Martin left 3.4 million customers in France without electricity, and forced EdF to acquire all the available portable power generators in Europe, with some even being brought in from Canada.[33] These storms brought a fourth of France's high-tension transmission lines down and 300 high-voltage transmission pylons were toppled. It was described as one of the greatest energy disruptions ever experienced by a modern developed country.[34]

2000–2009[edit]

2000[edit]

  • On 9 May, a major power outage left the entire southern half of Portugal, including Lisbon, without power for a few hours. The blackout occurred shortly after 22:00 local time. The apagão, as it is known locally, suddenly plunged Lisbon in complete darkness. Stalled commuter trains and nonworking traffic lights wreaked some havoc in the streets. Security was immediately reinforced in the city, but no rise in criminal activity was registered. Energias de Portugal, the main Portuguese electricity operator, later reported that the blackout was due to the electrocution of an unfortunate stork, which landed "on the wrong place at the wrong time". Because of this, the story was reported in the "oddly enough" sections of some European newspapers.[35]

2001[edit]

  • On 2 January, a fault in the transmission system in the state of Uttar Pradesh led to cascading failure throughout northern India.[37]
  • On 20 May, a problem on power substation caused the blackout of 2001 in Iran.[38] Outages were reported in Tehran and at least six provincial capitals that are among Iran's biggest cities – Isfahan, Shiraz, Tabriz, Kermanshah, Qazvin, and Hamedan.[39] This means it is among the largest blackouts, affecting more than 30 million.

2002[edit]

2003[edit]

  • On 14 August, the Northeast blackout of 2003, a wide-area power failure in the northeastern USA and central Canada, affected over 55 million people.
  • On 23 September, a power failure affected five million people in east Denmark and southern Sweden.[43][44]
  • On 27 to 28 September, the 2003 Italy blackout resulted from a power failure that affected all of Italy except Sardinia, cutting service to more than 56 million people.

2004[edit]

  • On 12 July, two power plants in Lavrio and Megalopolis, Greece, shut down due to malfunction within 12 hours of each other, during a period of high demand due to a heat wave. That led to a cascading failure causing the collapse of the entire Southern (Power) System, affecting several million people in southern Greece.[45]

2005[edit]

  • In January, a cyber attack knocked out power in three cities north of Rio de Janeiro, affecting tens of thousands of people.[47]
  • On 25 May, the 2005 Moscow power blackouts affected more than two million people in central Russia. The blackout was due to a cascading failure of the power grid started by a transformer failure. Some lines of Moscow Metro lost power, stranding people in trains.
  • Starting 31 Aug 2005, Hurricane Katrina caused widespread power outages throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee. Exact totals are hard to even define especially in Louisiana parishes which became unoccupied for months. Power was also knocked out to 1.3 million customers when Katrina passed over Florida several days earlier. In total 2.6m people were left without power as a result of the storm across the United States.

2006[edit]

  • On 1 August, in the Laurentians, in the province of Québec, Canada, a large amount (146,000, at its peak in the evening of 1 August) of households were left without electricity for a whole day, and some for up to a whole week due to intense thunderstorms that rolled through southern Quebec, including the greater Montreal area. Over 450,000 customers in total were affected.[48]
  • On 14 August, a floating crane hit and broke a transmission line across the Edo River, interrupting power to 1,391,000 customers in the Tokyo Metropolitan Area, including Tokyo, Yokohama and part of Kawasaki and Ichikawa. Power was restored to all but 15,000 customers within an hour. The full restoration was complete four hours and 42 minutes after the start of the incident.[50][51]
  • On the night of 4 November, in main parts of Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Spain, and Portugal, over 15 million households were left without power after a big cascading breakdown. Power grids several other nations (Belgium, Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Greece and Morocco) experienced minor local outages. The root cause was an overload triggered by the German electricity company E.ON switching off an electricity line over the river Ems to allow the cruise ship Norwegian Pearl to pass through safely. The impact of this disconnection on the security of the network had not been properly assessed, and resulted in the European transmission grid splitting into three independent parts for a period of two hours. The imbalance between generation and demand in each section resulted in the power outages for consumers.[52]

2007[edit]

  • On 16 January, power was cut to 200,000 people in the Australian state of Victoria when bushfires caused the state's electricity connection to the national grid to shut down.[53]
  • On 26 April, Colombia experienced a nation-wide blackout at about 10:15 local time, caused by an undetermined technical failure at a substation in the capital, Bogota, Colombia. Power returned to most parts of the country after several hours.[54]
  • On 23 July, the city of Barcelona suffered a near-total blackout. Several areas remained without electricity for more than 78 hours due to a massive electrical substation chain failure.[55]
  • On 26–27 September, a cyber attack caused major disruptions affecting more than three million people in dozens of cities in the Brazilian state of Espírito Santo.[47]
  • On 2 December, a winter storm damaged transmission systems, resulting in a blackout over much of Eastern Newfoundland & Labrador affecting close to 100,000 customers. About 7,500 customers on the Bonavista Peninsula were without service for almost a week.[56][57]

2008[edit]

  • On 20 February, coal supplies to some power plants in Java have been stopped, as ships cannot go to ports because of big waves, resulting in an electricity deficit of about 1,000 megawatts affecting the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.[60]
  • On 26 February, a failed switch and fire at an electrical substation outside Miami triggered widespread blackouts in parts of Florida affecting four million people. The nuclear reactors at Turkey Point power plant were shut down on the 84 °F (29 °C) day.[61] The failure knocked out power to customers in 35 southern Florida counties and spread into the northern Florida peninsula. The affected region ultimately ranged from Miami to Tampa on the state's west coast and Brevard County, home to Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center, on the east.[62][63]
  • On 2 April 2008 around 420,000 households were left without power in Melbourne and in other parts of Victoria after the state was hit by winds of up to 130 km/h.[64]
  • On 8 April, from around 03:30, around 400,000 persons were left without power in the city of Szczecin and its surroundings (as far as 100 km away from the city), in northwest Poland. Most power was restored within 18 hours. The reason was the fall of wet, heavy snow, which stuck to the power cables and caused them to break. One of the major powerline pillars broke in the aftermath as well.[65]
  • On 20 May, the entire island of Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania, suffered a complete shutdown of power over the entire island. It happened at around 10:00 pm local time, and it was caused by a rupture of the undersea cable from Mainland Tanzania. Power was restored after one month, on 18 June.[66]
  • On 24 June, a faulty underground wire caused a power failure in Maidstone Town Centre and surrounding areas for numerous hours.[citation needed]
  • On 11 December, rare winter snowfall on Southern Louisiana caused 10,000 power outages, due to the accumulation of snow on transmission lines. Later that night in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, an ice storm hit, causing one million people to lose their power.[67]
  • On 26 December, power was lost for about 12 hours on the entire island of Oahu, Hawaii starting at about 6:45 pm, where then President-elect Barack Obama and his family were vacationing. This is now confirmed to be due to lightning strikes on power lines, which caused HECO's system to trip.[68]

2009[edit]

  • On 23 January, a severe windstorm knocked out power to 1.2 million customers in parts of France.[69]
  • On 27 January, an ice storm hit Kentucky and in Southern Indiana knocking out power to about 769,000.[70] As of 15 February, about 12,000 were still without power from this storm.[71]
  • On 27–31 January, hundreds of thousands of homes in Victoria, including Melbourne, suffered various power failures as a result of a record heat wave. It is estimated that over 500,000 residents in Melbourne were without power for the evening of 30 January 2009. The outage affected much of central Melbourne with train and tram services cancelled, the evacuation of Crown Casino, traffic light failures, people being rescued from lifts and patrons of the Victorian Arts Centre evacuated and shows cancelled. The outage occurred only an hour after the National Electricity Market Management Company (NEMMCO) issued a statement saying load shedding was ending and power had been restored. Authorities say there had been a major electricity failure in the city's west, caused by the three-day heatwave. It is believed an explosion at South Morang contributed to the power problems along three transmission lines supplying Victoria's west and Victorian power supplier SP AusNet shed 1,000 megawatts.[24] On 30 January, Energy Minister Peter Batchelor announced consumers who lose power for more than 20 hours would be eligible for compensation[72][73][74] It is estimated that over 500,000 residents in Melbourne were without power for the evening of 30 January 2009.
  • On 15 April a little before 9:00pm a severe power cut blacked out up to 80% of the city of Almaty, Kazakhstan and northern parts of neighboring Kyrgyzstan affecting a few million people for several hours. Power was not restored until after midnight local time.[76]
  • On 20 July, power was cut to around 100,000 homes in the areas of South East London and North Kent, UK, after vandals deliberately caused a fire near a cable installation, which caused failure of a 132 kV cable and four circuit boards. Due to the nature of the cable, it was impossible to re-route supplies around other cables without overloading them. As a result, power supplies were cut to around half of the homes for around four days, whilst other homes were given three-hour allocations of power followed by six hours "off". Over 70 mobile generators were brought in from around the country to help restore power in what was the largest deployment in London's history.[77]
  • On 14 September, power was lost to several hundred customers after an incident at a local substation on the Isle of Man. All customers were restored within 90 minutes.[78]
  • On 30 October at around 8:00am NZDT, power was cut to the whole of Northland and most of the northern half of Auckland, New Zealand, affecting 280,000 customers (14.5% of the country). A forklift carrying a shipping container accidentally hit one of the Otahuhu to Henderson 220 kV circuits while the other circuit was out for maintenance, leaving the region supplied by four low capacity 110 kV circuits. Power was restored to the entire region around 11:00am.[79]
  • On 10 November, 22:13 Brasília official time,[80] power was cut out to most states of Brazil due to a failure of transmission lines from Itaipu Dam, the world's second largest hydroelectric dam, affecting over 80 million customers. The failure was caused by a major thunder storm which affected a key transmission line to southeastern Brazil causing the hydroelectric power-plant's all 20 turbines to shut-down due the abrupt fall of power demand. Four of Brazil's most densely populated states entirely lost electric power (including the states, and its capitals of the same name, of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro) with 14 more states being partly affected. The entire country of Paraguay experienced the power failure. It took about seven hours to the system to fully recover. This is regarded as one of the largest blackouts in man's history.[81][82][83]

2010–2014[edit]

2010[edit]

  • On 30 January, two separate transmission lines were hit by lightning, blacking out the Australian city of Darwin and the nearby cities of Katherine and Palmerston starting at about 06:00. Power was restored to all areas by 16:30.[84]
  • In early February, a pair of blizzards hit the Northeastern US on 5–6 February and again just a few days later on 9–10 February. Among the hardest hit areas was the Baltimore-Washington corridor, with well over 200,000 people impacted at the height of the outages and about two-thirds of those without power for periods lasting from half a day to several days. Other urban areas, such as Pittsburgh, were also hard-hit.[85]
  • On 14 March, roughly 15 million people, about 90% of the population of Chile, were left without power when a major transformer failed in southern Chile. Power began to be restored within a few hours, and almost all of the country had power by the following day. The outage was apparently not directly related to damage from the major earthquake that hit the country the previous month.[86]
  • On 14 March, a severe windstorm knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of customers primarily in southwestern Connecticut as well as parts of Westchester County and Long Island, and New Jersey as a result of a severe wind and rain storm. The outage lasted as long as six days for some customers in the hardest-hit communities. Many Public School districts were also closed for up to five days the following week. [5]
  • On 27 June, Portsmouth UK suffered a massive blackout when a substation caught fire.[88]
  • On 15 July, 76,000 people in Oakland & Wayne counties in southeastern Michigan lost power at approximately 19:00 during heavy storms. As of 12:00 on 16 July, power still had not been fully restored.[89]
  • On 25 July, an estimated 250,000 Pepco customers lost power in the Washington, D.C. area, due to severe storms that swept through the area.[90]

2011[edit]

The residential neighborhood of Los Navegantes, in Pichilemu (O'Higgins Region, Chile) during the 24 September blackout.
  • On 2 February, in Texas, forced outages at two major coal-fired power plants and high electricity demand due to cold weather caused rotating blackouts affecting more than one million customers.[91]
  • On 3 February, Cyclone Yasi hit communities in North Queensland, Australia. The cyclone with winds reaching up to 300 km/h (186mp/h) cause widespread damage through many communities. 170,000 homes lost electricity.[92]
  • On 22 February at 12:51, a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, damaging large parts of Orion's sub-transmission and distribution network. Over 80 percent of the city (approximately 160,000 customers) lost power following the quake. A total of 82% of customers had their power restored in five days. Some central city areas were still without power as late as 1 May; more than two months after the initial earthquake.[94]
  • On 30 June, Chennai suffered a major power outage that affected many parts of the city for more than 15 hours.[97]
  • Starting on 11 July, Cyprus suffered a half-week power outage, affecting all cities on Greek part of island. The outage was caused by an explosion next to the Vassilikos power plant, knocking out the plant.[98][99]
  • On 23 July, failure of a glass insulator caused an outage of most of Northern Saskatchewan for about four hours.[100]
  • On the morning of 11 July, the Chicago area was hit by a large derecho which knocked out power to over 850,000 according to ComEd.[101]
  • On 16 September, South Korea experienced a great blackout due to hot weather, the blackout came suddenly and caused disruptions of traffic signals, elevators and machines.[107]
  • On 24 September, nine million people in north and central Chile were affected by a blackout that lasted for at least two hours.[108]
  • In late October, a snowstorm along the East Coast of the USA caused over two million power outages. Some residents of Connecticut and western Massachusetts were without electricity for over seven days.[109]

2012[edit]

  • On 14 January, a 380 kV transformer failure in Bursa Natural Gas Fueled Combined Cycle PP in Turkey, was accused of voltage deviations in the interconnected power grid that resulted in a blackout. Additionally, another failure occurred in 154 kV Babaeski substation caused blackout in Trakia. During the outage 6 cities in the Marmara Region of the country or more than 20 million people were affected. The power was back in all cities in the evening. The blackout knocked out metro and tram operation in Istanbul. Also gas heating systems didn't worked during the blackout. Industrial production was hurt badly too. The problem resolved by getting electricity from Bulgaria to Trakia and feeding lines in İstanbul from Ambarlı Natural Gas PP in İstanbul. Ref: Marmara blackout of 2012
  • On 4 April, a blackout hit every city in Cyprus after the Dhekelia power station failed (with a lack of electric power from 04:42 to 09:20).[110]
  • On 29 June, a line of thunderstorms with hurricane-force winds swept from Iowa to the Mid-Atlantic coast and knocked out power to more than 3.8 million people in Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia, Delaware, North Carolina, Kentucky, and metropolitan Washington, DC.[111]
  • On 30 July, due to a massive breakdown in the northern grid, there was a major power failure which affected seven north Indian states, including Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, and Rajasthan.[112]
  • On 31 July, the July 2012 India blackout, which is being called the biggest ever power failure in the world, left half of India without electricity supply. This affected hundreds of trains, hundreds of thousands of households and other establishments as the grid that connects generating stations with customers collapsed for the second time in two days.[113]
  • On 29–30 October, Hurricane Sandy brought high winds and coastal flooding to a large portion of the eastern United States, leaving an estimated 8 million customers without power. The storm, which came ashore near Atlantic City, New Jersey as a Category 1 hurricane, ultimately left scores of homes and businesses without power in New Jersey (2.7 million), New York (2.2 million), Pennsylvania (1.2 million), Connecticut (620,000), Massachusetts (400,000), Maryland (290,000), West Virginia (268,000), Ohio (250,000), and New Hampshire (210,000). Power outages were also reported in a number of other states, including Virginia, Maine, Rhode Island, Vermont, and the District of Columbia.[114][115]

2013[edit]

  • Over the weekend of 26–27 January Ex Tropical Cyclone Oswald caused the loss of power to over 250000 customers in South East Queensland, Australia. Power was gradually restored over about 10 days.[116]
  • On 8–9 February, some 650,000 homes and businesses in the northeastern US lost power as the result of a powerful nor'easter that brought hurricane-force wind gusts and more than two feet of snow to New England.[117]
  • On 22 March 2013 200,000 homes in the Greater Belfast area lost power as the result of a fault with the high voltage transmission network during a snow storm[118]
  • On 1 April 2013, 100,000 people in Poland suffered under power outages due to heavy snow falls.[119] Warsaw Airport found the snow a bit difficult to operate in.[120]
  • On 5 May 2013, 40-50% of Luzon island in the Philippines was suffered in power outages because of several transmission lines tripped out, resulting in the isolation of Sta. Rita, San Lorenzo, Calaca, Ilijan, QPPL [Quezon Power Plant Philippines, Ltd.].[121]
  • On 21 May, the 2013 southern Thailand blackout resulted when a power failure affected fourteen provinces (out of 76) in Thailand, for four hours, starting at 19:00 local time.[122]
  • On 22 May, 2013 Southern Vietnam and Cambodia blackout. A careless move of a truck deployed to plant trees in New Binh Duong City urban area is the direct cause for the massive power outage in the southern region of Vietnam. When moving a tree on Wednesday afternoon, the truck driver let the tree bump onto a line in the national power grid (500 kV), causing the massive outage in 22 provinces and cities in the southern part of Vietnam, said the Electricity of Vietnam group (EVN).[123]
  • On 24 Sep 22.14, Trakia region of Turkey lost electricity power. According to explanation of TREDAS (Power distribution utility of Trakia region), a failure in the substation of Hamitabat Gas Fueled Combined Cycle PP in Lüleburgaz city of Kırklareli province caused a power outage in TEİAŞ 154kV interconnected power transmission grid of the Trakia region. Affected places include Tekirdağ, Edirne, Kırklareli provinces and Silivri city of İstanbul. Affected population is about 1.5 million Trakia region citizens and Silivri citizens. Power was started to be restored gradually after an hour and at 00.24 all the region had been electrified.[124]
  • On 22 December, a major ice storm covering an area from Ontario to as far east as the maritime provinces in Canada, caused power failures. According to reports, as many as 300,000 customers in Toronto lost power.[125] Later reports place the peak number in Ontario without power at 600,000 [126]
  • On 22 December, a major ice storm covering an much of mid-Michigan, caused power failures. According to reports, at its peak as many as 500,000 lost power with restoration efforts expected through 29 December.[127]

2014[edit]

  • On 27 February, parts of Mindanao island in the Philippines suffered power outages for 6 hours. As of 12:00PM (PST+8) around 70 percent of its entire grid has been restored. The Department of Energy (DOE) are in question of what caused the widespread blackout in Mindanao.[128]

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Further reading[edit]