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On 10th Anniversary of Major US Power Outage, Electric Industry More Secure

(Cars head over the Brooklyn Bridge beside a blacked-out New York City skyline on August 14, 2003.  Credit: Spencer Platt/ Getty Images)

(Cars head over the Brooklyn Bridge beside a blacked-out New York City skyline on August 14, 2003. Credit: Spencer Platt/ Getty Images)

Mark Abrams Mark Abrams
Mark Abrams is a versatile part of the KYW Newsradio family, serving...
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By Mark Abrams

VALLEY FORGE, Pa. (CBS) — Today is the 10th anniversary of the massive power blackout that affected 50 million people in eight states from Michigan to New York, up through New England and into parts of Canada.

The blackout halted commuter trains, stopped elevators, cut lights and power for air conditioners, and darkened computer screens.

But could it happen again?

Michael Kormos, who is now executive vice president for operations for the Valley Forge-based PJM Interconnection — the regional power grid which monitors and distributes electricity — remembers the afternoon of Aug. 14, 2003:

“It was a pretty scary time in that, immediately after it happened, we really did not know what had caused it.”

A fallen tree branch in Ohio was the culprit.  It hit a power line, and the domino effect cascaded outages in transmission lines across the midwest and into the northeast.

Kormos says that since then, tree trimming is a priority, and electronic monitoring and mandatory government operating standards are in place.

He says violent storms including tornados still are an issue, but there are backup systems and recovery mechanisms which get the power back up faster.

Kormos says the industry also is prepared for cyberattacks.

“We’ve put in significant levels of tools and systems in order to prevent any kind of intrusions,” he tells KYW Newsradio.  “We’ve looked at a lot of the technology used in the financial industries and the banking industries that have seen this kind of threat already.”

Kormos says PJM has a backup control center in Bucks County that can operate independently in the event the primary center in Valley Forge goes down.

 

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