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Blackout '65: Where were you when the lights went out?

Nov. 9, 1965 at rush hour: Toronto and New York are plunged into darkness as a blackout strikes Ontario and the eastern United States. The result: traffic chaos, airport turmoil and tales of kindness and courtesy as 30 million people react to the largest power failure to that point in history.

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Confusion is the common denominator among the major cities paralyzed by the blackout as people are trapped in elevators, offices and on streetcars. One Torontonian who was stuck on the subway, however, takes it all in stride. "I just sat there watching the girls," he chortles in this CBC Radio clip. New Yorkers, on the other hand, aren't so lighthearted. Thousands of commuters are disgruntled after having to spend the night sleeping on subway platforms or aboard stalled trains.
How a power grid works:
. The average power plant produces as much as 26,000 volts of electricity.
. Substations increase the voltage — anywhere between 138,000 to 765,000 volts — reducing power loss during long-distance distribution.
. Power, flowing through a 'grid', is transferred from area to area to meet higher demands.


. Additional power substations 'step down' (decrease the voltage for smaller distribution lines), while transformers along distribution lines further lower the voltage to 110-220 volts for use in homes and offices.
. There was a rash of UFO sightings reported during and after the blackout. Some speculated that they were the cause of the outage.
Medium: Radio
Program: Sunday Morning Magazine
Broadcast Date: Nov. 14, 1965
Host: Bruce Rogers
Duration: 2:03

Last updated: April 5, 2012

Page consulted on June 3, 2014

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