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CBC Radio reports on blackout affecting millions in Ontario, U.S.

The Story


"We interrupt this program..." It's Nov. 9, 1965, at rush hour, and CBC Radio cuts into regular programming to bring listeners up to date on a huge power failure affecting many of them. The largest power blackout to that point in history leaves 30 million people in darkness in Ontario and the eastern United States. Thirty million people are plunged into darkness. The result is chaos: traffic lights are out, airports have no runway lights, and hundreds of people are trapped in tall buildings. "The Great Northeastern Blackout" leaves most of eastern Ontario without power, from Timmins in the north, to Cornwall in the east and Sarnia in the south.

Medium: Radio
Program: CBC Radio News Special
Broadcast Date: Nov. 9, 1965
Guest(s): Dennis Deck
Reporter: Norm Allen, Brian O'Brien, Tim Ralfe
Duration: 10:29

Did You know?


• The 1965 blackout began near Niagara Falls, on the Ontario-New York border. At 5:16 p.m. a single transmission line relay failed leading from the giant Sir Adam Beck No.2 Generating Station at Queenston, Ont. The resulting power grid overload caused generators to shut down. Within seconds, the 31 interconnected power utilities of CANUSE (Canada-United States Eastern Grid) separated into isolated "islands", then went dead.

• The blackout affected Ontario, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and parts of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

• In Ontario, most of the power returned after three hours. But some areas were without electricity for as long as 13 hours.

• There was a rash of UFO sightings reported during and after the blackout. Some speculated that they were the cause of the outage.

• The largest power blackout ever in Canada happened on August 14, 2003. Ontario and much of the northeastern U.S. were hit by the largest blackout in North American history. Electricity was cut to 50 million people, bringing darkness to customers from New York City to Toronto to North Bay.

• The day before the blackout, Lester B. Pearson and the Liberals won a federal election, taking 131 seats in Parliament. Although they gained an additional two seats compared to the 1963 election, the Liberals failed in their attempt to win a majority government. John Diefenbaker and the Tories remained the official opposition.

• 1965 election results: Liberal 131, PC 97, NDP 21, Social Credit 5, Other 11.

• Mitchell Sharp, then minister of trade and commerce, explained that Pearson didn't win a majority government because "the Liberal campaign failed ... to attract the rural voters as much as it did the others."


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