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Ten years ago, the lights went out

Ten years ago, the lights went out

(Cleveland) -- Ten years ago, on Thursday August 14, 2003, electric power went out all across Greater Cleveland, as well as in scattered areas as far west as Michigan, as far north as past Toronto, and as far east as New York.

The outage was due to a cascading effect, which a study determined was caused by as many as 800 events across the power grid.

Workers in downtown office buildings told WTAM 1100 that afternoon that they saw the lights go out, and didn't know what to do, eventually evacuating buildings down stairwells.

Many Clevelanders got power back the following day, but others had to wait another day or two longer, depending on the speed of power crews.

The biggest problem for Cleveland was a lack of drinking water. The Cleveland water system serves numerous suburbs in addition to the city of Cleveland. At the time, it was explained that backup generators used by the Division of Water are designed to handle a handful of outages, but not a full-blown outage. As a result, then-Mayor Jane Campbell asked Clevelanders to conserve water as a precaution.

Campbell also said beaches were off limits for a couple of days, as untreated sewage went into the Cuyahoga River and out into Lake Erie.

Cleveland Hopkins Airport was never closed as a result of the blackout, but flights were canceled or delayed. Without power, security checkpoints at the airport were shut down for a few hours. Thousands of passengers were stranded at the airport for up to 24 hours until power could be brought back on.

People flocked to stores that were still open thanks to having emergency generators, and bought as much non-perishable food as possible.

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(Copyright 2013 Clear Channel, all rights reserved.  Photo illustration by Tom Moore, WTAM 1100) 

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