About 50 million people lost power Aug. 14, 2003, when a tree branch in Ohio started an outage that cascaded across a broad swath from Michigan to New England and Canada.
Commuters in cities had to sleep on steps, hitchhike or walk home as trains were rendered powerless and gas pumps stopped working; food spoiled as refrigerators and freezers thawed; jugs of water sold out as supply plants lost their ability to supply consumers; minds were set to wandering about terrorism fears less than two years after 9/11.
Much of southeastern Michigan was affected (about 2.3 million households were without power). The cities of Ann Arbor, Lansing, and Detroit were victims of the blackout. Some areas, such as Brighton and Holly, were in geographical pockets where residents had power.
Water supplies in Detroit were disrupted because the city used electronic pumps. All water in the Metro Detroit area was required to be boiled until August 18 to ensure potability.
“Where Were You During The Blackout Of 2003?”, CBS Detroit, August 14, 2013
Jodi Wilgoren, “THE BLACKOUT: THE MIDWEST; Detroit Sweats While It Waits For Electricity”, New York Times, August 16, 2003.
Mark Brush, “Ten years after the great northeast blackout of 2003”, Michigan Radio, August 14, 2013.
J. R. Minkel, “The 2003 Northeast Blackout–Five Years Later“, Scientific American, August 13, 2018.