By Mercedes Manzolillo
SULLIVAN COUNTY August 19, 2003 Just after 4 p.m. last Thursday, all of New York, New England, Ohio, Michigan, and southern Canada were enveloped in the largest blackout in North American history.
Parts of Smallwood, Monticello and Liberty had power. Reportedly, they are on a different power grid than New York and get their power from Pennsylvania which was not affected by the blackout.
All of Sullivan County was back online by 10 p.m. Thursday, but New York City was still dealing with outages on Friday morning.
The reasons for the power outage keep changing. The first theory was that a transformer exploded in Buffalo. Now news sources are reporting that the cause of the blackout can be pinpointed in Ohio.
According to CNN News, the North American Electric Reliability Council an energy oversight group noted that three power lines near Cleveland, Ohio failed before the blackout. It is not known if that was definitely the cause, but every aspect is being examined.
Locally, Sullivan County dealt with the outage the best way they knew how.
Dick Martinkovic, the fire coordinator for Sullivan County and a spokesperson for Verizon, said the phone was not affected by the blackout because of generators and battery backups. Most cordless phones did not work, but most corded phones were operating. Cell phone service was spotty.
Martinkovic also said firefighters for each fire department were requested to stand by at their respective firehouses. The fire companies were able to stay in contact through pagers, radio and the phone.
The fire companies had to be ready just in case there was a fire.
If there was a fire, we could get right out and take care of it, said Martinkovic.
He also said NYSEG was good at responding to the outage, and for the most part, the county got power back at 9 p.m. There were still a couple of isolated pockets, but not too many.
Paul Lounsbury, spokesperson for NYSEG in Liberty, said all power was restored by 10 p.m. to NYSEG customers.
The Sullivan County Sheriffs Department also responded quickly to the outage. Officers main job was to cover all intersections with non-functioning traffic lights and direct the traffic, according to Sheriff Dan Hogue. Sheriff Hogue also said they brought in extra manpower to cover most of the areas in the county.
There were no major crimes reported, according to Hogue.
A lot of emergency calls lessen [during emergencies like this] because people work more together and there is less crime. Nothing major was reported nothing for what we were prepared for, said Hogue.
For local residents, it could have been a lot worse but wasnt.
Robert Fairfield of Kauneonga Lake and an employee at Sutphen East in White Lake noticed that the power went out a little after 4 p.m. around the end of the work day at the shop. He turned off his computer and had to figure out how to close the electric garage doors. When he got home, he did some yard work even when it started getting dark.
Fairfield noticed the power was back on when his yard lamp that he left on lit up.
It was nothing too exciting, he said.
If customers are still without power, they should call the NYSEG emergency telephone number at 800-572-1131.
For customers who are served by Orange and Rockland Utilities, they can call toll-free at 877-434-4100.
Central Hudson Gas & Electric customers can call 800-527-2714.