Natural Disasters and a Failing Infrastructure

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In August 2003, media outlets began reporting on widespread power outages in New York City.  A full two years had not passed since the September 11 attacks when once again New York was in the throes of a major crisis. 

Only this was no terror attack; it was a power grid failure that led to the world’s 2nd most widespread blackout in history.  Subsequent investigation revealed that a software bug prevented alarm systems from alerting operators that power from overloaded transmission lines needed to be redistributed.

Reporters quipped that the State of New York should officially change its name to the State of Emergency.  But this was no laughing matter. The Northeast Blackout of 2003, as it came to be known, did not affect New York alone.  It had enormous reach – affecting 55 million people in 8 U.S. states and into Ontario, Canada.

The indelible images of tens of thousands of Americans walking home from work in the middle of a scorching hot day revealed just how dependent we are on an obviously fragile infrastructure. Reliable systems not only secure electricity for our homes, but also for transportation, communication, food storage, and clean and safe water supplies.

This particular incident was caused by a software glitch and power was restored within 24 hours. But experts warn that the rise of super storms is the biggest threat to our grids and structures, delivering greater impacts as storm damage can take 24 to 48 hours of assessment before repairs can begin.

An overview of disaster statistics collected from 1980 to 2010 illustrate that storms are the most prevalent natural disaster – affecting more people than epidemics, extreme temperatures, floods, wildfires, earthquakes and volcanoes combined. As the earth’s temperature continues to rise, storm systems will likewise continue to grow in intensity and frequency, forcing us to ask serious questions about the durability of our most fundamental facilities and life sustaining systems.

The following major disasters were associated with infrastructure events.

  • June 2012 Mid-Atlantic and Midwest derecho – Occurred during a record heat wave and was one of the most destructive thunderstorms in North American history, resulting in extensive outages across 10 states with over 4.2 million customers losing power–some for over a week.
  • Hurricane Sandy–the deadliest and most destructive hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season and the second-costliest hurricane in U.S. history–resulted in power and telecommunication outages for 8.1 million people.
  • 2015 Winter Storm Juno, a nor’easter that pummeled the Northeast with a combination of flooding, high winds, and record snow accumulations, caused outages for a half million people and severely limited travel. Millions were stranded in their homes for nearly a week.

Disasters, either man-made or natural, highlight the importance of being self-reliant and energy independent. You and your family can’t wait for the time and billions of investment dollars that it will take to create more stable structures. 

Learn how the Wise Generator product can help you product yourself.