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Blackout and Fire Alarm

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Well, like many, I suffered from the big blackout that hit large portions of the United States and Canada today. For historical purposes, I can report with reasonable confidence that here at home, Northport, NY, the power began going out around 16:11:21 eastern daylight time. I can determine this because my computer stayed up (on a UPS long enough to record the exact time the blackout started.

The power came back on around 8:50 pm. I don't have the exact time, since the computer had long since powered down.

I was actually at school when the power went out. After the lights had gone out for a while, there was actually a fire alarm, and the CS building was evacuated. There's a story behind this one.

Stony Brook, like many universities, co-generates power, meaning that they have a power plant on campus that provides power for the university. It's also a provider of power to the local power grid, which means that when the power grid goes down hard (as it did today), I guess the plant needed to go down too.

Now, normally the co-generation works in our favor. I've never seen a non-planned outage on campus, at least campus wide. The power grid can take over for the generator, when needed. But in this case, both were down, and the backup generators in the building kicked in. (Not powering computers. We think it has something to do with the monkeys they still keep in the building. More on that some other time.)

The generator, long-idle, started belching out smoke. The stack is mostly hidden over the roof, and people naturally concluded that the building was on fire. The alarm was pulled, and we left the building, leaving the fire-rescue folks to clear up the emergency.

So, today was a doubly interesting day.

Update 8-15-2003: Today we had another blackout. It began exactly at noon, which makes me think it may have been some sort of planned outage. The power came back on at 5:05 pm, so my entire afternoon was without power. While I finished reading Blind Man's Bluff, I haven't gotten much work done since the power went out.

It's tough working in computer science when there's little power, especially when you have pretensions towards practicality.

- Tom | permalink | changelog | Last updated: 2003-08-15 17:44

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