The New York City Blackout of 1977

An analysis of the 1977 New York blackout from an engineering standpoint.

This paper looks at the events of the summer of 1977 when New York City was struck by a massive blackout. It questions who was responsible and explains that combinations of factors range from an act of God and tightly coupled events. In the end, the fault lay with a simple system operator.
“In the hot July summer of 1977, the lights went out in New York City. With the city completely black, thousands of people took to the streets, looting and setting hundreds of fires. Only after twenty-five grueling hours was the power finally restored. By then, New York had endured over a billion dollars in damages. It is important to learn from this accident so that the mistakes from the past are not repeated. While a combination of “an act of God,” (Casey 196), tightly coupled events, and operator error all contributed to the failure, most of the fault can be placed in the hands of the operator.”