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August 14, 2006

Three years since the blackout

It was three years ago -- on August 14, 2003 -- that the lights went out across Ottawa, Ontario, and much of the eastern U.S. Check out our archival Lights Out page for photos, links, stories and more about the blackout.

(Pictured above: The Dominion Observatory, photo by Shane Finnigan)

Related: Ottawa Utilities Guide


  1. Suzanne Cousineau-Riley11:53 AM

    What a nightmare it was. It was around 4 p.m. Everyone had left to go home. I was in the office with a co-worker. I was working on my computer then all of a sudden, my computer went out. I went to see my co-worker and hers was out too. We checked the lights… nothing. I looked outside and everything was black. Traffic lights were out, buildings evacuated. It was scary. The worst part was trying to find your way out from the 5th floor in the dark. Luckily, people from above us had flashlights.

    I walked to Elgin Street for my bus and waited half an hour then I decided to walk home. I managed to get to Rideau Street and Cumberland, then my bus was coming. It was the same bus that I waited for on Elgin Street. I got home 2 hours later I went upstairs to our apartment. Our elevators worked on a generator because of many senior people in our condo building. My daughter and grandson came in for dinner. They were scared. We had a wonderful candlelight dinner with cold sandwiches My daughter left to go home and by 10 pm our electricity came back.

    I went to work that Friday but we couldn’t get in the office. I work in a private industry and luckily for me I was not off for one week like the government employees were. We were back at work the following Monday.

    I hope that this never happens again. I conserve my electricity and I hate air conditioners.

  2. Anonymous11:05 PM

    Thanks for the reminder...three years...
    I'd come to Ottawa for a job interview. Came in, went well, was supposed to come in the next day to meet the 'big boss'. At the bus stop, I heard the wave of silence as the street-level generators stopped. Took me an hour to go by bus what takes me 10 minutes now [yes, got the job] to my hotel room. Elevators out, on the 20th floor since I got an upgrade [no non-smoking rooms left, so got a suite with a kitchen, thank gods].

    At least the buses were running the next day; made it to work, only to find no one but the security guard was there. Sad trip back to the hotel, and looo ooong walk up to hotel room.

    Didn't know Ottawa's water is pumped; no fresh water or flushed toilet for 3 days, got a 600-ml bottle of water every day from hotel, that was it. Good thing I always carry emergency food; traded with other hotel guests; could have made $$ if I had Doritos or a coke, but got a sandwich from a family next door for some fruit.

    No food in the hotel, no food stores open downtown, nothing to do once the sun went down but play hand-held video games until the battery died, then watch the lights across the river in Quebec.

    Finally airport reopened, check-in line snaked the length again of the concourse outside, then could brag to other travellers going back to other cities still in blackout with, 'I'm going to Winnipeg! Air-conditioning and flush toilets. Woo Hoo!'

    Lessons learned: always have a store of water, light and batteries in your hotel room, always carry emergency rations, and perhaps most importantly in a crisis: no one will trade you *anything* for veggie pepperoni.


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