10 Years Ago Today (Blackout Toronto)

Blackout!Ten Years ago today, we endured the worst black out in North American history. This is what I wrote when the lights came back on.

24 hours and 12 minutes. That's how long the power was off at my humble abode.

Of course, the worst black out in North American history had to strike just when our food supply was at its lowest. Already due for a trip to the grocery store, it was quite the challenge putting together enough sustenance to satisfy a growing 18 month old and his two hungry parents. Barbecued fish sticks anyone? The bright side is we had very little to throw away when the power finally returned at 4:23 this afternoon.

I did learn a valuable lessen throughout this ordeal. I learned that we're entirely too dependent on electricity for our day to day lives. Heck, my phone wouldn't even work because it's a cordless. No air conditioning, no stove, no microwave, no street lights, no gas station, no lights, no refrigerator, no tv and no computer. How did we survive over 24 hours? Gotta jet...The Simpsons is starting.

What do you remember from the Northeast Blackout of 2003?

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Mississauga Phil

I was cooking on the line at the now defunct Square 1 Keg.

Thankfully, the grill ran off a gas line, so we were able to finish all the existing orders, and processed the payments with the old school "clunk clunk" credit card machines (remember those???)

What was great was that since there was no way to keep the food in back of house from going bad...the GM let us take about $200 worth of steaks home to grill up. He even let us borrow a case of beer to go with it....good times.

August 14, 2013 @ 9:34 AM


Remember when we used to say, "gotta jet"? Seems weird now...does anyone still use this?

August 14, 2013 @ 9:40 AM


I was living in New Toronto at the time around the Shore and I had just pulled out of Costco on the Queensway and was heading to get gas when I noticed all the lights were out... all of them. Islington, all along the Way and so I decided to get off and backroad it back to the Shore. Turned on the radio to hear hash and that's when I knew something was wrong.

My wife was doing PR from the Metropolitan Hotel and we couldn't get a hold of each other - damn thing was she was three months pregnant and we had planned to tell our parents the next day at a family BBQ. Turns out, the Met was the only hotel in the area that had power and so she ended up having to stay over and help feed people as the restaurant was packed to rafters. So, my neighbours and I got together, unloaded the freezers and used my BBQ to cook up a feast and we all sat around and listened to how quiet the city was and watch the stars. It was an amazing night to be honest and around 12am after she and some friends were able to catch a cab home.

Next morning, we got up and found a gas station at the corner of Evans and Browns Line that was open and it took us 45 minutes to get gas, but we got up north and were able to surprise my parents with the news of their eventual grandson.

I remember it like it was yesterday!


August 14, 2013 @ 10:26 AM

Teena in Toronto

It gave us a chance to get to know our neighbours.

August 14, 2013 @ 10:35 AM


I was working at an Promotions/Events company out by Primrose. Was in a meeting, and remember 'hearing' the power spike before it died out. We all first thought nothing of it, figuring the power would come back within a half hour or so. But when someone pulled out an AM radio and we heard that it was the 'entire Eastern seaboard' we knew it wasnt a regular 'power outage'.

Our boss let us out early at that point (and told us not to come in Friday), and I walked out to head to the subway before realizing that they were out of commission. Tried calling relatives in the city for a ride, but the lines were jammed. I was living out by Mississauga/Oakville then, but before I could start to worry about how the hell I was going to get home a colleague saw my panicked face and offered to take me to Islington, so I could catch a bus the rest of the way. Took about 3 hours to get home. I remember seeing families out on their porches, chatting with neighbours, and how eerily quiet everything was.

Our stove was natural gas, so we cooked off everything that could spoil in the freezer. Thankfully, Mississauga had power the next day, so I just watched how CNN epically messed up their coverage (and Mel Lastman making an ass of himself during a press conference).

Our event launch party was that weekend, but with Go Trains and the subway not working I was SOL to get downtown and help out.

August 14, 2013 @ 10:41 AM

Al The Royal Pain

I remember the long drive home from work. I was at Bay & College at the time and I had to make my way to the DVP which took awhile without any traffic signals working. Some people had taken it upon themselves to direct traffic which was much appreciated.

I just remember the sea of humanity walking along the Bloor St. bridge toward the Danforth, people who would normally be riding the subway home (it put into perspective just how important the TTC is to the city), and then seeing many people walking along the DVP as well which was an odd site.

It was a hot day and I happened to have a case of bottled water in my car so I started passing water out to those who needed it.

When finally I got home, it was so dark. Everyone was out on our quiet street. I met neighbours that day that I haven't spoken to since. Luckily, our BBQ was hooked up to the home's natural gas line so we were able to BBQ without worry of running out. So we BBQd everything, including boiling water for coffee and such.

We got power back that night and I was into work the next day.

August 14, 2013 @ 10:42 AM


I recall I had just filled up my gas an hour before and had been to the bank for cash. When the lights went out, I more or less grabbed the kids from the daycare in my office block and drove home to Guelph. I remember driving along the 401 by Glen Eden before 680 finally came on and then I really found out what had happened. The gas station near our house was selling the ice so I remember buying three bags and just dumping them into my cooler when I got home. I BBQ'd dinner and while we were usually far enough from city-light that we could usually see the stars, I remember that night just how beautiful the sky was. We got our power back around 11pm but the office in Mississauga didn't get it until the Saturday morning. We had an impromptu house party on the Friday and my three bags of ice was suddenly cozied up with everyones beer - couldn't let that go to waste!! Fun times.. not looking for it to happen again though!!

August 14, 2013 @ 11:42 AM


I was driving home in Mississauga, and I remember how difficult it was to get through the major intersections (Derry & Tomken for example). There was no one practicing 4-way stops, it was go-go-go until someone going the other way was able to force it so that the opposite direction was now go-go-go. I was so happy to get home with my little kids.

Hubby was lucky enough to get on the last GO train out of Toronto. We also have a BBQ hooked up to our natural gas line, so were OK for food (even Eggos on the BBQ! Hint - they are not so good LOL).

One of the most amazing things was sitting on our back deck, it was so quiet and peaceful. We looked into the heavens and could not only see a multitude of stars, but we could even see the Milky Way. How cool was that?

We were @ 36 hours without power, and it was certainly wonderful when it came back.

August 14, 2013 @ 5:42 PM


I had just moved to Toronto for a co-op work term after ending a term at the University of Waterloo. As I was plugging in my computer, the power went off in my house. I assumed I had done something plugging in my computer, checked the breakers, and no problems.

And then there was no power for a bit :).

August 14, 2013 @ 5:44 PM


I was working at home. All of the sudden my UPS started beeping meaning I could finish up the report I was doing and then log off. Well, I did just that. I can't remember what I did without power, but eventually went to bed. The power came on around 1:00 the next morning and then I worked again for a bit.

August 14, 2013 @ 5:56 PM

Mike from Lowville

I was at work. If you could imagine,in a huge assembly plant and the fact no emergency lighting came on, a bunch of us followed a forklift out 'cause they had lights. Whole plant milling around outside (2100 people) for an hour and then sent home. Awesome, till I got on the road, gridlock! Made my way up Trafalgar RD because the QEW was stopped, trying to take the back roads to north Burlington from Oakville. Thought, hey, I'll ride the 407 for free! Got off on Appleby Line and made it home in just an hour and a half! Party with neighbors pool, BBQ and beers.....gas station had ice. Had propane lights, lit a campfire, pulled the truck outback and listened to Cd's. Let's do it again! ;O)

By the way. The 407 was NOT free.I got a bill! I'd like to know how those f'er's got power while 55 million of us were out for 24 hours!!

August 14, 2013 @ 6:03 PM


Probably a multitude of babies born 9 months afterwards - LOL

August 14, 2013 @ 6:39 PM

Rick C in Oakville

I was at my sisters cottage in Bancroft, where power goes out occasionally, so we thought it was one of the "normal" drop outs, until my Brother in law called and told us what chaos it was back in the city. We were only with out power for 16 hours there. My home in Oakville maybe 12 hours, but my dad in Scarborough (Kingston and Mccowan ) was 3 plus days. Lost all his food in the freezer. Couldn't believe it took that long to get his power back up.

August 14, 2013 @ 10:11 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

Great stories, everyone.

9 years ago, I elaborated on the day of the blackout in this entry: http://www.torontomike.com/2004/08/1_year_ago_today.html

A few more details there....

August 15, 2013 @ 9:21 AM


Strangely, I don't recall this being a big issue... at least for us. Left work at around 4, traffic was heavy as (usual). Everyone was safe, we talked/laughed with the neighbours and I beleive that the power was back up at around 11am the next day.

August 15, 2013 @ 11:11 AM


I was at work in Markham on my lunch break (on the late shift that day) and the power went out, but our building was hooked up to a backup generator and it kicked in, so our computers and phones still worked. We turned on the TVs in the office and got the rabbit ears working, so we watched Lloyd Robertson from a very dark newsroom for the next 5 hours. By the time I left, the roads home weren't very busy and the traffic moved pretty nicely. I remember having my Walkman radio on (remember those) because it was too hot to sleep that night and listened as different parts of the GTA got power back. I got power back in Downsview around 5am, so I made my way into work. I was one of the only people who made it in the next day but we had to remain open. It sucked because my fiancee's office was closed and she spent that whole day at her aunt's pool and kept calling to brag about it.

August 15, 2013 @ 8:08 PM

Willy Nilly

Guess most were too young to remember this:


August 17, 2013 @ 9:29 PM

Rick C in Oakville

@Willy: Asked my dad about this as I was only 4 years old, but he couldn't recall Toronto being hit with it. Maybe Niagara region possibly?

August 18, 2013 @ 4:26 PM

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