Massive blackouts hit Florida

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Florida highlighted in red.
Image: David.

Massive blackouts occurred throughout the US state of Florida shortly after 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time (18:00 UTC) on Tuesday afternoon. Out of the 4.4 million customers served by Florida Power & Light, Co. (FPL), about 680,000 residents were affected, with an additional two million-plus customers affected in other parts of the state. It is estimated that as many as four million customers throughout Florida were affected, with many different power companies losing control of their specific grids.

Power outages were reported as far south as the Florida Keys, on the original FPL grid, and as far north as Orlando and Daytona Beach, nearly 300 miles (483 km) away on the Progress Energy grid. Most of Miami-Dade and parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties suffered the worst outages.

FPL President Armando Olivera said that a disconnect switch failed at 1:08 p.m. at the automated substation west of Miami, and a piece of equipment that controls voltage caught fire about the same time. Neither failure by itself would have caused a widespread outage. The event at the utility's Flagami substation consequently led to the rolling blackouts.

Originally the first failure was thought to have occurred at the utility's nuclear plant at Turkey Point. It is still unclear how failure at this site spread, but with power turning off at the main Turkey Point location, which serves all of south Florida, FPL's grid shut down as well. It contributed to a domino effect which ended up sapping energy from bordering grids all over Florida.

Police reported several people were stuck in the elevators of high-rise buildings in downtown Miami and several hospitals were running on backup power, although no injuries or fatalities have been reported. The blackouts caused major traffic jams and a few accidents, but the original outage was contained shortly after it occurred. All customers affected had power restored to them by 6:30 p.m. (23:30 UTC).


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