POLITICS

Ten years later, Canadians remember the Northeast blackout

08/13/2013 03:50 EDT | Updated 10/13/2013 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - It's been 10 years since a massive blackout plunged Ontario and parts of the United States into darkness. Most people remember exactly where they were when the electricity went out on Aug. 14, 2003. Here's how some Canadians remember that day:

___

Bob Chiarelli, then Ottawa mayor.

"I was at a meeting in suburban Kanata and so the first thing obviously was that the power went out, so I called our city manager on my cell phone and found out that it was city wide and beyond.

One of the strangest things that happened during that event was that night after dark, I was asked to do a national interview on CTV and the interview desk had behind it a large window that showed the Parliament Buildings and the Ottawa River and Quebec in the background.

I was on live television with the whole province in the dark and behind me out the window was the city of Gatineau... which is in Quebec, and it was lit up like a Christmas tree."

__

Ernie Eves, then Ontario premier.

"I was in Caledon ... for my riding association meeting. I had just gotten to the house and the power went out. And with all due respect, a cut to power in Caledon, that isn't too unusual.

Then I was talking to Isabel, my spouse, who was supposed to be on her way up and she said the power was out all over.

I immediately got on the phone and away we went. The next thing I knew I was being whisked downtown in an OPP helicopter from the OPP station in Caledon East, and we landed at Jarvis Collegiate (in Toronto) and set up a command centre immediately."

___

John Baird, then Ontario energy minister.

"I was in Leamington, Ont. and I just happened to be at someone's home who had a backup generator. Then we turned on the TV ... and it showed that the blackout was including Michigan as well — so I realized there was something that was far obviously bigger than just Ontario.

It was problematic because all of the Hydro One helicopters obviously had to be used on the electricity problem. I got a chartered plane to take me back to Toronto but then they couldn't get the garage door open at the small airport in Leamington because the electricity was out, so I ended up having to drive back to Toronto.

We were just about running out of gas so we pulled in at an OPP station (in London, Ont.) I went in, told them who I was and they sent a police officer to drive me to Toronto to the emergency command centre."

___

Mel Lastman, then Toronto mayor.

"I was with my wife, I took the day off and ... we went out for a bite and they couldn't reach me, but in the restaurant they had no electricity.

The guy couldn't take cash and he wouldn't take a credit card because the cash register wouldn't work and the credit card machine wasn't working and so he said 'it's on the house' to everybody.

Then we came home and I get a call and they said 'you've got to come here right away', and I said 'where's here?', (and they said) the command centre.

___

Peter Carayiannis, lawyer who directed traffic in downtown Toronto for hours.

"What I first saw when I came down to the intersection was the massive traffic ... ... people were coming out of buildings, the TTC was emptying and traffic was at a dead standstill.

A city employee gave me a safety vest and a bicycle courier gave me a whistle so all of a sudden I walked into the intersection and I saw traffic, and five minutes later I had a whistle and a jacket.

I got into the intersection and wasn't really quite sure what to do, but I started guiding traffic a little bit and I found that people were following my lead and we started getting the intersection moving. I was there for about four and a half hours."