The Blackout Party (it's not what you think)

Last night I went to a party to commemorate a disaster.  On August 14, 2003, the northeastern United States suffered cascading power failures that left tens of millions of people in the dark for days.  To the best of my knowledge, no one at our party blacked out.

The restaurant/bar Melt has been holding a Blackout Party every year on that date, turning off the lights and TVs and serving dark beers in the dark.  Well, it wasn't very dark at 5PM with the windows open, but it was cozy anyway, and everybody looks better by candlelight.  Good thing, because we waited two hours for a table.  The company of good friends and the availability of Stone's Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale (yes, they really named it that), made the wait a pleasant one.

I'm surprised to learn now that the power failures initiated in the Cleveland area; I wasn't living here at the time.  Apparently trees had grown too close to several important power lines, and when they were asked to carry extra capacity, they came into contact with the trees and failed. 
(Here's something sciencey:  the extra current the wires were carrying caused them to heat up like resistors, which caused them to expand, in turn causing them to droop, which brought them into contact with the local foliage, which shorted them out to ground.  You gotta watch out for thermal expansion.)  
Having just spent a hard day hacking back bushes in my yard, I can testify to how much effort it takes to keep Ohio's greenery under control.  Still, it sounds like First Energy kind of fell down on the job that day.

Where was I?  In August of 2003 I was living in the Chicago area, hard at work renovating our first house.  We had frequent power outages, some of them long enough that we became concerned for our elderly neighbors, but we weren't affected by the Big One.  Perhaps Chicago had earned immunity eight years earlier with a deadly heat wave.  To the best of my knowledge, nobody commemorates that dark week.

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