Lights flicker across region
At 9:24 p.m., John Hawkinson tweeted:
Lights flickered at 9:21pm in Cambridge (MIT). Anyone else? I hear Porter, too?
Reports poured in from the South Shore, Brighton, Dorchester, the Back Bay, Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury, South Boston, Medford, Plymouth, Salem, Brookline and Natick of light flickering around the same time. Even Martha's Vineyard checked in. Flickering happened in Topsfield, too. Here at UHub Central, the lights flickered - very briefly - a couple of times. Even places not served by NStar, such as Mansfield and Reading, reported flickering.
UPDATE, 8:30 a.m. NStar spokesman Michael Durand reports:
A pole broke near an electrical substation in Carver. This caused a transmission line to go out of service, which resulted in the momentary flickers you mentioned. We worked overnight on repairs and as soon as our work is complete today the transmission line can be brought back into service. In the meantime, other equipment on the regional electrical grid can easily handle the electricity needs of the area.
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Happened on Mission Hill
Didn't think much of it til I saw this post...unusual?? Or normal?
Same. I thought it was a
Same. I thought it was a normal flicker/surge/whatever. Sometimes that happens. As long as the lights come back on, I don't think anything of it.
In Rosi too
Noticed it while tucking in our daughter.
Over here in W. Rox for sure.
Over here in W. Rox for sure. Thought I forgot to pay my bill....
Yes, in Winthrop
Two different times lights flickered. Once for a couple seconds, the other slightly later and flickered for a second.
What could cause widespread flickering like that?
2 likely suspects
Sunspots or somebody testing a terrorist attack on the grid.
and to think... I left my
and to think... I left my tinfoil hat at home before heading to my parent's for the holidays...
Nothing here in Newton?
Nothing here in Newton?
many, many people are
many, many people are reporting the same thing from south of boston to RI on the Brockton Hub on Facebook
My wife and I thought we
My wife and I thought we blinked at the same time in Hyde Park.
Happened here in East Boston too
Happened here in East Boston too. I thought it was my imagination.
Didn't notice it on Eagle Hill. Fair chance I was too wrapped up in catching up on The Walking Dead...which would have freaked me out a bit.
my lights flickered here in
my lights flickered here in somerville. strange..
Flickering lights in southeastern ma too. I'm in Fall River and FB was going crazy from people with no power to flickering lights. Friends all over noticing it. Crazy!
In Back Bay
Lights flickered about 4 times, enough to blow out a lightbulb--last time this happened a manhole blew up down the street, but this is obviously a much bigger deal. Do you think we'll ever know what this was all about?
I was working on Stuart St tonight when it happened. I had the same thought -- the last two times I've been in that office and the lights flickered like that the power went out completely shortly thereafter. I started mentally bracing myself for being in a small office buried deep in a building in darkness.
I'd like to know the cause too. Maybe it really was someone probing the control systems for the electrical grid...
Not On Oak Island
No, it didn't happen up here on Oak Island.
Earlier, it was light outside, but after the sun went down it got dark!
I was walking in the Porter Square T station at that time (or perhaps just walking past Lesley U) and saw nothing above or below ground.
I was in the bathtub and
I was in the bathtub and noticed the lights got a little dimmer at least two times...thought I might be having an episode. I'm in Dorchester.
Yup, here in Roxbury too.
Yup, here in Roxbury too.
Nothing here in lowell
Nothing here in lowell...what could cause this?
Nstar saying to raise the debt ceiling
I din't notice any flickering in Ah-ling-ton.
South End at Mass Ave and
South End at Mass Ave and Tremont - happened twice in five minutes.
Lights flickered on the West Rox/Deadham line ahnd we lost our internet for a couple of hours.
...noticed in Plainville, didn't give it much thought until I saw these posts.
YUP!!! I was walking out of a
YUP!!! I was walking out of a restaurant in Salem, they flickered twice, but nobody else seemed to notice...
Soooooo whats the word on the street???
Nothing here in Brighton. I was home and didn't notice a thing.
Yes, in JP but not long
Yes, in JP but not long enough to knock all my digital clocks out.
Yep, here in Holliston at
Yep, here in Holliston at around 9:15 and again a half hour later.
Have they determined the cause of this unusual occurrence? It is rather odd that people around a huge radius experienced the same thing..
Happened here in East
Happened here in East Watertown too. We figured it was just our quaint wiring.
Yes in Chatham, Cape Cod!
Yes in Chatham, Cape Cod!
Lights flickered, and TV turned off and on again. Thought that was bizarre.
The lights flickered on the South Shore ... and subsequently knocked power out to our wifi router. #firstworldproblems
Coronal mass ejection
Pete Bouchard reports one of these was reported to have hit the upper atmosphere around 9:30 p.m. Those have caused power problems in the past.
I sent e-mail to NStar this morning; maybe they'll write back.
Cause was more terrestrial
Updated the original post with a comment from NStar about a dying transmission line in Carver.
Really? Carver? Affecting
Really? Carver? Affecting towns all over eastern Mass? Color me skeptical.
Agree. Transmission line in
Agree. Transmission line in Carver affecting all of southeastern MA, including parts of Boston? Reeeeally?
Not enough juice to make the
Not enough juice to make the cranberry juice all at one time i guess......
In Nat Grid land ,not Nstar
In Nat Grid land ,not Nstar ,but had two occurrences where the tv lost its mojo, but not the usual suspects, like the microwave or stove clock loosing the time. Was going to check the circuit breaker for the cave , but with this revelation , this works for me. At first I thought someone took out a pole. Reminded me for a second of the blackout of 65 ,which happened in the fall.
Not buying the "Carver pole"
Not buying the "Carver pole" for the North Shore Flickers ... Just Say'n :-)
Flickered a few times in
Flickered a few times in Malden
How resilient is the
How resilient is the electrical grid?
When one piece fails, can the rest seamlessly take on the load, or at least isolate the failure to a small area? Or will there be cascading failures which could lead to a major blackout?
we might have been lucky the flicker wasn't a failure
The flickering was the result of the momentary re-alignment of the electric transmission and distribution grid re-aligning itself (either manually but more probably automatically) to deal with an interruption in the way the transmission was being managed prior to the event.
Remember - electricity is unique in that it is 'used' within about one second of being generated so there isn't much time to buffer events. And that also means that the amount of generation has to be balanced exactly to the consumption at all times - there isn't a tank to store excess electricity, as with your town's drinking water.
Also, remember that the entire electric grid is interconnected - so it doesn't matter what company bills you for your town, or if your town has its own power and light company - all of us within ISO New England are on the same 'grid.' ISO NE is the regional authority that manages generation and load balancing throughout New England (parts of it anyway, including all of Mass). So one glitch (assuming it is big enough) anywhere within NE could affect us all (as it did last night).
My guess is that NStar is talking about a 'high tension' or 'high voltage' transmission line - not just a wire to someone's house. Carver has a confluence of high voltage lines where the transmission lines from the Pilgrim nuclear power plant and the transmission lines to Cape Cod all converge. So it is right in the middle of the 'electricity highway' for SE Mass. [Bellingham MA is another well known 'confluence point' - hence the reason for the concentration of gas fired electricity generating stations in Bellingham - easy access to both the natural gas pipeline network and the transmission grid. But I digress.]
If the failure of a transmission line results in a large enough 'loss of load' (blackout) or a restriction in the ability of the grid to transmit electricity, then the system is instantly thrown into imbalance (think of it as too much power, not enough consumption, in the simplistic big blackout scenario). That can result in power surges and voltage dips or spikes throughout the system - which can cause protective devices in other substations and power generating stations to 'trip out' - cascading the blackout to other areas.
My guess is that we were somewhat lucky. A similar failure of a single high voltage transmission line near Cleveland Ohio is one of the events that started the cascade of events that resulted in the New York City to Canada to Ohio blackout of 8/14/2003. Admittedly, there were other factors in that incident, including degraded / malfunctioning monitoring software and alarm systems, deferred maintenance, and human error, but the failure of high voltage transmission lines were key to the blackout.
Part of the reason why we were lucky last night could be improved computerization / automation of the grid to respond to transmission interruptions, as well as the relatively low load demands of a weekday evening in October. Had this happened at 3 PM on a 100 degree day in August, things could have been different - the flicker could have been a blackout for a bunch of us. The statement that NStar makes about 'other equipment' being able to 'handle the electricity needs' is exactly correct - for an evening in October. But that is really just because the electricity distribution system is designed (somewhat) for the peak load days (or hours or minutes).
Technical, but very interesting reading: http://energy.gov/oe/downloads/blackout-2003-final...
This paper also includes a good discussion about why New England was isolated from that August 2003 blackout - describing the safety mechanisms in place that disconnected NE from NY/PA/OH when that system started to fail.
That paper also describes why it is essential for utilities to maintain their right of way along high voltage transmission lines by clearing trees and growth - transmission lines sag when under heavy load. In the August 2003 event, many of them sagged and contacted tall trees in the rights of way that hadn't been properly cleared prior to August 2003. So we should all support the clearing of trees along high voltage transmission line rights of way - unless we want to risk major power outages.
(not an electrical engineer, nor an electrical utility employee, so take this all with a grain of salt - I could especially be wrong about my pessimistic assessment ('we were lucky') of the robustness of the transmission network here in Mass. Maybe we didn't need luck - maybe the system worked as advertised.)