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Posted on Thu, Sep. 04, 2003
Utility Releases Timeline on Problems

Associated Press

The Ohio utility under scrutiny in the blackout, FirstEnergy Corp., released an eight-page timeline to congressional investigators Thursday on transmission problems during the hours leading up to the Aug. 14 outage.

FirstEnergy Chairman H. Peter Burg told a congressional hearing that his company's grid was properly maintained and worked correctly, despite dramatic power surges.

"A critical fact is that the system kept working as it was designed to do, despite all of these circumstances," Burg told members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The nation's worst blackout cascaded across eight states and parts of Canada, leaving millions of people in the dark and shutting down more than 100 power plants.

Investigators believe the outage started in Ohio and Michigan with a handful of commonplace "trips" - brief transmission line shutdowns, usually due to voltage changes, such as power overloads.

FirstEnergy's timeline lists events in Eastern Daylight Savings Time. The names of the transmission lines refer to power substations owned by FirstEnergy and American Electric Power, FirstEnergy's neighboring utility to the south.

Some key moments:

12:05 p.m. - American Electric Power's 245-megawatt Conesville power plant trips.

1:31 p.m. - FirstEnergy's Eastlake power plant trips. (Officials previously had put this failure at about 2 p.m.) Despite this failure, FirstEnregy says its lines remained balanced and stable.

3:05 p.m. - FirstEnergy's Chamberlin-Harding high-voltage line trips

3:32 p.m. - FirstEnergy's Hanna-Juniper line trips after contact with a tree.

3:38 p.m. - South Canton-Star, shared by AEP and FirstEnergy, repeatedly trips.

3:42 p.m. - FirstEnergy's Perry nuclear power plant reports voltage fluctuation.

3:42 p.m - Cloverdale-Torrey line, shared by FirstEnergy and AEP, fails and remains off line because of an overload stemming from problems at the South Canton-Star line.

3:44 p.m. - AEP's East Lima-New Liberty line trips.

3:44 p.m. - FirstEnergy's Pleasant Valley-West Akron line trips. Pleasant Valley's eastern leg fails 15 minutes later after a transformer overload.

3:45 p.m. - Cloverdale-Canton Central, shared by FirstEnergy and AEP, trips after being overloaded.

3:45 p.m. - AEP's Canton Central-Tidd line trips but is restored automatically after one minute.

3:51 p.m. - AEP's East Lima-North Findlay line trips.

4:05 p.m. - Dale-West Canton line, shared by FirstEnergy and AEP, trips.

4:06 p.m. - FirstEnergy's Sammis-Star line trips and 150 megawatts of electricity that had been flowing from Ohio to Michigan is reversed. FirstEnergy calls the reversal, in itself, insignificant.

4:09 p.m. - Two AEP lines, Muskingum-Ohio Central and East Lima-Fostoria, are tripped automatically in response to power line problems. AEP says the action prevented cascading outages to the south.

4:09-4:11 - Power flows increase dramatically from eastern Michigan into Ohio and from Ohio into western Michigan. Power plants in both states begin to sever themselves from the troubled grid.

4:11 p.m. - A massive power blackout begins to cascade across eight states from Ohio and Michigan to New York.

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