The Northeast blackout of 2003 was a widespread power outage throughout parts of the Northeastern and Midwestern United States, and the Canadian province of Ontario on August 14, 2003, beginning just after 4:10 p.m. EDT.
Most places restored power by midnight (within 7 hours), some as early as 6 p.m. on August 14 (within 2 hours), while the New York City Subway resumed limited services around 8 p.m. Full power was restored to New York City and Toronto on August 16. At the time, it was the world’s second most widespread blackout in history, after the 1999 Southern Brazil blackout. The outage, which was much more widespread than the Northeast blackout of 1965, affected an estimated 10 million people in southern and central Ontario, and 45 million people in eight U.S. states.
The blackout’s proximate cause was a software bug in the alarm system at the control room of FirstEnergy, an Akron, Ohio–based company, which rendered operators unaware of the need to redistribute load after overloaded transmission lines drooped into foliage. What should have been a manageable local blackout cascaded into the collapse of much of the Northeast regional electricity distribution system.