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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Interview with Joanne Willmott, New York State Power Authority

Aired August 15, 2003 - 07:04   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Josie Burke is at what many people...
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: She's in Niagara Falls.

HEMMER: ... believe is the hub of activity from yesterday. Let's get you up to Upstate New York.

And, Josie, what's happening there?

JOSIE BURKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Bill.

Well, yesterday, what's happening was there were all of these rumors that right here at the Niagara power plant -- we're about four miles north of Niagara Falls -- lightning struck, and that caused the entire blackout. Well, we learned very quickly that that just was not the case.

And I am joined now by Joanne Willmott, who is the regional manager for community relations for the New York State Power Authority, which runs this power plant.

And can you tell me in very specific terms exactly what happened here yesterday around 4:00 when the blackout happened?

JOANNE WILLMOTT, NEW YORK POWER: Good morning, Josie.

Well, as you said, around 4:00 we experienced here a dip in our generation, and the Niagara project however remained online throughout this outage and continues to operate this morning. So, just like everyone else, we'll be anxious to determine what, in fact, caused this widespread outage and, as I think Bill had mentioned earlier, determine how we can avoid it happening in the future.

BURKE: You mentioned that you experienced a dip here in your power output, but not a full blackout. Any early indications of how you could stay up that way, where so many other power plants failed?

WILLMOTT: Well, the hydroelectric project here at Niagara is well-designed and well-built. And as a hydro facility, it is designed to withstand swings in the system, such as we experienced yesterday, perhaps better than a fossil fire plant or a thermal plant can. Because we have 13 independent generators here, we could recover very quickly from that swing we saw at about 4:10.

BURKE: Joanne, thanks very much for your time for joining us this morning. And here, Bill, at the Niagara power plant, it's actually the largest single producer of electricity in the state. They normally provide about 10 percent of the state's electricity needs.

At one point last night, they were providing almost 60 percent of what was out there. That's dropped a little bit now. But, again, they did stay up, and they are continuing to provide some of the power and electricity that you're seeing as it comes back on throughout the state of New York -- Bill.

HEMMER: All right, Josie, thanks -- Josie Burke up there in Upstate New York. We'll certainly be back in touch with you.

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