CNN BREAKING NEWS
Analysis of Security Concerns From Power Outage
Aired August 15, 2003 - 07:42 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: It was dark here last night. I want to bring in Kelly McCann right now, our security analyst down in Washington, D.C.
And I know, Kelly, you were on air with us for hours last evening. What was the concern you had when the sun goes down and it's dark in a city of six million, even in the borough of Manhattan anyway for that matter, what are the concerns that are triggered in this city and across the country and down in D.C. when a situation like this presents itself literally out of the blue yesterday afternoon?
J. KELLY MCCANN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Hi, Bill.
You know, the biggest concern is, is that any single incident could spark kind of a wave of public panic or reaction. I mean, that would be the biggest thing.
Post-9/11 and certainly when the weapons of mass destruction and chemical thing came up, just the idea that perhaps a can of mace could get punctured at a public event and the ensuing panic could be worse than an actual attack. This is kind of the same thing. It would only take a minor incident...
HEMMER: Hey, Kelly?
HEMMER: Hey, Kelly, I apologize here, but the stop light is on.
MCCANN: There you go.
HEMMER: And we have a green light at 46th and Broadway and 7th Avenue, Times Square, the intersection of America apparently is open for business yet again, at least in part anyway.
On the east side of 7th Avenue, the big Virgin sign has been lit up. But I think, Daryn, as we look further down the block, it's still dark, so perhaps it's going street-by-street, maybe block-by-block. But right there is a pretty good sign on a Friday morning in New York City.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: And another good sign is that the traffic lights are back working. So, that's going to make the traffic go a little bit more smoothly.
I don't know if people at home could hear, but it was through our microphones, but spontaneous applause just broke out as people were making hooray for the lights coming back on and the efforts to get it going again.
As you were saying, kind of spotty here, like, you can see some of these lights here, but that big billboard, the big electronic billboard that people are used to seeing, that's not up and running quite yet.
HEMMER: Well, that's where your ball drops at the further end -- the further southern end of Times Square.
Daryn, out of our camera range here, though, obviously the lights are coming back on here, "Aida," which is the famous Broadway play here. You can see it in our camera lens here with the McDonald's just to the right of it.
There is power up and down 7th Avenue right now. However, we're told through Adam Reese (ph), our producer, two blocks down still the situation there is dark, no power.
KAGAN: Well, and that's what we're seeing, and, as you and I talked earlier this morning, the power came back on where I was in the 50s about 4:11 a.m., but you walk a few blocks up to where our Time Life Building is, where we usually do AMERICAN MORNING from, and that building was pitch black. So, you think you have a cause for celebration, and you do in little pockets, but all you need to do in some places in New York City is just go a single block and those folks are still facing some challenges this morning.
HEMMER: Do we still have Kelly? If we do have Kelly...
HEMMER: ... I know you were asked some questions about the grid last night. And I don't know if this is your particular specialty, but can you give us any insight as to how the process happens when you're trying to restore power to so many millions?
MCCANN: Well, I'll take the reverse angle, Bill, which is from my personal experience with the military and the special operations. A grid is a lucrative target for every special operations force in the world. So, if you think about that statement and the essential nature of those grids, if you'd look at a map of a wire diagram of how the power comes out -- a hydroelectric plant, a nuclear plant, whatever -- from that point downstream, there are other power production and distribution facilities. All of those nodes, of course, are critical to the safe operation and the efficient operation of the grid.
So, I mean, what happened when this all kind of went out, people didn't know whether it was a coordinated attack on some of those distribution points and nodes, or whether it was, in fact, a natural occurrence of one element that simply overloaded the whole system.
The best description on our network, I heard yesterday, was when a power expert said we're operating at so close to maximum output that literally any anomaly, any kind of thing that could happen is enough to tip the scale over and create what we saw yesterday. So, when it comes back on, obviously, the word goes out that people should unplug appliances, that they should protect against the inevitable surge when it lights back up, because if you think about in order to push all of that power from the plant through all of the distribution points and other power-producing facilities, a massive amount of electricity to go out, then it's got to be absorbed into all of the things that are running day-to-day.
So, it is an incredible effort, and quite frankly not bad that you've got lights there now with you in such a short period of time.
HEMMER: Kelly, thanks. Stand by for us in D.C., we'll be back in a moment.
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