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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Ohio Based Utilities Were First to Fail

Aired August 18, 2003 - 19:14   ET

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

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We move now eastward.
As you can tell, the lights are on, the power has been flowing today, but so have the accusations. Some reports blaming the power blackouts on problems at an Ohio-based utility. It's called First Energy Corporation. Though the company says those accusation are premature.

John Zarrella has the latest from Cleveland, Ohio.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Four transmission lines, like outside these Cleveland, Ohio, may have been the first link to fail in the complex and massive electric grid.

Investigators believe the sequence of key events began little more than one hour before the lights went out.

The Midwest independent transmission system operator preliminary report shows the first transmission line near Akron tripped at 3:06 eastern time. Twenty-six minutes later, a second line in South Canton tripped. By 4:06, a total of three lines owned by Ohio's First Energy Corp. and a fourth co-owned line in South Canton went out.

These line failures may have been the first physical sign of trouble, but they may have been the consequence of other events. First Energy says its investigation has uncovered abnormal power fluctuations in the grid as early as noon Thursday.

Soft Switching Technologies, another monitoring group, says there were fluctuations in transmission lines outside of Ohio. So it may be too soon to pin it all on the Ohio lines.

DAVID NEVIUS, NERC: They're part of an interconnected grid, which works together. So it's really the reliability of all of the interconnected utilities, the transmissions line, generators and loads, that make up reliability, not just a single utility.

ZARRELLA: But once the lines went out, other events appeared to follow.

Investigators say at 4:08, power swings were detected in Canada and the eastern United States. Other lines began tripping. By 4:11, power plants were dropping off: Avon in Cleveland, Davis Bessie outside Toledo. The cascade of failures moved rapidly and during the next few minutes, 50 million people became powerless.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZARRELLA: Despite these reports of power fluctuations on the line, the overriding opinion within the industry still remains that the problems began in Ohio. So it may well be that when all is said and done, these four transmission lines owned by First Energy may end up to be the cause of the problem.

And it's still very unclear what if anything, these power fluctuations had to do with the cause of the blackout -- Daryn.

KAGAN: John Zarrella in Cleveland, two big questions: what happened and how to prevent it from happening again. John, thank you for that report.

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