The Great Northeast Blackout 50 Years Later
November 9, 2015 5:18pm CST
It was 50 years ago Monday, when the entire northeast suddenly went dark. Joe Condon remembers it vividly. "Everyone was off the air," said Condon. On November 9, 1965, The then 17 year old, was a weekend disk jockey at WTRY in Troy at their Proctor Theatre building on 4th street. Off duty at the time, driving down Washington Ave in Albany around 5:15pm listening to WABC on the radio. At the same time Condon noticed street lights around him were doing the same. “Shortly after that WABC just went off the air,” said Condon. Time Warner Cable News traffic reporter John Gabriel was a kid at the time, but he and Condon, like an estimated 30 million others, became witnesses to what is now known as the Great Northeast Blackout. "It was a big deal but what goes through my mind is that so many other broadcasters were unprepared for it,” said Condon. WTRY was the only station on air from New York City to Rochester during a three-hour time period thanks to the stations generator. With a job to deliver critical news to its listeners, their reporters communicated by using two way radio’s. “We had about six or seven reporters and what we started doing was transmitting to the transmitter site which was also had a two-way radio, we were able to get on the air from the Proctor theatre building on 4th street and were able let everyone know in the Capital Region what was going on," said Condon. Power was restored to the Capital Region in around three hours, but some places in the Northeast didn't receive electricity for more than 10, stranding people in elevators, trains, subways during the height of rush hour. So what caused it all? It was due to a tripped transmission line in Ontario, Canada, which caused several other heavily loaded lines to fail. “The accolades WTRY got the next day was great, the entire Capital Region paid tribute to us because of the incredible service we performed that night," said Condon. Since then radio and television stations have invested in backup power but that dark day will always stand as history and a learning lesson in the broadcasting business. “It’s so interesting to think that all of these tv stations and radio stations were off the air and didn’t expect it to happen, and how important radio was and that a lot of other stations let their listeners down by not being on the air," said Condon. I personally don't remember it, as I was little at the time. I do remember the radio station being in my city, which is Troy, but it did move years ago. Also Proctors still stands today, but it fell into dis repair, and has been under renovations for a few years now.
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