Things started to go awry near Cleveland at 3:06 p.m. on Aug. 14, more than an hour before the largest North American blackout in history. A transmission line carrying 345 kilovolts of power overheated, sagged into a tree, and automatically shut off to protect itself from melting entirely. Instantaneously, the colossal current of electricity it was carrying found a new route, sluicing into a neighboring cable. Twenty-six minutes later, the cable that picked up the misplaced load was also toast, a victim of overload. Stranded commuters cross the Brooklyn Bridge during the blackout. As the mounting flow of wayward electricity …
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