Power Restored After Outage Hits Cambridge

Power was out in Cambridgeport. (Joe Spurr/WBUR)

Power was out in Cambridgeport. (Joe Spurr/WBUR)

Update at 7 p.m.: “Power has been restored in Cambridge,” the city’s police department just tweeted.

Earlier, the MBTA tweeted that “normal service is resuming” on the Red Line.

Earlier updated post:

A widespread power outage has been reported in the eastern part of Cambridge.

As of 6:15 p.m Thursday, NStar said about 13,000 customers are affected, down from a high of 17,000 customers. The area includes Kendall Square near MIT and Harvard Square.

An NStar spokesman said the outage, which occurred just after 4:30 p.m., is related to a transmission line and is being investigated. Cambridge Police said it will take several hours to fix.

Cambridge Police were directing rush-hour traffic. There were reports of gridlock on Memorial Drive and other roads in the city.

The MBTA said “the Red Line is experiencing significant delays between Park Street and Alewife Stations due to [the] power problem.” MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said none are stuck in tunnels.

WBUR’s Fred Thys was at Harvard at about 5 p.m.:

I just walked through the Harvard campus and much of it was out, many of the residential halls were out. Although parts of Harvard Square, the businesses, seem to have light. Traffic lights, along Memorial Drive, some of them at least, are out right now.

With reporting by The Associated Press and the WBUR Newsroom

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  • yoyo

    im right next to the power out im so lucky

  • Samuel Walworth

    For goodness sakes, when are we going to learn some lessons and do invest in some better infrastructure?

    • Lawrence

      But with 10 million given to the W hotel and 235 million given to build the Assembly Sq Mall, where is the money going to come from?

      • Samuel Walworth

        Hi John,

        Its the power company’s issue.

        May be their executives need to invest the profits from the company to the company first than take big bonuses for themselves and cutting further investment into the power infrastructure.

        Just visit any other world class city outside USA, and you will find that most of the power is distributed with Fault Tolerance methods, where as over here, the calculation merely runs that if it didnt happen in last 2 decade, it wont happen in next 2 !! (with almost no investment into the upgrading of the system which was put in place decades ago)

        This is what is taking us down.. remember there was a transformer fire in Boston in the beginning of the year.. I believe its just the right time these power companies wake up and start doing some investment in their own infra rather than paying their execs the hefty bonuses.

        • Samuel Bloviated Walworth

          Dear Samuel,

          Lets see a part of Cambridge was with out power. Obviously our/their power system needs to be up graded – sarcasm. So I’m guessing you want every house to be set up with a Fault Tolerant system. Is every light bulb in your house set up with a fault tolerant system?

          I’m all for watching that executives get for salaries and bonuses but this failure seems from a, town, city, state or regional system failure.

          I was working in business that was effected. I bike, along the LENGTH of the area effected, to a bar in Cambridge that had power. Let me tell you that was a ride of ten minutes along the river.

          Sometimes it takes time to figure out what happened. There are many examples of automatic (ready fault tolerant) systems causing more problems, than ‘systems’ that allow a little time to figure out what is the best plan of attack/repair. Do you know anything about power system management? Do you know what was the cause?

          Maybe there was some sort of electrical ground (look it up). Allowing another feed to the area to connect would just make that one fail. So in fact, the fact that the failure was not larger could be an argument that the system work correctly to stop a cascading failure to other neighborhoods. There are a few examples of automatic power rerouting systems causing multi-state power grid failures.

          Look at the facts you bloviated cow. An area of Cambridge was effected. This was far from a system failure.

          • Samuel Walworth


            Some one is really annoyed when pointed out about an issue.

            I dont have every bulb in the house with a fault tolerant circuit, neither it is feasible, however if any single bulb in case puts a lot of people at risk, I better do have a fault tolerant system built into the bulb or any of the bulb that is that mission critical (e.g. Locomotive Head Lamps).

            Calling me or any one names will not solve the issue nor is the right approach.

            Investment into our ever degrading system is the answer.

            Secondly, whatever the cause it may be, a single fault cannot cause a major outage like that happened yesterday, it always happens when a chain of series goes wrong, and my whole point is to avoid that sort of situation with planning and investment.

            Hope that your business was not badly affected by the outage yesterday.

            Wish you luck, my friend.

  • John

    I’m on Harvard campus now. The yard and most of the buildings in it are out. However, the newer parts of campus, such as the science center and dworkin, are up.

  • Mariel

    The apocalypse!

  • Robert Keyes

    There was failure and hope in multiple places in this outage. From what I saw, the police response was few in numbers and not prepared: I walked from Central Square to MIT. I saw police cruisers at the Prospect/Mass/Western/River area from a distance so I can’t comment on what they were doing. But until I got to Albany street, I didn’t see another cop. The cops I saw at Albany street were busy talking to each other, not directing traffic. I also looked for but did not see any appropriate traffic direction equipment. When I got to the crosswalk at 77 Mass ave (MIT central), one police officer was there, directing traffic, but without a flashlight (never mind it being a proper ‘wand’, an insufficiently reflective vest, but armed with a whistle. He did seem to be trying hard. But his actions seemed — unprofessional. I don’t think that any of these officers have acceptable training in traffic direction, or equipment. It’s not like Cambridge is lacking money for such things. I expect better training, and more auxiliary force for such emergencies. Additionally, I find fault with the lack of a backup system for traffic signaling. In the old days of traffic signals which consumed a lot of power, it was not surprising that no effective backup power systems existed. But now we have LED traffic lights, and electronic (as opposed to electromechanical) signal switching – why is this so difficult to operate off of some reserve batteries at each intersection? Do I have to file patent applications in order to explain how this can be done efficiently with modern technology? I understand that the power grid isn’t completely reliable. In Cambridge, it’s actually been pretty good (with the exception of the Great Blackout 2.0). But perhaps because of this, traffic control is poor. Yes, I vote, and yes, I am a registered Cambridge voter. This issue is much more important than plastic water bottles, so perk up, you Councillors!

  • X-Ray

    According to NSTAR, the power outage was due to “mechanical problems” in
    switching gear. Was the switch overloaded, not properly maintained, or was it
    overloaded by human error? In any case, the fault seems to lie with NSTAR’s
    system operation.

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