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50 Years Ago, Blackout Plunged Northeast, Including Boston, Into Darkness

In this Nov. 9, 1965, file photo, the darkened Boston skyline is lit only by the full moon during a massive power failure that blacked out many sections of the Northeast and parts of Canada, 50 years ago. The two brightly lighted streets are on Beacon Hill, still lit by gaslight. (J. Walter Green/AP, File)
In this Nov. 9, 1965, file photo, the darkened Boston skyline is lit only by the full moon during a massive power failure that blacked out many sections of the Northeast and parts of Canada, 50 years ago. The two brightly lighted streets are on Beacon Hill, still lit by gaslight. (J. Walter Green/AP, File)
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Subway riders stranded underground. Workers trapped between floors in elevators. Streets packed with honking cars and pedestrians, some panicked, some exhilarated.

And illuminating it all, only the light of the November moon.

The Great Northeastern Blackout came at the height of the evening rush hour on Nov. 9, 1965 -- 50 years ago today -- and plunged tens of millions into darkness across the northeastern U.S. and southern Canada for hours, including New York, Boston and Toronto.

The nation had never seen a power failure of such scope before, and Cold War tensions instantly stoked fears of sabotage.

It was soon established that problems with the electrical grid caused the blackout, the first large-scale realization of infrastructure worries that would resurface in major blackouts in 1977 and again in 2003.

The power came back in Massachusetts by 10 p.m. on Nov. 9.

In this Nov. 9, 1965, file photo, the view from the Prudential Tower in Boston shows that not all parts of the city were plunged into darkness during the Great Northeastern Blackout. (AP File)
In this Nov. 9, 1965, file photo, the view from the Prudential Tower in Boston shows that not all parts of the city were plunged into darkness during the Great Northeastern Blackout. (AP File)

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