7 Series of Unfortunate Events (That Caused Horrible Disasters)

  • May 19, 2010
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5.

New York Black-out

The black-out of 1977 came at the worst time possible. The city was in the middle of a financial crisis and everyone was terrified about a string of serial murders. Psychologically speaking, this was a horrible time to have a black-out as New Yorkers were crazy and wound to the point of snapping. You know, more than usual.

time new york blackout

It’s not a disaster till it has a snazzy title graphic.

It all started with one lightning bolt that tripped two circuit breakers. Normally, this wouldn't have been a problem if the lightning hadn't have hit one of the most important parts of the New York power-grid, namely Buchanan South where the electricity for a whole line was converted into usable voltage. To make matters worse, the safety system meant to restart the breakers failed for no good reason whatsoever, except that God hates New York (he’s got a place in Malibu).

Nonetheless, there was no reason for worry yet as the New York power-grid is meant to be able to work even without one key line, except for a second lightning bolt strike which took out another line. By now ConEdison who was in charge of the New York electric grid was seriously worried, so they tried to activate an alternative power line. However, the station where the safety procedure had to be started was not manned that night and the automatic system failed.

A few minutes later a third lightning bolt hit the power-grid, taking out yet another line. ConEdison tried to switch the lines of power around and lower the volt value, but miscommunication among engineers resulted in slow action and not enough power reduction.

Then, to make things worse, cables at a major intersection heated up to the point where they sagged and touched an unidentified object that shouldn't have been there. This caused even more problems as an unaware operator (that could have stopped the current in his line) just sat on his thumbs and let it flow while it hit the intersection. Chaos ensued and and ConEdison desperately tried to manually shut down lights here and there. Too little, too late and all of New York plunged into complete darkness for almost a whole day.

Needless to say, people snapped. Thirty-one neighborhoods were looted, buildings were burned and the damages amounted $300 million plus much more in lost productivity.

Ironically, this black-out resulted in a bunch of safety measures being implemented… which all failed again in 2003 when problems in Ohio caused another disastrous black-out in New York.

6.

Texas City Disaster

This one is a disaster that sounds almost too strange to be real. In April, a fire starts on a boat full of fertilizer. Fertilizer, for those that have never been questioned by the FBI, is extremely rich in ammonia which can be highly explosive. This ship was also carrying gunpowder and had no modern safety features, meaning it should have been retired sometime after the Second World War.

boat

Who you gonna call? 911, actually.

The fire department doesn't get involved at first, as they let the crew try to get the ship under control. By the time the volunteer fire department finally took over, the fire was out of control. This leads to an explosion which sends burning ammonia everywhere. The explosion was so bad that two planes flying above the area were hit and burst into flames, crashing nearby and causing a chemical plant to catch on fire. Not even humming the Benny Hill music makes this lighthearted.

A nearby ship, also filled with fertilizer, tries to escape the fire but crashes into another ship and the port authorities refuse to get involved. The ships are stuck together until one finally catches fire hours later and another explosion takes place, this time hitting a sulfur factory.

Millions of dollars worth of product and infrastructure were lost and at least 567 people died, most of them people who gathered to see the ship burn, and didn't consider that getting to a safe distance might be important. So no big loss.

7.

Thule B-52 Crash

As the plane (with the hilarious codename HOBO 28) took off, one of the co-pilots placed some foam cushions on top of an exhaust vent. The captain calls him to replace another co-pilot earlier than schedule and the man forgets about the cushions.

The plane's auto-pilot as well as its heating mechanism malfunctions, so the captain decides to draw extra heat into the cabin through an engine manifold.

thule b 52

It’s as big as a whale, and it’s about to set sail!

Those foam cushions from earlier catch fire, because of a second technical error with the heating system (all exhaust from the manifold was released through one vent, instead of being dispersed equally.).

The whole crew starts looking for the source of the fire as a smell of burning rubber spreads through the plane. Somehow they miss it twice until a navigator discovers the burning rubber cushions and tries to put out the fire with two fire extinguishers. For some reason this doesn’t work and the crew declares an emergency, asking for permission to perform an emergency landing. Permission comes too late and the plane crashes into the ocean.

The main problem was that the plane had FOUR nuclear bombs on board. One of which has still not been recovered to date despite an extensive search project by the U.S. and Danish governments (called Operation Dr. Freezelove, probably). The nuclear fallout might have spread as far as the Mediterranean, but the U.S. tried to keep everything TOP SECRET so we don't really know much about what happened with the nuclear fallout. Sleep tight.

Written by Jack Mendoza – Copyrighted © www.weirdworm.com Image Sources

Image sources:

  • - Three Mile Island core meltdown: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/59/Carter_leaving_Three_Mile_Island.gif
  • - Avianca flight 052 : http://colombiareports.com/pics/2010/01/avianca_crash.jpg
  • - Sultana : http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a2/Sultana_Disaster.jpg
  • - Apollo 1 fire : http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9b/Apollo_1_fire.jpg
  • - New York Black-out: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/a/a1/Time_New_York_Blackout.png
  • - Texas City Disaster: http://www.inshorefishingadventures.com/Boat%20Fire%202rs.jpg
  • - Thule B-52 Crash : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Boeing_B-52G_in_flight_061026-F-1234S-021.jpg

Sources:

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Mile_Island_accident
  • http://www.nytimes.com/1990/02/05/nyregion/avianca-flight-52-the-delays-that-ended-in-disaster.html?pagewanted=3
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Sultana
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_1#Command_module_design_worries
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_City_Disaster
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1968_Thule_Air_Base_B-52_crash
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