Ike Brings Biggest Multi-State Internet Outage since 2003

Ike swept across Texas on Saturday, devastating Galveston and severely damaging Houston and Harris County before plodding intensely north and east through Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. While many Texan networks remain unreachable, the recovery is proceeding remarkably quickly. From a peak of around 100 networks suffering outage through Monday, Ohio, still hard hit, is also slowly starting to recover. And Pennsylvania is the latest victim of Ike.


Onset of outages in Texas and Ohio

As we have observed in the past, outage onset in the face of natural disasters has a signature marked by a noisy pattern on top of a steady rise. This signature is visible in plots of outage count in both Ohio and Texas. The first plot is an onset detail from an earlier plot as Ike made landfall in Texas. The second displays Ike’s effect approximately 36 hours later, when Ohio networks began suffering outages as well. Starting Sunday morning, the outage count began climbing in Ohio where Ike, though weaker, continued to bring heavy, destructive winds.







Map visualization

Though we provide outage detail above for the most heavily hit states, connectivity in the entire region was seriously affected. To get some idea of the widespread damage in the central Midwest, examine this Google Maps overlay, which shows that, though the damage was most obvious in Ohio, the plume of outages stretches over Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Pennsylvania.




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If you have Google Earth, try loading this KMZ file to visualize the outages over time.

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Longer-term outages

Now, let’s take a look at the longer-term outages across the states in Ike’s path. While contributing to the overall pattern of outage across the central Midwest, outages in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri were much less noticeable than the three hardest hit states: Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The plot below illustrates networks that have been unavailable consistently for more than one hour and have remained unreachable. It is clear that Texas is slowly on the mend, finding power while repairing damaged gear and cables.




And, a late-breaking addition, here’s a summary of the total number of persistent outages across Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania.




Taken individually, Texas and Ohio suffered (and continue to suffer) under the winds of Ike. After analyzing the geographic distribution of outages, we observe a pattern of widespread Internet outages to multi-state regions last seen during the blackouts of August, 2003.

1 comments
Edward Vielmetti
Edward Vielmetti

Thanks for doing this, good analysis. The power outages across Ohio were remarkable. One unconfirmed account that I have was that the majority of the power grid there was engineered for 50 mph winds, and as a result damage was much more widespread than any of the utilities were used to planning for. The hurricane folks have a new measure of storm intensity called IKE ("Integrated Kinetic Energy") which shows the projected damage in a hurricane's path due to wind and water; it would be interesting to map that path against your outage map to see the correlation.