I was teaching my last after-school class at 4:15 yesterday, loading up a webpage to play a game with my students when they finished their classwork. Then everything went silent and dark. The power had gone out in the whole school. When I got home about 30 minutes later, I found out that the power had gone out in my apartment as well. It wasn't until about 6 o'clock that the power came back on, at which point I was able to boot my computer up and find out what was going on.
The past few days have been unseasonably hot in Korea, and as a result, people have had to turn on their air cons more than they would usually at this time. It put a strain on the nation's power plants, and electricity usage approached the upper limit of what they could handle. If the power usage goes over the upper limit, then the whole system would fail and it would take about 2 weeks to restore power, rather than just a few hours.
The solution is for the power plants to turn off parts of the grid for an extended period of time to lessen the strain on the system. Until now I had heard about that happening only in Seoul, so this was the first time that I had seen it happen outside of the capital.
Rolling blackouts caused a myriad of problems, however. Many people were trapped in elevators for several hours, or struggled to drive through the city with non-functioning traffic lights. (And as many people in Korea know, driving is already a struggle here!) Restaurants and cafes were forced to stop serving patrons, for fear that their food would spoil in the meantime. Others who were working in offices and businesses lost unsaved work or had to light candles to see what they were doing. But despite the power outages, people were still able to use their mobile phones to update netizens on what was happening. They took to social networks such as Twitter to document what they had seen.
Today, the power is working just fine, but who knows how the continued hot weather will affect Korea's power usage. If it reaches the high levels of yesterday, we just might be in for a Friday night blackout as well. Good thing I have my candles!