The hour that paralyzed an entire region

Norran's journalists struggled well past midnight on Friday night to provide readers with information about the major power outage - easier said than done when neither electricity nor internet was working.
Norran's journalists struggled well past midnight on Friday night to provide readers with information about the major power outage - easier said than done when neither electricity nor internet was working.

On Thursday evening, it became frighteningly clear how fragile our society is and how vulnerable we are when electricity disappears and the internet stops working. I was sitting at home on the sofa with the children, watching "Robinson", when the whole house suddenly went dark just before 21:30.

Skellefteå 18 november 2023 14:08

The youngest, who was brushing their teeth at the time, screamed in terror from the bathroom, and it took me a minute to realise that the whole of Kåge was in darkness. A phone call later revealed that not only Kåge, but the whole of Skellefteå and several other nearby communities had been affected. An intense effort began to get the news out on

Sara kulturhus was extinguished.

We understand the importance of our reporting in such crisis situations and, naturally, we wanted to immediately provide a live report on what was happening. However, this proved to be easier said than done. The newsroom was without power, and it was impossible to access the internet as both the 4G and 5G networks were overloaded, and wi-fi was out of the question.

Norran's reporter Veronika Åström live reported from mobile phones in the darkness during the power outage.

At the same time, my eldest son, who had been at a hockey game, called: 

– Mom, you have to pick me up, I missed the bus and it's COLD. We thought we'd go to Circle K but the doors won't open, you can't get in anywhere.

So, I got into the car and drove towards the city in -18 degrees Celsius. It was almost eerie passing Solbacken without seeing a single illuminated sign, even stranger when reaching the traffic lights which were completely out.

Skellefteå was plunged into darkness at 21:30 on November 16 when a major power outage cut off electricity to over 30,000 households.

Back in the newsroom, the reporter managed to get online using a mobile phone with a prepaid card from an obscure provider and started posting updates on the situation. It wasn't easy, because even Skellefteå Kraft didn't know the extent of the outage or what had happened. Questions arose: Had someone accidentally cut a cable? But certainly not in the middle of winter and at that time of night? Could it be sabotage? How long would it last? Where are our torches? My thoughts raced, and I was relieved that we'd just lit a fire in the stove to keep us warm.

An old stove is great when there is a power cut.

I called the news editor to check on the situation, but we could barely hear each other, so we had to communicate by text message. The night desk, which is in another part of the country, was called in, and we also managed to contact the other news editor, who lives just south of the city and still had both power and internet, so we were able to update the article with the latest news.

The sports reporter, who had just sent the last text to the newspaper when the power went out at the Skellefteå Kraft Arena, told us that the players had to take showers in the dark. Meanwhile, at Sara kulturhus, the culture and entertainment editor was doing a TV interview when the power went out.

Colleagues who were actually off duty went out and photographed a darkened city, and together we managed to keep the live report updated with more information.

As if by magic, the lights came back on an hour and 20 minutes later. But it felt like an eternity, and it struck me how incredibly fragile our society is without electricity. Access cards and electronic keypad locks stop working, and we have become so used to being constantly connected and accessible that we are almost paralysed when cut off from the outside world. Then I thought about those living in war zones who have to survive for days, perhaps weeks, without electricity, water or heat. It's almost unimaginable.

On Friday we continued our efforts to find out more about what had happened. According to Skellefteå Kraft, a major line in the regional network had failed. At the time of writing, it's not clear how this could have happened, but apparently more than 30,000 households were affected. In terms of the number of people, it's significantly more, as many households have more than one person, and the power cut was the main topic of conversation in the city on Friday. Everywhere you went, people were talking about what had happened.

It's very clear that it's precisely at times like these that we at Norran really make a difference; it's to us that many turn to find out what is happening and why. It's a big responsibility, and we promise to do our best to provide the answers. We may not be the best at everything, but we are always the best when it matters. It's also fantastic to see how you, our readers, share your thoughts, questions, knowledge, and pictures during times like these – thank you for that.

Stearinljus är inte bara mysigt, ibland kan de också vara enda källan till ljus.

Want to catch up on the big blackout? See below for more articles on the same topic.

Ämnen du kan följa