Sud­den power out­age cre­ates 'nightmare' at At­lanta air­port

South Florida Times - - BUSINESS - By Associated Press

JONATHAN LAN­DRUM Jr.

AT­LANTA (AP) - A sud­den power out­age brought the world's busiest air­port to a stand­still Sun­day, ground­ing more than 1,000 flights in At­lanta just days be­fore the start of the Christ­mas travel rush. Hours after the black­out be­gan, au­thor­i­ties an­nounced that elec­tric­ity would be re­stored at the Hart­field-Jack­son At­lanta In­ter­na­tional Air­port by mid­night.

Pas­sen­gers at the air­port were left in the dark when the lights went out at around 1 p.m. The out­age halted all out­go­ing flights, and ar­riv­ing planes were held on the ground at their point of de­par­ture. In­ter­na­tional flights were be­ing di­verted, of­fi­cials said.

Delta pas­sen­ger Emilia Duca, 32, was on her way to Wis­con­sin from Bo­gota, Colom­bia, when she got stuck in At­lanta. She said po­lice made pas­sen­gers who were in the bag­gage-claim area move to a higher floor. She said restau­rants and shops were closed. Vend­ing ma­chines weren't work­ing.

“A lot of peo­ple are ar­riv­ing, and no one is go­ing out. No one is say­ing any­thing of­fi­cial. We are stuck here,'' she said. “It's a nightmare.''

Ac­cord­ing to a Ge­or­gia Power state­ment, a fire in an un­der­ground elec­tri­cal fa­cil­ity may have been re­spon­si­ble for the out­age. The cause of the fire was not known.

“No per­son­nel or pas­sen­gers were in dan­ger at any time,'' the state­ment said.

No ar­eas out­side of the air­port were af­fected by the power loss. The util­ity said that there are “many re­dun­dant sys­tems in place'' to en­sure the power sup­ply to the air­port and that such out­ages at the air­port “are very rare.''

That wasn't enough to com­fort Jeff Smith, 46, of Pitts­burgh, who ended up stuck in a plane on the tar­mac for three hours after it landed.

“This is the worst ex­pe­ri­ence I've ever had at an air­port,'' he said.

By evening, power had been re­stored to at least one con­course. On its Twit­ter page Sun­day night the air­port tweeted, “Power on Con­course F is back ON! We are work­ing with great ur­gency w/ (at)Ge­or­giaPower to re­store power through­out rest of air­port.'' Air­port work­ers were dis­tribut­ing bot­tled wa­ter, and Dunkin' Donuts was giv­ing out dough­nuts.

Of­fi­cer Lisa Bender of the At­lanta Po­lice Depart­ment said of­fi­cers were at the air­port to help with crowd con­trol and man­ag­ing traf­fic around the air­port.

Delta Air Lines, which has its hub at the air­port, said about 900 main­line and con­nec­tion flights were can­celled, and 48 flights were di­verted. Delta tem­po­rar­ily em­bar­goed un­ac­com­pa­nied mi­nors from trav­el­ing Mon­day.

At South­west Air­lines, about 70 At­lanta de­par­tures out of 120 sched­uled for Sun­day were can­celled, an air­line spokesman said in an email. United Air­lines and JetBlue Air­ways were among car­ri­ers re­port­ing de­lays or can­cel­la­tions.

Mozell Smith, 58, of At­lanta ar­rived at the air­port hours after the elec­tric­ity went off. He was headed to Las Ve­gas with a sis­ter and a friend.

“This is ter­ri­ble. I wish some­one would've given us a heads-up be­fore we got to the air­port,'' he said. “I wish there would have been bet­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tion.''

Amer­i­can Air­lines re­ported only a hand­ful of di­ver­sions and can­cel­la­tions be­cause the car­rier does not use At­lanta as a hub, air­line spokes­woman Alexis Aran Coello.

Harts­field-Jack­son, which serves 104 mil­lion pas­sen­gers a year, is the world's busiest air­port, a dis­tinc­tion it has held since 1998.

The air­port serves an av­er­age of 275,000 pas­sen­gers daily, ac­cord­ing to its web­site. Nearly 2,500 planes ar­rive and de­part each day.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF CRUISE FEVER

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