Blackout hits L.A.; Terrorism ruled out - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Blackout hits L.A.; Terrorism ruled out

A blackout hit major portions of the Los Angeles area Monday afternoon, snarling traffic at intersections and trapping people in elevators.

The city was investigating the cause of the outage. But Sgt. Catherine Plows, a police spokeswoman, said terrorism was not suspected.

The electricity went out shortly before 1 p.m., and scattered outages were reported from downtown to the Pacific Coast and north into the San Fernando Valley, an area encompassing hundreds of thousands of residents and thousands of businesses.

Downtown high-rises went dark, fire officials said they received reports of people stuck in elevators, and stoplights went out at intersections across the city. Neighboring cities, including Burbank and Glendale, also were affected.

The Police Department went on "full tactical alert," meaning no officers were allowed to leave work when their shifts were over.

Some Los Angeles neighborhoods did not lose power at all, and electricity was restored in some areas within an hour.

Calm prevailed in downtown Los Angeles around midday. Office workers took the opportunity for an extended lunch as police and fire sirens echoed in the background.

Los Angeles International Airport lost power, but its emergency generator kicked in promptly and no flights were affected, said Harold Johnson, an airport spokesman. UCLA Medical Center used backup generators and reported no danger to patients.

The blackout came a day after ABC aired a videotape of a purported al- Qaida member making terrorist threats against Los Angeles and Melbourne, Australia, on the fourth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Homeland Security Department spokesman Russ Knocke said federal authorities were talking to state and local counterparts about the power loss, but "there is no indication of any nexus to terror."

Heavy power usage can lead to blackouts. But the weather in Los Angeles was not unusually hot Monday, with temperatures around the low 70s when the power went out.

An official with the city Department of Water and Power said it appeared the problem began when two power receiving stations failed. That forced several larger generating stations to shut down, according to Robert Rozanski, chief administrative officer.

The receiving stations get high-voltage power from the generating stations and convert it to lower voltage so that it can be used throughout the city.

"We are doing everything we possibly can to find out the source of the problem," Rozanski said.

Los Angeles operates its own power utility, which serves 1.4 million electricity customers. Customers of Southern California Edison, the largest utility in Southern California, were not affected, according to spokesman Gil Alexander.

Katie Cerio, a stylist for TV commercials, said traffic lights were out in the Torrance neighborhood.

"They've got people directing traffic, but it's definitely a bit chaotic," Cerio said as she drove. "But now I just entered West Hollywood and the traffic lights seems to be on."

At the downtown YMCA, staff used flashlights to help usher exercisers from the pool and other areas to locker rooms so they could dress before leaving.


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