September 12, 2005

Widespread power outage hits Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A widespread power outage hit Los
Angeles on Monday, knocking out electricity to thousands of
customers, snarling traffic and stranding high-rise office
workers in elevators or trains as officials scrambled to
determine the cause.

There was no immediate evidence of foul play, but
authorities declared a state of emergency shortly after the
12:35 p.m. PDT (3:35 p.m. EDT) blackout, which struck a wide
swath of the city in seemingly random patches.

"The city is on a tactical alert and obviously traffic is
going to be impacted," said Los Angeles Police spokesman Kevin
Maiberger as lines of cars jammed the city's freeways.

Maiberger described a tactical alert as "what happens when
the city goes into a state of emergency. Police officers will
only be responding to calls where there is a threat to life."

There were no evacuations planned and no reports of
injuries. Within about an hour of the initial blackout, power
was restored to some of the affected areas.

The power failure jangled nerves in Los Angeles one day
after a suspected Al Qaeda associate made threats against
America's second-largest city in a videotape aired as the U.S.
marked the fourth anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

Los Angeles officials and police chief William Bratton had
said there was no credible evidence of any planned attacks.

Department of Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said
the authorities there were monitoring the situation but, "At
this time there's no indication of a nexus to terrorism."

Early indications were that the outage was caused by the
accidental severing of a power line.

"LADWP is indicating it's a construction break of someone
cutting through an electrical line that tripped two switches,"
said Ray Riordan, acting executive director of the nonprofit
California Utilities Emergency Association.

Los Angeles International Airport reported losing power
briefly but said back-up power had averted flight disruptions.

A Los Angeles Department of Water and Power spokeswoman
said it was not immediately known how many homes or businesses
lost electricity, but it was in the thousands.

Outages were reported across downtown Los Angeles,
Koreatown, North Hollywood, Burbank and the San Fernando

Television stations showed confusion at major traffic
intersections as motorists tried to navigate through stoplights
that were out. Freeway traffic was jammed as stoplight outages
caused backups onto exit ramps.

In the financial district of Los Angeles, office workers
huddled in groups, many stranded outside their buildings as the
outage struck during lunch, stalling elevators in high-rise
office towers.