- The Washington Times - Monday, September 12, 2005

LOS ANGELES (AP) — An error by utility workers caused a blackout across major portions of Los Angeles yesterday, trapping people in elevators and snarling traffic at intersections, authorities said.

About 2 million residents were affected by the resulting power surge and outages, which were reported from downtown west to the Pacific Coast and north into the San Fernando Valley.

Workers who were cutting wires mistakenly sliced them as a group rather than individually, causing a short and leading to the trouble, officials said.

“They cut wires that caused circuit breakers to trip,” said Ed Miller, director of power system operations and maintenance for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

The outage occurred at 12:37 p.m. Power was restored to nearly all customers within three hours, officials said.

Downtown high-rise buildings 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 Los Angeles Police Department went on “full tactical alert,” meaning no officers were allowed to leave work when their shifts were finished.

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

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

But even before the utility workers explained what had happened, Homeland Security Department spokesman Russ Knocke said there was no indication of terrorism.

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.

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, said spokesman Gil Alexander.

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