An hourlong power outage at San Francisco International Airport on Wednesday delayed outgoing flights for hours.
The power went out about 4:45 p.m. due to a problem with switching that controls power distribution from Pacific Gas and Electric Co., said airport spokesman Mike McCarron. Backup systems quickly restored electricity to critical areas such as air traffic control and communications, and emergency lights came on in terminals.
But computers at ticket counters went dark, and the outage shut down baggage carousels, metal detectors and escalators throughout the airport. Inbound flights continued to land during the outage, but outgoing flights were delayed because the airport could not board passengers.
Airport officials said they expected air traffic to return to normal by late evening.
In at least one terminal, about a third of outgoing flights were still delayed at 7 p.m., and airline employees continued to announce delays for both inbound and outbound flights.
When the power went out, "there was dead silence, then there was a little bit of nervous laughter," said Alan Pierce, 38, a Los Angeles resident who flew into San Francisco Wednesday afternoon. He was waiting for his luggage to arrive when the lights went out.
"It took a little while for the backup lights to come on, probably 45 seconds to a minute, but when it's pitch black, it's hard to tell," Pierce said.
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A backup generating system kicked in and no airplanes were affected.
An 80-minute power outage at the radar facility delayed thousands of travelers across the western United States and Canada.
The main passenger terminal, where Southwest Airlines is located, lost some power while the other, older terminal lost all juice except what was feeding emergency lights such as exit signs.