Fire led to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport power outage
The fire in an underground tunnel knocked out the main power source and the airport’s backup system, Reed said in a press conference. The strength of the fire forced Georgia Power, the city’s utility company, to wait before it could begin fixing the issue, he said.
Georgia Power said earlier Sunday it expected to restore electricity to the airport by mdnight, which Reed reiterated. But still The nation’s busiest airport was in the dark today, leaving as many as 100 planes stuck on the tarmac, stranding thousands and causing a ripple effect grounding at least 1,500 flights.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, one of the world’s busiest airports, suffered a power outage at around 1 p.m. Sunday. Airport personnel, Atlanta Fire and Rescue officials and Georgia Power staff were on the scene to respond and restore service, a spokesman said.
With much of the power still out nine hours later, the airport shutdown forced airlines to cancel flights. Delta, which has a large hub operation in Atlanta, said Sunday evening it had already cancelled approximately 900 Sunday flights and another 300 on Monday. Another 48 flights were being diverted to other airports, the airline said.
Authorities announced Sunday evening that electricity would be restored at the airport by midnight. As of 11:45 p.m., power had been restored for all essential airport activities, including all concourses and flight operations, Georgia Power announced via Twitter, but not before some 30,000 people were affected by the blackout.
Thousands of passengers on inbound flights were stuck on their planes for hours and hours.
Multiple airlines, including Southwest and Delta, told ABC News they were beginning to deplane passengers by sliding them down airstairs.
Before this move, the FAA confirmed to ABC News there are up to 100 planes stuck on the tarmac.
The FAA’s Air Traffic Control System Command Center verified stated there were “80 to 100″ planes” parked on taxiways.
The agency said that flights headed to the airport were grounded “due to the power outage,” but also added that the airport’s tower has power and is capable of operating “normally.”
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed tweeted late Sunday evening that all passengers were finally off the planes.
Another traveler described the scary scene in the blackout inside the terminals.
“The lights flickered once. That was really scary,” Muhammad Saeed said. “And then they flickered again and they didn’t come back. And it’s been about an hour now and it’s just pitch darkness in the airport.”
Georgia Power said it believes the outage may have been the result of a fire that caused extensive damage in one of the company’s underground electrical facilities. The fire was safely extinguished by fire crews before Georgia Power could enter the area to assess damage and begin repairs, the company said.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said there was no evidence that the fire was deliberately set, but a security sweep was being conducted. Because extra personnel had to be brought onto the airport campus to fight the fire, authorities want to make sure the fire wasn’t set to allow someone access to the airport grounds that wouldn’t normally have it, the mayor said.
Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport sends jets to 150 domestic destinations and more than 75 international destinations in 50 countries.
It is one of the busiest airports in the world, with on average 275,000 passengers passing through its terminals every day and with about 2,500 flights arriving and departing.