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LAX chaos continues with terminal evacuation, more flight cancellations

Los Angeles Times logo Los Angeles Times 6/6/2019 Hannah Fry
a large body of water with a city in the background © Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Terminal 1 at Los Angeles International Airport was evacuated Thursday morning and passengers were being re-screened by security hours after the airport lost power and was forced to cancel numerous flights.

Airport officials tweeted shortly after 6 a.m. that guests in the terminal were being re-screened by the Transportation Security Administration “out of an abundance of caution” following the power outage.

“An airline granted passengers whose flights were cancelled access to their checked bags, resulting in the unintentional introduction of prohibited items into the secure area at the airport,” said Lorie Dankers, a spokeswoman for the TSA.

It is not clear what type of prohibited items were identified.

Officials cleared the terminal and were sending everyone back through security, a process that airport officials said, shortly before 7 a.m., would take about an hour. Once all passengers were out of the terminal, airport police conducted a security sweep of the area, which handles Southwest Airlines.

Officers used dogs to search for any prohibited items, said Heath Montgomery, an airport spokesman.

“When TSA asks us to do something like this, we do it,” Montgomery said.

Southwest Airlines reported 11 flight cancellations and 15 delays associated with the re-screening.

“Passengers flying with Southwest should contact the airline for the latest on their flight,” airport officials wrote on Twitter.

When Carrie Barnett of Thousand Oaks arrived at LAX early Thursday for her 9 a.m. flight to Nebraska, she met massive crowds and a large police presence outside the Southwest terminal.

“Police were trying to usher people through the drop-off process outside,” she said. “The line of people wrapped around the security area all the way through the terminal and outside.”

Travelers whose flights had been canceled Wednesday night returned to the airport early Thursday and breezed through security in less than 10 minutes. However, they were then ushered out of the terminal, she said. Barnett had been standing in line for about 45 minutes when the TSA began screening people and allowing them to return to the departure area.

The screening process was moving like “405 traffic,” she said.

“It’s stop and go,” she said. “I’m just riding this wave of people.”

Wednesday’s power outage, which began shortly before 6:30 p.m., was the result of a glitch at a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power station, said Olga Gallardo, an LAX spokeswoman.

Gallardo said generators immediately kicked in following the outage, but it took about 1½ hours for the TSA and other airport staff to reboot their systems.

Power was fully restored to Terminals 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and the Tom Bradley International Terminal within the first hour, but power remained off at Terminals 1, 7 and 8. At 9:35 p.m., the airport announced that power was restored to Terminal 7. Power was back on at Terminal 8 roughly 10 minutes later. Terminal 1 had power around 10 p.m.

A Los Angeles Department of Water and Power spokeswoman said power was completely restored to the airport by 10:40 p.m.

The outage forced the cancellation of 18 Southwest Airlines and three United Airlines flights on Wednesday. United also had nine aircraft divert from LAX to other airports. It is not clear why portions of the airport remained without power for several hours.

“That’s what we’ll be looking into today,” Montgomery said.

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