Passenger bridges, lights, baggage carousels, and critical computers stopped working when LAX lost power for several hours last Wednesday and backup power from the LADWP that was supposed to kick in failed in some areas of the airport, the NBC4 I-Team has learned.
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power had to manually switch things back on and now everyone involved is figuring out why some of the backup switches failed, and how to improve the response if it happens again. Sixty five flights were either canceled or diverted Wednesday night into Thursday morning, according to LAX officials.
The I-Team discovered one solution is already in the works when they visited the airport's emergency operation center on Tuesday.
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"We are in the process right now of purchasing three more of those semi sized, trailer sized generators so that three more of our terminals can be fully powered even when the main power from DWP goes down," said Keith Wilschetz, the executive deputy director, operations and emergency management at LAX.
Limited power was available where the switches failed, but not enough to keep the infrastructure running that manages arrivals and departures at several of the gates.
The airport prepared for a similar scenario last fall, holding two power outage simulations, getting information to the airlines, travelers, and their families fast among the lessons learned that was put to the test last week.
Another lesson is getting fast accurate communication to the public and the airlines in order to avoid confusion and frustration during the real power outage. Not practicing could have made things much worse according to airport managers.
"We had 40 tweets that went out in about a 24 hour period," Wilschetz said.
The DWP says a primary cable that feeds LAX failed, but the reasons why were still unknown late Tuesday.
Officials are also investigating why the three switches did not work to get back up power up and running.
Airport officials say they are looking beyond the generators for other back up options and are now working with the National Renewable Energy Lab, a federal organization, to find other ways of staying ahead of the power curve and have an airport system people can rely on, Wilschetz said.