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Hartsfield airport in Atlanta closed due to power outage; Bradley flights delayed

ATLANTA -- A power outage at the world's busiest airport left thousands of passengers stranded in dark terminals and in planes sitting on the tarmac, as a ground stop for Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International disrupted air travel across the United States.

The outage affected all airport operations. Georgia Power said the cause has not yet been determined, though it may have involved a fire that caused extensive damage in a Georgia Power underground electrical facility. The fire impacted substations serving the airport.

Atlanta is the heart of the US air transport system, and the disruption led to flight delays and cancellations across the country. More than six hours into the outage, power was restored to one of seven concourses. The utility said it expected full power to be restored by midnight.

In a statement, UPS said they didn't have a problem. "UPS has not been impacted by the situation at the Atlanta airport. Our facility at the airport has power, and aircraft operating to/from cargo areas of the airport have been exempted from the ground stop affecting passenger airlines."

Several flights out of Bradley are delayed.  Bradley officials said they were monitoring the situation.

"I'm hoping to get a good flight out sometime soon because I have to be back to work on Tuesday, and I have a daughter at home," said Megan Stiles of Kansas City.

"I'm not blaming anyone," said Sumner Case of Atlanta. "I'm just going to roll with it. It'll work out one way or another."

"It [our flight] was supposed to be 5:05," said Isaiah Ryan of Washington State. "But then it changed to 5:45 boarding, 6:13 leaving. Then it changed to 7 o'clock. Then it changed to cancelled."

"Very annoying," said Frank Cardenas of Wallingford. "Aggrevating. I just want to get home."

"I'm living in Texas, so I came home just this past weekend just to celebrate with my family and I'm going back, I'm supposed to be at work tomorrow," said Jennifer Escobido, in town visiting her family in Lisbon.

 

Here are the latest developments:

- Nearly 1,000 flights to and from Atlanta have been canceled, according to Flightradar24.

- Southwest, American and United airlines canceled operations in and out of Atlanta for the rest of Sunday.

- More than 900 Delta mainline and regional flights have been canceled and 48 flights were diverted to other airports.

- Flights headed to Atlanta are being held on the ground at their departure airport.

- Inbound flights to Atlanta are being diverted, US Customs and Border Protection said.

The blackout cut power in the terminals, leaving passengers stranded in the dark as they stood in line at gates and security checkpoints. Brittny Dettro said she was waiting to board a flight from Atlanta to Milwaukee when the power went out in Terminal B. She shot this image at 1:10 p.m. ET.

People used flashlights on their phones to see where they were going, said passenger Heather Kerwin, an Atlanta resident bound for New York.

"There were a few emergency lights on, but it was really dark -- felt totally apocalyptic," she said. "I decided to get the hell out of there."

Some passengers told CNN that airport and airline staff offered no updates as hours passed, leaving people scanning their phones and tablets for information. Stores stopped serving food and passengers were evacuated to alleviate crowding.

The outage left passengers sitting in planes on the tarmac for hours.

Jodi Green's Delta flight from the Bahamas landed at 1:15 p.m. ET Sunday. As of 7 p.m. she was still on the plane. Green said the pilot told passengers that other flights that had ran out of fuel were evacuated before theirs. Despite the circumstances, she said, order prevailed.

"People are calm, laughing, joking," she said. "I'm amazed I've been able to sit here and not lose my mind."

The ground stop led Southwest Airlines to cancel all operations in and out of Atlanta for the rest of the day, spokesman Brian Parrish said. Customers are being offered re-bookings without fare differences, he said.

United and American Airlines also suspended operations to and from Atlanta for the rest of Sunday. Delta, which has its headquarters and largest hub in Atlanta, canceled more than 900 Delta mainline and regional flights as a result of the ground stop.

Meanwhile, Atlanta Police urged people to stay away from the airport.

"We have no injuries, no one is harmed, everyone is safe, everything is orderly," Sgt. Warren Pickard said. "What we need the public to understand right away is that we need everyone to refrain from coming to the airport.

BrittnyDettro said she was waiting to board a flight from Atlanta to Milwaukee when the power went out in Terminal B early Sunday afternoon. She shot this image at 1:10 p.m. ET.

The outage darkened the terminals, causing people to use flashlights on their phones to see where they were going, said passenger Heather Kerwin, an Atlanta resident.

"There were a few emergency lights on but it was really dark -- felt totally apocalyptic," she said. "I decided to get the hell out of there."

Travelers stranded on planes on the tarmac for hours. Darkness in the terminal. Passengers guiding their cautious steps by the flashlights on their phone.

The power outage Sunday at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport caused chaos and frustration, disrupting travel at the world's busiest airport.

Travelers were greeted by darkness or dimly lit terminals. One traveler recalled the lights going off in the jetway as he disembarked from his flight from Boston.

The outage affected the sprawling airport's many restaurants, where employees told customers they had to pay cash

"I was like, 'Gosh, what's going on? It could be weather,'" Cierra Klett, who was standing in the security-check line when the lights started flickering, told CNN affilaite WGCL.

"Finally it went off, I was like, 'Oh no, like, it could be something way worse than just weather.'"

Rosemarie Frontero had just walked into the airport when the lights went out.

"At first, we were surprised and we were hoping the generators would go right in, it would kick back in, but now we don't know what we're going to do," said Frontero, who was heading home to New Jersey after attending her son's graduation at the University of Alabama.

As the hours ticked on, Frontero told WGCL everybody was waiting for somebody to explain what had happened.

"They're not saying anything. They're just saying that no planes are coming and no planes are going," she said.

Jessica Wine said she was stuck on a Delta flight from Houston for nearly four hours. Eventually, a crew brough moveable stairs to the plane, allowing passengers to deplane onto the tarmac, Wine said. Passengers walked to the stairs of the jetway and then through the dark passage to the dim terminal.

Before she made it into the terminal, Wine, of Atlanta, told CNN by phone from the stopped plane that some of her fellow travelers were "getting a little agitated."

Overall, though, she said she was "really surprised how calm everybody is being because it's totally out of our control."

Crew members tried to keep people calm, bringing them water and snacks, while they waited for gate clearance, Wine said.

Wine said she saw food vendors walking up to the plane, hoisting boxes of water above their heads to crew members who reached out of the plane door to grab it.

With weak cell phone service and spotty wi-fi service, Wine said some passengers had difficulty rescheduling their connections

"I'm trying not to get stressed out about it. There is nothing any of us can do," Wine said.

Some outbound customers like Heather Kerwin of Atlanta didn't stick around for long.

Kerwin said she was dropped off the lower entrance to the airport's south terminal shortly after 1 p.m. for her 2:30 p.m. New York-bound flight.

"It was completely pitch black," she said,

She recalled an officer telling her she might want to "use the light on your phone to see where you're going."

Kerwin said she used the flashlight on her phone to walk up the escalator. She saw "people crammed everywhere. Suitcases everywhere. Little kids crying," near the ticket desks and kiosks.

On an already dreary, rainy day in Atlanta, the only light in the building filtered in from the windows.

At one point, passengers hushed each other to hear a Delta representative, who was trying to get travelers' attention by shouting," Kerwin recalled.

"There were a few emergency lights on but it was really dark -- felt totally apocalyptic. I decided to get the hell out of there," she said.