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Power Outage in Los Angeles

Aired September 12, 2005 - 16:39   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Jen Rogers is still with us in our Los Angeles Bureau, and she's very busy gathering a little bit more information on what is happening in LA -- Jen.
JEN ROGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well as you were saying, at this point the DWP is saying that they do not believe this has anything to do --

BLITZER: We just lost Jen Rogers in our Los Angeles Bureau. Hopefully that is not related to the power outage in Los Angeles. But clearly that signal has gone down from our Los Angeles bureau. We've been following now for almost an hour, just before 4:00 Eastern, just before 1:00 p.m. on the west coast, power in a big chunk of Los Angeles simply goes out. Unclear what the source, why that power has gone out. But we do know that traffic lights in a major chunk of the city and electrical power in high rises and office buildings. People complaining, clearly, that they are trapped in elevators. Traffic is really building up right now in Los Angeles. Ali, what else are you picking up?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're, again, trying to find out how localized it is, where things are going on. We know that Disneyland is working. The port in Los Angeles is working. It has its own power. Disney -- offices in Burbank aren't working, but we seem to know that some of that is centered around Burbank and the Valley areas. So we're -- what we're really trying to figure out is whether things are coming online, whether they can get traffic online to -- fast enough to get everybody in and out of Los Angeles. Los Angeles depends on its traffic system in order to smoothly move people through the city and out of the city. As you know, the freeway system works well. The freeway system is not affected by traffic lights in the same way. But the roads that feed on to it and off of it do, of course, depend on the traffic lights. And if you start seeing those backups, you have serious problems.

Now we are seeing that that is happening, that we've got traffic light outages across the city. The fire you were seeing earlier doesn't seem to be related at all to this issue. But this is a big city. It seems to be under control at the moment. That's what the authorities have to worry about. Because they are on -- as you know, they are on tactical alert, as it says. They are worrying about whether or not they can keep everybody moving out of the city and control the flow of people to their homes. I suppose people are emptying out of their offices and getting home earlier to try and avoid that crush of rush hour traffic.

That may be the most serious thing that happens today. And that is that for people trying to get home, they get stuck in traffic. Keep in mind in a city of Los Angeles' size, traffic gridlock, more than usual, means problems for ambulances, fire trucks and police officers. So right now, that's what I think authorities are spending their time on, is making sure they can try and get at least essential services out so that people can get home. We're trying to keep an eye on what areas are coming back online more quickly than others. As Jen said, LAX seems to be working on its own power and so is Burbank -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Ali, stand by. We were speaking with Jen Rogers in our Los Angeles bureau just a couple of moments ago, and she disappeared on us. But she's joining us on the phone right now. Jen, what's going on?

ROGERS: That's right, Wolf. We don't know the fact that you can't see us has anything to do with the power outage. But I do have some more updates. Los Angeles International saying that they did have some flickering of lights there. But power has been on and there have been no interruptions to their flight operations.

A little bit more from the Los Angeles Police Department. Again, we told you previously that they are on tactical alert. And what that means is that they are only responding to life-threatening emergencies, but that also means that none of their officers are allowed to leave their shift until they are officially released. Again, we do not know what has caused this power outage. The department of water and power only saying that there are unknown problems at two receiving stations here in town. And again, we are getting reports that communities are coming back on.

Two places that are out, though, we do need to talk about Hollywood, the big business out here. We talked to somebody over at Paramount Studios. They apparently do have power. Warner Brothers, though, which of course is the huge lot down in the Burbank area is without power. At least according to people that I just spoke to over there.

BLITZER: I am sure that this is strictly coincidental, Jen, but I do want to point out and remind our viewers only yesterday there was an al Qaeda video from an American member of al Qaeda, who suggested that Los Angeles, suggested that Los Angeles was a potential target of al Qaeda. Melbourne, Australia, was mentioned as well. But once again our Jeanne Meserve, our homeland security correspondent, quoting her sources at the Department of Homeland Security, as well as Jen Rogers, quoting sources over at the LAPD, suggesting that there's no indication that terrorism has played any role in this power outage in the Los Angeles area. But just wanted to remind our viewers of that. Jen, with the exception of being unable to broadcast from our Los Angeles bureau, you are on the phone with us right now. Do you still have power in our bureau?

ROGERS: We still do have power. And again, we have only experienced that real flickering of lights here. Again, I was outside of the building when it happened. A power in the whole surrounding area went out. The street lights went out. The elevators here in the building did go out. I had to walk back up the stairs to get into the building. But that was for a very short period of time. We came right back up, and we have remained constant, without any flickering since then. And that was around, I believe, about the 1:00 hour.

BLITZER: And the traffic really gets crazy in L.A. on a normal Monday around what time?

ROGERS: Oh, Wolf, it's L.A. Traffic is bad all hours. But I guess I would say traffic starts to really get bad around 4:00. That's when you're going to start to see it pick up, and then, you know, rush hour can go to as late as 7:00. This is the car capital of the world, I guess.

BLITZER: So far, based on -- you know, and I know you're monitoring local television, local reports, the mayor of Los Angeles, the police chief of Los Angeles, have they made any public statements?

ROGERS: You know, I have not seen them on the channels that we have been watching. Of course, we would be monitoring that and bringing that to you. Right now the statements that we are getting are from spokespeople at the LAPD or at the fire department or at the DWP. If it has made it to that level yet, I have not received that. I'm sure that we will, and at that time we will get you, of course, whatever news we have from the very top level of the city government.

BLITZER: Jen, how long have you lived in Los Angeles?

ROGERS: I have been here for four years now.

BLITZER: Do you remember anything like this occurring during the four years you've been there?

ROGERS: Certainly not this extensive by any stretch of the imagination. I have been without power a number of times. Usually that is heat related. And again it was 66 degrees at LAX at 1:00 p.m. Seventy-two degrees in other parts of Los Angeles. This is not an incredibly hot day. So on that level, this is unusual and certainly the extent of it. You will drive through Los Angeles from time to time and lights will be out. But nothing like what we are seeing when we are watching these shots come in from the affiliates. This is much more extensive than anything I've experienced in my hour years here.

BLITZER: All right. Jen, stand by. We're going to get back to you. Jen Rogers is in our Los Angeles bureau. She's been joining us on the phone. We've been unable to make a video connection. We don't know if that's related or not related to the power outage that has affected Los Angeles, a big chunk of Los Angeles now for the past hour or so. We're watching these live feeds coming in. Helicopters reporters. The cameras aboard the helicopters showing the traffic that is building up in Los Angeles. The traffic lights in a big chunk of the city are out right now and everyone has to treat those intersections very, very gingerly right now, because of what is going on. Kim Hughes with the Department of Water and Power in Los Angeles is joining us on the phone right now. Kim, what do we know?

KIM HUGHES, L.A. DEPT. OF WATER & POWER: Well good afternoon, Wolf. Right now we are ascertain the full causation of this disruption. We have crews out to ascertain exactly what's triggered what really is a proactive safety mechanism. We are ascertaining exactly what area of the city is being affected. We are working to restore power. Some things are being relayed back on. Again, the main concern is everyone's safety and to assure all of our customers and residents of Los Angeles that we are working diligently to restore power as quickly and safely as possible. And we are again getting to the root of exactly what caused this disruption.

BLITZER: How much of Los Angeles, the greater Los Angeles area, Kim, is without electrical power right now?

HUGHES: We do know that there are areas being affected within the metro area of Los Angeles, central L.A. and the San Fernando Valley as well as part of the harbor area. And again, we're getting a full scope to ascertain exactly how many circuits are continuing to have power that is disrupted versus any circuits that are working. So we're getting a full handle and scope on it, and assure everyone that we have got all of our crews and personnel working on the situation to restore power as quickly as possible.

BLITZER: It's been about an hour now. Over that past hour, have more areas lost power or are areas getting power back?

HUGHES: No. As I understand that we really are working more to restore right now than seeing any other disruptions. There was a disruption, and from that we are trying to work and restore power to get back everyone -- all of our systems operating in a safe manner. But oftentimes we do want to make sure that we do things properly and safely. Safety is certainly a foremost concern, and we want to make sure that we get things back on and that we don't have this again -- a disruption again, because we didn't do something in a proper manner. So I want to reassure everyone that we are working diligently. We have got all of our personnel working on the situation> And we want to do it safely, and we're doing it as quickly as possible.

BLITZER: Kim, how long have you been with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

HUGHES: Three years.

BLITZER: Have you ever experienced anything like this before.

HUGHES: Well we've had disruptions that occur. Often they are weather related. Often with storms or wires down. But, you know, everything works as mechanics and once in awhile and again our systems are to make sure that things are done safely. So a lot of times we will have disruptions and things will go off line just to make sure that we're protecting equipment and safety for the long haul. So again a lot of this is proactive and protective. So again, we're working to restore power as quickly as possible.

BLITZER: Kim, stand by for a second. It's just 5:00 p.m. here on the East Coast, 2:00 p.m. out on the West Coast. We've been following a story for about an hour or so, power outage in a big chunk of Los Angeles. No one knows why, at least not yet. But authorities are looking for answers. Traffic lights in a major portion of the city are out, and there's a lot of traffic that's building up. Cars have to go through those intersections very, very carefully right now.

Kim Hughes is with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. She's joining us on the phone. She's still with us.

Kim, give our viewers a sense of what percentage of the Los Angeles itself may be without power right now. Is it half, or two- thirds, three-quarters?

HUGHES: I don't have the exact numbers. And I don't want to speculate. But I do want to assure, again, everyone that we're working diligently to restore the power. Again, a lot of this is to be proactive with our system. Things will kind of relay off to make sure that we're protecting the system. We will get the power restored as quickly as possible.

BLITZER: Good luck, Kim. Kim Hughes is with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

HUGHES: Thank you so much.

BLITZER: All right, Kim Hughes, thanks very much.

I want to briefly listen to our affiliate reporters over at KCAL. They're flying over the city, and they've got some news. Let's listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The congestion on those have eased dramatically, as those lights came on and people started making their way through the intersection.

So, again, things appear to be returning to normal, as we heard from Paul Dandridge (ph) in the valley area. We can confirm that from what we see here in Sky Nine.

Back to you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, that's good news, that things seem to be coming back here in some areas. You were talking about that explosion in an electrical vault. Were you picking that up on fire frequencies?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right. It was something that was reported to the fire department. Again, we don't know how accurate that is. We are coming close to the area right now.

We're going to be getting a look at that area. And, again, looking out there, it does not appear that anything really big is going on. It may have just been a result of something collecting in an underground vault that was -- it kind of went up in a big poof when the lines were reenergized. So we're going to try and take a look at that here shortly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we've had that in the past -- I remember, doing the rolling blackouts, that was a problem, that was a concern, when the power does come back on, when those lines, as you mentioned, are reenergized, sometimes you get that. And in transformers, as well, sometimes.

So hopefully that that's what that was, and hopefully it's a good sign that electricity is coming back.

As Rick Jamers (ph) was telling us a few minutes ago, the DWP is confirming that they had two receiving stations with mechanical failure at those. They did not mention where those are or exactly what "mechanical failure" refers to. But that's, apparently, what they are saying is the official cause. And they are in the process of trying to figure that out and, obviously, fix it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. And the good news is that we are seeing power coming back on to areas that were dark before. So that's good news. The fire department telling us that the majority of their calls are from people stuck in elevators.

And so if you get out there anytime soon, you will see a lot of fire engines out in the road responding to areas where people are stuck in elevators. But other than that, no real significant calls, just problems with traffic tie-ups and people stuck in elevators. That seems like the extent of the problems that we're having from this outage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that's a good thing to have. We're glad that there aren't fires breaking out or anything more serious like that...

BLITZER: All right. We're going to break away from KCAL and their live coverage to bring you more of our coverage. CNN's Jen Rogers is in our Los Angeles bureau. She's collecting more information for more than an hour now. There's been a major power outage in a big chunk of Los Angeles.

What else are we learning, Jen?

ROGERS: Well, Wolf, we can confirm that communities are continuing to come back on line. In fact, I just called into a neighborhood about 15 or 20 blocks away from where we are in Hollywood, Hancock Park. And that has been back now.

Basically, they came on in the last 20 minutes. At least my street did. So that is another sign that we are returning to a little bit of normalcy here. Even when you can see the pictures when we were just dipping into the KCAL coverage, you could see some traffic coming back to normal speeds, but, of course, we are still dealing with outages in some parts of the city.

BLITZER: All right, Jen, stand by. I want to just show our viewers we're monitoring feeds coming in, live feeds from KABC in Los Angeles, KTLA coming in from Los Angeles, KTTV in L.A., and KCAL, we've been monitoring all of those feeds coming in.

Ali Velshi is watching this story together with all of us.

Ali, what are you picking up?

VELSHI: Hey, Wolf.

Hey, Jen.

We're just -- we're making phone calls. We are now getting some of those phone calls through into Burbank. We've just spoken to some people that say that power came on just a few minutes ago in Burbank and that things seem to be getting back to normal along Lankershim (ph). The lights are starting to come back to traffic lights.

We've spoken to Amtrak. They said exactly what Jen Rogers has been saying, that they lost power at Union Station for a little while, but the power's back on, and that the trains don't need the stations to be powered to operate anyway.

So we are getting word that it is starting to come back. And, of course, Wolf, as you remember -- and, Jen, you remember -- when it happened in New York, when the blackout happened, it was still early in the day. It was 4:00 p.m. There was still a lot of light. It was summer night, wasn't too hot.

It allows people to make their plans, get home, and not get sort of panicky about what to do. So that, I think, helps that, for some people, Jen, who have lost power, they might have decided, "All right. You know what? Now it's time to pack it up and go home."

And hence you start to see that traffic flow spread out over a number of hours more than you typically would.


ROGERS: And that will certainly help.

BLITZER: Jen, I was going to ask you, how well prepared is the Los Angeles area for this kind of a situation? We know they worry all the time about an earthquake. But what about this kind of a situation?

ROGERS: Well, I would say, because of our preparedness for earthquakes, that we might be more prepared than not. That being said, of course, everybody's been watching what has been going on in the aftermath of Katrina, and people even getting more prepared.

Of course, this doesn't even bring a candle -- can't even hold a candle to what's been going on down there. But I do think that people have learned to deal with this. We have a lot of weather situations out here, not just the extreme heat, but we have also had a very rainy season that we have just come out of.

So, again, we have lost power just in my house, I would say, at least half a dozen to a dozen times this year alone. So it's something completely out of the ordinary. It's just how extensive this one is right now, Wolf.

And I do want to let you know that I did just talk to somebody over at Warner Brothers, and they have power now on, as well. That's in the Burbank area that Ali was just talking about.

BLITZER: All right. Let me bring back Ali, because he's got some additional information he's collecting, as well -- Ali?

VELSHI: Well, we're trying to get a handle on whether the airports are -- whether the airlines themselves have redirected or able to land as planned, because we do know, as Jen reported earlier, and Sibila had reported from landing at LAX, that those are up-to- speed.

But you've got to wonder, Jen, given just the last few days, given New Orleans, and given the focus in every city across the country on planning for emergencies, L.A. is one of those places that have been prone to whether it be blackouts or earthquakes in the past.

You've got to figure that, in the last couple of weeks, people have brushed up on this emergency plans anyways. So when the police say they're on tactical alert, which means they're responding to serious emergencies and no one's allowed to go off-shift, that it might be smoother today than it was a month ago, if this had happened a month ago.

ROGERS: Exactly. That would be my assumption, as well. And possibly a small dress rehearsal for anything down the line.

BLITZER: Jen and Ali, listen to this. We're just getting this in from the Associated Press, suggesting the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, that shortly after 1:00 p.m. Pacific Time -- that would be 4:00 p.m. here on the East Coast -- two power receiving stations failed and that forced several larger generating stations to shut down.

This according to Robert Rozanski, the department's chief administrative officer. Quoting the Associated Press once again, "The receiving stations get high-voltage power from the generating stations, convert it to lower voltage, so that it can be used throughout the city. 'At this point,' Rozanski says, 'We are doing everything we possibly can to find out the source of the problem.'"

Ali, it sounds like a sort of chain reaction thing. When something goes wrong one place, it can cause much bigger problems elsewhere.

VELSHI: Electricity transmission does have that effect. Now, the one thing to keep in mind is that Los Angeles is powered by a municipal power grid. It is not a regional power grid.

And what we are being led to believe is that this isn't going to have an effect outside of the areas that are already affected by it. So that's the good news. This is always the danger when there are blackouts, when that voltage flow starts to fluctuate, that it starts to affect outlying areas.

That being said, when you're in that area, having power to L.A. is probably the most important thing right now, not because of the temperature and needing heat or cooling, but because of emergency services, because of places that have to have power to keep things running, hospitals, and because of traffic lights.

Right now, the traffic lights, while it doesn't seem like a serious problem, that's a thing to keep our eye on, to make sure that they are able to get those things back on line. This is a city that is very sensitive to small changes in traffic flow, because of the volume of cars going in and out.

You're looking at live feeds which show traffic moving fairly well right now for 2:00 Eastern Time on a Monday.

BLITZER: And it looks like traffic is moving. But sometimes it's deceptive. If we take a look at that KTLA feed, we see, at this intersection, the traffic light still remains out and cars very gingerly trying to go through that intersection to make sure there are no accidents there. All of these feeds coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. We're watching it right now.

Tom Foreman is watching this with us, as well. And, Tom, you've got a map to show our viewers where exactly this is happening.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you're really talking about the heart of Los Angeles here when you look at this. Let's fly in here. Here's the coast over here, as you would know. We fly in.

This is really the heart of what we're talking about. This is downtown L.A., which is where you see the high-rises. You don't see an awful lot of pictures of downtown L.A. a lot of the time.

But as you can see, there's a cluster of freeways that gather all around downtown L.A. The area that we're talking about right now appears to be from this area that we're talking about right now to a north and westerly area.

Let's look at this. This is L.A. If you head up this way, you get into Hollywood, the Hollywood hills all up in here. Glendale over in here. If you move a little bit further up, this is Burbank. This is where the Johnny Carson show, the Jay Leno show now, has been taped for many years. That's one of areas we've been talking about.

Hollywood, where our own studios are, down in this area, where the Hollywood sign is that we all know about, Beverly Hills. All the areas we're talking about right now heads out this way to where you hit one of the major roads that goes north-south, the 405, which people use for big-time commuting. And all the way up further north you get into the San Fernando Valley.

So what we're talking about, at least for the moment, a big pie- shape, a big slice of pie-shape, that includes all of downtown L.A., lots and lots of people. L.A., the city alone, about 3.3 million people in it. The county, close to 10 million people. And then when you get beyond that, you start approaching -- gosh, when you go way out there, you start talking about 19 million people. You have the population of Australia clustered in that area.

BLITZER: And we know that, in Los Angeles, in that whole Southern California area, public transit is not necessarily the way most people get around. It's cars and the traffic jams if the lights remain out in big chunks of the city could be enormous.

FOREMAN: Could be huge challenges. And one of the things that people forget about this -- when you look at some of these roads here -- if we move into areas like downtown L.A. -- when you look at some of these areas, what you're talking about are actually some of the most densely populated parts of this nation.

A lot of people think of L.A. as a big sprawl area. You see this highway right here? Terrifically busy, so is that interchange at rush hour. And as you know, rush hour starts early.

But L.A. over the years, as it has sprawled, it has filled in all of the gaps. So L.A. actually has a higher population density right now than New York City does. So the reality is, you're talking about a tremendous number of people. And when you have a power outage in an area like this, you're affecting a lot of people in a tight space who have to start commuting almost immediately.

BLITZER: Let's hope power is restored very, very quickly to Los Angeles and the entire area. If there's any silver lining in this, Tom, I suspect the silver lining would be this could be a good drill for a worse situation down the road, like an earthquake, for example.

FOREMAN: Well, and, you know, after the Northridge earthquake years ago, one of the great concerns when power went out in a lot of areas was just this traffic problem. It was a mess for a while. And the first Monday after the earthquake, the whole city was just on tender hooks about what was going to happen with the commute, just dealing with that one earthquake and the roads being out.

So right now, you're right. Maybe a good drill to figure out where they'll be.

BLITZER: Everybody's very sensitive to preparedness in communities across the United States after what's happened in the Gulf Coast region over the past two weeks.

Ali, what else are you picking up?

VELSHI: Well, we are confirming what we've been hearing, that a number of businesses that we've spoken to, who were affected by this, were affected for a brief period of time, some until as late as a few minutes ago.

But we are hearing from everyone we can get through to that they're back on line. There are several companies we've been calling, companies that we typically call and do business with, we can't get through to them. We're getting busy signals, which indicates to us that's how it's been over the last hour, as we've called people.

And then the busy signals have gone away, it means that they're back on line. We've called them, "Hey, we've been trying to call you. Your lines haven't been working." So we are hearing that the power is coming back.

Part of this tactical alert that the LAPD is on means that officers can't go off-shift. Now, in many cases, what that's going to mean is nothing more serious than they can't get off-shift and they get sent out to some of these busy intersections.

Because as your live shot shows, in some places where there's no traffic lights because of the power outage, drivers are being encouraged to do what they always do, treat it like a four-way stop.

But in busy intersections where the traffic goes one way and the other, as opposed to crossing, you'll find a lot of drivers not pausing to let traffic cross. And what that's going to do is cause build-up in the arteries, and that's when we start seeing traffic jams which are going to, you know, back log and start to cause more problems, especially for emergency services that have to move through.

So we're keeping a close eye. You've got that one up there. I've got a few feeds going up here, to sort of see what areas that's developing in and what impact that's going to have on anything that needs to be done.

Keep in the mind, the thing that we look at here, in addition to the businesses that have to run, are the hospitals, the fire department, the police department. And at the moment right now, no problems being reported in Los Angeles -- Wolf?

VELSHI: All right, Ali. Thanks very much.

Let's dip into our coverage now from our affiliate, KCAL, in Los Angeles. Let's hear what they're reporting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... that's when we get into these pockets of areas where they do not have power restored still yet. So, again, we're having some difficulties now with the basin.

We said earlier it looks like things are holding pretty well out there in the valley. But it looks like areas east of downtown -- make that west of downtown Los Angeles, still seeing some of the effects.

Now, we're going to move over to Broadway, about Ninth Street. There's where we understand we've got some gridlock going on right there, probably due to his outage. So we're going to take a quick look at that.

But as I look over my shoulder back to the east towards downtown Los Angeles still, many, many intersections affected by the traffic lights that have been extinguished.

Back to you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, so we had talked about the police department going on full tactical alert, meaning no officers can leave duty. I believe that there are some intersections where they do have some police officers out trying to help direct traffic.

Again, you're reminded that each time the traffic lights are out, you have to treat it as a four-way stop. But for the most part, we've seen people doing that. But just with the volume of traffic that we're seeing with people trying to get on the freeways, that's where we're seeing most of the problems.

It's near those ramps getting on and off the freeways. But as the lights come back on, that's being alleviated. Although, as we go on and if some of those lights remain out, we're really going to have a big problem as we go into the afternoon commute here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you do not want to roll into the...

BLITZER: ... break away from KCAL and their live coverage. Clearly, major portions of Los Angeles still without power, Tom Foreman. Our affiliates are all over this story. We're getting all these feeds coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

They show traffic building up. Some parts of the city, though, and the area do appear to be regaining power.

FOREMAN: Yes, they seem to be getting their power back in a lot -- I want to look again one time at the area we're talking about so people can clearly see it. This is a wide picture here.

Out here, Santa Monica and the ocean out here, when you move out toward the Pacific, let's just zoom in a little bit. And I'm going to angle the picture some here to give you an idea with of we're talking about.

When you look at what's happening, and you pull it down like this, the part we're talking about a big slice of pie that goes from Los Angeles proper, which is downtown, the tall buildings, over this way towards Santa Monica, up that way to the San Fernando Valley, and then back down this way to include Burbank and Glendale.

Hollywood's in the middle of it. Over here is Beverly Hills. Awful lot of people in here. Again, really the heart of Los Angeles. So that's the area that we know we're talking about now. And then we'll fine out exactly what edges of all of that were.

One of the things that probably helps is that Los Angeles people are some of the best in this country at figuring out their commute. And many, many people there know a good number of alternative routes. So if the main highways, the 10 and the 405, these big roads that they count on all the time for big commutes, if those fill up, people very readily dump off into what the call the surface streets, the neighborhood streets, and start cutting through those to get back and forth.

Still, if they don't get this solved soon, it will be a mess of a commute.

BLITZER: But they have a lot of high-rise buildings, a lot of tall buildings in the Los Angeles area, especially downtown. And if you're snuck in an elevator right now, that's not a very pleasant experience.

FOREMAN: You better hope you have some reading material, because you may be there a while.

BLITZER: Yes, if you're stuck between the 40th and 45th floor or something, that could be pretty scary. Tom Foreman, thanks very much.

Jen Rogers is in Los Angeles. She's been helping us with this story. Jen, you're picking up some more information?

ROGERS: That's right, Wolf, from the LAPD. They are now on what they are calling a modified tactical alert. And that is a downgrade from what they were on previously, which was a full tactical alert.

So what does that mean exactly? Well, they are saying it is business as usual, but they are not releasing their officers from duty. No one can go home.

Right now, what they are doing is they are helping out the Department of Transportation. Obviously, traffic really the critical issue that we're dealing with right now. The LAPD also said that they have gone through their various buildings and properties and that all is secure there.

And I think, at this point, it also bears repeating that we have multiple law enforcement sources telling CNN that this is not in anyway connected with terrorism. Again, a downgrade from the LAPD. They are now on what they are calling a modified tactical alert.

BLITZER: I heard the LAPD -- the police chief of Los Angeles earlier today, William Bratton, reacting to that threat from Al Qaeda that was only made on a videotape yesterday. I heard him earlier this morning suggesting they're always worried about this. They've got 200 police officers working full time on the threat of terrorism.

But once again, our Jeanne Meserve, Jen Rogers, getting from all of our sources, it's strictly coincidental that only yesterday Al Qaeda was threatening Los Angeles with some sort of act of terror, but there's no indication whatsoever -- absolutely none -- that this power outage in Los Angeles has anything to do with terrorism.

For more than an hour now, about an hour and 20 minutes, we've been watching this power outage in Los Angeles. We're going to continue to watch it, see what's going on, get all the latest information, have that for you. We're also watching several other important stories that are unfolding right now, including what's happening in the aftermath of Katrina.

The confirmation hearings for John Roberts began today here in Washington. The resignation of Michael Brown, the FEMA director, the naming of an acting director. Lots of news unfolding today. We're going to continue to watch all of this here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Much more of our coverage right after this short break.


BLITZER: It's been about an hour and 20 minutes or so since a big portion of Los Angeles and the surrounding communities have lost power under strange circumstances.

We don't know precisely what happened. We do know that authorities in Los Angeles, here in Washington, are suggesting -- are insisting, in fact, it has nothing to do with terrorism or anything. We do know that big portions of Los Angeles at this moment still remain without power.

We're watching this situation. We've been watching it closely for about an hour and 25 minutes. Right now, CNN's Jen Rogers is helping us. She's in our Los Angeles bureau where we do have power fully restored.

Is that right, Jen?

ROGERS: That's right, Wolf. We have power fully restored here. And we only lost it just for a brief second or two. It was not as long as you have seen power out in this other communities in Los Angeles.

I do want to update you again on what we're hearing from the Los Angeles Police Department. Again, a downgrade. They were on what they call full tactical alert. Now, they are on this modified tactical alert.

They have not activated the emergency operations center here in Los Angeles. And what this means is basically they have their officers that are on duty, and what they are doing is helping out the Department of Transportation. Because the real crunch is coming with the traffic.

And these officers now, they say, will be releasable at the discretion of their watch commander. So nobody really going home until this problem is solved.

Also, what we can tell you from the Los Angeles Police Department is that they have been advised by the Department of Water and Power that a worker evidently cut a line in the San Fernando Valley and that is how this problem all came about.

Now, again, we are hearing about this from the Los Angeles Police Department. They say that they have been advised by the Department of Water and Power that a line was inadvertently cut by a worker in the San Fernando Valley and that that is what started this domino effect.

BLITZER: Are they suggesting how long it takes to repair that line?

ROGERS: Wolf, we have not gotten any suggestion yet on how long this is going to take. The only thing that we have had, really, on the duration of power outage is a general comment by somebody at the Department of Water and Power saying that most outages take between two and four hours to bring the power back on line.

But then, of course, you have all of the other after-effects, of course, the traffic. If you've ever been stopped behind a light when it starts working, it takes a little while to get all the kinks out of the system. So that could take even longer, if we're able to get the power back on in two to four hours.

And, again, we should reiterate that power is coming back on in some communities.

BLITZER: All right. Well, hopefully it will come back into all of the communities very, very soon. We watch this, Jen. Thank you very much.

CNN's Sibila Vargas is in Los Angeles (OFF-MIKE) Where exactly are you?

SIBILA VARGAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I am at the bureau right now, but I just got back from LAX. When I got out, there didn't seem to be any problems. I mean, it looked like business as usual.

The airport was running. There were no alerts. In fact, I had no idea that anything was going on until I got in the car. I got a call from the L.A. bureau chief. And then I spoke to the driver who told me that, yes, indeed, they were having problems with lights and things.

But at the airport itself, there didn't seem to be any problems.

BLITZER: How was the drive, Sibila, from the airport, LAX, to Hollywood, where our bureau is?

VARGAS: Well, I did notice that there was a lot of traffic, actually. We were heading north on the 101, making our way back to the bureau in Hollywood. And there was more traffic than usual.

So I'm sure that...

BLITZER: I think we just lost Sibila.

Sibila, are you there? I think we just lost Sibila. But she's now made her way to the Los Angeles bureau from LAX. She's there. We're watching this story, as Jen Rogers reports, the LAPD now on what's called a modified tactical alert. They're dealing with this situation, a lot of traffic concerns, a lot of concerns about people stuck in high-rise elevators.

We'll watch this story. There's important news happening elsewhere, as well. We'll bring you all of that, including the latest on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the resignation of Michael Brown as the FEMA director.

Much more of coverage here in THE SITUATION ROOM after this short break.



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