Large parts of McCarran International Airport lost electricity about 4:50 p.m. Wednesday, temporarily stopping most arrivals and departures and leaving travelers in semidarkness without air conditioning.
Nevada Power Co. spokesman Kevin Rademacher said there were 15,000 customers affected by the outage in the area around Tropicana Avenue, Maryland Parkway and Eastern Avenue. Crews restored electricity 55 minutes later.
Rademacher said debris apparently blew into a Nevada Power substation and caused the outage.
Randall Walker, Clark County aviation director, could only recall three other partial power outages of the same magnitude in his 16 years at McCarran. But Walker was satisfied with the response by the airport staff, Transportation Security Administration workers and airline personnel.
“I think everything went as well as can be expected,” Walker said.
The outage caused flights to stop at gates A, B and C in Terminal One and also at gates in Terminal Two, which serves charter and international flights, he said. The Terminal One D gates are connected to a second substation for secondary power and continued to serve incoming and outgoing domestic flights.
At other gates, the passenger sky bridges to airplanes could not be moved when the power shut off. That prevented arriving planes from docking with the air bridges and stopped departing airplanes from disconnecting.
Sections of the ticketing counters went black. The monitors that displayed flight information went out, and airport staff directed passengers to gates.
The TSA had backup power for some security screens but switched to manual inspection for other passenger lines.
The monorails that take passengers to gates jerked to a stop but then started moving again, said Doug Johnson, a consultant to Clark County who was awaiting a departing flight.
Johnson was preparing to board a Southwest Airlines aircraft for Burbank, Calif., where his wife and two children were awaiting him.
“They are saying please be very patient. Manually boarding planes is going to be very slow,” Johnson said.
Dave Palermo, a casino trade publication editor, was in Sacramento, Calif., and trying to get to Las Vegas but with little success.
“I’m trying to get to Vegas, and they are not accepting any flights,” he said.
By about 6:15 p.m., Walker said the airport seemed back to normal.
He said he has been talking with Nevada Power about connecting all the gates to a second substation so that they could continue operating if one of the two substations shuts down.
McCarran International Airport handled more than 46 million passengers last year.