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Power Outage Scrambles Newark Airport

January 10, 1995

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ A construction accident blacked out Newark International Airport on Monday, bringing passenger traffic to a halt at the nation’s 10th busiest airport.

Seventy percent, or 840, of the 1,200 passenger flights handled daily at Newark were canceled and the remainder were diverted to regional airorts, said airport general manager Benjamin DeCosta. Cargo flights weren’t affected.

The airport was shut down completely at 5 p.m. and wasn’t expected to reopen until Tuesday morning at the earliest.

``We’re just looking through the brochures again and trying to make believe we’re on Waikiki Beach,″ said Cheryl Dockery.

Instead of heading to Hawaii for their honeymoon, she and her husband, Daryl, reclined on the floor, sunglasses on _ although the terminal was refrigerator-cold because the heat was off.

Electricity to the air traffic control tower, runways and navigational aids was not affected, and DeCosta said passenger safety was not threatened.

However, there was no power for baggage systems, computers, lights, restaurants, escalators or the jetways that bridge the gaps between planes and terminal gates. Machines blew hot air into the terminals to help warm travelers who could not leave the airport overnight.

Mobile ladders had to be driven out for passengers getting off arriving planes.

A construction worker accidentally drilled into a cable supplying electricity to the terminals, DeCosta said. He didn’t know when full power would be restored. The worker was not injured.

DeCosta didn’t know how many passengers were stranded but last year airport officials said about 70,000 people pass through the airport a day. Airport workers helped some stranded passengers find hotel rooms for the night.

Jenny and Dirk Fremont of Asbury Park, returning from a trip to Disney World with their 6-year-old daughter Grace, had to sit for about 90 minutes, waiting to get off their plane.

``We told our daughter this was just another adventure on our trip,″ said Jenny Fremont. ``But she didn’t buy it. She said `This ride is boring. I want to get off.‴

Most diverted flights were sent to Kennedy and LaGuardia airports in New York City.

``They told us it could be a 12-hour wait before our flight can leave,″ Mrs. Dockery said. ``We could try to go to another airport, but we’re willing to wait here. I think it would be easier to just sit here than fight New York City traffic.″

Security officials had to use hand-held, battery-operated metal detectors to check baggage since most X-ray machines were not working.

Four international flights remained on runways for two hours until a backup generator in the international terminal brought U.S. Customs computers back on line.

Parking lot ticket dispensers also were shut down, but attendants handed out ticket stubs and collected fees.

``That was pretty cheesy,″ said Gus Brooks of Hackensack, who was waiting for his girlfriend to return from a visit to Texas. ``The world could come to an end and those parking attendants would still be there.″

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