COLLEGE PARK, Atlanta — A power outage at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport left thousands of passengers at the world's busiest airport stranded in the dark and sitting in planes on the tarmac as incoming and outgoing flights were halted indefinitely Sunday.
The Federal Aviation Administration issued a nationwide ground stop for flights to Atlanta at 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday, meaning that planes are being held at their departure airports, the airport said on its verified Twitter account. Many inbound flights to Atlanta are being diverted, including international flights, US Customs and Border Protection said.
Georgia Power released a statement on Twitter.
"We believe the issue may have involved a fire which caused extensive damage in a Georgia Power underground electrical facility. The fire was safely extinguished by fire crews before we could enter the area to assess damage and begin repairs," the company said. "The event impacted not only the underground facilities, but also substations serving the Airport and, while the cause is not yet known, Georgia Power’s system responded by isolating areas where equipment wasn’t operating correctly to ensure safety and minimize damage."
They expect power to be restored by midnight.
According to the airport's verified Twitter account, power in Concourse F is back on.
An average of 275,000 passengers use Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport every day, according to its website.
The ground stop led Southwest Airlines to cancel all operations in and out Atlanta for the rest of the day, spokesman Brian Hawkins said. Customers are being offered re-bookings without fare differences, he said.
Atlanta is the largest hub for Delta Air Lines. The airline told passengers to check the status of their flights.
"Delta is aware of a power outage at the Atlanta Airport affecting airport concourses and terminal buildings," spokesman Michael Thomas told CNN. "Flight disruptions are expected as a result and Delta customers are encouraged check the status of their flight via the Fly Delta Mobile App or Delta.com. More updates to follow."
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."