Transportation leaders at the Minnesota legislature have requested information from the operator of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport regarding contingency plans, should a catastrophic power outage similar to the one that occurred in Atlanta Sunday happen here.
A fire in an underground electrical facility caused Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, the world's busiest airport, to lose power for more than 12 hours. This prompted the cancellation of hundreds of flights and stranded thousands of passengers during the busy holiday travel season.
In a letter to the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) dated Monday, Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, and Rep. Regina Barr, R-Inver Grove Heights, requested information on current emergency procedures at MSP, as well as contingency plans should a similar crisis occur here. Both are members of the House Transportation Committee, which Torkeson also chairs.
"It is our hope that MSP already has plans in place in the event of a similar crisis, and that you will consider reviewing and updating policies and preparedness measures in light of the recent events in Atlanta," the lawmakers wrote.
Georgia Power said the outage was likely caused by an equipment failure in an underground facility that caused a fire, damaging cables and shutting down the electrical system and its backup.
"Media reports suggest a stunning lack of preparedness for such an event," Torkelson and Barr wrote. They also cited the closure of restaurants, the lack of functioning elevators, escalators and moving walkways, "leaving elderly and disabled passengers stranded."
The issues "were all compounded by a severe lack of communication from authorities to stranded passengers," the letter states.
While the MAC "does not have clear information about the cause" of the Atlanta power failure, spokesman Patrick Hogan said Monday that the commission has "taken steps in the design and modification of electrical systems at MSP to help prevent the kind of sweeping power failure experienced at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport from happening here."
MSP airport has two separate electrical feeds from Xcel Energy, Hogan noted. If one goes down, the airport can still be serviced by the other. The airport's two terminals are set up with electrical zones, "so that an electrical failure in one zone won't cause a failure in another," he said. "While power outages can occur anywhere, including MSP, steps have been and continue to be taken at MSP to reduce both the likelihood and the impact of such an outage."