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Winds force LAX flights to be diverted, knock out power in L.A.

November 30, 2011 |  8:39 pm

Powerful winds wreaked havoc at Los Angeles International Airport on Wednesday night, forcing at least 20 flights to be diverted and others to be put in holding patterns, officials said.

The wind gusts have hit more than 40 knots, creating severe crosswinds for planes taking off and landing, said Ian Gregor, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman. The diverted flights were sent to Ontario International Airport.

Typically, pilots won't take off or land in conditions where winds are gusting at 25 to 30 knots, Gregor said. In addtion, winds had strewn debris around two runways on the southside of the airport, causing officials to shut them for safety.

"We are trying to shoehorn a four-runway opeartion on to two runways," Gregor told The Times. "And add into that mix periodic strong crosswinds that prevent aircraft from taking off or landing, and you have a pretty interesting evening."

The heavy gusts also knocked out power at KNX Radio, putting the AM news station out of service because of possible transmitter damage, according to media reports. The station was streaming online only.

Earlier at LAX, lights were knocked out in terminals, as were X-ray machines and arrival and departure signs. People were using cellphones to light their way as they walked through terminals.

"Everybody seems to be pretty patient," said Long Beach resident Jim Walters, who was in the Alaska Airlines terminal when the lights went out shortly after 7 p.m. Power was restored about an hour later.

The winds also knocked out traffic signals in parts of Los Angeles and toppled a huge eucalyptus tree in the 2100 block of North Beverly Drive, fire officials said.

Trees also were toppled in Santa Monica, according to a motorist who drove by.


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-- Andrew Blankstein (twitter.com/anblanx) and Robert J. Lopez (twitter.com/LAJourno)

Photo: Uni Brady of Ireland waits in a security line at Los Angeles International Airport after the power went out Wedneday night.

Credit: Alan Hagman / Los Angeles Times