By and  on September 13, 2005

LOS ANGELES — A power failure caused by an accidentally severed cable blacked out a major swath of the Los Angeles area on Monday, stretching from downtown west to Santa Monica and north to Burbank.

The electricity went out at 12:45 p.m. and was about 90 percent restored by 2 p.m. Police went on full tactical alert and there were many reports of traffic accidents because stoplights weren't working. Los Angeles road and highway congestion worsened.

The blackout occurred when an employee at a Department of Water and Power substation in West Los Angeles "inadvertently cut a power cable," the county Office of Emergency Management said.

Lisa Elliot, co-owner of EM Productions, a downtown sales showroom, said phones and computers were down for only 20 minutes. "But it's only a week before Coterie and I told the staff to keep working and use their cell phones," she said.

EM's press office in Silver Lake, however, didn't fare as well as power there didn't come back up for more than an hour. "And our printer in Burbank just called to say the catalogues we were expecting today would now be a day late. That's not good."

Retailer Hillary Rush, whose eponymous shop is located on Third Street, across from hip eatery Toast, actually benefited from the power failure. "Luckily, it only went out for five minutes and then came back on," she said. "But the north side of the street was affected longer, and everyone who was eating at Toast came across the street to shop, because [the cafe] couldn't serve food anymore."

The incident initially caused concerns because ABC News on Sunday aired a videotape of a purported al-Qaeda member making threats against Los Angeles, as well as Melbourne, Australia.

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