updated 7/18/2006 10:30:23 PM ET 2006-07-19T02:30:23

A power outage at a major air traffic control center disrupted flights in and out of Southern California airports for more than an hour Tuesday, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said.

The outage at the Los Angeles Air Route Traffic Control Center was reported shortly after 5:30 p.m. and was restored about 90 minutes later, said Allen Kenitzer, a regional spokesman for FAA.

"The generator kicked in, and backup power was re-established," Kenitzer said.

The cause of the problem was not known.

The center is located north of Los Angeles in the high desert at Palmdale and handles high-altitude aircraft in Southern California and parts of Arizona, Nevada and Utah.

The outage potentially could cause backups in air traffic nationwide, Kenitzer said.

Smaller facilities were helping the center communicate with the "large volume" of planes that were in the air and heading to the region, Kenitzer said.

"Safety is never compromised, but obviously it's caused an inconvenience," he said.

A number of planes on lower altitude routes were able to take off and land, said Harold Johnson, a spokesman for Los Angeles International Airport. He said he did not know how many delays occurred there. LAX is the world's fifth-busiest in terms of passenger volume.

"The airport's not totally shut down, but it's pretty much shut down," Johnson said.

Kenitzer said the Palmdale facility handles flights on long-distance routes at 38,000 feet or higher. Most regional flights were not affected, he said.

Flights halted, diverted
All flights departing San Diego's Lindbergh Field were halted at 5:42 p.m., said airport spokeswoman Diana Lucero. Arriving flights were unaffected by the power failure, she said.

"We don't know how long it will take to return to normal operations," she said.

Airports in the San Francisco Bay region affected also.

One flight from San Jose to Southern California turned around shortly after takeoff and returned to San Jose, airport spokeswoman Marina Renneke said. One flight from Vancouver, British Columbia, and another from Seattle were diverted to San Jose. Ten other planes scheduled to fly to Southern California were grounded, Renneke said.

Two Alaska Airlines flights headed to Southern California were diverted to Oakland International Airport, airport spokeswoman Rosemary Barnes said.

Planes also returned to San Francisco International Airport, where customs officials were on alert for the possibility of international flights being sent to San Francisco.

"We are currently standing by in case we get any diverts from any other airports that were going to LAX, in particular international aircrafts," said San Francisco airport spokesman Mike McCarron.

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