updated 10/11/2005 7:55:23 PM ET 2005-10-11T23:55:23

A blackout hit downtown government buildings, Chinatown and adjacent areas Tuesday, but backup power kept key parts of City Hall and police headquarters running. It was the third significant electrical failure in the city since mid-September.

The blackout began about 9 a.m. and cut power to as many as 1,000 customers, affecting City Hall, the Los Angeles County Hall of Administration and police headquarters at Parker Center, said Gale Harris, a spokeswoman for the city Department of Water and Power, which provides electricity to 1.4 million customers.

The cause of the outage was under investigation, but officials ruled out terrorism or human error, said Carol Tucker, another DWP spokeswoman.

“Outages just happen periodically, but we do seem to be having an inordinate number,” Tucker said.

About 100 downtown commercial customers were still without power at midafternoon.

Backup power kicked in at police headquarters, though parts of the complex were dark until electricity was fully restored there before noon, Harris said. A City Council meeting was in progress when the lights went out, but the meeting continued as City Hall switched to backup power.

At the height of the blackout, traffic signals that had gone dark snarled traffic through parts of Chinatown and in sections of downtown.

Power failures affected 2 million people Sept. 12, while 40,000 customers in downtown and neighborhoods to the east lost service Sept. 23.

The first outage lasted 1½ hours after a utility crew cut several control lines in the San Fernando Valley. A subsequent report by the DWP cited faulty work plans, a failure to double-check the designs and miscommunication.

The second power failure involved a substation where a bank of transformers that had been shut down for maintenance was brought back online. That accidentally triggered other banks of transformers to go off-line. Power was restored in about five minutes and the cause was under investigation.

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