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Fire forces Milwaukee airport to cut power

A small electrical fire at Milwaukee’s airport forced officials to shut down power for more than two hours Tuesday, causing flight delays and requiring hand searches of baggage and terminal shops to close.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A small electrical fire at Milwaukee’s airport forced officials to shut down power for more than two hours Tuesday, causing flight delays and requiring hand searches of baggage and terminal shops to close.

Officials at General Mitchell International Airport were investigating what caused the fire. A contractor had been working in an underground utility tunnel, airport spokeswoman Pat Rowe said.

The medium-size airport, home to Midwest Airlines, has more than 230 daily departures to over 50 cities.

“It slowed things considerably,” Rowe said. “People’s baggage was being screened by hand and they were being hand-wanded through security.”

Outbound flights were delayed, but she wasn’t sure how many because all the airport’s flight information terminals went down.

Flights were able to continue during the failure because the traffic control tower has its own alternative power supply, officials said.

Midwest spokeswoman Carol Skornicka said that the airline made alternative arrangements and that flights weren’t significantly delayed.

“The delays were pretty short, but the jetways weren’t moving, so we would pull up the stairs to the aircraft doors,” Skornicka said.

Skornicka said that she believed that all Midwest passengers made connecting flights and that she was surprised the power returned so quickly.

“I thought we were facing something like all night,” she said. “It caused a great deal of inconvenience, but it’s not like being down for two days with bad weather. It’s relative to a certain extent.”

All airport stores and restaurants closed, and the airport was without air conditioning briefly as temperatures in the area reached the high 80s, Rowe said.

The power was restored just after 6 p.m.