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What would happen if Houston's airports lost power?

HOUSTON – The nation's air-travel system is struggling to get back on schedule after a weekend fire and blackout at the Atlanta airport forced the cancellation of over 1,500 flights.

Delta is the biggest airline at the Atlanta airport.

The company said it should be largely, or completely, back to normal by Tuesday.

What happened?

Lawrence Oliver III and his friends said they were directed from terminal to terminal though a dark, smoky underground passageway Sunday.

"Once it filled with white smoke, someone dressed in regular street clothes who had a badge on came and addressed the entire crowd and told us we had to go back through the tunnel and walk through the dark," Oliver said.

Oliver landed in Houston on Monday about 17 hours after he had planned. He said it seemed there was no emergency plan.

"You have to have a contingency plan when disasters happen. What would happen if this was on a grander scale? It was obvious at that airport that no one ... it's like they weren't trained to do anything," he said.

What is Houston's backup plan?

"I'm sure everybody is going back and saying how does our backup work? And is it still available?” said Houston Airport System spokesman Bill Begley.

He told KPRC 2 that the Federal Aviation Administration requires airports to have backup power to keep not only the lights on, but the safety systems too.

“We cannot operate without power to our airports. So many of our tools that make sure that you get to where you’re going safely require that power. But also we have redundancies. We have backup power in case there is an event that causes a disruption of primary power,” Begley said.

How would Houston deal with stranded passengers?

Begley said the planning extends to thinking of how to handle and deal with stranded passengers.

“You try to accommodate the passengers as best you can. We drill through this all the time. Our operations professionals who are prepared for this kind of event, they think of things like will we be able to move passengers from a plane that can’t get to a gate? Will we be able to get all of the planes to a gate? Will we be able to park the planes that don’t have an airport to go to?” he said.