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LAX Computer Glitch Strands 20,000 for 14 Hours

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When the port director for customs at LAX calls it bad, and he's been around since the '70s you know it's bad. "This is probably one of the worst days we've had. I've been with the agency for 30 years and I've never seen the system go down and stay down for as long as it did," Peter Gordon told the LA Times about the computer meltdown that stranded 20,000 travelers yesterday and early this morning for 14 hours.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection system went down around 2 p.m., forcing some planes to sit on the tarmac for so long that workers had to refuel them to keep their power units and air conditioning running. Maintenance workers ran trucks around the airport hooking up tubes to service lavatories. Just after midnight Saturday, Tom Winfrey, a spokesman for Los Angeles World Airports, said the computer system was up and running. Processing passengers through customs took several hours after that.

At 3:50 a.m., customs cleared the last seven people -- one passenger in a wheelchair and six crew members -- all from the last flight to arrive early today during the backlog: Mexicana Airlines Flight 922 from Guadalajara, Mexico.

Because of the snafu, airport parking lots were jammed until 3am, vending machines were barren, and because of Murphy's Law there was a water shortage in the Tom Bradley Terminal due to building renovations which found children and elderly passengers laying on the ground suffering from dehydration.