NEW YORK – The federal government will help states cope with the power outage that struck millions of homes and businesses in at least five states on Thursday, and crippled the city of New York, President Bush said Thursday night.
Bush, who said the United States is working to restore power as quickly as possible as it also starts on investigating the cause, said terrorism was not to blame.
"I can say for certain this is not a terrorist act," Bush said.
Bush said federal officials are working with the states to get the electricity back up, but he would not speculate on the cause of the blackout.
"I have heard reports about a lightning strike near Niagara Falls in New York and we are, federal officials, of course are investigating the veracity of that. We'll find out here what caused the blackout. But most importantly, what we now need to do is fix the problem and get the electricity up and running as quickly as possible," Bush said.
Several major cities in the northern United States and Canada suffered massive power outages Thursday afternoon, stalling daily operations and disabling afternoon rush hour commuters.
New York City, Detroit, Cleveland and Canadian cities Toronto and Ottawa were paralyzed.
Other cities in Ohio, New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania also suffered simultaneous blackouts shortly after 4:00 p.m. EDT.
Power was expected to be out for several hours, but Bush said officials were working as quickly as possible to get the power back up and running. He added that federal officials are ready to look into why the outage was so widespread.
"One of the things we ought to do, of course, is take an assessment of why the cascade was so significant, why it was able to ripple so significantly throughout our system up East," Bush said. "Of course, we will have time to look at it and determine whether or not our grid needs to be modernized. I happen to think it does and have said so all along. But this is going to be an interesting lesson for our country and we will have to respond to it."
Bush said he was pleased with the response time of the Federal Aviation Administration, which after a few hours was able to get flights out of Newark and LaGuardia airports outside New York City. And he said he was impressed with the Department of Homeland Security's reaction time.
"The organization of homeland security is aimed at quick communications with state and local authorities, and I think that communication was quick and thorough. I talked to Secretary Ridge several times, governors have been notified, mayors have been notified, and we're prepared to do anything we can upon request," he said.
"I think the first thing that Americans ought to be pleased about is that we're better organized today than we were two-and-a-half years ago to deal with an emergency."
Bush: U.S. Is Winning War on Terror
Earlier in the day, Bush told troops that the United States is winning the war on terror in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere around the world, and he vowed to "hunt down" those who would do harm to the United States.
"Our nation is waging a broad, an unrelenting campaign against the global terror network. And we're winning," Bush told U.S. troops at Miramar Air Station in San Diego. "Wherever Al Qaeda terrorists try to hide … we 're on the offensive against these killers, we're going after them."
Bush was touring the Golden State to talk to troops about Iraq, boost his environmental image and, last but not least, "campaign for George W." The president attended a fund-raiser Thursday night that was expected to net $1 million for the Bush-Cheney 2004 re-election effort.
At Miramar, the Marine Corps' largest jet base and once the home of the Navy's famed Top Gun flight school, Bush thanked more than 10,000 Marines and their families for defending their country.
About 3,000 Miramar-stationed Marines remain deployed in Iraq; another 4,000 have returned home in recent weeks.
"Each of you serves in a crucial time in our nation's history, and this nation is grateful for the sacrifice and service you make. Many of you have recently returned from Iraq and it seems like you're happy to be home," he said. The audience roared in agreement.
Bush said nearly two-thirds of senior Al Qaeda members, including key facilitators, operators and organizers, have been either captured or killed.
"We're keeping our resolve and we'll stay focused on the war on terror," Bush said. "The United States will not stand by and wait for another attack."
He pointed to Thursday's capture of "Hambali," the alleged mastermind of the 2002 Bali bombing in Indonesia, as a prime example of how the United States is unrelenting in its war against terror. Hambali, whose full name is Riduan Bin Isomuddin, is also suspected of being the mastermind of the Aug. 5 bombing of the Marriott hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia, which killed 12 people.
"He is no longer a problem for those of us who love freedom," Bush said, calling Hambali "one of the world's most lethal terrorists."
Hambali is described as Al Qaeda's chief representative and senior planner in southeast Asia. He was a close associate of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged Sept. 11 mastermind who was captured earlier this year.
Bush did not mention the unknown status of both Al Qaeda founder Usama bin Laden or deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, but said the terror ring is still recruiting members, training and plotting, "because we won't cower."
"Every terrorist can be certain of this — wherever they are, we will hunt 'em down, one by one, until they are no longer a threat to the people who live in the United States of America."
He also promised to give the U.S. military and other branches involved in the war on terror "every tool and every resource they will need to defend themselves and do the job they were sent to do."
Bush also vowed again to unleash the United States' wrath not only on terrorists, but on those countries and groups that harbor, support or feed terrorists.
"You're just as guilty as the terrorists and the Taliban found out what we meant," Bush said, referring to Afghanistan's former ruling party that supported Al Qaeda.
"Afghanistan today is a friend to the United States of America. It is not a haven to American terrorist enemies," Bush said.
While some have criticized the Bush administration for not giving the world enough proof that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction and supports terrorists, the president promised that the weapons would be found.
"Make no mistake about it — Iraq is part of the war on terror," Bush said, adding that the former regime "had their day of reckoning.
"The others still in there have a lot to worry about," he warned.
Bush said "free and peaceful" Iraq is key to winning the war on terror. As the new Governing Council takes root and democracy is established throughout the country, Iraq can be a model for the rest of the Arab world on how citizens can live free of the radicalism and violence that plagues other countries in the region.
He pointed out that despite the critics, Iraq's infrastructure has vastly improved in the past few months coalition forces have taken control and there political progress is being made.
U.S. forces continue to face guerrilla-style attacks in Iraq, however. Since Bush declared the end of major combat operations in Iraq on May 1, 129 U.S. soldiers have died there.
A Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll released Thursday shows that despite the hot-plate issues surrounding the war, Bush still enjoys a 57 percent job approval rating. That number compares to 71 percent in early April.
About 54 percent of those interviewed agreed that the United States has made good progress in making Iraq more secure, while 38 percent disagreed, according to the poll.
While in San Diego for two days of fund-raising for his re-election campaign, the president did not step near the California recall election, which has made headlines around the country.
Even Bush has called the effort to recall Democratic Gov. Gray Davis "a fascinating bit of political drama," but came no closer to acknowledging the race Thursday but to recognize Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who joined him at the speech.
Issa bankrolled the petition drive that forced the recall with $2 million of his own money, but dropped out of contention for governor last week.
Issa said the president was smart to avoid the topic.
"It's a California problem," Issa said. "The president, rightfully so, should be out of it."
Fox News' Liza Porteus contributed to this report.