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A widespread power failure hit the city early today, disrupting business and forcing residents to direct traffic through intersections with no lights.

Failure of a bank of transformers at about 6:15 a.m. blacked out a five-mile midcity stretch from the Marina District to the Sunset District, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. said. Power was restored in most areas at 8 a.m.

High-rises went dark, hospitals were forced onto emergency generators, and traffic signals were out over most of the city before dawn.

It only added to commuter woes in the nation's third-most-congested city, a title bestowed earlier this week by Texas A&M's Texas Transportation Institute, which studies roadway congestion.

Bay Area Rapid Transit trains were running, even though two BART stations were dark and briefly closed. The city's Municipal Railway also closed several underground stations until power was restored.

"I was scared. It's dark down there," said Clematine Gibson, arriving at the BART Civic Center Station from Oakland.

"I was holding onto my purse, running, because I was afraid someone was going to snatch it," said Ms. Gibson, a Bank of America employee.

Police were dispatched to major intersections to direct traffic, but in many areas residents stood in the street guiding motorists. By dawn, commuters were shouting and honking horns in frustration.

No major accidents were reported.

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