One of the biggest television events of the year, the Super Bowl, looked like an epic fail right after halftime. The game was all but over when Jacoby Jones ran the kickoff after halftime back 108 yards for yet another Baltimore Raven score, putting the Ravens ahead of the San Francisco 49ers by a margin of 28-6. Just then, the power went out in the stadium – and stayed off for an achingly long 34 minutes.
While the 49ers came back from their deficit and almost won the game, the city of New Orleans has not rallied quite so well. The cause of the fluke power failure, arguably the legacy of the Super Bowl, was unknown for more than a week after the game.
So what can this infamous outage be traced to? Reportedly, a huge electrical relay that was installed to regulate power flow, according to Entergy, the owner of the utility that supplies power to the city that hosted this year’s Super Bowl. Furthermore, S&C Electric, Co., the equipment’s manufacturer, explained that the device cut power to the Superdome as a direct result of the electric load exceeding the trip setting that had been selected, Businessweek reported last week.
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Although the curtain finally fell in this mystery, the Mayor of New Orleans tried to put a positive spin on the power failure during a press conference last Tuesday, suggesting that not even temporarily losing the lights could overshadow the city’s good work during the event. But having half the lights go out during the middle of the game is hardly stepping up when it matters most, and it certainly wasn’t the message the city hoped to send about New Orleans being back to full strength after Hurricane Katrina – a major influencing factor that went into choosing this location.
The city has hired an outside consultant to help determine what went wrong, according to CBS Sports, since the stadium’s management company has not yet found a cause for the power failure.
The official explanation, as TMCnet reported last week, is that the problem was no fault of either the energy provider, Entergy, or the stadium’s management company, SMG.
In their joint statement at the time, Entergy and SMG said:
A piece of equipment that is designed to monitor electrical load sensed an abnormality in the system. Once the issue was detected, the sensing equipment operated as designed and opened a breaker, causing power to be partially cut to the Superdome in order to isolate the issue. Backup generators kicked in immediately as designed. Entergy and SMG subsequently coordinated start-up procedures, ensuring that full power was safely restored to the Superdome. The fault-sensing equipment activated where the Superdome equipment intersects with Entergy’s feed into the facility. There were no additional issues detected. Entergy and SMG will continue to investigate the root cause of the abnormality.
While tests on the electrical feeders that connect incoming power from utility lines to the stadium showed decay and “a chance of failure” in October, according to a memo by the Louisiana Stadium & Exposition District (LSED) at the time, CBS Sports reports that authorities subsequently authorized spending nearly $1 million on improvements, including more than $600,000 for upgrading the dome's electrical feeder cable system. That work was completed in December.
A preliminary investigation found the replacement work in December did not appear to have caused Sunday's outage, according to an LSED lawyer.
Further, CBS Sports is reporting that the meters showed the 76,000-seat stadium was drawing no more electricity than normal for a game, and the stadium had hosted an NFL game, the Sugar Bowl and the New Orleans Bowl in recent weeks without incident. Nor did other parts of the city go dark during the Super Bowl.
This power outage will surely not be forgotten for many years to come, and while it was technically “explained,” the reason for the outage seems to be still unknown on many levels.