Super Bowl Blackout Traced to Preventive Equipment

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  • NEW ORLEANS (AP) — An electrical device that had been installed expressly to prevent a power outage caused the Super Bowl blackout, the stadium’s power company said Friday as it took the blame for the outage that brought the game to a halt for more than a half-hour.

    Officials of Entergy New Orleans, a subsidiary of New Orleans-based Entergy Corp., said the device, called a relay, had been installed in switching gear to protect the Superdome from a cable failure between the company’s incoming power line and lines that run into the stadium.

    The switching gear is housed in a building known as “the vault” near the stadium that receives a line directly from a nearby Entergy power substation. Once the line reaches the vault, it splits into two cables that go into the Superdome.

    Company officials said the device performed with no problems during January’s Sugar Bowl and other earlier events, but has been removed and will be replaced. All systems at the Superdome are now working and the dome will host a major Mardi Gras event Saturday night, said Doug Thornton, an executive with SMG, the company that manages the stadium for the state.

    The power failure at Sunday’s big game cut lights to about half of the stadium for 34 minutes, halting play between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers.

    The FBI had ruled out cyberterrorism as a cause.

    Entergy’s announcement came shortly before officials appeared before a committee of the City Council, which is the regulatory body for the company, to answer questions about the outage.

    Entergy New Orleans CEO Charles Rice and Dennis Dawsey, an Entergy vice president for distribution, told the Council that SMG agrees the cause of the outage was a relay failure. Asked if the two corporations still plan to hire a third-party investigator, Rice said that possibility remains open.

    Committee member Jackie Clarkson pressed for such an independent probe. “We’ve told the public we’re going to have an outside investigation,” she said.

    “We’ll work closely with SMG and if there is a need for a third-party investigation, we will do that,” Rice said.

    It remains unclear whether the problem with the relay was a design flaw or a manufacturing problem. Rice said Entergy is working with the manufacturer.

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