We Now Know What To Blame For the Super Bowl Blackout

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Feb. 8 2013 10:27 AM

We Now Know What To Blame For the Super Bowl Blackout (but the Answer Will Disappoint You)

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David Akers #2 of the San Francisco 49ers waits during a power outage that occurred in the third quarter that caused a 34-minute delay during Super Bowl XLVII against the Baltimore Ravens at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

We now have an answer to what caused the Super Bowl blackout. Entergy Corp, the utility responsible for providing power to the New Orleans Superdome, announced this morning that it had traced the cause of the power outage to one of its electrical relay devices.

That's much less exciting than some of the conspiracy theories that had been floating around the Internet, but there is at least one interesting twist: The device that malfunctioned was apparently installed by the power company specifically in hopes of avoiding an outage. Reuters:

The device was specifically installed to protect the Superdome's equipment in the event of a cable failure between the switchgear and the stadium, Entergy said. The relay had functioned without issue during a number of other events, including the New Orleans Bowl, the New Orleans Saints-Carolina Panthers game, and the Sugar Bowl. But during Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday, the relay device triggered, signaling a switch to open when it should not have, causing a partial power outage in the building.
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In the immediate aftermath of the blackout, Entergy was quick to deflect any possible blame for the outage. The utility said that all of its equipment had worked properly and that the issue was instead likely caused by some other flaw in the Superdome. Later that same night, however, the utility issued a joint-statement with the firm that manages the stadium announcing that they'd launch a full investigation into the matter to find out what went wrong.

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City.