NEW ORLEANS — A Super Bowl week that had gone so smoothly for the Big Easy suddenly turned bizarre when everyone was watching.
The lights went out on the biggest game of the year.
The outage, blamed on an unspecified “abnormality” in the Superdome’s power system, was an embarrassment for New Orleans, which was hosting its first Super Bowl since 2002 and was eager to show off how it has been rebuilt since Hurricane Katrina.
The Ravens had been cruising along with a 28-6 lead in the game when, without warning, the power to the Superdome suddenly shut down early in the third quarter, plunging parts of the 38-year-old stadium into darkness and leaving TV viewers with no football and no explanation why.
For 34 minutes, the players tried to stay loose, the fans milled about in darkened corridors, and stadium officials scrambled to figure out what went wrong. Escalators stopped working and credit-card machines shut down, though auxiliary power kept the playing field and concourses from going totally dark.
Most fans seemed to take the outage in stride, even starting up the wave to pass the time.
“So we had to spend 30 minutes in the dark? That was just more time for fans to refill their drinks,” said Amanda Black of Columbus, Miss.
The problem occurred shortly after Beyonce put on a halftime show that featured extravagant lighting and video effects.
A joint statement from Entergy New Orleans, which provides power to the stadium, and Superdome operator SMG shed some light on the chain of events, although they weren’t sure about the source of the problem. It apparently started at the spot where Entergy feeds power into the stadium’s lines.
“A piece of equipment that is designed to monitor electrical load sensed an abnormality in the system,” the statement said. “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. … Entergy and SMG will continue to investigate the root cause of the abnormality.”
The FBI quickly ruled out terrorism, and the New Orleans Fire Department dismissed reports that a fire might have been the cause.
Finally, the lights came back on throughout the dome and the game resumed.
“Let’s go” referee Jerome Boger barked to the teams.
The Superdome has undergone $336 million in renovations since Katrina ripped its roof in 2005.
Maybe they forgot one of the basics.
Joked Doug Cook, a Ravens fan from New Orleans: “They didn’t pay the light bill.”