Entergy admits Super Bowl power outage was a problem on its end

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wwltv.com

Posted on February 8, 2013 at 9:44 AM

Updated Friday, Feb 8 at 7:48 PM

Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Email: pmurphy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @pmurphywwl

NEW ORLEANS - The mystery of the 34-minute partial power failure during the Sunday's Super Bowl is closer to being solved.

In a strange plot twist, Entergy New Orleans says it's traced the cause to a device designed to prevent power outages.

Friday, ENO Chief Executive Officer Charles Rice was on the hot seat as he explained to city council members why half of the lights went out in the Superdome with the world watching.

"Through our own investigation, we have traced the cause of Sunday's outage to an electrical relay device," said Rice. "The device was specifically installed to protect the Mercedes-Benz Superdome equipment in the event of a cable failure between the switch gear and the stadium." The relay device is owned and operated by Entergy.

It's located in the "switching gear" housed just outside the dome in a small building known as the vault.

The equipment receives power from a nearby substation and feeds it into the stadium.

"During Sunday's game the relay device triggered, signaling a switch to open when it should not have causing the partial outage," said Rice.

That appears to contradicts an Entergy statement released during the game that cast some blame on the Superdome's equipment.

Superdome/SMG executive Doug Thornton says with Entergy officials now admitting the problem was on their end, there are no hard feelings.

"Sometimes in the heat of the moment people say things that they wish they hadn't said," Thornton said. "We accept that. It's important to find the root cause and it's now been traced back to this relay, this faulty device inside that switch gear that Entergy owns and I think that can be fixed."

The maker of the relay device is fighting back, pointing to possible operator error.

S & C Electric of Chicago released a statement saying, "The outage would have been avoided if the operator of the relay device had set the trip threshold higher."

CEO Rice disagrees.

"We received the device, fully assembled in a cabinet," said Rice. "We installed that device as we received it."

Even with Entergy's admission, city council members pushed the utility and Superdome managers to go forward with plans to hire an independent forensic engineer to verify the findings.

"I think we still maybe need to have this report and maybe get the forensic audit to make sure any outlining concerns are addressed," said City Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.

In the meantime, Thornton says the Superdome is ready to receive Endymion's Mardi Gras Extravaganza Saturday night.

"We saw no evidence of blown transformers or fuses," said Thornton. "So, our systems worked perfectly. We don't see any damage or problems whatsoever going forward."

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