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‘Emergency’ electrical fixes ordered months before Super Bowl

Posted at 11:49 AM, Feb 05, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-05 11:49:35-05

By CNN Staff

(CNN) — Worries about Superdome wiring led to an order for hundreds of thousands of dollars in “emergency” repairs in the months leading up to Sunday’s Super Bowl, documents show.

Although there is no proof that these problems were behind the partial blackout at Sunday’s multimillion-dollar extravaganza, they are among the latest details to emerge in the mystery surrounding the embarrassing snafu.

The new information is in meeting minutes for the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District, a state agency that oversees a group of facilities including the Superdome.

The September minutes refer to power company Entergy’s work “to upgrade electrical services at the Superdome.” That work “must be completed before the Super Bowl,” the documents state. At that meeting, the board approved spending up to $700,000 to replace parallel electrical power feeds.

It’s unclear if the work was completed.

More details could come Friday, when Entergy officials are expected to speak at an emergency city council meeting.

The agency’s minutes also show that the board in October labeled the repair of a secondary electrical feeder as an “emergency.”

In November, the board was updated about “the replacement of the electrical feeders that connect the Superdome to the Entergy power vault.” The board approved spending $513,250 on what the minutes referred to as the “Emergency Feeder Repair Project.”

The company confirmed it completed some upgrades to electrical delivery systems to the facility on December 21, but Entergy has said that may have had nothing to do with Sunday night’s problem. The dome hosted a few major events after that work was carried out, including the Sugar Bowl.

The 35-minute electrical snafu during the Super Bowl set off a storm of social media amusement among viewers and inspired advertising tweets with blackout twists.

Carmaker Audi took a swipe at its competitor, tweeting that it was sending “LED lights” over to the dome, which is officially named the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

But for the picturesque Super Bowl host city — perpetually concerned with its reputation, especially since Hurricane Katrina — the power failure broadcast to the world was a huge embarrassment.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu promised that night there would be answers soon.

The council member who heads New Orleans’ utility committee, Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, hopes some will be forthcoming at the meeting this week.

“I am extremely disappointed in the power failure at the Superdome during last night’s Super Bowl game,” she said in a statement Monday.

The NFL has said the incident will not likely diminish the city’s chances of hosting another big game.

The general consensus on social media appeared to be that Beyonce’s high-wattage half-time performance was mostly likely to blame for the blackout.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell countered the virtual chatter, saying, “There is no indication at all that this was caused by the halftime show, absolutely none.”

Entergy Corp. said it was working with SMG, the company that manages the dome, to determine the cause of the disruption. The outage occurred shortly after the second half of the game kicked off.

Monitoring equipment detected an abnormal electrical load and partially cut power to the Superdome “to isolate the issue,” Entergy said. Backup generators came on line, and Entergy and SMG then worked to restore power.

The blackout triggered calls by industry leaders for the building of a nationwide smart power grid, which could reroute electricity seamlessly in such cases.

This would avoid such public displays of momentary weaknesses in the system, said Andres Carvallo, former chief technology officer at Austin Energy, where he says he built the nation’s first smart grid.

On Monday, CBS aired video shot from inside a stadium control room as the outage occurred.

“All right, we lost lights,” says a man as the room darkens.

CNN’s Lindsey Knight, Tom Watkins, Tina Burnside, Ben Brumfield and Chelsea Carter contributed to this report