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What caused power outage at Super Bowl: Is 'abnormality' the whole story? (+video)

'What caused power outage' may be the biggest mystery of Super Bowl XLVII. The local energy company cited an 'abnormality in the system,' but the root cause for that is still unknown.

By Staff writer / February 4, 2013

Fans and members of the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers wait for power to return in the Superdome during a power outage in the second half of the NFL Super Bowl XLVII football game, Sunday, in New Orleans.

Charlie Riedel/AP

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Super Bowl XLVII leaves its share of mysteries in its wake, and one of the biggest is unrelated to football tactics or the inner workings of the Harbaugh family: What caused the power outage just as the second half was getting started?

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Watch the lights go out in the Superdome Sunday night during Super Bowl XLVII.

A power outage left the game in limbo for more than half an hour, baffling commentators and setting the stage for the dramatic near-comeback of the San Francisco 49ers.

Was it a ploy by Chinese hackers to exhibit their capabilities at a moment that had the attention of some 50 million Americans?

Did Beyoncé’s flashy halftime show overtax the Superdome’s circuitry?

Those questions sprang naturally to mind for many an average viewer. But so far the hard evidence that’s emerged is more mundane.

The company Entergy, which supplies power to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, says a sensor discovered an “abnormality” in the electrical load, triggering the shutdown.

“Shortly after the beginning of the second half of the Super Bowl in the Mercedes Benz Superdome, a piece of equipment that is designed to monitor electrical load sensed an abnormality in the system,” says a joint statement from Entergy and SMG, the management company for the Superdome.

“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,” the statement continues. “Backup generators kicked in immediately as designed. Entergy and SMG subsequently coordinated start up procedures, ensuring that full power was safely restored to the Superdome.”

The obvious follow-on question is, What caused that abnormality?

The statement said Entergy and SMG are continuing to investigate for an answer on that “root cause.”

The fault-sensing equipment, the companies added, operated right where Superdome equipment intersects with Entergy's feed of incoming power. An FBI special agent, quoted by The Associated Press, said terrorism didn't cause the power problem.

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