Sometime between the Baltimore Ravens beating the San Francisco 49ers and the Ravens crushing the 49ers, half of the lights in the Superdome went dark, and Twitter lit up with curiosity — and jokes. "Is this the part when Bane comes out with a kidnapped nuclear physicist?," wondered CNN's Peter Hamby in a tweet. Approximately all of Twitter followed with Batman jokes, with a quip about Beyoncé's super human entertaining skills here and there, while thirsty Super Bowl party-goers went for another beer. But everybody was really wondering: Why the heck did the lights just go out at the Super Dome?
As players sat down to stretch and officials jogged into a huddle to figure out what to do next, there wasn't a terrible amount of information about what caused outage. Surely, the possibility of a terrorist attack crossed some people's mind, though that was quickly ruled out. Weather was ruled out, too, since it was 66 degrees and clear in New Orleans at game time. The next most obvious possibility is that it was some sort of problem with the power grid, a surge or something maybe. Entergy New Orleans who provides power to the Super Dome tweeted within minutes of the outage, "Power issue at the Super Dome appears to be in the customer's side. Entergy is providing power to the Dome." In other words, it was not their fault.
Here's the thing: NFL football games drink up a lot of electricity, and blackouts during games are not unheard of. Just two years ago, a game between the 49ers and the Steelers was delayed twice due to power outages, after a transformer exploded just outside of the stadium. It sounds like that there was a similar overload at the Superdome this year. "This is a situation totally out of our control. We have been told that there was a blown transformer," said presenter Mike Chapman. "The safety lights are on but our cameras are now up and running again." A few minutes later, the lights flickered back on, and the teams started getting ready to start the game. More details trickled in that suggested it was indeed an "outside power surge" that caused the power outage. By the time game play started over half an hour after half the Superdome went out, it remained unclear what caused the surge. It could've been lightning, but again, the weather was nice in New Orleans. More likely, is that the many very high-power electrical devices in the stadium switched on or off, sending a surge of electricity through the wires, overloading a circuit or exploding a transformer. The compressor of the Superdome's climate control system or Beyoncé's light-heavy halftime show, for instance, could cause such a surge.
Though the outage was only a half-an-hour-long, it felt like forever, mostly because the bad joking tweets didn't let up. There were some good ones, though. Writer Neil Pollack wins in our opinion, "This time, it's the rich people trapped in the Superdome."
Update, Monday morning: Entergy, the power company responsible for electricity at the Superdome, has released a statement on the Super Bowl outage, citing an "abnormality."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.