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Opinion: Blackout demonstrates lack of Katrina recovery

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Super Bowl XLVII was memorable to say the least. For the first time in Super Bowl history, the opposing head coaches (Ravens’ John Harbuagh and 49ers’ Jim Harbuagh) were brothers. Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, the only remaining player of the Ravens’ 1996 inaugural team, sought to end his 17 year long career with another Super Bowl win. And who could forget Beyonce’s halftime performance that made critics everywhere forget that less than a month ago, rumors swirled around of her lip-syncing the National Anthem.

But this Super Bowl was about more than history making for the city of New Orleans. Super Bowl XLVII was the 10th held in New Orleans since 1970, but the first since Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. The game brought an estimated $432 million into the city. New Orleans saw this as an opportunity to return to normalcy and to do so on a worldwide stage. That opportunity dimmed quickly and literally when the lights on the west half of the dome went out during the third quarter.

Twitter users quickly trended #SuperBowlBlackOut to the #1 hashtag worldwide. According to Twitter, the power outage sparked 231,500 tweets per minute, totaling 3 million by the end of the night. Social media users also took the opportunity to make jokes about the causes of the power outage, blaming everything from the Saints’ inability to pay the electric bill to Beyonce’s high-powered halftime performance. Unfortunately for the city of New Orleans, the media attention they received was not the positive reaction they were hoping for prior to kickoff. Many companies took advantage of the blackout as well, including Oreo’s “You can still dunk in the dark” Twitter advertisement.

The 33-minute blackout was the result of a problem with one of the two main power feeders, which is why only half of the stadium went dark. When the stadium’s power system detected an abnormality, the system automatically shut off power to the west half of the stadium at 7:37pm. Fortunately for the 49ers, the delay of game until 8:10 caused the Ravens to lose their momentum and provided them a chance to make a comeback.

SMG, the company that owns and manages the Superdome, has spent millions of dollars to upgrade the Superdome post Hurricane Katrina, including its power components. Manager Doug Thorton stated that, “it’s too soon to speculate” if the power outage related to any major issues with the 38-year-old building.

However, Entergy, the city’s electric company, almost immediately pointed blame of the outage to problems inside of the building, while Superdome officials believe the issue began at the company’s substation located 1,200 feet from the venue. While the true cause of the blackout has not yet been reported, it’s quite obvious that the city’s infrastructure is far from a full recovery from the Hurricane Katrina destruction.

New Orleans is nothing if not a city used to running on generators, which were ready to be used if the game had been delayed longer. Despite the delay, the Battle of the Bays was a great Super Bowl week, and the blackout will not affect the city’s chance to hold future Super Bowl games. In fact, civic officials are already discussing returning to the dome in 2018.

 

  • Cartoon 2/4/13

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