The power outage that affected about 2,000 customers in New Orleans’ Central Business District on Monday morning was a “proactive outage” that occurred when Entergy workers noticed a fault in the system and “de-energized the grid,” a spokeswoman said.
The outage, which hit about 7:15 a.m. and lasted more than two hours, wreaked havoc on the morning commute. Traffic signals across a swath of the CBD went dark, leaving motorists to rely on courtesy and, in some cases, long-forgotten driver education lessons about how to navigate four-way stops.
Stephanie Pyle, the Entergy New Orleans spokeswoman, said power was restored to most customers around 9:45 a.m.
Pyle said the exact cause of the fault was still under investigation. But since much of the power infrastructure in the area is underground, she said, the grid was de-powered for the safety of workers trying to figure out what had happened.
“That’s why there was an outage,” Pyle said. “It was out of an abundance of caution.”
Two Entergy trucks were at Tchoupitoulas and Julia streets around 8:30 a.m., blocking off part of the intersection. A barricade with a “DANGER” sign surrounded a manhole that workers were seen entering.
Entergy workers told passers-by that an underground transformer fire at the intersection caused the widespread outage.
Pyle said she could neither confirm nor deny there had been a fire, as the investigation was continuing.
Poydras Street was one of the thoroughfares without signals, and traffic on that major route into the CBD quickly became snarled with workers trying to get to their offices. Drivers sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic at least as far back as the exit from Interstate 10.
Amid the standstill downtown, a handful of Saints fans had already started daylong tailgate parties. Entergy and Mercedes-Benz Superdome officials said the Dome, where the Saints were set to open their season Monday night in a nationally televised game against the Houston Texans, did not lose power.
Reporters Bob Warren, Carlie Wells and Kyle Whitfield contributed to this story.