The Ravens played the Minnesota Vikings in a Sunday matchup that pitted the two NFL teams with purple uniforms against each other.
Nobody would fault you for wondering whether the Baltimore area was trying to out-purple its opponent by unveiling streetlamps with the home team’s hue. City officials have in the past shown purple pride by lighting government buildings with the color to support the Ravens.
But, this time, Baltimore Gas & Electric officials say it’s a coincidence — a manufacturing defect resulting in LEDs casting a purple glow upon cities across the country.
Reports from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Cincinnati have sought to address what prompted their towns to turn purple, and officials with the Baltimore utility are asking for the public’s help identifying the locations of purple streetlights so crews can replace them. BGE says these lights are malfunctioning.
They’ve received almost 2,000 purple light reports, dating to the end of 2020, said Richard Yost, a spokesman for the utility. Harford County appears to have been impacted more than other localities in the Baltimore area “due to when the fixtures were installed,” Yost said.
It’s unclear what exactly is causing the lights to turn purple, whether they pose a safety risk or whether there’s an urgency to take them down. The utility did not identify the manufacturer that provided the LEDs.
“They’re not operating as designed,” Yost said. “We want to make sure the light cast is appropriate for safety and visual purposes.”
Harford County Executive Barry Glassman said he first noticed purple lights near his office in Darlington around summertime. Considering that the professional football season hadn’t started, the Ravens never crossed his mind.
“I wasn’t sure — I thought maybe they’re new LED, energy saving,” Glassman said.
His office has been overwhelmed by complaints about a range of pressing county issues, but the Republican said constituents haven’t raised concerns about the lights.
That doesn’t mean Harford County residents and others in the Baltimore area aren’t talking about them, though. Discussions about the purple lights have permeated social media, and it turns out removing them may not be popular.
“Alright Baltimore, can someone explain the erratically placed purple streetlights I’m seeing all over the county, please?” one person said in a late September tweet. “They’re pretty and seem to have just popped up out of nowhere.”
Added another Twitter account in late October, “I love the random purple lights all over Baltimore.”
Baltimore County asked residents on Facebook in October for help locating and reporting the lights. The post garnered more than 100 comments, noting the presence of purple LEDs on streets in Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Howard counties. Commenters identified Ellicott City and Glen Burnie as hot spots, and described places where a purple glow bathed entire roads.
“They’re everywhere,” one comment noted.
Some said they loved the lights, noting that they were more gentle on the eyes at night. Others proposed keeping them up through Halloween or for the remainder of the Ravens’ season.
Yost said BGE has been asked by some to keep the purple lights in support of the Ravens.
“But the streetlights are placed at the request of the county or municipality and, so far, they have not asked us to leave them purple despite our support for the team,” Yost said.
As far as Glassman is concerned, the lights are defective and as such will have to come down. However, he suspects that constraints in the supply chain could delay the shipment of their replacements, meaning they’ll still be there if the Ravens make a playoff push.
“Hopefully they’ll come in handy in February when we’re in the Super Bowl,” Glassman said.