A stray party balloon knocks out power to hundreds of customers in West Reading on Tuesday.
"The wind whips it out of some little kids' hand and up it goes," said Karen Baxter, spokeswoman for Met-Ed. There is enough metal in Mylar balloons to cause an outage if it gets tangled in both wires, says Baxter.
The utility company says about 500 people lost power at 9:48 a.m. and by 11:15 a.m. power was restored.
Baxter says balloon-related outages happen a few times a year. Other usual suspects include squirrels, snakes and raccoons.
Birds can sit on the wires and not cause any problems unless they spread their wings and hit two wires at once, Baxter says.
SafeElectricity.org, an online program of the Energy Education Council, says hundreds of thousands of customers will experience power outages caused by Mylar balloons each year. They offer these tips to reduce the number of outages:
- Keep balloons tethered at all times and attached to a weight.
- When disposing of Mylar balloons, make sure to puncture them to ensure lingering helium doesn’t cause them to float and blow around if the garbage container is overturned.
- If a balloon or another toy becomes entangled in an overhead power line, don’t attempt to retrieve it. Call your utility for assistance.