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Party balloon causes hundreds to lose power in College Station

Posted at 6:36 PM, Aug 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-16 17:20:56-04

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Some residents in College Station dealt with a rather unpleasant surprise on this very hot day in Brazos County... a power outage.

More than 1,500 College Station Utilities customers in the Pebble Creek neighborhood of College Station experienced a power outage Friday morning - and the culprit is not something that immediately comes to mind when causing chaos and disruptions, but it happens more often than you think.

"This is the wall," said Patrick McIntyre, energy coordinator, key accounts, for College Station Utilities said.

The energy giant's "wall of shame" is getting one more addition.

"Essentially this is the balloon that caused the outage this morning," said Timothy Crabb, director of electric utility with College Station Utilities, while holding the newly framed balloon.

The balloon drifted into a College Station Utilities substation disrupting power in the Pebble Creek neighborhood. They've been framing them since 2018. Friday's culprit marks the fifth frame on the wall.

"Mylar balloons are essentially conductive and if they get into power lines, they cause bad problems," Crabb said.

A harmless item used mostly for celebrations, but they get caught in places they shouldn't, more often than not.

"I'm sure there are 1,700 customers out there and would love to know who let this balloon out and would love to talk to them because they were without power," Crabb said. "So releasing these balloons and letting them get in the power lines causes a lot of problems for a lot of people."

The main takeaway is to not let Mylar balloons go... or deflate them and properly dispose of them when they've served their purpose.

"Typically, there are anywhere between 1,000 to 2,000 people on a feeder... we lost more than one this morning," McIntyre said.

Helium filled... It's unknown where these things will end up.

"Nobody who buys a balloon ever thinks it's going to end up in a power line... If they are tied loosely to something... they come un-done and float up... once the helium dissipates then they start their way down and that's when they cause problems for folks," McIntyre said.

A time in the year where balloons will be more visible, leaders with the utility giant urge residents to be extra cautious with them.

"This time of year people are having parties and are coming out... So be conscious of things that are going on," McIntyre said. "They are helium-filled so they are going to float away, if you don't have them secured."

Power was restored for the affected neighborhood in an hour.