Oops! Mylar Balloon Causes Power Outage

A Mylar balloon that floated into a Commonwealth Edison substation caused nearly 7,000 customers to temporarily lose power in the south suburbs Thursday morning.

The balloon touched a piece of the substation’s equipment around 10 a.m., causing service disruptions to 6,945 south suburban customers -- about 5,000 in Calumet City, 1,000 in Burnham and 1,000 in Lansing, according to a release from ComEd. Power was restored to all customers by 11:37 a.m.

When Mylar balloons come in contact with power lines or substation equipment, their metallic properties cause a surge of electricity that causes the equipment to short circuit and can lead to power outages, fires and possible injuries, the release said.

In 2008, Mylar balloons caused 52 outages that affected 30,586 customers. The largest was on July 7 when 7,383 customers lost power in several southwest suburbs, including Bridgeview, Crestwood, Hickory Hills, Orland Park, Palos Hills, Palos Park, Tinley Park and Worth, ComEd said.

There were also large outages in various parts of the Chicago area on Dec. 7, Dec. 27 and March 27.

To avoid outages and ensure safety, ComEd suggests people keep balloons indoors or tethered and away from overhead power lines. Also, keep kites, model airplanes and other toys away from power lines. If a balloon or other item becomes entangled in a power line, never attempt to retrieve it. Instead, call ComEd at 800-334-7661, the release said.

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