Central Valley

Helium-filled balloons can knock out power

If you're giving a helium-filled balloon for Valentine's Day, make sure it doesn't go up, up and away -- into power lines.

Metallic balloons that float into overhead power lines can black out a neighborhood, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. officials say.

The drifting balloons cause 100 to 150 outages each year, affecting thousands of PG&E customers throughout Northern and Central California, the company says.

PG&E tips for safely enjoying helium-filled balloons include:

* Avoid celebrating near overhead electric lines.

* Make sure helium-filled metallic balloons are securely tied to a weight that is heavy enough to prevent them from floating away.

* Keep metallic balloons indoors and never release them outside.

* Do not bundle metallic balloons together.

* Never attempt to retrieve any type of balloon, kite or toy that becomes caught in a power line. Call PG&E at (800) PGE-5000 to report the problem.