State

Balloon causes downtown Modesto power outage

Everyone likes balloons, right?

Well, maybe not electric company workers forced into duty to tend to a power failure caused by a Mylar balloon, that shiny, colorful orb that contains metal.

One of these balloons flew into power lines Wednesday night in downtown Modesto — in the 900 block of 13th Street — and caused a power failure to more than 300 mostly commercial customers.

It’s the fourth power outage caused by a Mylar balloon since early February, said Kate Hora, a public affairs specialist with the Modesto Irrigation District.

“The problem with them is they contain metal, and metal conducts electricity,” she said. “When they come into contact with two power lines, the electricity can flow from one power line to another power line and create a short circuit.”

The MID provides power to Modesto and some surrounding areas, and its workers were out in downtown restoring power.

The power failure occurred at 9:40 p.m. and power was restored at 10:55 p.m., Hora said.

Hora said there was no way to determine where the balloon came from or whose it was because there were no distinguishing marks.

What she does know is it’s a problem that comes with a financial fallout.

“When something like this happens, it costs money,” she said, referring to the cost of sending workers out to restore power. “And if it costs MID money, it’s going to cost the customers money.

“It’s a great product, but there’s a hidden cost.”

She offered tips for people who buy these balloons:

— Use them indoors, not outdoors.

— Make sure they’re secured at all times, especially when leaving the store. Secure the ribbon most come with around your wrist.

— Be sure they’re tied down at all times.

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