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Mylar Balloon Triggers Wide-Spread Palo Alto Power Outage

PALO ALTO (CBS SF) -- A mylar balloon drifted into power lines in Palo Alto Friday afternoon, triggering a blackout of more than 4,500 customers between the Stanford campus and Mountain View.

The outage occurred about 2:11 p.m. on the lines operated by the municipally-owned Palo Alto Utilities and led to a wave of calls from customers to police and utility.

"Please do NOT call 9-1-1 or the non-emergency numbers to either the Police Department or the Fire Department to report the power outage or to ask questions about it," Palo Alto police sent out in an email. "This will unnecessarily tie up the phone lines, and dispatchers do not have any information about the outage."

The utility said crews were working on determining an estimated restoration time for those impacted.

Mylar or metallic balloons pose a substantial threat to power lines. Prior to Valentine's Day PG&E sent out a warning about the balloons.

Mylar balloons are conductors of electricity and pose a significant threat to power lines if released into the air. It takes only one metallic balloon to inconvenience thousands of customers, cause significant property damage and potentially result in serious injuries.

Last year, metallic balloons were the cause of 456 power outages across PG&E's service area in Northern and Central California, disrupting electric service to more than 371,000 homes and businesses.

These types of power outages have more than tripled over the past decade in PG&E's service area. In the Bay Area, 227 outages were caused by metallic balloons floating into power lines in 2017, leaving 152,111 customers in the dark.

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