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Helium balloon caused 12,000 customers to lose power in Vancouver today

A massive power outage hit North Vancouver Wednesday morning. BC Hydro believes it was caused by a metalic helium balloon hitting the power lines. image supplied (via BC Hydro)

BC Hydro officials say it was likely wayward helium balloons that caused a massive power outage in North Vancouver Wednesday morning.

Just before 8 a.m., an issue at the Capilano Substation in Murdo Frazer Park caused 12,159 properties to go dark.

Moments before, a BC Hydro worker had spotted a metallic helium balloon drifting into the power lines on the 100 block of West Windsor Road, according to Mora Scott, BC Hydro spokeswoman.

“When a metallic balloon touches a power line, it can cause a surge of electricity that short-circuits equipment, leading to power outages,” Scott said.

By the time crews arrived to investigate, however, the balloon had burned up. With the threat gone, they re-energized the substation around 9 a.m.

“Our crews were able to restore power to the impacted customers within an hour,” Scott said.

The outage area ranged from the Capilano River east to Lonsdale Avenue, from Burrard Inlet to Grouse Mountain.

Untethered balloons cause dozens of outages across BC Hydro’s system every year, Scott said, and they can lead to serious injuries or damage to electrical equipment if they drift into power lines.

“Look up and be aware. Watch for power lines and never carry balloons directly underneath power lines,” Scott said.

Even riskier are balloons with latex or metallic streamers, which are “excellent conductors of electricity,” Scott said.

Balloons should be weighted and secured so they don’t float free, Scott said, and when the party’s over, balloons should be popped and disposed of.

If someone does lose grip on their balloon, they should never attempt to retrieve it or any other object snagged on power lines.

“Obviously, that’s a huge safety hazard. Anyone who sees that should reach out to us directly so can come and handle it ourselves,” Scott said.

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