CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) - Cleveland Public Power says a power outage in an east side neighborhood was caused by mylar balloons coming into contact with power lines.
The family and friends of a woman killed in a car accident on Superior Avenue created a small memorial for the victim that included the popular balloons.
Community activist Art McKoy, who has organized hundreds of vigils over the years, told FOX 8 that balloons have become powerful symbols.
“When the balloons go up, they're sending a message to their loved ones in the heavens. It's an expression to help them to get it out, you know, get some of the grief out, get some of the pain out, and get a chance to share the love for that individual, that's what it's all about,” said McKoy.
An unintended consequence of such displays happened on Monday night around 6 p.m. CPP says several mylar balloons, also known as foil balloons, broke loose and came into contact with power lines on East 71st Street. The metallic coating on the balloons triggered a small explosion that caused a power outage affecting 400 CPP customers.
Art McKoy says the outage illustrates the downside of using mylar balloons.
"I began to see those great helium balloons that go up like candles in the sky and I thought to myself, if one of those land in the wrong place, it could catch a fire, all kinds of things could happen. So, I saw the dangers there and I'm glad they're not as widely used," he said.
Monday's unusual incident is prompting CPP to issue a public warning about the danger of balloons coming into contact with power lines. The utility company is urging Clevelanders to keep mylar balloons inside, to never release them outside and to never bundle them together.
In response, Art McKoy told us, “Let's don't use that kind of balloons because they can do great damage in more ways than one. We're going to figure out another way to do it. It's going to take a little time because it's a tradition."
CPP also says mylar balloons should be tethered at all times, and attached to a weight. Adding, if you need to get rid of the balloons, make sure you puncture them so that all of the helium runs out.