Balloons cause second power outage in less than two weeks

Posted at 9:22 AM, Mar 07, 2024

From celebrations of marriage to celebrations of life, balloon releases start with good intentions.

However, this week approximately 3,000 people in Racine lost power after balloons from a memorial got tangled in utility lines.

Pictures from Facebook show dozens of red balloons released at a vigil in Racine. Winds quickly pushed the balloons into nearby power lines, leaving thousands in the dark.

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"Crews were out making those repairs so they had to get over to the power lines and untangle all of those balloons last night. Add to make those repairs to get the power back on," said Amy Jahns, a spokesperson for WE Energies.

WE Energies says more than 800 people lost power for a few hours and about 2,200 had momentary outages. Two weeks ago, a single mylar balloon knocked out power to more than 4,000 customers in Milwaukee.

"Mylar balloons have that metallic material to it so they become like a conductor that can cause that short circuit, but we have seen issues with regular balloons as well," Jahns explained.

Since 2020, WE Energies says more than 100,000 customers have been impacted by an outage due to balloons.

It is not just power lines, balloons left outside also hurt nature.

"I just really hate to see it happen. I think there's a lot of other ways that people can either celebrate or commemorate that don't harm the environment," Jeanne Dernehl, executive director of the River Bend Nature Center stated.

The center does not allow balloons at their event space because of how they can ultimately hurt wildlife and lead to microplastics in the environment.

"I think a lot of it is not people intentionally trying to hurt the environment, but it's been tradition to do it that way. I think the more they learn what the impact is the more they may be willing to try some other more mindful practices," Denehl added.

She recommended alternatives to balloons such as lighting candles, planting a tree or using a hole puncher on leaves to make natural confetti.

WE Energies says if you want to use balloons hold on to them tightly or make sure they are tied securely to weights.