Maui News

30 Outages Caused by Metallic Balloons in 2016

May 16, 2017, 10:05 AM HST
* Updated May 16, 4:19 PM
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Metallic streamers sprayed from a “confetti cannon” onto power lines, caused an outage that affected about 300 customers in the Keʻeaumoku area of Oʻahu early Tuesday morning.

With school graduations underway, the Hawaiian Electric Companies are urging the public to hold onto metallic balloons and to never release balloons or other items near power lines.

Last year, metallic balloons entangled in power lines caused 30 outages, affecting 42,161 customers in the Hawaiian Electric Companies’ service areas.

A metallic balloon came in to contact with power lines in Kahului in Feb. 2016 causing the lines to come down and knocking out power to nearby customers. Background photo credit: Becky Nakagawa‎.

Here is the breakdown of metallic balloon outages in 2016:

Company officials say these balloon-related outages spike in May and June during graduation season. Since 2008, there has been an average of 16 outages each year on Oʻahu. Last year’s 25 incidents on Oʻahu nearly hit the record 26 set in 2013.

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The outage today occurred about 1:15 a.m., affecting residences and businesses around Sam Sung Plaza, 655 Keʻeaumoku Street.

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A Hawaiian Electric troubleshooter arrived and found metallic streamers that had fallen onto an electric transformer; witnesses said someone had used an air cannon to shoot the streamers onto power lines above the transformer. A crew was called to remove the streamers from the lines and power was restored to most customers by 3:15 a.m.

Metallic balloons and streamers can cause a short circuit and knock out power to an entire neighborhood.

Earlier this year, a metallic balloon came into contact with power lines in Kahului, which caused an outage that affected an estimated 17,310 customers.  Company representatives say that during the incident, a metallic balloon that came into contact with the power lines triggered a load shed, affecting customers in Kahului, Kīhei, Wailea, Spreckelsville, Hāna, Upcountry and West Maui.

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Company representatives compiled a list of safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Make sure the balloon’s string or ribbon is securely tied to it.
  • Add a weight to the end of the string or ribbon.
  • Never release balloons into the sky or shoot anything at a power line.
  • Deflate balloons after your celebration.

Anyone spotting a metallic balloon in a power line should not try to free it. It can be reported by calling the Hawaiian Electric Companies’ trouble lines:

  • Hawaiian Electric at 1-855-304-1212
  • Maui Electric on Maui at 808-871-7777
  • Maui Electric on Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi at 877-871-8461
  • Hawaiʻi Electric Light at 808-969-6666
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