Mylar-Induced Power Outage Hits Southside By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Friday December 03, 2004

Balloons made of Mylar and aluminum don’t mix too well with power lines, as more than 4,000 South Berkeley customers of PG&E’s electric service discovered abruptly at 9:06 Saturday morning. 

Berkeley Deputy Fire Chief David P. Orth had just dropped off his son for an official ride-along at Station 5, 2680 Shattuck Ave., when he heard a sound he recognized instantly. 

“I was talking to some of the crew when I heard it. I said, ‘Uh-oh, there goes a transformer,” Orth recalled. “I actually saw some of the Mylar balloons flying by, and some callers reported actually seeing them strike the wires.” 

The metal-clad balloons had shorted overhead electric wires, blowing out a transformer. 

A PG&E spokesperson said the shortage occurred at 1510 Oregon St.  

Customers were affected most heavily in the area around Shattuck Avenue between Parker Street in Berkeley and 54th Street in North Oakland. 

By 9:52 a.m., the utility had restored power to about 1,050 houses, with the remainder back on line at 10:15 a.m. 


—Richard Brenneman