Metallic balloons blamed for Whittier power outage

Metallic balloons are blamed for a transformer explosion and power outage Wednesday, officials said.
The outage began just before 10:40 a.m. when the balloons struck a power line along Earlham Drive, east of Painter Avenue, according to Whittier police and Southern California Edison officials.
Nearly 2,800 customers initially lost power, though several hundred saw power restored within seconds, SCE spokeswoman Nancy Rodriguez Casanova said.
Jen Juarez, who lives around the block south of Earlham Drive, was inside her parked car when she saw about three mylar balloons hit the electrical lines above the southern corner of Painter Avenue and Earlham Drive.
“I heard an electric something, and I saw the balloons hit the lines, and one line fell on my car,” she explained.
Juarez, who is pregnant, ran out of her car.
“I was scared,” she said.
She added that an Edison worker at the scene told her she should have stayed in the car.
“He told me I could’ve died,” she said.
That incident hit close to home, as she was friends with Joel Ramirez, who died in November 2011 when he picked up a downed power line at his Whittier home.
Jenna Bishop, who lives on Earlham Drive, was in the shower when she heard a loud noise coming from outside.
“First the power went out, then it tried to come back on, and I heard a metal grown,” she said. “I don’t know any other way to describe the noise.”
Gil Hodges, who lives nearby, said he heard, “a very bizarre thump.”All but 183 customers had power restored within the hour, she said.
All customers were expected to have their electricity back on by 6 p.m., according to Edison.
Metallic balloons can damage power lines when they come into contact with the utility equipment, Rodriguez Casanova explained. Anyone who sees such a balloon stuck against a power line is advised not to touch it, but to call SCE or 9-1-1 immediately.

- Sandra Molina and Brian Day

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