Valentine's Day Balloon Pops, Shuts off Power to 15,000 SoCal Edison Customers

A mylar Valentine's Day balloon reportedly popped over (update: or floated into) utility company Southern California Edison's substation in Fontana last night, taking a nosedive straight into the heart of the circuitry.

Oops.

If we were more superstitious, we'd say the massive Orange County blackout that ensued might be an ominous sign for whichever lovebirds let go the string...

... of their romantic token, plunging a neighborhood of 15,099 into darkness. Yikes. The Press-Enterprise reports:

The balloon, likely a Valentine's gift, dropped into the substation at about 8:40 p.m., Edison spokesman David Song said by phone. Unlike when a utility pole goes down or a transformer blows, Southern California Edison could not immediately reroute the circuit.

"A substation is kind of like a nerve center," Song said. "It's what feeds the circuit."

Nice sweeping love metaphor, Edison. A thinly cloaked Valentine, perhaps?

Socal's biggest power provider is likely breathing a sigh of relief to find a tattered balloon at the center of this scandal, given the bad-PR corner they're already in after so incompetently handling the L.A. County windstorm. (Some went without power for almost a week. Refrigerator fail.)

And just last night, right before the Fontana blackout, 21,000 additional Edison customers in Huntington Beach saw their lights go out, as well.

Guess the utility giant got lucky this time: Edison got to spew its motherly "don't let go of your mylar balloons" speech and be absolutely right about it, and get the credit for a few thousand candlelit dinners turned randy end-of-the-world romps. If there's any holiday that calls for a blackout, it's the big V.

Update: Edison spokesman Dave Song says that no one is quite sure how the balloon got into the substation -- but since it's an "outdoor facility," he guesses it could have either floated or dropped in.

And of course, because mylar balloons are "conductive, like any other metallic object," it quickly screwed with the system, "conducting currents for two different electric flows that shouldn't be crossing each other."

Song says the balloon isn't the first foreign object to screw with Edison's setup. "Rodents come in," he says -- "Squirrels, birds. They short the system."

Most importantly, we ask what the Valentine's Day paraphernalia looked like when first responders came upon it. "Uh, says Song. "It was probably not in the same shape that it was when someone bought it in the store. It was probably burnt. It probably withered up in there."

We don't like where this sweeping love metaphor is going.

[@simone_electra / swilson@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]


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