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Love is in the air - don't let your balloons be, officials say

Valentine's Day balloons
Nam Y. Huh
Valentine's Day balloons are displayed at a retail store in Buffalo Grove, Ill., Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022.

Sappy cards and expensive gifts might be the least of your worries if you’re feeling bitter this Valentine’s Day. Instead, officials say mylar balloons just might be more deserving of your scorn. In recent years, balloon-related power outages have slowly increased across the lower Florida Keys.

Since 2010, 58 incidents have been linked to balloons striking power lines, according to the Keys Energy Services (KEYS), which covers Key West to the Seven Mile Bridge. Two of those were in 2023 alone.

Julio Torrado, the director of human resources and communications, has been with the company for 20 years and has kept tabs of a tracker of the causes of outages. "And every year I've seen that balloon number slowly, but surely growing,” she told WLRN.

KEYS is one of just two power companies that service the Florida Keys. With over 28,000 customers, Torrado said each balloon-related power outage can affect up to 1,000 customers at a time.

“It's not affecting all 30,000 of our customers,” he said. “But it is a nuisance.”

READ MORE: The Keys have no power grid — they have an 'extension cord.' One problem knocks everyone offline

Here are KEYS’ recommendations for keeping mylar/metallic balloons from interacting with power lines or electrical substations and causing outages:

  • Keep balloons indoors, and never release them outside.
  • Secure helium-filled balloons with a weight heavy enough to keep them from drifting.
  • Don’t tie balloons to a child’s — or anyone's — wrist. If the string attached to the balloon is long enough, it can interact with a low-lying powerline and potentially cause an electrical surge to flow through to the person, which could cause serious harm.
  • Never attach metallic streamers to a balloon.
  • At the end of the balloon’s life, puncture it in several places and make sure it’s weighted down in a trash can for proper disposal. 
  • Do not attempt to retrieve a balloon or other objects tangled in power lines yourself.
Flowers and balloons in a store display.
Julia Cooper
Valentine's Day balloons at the Publix in Key Largo, Fla. on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024.

“If it's one customer to a thousand, it's still a lot of folks that are inconvenienced, especially if there's an easy way for us to make sure that we're securing those balloons and not releasing them outside,” added Torrado.

If you see a balloon or other object tangled in a power line, do not try to get it yourself. “Assume they're energized and dangerous,” Torrado explained.

Instead, call your power company to address it for you. The number to report problems to Keys Energy Services is (305) 295-1010.

Julia Cooper reports on all things Florida Keys and South Dade for WLRN.
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