Runaway blimp knocks out power to thousands in Pennsylvania
- A 242-foot U.S. military blimp broke loose yesterday, floating from Maryland to Pennsylvania while pulling more than a mile of cable with it and knocking out power to about 30,000 residents in Pennsylvania, Reuters reports.
- The blimp, designed to detect missile attacks, came unmoored at its base in Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. While military officials scrambled to bring the blimp down, the blimp eventually deflated by itself and landed in a rural Pennsylvania area.
- Pentagon officials are unsure why the blimp became untethered and plan to keep the other blimp grounded until completing an inspection. PPL officials said the blimp may have taken out power lines as it dragged cable on its path through Maryland and Pennsylvania.
The runaway blimp sparked memes, social media hashtags and even a metaphor last night from Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee during the CNBC GOP debate.
The runaway blimp also knocked out power to tens of thousands in Pennsylvania yesterday. PPL Energy said yesterday that it was still trying to assess the damage to its system.
An update for customers: We are assessing and responding to damage to our system reportedly caused by the tether line of the runaway blimp.— PPL Electric (@PPLElectric) October 28, 2015
"I heard a loud explosion like lightning go off and then just a loud crack and it was unreal. And it was not even a few seconds later, there was another loud crack and a red flash. Here there was a piece of the tether all wrapped in high voltage power lines down here. At least I'd say 100 feet of it all tangled up in the lines and that,” said Scott Dusjak of South Centre Township, describing the situation to a local news station.
Military officials scrambled two armed F-16 fighter jets to watch over the blimp as it drifted into civilian airspace, Reuters reports, as officials struggled for hours over how to bring it down safely. Eventually, the blimp deflated and landed in a rural Pennsylvania field in Exchange, Pennsylvania.
The blimp is one of two in a $2.8 billion Army program called the Joint Land-Attack Missile Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS), which was restructured last year after it outpaced cost estimates. The system is still in a testing phase. The manufacturer Raytheon Co's website said it could become part of the defense system protecting the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, Reuters reports.
Follow Krysti Shallenberger on Twitter