BLOOMSBURG, Pa.- It started as a normal Wednesday in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, until a rogue blimp cut power to 35,000 people in the area, according to PPL spokesperson, Paul Wirth. At approximately 2:30pm on 26 October, power suddenly shut off on Bloomsburg University campus and in many homes and businesses.
At first, some attributed the power loss to high winds and inclement weather, but slowly the true story emerged, a North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) surveillance aircraft had come loose from its tethering and had drifted into Columbia county. Regarding the blimp, Wirth stated,“That was definitely one of the more unusual outage causes I’ve seen.”
PPL was able to address the outages within 24 hours, but some residences went without power until after midnight. According to Wirth, the power company was able to reroute power around the damage caused by the tether lines that dangled from the blimp. “We were able to restore power… to many of those customers because we’re able to use our smart-grid system.” For more details, a full interview is available here.
Bloomsburg University cancelled classes for the day and students were released into the rainy town. A few student residences had power, but most did not. When I asked resident Gabby Santana, of 415 East Street, how it felt to be one of the only students with electricity during the blackout, Santana replied “It’s definitely because of all the good vibes in 415.”
Neighbors and friends crowded into her house to share the electric light, charge their phones and hear the latest updates on the rogue aircraft. Santana’s roommate, Tori Hagel, said “We lit candles even though we had power, just for effect.”
We asked some students how they spent their evening in “Blimpsburg.”
A few student residences had power, but most did not. When I asked resident Gabby Santana, of 415 East Street, how it felt to be one of the only students with electricity during the blackout, Santana replied “It’s definitely because of all the good vibes in 415.”
Neighbors and friends crowded into her house to share the electric light, charge their phones and hear the latest updates on the rogue aircraft. Santana’s roommate, Tori Hagel, said, “We lit candles even though we had power, just for effect.”
“I used my car to charge my phone for a while, then I took a long nap” Alexi Michaels, 22, senior. “Everyone wanted to drink but I just had no energy and the lights were already out, so a nap seemed to be the best bet.”
Most of the students in Bloomsburg on that Wednesday were pleased to find out that campus beer and liquor store were still in full operation, thankfully. Most students took the black out as a reason to black out themselves.
Bloomsburg seniors, Zac Morrison and Eric Pergine immediately decided the liquor store was the first place to go before things became too crazy.
“We started drinking around four, power came back on in our house pretty quickly, but we already started drinking, classes were cancelled and it was almost Halloween,” Pergine explain his motivations to drink.
“I made sure to take the back roads there with no lights, the streets were backed up way past light street and trying to get route 11,” Morrison explain how the mains streets were just a traffic accident waiting of happen.
Bloomsburg police were manning the streets direct traffic. The traffic became more intense around 3:05 p.m. after Bloomsburg sent out the official safety alert to students cellphones, and email canceling classes officially and closing most campus buildings like the Health Center, the Husky Lounge, Kehr Union, Monty’s, and the Commons.
When people received the text message that classes were cancelled everyone on Bloomsburg’s campus tried leaving at the same time made the traffic worse.
“Thankfully I was already at home and didn’t have to worry about leaving campus,” Kevin Cersa, 21, expressed. “I know some people that were on the bus on Main Street for 35 minutes trying to go down the street, half of them just got off there and walked.”
The blimp may have put a bump in our school week but for Bloomsburg University students it was nothing but fun, making for a interesting Thursday morning.
The map below shows where the blimp was finally brought down on Wednesday.