March 14, 2011

Balloon Blows Power on Commons

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A brief power outage sparked new life in Ithaca’s downtown Commons Monday night, as local residents took the opportunity caused by a stray balloon to unplug from their daily routines.

After darkness descended in either direction along State Street, Ithaca policemen worked to set up bright flares at high traffic intersections, lighting up the streets along the shadowed storefronts with a shiny red hue.

Ithaca Police Department spokesperson Derek Necheporek said a “transformer issue” generated the blackout. The Ithaca Journal reported Monday night that a “mylar balloon” caused the power outage after it flew into a bank of transformers, but that the origin of the balloon remains undetermined.

“The problem was fixed in about an hour … We handled it with what we had and we’re back up and running and good to go,” Necekporek said, calling the power outage “nothing exciting.”

Still, for some of the 1,300 New York State Electric and Gas customers who lost power Monday, the blackout marked a break from the everyday.

“We’re all sitting in the bar drinking by candlelight now,” said local Ithaca resident Lee Conlon, taking a cigarette break outside the Chanticleer, a bar off the Commons, adding this had “a certain charm to it.”

Conlon said there was “no point in getting upset because we can’t do anything,” and that he and his friends were considering playing pool in the dark.

Still, “no darts allowed tonight,” he added.

Shortstop Deli worker Courtney, who declined to give her last name, said the blackout came as she was making a customer a sandwich.

“The guy couldn’t get his sandwich toasted and I felt bad,” Courtney said. She added, however, that “I finished the sandwich with a flashlight” — later clarifying that the flashlight provided the lighting to make the sandwich, but was not a part of the sandwich itself.

Although nearly every nearby store had lost power, Commons headshop Exscape retained electricity.

“We run on a higher power; the light just keeps burning,” Exscape cashier Max Todd said, explaining why the brightly illuminated store shined through the power outage. “It looks like we’re going to have to keep the store open all night and party in here.”

“Give me your stuff!” said Ithacan Alex Lustig as he walked through the Commons, appearing to joke with his friend that the two were taking the opportunity of the blackout to go looting.

“Is he joking? Is he joking? I don’t know. I don’t know!” Lustig said in mock imitation of a nearby reporter. “I’m going to steal TVs. I’m going to take your TV. Hey, quote me, ‘I’m going to take your TVs.’”

However, Lustig’s friend, who declined to give his name, said, “I’m not getting TVs. I’m not even skyfing any of these flares.”

This was difficult, Lustig’s friend explained, because “I like the flares. Especially the pretty colors … you gotta smell [the flares].”

Still, Lustig persisted.

“I’m like Robin Hood. I’ll take stuff for myself, and give it to nobody,” Lustig said. “Look, there are free signs everywhere.”

Despite the antics, IPD officer Kyle Paolangeli said police were working to keep everything safe. He said that, despite the surprise of the blackout, he and the rest of the IPD were handling the blackout well.

“I’d rather put out flares than do some of the other stuff we do everyday,” he said.

Original Author: Jeff Stein