03/04/12 — Balloons lead to downtown power outage

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Balloons lead to downtown power outage

By Gary Popp
Published in News on March 4, 2012 1:50 AM

Several downtown businesses lost power about 8:15 p.m. Friday after a bunch of balloons made contact with power lines in the 100 block of John Street.

The balloons were tied to a fiberglass pig outside of the Arts Council of Wayne County building in celebration of its inaugural First Friday event that showcases the work of area artists.

The balloons, which were tied to the pig by members of Arts Council, were released by unknown means and became tangled between two power lines causing an arch of electricity that released sparks and audible pops.

"It is amazing what a few little balloons and some ribbon can do," said Sarah Merritt, executive director of the Arts Council.

Mrs. Merritt said a patron noticed the sparks and organizers decided to evacuate the building as the event was winding down.

"We got people out of the building just to be safe," she said.

The electricity was lost in two short bursts that were followed by an extended lapse as Progress Energy officials shut off power to remove the helium-filled culprits.

The Goldsboro Fire Department was dispatched to the scene on two occasions after 911 was called by concerned citizens.

Several businesses on surrounding blocks were affected by the outage as people were out for dinner and entertainment.

The Flying Shamrock general manager Ben Farlow said the Irish pub lost power just before 9 p.m., but employees and patrons stayed upbeat.

"Everybody was in good spirits about it and kept enjoying their beverages and food," Farlow said. "The food tickets took a little while longer, but everybody was really understanding."

Farlow said a group of off-duty firefighters provided a high-powered light for bartenders to use behind the bar, and candles and flashlights were used in the dining areas.

Murphy's Place general manager John Rae isn't feeling as lucky, saying the power outage cost the Center Street business nearly $600 in profits.

"It affected us quite a bit, actually," Rae said.

After losing power in the first two surges, Rae said the power went off a third time for 20 to 25 minutes.

"We had families with babies that were screaming. It wasn't pleasant," he said.

Rae said he suspects about eight people skipped out on their bills under the cover of darkness.

"Some people were very understanding, and some people not so much," he said.

He said the loss is most unfortunate for the servers who took the brunt of the hit.

Rae said he would have rather the outage had taken place on a Tuesday night, not in the middle of a busy Friday night dinner service.

"For us downtown, we live for a Friday and Saturday," he said. "I don't guess the city is going to be sending us a check for damages or loss of sales, but it is what it is."

Paramount Theatre director Sherry Archibald said a 7 p.m. performance of "Seussical" was interrupted for several seconds by a lack of power, but thanks to the quick work of the theater's technical staff, the show didn't miss a beat.

The last half of the Dr. Seuss musical, however, was performed without full sound due to the power outage, she said.