Army blimp breaks loose, triggers blackouts across Pennsylvania countryside

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Wednesday, October 28, 2015
JLENS balloon
A JLENS balloon is seen during a media preview, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014, in Middle River, Md.
wpvi-AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

LANCASTER, Pa. -- NORAD says a runaway unmanned Defense Department balloon that was flying over the skies of Pennsylvania is now down on the ground.

Sources tell Action News the balloon is in two pieces - the tail section and the a second larger section- in Montour County.

NORAD says a portion of its tail fell off from the blimp and also landed in Columbia County, it has been secured by local law enforcement

State police are in the area of Yeagle Road and Muncy Exchange Road in Anthony Township and have the area closed off awaiting defense department officials.

NORAD said at 12:20 p.m. Wednesday the balloon known as a Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS), broke free from its mooring station in Aberdeen, Maryland.

The balloon is described at 37 meters in diameter and apparently looks like a blimp. A large cord is hanging from the balloon.

The balloon traveled through Lancaster and Lebanon counties and then into Columbia and Montour.

Earlier, a Twitter user, who captured video of the balloon, had said it landed in Bloomsburg, Pa.

Two F-16 Fighter jets from Atlantic City Air National Guard Base were monitoring the balloon.

PPL Electric Utilities reports the tether attached to the aircraft caused widespread power outages across Pennsylvania.

PPL reports that the damage appears most extensive in Columbia and Schuylkill counties.

There were approximately 30,000 residents without power at the peak of outages and approximately 15,000 remain without power.

FAA officials were working with the military to ensure air traffic safety in the area, and has referred all questions to NORAD.

NORAD released a statement on the incident, in which they explained the JLENS program. The statement reads in part: