HARRAH — Authorities said Friday that a high-tech, high-altitude balloon belonging to Google became entangled in power lines when it fell to Earth near a mint field about 2 miles south of Harrah early Thursday.
It knocked out power to a small number of homes in the immediate area of Harrah and Fort roads when it crashed about 1 a.m., according to Bob Gravely, a spokesman for Pacific Power.
An employee with the utility responded to the area and found “what appeared to be a weather balloon with blinking lights entangled in the power lines off Harrah Road,” Gravely said.
Everything was cleared by 6 a.m., he added.
On Thursday, the Federal Aviation Administration told the Yakima Herald-Republic that Google had notified the agency that its device was descending Wednesday night, so that it could ensure that all aircraft stayed safely out of its path.
Google declined to provide details.
The company is developing solar-powered balloons that can be used to broadcast a wireless Internet signal in regions that lack traditional access. Known as Project Loon, the balloons are designed to float high in the atmosphere, above commercial air space.
A website that tracks aircraft flights showed the balloon falling at about 2,000 feet per minute about 11 p.m., according to Robert Smith, a Vancouver, Wash., resident who has tracked several of the devices floating over the Pacific Northwest, just for fun, since he learned about the technology.
According to a Google website, each balloon is equipped with a parachute to slow its descent in case of an unexpected landing. Project technicians try to recover the devices so the electronic parts can be reused, but it remains unknown whether Google staffers drove to Harrah to recover the remains.