Military officials wrestled for hours over the best way to bring it down safely
A high-tech US military blimp designed to detect a missile attack came loose and wreaked havoc as it floated from Maryland into Pennsylvania while dragging more than a mile of cable and knocking out power to thousands.
The U.S. military scrambled two armed F-16 fighter jets to keep watch as the massive blimp traveled into civilian airspace after coming untethered from its base at Aberdeen Proving Ground, a US Army facility 40 miles (65 km) northeast of Baltimore.
Pentagon officials said they were unsure why the 242-foot-long blimp broke free at 12:20 pm. Military officials wrestled for hours over the best way to bring it down safely, but eventually it deflated on its own.
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The blimp, part of a $2.8 billion Army program, landed in a rural, wooded area in Exchange, Pennsylvania, a community outside Bloomsburg, about 150 miles (240 km) north of the Aberdeen Proving Ground.
John Thomas, a spokesman for Columbia County emergency management agency, said there were no reports of injuries but had no more details about the landing.
Pennsylvania police and military officials guarded a wide safety perimeter around the blimp, which settled amid farmland in the remote area. Residents, including members of an Amish community, watched them work under steady rainfall.
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The blimp’s travels caused widespread damage, officials said. At one point, 30,000 Pennsylvania residents were without power, the governor’s office said.
“The tether attached to the aircraft caused widespread power outages across Pennsylvania,” said a statement from Governor Tom Wolf’s office.
The blimp’s travels were a sensation on social media, with hashtags like #Blimpflood and #Blimpmemes ranking among the top trending topics. At least two Twitter parody accounts sprung up, gaining nearly 2,000 followers in just under two hours.