WASHINGTON — North American Aerospace Defense Command officials tell NBC News that an unmanned Army surveillance blimp that tore loose from its ground tether in Maryland and drifted north is now 16,000 feet over Wilmington, Pennsylvania.
Two F-16 fighter jets, scrambled from Atlantic City, New Jersey, are tracking the blimp’s course.
The officials say that, as of now, the blimp, which is two football fields long and is trailing more than a mile of heavy cable, is holding at a steady altitude and course and presents no imminent threat to any populated areas.
NORAD is working closely with the Federal Aviation Administration to keep commercial airlines informed of the blimp’s location to avoid any close calls.
Ground controllers at Aberdeen Proving Ground, where the blimp broke free of its mooring, do have the ability to deflate the helium-filled blimp, which could then slowly — and presumably safely — descend to the ground.
Officials are studying the best possible place to try to bring the blimp down.
There are nearly 28,000 reports of power outages in the area.
Pennsylvania Power and Light is not proactively shutting off power to customers, but it has crews are on the scene and is investigating reports that the blimp has damaged power lines.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s said in a statement that it “is in communication with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, the Pennsylvania State Police, the National Guard, and the appropriate authorities with the federal government. We are closely monitoring the situation, and we will work with the appropriate authorities to respond to any resource requests and assist in any way possible.”