This blog item was contributed by Kitsap Sun reporter Ed Friedrich, who covers the military, transportation and … weather. Kitsap Sun photographer Larry Steagall took the photos of the weather balloon, which was found in an East Bremerton backyard.
EAST BREMERTON — It wasn’t as thrilling as a UFO landing next
door or a meteorite crashing through the roof, but it’s not
something you see every day.
“I’ve never heard of one landing in someone’s backyard,” Larry Handel said of a weather balloon he found recently.
He’d noticed the orange parachute in mid-October, but passed it off as a freshly broken branch. Winds on Oct. 25, the day he found the balloon, stripped the tree’s remaining leaves and exposed the balloon about 50 feet up.
Handel, 66, MacGyvered a grappling hook and flung it up. It snagged a nylon cord, and he pulled down the parachute, a shredded white latex balloon and a little square box with a tube attached.
“There were all kinds of doohickies and computer stuff sticking out of it,” said Handel, who lives with wife Robbyn on four acres behind Redwood Plaza.
Writing on the device said if it’s inflated to call 911 and the police will dispose of it. If not, it can be packaged and mailed back to Kansas City, Mo.
In magic marker was written “10-5-13,” which Handel assumes means it was launched on Oct. 5.
Art Gaebel of the National Weather Service in Seattle was unimpressed with the discovery.
“Believe me, that thing didn’t sail around the world,” he said. “It’s not a news flash.”
Weather balloons are launched twice a day at the same time from weather stations around the world, Gaebel said. This one probably came from
Quillayute, west of Forks. That’s the only place in Washington that sends them up.
They contain instruments for measuring the temperature, pressure and dew point in the atmosphere. By the time they descend, their work is done.
“It all gets programmed in to computer models. It’s what helps us make our forecasts,” Gaebel said.
If they’re all torn up, they can be kept as souvenirs or tossed. If they’re in halfway decent shape, they can be sent to the weather service office in Seattle or the address in Kansas City that appears on them.