Rainbows In The Skies Over The Land Of Enchantment
ANN REALTIME UPDATE 10.06.07 1055
EDT: The winds have picked up noticeably at Balloon Fiesta
Park in Albuquerque... putting an end to Saturday's mass
KOB-4 reports one balloon landed hard on the field, when a
strong gust of wind caught the balloon's envelope at approximately
25 feet AGL, causing it to partially deflate. Ground crews came to
the quick assistance of those onboard; there is no word yet of
Conditions higher in the sky appear to be calmer, at least for
now. Strong winds are forecast for Saturday afternoon, into the
1000 EDT: It seems even Mother Nature wanted to
see the show. Despite initial concerns of high winds, the weather
was calm in the skies over Albuquerque, NM Saturday morning as
roughly 400 balloons ascended, to mark the official start of the
36th Annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
And it was the wind that was on the minds of spectators, pilots,
and local news commentators. The forecast in the days preceding the
event was ominous, with strong winds threatening to put a damper on
the kickoff weekend's events. Hot air balloons cannot fly safely if
the winds are much above 10 mph.
Those concerns proved unfounded, at least for the morning's mass
ascension. In fact, as of 0600 the winds were eerily calm,
prompting KOB-4 weathercaster and well-known Fiesta aficionado
Steve Stucker to quip, "we could actually use some more wind out
here, to help the balloons get off the field."
By 0700, however -- as the sun began to rise over the Sandia
Mountains -- the winds picked up just enough to facilitate a small
version of Albuquerque's famous "box."
Balloons lifting off, at about 150 feet AGL, were initially
blown gently south; by 500 feet, the winds were blowing
predominantly to the north... guaranteeing residents of Corrales,
Rio Rancho, and even Bernalillo -- 15 miles north of the field --
would be treated to the show, as well.
The weather has already postponed at least one planned event,
however. Saturday night's scheduled liftoff of the America's
Challenge gas balloon race was moved to Monday, due not only to the
local forecast (which predicts wind gusts as high as 40 mph by 1400
local) but also expected conditions along the expected route of
Saturday night's scheduled balloon glow is also on the bubble...
though even if that event is scrubbed due to high winds, pilots
still expect to perform a "candle burn" -- essentially, a balloon
glow without the balloons -- in which pilots will fire their
burners in unison.
This year's event runs through next Sunday, October 14. Over 700
hot-air balloons are registered, including 97 "special shapes"
balloons. New additions include a "Darth Vader" balloon, and
"Pandy" the panda.
The annual event actually kicked off Friday morning, as hot air
balloons lifted off from 44 local schools... an event, now in its
sixth year, known as "Albuquerque Aloft."