LaVerkin man helps solve weekend’s weather balloon mystery

Image of stratospheric balloon flying over Flagstaff, Ariz., Sept. 8, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Bess and Bobthe1dog, St. Goerge News

ST. GEORGE — Sightings of an object floating above St. George over the weekend prompted multiple calls to the police department and inquiries to St. George News, and it wasn’t until Tuesday that the mystery was finally solved.

Image of Stratollite stratospheric balloon N103VW on flight path over Prescott, Ariz., Aug. 30, 2019 | Photo courtesy of StratoCat by Benjamin Lonetree, St. George News

“There’s an object floating right above St. George — it’s there, it’s real, it’s floating and it’s still there,” said James Dean, a resident who called St. George News to report the sighting.

The object appeared to be a weather balloon and remained in the sky above St. George for at least seven hours Saturday, Dean said.

After multiple calls to the National Weather Service and attempts to identify the object floating as high as 2,500 feet above the St. George area, the mystery was solved with the help of LaVerkin resident Chaice Moyes, who tracks such objects.

The object was a Stratollite, a remote-controlled high-altitude weather balloon that is navigable with advanced measuring capabilities. The balloon can remain aloft for days or even months and is used in weather forecasting, communication and disaster relief.

Moyes monitors these objects via Flightradar24, a global flight tracking service that provides real-time information about thousands of aircraft around the world. The stratospheric balloon dubbed N103WV was launched from Page, Arizona, by World View Space on Aug. 17.

Dean said the object was witnessed by many people, as he found out later when he called the St. George Police Department and was told they had received multiple calls on the sighting. He said he found it strange that the balloon remained stationary for an extended period of time, as the clouds above the balloon were moving with the wind.

Flight path of the stratospheric balloon dubbed N103WV, which floated over St. George on its path through Utah, Sept. 7, 2019 | Image courtesy of Flightaware24, St. George News

According to an email received from St. George News reader John Daniels, the weather balloon was seen floating at about 2,500 feet and remained over a pond in St. George for more than an hour before it began to move across the sky in the direction of Sand Hollow Reservoir. Daniels described it as a large, semi-clear balloon on top that appeared to be pinched in the middle, with a smaller balloon at the bottom and a 3-4-foot rod antenna sticking out from the bottom.

Linda Cheng with the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City said there were winds present in St. George during the hours witnesses reported seeing the balloon, which, unless it were tethered to the ground, would have caused it to naturally move across the sky in the same direction as the wind. She said a weather balloon that remains above a certain area or city for hours isn’t consistent with what the agency deploys.

Cheng said when a weather balloon is deployed, it begins to rise and and continues its climb in altitude until it pops, sending weather-related data along the way. She explained that National Weather Service balloons are deployed at the exact same time every day, 12 hours apart, which is consistent with all weather stations across the globe for the sake of data consistency.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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