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13-year-old finds weather balloon in town of Webb

Preston Morris of Old Forge found a weather balloon on First Lake when snowmobiling home from school.

Posted: Feb 12, 2021 5:47 PM
Updated: Feb 12, 2021 5:52 PM

Snowmobilers stumble upon many lost items on the trails. But one local snowmobiler found something rarely seen.

Preston Morris, 13, rides his snowmobile to school in the Town of Webb every morning and afternoon. They have a parkinglot for all the kids to park their snowmobiles. On his way home, he found something.

Preston said, "So I was coming home on a snowmobile ride from school and I see this parachute out there and I thought someone like sent something up. I was going to see if it was like a gopro or something on the end of it. So I looked and there was something buried in the snow. There was like a weather device."

What he found was a weather balloon, that was launched by the National Weather Service all the way in Buffalo. His father, Bill Morris, said "It says it was launched on the ninth of February so it wasn't like a month long trip. It made it pretty quickly from Buffalo to Old Forge, because he found it on the 10th."

They used GPS to track it. Mr. Morris said "There was a gentlemen on Facebook who had worked for the National Weather Service and there's a barcode on the back that you can enter into their website and it'll show you the track on the map of where the balloon has gone. And it started in Buffalo and went up north of Oneida Lake and then cut across to the Town of Webb to First Lake."

This isn't the only one. Weather balloons are used all over the world. Michael Fries of the National Weather Service in Buffalo said "Weather balloons basically are launched everywhere in the world at the same time twice a day. And there's about 100 sites or so inside of the United States that launch balloons. One of them is here right outside of our National Weather Service office in Buffalo." 

But weather balloons are very rare to find. Mr. Fries said "In general we get less than 30% of the packages we send up back, because most of them, you know, fall in the middle of the woods, or are launches somewhere where not very many people are." 

Preston was a very lucky boy to find one of these. His family is returning it by mail today so that it can be reused. 

These weather balloons collect data that is important for forecasting. Mr. Fries said "The measurements that it takes of temperature and dew point as well as the GPS data that brings back the wind data, that's what we use both to as inputs for our weather models that forecast the weather out for days and weeks from now."

But they also help give forecasters details about what the weather will be like that day. Mr. Fries said "That data comes back and the forecasters can look at the data from that balloon specifically to determine things like how strong thunderstorms might be in an area that day or whether lake effect snow bands are likely to form and how far inland they might go."

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