Durkin says forecast for race looks favorable

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 16, 2008

NATCHEZ — The Great Mississippi River Balloon Race is heavily contingent on just one thing — the weather.

Too much wind, not enough wind, rain, humidity and temperatures all play a factor in a successful flight and a non-canceled festival.

Organizer Sally Durkin said Friday’s weather is a little iffy.

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“We have a 40 percent chance of thunderstorms,” she said.

But she said that’s not very much of a threat to Natchez.

“The rest of the weekend looks beautiful,” she said.

She said she’s slightly worried about the wind on Saturday because winds are predicted to be coming from the north and northeast.

“That doesn’t really allow us back and forth across the river,” Durkin said.

But Bob Pulaski, a balloon pilot from Pineville, said that direction is not too bad.

He said he would prefer an east to west direction, though.

“That will take you through town and over the river and out to Vidalia,” he said.

Pulaski said a wrong direction could land a balloon in less than desirable places.

“The wrong direction can put you in the swamp or Anna’s Bottom or in the river,” he said.

As far as wind speed, he said winds less than 5 miles per hour work best for him.

The weekend seems like it will have good weather for flying, Pulaski said. Though he’s a little worried about the humidity on Friday.

He said he’s hoping that the cool front moving its way toward the area will make it in time for the weekend.

Durkin said cooler temperatures are preferable.

“Cooler temperatures always help because you burn less fuel,” she said. “If the ambient temperature outside the balloon is really warm you have to put a lot more heat in the balloon for it to be warmer than the air around it.”