Low cloud coverage, light rain cancel Friday flight

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 18, 2008

NATCHEZ — Thirty-four pilots woke up Friday morning to a disappointing scene.

The gentle pattering of light rain and a slate gray sky spelled out only one conclusion — no flights.

The media flight for the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race was cancelled due to the weather.

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Crowded around doughnuts and clutching cups of coffee in the damp morning air, all the pilots were ushered into the Natchez Visitor Reception Center for a debriefing.

Balloonmeister Bill Cunningham issued the bad news.

“Obviously, we’re not going to fly,” he said.

He explained that the ceiling, or cloud coverage, in Natchez was about 500 feet.

Hot-air balloon regulations state that no flights are to take place with a ceiling under 1,000 feet.

“I’m glad you did get up this morning,” he said to the pilots.

But unfortunately the conditions looked like they wouldn’t improve before 10 a.m., he continued.

That meant a total cancellation of the media flight and the corresponding bike race.

Organizer Sally Durkin said while it’s disappointing the flight would not take place, the media flight has nothing to do with overall scoring in the competition.

“The sponsors don’t take control of their balloons until tomorrow,” she said.

And the good news is, with Friday morning’s unfavorable weather passing through, the rest of the weekend spells out good flying weather.

“The rest of the weekend should be fine,” Durkin said.