Weather promising for balloon race competition

Published 12:02 am Tuesday, October 17, 2017

NATCHEZ — Though some rain has worked its way into this weekend’s forecast, the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race’s meteorologist is tentatively predicting the bad weather will hold off for most festivities.

Meteorologist Ernest Ethridge said Friday’s weather warrants excellent conditions for balloonists, with the chance of rain entering the fold late Saturday and continuing into Sunday.

Ethridge called the situation “touch-and-go” with storms anticipated to move in Sunday, but for now he is predicting the competition races will run without a hitch.

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“At this point, it doesn’t appear it will interfere with any of the competition,” Ethridge said.

Friday’s forecast calls for what should be best weather of the weekend.

Ethridge called for temperatures in the 50s and low 80s for the day’s low and high, respectively. He predicted relatively light winds of less than 12 mph, which is especially good news for balloonists.

Heading into Friday evening, Ethridge expects cloudy skies, but no rain and wind speeds of less than 8 mph.

“Therefore, we will be able to glow — no problem,” Ethridge said.

Balloons are scheduled to take flight at 7 a.m. Friday for the media race, with the balloon glow set for 7 p.m.

The first chance of rain appears late Saturday evening, though Ethridge said he believed race festivities would take place as scheduled.

Saturday’s flight is scheduled for 7:30 a.m.

For Sunday, Ethridge hinted at the possibility of scattered showers in the morning, with “widespread rains and thunderstorms” beginning Sunday afternoon and persisting into Monday. Ethridge suggested high temperatures would remain in the 80s, with lows jumping into the 60s.

Though Ethridge said the showers should hold off until after Sunday morning’s race, the weather could pose a threat for that afternoon’s race.

Weather permitting, balloons will lift off at 7:30 a.m. for Sunday’s competition flight, with the afternoon balloon flight scheduled for 4:30 p.m.

Ethridge predicted balloons would likely launch from the Natchez side of the river, with winds expected to come from the south or southeast Friday and Saturday and moving around to the southwest by Sunday morning.

Ethridge said he would be monitoring the situation for potential developments leading up to the weekend.