Tucson NWS helping to forecast East Coast storm with balloons

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Photo: Video by kgun9.com

Tucson NWS helping to forecast East Coast storm with balloons

CREATED Oct 25, 2012

Meteorologist: Aaron Brackett

TUCSON(KGUN9-TV) - Its a storm meteorologists across the country are dubbing "FrankenStorm". Stemming from Hurricane Sandy, this mammoth looks to impact the East Coast just before Halloween. Thousands of feet above the ground, the conditions in Tucson could have a sizable impact on the storm expected to impact millions of people thousands of miles away.

Hurricane Sandy blasted the Bahamas with winds over 120 mph Thursday. As this ferocious storm moves north, meteorologists on the east coast are fearing a second landfall that could prove to be the perfect storm.

All over the lower 48 states, local National Weather Service offices are coming together to help predict the storm by launching balloons.

"The weather is a global phenomenon and what happens here can affect weather downstream," explained Ken Drozd of the NWS. "We want to get the best information for the models to predict what is happening in the future father downstream."

Normally, weather balloon launches happen twice a day in Tucson, but with Sandy swirling away in the Atlantic the Tucson bureau is launching twice that, and its quite the process.

"We fill the balloon with helium and its about 5-6 feet in diameter when we launch it, we release that from the roof of our building," said Drozd.
Next, the instrument package is attached, and the cords holding it together are given a final check.

"That whole time [the balloon] is ascending, its transmitting information back to us regarding its location, from which we can determine the wind speed and direction and also we are getting pressure, temperature, and dew point," said Drozd.

As the giant white sphere floats up, we can only hope our contribution in Tucson will help people 1,000s of miles away in Sandy's path.

The last time multiple offices over the country were asked to add launches was for Hurricane Irene. The cost was about $120,000, but according to the NWS, this resulted in a much more accurate track, better evacuations, and countless saved lives.