APPLE VALLEY, Minn. (KMSP) - Brandon Wilson wasn't sure what he was looking at after it fell from the sky just four feet behind him. Turns out it was a weather balloon.
“All of a sudden I heard a big thump right behind me. And this was laying in my yard,” said Wilson. “I was just in shock. I felt the ground shake. It's not very heavy, but it came crashing down that's for sure.”
According to Fox 9’s Chief Meteorologist Ian Leonard, they are launched from 96 different locations across the country, so the odds of nearly getting hit by one of is less than the odds of getting hit by lightning.
“I'm guessing it came down like that, not opened up. That’s why it came down so loud behind me,” said Wilson.
Though these balloons are set up into the sky from all over the country, the one that nearly hit Wilson was traced back to the National Weather Service in Chanhassen.
Going up about 1,000 feet per minute, a typical weather balloon goes up for about 90 minutes. While airborne, they measuring pressure, temperature, humidity and windspeed -- providing the building blocks of every single forecast..
“These are truly amazing, but yet, rudimentary objects. With space travel and computers and iPads and iPhones and people say ‘really you do it with a balloon?’ And we do it with a balloon?” said Fox 9 Chief Meteorologist Ian Leonard.
At about 20 miles up into the atmosphere, the balloon eventually pops, and a parachute is supposed to help the equipment drift back to the ground where people like Wilson might find them, but more often then not they end up in farm fields or lakes -- bottom line this was not the first weather balloon to surprise some one.
Of course there is satellite technology and other equipment that go along with forecasting, but these weather balloons, now equipped with GPS, are considered the old standby. And just like the instructions say, when you find one, send it back so it can be refurbished for another flight.