Autumn weather finally arrives in Walla Walla this weekend as the Balloon Stampede kicks off | Local

Clear, sunny skies dotted with brightly colored hot air balloons are forecast for the next few days, but balloonists and Balloon Stampede 2022 organizers are keeping a cautious eye on the weekend’s outlook.

After an unusually warm and dry start to October, wet and much cooler fall weather is expected to arrive this weekend, when daytime temperatures are expected to take a precipitous drop of nearly 20 degrees by Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.

The Walla Walla region should see gusty winds and between a quarter and a half inch of rain between Friday evening and Sunday evening. The nearby Blue Mountains could see up to 1.5 inches of precipitation, including possibly the first snowfall of the season.

The time should be ripe for the return on Wednesday of the Walla Walla Balloon Stampede, an annual gathering of hot air balloons and their pilots that had been canceled for the past two years due to the pandemic.

Organizers are closely monitoring the weather forecast for the weekend, however, said Laurie Spencer of Lighter Than Air America, a hot air balloon company coordinating the event.

“Absolutely, we’re still concerned about the weather,” Spencer said.

Rain can degrade the fabric of the balloon and storms can make flying dangerous. Depending on the strength of the winds, some pilots may decide not to fly on a particular day, Spencer added.

“If you’re not used to a sporty landing, the wind settings might be too high for you,” she said.

Aeronauts will consult with meteorologists and assess weather conditions once they reach the launch site, individually determining if they are comfortable flying, Spencer continued.

For weeks, the Walla Walla Valley has been kept warm and dry by an area of ​​high pressure over the region, said Colby Goatley, a meteorologist with the Pendleton office of the National Weather Service. That weather pattern will be broken this weekend with a deep low pressure trough heading south into Alaska, Goatley added.

This weather front will bring cold and rain to the Walla Walla Valley and erode the area of ​​high pressure that had lingered over the region. Once that’s done, daytime highs should drop from the 70s during the work week to the 50s this weekend.

“This will help usher in more seasonal, cooler, fall-like conditions, as well as more chance of precipitation across the region,” Goatley said.