Local first responders used their skills and determination in an unusual rescue in the Columbia River.
The details come from Scapoose Fire after the August 31 event.
Scapoose Fire received a request from our friends at the Near Space Corporation in Tillamook. They needed help coordinating the recovery of a weather balloon that had landed in the middle of the Columbia River.
The balloon, taller than a three-story building, was challenged by a local change in weather conditions. Unfortunately, the ball could not be brought down.
Professionals overseeing the launch and mission of weather balloons use many tools and systems to keep track of where the balloon is at all times. The balloon was tracked by a fixed-wing aircraft as it approached Scapoose. This plane helped guide us to the specific location. For added safety for aircraft in the area, the balloon was affixed with a special transmitter that identifies the location of the balloon so other aircraft can see it as normal air traffic.
Once the ball landed in the water, recovering the electronics became a priority as well as the big ball.
To prevent the balloon from being a significant river hazard; Scapoose Fire has contacted Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue, Sauvie Island Fire District and US Coast Guard Sector Columbia River to assist with the recovery and educate boaters on the water. This recovery was crowned with success thanks to their help.
After approximately three hours, the recovery effort was completed and the electronic equipment was returned to Near Space Corporation personnel. Due to the mixture of water and balloon fabric, what would normally be very light weighed hundreds of pounds.
It was a great opportunity to test communication plans and equipment in a low-stress environment while having to think outside the box with this operation.
Additional thanks to community members Tom Morton and Lance Scrivens for helping us get the balloon higher on shore and transporting personnel and equipment to the hard to reach area.
For those who thought they saw an alien craft over Scapoose and the Columbia River today, it was just a disputed weather balloon.