What’s in the box? Mystery behind box found in Lebanon, Mo. solved

Published: Jan. 13, 2021 at 6:02 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - In the rain, snow, heat or shine, weather balloons are released every day.

“The instrument collects temperature information, it collects humidity information, it collects pressure information,” said Mark Burchfield, with the National Weather Service in Springfield.

Giving a vertical profile of our atmosphere. Eventually the balloon rises to the top of the atmosphere. It pops, and falls back to earth. It will not land in the area it was released from.

“They’re carried all over the Ozarks, oftentimes in certain situations they’re carried off as far away as Illinois. We’ve found some that have gone as far as New York,” Burchfield said.

This week, one was found in Lebanon. It raised some alarms.

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Posted by Lebanon Rural Fire Protection District on Friday, January 8, 2021

“The call was initially made to the Laclede County Sheriff’s office 9-1-1 Center about a suspicious object,” Phillip Pitts, the Fire Chief of the Lebanon Rural Fire Protection District, said.

The labeling on the popped balloon alarmed the caller. The Sheriff’s office and Fire Department responded to the scene.

What to do when you find a weather balloon
What to do when you find a weather balloon(Lebanon Rural Fire Protection District)

“The box itself is not dangerous. The only time it is dangerous to the citizen is if the balloon is inflated,” Chief Pitts said.

Thankfully, the balloon was not inflated. If the balloon is found inflated it can be dangerous because of the flammable gases inside.

“At the National Weather Service in Springfield.. We use hydrogen. Which is a flammable gas. Which helps the balloon get up to that level,” Burchfield said.

You will recognize a radiosonde because they are clearly marked with National Weather Service and NOAA logos. They will also have instructions on the side on disposal.

What to do when you find a weather balloon
What to do when you find a weather balloon(Lebanon Rural Fire Protection District)

“Part of the weather balloon includes a postmarked envelope that you can just put the weather balloon in,” Chief Pitts said.

Cut off the remains of the parachute, and remove batteries before putting in the envelope.

“And then you just mail it back to the weather service,” Chief Pitts said.

If the balloon is inflated, you’ll want to contact the fire department for disposal.

Most weather balloons are not found as they land in rural areas. If they are returned to the NWS they can be repurposed and used for another launch. Fragments of balloons can never be reused.

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