“Mom? Can you come here? There is something in your yard.”
My interest piques, I scoot out from my desk and join my two oldest at the sliding glass door overlooking our large grassy backyard. It appears to be a small orange parachute with a long string connected to it, though the other end tucks behind some bushes.
“Well, let’s get our boots on and go check it out!” I never miss a chance for an adventure with the kids. Out the door, we go into the drizzly day, down the hill towards the orange parachute. Instantly I think, this is a weather balloon. Guess what?! It’s a weather balloon!
We investigate the orange parachute which is about four feet in diameter. It is attached to a cream color popped balloon with a tag on it that reads: WARNING – If balloon appears to be inflated !!DO NOT TOUCH BALLOON!!
Yikes! I’m relieved it is fully deflated and torn in a few pieces. The warning goes on to say the balloons are full of flammable gas and we should contact the fire department if it is inflated. Happy to avoid this step.
There is a long string attached to the parachute, at the end we find a white Styrofoam box with small wires and antennas. It tells us we found a harmless weather instrument used by NOAA National Weather Service. A website is listed so we can check for more details.
As we are walking back to the house, I take a minute to tell the kids what a weather balloon does, at least in terms that I (not a scientist) can, “A weather balloon carries this box up into the sky really, really high. So high we can’t see it from the ground. While it’s up there, it measures the temperature, wind speeds, rain and other weather-related things. This one must have popped, which made the parachute come out and helped it get safely to the ground. Pretty neat, right?”
They agree and seem satisfied with my answer. Relief!
Once inside we look up the website, there are instructions on how to send the box back IF the pre-paid bag is still attached. It is not. So, looks like we can keep it or I need to dig around more and find a way to send it back to be refurbished so it can fly again. It does look damaged; we might keep it for nostalgia and then toss it when everyone loses interest.
It has made us a little popular with the neighborhood kids. Side bonus, we are the cool house for at least 24 hours.