LEWISTON — Periodic showers and thunderstorms are not expected to make this weekend a washout, National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Hayes said Thursday from his office in Gray.

That’s good news for the Great Falls Balloon Festival this Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Hayes said Lewiston could get rain late Friday, but it looks like it will hold off. “We should get rain maybe in the evening,” he said. The rain may hold off for the 6 a.m. Saturday launch.

“There’ll be showers around, but it could be dry in Lewiston,” he said. His forecast shows a stronger possibility of rain Saturday night and Sunday morning. “There’ll be some showers and thunderstorms from time to time,” Hayes said.

Balloon Meister Mike Theriault is already looking up.

“We’re watching the weather, like everyone else,” he said. Organizers hope the rainy forecast for Saturday night and Sunday is wrong.

Any decision to call off launches won’t be made until right before, Theriault said. The only exception would be an “absolute downpour where it’s not going to let up.”

If the sky is overcast, “the last 15 to 20 minutes before the launch we take a close look at what the weather is doing. It can change so quickly,” Theriault said.

Festival officials use several forecast sources, as well as data showing them what the weather is doing. “We’ll have a wireless Internet on the field to analyze current weather radar,” he said.

On Thursday afternoon, preparations were getting under way, and 22 of 30 balloons had registered, Theriault said.

“Wally the Clown Fish,” one of the over-sized, specialty balloons was in the state, he said. The other specialty balloon is “Sushi,” a giant goldfish. Familiar favorites include “Tailwinds,” “The Bear Ship,” two Remax balloons, “Monkey Business” and “Great Balls of Fire.”

There’s more online!

Visit sunjournal.com/balloonfestival to share your own photos, read stories and watch video from the weekend’s festvities.


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