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O#44: New Haven, Missouri
OSeptember 25, 2010


The town of New Haven, Missouri, is located on the Missouri River, sixty miles west of Saint Louis. By the banks of the river, where riverboats once stopped to take on wood, the historic downtown area is undergoing some modest redevelopment. Up on the bluff are quiet residential neighborhoods and newer businesses along Missouri Highway 100, giving way to some new housing and farmland to the south.



In 2009 I was invited to fly in New Haven as part of the New Haven Balloon Race. The race is sponsored by the local Pepsi bottling plant, one of the largest employers in the area. I made arrangements to travel out to Missouri with my crew chief, Bob Dunnington. However, the weather did not cooperate. Bob and I left for Missouri on Friday morning, shortly before the race was canceled, and had a chance to see drizzly rain turn into torrential rain before we flew back home.

Fortunately Brad Zobrist, who organizes the race, was very supportive and invited me back to try again in 2010. I made arrangements for Bob to come help again, along with Brian Shafer, who had crewed for me before. Then I waited to see what the weather would do on the Saturday afternoon of the race.


Monitoring the weather more than a few days in advance of an event is pretty useless exercise, since any earlier than that, the forecast has just about zero correlation with what in fact occurs. However, it is also very hard to resist looking. A week out, the forecasts for New Haven said there would be some rain passing through during the week, it seemed, and then some more early the following week. Initially, it seemed possible that Saturday would still be rainy, but Sunday (the backup day) would be clear. But then the forecasts changed, and it looked rainy Friday, clear for Saturday, but with rain starting again on Sunday. Possibly early Sunday. Possibly even Saturday night. Finally, when we got off the plane in Saint Louis on Friday, the first rain had just passed through, and the second rain was scheduled to begin a few hours before or a few hours after sunset on Saturday, depending on which forecast you looked at. In short, it would either rain or it wouldn't, which was pretty much what I knew to begin with.


At noon on Saturday we started setting up at the New Haven city park. It was bright and sunny, although my last look at weather before leaving the hotel showed a line of rain already entering the northwestern part of the state. My best chance was to get into the air a bit early, to see if I could beat the rain -- the potential downside being getting all set up and having it start to rain. I decided to give it a try. Brad supplied some local volunteers, who began inflating the balloons.




By 3 PM it was pretty much clouded over, with some darker clouds off to the northwest. The wind was still light. The FAA waiver for the event called for me to launch last, after the hot-air balloons, but in light of the weather, the FAA inspector agreed to let me go first. So I got into my harness and got ready to launch.










Darrin Henderson









And up I went.






Darrin Henderson