Clouds are gone and balloons ready to soar

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The past few springs, rain and wind made it feel as if winter were never going to end.

But when folks in the Walla Walla Valley look to the sky to see it filled with giant hot-air balloons — even if the sky is cloudy — they know spring is really here.

This year, the spring weather has come when it’s supposed to, warming the Valley with bright sunshine and temperatures in the 80s. No need for balloons to chase those clouds away.

The excellent weather so far this week is expected to last until the 39th Walla Walla Hot Air Balloon Stampede ends on Sunday.

According to the National Weather Service, temperatures will remain above normal through Sunday with highs in the mid-70s to near 90 degrees with generally light winds. A high pressure system strengthening over Northern Oregon and Washington should result in clear skies and calm conditions — under 8 mph — especially in the morning hours when the balloons are launched.

Launches are scheduled for 6:30 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. And about the time the balloonists are hauling their trailers out of town on Sunday an upper level trough and cold front are expected to move in and bring rain and thunderstorms with them.

Over the years the Stampede has become more than a celebration of hot air ballooning. It is a community celebration. The warm, spring weather will make enjoying the booths and displays at the Fairgrounds and elsewhere in town pleasant.

The fun begins bright and early Friday as the balloon soar over the city as the people below — many still wearing bathrobes — take in the color of the balloons. Spring is going to get a great start this year.

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