SNOHOMISH, Wash. -- A wayward balloon caused quite a sight for commuters and a boost in business for a local company, Wednesday.
The rainbow colored hot air balloon landed in the highway median between SR 9 and US 2 in Snohomish around 8:30 a.m. John Dimarco and his wife were among the six passengers in the balloon. They are visiting from Michigan. This was their first time in a hot air balloon. Dimarco described the landing as "soft."
"The pilot told us that he had to find a spot and saw this kind of open area. Right at the last second, the wind blew and got us up a little further than we wanted to be," he said.
"It wasn't terrifying at all. Just maybe landing in the trees was a little bit new," said rider Taylor Bouchard. "The pilot was great. I would absolutely do it again."
The balloon is owned by Airial Balloon Company in Snohomish. The flight originated in northeast Snohomish. Since the balloon is free flying, it doesn't have a scheduled landing place.
"Every flight is different," said pilot Shannan Sorensen, "The wind shifted during flight, so he (the pilot) looked for a nice place to land."
Sorensen explains the wind can blow in different directions, depending on the altitude. The pilot controls the balloon by moving up or down, into those different wind patterns.
"We don't have engines or steering wheels. It's free flying."
She says it's not uncommon for a pilot to bring down a hot-air balloon in an open field, large yard or even a cul-de-sac if the winds are not favorable. The FAA says pilots must obtain a specific license to operate a hot air balloon. A lot of commuters - and even WSDOT cameras - saw the limp balloon resting on the side of the road. The sight prompted many potential customers to call and book flights, "It's been a very good day for us," Sorensen chuckled.
Crews eventually deflated the balloon and packed it up.