"It's alive!"

Ken Tadolini exulted after he and his crew unloaded the basket and other equipment and inflated their red, white and blue RE/Max balloon on Friday, the first day of the three-day Casper Balloon Roundup at the Murane Playing and Soccer Fields at Casper College

But Tadolini and the two other balloons and their crews didn't launch.

Friday morning, all looked beautiful -- cool temperatures and clear skies -- yet dangerous.

A thunderstorm rolled through Natrona County earlier, and the balloonists warily eyed the seemingly innocuous clouds hovering over the south side of Casper Mountain.

They sent up a "PIBAL" -- pilot information balloon -- to see which way the wind blew.

At 5,500 feet, it first blew north, then reversed course.

The cold air from the thunder clouds over the mountain were pulling it south, Tadolini said.

"It's very dangerous," he said.

The weather is more powerful than apparent to those who don't go aloft.

About a decade ago, Boulder, Colorado, hosted an event during which balloons and their baskets hit the ground at 40 mph because a change in the weather -- a storm 220 miles away in Nebraska, Tadolini said.

Mountains are particularly tricky because they heat faster than nearby lower elevations -- Casper Mountain vs. the Murane fields -- and the warm side of the mountain then drags cold air, he said.

While Friday's launch didn't happen, the balloonists will try again at 6 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Casper Balloon Roundup. Casper, Wyo., 7/28/23