RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The suspected Chinese spy balloon now floating over the U.S. is likely headed over North Carolina skies this weekend — possibly on Saturday morning, according to weather forecasts.
Around 8:30 a.m. Saturday, reports indicate that it was located in Asheville, which lines up with previous projections.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has already postponed a planned high-stakes weekend diplomatic trip to China after the discovery of a high-altitude Chinese balloon flying over sensitive sites in the western United States, a U.S. official said Friday.
The abrupt decision came despite China’s claim that the balloon was a weather research satellite that had blown off course.
The U.S. has described it as a surveillance satellite. It was first spotted over Montana and was seen over St. Louis, Missouri, on Friday afternoon, according to KTVI.
The National Weather Service in Kansas City received several reports around noon Friday of a high-altitude balloon visible on the horizon. They say the object was not a U.S. National Weather Service balloon. It was traveling southeast at 60,000 feet with 75 mph winds.
A forecast map from CBS 17 Chief Meteorologist Wes Hohenstein shows the balloon heading over southern Indiana, Kentucky, a corner of Tennessee before arriving over North Carolina airspace in the mountains.
Late Friday night, a plane that tracks and stays close to the balloon was in the middle of Tennessee, near Nashville.
Hohenstein said the spy balloon should begin its pass over North Carolina between 8 a.m. and noon on Saturday.
The payload of the balloon is the size of two to three school buses, and the balloon itself is much larger, a U.S. official told CBS News.
The balloon was first seen over sensitive military sites in Montana. By midday, it was over the heartland of the central United States, moving east.
Officials said it was likely to stay in U.S. airspace for several days. Whiteman Air Force Base is located in central Missouri. It is a part of the US strategic nuclear deterrence program.