LIHU‘E — A UFO seen floating above North Shore waters on Monday triggered a sensation on local social media and a U.S. military response.
The spectacle, described by eyewitnesses as an “orb,” was visible from at least 4:30 p.m., until sometime after 6 that evening.
“I got out of the car, and I noticed that everybody was staring in the same direction,” said Wailua Houselots resident Jason Hedges, who first saw the unidentified flying object while shopping in Kilauea. “It was like ‘Independence Day.’ Everybody was just standing, looking up at the sky.”
The mysterious orb was metallic and reflected the bright light of the sun, according to Hedges, who could still see it when his family visited Anini Beach.
“It was in the exact same spot, even up through nightfall,” he said, claiming the object did not move from a fixed position in the sky.
But Kaua‘i civilians weren’t the only ones with eyes to the sky on Valentine’s Day.
“You could tell there were planes approaching it, because of the contrails,” said Kilauea resident Joan Kutzer.
The U.S. military had scrambled two F-22 Raptors from the 154th Wing, Hawai‘i Air National Guard at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam to investigate, the Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs Office told The Garden Island.
Pacific Air Forces is one of nine major commands within the Air Force and is headquartered on O‘ahu. It closely tracks all vessels and aircraft in the Indo-Pacific area of operations, as part of normal daily operations.
“U.S. Indo-Pacific Command detected a high-altitude object floating in air in the vicinity of the Hawaiian Islands,” the office said in an emailed statement. “In accordance with homeland defense procedures, Pacific Air Forces launched tactical aircraft to intercept and identify the object.”
Pilots visually confirmed the object was an unmanned balloon without observable identification markings, the statement continued.
However, the balloon’s origins still remained a mystery on Thursday.
“We are actively monitoring it via joint capabilities and it is under evaluation,” Pacific Air Forces said.
The Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands said the balloon was not related to PMRF activity, when approached for comment.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration personnel reported the balloon could not have belonged to the National Weather Service data-collection office in Lihu‘e, which releases a weather balloon twice daily.
“The (NWS) balloon would have long popped by then,” said Honolulu-based meteorologist Thomas Vaughan.
Vaughan explained the Lihu‘e office releases its balloons at approximately 1 a.m. and 1 p.m.
They send data back about one hour later and pop shortly thereafter.
“It’s measuring temperature, wind, humidity, that kind of thing,” Vaughan said. “That information is used in forecast models.”
Source: The Garden Island