Video shows apparent Chinese surveillance balloon flying over Charlotte area Saturday

CHARLOTTE — A Chinese balloon that was being tracked as it drifted across the United States ended up flying straight across North Carolina on Saturday, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The Washington Post shared a graph from NOAA’s HYSPLIT, which is a computer model used to calculate the trajectories of air pollutants, that shows the balloon drifting east-southeast, with a path that will bring it fairly close to Charlotte.

The balloon flew over the Charlotte area just after 10 a.m. A Channel 9 crew could see what appeared to be the balloon right outside the station. Viewers sent numerous photos of the balloon across Charlotte.

The balloon was more than 50,000 feet up in the air, and the Pentagon confirmed that it was a surveillance balloon, but few other details about the aircraft are known.

“We do know that the balloon has violated U.S. airspace and international law, which is unacceptable,” said Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, who said the balloon was spotted Thursday over Montana. “The balloon continues to move eastward and is currently over the center of the continental United States.”

The National Weather Service shared photos on social media that appear to show the balloon visible on the horizon in Missouri.

Earlier Friday, officials with China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the Chinese balloon was a “civilian airship” used mainly for meteorological purposes and that it had been blown off course. They added that the balloon had “limited self-steering capability.” However, Ryder said the balloon had changed course, adding that it is “a maneuverable craft.”

Just after 2:30 p.m., government officials downed the suspected Chinese spy balloon off the Carolina coast on Saturday afternoon, according to The Associated Press.

An operation was underway in U.S. territorial waters to recover debris from the balloon.

Television footage showed a small explosion, followed by the balloon falling toward the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, according to the AP.

Just before 5 p.m., flights to and from Myrtle Beach International Airport, Charleston International Airport and Wilmington International Airport resumed, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Ground stops were put in place at the airports for “security reasons,” while the suspected Chinese air balloon was floating through the Carolinas.

(WATCH BELOW: Chinese surveillance balloon projected to fly over North Carolina)