The Federal Aviation Administration has issued a ground stop for three airports in the Carolinas as a suspected Chinese spy balloon drifts through the area, a spokesperson confirmed in a statement.
The administration also restricted airspace near Myrtle Beach between 12:45 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. ET. for "national defense airspace.”
The affected airports are in Wilmington, North Carolina; Charleston, South Carolina; and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
“The FAA has paused departures to Wilmington (ILM), Myrtle Beach International (MYR) and Charleston International (CHS) airports to support the Department of Defense in a national security effort,” according to the statement from the FAA.
During a ground stop, all aircraft that meet specific criteria must stay on the ground.
The area of the Temporary Flight Restriction near Myrtle Beach is about 140 nautical miles wide, or about 20,000 square miles. This bans all aircraft from the airspace — mostly from the coastline from Charleston to Wilmington and areas to the south and east.
The notice comes as the balloon has been spotted over various parts of the Carolinas Saturday. It is on trajectory to drift off the coast soon, according to a NOAA weather model.