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November 27, 2013

Winds Could Ground Macy's Biggest Thanksgiving Parade Balloons

by Sandra Lemaire

A winter storm that is making for a potentially wet and windy Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City Thursday could ground 16 popular giant helium balloons.

That would keep out parade staples such as Snoopy, SpongeBob SquarePants, Spider-Man and Hello Kitty. A "special spinning dreidel balloonicle" is also in the lineup, in honor of the first night of Hannukah, which coincides with Thanksgiving this year.

The National Weather Service has issued a gale warning for the region Thursday morning, predicting winds of up to 40 km/h (25 mph) and gusts reaching 56 km/h (35 mph). A New York City regulation that went into effect after a 1997 incident during which a handful of parade spectators were injured, prevents giant balloons from floating if winds surpass 36.8 km/h (23 mph), with gusts more than 54.4 km/h (34 mph).

In its 87-year-history, bad weather has sidelined Macy’s giant balloons only once – in 1971.  However, weather-related incidents in 1993, 1997 and most recently in 2005, caused giant balloons to hit lamp posts along the parade route.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told the New York Times “we’ve done a lot of training on this,” adding that if weather conditions permit the giant balloons to be floated, a police sergeant would be assigned to accompany each group of handlers and would monitor wind speeds.

In the meantime, despite the cold rain falling on the city, Macy’s parade officials, with the help of volunteers, are going ahead with plans to inflate the balloons near Central Park West.

The process began at 3:00 p.m. and will continue until 10:00 p.m. Officials are keeping a close eye on weather conditions and say they will make a determination about the giant balloons before the parade start on Thursday morning.

They say if winds are too high, the giant balloons will be deflated.