High winds could ground the fantastical, soaring balloons in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade this year. Credit: Andrew Kelly/Getty Images
High winds could ground the fantastical, soaring balloons in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade this year.
The balloons can't fly in certain conditions and might be lowered or grounded entirely depending on Thursday's weather, officials said.
Sustained winds are forecasted to reach 15 to 20 mph Thursday, with some gusts between 30 and 40 mph.
According to city rules, giant character balloons can't fly in sustained winds exceeding 23 mph or wind gusts over 34 mph, a Macy's spokeswoman said.
"At this time, it is too early to make any determinations on the flight of the giant balloons," the spokeswoman said in a statement.
On Thanksgiving Day, Macy's works with the NYPD and the Office of Emergency Management to determine if the balloons will fly and at what heights using real-time weather data, officials said.
"Unless there's reports of a major storm system, that decision would be made that day and morning," Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Monday.
Wind has been an issue for the balloons for decades. In 1993, both a 65-foot Sonic the Hedgehog balloon and a 85-foot dinosaur balloon named Rex blew against lampposts during high winds.
A woman was permanently brain-damaged after falling debris struck her when huge gusts caused a giant Cat in the Hat balloon to strike a lamppost in 1997. The same year, police stabbed and deflated the Pink Panther and Barney balloons over fears they would injure others.
The wind requirements were established after the 1997 incidents, along with other safety measures.
The city also began heavily tracking wind patterns along the route after the 2005 parade, when the M&M chocolate candies balloons began swinging uncontrollably, catching on a streetlamp in Times Square and injuring two sisters.
Still, as recently as 2010, a a massive SpongeBob SquarePants balloon blew into a lamppost.
A sergeant is assigned to each of the balloons, said Kelly, who explained he had experience dealing with the huge characters.
"I held a turkey balloon when I worked for Macy's when I was in high school," he said with a huge grin. "I'm proud of it."