High Winds May Ground Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons

The fate of some of the parade's favorite balloons is up in the air.

ByABC News
November 26, 2013, 4:21 PM

Nov. 26, 2013 — -- New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, a one-time Macy's stock boy who manned a rope on a turkey balloon in his teen years, said today it is "certainly a possibility" some or all of the more than four dozen balloons in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade could be grounded because of high winds.

It's not clear whether there will be any balloons at the nation's most famous Thanksgiving Day parade which has become a staple of holiday TV.

"We've done a lot of training on this," Kelly said. "The balloons as you know can be lowered to various heights. They can be lowered all the way down or they can be eliminated, not brought out at all. These are decisions that will be made as we go forward, depending on weather conditions."

A brand new "Snoopy with his pal Woodstock" balloon making its parade debut is among those that could pose a risk in sustained winds above 23 mph or gusts of 34 mph. There is one NYPD sergeant assigned to each giant character balloon (there are 15 total plus 37 smaller balloons) and each carries instruments to measure wind speed and cross winds between the buildings.

Among the larger balloons that could be grounded are Spiderman, Spongebob and Pikachu.

Macy's said in a statement that the decision on whether the giant balloons would join the line-up is based on weather data from on the scene and not on forecasts.

"At this time, it is too early to make any determinations on the flight of the giant balloons," Macy's said in a statement. "On Thanksgiving morning, Macy's works closely with the NYPD, who, based on real time weather data and the official regulations determine if the balloons will fly and at what heights. "

The company said that each balloon flies at different heights, based on the weather conditions. If weather permits the large balloons to participate in the parade, each will fly at their individually designated height for the wind condition on the day.

Parade organizers have remained alert for windy weather since the notorious "Cat in the Hat" incident in 1997, when the Dr. Seuss. character's helium doppelganger swept out of control. The six-story balloon slammed into a light pole which showered debris onto four parade-goers, sending one woman into a month-long coma.

The settlement Kathleen Caronna reached with the city and lamp post manufacturer following that incident has parade organizers cautious.

Another windy day snafu in 2005, this time involving two out-of-control M&Ms that hit a streetlight and slightly injured two sisters, prompted Macy's to promise enhanced training for balloon handlers in inclement weather.

This year, each balloon will be controlled by between 90-106 handlers -- a notable increase from the 50 handlers responsible for the runaway M&Ms in 2005.

The 87th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade kicks off at 9 a.m. Thursday, marching 2.5 miles down Manhattan, from West 77th Street down Broadway to Macy's flagship department store at Herald Square.

ABC News' Liz Fields contributed to this report