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Forecast winds could ground balloons at Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Balloons for this year's parade were unveiled at

Balloons for this year's parade were unveiled at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on Nov. 2. Credit: Getty Images for Macy's Inc./Eugene Gologursky

 It's not expected to rain on the Thanksgiving Day Parade. But the winds? That could be another story.

Officials will wait until Thursday morning to decide whether conditions are safe enough for the 16 giant balloons in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to go aloft.

After rain on Wednesday night, the Manhattan forecast Thursday calls for a dry day with temperatures in the upper 40s, about average for this time of year, said Tim Morrin, a forecaster with the National Weather Service. But sustained winds of 23 mph out of the northwest are expected, with gusts of 38 mph, Morrin said.

Both of those wind forecasts could be a problem. City regulations prohibit the big balloons if sustained winds are 23 mph or more with gusts over 34 mph, officials said.

Before the parade steps off, NYPD chief of patrol Rodney Harrison will have to decide if the big balloons can go aloft, and whether the smaller ones must be tethered close to the ground, a police spokesman said Monday. The wind regulations were put into effect after high gusts in 1997 pushed the giant “Cat In The Hat” balloon into a lamp post along the parade route, causing debris to fall and injure four spectators.

The balloons have not been grounded since 1971.

This year's parade includes Olaf from "Frozen II," Astronaut Snoopy and SpongeBob SquarePants with Gary.

“The decision on adding the [big] balloons to the lineup is made just prior to the start of the parade,” explained Macy’s spokesman Orlando Veras. “There are wind-monitoring stations along the length of the parade route, and data collected and analyzed that morning by our on-site licensed meteorologist, as well as data from nearby weather stations, is used by NYPD and Macy’s officials to make the final decision.”

The 40 smaller balloons attached to floats and up to 100 handlers can be kept low to the ground and allowed to continue along the route, officials said. For added protection, the balloons will also be tethered by a guy wire to an ATV, the NYPD said.

Each of the big balloons will be assigned an NYPD supervisor who will have access to a portable anemometer to measure the wind velocity. If winds kick up during the parade, the big balloons can be pulled low or taken out of service.        

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