The iconic characters can’t lift off Thursday if sustained winds exceed 23 mph and gusts exceed 34 mph, according to city rules enacted after fierce winds in 1997 caused a Cat in the Hat balloon to topple a light pole and seriously injure a woman spectator.
Current forecasts call for sustained winds of 20 mph and gusts of 35 mph.
NYPD Chief of Patrol James Hall, however, said Thursday’s weather forecast “looks very good.”
“At this time, it is too early to make any determinations on the flight of the giant balloons,” said Macy’s spokesman Orlando Veras. “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.”
As WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and the NYPD are keeping an eye on the forecast, particularly focused on predicted wind velocities.
“We have instruments that give us the across wind measurements, particularly because we have high-rise buildings that sometimes winds come down the side streets. We’ve done a lot of training on this. We’ve got experience doing it,” said Kelly. “We have a sergeant assigned to each balloon with the instruments. And the balloons, as you know, sure can be lowered to various heights and they can be lowered all the way down or they can be eliminated, not brought out at all.”
Balloons have only been grounded once in the parade’s 87-year history, when bad weather kept them from flying in 1971.
This year’s balloons include SpongeBob Squarepants, Snoopy, Spider-Man and a 47-foot hot air balloon displaying the faces of characters from the classic film “The Wizard of Oz.”
“This is kind of a once-in-a-lifetime thing to come up and see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and to not see the balloons would be sad,” said Iris Owens of Tulsa, Okla.
“The kids should definitely have the opportunity to see the 2013 balloons tomorrow. I’m really hopeful that the weather will pull up,” said Upper West Side resident Meghan Beehan.
“This is the only place you can see them is here,” said Ken Corsin of Princeton, N.J.
Spectator Henry Cubbin stated his feelings on the matter very simply for CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez.
“It would have no balloons and it would sort of not be a Thanksgiving,” he said.
The wet weather was not keeping people away from watching the balloons be inflated on the Upper West Side on Wednesday evening.
“The weather could be better, but it’s not freezing out,” Michelle Gray, of the Upper West Side, told CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez. ” The temperature’s all right. So a little rain is not going to stop us.”
“My favorite part is seeing the balloons like really close up, and you can really see them still so you can see the details,” added Arden Gray.
While it remains unclear whether the balloons will fly, Macy’s parade organizers say there are plenty of other attractions.
“We’re preparing for a great parade filled with everything,” said John Piper, vice president and creative director of Macy’s Parade Studio. “But ou’ve got to remember, we have 30 full-size floats. We have a thousand clowns.”
While it’s unclear how strong the winds might be, it is a safe bet that it will be cold on the parade route. CBS 2 meteorologist Vanessa Murdock said that, with the wind-chill factor, it will feel like 13 degrees at 7 a.m.
Wilma Riedel, store manager at Pedigree Ski Shop, recommended that paradegoers wear five layers on the top and two layers of pants as well glove liners.
“Layers. Lots of thin layers,” she told Murdock. “You trap your air, and you can stay warm.”
Lori Kaye said that she didn’t plan to let the weather ruin her Thanksgiving.
“You might be cranky walking through the rain but the minute you get here with the lights, the music, and all the people. It just makes it magical,” she said.
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