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Macy's parade balloons fly despite gusty winds

APTOPIX Thanksgiving Parade Balloons
Posted at 9:15 AM, Nov 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-28 09:15:21-05

NEW YORK (NBC NEWS) — Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will go ahead Thursday with its famous giant balloons as authorities ruled they could still fly amid strong wind gusts in New York City.

The National Weather Service forecasted sustained winds of up to 24 mph and gusts up to 43 mph during the parade, raising concerns it would be too dangerous for the 16 giant helium balloons prepared for this year's parade to fly along the 2.5-mile route.

However, the New York Police Department announced on Twitterthe balloons would go ahead, but at a lower height.

The city typically requires the balloons to be grounded if sustained winds exceed 23 mph and gusts exceed 34 mph. The regulation came into effect after a woman was critically injured when winds blew a "Cat in the Hat" balloon into a lamppost near Central Park in 1997.

Despite the rules, the last time the balloons had to be grounded was in 1971.

The giant balloons range from 31 to 67 feet tall and require as many as 90 handlers to fly. They can be flown at high as 55 feet off the ground or brought down to 10 feet of the ground in windy conditions.

This year's character balloons included Snoopy dressed as an astronaut in honor of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, the snowman Olaf from Disney's Frozen and the Nutcracker. Many other smaller balloons at roughly 25 feet in height in the shapes of pumpkins, stars, candy canes and snowflakes were also scheduled for the parade.

The rest of Thursday's scheduled performances and floats, including an appearance from Santa Claus, will also march through Manhattan as planned.

Balloons were grounded for the country's oldest Thanksgiving parade in Philadelphia due to weather conditions, with wind gusts expected to reach up to 50 mph. Parade organizers told local newspaper The Philadelphia Inquirer that the balloons could still make an appearance if the winds die down.