NYPD, Macy's Eye Windy Thanksgiving Forecast That Threatens Cartoon Balloons

16 balloons could be grounded if winds reach certain levels

Fierce winds expected to exceed 35 mph on Thanksgiving Day are threatening to ground the beloved cartoon balloons that float through Manhattan in the Macy's parade.

Parade organizers from Macy's say 16 giant balloons, some of which fly as high as five stories, might not be able to go if sustained winds reach 23 mph, with gusts of at least 34 mph. 

Sustained winds on Thursday are forecast at 15 to 22 mph, with gusts between 35 and 40 mph.

The larger balloons this year include Hello Kitty, Spider-Man, Toothless the Dragon, Greg from "Diary of a Wimpy Kid," the Pillsbury Doughboy, SpongeBob Squarepants and Buzz Lightyear.

Organizers say 36 smaller balloons, including a pair of pumpkins, a candy cane and a football, would still likely be able to go up even if the larger ones were grounded.

A commission set the wind speed limits in 1998 after a serious accident amid high winds the year before. Two people were seriously hurt when a Cat in the Hat balloon slammed into a metal pole.

Depending on the conditions, some giant balloons, which are about three times as big as the smaller ones, could fly at lower heights. Each balloon has different limits, depending on its dimensions.

The larger balloons each have between 70 and 100 handlers, plus a "flight management team" of 12 people, Macy's says. They are each anchored by two vehicles and monitored by an NYPD sergeant.

Macy's says organizers and the NYPD will look at "real-time" conditions, not forecasts, and will decide Thursday morning which balloons can fly, and how high.

The 2.5-mile parade starts at 77th Street and Central Park West and ends in Herald Square.

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