Balloons may not fly in 2019 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
After making the trek from Bergen County to Manhattan, the giant balloons slated for Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade may have to sit this year out.
The Macy's parade studio — a 72,000-square-foot warehouse in Moonachie — has been the prep site for 2019, which is set to feature fan-favorite balloons like Chase from "Paw Patrol," Dr. Seuss' The Grinch, Olaf from "Frozen" and "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" protagonist Greg.
Weather permitting, there will also be the return of Pokemon superstar Pikachu, and a new, 44-foot-tall SpongeBob Squarepants balloon. Each of those requires 90 human handlers.
The newest balloons for the 93rd annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade were inflated at a preview event at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford on Nov. 2.
But potentially strong winds could ground those giant inflatables on Thursday.
"As a storm system exits the Northeast late Wednesday, a strong west-northwest wind will kick up. Our latest forecast calls for sustained winds between 15 and 25 mph, with potential gusts over 40 mph. The City of New York will not allow the parade balloons to fly if sustained winds exceed 23 mph or if gusts are higher than 34 mph. Even though Wednesday evening looks windier than Thursday morning, it's going to be close," NJ 101.5 Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow said.
If the parade balloons are grounded, it would be the first time since 1971, as confirmed by Macy's spokesman, Orlando Veras.
“We are always attuned to weather conditions for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. We monitor the weather on a daily basis, but at this time, it is too early to make any determinations regarding the flight of the Parade’s giant balloons, as we use on the scene data versus forecasts," Veras said in a written statement.
Along the parade route there are several weather monitoring stations, and the assistant pilot on each giant balloon carries a wind meter, which also is monitored by an NYPD representative.
The decision on adding the balloons to the lineup is made just prior to the start of the parade, Veras said.
Veras also said there is a Parade full of entertainment, either way, with "26 animated floats, dozens of celebrity performances, 40 smaller balloon inflatables, 1,200 cheerleaders and dancers, 9 performance groups, 11 marching bands, 1,000 clowns, Broadway’s best shows and the one and only Santa Claus."
High winds are always of great concern for the annual parade. An off-duty police officer was hurt in 1993, when a "Sonic the Hedgehog" balloon hit a light pole. In 1997, 43-mph winds blew a "The Cat in the Hat" balloon into a lamppost, causing a piece to fall. One woman was in a coma for nearly a month with a head injury, as reported by Time.
As a result of that accident, new balloon regulations were put in place in 1998, setting wind and size limits (maximum height of 70 feet, width of 40 feet or length of 78 feet), according to the New York Times.
Still in 2005, two sisters suffered minor injuries when an M&M balloon knocked over a streetlight, as reported by CNN. The same report said that year, winds were measured around 15 mph, below the 23 mph limit for balloons to fly in the annual parade.
Zarrow also said Thursday's potential conditions could add to the chaos of getting to Thanksgiving destinations, adding "In addition, wind can cause travel issues, including driving difficulties and airline delays."
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