With weather advisories in effect, warning of storms and winds, city officials are contemplating what to do with Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons. From the NY Times:
The poor weather and heightened oversight could ground some or all of the 13 big balloons — 1 fewer than last year — that are set to fly today, starting at 9 a.m. In the best case, they could be flown so low as to practically be floats. In the worst case, as Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg warned, the hapless helium-filled creatures could be pulled onto side streets and summarily deflated.
“First and foremost, we will make sure that we worry about safety before anything else,” Mr. Bloomberg said yesterday. Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said, “We’re very well prepared to guard against any eventuality, as far as the balloons are concerned.”
The mayor said that the parade has attractions beyond the giant balloons, including 35 other balloons and a float carrying Barry Manilow, the singer.
Okay, everyone loves the marching bans, performers, floats and Barry Manilow on a float... but the balloons (and their handlers) might just be the best part - you can see them from a distance and they get bigger and bigger until they loom above you and you feel really small. But, given the past incidents where parade watchers have been injured, we understand the city's desire to be cautious.
Winds are expected to be in the 20-25mph range - and balloons are supposed to be grounded if winds are 23mph or more with 34mph or more gusts. The Office of Emergency Management will be monitoring the wind using anemometers on Central Park West at 77th, 72nd, and 59th Streets and on Broadway at 51st, 46, 42nd, and 34th Streets (here's a map of the parade route), with the police checking in with the crews as well. And a fun fact: Police Commissioner Ray Kelly is the only commissioner ever to have been a balloon handler in the parade.
An interesting footnote: Jon Woods, marching band director at Ohio State, will be leading today's parade marching band. His daughter Catherine was murdered on the Upper East Side almost a year ago.
Update: The balloons are up so far! (9:30AM) They will just be flown at lower heights.
Photograph of the Ronald McDonald in "an odd on any other day, but just right for the night before the parade" pose by dagomatic on Flickr -- if you want us to see your Flickr photographs, tag them with "gothamist"