If you are headed to the 2019 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, you are in for some nice temperatures — but unfortunately, the wind will make things chilly and could possibly ground the iconic helium balloons.
According to the Weather Channel, the high temperature on Thursday (Nov. 28) will reach 49 degrees, which isn’t bad for this time of year, but it will be cloudy, so there won’t be much sunshine to help warm the parade spectators. It is also going to be quite windy, with a wind chill down around 40 degrees. Wind chill is what the temperature feels like to your body based on how hard the wind is blowing.
Actually, it is going to be so windy that it might ground some of the giant helium balloons that the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is so famous for. The National Weather Service is forecasting sustained wind speeds of 18 to 21 mph and gusts of up to 40 mph.
There was an incident in 1997 when the Cat in the Hat balloon blew into some spectators at the corner of 72nd Street and Central Park West and injured four people, plus the Barney the Dinosaur balloon ripped apart due to high winds. So the Macy’s parade instituted a rule that says balloons cannot fly if sustained wind speeds are in excess of 23 mph or wind gusts exceed 34 mph. However, the wind rule applies only to the 16 giant balloons. Smaller balloons, like the Macy’s stars, are not subject to the same guidelines.
It remains to be seen if the balloons will fly in 2019. The determination is usually made at the last minute, as the Police Department’s chief of patrol told the New York Times back in 2013 because of course, they want the balloons to be able to fly if at all possible. In fact, the only time the giant helium balloons have been grounded due to inclement weather was in 1971.
But interestingly, up until 1933, some helium balloons used to be released after the parade. According to the NYT article, some balloons were given an extra shot of helium and calibrated to expel gas slowly. They would drift for days afterward. In 1930, a reward was given for a balloon’s capture and return.