After much speculation, Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade will fly its iconic balloons after all, despite the windy conditions taking over New York City. Macy's executive director of special events told Al Roker during the Today show Thursday morning that the balloons were cleared for takeoff, but that they'll fly a bit lower than usual.
"We're gonna start them off and we're gonna fly," the executive said. "They'll be flying a little lower but we'll see how it goes."
As previously reported, authorities weren't sure if the balloons would be allowed to fly during the historic parade due to high forecasted winds of anywhere from 18 mph to 40 mph.
New York Police Department officers monitored the weather all along the planned parade route before they made the call Thursday morning that the 16 large floats will end up airborne after all.
"These sergeants are well trained to read the anemometers to identify the height of where we can allow the balloons to go up," explained NYPD Chief of Patrol Rodney Harrison. "The balloons can actually go up to 55 feet in height, but if it comes to a situation where there is a public safety we will bring them down to 10 feet."
The precautions are being taken for good reason, as a handful of incidents at the annual event have resulted in injury. In 1997, a Cat in the Hat float was caught up in a strong gust of wind and injured four attendees. A string of incidents also occurred involving the release of balloons at the end of the parade throughout the 1920s and '30s before the practice was eventually stopped after 1932. And in 1971, the parade was canceled outright due to 40 mph winds. Likewise, last year's parade was almost bogged down by similar weather.
The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade began back in 1924, with the now-trademark giant floats first appearing a few years later. Today, roughly 3.5 million people line the streets of New York to see the parade up close, while millions more watch it unfold live on TV on the morning of Thanksgiving.
The parade will be broadcast live on CBS and NBC starting at 9 a.m. ET, as well as a livestream that will be available on YouTube.