Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: Here's Why the Balloons Were Flown so Low

Viewers tuning in to the 93rd annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Thursday morning couldn’t help but notice that the iconic high-flying balloons were flown far lower than usual. As parade goers lined the route and handlers marched their way from 77th Street and Central Park West in Manhattan to Macy's flagship store in Herald Square, the dozens of balloons had to be flown at a lower level than usual due to unusually windy weather, which posed a risk to surrounding structures.

With winds forecast to be in the 18-21 mph range, with gusts reaching 38-40 mph, officer with the New York Police Department had monitored the conditions along the parade route before determining Thursday morning if the 16 large floats would be airborne. According to a local ruling, balloons cannot fly if sustained wind speeds are in excess of 23 mph or wind gusts exceed 34 mph.

“These sergeants are well trained to read the anemometers to identify the height of where we can allow the balloons to go up," NYPD Chief of Patrol Rodney Harrison explained. “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."

Thankfully, the parade went on without issue, with Today show host Al Roker and Macy's executive director of special announcing just ahead of the parade that the floats had been given the ok to fly at lower altitude.

“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."

For those unaware of the previous concern regarding the floats’ safety, the image of the balloons being flown just a few feet from the ground was a bit jarring.

“I’ve watched the [Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade] or as long as I can remember, and I've never seen the balloons this low!” one viewer wrote.


“After watching well over an hour of the [Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade] I’m still not sure why the balloons are so low? Anyone know?” another person asked.

Although balloons flying at such low levels is something of a rarity, it is done in good measure. In 1997, a Cat in the Hat float was caught up in a strong gust of wind and injured four attendees. Meanwhile, the parade was cancelled in 1971 due to 40 mph winds.