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High winds could ground giant balloons in NYC Thanksgiving parade

The Spiderman balloon floats down Central Park West during the 86th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York in a November 22, 2012 file p
The Spiderman balloon floats down Central Park West during the 86th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York in a November 22, 2012 file p

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Snoopy, SpongeBob Squarepants and other giant helium balloons in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York could be grounded by high winds predicted for the holiday by weather forecasters on Wednesday.

The 16 inflatable characters in question could lose their flying privileges based on city regulations that keep them out of the sky when sustained winds top 23 miles per hour (37 km per hour), and gusts exceed 34 mph.

That decision will be made early Thursday by parade officials in consultation with the New York City Police Department.

The National Weather Service on Wednesday predicted that Thanksgiving Day on Thursday in New York City will be sunny and breezy, with winds up to 24 mph and gusts as high as 40 mph.

"The balloons, as you know, can be flown to various heights... or not brought out at all," New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said on Tuesday.

"These are decisions that will be made as we go forward depending on the weather conditions," Kelly said.

The 16 massive balloons include favorites like Snoopy, in his seventh costume change in 37 years as the parade's longest appearing character, and first-timers such as Toothless, the dragon from "How to Train Your Dragon," according to Macy's.

In its 87th year, the parade also includes 36 smaller balloons that may be flown even if strong winds buffet the procession through Manhattan that starts at 9 a.m. EST (1400 GMT).

"On average our giant helium character balloons range from 50 to 78 feet in length, 40 to 60 feet in height, and 20 to 40 feet in width," said parade spokesman Orlando Veras.

The city guidelines were put in place after a Cat in the Hat balloon knocked down a lamp post in 1997, injuring four spectators.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner and Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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