Up, up and away! Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade gets the all-clear

NEW YORK -- Snoopy, Spider-Man and the rest of the iconic balloons got the all-clear Thursday to fly between Manhattan skyscrapers at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

There were fears the balloons could be grounded if windy conditions from a storm that snarled holiday travel along the East Coast pick up. But the New York Police Department decided Thursday morning that the winds were calm enough for the 16 giant character balloons to lift off.

The iconic characters wouldn't have been allowed to lift off if sustained winds topped 23 mph and gusts exceeded 34 mph, according to city rules enacted after fierce winds in 1997 caused a Cat in the Hat balloon to topple a light pole and seriously injure a spectator. Balloons had only been grounded once in the parade's 87-year history, when bad weather kept them from flying in 1971.


Amy Kule, the parade's executive producer, said the 3.5 million spectators who gather to watch the annual affair would see a parade that includes floats, 900 clowns and 40 smaller balloons, no matter what happens with the weather. 

A wet and blustery storm along the East Coast made driving hazardous and tangled up hundreds of flights Wednesday but didn't cause the all-out gridlock many Thanksgiving travelers had feared. The storm for the most part unleashed wind-driven rain along the Northeast's heavily populated Interstate 95 corridor from Richmond, Va., to the tip of Maine. 

Elsewhere in the country, Thanksgiving traditions were unaffected by the weather. 

In Washington on Wednesday, President Barack Obama pardoned two 38-pound turkeys named Popcorn and Caramel, fulfilling the annual presidential tradition. 

And two American astronauts on board the International Space Station, Mike Hopkins and Rick Mastracchio, released a video from 260 miles above Earth showing off their traditional Thanksgiving meal: irradiated smoked turkey, thermostabilized yams, cornbread dressing, potatoes, freeze-dried asparagus, baked beans, bread, cobbler and dehydrated green bean casserole. 

The SpongeBob Square Pants balloon is inflated on Thursday. Peter Foley / EPA