For 87 years, millions of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade enthusiasts flock to the heart of Manhattan to watch one of the holiday’s best kept traditions. This past Thanksgiving did not disappoint, with live dance performances, Broadway musical numbers, floats, celebrities and of course, Santa. However, one tradition that might have been snuffed was seeing our favorite, lovable cartoon characters take flight, including the likes of Snoopy, Garfield and SpongeBob.
What is a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade without seeing gravity-defying balloons float above the heads of thousands of squealing children? We almost found out. Due to high winds, a few snow storms and a strong cold front that grounded planes in much of the Northeast, parade executives were hesitant to send these parade stars aloft. According to parade officials, for the balloons to participate, no section of the route should have winds in excess of 23 mph, or gusts exceeding 34 mph. This is due in large part to safety concerns for parade-goers.
In 1997, 43 mph winds blew the Cat in the Hat balloon into a lamppost, causing many injuries, including a woman who was in a coma for nearly a month. The problem arises when the balloons turn corners or cross through intersections between towering skyscrapers, where an updraft can catch a balloon and its handlers off guard.
This year, New York City Police Officers monitored the winds using gauges along the route, and the balloons ended up taking flight just minutes before the start of the parade. Parade enthusiasts were not disappointed, but the irony of the weather watching “technology” employed by New York’s finest cannot be ignored. Having police officers monitor the weather is akin to meteorologists handing out speeding tickets. High winds and gusts can be tricky to monitor with a wind gauge, especially if the people operating them are not well-versed in meteorology.
Macy’s could have alleviated the stress and tension of this last minute decision had they incorporated a site-specific weather alerting service into their parade plans. Since all of ImpactWeather’s services are designed for each client’s needs, Macy’s could have benefitted from high wind and gust alerts from a team of highly-trained meteorologists who can monitor the winds from state-of-the-art technology located in our 24/7 operations department.
Not only can these meteorologists be available by phone or email to the on-site officials, but they can monitor winds down to the latitude and longitude of the parade route. With these types of services, parade officials could have made their decision hours in advance, and focused on more pressing issues, like where they should stand to catch a glimpse of Santa.