I am a meteorologist from New York who has been studying and forecasting the local weather for years. I especially enjoy tracking winter storms.
By: NYCvort, 5:39 AM GMT on November 27, 2013
With the Macy’s annual Thanksgiving Day Parade approaching and strong winds forecasted for the event, I wanted to take a look back at the weather that occurred during some of the past parades. We’ve actually been pretty lucky the last several years. The last time we even saw a recorded gust in Central Park on Thanksgiving reach 20 mph was back in 2008. Despite this, we still saw a SpongeBob SquarePants balloon hit a lamppost in 2010 and a Kool Aid Man balloon tip over in 2011, with maximum gusts at LaGuardia (generally a more reliable station for wind due to its open air space) recorded at 21 and 23 mph respectively. Sustained winds during both of those parades only averaged around 10 mph.
Going back to the 2008 parade, a Keith Haring inspired balloon struck the NBC broadcast booth. Winds at LaGuardia gusted to 28 mph, along with sustained winds generally in the 15-20 mph range.
A more significant parade incident happened in 2005, when an M&M chocolate candies balloon got caught on a Times Square streetlight, causing two females to be injured by falling debris. Sustained winds of 15-20 mph were recorded at LGA, with maximum gusts of 29 mph during the parade. This is the weather map from that morning courtesy of Penn State’s Reanalysis:
Credit: Woman’s Day
In 1997, a Cat in the Hat balloon hit a lamppost, with falling debris striking an observer and leaving her in a coma for a month. Sustained winds of 32-37 mph were observed at LGA, with maximum gusts to 47 mph:
This year’s Thanksgiving parade is expected to feature sustained winds of 15-20 mph with gusts in the 30-35 mph range.
This looks to be slightly worse than 2005 but not nearly as bad as 1997. The city’s new threshold for balloons to be grounded is sustained winds higher than 23 mph and gusts exceeding 34 mph. Winds are expected to be close to this threshold.
In addition, while administrators will need to monitor the winds, parade-goers will have something else to think about: the cold. Temperatures will be in the upper 20s to low 30s all day.
In fact, the last time we had the parade with temperatures even below 40 was back in 2002. Not only that, but with winds this strong it will feel like the teens. This is more like what you would expect for the New Year's ball drop rather than the Thanksgiving parade.