LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

Despite messy East Coast weather on Wednesday, Snoopy, SpongeBob SquarePants and Toothless the dragon may get their time in the sky on Thursday morning.

Those Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons - and 13 other giant balloons - won't take off Thursday morning if sustained winds exceed 23 mph and gusts exceed 34 mph.

But New York Police Department Chief of Patrol James Hall says Thursday's weather forecast "looks very good."

The NYPD, the National Weather Service and Macy's representatives will make a final determination in the morning.

"We are closely monitoring the weather as we do each year," says Macy's spokeswoman Holly Thomas. They will use real-time weather data before the 9 a.m. parade start "to determine if the balloons will fly and at what heights," she says.

Temperatures during the parade should be in the low 30s, under partly sunny skies, according to AccuWeather. Winds are forecast out of the west- northwest at 12-25 mph, gusting to 40 mph.

Balloons have only been grounded once in the parade's 87-year history, when bad weather kept them from flying in 1971.

Weather has caused parade organizers -- and watchers -- troubles in the past. In 1997, winds drove a Cat in the Hat balloon into a metal pole. The ensuing damage left a woman in a coma for almost a month before she recovered. In 2005, an M&M balloon knocked over a streetlight that injured two sisters.

After the 1997 accident, Macy's worked with New York City and "participated in a full review of the incident," says Macy's spokesman Orlando Veras. The new wind guidelines where put into place after that review.

Following the 2005 incident, Macy's updated "its system of monitoring weather patterns at different heights at key points on the route," says Veras.

In addition to the possible weather issues for tomorrow, controversy is swirling around two floats.

Animal rights activists are upset that a SeaWorld float, which features two 27-foot orcas, is joining the parade. They claim SeaWorld doesn't treat its whales well.

SeaWorld says the accusations have "absolutely no basis" and that "the men and women who care for these animals at SeaWorld are dedicated in every respect to their health and well-being."

And ranchers were rankled that singer Joan Jett was slated to perform on the South Dakota tourism float, saying the vegetarian and animal-rights activist wasn't a good representative for their beef-producing state. She will still be in the parade, just not on that float.

Macy's said the parade does not engage in social commentary or political debate.

Wind and politics aside, the balloons are set to be inflated on Manhattan's Upper West Side on Wednesday.

If they don't take to the sky on Thursday, there will still be plenty of entertainment for the more than 50 million people expected to see at least part of the parade on TV or live.

There will be 30 full-size floats, 11 marching bands, 900 clowns and 1,600 cheerleaders and dancers.

Contributing: Doyle Rice; The Associated Press

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE