Thanksgiving storm: Travel is OK, but Macy's parade may lose balloons

A Nor'easter is affecting Thanksgiving travel, though not as much as earlier reports had indicated. It will leave cold, windy weather behind, which could affect the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Julio Cortez/AP
A couple rest their feet on their luggage while waiting for their flight to return home to Germany at Newark Liberty International Airport Wednesday in Newark, N.J.

As warm rains bluster up the Eastern seaboard, disrupting pre-Thanksgiving travel on the busiest travel day of the year, New York City officials must decide what to do with the country's largest holiday spectacle, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Meanwhile, communities across the Midwest and South prepare for their own outdoor events in plummeting – and in some cases record-breaking – temperatures.

While the storm has been less disruptive to air travel than reports early in the week indicated, the area around New York City is bearing the brunt of weather-related complications. By Wednesday afternoon, flights to five airports – Philadelphia, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood, and New York's Newark Liberty, LaGuardia, and John F. Kennedy – were being delayed at their points of origin.

The bobbing floats and marching bands of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade draw performers from around the country to New York, along with 3.5 million spectators each year. But the whimsical fete's balloons could be grounded if sustained winds exceed 23 miles per hour and gusts exceed 34 miles per hour. After ferocious winds in 1997 caused a mammoth Cat in the Hat balloon to topple a light post and seriously injure a spectator, the city restricted the parade to safe wind conditions, reports Associated Press.

By Wednesday afternoon the National Weather Service was predicting morning winds between 15 and 25 miles per hour in the city, with gusts between 30 and 45 miles per hour. City officials will decide Thursday morning whether to let the balloons go up.

"On Thanksgiving morning, Macy's works closely with the NYPD, who, based on real time weather data and the official regulations determine if the balloons will fly and at what heights," Macy's spokesman Orlando Veras told Associated Press.

Though flights were on hold to Philadelphia shortly after noon Wednesday, winds there are expected to subside in time for the City of Brotherly Love's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which claims to be the country's oldest. Thursday will mark its 94th year.

While Wednesday has been warm and wet on the East Coast, snowstorms have been snaking through Appalachia, upstate New York, Pennsylvania, and the Great Lakes. There may be knocking knees at this year's Chicago Thanksgiving Day Parade, which will occur on the coldest Thanksgiving since 1989 if temperatures don't rise above the predicted high of 31 degrees F. America's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which marches through Detroit, will also be visited by unseasonably low temperatures, and possibly snowflakes.

The deep South will experience its coldest Thanksgiving in years, breaking records in some areas. A freeze is expected to reach the Gulf coast and portions of central Florida, where fruit trees could be at risk of damage Wednesday night. The Poarch Creek Indians of Atmore, Ala., will host their 43rd annual Thanksgiving Powwow in sunshine, but when the day's first dances begin, the area will just be thawing after a frigid overnight low of 24 degrees F.

For up-to-date information on airport conditions and delays, visit the Federal Aviation Administration's web page on flight delays. Websites like Flightstats.com allow users affected to check on specific flights, and USA Today has compiled a list of national airlines' fee-waiver policies. Airlines are allowing travelers booked on Wednesday flights to various East Coast destinations to delay their flights a day or more at no cost.

Having galloped across the country, leaving high winds, power outages, and coastal flooding in its wake, the storm should go whinnying out of Maine by Wednesday night, Accuweather reports. It is expected to leave clear, cold Thanksgiving air behind as it sweeps through Canada's Maritime provinces. Canadians can batten their hatches, having celebrated Thanksgiving in October.

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