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Could Gusty Thanksgiving Winds Ground Macy's Parade Balloons?

Laura Cavanaugh/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Before the marching has even begun, Macy's 2013 Thanksgiving parade has already been marred with animal-related protests over a couple of its floats. Now it seems strong winds might further dampen the parade and force organizers to ground some of the biggest names in its famed fleet of helium giants.

While millions of travelers nationwide face delays as severe weather warnings are issued for Tuesday and Wednesday, Thanksgiving Day is predicted to be dry in New York, albeit cold, with gusty winds of between 15 to 25 mph in the morning, which could blow up to 40 mph before decreasing in late afternoon.

This could dash the hopes of millions of parade-goers hoping to catch a glimpse of Spongebob, Spiderman or Pikachu, who are among 16 of the parade's biggest balloons. The inflatable giants will only be allowed to fly if average winds don't peak past 23 mph; a guideline set by the mayoral commission in 1998 after a weather-related accident the prior year.

Macy's organizers told ABC News that while they are prepared for various scenarios in the event of severe weather, "The parade marches on rain or shine!"

The company's cast of signature balloons has long been a center of attraction at the televised event that attracts around 3 million paradegoers and has been running since 1924.

Parade organizers have remained alert for windy weather since the notorious Cat in the Hat incident in 1997, when the Dr Seuss. character's helium doppelganger swept out of control. The six-story balloon slammed into a light pole, which showered debris onto four parade-goers, sending one woman into a month-long coma.

The settlement Kathleen Caronna reached with the city and lamp post manufacturer following that incident has parade organizers understandably cautious.

Another windy day snafu in 2005, this time involving two out-of-control M&Ms that hit a streetlight and slightly injured two sisters, prompted Macy's to promise enhanced training for balloon handlers in inclement weather.

Just to be safe, workers in Times Square adjusted light poles to help prevent accidents the next year, and balloon handlers kept the inflatables lower than usual.

This year, each balloon will be controlled by between 90-106 handlers -- a notable increase from the 50 handlers responsible for the runaway M&Ms in 2005.

The 87th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade kicks off at 9 a.m. Thursday, marching 2.5 miles down Manhattan, from West 77th street, through Columbus Circle and down Broadway to Macy's flagship department store at Herald Square.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio