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Will SpongeBob soar? NYC parade waits on winds

The Macy’s Parade Snoopy balloon is partially inflated on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013 in New York. The characters that glide between Manhattan’s skyscrapers can’t lift off if sustained winds exceed 23 mph and gusts top 34 mph. The New York Police Department, the National Weather Service and Macy’s representatives will make a final determination in the morning. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

The Macy’s Parade Snoopy balloon is partially inflated on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013 in New York. The characters that glide between Manhattan’s skyscrapers can’t lift off if sustained winds exceed 23 mph and gusts top 34 mph. The New York Police Department, the National Weather Service and Macy’s representatives will make a final determination in the morning. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

Technicians wear rain suits while inflating the Macy’s Parade Aflac balloon, on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013 in New York. The characters that glide between Manhattan’s skyscrapers can’t lift off if sustained winds exceed 23 mph and gusts top 34 mph. The New York Police Department, the National Weather Service and Macy’s representatives will make a final determination in the morning. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

Scores braved the rains to see the inflation of the balloons for the Macy’s Parade on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013 in New York. The characters that glide between Manhattan’s skyscrapers can’t lift off if sustained winds exceed 23 mph and gusts top 34 mph. The New York Police Department, the National Weather Service and Macy’s representatives will make a final determination in the morning. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

A man stands by a rain covered window at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013. Bands of ice, sleet and rain were upending some Thanksgiving holiday plans as millions of Americans took to the roads, skies and rails Wednesday, likely the busiest travel day of the year. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Passengers board a BoltBus during a light rain, Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013 in New York. A wall of storms packing ice, sleet and rain could upend holiday travel plans as millions of Americans take to the roads, skies and rails Wednesday for Thanksgiving. So far, the deadly storms barreling into the mid-Atlantic and Northeast have not resulted in many flight delays or cancellations, but forecasters were expecting the weather to worsen throughout the day. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

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NEW YORK (AP) — The fate of Spider-Man, SpongeBob SquarePants and Snoopy rests in the hands of the New York Police Department.

The 16 giant balloons that fly between Manhattan skyscrapers during the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade may be grounded if windy conditions from a storm that snarled holiday travel along the East Coast pick up Thursday morning — and the final determination will be made by the NYPD.

The iconic characters cannot lift off if sustained winds top 23 mph and gusts exceed 34 mph, according to city rules enacted after fierce winds in 1997 caused a Cat in the Hat balloon to topple a light pole and seriously injure a spectator. Balloons have only been grounded once in the parade’s 87-year history, when bad weather kept them from flying in 1971.

On Wednesday, NYPD Chief of Patrol James Hall said the latest weather reports looked good for takeoff, stressing that balloon handlers were trained in maneuvering, lowering and deflating wayward inflatables if need be.

“If there’s something I see that I don’t like, I can say lower the balloon and I can say remove the balloon but, you know, I think really at the latest reports that we’ve gotten from the National Weather Service, I think we’re gonna be in good shape tomorrow,” he said.

Amy Kule, the parade’s executive producer, said the 3.5 million spectators who gather to watch the annual affair would see a parade that includes floats, 900 clowns and 40 smaller balloons, no matter what happens with the weather.

A wet and blustery storm along the East Coast made driving hazardous and tangled up hundreds of flights Wednesday but didn’t cause the all-out gridlock many Thanksgiving travelers had feared. The storm for the most part unleashed wind-driven rain along the Northeast’s heavily populated Interstate 95 corridor from Richmond, Va., to the tip of Maine.

Elsewhere in the country, Thanksgiving traditions were unaffected by the weather.

In Washington on Wednesday, President Barack Obama pardoned two 38-pound turkeys named Popcorn and Caramel, fulfilling the annual presidential tradition.

And two American astronauts on board the International Space Station, Mike Hopkins and Rick Mastracchio, released a video from 260 miles above Earth showing off their traditional Thanksgiving meal: irradiated smoked turkey, thermostabilized yams, cornbread dressing, potatoes, freeze-dried asparagus, baked beans, bread, cobbler and dehydrated green bean casserole.

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Associated Press writers Seth Borenstein and Jim Kuhnhenn contributed to this report from Washington.

Associated Press