Obama and weather don’t always get along

McClatchy NewspapersJanuary 20, 2013 


Thousands fill the National Mall and brave the cold weather to attend the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th U.S. President in Washington, D.C.

BRIAN BAER — Sacramento Bee/MCT

— From a frigid 2009 Inauguration Day to a soggy 2012 Democratic convention, Mother Nature hasn’t always been kind to President Barack Obama. And meteorologists say that Monday’s inauguration is likely to be another chilly affair.

What to wear for Obama’s outdoor ceremony Monday has almost become as big a fashion question in Washington as what First Lady Michelle Obama will wear Monday night to the inaugural ball.

“There’s no shortage of curiosity” about Monday’s weather said veteran meteorologist Doug Hill of Washington’s WJLA television. “We’ve been telling people to get ready for cold weather.”

According to AccuWeather meteorologists, it will be partly sunny and seasonably cold in Washington on Monday with the noontime temperature of 38 degrees.

Monday’s forecast is a slight improvement over Obama’s first inauguration, conducted under bright blue skies and bone-rattling temperatures. The noontime temperature was 28 degrees, with a wind chill in the mid teens for the 1.8 million people who stood shivering on the National Mall for hours to witness history.

The 2009 inauguration tied Jimmy Carter’s 1977 ceremony for the third coldest on record since the date as moved from March to January starting in 1937. Only Reagan’s 1985 inauguration date– 7 degrees with a minus 20 wind chill -- and John F. Kennedy’s 1961 date – 22 degrees – were colder.

Some folks aren’t putting their faith in meteorologists and their fancy, high-tech forecasting gear. Instead, some have turned to an old-school source for weather guidance.

“I have a rider who’s looking at an almanac,” said Delores Reid-Smith, 55, a Charlotte resident who helped organize buses to Obama’s 2009 inauguration and is doing it again this year.

Reid-Smith remembers the warm, fuzzy feeling she had watching Obama become the nation’s first African-American president. But she’ll also never forget standing outside the Capitol Building for hours and enduring numbing temperatures to witness the historic event.

“I was never so cold in my life,” Reid-Smith said. “I started crying for joy when Obama was sworn in. I remember a friend said ‘Stop crying, those tears are going to freeze.”

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., said the 2009 inaugural weather conditions are making some lawmakers think twice about whether they want to attend this year’s ceremony.

“The members are not as fired up about sitting in 9 degree weather,” he said.

Reid-Smith said she’s coming prepared, just as she was for the 2009 inaugural, with a wool coat, thermal underwear, a hat, and hand and foot warmers to insert in her gloves and shoes. She contemplated bringing her grandchildren this inauguration but thought better of it.

“They’re not cold weather children, and I don’t want to hear any complaints,” she said.

The frosty 2009 inaugural is one in a string of Obama weather-impacted events.

The president was supposed make a dramatic splash at the Democratic National Convention by delivering his acceptance before more than 73,000 people at Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium, home of the National Football League’s Carolina Panthers.

But the event shifted indoors to the 20,000-seat Time Warner Cable Arena because of the threat of rain and lightning. Some Republicans suggested that the Obama campaign used the weather as an excuse to move the outdoor event because they were having trouble filling seats in the football stadium.

“It’s rain, what can we do?” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters after the move was announced. “There are some decisions that are made from a different place and whether it rains or not is not in the president’s control.”

In August 2011, Obama was supposed to deliver remarks at the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall but the ceremony was postponed as Hurricane Irene threatened the city. A rare 5.8 earthquake also struck the region.

“An earthquake and a hurricane may have delayed this day, but this is a day that would not be denied,” Obama said in a speech dedicating the King memorial a month later.

But every now and then the weather seems to work for Obama.

Some political pundits believe that Super Storm Sandy, which ravaged parts of the East Coast, helped swing the election towards Obama because it allowed him to appear presidential while it handcuffed Romney in the campaign’s final stretch.

With Hurricane Gustav threatening the Gulf Cost in 2008, Republicans shortened their convention in Minnesota in 2008 and changed the tenor of what was supposed to be a festive launching of Sen. John McCain of Arizona as the party’s standard bearer.

Email: wdouglas@mcclatchydc.com; twitter @williamdouglas

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