From USA Today:
By Chuck Raasch, GNS Political Writer
WASHINGTON — Democrats are hoping for an open-air sendoff of Barack Obama on Aug. 28 as big as the Colorado sky. But what if Denver’s heavens open up with a thunderstorm, as they can do on late-summer evenings on the Rockies’ eastern slopes?
“Rain or shine,” Obama will speak outdoors at Invesco Field at Mile High, said Natalie Wyeth, press secretary for the Democratic National Convention. But rain isn’t always the worst Mother Nature can do. “I moved to Colorado in 1994, and my first day of school in Denver it snowed a foot. In September,” said Dan Smith, a University of Florida political scientist and former Colorado resident.
Obama will deliver the first outdoor speech to accept the presidential nomination since John F. Kennedy spoke in the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1960. Tens of thousands of delegates and supporters are expected to gather in the home of the Denver Broncos football team.
A comfortable evening could be the perfect backdrop for a scene of cheering crowds that Obama’s planners are hoping for. But a storm like the one on Aug. 8 would unleash a torrent of rain-on-parade metaphors, if nothing else. That drought-buster dumped more than two inches of rain in less than an hour near the stadium at roughly the time of the evening Obama is scheduled to speak. “That would not have been a good day” for an outdoor speech, said Colorado state climatologist Nolan Doesken.
Democrats checked the last 20 years of weather, Wyeth said, determining that the average high is about 84 and that only about a tenth of an inch of rain falls on or near the date in a normal year. The convention-week forecast is for mostly warm and dry weather. “The odds are in favor of good weather,” said Doesken, who has studied Colorado weather for more than 30 years. “That time of year, the typical day will see temperatures climb into the 80s and a typical night will drop off into the 50s.” But, he warned, “We also know weird things can happen.”
Retired National Weather Service employee Paul Gard has compiled an extensive history of weather events in Denver. Aug. 28 has produced everything from hailstorms to grasshopper swarms. Digging through old Weather Service data, as well as a handwritten journal kept by the U.S. Army Signal Corps beginning in 1872, Gard found that on Aug. 28:
• In 2004, the temperature dropped to 42.
• In 2002, a severe thunderstorm produced marble-sized hail in a Denver suburb.
• In 1970, a 53-mile-per-hour wind was recorded at Stapleton International Airport.
• In 1968, a man was struck by lighting while riding a roller coaster and lightning struck a jet at the airport.
• And in 1875, swarms of grasshoppers that first appeared on the 19th were finishing off the town’s gardens and nearly blotting out the sun.
Conservative James Dobson’s Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family posted what it called a humorous Internet video calling for people to pray for rain during Obama’s speech. The group pulled the video last week after receiving complaints. Former Colorado Republican Sen. Hank Brown, who just retired as president of the University of Colorado, predicted Obama’s stadium speech “is a no-lose for him.” “He will have a huge, enthusiastic crowd and it will project very well on TV,” Brown said. If it storms? “My guess is, he will still have a big crowd.”
Note: Former Vice President Al Gore also is scheduled to speak at Invesco Field at Mile High on the night Sen. Barack Obama accepts his party’s nomination, according to published reports. If there is a time for weird weather to happen, that would be the moment. – Anthony