May 31, 2010 / 5:45 PM / 9 years ago

Thunder and lightning stop Obama Memorial Day speech

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks in the pouring rain during a Memorial Day event at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Illinois, May 31, 2010. REUTERS/Larry Downing

ELWOOD, Illinois (Reuters) - President Barack Obama’s Memorial Day observance was stopped in its tracks on Monday by a torrential downpour accompanied by bolts of lightning and booming thunder.

Obama thrilled the crowd at Abraham Lincoln National Ceremony by appearing under an umbrella as the rain poured down. But he did not deliver his prepared remarks honouring troops who died fighting for the United States.

Instead he urged the crowd to seek shelter in their cars.

“I am going back to mine,” he said from the podium, the storm so loud his words could barely be heard through the amplifiers.

As it became obvious that the storm was not going to ease, aides announced that Obama would not make his speech. Instead, he climbed onto buses where the crowds had taken shelter and greeted the visitors who had been soaked by the storm.

Obama was able before the storm to quietly lay a wreath at another part of the cemetery, and then stood, his head bowed as a bugler played “Taps.”

Obama last year marked Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery, outside Washington, where most presidents have laid wreaths on the national holiday. But this year he visited the cemetery about 50 miles (80.5 km) southwest of Chicago, where he has been spending the long holiday weekend at his family home with his wife and daughters.

Vice President Joe Biden was to attend the ceremonies at Arlington in Obama’s stead.

Obama spoke at a Memorial Day ceremony in Elwood in 2005, when he was an Illinois senator.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, Editing by Sandra Maler

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