CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Andrea Chambliss spent thousands to come to Charlotte from her home in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., and agreed to put in nine hours volunteering for the Obama campaign in exchange for a ticket to the president's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. It would have been her first time to see him speak.
Then organizers wary of a chance of thunderstorms pulled the plug Wednesday on plans for Obama's address Thursday night at the city's open-air NFL stadium, leaving about 60,000 ticket-holders in the lurch. Instead, about 15,000 will be there when the president accepts his party's nomination at the arena down the street.
"I looked at the forecast before I left and I saw it was calling for rain," Chambliss said. "You think they could have had a plan for all the people that couldn't make it into the convention, like big screens or something."
Republicans suggested Obama was moving his speech because there were no guarantees the 74,000-seat stadium would be full, especially if rain kept people away. Democratic officials denied that and offered Chambliss and the others shut out of the speech their regrets and promises of a mass conference call with the president Thursday afternoon. Obama's campaign also promised to do some kind of large event in the Charlotte area to make up for the move.
Campaign officials suggested supporters hold parties and watch the speech from home, but many people said it was hard to arrange a gathering with such little time to plan.
Chambliss, one of about 6,000 who signed up for the volunteer-for-a-ticket deal, held out hope she might somehow get into Time Warner Cable Arena or that something else would be done for the people left out of the speech to give them the experience of being there.
Instead, she will likely have to watch from a restaurant or her hotel room. Thursday's speech will now be limited to delegates, invited guests and convention officials.
Besides the volunteers, many waited in long lines in the August heat in more than a dozen cities in North Carolina, South Carolina and other areas to get their hands on the free tickets for Thursday's event.
One of them, Tamala Harris, said finding out she wasn't going to get to see the president speak again was a letdown, because she was looking forward to the atmosphere with more than 70,000 Obama supporters all in one place.
"I just wanted him to be able to feel the love," said Harris, who saw Obama speak on the campaign trail in 2008. "But, hey, I understand. You can't control Mother Nature."
Harris will likely just watch the president from her Charlotte home.
Charlotte saw rain every day from Saturday through Tuesday, and strong thunderstorms rolled through on Monday and Tuesday afternoon, dropping nearly an inch of rain each day.
But the forecast for Thursday was improving as the week went on. The National Weather Service said Wednesday afternoon that almost all the storms should be out of the area by the time the president was set to speak after 10 p.m.
Even so, people would have had to arrive at the stadium in the late afternoon and stand through long security lines at a time forecasters said the storms were more likely.
Not every person with a ticket was going to be left out.
Saul Hyman waited in line to get tickets last month in Charlotte. But he said Wednesday he also had an ace in the hole that should get him into the convention hall — his son is a doctor who knows media mogul Arianna Huffington and is flying in from New York to attend the president's speech Thursday night.
Hyman was glad he was able to find a backup plan because he has never seen Obama in person.
"It's my first attendance at a convention," Hyman said. "And at age 85, it might be my last."
Collins can be reached at http://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP