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President Obama departs Charlotte on Air Force One

CHARLOTTE, N.C. Staff reports

Updated 10:15 a.m.

Air Force One has departed from the N.C. Air National Guard Base near the Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

President Obama and the First Lady boarded Air Force One after greeting and hugging Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx and his family.

As the Obama’s motorcade pulled up to Air Force One on the tarmac, Foxx, his wife Samara and their two children, Hillary and Zachary, were waiting. The President and First Lady spent several minutes exchanging hugs, last-minute remarks and goodbyes and posed for pictures. Obama also met with Brigadier General Tony McMillan, commander of the air guard’s 145th Airlift Wing, before jogging up the stairs to the plane.

Once at the top of the staircase, the couple turned and waved.

The President is flying to New Hampshire for a campaign rally.

Air Force Two, reportedly with Vice President Joe Biden aboard, departed a few minutes earlier.

The President’s motorcade had departed the Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge around 9:45 a.m. as a crowd of nearly 100 people gathered with cameras to capture the moment.

People waved their arms and American flags as the motorcade, lead by a dozen police motorcycles, passed by the intersection of Ballantyne Commons Parkway and Johnston Road..

“I’ve been waiting all my life for something like this,” said Jeremy Loosemore, 35, who arrived in Charlotte from Asheville this week to enjoy the festivities surrounding the Democratic National Convention, which wrapped up Thursday night.

“I love this,” he said as he waited to catch a glimpse of the motorcade.

Said his mom, Renee Thomas, 51, of Pineville: “We get to show this someday to the grandkids.”

Liz Karpiel, 35, had been jogging Thursday when she caught a glimpse of the First Lady’s motorcade leaving. She was running again Friday morning, pushing her daughter, Amelia, 1, in a stroller when she saw the flashing blue lights on the police cars parked at the intersection of Ballantyne Commons Parkway and Johnston Road, which has been closed to the public. She decided to wait and watch.

“This is history in the making,” Karpiel said. “I am so excited to be able to tell (Amelia) about this down the road. ‘Guess what? You got to see our President and First Lady while mama was running,’” she said.

Karpiel said she’d gotten married at the hotel and for the President to be staying there “was really cool.”

Meanwhile, officials at Charlotte Douglas International Airport said operations were running smoothly early Friday as thousands of people begin to head home from the convention, which officially started Tuesday.

The airport said it still expects a large number of passengers at the airport during the day, and officials have encouraged people to arrive a few hours early for their flights.

But officials said security screenings and checkpoints are open and airlines weren’t reporting any issues or delays as of 8:15 a.m., according to a news release. You can check the status of flights at http://bit.ly/PUYyLh

People catching a flight at the airport have been encouraged to arrive a few hours early for their flights.

But as of 8:20 a.m., the morning crowds at the airport appeared to be moving smoothly through check-in counters and security checkpoints at the facility. To help keep things going, airport personnel were encouraging people to use one of several security screening sites in the lobby.

Drivers heading to the airport will notice a different traffic pattern as personal vehicles are being directed to the lower level for pickups and drop offs.

The DNC wrapped up its three-day convention on Thursday as President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden each delivered their nomination acceptance speeches.

Obama is expected to depart from Charlotte early Friday, which will lead to temporary traffic disruptions as a motorcade carries the president from Ballantyne to the airbase.

Still, for many, the end of the DNC will mean a return to normalcy.

Security restrictions that closed many streets in uptown are expected to be lifted by 9 a.m. Crews could be seen moving around uptown before daybreak, dismantling and trucking away concrete barriers and security fences. Meanwhile, road restrictions in the Ballantyne area should be gone by lunchtime.

Here is a look at what is store for Friday:

The Airport

With the expected congestion at Charlotte Douglas, airport and airline officials have encouraged people to arrive at least three hours early for their flight. Security screening sites opened an hour early at 3:30 a.m. to help handle the crowds.

Anyone planning to pick up or drop someone off at the airport in a personal vehicle is encouraged to use the hourly parking lots – where fees are being waived on Friday – to help with traffic flow. Meanwhile, the curbside valet drop off area is closed, with people encouraged to use Business Valet on Wilkinson Boulevard.

Among those arriving to the airport early on Friday was Ellen Holly, a DNC delegate from Wisconsin. Holly was at the airport around 6 a.m. after getting about 90 minutes of sleep. But when Holly got there, she said she learned that she was moved to a different Delta flight because of a “crew redirection.”

The delay means Holly won’t get home until 3:45 p.m., almost four hours after the middle school counselor was supposed to be back at work. She said it’ll cost her a couple hundred dollars in pay. “I’m pretty unhappy,” she said. “It’s not Charlotte’s fault, it’s Delta.”

Holly’s roommate in Charlotte was still at her hotel, so she planned to catch a shuttle back to the Embassy Suites to get more sleep.

Bus, rail systems returning to normal

The Charlotte Area Transit System reopened its main transportation center on Trade Street this morning after temporarily closing the facility because of its proximity to Time Warner Cable Arena, the host site for DNC activities. That means the temporary bus terminals set up on Third and Mint have closed.

Meanwhile, CATS also is set to fully restore service on the LYNX light rail line, meaning passengers can once again travel to three additional stops in uptown. The system had required people to depart at the Stonewall Station by the Westin Hotel. But starting this morning, they’ll also be allowed to use the Third Street/Convention Center, Charlotte Transportation Center and Seventh Street stations.

Other services being restored, too

The reopening of uptown streets means the public will again be able to access some governmental buildings, including the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police headquarters on Trade Street. Also set to reopen on Friday is the Old City Hall building, which houses the city’s neighborhood and business services and community relations departments.

Public parking decks at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center and Fourth Street also are set to reopen.

Click here for more info on what’s happening with other city and county services.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

Three CMS schools located within the Interstate 277 loop are back to operating on their normal schedule on Friday.

Early dismissals were in place at Irwin Academic Center, First Ward Creative Arts Academy and Metro School for some or all of the days the DNC was in session.

The district also set up shuttle stops at First Ward for families who live in uptown.

Meanwhile, families who live or attend school in Ballantyne could face a little disruption during the morning since road restrictions on and around portions of Ballantyne Commons Parkway aren’t supposed to be lifted until lunchtime. The district had adjusted school bus routes for a few students to get around the street closures.

Compiled by April Bethea, Mark Price and Kerry Singe with additional reporting by Joe Marusak and Karen Sullivan.

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