While angry and concerned Southern California anti-Trump marchers demonstrate on the day the 45th president takes office, Barack Obama and his family will fly to Palm Springs for a vacation in his first hours Friday as a private citizen.
Obama wanted the sunshine of the desert, but Palm Springs may disappoint with relatively cold temperatures and rain in the forecast. The new ex-president may find it difficult to play a round of golf during his stay.
Palm Springs airport officials assured the public that security for Obama’s arrival will not disrupt regular air travel.
The White House said the Obamas would attend Friday’s inauguration of Donald Trump, then fly to Palm Springs from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. The Obamas are expected to fly on the same plane that he used as president, although it won’t be called Air Force One until Donald Trump rides it.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Obama “vowed to take his family to a destination that is warmer than Washington, D.C., on Friday.” Technically, that will happen — a high of 59 degrees is expected in Palm Springs Friday, while Washington, D.C., will see a high of 49 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
The first of a trio of thunderstorms arrived Wednesday night, with a second storm expected Friday morning, according to the National Weather Service. The heaviest rains were expected to fall this afternoon, with scattered showers forecast through Saturday. A third storm will move in Sunday, with its heaviest rains coming Sunday evening.
How much golf the outgoing president will get in amid all that rain over the coming days is uncertain. On earlier visits to the Coachella Valley, Obama played golf with boyhood friends at courses in Palm Springs, La Quinta and Rancho Mirage, but the rain expected to blanket the Coachella Valley may take one of his favorite activities off the agenda.
The Obamas will stay in Rancho Mirage at the home of outgoing U.S. ambassador to Spain James Costos and his husband, interior designer Michael Smith, who’s been the White House decorator since 2008, the celebrity news website TMZ.com reported. The house is inside the Thunderbird Heights gated community. Obama has stayed at the home four times during his presidency.
Anyone coming in or out of the property will face restrictions, according to TMZ, with security planning to keep the number of visitors to a minimum and to check I.D.s.
The visit is likely to give new life to rumors circulating for years that the Obamas plan to buy a home at Thunderbird Heights.
“The President and the First Lady and their family are looking forward to getting out to Palm Springs and beginning to relax a little bit, but I don’t have any updates on their plans beyond that,” said Earnest.
Officials at the Sunnylands, the “Camp David of the West,” said they have not received any word from the White House regarding a potential visit to the estate, which has hosted eight presidents in the past, including Obama. He was last at Sunnylands last February for the ASEAN summit, when he met with leaders from Southeast Asia.
Anne Rowe, Sunnylands director of collections and exhibitions said that “as a resident of the Coachella Valley, it’s an honor that, with all the choices in the world, literally, the first place he decides to visit is right here in the Coachella Valley.”
Palm Springs Airport officials said travelers flying in and out of Palm Springs International Airport Friday shouldn’t expect to be held up when Obama arrives.
The airport’s executive director, Tom Nolan, said he could not speak to changes the airport might make to security or operations regarding Obama’s arrival, but he said travelers should not worry about any delays to flights or restricted access to parking lots or terminals.
Nolan said security at the airport would be just as tight whether the traveler was “an acting president or a non-acting president.”
Nolan said the city and the airport are “flattered” by the attention, especially being the first place Obama will visit in the post-presidential chapter of his life.
— Staff and wire reports
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