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A major storm hits the White House at the moment Olmert and his staff were leaving the West Wing - Bill Koenig

Note from Bill:


Toward the middle of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's 75-minute meeting with President Bush, a violent storm with wind gusts of 55 to 70 mph hit the Washington, D.C., area.

As the very moment Olmert was leaving the West Wing of the White House, the White House press and photographers were forced to run quickly to the pressroom for cover because of high winds, lightning and pouring rain.

Olmert was under the covering of the porte-cochere at the West Wing entrance and got into his limousine quickly due to the horizontal rains and very strong winds.

Olmert's staff members ran for their vehicles as the downpour began — which completely drenched them. (It rained one to three inches in just an hour at the White House and throughout parts of the Washington region.)

Up to 500,000 residences and businesses were without power. Power was off at our home for nine and a half hours and came back on at 12:38 a.m. It was projected that some areas of Washington could remain without power for 24 to 48 hours.

A friend who has covered the White House for years said he had never seen a storm hit so quickly with such force, at the exact time a head of state and his staff were leaving.

Below is what was said in the Bush-Olmert photo-op before their meeting.

President Bush Meets with Prime Minister Olmert of Israel in Oval Office

PRESIDENT BUSH: Mr. Prime Minister, welcome back. First of all, I want to thank you and your good bride for being such gracious hosts to Laura and me. I loved my trip to Israel. It was really a meaningful -- a meaningful trip, and a lot of it had to do with your gracious hospitality. So I welcome you back here to Washington. You come back as my friend. I'm glad to see my friend.

I'm looking forward to our discussions on the issues that we have spent a lot of time discussing up to now. We'll be, of course, talking about the Palestinian issue, the peace process. We'll be talking about Lebanon. I'm looking forward to your wisdom about how you see the Syrian issue. And finally, we're going to spend a lot of time talking about Iran. Iran is an existential threat to peace, and very important for the world to take the Iranian threat seriously, which the United States does, as the Prime Minister will tell you. And we will continue our discussions about that subject, as well.

So glad you're here. Good to see you.

PRIME MINISTER OLMERT: Thank you very much, President.


PRIME MINISTER OLMERT: Thank you. Well, I'm delighted to be again at the Oval Office as a guest of my friend, President Bush. We enjoyed tremendously your visit in Israel. From a national point of view, people of Israel were absolutely excited and moved by your spectacular speech in the Knesset, which was the best expression of the United States' commitment to the security and the well-being of the state of Israel, which was appreciated by everyone in the state of Israel.

And we had many discussions that you have mentioned on the main issues: the peace process with the Palestinians, the situation in Lebanon, the contacts that hopefully may lead to pull out Syria from the axis of evil, which is very important, and also, naturally about the main threat to all of us, which is Iran. And as you said, President, indeed we talked all about this.

From a personal point of view, I can only say that I admire your friendship and your commitment, and your emotions as they were expressed in such a powerful manner in your visit to the state of Israel. You are loved, you and Laura, very much. And part of my mission is to make you feel this way. Thank you very much.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you very much. Thank you all.