HomeTop StoriesBiden surveys Hurricane Idalia damage in Florida

Biden surveys Hurricane Idalia damage in Florida

President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden traveled to Florida on Saturday to survey the damage done Hurricane Idalia and the state, local, and federal response to it.

The president and first lady took an aerial tour of storm-hit areas before traveling to Live Oak, Florida, where they were briefed on response and recovery efforts and met with first responders, federal personnel and local officials. The President also toured the ground at Live Oak.

“There haven’t been winds this strong in this area in a hundred years. I pray to God it will be another hundred years before this happens again,” Mr Biden told reporters in Live Oak.

Before leaving on his trip, the president had said he would meet Florida Governor Ron DeSantis during the visit, but DeSantis spokesman Jeremy Redfern said the governor’s office had no plans for a meeting between the two, and that DeSantis was absent from Biden’s visit. Instead, Biden was greeted by Florida Republican Senator Rick Scott.

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Mr Biden dismissed the controversy on Saturday, replying “No, I’m not disappointed” when asked if he had not met DeSantis. Perhaps he had other reasons. Because… but he helped us plan this. He was with FEMA and decided where to go, where the least disruption would be.”

Mr Biden also said he has been in “regular contact with Governor DeSantis since the storm made landfall”. DeSantis was caught on video earlier this week receiving a call from Mr Biden, a conversation that seemed cordial.

President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden speak to residents affected by Hurricane Idalia, in front of fallen trees in Live Oak, Florida, on Sept. 2, 2023.


DeSantis had expressed concern on Friday that the president’s “security apparatus” is interfering with recovery efforts and the restoration of power in the hardest-hit areas, which are difficult to access.

DeSantis instead spent time on Saturday handing out food in the hard-hit coastal town of Horseshoe Beach, about 75 miles southwest of Live Oak.

In a statement Friday night, White House spokesman Emilie Simons said Biden’s trip was “planned in close coordination with FEMA and with state and local leaders to ensure there is no impact on response operations.”

Residents of the Big Bend region of Florida grappling with the aftermath of a Category 3 hurricane that flooded and shattered homes and businesses. Mr Biden approved DeSantis’ request for a statement on a major disaster and says the Sunshine State will receive whatever it needs.

“And as I said, and to the people of Florida and all of the Southeast, I’m here to make it clear that our nation stands with you,” the president said during a visit to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Washington. DC added on Thursday, “We’re not going to run away. We’re not going to give up. We’re not going to slow down.”

Florida begins to recover as Idalia drenches the southern US with rain
Members of the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Florida Task Force 1 assist residents with debris removal after Hurricane Idalia in Horseshoe Beach, Florida, on Aug. 31, 2023.

Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Power outages continue to plague the state, especially in Taylor, Madison, Lafayette, Hamilton, Swanny, Jefferson and Dixie counties, DeSantis said Friday, though power has been restored to hundreds of thousands of homes and other buildings.

Hurricane Idalia hits Florida's Gulf Coast
A storm-damaged gas station in Perry, Florida is reflected in a puddle after Hurricane Idalia crossed the state on Aug. 30, 2023.

Getty Images

The storm has sparked a moment of bickering between a Democratic president running for re-election and a Republican governor running for the Republican nomination. Mr Biden told reporters that he has felt no politics or political motivation in his talks with DeSantis.

After the trip, Mr. Biden and the first lady flew to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. This was Biden’s second trip in two weeks to a state devastated by a natural disaster visited Maui last month. The island continues to be ravaged by wildfires and is rebuilding its infrastructure.

The president has stressed the need for it rebuild a more resilient US infrastructure in light of the disasters in Hawaii and Florida, saying that no one can “deny the impact of the climate crisis anymore.” This is a bone of contention between the president and DeSantis. DeSantis supports improving infrastructure against major storms, but doesn’t say climate change has affected its impact.

Cristian Benavides contributed to this report.

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