Hurricane Ian: Biden visits storm-ravaged southwest Florida

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden visited southwest Florida on Wednesday, one week after Hurricane Ian made landfall near Cayo Costa as a deadly Category 4 storm.

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Update 3:25 p.m. EDT Oct. 5: President Joe Biden on Wednesday vowed that the federal government would continue to support Florida throughout it’s recovery.

“You walk around here, what’s left of Fisherman’s Wharf, and you don’t have to have much of an imagination to understand that everything — everything — this historic, titanic and unimaginable storm just ripped it to pieces,” Biden said after touring areas damaged by the storm.

“It’s going to take a lot of time — not weeks or months, it’s going to take years for everything to get squared away in the state of Florida, to fully recover and rebuild.”

Update 3:20 p.m. EDT Oct. 5: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis thanked federal officials for their responsiveness as the state recovers from Hurricane Ian and called ongoing operations “a team effort.”

“I think we’ve worked as well across state, local, and federal of any disaster that I’ve seen,” the governor said. “One of the things that you’re seeing in this response — we are cutting through the bureaucracy. We are cutting through the red tape. And that’s from local government, state government, all the way up to the president.”

He spoke after meeting with President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden to visit people affected by last week’s storm.

Update 3:15 p.m. EDT Oct. 5: Video showed President Joe Biden meeting Wednesday with Floridians affected by the devastation caused by Hurricane Ian.

Update 2:25 p.m. EDT Oct. 5: The Bidens are meeting with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and first lady Casey DeSantis after they viewed areas damaged last week by Hurricane Ian.

Update 12:55 p.m. EDT Oct. 5: The Bidens arrived in Florida on Wednesday afternoon to begin a survey of areas ravaged by Hurricane Ian.

The president and first lady will see the damage from a helicopter before getting an operational briefing from officials coordinating the response and recovery efforts. Later, the couple will meet small business owners and residents impacted by the storm.

The president is scheduled to deliver remarks at 3:15 p.m.

Original report: According to the president’s public schedule, the pair will visit Fort Myers, where they will tour the damage by helicopter; receive an operational briefing from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other area officials; and meet with small-business owners and residents. Biden also will deliver remarks and “thank the federal, state and local officials working around the clock to provide lifesaving assistance, restore power, distribute food and water, remove debris and begin rebuilding efforts,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Tuesday.

Although Biden, a Democrat, and DeSantis, a Republican, have recently sparred over issues such as immigration policy, Jean-Pierre said Biden intends for Wednesday’s visit to be a show of unity, according to The Associated Press.

“There will be plenty of times – plenty of time – to discuss differences between the president and the governor, but now is not the time,” Jean-Pierre said. “As you’ve heard from the president, he has said when it comes to delivering and making sure that the people of Florida have what they need – especially after Hurricane Ian – we are one. We are working as one.”

DeSantis, meanwhile, praised the Federal Emergency Management Agency for its swift emergency declaration, the AP reported.

“That was huge because everyone was full steam ahead,” DeSantis told reporters Tuesday. “They knew they had the ability to do it. We appreciate it. I think FEMA’s worked very well with the state and local (officials).”

At least 75 deaths in Florida have been attributed to Hurricane Ian, which brought devastating winds and storm surge to the state’s southwest coast and flooded inland communities, according to the AP. PowerOutage.us reported early Wednesday that more than 323,000 Florida customers remain without power after the storm, which initially knocked out service to 2.6 million.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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