Hurricane Ian on Sept. 28, 2022. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden addressed the nation Friday afternoon, focusing on uniting the country as Florida begins to survey the damage left by a Category 4 hurricane, while states further up the coast prepare for the impact from Hurricane Ian.
“As you all know, the situation in Florida is far more devastating,” Biden said. “We’re just beginning to see the scale of that destruction.”
He did not take questions from the press or say if he would visit Florida, but stressed the importance of the country coming together to help those affected by the hurricane. He mentioned he was in continuous contact with Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, as well as other coastal governors.
“Our hearts go out to all those folks whose lives have been absolutely devastated by this storm, America’s heart is literally breaking,” Biden said. “I just want the people of Florida to know we see what you’re going through, and we’re with you. We’re going to do everything we can for you.”
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a Friday press briefing, after Biden’s remarks, that the White House would make an announcement if Biden decides to travel to Florida or Puerto Rico. The island was hit by Hurricane Fiona last week, leaving people without power after the hurricane damaged the island’s power grid.
Jean-Pierre did not answer a question from a reporter asking if Biden would meet with DeSantis.
“This is not about politics,” she said. “This is about the people of Florida and what they need.”
She said the president is focusing on getting resources to the states affected by Hurricane Ian and helping Puerto Rico recover.
Hurricane Ian demolished Southwest Florida, leaving millions without power, and damaging homes, businesses and bridges. On Thursday, Biden declared Florida a major disaster area, approving federal aid to help with local recovery efforts in areas affected by the hurricane.
On Friday he also declared the Commonwealth of Virginia as a major disaster area.
Biden said that Ian is likely to rank as the worst hurricane to ever hit Florida. Hurricane Andrew in 1992 is considered one of “the strongest and most devastating hurricane on record to hit southern Florida,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Hurricane Andrew was a Category 5 hurricane that hit Miami, leaving 51 dead. More than 50,000 homes were destroyed and the storm caused $27 billion in damage.
Biden said on Friday that it will take months and years for Florida to recover from Hurricane Ian.
After battering Florida for days, Hurricane Ian landed in South Carolina shortly after the president’s remarks. It’s currently a Category 1 storm, a category that has maximum sustained winds of 95 miles per hour.
Biden said he also approved an emergency declaration for South Carolina, after Republican Gov. Henry Dargan McMaster requested the designation.
During his remarks, Biden urged the residents of South Carolina to listen to “all the warnings and directions from local officials and follow their instructions.”
In Florida, there is one confirmed death and 20 under investigation, and nearly 2 million homes and business are still without power, DeSantis and FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said during a news conference Friday. Those deaths are unconfirmed, because it’s not known if they are storm-related or not.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said during a Friday press conference that “Congress pledges to be there for those who were affected now and in the future.”
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