On Wednesday, President Joe Biden traveled to Florida to assess the damage caused by Hurricane Ian, his second storm-related trip this week.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, and state and local officials also provided Biden with an operational briefing on the response and recovery efforts, according to White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
The president traveled to Fort Myers with first lady Jill Biden to “reaffirm his commitment to supporting the people of Florida as they recover and rebuild from the devastating storm,” according to Jean-Pierre.
Biden thanked federal, state, and local officials for their efforts to restore power, clean up debris, and distribute food and water, among other life-saving measures.
Hurricane Ian was responsible for more than 100 deaths. Ian made landfall in southwest Florida as a Category 4 hurricane on September 28, according to The Dallas Express. Accompanying the 150 mph hurricane winds were storm surges as high as 14 feet, according to numerous news sources.
On September 29, the president approved an expedited major disaster declaration for the state, providing for individual assistance and debris removal for nine counties and 100% direct federal assistance for costs associated with search and rescue, sheltering, and feeding survivors, according to the White House.
Biden toured a devastated Puerto Rico ahead of his Florida visit. The territory was rocked by Hurricane Fiona on September 18, leaving a path of destruction. Two weeks afterward, the island still had around 120,000 homes and businesses without power, The Dallas Express reported.
Biden said on Friday that Ian was “an American crisis,” ABC News reported. Thousands of Floridians were placed in emergency shelters after their homes were damaged or destroyed, and thousands more remained without power.
“We’re just beginning to see the scale of that destruction,” the president said. “It is likely to rank among the worst in the nation’s history. You have all seen on television homes and property wiped out. It is going to take months, years, to rebuild.”
Biden said he continued his talks with DeSantis on Friday morning, reiterating the federal government’s commitment to helping his state recover from the storm.
Though Biden has publicly sparred with DeSantis, the two had spoken on the phone since the storm hit, NBC News reported. Wednesday was the first time they would meet in person since tensions flared over immigration and abortion access.
Most recently, DeSantis has provoked the ire of Democrats by sending a plane of migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard to make a statement about the Biden administration’s immigration policies. Biden’s response was to accuse DeSantis of using migrants as “props” for “political stunts,” NBC News reported.
“There will be plenty of time to discuss differences between the president and the governor, but now is not the time,” Jean-Pierre said when asked if the two men would discuss that situation when they meet again.