U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden are set to travel to Florida on Wednesday to survey damage from Hurricane Ian and meet with state and local leaders to discuss recovery efforts.
The White House said they will also speak with residents and small business owners during the visit to Fort Meyers, one of the areas hardest-hit when the powerful storm made landfall last week.
Among the officials that Biden, a Democrat, will meet with is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican. The two men are political rivals but have discussed hurricane relief in the days since the storm struck the country’s third-most populous state.
DeSantis on Tuesday praised the federal government’s response, particularly the Federal Emergency Management Agency and an early disaster declaration that allowed for storm relief and recovery personnel to proceed “full steam ahead.”
“I think FEMA has worked very well with the state and local, and we want to continue to do it,” DeSantis told reporters.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that this is not the time for leaders to discuss their differences.
“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,” Jean-Pierre said.
Ian made landfall in Florida on September 28 as a dangerous Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 240 kilometers an hour and left more than 2 million customers across the state without power. Officials with utility companies say it will likely be Friday or Saturday before electricity is restored to at least 95% of their customers.
More than 1,500 people have been rescued as search and rescue crews engage in a painstaking door-to-door search for victims among destroyed homes and buildings.
The U.S. death toll from Ian has risen to more than 100 people from Florida to the state of North Carolina, with the majority of the fatalities in Florida. More than 50 deaths were reported in Florida’s Lee County, which bore the brunt of the storm when it came ashore. Reuters says another 21 deaths have been reported by state officials from nine other counties.
Four U.S. deaths were reported in North Carolina.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.