President Joe Biden said Thursday he would travel to Florida this weekend to survey the damage from Hurricane Idalia, days after it caused major flooding and power outages before it weakened into a tropical storm.
Biden announced the trip during a visit to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's headquarters, where he met with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Anne Bink, the associate administrator of FEMA's Office of Response and Recovery.
“I am going to Florida Saturday morning," he told reporters.
Earlier Thursday, Biden approved a major disaster declaration for Florida and ordered federal aid to supplement recovery efforts.
Idalia made landfall Wednesday morning in Florida’s Big Bend near Keaton Beach as a Category 3 hurricane. Heavy rain and fierce wind gusts topping 125 mph toppled trees and quickly flooded streets, submerging buildings and leaving hundreds of thousands without power Wednesday night. Roughly 180,000 customers were without power in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina as of Thursday afternoon, according to poweroutage.us.
On Wednesday, Biden directed FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell to fly to Florida and meet with Gov. Ron DeSantis to help with response efforts. Criswell said at a news conference that they would “do assessments and see firsthand” the storm’s impact.
Biden said he spoke with DeSantis on Thursday. He also talked with governors in nearby Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.
At a storm briefing Thursday morning, DeSantis, who is running for the GOP presidential nomination, said 40 rescues were reported Wednesday night.
Before the Maui visit, Republicans had criticized Biden for having gone days without talking about the devastating wildfires. He defended the timing of his trip to Hawaii, saying he hadn’t wanted “to get in the way” of the initial response efforts.
Biden visited FEMA’s headquarters Thursday to thank workers staffing its National Response Coordination Center, which monitors developing incidents and activates emergency response teams.
He arranged for pizza to be delivered to staff members who have been coordinating efforts to the hurricane and wildfires “around the clock,” the White House said.