President Joe Biden headed to Louisiana on Friday to survey damage from Hurricane Ida, after almost a week of the deadly storm ravaging the eastern half of the United States.
The President met with local leaders and then will survey some of the storm’s damage, after which he will speak to the press. He’s set to take a late afternoon aerial tour of the hardest-hit communities and then will meet leaders in Lafourche Parish, where he will meet with local leaders.
Upon his arrival in New Orleans, Louisiana, Biden was greeted by members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation, including Republican House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, Republican Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards and New Orleans Democratic Mayor LaToya Cantrell. He was later met by Louisiana Democratic Rep. Troy Carter and GOP Rep. Garret Graves.
In LaPlace for a meeting at the St. John the Baptist Parish Emergency Operations Center, Biden said he was there “to listen.”
“I think what we’re all seeing, and I’m getting the same response from my Republican friends here that are in the Congress, is that there’s nothing political about this. It’s just simply about saving lives and getting people back up and running, and we’re in this together. And so we’re not going to leave any community behind, rural, city, coastal, and I promise to have your backs until this gets done,” Biden said.
The President also tried to make the case for his legislative proposals funding more climate resilient infrastructure.
“Things have changed so drastically in terms of the environment. We’ve already crossed certain thresholds. We can’t build back roads, highways, bridges, anything to what it was before. We gotta build back to what it is now, what’s needed now,” Biden said. “And I know the heads of the energy companies understand this really well. We have a significant piece of legislation, both the infrastructure bill and a budget thing, a reconciliation bill, that calls for significant investment in being able to deal with what is about to come.”
Since the Category 4 hurricane plowed through the Gulf Coast over the weekend, there have been at least five confirmed deaths tied to the hurricane in Mississippi and Louisiana. Entire neighborhoods were windswept, flooded and damaged.
More than 800,000 homes and businesses in Louisiana remained without power on Friday, according to PowerOutage.US. And it could take weeks for power to be restored in some places, officials have said.
There are also gas shortages in Louisiana — a critical region for the US’ oil production and distribution — leading residents to wait hours at the pump in high temperatures.
As of Thursday morning, nearly two-thirds of the gas stations in Baton Rouge (65.8%) and New Orleans (65.2%) were without fuel, according to outage figures compiled by GasBuddy. Nearly 36% of the gas stations statewide are reported as without fuel.
Ida’s damage didn’t stop in the Gulf and the Deep South.
In the last few days, the storm pummeled the East Coast, triggering flash floods and tornadoes across the Northeast. There have been at least 45 deaths in Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia caused by floods.
Biden has emphasized his administration’s deployment of federal resources to affected areas and his daily briefings on the storm. Most recently, on Thursday morning, the President highlighted several steps the federal government is taking to prevent the risk of gas shortages and price increases in the wake of the storm. And Thursday afternoon, the Biden administration announced it would be releasing 1.5 million barrels of crude oil from America’s emergency stockpile of oil as Louisiana’s gas crisis worsens.
The Bush administration tapped the Strategic Petroleum Reserve after Hurricane Katrina caused severe damage to the energy industry. The Trump administration did the same after Hurricane Harvey in August 2017.
Managing hurricanes has become a key test for presidents seeking to convey competence. Previous storms, including Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Maria in 2017, have strained federal resources and reflected poorly on the White House.
The Biden White House has acknowledged it faces two, if not more, natural disasters exacerbated by climate change across the country.
While a hurricane and destructive floods faced the eastern half of the United States, the Caldor Fire in the West has torched nearly 200,000 acres in California.
Biden’s trip to Louisiana, his second to the state since coming into office, comes as he appears to face multiple domestic and international crises.
The visit to the Gulf is happening three days after the US’ full withdrawal from Afghanistan, a chaotic airlift operation that left Afghans and American service members dead. And the US also continues to contend with the coronavirus, the emergence of the highly contagious Delta variant, and the pandemic’s impact on the economy.
Biden’s approval rating, meanwhile, is at its lowest point in his presidency.
In the average of polls, he stood at about 47% at the end of August, marking a steady decline from the beginning of August (51%), July (52%) and beginning of June (54%).
This headline and story have been updated to reflect Biden’s visit.
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