WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — President Joe Biden on Thursday said his administration was “ready to provide all the assistance that’s needed” in response to a massive wildfire in California and to Hurricane Ida, which knocked out power and wreaked havoc along the Gulf Coast before causing deadly flooding and tornadoes in the Northeast.
Storm damage from Hurricane Ida shocked officials Thursday just days after the powerful hurricane pounded Louisiana and worked its way up the coast, devastating entire communities with severe winds and floods.
Ida, as of Wednesday, was the fifth most powerful storm to strike the U.S. when it hit Louisiana with maximum winds of 150 mph, likely causing tens of billions of dollars in flood, wind and other damage, including to the electrical grid.
Biden said the flooding in Louisiana was less than the region experienced during Hurricane Katrina, crediting federal investments in the area’s levee system. “It held, it was strong, it worked,” he said at the White House.
“We know that there is much to be done in this response on our part,” Biden added. “We need to get power restored. We need to get more food, fuel and water deployed.”
He said he was receiving hourly updates on the disaster response and outlined efforts by the federal government to ease recovery efforts, including by making satellite imagery available to utility companies and waiving some regulatory requirements.
Biden added he directed the Department of Energy to use the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to ensure the steady supply of fuel to the region.
The president is also set to visit Louisiana Friday to survey the aftermath and meet with local and state leaders.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden “absolutely would not” visit Louisiana if his presence would take away from relief efforts.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards suggested the visit would be crucial for the president to understand the destruction by seeing the widespread damage for himself.
“There’s nothing quite like visiting in person,” Edwards told reporters Wednesday following a briefing with local elected officials in Jefferson Parish, which took direct blows from Ida. “When you see it for yourself, it is just so much more compelling.”
Biden also addressed the ongoing Caldor fire in California, stating that the Pentagon was assisting with ongoing firefighting operations.
He said the crises, were “yet another reminder that these extreme storms and the climate crisis are here.”
“It’s a matter of life and death, and we’re all in it together,” he added.
The storm’s aftermath and progress in recovering from it are being felt unevenly across Louisiana. In New Orleans, power was restored Wednesday to a small number of homes and businesses, city crews had some streets almost completely cleared of fallen trees and debris and a few corner stores reopened.
Outside New Orleans, neighborhoods remained flooded and residents were still reeling from damage to their homes and property. More than 1,200 people were walking through some of Ida’s hardest-hit communities to look for those needing help, according to the Louisiana Fire Marshal’s office.
The death toll rose to at least 14, with eight more deaths reported in New York City on Thursday morning as Ida’s remnants unleashed floods across the northeastern U.S. Earlier deaths included a 65-year-old woman who drowned in her Louisiana home and a 19-year-old found dead in a Maryland apartment complex just north of the nation’s capital.
The staggering scope of the disaster began to come into focus, with a private firm estimating that total damage from Ida could exceed $50 billion, making it among the costliest U.S. hurricanes.
Biden’s trip Friday to the Gulf region will cap a difficult stretch for the president, who oversaw the chaotic exit of the U.S. military from Afghanistan after a 20-year engagement. That included the deaths of 13 U.S. service members helping evacuate more than 120,000 Americans, Afghan allies and others fleeing life under Taliban rule.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.