President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will visit devastated areas this week as the United States reels from the death, dangerous flooding and destruction left behind by Hurricane Ian.
The White House announced Saturday night that the Bidens would travel to Puerto Rico on Monday and Florida on Wednesday.
Last Hurricane Ian
- Search parties rush to rescue stranded survivors.
- 864,000 customers are still without electricity in Florida.
- At least 77 confirmed storm-related deaths are recorded in Florida and North Carolina, according to a count from state officials and an NBC News tally.
- The president and first lady will travel to Florida and Puerto Rico this week.
At least 73 storm-related deaths have been confirmed in Florida since Hurricane Ian hit the state last week with winds of 150 mph, according to a count from state officials and an NBC News tally.
Since being downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone, the National Hurricane Center said in an advisory late Saturday that the storm was dissipating in southern Virginia. Yet it also caused flooding and power outages in the Carolinas as the extent of the damage became apparent. At least four people have also died in North Carolina. Governor Roy Cooper announced on Saturday.
As rescue efforts are underway and floodwaters recede in places littered with destroyed homes, local officials have warned that the extent of death and destruction left by Ian may be just beginning.
Puerto Rico is still grappling with the fallout from Hurricane Fiona, which has claimed 25 lives since hitting US territory last month, according to the island’s health department.
No further details of the trip were announced, but Biden mentioned his concern for storm-hit areas during a Congressional Black Caucus awards dinner on Saturday night.
“Our hearts … are heavy, the devastating hurricanes, the storms in Puerto Rico, Florida and South Carolina. And we owe Puerto Rico much more than they’ve already gotten,” Biden said.
Nearly a million customers were still without power, according to data from PowerOutage.us on Sunday morning, with the Federal Emergency Management Agency announcing that some generators purchased for medical needs by residents will be covered by the money taxpayers.
Residents who lost power after the storm hit in areas covered by Biden’s major disaster declaration will be eligible for reimbursement, which currently only includes Florida counties of Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota. Additional areas could be designated after damage assessment, the White House said.
Across the Florida Strait, fresh protests erupted in Cuba on Saturday over ongoing power outages in Havana as crews rushed to restore power. Ian had cut power to the entire country of 11 million people when he drove through western Cuba earlier this week.
Meanwhile, rescuers continued to comb Florida, where Ian made landfall last Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane, one of the strongest to ever hit the country.
It caused catastrophic flooding.
At least 1,100 rescues have been made in Florida since the storm hit, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Saturday at a news conference.
“There’s been a great outpouring of support and I’ve seen a lot of resilience in this community of people wanting to pick themselves up and wanting to get their communities back on their feet,” DeSantis told reporters. “We will be there and help you every step of the way.”
Power outages also continued in Puerto Rico where more than 140,000 residents were stranded without power and nearly 40,000 in the Carolinas, according to PowerOutage.us.
Hurricane Fiona hit the island on September 16, knocking out power grids and flooding towns, leaving residents with collapsed bridges. Within days, almost all of Puerto Rico was without power. It was the second storm in five years and the island had still not fully recovered from Hurricane Maria in 2017.
“To the people of Puerto Rico, we are not gone; I am committed to you and the recovery of the island,” Biden said after a FEMA briefing on Thursday. “We will support you for as long as it takes to do so,” he said.
Phil McCausland, Leila Sackur and Corky Siemaszko contributed.