President Biden addresses Hurricane Idalia, Maui Wildfires recovery

August 30, 2023

President Biden said Wednesday he’s ready to mobilize support for “anything” that states’ governors need in the aftermath of Hurricane Idalia.

Biden said he had spoken with “all of the governors” whose states are impacted by the storm, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) several times—which did not involve politics despite both DeSantis and Biden running in the 2024 Presidential election. 

“I think he trusts my judgment and my desire to help,” said Biden, “and I trust him to be able to suggest that this is not about politics, it’s about taking care of the people in the state.”

Biden further said had directed FEMA resources, including up to 1,500 personnel and 900 Coast Guard personnel, to the southeast and directed FEMA Administrator Deanna Criswell to stay in close touch with DeSantis, whom she’s scheduled to meet with in Florida on Thursday. 

“I don’t think anyone can deny the impact of the climate crisis,” Biden further said. “Just look around: historic floods…more intense droughts, extreme heat, significant wildfires cause significant damage like we’ve never seen before.”

He claimed that “we’ve learned a heck of a lot” from tackling with devastation of wildfires out west, “and we’re putting the lessons we’ve learned to work.” 

Biden said that this afternoon he would be meeting with his entire cabinet to address federal recovery and support for the people of Maui following the massive wildfires there earlier this month.

“We’re going to do everything we can for as long as it take to help Maui recover and rebuild in a way that respects and honors Hawaiian traditions and culture, and the needs of the local community,” the President stated. 

In order to rebuild correctly, Biden said, “We need to be ready to withstand any challenge that comes our way.” 

With that in mind, Biden noted that he had announced $95 million to upgrade Hawaii’s power grid to better position the state for future storms.

“We’re not leaving until the job is done, and we’ll be there as long as it takes,” Biden promised.

Shortly before Biden spoke Wednesday , FEMA’s Criswell told reporters that it was far too early to estimate what the cost of this storm would be, adding that officials would get a better understanding over the next several days as it becomes safer to venture out into the hurricane-hit areas.

On Tuesday, though, Criswell had noted that she’d implemented “immediate needs funding,” as FEMA’s coffers are being depleted by recent massive disasters, including the Maui wildfires, and the federal agency’s disaster relief fund which currently has a balance of just $3.4 billion.

“Congress must work with us on the supplemental request that the administration has made on the behalf of FEMA,” she had insisted.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) on Wednesday morning reported a “catastrophic storm surge occurring along the coast of the Florida Big Bend and damaging winds spreading inland over northern Florida” following landfall by Hurricane Idalia.

Sustained winds at the time of landfall—shortly before 8am ET—were estimated to be 125 miles per hour. About an hour later the storm had decreased to a very strong category two with 110 mile per hour winds, or higher, according to the NHC. 

Biden noted that Idalia has since lessened to a category 1 as it barrels toward Georgia.

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