NAPLES – President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden will travel to southwest Florida on Wednesday, where they’ll get a firsthand look at the devastation left behind by Hurricane Ian.
The White House said when President Biden visits Fort Myers he’ll survey the destruction and tour the region.
“The president will meet with small-business owners and local residents impacted by Hurricane Ian and thank the federal, state and local officials working around the clock to provide life-saving assistance, restore power, distribute food and water, removing debris and beginning rebuilding efforts,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters at the White House.
Politics will not play a role. Mr. Biden will get a briefing from Gov. Ron DeSantis, one of his most vocal Republican critics, and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell on recovery efforts.
“They’re going to talk about what, how, what else need, what else are the needs in Florida to get to a place of recovery, to get to a place of rebuilding,” said Jean-Pierre.
DeSantis said Tuesday he will discuss with state Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie possible areas for requesting more federal assistance from the Biden administration.
“If there is more FEMA can do, we’ll put that in,” DeSantis said during an appearance in Fort Myers.
DeSantis has already directed Guthrie to request an additional 30 days on a 30-day disaster declaration Biden signed last week.
DeSantis and Biden have publicly put aside sharp political differences during the response to Ian. The two leaders have talked at least three times by phone about relief efforts.
A week after the Category 4 hurricane first made landfall in the U.S., rescue teams continue to go door-to-door in search of both victims and survivors.
“We want to get to those that have run out of medication, those who may be trapped in their homes because of the debris, try to either get them out or to check on their well-being,” said Miami Fire Rescue Captain Ignacio Carroll who is a member of USAR Florida Task Force 2.
The extent of the damage is still being assessed, especially in coastal communities that took a direct hit from Ian. Hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses remain without power. Getting the lights back on is a priority, but officials say the task could take a month or more to complete.
Ian is already blamed for at least 104 deaths in Florida and four more in North Carolina. Officials believe those numbers will grow higher in the days to come.