President Biden traveled to Louisiana on Friday to tour areas ravaged by Hurricane Ida and pledged the support of the federal government in helping those affected by the storm.
“We’re not going to leave any community behind: rural, city, coastal, inland,” Biden said in remarks made in the town of LaPlace, adding, “I promise we’re going to have your backs until this gets done.”
The president got a firsthand look at damaged homes, downed power lines and neighborhoods left submerged in water in the wake of the hurricane’s landfall on Sunday.
During his tour, Biden met with Gov. John Bel Edwards, emergency officials and local leaders in LaPlace, who briefed him on the overall impact.
Ida’s eyewall blasted through the town, laying waste to its power grid, leaving homes in several feet of water and stranding residents, some of whom sought shelter in attics.
Biden said FEMA and other federal agencies were coordinating with local power companies to restore power, bring in gas and provide funding for those in need.
“It’s dangerous work, as I said. I want to thank those 25,000 linemen from 32 different states,” Biden said.
The Category 4 hurricane left more than a million Louisiana residents without power amid temperatures in the upper 80s and heat index readings even higher since the storm’s arrival.
After the meeting with local officials, Biden spoke again to reporters and put in a plug for his infrastructure plan.
“I’ve been working closely with the governor and our colleagues in Congress from both parties on my Build Back Better plan that will modernize our roads, our bridges, our water systems, sewers and drainage systems, and power grids, transmission lines, to make sure they’re more resilient,” he said, adding, “I walked through the backyards here — so many telephone lines are down, so many telephone poles are down.”
While acknowledging the high cost of moving power and telephone lines underground, Biden said that doing so should be a priority given that, thanks to climate change, storms like Ida are “going to come more frequently and more ferociously.”
More than 800,000 people were still without power on Friday, but crews from nearby states have been working to help restore service. New Orleans won’t see most of its energy back until Wednesday, according to a statement from Entergy, an energy company that serves the Deep South. The company said about a quarter-million residents have had their power restored in recent days.
Hurricane Ida is the fifth-most-powerful storm to strike the country, making landfall on the Louisiana coast on Aug. 26. While the vulnerable levee and floodwall system held, the storm dumped heavy rain inside the storm barriers, and its strong winds tore apart the power grid and caused widespread damage to buildings.
At least nine people were reported dead in Louisiana as a result of Ida, which was also blamed for the deaths of nearly 50 people when it unleashed unprecedented rainfall across a large swath of the Northeast.
Talking about how authorities are working together, Biden said: “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.”
LaPlace is located about 30 miles west of New Orleans, where the president took an aerial tour along with nearby areas of Lafitte, Grand Isle, Port Fourchon and Lafourche Parish.
On Sunday, the president declared a disaster in Louisiana and named 25 parishes available for assistance.
“Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster,” the declaration said.
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