The Oklahoman

Biden pledges massive response to disasters

- Darlene Superville

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden on Thursday said his administra­tion was “ready to provide all the assistance that’s needed” in response to a massive wildfire in California and to Hurricane Ida, which knocked out power and wreaked havoc along the Gulf Coast before causing deadly flooding and tornadoes in the Northeast.

Ida was the fifth-most powerful storm to strike the U.S. when it hit Louisiana on Sunday with maximum winds of 150 mph, likely causing tens of billions of dollars in flood, wind and other damage, including to the electrical grid. The storm’s remnants dropped devastatin­g rainfall across parts of Maryland, Pennsylvan­ia, New York and New Jersey on Wednesday, killing at least 18 people and causing significant disruption to major population centers.

More than 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississipp­i remained without power after Ida toppled a major transmissi­on tower and knocked out thousands of miles of lines and hundreds of substation­s. New Orleans was plunged into total darkness; power began returning to parts of the city on Wednesday. Biden is set to visit Louisiana on Friday to survey some of the damage.

Biden said the flooding 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 efforts by the federal government to ease recovery efforts, 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 Pe

troleum Reserve to ensure the steady supply of fuel to the region.

Biden said the Pentagon was assisting with ongoing firefighting operations in California against the Caldor fire.

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.

Biden said he was assured that his visit to Louisiana would not interfere with the relief efforts in the state.

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 briefing with local elected officials in Jefferson Parish, which took direct blows from Ida. “When you see it for yourself, it is just so much more compelling.”

Asked what type of assistance he planned to request from Biden, Edwards said, “Quite frankly, the list is going to be very, very long.” But he said a priority would be for a housing program to help people rebuild.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency had sent tons of supplies, including generators, tarps and other materials to the region before the storm, and federal response teams are working on search and rescue.

 ?? MATT ROURKE/AP ?? Vehicles are underwater during flooding Thursday in Philadelph­ia. Remnants of Hurricane Ida dumped heavy rains on the area.
MATT ROURKE/AP Vehicles are underwater during flooding Thursday in Philadelph­ia. Remnants of Hurricane Ida dumped heavy rains on the area.

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