US President Joe Biden traveled to Louisiana on Friday to get a first-hand look at the destruction wrought by Hurricane Ida, the monster storm that devastated the southern portion of the state and left a million people without power.
Biden, in rolled up shirtsleeves and boots, was welcomed at the airport by Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, who said Thursday that there’s no substitute “for actually being on the ground, speaking with the local officials and seeing with your own eyes the utter devastation that the state of Louisiana has sustained because of Hurricane Ida.”
Hurricane Ida struck the Gulf Coast last weekend and carved a northern path through the eastern United States, culminating in torrential rains and widespread flooding in New York, New Jersey and surrounding areas on Wednesday.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy on Friday said the state had confirmed an additional two deaths overnight, bringing its total to 25. He said at least six people were still missing, and the death toll would likely climb higher.
The fifth most powerful hurricane to strike the United States came ashore in southern Louisiana on Sunday, knocking out power for more than a million customers and water for another 600,000 people, creating miserable conditions for the afflicted, who were also enduring suffocating heat and humidity.
At least nine deaths were reported in Louisiana, with at least another 46 killed in the Northeast, the Reuters news agency reported.
“My message to everyone affected is: ‘We’re all in this together. The nation is here to help,'” Biden said on Thursday.
Biden will tour a neighbourhood in LaPlace, a small community about 56 kilometres (35 miles) west of New Orleans that was devastated by flooding, downed trees and other storm damage, and deliver remarks about his administration’s response.
He will take an aerial tour of hard-hit communities, including Laffite, Grand Isle, Port Fourchon and Lafourche Parish, before meeting with local leaders in Galliano, Louisiana, the White House said.
Officials who have flown over the storm damage reported astounding scenes of small towns turned into piles of matchsticks and large vessels hurled about by the wind.
Biden has also urged private insurance companies to pay homeowners who left in advance of the storm but not necessarily under a mandatory evacuation order.
Power should be restored to almost all of New Orleans by Wednesday, 10 days utility company Entergy said in a statement Friday. But not every customer will have power back in the city, according to the company as customers with damage where power enters their home will need to fix it themselves, and there could be some smaller areas that take longer.
The company asked for patience, acknowledging the heat and misery in Ida’s aftermath. Entergy said more than 25,000 workers from 40 states are fixing the 14,000 damaged poles, 2,223 broken transformers and 155 destroyed transmission structures.
Meanwhile, the New York area was still dealing with crippling floods from Ida.
People across large swaths of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut were coping with water-logged basements, power outages, damaged roofs and calls for help from friends and relatives stranded by flooding.
“No longer will we say that won’t happen again in our lifetime,” New York Governor Kathy Hochul said during a news briefing on Friday.
“This could literally happen again next week,” Hochul said, “and we have to be prepared for that.”
She said 100 people had to be rescued from flooded homes and vehicles on Thursday and at least 7,800 people in the state are without power.
The work continues after Tropical Storm Ida flooded parts of New York State. Members of our Underwater Recovery Team work along the Sprain Brook Parkway in Yonkers, checking stranded vehicles. pic.twitter.com/28q7enfjfA
— NewYorkStatePolice (@nyspolice) September 2, 2021
At least 15 have died in the state of New York, Hochul said, including 13 in New York City where deaths of people trapped in flooded basements highlighted the risk of increasingly extreme weather events.
Biden approved an emergency declaration in New Jersey and New York and ordered federal assistance to supplement state and local response efforts, the White House said late on Thursday.