Biden visits Florida to see Idalia damage despite Ron DeSantis boycott

President Biden visited storm-ravaged Florida on Saturday for a carefully curated tour of one of the least affected areas of the state following Hurricane Idalia, where he promised to help “for as long as it takes.”

“My mother used to have an expression: There, but for the grace of God,” he said as he marveled at a huge tree blown down Wednesday by the storm’s fierce winds, barely missing a little girl’s bedroom.

“Now that the storm is over, we’re not going anywhere,” Biden said of the ongoing federal response. “We are here to help the state for as long as it takes.”

Biden’s three-hour tour of Live Oak, Florida, 40 miles inland, began with an aerial tour, then a motorcade to Suwanee Pineview Elementary School to receive a briefing from local officials and first responders, passing a resident who He was waving a “Let’s Go” sign. Brandon” on the way.

Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden landed in Florida on Saturday afternoon. REUTERS

He met with volunteers in the school’s library, which had been transformed into an aid distribution center, before giving a short speech and then headed to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, to spend the rest of the weekend.

The brief stop in the Sunshine State, just three days after the hurricane passed, stood in stark contrast to Biden’s slow response to last month’s deadly wildfires in Maui.

But the president laughed off a question about when he might visit East Palestine, Ohio, where a toxic train derailment forced mass evacuations in February.

Governor Ron DeSantis.Governor Ron DeSantis warned that Biden’s visit would be “disturbing.”

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“There’s a lot going on and I just haven’t been able to slow down,” Biden said, in his first comment on the Ohio disaster in more than six months.

“I was thinking I was going to East Palestine this week,” he added, mispronouncing her name. “But then I remembered that I had to literally go around the world” for a trip to India and Vietnam.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who warmly welcomed Biden to Florida following the Surfside condo building collapse and other disasters but has criticized him since announcing his own presidential bid, was notably absent from the scene.

Splintered homes and destroyed structures on Horseshoe Beach after Hurricane Idalia.Shattered houses and destroyed structures on Horseshoe Beach after Hurricane Idalia.TNS

DeSantis said Friday that a visit to the White House could be “very disruptive” to recovery efforts.

The governor spent Saturday in the devastated coastal communities of Horseshoe Beach and Keaton Beach, handing out Chik-fil-A meals from a bright red food truck and delivering trailers to residents whose homes had been leveled.

But on Saturday, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said DeSantis aides had helped choose Live Oak as Biden’s destination.

Joe Biden steps off Air Force One at the Gainesville Regional Airport.Joe Biden gets off Air Force One at the Gainesville Regional Airport.AP

“Power is being restored, all roads are open and access has not been impeded. And that’s why this was mutually agreed upon” with the governor’s office, contradicting DeSantis’ claim to have warned Biden against making the trip.

Jill Biden accompanied her husband, while Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) joined them on the field.

A long line of vehicles lined up in Live Oak to receive food, water and supplies distributed by the Florida National Guard, Fox Weather reported.

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National Guardsmen help storm-damaged The Marina move and stack debris on Horseshoe Beach Thursday.Members of the National Guard help storm-damaged The Marina business move and pile debris at Horseshoe Beach on Thursday.AP

Farms surrounding the rural town suffered heavy damage, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, with barns and other farm buildings collapsing and flooding fields days after the storm passed.

Idalia, the largest hurricane to hit the Big Bend area of ​​Florida in more than a century, unleashed ferocious 125 mph winds and a massive storm surge that wreaked havoc Wednesday morning, leaving at least 500,000 residents without power and causing damage for more than 100 miles. broad.

Communities like Cedar Key, an island town about 90 miles southwest of Live Oak, bore the brunt of Idalia’s fury.

“Part of an entire hotel just broke off and fell into the Gulf,” Cedar Key Island resident Michael Bobbitt said Wednesday. “It’s like the Gulf is trying to swallow us.”

In Perry, Florida, a town 30 miles west of Live Oak that relies on the logging industry, local resident Jerry Wells said the pine forest had been “just devastated.”

“I don’t know how many people have trees in their houses,” Wells told the Tallahassee Democrat. “It’s turning into a canvas village.”

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