President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden will travel to devastated areas this week as the United States reels from the death, dangerous floods and destruction left in Hurricane Ian's wake.
The White House announced late Saturday that the Bidens will visit Puerto Rico on Monday and Florida on Wednesday.
At least 73 storm-related deaths have been confirmed in Florida since Hurricane Ian slammed into the state last week with 150 mph winds, according to a tally by state officials and an NBC News count.
Since downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone, the National Hurricane Center said in an advisory late Saturday that the storm was dissipating across southern Virginia. Still, it left flooding and power outages across the Carolinas, too, as the extent of the damage came into view. At least four people have also died in North Carolina. Gov. Roy Cooper announced Saturday.
With rescue efforts ongoing and the floodwater receding in places littered with wrecked homes, local officials warned the extent of the death and destruction left by Ian may only just be coming into view.
Puerto Rico is still grappling with the fallout from Hurricane Fiona, which has resulted in 25 fatalities since it hit the U.S. territory last month, according to the island’s health department.
No further details of the trip were announced, but Biden mentioned his concern for the areas pummeled by the storms at a Congressional Black Caucus awards dinner on Saturday night.
“Our hearts ... are heavy, the devastating hurricanes, storms in Puerto Rico, Florida, and South Carolina. And we owe Puerto Rico a hell of a lot more than they’ve already gotten,” Biden said.
Almost a million customers were still deprived of electricity, data from PowerOutage.us showed Sunday morning, with the Federal Emergency Management Agency announcing some generators purchased for medical needs by residents will be covered by tax dollars.
Residents who lost power after the storm struck in areas covered by Biden’s major disaster declaration will be eligible for reimbursement, which for now include only Florida counties of Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas, and Sarasota. Additional areas could be designated after damage assessment, said the White House.
Across the Straits of Florida, new protests flared in Cuba on Saturday over the ongoing blackouts in Havana as crews scrambled to restore electricity. Ian had knocked out power to the whole country of 11 million people when it ploughed through western Cuba earlier this week.
Meanwhile, rescuers continued to comb Florida, where Ian made landfall last Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane, one of the strongest to ever hit the country.
It brought catastrophic flooding.
At least 1,100 rescues had been made in Florida since the storm struck, Gov. Ron DeSantis told a news conference Saturday.
“There’s been a great outpouring of support and I’ve seen a lot of resilience in this community of people that want to pick themselves up and they want to get their communities back on their feet,” DeSantis told reporters. “We’ll be here and we’ll be helping every step of the way.”
Power Outages also continued in Puerto Rico where over 140,000 residents were stranded without any electricity and almost 40,000 in the Carolinas, according to PowerOutage.us.
Hurricane Fiona had struck the island on Sep. 16, thrashing power grids and flooding towns, leaving residents with collapsed bridges. Within days almost all of Puerto Rico was left without power. It was the second storm in five years and the island still hadn't fully recovered from Hurricane Maria in 2017.
"To the people of Puerto Rico, we’re not gone away; I am committed to you and the recovery of the island," Biden had said after a FEMA briefing on Thursday. "We’ll stand by you for however long it takes to get it done," he said.