Biden to visit Florida when ‘conditions allow’ after storm
In this aerial photo, damaged boats and debris are stacked along the shore in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Fort Myers, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Thursday said “our entire country hurts” along with the people of Florida after Hurricane Ian flooded communities across the state, knocking out electrical power and forcing people into shelters.

Biden said he would visit Florida and meet with Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis when “conditions allow.” The president said he would also visit Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory that was slammed by Hurricane Fiona.

“We know many families are hurting,” Biden said at the Washington headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, where he was briefed on federal response efforts. “Our entire country hurts with them,”

He urged those affected by Ian to take seriously the warnings from local officials to stay safe and remain indoors.

“Don’t go outside unless you have to,” Biden said. “The danger is real, to state the obvious. Please obey all warnings and direction from emergency officials.”

The destruction began to come into focus a day after Ian made landfall in Florida as one of the strongest hurricanes ever to hit the United States. The storm flooded homes on both coasts of the state, cut off the only bridge to a barrier island, destroyed a historic waterfront pier and knocked out electricity to 2.67 million Florida homes and businesses. At least one man was confirmed dead.

Biden and DeSantis spoke again Thursday morning.

The president said he also had talked with several Florida mayors on Thursday and delivered the same message he shared with the governor about the federal government’s commitment to helping with the cleanup and with rebuilding: “We are here.”

“We’re going to do everything we can to provide everything they need,” Biden said, adding that his instruction to them was to call him directly at the White House with their needs. “They know how to do that.”

Biden also spoke to the people of Puerto Rico, who are cleaning up and trying to rebuild after Hurricane Fiona ravaged the U.S. island territory before Ian pummeled Florida on Wednesday.

“I’m committed to you and the recovery of the island,” he said. “We’ve not gone away.”