President Joe Biden on Wednesday warned Florida residents to take precautions and listen to officials as “incredibly dangerous” Hurricane Ian barreled toward the Sunshine State.
“This storm is incredibly dangerous, to state the obvious. It is life-threatening. You should obey all warnings and directions from emergency personnel. Do not take anything for granted. Use their judgment, not yours. Evacuate on order. Be prepared. Storm warnings are real , the evacuation notices are real, the danger is real,” Biden said as he began his remarks at the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health.
He added, “And when the storm passes, the federal government will be there to help you recover. We will be there to help you clean up and rebuild and get Florida going again. And we will be knowing every step of the way. That is my absolute commitment to the people of the state of Florida.”
The Category 4 – near Category 5 – storm is expected to reach the state’s southwest coast in the morning and move ashore later Wednesday with catastrophic flooding, sustained winds of 155 miles per hour and life-threatening storm surge, officials have warned. Biden continues to monitor the storm closely and receive regular updates.
He said Wednesday he spoke with state and local officials, including a trio of mayors of cities affected by the storm and Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican who has clashed with the president and his administration in the past.
Biden said his team has been in “constant contact” with DeSantis.
“My message has been absolutely clear: It is that we are on alert and in action through every request that Florida has made for temporary assistance, emergency assistance, long-term assistance that I received,” Biden said of his conversations with those officials.
He said he has discussed preparations for the storm with officials, including hundreds of Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel, thousands of National Guard members and the development and deployment of search and rescue teams. FEMA, he said, has prepositioned water, meals and generators, as well as shelters.
Biden also offered an emphatic warning to oil and gas executives. He warned that if any gas companies try to use the storm to raise prices at the pump, he will ask officials to investigate price leaks.
“This small, temporary storm impact on oil production provides no excuse — no excuse — for price increases at the pump. None,” Biden said,
The president noted that experts have informed him that about 190,000 barrels of oil per day have been affected by the storm so far, which is less than 2% of US daily production.
“America is watching. The industry should do the right thing. In fact, they should be moving faster now to get the price at the pump down because gasoline has dropped a lot. There is too much delay,” Biden said.