As Hurricane Ian bore down on the Tampa Bay region Tuesday, President Joe Biden worked the phones.
In separate calls, Biden talked with St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard to discuss storm preparations, according to a White House readout of the calls.
“President Biden said that he has directed (Federal Emergency Management Agency) Administrator (Deanne) Criswell to ensure that all available federal support is surged to prepare in advance and to respond in the aftermath of the storm,” the readout said.
Clearwater Mayor Hibbard said his call with the president lasted seven or eight minutes. Biden offered Hibbard a direct line of communication and told him to get in touch if there is anything the city needs, Hibbard said.
The mayor said Clearwater has done its best to be prepared. City officials are urging residents in evacuation zones to leave. Those who are staying are being encouraged to stock up on essentials.
“It’s really more of a recovery issue,” Hibbard said of the federal government’s involvement. “We want to bounce back as fast as we possibly can, and that’s where FEMA, the state, county and the city all come together.”
Over the weekend, Biden approved a federal emergency declaration in the hope of ensuring resources will make it to the Tampa Bay region as quickly as possible.
Castor spokesperson Adam Smith confirmed that the Tampa mayor spoke with Biden at about 11:45 a.m. Tuesday. Smith said that Biden told Castor that the federal government stands ready to help Tampa.
In a statement, St. Petersburg Mayor Welch thanked Biden for his call. Welch, a Democrat, also praised Republican leaders like Gov. Ron DeSantis for offering their support.
“Critical events like Hurricane Ian know no party line, and it’s imperative we put the safety and welfare of our residents above all else,” Welch said.
DeSantis visited Pinellas County on Monday, appearing with several local leaders — including Hibbard and Welch — during a news conference at the Pinellas County emergency operations center. Hibbard said he got time with the governor after the event. The two talked about the resources the state is prepared to provide the region in the aftermath of the storm, he said.
Although the latest forecasts from the National Hurricane Center had the storm’s center hitting south of the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater triangle as of Tuesday afternoon, the region is still bracing for a major weather event, including high winds and potentially devastating storm surge.
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2022 Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Guide
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WHAT TO EXPECT IN A SHELTER: What to bring — and not bring — plus information on pets, keeping it civil and more.
SAFEGUARD YOUR HOME: Storms and property damage go hand in hand. Here’s how to prepare.
IT'S STORM SEASON: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane.
RISING THREAT: Tampa Bay will flood. Here's how to get ready.
DOUBLE-CHECK: Checklists for building all kinds of hurricane kits
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