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President Biden to visit Florida on Wednesday

It will be his first visit to Florida since the condominium collapse in Surfside.
President Joe Biden speaks about the ongoing federal response efforts for Hurricane Ian from the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, Friday, Sept. 30, 2022.
President Joe Biden speaks about the ongoing federal response efforts for Hurricane Ian from the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, Friday, Sept. 30, 2022. [ SUSAN WALSH | AP ]
Published Oct. 2|Updated Oct. 2

TALLAHASSEE — President Joe Biden will visit Florida on Wednesday to witness the damage caused by Hurricane Ian, the White House announced Saturday night. The president will first go to Puerto Rico on Monday to view the devastation wrought by Hurricane Fiona two weeks ago.

The White House did not immediately release where Biden will go in Florida or who he will meet with during his visit. First Lady Jill Biden will be joining the president in Florida and Puerto Rico.

The president this week approved a Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster declaration for areas hit by the storm, including enhanced individual assistance — such as money for damage to homes and vehicles — for residents living in 13 counties.

Related: As Ian’s aftermath is felt across Florida, its destruction comes into view

On Wednesday, Hurricane Ian made landfall in Southwest Florida as a strong Category 4 storm, carrying 150-mph winds and storm surge up to 12 feet. Homes and businesses from Fort Myers Beach to Punta Gorda were flooded or ripped from their foundations. The storm killed at least 44 people and flooding persists in Central Florida. After moving across Florida and into the Atlantic Ocean, the storm made landfall in South Carolina on Friday.

Gov. Ron DeSantis called Ian one of the five worst storms to hit the state, and early damage estimates are in the tens of billions of dollars.

Although DeSantis regularly criticized the president over the last two years en route to a suspected run for president in 2024, the storm has tamed political tensions. DeSantis has spoken to the president at least three times this week, most recently on Friday, according to the governor’s daily calendars, and he has praised the federal response.

Related: Hurricane Ian puts pause on Florida midterm politics and DeSantis, Biden tension

“When we spoke yesterday, he said, ‘All hands on deck,’ that he wants to be helpful,” DeSantis said on Wednesday. “And he said, ‘Ask whatever you need, ask us,’ you know, so he was inviting us to request support.”

FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell traveled with DeSantis on Friday, and he has praised the agency’s response.

“She’s been very supportive,” DeSantis said Saturday. “We, by and large, worked well with them.”

The last time Biden was in Florida was in July 2021, after a Surfside condominium collapsed and killed 98 people. He sat next to DeSantis, pledging assistance from the federal government to respond to that emergency.

Times staffer Graham Brink contributed to this report.

• • •

Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Ian coverage

HOW TO HELP: Where to donate or volunteer to help Hurricane Ian victims.

FEMA: Floridians hurt by Ian can now apply for FEMA assistance. Here’s how.

THE STORM HAS PASSED: Now what? Safety tips for returning home.

POST-STORM QUESTIONS: After Hurricane Ian, how to get help with fallen trees, food, damaged shelter.

WEATHER EFFECTS: Hurricane Ian was supposed to slam Tampa Bay head on. What happened?

WHAT TO DO IF HURRICANE DAMAGES YOUR HOME: Stay calm, then call your insurance company.

SCHOOLS: Will schools reopen quickly after Hurricane Ian passes? It depends.

MORE STORM COVERAGE: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane.

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