Biden coordinates with DeSantis and Florida officials, warns oil companies as Hurricane Ian hits

Biden coordinates with DeSantis and Florida officials, warns oil companies as Hurricane Ian hits

As Hurricane Ian began moving through Florida, President Joe Biden detailed his administration’s efforts to prepare for the storm and warned residents to heed authorities’ warnings.

“It’s deadly,” Biden said of the Category 4 storm as he spoke at a White House conference on hunger and nutrition. “You must obey all warnings and instructions from emergency officials. Take nothing for granted. Use their judgement, not yours.”

Hurricane Ian strengthened overnight, approaching Category 5, and was expected to bring devastating flooding, storm surges and winds to Florida as it made landfall Wednesday afternoon.

Biden said he had spoken with GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis “for a while” Tuesday night, marking the first time the two leaders had spoken directly about the storm.

Biden said members of his team have been in constant contact with the governor “from the start.”

“The message has been absolutely clear that we are on alert and in action,” Biden said Wednesday. “We have approved all requests for temporary assistance, emergency assistance, and long-term assistance that Florida has made.”

Later Wednesday, after Hurricane Ian made landfall, the White House said Biden called several local Florida officials and was able to reach Fort Meyers Mayor Kevin Anderson.

“They discussed the ongoing needs of Fort Myers, including support for elderly members of the community, families living in mobile homes, and other community members who are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of the storm,” said the White House.

The storm poses a major test for Biden and DeSantis, often enemies on many issues, just six weeks before the midterm elections.

Asked by ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Cecilia Vega about the tone of Tuesday’s conversation between Biden and DeSantis, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that it was about how the two can work as partners on the issue.

“There is no politics in it when we talk about extreme weather conditions,” replied Jean-Pierre.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden speaks during the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, DC on September 28, 2022.

President Joe Biden speaks during the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, DC on September 28, 2022.

Olivier Contreras/AFP via Getty Images

Past presidents have faced political consequences following natural disasters. George W. Bush has been widely criticized for his response to Hurricane Katrina, particularly after he praised the Federal Emergency Management Agency for its work despite the agency being accused of not acting quickly enough.

Biden said Wednesday that the federal government would be “ready to help in any way possible” during Hurricane Ian, noting that he had developed and deployed a search and rescue team already on the ground and to help Florida with rebuild after the storm.

Biden also issued a stern message to oil and gas companies, warning them not to raise prices amid the storm or he will ask officials to investigate any potential price increases.

“Do not, let me repeat, use this as an excuse to raise gas prices or rip off the American people,” the president said, noting that experts have told his administration that only 2% of US daily oil production would be affected. short term from Hurricane Ian.

Biden will travel to FEMA headquarters in Washington on Thursday, Jean-Pierre announced at Wednesday’s press conference.

Jean-Pierre also provided additional details on the administration’s response, telling reporters, “We have over 1,300 federal response officers on the ground in Florida. There are 3.7 million meals and 3 .5 million liters of water pre-positioned in Alabama. [and] 110,000 gallons of fuel and 18,000 pounds of propane are prepared for immediate deployment. 300 corps members are on the ground to support power and fuel assessments. Three hundred ambulances are supporting local authorities and several federal disaster medical assistance teams are deployed in Florida and Georgia. »

PHOTO: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks with Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie during a press conference to update residents on the hurricane's trail Ian in Largo, Florida on September 26, 2022.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks with Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie during a press conference to update residents on the trail of Hurricane Ian in Largo, in Florida on September 26, 2022.

Chris O’Meara/AP

DeSantis, who is up for re-election in November and is widely seen as a Republican contender for the 2024 nomination, took a moment this week to thank the White House for its help.

“The effects of this are going to be wide-ranging and we appreciate the Biden administration’s consideration for the people of Florida in this time of need,” DeSantis said at a press conference Wednesday.

DeSantis warned Wednesday that millions of people will be without power when the storm hits and pointed to the 200 shelters open in southwest Florida for those who need a place to stay during the storm.

“It’s going to be something that’s going to be there for days, weeks and months and unfortunately in some circumstances even years,” DeSantis said of Hurricane Ian’s impacts.

ABC News’ Justin Gomez and Molly Nagle contributed to this report.

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