U.S. President Joe Biden went Friday to Louisiana to assess the heavy damage Hurricane Ida inflicted on the southern part of the state before its remnants carved a path of destruction north through the eastern part of the country.
In LaPlace, local officials briefed the president about the storm that left about 1 million people without power and 600,000 without water.
“I promise we’re going to have your back,” Biden said at the outset of the briefing, which included Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards.
"This storm has been incredible, not only here but all over the East Coast," Biden said during the meeting. "I know you've got to be frustrated about the restoration of power."
Later, the president walked the streets of one neighborhood, where he told residents, “I know you’re hurting,” and posed with them for selfies.
Many of the people he met, he said, didn’t know that the federal government had sent $100 million directly to individuals in the state in $500 checks, The Associated Press said, because they didn’t have cellphone service.
Biden met with Edwards, a Democrat, and Senator Bill Cassidy and House Whip Steve Scalise, both Republicans from Louisiana, and local officials, including Lafourche Parish President Archie Chaisson.
The president also flew over hard-hit areas, including New Orleans and Lafourche Parish, where Chaisson said one-fourth of the homes in his community of 100,000 people had been destroyed or heavily damaged.
The U.S. Gulf Coast region first hit by Ida is a center of the nation’s oil production and refining infrastructure. Nine refineries were knocked offline by Ida. Two of Louisiana's biggest refineries began making gasoline and other fuels Friday after power was restored.
Five refineries could be working again within two weeks, Robert Campbell, head of oil products research at consultancy Energy Aspects, told Reuters. Getting oil flowing again will take longer as ports are repaired and crews return to offshore facilities, he added.
Ida came ashore Sunday in Louisiana as a Category 4 hurricane, the fifth strongest to hit the U.S., killing at least nine people before traveling north through the Eastern U.S., triggering torrential rains and widespread flooding Wednesday in New York, New Jersey and surrounding areas.
Officials of five Northeastern U.S. states on Friday said at least 49 people died as a result of flash flooding caused by remnants of Hurricane Ida. At least 25 people died in New Jersey and at least six are missing, Governor Phil Murphy said. At least 11 died in New York City, where police were going door to door looking for more victims. More deaths were reported in New York state, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.
The National Weather Service had warned of flash flooding, but the intensity of the storm took many by surprise.
Biden has called extreme storms and wildfires burning in the West a reminder that climate change is here, and he urged Congress to pass his infrastructure bill, which contains measures to address it.
Some information in this report was provided by The Associated Press and Reuters.