WHITE HOUSE - As Florence makes landfall in the Carolinas, the White House said that President Donald Trump plans to travel to areas affected by the hurricane.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement Friday that Trump would head to storm-damaged regions "early to middle next week" once conditions improve and it is determined his travel will not disrupt any rescue or recovery efforts.
On Friday, Trump tweeted his support for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), first responders and law enforcement, stating that they are doing an "incredible job."
Incredible job being done by FEMA, First Responders, Law Enforcement and all. Thank you!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 14, 2018
Trump has been using Twitter to pass on emergency information and assure people his administration is "totally prepared” to face Florence. On Wednesday he posted a video on his account stating that "we are ready” although “bad things can happen when you're talking about a storm this size.”
Trump’s tweets reiterated remarks he made during a Congressional Medal of Honor event at the White House late Wednesday, when he stressed the safety of the American people is his “absolute highest priority," and that his administration is sparing no expense.
Trump was briefed by officials on Florence emergency preparedness at the White House Situation Room later on Friday.
White House officials say "the President is expected to travel to areas affected by the storm early to middle of next week, once it is determined his travel will not disrupt any rescue or recovery efforts."
The administration has put preparations in place to assist states and local governments, including deploying personnel from FEMA, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Coast Guard. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has also been deployed to set up temporary emergency power teams.
Criticism on Puerto Rico response
On Thursday, Trump faced criticism for disputing the official death toll in Puerto Rico from Hurricanes Maria and Irma that hit last year. On Twitter he said “3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico."
3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 13, 2018
An independent study concluded the death toll from Hurricane Maria was nearly 3,000.
Trump also alleged on Twitter, without evidence, that opposition Democratic Party members inflated the death toll.
.....This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 13, 2018
At a news conference to discuss hurricane response and recovery early Friday, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi responded to Trump’s tweet.
“Think about that," she said, "pray over that. Think of the people who are affected by that.”
She added that the attitude from the administration is unacceptable and that “we have a moral obligation to do better, not only to finish the job of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, but to prevent the same type of inadequate response from ever happening again”.
Hurricane Florence arrived on North Carolina's Atlantic coast early Friday, making landfall near the town of Wrightsville Beach, with maximum sustained winds of 90 kilometers per hour and gusts up to 150 kilometers per hour.
Florence had been downgraded to a Category One hurricane before landfall, and is forecast to significantly weaken as it moves across central South Carolina Saturday.
More than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and state of Virginia had been urged to evacuate. Residents inland are warned of life-threatening floods and loss of electricity.