With a number of communities and thousands of people still reeling from the severe damage done by Hurricane Michael, President Donald Trump on Monday will see some of the destruction himself, as he tours areas in both Florida and Georgia, getting an up close view of a recovery effort that’s also tinged with high-stakes politics, just over three weeks from key mid-term elections.
“The destruction caused by Hurricane Michael is really incredible,” the President said in a video released by the White House, as he proclaimed his support for those who might not have the ability to even hear or see him, because of damage to the power and communications grid.
“We are with you 100 percent,” the President added, as officials at FEMA touted their response, especially in the hard-hit Panhandle of Florida, where Michael made landfall last Wednesday afternoon.
“FEMA has released more than 700,000 meals and more than 1.7 million liters of water to Florida to supplement local resources,” FEMA reported. “In Georgia, to fill state requests, FEMA has transferred more than 350,000 meals to the state; more meals have been shipped.”
The State of Florida also set up a series of sites where residents could get food, water, and other recovery supplies – some far inland toward the Alabama and Georgia border, a reminder of just how wide a swatch the hurricane cut last week.
Thousands remained without power on Sunday in portions of southeastern Alabama, the Florida Panhandle, and in areas of southwestern Georgia, where the storm still packed a strong punch, hours after roaring ashore near Mexico Beach, Florida.
Helped by trucks and crews from around the nation, major power companies were doing all they could – but fully acknowledged it will take at days and weeks to get many customers back on line – but that it could be longer for others in severely damaged areas, as miles and miles of power infrastructure was taken down by Michael’s winds.
“Hurricane Michael was an unprecedented storm,” said Stan Connally, the head of Gulf Power. “We know that our customers are counting on us, so they can begin rebuilding their lives.”
Hanging in the background of the repair effort in Florida and Georgia was also a political component – in Florida, Gov. Rick Scott (R) is not only leading the post-storm effort, but also running for U.S. Senate against Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), who has also been on the ground in the Panhandle, helping with relief work.
A debate set for Tuesday on CNN between Scott and Nelson was postponed because of the ongoing relief work.
Meanwhile, Florida’s race for Governor involves the Mayor of Tallahassee, Democrat Andrew Gillum, who has been combining efforts to restore power and repair damage in his home city, postponing any campaign activities until Thursday – while his opponent, ex-Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), has been ferrying relief supplies to the Panhandle to help.
Gillum said over the weekend that he would not be at a scheduled debate in Orlando on Tuesday.
All four of those candidates are saying much the same thing – that it’s time to join together and help those in need – but the relief work comes at a critical time in Florida, for both the races for Senate and Governor.