President Joe Biden talked to Florida’s Ron DeSantis (R) Thursday and offered to help his state’s recovery from the devastating Hurricane Ian.
The rare gesture of unity, which was reported by the Hill, came after Biden had been criticized for his apparent reluctance to communicate.
Biden offers to help Florida
The president didn’t make initial contact with DeSantis, a political rival of his, until Tuesday evening just hours before the storm landed.
The two spoke again on Thursday morning as Florida began to take account of the heartbreaking damage and search for people stranded by the historic storm, which made landfall near Fort Myers in Lee County on Wednesday afternoon.
The White House said that Biden pledged to send a FEMA representative on Friday. Biden also declared a disaster and said he would visit personally, at some point, to survey the destruction.
“[DeSantis] complimented me, he thanked me for the immediate response we had, he told me how much he appreciated it,” Biden said.
At least nine people were confirmed dead and more than two million were without power Thursday as the hurricane, which ravaged Florida’s southwestern coast with 150 mph winds and massive storm surge flooding, weakened to a tropical storm that flooded central Florida.
DeSantis said that Lee and Charlotte counties are “off the grid.” The damage in Sanibel Island, a barrier island that became inaccessible after a bridge collapsed, is “biblical.”
“Sanibel is destruction,” DeSantis said. “It got hit with really biblical storm surge and it washed away roads, it washed away structures.”
The governor thanked Biden for his help but said his disaster declaration would need to go further to help Florida’s recovery from the “500-year flood event.”
“The amount of water that’s been rising and will likely continue to rise today even as the storm is passing is basically a 500-year flood event,” DeSantis said.
The storm had regained hurricane strength by Thursday evening as it headed for the Carolinas.