Trump touts administration’s readiness as East Coast braces for Hurricane Florence

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a briefing on the looming threat of Hurricane Florence with the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the Oval Office of the White House, Sept. 11, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

By Anita Kumar
McClatchy Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Tuesday that his administration is “totally prepared” to respond to Hurricane Florence, a dangerous Category 4 storm that is threatening to barrel down on the Carolinas within days.

“The safety of the American people is my absolute highest priority,” he said. “We are sparing no expense. … We’re as ready as anybody’s ever been.”

Trump spoke briefly to reporters after receiving a briefing from Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and FEMA Administrator Brock Long on Hurricane Florence, which is expected to make landfall late in the week.

“This is going to be a very large one _ far larger than we have seen in perhaps decades,” he said. “They haven’t seen anything like what’s coming at us in 25-30 years, maybe ever. It’s tremendously big and tremendously wet.”

Trump urged people living in evacuation zones to heed warnings from local officials in the three states that are expected to be hardest hit _ South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. “If you are asked to leave, get out of the areas,” he said.

His comments come after his administration is still facing criticism for its response last year to Hurricane Maria, which left nearly 3,000 people dead in Puerto Rico, according to a study conducted by researchers at George Washington University. But on Tuesday he insisted his administration’s response to Maria was an “incredible unsung success.”

Florence is expected to cause damage to a large part of East Coast — but not just in the coastal areas — when it makes landfall late in the week, bringing with it flooding and high winds, and causing power outages. More than 1 million people already faced mandatory evacuation orders Tuesday in coastal areas of Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

“Unfortunately, Hurricane Florence is setting up to be a devastating event in the Carolinas and central Virginia as well,” Long said.

Long predicted Hurricane Florence would make landfall as a Category 3 and then stall, causing tremendous storm surges along the coast.

“This has an opportunity to be a very devastating storm,” he said. “The power is going to be off for weeks. You are going to be displaced from your home in the coastal area and there will be flooding in the inland areas as well. These are going to be statewide events.”

Trump said he spoke by phone with the governors of Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, which have all declared states of emergency, and praised FEMA for doing a “fantastic job” preparing for the storm. “We are working very well in conjunction with the governors,” he said.

He said he may have to ask lawmakers for money to respond to the hurricane. “Congress will be generous because we have no choice,” he said.

Trump canceled midterm campaign events scheduled for Mississippi and Missouri later this week as the president expects to remain in Washington and lead the response to the dangerous storm.

“With Hurricane Florence on its way, we determined that this is the safest decision,” said Michael Glassner, Trump’s campaign chief operating officer.

(c)2018 McClatchy Washington Bureau. Visit the McClatchy Washington Bureau at Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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