Obama Goes to Fla., After Pronouncing Storm 'Serious and Big'; Now He's Returning to DC
(Update: President Obama, who arrived in Florida Sunday, at the last minute canceled his Monday campaign appearance in Orlando and is returning to Washington to monitor the storm that will devastate much of the northeastern U.S.)
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama said Sunday that the storm taking aim at the East Coast is a "serious and big storm" that will be slow-moving and might take time to clear up. The government would "respond big and respond fast" after it hits, he said.
Obama met with federal emergency officials for an update on the storm's path and the danger it poses to the Middle Atlantic States and New England.
"My main message to everybody involved is that we have to take this seriously," Obama said. He urged people to "listen to your local officials."
The president said emergency officials were confident that staging for the storm was in place.
Hurricane Sandy was expected to hit the East Coast late Monday, then combine with two winter weather systems as it moves inland, creating a hybrid superstorm. At least four battleground states are likely to be hit: New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia.
Obama traveled the nearly three miles from the White House to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's headquarters in his motorcade. He made the comments after a briefing by agency officials that was led by FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. The group participated in a conference call with governors in states in the storm's path, including Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York. The president also spoke with mayors from Washington, Newark, N.J., Baltimore and Philadelphia.
As part of the briefing, the president also met with FEMA workers and thanked them.
"My message to the governors as well as to the mayors is anything they need, we will be there, and we will cut through red tape. We are not going to get bogged down with a lot of rules," he said. "We want to make sure we are anticipating and leaning forward into making sure that we have the best possible response to what is going to be a big and messy system.
Later Sunday the president headed to Florida, where he's campaigning Monday.
"My first priority has to be making sure that everything is in place" to help those affected by the storm, Obama told campaign workers in Orlando. He said the storm meant he would "not be able to campaign quite as much over the next few days."