President Obama delivers a statement on Tropical Storm Isaac in the Diplomatic… (Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty…)
Warning of a “dangerous storm” about to hit the Gulf Coast, President Obama on Tuesday morning urged residents to evacuate if they're asked to do so.
“Now is not the time to tempt fate,” he said in remarks from the White House, stressing that floods and other damage could be significant as Tropical Storm Isaac plows into southern Louisiana and neighboring parts of Mississippi.
“Now is not the time to dismiss official warnings.”
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The statement lasted only a couple of minutes and constituted more of a public service announcement than presidential remarks about policy.
The broadcast from the Diplomatic Room came as the coast braces for landfall of the storm later Tuesday. The storm is forecast to reach hurricane strength as it nears the coast.
The storm has taken on outsized political importance, both because it disrupted this week’s Republican convention in Tampa, Fla., and because the timing coincides with the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina seven years ago. Katrina devastated New Orleans and surrounding areas, and President Bush took heavy criticism and political losses after voters perceived his administration as being slow to respond.
Obama’s administration, wanting to draw a contrast, has been careful to keep people aware of its preparations for the hurricane as the president prepares to make his case for reelection at next week’s Democratic convention.
Officials of the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Hurricane Center briefed the president Tuesday morning, Obama said, as they have been doing regularly for several days.
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This storm isn’t scheduled to make landfall until later today, Obama noted, but FEMA “has been on the ground for over a week.” They have supplies on hand in the anticipated path of the storm and workers in place and ready to help when it hits.
On Monday, he approved a disaster declaration for the state of Louisiana “so they can get help right away.”
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican who was on Mitt Romney’s list of potential running mates, has criticized the disaster declaration for being too limited. Perhaps in response to that, Obama noted that the administration stands ready to do more as needed.
“The hardest work is still ahead,” he said before turning from the cameras and ignoring questions from assembled journalists.
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