President Barack Obama urged the public to heed the warnings of state and federal authorities and prepare for lengthy power outages and transportation disruptions in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
“This is going to be a slow moving process through a wide swath of the country,” said Obama from the White House briefing room. “Please, listen to what your state and local officials are saying.”
The president said he’s confident equipment and supplies are in place to speed relief efforts once the storm lets up. Failure to evacuate designated areas or not follow instructions may endanger emergency personnel, he said.
Obama spoke after getting a a briefing on the storm and emergency preparations from Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, Richard Knabb, the director of the National Hurricane Center Director, and other officials.
With eight days before the election and Hurricane Sandy barreling towards the East Coast, Obama canceled campaign events and rushed back to the White House as the Atlantic’s largest-ever tropical storm threatens to sever power lines and disrupt the lives of millions. Mitt Romney, his Republican opponent, announced today that he would cancel events for the next two days.
Obama left Florida early this morning, skipping a scheduled rally in Orlando where he was going to appear with former President Bill Clinton. The early morning decision did not leave time for the charter airplane that transports many reporters who cover the president to return to Washington before the storm, stranding most of Obama’s traveling press corps in Florida. The Obama campaign also canceled a rally that was planned for tomorrow in Green Bay, Wisconsin, taking Obama off of the campaign trail for two days.
The storm forced Obama to balance his duties as the country’s commander-in-chief with his role as his party’s nominee for president.
“I am not worried at this point about the impact on the election. I am worried about the impact on families and I am worried about the impact on our first responders. I am worried about the impact on our economy and on transportation,” Obama said. “The election will take care of itself next week.”
“He has real responsibilities and those responsibilities come first,” David Axelrod, Obama’s senior campaign adviser, said in a conference call with reporters. “We’re obviously going to lose a bunch of campaign time, but that’s as it has to be and we’ll try to make it up on the back end.”
Yesterday, as he delivered pizzas to campaign workers in Orlando, Florida, Obama said he realized that the storm would impede his ability to make the final push for a second term in person. Canceling events would put “a little more burden on folks in the field because I am not going to be able to campaign quite as much over the next couple of days,” he told campaign staff.