▶ Watch Video: Florida begins to sort through Idalia’s devastation

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden are in Florida Saturday to survey the damage wrought by Hurricane Idalia and the state, local and federal response to it.

The president and first lady are taking an aerial tour of storm-affected areas, before traveling to Live Oak, Florida. In Live Oak, they will receive a briefing on response and recovery efforts, and meet with first responders, federal personnel and local officials. The president will tour damage on the ground in Live Oak. 

The president said he will meet with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during his visit, but DeSantis’ spokesperson, Jeremy Redfern, said the governor’s office doesn’t have plans for the two to meet. DeSantis on Friday voiced concerns with the president’s “security apparatus” being disruptive to recovery efforts and power restoration in the hardest-hit areas that are difficult to access.

In a statement Friday night, White House spokesperson Emilie Simons said that Mr. Biden and First Lady Jill Biden “look forward to meeting members of the community impacted by Hurricane Idalia and surveying impacts of the storm,” but made no specific mention of the governor. 

“Their visit to Florida has been planned in close coordination with FEMA as well as state and local leaders to ensure there is no impact on response operations,” Simons said.  

Residents of the Big Bend region of Florida are grappling with the aftermath of a Category 3 hurricane that flooded and splintered homes and businesses. Mr. Biden approved Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ major disaster declaration request, and says the Sunshine State will receive whatever it needs. 

“And as I said, you know, and to the people of Florida and throughout the southeast, I’m here to make clear that our nation has your back,” the president said during a visit to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, adding, “We’re not going to walk away. We’re not going to give up. We’re not going to slow down.”

Members of the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Florida Task Force 1 help residents remove debris after Hurricane Idalia in Horseshoe Beach, Florida, on August 31, 2023.

Eva Marie Uzcategui / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Power outages continue to plague the state, particularly in Taylor, Madison, Lafayette, Hamilton, Swanny, Jefferson and Dixie counties, DeSantis said Friday, though power has been restored to hundreds of thousands of homes and other buildings. 

A storm-damaged gas station in Perry, Florida is reflected in a puddle after Hurricane Idalia crossed the state on on August 30, 2023.

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The storm has brought a moment of bipartisanship between a Democratic president running for reelection and a Republican governor running for the GOP nomination. Mr. Biden told reporters he hasn’t sensed politics or political motivation in his calls with DeSantis. 

It’s Mr. Biden’s second trip in two weeks to a state devastated by a natural disaster, after he visited Maui last month. The island is still reeling from wildfires and working to rebuild its infrastructure. 

The president has stressed the need to rebuild a more resilient American infrastructure in light of the disasters in Hawaii and Florida, saying no one can “deny the impact of the climate crisis anymore.” This is a point of contention between the president and DeSantis. DeSantis supports improving infrastructure against major storms but doesn’t say that climate change has affected their impact.