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During post-storm tour, Biden praises Florida residents for their 'remarkable' spirit

President Biden speaks in front of a home destroyed by fallen trees and debris during a tour of communities impacted by Hurricane Idalia, in Live Oak, Fla., on Saturday.
Stefani Reynolds
/
AFP via Getty Images
President Biden speaks in front of a home destroyed by fallen trees and debris during a tour of communities impacted by Hurricane Idalia, in Live Oak, Fla., on Saturday.

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden got to see the damage from Hurricane Idalia up close as they toured the northern Florida city of Live Oak on Saturday.

The city, which is located a little over an hour northeast of where the storm made landfall early Wednesday as Category 3 hurricane with 125 mph winds, was one of the hardest hit areas.

Following both an aerial and walking tour of the damaged area, as well as meet-and-greets with first responders and those affected by the destruction, Biden told a crowd of onlookers and reporters that the spirit of the community "is remarkable."

"When people are in real trouble the most important thing you can give them is hope," the president said. "There's no hope like your neighbor walking across the street to see what they can do for you or the local pastor or someone coming in and offering you help — it gives you hope."

As the storm blew inland, it left a trail of downed trees, destroyed buildings and homes and flooded fields. Communities closer to the shore were hit with storm surge, while many homes along the Suwannee River were damaged and whole neighborhoods submerged in flood waters.

While an initial cost of the damage wrought by the storm has yet to be released by the government, Moody's estimates Idalia is going to cost Florida and Georgia between $12 to $20 billion in damage.

According to the state government, power restoration is ongoing with 90% of the power that was knocked out by Hurricane Idalia having been restored as of Saturday afternoon.

Meanwhile, agencies from all levels of government continue to work on recovery efforts. Biden assured residents that the federal government wasn't going anywhere.

"Now the storm has passed and you're dealing with what's in its wake ... we're here to help the state long as it takes," he said.

As of Saturday, no storm-related deaths had been confirmed by Florida's government.

Biden and the first lady were accompanied on their tour by Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott, butdid not meet with the state's Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is running for president.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ashley Westerman is a producer who occasionally directs the show. Since joining the staff in June 2015, she has produced a variety of stories including a coal mine closing near her hometown, the 2016 Republican National Convention, and the Rohingya refugee crisis in southern Bangladesh. She is also an occasional reporter for Morning Edition, and NPR.org, where she has contributed reports on both domestic and international news.