Giant trees knocked sideways. Homes boarded up with plywood. Off-kilter street signs.
Less than a week after Hurricane Ida battered the Gulf Coast, President Joe Biden walked the streets of a hardhit Louisiana neighborhood and told local residents, “I know you’re hurting, I know you’re hurting.”
Such a scene likely will be repeated early next week when Biden tours parts of the Northeast that also were battered by flash flooding caused by Ida’s soggy remnants. The White House announced Saturday that Biden will visit Manville, New Jersey, and the New York City borough of Queens on Tuesday.
In Louisiana, Biden pledged robust federal assistance to get people back on their feet and said the government already had distributed $100 million directly to individuals in the state in $500 checks to give them a first slice of critical help. Many people, he said, don’t know what help is available because they can’t get cellphone service.
Residents welcomed Biden’s Friday presence, one of them drawing a sign with his last name and a heart for the dot on the “i.” They laughed and posed for selfies.
More formally, Biden met with state and local officials in LaPlace, a community between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain that suffered major wind and water damage and was left with sheared-off roofs and flooded homes.
“I promise we’re going to have your back,” Biden said.
He also took a flyover tour of pummeled areas including Lafitte, Grand Isle, Port Fourchon and Lafourche Parish, where Parish President Archie Chaisson said 25% of the homes in his community of 100,000 were gone or had catastrophic damage.
The president later met privately with Gov. John Bel Edwards, House Republican Whip Steve Scalise, who is from Louisiana, and local officials including Chaisson.
The devastation was clear even as Air Force One approached New Orleans, with uprooted trees and blue tarps covering shredded houses coming into view. The road to LaPlace exhibited power-line wood poles jutting from the ground at odd angles.