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Joe Biden Coming To Louisiana Friday To Assess Hurricane Ida Damage, John Bel Edwards Says

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks as Vice President Kamala Harris looks on during an event at the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks as Vice President Kamala Harris looks on during an event at the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC.

President Joe Biden will visit Louisiana this week as Louisianans only begin to pick up the pieces left behind by catastrophic Hurricane Ida, which has caused mass power outages, significant damage and has so far resulted in two deaths.

Though the announcement was made earlier Wednesday, Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a press conference later that afternoon that the president would visit Friday to assess the damage from the Category 4 storm, which made landfall Sunday. Details of the president’s trip to the Pelican State are sparse at this time.

Wednesday’s press conference was held in Jefferson Parish, which was badly beaten by Ida, particularly low-lying areas like Jean Lafitte and Grand Isle.

“I was not aware of the devastation from this storm to the entire area,” said Jefferson Parish president Cynthia Lee-Sheng. “I was so isolated in Jefferson Parish that I didn’t realize it. Today, we’re a broken community.”

The announcement comes at a time when officials are still assessing the destruction from Ida and are working furiously to get power back to hundreds of thousands of residents still in the dark. Entergy, the state’s largest utility provider, accounts for 778,000 of those outages. Company officials celebrated the restoration of electricity in pockets of New Orleans East on Wednesday but said it could be weeks before power is restored to most customers.

Demand for gasoline has surged as evacuees and recovery workers flood the area and many Louisiana residents turn to portable generators to bring some electricity to their otherwise dark homes.

Two-thirds of the state’s refining capacity is down following the storm, but Edwards said the state needs bulk fuel brought into the state before those facilities are brought back online.

“The state of Louisiana provides fuel for the rest of the country,” Edwards said. “And now we need the rest of the country to give up a little of their fuel to come back to Louisiana so we can deal with this hurricane and get this recovery started the way that it should.

The governor had three conversations with White House officials on Tuesday and the state’s dire fuel shortages were discussed each time, Edwards said. He added that he is confident that he and Biden will be able to announce sweeping federal action to shore up low gasoline supplies when the president visits.

Edwards also hopes to announce a long-term housing program for those displaced by the storm.

More than 2,500 evacuees are in shelters across the state, Edwards said — a total far lower than those who were sheltered by the state after Hurricane Laura last year. Before Ida made landfall, Edwards and state officials urged as many people as possible to take shelter with friends and family to avoid contracting or spreading the coronavirus in the close quarters of a congregate shelter.

Unlike last year, the state has not contracted with hotels to offer evacuees non-congregate shelter options.

The Louisiana Department of Health reported 12,380 new cases over the last four days, but Edwards said that is likely an undercount with so many COVID-19 testing sites shuttered because of the storm.

Copyright 2021 WRKF. To see more, visit WRKF.

Paul Braun is WRKF's Capitol Access reporter.

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