ABC News’ Tahman Bradley Reports:
With communities along the East Coast still dealing with the devastation caused by Hurricane Irene, President Obama traveled to New Jersey today to meet with residents and inspect damage caused by Hurricane Irene.
Obama toured Paterson, which is cleaning up from flooding caused by the Passaic River.
The president also visited Wayne, which has residential areas suffering from flooding caused by the Pompton River.
In Paterson, the President walked from house to house for a couple blocks.
“How high did the water come up?” the president asks one resident whose house had been badly damaged.”
“Are you okay?” he asks another. “I’m so sorry.”
Stopping to make remarks on a bridge, the president said the country should not underestimate the heartache that is going through communities cleaning up after Hurricane Irene.
“Well, obviously visiting Wayne and Paterson gives you a sense of the devastation that’s taken place not only here in New Jersey, but in upstate New York and Vermont and a whole range of states that were affected by Hurricane Irene,” Obama said.
The President said the federal government will do all it can to help East Coast communities cope.
“The main message I have for all of the residents, not only of New Jersey but all those communities that have been affected by flooding by the destruction that occurred as a consequence of Hurricane Irene, is that the entire country is behind you,” said Obama. “And we are going to make sure that we provide all the resources that are necessary in order to help these communities rebuild.”
Mr. Obama thanked FEMA as well as state and local officials for what he called an “extraordinary responsiveness” to the storm. He said Washington politics should not stand in the way of getting people what they need.
“As president of the United States I want to make it very clear that we are going to meet our federal obligations because we are one country,” said Obama. “When one part of the country gets affected, whether it’s a tornado in Joplin, Missouri or a hurricane that affects that eastern seaboard, then we come together as one country and make sure that everybody gets the help that they need.”
The President received an update on the ongoing response and recovery by FEMA administrator Craig Fugate and FEMA’s Federal Coordinating Officer Bill Vogel.
On Sunday afternoon, Obama was greeted in New Jersey by Gov. Chris Christie and Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Bob Menendez after Air Force One landed.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One that Paterson is one place the president could visit to see the severe impact caused by the storm, and that the president looks forward to meeting with the federal response team as well as local officials about what’s happening on the ground, according to a pool report.
In a non-hurricane piece of news, Carney told reporters the president spent the weekend putting the finishing touches on the jobs speech he plans to deliver Thursday night before a joint session of Congress.
“He is very far along,” Carney said, according to a pool report.