WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Obama will travel to New Jersey tomorrow to view the destruction wrought by Hurricane Sandy on the state. Scheduled to appear with Governor Chris Christie, Obama has suspended personal appearances at campaign events to respond to the storm.
Speaking at the Red Cross headquarters in Washington today, Obama said his thoughts and prayers were with those who lost loved ones in the devastating hurricane, which has claimed at least ten lives in New York City alone.
“Obviously this is something that is heartbreaking for the entire nation,” he said, “And we certainly feel profoundly for all of the families whose lives have been upended, and are going to be going through some very tough times over the next several days, perhaps the next several weeks and months. The most important message that I have for them is that America is with you. We are standing behind you and we are going to do everything we can to help you get back on your feet.”
Before visiting the Red Cross today the president held a conference call with Atlantic governors imploring them to let his administration know of any unmet needs. According to a written statement, a number of governors offered their assistance to states who had taken more severe damage from the hurricane – in addition to federal relief.
Obama said the coordination between state, local, and federal agencies has been “outstanding.”
“Sadly we are getting more experienced with these kinds of big-impact storms along the east coast, and the preparation shows,” he said. “Were it not for the outstanding work that they and their teams have already done and will continue to do in the effected regions we could have seen more deaths and more property damage.”
The president estimated over a thousand FEMA officials had been prepositioned in disaster areas, in addition to supplies from fresh water to emergency generators for hospitals and law enforcement offices. He promised his administration would “push as hard as we can” to get power back on quickly for high density areas.
“The private utilities are going to have to lean forward but we are doing everything we can to provide them with additional resources so that we can expedite getting power up and running in many of these communities.”
Federal agencies including the military, he said, would be forced to work outside the box for the duration of the recovery.
“I want you to cut through red tape, I want you to cut through bureaucracy. There’s no excuse for inaction at this point,” later adding, “the reason we are here is because the Red Cross knows what it’s doing when it comes to emergency response.”
Praising the bravery of local efforts, Obama stated that “during the darkness of the storm, I think we also saw what’s brightest in America.” The president singled out nurses at New York University Hospital who carried newborns as the medical facility was evacuated last evening.
Governor Christie has been effusive in his praise of Obama’s handling of the storm. In addition to daily calls with the affected governors over the last several days, the two spoke on the phone at midnight, according to Christie during an appearance on Good Morning America.
Obama made major disaster declarations for New York and New Jersey overnight. He has also signed emergency declarations for several other states along the eastern seaboard from Virginia to Massachusetts.
With both election campaigns on a temporary hiatus, in Ohio today Mitt Romney morphed a previously scheduled rally into what his campaign branded a “storm relief event,” where supporters were encouraged to bring canned goods and other donations for Sandy’s victims. All told, the Romney and Obama campaigns have cancelled or changed a combined 32 events disrupted by the storm.
The former Massachusetts governor will resume formal campaigning tomorrow, while President Obama is still scheduled for Midwestern stops on Thursday.
ABC’s Zach Wolf contributed to this report.