WASHINGTON — President Biden flew to Kentucky on Wednesday morning to review the damage done last weekend by a series of deadly tornadoes, playing a comforting role for disaster victims that has become a staple of his presidency.
The tornadoes ripped through a 200-mile swath of the state, killing dozens of people and leaving more than 1,000 families homeless or with serious damage requiring repair. Mr Biden will visit some of the hardest hit areas during his trip.
In the late morning, Mr. Biden took an aerial tour of Mayfield, Kentucky, which was devastated by the storms, and saw broken logs and destroyed homes from the windows of his helicopter. He then landed to inspect the damage on the ground, where he was briefed by local officials.
During the briefing, Mr. Biden told a group of government officials that communities in Kentucky reminded him of communities in his home state of Delaware, and that he was impressed by the people who worked together in the face of tragedy, hinting at bridging the gap. of political divides. .
“There are no red tornadoes,” Mr. Biden said, “there are no blue tornadoes.”
In the afternoon, Mr. Biden was due to visit a neighborhood in Dawson Springs, Kentucky, a small town that is the hometown of the father of Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, a Democrat who will accompany the president on his journey. Mr Biden will then comment on his administration’s response to the storms.
The president has made several similar trips since taking office in January. He visited victims of hurricanes and extreme storms on the Gulf Coast and in the New York area, and with wildfire victims in the West.
In both cases, Mr. Biden has sought to reassure residents that the federal government was working hard to accelerate recovery efforts, while also providing personal comfort to people who have suffered extreme damage from the disasters.
In Kentucky, Mr. Biden will “examine storm damage first-hand and ensure that we are doing everything we can to provide assistance to affected areas as quickly as possible to support recovery efforts,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters. to reporters on Tuesday.
“I can tell you that in the past I’ve traveled with the president on some of these trips,” she said, “what often happens is he asks leaders directly, ‘What do you need? What don’t you get? And how can we make it faster for you?’ And then he gets back in the car and gives an assignment to a staffer and says, ‘Get this done.’”
The storm-stricken region largely voted for Mr Biden’s opponent, former President Donald J. Trump, in the 2020 election. A reporter asked Ms. Psaki on Tuesday whether Mr. Biden had made any special preparations for his visit to the conservative area.
“I think the president looks at people through the tragedy they are going through – the heartache they feel at the loss of life, the loss of their homes; I know a lot of people are asking about whether they can build on this — this storm that has hit their communities,” she said. “He sees them as people, not people who have partisan ties.”
Ms. Psaki said this week that Mr. Biden had invited Kentucky’s entire congressional delegation, which is strongly Republican, to join him on the trip. White House officials listed only one member of that group on the official manifest for the flight to the state: Representative James Comer Jr., a Republican whose district includes Mayfield.