Biden visits Kentucky to console tornado victims, provide assistance – Daily Local

By ALEXANDRA JAFFE and ZEKE MILLER

WASHINGTON (AP) – For the fifth time since taking office less than a year ago, President Joe Biden takes on the grim task of visiting an area ravaged by natural disaster on Wednesday to offer solace and condolences.

Biden was heading to Kentucky to assess the damage and offer federal support to victims of the devastating tornadoes that have killed tens and left thousands more in the area without heat, water or electricity.

More than 30 tornadoes ravaged Kentucky and at least four other states over the weekend, killing at least 88 people and demolishing homes, cutting power lines and cutting residents off from major utilities as temperatures fell below zero in Kentucky earlier this week.

Biden will travel to Fort Campbell for a storm briefing and Mayfield and Dawson Springs to assess storm damage. Although Biden is supposed to speak, that is not the purpose of the trip. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the president will meet with storm victims and local officials to provide federal support.

Biden “wants to hear directly from people and he wants to offer his support directly to them,” Psaki said.

Jeff and Tara Wilson, a married couple from Mayfield, were at the Graves County Fairgrounds on Tuesday, where a distribution center has been set up to distribute food, water and clothing to victims of the storm. They were setting up a mobile site for storm victims to receive counseling and said their home was unharmed.

Asked about the president’s visit and the welcome he will receive in this strongly republican region, Tara Wilson replied: “I don’t know. I think as long as everyone’s hearts are in the right place, we shouldn’t be focusing on politics just yet. She said it was a “very positive thing” that Biden was visiting, and she and her husband expressed hope that the president could help unite the community.

“This place is like a bomb has been dropped on it. And everyone has to come together, ”Wilson said. “So far, that’s what’s happening. You see everyone pulling themselves together.

Biden’s trip to Kentucky comes at the end of a year marked by a noticeable increase in extreme weather events primarily due to climate change. Just a month after being sworn in, Biden traveled to Houston to assess the damage caused by last winter’s historic storm. He eventually traveled to Idaho, Colorado and California to study the damage caused by wildfires over the summer, as well as Louisiana, New Jersey and New York City earlier this fall after Hurricane Ida devastated the region.

The disasters offered Biden urgent, visceral evidence of what he says is America’s urgent need to do more to tackle climate change and prepare for future disasters – a case he presented for help get their spending proposals adopted.

The $ 1,000 billion infrastructure bill, enacted last month, includes billions for climate resilience projects aimed at better defending people and property against future storms, wildfires and other natural disasters. Its proposed $ 2 trillion social spending program, still pending in Congress, includes billions more to help the country move away from oil, gas and coal and turn to widespread energy use. clean and electric vehicles.

The White House spent much of the week chatting with lawmakers about the latter. Biden spoke to West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, a key Democrat, hoping to sort out some of his issues in time to pass a package before the end of the year.

But on Wednesday, Biden will focus squarely on Kentucky. Five tornadoes hit the state, including one with an extraordinarily long journey of around 200 miles (322 kilometers), authorities said.

Besides the deaths in Kentucky, the tornadoes also killed at least six people in Illinois, where Amazon’s distribution center in Edwardsville was hit; four in Tennessee; two in Arkansas, where a retirement home was destroyed and the governor said workers were protecting residents with their own bodies; and two in Missouri.

The president signed two federal disaster declarations for Kentucky over the weekend, providing federal assistance with search, rescue and cleanup operations, as well as temporary housing assistance and to help individuals and businesses to recover.

Biden said earlier this week during a White House briefing on the tragedy with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and other senior emergency response officials that the federal government is committed to provide everything affected states need in the aftermath of the storm.

“We’re going to get there,” Biden said. “We’re going to be there as long as it takes to help.

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AP writer Bruce Schreiner in Mayfield, Ky., Contributed to this report.

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