Obama: Irene recovery to last weeks

President Obama vowed Sunday to remain personally engaged in what he cast as a no-holds-barred federal response to Hurricane Irene, and warned that dangers from the storm remain.

“Many Americans are still at serious risk of power outages and flooding, which could get worse in the coming days as rivers swell past their banks,” said Obama, speaking from the White House Rose Garden late Sunday afternoon.

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“So I want people to understand that this is not over. Response and recovery efforts will be an ongoing operation,” Obama said, flanked by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate.

Obama's remarks come after Irene — downgraded early Sunday to a tropical storm — barreled through New York and into New England.

The storm, while packing less of a wallop than initially feared, has knocked out power to several million people and claimed at least 16 lives. It first made landfall in North Carolina early Saturday as a Category 1 hurricane, and moved up the Eastern seaboard over the weekend.

Obama emphasized his personal engagement with the response, noting he’s meeting regularly with Napolitano, Fugate and other officials.


“The impacts of this storm will be felt for some time and the recovery effort will last for weeks or longer. Power may be out for days in some areas and we will support our state and local partners in every way that we can as they work to restore power in those areas,” said Obama, dressed in a light shirt with no tie.

“I am going to make sure that DHS and FEMA and other federal agencies are doing everything in their power to help folks on the ground,” he said.

Obama has held several conference calls in recent days with administration officials, and visited FEMA’s headquarters Saturday.

The White House has been aggressive in showing Obama's oversight of the federal response to the storm. The administration hopes to avoid comparisons to the Bush administration's flawed response to 2005's devastating Hurricane Katrina.

“As I have told governors and mayors from across the affected area, if they need something I want to know about it. We are going to make sure that we respond as quickly and effectively as possible and we are going to keep it up as long as hurricane season continues,” Obama said Sunday.

While vowing an ongoing response to the storm — he noted that federal officials are working on damage assessments with state and local governments — Obama also praised the response thus far.

“This has been an exemplary effort of how good government at every level should be responsive to people’s needs and work to keep them safe and protect and promote the nation’s prosperity,” he said, while also noting that “our thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost loved ones and those whose lives have been affected by the storm."

Authorities worked Monday to restore power and control the threat from flooding, reported The Associated Press.

New York City's airports and subway system, which had been closed as the storm approached, were reopened with limited service.

The New York Stock Exchange announced plans to open as well.

While officials cautioned that it was too early to calculate, reports suggested that Hurricane Irene might cost tens of billions in damage. Reuters reported that the federal government may reimburse states for funds spent on emergency services.


—This story was posted on Aug. 28 at 5:45 p.m. and has been updated.