The president met with FEMA officials today regarding Hurricane Matthew. He spoke for five minutes, commencing at 11:42 a.m., and reminded citizens that Matthew "is a serious storm" and asked everyone to please listen to their local officials.
"If you get an evacuation order, just remember that you can always rebuild, you can always repair property; you cannot restore a life if it is lost," Obama stated.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Administrator Fugate here at FEMA, as well a number of other agencies, our Army Corps of Engineers, our National Guard, have just briefed me on preparations that we're making for the possibility of some serious effects from Hurricane Matthew.
Matthew could soon affect areas all across the southeast. So, at my direction, FEMA has been on the ground in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, working with state and local officials to prepare for the storm. We've already got response teams and supplies pre-positioned, and ready to help communities in the region.
I want to emphasize to the public: This is a serious storm. It has already hit Haiti with devastating effect. It is now in the process of moving through the Bahamas. Because it's not going to be hitting enough land, it is going to be building strength on its way to Florida. We anticipate that by tomorrow morning it will already begin to have significant effect in Florida, and then has the potential to strengthen and move on up the coast during the course of the day.
So I want to make sure that everybody is paying attention to your local officials. If there is an evacuation order in your community, you need to take it seriously. We anticipate that not only is there still a chance that the core of the storm strikes Florida and some of the states further north, but even if you don’t get the full force of the hurricane, we are still going to be seeing tropical force winds, the potential for a storm surge, and all of that could have a devastating effect.
So everybody needs to be paying attention and following the instructions of your local officials. And if you get an evacuation order, just remember that you can always rebuild, you can always repair property; you cannot restore a life if it is lost. And we want to make sure that we minimize any possible loss of life or risk to people in these areas.
I also want to make sure that we say thanks to the folks at the National Weather Service and the FEMA team for the outstanding work that they're doing here. Craig, just in case folks aren’t aware, comes from Florida, is intimately familiar with the dangers of hurricanes, and it just so happens that he's got family in areas that could be affected by the storm. So this is personal for him. You know that he's going to be working around the clock to make sure that we are preventing any potential loss of life and trying to minimize as much as possible the impacts of this storm. But this is going to be a serious storm, and we want everybody to take it seriously as well.
Even as we prepare for the hurricane here at home, I want us to keep in mind that Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world, already suffering from a range of previous disasters, has been hit really hard by this storm, and we anticipate that they are going to need substantial help. There may be similar needs in places like the Bahamas. So I would ask that people who are willing to contribute and willing to help to visit the Center for International Disaster Information. The website is CIDI.org — CIDI.org. You can find out how you can help make life a little bit easier for people who didn’t have a lot to begin with and now are really getting hammered by this storm.
And last point for everybody in the potentially affected states: Even as you are waiting to get instructions from your local officials, now is the time for you to prepare in the event that you have to evacuate. Even if you don’t have to evacuate — there is not an evacuation order — it still makes sense for you to figure out what kind of plan do you have, what kind of preparations and supplies do you have. And if you need help trying to figure that out, go to Ready.gov — Ready.gov — because that will give you some really clear instructions about how to make sure that you are securing your property and keeping your family safe, which is obviously the priority for all of us.
So this is something to take seriously. We hope for the best, but we want to prepare for the worst. And I would urge everybody in the affected states of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina to pay very close attention to your local officials and the broadcasts that are going to be coming through over the next several hours.
Thank you very much, everybody.
END 11:47 A.M. EDT
(White House pool report