President Trump on Monday was touring parts of Florida to tout his administration's response to Hurricane Michael, even as many said they were still awaiting relief from the federal government.
"The job they’ve done in Florida has been incredible," Trump said of the Federal Emergency Management Agency as he met with Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott. "And likewise, I’m hearing, in Georgia, very good things, Rick. So I want to thank you. You’re a great governor."
"Just making sure everyone is safe, that they’re fed," Trump added. "You know, many of these people have no ... they have no homes. Some of them have no trace of a home. You wouldn’t even know it. It just got blown right off the footing. So our big thing is feeding, water, and safety.
Michael's path was immense, impacting residents from Florida to Virginia. Four days after Michael made landfall Wednesday, a victim was found in Virginia, increasing the death toll to 18.
Roughly 190,000 Floridians lost power, and many were still waiting Monday afternoon on supplies from support crews. Some managed to seek help by using blown-down tree limbs to spell "HELP" on the ground. Florida officials ordered the evacuation of roughly 3,000 inmates in the wake of the storm after prisons took on damage. Other states, like Georgia, also incurred some critical damage.
The Trump administration immediately responded to the disaster, ordering boots on the ground, meals, and supplies be distributed to those in the wake of Michael's path.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency deployed over 16,000 employees, including over 8,000 military personnel, to support in the Hurricane Michael relief efforts. Some 35,000 utility employees are working to restore power and hundreds of small teams are working search and rescue missions from Florida to Virginia.
In Florida, FEMA is distributing roughly 715,000 meals and 1.5 million liters of water per day, according to the agency. Georgia residents welcomed 350,000 meals from agency employees.
But many have been waiting for nearly a week to get access to potable drinking water, power and basic day-to-day necessities.
Most people in Panama City, Florida remained without power, restrooms or water four days after Michael swept through their town. Reports on the ground across Michael's path describe various stories of power lines still down, homes destroyed and families, including single elderly individuals, waiting for much-needed supplies.
FEMA has roughly $25 billion in reserve funds to cover its costs. Congress is not in session this month, which means lawmakers will not be able to allocate any additional relief funds over the coming weeks.
While storm recovery efforts to continue for weeks and months, Trump has been spared from any significant criticism of how his administration handled it. He received some media backlash for going forward with a scheduled rally the night Michael made landfall, but the criticism has since died down. Trump, like may presidents before him, got flack for golfing Sunday while many Americans were still waiting for help in the southeast.
How a president responds to natural disasters during an election year can always have political implications.
In 1992, the massive category 5 Hurricane Andrew hit Florida and former President George H.W. Bush was the subject of media criticism for not acting quickly enough to mitigate the damage. Despite criticisms, Bush ultimately bested former President Bill Clinton in Florida that year. Bush would go on to lose to Clinton in 1992, but there is no hard evidence that the hurricane had a discernible effect on the election outcome.
Two decades later, in October 2012, Hurricane Sandy touched down in the northeast, covering New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. At the time, pundits likened it to an "October surprise." That storm came one month before voters would choose between former President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
It isn't entirely clear how Obama's response to Sandy impacted the election, but former GOP New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was lambasted by Republicans for a picture of him hugging Obama when he visited New Jersey in the wake of Sandy. Some pundits argued that the hurricane undermined Romney's ability to focus on his message, and helped Obama in the final weeks.