Almost two weeks since a state of emergency was activated for the entirety of Louisiana, prompted by devastating floods that have displaced thousands and killed 17, President Barack Obama will visit the disaster site for the first time.
He is expected to land in Baton Rouge — where some of the worst flooding and devastation occurred — to receive a briefing from federal and local officials as well as emergency workers, then he will travel to East Baton Rouge Parish, where he will hear from residents there who have lost everything. The trip is an opportunity for Obama to reassure the community that the federal government, which is already providing aid, will be there for them.
After his visit, the president plans on addressing the press. His speech can be watched live at 1:55 p.m. EDT by clicking here.
While Obama’s visit is an opportunity to reach out to the community, it also comes at a politically sensitive time. With the 2016 presidential race in full swing, Obama has already come under fire for waiting to visit the flood sites, instead opting to finish out his vacation at Martha’s Vineyard. His trip to Louisiana comes roughly four days after Republican nominee Donald Trump — who is challenging the president’s hoped for successor — toured the wreckage.
And, roughly 11 years after Hurricane Katrina, that reluctance to make the trip has drawn some unflattering comparisons. After Katrina, then-President George W. Bush was photographed in Air Force One flying over Louisiana on his way back to Washington, D.C. That flyover, and the photo specifically, fueled criticism that Bush wasn’t reacting quick enough to the devastation.
While, a much smaller scale, the flooding in Louisiana has been called the worst natural disaster in the United States since Superstorm Sandy smashed coastal New Jersey and New York. Obama’s reaction to those events — weeks before his reelection — was widely praised.