As Hurricane Sandy pummeled the East Coast on Monday, President Obama was orchestrating an “outstanding” federal response according to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R). Normally a harsh critic of the president and a surrogate on the campaign trail for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Christie joined Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) in praising Obama and his administration’s disaster response.
“The federal government’s response has been great. I was on the phone at midnight again last night with the President, personally. He has expedited the designation of New Jersey as a major disaster area,” Christie told NBC’s Today Show on Tuesday.
President Obama declared New Jersey and New York major disaster areas Tuesday morning, and ordered federal aid to accompany local and state recovery efforts beginning October 26, 2012, according to a statement issued by the White House.
“I have to say, the administration, the president himself and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate have been outstanding with us so far,” Christie said on Good Morning America. “We have a great partnership with them.”
Obama spoke personally with the mayors of New York, Jersey City and Newark as well, and has planned a conference call for Tuesday afternoon with governors and mayors in the affected areas.
The storm provided the first major test to FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, since Hurricane Katrina. In anticipation of the storm, the agency had positioned 139 ambulances in New York by Monday, and had sent hundreds of thousands of meals and bottles of water to southern New Jersey. Search and rescue teams were deployed before the hurricane made landfall, and inspectors were sent to all nuclear power plants in the disaster affected area.
Power remained out Tuesday morning for roughly six million people in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions impacted by the storm, including a large portion of Manhattan. In New York, mass transit service, including subways and commuter rails, remained closed due to flooding.
Joseph J. Lhota, the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority called the storm the most destructive in the 108-year history of New York’s subway system. Seven subway tunnels under the East River flooded and six bus garages were disabled in New York City.
At least 11 deaths have been attributed to the storm so far, with many tied to trees downed by the storm’s heavy winds.
Schools and businesses throughout the mid-Atlantic and Northeast remain shut Tuesday as well as roads, with more than 13,000 airline flights canceled through Wednesday.
The president stepped off of the campaign trail, cancelling a number of major campaign stops in key battleground states this week. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Obama will remain in Washington, D.C. “to monitor the response to Hurricane Sandy and ensure that all available federal resources continue to be provided to support ongoing state and local recovery efforts."
While Obama stays in Washington orchestrating the federal response, Mitt Romney changed his planned campaign stops in Ohio Tuesday afternoon to a “storm relief effort” in Kettering. He continued campaigning in two states on Monday.