Opinion: Hurricane Irene: Obama issues his own storm warning, then takes his own advice

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President Obama issued his own Hurricane Irene warning this morning and then decided to take his own advice.

He’s cutting short his vacation on Martha’s Vineyard off the New England Coast and returning to the White House this evening instead of this weekend. His family is not.

In a three-minute statement for the benefit of media cameras (Scroll down for full text), Obama underlined the federal government’s preparations and stressed that anyone in the projected path of the storm should take immediate precautions.

‘Don’t wait,’ he said. ‘Don’t delay. We all hope for the best, but we have to be prepared for the worst. All of us have to take this storm seriously.’


He noted the Pentagon had ordered an aircraft carrier group of 27 ships based in Virginia out to sea to protect itself, one of those counter-intuitive military maneuvers that puzzles some civilian minds. But, of course, they’re crossing in front of the storm’s path and will be safely out of its way to the east side by late today rather than helplessly tied up at docks.

See the satellite photo above of Irene taken today just off the East coast of Florida headed for the Carolinas.

The political point of all this the year before a presidential election, of course, is to show decisive executive action in the face of a possible crisis. The reality is he was not going to get any more golf in overnight anyway and the appearance of being at the helm in the White House is politically important.

And, the letter I as in Hurricane Irene is not that far from the letter K as in Hurricane Katrina.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Statement by President Obama on Hurricane Irene, as provided by the White House

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. I want to say a few words about Hurricane Irene, urge Americans to take it seriously, and provide an overview of our ongoing federal preparations for what’s likely to be an extremely dangerous and costly storm.

I’ve just convened a conference call with senior members of my emergency response team and....

...directed them to make sure that we are bringing all federal resources to bear and deploying them properly to cope not only with the storm but also its aftermath. I’ve also spoken this morning with governors and mayors of major metropolitan areas along the Eastern Seaboard to let them know that this administration is in full support of their efforts to prepare for this storm and stands ready to fully support their response efforts. And we will continue to stay in close contact with them.

I cannot stress this highly enough: If you are in the projected path of this hurricane, you have to take precautions now. Don’t wait. Don’t delay. We all hope for the best, but we have to be prepared for the worst. All of us have to take this storm seriously. You need to listen to your state and local officials, and if you are given an evacuation order, please follow it. Just to underscore this point: We ordered an aircraft carrier group out to sea to avoid this storm yesterday.So if you’re in the way of this hurricane, you should be preparing now.

If you aren’t sure how to prepare your families or your home or your business for a hurricane or any other emergency, then you can visit -- that’s -- or That’s

Now, since last weekend, FEMA has been deploying its Incident Management Assistance Teams to staging areas in communities up and down the coast. FEMA has millions of liters of water, millions of meals, and tens of thousands of cots and blankets, along with other supplies, pre-positioned along the Eastern Seaboard. And the American Red Cross has already begun preparing shelters in North Carolina and other states.

These resources are all being coordinated with our state and local partners, and they stand ready to be deployed as necessary. But, again, if you are instructed to evacuate, please do so. It’s going to take time for first responders to begin rescue operations and to get the resources we’ve pre-positioned to people in need.

So the more you can do to be prepared now -- making a plan, make a supply kit, know your evacuation route, follow instructions of your local officials -- the quicker we can focus our resources after the storm on those who need help the most.

To sum up, all indications point to this being a historic hurricane. Although we can’t predict with perfect certainty the impact of Irene over the next few days, the federal government has spent the better part of last week working closely with officials in communities that could be affected by this storm to see to it that we are prepared.

So now is the time for residents of these communities -- in the hours that remain -- to do the same. And FEMA and Craig Fugate, the director of FEMA, will be keeping people closely posted in the next 24, 48 hours. Thank you very much. ####