Addressing a small crowd of federal, state, and local officials today in Hillsborough Township, President Joe Biden expressed sympathy for those who died or are missing due to Hurricane Ida, and connected the disaster to the broader problem of climate change.
“The losses that we witnessed today are profound,” he said. “Dozens of lost lives, homes destroyed … damaged infrastructure, including the rail system. My thoughts are with all those families affected by the storm and all those families who lost someone they loved.”
Biden noted that as disaster recovery proceeds, with over one hundred Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) personnel joining local forces, efforts to rebuild will need to involve preparing for a world with more extreme weather events.
“Whatever damage was done in New Jersey, you can’t build back and restore what it was before,” he said. “Because another tornado, another ten inches of rain, is going to produce the same kind of results.”
“I think the country has finally acknowledged the fact that global warming is real, and it’s moving at an incredible pace, and we’ve got to do something about it,” Biden continued. “I think we’re at one of those inflection points where we either act or we’re going to be in real, real trouble.”
FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell similarly addressed the topic of climate change, while also making note of which counties have and have not yet received a major disaster declaration – a point of contention for several counties which were excluded from the initial declaration.
“We wanted to be able to get this disaster declaration in place quickly, knowing that we still needed to do additional damage assessments to really get a better understanding of the scope of the impact that the communities are experiencing across New Jersey,” Criswell said.
Gov. Phil Murphy made a pitch to expand the number of counties covered under Biden’s emergency aid order.
“We are deeply appreciative of the major disaster declaration that you and the FEMA administrator declared for six of our counties, including this one,” Murphy said. “And I know FEMA is on the ground today and we are desperately hoping that some more counties get added to that list – Essex, Union, Hudson, Mercer, at a minimum.”
U.S. Senator Cory Booker, Reps. Frank Pallone (D-Long Branch), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Ewing), Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes), Somerset County Commissioner Shanell Robinson, New Jersey State Police acting Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan and Murphy Chief of Staff George Helmy were among those who joined Biden at the Hillsborough briefing.
Shortly after delivering his remarks in Hillsborough, Biden traveled to Manville to assess the damage to the Somerset County borough and speak with local residents; the President was accompanied by Murphy, Pallone, Coleman, and Malinowski, among others.
This story was updated at 3:42 p.m. with details of Biden’s visit to Manville.