LYNN HAVEN, Fla. — President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump toured hurricane ravaged Florida on Monday, five days after Hurricane Michael made landfall.
Trump touted the storm response upon landing in Florida, telling reporters on Eglin Air Force base that officials “stepped up” and followed “right behind” Hurricane Michael.
Later, walking past splintered trees and destroyed homes, Trump seemed in awe of the storm’s wrath.
“To see this personally is very tough. It’s very, very tough. Total devastation,” the President said.
The trip followed a pattern the President has established after major storms: visiting the affected areas, greeting residents and handing out provisions.
On Monday, Trump handed bottles of water to stranded residents of Lynn Haven while trumpeting his administration’s response efforts.
“We’re doing more than has probably ever been done,” he said. “They say that 50 years ago there was one that had this kind of power.”
“Fifty years,” he continued, “it’s long time.”
Earlier, on the tarmac in Panama City, Trump hailed Federal Emergency Management Agency and its response to the storm.
“The job they’ve done in Florida has been incredible and likewise I’m hearing in Georgia,” Trump told reporters.
Trump was greeted by Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott and former Republican Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
The Trumps began their visit to Florida with an aerial tour from Marine One over areas affected by the hurricane. Trump is also expected to visit Georgia on his trip.
Officials say dozens of people are still missing. Search crews in Mexico Beach, Florida, are sifting precariously through heavy rubble in search of about 25 to 30 people, the city’s police chief said.
The storm has already claimed 18 lives in four states.
Authorities say it could be weeks or months before a sense of normalcy returns to storm-ravaged Florida.
Trump has consistently visited states following natural disasters and hurricanes. Last month, Trump traveled to the Carolinas following deadly Hurricane Florence.
In 2017, Trump received criticism after visiting damage zones in Puerto Rico and Texas and was accused of appearing overly congratulatory, even as conditions remained dire.
On his first visit to Texas after Hurricane Harvey flooded parts of Houston, Trump met with no storm victims, choosing instead to receive high-level briefings from state officials. He later returned to the state to meet with displaced families.
When he visited San Juan after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, Trump lobbed rolls of paper towels into a crowd at a church — an image that has since come to illustrate what his critics say was a lackluster approach to the island’s destruction.
Presidents have long sought to use natural disasters as a way to project executive leadership, often in a setting where politics are set aside. But pitfalls have abounded, including in 2005 when President George W. Bush faced intense criticism for his response to Hurricane Katrina.