President Obama is cutting his vacation short.
Obama told his staff that he would return from Martha’s Vineyard to Washington Friday evening, a day earlier than planned, to monitor the progress of Hurricane Irene, a Category 2 storm that will move up the eastern seaboard after making landfall Friday in North Carolina.
The president's wife and two daughters will remain on the island until Saturday, White House officials said.
Obama read a three-minute statement to reporters Friday discussing his administration’s preparations for the storm.
“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,” he said. “We all hope for the best, but we have to be prepared for the worst. All of us have to take this storm seriously.”
Obama had disregarded critics who had said his 10-day vacation on a 28-acre compound on the tony island would send the wrong signal at a time when 14 million Americans are out of work.
He played at least three rounds of golf and spent parts of at least three days at the beach, according to press pool reports. He also hit a local bookstore and spent time visiting wealthy donor friends.
Read the president’s full statement on the hurricane below.
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
ON PREPARATIONS FOR HURRICANE IRENE
Fisher House at Blue Heron Farm
Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
11:28 A.M. EDT
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 Ready.gov -- that’s Ready.gov -- or Listo.gov. That’s Listo.gov.
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.