Gov. Bob McDonnell, who as chairman of the Republican Governors Association has not been shy about criticizing the Obama administration, complimented the president and FEMA on their help in responding to Hurricane Irene.
“It’s been outstanding,’’ said McDonnell on his monthly call-in show on WTOP radio.
President Obama called Friday and Saturday. A team of 40 FEMA workers has been in Virginia for days and will stay until the damage assessments are completed at the end of the week.
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will be in Richmond Tuesday for a briefing and news conference.
McDonnell sidestepped a question about whether he, like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), believes that federal disaster aid must be offset by spending cuts. “My concern is that we help people in need. For the FEMA money that’s going to flow, it’s up them [Congress] on how they get it. I don’t think it’s the time to get into that debate.”
McDonnell said state emergency officials traveled to Louisiana, Texas and Alabama before Irene to get advice from states that endured Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
He said the biggest impact in Virginia due to Irene was inland — in the Richmond region — not on the coast.
As of Tuesday morning, 437,000 customers in Virginia were still without power, down from 1.1 million this weekend. That includes 274,000 in the Richmond area.
“We’re making progress,’’ McDonnell said. “We ask people to be patient.”
Dominion has told state officials that 75 percent of outages will be restored by Wednesday, and 90 to 95 percent by Friday.
About 70 localities have boil water advisories in three regions — east central, Southeast and Culpeper — but not Northern Virginia.
Seventeen people remained in a one shelter in Surrey County.