President Bush on Thursday promised a robust response to Hurricane Wilma, offering reassurance that things will improve soon for victims who are angry that supplies have been slow in coming.
"Things don't happen instantly, but things are happening," Bush said.
In Florida, Bush spoke at a distribution center for relief supplies as people gathered around him as they waited for a hot meal of barbecue pork, potatoes, bread and crushed pineapple.
Alongside Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), his brother, the president greeted volunteers with the Southern Baptist Convention who traveled from Tennessee to hand out food and water. Storm victims mobbed the brothers to get handshakes, hugs and, for the women, kisses on the cheek.
Bush held a closed-door meeting with local officials and also toured the National Hurricane Center in Miami, where Director Max Mayfield showed him data on Tropical Storm Beta. Experts at the center expect Beta, the year's 23rd named storm, to grow to hurricane strength as it moves over the Caribbean Sea.
About 2 million homes and businesses remain without power in Florida in the wake of Wilma, which struck the state Monday. Floridians have grown angry about the response as they struggle to find food, water and fuel.
Criticism has been directed toward the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is trying to recover from its failures in response to Hurricane Katrina. Gov. Bush said Wednesday that the responsibility is the state's, and he promised an infusion of supplies.
The president said he came to Florida to make sure the federal and state responses "dovetail."
"People are getting fed. Soon more and more houses will have their electricity," he said. "A lot of the gasoline lines that people are standing in will be alleviated by new ships coming in."
Bush said generators being brought in from other states and the presence of 6,000 electrical workers from across the country will help restore power -- a key step to also addressing the gas shortages, because many stations have gasoline but lack the electricity needed to deliver it to customers.