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How Presidents React to Natural Disasters How Presidents React to Natural Disasters

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White House

How Presidents React to Natural Disasters

May 21, 2013

President Obama is stepping into the role of mourner-in-chief again as Oklahoma cleans up from one of the most destructive tornadoes in U.S. history.

See the natural disasters presidents have had to face during their term.

In a statement Tuesday, Obama said Moore, Okla., "would have all the resources they need at their disposal" as rescue workers on the ground sifted through debris following Monday's storm. The EF4 tornado killed dozens of people in the Oklahoma City suberb.(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Obama abandoned his campaign schedule a week before the 2012 election to visit destruction in New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy hit. The storm killed more than 100 people along the East Coast, and resulting in $62 billion in damage and other losses in the U.S.(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Although many parts of the East Coast avoided the serious damage Hurricane Irene was expected to cause, President Obama was lauded for his tough response to the storm, which he warned could have been a “historic hurricane.”(Rob Hobson/UPI)


In April, 2012, Obama toured the damage in the South caused by America’s deadliest tornado-fueled storm in 79 years, which killed more than 300 people and caused $10 billion in damages. In a speech given in Alberta, Ala., he pledged “maximum federal help” to the victims, promising “to make sure you’re not forgotten.”(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Weeks later, Obama toured Joplin, Mo., after a mile-wide tornado destroyed more than one-third of the town and killed more than 150 people. “We will be with you every step of the way,” he said at a memorial service at Missouri Southern State University on May 29, 2012. “We’re not going anywhere.”(AP Photo/Mike Gullett)

Although Obama faced some criticism from conservative pundits for not immediately commenting on the flooding that struck Alabama and Tennessee in May 2010, he did win the support of Tennessee's then-Gov. Phil Bredesen for his “absolutely supportive” role. “I’m very, very pleased with the response we’ve gotten from the administration,” Bredesen said.(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)


Although President George W. Bush made an emergency declaration days in advance of Hurricane Ike's landfall in September 2008, Texas politicians criticized FEMA for delayed placement of mobile homes in the wake of the storm, which caused widespread damage throughout the Gulf Coast.(AP Photo/Smiley N. Pool)

Bush was famously criticized for his slow reaction to Hurricane Katrina, the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history and the deadliest storm in more than 70 years. After the disaster, Bush’s approval rating plunged below 50 percent.(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

After 15 wildfires destroyed almost 1,200 square miles of land in Southern California in October 2003, Bush worked closely with then-Gov. Gray Davis and then-Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger to declare the region a disaster area, deploy the National Guard, and release federal aid.(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)


In July 1995, a heat wave killed more than 1,000 people across the Midwest and filled hospitals past capacity in Chicago and Milwaukee. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there was no comprehensive plan to deal with the heat emergency, although warnings were issued in advance.(AP Photo/Mike Fisher)

President George H.W. Bush, along with then-San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos and other civic leaders, toured the damage in Oakland after a 7.1-magnitude earthquake devastated the Bay Area on Oct. 17, 1989. Shortly afterwards, Bush signed a $3.45 billion earthquake relief package for California.(AP Photo/Sal Veder)

The eruption of Mount St. Helens in May 1980 was preceded by weeks of geological observations and official warnings, but nonetheless killed 57 people. While surveying the damage afterward, President Jimmy Carter said, "Somebody said it looked like the moon. But the moon looks like a golf course compared to this."(Lyn Topinka/U.S. Geological Survey)

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