President Donald Trump urged any US residents still in Hurricane Irma’s path Saturday to “just get out of its way” and not worry about possessions, as he monitored the powerful storm’s advance on Florida from the secluded Camp David presidential retreat.
Irma was expected to strike the Florida Keys at daybreak Sunday.
“Property is replaceable but lives are not and safety has to come first,” Trump said at a Cabinet meeting at the Maryland retreat, where he was spending the weekend with his wife, first lady Melania Trump. “Don’t worry about it. Just get out of its way.” Trump shared a brief video of his remarks on Twitter.
Irma hammered Cuba on Saturday with punishing winds and rain before setting her sights on Florida, where massive evacuations were being carried out.
Trump said the US was grieving for those who were killed by Irma even before she reached the US mainland. The storm left more than 20 people dead in the Caribbean. He said the administration is monitoring the situation “around the clock” and is in “constant communications” with governors and other officials from the affected areas.
“We’ve never seen anything like this,” he said, pledging — as he did after Hurricane Harvey — that recovery and rebuilding will happen quickly.
Trump has been receiving regular briefings on both Irma and Jose, along with updates on recovery and relief efforts that continue in southeast Texas and Louisiana after Harvey, the White House said. Harvey brought record rainfall and severe flooding to Houston and surrounding areas of the Texas Gulf Coast in late August before it moved on to Louisiana.
Elaine Duke, the acting head of the Department of Homeland Security, was scheduled Saturday to brief Trump and the rest of the team on the storms.
In between storm updates, Trump spent part of his fourth Cabinet meeting discussing administration priorities and how to advance them during what’s left of his first year in office.
Trump recently launched a public push to rewrite the tax code to make it simpler and more competitive by cutting taxes for corporations and the middle class. He said at Saturday’s meeting that he would press for Congress to complete its work on a bill even sooner this year.