WH: Okla. can find hope in N.J. post-Sandy comeback

May 28, 2013 at 3:00 AM
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ASBURY PARK, N.J., May 28 (UPI) -- Tornado-ravaged Oklahomans can find recovery hope in New Jersey's comeback since Superstorm Sandy destroyed dozens of neighborhoods, the White House said.

"I do think that we'll see that significant progress has been made, even though there is significant work that remains to be done," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said ahead of President Barack Obama's return to the Jersey shore Tuesday almost seven months to the day after Sandy wiped out shore towns' iconic boardwalks that had enchanted vacation-goers for generations.

"And I do think that six, eight, 10 months down the road, that people in Oklahoma, because of the strong support of the federal government but also people all across this country who generously contributed to the Red Cross and other places that are assisting in the effort, that they're going to have a lot to show for the support of the country and in Oklahoma as well," Earnest said.

"The recovery effort in the aftermath of Sandy is still ongoing and there are still a lot of people in these communities who are hurting and are still struggling to come back from the blow that that storm dealt to them."

Sandy killed 37 people in New Jersey, destroyed thousands of homes, left more than 2.6 million customers without electricity and caused an estimated $30 billion in damage.

"But the president made a promise, in the aftermath of that storm, that he would continue to focus on that recovery effort and that the federal government would continue to focus on that recovery effort long after the nation's attention, or at least the media's attention had turned elsewhere," Earnest said.

Obama -- who Sunday toured and offered condolences to Moore, Okla., a town nearly wiped off the map by a May 20 tornado that killed 24 people, including 10 children -- planned to visit New Jersey's coastline with Republican Gov. Chris Christie late morning and early afternoon, the White House said Monday night.

Obama and Christie would "view the rebuilding and recovery efforts under way ... including the efforts by local businesses to prepare for the 2013 summer season," the White House said.

After touring the areas and visiting "with families and business owners who have shown such resilience in the face of the destructive storm," Obama was to deliver remarks in the Jersey shore city of Asbury Park around 1:30 p.m.

The remarks were expected to "underscore his administration's ongoing commitment to stand with the impacted communities as the important work of recovery continues," the White House said.

Obama, who often struggles with Republicans over their contempt for big federal agencies, has repeatedly pledged the full power of the government to confront natural disasters, including in Oklahoma Sunday.

Christie took heat among fellow Republicans for praising Obama's response to Sandy after it hit New Jersey Oct. 29, eight days before the Nov. 6 presidential election.

Christie was one of GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney's leading supporters. As the Republican National Convention's keynote speaker Aug. 28, Christie called on the nation to "end this era of absentee leadership in the Oval Office."

"I cannot thank the president enough for his personal concern and his compassion," Christie said Oct. 31 with Obama at his side after the two toured the storm's damage.

Obama has answered lawmaker criticism in recent weeks over the administration's response to the Sept. 11, 2012, terror attacks in Benghazi, Libya, the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative groups and the Justice Department's review of journalist phone records.

Tuesday's visit takes place while Congress is in recess for a Memorial Day holiday break.

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