As Hurricane Irene approaches the East Coast, President Obama abruptly cut short his vacation plans and will return Friday night to Washington, D.C.
Obama is vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard with his family and was scheduled to return to Washington Saturday morning. Hurricane Irene is currently a Category 2 hurricane but could strengthen before it makes landfall. Obama warned Friday morning that “indications point to this being a historic hurricane.”
It was not immediately clear when First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia would leave the Vineyard.
View Hurricane Irene track forecast in a larger map
The decision was announced just minutes ago. Earlier Friday morning, plans were still on track for the president to leave the Vineyard on Saturday morning. Josh Earnest, a White House spokesman, said the president decided it would be “more prudent for him to be in Washington, D.C., and be at the White House at the end of the day today” and not because of any concerns about his safety.
Obama participated in a federal exercise in 2009 that practiced for a Category 3 hurricane striking New York City, Earnest said. He stressed that over the last few years, the Obama administration has been preparing and evaluating readiness for a storm of this scale.
Obama held a conference call today with five East Coast governors and a number of mayors. The administration has activated a national medical network to make sure medical supplies are available across the Eastern Seaboard.
Asked about the economic effect of the storm, Earnest said: “We are focused on protecting lives."
-- Kim Geiger and Maeve Reston
Photo: President Obama heads toward a news announcement about Hurricane Irene while vacationing on Martha's Vineyard. Minutes later, he announced he would be cutting short his vacation and heading back to D.C. Credit: Vincent DeWitt/Pool Photo