US President Barack Obama warned the US east coast was in for a "long 72 hours" as he led his government's response to Hurricane Irene at a disaster command center in Washington.
Obama on Saturday chaired a meeting at the National Response Coordination Center (NRCC) set up at the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) headquarters in Washington, which is marshaling federal and local hurricane-relief efforts.
"This is going to be a tough slog getting through this thing," Obama said during a video teleconference including senior federal officials and local government agencies in the east coast path of Irene.
"It's going to be a long 72 hours. Obviously a lot of families are going to be affected ... the biggest concern I'm having right now has to do with flooding and power," Obama said during the videoconference.
The White House appears to have carefully considered the lesson of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when a botched response effort and confusion between state and federal agencies inflicted a heavy political price on president George W. Bush.
Obama returned home one night early on Friday from his island vacation on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts and appeared keen to be visibly in charge as the response to Hurricane Irene unfolds.
I feel safer already now that the photo op whore and chief has taken the reins and is
going to stear us through the crisis caused by the Bush weather control devices.