AMES, Iowa (AP) — As Hurricane Isaac neared the Gulf Coast, President Barack Obama said Tuesday that Americans will help each other recover, "no matter what this storm brings."
"When disaster strikes, we're not Democrats or Republicans first, we are Americans first," Obama said at a campaign rally at Iowa State University. "We're one family. We help our neighbors in need."
Preparations for the storm have been under way for days, Obama said, vowing that the nation will be prepared for likely flooding and other damage from the hurricane, which was expected to hit Louisiana, possibly the New Orleans area, Tuesday night or early Wednesday.
Obama warned Gulf Coast residents to listen to local authorities and follow their directions.
"Now is not the time to tempt fate. Now is not the time to dismiss official warnings. You need to take this seriously," Obama said.
Even before the storm hit, Obama declared an emergency exists in Mississippi on Tuesday and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local storm response efforts there. The president declared a state of emergency in Louisiana late Monday, more than 24 hours before the storm was expected to hit the Gulf Coast. The declaration makes federal support available to save lives, protect public health and safety and preserve property in coastal areas.
The White House is aiming to balance leadership on the storm with the president's campaign plans. Obama made brief remarks about the storm from the White House Tuesday morning before departing on a two-day campaign trip to Iowa, Colorado and Virginia.
Obama aides said that while there were no current plans to change the president's travel itinerary, the White House was monitoring the storm and would adjust his schedule if necessary.
Republicans canceled the first day of their convention in Tampa when the storm appeared to be headed for landfall in Florida. But the party is resuming convention activities Tuesday.
Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday that while Obama would address storm developments during his travels, the focus of his trip would be to make his case for re-election to young people.