LIMA, Ohio (CNN) - After attending church Sunday morning, Obama repeated his message to Gulf Coast residents to escape the wrath of Hurricane Gustav by evacuating, and said he would talk with officials to see if the campaign’s network of volunteers and donors can be used to help.
“There is enormous urgency in making sure that people take the evacuation seriously,” said Obama. “They are doing everything they can to execute an effective evacuation but we need people’s cooperation.”
“What we want to do is we want to find out first from folks on the ground what is going to be most helpful. We don’t want to solicit a bunch of canned goods that cant get there, or bottles of water and then learn that they already have water,” he later added. “So we are going to wait over the next 48 hours to find out what would be the most useful. I think we can get tons of volunteers to travel down there if it becomes necessary.”
“So it becomes a question of what people on the ground need and once we determine that then we can activate our email list of a couple of million people who want to give back,” he continued.
John McCain headed to the region on Saturday but Obama said he was hesitant to do the same because he was afraid of drawing away local law and emergency resources that are needed whenever he travels. McCain visited a command center in Mississippi where mandatory evacuation is not in effect and Obama said he thought it was ‘fine’ that the Arizona senator wanted to see the situation for himself.
Obama appeared more confident Saturday in preparations made for the storm than he had on Friday night, saying he had spoken to the head of FEMA who told him buses are ready to get people out, unlike when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.
“There appears to be better coordination between the state and the city in Louisiana,” said Obama. “I haven’t spoken to folks in Mississippi or Alabama. It appears there is coordination between the four states that there wasn’t last time. So my hope is that we all learned from the terrible lesson that we saw after Katrina and Rita.”
Obama also called into local Gulf Coast media to further encourage listeners and viewers to evacuate, telling them that the country praying for them. He plans to speak with Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff later Sunday.
UPDATE: The campaign has posted information for Gulf Coast residents on its blog, as well as links to the Red Cross and Save the Children Web sites for supporters who want to donate.
The post tells visitors that New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has declared a mandatory evacuation, gives the Louisiana emergency hotline number, and links to the state's Web site for any other emergency information needed. It also has a variety of links for Mississippi.