Hurricane Irene has caused President Obama to cut short his stay in Martha's Vineyard. Obama and the traveling White House will now leave Friday evening instead of Saturday morning.
And a good thing, too. Many grocery stores in the Washington, D.C. area have already run out of bottled water and there's been a run on packaged foods like Pop Tarts as well.
With the effects of the storm expected to be felt in Washington early Saturday afternoon, the president's earlier arrival back in the nation's capital should help those in the traveling White House get home before the storm really gets blowing in the mid-Atlantic region.
The president's departure will also free up law-enforcement officials on Martha's Vineyard so they can prepare for the storm's expected arrival in New England on Sunday.
A White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, explained the reason for Obama's changed itinerary:
"I think the president simply reached the conclusion that it would be more prudent for him to be in Washington, D.C., and to be at the White House at the end of the day today."
It definitely should reduce the president's vulnerability to charges that he was still vacationing even after a massive hurricane had begun to batter the East Coast.
Obama and future presidents operate in the post-Hurricane Katrina world. In that world, it's unwise for presidents to appear, like President George W. Bush did initially in 2005, disconnected from a disaster affecting Americans, especially if it's a hurricane whose landfall is predicted several days in advance.
Fortunately for the president's family, the same standards don't apply to them. They will be returning to Washington early Saturday morning.
Word of Obama's planned early departure came after he issued a statement calling on Americans to take the necessary precautions and to let them know that the federal government was standing at the ready to respond after the hurricane has done its worst:
I cannot stress this highly enough: If you are in the projected path of this hurricane, you have to take precautions now. Don't wait. Don't delay. We all hope for the best, but we have to be prepared for the worst. All of us have to take this storm seriously. You need to listen to your state and local officials, and if you are given an evacuation order, please follow it. Just to underscore this point: We ordered an aircraft carrier group out to sea to avoid this storm yesterday. So if you're in the way of this hurricane, you should be preparing now.
If even the U.S. Navy evacuated before Irene's onslaught, you know it's one fearsome storm, nothing to take lightly, was Obama's point.