Less than a week after Hurricane Ida ravaged the Gulf Coast, President Joe Biden was in Louisiana to get a close view of the damage and offer assistance from the federal government.

The devastation was clear as Air Force One approached New Orleans, with uprooted trees and blue tarps covering shredded houses coming into focus ahead of landing.

The path to nearby LaPlace, where Mr Biden was to be briefed by local officials, was dotted with wood poles that held power lines jutting from the ground at odd angles.

“I promise we’re going to have your back,” Mr Biden said at the outset of the briefing.

President Joe Biden participates in a briefing about the response to damage caused by Hurricane Ida (Evan Vucci/AP)

Such trips to natural disaster scenes have long been a feature of the US presidency. It is a moment to demonstrate compassion and show the public that the president is leading during the crisis. It is also an opportunity to hit pause, however temporarily, from the political sniping that often dominates Washington.

In shirtsleeves and boots, Mr Biden was welcomed at the airport by Louisiana Gov John Bel Edwards, a Democrat. Several Republicans, including Sen Bill Cassidy and Rep Steve Scalise, the House Republican whip, were also on hand.

Mr Biden was meeting with with local officials and touring a neighbourhood in LaPlace, a community between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain that suffered catastrophic wind and water damage and was left with sheared-off roofs and flooded homes.

He also planned a flyover tour of hard-hit communities including Lafitte, Grand Isle, Port Fourchon and Lafourche Parish, where Parish President Archie Chaisson said 25% of the homes in his community of 100,000 people were gone or had catastrophic damage.

Past presidents have been defined in part by how they handled such crises.

Tropical Weather Atlantic
Damage from Hurricane Ida (Scott Clause/The Daily Advertiser via AP)

Donald Trump casually lobbed paper towels to people in Puerto Rico after a hurricane, generating scorn from critics but little damage to his political standing.

Barack Obama hugged New Jersey Republican Gov Chris Christie in 2012 after Superstorm Sandy, a brief respite from partisan tensions that had threatened the economy with a fiscal cliff.

And George W Bush fell out of public favour after a poor and unprepared response to Hurricane Katrina, which swamped New Orleans in 2005.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, Mr Biden is grappling with the persistent threat posed by climate change and the prospect that disaster zone visits may become a more regular feature of the presidency.

Before he left Washington, Biden called for greater public resolve to confront climate change and help the nation deal with the fierce storms, flooding and wildfires that have beset the country.

Scientists say climate change increases the frequency of extreme weather events — such as large tropical storms, and the droughts and heatwaves that create conditions for vast wildfires.

US weather officials recently reported that July 2021 was the hottest month ever recorded in 142 years of record-keeping.

As for Friday’s trip, Mr Biden said his message to the Gulf Coast was: “We are here for you. And we’re making sure the response and recovery is equitable so that those hit hardest get the resources they need and are not left behind.”