Obama to inspect flood damage in New Jersey

By DARLENE SUPERVILLE | September 4, 2011 | 3:40 AM EDT

FILE - In this Aug. 31, 2011, file photo President Barack Obama gestures after delivering a statement in the White House Rose Garden where in he urged Congress to pass a federal highway bill. In his weekly radio Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011, Obama called on Congress to pass a transportation bill to ensure funding for roads and construction jobs, saying time is running out and "political posturing" may stand in the way. "There's no reason to put more jobs at risk in an industry that has been one of the hardest-hit in this recession," he said. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A week after Hurricane Irene caused massive flooding as it barreled up the East Coast, President Barack Obama was heading to northern New Jersey for a first-hand look at the damage.

The president was visiting Paterson, where the Passaic River swept through the once-booming factory town of 150,000, flooded its downtown and forced hundreds to evacuate.

Obama's visit Sunday comes as officials were keeping an eye on Tropical Storm Lee down south.

The storm was unleashing heavy rain and wind on Gulf Coast states, including Louisiana, which is still recovering from Hurricane Katrina six years ago. Lee was expected to dump more than a foot of rain on the region.

In New Jersey, Republican Gov. Chris Christie was to lead Obama on a tour of Paterson's flood damage.

GOP activists have pleaded with Christie to seek the party's presidential nomination to challenge Obama next year. The governor so far has resisted the calls to become a candidate.

Christie, who at times has criticized Obama for not showing decisive enough leadership, has had nothing but praise for the president's handling of Hurricane Irene.