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Obama to inspect Irene flood damage in New Jersey

WASHINGTON » A week after Hurricane Irene caused major flooding as it barreled up the U.S. 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 up to 20 inches (50 centimeters) in some areas.

In New Jersey, Republican Gov. Chris Christie will lead Obama on a tour of Paterson’s flood damage.

Republican 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.

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