President Barack Obama attended a church service with his daughters on Sunday morning before meeting with federal emergency officials for an update on Hurricane Sandy's path and the danger it poses.
According to pool reports, Obama, his daughters Sasha and Malia and their godmother Kaye Wilson walked to St. John's Episcopal Church across the White House.
The service, attended by about 150 people, included an intercessory prayer for Obama and the leaders of Congress and the Supreme Court, as well as for Afghanistan, Haiti and the Middle East.
The Hill quoted a White House official as saying that the first lady, Michelle Obama, was unable to join her family at church because she was preparing for campaign travel.
The church is also planning a "post-election" event, according to the pool.
All presidents since James Madison have attended at least one service at St. John's Church, founded in 1815.
Later on Sunday, Obama said Sandy is a "serious and big storm" that will move slowly and might take time to clear up. The government's response would be "big and fast," he assured.
"My main message to everybody involved is that we have to take this seriously," The Associated Press quoted Obama as saying. The president's remarks came after a briefing by agency officials that was led by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate.
"My message to the governors as well as to the mayors is anything they need, we will be there, and we will cut through red tape," Obama added. "We are not going to get bogged down with a lot of rules. We want to make sure we are anticipating and leaning forward into making sure that we have the best possible response to what is going to be a big and messy system."
Obama left for Florida on Sunday evening. However, White House spokesman Jay Carney announced the president will skip a Monday morning rally with former President Bill Clinton in Florida due to "deteriorating weather" in Washington, and return early to monitor preparations for Hurricane Sandy.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who was campaigning in the Midwest on Monday, called off events scheduled in Virginia for Sunday and New Hampshire for Tuesday.