After marking the fourth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, President Bush flew out of Washington and was met by New Orleans’ mayor Ray Nagin before they boarded a helicopter together.
After a briefing on the USS Iwo Jima, an amphibious assault ship docked at the port city, Mr Bush will make a tour of New Orleans in a military vehicle and then take an aerial survey of the surrounding area.
The visit will end with two stops in Gulfport, Mississippi, ahead of a return to Washington.
“We are trying to work together with state and local officials to make sure that we respond together as we develop plans for the recovery and rebuilding effort,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters.
But for many, the Bush administration’s response to the destruction of Hurricane Katrina on August 29 has been too little, too late.
In a bid to speed up the delivery of aid, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff replaced Michael Brown as the chief coordinator of the relief effort on the ground.
In his stead, US Coast Guard Vice Admiral Thad Allen has been brought in.
That has not stopped the president’s approval rating dropping to its lowest level since he first came to power in January 2001.
A Newsweek magazine survey found that 38 percent of Americans approved of his performance, while a Time magazine poll showed 42 percent were satisfied with the job being done.
According to the Time poll, 61 percent of Americans would prefer the government to cut its spending on Iraq to pay for the reconstruction of storm-ravaged areas.
President Bush, who has himself conceded that early relief efforts were “unacceptable”, has rejected calls for an independent investigation into the problems, saying he will look into what went wrong once recovery is underway.
In the swampy streets of New Orleans, where attention is now turning to the potential health threat posed by mosquitoes breeding in the city’s putrid floodwaters, recovery is a long way off.
Waters have begun to recede as pumps manned by the US Army Corps of Engineers got to work and there are now hopes New Orleans could be clear by early October, a month earlier than previous estimates.
Police, National Guard troops and rescue crews have continued their round-the-clock mission of asking survivors to leave their homes and join the hundreds of thousands being housed in temporary shelters across the country.
Emergency teams have also been confronted with the grim task of retrieving rotting corpses.
The overall death toll from Hurricane Katrina has now risen to 424.
However, authorities now believe the dire prediction that 10,000 people were killed is unlikely.
“We are finding many fewer fatalities than we had expected,” Vice Admiral Thad Allen told Fox News.
“I would expect suspect that the number would be somewhat lower than (10,000) – as a matter of fact, a heck of a lot lower than that,” he told CNN’s Late Edition.