The Real Deal Snow
The Real Deal Snow Photo Photos by David.L
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP) - President Donald Trump answered Harvey's wrath by offering in-person assurances to those in the storm zone that his administration will work tirelessly to help the region recover from the massive flooding and storm-inflicted destruction.
"We are going to get you back and operating immediately," Trump told an impromptu crowd that gathered outside a Corpus Christi fire station about 30 miles from where the storm made landfall Friday.
The president kept his distance from the epicenter of the damage in Houston to avoid disrupting recovery operations. But he plans to return to the region Saturday to survey the damage and meet with some of the storm's victims, said Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Trump will change his focus Wednesday with a trip to Springfield, Missouri to kick off his lobbying effort for a tax overhaul. He will offer some broad goals, but few specifics,
During his Texas trip, Trump was eager to get the federal disaster response right, but he missed clear opportunities to strike a sympathetic note for multitudes who are suffering. The president did not mention those who died in the storm or those forced from their homes by its floodwaters. And he basked in the attention of cheering supporters outside the fire station where officials briefed him on the recovery.
"What a crowd, what a turnout," Trump declared before waving a Texas flag from atop a step ladder positioned between two fire trucks. "This is historic. It's epic what happened, but you know what, it happened in Texas, and Texas can handle anything."
Trump is clearly determined to seize the moment and show a forceful response to Harvey, mindful of the political opportunities and risks that natural disasters pose for any president. Trump has been suffering from low approval ratings and self-created crises, and the White House is eager to show him as a forceful leader in a time of trouble.
- FEMA insurance chief: Harvey losses could top $11 billion
- Harvey's flooding blamed in major gasoline spill in Texas
- Harvey and Irma to slow U.S. economy but rebound should follow
- U.S. House to vote on $7.9 billion Harvey relief bill
- Immigrants are sought for labor shortage in Harvey recovery
- Shelter dogs displaced by Hurricane Harvey arrive in Chattanooga [photos]
- Mnuchin: Congress must tie Harvey aid to raising debt limit
- Harvey's floodwaters mix a foul brew of sewage, chemicals
- Houston's homeless shrug off riding out Harvey on streets
- As Harvey finally fizzles, a look at what made it so nasty
- 3 tornadoes in Tennessee blamed on Harvey
- Upbeat Trump pitches in at shelter for Harvey victims
- Trump asks for $7.9 billion down payment for Harvey relief
- As floodwaters recede, Houston officials look to recovery [photos, interactives]
- 'Don't touch me. I'm dying.' Harrowing Harvey stories emerge [photos, interactives]
- Local animal shelters open doors for furry flood victims from Texas, Louisiana
- Likely tornado damages homes as Harvey hits Deep South [photos, interactives]
- Gas prices rise after Harvey reduces flow from refineries, pipeline [photos, interactives]
- Forecasters predict sunny Labor Day after Harvey's remnants blow through
- Grim reality in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey: More dead [photos, interactives]
- Harvey horror: Shivering girl, 3, clinging to her drowned mom
- Team made up of local emergency responders heads to Houston
- Texas chemical plant poised to explode amid Harvey flood
- Floodwaters drop across much of Houston; death toll at 20
- Western Louisiana in crosshairs as Harvey moves back to land [photos, interactives]
- Forecast brings hope as new shelters open, death toll rises [photos]
- Trump reassures those in Harvey's path that he will help [photos]
- Here are some ways to help victims of Hurricane Harvey
- Bracing for Harvey's return, worry renews: Is worst to come? [photos, interactives]
- Sohn: What lessons will we learn from Harvey?
- Chattanooga medical teams, volunteers aid Hurricane Harvey relief efforts
- More rain, more deaths: Harvey floods keeps Houston paralyzed
- Harvey slams region's economy, with damages in the billions
- Trump issues emergency declaration for Harvey in Louisiana
- Tennessee organization starts Harvey relief fund
- Desperate Harvey victims turn to social media to get rescued
- $3 billion disaster balance enough for immediate Harvey response
- A Houston family endured Harvey until the house was swamped
- Scientists say Harvey may be the soggy sign of future storms
- Residents in photo of flooded nursing home are 'doing fine'
- Photo of mother and baby's rescue becomes symbol of storm
- Public health dangers loom in Harvey-hit areas
- Officials act to protect downtown Houston from Harvey floods
- Harvey dilemma: Stay as water rises or risk flooded roads?
- Harvey spins deeper inland; full scope of damage is unknown
- Hurricane Harvey closes key oil, gas operations in Texas
- Houston roads start to flood as Harvey stalls
- Expert: Harvey weakened fast, but destruction just beginning
- Fearsome Hurricane Harvey slams into Texas Gulf Coast
- Menacing Harvey knocking on Texas coast as Category 4 storm
- Texas prepares as Harvey strengthens to Category 2 storm [interactive]
- Sandbags, plywood, generators: Texas coast braces for Harvey
What little damage Trump saw - boarded-up windows, downed tree limbs and fences askew - was through the tinted windows of his SUV as his motorcade ferried him from the Corpus Christi airport to the firehouse in a city that's already nearly back to normal.
Trump spoke optimistically about the pace of the recovery, and predicted his response would be a textbook case for future presidents.
Then it was on to his next stop, Austin, to meet with officials at the state emergency operations center.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Trump showed "genuine compassion" on the short flight to Austin as they watched video footage of the flooding in Houston. "The president was heartbroken by what he saw," the governor said.
But Ari Fleischer, who served as press secretary to former President George W. Bush, said there was something missing from Trump's remarks in Corpus Christi: "empathy for the people who suffer."
"The first thing he should have said was that his heart goes out to those people in Houston who are going through this, and that the government is here to help them recover," Fleischer told Fox News Channel.
It's long been presidential practice to avoid visiting the most devastated areas of a natural disaster while recovery is still in the early stages, to avoid getting in the way or diverting critical resources. In Texas, residents seemed to understand.
Before Trump landed in Texas, Louis Sirianni arrived at his beach house in Rockport, about 20 miles outside Corpus Christi, to assess damage. Sirianni said he appreciated Trump's gesture and understood why there were no plans to take him into the hardest-hit area.
"He'd see enough if he came along here in a helicopter," Sirianni said on a balcony accessible only by a 12-foot aluminum extension ladder.
Trump, wearing a black rain slicker emblazoned with a presidential seal, traveled with first lady Melania Trump and Cabinet secretaries who will play key roles in the recovery. Mrs. Trump wore a black cap that read "FLOTUS," an acronym for "first lady of the United States."
The president, during his stop in Austin, said it was a "sad thing" that the recovery would be a "long-term" operation.
His largely upbeat reassurances about a speedy recovery, though, stood in contrast to the more measured assessments coming from emergency management officials. There's a long, difficult road ahead in recovering from a storm whose flooding has displaced tens of thousands, those officials have cautioned.
And the president's vow of swift action on billions of dollars in disaster aid is at odds with his proposed budget, which would eliminate the program that helps Americans without flood insurance rebuild their homes and cuts grants to help states reduce the risk of flooding before disaster strikes.
While Trump's pending budget request didn't touch the core disaster aid account, it proposed cutting several grant programs that help states reduce flood risks before a disaster strikes and improve outdated flood maps.
All told, Trump proposed cutting such grant programs by about $900 million. Former Democratic President Barack Obama also cast a skeptical eye, proposing cuts roughly two-thirds as large as Trump in his final FEMA budget.