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Trump's response to Hurricane Harvey strikes optimistic tone

Trump's response to Hurricane Harvey strikes optimistic tone
Posted at 1:31 PM, Aug 28, 2017

In the hours immediately before and after Hurricane Harvey made landfall on Friday, President Donald Trump repeatedly, and effusively praised his administration's readiness to handle the storm, the patchwork of agencies responding and declared the response an "all out effort" that is "going well."

"Wow - Now experts are calling #Harvey a once in 500 year flood! We have an all out effort going, and going well!" Trump tweeted Sunday morning. In another tweet, the President remarked that there has been "great coordination between agencies at all levels of government."


"Continuing rains and flash floods are being dealt with. Thousands rescued," he added.

Trump's tweets -- ebullient, often punctuated with exclamation marks, sent in his characteristically rapid-fire manner -- showcased publicly his engagement in the devastating storm. But they left out the fact that Texas could be battered with rain and see dangerous flooding for days, and that the storm's devastation will be felt for weeks -- or perhaps years.

Historic flooding

Both the National Weather Service and the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Sunday underscored just how unpredictable the storm has been and what a long tail it will have.

"This event is unprecedented & all impacts are unknown & beyond anything experienced," the National Weather Service tweeted Sunday. "Follow orders from officials to ensure safety."

Brock Long, the FEMA administrator, described Harvey as a "landmark" disaster event. "We're setting up and gearing up for the next couple of years," Long told CNN's Jake Tapper on Sunday.

Harvey made landfall on Friday as a Category 4 hurricane. An immeasurable number of businesses and homes have been damaged or destroyed. In Houston alone, more than 5,500 people are in shelters, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Monday morning, a number that he expects to rise "exponentially." More than 2,000 people have been rescued there, Turner said, and the water is continuing to rise.

"The word catastrophic does not appropriately describe what we're facing," Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat who represents much of Houston, told CNN. "We just don't know when it's going to end."

With the full damage wrought by Harvey still not known -- and unlikely to be known for some time -- and this being one of the first significant domestic crises the Trump White House has been met with, the President's response has been closely watched. It offered little detail as to what federal assistance could be provided to help Texas and Louisiana respond to the hurricane, nor did it acknowledge that there could be significant loss of life.

Too soon?

Asked whether or not the President's praise Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had been delivered prematurely, Tom Bossert, Trump's homeland security adviser, told CBS that "it's not premature if you do it the right way."

Bossert also detailed the President's involvement with the storm off Twitter -- which included but was not limited to a two-hour long meeting with the Vice President, the entire Cabinet and members of the President's leadership team. Bossert said that Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have "both called me in the last 12 hours probably a dozen times each."

Trump's White House is also trying to avoid the narrative that President George W. Bush faced when Hurricane Katrina ripped through the Gulf Coast in 2005, killing more than 1,800 people. Bush was criticized for a slow, bungled federal response as well as his praise of then-FEMA director Michael Brown.

On Friday, before Harvey made landfall, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, a Republican, reminded Trump to heed Katrina's lessons.

"Keep on top of hurricane Harvey dont mke (sic) same mistake Pres Bush made w Katrina," Grassley tweeted.

On Saturday, Trump responded: "Got your message loud and clear. We have fantastic people on the ground, got there long before #Harvey. So far, so good!"

As the remnants of Hurricane Harvey continued to batter Texas on Sunday, the White House announced that the President would travel to Texas on Tuesday.

The White House has yet to say where Trump will travel, but the Federal Aviation Administration advised Monday morning that flight restrictions will be in place in Austin and Corpus Christi, Texas on Tuesday due to a VIP movement. The White House stressed that Trump would visit areas where his presence would not overly strain the resources of emergency responders.