President Trump arrives in Houston to meet with survivors of Harvey’s floods

on Sep3

President Trump and his wife, Melania, arrived in Houston on Saturday in their second trip to the region this week, this time to meet with victims of Hurricane Harvey.

After landing midmorning at Ellington Field, Trump spoke to local legislators, handed out food to people forced from their homes by flooding and sought to reassure families and children that his administration was engaged in Texas’ recovery efforts.

“As tough as this was, it’s been a wonderful thing,” Trump said, praising the state’s response. “It’s been very well-received.”

“We’re signing a lot of documents now to get money,” he said, a reference to the White House’s request to Congress on Friday for $7.9 billion in immediate aid. Officials said this was only a down payment, a portion of a much larger funding request that could exceed $100 billion.

At the hurricane relief center, the president praised Texas’ rescue and recovery efforts and called Gov. Greg Abbott a “great, great governor.”

“It’s going so well that it’s going fast, in a certain sense,” he said, adding that while the process of rebuilding might take some states years, “because this is Texas, you’ll probably do it in six months.”

The president did not mention the dead or the survivors who remain stranded days after the storm lashed Texas with record rainfall.

The president’s second post-hurricane trip, which will include a planned stop in southeast Louisiana, comes after criticism that his first visit on Tuesday to relatively unscathed Corpus Christi didn’t include a meeting with victims of the storm. Trump said that was intentional because he did not want to interfere with rescue and recovery operations.

While communities to the east remain underwater, the flooding in Houston has largely receded, giving residents a chance to return to their homes to sift through the damage. The city’s ubiquitous freeways are mostly clear, and traffic is flowing again. Electronic signs over the roadways warn that if there’s water in your path, “Turn around, don’t drown!”

Thousands of Texans are still without power or access to clean water. In the city of Beaumont, where flooding overwhelmed the municipality’s water-pumping stations, residents have been told to boil their own water.

Relief workers and volunteers continue to survey the wreckage of homes and neighborhoods, searching for survivors or those who died. More than 50 people have died, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Officials with the Houston Independent School District, the fourth largest in the country, said that the first day of school will be Sept. 11 for about 218,000 students. Officials said that most of the district’s 280 schools had been inspected and that, thus far, 115 have been deemed safe to open by that date. An additional 75 schools have sustained major or extensive damage, and the district expects to have to relocate 10,000 to 12,000 students.

Houston’s 39.11 inches of rainfall in August is more than double its previous wettest month, June 2001, when the city got 19.21 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

The National Weather Service predicted dry conditions throughout the weekend.

The Houston Astros will play their first home game since the storm, returning Saturday for a doubleheader against the New York Mets at Minute Maid Park, less than half a mile from the George R. Brown Convention Center that is housing evacuees. The team announced it would provide 5,000 tickets to each game to volunteers, first responders and evacuees.

Inside Minute Maid Park, the Jumbotron above right field read: “Houston Strong” in blue, orange and white. “Dedicated to all those who lost their lives, property and were affected by the flood,” it said.

“Strong” seems to have become the rallying cry of disasters. It echoed “Boston Strong,” the ubiquitous slogan that emerged after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

As the remains of Harvey continue to lose strength, attention has shifted to Hurricane Irma, a Category 2 storm that is moving west in the Atlantic Ocean with 110 mph winds. Although the storm weakened slightly overnight, forecasters expect it to be a major hurricane by the time it nears the Lesser Antilles early next week. Its path remains uncertain.

anna.phillips@latimes.com

Twitter: @annamphillips

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UPDATES:

12:50 p.m.: This article was updated to include comments by President Trump praising rescue and recovery efforts.

12:05 p.m.: This article was updated to include comments by President Trump after meeting with flood victims and handing out food and supplies.

9:30 a.m.: This article was updated with Trump’s arrival in Houston and details about Texans who remain without power or clean water.

This article was originally published at 8:05 a.m.



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