CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – With Texas still being lashed by rain and rescues still underway, President Trump vowed Tuesday that the government’s response to Hurricane Harvey would serve as a model for disaster recovery.

“We want to be looked at five years, 10 years from now, as this is the way to do it,” Trump said as he and his wife, Melania, received a briefing on the storm response at a fire station in Corpus Christi, Texas.

At least 16 people have died so far in the wake of Harvey, including a Houston police officer who drowned in his patrol car. Thousands more people have been displaced from their homes. Early estimates on economic losses range from $42 billion to more than $100 billion.

The storm’s center has drifted back toward the Gulf of Mexico and is poised to regain strength before crashing ashore again, this time with landfall predicted on the Texas-Louisiana border. That puts the nation’s largest refinery, Motiva Enterprises’s Port Arthur facility, in the storm path as refiners in South Texas are still recovering.

Trump met Tuesday with local and state officials in Corpus Christi for what was both an assessment visit and pep talk. He skirted the center of the devastation, Houston, to avoid hindering rescue and recovery work.

Among those he met with on arrival in the city along the Gulf of Mexico coast was Texas Gov. Greg Abbot, a Trump political ally who lauded the federal government’s storm response “very effective.”


“We’ll congratulate each other when it’s all finished,” Trump said.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the administration is laying the foundation “for what we know is going to be a long recovery effort.”

After the briefing, Trump told a large crowd outside the firehouse that the storm’s scale is “epic” but “Texas can handle anything,” and he waved the state’s flag to cheers. He made no mention in his public remarks of Harvey’s victims.

He then flew from Corpus Christi to Austin, the state capital, for more briefings from Texas officials on the storm response.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said that he had requested emergency supplies for an additional 10,000 people from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The Houston Police Department has rescued more than 3,500 people from floodwaters, Chief Art Acevedo said.

“At every passing hour, more boats are getting into the water,” Acevedo said at a briefing for reporters. “For all the Monday morning quarterbacking out there, there is no hindsight for an event that’s never occurred.”


Trump on Monday promised swift emergency funding to help Texas recover from the hurricane, though Republican congressional leaders haven’t yet sent clear signals on how they will proceed. The full scope of the damage isn’t yet known, with rain expected to last several more days.

“The real number, which will be many billions of dollars, will go through Congress,” Trump said Monday at a news conference. “It will happen very quickly.”

Harvey’s cost could reach $42 billion when including the impact on the labor force, power grid, transportation and other elements that support the region’s energy sector, Chuck Watson, a disaster modeler with Enki Research, said Tuesday. David Havens, an insurance analyst at Imperial Capital, said the final tally might be as high as $100 billion.

Republican leaders haven’t committed to a swift debate on emergency funds. AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, said Congress will wait for “a formal request for resources from the administration.”

Congress returns Sept. 5 from its August recess, when it will face a pileup of urgent tasks, including raising the nation’s debt ceiling and passing a stopgap measure to fund the government after Sept. 30. The House is only scheduled to be in session for 12 legislative days in September, which compounds its challenge. Another potential obstacle is demands by House conservatives to cut spending elsewhere to pay for Harvey aid.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is among Republicans who have previously insisted that aid for natural disasters be offset by spending cuts. He joined Trump at his Corpus Christi briefing.

Trump has sent more than two dozen tweets about the storm in recent days and he has appeared eager to get to Texas to view the damage himself. He plans to return to a different part of the state on Saturday.

Republicans are cognizant of President George W. Bush’s widely criticized handling of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and some have urged Trump to take a more proactive approach.

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