President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump landed in Corpus Christi on Tuesday morning to get an impression of some of the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, now downgraded to Tropical Storm Harvey. The hurricane on Friday was aimed straight at the coastal Texas city of Corpus Christi but has since migrated north where it is currently inundating the cities of Houston; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Mobile, Alabama.
The president reportedly pressured his aides to schedule a visit to Texas as early as possible. His first impulse was to tour San Antonio, which is located far to the north of the damage, but he instead chose to visit Corpus Christi, which is located 30 miles south of those areas of the Gulf Coast impacted the worst. Corpus Christi has suffered relatively light damage from the first strike of the storm.
The Trumps boarded Air Force One with an entourage of aides, including John F. Kelly, chief of staff; Marc Short, the legislative affairs director and point man for elected officials in the region; as well as specialists from the Small Business Administration, which will assist local businesses with recovery loans.
Working with local, state and federal emergency management officials, President Trump and Melania plan on traveling north to Austin, where they will meet with top officials in Texas, including Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, a political ally who has reportedly been pleased with the Trump administration’s storm response to date.
President Trump is also scheduled to meet with several members of Congress, local elected officials, and mayors, although he has no plans to meet the Democratic mayor of Houston, Sylvester Turner.
The visit takes place five days after Harvey made landfall near Rockport, Texas, as a Category 4 hurricane with 130-mile-an-hour winds.
“Due to the weather and all of the circumstances, it’s a little bit more fluid today than a normal travel day,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, aboard Air Force One during a turbulent flight. “The president wants to be very cautious about making sure that any activity doesn’t disrupt any of the recovery efforts that are still ongoing, which is the reason for the locations we are going here today. As of right now, I don’t know that we will be able to get to some of the really damaged areas.”
Seen as the worst natural disaster to take place during his White House tenure to date, all eyes are on President Trump as he does what he can to help residents in the hardest-hit areas. White House aides have been saying that the president is being very careful to avoid making the same mistakes that President George W. Bush did in 2005, when he took a relatively hands-off approach to the federal response to Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, in which more than 1,800 were killed. That storm caused an estimated $96 billion dollars in damage.
Vice President Mike Pence and federal officials from the Department of Homeland Security have taken the lead on negotiating many of the details of the response, but President Trump has gone to great lengths to emphasize his personal involvement in the crisis.
The slow-moving storm has brought catastrophic flooding to Texas, killed at least 15 people, led to mass evacuations and paralyzed Houston, the fourth most-populous U.S. city. Some 30,000 people were expected to seek emergency shelter as the flooding entered its fourth day.
Officials in Harris County, where Houston is located, said reservoirs built to handle drainage water were beginning to overflow on Tuesday. They released water to alleviate pressure on two dams, but this will likely add to flooding along the Buffalo Bayou waterway that runs directly through the area.
“We are glad he’s coming,” said Ben Molina, a Corpus Christi councilman about the president’s visit. “It’s important that he sees the damage around the coast. I’ve never seen anything like it, and neither has anybody else.”
On Monday, the president promised to pass an appropriations bill as quickly as possible to deal with the massive damage to private property and public infrastructure. He said he would also return to region this weekend.
This devastating event is the worst storm to hit the hurricane-prone region in decades, dumping as much as four feet of water on low-lying areas on the coast, forcing tens of thousands of residents to seek emergency shelter on higher ground.
Melania Trump boarded Air Force One wearing a green jacket, slacks and stiletto heels, which social media gawkers focused on ad nauseum, stating that she was not appropriately dressed to enter the flooded region. However, when she emerged from the plane in Corpus Christi, she was wearing a white jacket, a white baseball cap emblazoned with “FLOTUS” and white tennis shoes. President Trump was wearing the same clothes the entire time, which consisted of leather boots, khakis and a white collared-shirt with a windbreaker bearing a presidential seal. He was also sporting a white baseball cap that read: “USA.”
— The Columbia Bugle (@ColumbiaBugle) August 29, 2017
North Korea fired a missile over Japan, Houston is underwater, free speech is under attack – and the media is talking about Melania's shoes.
— Stefan Molyneux (@StefanMolyneux) August 29, 2017