LAKE CHARLES, La. (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — President Donald Trump visited areas of Louisiana and Texas that were affected by Hurricane Laura to survey the destruction left behind by the storm earlier this week.
His stops came two days after the Category 4 storm slammed the Gulf Coast, leaving at least 16 dead and wreaking havoc with severe winds and flooding. While the storm surge has receded and the cleanup effort has begun, hundreds of thousands remain without power or water, and they could for weeks or months as the hot summer stretches on.
“I’m here to support the great people of Louisiana. It’s been a great state for me,” he said in Lake Charles. “It was a tremendously powerful storm.” He said he knows one thing about the state: “They rebuild it fast.”
During the slightly more than two hours he spent in the city, Trump met with officials and relief workers but not with any of the residents whose homes had been ripped apart in the storm.
He did, however, get a good look at the extensive damage and the debris strewn across the city of 80,000 people, beginning with the bird’s eye view from Air Force One as it came in for landing.
His first stop was a warehouse being used as a staging area for the Cajun Navy, a group of Louisiana volunteers who help with search and rescue after hurricanes and floods. “Good job,” Trump told them.
Trump then toured a neighborhood with Gov. John Bel Edwards and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, making his way down a street blocked by felled trees and where houses were battered by the storm, one with its entire roof torn off.
Edwards has said Laura was the most powerful hurricane ever to strike his state, surpassing even Hurricane Katrina, which was a Category 3 when it hit almost exactly 15 years ago.
“Whether you come from Louisiana or 5th Avenue In New York, you know about Katrina,” Trump said.
The president then flew by helicopter to Orange, Texas, which was the worst-hit area in the state. Several hundred supporters greeted his arrival with Trump 2020 flags, banners and signs. Among the officials on hand were Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Before a flyover to view damaged areas, Trump and other officials visited the emergency operations center in Orange County to discuss storm damage and the government response. He was flying back to Washington Saturday evening.
Laura, which packed 150-mph winds and a storm surge as high as 15 feet, toppled trees and damaged buildings as far north as central Arkansas. More than 580,000 coastal residents evacuated in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
More than half of those who died succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning from the unsafe operation of generators. The hurricane also killed nearly two dozen people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic as it barreled toward the U.S.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)