WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) — Federal emergency officials said Sunday they're bracing to help with recovery efforts in Texas and other states hard hit by Hurricane Harvey for years to come.
“This disaster is going to be a landmark event," Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Brock Long said on CNN Sunday. “We’re setting up and gearing up for the next couple of years.’’
As Harvey continues to slam Texas and head toward Louisiana, federal officials say they're partnering with local and state officials to help residents facing severe flooding. At least two people were killed by Sunday.
President Trump said early Sunday that he will visit to Texas as soon as he can make the trip without causing disruption. "The focus must be on life and safety,'' he tweeted. The White House later said he plans to visit the state Tuesday.
He also tweeted that would to participate in a teleconference on Harvey with his cabinet. "Even experts have said they've never seen one like this!,'' he tweeted.
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Later Sunday the White House released a summary of the conference call, saying Trump "continued to stress his expectation that all departments and agencies stay fully committed to supporting the Governors of Texas and Louisiana and his number one priority of saving lives."
Federal officials warn the danger is far from over. White House Homeland Security and Counter-terrorism adviser Tom Bossert said rain is expected to continue upward of 30 inches.
“Let’s not lose our focus on how bad this still is,’’ he said on CBS Face the Nation Sunday.
Bossert said officials are watching for more flooding inland and providing help for residents, including rescues.
“We’re going to posture ourselves for the long-term care of the medical needy, of the elderly, of the weak and then we’ll put ourselves in the position to provide the resources to rebuild and recover," he said.
Local officials said they’re particularly concerned about catastrophic flooding.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, declared a state of emergency for 50 counties and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, issued a statewide declaration.
Abbott urged residents again Sunday to heed the warning of local officials.
Long also warned residents to listen to local officials for instructions whether its evacuating or sheltering in place.
“My heart goes out to the people in Texas who are going to go through a very difficult situation," he said. “This is going to be a very dangerous and frustrating event. It’s already dangerous, but it’s going to be a very a frustrating event.”
Long said FEMA is focused on response to Harvey, but said the agency is also preparing to address long-term housing and flood insurance concerns. Federal disaster assistance includes a years-long process for reconstructing homes and public infrastructure.
Meanwhile, he said generators were put in place before the storm. He also said the agency has about 5,000 people on the ground in Texas and Louisiana.
FEMA is also working with the Coast Guard on rescue missions and helping with getting supplies to shelters.
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, praised the response of state and federal officials.
“This has been one of the best responses to one of the worst hurricanes that I’ve seen in my lifetime hit the coast of Texas,’’ he said on FOX News Sunday.
The Trump administration is under scrutiny for how it handles thedisaster.
The Department of Homeland Security is without a secretary and several other top leadership positions in disaster response agencies remain vacant.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, urged Trump in a tweet Friday to "Keep on top of Hurricane Harvey. Don't make same mistake Pres Bush made w Katrina."
In tweets Sunday, Trump applauded the staff on the ground and the coordination of various government agencies.
"Many people are now saying that this is the worst storm/hurricane they have ever seen,'' he said. "Good news is that we have great talent on the ground."
Abbott said he talked to Trump several times as well as his cabinet members and Long.
“We’re getting absolutely everything we need,’’ he said on CNN. “We’re having a White House that is being very responsive, very concerned about the people of Texas and a tremendous help to us.”
Long said FEMA learned from its mistakes after Hurricane Katrina. Katrina,which left nearly 2,000 dead and devastated the region, struck the Gulf Coast this month 12 years ago.
“This event is nothing like Katrina,’’ he said. "This is completely different. This is a storm that the United States has not seen yet."