Com­mends ‘fan­tas­tic’ pre­pared­ness, re­sponse by FEMA, gover­nor

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY S. A. MILLER

Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence, Pres­i­dent Trump and first lady Me­la­nia Trump trav­eled to Naples, Florida, on Thurs­day to meet peo­ple im­pacted by Hur­ri­cane Irma, which has left mil­lions of peo­ple with­out power. Mr. Trump as­sured those he spoke with that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s re­sources are with them “100 per­cent.”

Pres­i­dent Trump toured a neigh­bor­hood in Naples, Florida, Thurs­day that was rav­aged by Hur­ri­cane Irma, telling res­i­dents try­ing to put their lives back to­gether that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment was there for them “100 pre­cent.”

“We love th­ese peo­ple. We’re go­ing to be back, and we’re go­ing to help them,” Mr. Trump told a group of peo­ple as he walked down one of the streets. ”I want to tell you we love you and we are there for you 100 per­cent.”

This was the pres­i­dent’s third visit to a nat­u­ral dis­as­ter zone in as many weeks since back-to­back hur­ri­canes hit Texas, Louisiana and Florida, kick­ing the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency into high gear.

The ma­jor storms have also put Mr. Trump’s lead­er­ship to the test.

Ear­lier on Thurs­day, Mr. Trump com­mended the “fan­tas­tic” job FEMA and Florida Gov. Rick Scott had done pre­par­ing and re­spond­ing to the mas­sive hur­ri­cane.

Ir­win Redlener, di­rec­tor of Na­tional Cen­ter for Dis­as­ter Pre­pared­ness at Columbia Univer­sity, said that he was im­pressed so far with the fed­eral re­sponse to the two ma­jor hur­ri­canes that struck just days apart.

“They are do­ing very well. This is a night and day sit­u­a­tion from what we had around Ka­t­rina and even what we had for re­sponse to Su­per Storm Sandy,” said Mr. Redlener, re­fer­ring to storms that tested Ge­orge W. Bush and Barack Obama, re­spec­tively.

He said that while Mr. Trump de­serves credit for the way FEMA was op­er­at­ing, so did Mr. Obama for build­ing back up an agency that had de­te­ri­o­rated un­der Mr. Bush.

Nearly half of Florida was en­gulfed by Hur­ri­cane Irma, which flooded neigh­bor­hoods, dam­aged homes and knocked out power to mil­lions of peo­ple. At least 25 peo­ple in Florida have died un­der Irma-re­lated cir­cum­stances, and six more in South Carolina and Ge­or­gia, many of them well af­ter the storm had passed. The death toll across the Caribbean stood at 38.

Though the num­ber of peo­ple with elec­tric­ity had im­proved from ear­lier in the week, some 6.8 mil­lion peo­ple across the Florida penin­sula con­tin­ued to wait for power, and util­ity of­fi­cials warned it could take a week or more for all ar­eas to be back up and run­ning.

At a re­lief stag­ing area for food, wa­ter and other sup­plies, Mr. Trump helped out at a re­fresh­ments ta­ble stocked with fruit and sand­wiches.

He was ac­com­pa­nied by First Lady Me­la­nia Trump, Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Marco Ru­bio of Florida.

“There’s Me­la­nia, she’s gor­geous!” said a woman in the crowd.

Mr. Trump had a dif­fi­cult time fit­ting into the plas­tic gloves for han­dling food at the ta­ble, with one tear­ing as he put it on.

“They’re too small,” he said.

The pres­i­dent re­sorted to greet­ing peo­ple and point­ing to the sand­wiches for them to help them­selves.

“Don’t for­get a sand­wich,” he said.

A man in a Trump cam­paign t-shirt and hat shook hands with the pres­i­dent and posed with him for pho­tog­ra­phers.

Mr. Trump smiled as the man yelled, “Make Amer­ica great again!”

Florida’s south­west­ern coast is a haven for re­tirees seek­ing warm weather and beau­ti­ful sun­sets across the Gulf of Mex­ico, but swel­ter­ing tem­per­a­tures and the power out­ages left in the sotrm’s wake have put many res­i­dents at risk.

In Lee County, which in­cludes Cape Co­ral and Fort My­ers, 66 per­cent of the area’s 290,000 elec­tri­cal cus­tomers were still with­out power Wed­nes­day.

Wide­spread out­ages led to long lines out­side of the rel­a­tively few stores, gas sta­tions and restau­rants that had re­opened.

The sit­u­a­tion was even worse to the south in Col­lier County, home to Naples. Days af­ter Irma passed, al­most 80 per­cent of homes and busi­nesses were still with­out elec­tric­ity, and flood­wa­ters still cov­ered some com­mu­ni­ties en­tirely.

The Florida Keys were par­tic­u­larly hard hit, with fed­eral of­fi­cials say­ing 90 per­cent of its homes were de­stroyed or heav­ily dam­aged. The re­mote is­land chain stretches nearly 100 miles into the Gulf of Mex­ico from Florida’s south­ern tip, con­nected by a sin­gle high­way and se­ries of bridges.

On Key West, at the end of the ar­chi­pel­ago, hun­dreds of res­i­dents who had re­fused evac­u­a­tion or­ders lined up on Wed­nes­day out­side the is­land’s Sal­va­tion Army out­post for wa­ter and mil­i­tary-style ra­tions af­ter en­dur­ing days of in­tense heat with lit­tle wa­ter, power or con­tact with the out­side world.

● This ar­ti­cle is based in part on wire ser­vice re­ports.



Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence (from right), Pres­i­dent Trump and first lady Me­la­nia Trump are given a tour on Thurs­day of Naples Es­tates, a neigh­bor­hood im­pacted by Hur­ri­cane Irma, in Naples, Florida. “We love th­ese peo­ple,” Mr. Trump said. “We’re go­ing to be back, and we’re go­ing to help them.”

Work­ers re­move a large oak tree in Mait­land, Florida, on Thurs­day. Hun­dreds of thou­sands of res­i­dents are with­out power due to downed trees.

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