Pres­i­dent tours La. and Texas in wake of Hur­ri­cane Laura

Daily Press (Sunday) - - Front Page - By Ni­cholas Bo­gel-Bur­roughs and Giulia McDon­nell Ni­eto del Rio The New York Times

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump vis­its storm-dam­aged states days af­ter Hur­ri­cane Laura left tens of thou­sands with­out elec­tric­ity.

Days af­ter Hur­ri­cane Laura slammed into Louisiana, hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple re­mained with­out elec­tric­ity Satur­day, with the sit­u­a­tion es­pe­cially dire in Lake Charles, a city near the coast­line where nearly all 80,000 res­i­dents have been with­out power for days and many have no run­ning wa­ter.

Amid that back­drop, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ar­rived in the trou­bled city, where res­i­dents were be­gin­ning to pick up the pieces af­ter the hur­ri­cane that made land­fall Thurs­day as a Cat­e­gory 4 storm.

“I’m here to sup­port the great peo­ple of Louisiana. It’s been a great state for me,” Trump said in Lake Charles. “It was a tremen­dously pow­er­ful storm.” He added that he knows one thing about Louisiana: “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 any 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, 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 15 years ago this month.

“Whether you come from Louisiana or 5th Av­enue In New York, you know about Ka­t­rina,” Trump said.

De­scrib­ing an over­whelmed wa­ter sys­tem that has frus­trated res­i­dents and pub­lic of­fi­cials alike, Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter said, “We have wa­ter in some lo­ca­tions, but it’s a trickle.”

Trump struck a re­as­sur­ing note with Hunter, say­ing, “You took a big punch, but you’ll be back.”

The pres­i­dent then flew by he­li­copter to Orange, Texas, which was the worsthit 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 Repub­li­can Sen. Ted Cruz.

Be­fore a tour by air over dam­aged ar­eas, Trump and other of­fi­cials vis­ited the emer­gency op­er­a­tions cen­ter in Orange County to dis­cuss storm dam­age and the gov­ern­ment re­sponse.

Laura packed 150 mph winds and a storm surge as high as 15 feet, top­pled trees and dam­aged build­ings as far north as cen­tral Arkansas.

The elec­tri­cal out­ages have been deadly, as sev­eral peo­ple who turned to gen­er­a­tors to power re­frig­er­a­tors, lights and air con­di­tion­ers have been over­come with fumes.

At least seven peo­ple have been killed by car­bon monox­ide from gen­er­a­tors, in­clud­ing four mem­bers of a fam­ily found dead in a home in Lake Charles. A fifth mem­ber of that fam­ily was taken to a hospi­tal. Their gen­er­a­tor was in a garage and the deadly gas was able to seep into the house through a garage door that was left cracked open, Hunter said.

An­other man in Cal­casieu Parish, which in­cludes Lake Charles, died of car­bon monox­ide poi­son­ing from a gen­er­a­tor, as did an 84-year-old man and an 80-year-old woman in the same home in Allen Parish, to the north­east, said health of­fi­cials, who warned peo­ple never to place gen­er­a­tors in homes or in closed garages.

The city’s largest hospi­tal, Lake Charles Memo­rial Hospi­tal Health Sys­tem, whose phone lines were down, had to evac­u­ate all pa­tients to other hospi­tals and was op­er­at­ing only its emer­gency room. The hospi­tal said on its web­site that preg­nant moth­ers should leave the area be­cause the hospi­tal was not pro­vid­ing ob­stet­ric ser­vices ex­cept in emer­gen­cies.

The power fail­ure in Lake Charles could go on for weeks, the mayor said, and peo­ple have been buy­ing more gaso­line to pro­vide power to their homes.

“This is just way, way worse than Rita,” said Brett Gey­mann, 58, a for­mer state law­maker who lives in Moss Bluff, a sub­urb of Lake Charles, re­fer­ring to the pow­er­ful hur­ri­cane that struck the area in 2005. He has been run­ning a gen­er­a­tor to op­er­ate his fam­ily’s re­frig­er­a­tor. “There is just de­struc­tion ev­ery­where.”

In ad­di­tion to the deaths tied to gen­er­a­tors, five other peo­ple have died in Louisiana, four from fall­ing trees and one per­son who drowned. In Texas, at least three deaths have been tied to car­bon monox­ide poi­son­ing from gen­er­a­tors.

Gey­mann said res­i­dents were in­creas­ingly worried about the lack of wa­ter as they con­tem­plated not hav­ing flush­able toi­lets or be­ing able to wash their hands in a sink, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing the pan­demic.

The virus is “not even an is­sue any­more for most peo­ple,” said Gey­mann.


Pres­i­dent Trump tours storm dam­age with state and fed­eral of­fi­cials Satur­day in Lake Charles, La. He also vis­ited Texas.

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