President to Tour Hurricane Ike 's Devastation in Texas
By Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 14, 2008 President Bush announced today that he would be heading to Texas Tuesday to see the first-hand damages left by Hurricane Ike.
“This is a tough storm, and it’s one that is going to require time for people to recover,” Bush said during a White House briefing today.
Bush reiterated the position of federal and state authorities to focus on search and rescues, saying those efforts are the first priority.
“First priority is search and rescue,” the president said. “And I want to thank the people at the federal and state levels for working so hard to rescue our fellow citizens from harm’s way.”
The president also discussed humanitarian assistance. Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff and Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator David Paulison told Bush 1.5 million liters of water and 1million meals will be provided daily to displaced citizens in Texas.
FEMA and state authorities are staging their logistics area for commodities support and distribution efforts from Randolph Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas, Kucharek said. Food, water, ice and medical support will be forwarded to distribution points in needy areas, he added.
Bush declared 29 counties in Texas as major disaster areas yesterday, which allows federal funding for individuals and local community efforts for debris removal. This will relieve a significant burden as local and state authorities move forward with recovery operations, said Chertoff who was in Austin and Houston assessing Ike damages today.
More than 3 million homes and businesses are reported to be without power, and power lines, trees and other debris are down throughout eastern Texas. Authorities in Texas estimates 2.2 million people fled their homes, while Louisiana estimates 130,000. Though many of the evacuees are in hotels and shelters, officials are urging them not to return until authorities announce areas are safe, Chertoff said.
Recovery operations began immediately yesterday in areas of Texas and Louisiana left in Ike’s trail. The Texas National Guard has deployed ground support troops to Lufkin, Beaumont and Galveston to reinforce the hurricane relief efforts in Southeast Texas.
Rescue operations are continuing around the clock, and as of this evening, National Guard officials reported 394 air and 1,554 ground and water rescues. Guard members have flown 470 sorties, assisted with 639 evacuations and assessed 500 homes. To date, they've conducted 2,587 rescues.
Northern Command spokesman Mike Kucharek said there are nearly 100 National Guard, Defense Department and U.S. Coast Guard helicopters and four AC-130 aircraft available for rescue missions and evacuee transportation.
U.S. Northern Command deployed military search and rescue personnel and equipment as part of an integrated, interagency operation that includes federal, state, tribal and local governments, private sector, non-governmental organizations, and international partners.
FEMA officials report that thousands of National Guard members from 19 states are moving supplies and people to help those in affected areas.
Two National Guard Bureau Civil Support Teams are in Texas conducting environmental assessments and identifying potential hazards caused by Hurricane Ike.
Nearly 800 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers personnel are engaged in hurricane emergency response. One of their highest priorities is to survey Houston's channels and ports in order to quickly return the nation's second largest port to full commercial capacity.
In the next two days, Army engineers will conduct hydrographic and side scan sonar surveys of the Houston/Galveston Bay complex and the Sabine Neches Waterway. They'll begin to survey Freeport, Matagorda, the Corpus Christi Ship Channel, the Victoria Barge Channel, and Chocolate Bayou today.
The Army engineers are conducting power assessments and providing generators for critical public facilities, such as hospitals, police stations, and water treatment facilities. The Army engineers are also coordinating the efforts of the Interagency Debris Task Force -- comprised of local, state and federal agencies -- working with the City of Houston to assess debris management needs for rapid cleanup.