HOUSTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — President Donald Trump said Tuesday that Harvey was a storm of “epic proportion.”
The president visited Corpus Christi and Austin as part of a two-stop tour of the state to be briefed on the damage and the recovery efforts.
“Nobody’s ever seen anything like this,” Trump said.
He was joined at a suburban Corpus Christi fire station by first lady Melania Trump. The first lady sat beside the president as various officials, including Gov. Greg Abbott, briefed Trump on efforts before and after Harvey made landfall on Friday.
“I just want to say that working with the governor and his entire team has been an honor for us,” Trump said.
The president arrived in storm-ravaged Texas earlier Tuesday.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters traveling with Trump that the president’s visit would focus on coordination among the levels of government and laying the groundwork for what is expected to be a lengthy recovery effort.
“The president wants to be very cautious about making sure that any activity doesn’t disrupt the recovery efforts that are still ongoing,” she said aboard Air Force One shortly before it touched down in sunny Corpus Christi.
Trump was greeted at the airport by Abbott. Some people lining roads near the airport held American flags and waved as the motorcade passed by.
Trump, who wore a black rain slicker with the presidential seal on his chest and a white cap that said “USA.” Mrs. Trump wore a black baseball cap that read “FLOTUS,” an acronym for “first lady of the United States.”
The Cabinet secretaries were to meet with their Texas counterparts during Trump’s visit.
As CBS2’s Alice Gainer reported, Air Force One flew a path to Corpus Christi that avoided flying over Houston, where much of the downtown is underwater.
According to Abbott, the president went to Corpus Christi instead of Houston because the focus there right now is on rescue operations.
Harvey makes for the first test for Trump confronting a natural disaster of enormous scale.
“And we want to do it better than ever before,” Trump said. “We want to be looked at in five years and 10 years from now, as this is the way to do it.”
After his stop in Corpus Christi, the president went to Austin to meet with state officials at the emergency operations center.
Trump has promised federal assistance to Texas, insisting Congress will act swiftly on a multibillion-dollar Hurricane Harvey recovery package as the government signaled current funds will be exhausted in the next few weeks.
“I think it’ll happen very quickly,” Trump said Monday of an aid package that could rival those enacted after Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy. “It’ll go very fast.”
The president said existing disaster balances of more than $3 billion are sufficient for the immediate emergency but promised his administration will send lawmakers a request for far more to help Texas rebuild from the record storm in which catastrophic flooding has hit Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city.
“The real number, which will be many billions of dollars, will go through Congress,” Trump said at a White House news conference.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., promised through a spokeswoman that “we will help those affected by this terrible disaster.”
The Republican-led Congress appears likely to add an immediate infusion of aid to a temporary spending bill to prevent a government shutdown Oct. 1, though congressional aides say the larger recovery package may take more time to develop. It’s way too early to guess how much will be required with floodwaters rising in Houston, people stranded in homes and the city essentially paralyzed.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster fund currently contains more than $3 billion, but FEMA on Monday said the response to Harvey is “quickly drawing down” disaster balances.
The president has said he could come back to Texas on Saturday.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)