Hurricane Harvey: Moving towards Recovery
Though we’ve all seen constant coverage of the destruction of Hurricane Harvey, it is still shocking to actually be on site and see the devastation. On Thursday, I accompanied Vice President Pence, Second Lady Karen Pence, and other cabinet members (Secretary of Energy Rick Perry; Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin; Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta; Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke) to the region. Air Force 2 landed in Corpus Christi (2 hours and 45 minutes from Houston — the closest we could get) where we were met by Governor and Mrs. Greg Abbott. Governor Abbott is providing strong leadership. We drove to Rockport and took an Osprey helicopter to Victoria – two of the communities severely impacted when Hurricane Harvey made landfall last Saturday.
We met with local and state officials, first responders, U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), volunteers and residents who are literally still picking up the pieces of homes and businesses destroyed. We thanked them for all that they are doing. We heard and saw what is needed and we relayed the latest news on federal assistance. USCG is performing an essential function in search and rescue and has rescued thousands of people.
Last weekend, before Hurricane Harvey made landfall, the President and Vice President held calls with the Cabinet in anticipation of the hurricane. The President made it very clear to all departments and agencies that we are to do everything we can to help Texans.
USDOT’s Crisis Management Center has been fully staffed 24/7 before the hurricane hit the ground. Per the President’s directive, USDOT has been coordinating closely with FEMA, the state of Texas and is providing support to the National and Regional Response Coordination Centers, as well as directly to local and state officials and transportation stakeholders in the affected areas.
USDOT’s contributions to the disaster rescue and recovery effort has and will encompass financial assistance, deployment of personnel, emergency regulatory relief and all the tools we have which can be helpful. On Tuesday, I directed the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to make Emergency Relief funds immediately available to restore emergency access and initiate critical repairs to damaged roads and bridges within one hour of receiving the request from Governor Abbott. One of the major emerging problems is the lack of fuel — aviation fuel for airplanes, gasoline for pump stations. On Thursday, I signed an Emergency Declaration removing restrictions on fuel delivery, so that fuel trucks from 27 states and jurisdictions can deliver much needed energy to Texas and other hurricane-impacted areas as quickly as possible. FHWA is prepared to deploy 260 civil and structural engineers to assist with damage assessments and structural inspections. We established a Routing Assistance Hotline to support the transport of Federal and State response personnel, equipment and goods into Texas and Louisiana. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has had over 1000 personnel tasked with the storm effort, including specialized Air Traffic Management support to facilitate Search and Rescue missions. These are just a few of the USDOT actions underway.
As the President and Vice President said, we will be with the affected communities every inch of the way for however long it takes to help them rebuild.