WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump is heading to Louisiana and Texas this Saturday to assess the damage after Hurricane Laura, a trip that allows him to project empathy and leadership during the election campaign.
The president will make the trip two days after the Category 4 hurricane hit the Gulf Coast, killing at least 14 people and wreaking havoc with high winds and flooding.
While the storm surge has receded and cleanup efforts have begun, hundreds of thousands remain without power and water, and could do so for weeks or months as the hot summer progresses.
White House spokesman Judd Deere said Trump was traveling “to be with those affected by Hurricane Laura.” You are expected to inspect the damage caused by the storm and receive information about emergency operations and ongoing relief efforts.
Trump had told reporters that he had considered delaying his speech accepting his party’s nomination for a second term until Monday because the storm was approaching.
“I was going to Texas. I was going to Louisiana, maybe Arkansas,” he said. “But now it turned out we were a bit lucky. It was very big, it was very powerful, but it happened quickly.
Hurricane Laura devastated several areas of this Louisiana resort town.
After giving his acceptance speech Thursday night as planned, Trump held a noisy rally Friday night in New Hampshire. He attacked protesters who accosted his supporters as they left the White House and continued to paint the November elections as a contest between “democracy and the mafia.”
Trump has at times struggled with his role as chief comforter, not projecting empathy when visiting regions hard hit by tragedy and disaster. That includes in Puerto Rico, where Trump was photographed tossing rolls of paper towels at the crowd, which some saw as inappropriately playful under the circumstances.
During a trip to the Carolinas in 2018, Trump marveled at a yacht that had been washed away by flood waters onto a family’s property and told them, “At least you got a good boat.” And he was caught on camera telling a person to whom he had given food to “have a good time.”
In Photos: Laura Leaves Massive Damage in Lake Charles
At other times, Trump has been a source of comfort. After a powerful tornado hit Alabama last year and killed nearly two dozen people, Trump spent time with families who had lost loved ones, listening to their stories and hugging them.
Showing empathy comes naturally to his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, who released a statement Saturday saying he and his wife were praying for those injured by the storm and promising that “we will be there to help him rebuild better.”
In a possible subtle comment, Biden praised the response of families in hurricane-struck states and thanked them for “reminding Americans that no disaster, no person, no injustice can match the humble, personal, and courageous ways that people choose. Americans to show decency every day. “
Stephanie Abrams had to run to avoid being hit by the damage caused by the hurricane’s winds.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has said that Laura was the most powerful hurricane to ever hit his state, surpassing even Hurricane Katrina, which was Category 3 when it struck in 2005. The storm downed trees and damaged buildings so far. north as central Arkansas. and more than 580,000 coastal residents evacuated amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The toll from the U.S. storm, which brought 150 mph winds and a storm surge of up to 15 feet, currently stands at 14 deaths, with more than half of the deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning the unsafe use of generators.
The hurricane also killed nearly two dozen people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic as it headed toward the United States.
NASA images show the storm over the Gulf of Mexico.
The first of Trump’s stops will be Lake Charles, Louisiana, a city of 80,000, where simply driving remains a feat, with downed power lines and trees blocking the roads.
Trump will also visit Orange, Texas, which was the hardest hit area in the state but suffered far less damage than neighboring Louisiana.
The weaker remnants of the hurricane continued to move across the southern United States, unleashing heavy rains and isolated tornadoes.