HOUSTON — The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said the agency is already gearing up for a years-long effort to help Texas recover from the damage wrought by Hurricane Harvey.
“FEMA is going to be there for years,” administrator Brock Long said Sunday. “This disaster is going to be a landmark event.”
Hurricane Harvey, now a tropical storm, hit southeastern Texas this weekend, and forecasters said it would continue to make its way inland over the course of the next several days.
FEMA is focused on the immediate response to the storm, but is also “pushing forward” teams focused on recovery housing and flood insurance program policy.
“We’re setting up and gearing up for the next couple years,” Long said.
Although Long has used language echoing the severity of Hurricane Katrina, he said Harvey poses different challenges and was “nothing like” it.
He stressed the days-long threat it poses as it makes its way further into Texas.
“This is a storm that the United States has not seen yet,” he said.
Long advised residents on the ground facing the storm to stay on top of local news reports for information and avoid calling 911 unless they are in need of emergency assistance.
Long said President Donald Trump had given him all the power he needs to mobilize for the storm, and when asked about key vacancies in the administration and how that might affect the response, Long said he was unconcerned.
“I don’t even have time to worry about it right now,” Long said.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also emphasized the need for residents in the path of the storm to “listen to all warnings from local officials.”
Abbott added state and federal responders are coordinating effectively.
“I’ve talked to President Trump several times, as well as his Cabinet members and his officials, and especially the head of FEMA,” Abbott said. “And we’ve made multiple requests, and we’re getting absolutely everything we need.”
Trump, who is spending the weekend at Camp David, continued to tweet Sunday morning about the response and recovery efforts in Texas, saying he was about to hold a Cabinet teleconference on the effort.
Earlier in the morning, he praised the interagency response.
“Great coordination between agencies at all levels of government,” the President wrote. “Continuing rains and flash floods are being dealt with. Thousands rescued.”
Trump added: “Many people are now saying that this is the worst storm/hurricane they have ever seen. Good news is that we have great talent on the ground.”
Trump also said he wants to visit Texas “as soon as that trip can be made without causing disruption” — repeating what a senior administration official said Saturday.
The president continued: “Wow – Now experts are calling #Harvey a once in 500 year flood! We have an all out effort going, and going well!”