President Trump surveys Hurricane Laura damage in post-convention trip

President Donald Trump got a firsthand look Saturday at the damage from Hurricane Laura on a post-Republican National Convention trip that allowed him to use the trappings of his office to try to project empathy and leadership.His stops, first in Louisiana and later in Texas, came two days after the Category 4 storm slammed the Gulf Coast, leaving at least 14 dead and wreaking havoc with severe winds and flooding. While the storm surge has receded and the cleanup effort has begun, hundreds of thousands remain without power or water, and they could for weeks or months as the hot summer stretches on.”I’m here to support the great people of Louisiana,” he said in Lake Charles. “It was a tremendously powerful storm.” He said he knows one thing about the state: “They rebuild it fast.”As Air Force One came in for its landing, Trump got a bird’s eye view of the extensive damage, the smashed houses, downed power lines and trees, and debris strewn across the city of 80,000 people. His first stop was a warehouse being used as a staging area for the Cajun Navy, a group of Louisiana volunteers who help with search and rescue after hurricanes and floods. “Good job,” Trump told them. Trump then toured a neighborhood with Gov. John Bel Edwards and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, making his way down a street blocked by felled trees and where houses were battered by the storm, one with its entire roof torn off. Across southwestern Louisiana, people were cleaning up from the destructive hurricane that roared ashore early Thursday, packing 150-mph winds. Many were deciding whether they wanted to stay in miserable conditions or wait until basic services are finally restored.Lauren Sylvester returned to her townhouse in Lake Charles on Friday after heeding a mandatory evacuation order and staying with her mother in a city about 95 miles away.The inside of her unit was not directly damaged, but the roof lost shingles. Around her home, it was a different story. Power lines and trees were down.“It’s still an incredible amount of damage,” said Sylvester, who was heading back to her mother’s house as soon as she finished cleaning up. Simply driving was a feat in Lake Charles, a city of 80,000 residents hit head on by the hurricane’s eye. Power lines and trees blocked paths or created one-lane roads that drivers had to navigate with oncoming traffic. Street signs were snapped off their posts or dangling. No stoplights worked, making it an exercise in trust with other motorists sharing the roads.Mayor Nic Hunter cautioned that there was no timetable for restoring electricity and that water-treatment plants “took a beating,” leaving barely a trickle of water coming out of most faucets. “If you come back to Lake Charles to stay, make sure you understand the above reality and are prepared to live in it for many days, probably weeks,” Hunter wrote on Facebook.Caravans of utility trucks were met Friday by thunderstorms in the sizzling heat, complicating recovery efforts.The Louisiana Department of Health estimated that more than 220,000 people were without water. Restoration of those services could take weeks or months, and full rebuilding could take years.Forty nursing homes were relying on generators, and assessments were underway to determine if more than 860 residents in 11 facilities that had been evacuated could return.The much weaker remnants of the hurricane continued to move across the Southern U.S., unleashing heavy rain and isolated tornadoes. North Carolina and Virginia could get the brunt of the worst weather Saturday, forecasters said.When the storm moves back over the Atlantic Ocean, forecasters said it could become a tropical storm again and threaten Newfoundland, Canada.Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards called Laura the most powerful hurricane to strike Louisiana, meaning it surpassed even Katrina, which was a Category 3 storm when it hit in 2005. He said Friday that officials now believe the surge was as high as 15 feet. The hurricane also killed nearly two dozen people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic en route to the Gulf Coast.In Lake Charles, chainsaws buzzed and heavy machinery hauled tree limbs in the front lawn of Stanley and Dominique Hazelton, who rode out the storm on a bathroom floor. A tree punctured the roof not far from where the couple was taking cover.They regretted staying.“There’s people without homes,” Stanley Hazelton said. “So it was dumb. We’ll never do it again. We’ll never stay through another hurricane again.”

President Donald Trump got a firsthand look Saturday at the damage from Hurricane Laura on a post-Republican National Convention trip that allowed him to use the trappings of his office to try to project empathy and leadership.

His stops, first in Louisiana and later in Texas, came two days after the Category 4 storm slammed the Gulf Coast, leaving at least 14 dead and wreaking havoc with severe winds and flooding. While the storm surge has receded and the cleanup effort has begun, hundreds of thousands remain without power or water, and they could for weeks or months as the hot summer stretches on.

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“I’m here to support the great people of Louisiana,” he said in Lake Charles. “It was a tremendously powerful storm.” He said he knows one thing about the state: “They rebuild it fast.”

As Air Force One came in for its landing, Trump got a bird’s eye view of the extensive damage, the smashed houses, downed power lines and trees, and debris strewn across the city of 80,000 people.

His first stop was a warehouse being used as a staging area for the Cajun Navy, a group of Louisiana volunteers who help with search and rescue after hurricanes and floods. “Good job,” Trump told them.

Trump then toured a neighborhood with Gov. John Bel Edwards and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, making his way down a street blocked by felled trees and where houses were battered by the storm, one with its entire roof torn off.

Across southwestern Louisiana, people were cleaning up from the destructive hurricane that roared ashore early Thursday, packing 150-mph winds. Many were deciding whether they wanted to stay in miserable conditions or wait until basic services are finally restored.

Lauren Sylvester returned to her townhouse in Lake Charles on Friday after heeding a mandatory evacuation order and staying with her mother in a city about 95 miles away.

The inside of her unit was not directly damaged, but the roof lost shingles. Around her home, it was a different story. Power lines and trees were down.

“It’s still an incredible amount of damage,” said Sylvester, who was heading back to her mother’s house as soon as she finished cleaning up.

Simply driving was a feat in Lake Charles, a city of 80,000 residents hit head on by the hurricane’s eye. Power lines and trees blocked paths or created one-lane roads that drivers had to navigate with oncoming traffic. Street signs were snapped off their posts or dangling. No stoplights worked, making it an exercise in trust with other motorists sharing the roads.

Mayor Nic Hunter cautioned that there was no timetable for restoring electricity and that water-treatment plants “took a beating,” leaving barely a trickle of water coming out of most faucets. “If you come back to Lake Charles to stay, make sure you understand the above reality and are prepared to live in it for many days, probably weeks,” Hunter wrote on Facebook.

Caravans of utility trucks were met Friday by thunderstorms in the sizzling heat, complicating recovery efforts.

The Louisiana Department of Health estimated that more than 220,000 people were without water. Restoration of those services could take weeks or months, and full rebuilding could take years.

Forty nursing homes were relying on generators, and assessments were underway to determine if more than 860 residents in 11 facilities that had been evacuated could return.

The much weaker remnants of the hurricane continued to move across the Southern U.S., unleashing heavy rain and isolated tornadoes. North Carolina and Virginia could get the brunt of the worst weather Saturday, forecasters said.

When the storm moves back over the Atlantic Ocean, forecasters said it could become a tropical storm again and threaten Newfoundland, Canada.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards called Laura the most powerful hurricane to strike Louisiana, meaning it surpassed even Katrina, which was a Category 3 storm when it hit in 2005. He said Friday that officials now believe the surge was as high as 15 feet.

The hurricane also killed nearly two dozen people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic en route to the Gulf Coast.

In Lake Charles, chainsaws buzzed and heavy machinery hauled tree limbs in the front lawn of Stanley and Dominique Hazelton, who rode out the storm on a bathroom floor. A tree punctured the roof not far from where the couple was taking cover.

They regretted staying.

“There’s people without homes,” Stanley Hazelton said. “So it was dumb. We’ll never do it again. We’ll never stay through another hurricane again.”