Trump and his administration receive high marks for initial response to Hurricane Harvey — but the real test is only just starting

(Business Insider | Sept. 2, 2017) Forecasters were near certain that Hurricane Harvey would be the most devastating storm to hit the continental US since Hurricane Katrina 12 years earlier.

Perrin … said the administration is doing a good job of both “managing expectations” and not making similar mistakes made by the Bush administration.

But even they could not have foreseen the level of rainfall that would blanket areas of southeast Texas — particularly around Houston. With rains in some areas exceeding 50 inches and flooding that put entire neighborhoods virtually underwater, the disaster will go down as one of the costliest in American history.

More than 40 people have been found dead as a result of the initial hurricane and subsequent flooding. At least 33,000 Texans are now spread throughout more than 230 shelters. Roughly 20,000 homes were damaged, and hundreds of thousands will, in all likelihood, seek disaster assistance of some kind.

For President Donald Trump, this disaster was the first “serious” crisis early in his administration, as conservative news aggregator Matt Drudge wrote ahead of the storm’s landing last week. It was a major question for the young administration: How would Trump and his officials respond to and handle Hurricane Harvey?

A week after Harvey’s destruction began, Trump and his team have generally received high remarks for their response …

… nd after his meeting with federal, state, and local leaders in a Corpus Christi fire station, Trump addressed a large crowd that had gathered outside, saying, “what a crowd, what a turnout.” He added that the storm was “historic, it’s epic, but I can tell you it happened in Texas, and Texas can handle anything.”

Some bristled at the display. Politico’s Josh Dawsey noted that the trip didn’t include Trump meeting with “a single storm victim,” seeing “an inch of rain or” getting “near a flooded street.” But, the Politico reporter wrote that the trip “gave the optics-obsessed president some of the visuals he wanted.” And pool reporter David McSwane wrote suspiciously of the hundreds of Trump supporters who appeared seemingly out of nowhere to greet the president at the fire station, where Trump waved the Lone Star flag and mentioned the crowd size and turnout.

“The turnout of hundreds of Trump supporters is notable because few knew where Trump was actually going,” he tweeted. “Someone organized that.”

But Keli Perrin, a Syracuse University law professor whose expertise is in critical infrastructure and emergency response, told Business Insider that she thought Trump was “actually on script” in his responses.

“He does throw in some stuff like crowd counts or this is going to be the best response ever, because that’s what he does,” she said. “That’s his persona. But for the most part, if you watch his full clips, he’s saying the right stuff.”

Mackowiak said he “probably wouldn’t” have issued the pardon at the time Trump did, but he praised both Trump and the administration for their initial handling of the disaster.

“He is who he is,” Mackowiak said. “There’s a limit to sort of what he’s capable of doing” …

Perrin, who said she’s a “real fan of Administrator Long,” said the administration is doing a good job of both “managing expectations” and not making similar mistakes made by the Bush administration.

“Of course, the Trump administration is trying not to look like the Bush administration,” she said. “They’re showing up, [Trump] was there, he was doing what he was supposed to do. Corpus Christi instead of Houston, he was close but out of the way. It’s almost like they read what went wrong in Katrina and fixed it.”

What comes next for Trump is the push to get federal funding for the recovery and pass both an emergency package as soon as possible, with a more substantial one in the coming months …

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