President Donald Trump has been closely involved in the federal government’s preparation and response to Hurricane Harvey, the first major natural disaster to hit the United States since he took office.
On Friday evening, before the hurricane made landfall in Texas, President Trump expedited and signed a disaster proclamation for the state of Texas at the request of Governor Greg Abbott.
Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Brock Long told ABC News that the proclamation allowed FEMA to “bring the entire firepower of the federal government down to help our state and local governments meet their responsibility and recovery goals.”
Long, who was appointed by Trump to head the agency earlier this year, said that his teams had been in Texas already well before the hurricane hit.
The responsibility of FEMA is to provide help to state and local governments at their request.
The hurricane came ashore near Port Lavaca late on Friday with maximum winds of 130 mph. That made it a Category 4 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale, the second-highest category and the most powerful storm in over a decade to hit the mainland United States.
The president received multiple updates from his Chief of Staff in the evening and in the morning on the hurricane.
“Closely monitoring #HurricaneHarvey from Camp David. We are leaving nothing to chance. City, State and Federal Govs. working great together!,” President Trump wrote in a tweet on Saturday.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced on Friday that the President will visit Texas early next week.
Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert said at a press conference on Friday that the president’s main concern was whether the people affected by the storm would be helped.
“When we go in and brief him on preparations for this hurricane, he is acutely focused on making sure … that the American people in the storm’s path have what they need,” Bossert said.
“His questions were about ‘Are you doing what it takes to help people affected by this storm?'”
During a teleconference call with cabinet officials on Saturday, President Trump instructed his cabinet to “stay fully engaged and positioned to support his number one priority of saving lives,” according to a statement by the White House.
President Trump said that the full impact of the storm was to occur over the next few days as a result of heavy rains and flooding.
While thousands fled the expected devastating flooding and destruction, many residents stayed put in imperiled towns and stocked up on food, fuel, and sandbags.
Texas and Louisiana declared states of disaster before Harvey hit, authorizing the use of state resources to prepare.
The size and strength dredged up memories of Katrina, the 2005 hurricane that made a direct hit on New Orleans as a Category 5 storm, causing levees and flood walls to fail in dozens of places. About 1,800 died in the disaster made worse by a slow government emergency response.
The president also instructed his federal team to support the governors of Texas and Louisiana.
FEMA director Brock said that heavy rainfall was expected to continue for days.
“This is just the beginning. We are going to see over the next 48 to 72 hours devastating rainfall,” he said.
Both in a White House statement and in a tweet on Saturday the president thanked volunteers for their help with the disaster relief in Texas.
“He sends his thanks to the many volunteer and faith-based organizations that are dedicating their time and effort to helping their fellow Americans,” said the White House in the statement.
“The President and Vice President extend their thoughts and prayers to those affected.”
Reuters contributed to this report.