Bush detours to Texas ahead of storm

10:12, 01 September 2008
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In contrast to his Katrina response, president makes evacuees priority

Aiming in all ways to be ahead of this season`s biggest storm, President Bush today makes two stops in inland Texas to verify in person the preparations for Hurricane Gustav, according to Houston Chronicle.

The president on Sunday scrapped plans to address the Republican National Convention in Minnesota tonight, and instead shifted focus to the gathering storm.

"Across the Gulf Coast there`s governors and state officials and local leaders that are taking this storm very seriously and are preparing proactively," Bush said.

The president departs Washington early today for Austin, where he is scheduled for a briefing at the Texas Emergency Operations Center, a command facility where local, state and federal disaster officials are coordinating storm response.

In Austin, Bush will get an update on the storm and greet workers, before heading to San Antonio`s Alamo Regional Command Reception Center, where officials have been preparing assistance for evacuees from the Texas and Louisiana coasts.

"There are millions of meals and millions of liters of water prestaged, as well as a lot of blankets and cots," Bush said Sunday.

The last-minute White House storm scramble and the president`s high visibility on the issue represents a determined effort by the administration to push the president out in front of the storm.

For Bush, a big part of the challenge now is appearing busy, when there is often little he can actually do. To that end, he is staying engaged with briefings, phone calls and working to stay abreast of storm developments.

Mindful that his presence could be more disruptive than helpful, Bush postponed visiting Louisiana immediately, but promised to head there soon.

"The Army Corps of Engineers informs me that while the levees are stronger than they`ve ever been, people across the Gulf Coast, especially in New Orleans, need to understand that in a storm of this size there is serious risk of significant flooding," Bush said.

The president`s hastily arranged trip to Texas should get him to the state before Gustav`s projected midday landfall. He returns to Washington in the evening.

His preemptive, hands-on approach is a sharp contrast to 2005, when Bush appeared out of touch and slow to respond to the storm. This time, the White House is intent on a high profile show of the improved systems and procedures initiated after Katrina.

In a morning phone call with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, Bush let Nagin know he was "getting ready to go through this with him again," said White House press secretary Dana Perino.

After touring FEMA, Bush urged residents to follow the instructions of local emergency officials.

"This nation has come to know the strong and resilient spirit of the people of the Gulf Coast," Bush said. "They`ve made it through great challenges in the past and they`re going to make it through this one, as well."

Houston Chronicle

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