AUSTIN, Texas — Gov. Greg Abbott said Sunday that 3,000 national and state guard members had been activated across the state as part of a coordinated response with the federal government to Hurricane Harvey.
Abbott said at a news conference Sunday that he had also asked for 12 more counties to be added to the presidential disaster declaration, which already includes 18 Texas counties.
At least five people have been reported dead since the hurricane hit Texas’ Gulf Coast over the weekend. The National Weather Service called the storm “unprecedented,” and flooding ravaged southeast Texas including Houston.
Abbott has heaped praise on President Donald Trump for the federal government’s response to the hurricane. He dismissed questions about conflicting messages from state and local officials to Houston residents in recent days about whether to evacuate. “Now is not the time to second-guess the decisions that were made,” Abbott said.
At a news conference Friday, Abbott had suggested that residents living in the storm’s path, including Houston, should evacuate. But Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner tweeted that no official evacuation order had been given, and local officials said they wanted to avoid a repeat of a 2005 city evacuation when people had to be rescued on highways amid massive gridlock.
Ed Emmett, a Republican and a county official in the Houston area, told the Austin-American Statesman that Abbott’s evacuation recommendation contradicted the governor’s other suggestion that people listen to their local officials, who were not encouraging residents to leave.
Abbott said Sunday he had left messages for Turner to let him know that the state was available to help. He said 60 boats and 20 helicopters were helping with search and rescue operations in Houston.
Flooding is expected to worsen as Hurricane Harvey continues dumping rain on Houston and southeast Texas for several more days, and rebuilding efforts will further test how Abbott — who has a tense relationship with Houston leaders over issues such as immigration and property taxes — coordinates the response between federal, state and local officials. Already about 300,000 people across the state have lost power, according to local utilities.
“The rebuilding process is going to be a long process, but it is something we will get done,” Abbott said at the Sunday news conference. “We will get it done because we have a very effective federal partner [in FEMA] working with state of Texas, which will serve as a very strong partner for local communities.”
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