Rescuers in Texas were racing against time Wednesday to find survivors of Harvey's wrath and take them to safety, with Houston's mayor declaring a nighttime curfew to head off looting as rains persisted and the raging floodwaters continued to rise.
Five days after the monster storm slammed onshore as a Category Four hurricane, turning roads into rivers and neighborhoods into lakes in America's fourth-largest city, emergency crews were still struggling to reach hundreds of stranded people in a massive round-the-clock rescue operation.
President DonaldTrump answered Harvey's wrath by offering in-person assurances to those in the storm zone that his administration will work tirelessly to help the region recover from the massive flooding and storm-inflicted destruction.
"We are going to get you back and operating immediately," Trump told an impromptu crowd that gathered outside a Corpus Christi fire station about 30 miles from where the storm made landfall Friday.
Many Texas companies, as well as volunteer and federal organizations have rescued many thousands of people. Others are providing food and shelter while others pledge economic support for the comming rebuilding operations.
The president kept his distance from the epicenter of the damage in Houston to avoid disrupting recovery operations with his security detail, but he plans to return to the region Saturday to survey the damage and meet with some of the storm's victims, said Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Trump will change his focus Wednesday with a trip to Springfield, Missouri to kick off his lobbying effort for a tax overhaul. He will offer some broad goals, but few specifics,
"What a crowd, what a turnout," Trump declared before waving a Texas flag from atop a step ladder positioned between two fire trucks. "This is historic. It's epic what happened, but you know what, it happened in Texas, and Texas can handle anything."
President Trump is clearly determined to seize the moment and show a forceful response to Harvey, mindful of the political opportunities and risks that natural disasters pose for any president. Trump has been suffering from low approval ratings and self-created crises, and the White House is eager to show him as a forceful leader in a time of trouble.
He spoke optimistically about the pace of the recovery, and hoped his response would be a textbook case for future presidents.
Then it was on to his next stop, Austin, to meet with officials at the state emergency operations center.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Trump showed "genuine compassion" on the short flight to Austin as they watched video footage of the flooding in Houston. "The president was heartbroken by what he saw," the governor said.
It's long been presidential practice to avoid visiting the most devastated areas of a natural disaster while recovery is still in the early stages, to avoid getting in the way or diverting critical resources. In Texas, residents seemed to understand.
Before President Trump landed in Texas, Louis Sirianni arrived at his beach house in Rockport, about 20 miles outside Corpus Christi, to assess damage. Sirianni said he appreciated Trump's gesture and understood why there were no plans to take him into the hardest-hit area.
"He'd see enough if he came along here in a helicopter," Sirianni said on a balcony accessible only by a 12-foot aluminum extension ladder.
Trump, wearing a black rain slicker emblazoned with a presidential seal, traveled with first lady Melania Trump and Cabinet secretaries who will play key roles in the recovery.
The president, during his stop in Austin, said it was a "sad thing" that the recovery would be a "long-term" operation.
His largely upbeat reassurances about a speedy recovery, though, stood in contrast to the more measured assessments coming from emergency management officials. There's a long, difficult road ahead in recovering from a storm whose flooding has displaced tens of thousands, those officials have cautioned.
The president's vow of swift action on billions of dollars in disaster aid is at odds with his proposed budget, which would eliminate the program that helps Americans without flood insurance rebuild their homes and cuts grants to help states reduce the risk of flooding before disaster strikes.
While his pending budget request didn't touch the core disaster aid account, it proposed cutting several grant programs that help states reduce flood risks before a disaster strikes and improve outdated flood maps as part of his government deregulation program.
All told, Trump proposed cutting such grant programs by about $900 million. Former Democratic President Barack Obama also cast a skeptical eye, proposing cuts roughly two-thirds as large as Trump in his final FEMA budget.
As of yesterday, meteorologists predicted that Harvey would cause flooding in Louisiana as well, prompting local residents, many of whom still remember Hurricane Katrina, to start preparing their homes for the comming disaster.