Trump visits storm damage in Louisiana

LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) — President Donald Trump got a firsthand look Saturday at the damage from Hurricane Laura on a post-Republican National Convention trip that allowed him to use the trappings of his office to try to project empathy and leadership.

His stops, first in Louisiana and later in Texas, came two days after the Category 4 storm slammed the Gulf Coast, leaving at least 16 dead and wreaking havoc with severe winds and flooding. While the storm surge has receded and the cleanup effort has begun, hundreds of thousands remain without power or water, and they could for weeks or months as the hot summer stretches on.

“I’m here to support the great people of Louisiana. It’s been a great state for me,” he said in Lake Charles. “It was a tremendously powerful storm.” He said he knows one thing about the state: “They rebuild it fast.”

During the slightly more than two hours he spent in the city, Trump met with officials and relief workers but not with any of the residents whose homes had been ripped apart in the storm.

He did, however, get a good look at the extensive damage and the debris strewn across the city of 80,000 people, beginning with the bird’s eye view from Air Force One as it came in for landing.

His first stop was a warehouse being used as a staging area for the Cajun Navy, a group of Louisiana volunteers who help with search and rescue after hurricanes and floods. “Good job,” Trump told them.

Trump then toured a neighborhood with Gov. John Bel Edwards and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, making his way down a street blocked by felled trees and where houses were battered by the storm, one with its entire roof torn off.

Edwards has said Laura was the most powerful hurricane ever to strike his state, surpassing even Hurricane Katrina, which was a Category 3 when it hit almost exactly 15 years ago.

“Whether you come from Louisiana or 5th Avenue In New York, you know about Katrina,” Trump said.

Trump has sometimes struggled with his role as consoler in chief, failing to project empathy when visiting places hard hit by tragedy and disaster. That includes in Puerto Rico, where Trump was photographed tossing rolls of paper towel into the crowd, which some saw as inappropriately playful, given the circumstances. During a trip to the Carolinas in 2018, Trump marveled at a yacht floodwaters had washed onto a family’s property, telling them, “At least you got a nice boat out of the deal.” And he was caught on camera telling a person he’d handed out food to “have a good time.”

Other times, Trump has been a source of comfort. After a tornado ripped through Alabama last year, killing nearly two dozen people, Trump spent time with families who’d lost loved ones, listening to their stories and hugging them.

Showing empathy has come more naturally for his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, who issued a statement Saturday saying he and his wife were praying for those hurt by the storm and promising that “we will be there to help you build back better.”

In a possible subtle dig at the incumbent, Biden praised the response of families in the hurricane-hit states and thanked them for “reminding Americans that no disaster, no single person, no injustice can match the humble, personal, courageous ways that Americans choose decency every single day.”

Laura, which packed 150-mph (240-kph) winds and a storm surge as high as 15 feet (4.5 meters), toppled trees and damaged buildings as far north as central Arkansas. More than 580,000 coastal residents evacuated in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. death toll from the storm rose to 16 on Saturday, with more than half of those killed by carbon monoxide poisoning from the unsafe operation of generators. The hurricane also killed nearly two dozen people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic as it barreled toward the U.S.

Trump later planned to visit Orange, Texas, which was the worst-hit area in the state.

Related: Hurricane Laura 

14 PHOTOSHurricane LauraSee GalleryHurricane LauraThis GOES-16 GeoColor satellite image taken Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, at 2:40 p.m. EDT., and provided by NOAA, shows Hurricane Laura over the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane Laura strengthened Wednesday into “an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane,” The National Hurricane Center said.Laura is expected to strike Wednesday night into Thursday morning along the Louisiana-Texas border. (NOAA via AP)Mark Allums, left, and Hunter Clark watch waves crash ashore as outer bands from Hurricane Laura begin to hit the coast Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, in High Island. The two are from Bogata, Texas, near Paris, Texas, and they came to board up windows at a beach house in High Island. ( Jon Shapley/Houston Chronicle via AP)A Cameron Parish Sheriff deputy wipes his face as he mans a roadblock in the rain on LA 27 while residents evacuate Cameron in Lake Charles, La., Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, ahead of Hurricane Laura. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)Daoith Porm, left, and Bunsant Khov, right, board their business with Hurricane Laura just hours away, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, in Bridge City, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)A store in low-lying Delcambre, La., is boarded up in advance of Hurricane Laura, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte)Daoith Porm, left, and Bunsant Khov, right, board their business with Hurricane Laura just hours away, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, in Bridge City, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)Water falls over Jimmy Villarreal, of Galveston, Texas as a wave hits the seawall while he was watching the surf stirred up by Hurricane Laura Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020 in Galveston, Texas. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)A picture taken on August 27, 2020 shows a destroyed string of lights swinging in the wind as the eye wall of hurricane Laura passes over in Lake Charles, Louisiana. – Hurricane Laura slammed into the southern US state of Louisiana on August 27 and the monster category 4 storm prompted warnings of “unsurvivable” ocean surges and evacuation orders for hundreds of thousands of Gulf Coast residents. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said “extremely dangerous” Laura would bring winds of 150 miles per hour (240 kilometers per hour) and “destructive waves will cause catastrophic damage” to Louisiana and Texas. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)A man checks debris blown between two cars as hurricane Laura passes over in Lake Charles, Louisiana on August 27, 2020. – Hurricane Laura slammed into the southern US state of Louisiana on August 27 and the monster category 4 storm prompted warnings of “unsurvivable” ocean surges and evacuation orders for hundreds of thousands of Gulf Coast residents. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said “extremely dangerous” Laura would bring winds of 150 miles per hour (240 kilometers per hour) and “destructive waves will cause catastrophic damage” to Louisiana and Texas. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)A single truck is parked in an open lot as heavy rains from hurricane Laura fall in Lake Charles, Louisiana on August 26, 2020. – Hurricane Laura was barreling towards the coast of the southern US states of Louisiana and Texas on August 26 as a monster Category 4 storm, prompting warnings of “unsurvivable” storm surge and evacuation orders for hundreds of thousands of Gulf Coast residents. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)Port Arthur firefighters lower a U.S. flag at a post office at sunset as they wait for Hurricane Laura to make landfall, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, in Port Arthur, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)Lake Charles Fire Department personnel Alvin Taylor, right, and Jeremy Harris, left, assist Tim Williams into a transport van as he evacuates Lake Charles, La., Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, ahead of Hurricane Laura. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)People talk as waves wash ashore and the outer bands of Hurricane Laura bring winds and rain Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, in High Island. ( Jon Shapley/Houston Chronicle via AP)Jordan Razo steps back as a wave, stirred up by the approach of Hurricane Laura, crashes up and over the seawall Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020 in Galveston, Texas. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)Up Next

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