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Rep. Poe: Extent of storm disaster ‘hard to grasp’

August 29, 2017 at 6:30 PM EDT
President Trump's visit to Texas put a spotlight on the coordination of federal and local resources, and Congress will play a key role in deciding how much help the government offers. The scope of the disaster and the number of people affected is “hard to grasp,” said Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, who talked with Miles O'Brien about what his constituents need and hurricane relief.
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MILES O’BRIEN: President Trump’s visit to Texas put a spotlight on the coordination of federal and local resources. Congress will play a key role in deciding how much help the U.S. government ultimately offers.

Congressman Ted Poe is a Republican from Texas. His district covers the northern suburbs of Houston, which he has represented since 2005.

He joined us by phone.

Congressman Poe, thank you for being with us.

I know you have been in your district all day. Just tell us little bit about what you have seen and heard.

REP. TED POE, R-Texas: Thank you, Miles.

It is still raining. Water is rising. A lot of places are flooded. I would estimate about half of the people in my congressional district, which stretches from downtown Houston to the suburbs, are flooded. And many of them have left their homes.

Never have had this type of disaster in the Houston area. I grew up here. I even when through Hurricane Carla in ’61. The amount of people and homes and property affected it hard to grasp. It is massive. The Houston is very spread out. And the entire area in parts are affected by the constant rain and the flooding.

Houston is flat. All the water in Houston has to flow southeast out of the bayous and the river to the Gulf of Mexico. And that is not happening because of the terrain. So, more water is coming in. More flooding is coming from upriver, so to speak.

So, that’s why we see the floodwaters rising. And the rain, we think, will stop probably tomorrow.

MILES O’BRIEN: What are your constituents telling you? What are their immediate needs?

REP. TED POE: Many of them are being rescued. And so they need a place to go.

And they’re being evacuated to first the George R. Brown Convention Center. But there is over 10,000 there. And so they’re being put in other Red Cross shelters that are still on dry land throughout the area.

And, of course, the next need is water and food and dry clothing. So, that is what is taking place immediately now. Won’t still in the — I guess FEMA would call it the rescue stage of taking care of people, making sure that they’re safe. That is the goal right now.

MILES O’BRIEN: The numbers we have indicate as many as 80 percent do not have flood insurance there.

That’s a little different story than what you just told us. What is to be done — whatever the number is, what would you suggest should be done who don’t have flood coverage?

REP. TED POE: Well, if people don’t have flood insurance, then of course then they’re not insured. They suffer the loss of the property damage.

And there are some resources that they can — people can apply for that don’t have flood insurance. But they will not be covered by the flood insurance program, which is about, I think, $250,000 per residence.

So, they’re — they lose that property. And they will just have to figure out a way to make up the cost.

MILES O’BRIEN: I know, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, this became a political issue. And a lot of members of Congress were unwilling to provide additional funding for people who suffered losses in the wake of Sandy.

Were you among those people? And do you have a turnabout now?

REP. TED POE: The original bill for Sandy was for $17 billion. I supported that. I think most members supported that legislation.

But by the time it got to the House floor, there had been additions that had been added that had nothing to do with Hurricane Sandy, and it was then over $39 billion. So, about half of it wasn’t dealing with Sandy recovery. I thought the appropriations bill should have dealt specifically with Sandy. And so I didn’t vote for that additional funding to other projects that didn’t involve Hurricane Sandy.

MILES O’BRIEN: Do you think that makes it difficult for you to come back to Washington and ask for money for your district?

REP. TED POE: Not at all, because the bill that we want to present to Congress will be specific hurricane recovery monies, and not add items on that legislation that have nothing to do with the hurricane recovery from Harvey. So, I don’t see a problem with that at all.

MILES O’BRIEN: Congressman Ted Poe, Republican of Texas, thank you for your time.

REP. TED POE: Thank you, Miles.

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