It will take years for Texas to fully recover from the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, says Brock Long, a Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator overseeing the response to the category 4 storm that hit the state Friday night.
“We are striving for a new normal here,” Long said at a news conference Monday, warning that day-to-day routines would be disrupted for weeks.
Some 6.8 million people have been affected by the storm — about a quarter of the population of Texas, according to the Associated Press. So far, Hurricane Harvey has dumped 20 inches of rain across Houston, with more expected in the coming days, city officials said Monday morning.
Texas officials and first responders are focused on “rescuing every person we can find” as the storm continues, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said. On Monday, Abbott authorized the deployment of all 12,000 members of the Texas National Guard and added several counties to state’s emergency declaration, saying he’s likely to add more before the day is through.
Abbott said the federal response to the disaster was “A+” so far, but “we’ll need to maintain this.”
Long said FEMA has dispatched 8,500 federal staff members to assist in the state’s recovery. About 1,100 of those employees are conducting search and rescue efforts, some of them in Louisiana, where the storm is headed next.
Trump will travel to Texas on Tuesday to survey some of the damage. The Mexican government has also offered assistance in the form of boats or food for those who were displaced, Abbott said.
Once search and rescue has been completed, FEMA will help direct “one of the largest recovery housing missions that the state has ever seen.” Long said. The agency has already deployed housing assessment teams in some parts of the state.
Abbott deflected some questions about whether Houston should have been evacuated more quickly, a decision for which the city’s mayor has drawn criticism.
While all eyes are on Houston, Long said, rescue efforts are heavily concentrated just north of Corpus Christi in Rockport and other areas that took the brunt of Friday’s hit.
He urged residents to contact FEMA online or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA as soon as possible. It’s the first step toward rebuilding what they’ve lost, he said.