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President Trump toured a Gulf Coast ravaged by Hurricane Michael. The death toll stands at 17, dozens are still missing and thousands are expected to be without power for another week or longer. The president promised federal help in rebuilding. But, appearing on “60 Minutes”, he also challenged whether climate change is man-made and asserted it “will change back.” William Brangham reports.
All across the Florida Panhandle, the long slog to recovery is under way, in the wake of Hurricane Michael.
The death toll stands at 17, and many survivors have with no power in their homes, or, far worse, no home at all.
President Trump got a firsthand look today, as William Brangham reports.
For nearly an hour, the president flew over a land laid waste along the Florida Gulf Coast. Tiny Mexico Beach left in ruins by winds blasting 155 miles an hour and a storm surge that towered 14 feet.
Later, the president visited the town of Lynn Haven, marveling at what he had seen.
President Donald Trump:
These are massive trees, they're just ripped out of the earth. We have seen mostly water. And water can be very damaging and horrible and scary, when you have — when see water rising 14, 15 feet. But nobody's ever seen anything like this. This is really incredible.
The president also promised federal help in rebuilding, and he praised the response so far.
Everybody has been incredible, FEMA, first-responders, everybody. Law enforcement, they have incredible, with the power of this storm.
Back on Mexico Beach, rescue teams and search dogs spent the weekend combing through destroyed homes for any signs of life. Today, the number of missing there dropped to just 46.
We haven't had cell phone services in a couple days now, and no power, no Internet, no way to connect with people other than walking around trying to find people. But this is unbelievable. This storm was — catastrophic is not even the word for it.
In some isolated areas, people are trying other means of communication. One homeowner in Bay County, Florida, used logs to spell out their plea for help.
Some 17,000 utility workers are trying to restore power, and an additional 2,000 are working to restore cell service. But thousands could be waiting at least another week for the lights to come back on.
Meanwhile, many are trying to out what to do next.
I lost everything. I lost my clothes. I lost everything, wallet, credit, everything, everything, everything. I am at zero. I got to start from zero.
All over the Panhandle, food and water remain scarce, and people are standing in lines to get basic supplies. Even well inland, the storm's fierce winds knocked down thousands of trees and damaged countless buildings.
The president saw some of that damage today, as he flew from the Florida coast and into Georgia. Last night, he declared a federal emergency in the state, and the National Guard is already distributing water and other aid.
All of this as Hurricane Michael's explosive power has generated new alarm about climate change supercharging these storms. On "60 Minutes" last night, the president said he no longer views climate change as a hoax, but he also expressed some ideas that are at odds with the facts.
I don't think it's a hoax. I think there's probably a difference. But I don't know that it's man-made. I think something is happening, something's changing, and it will change back again.
Last November, the federal government's own climate report confirmed the consensus view that humans are driving the rise in global temperatures, saying — quote — "There's no convincing alternative explanation."
The report also dismissed the idea of temperatures cooling again. Instead, it said, they are only going up, including — quote — "more record-setting extremes."
But last night, the president also said he thinks many scientists have a political agenda.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm William Brangham.
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