VPOTUS travel pool report #2: Arrival

From: Katie Leslie
Date: August 31, 2017 at 11:20:49 AM CDT
Subject: VPOTUS travel pool report #2: Arrival

AF2 touched down in Corpus Christi airport at 11:14 CDT. We are waiting to deplane.

Some notes from the flight. (Pardon any typos from iPhone typing.)

VPOTUS spoke with reporters during flight and confirmed that POTUS is returning to Texas on Saturday.

Pence COS Nick Ayers is traveling with him. From your pooler's view, he sat across from Sec. Chao on the flight, though most people moved throughout the plane during the trip.

Sec. Shulkin briefly came to the back of the plane to speak with staff but did not engage the press.

Secs. Acosta, Chao and Duke also came to back of plane to speak with staff at various points in flight.

Duke told reporters that the federal government expects waters to crest on Saturday.

She provided a "by the numbers" overview of federal response:

Notable figures shared by Duke/WH on flight:

* 232 shelters housing around 32,000 people in shelters
* 3 mega centers, two in Houston and one in Dallas.
* 21,000 federal workers are being mobilized, including those already in Texas
* 14,000 National Guard mobilized
* Of DHS employees: 3,500 FEMA workers are in Texas. 700 Coast Guard and 550 Customs Border Patrol officers are mobilized.
* The US Coast Guard is handling overflow of 911 calls in Houston
* Estimates of calls coming in were as high as 900 per hour but now around 500 per hour. Seeing uptick in calls from Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange
* Major disaster declaration in 30 Texas counties and five Louisiana parishes
* Texans affected by mandatory evacuation: 779k
* Texans Affected by voluntary evac: 980k
* In Louisiana: 7000 mandatory, 133k  voluntary evacuees
* Coast Guard reports they saved 3,000 lives
* Estimates 200k customers in Texas and 11k customers in Louisiana without power. Customer means anything with a meter-- not a human.
* 120k residents without water in Beaumont

Duke notes focus is now on restoring power and said Coast Guard is working to reopen Houston Ship Channel. One port is now open with restrictions.

They're allowing some cruise ships to return. (Note to press from pooler: location of return unclear as of this pool report. )

Duke said longterm concern is housing.

On critical infrastructure: Duke said there was an release of organic hydrogen peroxide and sulfur dioxide at the Arkema chemical facility in Crosby, due to storm damage to refrigerated areas. Said chemicals aren't toxins, but irritants. Monitoring the damage.

Also tracking Colonial Pipeline shutdown. Said it has caused shortage of refined petroleum products.

Sec. Perry was first Cabinet member to speak with press during flight, holding court, both on and off record, for roughly 20 minutes.

Highlights:

On whether VPOTUS 's visit with victims and in storm zone will upstage POTUS' earlier visit:

Perry: "No, I recommended to the president that he not go down range ... but he came, for obvious reasons."

"There's a time gap here. I have dealt with some disasters in my past. The president went to the right place at the right time. The president is coming back Saturday."

"The president wanted to go early, he wanted to go Monday. And he really wanted to be where there were citizens being affected. He was advised: the better place for you to go is Corpus Christi or San Antonio or Austin, where no search and rescue resources  would be pulled away from what they're doing. That's always been good advice."

"The president went to the right place. He literally and figuratively waved the flag. The American citizens and Texans know he cares, he's paying attention."

On POTUS's chief concern:

Perry: "Making sure citizens are rescued, that they've got the resources that they need."

Perry said POTUS, like many Cabinet members, was impressed by citizen rescue efforts aiding the mission.

"I think the president was as impressed with that as anything you saw. He was also very impressed with how well Texas prepositioned, managed this. So I think his focus is in the right place."

Perry said he's confident Congress will deal with federal aid "in a timely way."

"This isn't about Texas. This is about America and American citizens. Houston is the most diversified city in America. You've got people from all over the world that have been impacted, folks who aren't American citizens that have been impacted."

"The idea that this is just about Texas is a bit of a misnomer. This is an international city, the world is watching this, so I've got every confidence in the world that the United States Congress recognizes that."

"I know there's all this banter about 'well, your senator didn't vote for Sandy.' But I wouldn't be distracted for a moment by that kind of banter. This is about now. This is about a diverse population that deserves the American government's support."

Said he has "no idea" what it will cost.  "This is just going to take longer, it's going to be more difficult than any flood, any hurricane, any event that we have had. "

"We won't know until these flood waters recede and until we're able to really analyze what's going on."

On energy sector, Perry said more than 30 percent of production is off line, noted Colonial Pipeline has been shut down.

"Gas prices are going to go up because of the flooding.

"Every state's attorney general will be watching to make sure there's not price gouging going on. And anybody who is considering raising prices above what could be considered to be appropriate needs to watch out. "

"My hope is that every attorney general across the country will go after those people and go after them in a very hard way."

Katie Leslie
Washington correspondent
The Dallas Morning News
Office: xxx-xxx-xxxx
Mobile: xxx-xxx-xxxx

Sent from my iPhone

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