President Donald Trump got a firsthand look at the damage from Hurricane Laura on a post-Republican National Convention trip.
His stops, first in Louisiana and later in Texas, came two days after the Category 4 storm slammed the Gulf Coast, leaving at least 14 dead and wreaking havoc with severe winds and flooding.
While the storm surge has receded and the clean-up 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,” he said in Lake Charles. “It was a tremendously powerful storm.”
He said he knows one thing about the state: “They rebuild it fast.”
As Air Force One came in for its landing, President Trump got a bird’s eye view of the extensive damage, the smashed houses, downed power lines and trees, and debris strewn across the city of 80,000 people.
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” President Trump told them.
He then toured a neighbourhood 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.
Gov 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 in 2005.
The storm toppled trees and damaged buildings as far north as central Arkansas, and more than 580,000 coastal residents evacuated in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
The US toll from the storm, which packed 150-mph winds and a storm surge as high as 15 feet, currently stands at 14 deaths, 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 barrelled towards the US.
President Trump later planned to visit Orange, Texas, which was the worst-hit area in the state.
Weaker remnants of the hurricane continued to move across the southern US, unleashing heavy rain and isolated tornadoes. North Carolina and Virginia could get the brunt of the storm on Saturday, according to forecasters.