Governor requests federal emergency declaration for southwest Louisiana parishes

Posted August 31, 2017

FEMA says it had 900 Urban Search and Rescue personnel "working to save lives" in south Texas as of Sunday, part of an overall force of more than 1,800 employees. William "Brock" Long, the recently confirmed FEMA administrator, brings impressive disaster credentials to the job, including running Alabama's emergency management agency.

Gov. John Bel Edwards has requested that President Donald Trump issue a federal emergency declaration for Louisiana because of Tropical Storm Harvey.

Long has described the storm as an "ongoing situation" and said that FEMA is focusing on a "life-safety, life-sustaining mission" during a Monday press conference. That includes federal law enforcement personnel. You could not draw this forecast up.

Brown told CNBC on Monday that he understands the political perils of instituting mandatory evacuations before storms like Harvey hit, but said Houston officials should have strongly encouraged residents in the path of the storm to leave the area.

But the real test for FEMA will be after Harvey's rains finally cease, and recovery efforts get underway.

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So far, FEMA has awarded more than $35 million in immediate financial assistance to individuals who have registered, Long said.

On Sunday morning the president held a teleconference from Camp David discussing recovery plans with Vice President Pence and cabinet members. "We want to do it better than ever before", Trump said of the federal response during a meeting with local, state and federal officials.

Rep. Clay Higgins, R-La., will also join efforts to get disaster funds if Louisiana needs it, said Andrew David, a spokesman for the congressman. He added that some 30,000 people were likely to wind up in temporary shelters, a "very heavy lift".

It's not clear whether Congress will go along with the president's proposed cuts to long-term FEMA programs. "This has allowed the bands of storms to move over the same areas over and over".

In addition to his proposed budget cuts, Trump announced an executive order on August 16 rolling back an Obama-era rule that new public infrastructure projects be designed with climate change, specifically rising sea levels and flood risk, in mind. Denounced by environmental groups as "climate science denial", Trump and business advocates considered the rules unnecessarily burdensome and costly.