Bush: Better cooperation during Gustav

September 1, 2008 10:28:52 AM PDT
President Bush said Monday that coordination among states and the federal government in response to Hurricane Gustav has been better than during Katrina, which devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005 and tattered his administration's reputation for handling crises. TRACK IT: Location | Forecasted Track | Satellite | Hurricane wind probabilities | TS wind probabilities | Gulf tracking map | Gulf water temps | Hurricane Guide | Tim Heller's blog | Gustav text alerts | Before the storm | Photos

At an emergency operations center in Austin, Texas, Bush said the federal government's job is to assist states affected by the storm. He said he wants to ensure that assets are in place to handle the storm, and preparations are being made to help the Gulf Coast recover.

"To that end, I feel good," Bush said. "The coordination on this storm is a lot better than during Katrina."

He lauded Gulf Coast residents who heeded warnings to evacuate, saying he knows it's hard for citizens to "pull up stakes."

"This storm has yet to pass," Bush said. "It's a serious event."

Bush had planned to address the Republican National Convention, but he headed instead to Austin, about 400 miles west of where the storm struck the Louisiana coast. He received an hourlong briefing aboard Air Force One and planned to learn more about the storm at a command center in San Antonio.

David Paulison, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told reporters on the plane that there has been "unprecedented cooperation" among federal agencies and the private sector. "What it allows us to do is share information of what's going on so we don't end up with what happened in Katrina, with different agencies doing things and others not knowing what's happening," he said.

David Paulison, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told reporters on the plane that there has been "unprecedented cooperation" among federal agencies and the private sector. "What it allows us to do is share information of what's going on so we don't end up with what happened in Katrina, with different agencies doing things and others not knowing what's happening," he said.

Paulison said the help came ahead of the storm time, significantly easing evacuations. Everyone in New Orleans who wanted to evacuate could have, Paulison said. "There should not be any excuses," he said. "If people stayed in New Orleans, it was their choice."

The enduring memory of Katrina is not the ferocity of the storm, but the bungled reaction that led to preventable deaths and chaos. Disaster response has undoubtedly improved since then. But Katrina, which killed nearly 1,600 in 2005, was a low chapter in American history, and it deeply eroded credibility in Bush's administration.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, greeted Bush as he got off the plane in shirtsleeves on a hot, sunny day in Texas.

By flying to Texas, Bush clearly wanted to show the nation, and particularly people of the Gulf Coast, that he is committed to answering their needs. He said he hopes to get to Louisiana, too, but will choose a time that does not interfere with emergency response efforts.

Gustav was downgraded to a Category 2 storm by mid-Monday morning. Katrina was a Category 3 storm when it hit the Gulf Coast three years ago, obliterating 90,000 square mu add it all up," Johnson said in an interview with The Associated Press a few hours before landfall. "But we're certainly not expecting it to be as much as a Katrina."

"We don't expect the loss of life, certainly, that we saw in Katrina," he said. "But we are expecting a lot of homes to be damaged, a lot of infrastructure to be flooded, and damaged severely."

In appearances on morning network news shows, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said planning, preparation and early evacuations, especially of people in need, were successful. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt declared a public health emergency to ensure that people enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program in Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama continue to receive their health care items and services even after they leave their homes.

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