Local residents affected by tropical storm Harvey received donations at a parking lot in East Houston, Texas, U.S.  September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos BarriaLocal
residents affected by tropical storm Harvey received donations at
a parking lot in East Houston, Texas, U.S.
Thomson Reuters

By Emily Flitter and Daniel Trotta

HOUSTON (Reuters) – U.s. President Donald Trump travels to
Houston and Lake Charles, Louisiana on Saturday to meet victims
of catastrophic storm Harvey, one of the worst natural disasters
in U.S. history that is presenting a test of his administration.

While Trump visits, attention will also be focused on Minute Maid
Park, where baseball’s Houston Astros play their first home games
since Harvey devastated the fourth-most populous U.S. city. The
Saturday doubleheader with the New York Mets is expected to be
wrought with emotion and punctuated with moments to honor the
dozens who died as a result of Harvey.

The storm, one of the costliest to hit the United States, has
displaced more than 1 million people, with 50 feared dead from
flooding that paralyzed Houston, swelled river levels to record
highs and knocked out the drinking water supply in Beaumont,
Texas, a city of 120,000 people.

Hurricane Harvey came ashore last Friday as the strongest storm
to hit Texas in more than 50 years. Much of the damage took place
in the Houston metropolitan area, which has an economy about the
same size as Argentina’s.

Seventy percent of Harris County, which encompasses Houston, at
one point was covered with 18 inches (45 cm) or more of water,
county officials said.

For graphic on Harvey’s energy impact, click
http://tmsnrt.rs/2xzso1S

For graphic on hurricane costs, click http://tmsnrt.rs/2vGkbHS

For graphic on storms in the North Atlantic, click
http://tmsnrt.rs/2gcckz5

Trump first visited the Gulf region on Tuesday, but stayed clear
of the disaster zone, saying he did not want to hamper rescue
efforts. Instead, he met with state and local leaders, and first
responders.

He was criticized, however, for not meeting with victims of the
worst storm to hit Texas in 50 years, and for largely focusing on
the logistics of the government response rather than the
suffering of residents.

The White House said Trump will first travel to Houston to meet
with flood survivors and volunteers who assisted in relief
efforts and then move on to Lake Charles, another area hammered
by the storm.

The Trump administration in a letter to Congress asked for a
$7.85 billion appropriation for response and initial recovery
efforts. White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert has
said aid funding requests would come in stages as more became
known about the impact of the storm.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has said that his state may need more
than $125 billion.

The storm, which lingered around the Gulf of Mexico Coast for
days, dumped record amounts of rain and left devastation across
more than 300 miles (480 km) of the state’s coast.

As water receded, many returned to survey the damage and left
hundreds of thousands wondering how they can recover.

In Orange, Texas, about 125 miles (200 kms) east of Houston, Sam
Dougharty, 36, returned on Friday where waist-high water remained
in his backyard and barn.

His family’s house smelled like raw sewage and was still flooded
to the ankles. A calf and a heifer from their herd of 15 were
dead. The chickens were sagging on the top two roosts of their
coop.

“We never had water here. This is family land. My aunt’s owned it
for 40 years and never had water here,” he said.

FROM THE SHELTER TO THE STADIUM

Harvey came on the 12th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which
killed about 1,800 around New Orleans. Then-U.S. President George
W. Bush’s administration was roundly criticized for its botched
early response to the storm.

Some of the tens of thousands of people forced into shelters by
Harvey will attend the Astros game where Houston Mayor Sylvester
Turner will throw out the first pitch and a moment of silence in
planned for those who perished.

Sports have helped other cities rebound from catastrophe, such as
when the New York Mets played the first baseball game in their
damaged city 10 days after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, or when
the New Orleans Saints returned to the Superdome in 2006 for
football a year after Hurricane Katrina.

In the Harris County town of Clear Creek, the nearly 50 inches
(127 cm) of rain that fell there equated to a once in a 40,000
year event, Jeff Lindor, meteorologist with the Harris County
Flood Control District, said.

Some 440,000 Texans have already applied for federal financial
disaster assistance, and some $79 million has been approved so
far, Abbott said.

The storm shut about a fourth of U.S. refinery capacity, much of
which is clustered along the Gulf Coast, and caused gasoline
prices to spike to a two-year high ahead of the long Labor Day
holiday weekend.

The national average for a gallon of regular gasoline has risen
17 cents since the storm struck, hitting $2.519 as of Friday
morning, according to motorists group AAA.

Meanwhile a new storm, Irma, had strengthened on Friday into a
Category 3 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale. It
remained hundreds of miles from land but was forecast to possibly
hit Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti by the middle
of next week.

For graphic on Harvey’s energy impact, click
http://tmsnrt.rs/2xzso1S

For graphic on hurricane costs, click http://tmsnrt.rs/2vGkbHS

For graphic on storms in the North Atlantic, click
http://tmsnrt.rs/2gcckz5

(Additional reporting by Richard Valdmanis, Ernest Scheyder,
Ruthy Munoz, Peter Henderson and Andy Sullivan in Houston, Steve
Holland in Washington, David Gaffen in New York, Jon Herskovitz
in Austin, Texas, and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by
Jon Herskovitz and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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