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Texas Governor Rick Perry Briefs Press on Texas Floods

Aired July 7, 2002 - 16:23   ET


GOV. RICK PERRY, TEXAS: ... pain and suffering, to say the least, today. It's important for me to come down to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and take a look at this damage and see firsthand what citizens in this...

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good afternoon. You're watching Texas Governor Rick Perry addressing reporters there as he talks about the flood-ravaged Central Texas, as thousands of residents now return to their homes. Let's listen in on his assessment.

PERRY: ... three times the normal amount of water leaving over the top of Canyon dam as we had two days ago. But it's still extraordinary, still a substantial amount of water. We have got problems with being able to move people out of different areas of the county.

And I'm asking President Bush to declare 17 more Texas counties as disaster areas, major disaster areas, expedite federal assistance to those counties. They include Brown County, Caldwell County, Dimmit, Duval, Eastland, Frio, Goliad, Gonzales, Hidalgo, Jim Wells, Karnes, La Salle, Real, Taylor County, Val Verde, Wilson and Zavala.

A number of those, about 10 of those, are new counties after yesterday. Obviously, up in the north central part of the state, where Taylor and Brown counties, two major flooding areas there.

The president has already approved 17 -- or, excuse me, 13 counties for federal disaster assistance. Danny, I want to thank you for -- and Sheriff Holder (ph) -- all the other state and local officials. This has been a real test of their leadership. They've made some outstanding efforts during this emergency.

This has been a Herculean task. And I also want to thank Scott Wells (ph). Scott -- the last time Scott and I were together about a year ago with Hurricane Allison, he directly reports to Joe Allbaugh, the head of FEMA. And Jack Collie (ph). Both of these individuals have done extremely professional jobs of being able to deal with this, getting the information to people, not only the local officials, but to the men and women whose homes have been impacted. They've literally been working around the clock to deal with this disaster.

We literally just landed from surveying the area of Guadalupe all the way to Canyon Lake and back. And the devastation is extensive. I think what you see with both film and still photography, it doesn't really show all of the damage that's occurred, obviously. When the water goes down, we're going to see the impact on residential properties. It's going to be substantial.

And one of the things we want to do is for all of those Texans who have sustained damage as a result of the recent storms and flooding, to call the FEMA toll free number, that's a 1-800 number, 621-FEMA. That's 1-800-621-3362, or there's 1-800-462-7585 for those with speech and/or hearing impairment. Phone lines are staffed from 8:00 in the morning until 6:00 in the afternoon, seven days a week until further notice.

Starting on Monday, a state/federal office to assist flood victims will be opened in New Braunfels. Over the past seven days, mayors, county judges, officials from more than one dozen state agencies and hundreds of rescue workers all across South Texas Hill Country have worked around the clock to ensure the safety of their fellow citizens during this flooding. I want to thank each and every one of them for the job that they have done, for their dedication, and in a lot of cases, their bravery. We've had citizens that have been saved literally because of the fast, professional way that so many of the people in the National Guard, Parks and Wildlife, DPS, have managed their jobs.

Obviously, to the families and the friends of the 12 individuals that we've lost in this state, Anita and I -- our prayers go out to them. We extend our deepest sympathies to those families.

More than a dozen state agencies have been helping with rescue and evacuation operations through the past week. Yesterday, after these devastating storms moved to the Abilene area, I authorized additional National Guard troops to go into those areas in Taylor, Brown, Eastland counties. Hundreds more people have been evacuated from their homes there. Texas Army National Guard, DPS helicopters, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department rescue boats are continuing to perform rescue operations in the affected areas.

The state continues to stand ready to do whatever we can do to assist wherever possible today. And certainly we pray that these rains are going to hold off. We have got a low pressure in the Gulf that we're watching right now. I think we've got an aircraft in that vicinity taking readings and taking a look at that right now. So our hope is that that will not come in and give us further problems in this part of the state or other areas that are already saturated.

I know the road to recovery for those who have lost loved ones, homes and businesses is going to be difficult. We've seen this state time after time be resilient and bounce back. We will continue to work diligently to ensure that all the appropriate resources are available through the state and federal government to begin the rebuilding process as soon as possible.

Let me answer any questions that you may have. Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: What are the chances that President Bush will approve (UNINTELLIGIBLE)? PERRY: Well, I've -- I feel very confident that these counties are going to meet the threshold and will obviously get the federal assistance. You know, that's fairly certain that that's going to occur.


PERRY: Well, certainly, I think everyone, you know, we're frustrated that this happens this quickly after 1998. You know, your heart goes out to these individuals.

But, again, these are tough people. These are resilient people. And they love living where they live in Texas. And I can't blame them. You know, 99 percent of the time it's a beautiful part of the state. We get these floods in here, and it gets pretty rough looking.

So I suspect that the vast majority of them will clean up, rebuild. We'll have the federal assistance and the state assistance to hopefully make it -- it's not going to be painless. It is going to be a tough process to go through. Cleaning up after a flood is one of the tougher things that happens to these people. And -- but you bet. I'm always impressed with how Texans handle themselves after a disaster.

QUESTION: Governor, if you could talk to some of the people down there, what can you tell them to give them hope?

PERRY: Well, one of the things that we want to do is to continue to tell people to be cautious. I mean, as we went across Canyon Lake, we saw some -- actually, I saw a jet ski out on the lake. Those people don't need to be out at all on that lake at this particular point in time. There's still a substantial amount of fast-moving water out there. We're not past the dangerous period of time by any sense of the imagination.

So I think the most important message to people right now is continue to realize that this is -- that the situation we've got ourselves into is one that can still take people's lives. Be cautious, be careful, and continue to listen. Those of you in the media have done a very, very good job of getting the information to the public about the weather alerts, what have you, the flood warnings, et cetera. We need to continue to send that message to them.

Obviously, this state has to deal with natural disasters on a fairly regular basis. The emergency management folks, Jack Collie (ph) and Scott Wells (ph), who they deal with, are as good as they get. We'll be able to deliver to the people who have been impacted, I think, the best relief that they can get in the shortest amount of time.

Certainly with their assistance of being able to contact these offices, we're going to be setting up emergency recovery centers. They're going to have these phone numbers that they can call into, and we'll be working very, very quickly to address the needs of the people of the state. WHITFIELD: You've been listening to Texas Governor Rick Perry explain his initial assessment of the damage in Central Texas as devastating. And that is why he's asking for the president to approve federal aid for 17 additional counties. Already, President Bush has approved federal assistance to 13 counties. But Governor Rick Perry says that's not going to be enough.




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