Aug 25, 2020

Greg Abbott Press Conference Transcript August 25: Texas Hurricane Update

Greg Abbott Press Conference Transcript August 25: Texas Hurricane Update
RevBlogTranscriptsPress Conference TranscriptsGreg Abbott Press Conference Transcript August 25: Texas Hurricane Update

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott held a press conference on August 25 to provide updates on Hurricane Laura and Tropical Storm Marco. Read the transcript of all of the updates for Texas here.

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Governor Abbott: (00:01)
Thank you for being with us. I want to thank everybody behind me and in front of me, for everything that they are doing to help Texas respond to the oncoming Hurricane Laura, as well as continuing to respond to COVID-19. So we just got an update about oncoming Hurricane Laura, and as many people know, it’s anticipated to be a category three hurricane. We needed to be prepared for the possibility that it could increase to be a category four hurricane.

Governor Abbott: (00:38)
A lot of people in the weather sector have repeatedly said that this is something that’s going to be very similar to Hurricane Ike and Hurricane Rita. So people who have memory banks that relate to that can remember what that was like, and this should be very much like this. It likely, however, will not be a replication of Hurricane Harvey. I think we need to pause for a moment and recognize, and that is, today is the third year anniversary of when Hurricane Harvey struck the state of Texas.

Governor Abbott: (01:14)
At that time, and for many days following that, Texas was battered, we were bruised, but we were not broken. The spirit of Texans came together and with tremendous resiliency responded to the devastation that was wrecked by Hurricane Harvey. They engaged and uniting together to rebuild and in the months and years following that with their tireless work, they elevated Texas back up to be the number one state in the United States of America for the most new jobs created, as well as the fastest growing gross domestic product in the United States. I have no doubt that the response of Texans in response to both this oncoming hurricane, as well as in the pandemic, traditional Texas resiliency and perseverance will once again elevate us as we respond to this challenge.

Governor Abbott: (02:15)
Some very important points for people to understand about this storm. That is, unlike hurricane Harvey, for most parts that were impacted by Hurricane Harvey, this is going to be more of a wind event. There will be some very meaningful gust of wind along the coastline coming inland. You can look at regions over here in this cone.

Governor Abbott: (02:41)
First, a comment about the cone, and people need to understand that that cone, obviously, provides latitude for movement. Anybody within about a hundred miles of the edges of that cone need to be very concerned and very responsive about what may happen, where they happen to be at that particular time. So that would mean that that Houston and parts of West of Houston fall within that area of the danger zone of what will be very high winds, including high winds very far inland.

Governor Abbott: (03:20)
If you look at that cone and see how it goes up into East Texas, we are anticipating high winds well up into East Texas, including the Nacogdoches area, including the Tyler Longview area, maybe all the way up to Texarkana dealing with tropical storm force winds.

Governor Abbott: (03:42)
This will be a fast moving storm, or at least it’s slated to be, meaning that after it comes ashore, we expect it to be out of the state of Texas after about a day. So we are anticipating that the storm itself will be out of Texas, perhaps as early as the end of Thursday. That said, there will be a lot of devastation wrecked upon Texas as the storm sweeps through, especially East Texas, as well as lingering challenges that will result.

Governor Abbott: (04:17)
One, and first, will be the water surge. There will be a water surge up, perhaps as high as 10 feet, wherever the hurricane comes to shore. A little bit less than that in areas adjacent to where the eye of the hurricane will come ashore. People anywhere near where the eye of the hurricane will come ashore will need to be very aware of this high water surge and the devastation that it can wreck. Be very aware that you need to make sure that you are not near that because it can easily sweep you away causing you to lose your life. Also, property anywhere near where that surge will take place is subject to devastating damage.

Governor Abbott: (05:04)
Separate from that, there will be a lot of rain and a lot of rainfall through this cone based area. The rain will lead to river flooding as well as flash flooding. People need to be very aware, both as they work to travel about, but also as they work to try to protect their property, that if you’re in this cone area, you are subject to having high water sweep across your region.

Governor Abbott: (05:37)
In addition to that, one thing that always occurs, but we can’t predict how much in advance, is that there will be tornadoes that will be spawned because of the hurricane and the winds and the storms that will be sweeping through the area. So everyone needs to be very cautious as they proceed here in the coming days that they first do all they can to protect their lives, and second to all they can to protect their property and their pets.

Governor Abbott: (06:05)
But know this very important timing issue, the timing issue is that we have only a few more hours for people to make sure they take the action that is needed to ensure their safety and the safety of their property. We urge swift action to be taken over the next 12 hours to make sure you do all you can to protect yourself as well as your property.

Governor Abbott: (06:32)
Along those lines, I want to mention that there are already have been announced some mandatory evacuations, as well as some voluntary evacuations. The mandatory evacuations have been issued in Jasper County, Jefferson County, Newton County, Orange County, the City of Galveston and the City of Port Arthur. Voluntary evacuations have already been made in Chambers County, Brazoria County, we were contacted moments ago by Harris County, and they said in Harris County, zip code zones A and B, there will be a voluntary evacuation being announced later today, as well as voluntary evacuations in the City of Nassau Bay, the City of Seabrook, the City of Tiki Island, and the City of Jamaica Beach and Bolivar Peninsula. Of course, there may be more that will be coming later today.

Governor Abbott: (07:32)
If you were subject to one of these evacuation orders, you need to be doing all you can to make sure that you take the action that needs to be taken to protect your life. Those who stay behind may be caught in a situation where rescue teams may be challenged in being able to rescue from a situation that could cause you to lose your life. So please heed local warnings so that you can take the action in advance that is needed.

Governor Abbott: (08:08)
With regard to evacuations, let me tell you this. There are already several evacuation centers that are set up and operational and/or will be operational later today. One is in San Antonio. It opens at three o’clock today, so in less than two hours, at 254 Gembler Road, spelled G-E-M-B-L-E-R. That’s a 254 Gembler Road in San Antonio, opens at three o’clock today. Another one opens in Austin at four o’clock today at the Circuit of the Americas, 9201 Circuit of the Americas Boulevard.

Governor Abbott: (08:52)
Later today, there will be one opening up in Dallas, Fort worth for the arrival of state buses. The state will be providing buses to move people to different locations, including this location in the Dallas area. It’s the Mesquite Reception Center that opens at 7:00 PM tonight. It’s at 15515 East Interstate Highway 20. Then there will be an additional one opening up in the Dallas County area in Ellis County at the Knights of Columbus Hall at 850 South Interstate Highway 45, which is in Ennis, Texas.

Governor Abbott: (09:35)
Currently, there are many hotel rooms that are available across all of these regions. If people do not want to go to one of these evacuation locations, they can seek and go to countless hotel and motel locations. Actually, a hotel/motel location is a good type of location when evacuation or evacuating during a pandemic.

Governor Abbott: (10:01)
Remember, just because a hurricane is coming to Texas does not mean that COVID-19 either has, or is going to leave Texas. COVID-19 is going to be in Texas throughout the course of the hurricane. As a result, everyone must ensure that they protect their lives also from contracting COVID-19. One of the safe ways you can do that if you were having to evacuate is to try to evacuate to a hotel or motel room so that you and your family members can be isolated from others with whom you could come into contact with, with whom you could contract COVID-19.

Governor Abbott: (10:40)
Already, before today, I issued a disaster declaration for 23 counties in the state of Texas and already before today, the president of FEMA had granted a federal emergency declaration for those same 23 counties for what’s considered to be Category A of emergency relief. Earlier today, I visited with the head of FEMA, Pete Gaynor, who let me know that the president had authorized, also, Category B for those 23 counties.

Governor Abbott: (11:19)
What this provides funding for is for search and rescue, for evacuation, for police and fire officers and overtime, to make sure that everybody in these 23 counties is going to have all the resources that are needed to make sure that the communities are going to be able to respond as robustly as needed to protect lives and to protect communities.

Governor Abbott: (11:43)
Also, at this time, I am making an additional disaster declaration for 36 more counties in the state of Texas. I will list those counties alphabetically: Anderson, Angelina, Bowie, Cass, Cherokee, Dallas, Fort Bend, Franklin, Gregg, Grimes, Harrison, Houston, Leon, Madison, Marion, Montgomery, Morris Nacogdoches, Panola, Polk, Red River, Rusk, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto, Shelby, Smith, Titus, Travis, Trinity, Tyler, Upshur, Walker, Waller, Wharton and Wood. Sheltering will be available for people who are in any of these counties.

Governor Abbott: (12:39)
Know this, and that is these counties are being added based upon the information that we have about the way these counties will face challenges. This does not mean this will be the last of the counties that I add to my disaster declaration, we just need to wait and see the ways in which the storm may change.

Governor Abbott: (13:06)
I want to mention specifically what our tremendous teams are doing, of all the different agencies in the state of Texas, and the way that they’re helping the local communities respond. They have already provided 25 ambulances, with 75 more ordered, 87 boats, 200 buses with another 200 ordered, 41 helicopters and planes and 152 highwater vehicles.

Governor Abbott: (13:35)
More specifically, agency by agency, the Texas A&M Forest Service has provided incident management teams at various locations across the forecasted area. They include chainsaw crews, firefighting strike teams, water evacuation, and rescue teams. I mentioned chainsaw crews. Let me go back and talk about one of the challenges that Texans need to be prepared to deal with.

Governor Abbott: (14:01)
Because of the area that’s going to be impacted by this storm, it’s going to be going through regions of the most wooded regions in the state of Texas and because of the high winds that are expected, one thing that is forecasted and predicted is a large number of trees being blown down and falling. So people need to be very aware of this particular danger. That’s one reason why we are grateful that we have the assistance of the Texas A&M Forest Service to help us work through the challenges that will occur because of the wind impact on trees.

Governor Abbott: (14:38)
The Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service is providing urban search and rescue teams, as well as swift water rescue teams. Texas A&M AgriLife, they have agents positioned to support emergency operation centers and disaster finance teams. The Texas Military Department, which includes the Texas National Guard, they are providing more than a thousand personnel, 180 vehicles, 21 helicopters and four C-130s. That includes high profile water rescue vehicles, airplanes and helicopters for evacuation and rescue, shelter management teams, evacuee tracking network teams and the 6th civilian response team available for HAZMAT response in the event that is needed.

Governor Abbott: (15:30)
The Texas Department of Public Safety, as I previously announced, they are prepared to provide 1000 DPS troopers and officers to be involved in this, but that also includes rescue helicopters, command and control airplanes, swift water rescue boat teams, flood response boat teams, dive boat teams, troopers, agents, and rangers, to assist with local law enforcement with the evacuation, as well as securing evacuated areas.

Governor Abbott: (15:59)
Let me make a comment about this because I know that one thought that goes through some people’s minds is if they evacuate where they live, they’re leaving behind their property, and they feel maybe uncertain about the dangers that could happen in their home while they’re gone. Know that the Texas Department of Public Safety is collaborating with local law enforcement to include a massive increase in law enforcement on the ground to do everything possible to eliminate looting, to protect all the private property that is left behind for the short period of time that you may need to evacuate.

Governor Abbott: (16:37)
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, they’re providing game wardens, state and park police, swift water rescue boats, shallow water evacuation boats, air boats, incident management teams, as well as helicopter rescue teams. Once again, these helicopter rescue teams are so incredibly important because of the massive amount of water that we’re going to be seeing, especially in the South East Texas region around Beaumont, around Port Arthur, that they’re going to be hit heavily, regardless of the movement that we see in this cone. We know that anybody in the Beaumont/Port Arthur area is going to be facing very meaningful challenges, and we want to make sure that we provide every asset that may be needed to rescue anybody who may be in those areas.

Governor Abbott: (17:27)
The Texas Department of State Health Services, they’re providing an emergency and medical taskforce, and buses, as well as EMTF ambulances and medical incident management and support teams. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission, they are providing supplies that will be desperately needed such as water and ice, and they’re working with the nursing home facilities in the areas that may be affected to make sure that they will have the support they need.

Governor Abbott: (17:57)
This brings to mind something that some of those nursing homes, but candidly, a lot of the regions, will face, and that is people need to be prepared, and get prepared right now, that if you are in this cone area, you need to be prepared for the possibility but not the probability that you will be losing power for some period of time, it could be a short period of time, or it could be a number of days. So just make sure that you have the supplies that are needed to ensure that you will be able to have access to everything that you need for a day or two until your power could be restored.

Governor Abbott: (18:34)
The Texas Department of Transportation is providing high profile water rescue vehicles, traffic control devices, flood protection barriers, and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality continues as ever to monitor both water as well as waste and wastewater, as well as air quality. They’re providing HAZMAT response teams to be prepared for anything that may occur.

Governor Abbott: (19:01)
The public utility commission is working with electrical providers and restoration teams to get that power back on as quickly as possible. That includes 9,000 personnel on standby and an additional 6,000 are being requested. So we are prepared to be providing about 15,000 personnel to get power up and running again, if and where it may be lost.

Governor Abbott: (19:31)
In addition to all of that, I want to express my gratitude for Florida Governor DeSantis for calling earlier today and offering the support of the state of Florida. They were spared damage that could have been caused to Florida by this oncoming hurricane, and they wanted to be able to step up and assist Texas in any way we need. We are very, very grateful to them for that.

Governor Abbott: (19:55)
At this time, I’d like to pass it over to the Chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management Nim Kidd.

Nim Kidd: (20:01)
Thank you, governor. I want to start by thanking all of our local elected officials who have made the orderly and timely evacuation orders as needed. I want to thank our citizens for responding to those orders. Our goal is a safe, sane, predictable, and well run evacuation.

Nim Kidd: (20:17)
I want to thank our first responders and healthcare workers that are still out there and have been working tirelessly around the clock, our industry and private sector partners who are providing an additional tremendous amount of resources, our volunteer partners like Team Rubicon, that are here with us, that will be quickly on the ground to help us with clean up after the fact, our federal partners, FEMA, the US Coast Guard and the Corps of Engineers here with us the entire time and ready to support.

Nim Kidd: (20:40)
Our goal is no loss of life. Our goal is evacuation, not rescue, and then a rapid cleanup and recovery.

Governor Abbott: (20:46)
Thank you Chief. We’ll take some questions.

Speaker 3: (20:48)
Governor, I think you saw from the [inaudible 00:20:48] for nursing homes [inaudible 00:20:57]. Have you issued a [inaudible 00:20:58] for those facilities in Beaumont, Lumberton, Port [crosstalk 00:21:02].

Governor Abbott: (21:05)
So both the state and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission are keenly focused on any type of senior living facility, including nursing homes. It depends upon the circumstances of both the home, it’s location, as well as the people in it. Some people are transferable, others are not. So you have to distinguish between the two. Bottom line, however, is that the state is doing everything possible to make sure that if people need to be evacuated from nursing homes, they will be evacuated. If that is not the best strategy for the people in those nursing homes, we will be providing the best strategy for them.

Speaker 3: (21:47)
Good [inaudible 00:21:47]. We also saw gas shortages occurring, and also [inaudible 00:21:54] upon the supply lines disrupting. What’s the state doing this year that [inaudible 00:22:00].

Governor Abbott: (22:00)
So the question is about potential gasoline shortages. This is something that Chief Kidd and I began talking about days ago to make sure that the gasoline supply will be plentiful. We’ve been surging gasoline supplies to the regions, knowing several things. One is the way that it was a challenge in response to Hurricane Harvey.

Governor Abbott: (22:18)
But also, if you remember, there was not that much of an evacuation during Hurricane Harvey. There’s more evacuation going on now, I think, than there was in Hurricane Harvey. We wanted to make sure that the people who were evacuating would have access to the gasoline they need as they’re going about that evacuation process. So, as we’re speaking, we’ve done a top notch job to make sure that these gasoline stations are filled up, ready to address the needs of the public. Did you have anything you wanted to add to that?

Nim Kidd: (22:49)
[crosstalk 00:22:48].

Governor Abbott: (22:50)
All right. Very good.

Speaker 4: (22:52)
Quick, governor, what [inaudible 00:22:53] are going to be in place at these evacuation centers, or not any kind of public transport, to make sure COVID-19 does not become … Or doesn’t become a COVID-19-

Governor Abbott: (23:04)
Sure. Great question. So again, we are responding to Hurricane Laura while also responding to a pandemic, and we are not taking our eye off of what needs to be done to adequately respond to the pandemic. So several things are being done as we assist those who are evacuating that’s different from what has been done in the past.

Governor Abbott: (23:27)
One is, for the buses that are being used, whether it be state or local … So I’ve had the opportunity to speak with local County judges and they are using the same strategy the state is using. That is, they’re reducing the number of people in a bus. It’s not going to be as crowded as it has been in the past, which is one reason why we have the need for so many buses to be able to transport people, but also make multiple trips so that through a reduction in the number of people in the bus, we will be able to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19.

Governor Abbott: (24:01)
Second, we want to ensure that evacuees go to settings that provide layers of separation to reduce the spread of COVID-19. That involves in part people taking advantage of going to a hotel and motel room so that they can be isolated from others that they don’t know, that they could come in contact with, that could cause them to contract COVID-19.

Governor Abbott: (24:28)
In the larger gathering locations, strategies are being used to maintain distancing practices in those locations so that people are not gathered together as closely as they have been in gymnasiums and convention centers and locations like that in the past, where it would lead to an easy spread of COVID-19.

Governor Abbott: (24:47)
Bottom line is this, and that is, the state and local governments are fully aware that they are dealing with a pandemic while they’re responding to Hurricane Laura. They’re taking all necessary protocols to make sure that they reduce the spread of COVID-19. I should add, also, and chief, he may want to add the details on this, but we are providing PPE to all these locations to make sure everyone has access to the PPE that’s going to be needed to help them deal with COVID as they evacuate from the hurricane. Anything further?

Nim Kidd: (25:26)
Governor, the thing that I would add is the buses that we’ve marshaled in San Antonio that have been moved out to Beaumont and Texas City had personal protective equipment masks on them, as well as disinfecting equipment for the buses to stay clean. As people go to hotels like we’re suggesting, and you can hear there’s an abundant amount of hotel rooms available, the safest place for families to be.

Nim Kidd: (25:44)
For shelter locations that do get set up in congregate settings, we will be offering testing at those facilities in addition to PPE. Now those points and times, and locations have not been determined yet, but as a community sees the need to open a shelter, we will support them sending in PPE, then as soon as practical, we’ll get testing teams in there as well.

Governor Abbott: (26:03)
Very good. All right, thank you all.

Speaker 4: (26:10)
[crosstalk 00:26:10] a quick question, just to look back at the Midland-Odessa shootings, what’s on your mind given everything else that’s on your mind for those communities? And have you gone back to make sure that the orders you made in the aftermath of the shootings have to carry on [inaudible 00:26:23].

Governor Abbott: (26:25)
So obviously what happened in Midland and Odessa, as well as what happened in El Paso, as well as what happened in Santa Fe, as well as what happened in Sutherland Springs are all horrific tragedies. As you pointed out in the aftermath, both of El Paso, as well as in Midland-Odessa, the state, working through several different committees, have developed recommendations about actions to be taken, some of which could be taken through executive action, some of which will require legislative action.

Governor Abbott: (26:59)
But bottom line is that we have responded and we continue to respond to the challenges that people face because of those actions. But the main thing we want to do is to make sure that we take every action that we can to keep our communities safe. Thank you all very much.