Aug 26, 2020

Greg Abbott Press Conference Transcript August 26: Texas Hurricane Update

Greg Abbott Press Conference Transcript August 26: Texas Hurricane Update
RevBlogTranscriptsPress Conference TranscriptsGreg Abbott Press Conference Transcript August 26: Texas Hurricane Update

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott held a press conference on August 26 to provide updates on Hurricane Laura. Read the transcript of all of the updates for Texas here.

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Governor Greg Abbott: (00:00)
The remarkable team that we have working with us that help Texas respond to aid at their fellow Texans in harm’s way during a time such as a hurricane. Let me give you a timeline of what we’re dealing with and then make some very important update points. Our best assessments, as we stand right now, is that the hurricane is going to be quite severe, very powerful winds, with a strong impact that I’ll tell you more about shortly. The key, however, that I want to make right now is that for the areas in Southeast Texas that will be closest to the point where the hurricane will come across the shoreline, people still have only about five hours to evacuate. There have been reports from local County judges, as well as other local officials, raising concern, regions where the hurricane may be coming across the shore about the number of people who have not yet evacuated.

Governor Greg Abbott: (01:10)
And the concern is that maybe the people in those areas are not fully aware about the severe danger that people are facing, where the hurricane will come across the shoreline. We anticipate the onset of the tropical storm force winds to hit Texas around 7:00 PM tonight. And then landfall of Laura should occur around 1:00 AM tonight. And people in that area will be dealing with the ravages of that storm for about a few more hours. But we do anticipate the storm being out of Texas by tomorrow night. Beginning about 9:00 AM tomorrow morning, we will begin the process of going in and going through rescues, but it’s important for people to know that from about 7:00 PM tonight until about 9:00 AM in the morning, it will be a little bit of a lockdown time period for the ability of rescuers and aiders to get in and to provide support for anybody in the local regions.

Governor Greg Abbott: (02:25)
And so we urge everybody who may be in harm’s way to take these few last hours to get out of harm’s way. And it may only be a day or two that you are required to be out of harm’s way, but because of the power of this storm, if you are unable or do not get out of harm’s way, the reality is for almost a 24 hour time period, there will be limited ability for rescuers or aiders to get in and assist you in any way.

Governor Greg Abbott: (03:04)
So, as I said, we do expect landfall around midnight. This has been categorized repeatedly as an unsurvivable storm surge, where it will be hitting and that storm surge will continue inland for about 30 miles. We do expect tropical storm winds to begin around seven or 8:00 PM tonight and gathering as it continues to Texas, the winds will begin in Jefferson and Orange County areas.

Governor Greg Abbott: (03:39)
And then as I said before, we expect the hurricane coming across shore around midnight and expect Category Four storm moving through the Texas. Understand this, and that is people will see a cone area of where the hurricane cone is expected to move through Texas and Louisiana. Importantly, heavy winds will be occurring outside of the cone. And those high winds will continue as the storm moves up through Texas into Northeast Texas. In this storm, wind is going to be the biggest threat. Tropical storm winds are likely to occur as far North as Longview. storm surge is also a big problem with 10 to 15 feet storm surge around the Jefferson County area.

Governor Greg Abbott: (04:45)
We should expect some flash floods in various regions where the storm will be going through and those flash floods could spill into tubers and the storm should exit the state by midnight tomorrow. Going back to the rivers, the one river that we do anticipate having the greatest challenges is the Sabine River. The Sabine river in the past, and we expect this time also, could spill over into areas around Orange, as well as Deweyville and people in those areas need to be aware of the high probability of facing high water.

Governor Greg Abbott: (05:29)
Do expect power outages in the areas hardest hit. I want to make a very important point about something that we experienced in the past that’s caused the loss of life that people may be unaware of. If you do lose power, it is very important that you do not bring your generators inside a home. That could lead to monoxide poisoning. You need to leave those generators outside of your home.

Governor Greg Abbott: (06:07)
A couple of updates. First, a recap that I’m going to add to this recap. On Sunday, I declared a disaster in 23 counties. On Monday, the President granted an emergency declaration for these counties. Yesterday, I added three counties to the declaration and yesterday also asked the President to grant Texas request for Category B assistance and he granted that request yesterday. Today, I added three more counties to the disaster declaration: Camp, Ellis, and Tarrant counties. The reason why Ellis and Tarrant are added are because they are serving as sheltering locations. For the counties that may be concerned about the impact that storm could have on them, obviously we remain flexible with regard to expanding the counties that could be added to the disaster declaration, that will be dependent upon whether or not those counties are going to be impacted by the storm. For these new counties that I’m adding to the disaster declaration today, I’m asking the President to add these counties to our federal declaration.

Governor Greg Abbott: (07:20)
Some updates with regard to the assets that we have already deployed. We’ve already deployed 400 buses, 38 aircraft, 82 boats, 202 high profile vehicles, and 60 ambulances with an additional 75 plus paratransit vehicles that have been ordered that will be available to be provided, to assist in the movement of people. We have more than 5,000 people that are already sheltered, and we are prepared to take in many more as we continue to encourage everybody to evacuate from regions that could be the greatest impacted by the hurricane. We’re already preparing for the recovery.

Governor Greg Abbott: (08:13)
So the update on the disaster recovery task force is this: the Texas Division of Emergency Management recovery personnel are in place for deployment post landfall. Damage assessment teams for local jurisdictions have been developed and they’re being distributed for timely reporting on local damages after the landfall. Volunteer organizations active in disaster are currently staging resources and personnel are ready to deploy as the effected areas are cleared for reentry, and we have developed and distributed an online platform for disaster survivors to request assistance and provide their damage information. And that is all for my report right now. Chief Kidd, would you like to add?

Chief Kidd: (09:03)
Governor, Thank you. And I’d reemphasize the danger factor of this storm. It’s been a while since we’ve seen Cat Three, Cat Four winds in Texas. [inaudible 00:09:15] that does. Power restoration, Governor, will be longer than what we’d normally expect because of the high winds. You said yesterday that this is not a Harvey storm. We completely agree with that. The rainfall will be different, but the winds will be very important for us to watch, even though more people lose their lives during surge or flood events, in this I’m really worried about the wind just as you are. Our rescue personnel are available. They will be hunkered down through the hours of the storm. I know that they will risk their lives to get out there.

Chief Kidd: (09:43)
My urge and plea with Texans is if you have a chance to evacuate now, please do so.

Governor Greg Abbott: (09:49)
Very good, we’ll tell you some questions.

Rudy: (09:53)
Governor [inaudible 00:09:54] announce that the code [inaudible 00:09:58]. They have reported running out of [inaudible 00:10:01] and turning people away and locking down the gates. Did you anticipate that? And what’s your reaction to them shutting down the gates like this?

Governor Greg Abbott: (10:09)
Sure. Let us give you an update on it. Chief Nim Kidd has information for you.

Chief Kidd: (10:13)
Hello Rudy, thank you. And let’s get the gist on this. And I appreciate the question. (silence) Austin this morning, here’s their explanation. (silence) booked hotel rooms and reserved them through the process. But because we have been asking people to evacuate, some people went straight to hotel rooms. So while we had believed that we had rooms reserved, those rooms were being filled up by other people that were evacuating. At five o’clock this morning, City of Austin shut down Coda, they reopened it at 10:00 AM this morning. [inaudible 00:10:43] Set up the convention center here. We’ve already talked to them about having a place to securely put people until we stabilize out the local hotel rooms. Now we’re also using hotels and Hays County and Williamson County, and we’ll probably be pushing some up into Belle County as well. So there are still plenty of hotel rooms available. This is trying to balance out the load right now of regular people driving their own cars and reserving hotels, as well as those that we are trying to work on people coming (silence) location. So we’ll get this balanced out. We will have plenty of places. For instance, in Dallas, they were only at 39% occupancy.

Chief Kidd: (11:19)
(silence)

Chief Kidd: (11:19)
Just going to keep load balancing this to keep people out of harm’s way.

Rudy: (11:34)
But they locked the gates. People were still coming and being told to come with no explanation other than this (silence) room, that couldn’t have been planned [inaudible 00:11:34] Is this a lesson learned? That don’t lock the gates, just use it like they’re doing it right now, try and stop them and they’ll figure it out.

Chief Kidd: (11:44)
Rudy, we’ll keep talking to them for the decisions that they made. And they’ve been great partners to us. We’re not going to bash the partners right now. The cities that are helping us with evacuees are great work, and we’re going to continue to support them as much as we can. Thank you.

Governor Greg Abbott: (11:58)
This has actually, I consider it a good thing in this regard and that is what this means is there has been a large number of people who decided on their own the need to evacuate and they did to get out of harm’s way. The math behind this is it means there are more people out of harm’s way.

Governor Greg Abbott: (12:14)
Go ahead.

Speaker 4: (12:16)
Are we going to see Contraflow traffic if there’s still wind?

Governor Greg Abbott: (12:20)
Sure.

Chief Kidd: (12:22)
Contraflow takes about 42 hours to set up. Whenever we think about (silence) getting people off of roads, reversing traffic, setting up law enforcement. So the window for contraflow has closed, we’re too close to the storm for that. Now (silence) service roads. We’ve got aircraft that are flying, checking for checkpoints

Chief Kidd: (12:48)
[inaudible 00:12:48] But at this point, the window for contraflow has closed.

Speaker 4: (12:50)
Governor do you plan to be anywhere near the [inaudible 00:12:54] tomorrow, or is your schedule kind of [inaudible 00:12:57].

Governor Greg Abbott: (12:58)
Can I get you to repeat? I missed the first part of the question.

Speaker 4: (13:01)
Do you plan to be surveying the damage tomorrow or are your plans in flux?

Governor Greg Abbott: (13:05)
We will be surveying the damage as quickly as possible. We do not want to get in the way of those who are either in danger or those who are providing immediate rescue. And so the timing of my visiting the areas that were hardest hit will depend upon facts on the ground.

Governor Greg Abbott: (13:25)
(Silence).

Governor Greg Abbott: (14:32)
[inaudible 00:14:32] center, we’ll offer testing for people coming into that facility.

Speaker 4: (14:39)
[inaudible 00:14:43].

Governor Greg Abbott: (14:42)
Yeah. So again, there’s about 1700 testing locations across the state of Texas right now. So we have plenty of capacity to do testing, but let’s play this out a little bit. If the city of Austin opens a convention center because of a need, we will check in the people that go there. We will offer them testing at that location.

Speaker 5: (14:59)
What’s the supply chain as far as groceries, gasoline, for people outside, for the rest of the state? Should they be charging into their HEB’s or is it all good?

Governor Greg Abbott: (15:10)
My observation is looking pretty good. This is the type of event where most Texans have taken it very seriously and they’re realizing the necessity to respond as well as to obtain the supplies they need. But our local providers have done a great job of making sure their supply chain is open. Those involved in providing fuel have done a good job of maintaining supply chains. And so right now the supply chains are looking pretty good.

Speaker 6: (15:34)
Governor, 3 million Texans have lost jobs in the last few months, 2 million of those have lost health insurance, what do you intend to do to make sure they are covered?

Governor Greg Abbott: (15:49)
Listen, we’re always engaged. For example, you mentioned the next few years, we’re always involved every session in addressing health insurance. So when the session arrives, I have no doubt that one of the issues that we will be taken up as is making sure that we’re doing all we can to make sure Texans have access to healthcare.

Speaker 7: (16:10)
Any more questions? All right, thanks guys.

Governor Greg Abbott: (16:14)
Thank you.