Bush: Gulf Coast To Have Full Federal Support

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The New York Sun

WASHINGTON — President Bush, confronted with the prospect of a second monster hurricane striking the still-battered Gulf Coast, checked in with governors and federal officials Saturday to make sure Washington was doing all it can.

The president called state leaders in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas in the early morning from the White House before heading out for a 90-minute bike ride, spokesman Scott Stanzel said. Those states are in the potential path of Hurricane Gustav, which could reach America by early Tuesday.

Three years ago Hurricane Katrina drowned New Orleans and the city is still recovering. It appeared likely to get slammed again, by at least tropical-storm-force winds if not worse.

Mr. Bush also received regular updates from aides about the storm’s path and the government’s preparations.

The president asked each governor what was needed from the federal government, Mr. Stanzel said. Mr. Bush praised them for mobilizing their states so effectively to get ready.

“He told each of the governors that federal officials were monitoring Hurricane Gustav very closely,” Mr. Stanzel said. “President Bush pledged the full support of the federal government.”

On Friday, Mr. Bush preemptively declared states of emergency for Louisiana and Texas. Such a move is rarely taken before a disaster hits. The declaration clears the way for federal aid to supplement state and local efforts and formalizes coordination. The administration did the same thing before Katrina struck.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Federal Emergency Management Agency chief David Paulison were in the region monitoring developments. Equipment was put in position and safe shelters readied, with cots, blankets and hygiene kits en route.

The White House kept a close eye on developments to see whether Mr. Bush might need to change his plans to travel to St. Paul, Minn., on Monday to address the Republican National Convention. White House press secretary Dana Perino said such decisions probably would not be made until the last minute.

The New York Sun

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