Bush declares Texas a disaster area after Ike

WASHINGTON (AP) - September 13, 2008 "This is a huge storm that is causing a lot of damage not only in Texas, but also in parts of Louisiana," Bush said from the South Lawn of the White House after he had a video conference with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and David Paulison, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.p> Later, at a news conference in Washington, Paulison issued warnings to people in the path of the weakening storm.p> "It's still a very dangerous time," he said. "It still carries a lot of wind, a lot of rain, the possibility of tornadoes and lightning. ... Just stay home. Just be patient, stay in your house and don't go out too early until it's safe to do so."p> Ike ravaged southeast Texas and western /*Louisiana*/ early Saturday. Thousands of homes and government buildings were flooded, roads were washed out, an estimated 2.6 million people lost power and several fires burned unabated. By afternoon, first responders in helicopters, airboats and vehicles were at work to save lives.p> "Some people didn't evacuate when asked," Bush said about the tens of thousands of people in Texas and Louisiana who are the focus of search and rescue workers. "I've been briefed on the rescue teams there in the area. They're prepared to move as soon as weather conditions permit. Obviously, people on the ground there are sensitive to helping people and are fully prepared to do so."p> President Bush spoke to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Houston Mayor Bill White on Saturday afternoon about the response to the storm, rescue efforts and plans to remove debris and restore power.p> Later in the day, the President received an update from DHS Secretary Chertoff and FEMA Administrator Paulison.p> Bush will meet again with Paulison and other officials in the Oval Office on Sunday morning to discuss how the federal government can help in the response to what is now Tropical Storm Ike. Bush will make another public statement following the meeting.p> On Wednesday, before the storm hit, the president issued an emergency declaration for parts of /*Texas*/ and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts.p> The president's disaster declaration Saturday meant federal aid would supplement state and local recovery efforts in 29 counties. Assistance includes grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover property that was not insured and other programs to help citizens and business owners recover. Federal money also is available to the state government, eligible local governments and some private nonprofit groups on a cost-sharing basis.p> "As this massive storm moves through the Gulf Coast, people in that area can rest assured that the American people will be praying for them and will be ready to help once this storm moves on," Bush said.p> Though tens of thousands of people fled coastal communities, an estimated 100,000 ignored mandatory evacuation orders and stayed behind.p> The eye of the hurricane missed the center of Houston, as well as the largest concentrations of oil and gas refineries. Still, retail gasoline prices jumped Saturday based on Ike's landfall in the region, which accounts for about one-fifth of the nation's petroleum refining capacity. Refineries, even if they were not damaged, may remain shuttered for days, some because of power outages.p> Gas prices nationwide rose nearly 6 cents a gallon to $3.733, according to auto club AAA, the Oil Price Information Service and Wright Express. Ike disrupted supply at the wholesale level in the Gulf Coast, where prices struck $4.85 a gallon Friday. The price spike is expected to result in higher prices at gas pumps across broad swaths of the nation as the gasoline makes it way from the wholesale market to retailers.p> The Environmental Protection Agency temporarily waived certain gasoline requirements for nearly a dozen states that are dependent on supplies from the Gulf Coast. The action means that the states do not have to use less-polluting blends of gasoline, making it easier for them to use foreign imports on the U.S. market.p> "In the meantime, the Department of Energy and state authorities will be monitoring a gasoline crisis so consumers are not being gouged," Bush said.
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