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Texans 'went out in their boats to watch' Hurricane Harvey last year, Trump says

Coast Guard crew members work in Houston on Sept. 2, 2017 after Hurricane Harvey.

BRANDON HILLARD/U.S. COAST GUARD

By FORREST MILBURN | The Dallas Morning News | Published: June 8, 2018

AUSTIN, Texas (Tribune News Service)  —  President Donald Trump, on a conference call Wednesday with state and federal leaders as Texas prepares for another hurricane season, thanked the Coast Guard for helping save thousands during Hurricane Harvey last year.

But later in the call, Trump made a claim that took many state leaders and first responders by surprise.

"They (the Coast Guard) saved 16,000 people, many of them in Texas, for whatever reason that is," Trump said. "People went out in their boats to watch the hurricane. That didn't work out too well."

Trump was joined with Vice President Mike Pence and federal emergency officials in Washington, D.C., while Gov. Greg Abbott was speaking from Austin through a video teleconference call. The comment stunned many in the room, who didn't really know what to say or how to respond to the president's claim.

When asked for comment on Trump's claim after the briefing, Abbott told reporters from the Houston Chronicle he had "no information one way or the other about that."

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, who credited civilians for making an "extraordinary effort" with their own boats to rescue neighbors and relatives during the massive flooding, told the Chronicle he "didn't see anyone taking the approach that would reflect" the president's comments.

"I'll be sure to invite the president to ride out the next hurricane in a jon boat in Galveston Bay the next time one approaches," he added.

And Marty Lancton, president of Houston's Professional Fire Fighters Association, told the newspaper: "I don't even know how to respond to that."

Late last August, Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the Gulf Coast as a Category 4 hurricane, wreaking havoc and dumping record amounts of rain on southeast Texas.

During the briefing, Abbott told reporters the state expects 10 to 16 storms this year, five to nine of which could turn into hurricanes, according to the Texas Tribune. He said the state is "not expecting the same level of activity that was seen in 2017" this hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.

"We are ready, and we are taking steps on a daily basis to make sure we will be able to address any challenge coming our way," Abbott said. "We're getting everything lined up to make sure that we will be capable of responding to a replication of Hurricane Harvey."

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