Text of Gov. Rick Perry's Briefing on Hurricane Rita
(NOTE: Gov. Perry frequently deviates from prepared text.)
Good morning. As we speak damage assessment teams have been sent into affected areas, and 10 mass care strike teams, consisting of the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, the Department of Public Safety, the National Guard and the U.S. military, are on their way with food, water and ice.
When the wind subsides we will launch 18 air operations destined for 18 counties in affected areas to provide direct communications with local officials and provide ice, water and a DPS security team.
We will also be sending integrated ground support teams, which include the Army National Guard, Regular Army, DPS and TxDOT. We have established a unified command headquartered in the Astrodome in Houston.
It appears that Houston and Galveston were spared the worst, but I want to emphasize to Texans currently in that area to remain in their place for safety. There are still concerns over flooding, fallen trees and debris ? all of which pose a danger ? so people should remain in their safe locations and listen to their local officials.
We are still awaiting more information from Southeast Texas, which took the brunt of this storm in Texas. We are also very concerned about high winds, torrential rains and flooding throughout East Texas as this storm moves north.
We have rescue personnel throughout Southeast Texas that are working to save lives and get people to safety.
I can't say in strong enough terms to those who evacuated the coastal region that they should not begin their return for the time being. We are not through assessing the damage and cannot assure you at this time that your community is safe to return to. We also need time to restock fuel supplies along the return routes and to restock goods at stores, and we want to avoid any traffic gridlock.
We are working with local officials on a plan to stagger the return of evacuees. We are also working with local school officials on school closures. The bottom line is if you have a safe place to stay with food, water and bedding, you are better remaining there for the time being.
And with so many state transportation officials going to East Texas to clean up debris on the roads, it is unlikely we will be able to contra-flow traffic for Texans heading back toward the coast.
So be patient and stay put. We will be communicating more specific plans in the near future.
I want to re-emphasize how dangerous conditions are throughout the impacted region of east Texas. Now is no time for Texans to let down their guard and venture out into the outdoors. I'd like to remind everyone in eastern Texas that the threat may not be over, particularly in northeastern Texas where heavy rainfalls could cause flooding. Motorists should not attempt to drive on flooded roadways. If you are in a place of safety, stay put and be patient.
We are working to restore power and communications, and to assess the damage done to critical industries along the coast.
We will try to keep Texans updated as we receive crucial information. Thank you.