Trump is facing the 'first serious' crisis of his presidency -- and no one knows if he's ready

President Donald Trump is on the verge of facing the first real non-self-inflicted crisis of his presidency — and it remains a mystery if he's ready.

The potential crisis comes in the form of a massive hurricane gaining strength off the southeast coast of Texas in the Gulf of Mexico. And if the forecasters are correct about Hurricane Harvey, a Category 3 storm could slam the Texas coast right before the weekend, bringing winds in excess of 125 miles per hour and dumping more than 25 inches of rain.

"Trump facing first serious crises with Hurricane Harvey," conservative internet news mogul Matt Drudge tweeted Thursday. "130 mph winds Texas coast, 25-inches of rain Houston. It's about to get real..."

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was questioned about both Trump's and the administration's preparations for the hurricane during Thursday's press briefing. She said Trump has been briefed and is keeping "a very watchful eye" on developments.

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U.S. President Donald Trump speaks after John Kelly was sworn in as White House Chief of Staff in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., July 31, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
A television plays a news report on U.S. President Donald Trump's recent Oval Office meeting with Russia's Ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak as night falls on offices and the entrance of the West Wing White House in Washington, U.S. May 15, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Barack Obama meets with President-elect Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington November 10, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 31, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
The White House is seen the day after U.S. President Donald Trump's inauguration in Washington, U.S., January 21, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
First Lady Melania Trump holds a baby as U.S. President Donald Trump (not pictured) greets members of the congress and their families as they attend a congressional picnic event at the White House in Washington, U.S., June 22, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump, flanked by Senior Advisor Jared Kushner (standing, L-R), Vice President Mike Pence and Staff Secretary Rob Porter welcomes reporters into the Oval Office for him to sign his first executive orders at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Counselor to U.S. President Donald Trump, Kellyanne Conway prepares to go on the air in front of the White House in Washington, U.S., January 22, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump greets Director of the FBI James Comey as Director of the Secret Service Joseph Clancy (L) watches during the Inaugural Law Enforcement Officers and First Responders Reception in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., January 22, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 15: U.S. President Donald Trump is seen on a television news show in the West Wing of the White House, on May 15, 2017 in Washington, DC. Earlier, National security advisor H.R. McMaster spoke to the media about President Trump's meeting with Russian diplomats in the Oval Office last week and reports that Trump shared classified information with them. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump holds up the executive order on withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership after signing it in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington January 23, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump plays host to a reception and meeting with U.S. congressional leaders including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (L-R), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Vice President Mike Pence and Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 23, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump escorts British Prime Minister Theresa May after their meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 27, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump walks from the Oval Office to Marine One upon his departure from the White House in Washington January 26, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
The Marine One helicopter transporting U.S. President Donald Trump is seen as it departs from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., for a trip to Philadelphia, January 26, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump (seated) is surrounded by staff and aides as he prepares to sign executive orders in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up to reporters as he waits to speak by phone with the Saudi Arabia's King Salman in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 29, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump arrives to announce his nomination of Neil Gorsuch for the empty associate justice seat of the U.S. Supreme Court at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., January 31, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Matthew S Levatich, CEO of Harley Davidson during a visit of the company's executives at the White House in Washington U.S., February 2, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
The words "Oval Office" adorn the bottom of a coffee cup during a meeting hosted by U.S. President Donald Trump with county sheriffs at the White House in Washington, U.S. February 7, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
A television plays a news report on former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus as night falls on the West Wing of White House in Washington, U.S., July 28, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 16: The White House is seen May 16, 2017 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump tweeted this morning saying he has the 'absolute right' to share information with Russia. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
With former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (L) at his side, U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters after his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., May 10, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders holds the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S. July 12, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks as he hosts a Congressional picnic event, accompanied by First Lady Melania Trump, at the White House in Washington, U.S., June 22, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump (C) gathers with Congressional Republicans in the Rose Garden of the White House after the House of Representatives approved the American Healthcare Act, to repeal major parts of Obamacare and replace it with the Republican healthcare plan, in Washington, U.S., May 4, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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"You've got acting [Homeland Security] Secretary Elaine Duke, watching this closely, very involved in the process, along with the acting director for FEMA," she told reporters. "I think we're in great shape having Gen. [John] Kelly sitting next to the president throughout this process."

There's "probably no better chief of staff for the president during the hurricane season," she continued. "And the president has been briefed and will continue to be updated as the storm progresses and [it's] certainly something he's very aware of and will keep a very watchful eye on and stands ready to provide resources if needed."

Soon after Sanders' briefing, Trump tweeted about the storm, posting links to ready.gov, fema.gov, and hurricanes.gov. Attached to the tweet was a video of Trump touring the Federal Emergency Management Agency earlier this year.

"With Hurricane Harvey approaching landfall, remember, the USA is the most resilient nation on earth because we plan ahead," Trump said in a statement that was displayed at the bottom of the video. "Preparedness is an investment in our future."

For Trump, Hurricane Harvey is shaping up to be the first major natural disaster of his presidency.

Some of the agencies tasked with handling the administration's response are currently in the midst of turnover, as the Department of Homeland Security is now under the control of Duke, the acting director who took over for Kelly once he departed to be Trump's chief of staff. At FEMA, Trump's nominee to lead the department, Brock Long, was confirmed in June, but a number of major positions in the agency remain unfilled or are occupied by acting employees.

Matt Mackowiak, a Texas-based Republican strategist and president of the Potomac Strategy Group, said Trump is coming into the situation without the experience of having previously dealt with such a disaster, something he said is "unusual for political figures."

"What's unusual about Trump is that he has, as far as I know, zero disaster response experience," Mackowiak told Business Insider. "Now, that's true for 99.9% of individuals, but it's unusual for political figures. At some level, no matter what level you're on, you've had some sort of disaster where you live. He hasn't. So he doesn't have the perhaps working knowledge that most people would have."

Mackowiak said, in terms of his response both leading up to the event and in its aftermath, Trump must give the perception that he is on top of all of the developments, is concerned, and is using his platform to disseminate critical information.

"What doesn't work is sort of sitting back and hoping that it's not severe and that the state and locals will handle it," Mackowiak said.

If disaster strikes, Mackowiak said it will be critical for Trump to "rely on experienced people" and be "very specific about what he says."

"You don't want to create a public panic, but you do want people to take it all very seriously," he said. "This is probably not something he's spent a lot of time thinking about. He's probably thought about disaster relief more in terms of terrorism with his national security briefings. ... This is going to be an interesting challenge.

(Hurricane Harvey via NOAA/Reuters)

He added that it's "hard to say" whether Trump is prepared for the moment, since he doesn't have experience in the area. However, he said that isn't indicative of whether Trump's and his administration's response will be lacking.

Still, the question going into the weekend will be whether Trump can "focus on an area like this in a crisis," as Mackowiak said.

"This is going to be a real test of the administration," he said. "It's going to push a lot of things to the back-burner. I don't know what else he has the next couple days, but he's not going to be in a position to do a lot of other things publicly. He should be staying at the White House, taking phone calls, getting briefed, talking to his cabinet, talking to local officials, and putting his administration in a position to respond where needed."

In a column for The Washington Post earlier this month, Ron Klain, the former chief of staff for Vice Presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden, said August could be an extremely dangerous month for Trump and the administration, highlighting the threat of a major hurricane as a top reason why.

"Would the Trump administration respond effectively?" he asked. "The president just stripped the Department of Homeland Security of its leader, was blasted by the outgoing head of hurricane forecasting for how his budget cuts could set back this work, and lacks any experience (as a senator or governor) with navigating a difficult disaster response. As a political matter, a botched hurricane response in the Gulf Coast or Florida would see Trump criticized — not by blue-state leaders he can mock or ignore — but by key members of his own coalition."

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