Trump arrives in Texas to visit victims of unprecedented floods

HOUSTON, Sept 2 (Reuters) - President Donald Trump arrived in Texas on Saturday to meet with emergency responders and victims of Harvey, the catastrophic storm that triggered severe flooding and presented his young administration with its most challenging domestic crisis.

Trump, dressed in a black jacket with no tie, landed at Ellington Field military base in Houston, accompanied by his wife Melania Trump, who wore a baseball cap emblazoned with the word "Texas," trousers and casual canvas footwear.

SEE ALSO: Trump seeks $7.85 billion for Harvey relief, warns on debt ceiling

The visit gives the president an opportunity to show a warm and empathetic side to victims of the worst storm to hit Texas in 50 years. Some have criticized him for staying clear of the disaster zone during a visit to the region on Tuesday, when he said he did not want to hamper rescue efforts.

The White House on Saturday said Trump would first travel to Houston to meet with flood survivors and volunteers who assisted in relief efforts and then move on to Lake Charles, Louisiana, an area hammered by the storm later in the week.

24 PHOTOS
Aerial photos of Harvey's destruction
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Aerial photos of Harvey's destruction
Vehicles sit amid leaked fuel mixed in with flood waters caused by Tropical Storm Harvey in the parking lot of Motiva Enterprises LLC in Port Arthur, Texas, U.S. August 31, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Railway lines are seen surrounded by flood waters caused by Tropical Storm Harvey near Sandy Point, Texas, U.S. August 30, 2017. Picture taken August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A military vehicle evacuates about two dozen residents from the Autumn Chase Park apartments while pushing its way through flood waters caused by Tropical Storm Harvey in Port Arthur, Texas, U.S. August 31, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Houses are seen partially submerged in flood waters caused by Tropical Storm Harvey in Northwest Houston, Texas, U.S. August 30, 2017. Picture taken August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey are seen in a farm field in this aerial photograph taken above Angleton, Texas, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017. Unprecedented flooding from the Category 4 storm that slammed into the state's coast last week, sending�gasoline prices�surging as oil refineries shut, may also set a record for rainfall in the contiguous U.S., the weather service said Tuesday. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Residents wade with their belongings through flood waters caused by Tropical Storm Harvey while awaiting rescue in Northwest Houston, Texas, U.S. August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Cattle graze around flood waters caused by Tropical Storm Harvey near Sandy Point, Texas, U.S. August 30, 2017. Picture taken August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Cars pass through flood waters caused by Tropical Storm Harvey along Tanner Road in West Houston, Texas, U.S. August 30, 2017. Picture taken August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Planes are surrounded by flood waters caused by Tropical Storm Harvey at the West Houston Airport in Texas, U.S. August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Houses are seen partially submerged in flood waters caused by Tropical Storm Harvey in Northwest Houston, Texas, U.S. August 30, 2017. Picture taken August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Ranch land covered with floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey is seen in this aerial photograph taken above Angleton, Texas, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017. Unprecedented flooding from the Category 4 storm that slammed into the state's coast last week, sending�gasoline prices�surging as oil refineries shut, may also set a record for rainfall in the contiguous U.S., the weather service said Tuesday. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Residents move through flood waters brought by Tropical Storm Harvey in Northwest Houston, Texas, U.S. August 30, 2017. Picture taken August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
A rail line with cars are seen atop Buffalo Bayou flooded by Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston, Texas, U.S. August 30, 2017. Picture taken August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
A timber yard stands surrounded by floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey in this aerial photograph taken above Angleton, Texas, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017. Unprecedented flooding from the Category 4 storm that slammed into the state's coast last week, sending�gasoline prices�surging as oil refineries shut, may also set a record for rainfall in the contiguous U.S., the weather service said Tuesday. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 30: Flooded homes are shown near Lake Houston following Hurricane Harvey August 29, 2017 in Houston, Texas. The city of Houston is still experiencing severe flooding in some areas due to the accumulation of historic levels of rainfall, though the storm has moved to the north and east. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Interstate 45 stands surrounded by floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey in this aerial photograph taken above Texas City, Texas, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017. Unprecedented flooding from the Category 4 storm that slammed into the state's coast last week, sending�gasoline prices�surging as oil refineries shut, may also set a record for rainfall in the contiguous U.S., the weather service said Tuesday. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 30: A jet ski drives along streets as flood waters surround houses and apartment complexes in West Houston, TX on Wednesday, Aug 30, 2017. Hurricane now Tropical Storm Harvey pushed thousands of people to rooftops or higher ground as the had to flee their homes in Houston. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Houses are seen partially submerged in flood waters caused by Tropical Storm Harvey in Northwest Houston, Texas, U.S. August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 30: Flood waters and pollution surround buildings in West Houston, TX on Wednesday, Aug 30, 2017. Hurricane now Tropical Storm Harvey pushed thousands of people to rooftops or higher ground as the had to flee their homes in Houston. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Caterpillar Inc. construction equipment is seen immersed in floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey in this aerial photograph taken above West Columbia, Texas, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017. Unprecedented flooding from the Category 4 storm that slammed into the state's coast last week, sending�gasoline prices�surging as oil refineries shut, may also set a record for rainfall in the contiguous U.S., the weather service said Tuesday. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Interstate 45 stands surrounded by floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey in this aerial photograph taken above Texas City, Texas, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017. Unprecedented flooding from the Category 4 storm that slammed into the state's coast last week, sending�gasoline prices�surging as oil refineries shut, may also set a record for rainfall in the contiguous U.S., the weather service said Tuesday. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A golf course stands surrounded by floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey in this aerial photograph taken above Texas City, Texas, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017. Unprecedented flooding from the Category 4 storm that slammed into the state's coast last week, sending�gasoline prices�surging as oil refineries shut, may also set a record for rainfall in the contiguous U.S., the weather service said Tuesday. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Buildings stand immersed in floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey in this aerial photograph taken above Angleton, Texas, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017. Unprecedented flooding from the Category 4 storm that slammed into the state's coast last week, sending�gasoline prices�surging as oil refineries shut, may also set a record for rainfall in the contiguous U.S., the weather service said Tuesday. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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While Trump visits, attention will also turn to Minute Maid Park, where the Houston Astros play their first home baseball games since Harvey devastated the fourth-most populous U.S. city. The Saturday doubleheader with the New York Mets is expected to be wrought with emotion and punctuated with moments to honor the dozens who died as a result of Harvey.

The storm, one of the costliest to hit the United States, has displaced more than 1 million people, with 46 feared dead from flooding that paralyzed Houston, swelled river levels to record highs and knocked out the drinking water supply in Beaumont, Texas, a city of 120,000 people.

After Hurricane Harvey came ashore last Friday, much of the damage took place in the Houston metropolitan area, which has an economy about the same size as Argentina's.

Seventy percent of Harris County, which encompasses Houston, at one point was covered with 18 inches (45 cm) or more of water, county officials said.

When Trump visited the Gulf of Mexico coastal region on Tuesday, he met with state and local leaders and first responders, largely focusing on the logistics of the government response rather than the suffering of residents.

9 PHOTOS
Donald and Melania Trump visit Texas, Louisiana
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Donald and Melania Trump visit Texas, Louisiana
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive in Ellington Field in Houston on September 2, 2017. The Trumps arrived in Houston on Saturday to meet victims of the epic floods which devastated large parts of the fourth largest US city. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump wave from Air Force One after arriving at Ellington Field to meet with flood survivors and volunteers who assisted in relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, in Houston, Texas, U.S., September 2, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 2: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump walks with first lady Melania Trump prior to their Marine One departure from the White House September 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. The President and first lady are traveling to Texas to visit individuals impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump walk on South Lawn of the White House in Washington before their departure to view storm damage in Texas, U.S., September 2, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 2: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump walks with first lady Melania Trump prior to their Marine One departure from the White House September 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. The President and first lady are traveling to Texas to visit individuals impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 2: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump walks with first lady Melania Trump prior to their Marine One departure from the White House September 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. The President and first lady are traveling to Texas to visit individuals impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump board Air Force One on September 2, 2017, at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. The Trumps are traveling to Texas and Lousiana to assess conditions in the storm-ravaged states. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump board Air Force One on September 2, 2017, at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. The Trumps are traveling to Texas and Lousiana to assess conditions in the storm-ravaged states. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
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The Trump administration in a letter to Congress on Friday asked for a $7.85 billion appropriation for response and initial recovery efforts. White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert has said aid funding requests would come in stages as more became known about the impact of the storm.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has said his state may need more than $125 billion.

The storm, which lingered around the Gulf Coast for days, dumped record amounts of rain and left devastation across more than 300 miles (480 km) of the state's coast.

As water receded, many returned to survey the damage.

In Orange, Texas, about 125 miles (200 kms) east of Houston, Sam Dougharty, 36, returned on Friday where waist-high water remained in his backyard and barn.

His family's house smelled like raw sewage and was still flooded to the ankles. A calf and a heifer from their herd of 15 were dead.

"We never had water here. This is family land. My aunt's owned it for 40 years and never had water here," he said.

The area was slowly coming back to life, Orange County Sheriff Keith Merritt said on Saturday. But streets remained littered with flooded out vehicles and many homes were without power, he said.

15 PHOTOS
President Trump, Melania visit Texas in wake of Harvey
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President Trump, Melania visit Texas in wake of Harvey
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump depart the White House in Washington on their way to view storm damage in Texas, U.S., August 29, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump depart the White House in Washington on their way to view storm damage in Texas, U.S., August 29, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump depart the White House in Washington on their way to view storm damage in Texas, U.S., August 29, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump depart the White House in Washington on their way to view storm damage in Texas, U.S., August 29, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump depart the White House in Washington, U.S., on their way to view storm damage in Texas August 29, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump board Air Force One for travel to Texas to visit the areas devastated by Tropical Storm Harvey, the first major natural disaster of his White House tenure, from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S., August 29, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump depart the White House in Washington on their way to view storm damage in Texas, U.S., August 29, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump board Air Force One for travel to Texas to visit the areas devastated by Tropical Storm Harvey, the first major natural disaster of his White House tenure, from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S., August 29, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump board Air Force One for travel to Texas to visit the areas devastated by Tropical Storm Harvey, the first major natural disaster of his White House tenure, from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S., August 29, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump (C) and first lady Melania Trump (2ndR) are greeted by Texas Governor Greg Abbott (2ndL) prior to receiving a briefing on Tropical Storm Harvey relief efforts in Corpus Christi, Texas, U.S., August 29, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump (R) receive a briefing on Tropical Storm Harvey relief efforts with Texas Governor Greg Abbott (2ndL) in Corpus Christi, Texas, U.S., August 29, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump step off Air Force One prior to receiving a briefing on Tropical Storm Harvey relief efforts in Corpus Christi, Texas, U.S., August 29, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
A crowd of people stand behind a makeshift cross as they welcome U.S. President Donald Trump's arrival in Corpus Christi, Texas, U.S., August 29, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump (C) waves next to first lady Melania Trump upon arrival prior to receiving a briefing on Tropical Storm Harvey relief efforts in Corpus Christi, Texas, U.S., August 29, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
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FROM THE SHELTER TO THE STADIUM

Harvey came on the 12th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which killed about 1,800 around New Orleans. Then-U.S. President George W. Bush's administration was roundly criticized for its botched early response to the storm.

Some of the tens of thousands of people forced into shelters by Harvey will attend the Astros game where Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner will throw out the first pitch and a moment of silence in planned for those who perished.

Sports have helped other cities rebound from catastrophe, such as when the New York Mets played the first baseball game in their damaged city 10 days after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

In the Harris County area of Clear Creek, the nearly 50 inches (127 cm) of rain that fell there equated to a once in a 40,000 year event, said Jeff Lindner, meteorologist with the Harris County Flood Control District.

The storm shut about a fourth of U.S. refinery capacity, much of which is clustered along the Gulf Coast, and caused gasoline prices to spike to a two-year high ahead of the long Labor Day holiday weekend.

Meanwhile, a new storm, Irma, had strengthened on Friday into a Category 3 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale. It remained hundreds of miles from land but was forecast to possibly hit Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti by the middle of next week.

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