Texas Gov. Abbott: 'We dodged a bullet' as Hurricane Laura's toll falls short of warnings

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Gov. Greg Abbott said about 8,500 Texans have evacuated and some 160,000 are without power after Hurricane Laura made landfall as a Category 4 storm.

AUSTIN — One day after he grimly warned Texans along the upper Gulf Coast that an “unsurvivable” hurricane was headed their way, a relieved Gov. Greg Abbott seemed thankful Thursday his prediction fell short of the mark.

“We you consider the magnitude of the damage that could have occurred here, we dodged a bullet,” the governor said at a midday news conference in the coastal community of Orange.

Abbott was joined by U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and several elected officials from region after an aerial tour of the parts of Texas in the path of Hurricane Laura. The storm crashed the coast of Texas and Louisiana late Wednesday with category 4 force, but  with no reports of lives lost in Texas.

The view from about 1,000 feet showed ripped-up roofs, flooded roadways, downed trees and the steel frames of commercial buildings wrapped around some of the trees that remained standing, Abbott said.

Still, he added, “It could have been far worse. It was prognosticated that that the storm surge could very easily exceed 10 feet. I was told … that storm surge was three feet.”

Local officials who joined the governor said residents who evacuated helped minimize any human suffering that came ashore with Laura. And they said that people coming back to the area amid flooding and widespread property damage must do so with the same care they took when they fled to seek safety.

Cornyn credited what he called “the five Ps” for what appears to be a largely positive outcome after the storm: “Prior preparation prevents poor performance,” he said.

Abbott and others noted that some parts of Louisiana were hit harder than Texas, and that Texas would lend help to its neighboring state.

The fact that Texas was spared the worst infused the news conference with a light-hearted air. Congressman Brian Babin, who represents Orange and nearby cities, noted that as someone of Cajun descent, he felt a special kinship with Louisiana. That prompted Cruz to jokingly ask if Babin would be providing everyone an authentic Cajun lunch.

Babin did not rule out the request.

On a more serious note, Abbott pointed out that the storm left 160,000 Texans without power. Some 8,500 had fled their homes for state shelters, he added.

“One thing that saved lives,” he said, was people heeding evacuation orders.

“That, of course, doesn’t help those whose homes have been hit, those whose businesses have been hit,” Abbott said. “Those people, we want them to know, that we are already working through the process of helping them rebuild.”

Earlier Thursday, appearing on NBC’s Today show, said the Lone Star State had no reported fatalities in the initial hours after Hurricane Laura struck but said emergency workers were “still going through the ravages of the storm.”

“We had well over 5,000, maybe up to 10,000 people who did evacuate, especially around those regions where the hurricane came across shore,” Abbott said. “I have no doubt that because of the evacuations that did take place, that reduced the loss of life.”

The initial clean-up efforts will focus on removing debris and making sure roadways, many of them still flooded Thursday afternoon, are cleared for traffic. 

Texas with property damage should contact their insurance providers sooner than later, officials said.


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Several officials were quick to note that the hurricane season for the Gulf Coast has not yet ended.

“This is not the time to high five and go home, said Nim Kidd, chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management. “This is the time to double down and get ready for the next one.”

This is a developing report. Please check back for updates.

John C. Moritz covers Texas government and politics for the USA Today Network in Austin. Contact him at jmoritz@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @JohnnieMo.

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