President Donald Trump made a brief stop in Lake Charles on Saturday to thank members of the Louisiana National Guard and the Cajun Navy who helped rescue people from floodwaters in Texas after Hurricane Harvey.
Trump, joined by first lady Melania, took photos and shook hands with members of the Cajun Navy, a loosely-organized volunteer group of boaters who trekked to Texas to help rescue people from the floods.
Trump didn't address reporters while he was in Louisiana. He had several animated conversations as he chatted with rescuers who gathered under a giant American flag at the Louisiana Air National Guard armory.
Ben Hesser, a member of the Cajun Navy from Hammond, talked to CNN after speaking with Trump.
"I'm glad to know that he cares enough to come down here," Hesser said. "When you get the attention of the president of the United States, you get the attention of the American people, you feel as though they care."
President Donald Trump has declared Sunday a national day of prayer for the victims of Harve…
Trump spent most of the day in Houston. The nation's fourth largest city suffered catastrophic flooding after Harvey stalled over Texas for several days, dumping massive amounts of rain.
An upbeat and optimistic president visited with victims of Harvey, toured a Houston mega-shelter housing hundreds of displaced people and briefly walked streets lined with soggy, discarded possessions. The Trumps brought coloring books and crayons and sat with families that had been displaced. Trump lifted one little girl into his arms and gave her a kiss. He signed his name on the cement wall by the children's artwork.
"As tough as this was, it's been a wonderful thing," Trump said of the Harvey response after spending time with displaced children inside NRG Center, an emergency refuge housing about 1,800 evacuees.
He snapped on latex gloves to hand out boxed lunches of hot dogs and potato chips. With a wide smile and quick banter, Trump served food in the lunch line — at one point joking about his hands being too big for the sanitary gloves. He loaded relief supplies into vehicles, patted storm victims on the shoulder and declared the work "good exercise."
The trip, to Houston and Lake Charles was Trump's second to survey Harvey's wake and a chance for a president to strike a more sympathetic tone. He'd rushed to Texas on Tuesday, heading to Corpus Christi and Austin to talk to first responders. He was criticized for meeting with few residents and offering few expressions of concern while on the ground.
Trump was in Lake Charles about an hour – from Air Force One's landing to departure for Washington, D.C.
As Trump's motorcade made its way through Lake Charles, hundreds of people lining the streets cheered and waved American flags and hand-written signs in support of Trump. One neon pink sign recalled criticism the first lady faced after photos showed her wearing stiletto heels on a trip to Texas on Tuesday: "FLOTUS Keep rockin' the stilettos." For the Lake Charles visit, Melania Trump wore an olive baseball cap with the state of Louisiana embroidered on the front and sneakers.
Gov. John Bel Edwards and several members of Louisiana's congressional delegation, as well as Attorney General Jeff Landry and Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser greeted Trump upon his arrival and joined him at the armory.
As Louisiana continues to assist Texas with its recovery from Hurricane Harvey, the state ha…
Edwards, the only Deep South governor who is a Democrat, has been in regular contact with the Republican Trump administration in the week since Harvey made landfall in Texas as a Category 4 hurricane.
"It's always great to have the president in your state for any reason but to acknowledge the work done by so many people here. It was invaluable, not just in protecting life and property of the people of Louisiana," Edwards said.
Trump has issued federal disaster declarations for 12 parishes that received heavy rain and strong winds as a weakened Harvey passed over the state as a tropical storm.
Louisiana wasn't as badly affected by the storm as some had feared. The state had positioned resources in southwest Louisiana and prepared shelters in case they were needed. Edwards has since dedicated many of those resources to Texas to aid that state's recovery.
As Trump visited Louisiana and Texas, the Houston area was still burying its dead and trying to contain the mess. Nearby Beaumont, Texas, population 120,000, was struggling to restore its drinking water. Firefighters in Crosby, outside of Houston, were warily eyeing the Arkema chemical plant, twice the scene of explosions. Floodwaters had inundated at least seven highly contaminated toxic waste sites in the Houston area, raising concerns about creeping pollution.
Harvey is blamed for at least 43 deaths and believed to have damaged at least 156,000 dwellings in Harris County, where Houston is located. The American Red Cross said more than 17,000 people have sought refuge in Texas shelters such as the one Trump visited.
The White House has asked Congress to approve a $7.9 billion Harvey relief down payment when lawmakers return to Washington on Tuesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report