Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point
Cherry Point, North Carolina
10:47 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much everybody. We appreciate it very — the job you’ve done has been incredible. Incredible. They’re talking about it all over the world. And we want to keep it going that way, because some of the hard work is now. We’ve gone through very dangerous work, and still dangerous, but some of the hard work is taking place right now, even though it’s nice and beautiful and sunny.
I was talking to the Governor. And, Governor, I want to thank you. A really fantastic — a fantastic job. But in speaking to the Governor, some of the flooding is actually epic. Hard to believe. And we’ve seen all the pictures where houses are literally covered beyond the roof. You don’t even know there’s a house there. And, you know, one of those things. Well, the water is starting to go down now, finally.
But again, I want to thank Governor Cooper. I want to express my gratitude to your Lieutenant Governor, Dan Forest, very importantly. And to all of the state and local leaders who have been really incredible partners throughout this response and recovery.
There’s been a lot of talent. A lot of work and a lot of talent. Without the talent, it doesn’t work either. You had a combination of hard work and that great ability.
We’re joined also by Secretary Nielsen, Administrator McMahon, Director Mulvaney, and FEMA Administrator Long. I want to thank you all. Administrator, great job. Incredible job. The planning that went into this is beyond — beyond belief. So I just want to thank the Secretary and Administrator. Really — really something special.
I also want to thank some great friends of mine and some very talented people that love this state. They love all our states, I think we can say, and that’s Senator Richard Burr. Where’s Richard? Richard? Thank you very much. You have great representatives. Senator Thom Tillis, thank you. Thank you. Where’s Thom? Thank you, Thom. Lindsey Graham. Lindsey? What happened? Lindsey. (Laughter.) Oh, look at Lindsey.
Lindsey, do you want to pull up a chair? What happened to you? (Laughter.)
SENATOR GRAHAM: (Inaudible.)
THE PRESIDENT: You know, we could have — (laughter) — Richard, would you let him sit at our table? I don’t know. Come on. Pull up a chair, Lindsey. But Lindsey has been great.
And Tim Scott. Where’s Tim? Good. I don’t know, I feel pretty guilty. Come over here.
They have been fantastic, all of them — all four. And we’ve had a lot help from Congress, in all fairness. And we’re ready and they’re ready to do whatever we have to do to make this perfect. And that means, unfortunately, the money will be a lot, but it’s going to come as fast as you need it. We’re going to take care of everybody.
Hurricane Florence was one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the Carolinas. One of the most powerful and devastating storms ever to hit our country.
To the families who have lost loved ones, America grieves with you, and our hearts break for you. God bless you. We will never forget your loss. We will never leave your side. We’re with you all way. And to all those impacted by this terrible storm, our entire American family is with you and ready to help. And you will recover.
Most importantly, we give thanks to the incredible first responders, including sheriffs, police officers, firefighters, our great Cajun Navy. They’re all over the place. I put them up online and everybody loved it. Everybody loved it. But they put themselves, all of them, in harm’s way. And what they’ve done to save precious lives of our citizens has been nothing short of incredible.
Nearly 20,000 federal and military personnel are supporting the response efforts along with Southeast Coast, including brave men and women of North Carolina and the National Guard. Now, of course, we’re going to South Carolina right after this, and they have been incredible. And I know you’ve worked and coordinated very well also, Governor, with South Carolina. That’s been a really great partnership.
Together with state and local first responders, they’ve assisted and rescued more than 3,000 people. So we want to thank you. And I will say, I’ve been watching the Coast Guard with all of the helicopters lifting people off rooftops, and it’s been an incredible job you’ve done again. We appreciate it. Thank you very much.
More than 1.6 million meals have been delivered to North Carolina, and more than 400,000 are ready in South Carolina as soon as they’re requested. So we’re standing by with 400,000 meals in South Carolina.
Crews have restored power to over 1.2 million customers already in North and South Carolina. And the power is starting to go on as soon as the water goes down. They’re meeting the demand incredibly well. So I want to thank the power companies and all of the federal workers, but we have to also thank some of the power companies because they’ve been very responsive. As soon as that water goes down, for the most part, people have power.
In moments of despair, we witness the true character of the American people. So true. Citizens all across our country rally together to rescue the stranded, to protect the innocent, and to restore hope to families who have experienced tremendous and unbearable loss.
I want to thank all of the people here today. A very special group of people. Very talented group of people. And we love working with you. It’s an honor to work with you. We’ve done a real job, and we’ve got to continue to do that real job because another phase is coming in right now, and we’re going to meet that phase just like we’ve met phase one.
So, Governor, again, thank you very much. I appreciate it. And to everybody, thank you very much. And whatever we have to do at the federal level, we will be there — and you know that — 100 percent.
And, Secretary Nielsen? Please.
SECRETARY NIELSEN: Yes, sir. Well, first I just wanted to start by thanking you for your leadership. I think we would all agree, we appreciate (inaudible) to respond, to direct all of our federal governments, to support our partners.
And what you see there is how that partnership works so well. We’ve got the private sector, we’ve got our congressional members, state and local officials. We certainly have all of our partners at DOD and the National Guard. So we are all working together as it should be, in unity of effort, under your leadership. And we greatly appreciate everyone’s partnership.
If I could, I’d like to ask the Administrator to give us a brief update as to where we are.
ADMINISTRATOR LONG: So, Mr. President, as you know, a disaster response like this takes all of us working together, not just coordinating the federal government together, which has come together very well so far. But it takes all of us from neighbor helping neighbor, all the way up to the federal government, to help people overcome what they’ve been through.
I’ve been on the ground yesterday. I’ll be on the ground through tomorrow to make sure that I verify that we’re doing everything that we can right now. This event is not over; the rivers are still cresting. And so we still have a lot of work to do when it comes to the life, safety, and life sustainment mission.
But we’re also simultaneously working on making sure that we stabilize all of the critical lifelines in regards to the infrastructure. So it’s all interconnected. We got to get the roads open to be able to get the power crews into the isolated areas and the flooded areas. And we also have to put a big focus on the hazardous materials, and the health and medical capabilities, and getting them back up and running fully in every community.
One of the things that’s most important is that we’re already pushing forward our disaster survival assistance teams into the fields, into the shelters. We need people to register with 1-800-621-FEMA, or they can download the FEMA app, or they can go through DisasterAssistance.gov.
But more importantly, my job is made easier when a governor like Governor Cooper, Mike Sprayberry, Erik Hooks, have truly done their part to be self-sufficient at the state level. They have been very strong and capable partners. So, thank you.
Thank you, Sir.
SECRETARY NIELSEN: And perhaps we turn it over to the Governor. Governor, as you said so well yesterday, “Sunshine doesn’t need safety.” So we’re right here with you in the midst of a very (inaudible) response.
GOVERNOR COOPER: Well, thank you, Mr. President, for coming to North Carolina as our rescue and recovery continues.
Our rivers are still cresting, and there is still danger for some people. We’re hoping that they can get evacuated and that out first responders continue to make sure that people are brought to safety.
Our state took a gut punch, Mr. President. And our people are still reeling. We’ve lost 27 lives, officially, so far. And some more are under investigation. And we mourn their loss.
We have farmers who have lost significantly their crops. A lot of businesses are down. And, of course, people have lost their homes. We have about 10,000 people right now in shelters. I talked to one the other day who had a rescue out of an apartment in downtown Wilmington. And I will say this: All the way from firefighters in Wilmington, to our state responders, our National Guard, and the United States Coast Guard, there have been some heroic first responders who have saved lives.
We are beginning the process of getting our feet under us, Mr. President. We’re getting water and supplies, hot meals to people. We’re beginning to clear roads, although we have a number of roads continuing to be closed, including parts of Interstate 95 and Interstate 40. And you can imagine what that does to commerce and people trying to get from one place to the next.
We have a lot of power that has been restored, but there are thousands of people who are still waiting to get their power back.
I know that this state has a great economy, great education. We are a beacon in the south. And we have weathered storms before in our state. But, Mr. President, we have never seen one like this. This one has been epic, it has been disastrous, and it has been widespread. It is a storm like no other.
We’re beginning the process, with your federal help and with our local county people; many of them are here today. And we want to thank our local responders and all of the help that they have given to deal with people right there on the ground. But we’re starting to figure out how we will build back. We will do it in a smart and strong way. I’ve been grateful for Secretary Nielsen and for Admiral Buschman. Thank you for your help with the Coast Guard and helping to rescue people.
And, Mr. President, Brock Long, as FEMA Administrator, along with Albie Lewis, who has been here, they are helping us right now significantly. And we’re grateful.
I’ve got a great Emergency Management Director in Mike Sprayberry and my Secretary of Public Safety, Erik Hooks. They’re all onboard. Our Adjutant General of the National Guard, General Lusk, has been doing a fantastic job.
And this Title 10 that we’ve invoked with our joint military exercise, we are grateful to the members of the U.S. military who have stepped up and helped us through this process.
But, Mr. President, we’ve got a long road ahead in the days and the months, and even years ahead, to make sure we build back to where we need to be here in North Carolina. And you’re here, and I’m asking you, sir, for your help, every step of the way. All of these federal agencies are going to have to help us in cutting red tape and making sure we can be smart about this rebuilding process.
We still understand that people have a lot of immediate needs, and that’s going to be critically important over the next few days and weeks. But long-term rebuild, I know the resiliency of North Carolinians. We have an amazing state. I know that we can come back stronger than ever. But we’re going to need your help.
And thank you for coming to listen to this.
THE PRESIDENT: And I’ll be there. Congressman, thank you. Thank you, Roy. We will be there 100 percent. And all of the folks from the federal government that are around the table, they’re confirming it. That’s why we started early and we’ll be here late.
And we want to thank the great job you’ve done and all of your people. Thank you very much.
I’d like to maybe ask Richard Burr to say a few words, your great senator who’s done an incredible job. And then we’re going to ask Thom Tillis to say a few words. These are two people that love this state and they love the country.
SENATOR BURR: Well, Mr. President, I’m going to say to this group exactly what I said to you on the plane. I’ve been doing disasters in North Carolina as an elected representative for now 25 years. I’ve never seen the preparation, the coordination, the collaboration between the federal, state, and local government like I’ve seen prior to this event.
If we do half as good in the response as we did in the preparation, then North Carolinians are going to be in good hands.
The challenge is, quite frankly, going to be this: We’re faced with things in this event that we haven’t been faced with before. And the ability to have the Coast Guard and DOD assets in this state, upfront, before the event, has enabled those at a local, state, and federal level to adjust what plans we might have had in place, and deliver water and food and essentials in a way that we could get into any community in this state. Without that level of collaboration, we’d have people that were in serious, serious problems much worse than today.
And I am grateful for the federal component but I am as grateful, Governor, for the way the state emergency management folks and first responders, who in some cases have been volunteers in local communities that had a boat, aided their neighbors. And that’s what’s so great about this state.
Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Richard, very much. And Tom?
SENATOR TILLIS: Well, just very briefly, just to echo everything that Senator Burr said, we’re now moving towards the next step, which is getting the initial funding for recovery. We’ve made a request. We’ll be moving forward with trying to get the money in place for some of the initial recovery. But then we’ll work very closely with the Governor.
Governor, thank you for being so prompt on getting the initial need in. That was very instructive to the appropriation request. We’ll continue to work with state and local authorities.
And just thank all the volunteers, as well — the Red Cross and everybody else who have come together. And Congressman Rouzer, every one of the counties in his district were affected. He’s been working hard. He’s been on the ground the entire time. And this is when North Carolina and America is at its best. We’re all coming together and working for the people in North Carolina and South Carolina.
And, President, thank you for your leadership.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you, Thom. Thank you. And for you leadership.
As Thom and Richard said, we’re getting all teed up for a lot of money to come down to the area. You’re going to need it. And we have it, and we will be supplying it. And there will be nothing left undone. You’ll have everything you need.
So we’re going to have — it’s going to be probably a rough two weeks, and then it will get a little bit softer. But it’s going to be — people don’t realize how a very difficult phase is beginning probably today with a beautiful sunshine. So your two representatives and your — by the way, your congressman, are working very hard. So we’ll have it all taken care of. Thank you very much, Congressman. Thank you very much. Appreciate it very much. Great job.
Does anybody have anything to say? Any of our folks?
Administrator McMahon, would you say something please?
ADMINISTRATOR MCMAHON: Thank you very much, Mr. President. First of all, I’m a North Carolina girl. I was born and reared in New Bern. Both my parents were civil service employees right here at Cherry Point Air Base. So I feel like I’ve come home.
I’m the Administrator of SBA, and I just want to let all of you know that where SBA comes in is on the front side, but we are immediately right there. As a matter of fact, we’re already staged at East Carolina to deploy our folks into the field to get people’s businesses back up and running, to get them back in their homes. This is the time that SBA actually makes the loans and not just guarantees the loans.
So please go to SBA.gov and click on the “Disaster” banner. It will take you to the right place. We’ve already approved, I think, just a little — fewer than 10 applications already for mortgages and loans for businesses. So they’re low interest, they’re long-term fixed rates. So please allow us to help you. Go online and start getting your applications in so that we can help our communities and our homeowners and even renters who have lost personal property in the storm get back on their feet.
Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Linda, very much. Anybody? Any questions? Statements? Congressman?
REPRESENTATIVE ROUZER: First of all, let me thank you for being here. You have a great heart for the American people. That’s one of the things I like so much about you. And it just really means a lot for you to be here at this particular time.
We have a lot of folks that are really, really hurting. And I got a couple of points I want to make, but before I forget, though, I want to thank Brock Long and his team. I’ve been with him for the past several days. They’re doing incredible work. Everybody around this table is just doing a lot of collaborative, great work together.
Your Admiral here at Coast Guard — I walked in the airport, RDU Airport, the other day, and saw doctors and nurses that were stranded, trying to find a way back to New Hanover Regional Medical Center. And this guy here helped us get it cleared to get them on that C-130 and take them to ILM Airport.
And I don’t think I’ve ever seen a CEO of a hospital that was happier than our CEO at Hanover Regional the other day.
So your team is doing an incredible, incredible job. A few things I want to mention: Housing is so critically important, as you know. Infrastructure, incredibly important. I serve on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, as you know. Really looking forward to working with you as we move forward on rebuilding our infrastructure, not just here post-storm, but we’ve got to do a lot of pre-mitigation work for the next storm.
You know, these storms aren’t going to end. They’re going to keep coming. And the more we can prepare, the more we can clean out these rivers, these ditches, all the creeks and streams, they’re all — they’re all stopped up. That’s part of the reason why we have such a monumental flood. My district, as Senator Tillis said, eight of my nine counties are completely — almost completely underwater. They’re all major disaster areas. And so I think rebuilding this infrastructure is going to be critically, critically important.
Of course, housing is number one. Agriculture in my district — huge component of this state — $87 billion industry. I see Steve Troxler here in the audience — our Commissioner of Agriculture. We’ve got to have more than just a new farm bill. We’ve got to have a real disaster package for agriculture as well.
And then our beach communities: Our beaches, our inlets and our waterways are a key component of infrastructure in this country. It’s vital to tourism in my district, as you know. And of course, I know you’re quite familiar with Wrightsville Beach in Wilmington and that area, and Brunswick County, Pender County. All these counties need a tremendous amount of help. And I just thank you and appreciate you being here and appreciate all the work of your entire team — not only now, but as we move into the future.
THE PRESIDENT: Appreciate it very much, Congressman.
COMMISSIONER WHITE: Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, please.
COMMISSIONER WHITE: My name is Woody White, and I represent 220,000 citizens of New Hanover County. I want to thank you for coming here. I’d like to echo the comments that were very ably made by David and the others around the table about what’s been done. And I also want to share with you the hope and optimism that our people have about the economy that you’ve created, about the people that you put back to work. Because all these next two or three or four phases of recovery are better because of the preparations, the economy that you have created, and we appreciate it.
I have been out in our community since this storm before it began, in it every day since it was here. And folks are cutting trees, putting power lines up, feeding their neighbors, loving each other, caring for each other, and they have incredible hope and optimism in the future.
It tells me something that you brought the Administrator of the Small Business Association here today, that you’re thinking about the future too. I own a small business, and they’re the lifeblood of our economy in New Hanover County. And we thank you for being here and for your leadership.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s really nice. I appreciate it very much. The economy is, fortunately, doing really well, and I would say maybe the best economy our country has ever had. So that’s important.
And we want to get everybody back to work so they can, you know, take (inaudible) — because this area has been very badly damaged. But we’ll get it up and working again, Governor, very quickly. I have no doubt about it.
Anybody else? Anybody? Yes.
MAYOR JONES JR.: Mr. President, hi, I’m Jerry Jones, the Mayor of Morehead City.
THE PRESIDENT: Hi, Jerry.
MAYOR JONES JR.: And just on behalf of a grateful community — and not just talking about Morehead, but talking about coastal North Carolina — your presence here today means a whole lot to all of us. It means, you know, we’re not left stranded alone on this island. It means the federal government is here helping us, along with the state government and many local governments.
And being a mayor of a small town and having to — being the boots on the ground and walking the food lines with my constituents — and not just my constituents; I’ve got people from outside the county. Just building up something that you said earlier about community pride and spirit — I mean, the community spirit is, from what I’ve witnessed, is as high as it’s ever been.
THE PRESIDENT: Great.
MAYOR JONES JR.: It is — it is not — and what I’ve learned also, that communities aren’t just in neighborhoods, they’re not just in towns and states; I’m talking about a national community. People have come from all over the nation to come to Carteret County to assist us. And just on my way up here, I had three phone calls from people throughout the state that wanted to bring provisions down to Carteret County. And so I’m helping organize that.
And when I walked through the lines of the people — and I have to say this: My first experience, I’ve never stood in line before to get a drink of water or a meal or sandwich or any way. The people, you know, when I ask them, my first question to them is, “How are you? Are you safe?” And they said, “Yeah, we’re safe. However, my neighbor, you know, they lost everything they had. You know, my house is under water.” And my response to them always is, “Yes, but at least we are here today talking about it.” And they always just give praise to God when that’s mentioned.
And so I’ll know we’ll get through this together. It’s baby steps, as we all mentioned. Although it happened overnight, the rebuilding is not going to be overnight. But from the state and local level, the federal level, we’ll make it happen.
And again, just the presence of everybody around this table is going to mean a whole lot to everybody affected with Hurricane Florence. So, thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Mayor. Appreciate it.
COMMISSIONER MANSFIELD: Mr. President, Mark Mansfield, Chairman of the Carteret County Commissioners. And I want to thank you and your team for coming down with Governor Cooper, Senator Tillis, Senator Burr, and other representatives.
And I’d especially like to thank Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest. He came down the day after the hurricane and visited us personally at the emergency operations center.
Things are still dire in Carteret County. We have — over half of our whole county is without power. We obviously have had the river and the creek flooding — storm surge flooding. And Williston to Stacy, they had probably 8 to 12 feet of water in homes.
These people have been displaced, and we are temporarily sheltering, neighbors are sheltering, but we’re going to need help with shelter.
The big thing is public safety. We haven’t had trash pickup since the Wednesday before the storm. They’ve cut and run. We’re getting back open now. But for health reasons, we need to make sure that we get all of your guys’ help to expedite the boots on the ground.
I mean, I know protocols and procedures — you’ve got manuals — but as I look around, I see the military force here, anybody who’s done training, you know training is one thing, but being in the foxhole when the bullets are coming by your head are completely different. And we hope we will have all your continued support to help our boots on the ground, facilitate the resources, and help the people of our county and the surrounding counties in Eastern North Carolina.
I thank all you guys again. We appreciate all you’re doing. And we’ll probably be asking you for more. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Appreciate it. Excuse me?
MS. GOOD: (Inaudible.)
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, please.
MS. GOOD: Mr. President, thank you so much for being here, for coming to North Carolina. The story for Duke Energy is also a story of partnership. And so I’m pleased to report that we’ve restored a million and a half citizens for power. We have 150,000 to go. And we will not leave until that power is restored.
Now, we had the opportunity to work with so many around the table that have made it possible with the Governor and his administration, with Director Sprayberry, with the federal agencies, Secretary Nielsen, Under Secretary Krebs, not only the planning but the resources necessary to restore power on this scale. So we thank you for the leadership and the partnership. It’s made it possible. And we’re anxious to get 150,000 more citizens back.
THE PRESIDENT: Good. Thank you very much. And how is Lake Norman, that area? How is that doing?
MS. GOOD: Good.
THE PRESIDENT: It’s doing good?
MS. GOOD: But still 10 or 12 inches of rain.
THE PRESIDENT: I love that area. I can’t tell you why, but I love that area.
MS. GOOD: It’s very nice. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: It’s been really terrific.
GENERAL O’SHAUGHNESSY: Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
GENERAL O’SHAUGHNESSY: Mr. President, Secretary Mattis gave us very clear direction from the Department of Defense to make sure that we anticipate every need that the states could have so we could help the citizens.
Governor Cooper’s team here was phenomenal to help us understand what exactly those needs were going to be so we could pre-posture and be ready for immediate response. So, hats off to Governor Cooper and the broader team here in North Carolina.
And also, at FEMA, Brock Long was able to help us coordinate that federal response that was seamlessly tied into the state and local efforts. And I’d like to highlight, Mr. President, that there are 28 different states that have contributed to the National Guard, through the EMACs — the compacts that they have with the state of North Carolina, between North Carolina and South Carolina — and that just shows the strength of the National Guard as well, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Great job, General. Appreciate it.
Okay. Thank you very much. Let’s get back to work.
11:15 A.M. EDT