President Trump comforts storm-ravaged Carolinas with hot dogs, hugs

NEW BERN, N.C. — President Donald Trump handed out hot dogs, hugs and comforting words in the Carolinas on Wednesday as he surveyed the wreckage left by Hurricane Florence.

With residents still recovering from torrential rains that left widespread destruction and injury, Trump visited both North and South Carolina, distributed meals at a church, walked amid piles of sodden furniture in damaged neighborhoods, offered hugs and handshakes to residents and discussed the response efforts with local and state officials.

"America grieves with you and our hearts break for you. God bless you," he said during a briefing at a marine base in Havelock, North Carolina. "We will never forget your loss. We will never leave your side. We're with you all the way."

Trump's made his whirlwind tour through the Carolinas five days after the storm, which was blamed for at least 37 deaths in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. North and South Carolina both backed Trump in the 2016 election, and the president largely saw people who were happy to greet him. One man told the president he'd named his dog after Trump.

There were still flashes of President Trump's persona and unconventional style — he asked about the status of Lake Norman, where he owns a golf club, telling officials, "I can't tell you why, but I love that area."

He also joked with a family who had a large yacht they didn't own wash up against their house. "At least you got a nice boat out of the deal," he told them. "What's the law? Maybe it becomes theirs."

And he was caught on camera telling a person to whom he had just handed food to "have a good time."

After a briefing on the recovery effort in North Carolina, Trump helped hand out hot dogs and chips at a Baptist church in New Bern, a riverfront city that experienced severe flooding. The president leaned over and checked in with people as they drove through to pick up food.

"How's the house?" he asked one person. "You take care of yourself," he said.

Trump also praised the volunteers, at one point hugging a young helper and telling his parents, "You did a good job."

Trump walked through a storm-damaged neighborhood where waterlogged sofa cushions, mattresses and downed trees were piled up along streets.

Trump later traveled to Conway, South Carolina, where more flooding is expected still. He toured a neighborhood where a street was already submerged under water.

"Is everybody OK?" he asked those gathered, assuring them it was "going to be OK."

"Lot of money coming from Washington," he promised.

At Horry County's emergency operations center, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said the storm had likely been the worst disaster in the state's history, but warned it wasn't over yet.

"The rain and the water you see out there now is just the beginning," he said. "The worst is yet to come."

Trump, too, warned that more water was on the way, but assured those gathered that both he and Washington are "with you."

"Now it looks nice, but it's really the calm before the storm," he said.

It was the same message at Trump's first stop in North Carolina, where Gov. Roy Cooper and federal and state officials briefed the president at a Marine Corps air station in Havelock, which sits among areas Florence hit hardest. The governor asked for help "cutting red tape" to get his state the federal assistance it will need to recover.

Cooper said Florence was an "epic" storm and noted that farmers suffered significant losses and scores of people lost their homes. Some 10,000 people remain in shelters.

"We will be there 100 percent," pledged Trump. "All of the folks from the federal government that are around the table are confirming it."

Cooper, a Democrat, said he'd told the president "over and over again" that the state was "going to need significant resources to recover."

"He promised 100 percent support and we're going to hold them to it," he said of Trump.

Upon his return to Washington D.C., the President tweeted,

"Just returned to the White House from the Great States of North Carolina and South Carolina where incredible work is being done on the ongoing fight against hurricane Florence."

President Trump also shared a statement via Twitter expressing the Administration's dedication to supporting those impacted by Florence.  The statement reads in part,

"Nearly 20,000 Federal employees have been mobilized to assist with Florence recovery.

The Department of Energy is working with 40,000 individuals from 19 States and Canada to restore power to the region, and is seeing significant progress in its efforts.

The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has deployed 136 personnel, successfully installing or pre-positioning over 110 generators, with more expected.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has conducted over 2,000 rescues in the region and is sheltering nearly 15,000 people.

The Department of Defense has assigned approximately 13,000 personnel to support the recovery, including some 6,000 active-duty personnel and more than 7,000 National Guardsmen.

The Coast Guard has over 3,000 personnel in 27 helicopters, 11 fixed wing aircraft, 14 cutters, and 35 shallow-water craft. To date the Coast Guard has saved over 400 lives and 200 pets.

The National Guard has performed or supported more than 535 rescue and evacuation missions in North Carolina.

The Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Disease Control have deployed dozens of teams to the region to treat the sick or injured and prevent illness."

You can read the full statement here.

Continuing coverage, here.