St. Petersburg Times Online: Business

Weather | Sports | Forums | Comics | Classifieds | Calendar | Movies

Bush tours hubs of recovery work

By wire services
Published September 25, 2005

AUSTIN, Texas - President Bush crossed the country from one high-tech disaster command center to another Saturday, saying he was satisfied with the government's response to the latest monster hurricane.

Bush tracked Hurricane Rita's assault on Texas and Louisiana from a situation room at the Northern Command headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo., more than 1,000 miles away from the storm's landfall, then flew to two towns in central Texas to the response.

About six hours after Rita struck the coastline, Bush - surrounded by plasma screens and slide projections - got a detailed briefing on the federal plan to deal with the possibility of heavy flooding in eastern Texas and western Louisiana, additional spills from levees in and around New Orleans, and disruptions to U.S. energy supplies.

"We're in good shape," Navy Capt. Brad Johanson, director of NorthCom's joint operations center, told Bush after outlining the military personnel and equipment sent to help.

After an hourlong briefing, the president said, "It comforts me knowing that our federal government is well-organized and well-prepared to deal with Rita."

Bush's trip to Peterson Air Force Base, where NorthCom is based, was in part a fact-finding trip aimed at potentially revising federal responses to major disasters, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

After leaving Colorado, Bush went to a Texas operations center in Austin that was humming with dozens of people busy at computers and phones.

"I know for a lot of people in this state, it's some miserable times," the president said while there. "I hope you can take some comfort in knowing there's a lot of people, like the people in this room, who are working overtime to save you and to help you."

Later, arriving in San Antonio, Texas, where he was spending the night, Bush thanked the town's residents for giving "safe haven" to 300,000 victims of Hurricane Katrina. Today, the president is scheduled to make two stops in San Antonio, where many federal supplies and personnel were being staged for Rita. He was then to travel to Baton Rouge, La., before returning to Washington.

The president also devoted his weekly radio address on Saturday to hurricane response, as he has now for weeks. He pledged not to forget the huge job of recovering from Katrina, even as the focus turns to Rita .

"We'll do our duty," he said, while urging local and state governments, the private sector and ordinary people to do so, too.

In Austin, Bush pleaded with the millions of people who evacuated ahead of Rita to avoid streaming back to cities like Houston so that essential personnel such as troops and nurses could get through.

Information from the Associated Press and Cox News Service was used in this report.

© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.