Trump comforts storm-ravaged Carolinas with hot dogs, hugs

Person Bridge above Cape Fear shut down amid flooding from Florence

Walking along River Drive in New Bern, N.C., a low-lying neighborhood that was pummeled by a one-two punch of Hurricane Florence and post-storm flooding, Trump greeted residents and surveyed the devastation, according to a Wednesday pool report account.

With residents still recovering from torrential rains that left widespread destruction and injury, Trump sought to strike a balance between comforter and cheerleader, mindful that he has been criticized in the past for not showing sufficient empathy in the face of tragedy. Ever since the response to Hurricane Katrina crippled George W. Bush's administration, politicians are aware of the big stakes involved when a big storm sweeps ashore.

"How's the house?" Trump was heard asking one person as he distributed plastic foam containers of food, including hot dogs, chips and fruit.

During his visit to North Carolina on Wednesday, Trump at one point also told a storm victim to "have a good time" as he handed him a packaged meal.

"We've had a lot of help from Congress, in all fairness", Trump said.

At least one North Carolina dam has breached so far under the strain of Hurricane Florence's flooding, but officials say no homes were affected.

Officials in the Carolinas are anxious about what deaths are still to come amid the swelling rivers and flooding from Florence's crawl across both states. "I'm really not sure what it's going to be like after it's all over", Bender said, estimating that the floodwaters are four to five feet higher than they were after Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

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Hurricane Florence is the most severe storm to hit the Carolinas in decades. He told Hurricane Harvey victims in Houston the same thing a year ago.

Federal authorities are working with private partners, as well, including the American Red Cross.

More than 340,000 people still lacked electrical power, Cooper said.

"Even though there's no substantial rain now in the forecast and the sun may be shining, rivers continue to rise, and we will see more flooding", North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said at a briefing Tuesday.

"We will be there 100 percent", pledged Trump, wearing a wind breaker and khaki trousers.

President Trump said there's going to be a rebuilding process and that will start soon. At the time, it seemed to reflect Trump's brand of playfulness. But critics quickly dubbed it inappropriate for the grim crisis at hand.

In North Carolina, where thousands of people remain in shelters or are staying elsewhere, Cooper has urged patience, noting that roads remain treacherous and some are still being closed for the first time. Some critics said the president's trip took on the tone of a victory lap for successful disaster management.

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