President Trump hugged survivors of Hurricane Florence on Thursday and passed out hot meals at a church as he toured areas affected by the storm and heard from people forced out of their homes or living without power.
Trump shook hands with volunteers and passed out Styrofoam containers at a make-shift, drive-thru pick up, located in the parking lot of a local church, where the meal of the day was hot dogs, chips and fruit, according to the Associated Press.
'Have a good time,' he told one car of hurricane survivors as they drove away with their daily rations. 'Good luck with everything,' he told the driver of the next vehicle,' patting the man's hand.
At Temple Baptist Church in New Bern, survivors asked the president for hugs and told him that they were praying for him as he leaned into their car.
Afterward the president walked around a neighborhood in New Bern and spoke with more survivors, reveling to one man whose yard had been trashed by an intact yacht: 'At least you got a nice boat out of the deal.'
Trump spent the day touring storm-ravaged areas in North Carolina and South Carolina.
'Whatever we have to do at the federal level, we will be there - and you know that - 100 percent,' the president said.
He promised that the government would take care of 'everybody' affected as he participated in a briefing at Cherry Point alongside officials from his administration, including FEMA administrator Brock Long and North Carolina Gov. Rory Cooper.
'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,' Trump said.
In Conway, South Carolina, the president directing senators from the two states to put their heads together and come back to him with a proposal for federal funding. A snippet of their on-camera conversation revealed the number was north of $2 billion.
North Carolina was hit the hardest by the storm, but the president warned residents of South Carolina as he spoke at Horry County Emergency Operations Center that the floods would be coming their way soon. 'You haven't really been hit yet by comparison to what's coming,' he said. 'Because you’re going to have a lot of water.'
He described the period that South Carolina is in as 'the calm before the storm' and noted that residents of the area about to have a 'rough few days' followed by a period of recovery that could last a long time.
But he told them, 'Washington is with you. Trump is with you. We are all with you 100 percent.'
The death toll from Hurricane Florence ticked up to 37 by Wednesday when two women being transported to a mental health institution drowned in a sheriff's van.
According to President Trump, nearly 20,000 federal and military personnel are working the coasts, First responders have also helped or rescued 3,000 people, Trump stated.
'In moments of despair, we witness the true character of the American people,' he said. '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.'
By his count, more than 1.6 million meals had been delivered to storm survivors in North Carolina. He said 400,000 meals are ready to be passed out in South Carolina when the flooding crosses state lines.
Power outrages are still a problem but 1.2 million homes in North and South Carolina have already had their electricity restored, Trump stated.
'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.'
The president departed the White House this morning with senior aides and arrived in North Carolina in Air Force One an hour later, where he was greeted on the tarmac by local officials before proceeding to the on-site briefing with senators and federal emergency managers.
At the Marine Corps Air Station in Cherry Point, Trump stressed that the flooding had been pretty extensive, and recovery efforts remain dangerous even though it's now sunny.
'Some of the flooding is actually epic. Hard to believe,' he said. '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.'
Trump praised first repsonders and the state's senators and promised to take care of 'everybody' affected by the storm. '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,' he pledged.
Trump acknowledged, '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,' he said. 'And to all those impacted by this terrible storm, our entire American family is with you and ready to help. And you will recover.'
Cooper, the state's governor, told the president that thousands of homes are powerless and the rebuilding effort will take time, despite North Carolina's historically strong economy.
'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,' the Democratic politician said.
Cooper told Trump the state has 10,000 people living in shelters. '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,' he explained.
'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,' he said of Florence. '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.'
He told the president that he will need his help to cut through the 'red tape' of the government to get the resources that residents of his state need.
'I'm asking you, sir, for your help, every step of the way,' he said. 'I know that we can come back stronger than ever. But we're going to need your help.'
Trump told Cooper and the state's federal representatives that 'there will be nothing left undone' and 'you'll have everything you need' although 'it's going to be probably a rough two weeks.'
'We'll have it all taken care of,' the president pledged.
At the briefing, off-camera, a reporter traveling in his rotating press pool said the president asked, how the Lake Norman area is doing.
'I love that area. I can’t tell you why, but I love that area,' he told the official who assured him it's fine.
Trump notably owns property in the Lake Norman area, near Charlotte in North Carolina --Trump National Golf Club.
His next stop was the distribution center and church where he helped pass out that day's rations, which amounted to 1,200 meals the day before, a volunteer informed roving journalists.
'How is the house?' Trump asked one car full of of people. 'Seen better days?' he said.
He hugged 11-year-old volunteer KC Peters and told him, 'You can help us.'
Touring a damaged area in New Bern, where water from the Neuse River was spilling over, Trump told a resident, 'We’re giving you a lot of help.'
He hugged another woman he met and inspected a second woman's disfigured property.
'Do you want to see my house? It’s over there,' she said, pointing to what was left of her home and a pile of ruined furniture. 'We’re going to move,' she informed him.
Another resident, an older gentleman, told the president, 'I named my dog after you.'
'That's nice,' Trump told him.
Eyeing a yacht that had washed into a yard, Trump asked a resident, 'Is this your boat?'
The person told him it was not his vehicle.
Trump smiled and told him, 'At least you got a nice boat out of the deal.'
'I think it’s incredible what we’re seeing,' the president told reporters. 'This boat just came here.'
He explained, 'They don’t know whose boat that is.'
'What’s the law?' he wondered allowed. 'Maybe it becomes theirs.'
Trump traveled to Conway, South Carolina, afterward by helicopter. Supporters of the president lined up along a local avenue to deliver encouraging messages like, 'Give ‘em hell, President Trump!'
'Is everybody OK?' Trump asked them. 'Best people in the world,' he said, shaking the hands of well-wishers behind a metal barricade.
The president gave one girl a baseball hat. Another group of children excitedly called out, 'Donald Trump!'
The president was not accompanied on the trip by the first lady, who traveled with him last year to storm-affected areas. Her spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, told DailyMail.com that Mrs. Trump had a 'scheduling conflict' that prevented her from joining her husband.
On Wednesday morning, the president exited the White House alone, then turned to tell reporters, 'We’re going to North Carolina. We’ll then be heading to South Carolina. We’re doing very well there, but the rivers are cresting. They're just starting to crest. We're really just going to say hello to all of the folks from FEMA, the military, the people that are working so hard. And I think it will be an incredible day. We'll be coming back at about six or seven tonight.'
The president took off from South Carolina early, however, and arrived at the White House minutes before 6 pm.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters traveling with Trump on Air Force One en route to South Carolina that the president would be going to the area 'hit the hardest' to meet with survivors of the storm at Trump's request.
'He wanted to see the areas hit the hardest, most impacted by the flooding. He also wanted a full overview from state and local officials in both states. He wanted to make sure he met with the people in those areas,' he said.
Trump has been highlighting his administration's recovery efforts as a 'great job' after the storm that is 'one of the wettest we have seen from the standpoint of water.'
'Tremendous effort and bravery is being shown in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and the area that was so horribly hit by Hurricane Florence,' he said at a news conference on Tuesday. 'I just got some clips of some of the things that the Coast Guard is doing and getting people to safety in horrible, horrible conditions.'
In a video he posted to Twitter later on Tuesday the president praised his authorities' response to the storm, which he also called 'a nasty one, a big one'.
Earlier in the day he took the opportunity to pat himself on the back, claiming 'right now, everybody is saying what a great job we are doing with Hurricane Florence — and they are 100% correct.'
But he said: 'At some point in the near future the Democrats will start ranting that FEMA, our Military, and our First Responders, who are all unbelievable, are a disaster and not doing a good job.
'This will be a total lie, but that's what they do, and everybody knows it!'
In his video message, which was issued eight hours later, Trump added: 'I just want to thank all of the incredible men and women who have done such a great job in helping with Florence.
'This is a tough hurricane, one of the wettest we have seen from the standpoint of water. Rarely have we had an experience like it and it certainly is not good.'
'But the people of North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, all of the affected areas - you've been incredible, he said, 'There has been a loss of life and may God be with them and their families. That is a tough one, it is tough to understand, but this has been a really difficult time for a lot of people.'
Trump said the job that the job that FEMA and the military have 'done in saving so many lives has been really something special.'
'I just want to thank everybody for doing such a great job with a very difficult situation, Florence has been a nasty one, a big one, like that area has certainly never seen before,' he said. 'The waters are still rising, listen to your state and local authorities, be patient, be alert, and God bless you.'
This article has been adapted from its original source.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.