Houston mayor shifts focus to recovery as floodwaters recede and damage becomes clearer

Though floodwaters may be receding, countless homes and neighborhoods are still flooded. Still, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says it’s time for him to turn his attention to recovery, to helping the thousands displaced by Hurricane Harvey and assessing how the city will deal with the catastrophic damage in its wake.

Turner surveyed the devastation from above with the city’s police and fire chiefs on Thursday. Just before that, he spoke to CBS News’ Mark Strassmann about what’s next in the recovery effort for America’s fourth largest city.

Mayor Turner says his city has been “punched before.”

“Anything you wish you’d done differently?” Strassmann asked.

“No. Let me put it this way: You can always improve, you know. And we’ll sit down and we’ll assess what we could have done better,” Turner said. “The city certainly does need more assets, high water vehicles, high water trucks, high water boats, first responders need more equipment. And in a storm like this, when some of your roads are cut off and your airports may not be functioning at that point in time, it makes it much more difficult to get to people as soon as you would like to.” 

There are roughly 12,000 people in shelters, many of whom will need help long-term. 

“We’re working on a plan for them to transition them out,” Turner said. “The plan is to work with FEMA. In the city of Houston, you’ve got thousands of people that are impacted, (and) we need a lot of FEMA workers on the ground registering and processing those applications, we need to be able to give them the assurance, some sort of temporary housing, permanent housing for them. You know people are appreciative of being in the shelter but after about five to seven, eight days – it gets old and they want to go home. Which means they expect us to operate with the greatest degree of urgency,” Turner said.

Turner has some short-term requests for financial assistance from FEMA but says the total price tag is going to be “huge.”

“What we are needing from FEMA is an advanced payment on debris removal. I would tell you my request is $75 million, as an advance payment just on debris removal. Just for the city of Houston alone could be anywhere from $250-$300 million,” Turner said.

The mayor says Houston and its citizens have always faced challenges. He says he rose to become mayor of the nation’s fourth largest city as one of nine children, where neither parent graduated from high school. He says Houston remains a city of hope…

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