Bush declares Texas a disaster area

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September 13, 2008 12:11:07 PM PDT
President Bush on Saturday declared a major disaster exists in Texas in the wake of Hurricane Ike, which slammed into the Gulf Coast, flooding homes and knocking out power to thousands."This is a huge storm that is causing a lot of damage not only in Texas, but also in parts of Louisiana," Bush said from the South Lawn of the White House after he had a video conference with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and David Paulison, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Later, at a news conference in Washington, Paulison issued warnings to people in the path of the weakening storm.

"It's still a very dangerous time," he said. "It still carries a lot of wind, a lot of rain, the possibility of tornadoes and lightning. ... Just stay home. Just be patient, stay in your house and don't go out too early until it's safe to do so."

Ike ravaged southeast Texas and western Louisiana early Saturday. Thousands of homes and government buildings were flooded, roads were washed out, an estimated 2.6 million people lost power and several fires burned unabated. By afternoon, first responders in helicopters, airboats and vehicles were at work to save lives.

"Some people didn't evacuate when asked," Bush said about the tens of thousands of people in Texas and Louisiana who are the focus of search and rescue workers. "I've been briefed on the rescue teams there in the area. They're prepared to move as soon as weather conditions permit. Oes at gas pumps across broad swaths of the nation as the gasoline makes it way from the wholesale market to retailers.

The Environmental Protection Agency temporarily waived certain gasoline requirements for nearly a dozen states that are dependent on supplies from the Gulf Coast. The action means that the states do not have to use less-polluting blends of gasoline, making it easier for them to use foreign imports on the U.S. market.

"In the meantime, the Department of Energy and state authorities will be monitoring a gasoline crisis so consumers are not being gouged," Bush said.