President Bush said Sunday he will visit Texas on Tuesday to express sympathy for victims of Hurricane Ike and lend support for recovery efforts.
"This is a tough storm and it's one that's going to require time for people to recover," the president said from the White House's Roosevelt Room after receiving an update from his disaster relief chief, the energy secretary and others.
Ike came ashore early Saturday at Galveston, Texas, as a strong Category 2 with 110 mph winds. Forecasters have warned of a possible 25-foot surge of water that could wash across the Texas and Louisiana coast.
"Our first priority is search and rescue," Bush told reporters. He also mentioned restoring electricity, clearing debris and getting the Houston sewage plant running again.
He urged residents who had evacuated ahead of the storm to heed warnings from local authorities before trying to return home.
"It's very important for citizens, who I know are anxious to get home, to take your time and listen, take the advice of the local folks," the president said.
On his trip to Texas, Bush said he intends to express "the federal government's support — sympathy on the one hand and support on the other."
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff updated by Bush by phone Texas. Chertoff, who went to the region on Saturday, was in Austin, Texas, and planned to head to Houston later.
"This is all part of our efforts to help Texas and Louisiana with a focused, effective recovery effort," Bush said.
The eye of the hurricane missed the center of Houston, as well as the largest concentrations of oil and gas refineries. Still, retail gasoline prices have jumped based on Ike's landfall in the region, which accounts for about one-fifth of the nation's petroleum refining capacity. Refineries, even if they were not damaged, may remain shuttered for days, some because of power outages.
"The federal government, along with state governments, will be monitoring very carefully as to whether or not consumers are being mistreated at the pump — in other words, gouged," Bush said. "It's very important for our fellow citizens during this period of temporary disruption to be treated fairly."
Bush said the federal government is providing 1.5 million liters of water a day and 1 million meals a day to help the displaced.