President Bush says he is seeing progress in early efforts to rebuild from Hurricane Katrina. Mr. Bush was back in the Gulf Coast region Tuesday to inspect those efforts and to get a briefing on another hurricane now crossing Florida.
On his fifth visit to areas hardest-hit by the killer storm, President Bush told local government and business leaders in Mississippi that things are getting better.
"You're moving forward," said Mr. Bush. "I don't know if you know that or not, but flying in or driving in, there is something different than the first time I was here."
President Bush says the federal government will pay most of the costs of rebuilding roads and bridges and providing housing, health care, and primary education for hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the storm.
Encouraging officials in Mississippi to think bold, Mr. Bush said it is important for local leaders to determine for themselves what sort of communities they want to rebuild.
"I think it's really smart and really important to bring capable people together to delegate tasks, to think anew, obviously to utilize that which worked in the past to your advantage, but be willing to think anew, because you've got a fantastic opportunity," Mr. Bush added. "We'll get the debris removed, we'll get your water systems up and running as quickly as possible, we'll get your bridges built, but the vision that you detail as a result of this commission is going to be the blueprint for the future."
White House Spokesman Scott McClellan says there are some people in rural areas of Mississippi who are frustrated at still having to wait for help more than three weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit.
The situation requires some patience, Mr. McClellan says, but the president is urging everyone to move forward as quickly as possible to get people the help they need.
After Mississippi, President Bush flew by helicopter along the Gulf Coast to the Louisiana city of New Orleans. There he was briefed on Hurricane Rita, which hit Florida with high winds and rain on its way into the Gulf of Mexico.
Flanked by New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, President Bush heard that there is about a five percent chance that Hurricane Rita will hit New Orleans with hurricane-force winds. Weather officials say there is a 25 percent chance Hurricane Rita will reach the city as a tropical storm if it continues on track to reach land along the Texas coast by Friday.
The threat from Hurricane Rita forced Mayor Nagin to suspend plans for people to return to New Orleans, where the city's pumping system is still not at full capacity and levees are only temporarily patched with massive sandbags.