Amid Harvey's wrath, Ted Cruz says focus now on "preservation of life"

Sen. Ted Cruz on Houston flooding

As Houston continues to be pummeled with rainfall from Harvey, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said the focus now is on the "preservation of life" as thousands of displaced residents are forced into shelters.

"Once this storm recedes, and it will, then the focus will be on rebuilding," Cruz said on "CBS This Morning" Tuesday.

Asked if Houston was ill-prepared for an event which Cruz referred to as a "500-year flood," the Republican senator said he was more worried about the magnitude of the storm's impact. Houston's convention center was packed with Texans who have lost their homes. 

"I'm certainly concerned the burden of this storm is exceeding all the projections," said Cruz. 

While relief efforts are underway, Cruz applauded the work of first responders and neighbors "rising up" to help one another escape surging floodwaters.

"If you talk to the people at the shelter, the overwhelming sentiment is just relief, they're sad their possessions are damaged but overwhelmingly there's relief their lives are safe," said Cruz. He added that "appreciation" at the end of the day "is what matters most."

While Cruz hopes to return to Houston to visit with displaced victims of the storm, President Trump is expected to arrive in Texas later Tuesday, visiting both Corpus Christi and Austin to receive briefings on the storm as well as tour emergency operation centers.  

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center said they expect the system to stay over water with 45 mph winds before heading back inland east of Houston sometime Wednesday. The system would then head north and lose its tropical strength, the center said.

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    Emily Tillett

    Emily Tillett is a politics reporter and video editor for CBS News Digital