HARRIS COUNTY – In a visit to Texas to survey the damage done by Hurricane Harvey, Ted Cruz spread a message of unity.

“We are all Houstonians,” he said. “We are all Texans. We are all Americans.”

Cruz, the Texas senator and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, was in west Harris County on Wednesday on the outskirts of the Addicks Reservoir, where thousands of families have lost their homes, their cars, their livelihoods after Hurricane Harvey swamped Southeast Texas, Houston included, with trillions of gallons of rain.

Dressed in a blue shirt, jeans and boots, the senator climbed in a black-and-blue airboat and headed east on a flooded Clay Road: past the intersection at Pine Forest Lane, where a gas station was underwater; down to the Pine Forest apartments, which had water well into the first-floor units; and to the Katherine Tyra Library and the Harris County Courthouse Annex, both buildings that succumbed to high water.

“It’s devastating,” Cruz said.

The flooding came after the massive rain from Harvey caused the reservoir to top its banks for the first time in its 70-year history. The Army Corps of Engineers, which maintains control over the reservoir, has been limited in the amount of water it can release without risking flooding homes downstream that have already sustained damage.

Once his journey through the destruction ended, Cruz stepped off the boat and met with victims and rescue volunteers who had been helping save stranded people, pets and even wildlife all day. (One group of volunteers helped rescue a deer swimming through the water. When the doe got on land, she couldn’t stand from exhaustion.)

“I’ve never been more proud to be a Houstonian,” he said.

Cruz said he spoke with FEMA while in Corpus Christi on Tuesday with President Trump during a visit to survey the damage left by Harvey. He promised that Texans affected by the storm will receive help from the federal government.

Cruz met with a woman who lost her home to flooding and a business owner who lost his shop.

Robert Valladares has owned Quick Fix Headliners & Glass with his wife for the better part of 26 years, nearly half of which they’ve worked out of a small shop off Clay Road next to Clay’s restaurant. Never in those years has Valladares seen the water as high as it was Wednesday.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Valladares said. “You work so hard for so many years to see your shop like that.”

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Sen. Ted Cruz talks to Robert Valladares, a small business owner who lost his upholstery shop to the historic flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey.

Matt Keyser / KHOU.com

Valladares said a friend told him his business was unaffected by the water Saturday morning, but when Valladares arrived at 3 that afternoon, he said the water had found its way inside. Much of what was in there was a loss.

Valladares asked Cruz what’s being done to help flood-stricken small business owners with so many resources focused on families and homeowners. Cruz told him, Valladares said, that he’s pushing for more help on the federal level.

In the meantime, volunteers will continue to help: to rescue people stranded in their homes, to provide shelter and help clean up the damage.

Even Valladares was out Wednesday along Clay Road, not even 50 yards from his shop, helping where he could.

“If I sit and cry, it’s only going to make it worse,” he said. “There are people who have it worse. I might as well do something for people who really need it.”