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Special: Hurricane Katrina Rumbles Towards Louisiana Coast

Aired August 28, 2005 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, right now Hurricane Katrina looks like one of the biggest, baddest storms ever recorded in U.S. history. And this massive, category 5 monster is headed straight for New Orleans, 25 percent of which lies below sea level. As residents do all they can to get out of Katrina's way, we'll get the latest from the mayor of New Orleans and the governor of Louisiana and reporters along the storm front, next on this special Katrina hurricane edition of LARRY KING LIVE.
We'll be talking with lots of people throughout this hour. And Aaron Brown will be live with us following as well. If you saw an article in the "National Geographic" in October of 2004, that's last year, it outlined what would happen if a hurricane -- if a type 5 hurricane -- class 5 hurricane, hit New Orleans. And it would lead to the kind of detestation that would include building debris, coffins, sewage, a giant stagnation pound, maybe a million people homeless.

Let's check first with Dr. Jeffrey Halverson of NASA. Severe weather meteorologist. Is that a correct kind of fear?

DR. JEFFREY HALVERSON, NASA: Absolutely. This is one of the worst case scenarios. It's kind of a doomsday scenario. Very rarely have we ever seen nature conjure a storm this powerful in the past 100 years. It ranks right up there with storms such as Camille and Andrew and Galveston. It is no way to soften the blow of this storm whatsoever. It's packing the worst possible energy in terms of ocean atmosphere, and all imaginable energy.

KING: Any chance, Dr. Halverson -- I've lived through a lot of hurricanes spending time in Miami for 20 years -- that it could change course?

HALVERSON: We've been watching the predictions of the Tropical Prediction Center, the track appears to be fairly stable over the past day or so. They make the official estimate on the point of landfall, but it certainly does look like that locations near and including New Orleans are in the direct path of the storm.

The critical thing to look for is where is that right front quadrant going to make landfall? The right front quadrant contains the highest storm surge, the strongest winds.

So, it appears certainly that portions of Mississippi and eastern Louisiana are on the direct path of that right front quadrant.

KING: Dr. Halverson will be with us for the full hour, our reporters will be checking in. Let's first go to meteorologist Jacqui Jeras at the CNN Weather Center in Atlanta. Jacqui, what's the latest? When is this going to hit the city itself?

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Probably midmorning tomorrow. We'll thinking that it will likely be making landfall before dawn, and then make it's way to New Orleans probably between the hours of 7:00 and 10:00.

KING: And do you agree with Dr. Halverson, it doesn't look like any change?

JERAS: Yeah. We don't see any change. You know, there have been some influctuations in intensity throughout the day today, that's very common. We could see this weaken a little bit, we could see it strengthen a little bit more. But right now, it still looks like it's going to be the big bull's eye for the "Big Easy."

KING: We have Joe Becker, the American Red Cross in Washington, senior vice president for emergency preparedness and response. Could this overwhelm the Red Cross, Joe?

JOE BECKER, AMERICAN RED CROSS: This is going to be the biggest natural disaster that the Red Cross has ever responded to if it meets the projections. It's going to take the Red Cross, it's going to take a lot of cooperation and collaboration with a lot of our partners, with government, with the faith community. It's big, and it's going to take everything we can throw at it.

KING: On the phone from Covington, Kentucky (sic) is Kay Wilkins. She is the chief executive officer of the South East Louisiana Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Where is Covington? And how prepared are you, Kay?

KAY WILKINS, AMERICAN RED CROSS: Well, Covington, Louisiana is about 20 miles, 24 miles outside of New Orleans directly north. And we are battening down the hatches right now, and getting prepared.

KING: How many people live there? Are they evacuating Covington?

WILKINS: They're evacuating the lower lying areas. And we're setting up shelters below those low lying areas, below I-12. We set up shelters above Interstate 12.

KING: Rob Marciano of CNN is in Biloxi, Mississippi. Is Biloxi a city expected to get a direct hit, Rob?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, not so much a direct hit from the eye of the storm, at least according to the latest track forecast which bring it pretty much right up the gut there in New Orleans. But as we've been telling you, really, the past year-and-a- half now with all these hurricanes, the right front quadrant is where the strongest storm -- strongest storm, strongest winds are going to be. So Gulf Port, Biloxi, Pascagoula, this area certainly right in that quadrant.

And you remember Ivan last year went in to just east of Mobile Bay, and it was really Pensacola and east bound over to Panama City, they just got clobbered. So -- and that was weaker storm.

So, this is what we're preparing for here. That wind damage certainly extensive here in Biloxi, and then a storm surge. I mean the Gulf of Mexico right behind me, we could easily see a 10 or 15, even 20 foot storm surge here. We'll be leaving this position, by the way, in about an hour.

KING: Good idea.

John Zarrella of CNN is in New Orleans itself, and we want to thank KPRC in New Orleans for help setting up the equipment so that we can see John and hear from him. What's the word there, John?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the word is right now, Larry, it's that calm before the storm, that eerie feeling. I know you from all the years being in Miami know a light, light breeze, the wind barely -- barely moving. A little bit of a drizzle.

We're here at the Louisiana Super Dome, which is the shelter of last resort for the people who could not get out of the city. Inside right now, and estimated 12,000 people are going to ride out the storm for the next couple of days here, Larry. The line for about six hours there were at least 2,000 people outside who had to wait to get in. They were going through security checks.

In fact, authorities did find alcohol and fire arms in some of the bags that they checked. So, that's why it took so long to get those people in there.

They believe that it's going to flood here, probably above my head. And they believe the field level will be under water. So, all of the people will be in the stands here in the Super Dome. And they will be here at least until Tuesday. It's going to be pretty miserable inside there with the power going out, the certainly expect. But, you know, consider the alternative -- Larry.

KING: Yeah.

Now, Gary Tuchman is going to be our roving reporter tonight. We'll have a lot of others roving by tomorrow morning. Gary is currently in Gulf Port, Mississippi. What's that behind you, Gary?

Apparently, we're having trouble checking in with Gary. Gary, can you hear us?

We'll check back with -- back with Gary.

Let's go to David Mattingly, also in New Orleans. And David is on videophone. What's happen -- have most -- who's been -- how much of the city has been evacuated?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the mandatory evacuation order went out for the entire city. I spoke to a spokesperson for the mayor's office. They say they were very (INAUDIBLE) with the way evacuations took place, and the way that people paid attention to that order. They didn't (INAUDIBLE) percentage of people they thought might be getting out of here.

We saw the thousands of people gathering at the Super Bowl -- at the Super Dome. That shelter of last resort. Here in the city itself, there could possibly still be hundreds, possibly thousands of tourists who were stranded here. When their flights were canceled, and when they realized they weren't able to rent a car out of here, a lot of the hotels are still open at the request of the mayor. He exempted them from the evacuation order. He said that they need to stay open so all these tourists have a place to stay.

And people have been making a lot of accommodations, trying to determine how high the water might be, so they figure out why they might need to stay, third floor, fourth floor, however high it might be. And they are taking this very seriously.

We're right here on Bourbon Street, and Larry, I don't know how many times you've been out here, but when is the last time you saw it this empty? There was virtually nobody out here. And we talked to people who live here and work here and they tell us that in the past, they've had hurricanes, they've continued to party out here. They close the doors, they battened up the hatches and they've just continued to (INAUDIBLE) and the good go. That's not happening this time.

A little earlier, there was a bar behind me that was still open. A lot of people who were stranded here were going there to get their last cold drink and their last hot meal, which was a slice of pizza.

Everyone very mindful of what might be coming. They say the biggest thing on their mind right now, they feel pretty good about where their accommodations there, and that they'll be OK during the storm, they want to know how bad is it going to be? How long is it going to take for the flood waters to get out of here? And how long will they be stranded here with the lights off and no supplies?

So, really, they're looking at problems for days from now that people are already anticipating.

KING: Thanks, Dave. And it goes without saying, we'll be covering this all week long, as long as this lasts. And hoping for the best. I have a lot of friends in New Orleans, and a very personal feeling for it. Four years ago, I had the honor of being King of Bacchus and marched in a parade right down that street.

Been to Super Bowls in New Orleans, spoken at many conventions in New Orleans. It's a great city. And the whole area there, that beautiful part of the United States, and the beautiful beaches and -- what a tragedy this looks like it's going to be.

Back with more after this.


KING: You're watching a special Sunday night live edition of LARRY KING LIVE. And we'll be doing this all week, it looks like, covering Hurricane Katrina. We'll check in with Gary Tuchman now. We didn't connect with him earlier. Gary is in Gulf Port, Mississippi in front of a pool. What's that all about, Gary?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, sorry. This is a hotel that's being used as a shelter for people. It's a couple of miles away from the beach. People who couldn't get too far from the danger area. And included among the beings they're using this as a shelter, three dolphins who are in the water behind me.

There's an aquarium a few miles down the street next to the beach. It was deemed too dangerous for the six dolphins in the aquarium to stay there, so three of them have been moved to one hotel, three of them have been moved to this hotel.

It's hard to see them in the dark, but these are some of the toys they're playing with. I been allowed to throw them in and see if the dolphins go for it. And you can see a dolphin going for the orange ball right behind me.

I've covered a lot of hurricanes, Larry. It's the first time we've been to a hotel where we're going to have dolphins swimming around the whole time.

They're hoping to keep trainers with them here as long as they can, as long as it's safe. But we're only about 45 miles, as the crow flies, away from New Orleans. We're directly east, as Rob Marciano was just talking about, this could be the most dangerous spot of this potentially deadly hurricane -- Larry.

KING: Gary, do a lot of sea animals get washed ashore in this kind of tragedy?

TUCHMAN: Well, they're talking about, Larry, back in 1969, Hurricane Camille, category 5 hurricane, one of only three category 5 hurricanes to hit the United States in recorded weather history, when it came to this very area 36 years ago, it was estimated that 4,000 animals, including many sea animals, lost their lives in addition to more than 250 people.

KING: Boy. Are we expecting -- we'll check with Max Mayfield in just a moment, in fact, he should be checking in momentarily -- Max Mayfield is director of the National Hurricane Center -- are we expecting, Joe Becker, lots of life lost?

BECKER: I think that's a distinct possibility in this scenario. When you hear the word catastrophic used to describe what might happen, it could include loss of life.

People have responded well, they've evacuated. They followed the evacuation orders. But you've got the combination of wind. And you've got the combination of flooding. And it's certainly possible can lose their lives in this.

KING: Let's go to our friend Max Mayfield at the National Hurricane Center in Miami. The director of the National Center. Max, on the wires, it's saying you're predicting a large loss of life. Is that true?

MAX MAYFIELD, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Larry, if people don't take the proper precautions here, we certainly could have loss of lives. I think the damage is going to be catastrophic. This hurricane is as strong as Camille and Andrew right now, but it's much larger. So, it's going to have an impact over an ever larger area than those two hurricanes did.

KING: The loss of life will be mostly what, drowning?

MAYFIELD: Well, yes. And we certainly know that a hurricane is not just a coastal event. The strong winds, heavy rains and the tornadoes will spread well, well inland. In fact, not only is southern Louisiana, but all through Mississippi and western Alabama. But the greatest loss of life from this hurricane, I think, will come from the storm surge in southeastern Louisiana and on the Mississippi and possibly the Alabama coast.

KING: Max, you've covered a lot of these. Does this look like the worst?

MAYFIELD: It does, Larry, not just because of the intensity, but the size of this, and of course, the area that it's hitting. And we've had a lot of focus on New Orleans, as we certainly should have, but we don't want to forget those less populated areas, especially in Mississippi, because they are going to have some very high storm surge later, too.

KING: And no chance do you see -- we've asked this of others -- of it veering and going elsewhere?

MAYFIELD: Larry, there's always a change it'll divvy a little bit to the left, a little bit to the right, but I don't see how that's going to make too much difference in the overall scheme of things here. I think this is just going to have a catastrophic impact on southeast Louisiana and Mississippi.

KING: How often do you issue bulletins?

MAYFIELD: We're issuing something every single hour, now. We're putting out a public advisory every two hours, and another little statement in between there. So, it's a continuous flow of information.

KING: When will it hit land?

MAYFIELD: Well, it's already hitting, for all practical purposes here. These outer rain bands are spreading across the coastline here. The eye that you can see on radar from slidel (ph) here will actually be on the coast early tomorrow morning. And things will continue to deteriorate, well, later tonight and all through the day tomorrow.

KING: And this was a strange one, right, not only in its intensity, but it hit south, it was eastern coast, it went south, Miami, around Key West and then up, right? MAYFIELD: It's already had an impact on us. And even a lot of the folks here at the hurricane center lost power or stranded because of flooding down here. And impact in the Florida Keys.

But we need to remember, it was a category one hurricane down here. This is a completely different hurricane here -- category five.

KING: One other thing, we'll check back with you later, most don't go south and then north, do they?

MAYFIELD: Well, this dipped southwest there for, you know, a day or so, but we've seen that before. We've even seen some that looped. Now, this one is headed north-northwest, then turn more towards the north. There are a lot of people, you know, in advance of this hurricane that really need to, you know, batten down the hatches.

KING: Thank you very much. Max Mayfield...

MAYFIELD: Thank you, Larry.

KING: ...director of the National Hurricane Center. Good guy.

We'll check on the phone now with Mayor Ray Nagin. He's the mayor of New Orleans. Where are you situated, Mayor?

MAY. RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: I'm definitely hunkered down in City Hall waiting for this storm, kind of decide what it's going to do.

KING: How prepared is the city?

NAGIN: Pretty well prepared. We've gone through out various stages of -- excuse me -- of our evacuation process. There's a million, two million, three people in the metropolitan area. We probably evacuated about a million people out of this city and the surrounding parishes.

KING: Are all the hotels, the Super Dome, are they safe from these kind of winds?

NAGIN: Well, you know, as safe as you would expect. But this is an unprecedented storm with incredible power -- 160 mile an hour winds, gusting up close to 200 miles an hour. So, the Super Dome is definitely pretty safe, and that's a shelter of last resort. We have about 20,000 to 25,000 people in there right now. And the hotels seem to be holding up OK right now at the moment.

KING: Your city hasn't taken a major, direct hit since Betsy in 1965. It also, the Port of New Orleans, handles much of the nation's oil transportation. Have all those ships moved out?

NAGIN: Most of the ships have moved out. And Larry, you bring up a great point, we probably handle about 25 percent of the nation's domestic oil production. And if that is halted for a significant amount of time, it could impact prices at the gas pumps.

KING: That's all we need.

What about the nightmare scenario that as some are forecasting, as "National Geographic" forecast last year, that this could, if it stays a 5, become a toxic lake of chemicals and oil from the refineries and waste from the septic systems. And you could have a horrendous tragedy?

NAGIN: Well, you know, I think we're going to have an incredible challenge regardless. This storm has a 20 foot storm surge, plus waves. The city of New Orleans is basically designed like a bowl. We're below sea level for the most part, so we most likely will have a significant amount of water and everything associated with that. So it's going to be a tremendous challenge.

KING: What happens in the cemeteries?

NAGIN: Well, the cemeteries, most of them -- most of the people are buried above ground, some are below ground. So, with all that water, I'm sure it's going to disrupt several of the cemeteries.

KING: All your police on duty?

NAGIN: Every police is on duty. We have the National Guard that has taken control of the Super Dome. I've gotten calls from the White House. There are people standing by ready to help. So, once the storm gets through, the clean up efforts will commence in haste.

KING: Did you get all the homeless in shelters?

NAGIN: We've got just about everybody in one major shelter, which is the Louisiana Super Dome, which is designed to probably sustain the kind of winds that we're going to have. There's probably 20,000 to 25,000 people in the Super Dome as we speak.

KING: That can hold 80,000, can't it?

NAGIN: Yes, it can. We've gotten a significant amount of people out of the city, so fortunately, we didn't have to have it at full capacity.

KING: That doesn't have emergency power, though, does it -- the Super Dome? It's going to lose it's air conditioning, isn't it?

NAGIN: It does have emergency power, but I think for the most part, after the storm hits, the entire city will probably be without power at some point.

KING: Thanks mayor. Our prayers are with you.

NAGIN: Thank you, Larry.

KING; Mayor Ray Nagin, the mayor of New Orleans.

We'll come back with out panel, lots of more discussion. Get some time, maybe, to include your phone calls too on this special Sunday night edition of LARRY KING LIVE as we stay with Hurricane Katrina, which could turn into the worst ever to hit the United States if it stays at this. We've only had three category 5 hurricanes ever hit us before. And this looks like wider spread than the other three. We'll be right back.


KING: We're back.

Joining us on the phone from the capital in Baton Rouge, is Governor Kathleen Babineau Blanco, the governor of Louisiana. Governor Blanco, have you spoken with the president?

GOV. KATHLEEN BABINEAU BLANCO, LOUISIANA: Yes, I have, Larry. He called earlier today and certainly issued his concern, voiced his concerns for the citizens of Louisiana. Was glad to hear that the mayor had already decided to do a mandatory evacuation, because he was recommending that -- evacuation of New Orleans, that is -- a mandatory evacuation. I believe that he understands the magnitude of what we're dealing with. And we appreciate his concern.

KING: What are you saying to the people of your state?

BLANCO: I'm asking that they stay patient. We still have a number of people on the highway systems. They're continuing to move out of harm's way into safer regions of the state. We still are moving a large number of people, and we're asking them to be patient and to be courteous and to be helpful to each other.

KING: Governor, what -- in and era like this, I don't know how you rate this -- but what's your biggest concern?

BLANCO: My biggest concern right now, Larry, is the unknown. We don't know what the storm will deliver to us. We can expect a fairly large amount of water. We don't know what kind of flooding we'll experience. Of course, we have the nightmare scenarios of 20 feet or better of water that may envelope the city. That would be the worst of all worlds, I believe.

We know, we're going to have property damage. We know we're going to have high wind damage. We're hoping that we don't lose a lot of lives.

KING: What will you do all night?

BLANCO: Well, we'll be monitoring this storm, as we've been doing for the last day and a half. We've been watching very carefully, it's progression and encouraging our citizens to be safe. And I'll continue to do that.

KING: How well are you prepared?

BLANCO: Well, Louisiana has experienced hurricanes over and over again. We've got a lot of emergency personnel that are well trained and well experienced in recovery efforts. But there's no way to actually be prepared for a hurricane of this magnitude going into that populated area. We've had other areas of the state hit, and they've been dramatically impaired. Now, we're talking about into Louisiana's most heavily populated area, and it gives us great concern.

KING: Governor, thank you. We'll stay close.

BLANCO: Thank you, Larry. And I appreciate your concern.

KING: Governor Blanco. The governor of Louisiana

John Zarrella, as I remember back in Miami, a lot of residents when a hurricane was coming, would check in to big hotels, the Fountainbleu, the Eden Rock, they were safe against high winds. Is that happening there?

ZARRELLA: Well, most of the residents -- well, in fact during Hurricane Ivan a year ago, that's exactly what happened. It's called vertical evacuation. People that didn't have anywhere to go, didn't want to leave the city came to the hotels and got in. And in fact, a lot of the hotels here, the workers, all of their families have been invited by the hotels to come and stay here.

As far as the locals -- other locals coming into the hotels, didn't see a lot of that this time. I think most of those people in this particular instance decided that the better part of valor was to go ahead and evacuate completely and get out.But yes, vertical evacuation is the only way you can do it here.

You know Larry, there's a saying, you run from the water and you hide from the wind. You know, and running from the water here means up, and the hiding from the wind part, people survive the wind, as Max Mayfield said, but it's the water that may be the big killer in this one -- Larry.

KING: Are all planes out of the airport?

ZARRELLA: Yep. Every thing is closed down. A lot of tourists we've talked to here are stranded here with nowhere to go. People that were supposed to be flying out today or tomorrow stuck in the hotels asking us, you know, when do we think they'd be able to get out of here? By Tuesday?

And, you know, you kind of look at them and say, well, you know, maybe if you're lucky Tuesday. You may be Tuesday sometime in September before they get out of here, depending on how bad it is.

KING: Let's get another update from Max Mayfield, the director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami. We just spoke with him -- Max.

MAYFIELD: Hi, Larry.

KING: Still going forward? Still a five?

MAYFIELD: It is right now, and we may see some fluctuations. It may go down to a four, but it may even come back to a five. So people need to plan on a cat four or cat five.

And I caught a little bit of what my friend John Zarrella said there about the high rises. And that's right. You want to get up away from that rising water. But I also want to issue a word of warning there, the people in those high rises need to understand that the winds are even stronger aloft. So, they need to be down -- you know, not up in the top of those high rises. Get into the stairwells, or enter a hallway or a closet with no windows. And if the windows start blowing, you know, they need to get a mattress over their heads.

KING: Do we know that tall buildings can resist 165 mile-an-hour wind?

MAYFIELD: Well, certainly the engineered buildings can do that, now. Some of the older ones, I'm not a structural engineer, and not the best person to speak to that. But certainly the newer ones should be able to handle that.

But people really need to heed the advice of those local officials. And they have been encouraging evacuation. And I don't like to refer that as vertical evacuation, I'd rather say vertical refuge. If you can't evacuate, then the only option you have may be the vertical refuge.

KING: I don't want to sound silly, Max. Is there a category 6?

MAYFIELD: No, sir, there's not. The five is going to be plenty bad enough.

KING: How bad could the winds get?

MAYFIELD: Well, I think we've seen about as much as we're going to see here. It may even weaken a little and come back. And I think we're probably talking a border line category four or category five. But even if this were to weaken considerably, which we don't think it's going to do, down to a category three, we're going to have major, major damage.

KING: What's the highest wind ever recorded?

MAYFIELD: Well, the highest wind on the surface, we're never sure of. We just don't have the observation on the surface to know. We estimated hurricanes -- of Andrew, we estimated at 145 knots, which is 165 miles per hour. Camille in the Labor Day hurricane is similar to that. But we never know with any absolute certainty, what the winds are down on the surface.

KING: All right. And Max, the latest on when this is going to hit -- about when will it hit, let's say New Orleans?

MAYFIELD: Well, the eye will be on the coast here by tomorrow morning, probably around 8:00 am or so Eastern time and then another hour or so to get up to New Orleans. That's the eye itself.

But this is such a large hurricane, that we really need to keep emphasizing that. The hurricane force winds extend out nearly 100 miles or so. So, conditions are going to start going down hill tonight and really go down hill tomorrow morning.

KING: And finally, Max, how large? How wide?

MAYFIELD: Well, the hurricane force winds go out about hundred miles, the tropical storm force winds about 200 miles, so this is going to be with us some time. It will start increasing in forward speed after it makes landfall. But the folks there in the coastal areas, southeast Louisiana and Mississippi are going to have a horrible day tomorrow.

KING: Thank you Max Mayfield atop the scene at the National Hurricane Center in Miami. As always, Max, thanks.

MAYFIELD: Thank you, Larry.

KING: Let's go back to Gary Tuchman, who is still at that pool in Gulf Port, Mississippi. You have somebody with you, Gary?

TUCHMAN: Thanks right, Larry. We were telling your viewers that behind us three dolphins swimming in a hotel swimming pool for safe keeping from an aquarium down the street where it's too dangerous for them to be in.

With us, is the president of that aquarium. This is Moby Salangi, the president of the Marine Life Oceanarium in Gulf Port, Mississippi. Why did you decide to bring the dolphins to a hotel pool? They're swimming right behind you.

DR. MOBY SOLANGI, MARINE LIFE OCEANARIUM: Well, you know, the conditions of the hurricane. We're right on the sea level, and we expect 15 to 20 foot tidal wave. And it's not safe for the dolphins to be there, especially the low lying tank.

TUCHMAN: OK. Well, why is it safe here? We're only about three of four miles away from the beach. This is where, perhaps, 165 mile- an-hour winds will come in. Is there any chance, the dolphins can blow out of this pool?

SOLANGI: No. I think the wind is not an issue, it's the flooding. And when you expect a 15, 20 foot tide, it's pretty devastating. And we've you know, have gone through Camille and many hurricane with dead animals here. And this is 35 miles away from the coast. It's pretty safe.

TUCHMAN: You've told me something very fascinating, that you're aquarium was built in the 50's, so it was there during Camille in 1969, and that the entire thing was destroyed except for the two tanks where you had the dolphins earlier today, but you were scared to leave them there this time around.

SOLANGI: That's correct. There are several other tanks. We left some. But the rare (ph) tanks, we've got them back here.

TUCHMAN: You also have seal lions, seals, exotic birds. What did you do with them? SOLANGI: Yeah. We are taking them out, putting them in cages and putting them in a warehouse. We're taking our birds, the tropical birds and send them eastward. It's a very involved process, a lot of people involved. We're looking at a very devastating storm.

TUCHMAN: Good luck to your dolphins, doctor. Thank you.

SOLANGI: Thank you so much.

TUCHMAN: We want to tell you, Larry, one of the reasons we're very concerned here, they have a river nearby here in Gulf Port, the Wolf River, eight feet is flood gates, the highest it's ever been, they're telling is is (INAUDIBLE) feel. They're saying by 11:00 am tomorrow, they expect it to be at 23 feet. They're telling everyone who goes anywhere near there, get out. Words they used in the press release. Get out -- Larry.

KING: Thanks, Gary.

Rob Marciano, how long are you going to stay in Biloxi?

MARCIANO: Well, we'll move north of I-10. It's about five, six miles inland later tonight. And we're going to hunker down there tomorrow. So, we'll be pretty darned close to Biloxi throughout the entire storm.

One of the main, other concerns -- and just down the road from Gulf Port, we're concerned about the storm surge, and of course, the wind damage. A big business in Biloxi, the majority of it, are the casinos. And by state law, they have to actually float on the Gulf of Mexico waters. So they're held down only by moorings. It's quite possible with a large storm surge and battering wind and waves, that some of those casino barges could be, you know, lifted off their moorings and be floating around the Gulf of Mexico. They've taken care of that. They've secured them as much as possible. But that's a distinct possibility.

Ironically, Larry, Keesler Air Force Base is also in Biloxi, Mississippi. And that's where the Air Force Hurricane Hunters fly out of to actually go into these storms. And this is one of the target cities where we're going to feel the brunt of it.

KING: Thanks very much. We'll be back with lots more. Aaron Brown will be with you live at the top of the hour. And CNN, of course, will be live around the clock covering the hurricane. We'll be back with more tomorrow night as well. The real force hits tomorrow morning. We'll be right back.


KING: Katrina is coming.

Joe Becker, the American Red Cross, senior vice president for emergency preparedness in Washington. What about someone in a hospital in New Orleans who is going to have bypass surgery tomorrow morning or give birth tonight? BECKER: The local health professionals, that's they're role in this, is to work with those people who we call special needs. It depends on the damage to the hospitals and the medical community is prepared to deal with that.

And on a federal level, there's a system of national medical professionals that would back them up should they need be there.

KING: Can a hospital lose its electricity?

BECKER: Most of the hospitals tend to have back up generator facilities, particularly for the critical operations.

KING: Kay Wilkins, what about in Covington? Do you have any major hospital there?

WILKINS: We have major hospitals in this area. But again, as Joe indicated, they all have back up plans. They've already gotten the generators going and have canceled any sort of elective surgeries, so that truly, the ones who are in the hospital are those that have a need for critical care.

KING: Dr. Halverson, fear plays a part in this. And fear is logical, isn't it?

HALVERSON: It is logical, however, we also have something called hurricane amnesia, which is if you live in a vulnerable location, you haven't experienced one of these storms in a great many years, or you may know some people, sometimes fear isn't always there where you want it, when you need it. And so we have to dislodge some of this amnesia. We have to make people understand just how absolutely deadly this storm is. It -- maybe to compare to this storm in the past.

KING: Dave Mattingly, you're in New Orleans. We know New Orleans well. A lot of old buildings in New Orleans. Might we lose them?

MATTINGLY: There's been a great deal of concern about that, Larry. You just look around the French Quarter. You see these old buildings, some of them dating back to the 1700s. The question has been raised, how many of them are going to be able to survive if these dire predictions come true and there's 10 to 20 feet of water in the street of the French Quarter. All this water getting in there, doing damage to the interior walls. And of course, the wind from the hurricane pushing these buildings around on all sides as it comes through.

People are wondering how many of these buildings will be standing if these dire predictions come true. And I keep prefacing that, hoping that it doesn't come true. Everyone here hoping, really, that this storm will not be as bad as everyone hope -- or is saying that it might be. But everyone very much preparing for that eventuality.

KING: But Dr. Halverson, you seem to be saying it will be, not might be. HALVERSON: It seems like a certainty at this point. You know, looking at that satellite image of that storm, and the radar imagery, there is this (INAUDIBLE) way to escape a storm of this magnitude, of this enormous size that's bearing down on these communities.

When you combine 20 or so foot with wind speeds, perhaps, on the order of 130, 140 miles an hour, gusts inland in addition to all the rain that's going to fall. In addition, also what's going to happen to a lot of the east coast as well.

The mountains of the Appalachians, up into the Ohio Valley, there's going to be a lot of damage and destruction all the way up through some of these low lying and some of the mountainous areas, more from the rains than the winds here, but keep in mind that this is a cat five storm, where it's a tremendous amount of energy in the upper atmosphere. It's going to take many, many days for this storm to spin down before it is truly spent.

KING: Are you saying it could go to the northeastern United States?

HALVERSON: Yes. I do believe that locations up there certainly are extremely vulnerable to heavy rains, perhaps landslides. Remember what Camille did. Camille made landfall over Louisiana, kind of went into a quiescent period, where it almost disappeared from the weather maps, than on about the third day, it reappeared again with full fury over the mountains of central Virginia, and dumped about two feet of rain in the space of six hours.

KING: John Zarrella, how long do you stay where you are?

ZARRELLA: Well, throughout the storm, Larry. We'll be in the hotel in the French Quarter. And hopefully ride it out throughout the night. Right here, this is it. In the next couple of hours, we're done here, than we go back to the hotel.

And I want to add to what the professor was saying there. You know, that more than half of the people that died in Camille, died inland up there in Virginia and Pennsylvania from that massive inland flooding. You know, more people now die in hurricanes from fresh water flooding inland than they do in coastal storm surge. At least, that's been recent memory.

This one may change that again. But that's a fact. And people well inland need to be very, very mindful of what's coming their way -- Larry.

KING: Jacqui Jeras, at the Weather Center, our CNN meteorologist, what's the latest?

JERAS: Well, the latest is, it's about 165, 170 miles away from new Orleans. We've got winds of 160 miles per hour. We've had gusts as high as 200 miles per hour. Those outer bands have been moving on in. And it's just looking very devastating.

We were talking about some of the areas inland. We focus so much on New Orleans and the exact landfall, but we really also need to talk more about how far in the rain is going to go, and how far in the wind is going to be going.

The forecast has still a category four, maybe a category three hurricane when it gets all the way up to Jackson, Mississippi, so we're talking hundreds of miles inland. In fact, we even have tropical storm force winds expected by the time it gets into Indiana late on Tuesday and into Wednesday.

KING: We'll be right back with more. Aaron Brown will be with you at the top of the hour. Don't go away.


KING; We're back. Let's include a call. Port Richie, FLorida, hello.

CALLER: Yeah, hi. Good evening, Larry.


CALLER: This is to anyone. On that Super Dome, how high can the wind -- can it handle? The Super Dome. The winds are expected to be that high.

KING: John?

ZARRELLA: Yeah, Larry. They were in the process of doing some structural testing to see. They don't know, for sure, if it will withstand the winds. Their best guess is that it will. But analysis was just being done. And has not been completed.

KING: Dr. Halverson said they just reported gusts to 200 miles an hour. What do you make of that?

HALVERSON: Well, that certainly is about as extreme as nature can produce in terms of the wind gusts. I just want to say one thing about the winds, that when the wind speed doubles, the force exerted by the winds quadruples.

And when this storm was a category one over South Florida with winds of 80, 90 miles an hour, the winds have now effectively doubled in this system, more so than doubled. Imagine what force those winds are now capable of producing.

KING: Knoxville, Tennessee, hello.

CALLER: Yes. I've been watching. And I was wanted to know why they haven't the opened side of the bridge on the interstate to let more people out? They seem to just be stuck there.

KING: David?

MATTINGLY: They actually did do that. They're called contra flow. For a time, they had both sides of the interstate open, allowing people on both sides of that interstate to move either north or to the west. It was going to be a temporary measure. You might be referring to recent pictures. I'm not sure if that extra lane has been closed down yet or not.

But it was a temporary measure, and a lot of people were taking advantage of that earlier today.

KING: Kay Wilkins, how much of your area has been evacuated?

WILKINS: Chapter covers all of southeast Louisiana, which includes New Orleans, so all of our Chapter. We're sheltering in about 15 percent of our chapter's population and geographical area.

KING: Gary Tuchman, are you still with us?

OK, Gary is on his way to somewhere. And he'll be reporting from somewhere else. He's on his way away from that hotel

David Mattingly is in New Orleans. Rob Marciano is in Biloxi. Is Biloxi expecting part of a direct hit here?

MARCIANO: Well, we're going to be on the right side of the storm. And that's often the most dangerous part of the storm, Larry. So that's what has people nervous here. I mean, people are scared, at least the ones who are old enough to remember Camille, and will at least tell their kids about it. They're respecting this storm, most of which are heading out of town.

If this thing jogs even a little bit farther to the right, we'll get hammered even more.

But in it's current track, Larry, with hurricane force winds extending outward over 100 miles, we're well within that hurricane force wind zone. And certainly, I will suspect, we'll see it easily over 100 mile an hour winds here. And that will do some damage. So, as far as being in the direct path? Around about question, yeah.

KING: John, won't we lose the ability to contact you?

ZARRELLA: Yeah. Certainly by conventional means. Satellite trucks, you know, if there are any that are still here, they very well could go under water. But we have what we call DNG equipment, and we are going to be setting that up inside the hotel rooms. We can literally use batteries to power that, which is what we'll have to do, because there won't be any electricity. We can even take a car battery out of one of our vehicles, bring it up to the room and hook up to that. And we will be able to get a signal out. Now, whether we can get the signals out through the density of the cloud cover and the intense rain, that's another story.

But as long as we are all intact after the storm goes through, Larry, we will certainly be in position to get pictures out of what has transpired here in New Orleans.

KING: Joe Becker, do you remain in Washington?

BECKER: I'll be in Washington for a few days. And then probably heading south as well.

You know, Larry, I think one of the points that we need to talk about is we've got a large-scale evacuation here. And in a typical hurricane, the people then go back home fairly quickly and look at what used to be their house. And particularly in the city of New Orleans, we're going to have an evacuation and people staying in shelters for a very extended period of time here.

KING: Whoa. And what will that lead to?

BECKER: I think what we're looking at is -- depending on how long it takes the waters to recede in New Orleans, we could have shelters that are in operation for weeks on end. And that's what people are going to call home.

And I tell you, when you spend the night on the same cot in a high school gym for weeks on time next to the same guy who has been snoring all this time, it gets a little old after awhile. It does.

KING: John, what are the people saying that you've spoken to before they cut out?

ZARRELLA: Well, and the people are hopeful, like everyone, that something will change and it'll go in a little bit of a different direction. But the reality is exactly what you heard. The nightmare scenarios that people understand here, it's been drilled in their head for decades, is that if it transpires here, that it will take, not weeks, but months to get the water out of the city, to pump it out, perhaps blowing the levies to get the water to back flow into Pontchartrain.

It is an unbelievable nightmare scenario. And it could literally be months before people can come back to this city.

KING: You're watching a special Sunday night edition of LARRY KING LIVE, covering Hurricane Katrina as we will be doing around the clock. Aaron Brown will be with you at the top of the hour. We'll be back with more right after this.


KING: Portland, Oregon, hello.

CALLER: Yes. I just had a call in a question. What will they do with all the inmates in all the prisons around in local area? What will happen with them?

KING: David Mattingly, what will they do?

MATTINGLY: They have procedures in place (INAUDIBLE) take them to other facilities. They've been working on that all day. And we were listening to one sheriff talking about how they've been making plans for that for quite some time, ever since Katrina came on the scene and cross into the Gulf of Mexico.

So, it's something they've planned for. And they'll be ready to take care -- of they are taking of right now, in fact.

KING: Thank you, David. David will be checking in with Aaron Brown as well.

Dallas, hello.

CALLER: Yes. I just had a question, my family -- actually I moved to Dallas month ago, and my family, they evacuated here to Dallas. I have about 14 family members here. And we're kind of touching bases with my brother. He's a police officer and he had to stay behind to pretty much keep things in order. And we will all just wondering, how long will it actually take for my family to be able to get back in and check on things and even -- you know, my sister-in-law to reunite with her husband, and you know, for us to be able to see our nephew whose also a peace officer?

KING: You all left for Dallas, when?

CALLER: I left -- I moved to Dallas a month ago, but my family left at about 4:00 this morning. And they got here sometime late afternoon.

KING: Wow. OK, John Zarrella, when do you think they'll be able to go back?

ZARRELLA: Well, that's the question nobody can answer. It just depends on how bad the storm is. Again, there are the scenarios where if it is really, really as intense and as bad as people think it might be, it could certainly be weeks if not longer before people can come back into the city, because it may take that long to get the water out of the city.

KING: John Zarrella will be checking in with Aaron Brown as well.

Carbondale, Illinois, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. The evacuations that were ordered, were mandatory. And I was just wonder, since reports were mentioning that some people, a considerable amount of people were choosing to ride out the storm, what happens to them legally, those that have chosen to ride it out?

KING: Do we know, Dr. Halverson, are there legal complications here if you staid?

HALVERSON: I think that is a question better answered by the authorities on the local level. I can't speculate on what's legal and not legal.

KING: Rob, do you know?

MARCIANO: Well, they've instituted a new law here in Mississippi since 1969 when Hurricane Camille came on shore and not a lot of people left and they lost their lives because of it. Mandatory evacuation means that authorities can come to your home now and physically remove you. You have a choice not to be physically removed, but then you have to sign a release, some sort of legal release that releases them from any sort of responsibility and from having to come get you. And it also, as they like to threaten people who decide to stay, they're going to use that piece of paper to possibly identify your body after the storm.

So, that's what -- at least what they do here now in Mississippi since category five Hurricane Camille came on shore in 1969.

KING: Thanks, Rob.

Kay Wilkins, thanks very much for your reports. We'll be checking with your around the clock. We appreciate Joe Becker and Dr. Halverson. Thanks so much. And to our correspondents as well and to officials that have checked with us earlier.

With a challenging concept such as this one, you know CNN will be right there for you. So, just leave it right here. We'll be around the clock live.

And we're going to go to a special edition of NEWSNIGHT. We understand it will be a two hour edition. It'll be hosted by Aaron Brown. And again, this is 24 hour live coverage, so we'll be back again with more on Katrina tomorrow night -- Aaron.


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