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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Hurricane Katrina Slams Gulf Coast

Aired August 29, 2005 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


PAULA ZAHN, HOST: And good evening everyone. Thank you for joining us for our special coverage tonight. Katrina slams into the Gulf Coast with massive damage and now come reports of bodies floating in the water.
It's 7:00 p.m. on the East Coast, 4:00 p.m. in the West. 360 starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: For those in Katrina's way, indeed it was a terrible day and she's not done yet. Live from the heart of the hurricane, this is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360.

ZAHN: And the pictures say it far more powerfully than any words could ever convey. Good evening. Hurricane Katrina, one of the most powerful and dangerous hurricanes ever on record slammed into the Gulf Coast this morning with winds as high as 140 miles per hour. The damage is immense and may take years to undo. Here's what we know that the hour.

Power is out all across the region. Parts of New Orleans and Mobile have been flooded with many other communities also under water. Some homes under water up to their rooftops. Earlier today President Bush declared a state of emergency for the entire Gulf Coast. Right now Katrina has been downgraded from a Category 4 hurricane to a Category 1 storm, but there still could be an awful lot of damage caused by that powerful of a storm. The images are absolutely incredible. This driver in New Orleans nearly drowned when his car was swept away by the rising water.

CNN is your hurricane headquarters. Tonight our coverage of Katrina begins with our own Wolf Blitzer.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With each passing hour, new images of devastation. New Orleans, bracing for catastrophe was spared direct hit by Hurricane Katrina, but even with the storm passing to the east, the effects on the Big Easy are nothing short of devastating. Wind gusts up to 120 miles an hour shattered windows on downtown high-rises and sent potentially deadly debris, rocketing through the city's deserted streets. They were powerful enough to shred part of the roof covering the Superdome where some 10,000 people had sought shelter.

Flooding was widespread across the low lying region. Katrina's storm surge combining with torrential rain to inundate some neighborhoods.

And in the storm's wake, a new problem. Looting seen in at least one New Orleans store. Devastating floods also swapping coastal areas of neighboring Mississippi. Some areas drowning under more than a foot of rain. State officials underscore the scope of what they're facing.

GOV. HALEY BARBOUR, (R) MS: The state today has suffered a grievous blow on the coast and we're not through. It's a major disaster and there's much left to happen.

BLITZER: Further east in Alabama, Katrina pushed waters of Mobile Bay into downtown streets and left parts of Interstate 10 under water. President Bush traveling in Arizona urged Gulf Coast residents to not let their guard down.

GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT: Don't abandon your shelters until you're given clearance by the local authorities. Take precautions because this is a dangerous storm. When the storm passes the federal government has got assets and resources that will be deploying to help you.

BLITZER: Wolf Blitzer, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: As we mentioned a little bit earlier on, Katrina has now been downgraded but it is still a very dangerous and destructive storm. Let's turn to meteorologist Rob Marciano who is tracking the hurricane. He joins us live from Biloxi, Mississippi with the very latest. Rob, boy, that picture says it all behind you.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: What I'm about to show you is just a small portion of what the folks of Biloxi have seen. We have some video and we hope to show you in the next 30 minutes that will really take your breath away. We're just standing outside the hotel that we spent the night in and the day in and believe me it was a long day not only for us but the guests in this hotel.

Over to my left, trees down. These are mature pine trees, a forest that pretty much rims around the hotel was about three times as dense as it is right now. Trees not only being uprooted but snapping in half and brush being snapped in half as well.

So if you think trees take this kind of big beating, how about structures? This piece is of our actual hotel right here. Built about five years ago. You could argue that they don't build them like they used to, but I tell you what, you have winds over 100 miles an hour and that is going to do some structural damage.

Windows actually being blown out of their frames and flying off the building and on to the lawn, but this is what really impresses me. I mean, we had no idea that damage was going to be here when we walked out the door this afternoon. Stucco literally ripped off the side of the building all of the way down the plywood the entire side and it's like this on the other side as well. You can't see it, but the roof, part of the roof on the southern side, completely ripped off.

Where some of our crew is staying, where we were shooting from less than six hours ago. The roof and the ceiling gone and you can actually see daylight.

This sign up here for whatever reason remains standing. That's still puzzling, but that's kind of the way the storms go. Beyond the sign, look at the clouds. This is kind of taking me back all day long. Look at these clouds, how fast they're moving across the sky. We're in the southeast quadrant of the storm now and winds are finally beginning to diminish to where we can actually stand out here in a safe manner, but you know something's going on.

These ominous clouds just whipping around this area of low pressure that is now to our north and west and that at least for a meteorologist is certainly impressive. The damage as the governor put it, "catastrophic and unprecedented."

All of the shelters in Harrison County have some sort of damage. Right now in those shelter, no injuries, but we just got word that the Miami Dade fire department is sending urban search and rescue crew, 28 people with search dogs as well. So that's a bit sobering.

Paula, in about 30 minutes we hope to feed you and show you some video shot just about four miles from here closer into Biloxi and it's difficult to look at.

ZAHN: I guess the numbers are absolutely staggering tonight. You mentioned the shelters. We have just learned that there are some 8,500 people in the State of Mississippi that are now in Red Cross shelters. Seventy nine of them in all. I'm just curious for folks who still aren't stuck in the shelters what you're seeing on the street. Are any homeowners braving it, coming back to see what the damage looks like to their own personal property?

MARCIANO: Well, we haven't -- the governor's preferring that folks don't actually even go out on the streets because the streets are literally littered with kitchen appliances. It's just difficult to get around. People are now of course -- they don't always listen. So they're starting to get out. As far as folks who stayed the night in this hotel, the majority of them don't live along the coast. They live close by. They come here when there's a storm because they have a structure that they're scared of so they were unnerved by the fact that this hotel where they came to be safe was being torn apart by these winds. But as far as me and my crew actually going out to survey the damage, we haven't had the ability to do that. It has just recently become safe enough for us actually to come outside.

The winds have been whipping the hurricane force up until about two hours ago and with all the debris that's down, nails and plywood. I mean, those are projectiles that can kill you. So even though the wind's dropped down to 50 down to 60, 70 miles an hour, it was strong enough to pick up the debris and it was just a dangerous, dangerous situation. So we'll obviously know more tomorrow when we go out to take a better look, Paula.

ZAHN: I'm glad most want population heeded those very severe warnings. Rob Marciano, thanks so much for the update.

We're going to head north now and go over to Meridian where we're told parts of the storm are hovering over that area north of where we find the landfall. That's exactly where we find Anderson Cooper tonight.

Anderson, I've seen you out during the day in all kind of places in Mississippi. What are you witnessing there right now?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah. It's been a very long day indeed. Not only for those of us covering but for the people in Louisiana and Mississippi. It's amazing when you think (INAUDIBLE) ashore more than 12 hours ago and still it is (INAUDIBLE) in the north part of the state. I keep looking over my shoulder because as you can see it's coming apart as we speak. This is a gas station where we have just (INAUDIBLE) because the road became too dangerous to drive on. Visibility was really down to about 10 or 15 feet. We pulled up under this gas station and it is torn apart as we've been standing here. This whole thing has been ...

ZAHN: All right. Please bear with us. As you can well understand given the kind of weather we're talking about, it is extremely challenging keeping our reporters up on the air and actually keeping them safe, but just a reminder. In this part of Mississippi, 135 miles an hour winds were recorded. And the chief concern right now is the storm surge. We're talking about a potential storm surge of some 22 feet which could cause enormous flooding. And another concern at this hour are tornadoes that meteorologists are concerned might be spawned by what is left of Category 1 Katrina.

Now if you all have a story to tell about Katrina, we want to hear it. Please call us at 1-866-NY-AC360 with your personal account of surviving living through one of the most destructive hurricanes to ever hit the U.S.

360 next, more wrath from Katrina. Her winds may be whipping up tornadoes as I just mentioned. We'll tell you which areas could be affected by that and later tonight the flooding in New Orleans' French Quarters. With a look at the city's top tourist attraction and how it's weathering Katrina. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the attic right now and the water is rising to an attic. And they don't have an axe. They have any way to get out of the attic. I hope somebody somewhere will be able to help them. They're begging for help. They're hoping somebody can come get them, but the wind and rain is too much for anybody to come and get them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Those are just some of the calls that we received from 360 viewers telling us what it was like for them weathering this storm and it has just been an extraordinary storm and it is still going to. On the coastal areas where they're starting to clean up and assess the damage and assess the casualties and yes, there no doubt will be casualties. We are already getting some very early reports about, that but here in Mississippi, the storm is still continuing a Category 1 storm. It is still moving very fast. We just drove a very dangerous road from Jackson here to Meridian, to the outskirts of Meridian. At times the visibility was 10 or 15 feet.

There were trees in the road and there was an overturned tractor trailer and things are still being knocked down. This gas station which is basically where we've sought safety, it is slowly being ripped apart before our eyes. During the commercial break another piece fell off. We anticipate by the end of this hour, most of the front sign will be gone and this entire thing is buckling, frankly. Also this Conoco sign we've been watching very carefully.

You can see it for the truck and plaza and restaurant. It has just been buckling in the wind. We are very concerned that may fall. But if it does, the wind is blowing in a westward direction right now so it will be blown away from us, but we'll definitely be keeping our eye on that. As I said, it is a Category 1 storm in this area. We're going to check in with CNN's Jacqui Jeras at the Weather Center. We're going to do that in a little bit and we'll also find out from her a lot of about this tornado threat because there are tornado warnings in many areas. We want to talk about, that but first let's check in with Erica Hill for the day's other headlines. Erica, good evening.

ERICA HILL, CNN HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: Hi, Anderson, good to see you. Actually, half way around the world we are following another devastating storm. Monsoons continuing at this point to decimate parts of India. So far those storms have flooded more than 300 villages. At least 292 people have been killed. Many of the victims died from their homes collapsing as well as from encephalitis carried by mosquitoes.

In Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, Iraq, about 2,000 people, mostly Sunnis who supported Saddam during his rule marched today to protest Iraq's proposed constitution. The document was completed yesterday where the backing of the Shiites and Kurds. The Sunnis called the draft constitution divisive and they've asked the Arab League and the United Nations to intervene.

In Gaza, Palestinian militant groups say they remain committed to a cease-fire with Israel one day after a suicide bomber blew himself up outside an Israeli bus station. The Palestinians were speaking to an Egyptian envoy who was in Gaza to mediate a deal between Israel and the Palestinians on Gaza's borders. Israel removed settlers from all 21 Gaza settlements earlier this month.

And in Caracas, Venezuela civil rights leader Jesse Jackson offering support to that country's President Hugo Chavez. Jackson says a call for Chavez's assassination by fundamentalist Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson last week is a criminal act. He is urging President Bush to strongly condemn Robertson's comments as well, Anderson, and with that we will turn it back to you. COOPER: Erica, is it dry where you are?

HILL: It's a heck of a lot drier than it is where you are.

COOPER: I don't even remember what it's like to be dry. I feel very old, very wrinkly.

Erica, thanks. We'll see you again in about 30 minutes.

Oh, yeah. Okay. We'll see you again in about 30 minutes. We want to check in with Jacqui Jeras in the CNN Weather Center in Atlanta for the latest not only on the storm where it is and also these tornado warnings that we've been hearing so much about. Jacqui, what's the latest?

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: We've had as much as a dozen tornado warnings at any given time this afternoon. We have three unconfirmed reports of tornadoes that touched down in northern Georgia. The National Weather Service actually has to get out and assess that damage and determine whether or not they were tornadoes.

I want to go back to the graphics and show you an animation to help explain why we see tornadoes in hurricanes. They develop much different than they do from the storms that develop in the Great Plains. Most of the tornadoes that occur will be in the right front quadrant of the storm. There's a lot of spin, vorticity with a hurricane and once it makes its way on land, that spin as it moves over the ground, there's a little bit of friction and we get the mini areas of spin and with lift within the storm those can develop into some weak, short-lived tornadoes.

They're usually F-0s, F-1 tornadoes but they can cause some significant damage. These occur but in about 50 percent of all tropical storms or hurricanes that make landfall. They can happen any time of the day or night and they can last for several days, as long as the center of circulation, the storm is still in existence, we can still see that threat of tornadoes. So that will be ongoing tonight in parts of Mississippi and into Alabama and into parts of Georgia and then moving into eastern Tennessee, eastern Kentucky and the western Carolinas, we think, late tomorrow afternoon.

We have some video to show you from hurricane Ivan. Hurricane Ivan is tied with Hurricane Beulah as storms producing the most number of tornadoes. Ivan had 117 tornadoes. So far maybe three here with Katrina, but of course, still yet to be determined as that threat will be ongoing, over the next couple of days. Back to you, Anderson.

COOPER: Jacqui, in terms of where I am right now, just outside Meridian, Mississippi, what do the people here, what can they expect. How much longer is this going to be this Category 1 in this area?

JERAS: The storm is weakening very rapidly, Anderson. In fact, there's a little bit of question as to whether or not this is even still a hurricane and the reason being is that the storm has wiped out likely a lot of Doppler radar sites and a lot of weather observing stations. So we're kind of estimating the wind speed right now. Still expecting to see tropical storm-force winds though yet for another couple of hours.

Do we have the 8:00 advisory? We have breaking information Gwinnett County, this is the north central Georgia. This is a suburb of Atlanta is under a tornado warning right now. A possible tornado near Lilburn. Also Sugar Hill, Norcross and Duluth are in the path of this storm, Anderson?

COOPER: All right, Jacqui, we'll check in with you later on for the latest updates on those tornadoes and on the storm, on the status of the storm. When we come back from the break we'll take you to the French Quarter where they got walloped very hard. We're going to talk to our John Zarrella who is there for the latest. And we're also going to look at the insurance damage. How bad has this storm been in terms of the financial impact? We'll talk about what you can do if your home has been damaged in this storm, what you need to know. We'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're in downtown Mobile. Right by Royal Street. If you look behind me that is Water Street!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back to our special coverage of Hurricane Katrina. I'm live outside Meridian, Mississippi, we have breaking news bring you from New Orleans. That city which has been hard hit today. CNN's Jeanne Meserve is standing by watching a rescue taking place. Jean, what do you see?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we are west of downtown. I'm perched on what used to be an entrance ramp on to I-10. I am looking over a scene of utter devastation. In an entire neighborhood, water has come up to the eaves of the houses and am told this is not the worst of it. That beyond this, part of the upper Ninth Ward, I'm told the main part of the ward further down is even worse. The water is over the houses. This is a life and death situation. I think by the end of the night we're going to find a lot more death than we ever imagined.

I have been watching from this vantage point a very difficult rescue effort. There are only two boats right now working this section and they're having a tremendously difficult time because there are some railroad tracks here that push their flow back to the entrance ramp of the freeway which is now being used as a boat ramp. Our cameraman was onboard one of the boats, Mark Cielo (ph) and he had to get out of the boat along with the person who was driving it as they tried desperately to un -- to loosen the boat from the railroad tracks to get out to people and then to get people into safety.

I am overlooking one cluster of people, there look to be three or four of them. Some of them appear to be children. They were left on the railroad tracks because the boat couldn't get them all of the way in. They are standing out there in the middle of water that looks to be up to their knees. There are other people who have gone up to their attics and busted through and are trying to wave for help. We've talked to a couple of people who have been rescued. They say the water came up very suddenly after the worst of the storm had gone by. It was a surge. They said it was so quick they barely had time too get to their attic. One guy had bare feet, he said he couldn't manage to get to his shoes. Another woman who I saw was in a housecoat and flip-flops, obviously, had caught people totally unaware.

These are people -- This looks to be a very poor neighborhood here in New Orleans. It is my guess that many of these people did not have the means to get out of town. One gentleman I talked to said he didn't leave the shelter and wouldn't take his dog and he wanted to be with that dog. It is just a horrific situation. I see now a couple of people in the water. One of them I think may be a rescuer, another one, they're someone they're trying to get to safety and they're having to walk through this rushing water that's coming by. It looks to be about hip deep on him, and Anderson, I've never seen anything like it.

COOPER: It is just amazing. It is one of those things, Jeanne, even when you prepare for the water, even when you know it's going to come it still comes so quickly. Such a surprise. We're seeing, just very quickly, more pieces flying off from this gas station, the sign which is now just hanging down. Another piece just flew across the road and some people running for cover. It is very dangerous indeed. Let's go back to Paula Zahn in New York.

Paula?

ZAHN: And Anderson, when you are in transit, the governor of the state where you, in Mississippi said, quote "It came on Mississippi like a ton of bricks." It's a terrible storm and he also went out to say there are a lot of dead people out there in his state and as you just heard from Jeanne Meserve about the human cost of this storm. It could also end up in terms of expenses, being one of the most costly hurricanes ever in U.S. history.

So what do you need to know about insurance and damages if you are living in the danger zone? Well, Bob Hartwig has some answers and he's chief economist for the Insurance Information Institute. Good of you to join us.

BOB HARTWIG, INSURANCE INFORMATION INSTITUTE: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: The predictions are huge. A price tag of maybe $26 billion. To put that into perspective, we're going to put a graphic up on the screen to compare Katrina to some previous hurricanes that have hit. Andrew at some 20 billion. Charlie, 7 plus billion, Ivan, 7 plus billion, Hugo, 6 billion plus. Do you think it is going to hit 26 billion?

HARTWIG: At this point I would have to say not, but certainly this storm will become number two on the all-time most expensive list for hurricanes. It's really a devastating event. ZAHN: You say what really will alter some of these numbers is that they take out folks who have flooding damage from this overall number. So that number may even be misleading because the damage could go way beyond $26 billion.

HARTWIG: That's right, Paula. We found the insured losses are about half what the total economic losses are. So in the event the storm ...

ZAHN: That's tremendous.

HARTWIG: ... is 20 billion, the total losses could be up to $40 billion.

ZAHN: I want to put up on the screen another graphic that will give people an understanding of some of the biggest and obvious mistakes when people try to make when they try to insure their homes. Well, for starters, not getting flood insurance is a big mistake. You can go through the rest of these.

HARTWIG: Yes. Really, the number one mistake that most people make we found that over 60 percent of home across the country are in fact underinsured. People simply don't have enough insurance coverage to begin with. That happens because many people make improvements, put additions on their home. They never talk to their insurance company. So, the insurer doesn't know. So, these improvements are uninsured.

The number two most important thing that people forget is the fact that their policy does not provide flood coverage. You need to buy a separate policy from the federal government through the National Flood Insurance Program. It's available. It's affordable for a couple hundred dollars; very easy to buy.

ZAHN: And yet, you just heard Jeanne Meserve describing people -- and we've heard this with retirement homes where people are on the second floor of homes and they're under nine inches of water.

HARTWIG: Well, that's right, Paula. It's absolutely tragic. There is coverage out there available, but unfortunately, many people, even those in in flood zones, actually declined the coverage.

The third most common mistake people make is not knowing what's in their home and so, they need to take a home inventory. Many people literally don't know what they've lost until it's too late. There is free home inventory software available at www.III.org: The Insurance Information Institute's Web site. You can download it to your computer, take pictures, descriptions, e-mail it to friends in another state or another country for that matter so it's safe and sound for the day that you need, when you have to file a claim.

ZAHN: Unfortunately, now a lot of these victims have to play catch-up and they're paying a price for that.

HARTWIG: It's really tragic.

ZAHN: Bob Hartwig, thank you very much for your guidance this evening.

HARTWIG: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: And just another quick reminder about something we haven't been able to share with you. It's estimated that in this four-state area of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida some 1.3 million people are without power tonight because of Katrina.

Coming up next on 360, damage well beyond belief. CNN's Gary Tuchman is live in Gulfport, Mississippi, with the latest -- if you can actually pick him out of the picture. He's up against very strong winds there.

Also tonight on the frontlines of Katrina: Biloxi under water. The hurricane's power, unleashed on the Gulf Coast city. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The last time I talked to my father was around 7:00 a.m. He said he was in shoulder-height water, just treading through the water and that's the last time I spoke with him. I love you dad. Bye.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Those are the voices of some of the 360 viewers who called in to tell us what the storm was like for them today. There have been so many extraordinary images that we have seen today, scary images, images of people reaching out and helping one another in the midst of a storm. Even in the worst of times it often brings out the best in people and we have seen that in Louisiana, here in Mississippi, in Alabama and Florida and elsewhere.

I wanted to bring you some of the most poignant, the most remarkable, the most dramatic images that we experienced throughout today. Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come with me. Everybody keep their heads up. There's stuff flying around.

KIMBERLY CURTH, WKRG CORRESPONDENT: Guys, we are in store for one nasty storm.

COOPER: It's like pinpricks in your face as you try to turn north and look into the wind.

BRIAN ANDREWS, WFOR CORRESPONDENT: It is white-capping in the parking lot here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're making our way over here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at that debris Look at that. The entire thing is coming apart.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm getting really scared.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. That's it, guys. I'm going to come back in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Be careful, Brian.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Are you OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody's good?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: One of the towns hardest hit, of course, has been Gulfport, right on the coast of Mississippi. Yeah, that's where we'll find CNN's Gary Tuchman there now. Gary, what is the latest?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, it felt like it would never end. The winds were at least 100 miles per hour in Gulfport for seven hours, between about 7:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. That was just over 100 miles per hour. For another five or six hours, on each side of that, we had hurricane-force winds, over 75 miles per hour. A very difficult time for people in four states, but particularly in Gulfport, Mississippi, where much of the city of 71,000 is now under water. Not just the parts of the city right next to the Gulf of Mexico.

That's U.S. 90. We were at U.S. 90 earlier this morning, doing some live reports, and at that point the water started coming up to my shins. We came back 30 minutes later, the water was past my knees. We made the decision at that point it wouldn't be smart to go back there. We called the police 30 minutes later, because at that point, the water was at six feet. An hour later, it got to 10 to 12 feet.

That's the main road where the casinos are here in Gulfport, Mississippi. But for five miles, from that beach point, heading from a southerly to northerly directions, most of the neighborhoods were under some water. Some, the water went over the tops of the windows.

We saw a police officer, who told us he rescued five people from the waters, five adults who couldn't swim in the waters near their home. They were rescued and brought to safety. We talked to another police officer, who told us he hadn't had a chance to examine the city because he was busy dealing with looters.

It's a very sad situation. There's a lot of work that's going to have to be done in Gulfport, and we don't know now if there are any casualties. There were some minor injuries, but it was too hard to tell, because the fact was, authorities couldn't go out in the streets looking for people. It was just too dangerous. If they didn't evacuate, it was a foolish thing, because much of that city is now under water -- Anderson.

COOPER: And at this point, Gary, are authorities able to get out there, or are they -- I mean, is the water hampering any kind of efforts to kind of get a sense of how bad things are?

TUCHMAN: Authorities are now able to get out there. The water is still deep in many places, but they're bringing out the police cars, they're bringing out the boats. They are looking for any people who may have been left behind.

But I will tell you, the encouraging news that we saw just yesterday when we toured the downtown area and the few miles closest to the beach is that we couldn't find anyone who was still in the streets, anyone who was still at home. People took this very seriously. That is the encouraging news.

COOPER: That is certainly encouraging. You, I understand, had a pretty close encounter. You were in Hurricane One, which is this mobile vehicle that allowed you to stay up during the storm, but something -- what happened to it?

TUCHMAN: That's right, Anderson. Hurricane One, we use it so we can broadcast live pictures while we are driving. It's the same technology we used during the Iraq war, to allow us to broadcast live pictures through the desert.

Well, after about four hours, we couldn't drive anymore, because the car was literally blowing off the road. So we were in Hurricane One nearby the hotel -- we had a fortified wall, the hotel protecting us, but then there was a fluke incident. A 12 x 8 foot chunk of fence, weighing about 200 pounds, came out of the ground about 100 yards away from us, flew through the air, and landed right on top of our truck. Four of us were inside of it at the time. We weren't hurt, and we're very grateful about that, but we do believe that our vehicle that we used for Hurricane One is a total loss.

COOPER: Wow. Well, all right. I'm glad you are safe. Gary Tuchman, we'll talk with you a little later from Gulfport.

This is a situation which is moving very quickly. This storm is still moving here in north Mississippi. We are just outside Meridian, Mississippi. We had a very sort of harry drive here for the last several hours just to get to this spot. The storm, moving along now; moving north a little bit to the west as well. We are continuing to track this storm. We're going to bring you the latest in a little bit.

Just want to bring you though, a "360 Download" on the effects on oil prices, of this storm. Crude prices now above $70 per gallon. That could mean a difference of anywhere from 15 cents to 75 cents to you, per gallon by the end of the week. I should have said $78 a barrel, obviously, not a gallon.

A lot more to come, though, on this special edition of 360. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It looks like a river just flowing through the neighborhood. And now, the last time I talked to her, her house is full of water. She can hear things being blown around all over our house. And it's her and her infant child so she's like they're stuck if the bathroom with the telephone and the top part of her full-size mattress. I don't know what's going on right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: One of our viewers who's had her home flooded like so many thousands of others here in Louisiana as well as here in Mississippi. I want to check in with Miles O'Brien who is right now on the road between Baton Rouge and New Orleans with a group of people who are trying to get back into New Orleans and that is not an easy thing to do -- Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No. It isn't, Anderson. As a matter of fact, we're among that group. If you think of Southeastern Louisiana as a little bit of hell today in the wake of Katrina, this is purgatory, right here. Hundreds of cars descending on this place. There's a roadblock over there. Nobody's getting through down the bridge which will take them 18 miles, if they're headed that far, down to the French Quarter.

So this is the scene here. People coming back assuming they can just head back home, being told by police go back to where you were. You're not going home for at least 24 hours, probably much longer. As a matter of fact, with reports of catastrophic damage in places like Kenner, North Kenner, wind damage, flood damage. There is indications that the authorities are going to try to keep things closed up for perhaps as long as four or five days.

And so this is the scene here. People here with very long faces, in some cases, come on over here. Tell us your story. In some cases, people went out, were at home, didn't even evacuate and came over here to get a soda or something and now can't get back to their home? What happened to you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just want to go home. That's it. I want to go home. I stay in Metairie. I want to go home. And I'm tired of all of this.

O'BRIEN: Tell me something. When -- did you evacuate?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I did, sir.

O'BRIEN: And when you came back what did the police officer tell you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go back where you was. Go back to Baton Rouge. You can't go home. One of them said seven days and the other one said 24 hours. So I don't know what it is.

O'BRIEN: Did they say it's not safe?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I guess it's not.

O'BRIEN: All right. Good luck. Good luck.

That's the scene here. You have literally hundreds of people, many of them faced with the prospect here, Anderson, of perhaps camping out here in Gramercy at the Golden Grove truck stop. Now the only thing that's golden about this, is what the owner of this business is doing right now. This is one of the few places that has any sort of fuel. He's got a generator and he's selling lots of food and snacks for people who in many cases might be camped here out here for quite some time.

As we say, the authorities are cautioning patience. Saying it's extremely dangerous in many of these neighborhoods with catastrophic damage, trees down, power lines. And as they say, whatever damage has occurred to people's houses there, is not going to get any worse. Of course, a lot of the concern here, people just want to know what happened to their house. Secondly, there is the real concern about the possibility of looting. The authorities are saying that's a big reason why they're continuing with the roadblocks is to keep people out of these areas and limit that problem with looting. It certainly brings out the best and the worst in the people. And it's the beginning of a long road for many of these people here in Gramercy, Anderson.

COOPER: Certainly is, Miles. The bottom line for people who are in Baton Rouge this evening watching. Do not try to get back into New Orleans tonight, probably not even tomorrow, wait for authorities to tell you when that road is going to be open, because right now, as Miles has just shown you, it is not, and it is a real mess down there. Miles, thanks very much. Check in with you a little bit later in the evening.

This just in to CNN. Hurricane Katrina has been downgraded now to a tropical storm. It was a Category 1 storm when we arrived here about an hour or so ago in Mississippi, just outside Meridian, but it has now been downgraded to a tropical storm. So we will continue to follow that. And we'll have a lot more on this Special Edition of 360 coming up next. But first let's check in with Erica Hill for the day's other headlines. Erica, good evening.

HILL: Hi again, Anderson. You still look pretty wet, by the way.

President Bush in Arizona and California today. And when he wasn't focused on the damages of Hurricane Katrina, he was trying to drum up support for his Medicare Prescription Drug Program. That begins January 1st. Now, under the program, about 43 million beneficiaries will pay an average of $32 a month, and they'll be able to choose from two or more private plans that offer coverage.

A brutal scene near a small town church in Sasche, Texas. Authorities say a gunman killed four people and then killed himself after a nine-hour standoff with police. The gunman report lead knocked on the door of the church and then started firing when the door was opened.

The trial of a man charged with taking part in a possible plot to assassinate President Bush is set to take place at a U.S. District Court in Virginia. Twenty-four year old Ahmed Abu Ali an American citizen is also charged with supporting terrorists. He was denied a motion to move his trial to Washington D.C.

And eight former executives of accounting firm KPMG were charged with what is being described as the biggest tax evasion scheme in U.S. history. The Justice Department says the executives sold fraudulent tax shelters to wealthy clients that short changed the IRS by at least $2 1/2 billion in uncollected taxes, Anderson. That is really quite a chunk of change.

COOPER: Unbelievable. Unbelievable. Erica, thanks very much. And yes, I am wet. I am so wet, I'm so wrinkled. I feel like Mr. Burns on the Simpsons. That's how wrinkled I am.

HILL: Nice. That's a lovely comparison.

COOPER: Yes. Thank you. You can be my Smithers. We'll check in with you again in about 30 minutes for the day's other headlines. A lot more to come here from Meridian and around this hard-hit area in Mississippi and Louisiana. More on now Tropical Storm Katrina. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're making our way over here. Come on, let's go this way. All right, here we go. Let's see if we can get to the crevice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, even if you've never been to New Orleans and don't know about the French Quarter, it is that city's most famous neighborhood. My father took me there when I was a child. My eyes were open quite wide by what was going on in the French Quarter. David Mattingly has been standing by in New Orleans throughout the day and he's shows us what is happening now in the French Quarter.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the engine that drives New Orleans tourism, dire prediction of 20-foot flood waters in the French Quarter spelled a disaster that would have been felt for decades, but as Katrina departed, the storm instead left behind an endless parade of debris and surprises.

(on camera); What's most amazing to me as you walk around the Quarter, is how many people you see out on the streets right now.

(voice-over): People who were told to evacuate, didn't. The streets that could have been hit by catastrophic flooding, weren't. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of these lights right here, the glass has been smashing against the wall and then coming down the street and everything.

MATTINGLY: Mike Bevis (ph) and Kathy Ebecknell (ph) felt their century-old apartment building was up to the challenge. They made it through with just some damage to the kitchen ceiling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These buildings down here, they've been here for so long and the way they were built that some of them, they're as tough as a bank vault, really.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The wind was rolling in this way.

MATTINGLY: Upstairs, Mardi Gras bead-makers Rick and Lori Eichmann (ph) stayed so they could get an early jump on cleanup.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: French Quarter residents are pretty hearty types. We're ready to start cleaning up and getting the show back on the road. We want to have the place decent by Labor Day, so everybody can come down and have a good time.

MATTINGLY: It may be an ambitious goal. Locals residents became sightseers themselves, so they could take in all the damage.

(on camera): There's one thing down this street that all the residents tell us we have to look at and it has nothing to do with all of this debris in the street. There's a lot of masonry and a lot lumber apparently blown off of roofs. It's right around this corner. In this park, we can see some huge trees that are down, crashing through the gate over here. But it isn't the trees that they want us to come look at. It's what's inside.

(voice-over): Massive oaks fell all around, but not on the statue of Jesus. The only apparent damage to the church: A clock that stopped when electricity failed. And even as the rains from a receding Katrina continued to pour, there were signs the party was coming back to life.

(on camera): What are you doing, making a delivery?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At Le Madeleine's all our electricity is out. These we're going to spoil tomorrow and so, we'll bringing them to the people who were stuck here from the hotel -- at the hotel.

(voice-over): Just of Jackson Square, we find a room full of stranded people who chose a hotel over the Superdome shelter. One tourist we spoke with was looking ahead.

(on camera): Well, we made it through the night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

MATTINGLY: What's your concern now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Getting out. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Getting out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Getting out and getting back to Chicago.

MATTINGLY: Any idea how you're going to do that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely not.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: We lost David Mattingly's piece there. So, we'll try to -- we'll check with him a little bit later. A lot more though, live from Meridian, Mississippi and all points around in the South recovering from now Tropical Storm Katrina. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm trying to reach my sister. Her name is Geraldine Blanchard (ph). I believe she's in the Superdome in New Orleans. I've been trying to call her and we can't get a hold of her.

Please give this message to her. My name is Johnny May Anderson (ph). Geraldine, we love you. We miss you. Please call us. Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: One of our viewers trying to get message to a loved one. We've been hearing from so many of you today, wanting your loved ones to know that you're doing OK or trying to find out about people. We wanted to bring you just some of the messages that we have got in.

We've just started to get some pictures -- some aerials of some of the damage in New Orleans. I want to show it to you right now. This is the first that we are actually seeing of this. So, it might be a little bit raw, but we wanted to bring you the pictures as soon as we got them.

We have not been able to get pictures really out of New Orleans except by video phone. These really are the first aerials that we're able to see sort of the extent of the damage; some of the flooding; some of those homes which we've heard have just been flattened.

And at this point, it's hard to really know the extent of the damage. We're getting the reports in, but it is still very early hours. This storm is still very much on the move and is now a tropical storm. Let's check in with the -- to find out the damage in Biloxi, with Jonathan Freed who is standing by.

JONATHAN FREED, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, I can tell you that we're here in the Comfort Inn in Biloxi. And I'll tell you where we are situated: We're just off of interstate 10 and we're about four miles up from the coast. Earlier today, this parking lot here looked like a lake and let's show you the kind of significant structural damage that this hotel took in the course of keeping everybody here safe for the last 24 hours. The entire facade here of this overhang, where the cars park, has just completely fallen down.

The underside -- we were standing here watching this rip away over the course of the howling winds that were pounding at this hotel during the storm. And if we come back over here and look up at this window up there, I can tell you that I spoke to the woman who was in that room and she said, Anderson, that sounded like an explosion when the wind blew that window in. Just a taste, Anderson, of what has been going on here in Biloxi.

COOPER: It's so scary for people stuck in there homes, not knowing what's going on around, hearing those noises. Jonathan Freed, thanks very much from Biloxi. That's it for out coverage from Meridian, Mississippi. I turn it over now to Paula Zahn -- Paula.

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