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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Hurricane Katrina Makes Landfall

Aired August 29, 2005 - 07:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Miles O'Brien is just northwest of New Orleans in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Hey, Miles, good morning to you. How does it look where you are?

M. O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Soledad, we're on the better side, the more favorable side of the storm, the left side of the eye wall. And as a result, we're not seeing a huge impact just yet.

However, if you go down to the lower right quadrant, if you will, of what is going on, down toward Biloxi, in that part of the world right now, they are getting some rather significant activity as some of these so-called feeder bands which are essentially just layers of heavy precipitation, a lot of winds start coming ashore.

CNN's Rob Marciano is there, as a matter of fact, in Biloxi. He is riding out that portion of the storm, and we're going to check in with him in just a few moments.

But first, let's check in with Chad Myers who has been watching the storm, offering all kinds of tips for people as well, as they ride this thing out.

There's still plenty of power around here in Baton Rouge, Chad. I suspect people in the New Orleans area are losing power as we speak so your advice is well-taken. As a matter of fact, I saw a report just a few moments ago that power went out at the Superdome, where 30,000 people are holed up. Of course, they have emergency generators but no air-conditioning as a result.

So that's going to be, obviously, an interesting situation as the morning progresses.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Can you imagine sitting there in a fairly dark area? I know they have the emergency lighting but you've seen that emergency lighting before. It's certainly not going to be like the lights are on in the Superdome and, obviously, still dark there.

Now you're hearing the howling winds outside, one of the very heaviest bands so far for New Orleans. You can see this red zone here moving right through the city of New Orleans.

Now everybody wants to call landfall on the eye. I want you to be just a little bit patient here because the Hurricane Center says at least another 20 minutes before we call where the eye made landfall. They want to know where it is. It's very close to Boris (ph), it's very close to Port Sulfur and south of there even toward empire. That's where the heaviest rain is right now.

But where Rob Marciano is up in Biloxi, up here, just got slammed with one of those outer bands and he's still 95 miles away. If you saw that wind gust that he just went through, that's going to be the lightest one that he sees for the next six hours as the storm gets closer and closer and closer, expecting landfall.

The heaviest part of the damage from Mobile Bay, flooded Mobile Bay. You need to stay out of all the low areas in Mobile, all the way back even over toward Bay St. Louis, that's the area there from Slidell (ph) eastward. That's where the heaviest damage is going to be today. And although you're not quite in it yet, every time, Miles, you get one of these feeder bands to come through Baton Rouge, and there will be many as the storm gets closer. Your winds are going to pick up, too. Back to you.

M. O'BRIEN: And can you give me a general sense what direction will the wind be going at that time, Chad?

MYERS: They should be from the north-northeast, Miles, from this direction here...

M. O'BRIEN: Coming down?

MYERS: Because the winds come up this way over this way and then down this way. That's why there's no storm surge to the west of an eye. Because, in fact, the wind is actually blowing offshore. It blows the waves and all the water away from shore. Here, it blows all the water waves onshore and all that water just keeps piling up and piling up and piling up.

We have not seen a significant storm surge storm since really Camille where Camille brought in a 20-foot bubble of water. A lot of people say wall of water. This is not like the "Hawaii 5-0" wave that comes onshore that the guys are surfing on. This is a bubble of water that rises slowly, probably a foot a minute, and that seems quick and it is, but a foot a minute, not just some 10 feet or 20-foot wall of water that comes in in 10 seconds.

So you have to be careful. All of a sudden you're good in one spot and 15 minutes later the water is over your head. Back to you.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, Chad Myers. That's worth remembering especially for those people who are to the eastern portion of that eye as it wobbles ashore now. And, of course, calling landfall in this part of the world is difficult, as Chad points out. It is marshy land.

And so it will be difficult to determine exactly when the storm sort of reaches terra firma, so to speak.

CNN's Rob Marciano is in Biloxi. He's been enduring some of those early feeder bands.

Rob, what are you seeing and feeling there now? ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, we don't see nearly as much now because the lights went out in this block. There are still some street lights along the access roads to Interstate 10 that are still on.

But as Chad mentioned, we went through a pretty good squall just about 10 minutes ago with gusts easily over 55 miles an hour. And typically, that's the break point; 55 to 60 miles an hour in the weather businesses is when we start to say -- that's when tree limbs start to come down and they'll start to take out some power lines.

So power outage is going be an issue ongoing here really the next couple of hours. I would suspect we'll start to see them become more widespread across southern Mississippi.

You and Chad spoke about the storm surge. That is what we were most concerned about last night -- most concerned about last night when we were on the beach.

That's over 30 right there again.

So it's kind of important to point out that when we go into these storms, it often feels a lot worse than it is. And folks who aren't trained spotters will call in reports to local TV stations, even to CNN and radio stations to report their winds. And it often feels a lot worse than it is. At least, that's been my experience. It will feel like it's 50, 60, 70 miles an hour and you get out the wind gauge and it's nearly half that.

So it really goes to illustrate the power of Mother Nature. And one thing that we noticed when the first landfall happened a couple of nights ago in Hollywood, Florida, when we were there for that, it was only a Category 1 storm, but we were just getting pounded right along the water.

So they call them hurricanes for a reason. You just don't want to be messing around even if it's a Cat. 1. This one, a Cat. 4 right now. We are in right-hand quadrant.

So that's nasty. This weather is going to continue for several hours to come, probably six to 10 hours. Chad mentioned, I think, that the eye of the storm, probably about 90 miles from us, it's moving to the north now at about 15.

So that puts secondary landfall, if you will, at least parallel to us, in about five or six hours.

So if we're getting puffs of 60 miles an hour now, I'm not excited too much to see what it looks like five, six hours from now -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Let's give viewers a sense, Rob, of how you're prepared. Because you're, obviously, potentially in harm's way there. What is your escape plan, what is your plan for staying safe there?

MARCIANO: Well, we're actually trying to figure out a place, number one, to be safe and then, number two, to still bring the pictures because we're not here to play around in the wind and then take cover and not at least make an effort to show what's going on.

So we're trying to figure out a spot where we can really stick a camera and point it outside and show what's going on and somehow get a signal out for that.

But as the storm approaches, these winds are going to start -- right now, they're going from east-to-west. They'll eventually start going more southeasterly. And if the track is what we think it is right now, which would bring the center of this just to the west of Gulf Port, we will eventually get south winds. And those are going to be the most damaging.

That's when you get the forward speed of the storm, coupled with the counterclockwise rotation and it's literally like a fighter giving you a punch on the right side of your chin.

So that's what we're most concerned about, those south winds which will probably happen 10:00, 11:00 o'clock, maybe around noon time.

So four, five, six hours from now. And at that point, we're likely going to have to either just go inside and ride it out or head to the other side of a building. We're near our hotel right now. We're trying to protect the camera equipment as far as rain goes.

So they are under an awning. I'm standing just back from an awning which I should also point out is not like a gas station awning. I don't think this sucker is going to fly away just yet.

But, Miles, to answer your question, we're going to have to rotate our position with the storm. We're just going to have to take stock of the situation as time progresses and make a judgment call as to when we should go inside.

And we're not going to mess around with that. I mean, when it's time to go inside, it's time to go inside. Mother Nature may have other plans for us, too. It's not easy to get a signal out to our satellite, as you know, in this type of situation.

Our satellite truck right now is protected on this side of the building. It is on the west side of the building.

So right now, protected from the wind. But as those winds begin turning to the south, our signal may be knocked out and we may have nothing to do.

So we'll go inside and maybe shoot some video for you on tape and feed it out at a later point. It will be a situation, as you know, that changes minute by minute. We'll just have to play it by ear.

M. O'BRIEN: Rob Marciano, I think, if nothing else, you get a sense of how much thought goes into this as a lot of folks tell us repeatedly as we do this coverage, why do you put yourself in harm's way? The idea, first of all, is to tell the story. And the other idea, of course, more important than that really, is to stay safe.

Let's go now to CNN's Gary Tuchman. He is making his way through the storm, staying safe, we might add, in Hurricane One. He began in Gulf Port, Mississippi heading pretty much west-southwest along the coast.

Gary, where are you? What are you seeing?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, sorry, Miles. Now we can hear you perfectly well. We are in Hurricane One, our vehicle, which allows us to transmit live pictures while we're driving around.

It's just starting to get light outside. The conditions have deteriorated very quickly here. And we're already seeing lots of damage. Very hard to see right now. We're going to give you a shot out the front window where our headlights are. Our driver and producer Chris Don (ph) in charge of the wheel here.

And this gives you a look at what's going on. We're already seeing white caps on some of these beachfront roads. We have had to turn around because the water was so deep already, flooding so immense at this point, that it was too unsafe to keep driving. So we actually looked like it was a place where you could do some surfing. That's how bad it is right now. All of the power in the Gulf Port area went out about 45 minutes ago. This is the area, as Rob Marciano was telling you, where it looks like that it looks like the eastern eye wall hit.

There's a feeling right now of resignation in Gulf Port. They experienced Hurricane Camille in 1969. A Category 5 hurricane, killed 250 people. 130 just in this area in Harrison County, Mississippi. So a lot of the people who are over 40 years old remember that very well. They say this is very reminiscent of that. Of course, this storm, although it's not as powerful, is much bigger, so they don't know what to expect.

What we can tell you at 6:10 Central Time, the conditions already are very bad, and people here are very concerned of what could happen. We just passed a car -- I don't know if you could see it, but a car that was abandoned on the road where the water is very deep. Well, we just want to tell you, Miles, and reassure our viewers, we'll stay in this car and drive around as long as it's safe. Right now, we still consider it safe enough to do so.

But the conditions in this city of 71,000, very poor. All ten beachfront casinos closed. This area, mandatory evacuation. And people really listened and did evacuate the area -- Miles?

M. O'BRIEN: CNN's Gary Tuchman in Hurricane One, making his way in our direction. He'll be checking in all throughout the way, giving us really an unusual viewpoint on a storm, the capability of sort of going to the locations where the problems are, being there in real time and sharing that with us. Back to you -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, Miles, thanks. Let's take you right to New Orleans and the Superdome. It is the largest shelter right now. Some 8,000 to 9,000 people are reported to be inside the Superdome. These pictures were taken not too long ago. Obviously, it's normally the home of the Saints. What they've done is bring thousands and thousands of people in with whatever belongings they can carry. They told people not to bring too much stuff. And they're keeping them in the seats. Not many people are out on the field.

Lines and lines, as the thousands of people each had to be checked in. It is now the biggest shelter in the city of New Orleans. Eighty percent, we're told, of New Orleans residents, 480,000 residents, heeded the mandatory evacuation order.

The power failed at the Superdome at 5:02 a.m. Eastern Time and there is backup power now being run by generators. But, of course, the lighting is reduced because of that. And with the backup power, the generator power, there is no possibility of air-conditioning. It cannot run the air-conditioning.

So conditions inside, as you can imagine, probably not all that comfortable for the 8,000 to 9,000 people who are estimated to be inside. The Red Cross is preparing for the very worst. They've been stockpiling supplies, ready to head into New Orleans, into the area, the first chance they get.

We want to talk to Trisha Box. She's a spokeswoman for the Red Cross and she joins us by phone. She's in Mount Herman, Louisiana, which is just about 100 miles north of New Orleans, near the Mississippi state line. Trisha, good morning. Thanks for talking to us.

TRISHA BOX, RED CROSS SPOKESPERSON: Good morning, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: You're at a shelter, aren't you? Give me a sense of what kind of circumstances and situation you're in right now.

BOX: We're at the Mount Herman Elementary and High School. And we have about 500 people and that is our capacity. And we've been filled to capacity since, you know, early evening yesterday. And we have, you know, 20 to 30 volunteers from the staff from Red Cross. We're sheltered across the street at a church. And we've been hunkered down since late last night, and we've just been waiting for the bands. And actually, they've really started hitting, I guess about two hours ago. And so the wind's just been constant since about 5:00.

S. O'BRIEN: What does it feel like? What does it sound like, Trisha?

BOX: It just sounds like, you know, constant -- just wind. It's not really howling yet, but we can hear the rain. And the rain is, you know, really hard, but it's off and on. And, you know, the gusts will pick up and our lights are kind of flickering. So we're just -- we're prepared. We're the Red Cross. So, you know, we're ready to -- you know, we have flashlights and, you know, we're going to take care of our evacuees.

S. O'BRIEN: Five hundred and 15 people inside that shelter. Did you have to turn people away if you're at capacity? Were there people who you had to say, I'm sorry, you have you to go somewhere else?

BOX: Of course, yes. We did have to open alternate shelter areas. Just because there is just busloads of people. And the majority of our evacuees are from Jefferson Parrish (ph). And it's -- the majority are either the emergency workers and their families. You know, we had firefighters here. And it's just a large amount of people that, you know, are in this kind of weather doing their job, but their families are here and they're safe.

S. O'BRIEN: We're looking, Trisha, at pictures inside the Superdome, where they have many multiples of the number of folks that you have, some 9,000 people. And there are many concerns, of course, about feeding folks inside a shelter of that size and just getting water to people. Because, of course, that's not really the priority. I guess the priority is to keep everybody alive and safe until the storm passes.

BOX: Exactly. I mean, and that's what we do. You know, we take care of them from the very beginning and we -- throughout the storm, we're just going to be here for them. And, you know, a lot of them that did bring their own bedding and their own food. But, you know, if they don't have something, we're going to help, you know, find something for them to be safe and be comfortable while they ride out this storm.

S. O'BRIEN: Trisha Box, good luck to you. We'll continue to check in. And, of course, the 515 people who are in your charge this morning, as well. Thanks, Trisha.

Richard Knabb is the -- is tracking the storm. He's from the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Richard, thanks for being with us once again.

RICHARD KNABB, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Good morning.

S. O'BRIEN: How much closer is the storm -- is Katrina now to making what I guess you consider to be official landfall?

KNABB: Well, we believe the center of the hurricane has actually made landfall in between Grand Isle, Louisiana, and the mouth of the Mississippi River. During the next several hours, it's going to passing along a very irregular coastline, partially over water, partially over land. And it's about 70 miles south, southeast of New Orleans. So by late this morning, mid-day, the hurricane, the eye, will be passing near or over New Orleans and then into the afternoon, be very near the border between Mississippi and Alabama. So during this time, the storm surge could be increasing. The levies protecting the New Orleans area could be overtopped and we could see storms (INAUDIBLE) the Mississippi Coast 20 feet or more.

S. O'BRIEN: How fast is the storm moving right now? KNABB: Right now, it's moving northward at about 15 miles per hour. And we expect that general motion to continue most of today, and it will gradually speed up and head off to the North, Northeast on Tuesday.

S. O'BRIEN: Chad was talking earlier about the levies I guess being overburdened and flooding. But from the top down, because I guess that's the real problem, isn't it?

KNABB: Correct. What we do is we try to forecast what we think the storm surge would be, and then compare that to the size of the levy surrounding the city. And it looks like it's going to very close with some of the levies, that some of them, the water could rise just to or above the height of the levies and the water could spill over and that could cause flooding inside the levy protection system.

S. O'BRIEN: Give me a sense how bad you think this is going to be. The words like catastrophic have been used by numerous people regarding this storm. Is that still safe to say?

KNABB: It certainly is possible. Whenever you have Category 4 hurricane making landfall anywhere, you could get extreme to sometimes catastrophic damages. Structures could be completely destroyed in some cases. And on top of that, this hurricane is making landfall in an area that is quite susceptible to storm surge. So, certainly, I think people are going to be astounded in some cases by what they see after the storm passes by.

And during the next several hours, the weather's only going to get worse in the New Orleans area and the coast of Mississippi and Alabama. Do not let your guard down. This is the time to stay where you are in your place of safe refuge for many more hours.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, absolutely, and I think that that certainly bears repeating. We're going to, of course, continue to follow this storm and keep everybody up-to-date on what's happening. Richard Knabb is tracking Katrina, as we are, as well, as the National Hurricane Center. Richard, thanks, we'll check in with you again.

Still to come this morning, why would anybody choose to ride out a powerful hurricane like Katrina? We're going to talk to the owners of a Bed and Breakfast in Biloxi, find out their story. That's just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. Stay with us. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: Welcome back to our continuing coverage on special edition of AMERICAN MORNING. Miles O'Brien, live from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where the wind is whipping, the rain is falling. Some of these so-called early feeder bands of Hurricane Katrina, as she comes ashore. Depending on who you ask, that landfall is in the process or happening soon. Kind of hard to define where the land begins and the Gulf ends.

Chat Myers has been talking about this. And this really gets into the sort of, you know, angels dancing on the head of a pin discussions that I guess meteorologists care a lot about. But the fact of the matter is, this a dangerous storm, whether it's made landfall this moment or makes landfall in the next 20 minutes.

MYERS: At the Hurricane Center just ten seconds ago or a minute ago, they did officially call landfall for us, officially live on CNN. So that was really great that they did that for us, because it's a point of contention when the eye makes landfall. Now, basically, why do we care? Because that's when you know that if you look outside, you can actually see stars or see the sun rise through the eye. You never want to go out during that.

As the rain comes through and moves on your way -- some live shots from WDSU. That's New Orleans, Louisiana. Not seeing a whole heck of a lot there. That's because the power is out. The power officially went out right at the exact moment. That lakefront airport had a wind gust to 85 miles per hour. Here's the center of circulation, the eye itself, south and southeast of New Orleans, a fairly large eye.

That means that as a -- well, let's say, a skater has her arms out, and she's skating in the Olympics with her arms out, she's a very big person and she doesn't go very quickly. But when she brings her arms in and continues to do that spin, that spin gets much faster. So let me show you something that's going on right now. I just noticed the storm trying to create a new, smaller eye inside the much bigger eye. And when you get a smaller eye, a compact eye makes higher wind speeds.

Now, the good news is at least those higher wind speeds are east of the eye and east of most of the land mass. Take the land mass -- take the rain off for you. If you see -- it's hard to see sometimes where the land starts and the water ends here. But if I take it off one more time, there's not much out over here. It's kind of swampy land over here. And this is where the heaviest winds are going to be, driving themselves on up toward Biloxi and also into Gulf Port.

And you think, oh, the storm is over land, that's great. It's going to start to die off. Well, I just said that's not much land. There's still a lot of water there in that type of swamp there. Now, not every part of southeastern Louisiana is swamp, but certainly every part of southeast Louisiana right now is wet. And if it's wet, then it's not on land and the hurricane can continue to move onshore and not really continue to strengthen, but certainly not lose any intensity.

Here is where our Rob Marciano is, in Biloxi. More and more rain showers coming right onshore here from Biloxi, right on over to Mobile and into Bay St. Louis. Back to you guys.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, Chad Myers, thank you very much. Appreciate that. The city of New Orleans, of course, where most of the people are in this region that's caused a lot of the concerns was this sort of nightmare scenario Category 5 storm, which painted a bull's eye on the city of New Orleans. Now a Category 4 storm, still a very powerful storm. And now not headed directly for the city. Those are two good pieces of news for a city of 480,000, metropolitan region of 1.6 million.

CNN's Jeanne Meserve is in the Crescent City this morning, as dawn breaks. Jeanne, what are you seeing?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, definitely picking up here. We're getting a lot more wind and rain in the location where we are. And we can see some flooding. When we look down over the edge of the garage where we've taken some shelter, we can see that the streets are beginning to fill up here. This appears to be rain,- created, rather than anything coming in over the levies, which, of course, is what they're really worried about here.

Also, the power outages continue to spread. There are several high-rise buildings behind me. They've lost power within the last few minutes. Now it looks pretty much as though the entire city (INAUDIBLE) me, except for some emergency lighting in a few locations.

It's really quite extraordinary to see what the wind and the water are doing here. It reminds me of a power washer. You know, when you get that incredibly hard flow of water and it just can send water up the side of a building. Well, that's the kind of thing we're seeing here. We went over and took a look at the Superdome, with its famous concave sides. And you just saw the water being swept around it by the wind. Really quite dramatic footage -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, Jeanne, that really paints quite a picture, when you think about that. And, of course, the Superdome is a very stout structure but, nonetheless, it's -- it was a compromise decision because it is, after all, built below sea level. The parking lot and the field is below sea level. I guess most people are up in the upper decks, which would make it safer for them.

MESERVE: Miles, I'm having a little bit of difficulty making you out, given all the turmoil around me. But, yes, you know, a large part of this city's believed to beneath sea level. It is a real problem. And there have been questions about whether the Superdome...

M. O'BRIEN: Jeanne Meserve in New Orleans, thank you very much. Let's head a little bit to the east, which is, incidentally, what Katrina seems to be doing, according to Chad Myers in the weather center.

And, Biloxi, Mississippi, is where we've been finding Rob Marciano, his weather colleague. Rob, I know you brought a lot of weather gear with you. And you have not really clocked any significant even tropical storm winds yet, is that true?

Oh, yes, we've had tropical storm winds, gusting over to 40 -- over 45 miles an hour. So when that happened, we saw power surges and it's actually quite impressive to me. Now the power is back on in this block. So usually, you get winds over 45, 50 miles an hour, that's when the power starts to go down. And they're pretty sustained, Miles, I got to tell you. The winds are sustained now at tropical storm force, so yes, I mean, they're fluctuating between 25 and 45 miles an hour. So pretty good sustained wind now out of the east. So, giving you an idea of our position, that's east. I-10 is behind us. That goes east-to-west, west-to-east. So the wind is paralleling that out of the east. And typically, I mean, just to -- kind of been saying this for the past couple of storms. Very easy way to determine where the center of any low pressure is, in the northern hemisphere, you turn your back to the wind and just point to the left. So that's where the ocean is. I'm kind of pointing towards New Orleans, towards the mouth of the Mississippi River. That's where the center of the storm is, directly to my left as I stand with my back to the wind.

What I've noticed in the last hour now is that wind's a little bit -- they're starting turn a little bit more northeastly, which makes me a little bit more nervous. It means that maybe that -- that this thing has taken a bit of -- more of a jog even farther to the East. But we'll have to see if that northerly component holds up.

Sun now starting to come up, so the skies are beginning to brighten. And we'll be able to get a little bit more mobile as the sun comes up, and I can get away from this light and show you some things that going on around the hotel. That's the latest from here, Miles, though. It's blowing side -- the rain is coming down sideways and coming down heavy, which we're already starting to see significant ponding along the roadways in the grassy areas between the interstate.

So they've evacuated or they've closed two shelters, which are near the Wolf River, in anticipation of that river flooding. So, you know, there's so many things to deal with. Wind obviously is going to become an issue. But storm surge and actual river flooding is also a concern here in southern -- south Mississippi, because now it looks like we're going to be in the most dangerous part of the storm, and that doesn't bode well for folks who live down here.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, thank you, Rob. I think Chad Myers in the Weather Center has a question for you -- Chad?

MYERS: Yes. I kind of want to describe to what he's seeing, because clearly he doesn't have a radar there that he can see. But right there, Biloxi, the I-10 just to the north of him.

And every time a little rain band comes up, Rob, you're going to get more and more wind. And there are many more rain bands to your south. There's the one you're in now. There's another one here, another one here. And then obviously, that rain band here that's to the south of you, another 90 miles. That's not even a rain band at all. That's the eye wall.

And we are expecting that eye wall to get very close to Biloxi or possibly even as far east as Mobile Bay. We'll have to see if the storm takes a left or takes a right. But for the past, I would say, three to five hours, it's been going straight ahead, and it is barreling right to you.

So, what you're seeing now is actually the easiest stuff that you'll see in the next six hours. So be careful out there. M. O'BRIEN: OK. Apparently, we lost Rob, for obvious reasons. It's going to be the beginning of many of those as this storm, powerful as it is, comes ashore, and we attempt to tell you the story of it. We run into all kinds of difficulties, as you might imagine, just keeping those satellite dishes locked on. And just little things like water in the microphone can be a big problem. So we will keep you posted, and we'll check back in with Rob. I'm sure everything is fine there. We'll just get the technicalities worked out.

When we return, we're going to check in with our reporters there all along the coast of the Gulf. CNN is your hurricane headquarters. More AMERICAN MORNING in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody.

You're looking at live pictures from Biloxi, Mississippi, where you can see the wind is blowing. That is where Rob Marciano is. We're going to continue to check in with him throughout the morning.

This is the location that could take the brunt of the hit today from Hurricane Katrina as she comes on land.

Also, they're looking at New Orleans as well, because thousands and thousands of people there affected, thousands, 10,000 maybe. New Orleans' residents, in fact, are taking shelter in the Louisiana Superdome. Obviously, it's usually home to those four-hour football games, not evacuations, and evacuations that could last up to a week.

Let's get right to Major Ed Bush. He's a spokesman for the Louisiana National Guard. They're helping coordinate at the Superdome.

Thank you for being with us, major. Appreciate your time this morning.

Give me a sense of how many people are staying at the Superdome right now and what the conditions are like.

MAJOR ED BUSH, SPOKESMAN, LOUISIANA NATIONAL GUARD: We've got about 10,000 people with us. They spent the night with us last night. And it's a very calm, quiet group. I think for the most part, they're just happy to be out of the storm that they can hear, you know, certainly whistling around the Superdome right now.

S. O'BRIEN: I bet. Now, 10,000. We all know that the Superdome can seat many more people than that. Did you have to turn away anybody?

BUSH: No. In fact, you know, there were some questions about a, you know, mandatory lockdown. There was nothing of the sort. Anyone who came here looking for a place to seek refuge got in last night. And everybody who were here last night got fed. And I think that really helped to calm everybody down. And it's been a very well- behaved, a very satisfied bunch. S. O'BRIEN: Yes, explain how that's working. We're looking at pictures, I should tell you, from the affiliate, WDSU. And I see some people out on the field. I thought they were only going to be in the stands. Is that the case or no?

BUSH: The pictures you're looking at probably from the early-on stages. What we did yesterday, because it started to rain, we tried to get people inside as fast as we could. And we opened up more checkpoints, and we allowed them to sit on the field temporarily.

S. O'BRIEN: Major Bush, I think maybe we lost our connection. Major Bush is with the Louisiana National Guard. And the National Guard are helping to coordinate the facilities inside the Superdome. He says some 10,000 people now are seeking refuge.

And, in fact, they're not turning anybody away. Anybody who shows up at any point will be allowed in. Most of the people are sitting on the seats, because, of course, the Superdome can fit many tens of thousands of people. And there are some 10,000 people in there right now.

Let's get right back to Major Bush if he can hear me. Do we have a connection with Major Bush again? OK. We're going to see if we can get that set up.

Adaora Udoji is at the Tulane hospital in New Orleans. She's by phone as well. And, as you can imagine, considering the situation, the weather situation, all of these connections can be a little bit tenuous.

Adaora, good morning to you. What are the situations at the hospital? Of course, they must be very concerned. You just can't evacuate very sick people.

ADAORA UDOJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, not at all, Soledad. And so far, though, it has been relatively calm here. It was busy yesterday as they were preparing for the storm. And, in fact, they had to evacuate the first floor, which is their emergency room, because they were concerned -- and still are, of course -- about flooding. So they moved their emergency room from the first floor up to the third floor.

And literally within the last 10 minutes, the power went out all along the block here. It went completely black. They do have an emergency generator that immediately went on, at least in this building.

And we were outside for just a few minutes. And it literally sounds like the streets are screaming. It's even beyond howling. And you can hear everything rocking down the street. You can hear garbage cans. Street signs have been ripped off. And it just seems to be getting worse, I mean, rapidly in the last 10 or 15 minutes.

That, in turn, the hospital decided it was time to lock all of the doors and get everyone inside. And now, I think we're going to be inside here for the duration. In terms of the patients, I didn't see a great influx of people coming in yesterday evening and even into the night. They did have several dozen folks come over from the Superdome, those who were too frail or sick, we were told. Some of them needed kidney dialysis. Others were on some sort of oxygen. Their tanks were running out, so they brought him here to the hospital.

And for the most part, they are only taking very severe cases. There are dozens of doctors and nurses and hospital administrators who have essentially, Soledad, been living here for, like, two days. I mean, they are so exhausted that there were just air mattresses all over the hospital last night. And people were trying to catch cat naps as soon as they could.

Essentially what they're most worried about is the aftermath now. I mean, they just don't know how bad the hurricane is going to be and what kind of injuries they're going to see coming out of that. So they're gearing up for that, and they're just hoping that the hospital won't get flooded so that they're going to be able to treat those people as they come through.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes. I would imagine that, you know, they're really only at the very beginning. If they're exhausted now, it is going to be a long couple of days. Adaora, let me ask you a question about the ambulances. I mean, where do they park them? If they're concerned that New Orleans or large portions of it are going to flood, what do they do?

UDOJI: Well, there are a combination of places. I mean, the real issue with New Orleans is that so much of particularly downtown is below sea level. So essentially you have some parking garages that are up to three, four, you know, five feet, far enough above whatever the estimated surge, between the surge and the length below sea level. So many of them are parked up higher. Some of them are parked in garages.

They actually had a ramp. This is one of those few hospitals in the downtown area that has a ramp that's higher than others that tends to flood less frequently than others. So they've tried to hedge their bets in a lot of different ways. But at the end the day they just don't know what they're going to be dealing with.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, they sure don't. And I think that's fair to say across the board, isn't it, Adaora? None of us knows, and certainly the folks at the National Hurricane Center, all of us are keeping our eye on Hurricane Katrina as she comes to land. Not exactly clear what the damage is going to be. A category 4 storm, which is, as many people point out, a deadly storm as we're watching Hurricane Katrina for you this morning.

Let's get right back to Miles O'Brien. Miles, good morning again.

M. O'BRIEN: Soledad, the wind is picking up here. Yet another one of those feeder bands that has been coming through here. I was talking to Rob Marciano a little while ago. And he was talking about how the wind always feels a little stronger than it is. I really got a good gust here a moment ago. And it only came out as I held up this tiny, little anemometer. It came out at all of 10 miles an hour.

Now, I'm kind of protected by a building here. So that's really not a sense of the kind of wind we've got going here. I'm sure it's getting close to tropical strength out there on the street. And I will, as daylight falls here or arrives, I'm going to take a walk out there and get a little better sense of it.

But, as a matter of fact, let's go to Chad Myers.

Chad, the wind projections for Baton Rouge at this point, is it still within -- I know they have all of those projections from the hurricane center about where the tropical force versus hurricane winds will be. Is Baton Rouge still in the hurricane force zone?

MYERS: Very, very close. You could probably see wind gusts to 50, 60, and then a couple to around 70.

Now, a hurricane, when it says 74 miles per hour for hurricane, that actually means sustained. You can't get a gust to 74 if your sustained is 50. That is not considered to be a hurricane. That is still considered to be a tropical storm. So, I suspect you will get tropical storm forced sustained winds 50 miles per hour with an occasional gust to 75 or even to 80.

Right now your -- you said you had 10? In fact, you have between 12 and 14 in Baton Rouge. New Orleans up to about 60. We had Lakefront Airport there to a wind gust of 84 in the past hour.

Most of this stuff is actually a little bit farther down to the south. The heaviest rain now in southeastern Louisiana about 60 miles still from Louisiana from New Orleans, because there's the eye itself moving right over Empire, Burris (ph) and also even into Venus.

Back to you.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you very much, Chad.

Clearly, we are protected here. I'm looking over my shoulder there, and you can really see the, you know, rain coming down kind of horizontally across that street light there. You see a few trucks here. A lot of people here on the campus at Louisiana State University. Some students, quite frankly, milling around, just trying to check it out.

At this point, being 40 feet above sea level, they're not in a mandatory evacuation zone. So we are seeing some people milling around here.

Let's head back to Biloxi, Mississippi, where things are significantly worse right now.

Rob Marciano is there -- Rob.

MARCIANO: Hi, Miles. Our signal is going in and out, mostly due to what's called "rain fade." And the folks who have, you know, satellite service from their own know that when they have a pretty bad thunderstorm or a heavy rain over their house on a sunny afternoon and their favorite team is playing football and your signal gets cut out and you're frustrated. Well, we're going through the same frustration here. But it's part of the deal.

The rain is coming down sideways and coming down heavily. That satellite is just having a hard time shooting through all that water that's falling out of the clouds and stuck up in there in the clouds as well.

Light is coming up now, so we'll be able to get a little bit more mobile here and check things out a little bit more for you.

Actually right now, we're a bit protected from the wind. A couple of corners of the building are kind of helping us out, helping our equipment stay somewhat dry and helping me from at least right now not getting blown away.

But, Miles, I haven't recorded a wind gust higher than (AUDIO GAP)...

M. O'BRIEN: All right, Rob, I think we lost Rob there. I'm over here checking the wind out in the middle of the street. Let me walk a little bit closer to you.

Things are picking up here definitely as the northerly wind coming down the chute here, that's south in that direction, starting to pick up quite a bit. I haven't gotten a good reading out there yet on what the sustained winds are. Not quite at tropical force yet here in Baton Rouge. And we are watching, obviously, very closely here.

Part of the reason we're here, Soledad, in Baton Rouge is we wanted to be on the edge of it. And the fact of the matter is that being right in the heart of it right now makes it very difficult to tell the story.

S. O'BRIEN: And that explains why we're dropping out phone lines and also losing some of our signals as well. And I have to imagine it's going to get worse over the next couple of hours as we really start to see Katrina come fully on land, even though she's already made landfall, but coming fully on land and everyone starts really feeling the brunt of this storm.

Miles, we'll check back in with you in just a moment.

Towns, as we've mentioned, up and down the Gulf Coast have been evacuated in anticipation of Hurricane Katrina. Some people, though, are staying put.

Roger Shanks is riding out the storm in his bed and breakfast guesthouse in Biloxi, Mississippi. He joins us by phone. He's with his wife, Sandra, as well.

Good morning to both of you. I've got to ask you, why? Why not get out? Hey, Roger, can you hear me? This is Soledad O'Brien at CNN in New York. Can you hear me?

ROGER SHANKS, OWNER, LA BELLE MAISON BED & BREAKFAST: Yes. Can you hear me?

S. O'BRIEN: Yes. I kind of can hear you, sort of. Hopefully, our connection will improve over the next couple of seconds. Listen, I just mentioned that you and Sandra have decided to try to ride out the storm in your bed and breakfast. Why is that? Why didn't you throw your stuff in the car and get out?

SHANKS: Well, we've just got so much money involved in this place, antiques and whatever. During Camille you couldn't get back in again. So, if there was any damage to the house there was no repair to it for sometimes a week or more. And everything just really got ruined. So we're just going to stay here with it.

S. O'BRIEN: I hear you, and I get your explanation. But at the same time, if this storm comes through with the brunt that it is predicted to right now, forget the stuff, you know? You could lose your life.

SHANKS: This house survived the storm of '47. It survived Camille. It didn't even have water in it in Camille. I can look out right now and see the ocean -- or the Gulf. The water is covering Highway 90, but just coming up to the very front of my property. I'm probably still another -- the land all slopes here, and I'm probably still another 15 feet or more above that.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, good. You're going to probably need every single foot you got there. How are you preparing? I mean, outside of just being on higher ground than some people around you, what else have you done?

SHANKS: We've boarded up. Every window and door, they're all boarded up. Of course, we picked up everything, you know, out in the yard early and stored away.

S. O'BRIEN: What about guests? It's a bed and breakfast. Did you send all of your guests home?

SHANKS: Yes, they all left.

S. O'BRIEN: What's your plan for food? I guess I'm -- let's show that picture again, if we can. I think that's a picture of the bed and breakfast. We had that up just a moment ago. There it is. It's absolutely beautiful. If the water comes up, that first floor porch is going to be flooded, no question about that. But what's your plan right now as far as food and taking care of yourselves, you and your wife for however many days you might be in this house?

SHANKS: Well, like I say, we have a great deal of food here in the refrigerators and freezers, canned goods, whatever. I have a generator. Whenever the storm is over, I will crank that up. That will keep our refrigeration going. And we have gas cooking.

S. O'BRIEN: Rob Marciano, our meteorologist, is really essentially where you are as well. And some of the pictures that we've seen of him in the wind is pretty intense. What does it sound like? And where exactly are you hunkered down inside your house?

SHANKS: Right now, I'm sitting in the bathroom.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, good.

SHANKS: It's a central room. Mainly because right near here is the only phone in the house that is a land line. I mean, not a portable. So the power went out about 5:00. So this is the only phone that works.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, good. I'm glad you've still got a working phone. Thanks for talking with us, Roger Shanks. And his wife, Sandra, we should mention, is there with him as well, as they decided to ride out the storm in their bed and breakfast in Biloxi, Mississippi. Thanks. Good luck to you. We'll check back in and make sure it all tuned out well and that you're safe in just a little bit.

Our complete coverage of Hurricane Katrina will continue in just a moment. We're going to check in live with FEMA director Mike Brown and find out how the agency is preparing for this one. You're watching an extended edition of AMERICAN MORNING. We're back right after this short break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: Welcome back to our special coverage of Hurricane Katrina. It now has made landfall officially by about 40 minutes now and is barreling its way up the Gulf Shore. You can see, we're in Baton Rouge. This is the campus of Louisiana State University. And you can get a sense now as a little bit of daylight here that almost kind of horizontal rain that's coming across here, north to south. That northerly kind of wind is what we would expect as that counterclockwise flow of Katrina makes its way down through here.

Let's talk about New Orleans for a second, because we have focused a lot of our attention on New Orleans, because of great concern about the number of people there and the fact that it is so low-lying.

We're told that upwards of 80 percent of the people who live in that city followed the mandatory evacuation orders, which is a pretty impressive number in a city that is used to hurricanes, is used to, quite frankly, a lot of near misses. But in this case, many people have listened. And many people, those who had no other options, no other place to go, didn't have the proper transportation, ended up in the Louisiana Superdome, where normally the New Orleans Saints play.

Well, perhaps about 10,000 souls in there praying to some saints right now. Among them is Ed Reams. He is with our affiliate, WDSU. He's here to tell us about the power going out and what that means for the people inside -- Ed.

ED REAMS, CNN AFFILIATE WDSU REPORTER: Hey, Miles. Yes, we're sitting right in the end zone of the Saints' field right here inside the Superdome. As you mentioned, we have seen a power outage here in the Superdome.

The Superdome does run on emergency power, but on emergency power we can't operate the air-conditioning, which may make it very uncomfortable for the 10,000-plus people that are inside the Superdome right now seeking shelter from Hurricane Katrina.

We've seen a number of power hits throughout the morning. This one is lasting the longest. In fact, from reports through our reporters from our station throughout the downtown area, it seems like power is out to most of the central business district right now.

We've also gotten reports from people who have called in to our station saying that they've seen roofs starting to peel off near the downtown area. We've also had reports of broken glass, a lot of flying debris in this area. That's why these folks are in the Superdome. They are seeking shelter from that very threat, the threat of flying debris, the threat of rising water possibly if we see that large storm surge.

But if you look up, if you've ever been inside the Superdome, it's pretty immense. And if you look up, what we're seeing now is the rafters seem to be rattling up here, making a lot of people very anxious.

The management of the Superdome here in New Orleans is pretty confident that the integrity of this building will be maintained despite the fact that Katrina is probably the largest hurricane that this area will face and has faced in quite some time.

So, right now, without power here in the Superdome, operating on emergency power right now, but it may take away some of the creature comforts that these folks have been enjoying for a number of hours. Number one, air-conditioning. And that may be a major problem once Katrina moves on and the heat here in the Gulf Coast region returns -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Ed, correct me if I'm wrong, the roof of the Superdome, isn't it one of those sort of Teflon type roofs?

REAMS: That is the skin of the roof. The roof is actually pretty thick. If you remember, the roof was replaced. They put on a new type of Teflon skin, a kind of waterproof skin. But that doesn't mean that the roof itself is very thin.

The Superdome was built over 25 years ago, and it's almost like a bunker. It's one of the safest places here in New Orleans. In fact, it's the only shelter that the city of New Orleans even opened. It's called a shelter of last resort. Of course, they want most of the population to get out of town, not wanting the population to rely on the Superdome as a shelter. But many of these folks are ones that either, (a), couldn't get out of town or, (b), were on the fence and then saw the seriousness of Katrina and decided at the last minute that it was too late to evacuate and needed to get to a safe place.

So, 10,000-plus people in here right now. Everybody is behaving themselves, but obviously very anxious with just the sound of Katrina around us.

If I may make one more observation to you, Miles. There is so much movement from this wind that we're in such a large building, all of the undulation and pressure from the wind outside is almost changing the air pressure within the Superdome. You can almost feel it in your ears that the wind outside pushing and moving the Superdome in so many different directions, it's almost -- you can almost feel it in the air. So it's causing a lot of concern for folks here who are seeking shelter -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Boy, that is a thought. Let me ask you one more question before you get away, Ed. The temperature here where I'm standing is 73 degrees, and that is typically what happens during hurricanes. It's not too bad. And then really the day after it gets very, very hot, very humid. Right now, where you are, I assume it's about the same. The concern might be in subsequent days if people get stuck there.

REAMS: Right, exactly. And the National Guard, there are over 200 National Guard personnel here at the Superdome. They've been bringing in water, pallets of water, pallets of food. But what they're also going to be doing is keeping people in the Superdome until it's actually safe to leave.

During Hurricane George back in 1998, the last time the Superdome was used for evacuation, many people had to stay here three-and-a-half days. There were some pretty hot tempers, because the sun was shining outside, but they were not allowed to go home.

The National Guard says that will happen here. There's no sense in letting people out of the safest place in New Orleans if we're surrounded by flood waters, if we're surrounded by downed power lines, damaged homes, and especially if emergency services have not even had the opportunity after the storm passes to get into a sense of exactly just what kind of damage this city face.

So, a lot of these people, they may think that they are prepared to be here for a while, but we just don't know how much damage Katrina could cause. So these folks may be here for quite some time -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Ed Reams is with our affiliate, WDSU. He joins us on the line from inside the Superdome. Thank you very much.

They're not allowing television cameras in there for privacy reasons, so it's good to hear from Ed and get a sense of what's going on inside as 10,000 folks weather the storm inside the Superdome without the main power. They have emergency power, which means dimmed lights and no air-conditioning. Well, if you know anything about New York, no air-conditioning is a big deal, maybe not this moment, but in days to come if they remain stranded there.

Our coverage of Hurricane Katrina, now making landfall, having made landfall within the past 45 minutes, on its way to who knows what and how much damage, continues after a break. Stay with us.

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