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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Hurricane Katrina Downgraded to Cat 4

Aired August 29, 2005 - 04:00   ET

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


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning to you. Welcome to an early edition of DAYBREAK. The story today, of course, Hurricane Katrina. Let's get straight to Chad Myers. He is in the weather center. And we've been hearing in the last hour or so that this storm has been downgraded to a category 4, but that ain't nothing to sneeze at.
CHAD MYERS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, no. And the eyewall can still get stronger, can still get smaller, on the way to shore. So the storm itself is still about the same size. What happened is it gulped in a little bit of dryer air from the west and that kind of mixed in toward the middle.

A bigger eye, Carol, let's say 30 miles apart will be like a figure skater when he or she will have their arms out and they're spinning around, they're going fairly slowly. The smaller the eye gets, the small the eye wall gets is like when that skater brings her arms in. And you've all seen this on the Olympics. She spins around very quickly.

So when we get an eye wall down to about eight or 10 miles, that's when the most dangerous winds occur right at that eye wall, or right at that northern side of the eye wall. We'll switch you to radar to show you here. It's hard to see because there's just so much color here.

But you pick out the very dark areas here along -- thank you, Dave. Right along the coast. That's actually the coast or the land mass of Louisiana. Now, I say that not in jest, but that there is some land there. A lot of this is very marshy area, not much land to speak of. And all the homes are built on basically pilings or sticks. And a lot of the roads are the same.

Here it comes, the western part of the eye wall, the easiest part of the eye wall to take because the winds are actually pushing offshore. And you get a little bit of friction from the land here. The hardest part of the eye wall to take is right here. No friction at all. The water is flat except for 35-foot waves that are blowing there. Some waves up to 60 feet earlier, but that buoy now doesn't exist anymore.

Winds coming up here from the south and from the southeast, blowing right into Grandow (ph), blowing right into Venice. All of this, this entire row that goes all the way from basically New Orleans right on down to -- is really just the mouth of the Mississippi. But the reason why that land is there at all, Carol, is because it's the silt that's been dragged down from Minnesota, Nebraska, and Missouri for years and years and years. It's just a delta. It's just mucky land. It's not real solid dirt. You don't get really even into real dirt until you get up to about Slidell.

But as this moves on by, I've noticed a northward drift, not a northwestward drift, which takes really a lot of the threat from Baton Rouge away. Good news there. You're still going to see winds to 100, but you're not going to see winds to 165. The winds that are you going to be, or at least close to be, that number will be up to the east of this storm, all the way into Biloxi, Gulfport, and possibly even toward Mobile. Depends if it really does take a little bit more a right or a eastern shift as it gets on land.

This here, the area here, inundated with water. Absolutely inundated with water. 30-foot storm surge easy in some of these areas, even at a cat 4, and then a little bit less obviously in New Orleans. What I'm most concerned with -- Dave, take that radar mike on for me. I'm most concerned with is that we've had these east winds for hours and hours and hours, 50, 60, 70 miles per hour, piling up water here.

And also piling up water into Lake Pontchartrain. And I'm worried that Lake Pontchartrain could actually breach New Orleans the wrong way. Water could actually get over the Lake Pontchartrain dike or levy, rather than the other way, which we're most concerned about and have been most concerned about, water coming up through the Mississippi, and up and over that levy. Like where the Natchez is parked, where that big riverboat is parked, and obviously by the casinos as well.

COSTELLO: OK, Chad, some specifics now. When do you expect the brunt of the storm to make landfall?

MYERS: Dave, put that back on, would you?

The brunt of the landfall? It's going to be -- it's a long process, Carol. Right now, all you do is -- the weather gets worse and worse and worse. It just goes downhill from here. This is the best you're going to see for the next 12 hours.

The brunt of the landfall, the brunt of the damage, will probably be on the eastern eye wall, traveling to the north to about Slidell to probably about Bay St. Louis. That's the worst part. Now, New Orleans is going to get its worst part earlier than that because they are farther south than that. And if you're in Venice, you're getting the worst part in an hour or two.

But officially, that's about a five hour distance between where we are at the worst part of the eye wall for New Orleans right on up to New Orleans itself. And there you see into Empire, into Venice, about an hour to an hour and a half before that northern part, the most dangerous part of this landfalling eye wall.

This is the landfalling part, this is the land going away. Here's coming, here's going. This is actually pushing water off. This is pulling water on and bringing up that water.

COSTELLO: OK, so the worst of the storm has begun. Miles O'Brien is in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Want to see what the conditions are there because there have been some wind gusts right up to 45 miles per hour, and that happened a few hours ago.

It looks rather calm there though, Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is right now, Carol, and it was nice to hear Chad say that things were trending in a way that would be a little more favorable here. But 100 miles and hour is nothing to shake a stick at, or sneeze at, if you will.

I have a question for Chad, though. The fact that Lake Pontchartrain is above New Orleans and much of where we are right now, we've said in past storms that that counter-clockwise swirl makes people to the right of the eye more susceptible. But on the down stroke, if you will, Chad, with Lake Pontchartrain filling up, are they just as susceptible for a storm surge there?

MYERS: Absolutely. There's always a storm surge, Miles, on Lake Pontchartrain. There's only a small path, though, to get in and out of Lake Pontchartrain, and then the inner coastal, down a little bit farther to the south and toward the southeast of there.

But as the water just pour in, piles in -- you saw what I went through in St. Marks, Florida, Miles, just a couple weeks ago with the storm there. That storm was hundreds of miles from St. Marks, Florida, and the water went up about 10 feet. Well, this isn't hundreds of miles from the eye. This is -- the wall's going to take a pretty much direct hit of Lake Pontchartrain. So we're going to see probably storm surges in Lake Pontchartrain of 20 feet.

And that could breach some of those dikes, some of those levies, the wrong way. The place the way that most Louisianans and New Orleans people don't even think of because Lake Pontchartrain has been so calm for so many years. Right where that bridge goes over, that causeway goes over, the levies are high. But we're wondering if they're high enough this time.

O'BRIEN: Well, and that's, you know -- one of the reasons we came here to Baton Rouge is, as we've said time and again for people, much of New Orleans is below sea level. This is high ground as Louisiana goes right now. And so there's a little bit less concern about that. Not protected by levies and pumps, but the fact is, this is of great concern.

And Baton Rouge has never seen these kinds of winds before because, as Chad referred to, this is a big storm with those hurricane-force winds extending perhaps 100 miles from the eye, putting Baton Rouge right in the center of that squall. We should tell you, this is the direction that many people came. Yesterday, when the evacuation of New Orleans began in earnest, we were a part of it.

As we came out of New Orleans to Baton Rouge, it took us 4 1/2 hours or so. No more than 20 miles an hour average on Interstate 10 with a so-called contra-flow, Carol. Contra-flow meaning that all of the lanes were heading in the outbound direction. Nevertheless, it took a long time.

Meanwhile, back in New Orleans, as we've been saying all along, there remain quite a few people, perhaps as many as 300,000 still in the general environs of the city. And for some people, some of the less fortunate who have no place else to go, they have found their way to the Louisiana Superdome, where perhaps 20,000, maybe 30,000 people will be hopefully riding this storm out well. Nevertheless, we're told the parking lots there are below sea level as well.

It's interesting, we're listening to the core of engineers which maintains these levies and these pumps saying it's all but certain those levies will be passed over and those pumps will not be able to keep up with this. So it's been 40 years since the city of New Orleans has had a direct hit. That was Hurricane Betsy in 1965.

In that case, 70 percent of the city was flooded out. 60,000 people homeless for several months. And that was just a category three storm. This is a high category four, borderline category five. So obviously, the concern here very real, Carol.

COSTELLO: You know, you've got to wonder about those people in the football stadium, because they're sitting in the upper deck, so to speak, of the stadium. And there could be flooding below.

Now, if it reaches 100 degrees in there after the storm kind of passes over, all of those people will have to be relocated somewhere. And what do you do in the middle of a flood, because there could be 15 inches of rain in the city of New Orleans by the time this storm blows over.

O'BRIEN: That's a big problem. That's a huge problem if you think about it. Of course, yesterday we were listening to the mayor as he conducted an interview and a couple of news conferences.

And he said, you know, to those of you out there who can here my voice and have decided to stay in your houses, it's very important that you fill your bathtub with water so you have a supply of fresh water. Very important that you have access to at least a second floor, and hopefully maybe an attic or a third floor. And finally, here's the one that got me, if you're in your house and you're up in the attic or that top floor, you need to have the ability to hack your way out of the roof because the rise in waters could trap you.

And that just really struck me. You've got to wonder why some people would stay in their homes for that. But then when you just mentioned the alternatives, the Superdome, that isn't such a great alternative either, potentially.

COSTELLO: You're not kidding. But you're right. For people to stay in their homes, with all of the warnings, you would just sit there and feel your house disintegrate around you. So hopefully most people are out. Miles, we're going to back to you. We're going to head to Biloxi, Mississippi, right now. Jonathan Freed is there. Jonathan, first of all, tell us what the conditions are like there.

JONATHAN FREED, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. Well, over the last hour or so, we've seen the winds picking up, we've seen the rain picking up. It was quite calm for the first little while after we got here around 8:00 Central time last night.

After an eight-drive, and excruciating drive from New Orleans to Biloxi -- it's only about 100 miles as far as the interstate goes, only about 75 miles as the crow flies. But we were caught up with all the other people who were evacuating New Orleans. And when we finally got here, it was quite calm. But the rain has been coming in steadily now for the last hour at least.

COSTELLO: You know, you've got to wonder about the economy in Mississippi. Because I know casinos generate so much of the tax dollars in places like Gulfport, Mississippi. Most casinos, from what I understand, are built to withstand a category three storm. Is that your understanding?

FREED: Right. And what they're saying about this one is that the casinos here are built to withstand winds of approximately 150 miles an hour, and a storm surge of around 15 feet. And everybody is anxiously awaiting to see how the construction is going to fair this time. They say this is really going to be the first test of the outer limit of the construction of these casinos.

COSTELLO: I'm sorry, I missed that last part of your transmission, Jonathan. Can you repeat for me?

FREED: Sure. What I was saying is that the casinos here have been built to withstand winds of about 150 miles per hour and a storm surge of about 15 feet. And people here are saying that this storm is going to test the outer limits of that construction. Everyone is anxious to see whether or not that holds.

COSTELLO: And they're anxious because -- let's see, the estimates that I wrote down from my research. For one day, 17 of the casinos are closed. Probably all of them are closed by now. But the closing for one day costs the state of Mississippi 400 to $500,000. That's per day. If the casinos are wiped out altogether, that's a 50 percent reduction in their tax base. How do you recover from that?

FREED: It's very difficult here. People here are anxious on so many levels. And I think they have between 10 and 12 million tourists through this area every year. The casinos are a huge draw. They're not all coming to the casinos, obviously, but the casinos are a major draw here and really have been a -- there's been a $5 billion, that's billion with a B, dollar investment here, generally speaking, in development over the last decade and a half. So this storm really resonates on so many levels.

COSTELLO: OK, Jonathan, we're going to get back to you a little later. Thanks so much. Jonathan Freed reporting live from Biloxi, Mississippi, this morning. Now, time to check in with what you, our citizen journalists, are seeing out there. Lee, from Gulf Shores, Alabama, e-mailed us these pictures taken at Orange Beach on Sunday afternoon.

You can see the haze and the waves whipping there. He apologizes for the hazy quality of the photos, says it's due to the 45 mile per hour winds that were whipping up the waves and the sand. And as I said, this location along Orange Beach, it's known to locals as the geyser, and maybe you can understand why.

If you live in an area affected by Hurricane Katrina, you can add to our coverage by sending us your stories, video, and pictures. To be a citizen journalist, it's easy. Log on to CNN.com/stories. Include your name, location, and phone number. But please do not put yourself into harm's way because by now, I hope everyone is evacuated. Because mandatory evacuations were ordered for most of New Orleans, but not everyone left town.

Among those who stayed are doctors and nurses from the city's many hospitals. Joining me now is Bill Fox who is the chief operating officer of Methodist Hospital there in New Orleans.

Good morning, Bill.

BILL FOX, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, METHODIST HOSPITAL: Good morning, how are you?

COSTELLO: I'm fine, but you've got to be a little nervous this morning.

FOX: Yes, a little.

COSTELLO: How nervous?

FOX: Well, I think we're all concerned. You know, we're all watching the weather for two days and know this is, you know, kind of a historic event. So we're concerned.

COSTELLO: You're inside the hospital right now, I would assume.

FOX: Yes, you bet.

COSTELLO: Yes. How many patients are in there with you?

FOX: Oh, we have about on this campus about 125, and our campus about 40.

COSTELLO: How are you keeping them safe?

FOX: Well, you know, we're emergency generators, fuel on hand, food, water, et cetera. So we're prepared to move people around in the building if we have to. Fortunately, we're in a pretty sturdy building, so we're in good shape that way. But if you get hit with 150-mile-an-hour winds, you start watching them. And also...

COSTELLO: I was just going to ask you that. Because, Bill, from all of what we've heard, this hurricane could flatten many a building. So how's this hospital going to escape?

FOX: We won't get flattened, I'm confident. The building will stand find. Are we at risk for some window breakage? Sure we are. But we've already moved people around in the building to get them away from those areas. And if we have to move some more, we will.

COSTELLO: Does that mean you've moved them to the upper floors?

FOX: Well, we're in a six-story building. We haven't moved everybody up, but we've already moved a lot of our critical equipment up above the third floor in case we get some bad flooding.

COSTELLO: How critical are these people that remain in the hospital?

FOX: Well, we discharged an awful lot of them over the last couple days. People that are here are some pretty sick folks, yes.

COSTELLO: I was just wondering about that, because you know...

FOX: Or fortunately, we have a number of new babies in the building. I don't know how many of them will be named Katrina after this.

COSTELLO: You mean newborn babies? That's got to be scary. Are there moms with them?

FOX: Sure.

COSTELLO: And dads?

FOX: Sure.

COSTELLO: So you invited the moms and dads to come and stay with...

FOX: Well, in something like that, we do. Yes.

COSTELLO: Well, I can certainly understand that. So what is that like? During the height of the storm, are they going to be inside with their babies? Are they going to be in a holding room?

FOX: They'll probably be in the room. The babies will be in the nursery, which is in a very secure part of the building. You know, we've probably got in total in this building upwards of 500 people right now.

COSTELLO: Wouldn't your first choice be to evacuate them?

FOX: Well, you know, it would be. And every hospital in town tried to do that to the extent possible. You know, this kind of came up a little quick on people. And there's not a lot of places to evacuate them to. So the people that could be discharged and moved out were. The people that could be evacuated were. But I think everybody in town had a tough time doing that. COSTELLO: Well, Bill, we wish you so much luck. And thank you for joining us this morning. Bill Fox from Methodist Hospital in New Orleans.

Chad just got a hold of some new information. What is it, Chad?

MYERS: It's a tornado warning, Carol. And we're going to have tornado warnings a lot of today. In fact, we may -- with a storm this size, we may have 200 tornado warnings today with 200 different cells that will be rotating as they make landfall.

Now, the story that we have, this red box right here, that is Hancock County. That is in southern Mississippi. That includes Waveland, Diamondhead, and Bay St. Louis. And Bay St. Louis, you're really under the gun, here. The box itself shows you where the warning is, but most of only the southern 1/3 of this county is affected.

If you can take that warning back off, and the cells have been moving in actually from the east. Kind of an odd direction. Typically, you think of severe weather coming in from the west. But not when you're on top of the hurricane. That's the wind direction with the storm. That's the wind direction with the cell. And that is going to continue on by. There you see that large cell just driving by Bay St. Louis right now.

And it's interesting, Carol, the folks down there that I was talking to yesterday -- and I was on the phone a lot. One of my friends' fathers was in Bay St. Louis -- was in Bay St. Louis about 7:00 this morning. And I called and said, "You need to get out of there."

He said, "You know what? I'm making some ice. As soon as the ice is done, I'll put it in my cooler and then I'll drive to Atlanta.

COSTELLO: He's making some ice so he's got the cold water in the freezer?

MYERS: Yes.

COSTELLO: Waiting for it to freeze?

MYERS: Right, because the ice cube tray hadn't frozen yet. But he was going to get out at some point in time.

COSTELLO: That has to frustrate you as a friend. You just want to shake him.

MYERS: I just that everybody there was taking this more seriously than that, you know. And I know there are a lot of people that just batten down the hatches and said, "Hey, we lived through Camille. We can do this." I'm afraid this is a bigger storm in some ways.

COSTELLO: Yes, my favorite description this morning -- and I shouldn't say favorite because that's probably the wrong adjective. But the difference between a category four and a category five is the difference between getting hit by an 18-wheeler and a train.

MYERS: OK. I'll buy that. Sure.

COSTELLO: It's pretty true. It came from the National Hurricane Center.

MYERS: Oh, OK.

COSTELLO: We're going to take a short break. We've got much more on Hurricane Katrina coming up, including the effects the storm will have on oil prices. It ain't pretty. CNN's Ali Velshi joins us live with the latest on the deserted oil rigs in the gulf. Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Hurricane Katrina is already causing a major spike in oil prices. Thousands of workers have been evacuated from oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and from refineries on dry land. And that is causing the price of oil to flirt with $70 a barrel. The United States gets about 45 percent of its oil from the Gulf, about 600,000 barrels of oil per day. So we want to get more on this.

Ali Velshi is in Houston, Texas. Seventy bucks a barrel?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Unbelievable. Carol, it would have been hard to imagine this some time ago. This is once again an all-time record high for oil. It's about 10 bucks off the inflation- adjusted high price for oil. But here's the story. First of all, oil trading at it's heaviest start to 10:00 a.m. Eastern. This is pre- market trading. Often, you see larger speculation in the pre-market.

But we'll see what happens at 10:00. You saw that map that you just had up there from the Department of the Interior. There are some 4,000 rigs and platforms that drill for and produce oil in the Gulf Coast. Now, what happens is much of that goes into that coastal area between Texas and Louisiana, in Texas and Louisiana for processing and refining. Now, we've been hearing for months and months and months, Carol, that we've got full refining -- we're using all of our refining capacity to make that oil into gasoline and the other things that we use.

Well, we have two issues, here. One is that they have evacuated almost of those rigs in the central -- in fact, they have evacuated all of the rigs in central and eastern Gulf of Mexico. And they've now evacuated the refineries in that Gulf Coast region.

Also, just south of Louisiana, just south of New Orleans in the Gulf Coast, on the Mississippi Delta, is the Louisiana offshore oil port, which is responsible for 11 percent of all the oil that is imported into the United States. It's got a port 20 miles off shore where major large supertankers pull in and offload oil, Carol. So all of that is shut down.

Some refining capacity, about a million barrels a day, almost a million barrels a day of production capacity. One-third of all the oil that the U.S. produces gets produced in the Gulf. And we don't even know yet whether those rigs and platforms that have been abandoned right now have been damaged and what that situation will look like.

COSTELLO: And you know, Ali, we always hear about the problems with the refineries anywhere. I want to bring in Chad, he has a couple of questions for you, too. And then I'd like to talk about the lasting effects of this on our gas prices.

MYERS: Yes, Ali, I was talking to some friends that are from Louisiana yesterday and they were telling me that so much of this oil is actually produced into gasoline and distillates there, you actually -- they take these barges, they take these tankers, they offload them.

They float them almost all the way to Baton Rouge, and then that's where the refineries are. If we lose those docks where those supertankers dock -- if we lose them for a while, let's say four months to rebuild, how does that affect the oil supply coming in here to this area?

VELSHI: It's a major, major problem because we have oil offloading facilities sort of around the country, but there's no greater concentration than there is in that Gulf Coast area. And these are major supertankers. You can't just redirect one up the East Coast or along the West Coast. They are built for these major ships to unload oil.

We are so tight, we use so much of the oil that we produce every day and we import every day, we can't afford three or four months of offline. Frankly, Chad and Carol, we can't afford three or four days of offline without feeling those shortages.

MYERS: Now, the drawdown, even when we were operating at full speed, was 3 million barrels or something of gasoline. What's this going to do if we have to take some of this production offline?

VELSHI: It's going to be a problem. We don't have that kind of gasoline and distillates to take offline right now. What we have is a system where we were using, in the best case, 85 to 90 percent of everything that was being processed on a daily basis. We were going higher than that in the last couple of months because we had refinery fires and things like that in various parts of the U.S.

We don't have 10 or 20 percent of capacity not to be producing into gas, heating oil, diesel, jet fuel. Airlines have been complaining about the price of jet fuel which has been going up further than the price of gas and faster. That's going to be another hit. So really, I mean, we had one analyst who said earlier, I just read a report, Chad, that if they spill a quart of oil at a gas station, it's going to cause the price of oil to go up these days. That's almost how tight we are.

COSTELLO: Seriously, I would like Ali to address this. How high could gas prices go? Because they're already at almost $3 a gallon.

VELSHI: Yes, and you know, Carol, that in some places across the United States, people are paying more than $3 a gallon, particularly in California, for a gallon of regular gas. What you have on the gasoline side is two very distinct problems. The price of gas is derived from the price of oil. So as the price of oil goes up, you can expect the price of gas to go up.

But as Chad was pointing out, and you were pointing out, the refineries have been a bigger problem. So the price of gasoline has gone up faster than the price of oil. So now, it's a double whammy for gas. Oil prices are going up and refineries have been shut down. Gas prices you can expect could, you know what we've been hearing, spike.

And to know that gas prices have gone up so much in the last year, what does a spike actually mean? It might take 24 hours to establish that fully to see what kind of damage has been done in the Gulf. But you can expect higher prices for sure.

COSTELLO: I guess you could call it the perfect storm when it comes to gas prices. Ali Velshi, we'll get back to you later. Ali Velshi, reporting live from Houston.

Chad, I wanted to talk about the Superdome because this is the most astounding thing through all of this. This is a live picture. You can barely see the Superdome. But anywhere from 12,000 to 20,000 are inside this thing, weathering the storm. This has become a giant shelter.

MYERS: Right.

COSTELLO: And you've got to wonder what conditions are going to be like inside there when the power goes out.

MYERS: Well, it depends where the hit happens, Carol. If the storm has to still make a little jog to the left for a direct hit on New Orleans -- right now, with the slight turn to the right in the overnight hours, New Orleans kind of gets the easy side of the eye, as easy as 135 miles an hour can be. But they will get north winds and not south winds. Not the eastern eye wall.

If that area gets the eastern eye wall, or heaven forbid, right under the eye itself, if the wind comes from the north and then from the east, and then it stops, and then it comes from the other direction, which means direct eye wall contact here under New Orleans, I'm just not sure.

I've seen all these projections that the area where the Superdome is could be under 20 feet of water, which means all these people who are actually in the Superdome with no way to get out. And then hopefully there's enough stuff in there to keep them going for how long?

COSTELLO: We're going to talk to someone from the Homeland Security Department, because they're the ones that sort of are helping to put this all together. Hopefully -- well, I'm sure they have a plan in case that happens. MYERS: They didn't put people in the Superdome because it was dangerous. It was because that was their best-case scenario. We need to put people that can't get out -- I heard the number yesterday. Upwards of 170,000 people in New Orleans don't have cars because they don't need them or they can't afford them. A lot of people just walk to work, they don't need a car.

A lot of people in New York City don't have cars. So if that happened in New York City, how would you get out? Take the train? Well, how many people can you get on a train? They said, "Here, take the bus." How many people can you get on a bus? 60, maybe? 100? And then drive them where? Drive them to Houston, Pt. Arthur, and then back?

COSTELLO: Yes, and it's not like there's a subway in New Orleans, either. Do we have file pictures of the people waiting in line? Let's put those up.

MYERS: They were waiting in line.

COSTELLO: This was a very telling picture. Some of these people were waiting in line for hours. They have their kinds with them there. You can see that they took their belongings and packed them in big plastic bags, in big hefty bags. You know, what do you decide to take with you, because when these people go back of their homes, it's likely their homes will be gone.

MYERS: Well, right. And you know, the whole thing here, the reason why there was a line at all, was because there was a large search before going in. There are obviously many things you can't take in with you to a shelter.

COSTELLO: Oh, security sweeps.

MYERS: Security sweeps. Absolutely. For all these people. And you try to get 20,000 people through a security sweep, that's the same kind of thing that the TSA goes through on a daily basis, except they didn't have the same type of bodies that the TSA has to try to get all these people in. But hopefully, all the people that are in -- we've been seeing some pictures in the overnight hours, and just in the past couple of minutes really, of some of the lines of cars. Are those pictures live?

COSTELLO: I don't think so.

MYERS: OK.

COSTELLO: I don't think -- I think by now everybody is out and plus the bridges have been closed going into New Orleans I know.

MYERS: OK. Like that, just right there. I just saw that picture a little bit ago.

COSTELLO: That is not a live picture.

MYERS: That is not a live shot. COSTELLO: Angie (ph), do you -- I'm talking to my executive producer right now. Angie, do you know when these pictures were taken?

These pictures were taken overnight. So this is the exodus heading out of the city into safety.

MYERS: OK.

COSTELLO: OK. Going back to the Superdome for just a bit, because the Department of Homeland Security had MREs, you know, those meals that the military uses, that's what they're feeding people inside of this giant shelter. And they've also shipped in like gallons and gallons and gallons of water because it's going to get pretty darn hot in there.

What's the temperature in New Orleans at this time of year?

MYERS: Well, right now it's OK because the wind is blowing and the temperatures are down because of the rain. But I have been in the aftermath of a lot of hurricanes, and let me tell you, it gets hotter than you -- it feels hotter than the surface of the sun.

I mean, at some point in time the air gets muggy then the air gets still. And you're behind this system and it's sunny all day. You've got all this random water laying on the ground. And it just turns into an absolute steam bath there.

So obviously right now it's not bad. It's not that bad when its raining, but later on today and tomorrow when the sun comes out, that's when it gets a lot hotter. Now the reflection on top of the dome will actually keep a lot of the sun out, better than being in a greenhouse where the sun would come in, but this is still going to be a very, very hot place to be when the power goes out. Right now they still have the power on and they're still getting some air conditioning going.

COSTELLO: And if it's raining like hell, not be able to open the roof, either.

MYERS: Right.

COSTELLO: This is what the roads look like now, Chad.

MYERS: Ah, great, great shot.

COSTELLO: This is from Mobile, Alabama.

MYERS: OK.

COSTELLO: So as you can see, it's pretty darn much deserted, as it should be. And that's a good thing to see this morning.

MYERS: Carol, we just received the new advisory here. And I just want to kind of go over it with you. Still a 150 mile-per-hour storm. The pressure, if you have been keeping score here, 915 millibars.

And I know that doesn't equate very well to somebody with a home barometer, but if you go look at your barometer, you can see how far all the way over that is, past the 27s and the 26s, way, way lower than any winter storm you might get out of Canada or whatever it might be.

But the storm was 902 millibars, 902 was the lowest that you had with this storm a couple of hours ago. So it has filled in a little bit, filled in with some air at this lower pressure. But to me...

COSTELLO: OK. So, Chad, Chad...

MYERS: But Camille...

COSTELLO: Chad, clearly...

MYERS: Let me talk, Carol!

COSTELLO: Translate that for us. I don't know what that means. What does that mean?

MYERS: Well, if you would let me talk...

COSTELLO: OK. Go ahead.

MYERS: Camille, Camille was 908. And so this is actually now not as strong as Camille, but not really as strong as it has been, 908. I'm walking over here because you're -- I have this chart, but it's not in front of me, 908 millibars is 26.81 inches of mercury.

This storm got down to 26.61, and right now it's 26.98. Now if you would go to your home barometer that you have, it's probably a big circle hanging on your wall that you got from an uncle somewhere. If you go look at that, that is completely off the screen. Rarely would you ever have to have a barometer that would go that low in the northern hemisphere unless you were obviously trying to get under a hurricane -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right. Thank you, Chad.

MYERS: All right, just having fun with you this morning.

COSTELLO: I know. It's a stressful time, I know.

MYERS: It is.

COSTELLO: CNN is your hurricane headquarters. There is much more hurricane coverage to come.

Imagine this, your city is ordered to evacuate, but you're not going anywhere because you're in the hospital. It's all too real for dozens of people in New Orleans. We're going to take you back there after a break.

You're watching DAYBREAK for Monday, August 29. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: And good morning to you. Welcome to an early edition of DAYBREAK. We're watching Hurricane Katrina as it unleashes its wrath on the Gulf Coast. Katrina could set up a long and watery road trip inland after making landfall this morning. The massive hurricane's impact will likely be felt far from the coast.

Anderson Cooper has been on a long road trip himself, he has been driving all night long, joins us now live from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Tell us about your journeys, Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sure. Hey, Carol, good morning. Good morning, Chad.

You know, I heard you talking a little bit right before the commercial break about the people evacuating. And we've seen some million people evacuating from the New Orleans area. As we drove in, I flew into Houston just a few hours ago, the line of cars was truly extraordinary. I've never seen anything like it, just mile after mile after mile of bumper to bumper traffic.

I want to show you the bridge that goes over the Mississippi here in Baton Rouge. You're looking at a shot of the bridge over my shoulder. It's pretty much empty at this point. That's the bridge we crossed over about an hour-and-a-half ago.

The people heading westward, heading toward Texas, around this area it has pretty much slowed to a trickle about an hour-and-a-half ago. As you see right now, there are virtually no cars on that road. But I can guarantee you heading toward the Louisiana border in the early parts, around Orange, Texas, the highways are still crammed with people because we were passing by just bumper-to-bumper traffic non- stop, people trying to get out of this storm.

We talked to one man in a rest stop in Texas. He was trying to get to Houston and he and his girlfriend were going to go to Las Vegas and try to just avoid this whole thing altogether.

Here in Baton Rouge, just a little bit of rain at this point, not too much. You don't get much of a sense of what is coming. You don't really have much of a sense of the terror which is out there which is heading toward New Orleans, possibly heading toward this area.

We're not anticipating the brunt of the storm to be here. We wanted to come here to Baton Rouge to be in higher ground in order to be able to broadcast throughout the storm.

You know, one of the things, and Chad will tell you this, Carol, you've got to be so careful about is this flying debris in these storms. And when you're looking for a location to broadcast from, you know, you look around to see what around you might become airborne.

One thing that is a big concern always are street lights. Something like this, which looks pretty solid, is actually pretty rickety. If these winds get, as Chad had said earlier, 100-plus in the Baton Rouge area, something like that could just become airborne, become dangerous very quickly.

I want to check in with Adaora Udoji, my CNN colleague who is down in New Orleans, in Tulane University Hospital, where they have moved patients to higher ground. It has got to be a very tense scene there.

Adaora, what's the latest?

ADAORA UDOJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Anderson, there has been a tremendous amount of anxiety all day long, and, you know, very wary of waiting to see what this storm is going to bring here to New Orleans.

But here is something a little bit interesting. We were speaking to some doctors and some hospital administrators not too long ago, and they were very thrilled to hear that Hurricane Katrina had gone from a Category 5 to a Category 4.

Of course, they understand that it is still packing a very incredibly powerful punch. However, less is more in this case because, as you mentioned, they have been evacuating some of their patients from one floor to another.

Actually, it was their emergency room earlier today. The emergency room is on the first floor. They were bringing it up there and taking some -- taking a look at some of the (INAUDIBLE), bringing them up to the third floor. And that's not just the patients but the equipment and the staff.

Those are some nurses that you're looking at. There have been police officers through here today, paramedics. The doctors and nurse have all been working terribly hard, preparing for what, they don't know. They're just trying to prepare for the very worst.

At this point it's all about the aftermath. They have been taking some rest. There have been air mattresses all throughout the entire hospital here. There are dozens and dozens of doctors and nurses, and some of their family members spending the night.

Right now, many of them trying to catch some sleep because they just don't know what the day is going to bring -- Anderson.

COOPER: OK. Adaora, no doubt we'll be checking in with you quite a bit over the next couple of hours. We'll talk to you soon.

That is the scene, as you heard, Chad and Carol, from Adaora in New Orleans. And as I said, here in Baton Rouge, we're just getting a little bit of rain. There's really -- I mean, it's in, as Chad -- as you know well, we've spent a lot of hurricanes together, it is very strange in those hours before the storm really hits where you're waiting and everyone here is in their homes waiting, watching television, listening to the radio.

And it's this very sort of eerie feeling, you know something is coming. You know it's going to be bad. You just pray it doesn't hit where you are. And then, again, of course, you don't want it to hit where somebody else is. So it's a very strange time, Chad.

MYERS: It certainly is. And I don't think, Anderson, you've been on that side of the eye before, we always park you on the dangerous side. This side, this time the winds are actually going to be blowing from the east for a while and then from the north as the storm makes its closest approach.

So you will actually be on this side of the eyewall itself, or the western side. I think you were there for Dennis as well. But as that comes in, it's an interesting -- a completely different situation because the water is not a threat, the storm surge is not a threat because this is the side where the storm surge is the threat.

The threat for you today is, again, that flying stuff. We've seen building come apart together, Anderson, I just want you to always keep an eye out there which way the wind is coming from, and what is behind you that the wind is blowing to you. Because you never know, those things move so quickly.

A piece of vinyl siding at 80 miles per hour, you can't imagine how fast that goes, I'll tell you -- well, you know, people at home don't.

COOPER: Yes, and I had heard you say that a little bit earlier, Chad, and I can tell you, a lot of people in Baton Rouge, when they heard that, no doubt, breathing a big sigh of relief in that, that the storm -- you know, because there had been some talk -- I mean, the main reason we came here to Baton Rouge, was just to be in higher ground, away from New Orleans and able to go into New Orleans tomorrow after the storm passes.

But, you know, there had been some talk that maybe storm would hit Baton Rouge head on. It is certainly good news for the people here that that is not going to happen, because we've seen so many people evacuated to Baton Rouge and moving even further west from here. So some good news tonight.

But again, you know, 100-plus mile-an-hour winds, if that's what we're going to get here in Baton Rouge, that is certainly nothing to take lightly, as you know -- Chad.

MYERS: Yes. Anderson, I've got a piece of paper on my screen here where the eye was going when we moved you to Baton Rouge. The eye, just follow the eastern side here of my piece of paper. It was driving itself well west of New Orleans and into Baton Rouge. And that was only about 12 hours ago.

Right about at this point in time, 10 hours ago, this storm did make a right-hand turn of at least 10 degrees. And that's why, in fact, New Orleans may even be on the west side of the eyewall.

But I've noticed, just on the past couple of frames of radar, that it has actually wobbled a little bit farther to the west again. Now I don't think you're going to get back into it. It has been moving to the east and to the right and little bit too long.

You're going to still get into this 80 and maybe 100 mile-per- hour gusts. But that just means that New Orleans here may be back into the eyewall landfall with that little wobble.

This thing, Anderson, you know, we watch wobbles because 15 miles can make such a difference, when we were in Melbourne (ph), we had some damage. Get down to Palm Bay, get down to some of those areas, it was devastated, and that was only 20 miles apart.

COOPER: And how big is, I mean, the eye of this storm, and how fast is it moving? You know, is this thing going to just sit in this area or is it going to move through pretty quickly?

MYERS: Well, the good news is, no, it's going to move through pretty quickly. That is good news and bad news. Good news that we're not going to have the flooding like we had in Miami with this storm because it sat there and basically didn't move very fast, about 6 or 7 miles per hour.

This storm is moving somewhere in the vicinity of about 12 miles per hour due north. And so, yes, it will spread a lot of rain, wind, and even damage with it, but you're not going to have that sitting over the same area like Hurricane Agnes did back in 1972.

But the flooding will be in New Orleans for the simple fact that at some point in time, the pumps can't keep up. The pumps in New Orleans, because it's under water, basically, it's under sea level, they can only pump two inches an hour of water for the first hour, and then only an hour of one inch per hour after that.

And so, if you get rainfall rates of three to four inches per hour, the pumps can't keep up. And then we obviously have to worry about those dikes and those levees keeping up as well. So we're going to keep watching New Orleans, you are still in the teeth of this storm, and also Biloxi, Gulfport, right over to Bay Saint Louis and even into Mobile, you're going to get a heck of a storm surge up Mobile Bay.

COOPER: Chad, one of the things I learned from you, I think, one of the last storms we did together is that inland flooding, which is such a concern, and which often kills the most amount of people in terms of fatalities after a hurricane some 60 percent of the fatalities sometimes are because of inland flooding.

And I also read that just six inches of water can knock a person off their feet, and 2 feet of water can float and SUV, which I just find extraordinary.

MYERS: Well, yes, the amount of water -- the weight of water at about six to seven-and-half pounds per gallon, if you get enough gallons under any SUV, under a garbage truck, for that matter, it's going to lift up. And then your tires don't have contact with the ground and it doesn't matter whether you're steering or accelerating or putting the brakes on, if your tires aren't touching the concrete, you're not stopping or turning your car. That is part of the problem. Another thing, Anderson, I'm worried about is this right side of the eyewall moving through and into central Mississippi and Alabama. And even last night, some of the people in my neighborhood were going out and buying generators because even through Atlanta, with a lot of rain and even winds to about 60 or 70, now that doesn't sound like a lot if you're living in New Orleans right now, but that will knock down a lot of trees and that will knock down a lot of power lines.

And it could be weeks for people that had no intention of being hurt by this thing, to get power back up into Mississippi, Alabama, maybe even as far north as Tennessee.

COSTELLO: All right, Anderson, thank you.

COOPER: Yes, it's always a concern -- OK. I'll talk to you later -- Carol.

COSTELLO: We have to take a break, I'm so sorry. Anderson...

COOPER: I could blather on...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: No, I could blather on for hours. You go. You go. You've got important things to do.

COSTELLO: And so could I. OK. We're going to have some of the other top stories of the day coming up in just a few minutes here on DAYBREAK.

Plus, more on the arrival of Hurricane Katrina. We've got reporters spread all over the region to bring you the very latest. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Some other stories "Now in the News": We could see some intense political fighting in Iraq in the next few weeks over the draft constitution. It has been submitted to the parliament without the endorsement of the Sunni minority. The Iraqi people are to vote on the draft in mid October.

France has put out a list of five airlines banned from its airspace for safety reasons. They include Air St. Thomas, from the United States. France acted after the recent plane crash in Venezuela that killed dozens of French tourists.

A red hot night for Green Day. The punk band was the big winner at the MTV Video Music Awards in Miami. The band won seven of the eight categories in which they were nominated, including Best Rock Video.

Let's head to the forecast center again. So how fast is this hurricane moving, Chad? MYERS: Twelve miles per hour, Carol, that's the latest advisory, 12 miles per hour. The distance across from eye to eye, Anderson just asked me, I couldn't answer him without using our tracker here on Titan, 30 miles across.

Now that's the big story. That's still a very large eye for a landfalling hurricane. If this would get down into the 10 or 15 mile- per-hour -- or mile range, that mile would get smaller and smaller and smaller. And those wind speeds, like a top in the middle, would get faster and faster and faster.

So right now the wind speed at 150 miles per hour. The storm did make a little bit of a kink to the north, as expected, that was completely in the forecast, completely in the hurricane track from the Hurricane Center. Right now still a Category 4, 150 miles per hour. That means you're still five miles-an-hour from a Category 5.

And a hurricane-hunter aircraft back inside the storm this morning. They may actually find higher gusts and get it back up to a Category 5. It's certainly there right on the threshold. What's the difference at this point in time? It's still basically a 30-mile wide F2 tornado. Although that's not officially how we categorize it.

Here is the official 4:00 advisory, Carol. Get this for you here in about 10 seconds after I read it. Come back to me.

COSTELLO: All right. We will do that. We are we going now? Do we have anyone on the phone? We're going to have to take another break. We've got much more on Hurricane Katrina coming up. Millions of people heeding the warnings to leave town ahead of the landfall. We'll check on what they left behind. These are old pictures. These cars are long gone by now.

And right now a few images of the affected areas in the path of Katrina. And as you can see, this taken inside of a shelter. DAYBREAK will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: If you're just joining us, Hurricane Katrina downgraded to a Category 4, but that will still pack quite a punch, with sustained winds of 155 miles per hour, expected to really hit land, oh, sometimes between 7:00 a.m. and 10 a.m. Eastern this morning.

Miles O'Brien is to the west of where the storm will hit. He's in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Hello, Miles.

O'BRIEN: Hello, Carol. You know, this is the place where many people went when it came time to evacuate. West seemed to be the favorable side of the storm, as we tell you time and again with that counter-clockwise circulation.

But the real storm surge right along the coast is to the right of the eye as you look on the map. And so here we are about 80, 90 miles west, a little bit north of New Orleans.

But nevertheless, given the size of this tremendous Category 4, borderline Category 5 storm, Katrina, it's very likely they will experience hurricane force winds here. And no one can ever remember Baton Rouge enduring that kind of wind.

So they are hunkered down here. I'm at the campus of Louisiana State University. Classes have been canceled. Students are still here on campus. They haven't been evacuated or anything. We are on relatively high ground.

And that was part of the reason why we came here, out of concern that we wouldn't be able to continue to tell this story at all if we remained in New Orleans because, as we've been saying over and over again, New Orleans is below sea level, protected by levees and pumps.

And there is great concern that as that surge comes ashore, perhaps as high as 20 feet, that New Orleans, which is, in many cases, 10 feet below sea level, those levees won't hold and those pumps will give out.

So this location right now probably will be spared the real, true brunt of it, but the situation in New Orleans is as bad a situation as you can conjure up. Anybody who has ever studied hurricanes will tell you the most susceptible city to these sorts of events is New Orleans.

And what it appears is happening right now is unfortunately a direct hit, something that hasn't happened to New Orleans in 40 years. And when that happened, it was a much less strong storm -- Carol.

COSTELLO: And still, so many people have not evacuated, like, what, 12,000 to 20,000 people are in the Superdome there. And we know of several people who chose to stay in their homes, ride out the storm, which could be the worst decision they ever made. We hope not.

Miles, I want to stop you right here. Susan Roesgen from WGNO, that's a local affiliate in New Orleans, she joins us now live on the phone.

Where are you?

SUSAN ROESGEN, WGNO REPORTER: Yes, Carol, I'm right across the street from the Superdome in downtown New Orleans.

COSTELLO: So tell us what it is like there, because we have been fascinated with this part of the story.

ROESGEN: I'm sure you are. I think we are fascinated too, in a different sort of way. A lot of waiting, a lot of worrying. But not a lot of wind or water yet in downtown New Orleans. Hard to believe that in just a few hours we may be inundated.

Obviously the low-lying parishes along the coast are getting this tidal surge and getting swamped first. But it hasn't happened yet in New Orleans.

COSTELLO: Tell us about the people inside of the Superdome and what conditions are like in there.

ROESGEN: You know, the Superdome has refused to let the media inside the Superdome. The National Guard is directing people over there. There were long lines this afternoon, a long line that snaked down Poydras Street right outside the Superdome, of people waiting to get in.

There was some confusion, very slow-moving getting people in. And people have been told to bring very few personal items. So you can be sure that it's not very comfortable there.

I spoke to the New Orleans Police Department deputy chief who is overseeing the operations there. And he couldn't really assure me that there would be enough food, enough water, or enough power in the Superdome in the days ahead.

COSTELLO: Susan, we've heard they're serving people MREs, the kind of meals they served the guys in the military -- men and women in the military.

ROESGEN: Yes. That could be. I've got four of them myself. They're a good thing to have. They have about 2,000 calories so they keep you going all day. That may be true. They may have MREs inside the Superdome.

Across the street, what a difference at the Hyatt Hotel where they've got about 3,000 people. They said earlier they plan to serve a buffet in the morning. So I don't know whether they're going to have, you know, pineapple and maraschino cherries while the Superdome is having MREs.

I also went tonight to the local children's hospital where the young patients have been evacuating up. The hospital is in a low spot, so last night the patients and an operating room were moved off of the first floor up to a higher floor.

They say they've got generators there at the hospital. But they don't expect the generators to be able to power a children's hospital here in New Orleans for more than two weeks.

So certainly everyone is hoping that this hurricane and the damage and the possible flooding don't last that long.

COSTELLO: Susan, something I'm wondering about, mandatory evacuations, everybody get out of town, and yet, three hospitals that I know of in New Orleans are up and running, although they've taken very special precautions.

Are their buildings fortified, because this storm could pack winds of 155 miles per hour?

ROESGEN: Yes, it could, Carol. But so many people in New Orleans simply don't have a way to get out, don't have transportation out of the city. As many as one-fourth of the city's residents don't have a car. And you have -- this is a very predominantly poor city. A lot of elderly people, a lot of sick people, a lot of people on dialysis and oxygen and with special needs, and so, of course the hospitals are going to try to stay open whether or not the buildings seem to be safe enough to withstand what's coming or not.

COSTELLO: Well, you be careful. Susan Roesgen from WGNO, reporting for us live from New Orleans. Thanks so much.

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