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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT
Aired August 29, 2005 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KITTY PILGRIM, GUEST HOST: Good evening, everybody.
Tonight, Hurricane Katrina one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the United States. This massive storm slammed ashore with 140- mile-an-hour winds and massive 24-foot storm surges. The eye of the hurricane passing directly between New Orleans, Louisiana, and Biloxi, Mississippi.
At this hour, it appears as if New Orleans has been spared cataclysmic damage. Most levees protecting this historic city appear to have held. But east of New Orleans, in Mississippi and Alabama, there is devastating flood damage. Parts of Mississippi are under as much as 12 feet of water tonight.
This hurricane is still a Category 1. The threat from tornadoes is severe. At least two deaths are reported in the storm today.
And as Katrina strikes, there are fears of its effects on the U.S. economy. Crude oil production in the Gulf region may be crippled. The price of gas may be heading higher.
The impact from Hurricane Katrina is only beginning to be felt in the United States tonight.
PILGRIM (voice over): Katrina blasted on to shore near the bayou town of Beris (ph), Louisiana, at 7:00 this morning. Packing more than 140-mile-an-hour winds, Katrina ripped through the Gulf Coast. Gulfport streets were covered with 10 to 12 feet of water as the eastern eyewall of the storm tore into town.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You can't drive in the road right now because literally projectiles are coming in our direction. It feels like we have to dodge artillery. And I want to give you a look at what's happened to our vehicle.
Our cameraman Steve Sorkin (ph) is going to show five minutes ago a piece of wood crashed into our vehicle, crashed into the window. And it's put a hole in our window.
PILGRIM: Biloxi faced the same punishing condition.
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: This is the worst squall we've seen yet. This hotel is literally coming apart. This may look like concrete, but it's actually stucco filler that I can feel swaying. Look at this. Look at the top part of that roof.
PILGRIM: In the New Orleans business district, Katrina whipped through the streets.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: But already, you can see blown out windows in the building across the street from us. The wind is howling and circulating throughout this -- the corridors of these streets, just howling through here. The water is already coming up on the streets up through the drainage system.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a lot of roofs and stuff that's torn off. And just -- you know, just messed up debris. It's just -- I mean, it's just witch (ph) right now.
PILGRIM: In the historic French Quarter, buildings were severely damaged. Yet some residents refused to leave. The Superdome, a shelter for 10,000 people, was not immune from Katrina's wrath.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is that white dome for which this is so famous. And it is shredded. That white membrane that covers the Superdome...
PILGRIM: This dramatic rescue took place as a flashflood trapped this man in his car. He said did he not see how deep the water was and was fortunate to escape.
CNN news source reporter Kareen Wynter needed some help of her own as her crew held on to her during a massive burst of wind. Even this bird, accustomed to using the wind, was defeated.
In Mobile, Alabama, the bay flooded and water rushed down the streets. At the New Orleans Hyatt, residents and their pets rode out the storm.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not really nice, but based on what is going on I think it's all right.
PILGRIM: Louisiana's governor also offered words of support.
GOV. KATHLEEN BLANCO (D) LOUISIANA: It's going to take a while to get all the damage repaired. But it's easier to repair damage than it is to restore lives.
PILGRIM: And if these first images of the havoc left in Katrina's wake are any indication, there is a lot of hard work ahead.
PILGRIM: Now, over the next hour and throughout the night here on CNN we'll bring you complete coverage of this ongoing emergency. New Orleans, a historic city that many feared would suffer devastating storm damage, that did not take a direct hit from Hurricane Katrina. Still, the damage to the city, as much as 10 feet below sea level, is severe, and Jeanne Meserve is live in New Orleans with the very latest on that -- Jeanne. MESERVE: Kitty, I am looking at an amazing scene. We've traveled a little bit west of downtown on I-10. Part of the interstate under water, but that is not the story.
There is a neighborhood here, the Ninth Ward it is called.. Every house that I can see is up to its rooftop in water.
There is one man who I can see who has punched a hole through the roof of his house, and half of his body is out. He's clearly waiting for rescuers.
The situation is like this: what would be an entrance ramp to the interstate is now being used to launch rescue boats. They are trying desperately to get out to some of these houses. I can only see that one individual, but we know there are other people who did not leave their homes, who did not heed or were not able to evacuate. And they must be trapped out there.
We saw a couple of them being taken to the Superdome earlier. There are more out there.
I see -- oh, I see one more person standing on the roof. This person got all the way out. I can see -- see them over there in jeans and a white T-shirt in the distance.
I just can't describe this to you. It just goes on and on and on. We -- as we were driving out here, we'd go through neighborhoods. We'd see cars up to the rooftops and think, oh, man, this looks really bad, we ought to stop and take a picture. But we kept going and came to this, and it just -- it just is ghastly. It just takings your breath away -- Kitty.
PILGRIM: All right. Thanks very much. Jeanne Meserve. Stay safe.
And now we go to Gary Tuchman, who is in Biloxi, Mississippi, for the very latest, there -- Gary.
TUCHMAN: Well, Kitty, for the first time in 20 hours the rain has stopped, but it has been an eventful 20 hours. We spent most of the day in Gulfport, Mississippi, which is 18 miles to the west of where we are right now. We made an 18-mile trip here. And it was like traveling in a covered...
PILGRIM: Well, we're obviously having some difficulty with the transmission. And we have received the signal back to Gary. So we return to him now.
Gary, can you hear us?
TUCHMAN: Kitty, I hope you can hear me. And this is what's been happening all day, obviously, because of the conditions.
But what I was just telling you, we just took an 18-mile trip from Gulfport, Mississippi, where we spent most of the day, to here in Biloxi, Mississippi. And it was like traveling in a covered wagon it took so long.
The eastbound lanes of Interstate 10 are impassible. And not just minor impassable, major impassable.
There are refrigerators, there are stoves, there is furniture, there is all kinds of refuse in the roadway. It has blown over from the flooded waters that surround that eastbound lane, and that faces the south. That's why that lane is so pack backed up. To drive east, you have to drive in the westbound lanes.
The floods in Gulfport immense. And it's not just near the beach. Four, five, six miles away from the beach, block after block, water towers over cars, it towers over windows, over street signs. Railroad crossings are down, roofs are down, glass is broken everywhere you look. Boats are in the road.
We saw at one point five people who had been rescued by a police officer, people who were having trouble swimming when the water got too deep near their house. The police officer rescued them.
We asked another police officer what the conditions were in the city of Gulfport. He told us, "I haven't had time to look right now. I've been busy with looters." So that's also something they are contending with.
But we are looking at damage comparable to the damage I saw during Hurricane Andrew in 1992, 13 years ago, in the city of Gulfport, Mississippi.
One other thing we experienced, Kitty, today, in our vehicle, in our CNN vehicle, we happened to be hit by a 12 x 8 portion of fence that weighed about 200 pounds that flew through the air. It landed on top of our vehicle with four of us in it. We were all OK, but it appears that the vehicle may be totaled.
Kitty, back to you.
PILGRIM: Gary, I've watched you. You are quite a veteran of hurricane coverage. And I've watched you over the years. How does this compare?
TUCHMAN: Kitty, I would say -- I have been covering hurricanes now for 23 years on and off. And I would say this was the worst I'd seen in terms of how long it lasted, how intense it was, and how much cleanup they are going to have to deal with in the days, weeks and months to come.
PILGRIM: Gary, we saw you a bit earlier in very severe wind conditions. What's the wind like now?
TUCHMAN: Well, the wind's died down considerably. I mean, we were talking about gusts where we were in Gulfport of 140 miles per hour. And for times we were trying to stand in it, and it was impossible.
I mean, it's hard enough to stand in 50-mile-an-hour winds, but there were times where it was just impossible. Right now we're talking about gusts of up to 50 miles per hour. This is nothing compared to the way it was earlier today.
PILGRIM: Yes. Take care. Thanks very much. Gary Tuchman.
All right. Let's go to Kathleen Koch in hard-hit Mobile, Alabama, where there are new concerns about damage to the nation's emergency infrastructure after the storm.
Kathleen, what's the latest there?
KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kitty, first of all, you can see right now that around me there are a lot of cars back on the street. We'll pan, Manuel (ph), first over here to the right.
Now, what you did see go by there was an emergency vehicle. But we are supposed to have a curfew under way right now in not only just the city here of Mobile proper, but all of Mobile County. And now that the rain has stopped -- and it's only stopped within the last few minutes -- people are coming back out on the street.
Again, if Manuel (ph) will pan down to the left, you can see it can get to be a very dangerous situation, because there are -- there is debris all down this main street. This is Government Street in Mobile. It looks like bushes have sprouted in the middle of the street, but those are downed limbs. And right now the traffic appears to be behaving, but earlier people were just zigging, zagging in and out.
Now, one thing that you did mention as far as infrastructure, a major bridge here is right now being evaluated for safety. It's the Cochrane/Africatown Bridge. I just lost my hat there, Kitty. But it goes across the Mobile River. And it was struck by an oil rig, a portable oil rig that came loose.
I think we have some video of it, if we can show you. It was a floating oil rig that came loose and crashed. And it wedged itself underneath the west side of the bridge. And so right now they are really evaluating that bridge to see whether or not it is going to be able to be used by the folks here in the city.
But downtown has really been hit hard. There is water in some places nearly four feet deep. And so that's going to be a lot to contend with for this city.
Also, we have been without power. Some 186,000 residents in this area, at the very least, without power. That was Alabama Power's best estimate just a couple of hours ago.
So there is going to be a hefty cleanup that will have to be done. But we've got some 2,700 people in shelters here in the Mobile area. There's a lot of concern that a lot of people didn't get out and may have stayed in their homes too long.
And emergency workers were not able to help them earlier today when the storm was at its peak. They just said, "Folks, you have to ride it out. We can't come and get you now."
But luckily, the storm is calming down. But unfortunately, people are not obeying the curfew. You can see they are out on the roads, and they're really only going to make the situation much worse, Kitty.
But again, at least it appears from Mobile the worst is over.
PILGRIM: Kathleen, it does look like there's a good bit of activity on the streets. And people are not obeying the curfew in force. And yet, there's probably not the manpower to enforce it, is there?
KOCH: No, there certainly isn't. And the police are very busy right now. Again, now that the weather has improved, they are going to be able to get out, police, firefighters, and again, begin helping in the cleanup, begin helping people who were stranded in some of these flooded areas who called for help at the peak of the storm and no one could go and get them.
So they really do have their hands full. There's not much they can do about this. We just would -- obviously everyone would like the citizens in Mobile to listen up and obey the law.
PILGRIM: And be responsible. Thanks very much. Kathleen Koch.
Well, more than 11 hours after making landfall, Katrina is still a hurricane tonight. It's a Category 1 now. It's hitting Mississippi and Alabama, and also Georgia.
Jacqui Jeras is in the CNN weather center with the very latest on the path of the hurricane -- Jacqui.
JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Kitty, it's moving up to the north, and it's picked up a little bit of forward speed. So that's good news. But it still remains a very large and a very dangerous storm.
In fact, north to south, it spans about a thousand-plus miles, believe it or not. A little bit iffy on what the maximum sustained winds are. And the reason why is that this storm has blown out power or caused damage to a number of Doppler radar sites and to a number of weather observing systems. So we're a little bit limited on some of our data across parts of Louisiana, into Mississippi, and even into Alabama.
Right now, the center of the storm is about 30 or 40 miles to the north of Laurel, Mississippi. And there you can kind of see, here's Laurel. The center is way up here now, still moving into a northerly direction.
And one of the bigger problems that we have been dealing with very recently has been a number of tornadoes that have potentially been spawning across parts of Alabama and into Georgia. We have a number of warnings that you can see still in effect for Gordon, for Morgan and Chattooga counties. And we had one report of a possible touchdown earlier. And that was in Carroll County.
I want to show you the forecast track, where this is going to continue to go, as it's gradually going to be turning on up to the north and to the east. There you can see tomorrow afternoon starting to get into Kentucky. We think it will be in Tennessee in the early morning hours and then make its way into the Tennessee -- or the Ohio River Valley, and then on up into the eastern great lakes.
And it's still going to be a problem here primarily because of the heavy rainfall. Four to eight inches is going to be expected this far north as the storm moves through. We're still expecting a good possibility of some scattered power outages yet tonight and into tomorrow morning as it heads through Mississippi, Alabama, and on through Tennessee -- Kitty.
PILGRIM: Jacqui, four to eight inches doesn't sound like much, but then there's the flooding on top of that, isn't there?
JERAS: What flooding do -- I'm not sure what you mean.
PILGRIM: In addition to the rainfall, you certainly have flooding that comes after -- after that.
JERAS: The heavy rain will cause the flooding, but they won't be dealing with storm surge or anything like that, like they do along the coast.
PILGRIM: All right. Thanks very much. Jacqui Jeras. Thanks, Jacqui.
Now, our coverage of Hurricane Katrina continues. We'll have a live report from one of the hardest-hit areas tonight, Gulfport, Mississippi.
Also ahead, an unprecedented U.S. disaster, a massive emergency response. The federal government sending millions in aid to the storm-stricken Gulf Coast.
Plus, Hurricane Katrina could trigger a new surge in gas prices. The storms effect on the tight U.S. energy market could be severe. We'll have a special report on that.
Stay with us.
PILGRIM: We're back with our continues live coverage of Hurricane Katrina. Rob Marciano is live now in Biloxi, Mississippi.
Rob, what's the latest from where you are?
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, winds finally somewhat beginning to calm down, but it's been a long, long day here in Biloxi, Mississippi. We're actually about six miles off the coast, where Highway 90 remains closed and under water. They can't even assess the casinos down there because Highway 90 is impassible.
So we got offshore, but you can't escape the wind. You really have to drive very far inland. So we got hit hard with 100-mile-an- hour-plus winds. And you can see the damage all around me.
Pine trees down. And then debris on top of that, from the hotel itself. Obviously, plenty of rain to cause some flooding.
But these are old, well-established trees. And at one point this swath of trees was about twice, maybe three times as dense as what you're seeing now. Throughout the morning and afternoon, trees virtually snapping in half.
All right. Let's turn your attention to some of the damage to the hotel, some of the debris that's on the ground.
Windows completely blown out and flying off. But look at this. Look at the siding of this hotel.
At one point it was stucco. Stucco completely shredded off. The entire eastern side of this hotel saw damage that I don't think we would ever see in a hurricane.
Look how that window up there completely blown out. The frame and everything. And this is not even -- doesn't even include the roof.
The roof on the southern side has completely been torn off, and rooms on the southern side of the top floor are leaking water profusely. And people ought to get out of there and get down to the bottom floor.
At one point, the flags were literally torn to shreds. They have since removed those. And then the Comfort Inn sign, you see that sign. I'm surprised that's still standing.
But regardless, look at the clouds how they are whipping around. I have been in awe of just how fast the clouds have been cruising across the sky all day long. And it continues even as the storm continues to move off to the north.
We are looking due south right now, and you can see how the clouds are wisping up towards the north and towards the east. Winds continue to gust at times still, Kitty, 50, 60, 70 miles an hour here.
So the big concern really this afternoon, and the reason that we have had a hard time getting on the air, is with all this debris on the ground, and some of it with the roof being torn off, there's plywood, huge pieces of plywood on the ground with nails popping out. So, I mean, these are dangerous projectiles that we've been trying to avoid all afternoon as the winds continue to die down and we get a little bit more safe.
But the governor has asked for people not to go out on the roads because they are littered with just about everything that will puncture a tire and do some damage to your vehicle. So very hard hit here in Biloxi, Mississippi, Kitty. The winds just about to die down a little bit more. But right now, still gusting, 40, 50, even 60 miles an hour, and plenty of debris to blow around. So still a dangerous situation even though most of the storm has passed to the north.
Back to you..
PILGRIM: All right, Rob. Yes. And as you say, it's nearly impossible to get around, even though you've been doing a wonderful job all day doing it.
Thanks very much. Rob Marciano.
Well Hurricane Katrina will have a devastating affect on our nation's already maxed out energy infrastructure. Now, this country is extremely dependent on the Gulf region for oil and natural gas. In fact, 40 percent of all the domestic oil comes from this region.
Bill Tucker has the report -- Bill.
BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kitty, it doesn't matter whether you live in the region or in the track or somewhere else in the country. There's simply no escaping the effects of Katrina. That's because the Gulf region, where Katrina cut her way through and hit land, as you mentioned, home to 40 percent of the domestic oil production in this country, and 20 percent of the domestic natural gas production, we lost virtually all of that production today.
About 83 percent of the natural gas production shut down, shut in, as the industry likes to say. Ninety-two percent of the crude oil production shut in as well.
Now, the uncertainty here is we don't know the extent of the damage to the rigs and to the pipelines in the region. So we probably won't know for several days whether we've lost that total production for a couple of days, maybe a week, or perhaps even a couple of months in a worst-case scenario.
As a result, crude oil closed up today at $67.20. That's the good news. It rose above $70 in Asian trading this morning.
Natural gas closing at a record high of $10.847. That is about double what it was a year ago. Kitty, it's also about double what it was trading at when Ivan came through that caused so much difficulty to the natural gas pipeline. And according to the analyst I spoke with today, there's a pretty simple reason for that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KINGSTON, PLATTS: We are far more dependent upon the Gulf Coast -- the Gulf of Mexico natural gas flows as a supply of your natural gas than you are really with oil. Well, you can, to a certain degree, turn to the whole world. Natural gas you can't.
(END VIDEO CLIP) TUCKER: Kitty, what that means, unfortunately, is it's going to cost more to cool your home and to heat your home. It also unfortunately costs more to fill up your car.
Also, gasoline prices did rise in the market today 25 to 30 cents, and that's partly because U.S. refinery production is heavily concentrated in the region. There is no reason for it to have to be located here.
We haven't built a refinery in this country since 1976. These are the states that allowed it to be built. After you see this kind of devastating hurricane come through, you think -- begin to think maybe we ought to rethink where we relocate these refineries. Perhaps move some out into less vulnerable regions in the country.
PILGRIM: And we've been talking about refineries on this show for quite a while.
Bill, a quick question. What about the strategic reserves? And have any other suppliers stepped forward?.
TUCKER: Well, there have been a lot of people coming out today and call on the president to step in and release some crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserves. Analysts that I spoke with today said, you know, it could have a very important psychological impact.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAWRENCE GOLDSTEIN, PETROLEUM INDUSTRY RESEARCH FOUNDATION: The market's assuming that the White House will stay out of this. Our sense is that's probably a bad assumption. Our feeling is this time the administration might be more receptive, and that is probably putting a lid on prices.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUCKER: Now, the president says the issue is still on the table, but he has not made a decision yet. The Saudis did come out and give some reassuring words into the market late today. They said when OPEC meets in September they will ask for an increase in production, 500,000 barrels a day, to help bring down the high cost of crude.
PILGRIM: September just around the corner. So that is something.
TUCKER: September. Yes, it is something. It's not a guarantee, but it's a promise of something for the markets.
PILGRIM: All right. Thanks very much. Bill Tucker.
Well, gas prices already high. Expected to climb higher because of the destruction and supply. And as Bill just said, the Bush administration is weighing whether to release the oil from the petroleum reserve. Suzanne Malveaux reports -- Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kitty, President Bush just wrapping up a speech on Medicare here in San Bernardino County, California, as well as earlier in Arizona. The president, of course, also addressing that very issue.
I spoke with the Energy secretary -- press secretary. Craig Stevens and other White House officials say that the president is considering, of course, perhaps tapping into that reserve, but it is too soon to make any kind of official announcements. That is because what they say is those oil companies have to get out to those platforms, assess the damage, get back to the Energy Department, either the Energy secretary or the president, of course, can make that determination.
It was decided after Hurricane Ivan the U.S. government lent 5.4 million barrels of oil. In the meantime, of course, President Bush weighing that option., at the same time also saying that the federal government is pledging to do as much as possible to help those in those affected areas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... constant contact with the local officials down there. The storm is moving through, and we're now able to assess damage, or beginning to assess damage. And I want the people to know in the affected areas that the federal government and the state government, their local governments, will work side by side to do all we can to help get your lives back in order.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: And Kitty, this morning one of the first things the president did aboard Air Force One is sign an emergency declaration, relief declarations for both Louisiana and Mississippi to allow those federal funs to be used immediately. We expect that a decision on those federal oil reserves will come in 24 to 48 hours -- Kitty.
PILGRIM: All right. And I'm sure this has the full attention of the president. Thanks very much. Suzanne Malveaux.
Still ahead, more live reports from the worst affected regions in the country.
Also, the federal government rushes to save lives and property from the impact of Hurricane Katrina. We're going to take a close look at FEMA's disaster relief plan when we return.
And also later, a little bit later in the broadcast, a look at some of the most powerful pictures of the hurricane and the devastation it left behind.
Stay with us.
PILGRIM: Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour has declared a state of emergency. Now, Governor Barbour now joins us on the phone from Jackson, Mississippi.
And Governor, thanks for being with us tonight.
Have emergency workers been able to get into the areas that are affected yet?
GOV. HALEY BARBOUR (R), MISSISSIPPI: Well, the worst areas, the first that was hit, the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the storm hit in there with about 135-mile-an-hour winds. And the storm surge looks like it may have been as high as 35 feet.
So the devastation is just incredible. It's catastrophic in at least two counties, maybe three. And only in the last hour and a half have workers, search and rescue, been able to get in there, because the winds continue to be so high and the storm surge was receding.
Just devastation everywhere. And we don't know yet about casualties. We have some deaths up in the state, but as far as the coast is concerned, we haven't been able to get to the areas where we're afraid some people tried to ride out the storm.
PILGRIM: You have said that you were worried that it might parallel Hurricane Camille in 1969, where 250 people died. Do you think you have been effective in getting the message out to stay indoors this time?
BARBOUR: Well, I pray that, but I worry. We -- the storm was bigger than Camille. Bigger in area. While the winds were not as high, the storm surge actually exceeded Camille considerably. We have areas on the coast and on the bays that never flooded with Camille, that had several feet of water on them. And we fear that some people used the fact that they didn't flood with Camille and said, oh, it's OK, I can ride the storm out here. So we can't get into those areas yet. And we're praying for the best.
PILGRIM: You have thousands of people in shelters. Any estimate on how many? And I know it's very early, but do you know when they might be ale to return home?
BARBOUR: We're asking people not to return home right now. They can't get to their homes. The -- very few roads are open. Roads like Beach Boulevard, the main drag, if you will, U.S. 90, is under water in many places, washed away in others, closed from one end of the coast to the other. Even Interstate 10 is under water at some places as we speak. So we're asking people, please don't try to go home. You can't get to where you're going. It's dangerous. And you'll get in the way of our trying to find, if any of your neighbors stayed there, and rescuing them.
PILGRIM: You are going to sustain some significant economic damage. The casinos in Mississippi are a big source of revenue. Any estimates on that? BARBOUR: The 12 coast casinos pay about $500,000 a day in casino taxes alone before you ever consider sales tax, corporate income tax, or the income tax of their 16,000 employees. So that in and of itself is a substantial financial thing.
But I just have to tell you, Kitty, the physical damage that has been done is going to have a gigantic fiscal price.
PILGRIM: Are you comfortable with the degree of coordination from the federal agencies on this issue?
BARBOUR: I am. They were great. The president approved the state of emergency immediately, and he approved our -- our further disaster declaration, expanded disaster declaration. FEMA has been great. The Coast Guard, the military. And we have had great cooperation from local governments and state governments.
I think the execution of the plan has been good. The problem is we had some hurricane fatigue. I mean, we had two near misses last year, where people boarded up, evacuated, nothing happened, came back. Boarded up, evacuated, nothing happened, came back. And I think some of those people said, oh, I'm not going to do that again, and besides, you know, this place was OK for Camille. And only Saturday night, when the National Hurricane Center said this is going to be a hurricane like Camille, did some of those people say, oh my Lord, but some of them didn't leave. And that -- as you can tell, I'm very worried about them.
PILGRIM: Right. Governor Barbour, we sympathize with you and wish you very -- good success in all your efforts. Thanks for taking the time to speak with us this evening. Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi. Thank you, sir.
BARBOUR: Thank you.
PILGRIM: Well, new details now from New Orleans on a dramatic rescue which is under way, and Jeanne Meserve is live in New Orleans with the very latest on that -- Jeanne.
MESERVE: Kitty, I am at the upper end of the 9th Ward. I am told what I'm looking at is just the tip of the iceberg. The main part of this ward is just devastated, that it is under water, that there are multiple bodies in the water, that it is just horrific.
It is horrific enough right where I am. I am watching an elderly man, who appears to be holding a cooler -- perhaps he brought that for flotation, I'm not sure -- he's made his way onto the railroad tracks, but the railroad tracks are under about two feet of water. And he is trying to make his way out of here, all by himself.
I just saw a rescue boat come in. Tremendous trouble getting the boat back and forth over the railroad tracks, when they came back with a family, including a tiny little baby. The rescuers actually had to get out of the boat in order to push the boat over the railroad tracks. I am told that this is a horrible situation, not just for the people here, who desperately need help, but for the rescuers themselves. They do not have enough boats. The New Orleans police, I'm told, put out a call to all officers with boats to respond. They did. The problem is, none of them can get to their boats. Their boats are in areas that are flooded or there are roads that are blocking -- that are flooded, that are blocking their way home. So they cannot get to their boats to bring them here to get them in the water, to rescue the people who are stuck in their houses. It is -- it is just -- it is just mind-boggling to watch this happening.
There are now helicopters going overhead. Clearly, they are trying to assess the situation, but darkness is approaching here. I don't know how much they will be able to do after dark, especially right now, I only see one boat in the water at this location. Trying to get a second one in. But that's it.
I can see multiple people up on their rooftops, trying to get help. And Lord only knows how many are inside their homes -- Kitty.
PILGRIM: Very disturbing. Thanks very much, Jeanne Meserve.
Well, John Zarrella has been assessing the damage around New Orleans tonight. He joins us over the phone. John, what's the very latest where you are?
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kitty, certainly what you heard Jeanne Meserve report is exactly why the city officials, federal officials had urged that people get out of the city, because even given that Katrina had veered off to the right and this wasn't the worst-case scenario, we can certainly see what's happened. All across the city, as we drove around the city of New Orleans, on just about every street you went up or down, there was flood water. Flood waters that blocked your way. You could go a certain distance, then you'd have to turn around. Water is lapping up against the buildings, up against houses Cars trying to get through it. In some cases, cars being bogged down in it. On a low area of Interstate 10, drivers were driving into the high water, and having to abandon their cars; in one case, having to be rescued.
And, of course, for every good Samaritan like the person who rescued the driver from a car, these storms bring out the worst in human beings, as well. And as we were driving, we saw a supermarket, a Winn-Dixie supermarket. About 50, perhaps 75 people, looting the supermarket, coming out of the supermarket with shopping carts, absolutely filled to overflowing with everything they could get on those carts and get out of there.
New Orleans police finally did get there and get the looters out of the store. But by then, it was too late; the store had pretty much been ransacked. So these kinds of situations, of course, Kitty, bring out both the good in humanity and the bad in it.
But, again, still a tremendous amount to be assessed here in New Orleans. The level of damage and destruction here, still going to be a long time before we know any of that -- Kitty. PILGRIM: John, as you've been moving around today, what is your sense of how pervasive the looting is, or is it just sporadic?
ZARRELLA: I think it's just sporadic. I think -- at least at this point. Things can change pretty dramatically when darkness falls here. You know, it doesn't seem to be that -- the police are out, they seem to have a pretty good handle on things. But I have seen in so many of these situations where once darkness falls, that level of control that the authorities have can evaporate fairly quickly.
PILGRIM: Thanks very much. John Zarrella. And again, a veteran hurricane reporter for CNN. Thanks very much, John.
Coming up, Hurricane Katrina floods and thrashes the Gulf Coast. We're going to take a look at FEMA's plan for the disaster, next. And then we'll have the very latest on where the storm is headed next. So stay with us.
PILGRIM: The Federal Emergency Management Agency has dispatched search and rescue teams to the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina. Now, this agency is also working to mobilize resources to help victims recover from the devastating impact of the storm. Lisa Sylvester joins us from FEMA headquarters with the report -- Lisa?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kitty, President Bush authorized federal emergency assistance and what that did is it opened the door for FEMA to get involved. Here at headquarters, officials have been carefully monitoring and tracking the path of the storm, preparing to move in teams on to the ground in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
They include urban search and rescue teams and disaster medical units. Right now, though, they're in the staging areas on the perimeter of the impacted areas. FEMA's policy to wait until the storm moves out before they bring in their personnel with generators, cots food and water.
And as the evening goes on, there are some other complications as we've heard earlier: the darkness and all of the debris that's still littering the area.
We want to show you some numbers, though. Take a look at FEMA's hurricane relief efforts in the past just for comparison. Hurricane George in 1998: FEMA provided $2.3 billion in federal assistance. Last year, Hurricane Ivan, it was $1.9 billion. Andrew, back in 1992, the total was $1.8 billion.
Now it's too early to put a price tag on Katrina, but given the wide path of this storm, it is going to be very complicated and difficult for FEMA officials to sort this all through -- Kitty?
PILGRIM: All right. Thanks very much. Lisa Sylvester. Thanks, Lisa. Well my next guest says the storm surge in New Orleans is nowhere near as severe as many were expecting. Brigadier General Robert Crear is the Mississippi Valley division commander of the Army Corps of Engineers. He joins me now on the phone from Vicksburg, Mississippi. And thanks very much for being with us, sir.
BRIG. GEN. ROBERT CREAR, ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS: Good afternoon. It's good to be here.
PILGRIM: I'm sure although it's quite dire and we're hearing very hair-raising reports, it's still not as bad as was predicted. Why do you think that is?
CREAR: Yes, we were certainly planning for the worst-case scenario. We're certainly glad that in fact that did not happen. A worst-case scenario would have had storm surge from Lake Pontchartrain as well as the other lakes and would have inundated the 13th, the 11th levee zones within the city.
Had that happened, the only way we could have equalized the water would be to what we call a breach or take out sections of the levee, so that in fact it could drain back to the lake levels. Even that would have been problematic because -- since New Orleans is below sea level, you still would have had within the city, anywhere from two to eight feet of water.
PILGRIM: It would literally fill up like a bathtub, wouldn't it?
CREAR: In fact, it is a bathtub. That's a great description of it. It does have pumps that do support them in times of rains. I mean, New Orleans -- any time it rains, it's a scenario where people are concerned, but those pumps do a decent job of taking the runoff from rain and evacuating it either to the lakes or to the rivers.
PILGRIM: I know it's probably early to ask you this, but how soon do you think you could pump the water out that's in there, now?
CREAR: Well, again, it -- the worst-case scenario would have taken anywhere from -- estimates up to six months, but the fact is right now, what we know -- and this is initial looks on the ground. My commander of the New Orleans district certainly evacuated most of his people in accordance with the parish plans, but he remained there with a skeletal crew.
He's been out on the ground with the parish officials and we know that St. Bernard Parish is probably the hardest hit because the storm surge came from the east and so it -- the pumps are out and so it will take -- we really won't be able to know until probably tomorrow, you know, the extent of the damage and exactly how much time it will take to get it out. But it will not take, you know, the estimates we had estimated before, six months. We know that.
PILGRIM: Well, we certainly wish you every success and thank you for being with us tonight. Brigadier General Robert Crear. Thank you, sir.
CREAR: You're welcome.
PILGRIM: And still to come, I'll be joined by an expert in predicting hurricanes.
Also, as Hurricane Katrina continues to lash out on the Gulf Coast with heavy winds and rains, we'll talk to one of NASA's leading hurricane experts.
And also, we'll take a look at some of the amazing sights and sounds from Hurricane Katrina. Stay with us.
PILGRIM: Hurricane Katrina's impact on the low-lying city of New Orleans cannot be under estimated. Now this heavy rain put a major strain on the city's system of levees and pumping stations. And my guest tonight says that system put in place to save the city from damage, may actually be causing more problems.
So, Joining me now is Mike Tidwell. He's the author of "Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of the Louisiana's Cajun Coast." And he is a noted environmentalist and he joins us now. And thanks for being with us, Mike.
MIKE TIDWELL, AUTHOR: Thanks for having me.
PILGRIM: Why is New Orleans in this condition?
TIDWELL: Well, one of the things I've noticed in all the coverage in the media the last couple of days is everyone's said New Orleans is really vulnerable to this hurricane because so much of the city is below sea level.
Well, why is the city below sea level? No one has answered that question. The reason it's below sea levels is because the levees along the Mississippi River for the last several hundred years, have prevented the river from flooding. And it's the flooding of the river every year, that created the whole land mass of south Louisiana through the sediments and nutrients in the water building shoreline, building the marshes and the barrier islands.
And when you shackle that river and run it out to the continental shelf of the Gulf of Mexico through levees, the river no longer floods and a natural consequence of that is what is what' s called geologically subsidence.
So, that whole platform of south Louisiana is subsiding; it's sinking. And that includes New Orleans. And that is why this hurricane was such a threat and future hurricanes will continue to be an enormous threat to New Orleans unless we do something to get the water of the Mississippi River back in to the delta region, back into the wetlands, back toward the barrier Islands to build the land buffer that has historically saved New Orleans from hurricanes and made New Orleans and south Louisiana inhabitable.
PILGRIM: Yes. Is there -- you say there's a structural imbalance. and it's a man-made structural imbalance and yet, the levees prevent this sporadic flooding. So, in one respect they're necessary, are they not?
TIDWELL: Yes. This is actually a matter of the law of unintended consequences. When the French, 300 years ago, first through up the first levee to protect themselves from the flooding of the river, they did it. It was perfectly rational to stop the flooding from destroying crops, drowning children and destroying your homes, but those same levees now have made the coast increasingly uninhabitable.
You have the sinking of the land, which over time, had been counterbalanced by new alluvial deposits in that land, but when you shackle the river, again, out into the Gulf, you just get the net land loss. Every day 50 acres of land turns to water in South Louisiana, even without hurricanes. Every 10 months, an area of land the size of Manhattan turns to water in South Louisiana, until those barrier islands are smaller, New Orleans sinks more, the marshes that once protected New Orleans from the surge tide of hurricanes is increasingly not there.
PILGRIM: Mike, thanks very much for explaining it. Very few of us understand the actual dynamic that's going on. So thank you very much for being with here us this evening to explain it from an environmental perspective. Mike Tidwell, thank you.
TIDWELL: Thank you.
PILGRIM: Coming up next, tracking Hurricane Katrina with the most advanced technology available. NASA research meteorologist Marshall Shepherd joins us next. Stay with us.
PILGRIM: Hurricane Katrina is now a Category 1 storm, maximum sustained winds of 175 miles-an-hour. This storm is centered over Mississippi. It's moving north. My next guest is tracking Katrina with some of NASA's advanced technology. Marshall Shepherd is a deputy project scientist for NASA and he joins us from NASA's Goddard Center in Maryland. And thanks very much for being with us. Welcome back to the program. Take us through some of your visuals. You, literally, get the bird's eye view on this thing, don't you?
MARSHALL SHEPHERD, DEPUTY PROJECT SCIENTIST, NASA: Yes. Absolutely. We've got 19 satellites up monitoring the Earth. And we can, literally, take the pulse of this thing in its environment. For instance, look at all of that red in the Gulf of Mexico. That's the sea surface temperature measured from our Aqua Satellite. And, essentially, the Hurricane Katrina is running on 92 octane fuel. In previous years the sea surface temperatures have not been that warm. Look at all the red. Things are running at about 89 degrees -- 89 octane. So you can clearly see the fuel supply for these storms.
PILGRIM: It intensified very, very quickly, and it seemed to back off a little bit quickly, too. Tell us a little bit about that. SHEPHERD: Well absolutely. These storms are really like big heat engines. And their fuel supply is that warm water, that 90 degree plus water that we see here. And here you are going to see an example using NOAA's GO Satellite. You are actually going to see Hurricane Katrina -- there it goes, moving across Florida and moving into all of that warm, moist water. And as soon as it loses that energy supply and moves over land, that's why we see the rapid decrease in intensity.
PILGRIM: Now you have something called a CAT Scan. We are usually familiar with that in medical terms. Tell us why it work this is way?
SHEPHERD: Yes. We're really excited about our ability to actually look inside these storms, actually pop the hood of the engine and look underneath at the storm. Here from our Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission or TRIM Satellite we can actually use a radar to look inside at the structure of storms. That's important, Kitty, because we can actually get a clue to possible intensity changes in the storm. That's technology that may help us improve intensity forecasts in the future.
PILGRIM: It certainly is impressive. You know, Marshall, maybe you can answer this can answer this for us. Why have we had so many hurricanes, so many intense hurricanes this is year?
SHEPHERD: Well, there are a couple of factors, and our colleagues at NOAA issues a report, and I certainly agree with most of what was in that report there. We've entered an active faze in about 1995 of active hurricanes, but on top of that, this year, the sea surface temperatures in the Gulf have been running very warm such that we have seen a very active season early. Here in late August, early September, that's typically the peek of the season. But we've seen a very active season early. And it's partly due to the early sea surface temperatures being so warm.
PILGRIM: There you go folks. You have your answer from NASA. Marshall Shepherd, thanks very much for being with us this evening.
SHEPHERD: Thank you very much.
PILGRIM: And we'll being right back. Stay with us.
PILGRIM: Now a look at some of the most powerful sights and sounds from Hurricane Katrina.
MARCIANO: Trees that we keep showing you look like they keep disappearing from by minute. Look at that debris. Look at that. The entire thing is coming apart.
All right. This is where we're going to try to take refuge and try to shoot some tape. The winds are really kicking. Come on in. All right. Let's catch our breath for a second. This is what it's like just to get out the front door.
KIMBERLY CURTH, REPORTER MOBILE, ALABAMA: You can't stand up. You don't want to come down here. Guys, we are in store for one nasty storm.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. I'm going to crouch down and use this as cover. This is what it's like in downtown New Orleans right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't see the water. It blends in with the gray of the road and I just drove right into it.
GOV. KATHLEEN BLANCO, LOUISIANA: Wherever you live, it is still too dangerous for people to return home. If you evacuated and you're in a shelter, if you're with friends and family, please, please stay there. Stay safe. It's too dangerous to come home.
PILGRIM: CNN continues it's coverage of Hurricane Katrina. A special addition of ANDERSON COOPER 360 starts right now.
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