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Tracking Hurricane Katrina

Aired August 29, 2005 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight, Hurricane Katrina batters New Orleans with whipping winds and massive floods.

And, in Mississippi the monster storm is blamed for three deaths so far after turning some streets into rivers 12 feet deep.

With insurance estimates starting at $9 billion, Katrina could be the costliest storm in U.S. history.

But amidst all the destruction you'll hear from the paramedics who helped an evacuating woman give birth to a baby in a Mississippi traffic jam, their remarkable story plus all the latest with reports throughout the zone next on LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: We'll be checking in with Anderson Cooper who is on deck in Meridian, Mississippi; Rob Marciano in Biloxi, Mississippi; at the WABC Weather Center in New York is Sam Champion, the WABC TV meteorologist.

We'll be checking in a moment in the Baton Rouge FEMA studio with Michael Brown, the Undersecretary for Homeland Security; at the NASA Goddard Space Center, Dr. Marshall Shepherd; and, at the D.C. Bureau, Marty Evans, the president and CEO of the American Red Cross.

Let's start with Dr. Marshall Shepherd, the Research Meteorologist Laboratory for Atmospherics at NASA Goddard Space Center. Dr. Shepherd, putting it bluntly, is this the worst natural storm in American history?

DR. J. MARSHALL SHEPHERD, NASA HURRICANE RESEARCHER: Well, it's a bit too early to say that Larry but what we can say when this storm was a category five storm it got down to about 902 millibars and that is the fourth lowest pressure on record in the Atlantic basin, so it certainly ranks up there in the top five in terms of lowest pressure and that really translates into strength of the storm.

KING: Anderson Cooper, what's the situation in Meridian, Mississippi?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the storm, as you know, has been downgraded to a tropical storm. It was a category one hurricane when I arrived here in Meridian about two and a half hours or so ago.

There are a lot of people in shelters. There are a lot of people staying with friends and there's expected to be a lot of flooding. The rain here has been just torrential over the last couple of hours. It's still raining but much lighter. The winds have really died down.

People have yet to really assess the damage in this area though, Larry. Darkness has fallen and people kind of staying where they are. Tomorrow morning when they get up when the sun is up they're going to start looking around and seeing how bad things are.

KING: Thanks, we'll be checking back again with Anderson. As you understand, pictures can cut in and out in devastation like this.

Michael Brown is Undersecretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness. He's director of FEMA and he's at our Baton Rouge -- at the FEMA studios in Baton Rouge, how bad Michael?

MICHAEL BROWN, FEMA DIRECTOR: Well, Larry, let me put it this way. This is a catastrophic disaster. I've just started getting reconnaissance reports from my folks in the field and I'm anticipating now that I'm going to have to prepare for housing at least tens of thousands of victims that are going to be without homes for literally months on end.

The visuals that you see, not of downtown New Orleans, because downtown New Orleans while there was some damage there, windows blown out that sort of thing, in the neighborhoods we are seeing water extensively everywhere up to rooftops.

The I-10 bridge is probably compromised. Even if we wanted to bring people back into New Orleans we probably cannot do that. And the same thing is going on in Mississippi right now, so this is truly a catastrophic disaster.

BROWN: In a sense that little move to the right saved in a sense downtown New Orleans, Michael?

BROWN: It saved downtown New Orleans but it decimated everything east of downtown and then, of course, decimated everything up through Mississippi, so there's always good news and bad news and it here is it means we don't have the flooding in downtown New Orleans but we've got the flooding everywhere.

We've got some storm surges that have come across the levees. We have some, I'm not going to call them breaches but we have some areas where the lake and the rivers are continuing to spill over. The flood waters are still spilling into those neighborhoods, so it's frankly unfortunately going to get worse before it gets better.

KING: Since your job is now in the Department of Homeland Security does that affect anything with regard to this?

BROWN: Well, it makes it a lot better because I mean first of all I've talked to the president two or three times just in the past day. I've talked to all the cabinet secretaries that we're going to need help from and the Coast Guard and Immigration, Customs folks that help us with transportation are all right there at the table with me.

So, it brings together a unified front to do whatever it takes and that's what the president is saying. We're going to have to do whatever it takes to help Mississippi and Louisiana recover from this truly catastrophic event.

KING: Sam Champion, from your view in New York as a meteorologist not having it hit you, what's your assessment?

SAM CHAMPION, WABC-TV, NEW YORK METEOROLOGIST: Well, Larry, we're certainly watching the storm. We were covering it all night and this morning at landfall because it is going to affect our area in the northeast.

We have the path of this storm moving kind of through Western Pennsylvania, Western New York State with heavy rain and even some possibility of flooding all the way through during the day tomorrow and the following day.

This thing pulls into Canada or what's left of Katrina pulls into Canada by the time we get into Thursday and kind of hooks around northern New England. But right now just to kind of go over it, it's tropical storm Katrina, 30 miles northwest of Meridian, Mississippi is the center of circulation.

The heavy rain right now is in Mississippi and Alabama and the though of thunderstorms and even the possibility of tornadoes extends through into Georgia and all the way through the Florida panhandle.

I mean this is going to be a rough night and even a rough day tomorrow because what's left of this storm on its path to the north and northeast will be in Tennessee waiting tomorrow morning.

So, folks who aren't anywhere near tropical waters in Tennessee, in central Kentucky, in eastern Ohio and in Western Pennsylvania and even in West Virginia will feel the effects of this system, so we're certainly watching it.

It was a big one and it got everyone's attention when that central pressure got to 902 millibars and dropped it below Camille, which made it worse than Camille when it was out in the Atlantic.

KING: Yes.

Our CNN Correspondent Kathleen Koch is in Mobile, Alabama on the bay there. What's the story there Kathleen?

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'll tell you, Larry, everyone here...

KING: We lost Kathleen. Let's try Rob Marciano in Biloxi, Mississippi, what's the story in Biloxi Rob?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Larry, Biloxi along the coastline, the pictures that we're getting in and from what we've seen driving around is not good. The combination of winds in excess of 130 miles an hour and a storm surge in excess of 20 feet has led to in some cases homes being hollowed out, in other cases well structured brick homes being completely wiped off their foundation, cars piled up.

We've got video of cars, maybe 20 or 25 cars piled up on top of each other, reports of one of the casinos actually breaking apart and sinking into the Gulf of Mexico so bad news out of Biloxi.

We are stationed about six miles north of the shore. We did that to get away from that storm surge, which may very well have took some lives but we couldn't escape the wind. I mean the devastation behind me at this hotel we easily saw winds over 100 miles an hour.

At times the roof tiles were being pulled off, the plywood from the roof pulled off, rooms in which we were staying in and shooting from the ceilings collapsing letting in the elements from the outside and stucco, two of the four sides of this hotel the stucco completely ripped off.

So, Biloxi got the worst of it because, and Gulfport, because we were in that right front quadrant, the most feared part of the storm. You get the most intense winds, the most intense storm surge and unfortunately we got it here.

KING: Michael Brown has to be leaving us, so we'll check with Marty Evans after the break, the president of the American Red Cross.

Michael, how long before we're going to get a real assessment here? Is it going to take a week, damage, deaths and the whole story?

BROWN: Yes, I mean it really will. We started doing that this afternoon where we could, you know, finally at least here in Louisiana the storm moved out enough that we could start putting some helicopters and air assets out there to find out.

The teams are moving in. I mean tomorrow we'll be full force. Everybody will get in there. Now, everybody is going to have to go in by air probably or boats to find out but we'll start that real serious assessment tomorrow.

It's just amazing to see the pictures and to hear the firsthand reports of these FEMA folks who have been with the agency for, you know, 15 or 20 years to call in and talk about how this is the worst flooding they've ever seen in their entire lives and talking about just neighborhoods after neighborhoods gone.

And then you see the Coast Guard guys who are going out. I can't say enough about the Coast Guard. They go out and they're trying to do reconnaissance and the next thing you know there's a guy on the roof that needs rescuing, so they rescue that guy and try to get him back to safety. That's the kind of stuff we're going to find in the near future.

KING: Thanks for spending some time with us, Michael. We'll see you again tomorrow we hope.

BROWN: Thank you, Larry, OK.

KING: Michael Brown of FEMA.

And, when we come back we'll check in with Marty Evans, the president and CEO of the Red Cross. We'll be hearing from others, including the governor in a little while.

Don't go away.


KING: Before we check in with Marty Evans of the Red Cross, Jeanne Meserve is CNN's Homeland Security Correspondent. She's somewhere on the east side of New Orleans and we'll hear from here in a moment.

Marty Evans, can you be prepared for this?

MARTY EVANS, RED CROSS PRESIDENT AND CEO: Well, Larry, we certainly had a run-up last year the four hurricanes back to back. We sheltered well over 400,000 people, served 16 million meals. That was in retrospect kind of a practice session. This disaster is going to exceed the combination of the last four hurricanes.

KING: Dr. Shepherd, did NASA know it was going to be like this?

SHEPHERD: Well, I tell you this year the storms are running on 90 octane fuel. I believe we actually have a graphic, Larry, showing you some data from one of our satellites and, if you look closely at this graphic, if we can get it up for you, you'll see this is the beginning of the hurricane season and you can see this is from our Aqua Satellite.

We're using microwaves to measure the sea surface temperature and look at the red in the Gulf of Mexico. You see that that water is very warm. It's over 90 degrees Fahrenheit and it started out very early being that warm, so you can see that these storms like Katrina have plenty of fuel supply and that's why we're seeing such strong storms this year.

KING: Are there more coming? I've got some -- a kind of a map here from the weather satellite and I can't read that too well but that looks like storms to me in the Atlantic. Are there more coming?

SHEPHERD: Oh, absolutely Larry. One of the things that we have to remember is that the statistical peak of the hurricane season, the Atlantic hurricane season is in September, so we aren't even to the active peak of the season yet and we're already up to the K letter storms. So, yes, we're certainly right in the midst of the hurricane season and I expect that there will be more storms to come in the next two months.

KING: Jeanne Meserve is on the east side of New Orleans. That got hit the worst. What can you tell us from your vantage point, Jeanne? And, Jeanne is obviously having trouble hearing us. We were told that she would be signaled but she apparently was not. Quickly, Sam, before we check with the governor, you said this is going to go to New York City in what form?

CHAMPION: Yes, what we look for now, Larry, it's going to weaken rapidly. I mean right after landfall when you get the center of this storm on land it loses its fuel system and it falls apart pretty quickly. That doesn't mean it's not a bad storm.

And this tropical moisture runs all the way north through a good part from Kentucky all the way through Pennsylvania we think over the next 48 hours. So, what we're looking for in the form of small clusters of isolated very powerful thunderstorms.

There could be some tornadoes involved in this and there's definitely going to be some very heavy rain. In the areas that see these thunderstorms, we're talking about one to two inches of rain and it's in places where when you see a heavy thunderstorm, yes, you can get a half inch, full inch of rain.

This kind of moisture gives you twice that amount at least, so it can cause flooding in a lot of areas and we're talking about some mountainous, hilly areas like the Appalachians and even on through central Kentucky and central Tennessee. Those mountains kind of create more lift. We're going to get more power out of those thunderstorms and even more rain all the way through Ohio.

Again, it's folks waking up in the morning with rains they're just not used to having and flooding in their neighborhoods because this storm system started well off into the Atlantic in a tropical system that moved inland.

KING: Let's check in with Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco. She's with us by phone. Last night on this program, governor, you said your biggest concern was the unknown. What is the known?

KATHLEEN BABINEAUX BLANCO, LOUISIANA GOVERNOR (by telephone): Larry, we have so much devastation in the whole region. We have parishes that are totally under water, homes that are inundated. You can only see the rooftop on some.

We have thousands of people who are stranded but we're in full search and rescue operation. We have pulled hundreds of people out of the waters. As we speak we've got boats moving up and down streets that, well, canals that used to be streets and people are beckoning our rescuers.

And, you know, the fortunate thing is that we did evacuate at least a million people over a very short period of time in about a day and a half or less than about 30 hours we evacuated over a million people out of the region.

KING: Yes.

BLANCO: And I think that's what's going to save us from being totally devastated.

KING: Should those...

BLANCO: We believe we've lost some lives.

KING: Yes, how many do you know?

BLANCO: We have no official counts whatsoever, no verification but we're hearing isolated reports here and there.

KING: Should those people who evacuated stay put?

BLANCO: Well, yes. We're begging people not to try to come back. I know they desperately want to go home. They want to know what's happened but it's very dangerous. We've got flooded areas of our highways. Our interstate is flooded in one section. The power lines are down. There's no power anywhere. In New Orleans, a water main, a 50-inch water main has severed so there's no potable water in New Orleans.

KING: Have you spoken with the president today?

BLANCO: I have spoken to President Bush. He has called and extends his sympathy, his heartfelt feelings for our people and the situation that they find themselves in and we appreciate that so much.

KING: Do you have adequate National Guard members because I know you have a lot of National Guard forces in Iraq?

BLANCO: We have an extraordinary number of National Guard members who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan but we have activated 4,000 members. We have some support coming from Texas as well.

Our Guard is really helping us in extraordinary ways in bringing in a lot of search and rescue equipment in the morning. We will be in full swing tomorrow. We believe there will still be hundreds more people.

We have found some people like in groups of 100 or 200 stranded in St. Bernard Parish but they are safe. They're in buildings that did not collapse, buildings that were tall enough to get them out of the water so when they look out of their two-story windows they see nothing but water as far as the eye can see.

KING: Governor, can we check with you again tomorrow night?

BLANCO: Yes you can, Larry.

KING: Thank you. That's Governor Blanco, Kathleen Blanco, the governor of Louisiana.

We'll be right back, a lot of incredible stories. We'll get some phone calls in too and continue checking with our correspondents.

Don't go away.


KING: Anderson Cooper, Sam Champion said it's heading past you and heading northeast. Are you going to head there too?

COOPER: I don't think so. You know we've been on the air for about 18 hours now so we're going to try to find a place to sleep, somewhere around Meridian tonight and to reassess things tomorrow, try to get dry and get some food if we can and get some gas and see where we can go.

It is good news though, Larry, as Sam mentioned that it's been downgraded to a tropical storm, a lot of people breathing a sigh of relief here but the worst, you know, it's not over. This thing is still continuing, still a lot of flooding in this area.

KING: Rob Marciano, can we say that Mississippi got it the worst?

MARCIANO: I would say yes. I mean I haven't, you know, it's tough for me. I haven't been able to see the coverage obviously being in the field of what happened in New Orleans.

Because it did jog to the east, I'm guessing that right along the border there the same area that got slammed with Camille back in '69 and what we are seeing and what the other correspondents are telling me when they come back from being in the field in Gulfport, Gary Tuchman, what he's used -- the words he used to describe what happened down there, I would suspect this has been the worst area because of the storm surge.

I know New Orleans has several issues they've had to deal with and they certainly had a tremendous amount of wind, a number of tornado warnings and I'm sure there was some flooding. But the storm surge on the east side of this system that came into Gulfport, you know, we're getting reports that maybe as high as 25 feet, maybe higher than Camille.

So, it's the storm surge that does all the damage and you'll see the pictures, if you haven't seen them already tonight, Larry, you'll see them coming out of Gulfport and the shoreline of Biloxi tomorrow. So, yes, I probably would say that the southern coastline of Mississippi got hit the hardest with this one.

KING: Marty Evans, president and CEO of the American Red Cross, has the Red Cross had difficulty getting its volunteers to where they have to be?

EVANS: Well, Larry, before the storm came through we had opened several hundred shelters, so we had a lot of volunteers and staff members in those shelters and they were filled.

At the present time, we're streaming volunteers in literally from around the country. They're positioned to go in once the roads are clear. That's a challenge for us right now. We're also positioning volunteers to open additional shelters as they're needed as this storm progresses northward.

So, it's a big job but we have Red Crossers in our Red Cross chapters across the country, 800 of them that are ready, willing, able and moving to support the operation.

KING: Dr. Marshall Shepherd, is there anything good to report? Was it good that it moved a little to the right or was that just good for downtown New Orleans and bad for Mississippi?

SHEPHERD: Well, certainly. It's always a mixed story when you talk about these hurricanes because a jog to the right is good for some in New Orleans, for example but bad for those we're seeing there along the Gulf coast.

But, one of the things that we really need to focus on is the track forecast that our colleagues at NOAA was a very good forecast. One of the issues with hurricane forecasting is intensity forecasting, Larry, and what you're seeing here is from our tropical rainfall measuring mission satellite trim.

We can actually take CAT scans of these storms. That's Katrina looking inside at the thunderstorms and rain. We're hoping that type of technology will help us improve that intensity forecasting.

KING: You'd have to say, Anderson, that this was well forecast wouldn't you?

COOPER: Absolutely. I mean the job that these forecasters do is just remarkable and we've seen that over the last half dozen or so hurricanes that we've covered up close like this. The way they're able to track it, you know, it saves lives and there are so many people whose lives are saved because they've evacuated because of the forecast that they've gotten. These forecasters deserve a lot of credit tonight.

KING: Sam Champion, how about that turn to the right, what caused it?

CHAMPION: Larry, we watch these little things bob and weave all the time. Now, from what we were able and we'll spend months looking at the track of this storm now and why it moved one direction or the other but once it got on land or once it made its first impulse moving on the land at the mouth of the Mississippi there, it seemed to have just kind of bobbed a little bit to the right.

Was it the interaction with the land there that kind of slowed it or twisted it? We're not really quite sure yet. It wasn't an outside force. It doesn't appear to be a weather system that was pressing on it yet but it did a little bob, did a little move.

And there's so much about these storms we just don't understand yet but I'll tell you when we were watching it this morning, we were all just like because that meant a good thing for New Orleans and, yes, and it was the worst hit on that Mississippi coastline but it was such a good thing for a very populated area to not take a direct hit there.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with more. We'll also be including your phone calls. Around the clock coverage of course on CNN; Aaron Brown two hours of "NEWSNIGHT" at the top of the hour. We'll do it again tomorrow stay with this as long as it's a story CNN stays with it.

We'll be right back.


KING: Last night, he was with the dolphins in Gulfport, Mississippi, in the pool. Gary Tuchman was in Gulfport all day today. He is now in Biloxi, Mississippi. What animals are you with you now?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No animals now, Larry, just my crew, who have been with me all day, persevering through all this. We're happy to tell you, the dolphins are fine. They took them from the aquarium to a hotel pool for their safety. They are all doing fine. But I'll tell you, in Gulfport, it was a difficult day. Much of that town of 71,000 people now under water. Five miles from the beach, we see houses an businesses and used car lots completely under water.

KING: Where are the people?

TUCHMAN: Fortunately, most of the people seem to have evacuated. We noticed that last night that nowhere near the beach was there anybody. We were the only car driving around, just checking out the scene. We can tell you that authorities when the -- before the sun went down, went on the streets look being for people. As far as finding anyone in their houses, they haven't yet. And that's a good sign. It appears that most of residents evacuated.

KING: There are gambling casinos there in Gulfport, aren't there?

TUCHMAN: There are ten casinos. There are seven in Biloxi, there are two in Gulfport and there is one in this town of Bay, St. Louis, which is just to the west. We have been told there is significant damage to the casinos. Bay, St. Louis a very interesting story, Larry, because it is in the southwestern corner of the state of Mississippi. And it's been very hard to get to that. We would assume because that's close to where the eye crossed, that there's extensive damage in that small town. But as of now, we're not exactly sure.

KING: Thanks, Gary. David Mattingly is on Canal Street in New Orleans, where I see by the forecast, David, it's going to be sunny tomorrow in New Orleans. Hope that makes you -- what's the situation there?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: One of natures cruelties. Anytime you have a hurricane that comes through, you always have that brilliant bright sunshine immediately after. But tonight, you see I'm standing on Canal Street. If you look at this picture, you probably can't tell at all, because New Orleans is as dark as dark can be tonight with the electricity out. This is normally one of the brightest, most busy streets in New Orleans. But tonight, the only traffic up and down it are emergency vehicles, police flashing their lights. Occasionally getting on to a megaphone, telling people that -- reminding them that a curfew is in effect and they need to be off the streets and into their homes or wherever they might be staying. But this being New Orleans, people always take those orders more or less as a suggestion. And there's been a constant flow of people walking up and down, taking in the eerie sights here on Canal Street, Larry.

KING: Thanks, David. Let's take a call. Mt. Holly, New Jersey, hello.

CALLER: Hi. We've heard all the damages in Biloxi and we heard about the casinos, but there's a major military installation, Keesler Air Force Base, my son's stationed there. Do you know about any damage there?

KING: Anderson, do you know anything about Keesler Air Force base?

COOPER: Unfortunately, I don't. You know, when you're covering one of these things, you're so isolated, you really don't get much information beyond where you are. So I'm sorry, I don't have any information on that tonight.

KING: Do you have any, Rob?

MARCIANO: It's difficult to hear. What was the question?

KING: Anything on Keesler Air Force Base?

MARCIANO: Well, I mean, as you know Keesler Air Force base is here in Biloxi where the hurricane -- 100 aircraft take off and fly into the storm. For this storm they had a pretty short trip and probably made at least six punches through the eyewall. Is there damage there? I don't -- you know, it's been so difficult to get reports about damage.

For one thing, the phone lines are all down. Most of the cell towers are down. There's only some random cell coverage. And you have to try three or four times just to get through to a city officials. It's just been -- information's been very sparse. Even the governors and officials you've had on your air tonight haven't had that much information. I think the story will be told tomorrow.

KING: Marty Evans, when are going to know more?

EVANS: Well I think I have to echo what the reporter just said. We have a Red Cross liaisons in all of the state and local emergency operation centers. So we're getting a picture as quickly as the state and local people know. You know, with the roads impassable, with it being so hard to get out and about, it's hard to do that neighborhood by neighborhood assessment that we'll really need to know what kind of operations will be involved in for weeks and, perhaps, months to come.

KING: Dr. Shepherd, couldn't we find out the situation at an Air Force Base? SHEPHERD: Yes. I think that the previous statements are correct, though, Larry. The damage was so widespread. We have to remember, this is a Category 4 storm, and the damage is such that communications very difficult right now. So I think we'll all just stand by and hope for the best, and hope to hear good news as the lines come back up.

KING: Pacifica, California, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. Thanks to everyone for your efforts. My question is, why doesn't Red Cross, FEMA or the other agencies buy these new duck vehicles, the vehicles, the amphibian landing vehicles that can run on water or land. It seems like this could really help since we know these storms come every year.

EVANS: Well, Red Cross does most of their operations a little bit away from the eye of the storm. So I think it would be impractical for us to buy those kinds of vehicles. We'll let the federal government consider that. We do have our Red Cross emergency response vehicles. Those are the box-like vehicles. We have hundreds of them that we're bringing into the region. They're going to be very important, because they're going to be delivering meals to central feeding points. They're going to be delivering water. They're going to be a sign of reassurance that help is in the neighborhoods.

KING: Dr. Shepard, what about those vehicles?

SHEPHERD: Yes. I don't know much about those vehicles. I think, certainly, it's tempting to say that they're a good ideas out there, but I trust that the folks at the Red Cross and FEMA and Homeland Security are certainly aware of the most efficient ways to rescue and do assessment in these storms. You know what we try to focus on here at NASA is the big picture and advancing our technology so that we can help our colleagues at NOAA and others try to make better forecasts. So that's what we'll concentrate our efforts on in here the future.

KING: Akron, Ohio, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Larry, -- pardon me. Hi. Could you do me a big favor and ask one of your experts this question. The hurricane pattern seemed to be changing, and now they seem to be more prone to go up the Gulf Coast than coming in and hitting the Atlantic. I used to live in Naples, Florida, and I was told down there most of the time it comes to the Atlantic.

KING: Sam?

CHAMPION: Larry, it's a great question. And it's really -- it's amazing how observant people are. It really is. Every year, every hurricane season is different. And we are in the midst of kind of trying to understand why and how these storms move. But generally, you wait for a global pattern to set itself up. Your caller's absolutely right. That in many past years, there was a pattern that every storm just kind of ran toward the east coast of Florida and up the east coast of the U.S. this year, this is the fourth hurricane that has made its path in some way up in that little corner of the Gulf.

Is there a pattern? You bet there's a pattern and we're trying to understand a little bit more so that we can forecast for it. Now every year, there is an advance hurricane forecast that comes out. And I've got to tell you, the guys that do that are doing a pretty good job in calling how many storms and how many categories. But there's still so much we that need to understand about our planet and about how the weather works. And we still have to learn the answer to her question. So the answer is, we're trying to figure that out too.

KING: Mark Twain was trying to figure it out over 100 years ago. We'll be back with more and more phone calls. Don't go away.


KING: We're including phone calls. A good idea to keep the public elsewhere involved with what's going on there.

Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. Our hearts go out to everyone in Louisiana and Mississippi for their loss of property and loss of life, but I'm curious, since it was a mandatory evacuation, is there any penalty for individuals who are rescued -- need to be rescued by the Coast Guard or the fire department since they chose not to leave?

KING: What's the situation, Anderson, do you know?

COOPER: As far as I know, people do not get penalized. You know, basically, they're -- known one is forced to evacuate. They won't come into your home and force you to leave. They -- it is a mandatory evacuation. They ask you to leave, but you're free to stay in your home with the caveat that, "Look, if you're going to do that, the police are not going to come if you call 9-1-1 in the middle of the storm."

You know, if you decide to stay, you're taking your life in your own hands and you know, you pick up the phone to get rescued and maybe no one's going to come, at least for quite a while.

KING: And you sign, Marty Evans -- I believe they ask you to sign a waiver, right?

EVANS: Well, in some places they do. And I'll tell you, it's a huge hazard. We've had cases in past hurricanes where people have, in the middle of the storm, tried to leave their homes, come to our shelters. We've had to open up the doors and it's just a very, very difficult situation. So, our advice is always to evacuate when the authorities say and to do it immediately, not to hang around.

KING: Panama City, Florida. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry, how you doing?

KING: Hi. Fine.

CALLER: Listen, I'm calling about Bay St. Louis and Waveland because I'm from New Orleans.

KING: Yes.

CALLER: And I've seen the Superdome many times. I've been through Betsy and I've been through Camille. So, I know what it's like. And what I'm calling about is I never heard anything about the Bay or Waveland, Mississippi, because I have family down there and I haven't had -- haven't heard anybody speak about that.

KING: Let me check. Gary Tuchman, you still with us?

TUCHMAN: I certainly am. And I'm glad that woman has asked that question. And it's something I feel very badly about, because we haven't been able to get to Bay St. Louis and Waveland. They're two towns that are west of Gulfport and we are very concerned, because that is the southwestern tip of Mississippi, very close to where the eye came.

The eastern edge of the eye wall went over those towns. We sure hope everybody's OK, but I can tell you, we certainly expect that there's extensive damage in those two small towns in southwestern Mississippi.

KING: And no reports out of there, Gary?

TUCHMAN: Not yet and that's one of the issues. We were in Gulfport all day, Larry. We had no cell phone service, no satellite telephone service. We were cut out from the world. And that's basically why we drove 20 miles here to Biloxi, where some phones were working so we could even make phone calls. Those two towns have had no phone calls out of them whatsoever. That doesn't mean that not everyone is OK. Everyone could be OK and we certainly hope so, but we certainly expect there is extensive damage there also.

KING: Houston, Texas. Hello.

CALLER: Mr. Larry?

KING: Yes.

CALLER: I'm a resident of Kenner, Louisiana and I haven't heard them say anything about Kenner. I live close to the Treasure Chest Casino and I was wondering what is the damage in that area, if they can maybe find out, please.

KING: David Mattingly, do you know about Kenner?

MATTINGLY: We're not familiar enough with the geography here to be that specific, but I guarantee you there was -- every community here was reporting widespread damage. The extent of which in Kenner, I cannot tell you or how much flooding they have there.

But again, this storm didn't discriminate when it came through here. Every neighborhood, every part of town was left with some sort of widespread problem. KING: Marty Evans, do you know about Kenner? No, we don't have any reports yet either. I will tell you, though, that at some point, hopefully in the not-too-distant future, Red Cross chapters will, as soon as communications are restored, will have the ability to take a disaster welfare inquiry and any Red Cross chapter in the country can do that.

We cannot promise at this potent, how soon we'll be able to deal with that, but you can at least make that disaster welfare inquiry request.

KING: We'll be back with more right after this. Don't go away.


KING: Maybe Marty Evans can answer this. Marty, we're getting a lot of calls, they tell me, in the control room from evacuees wanting to know is there any number they can call as to when they can come back?

EVANS: Well, the best way to find that out is to contact your local Red Cross shelters, because the shelters will get information from the local and the state authorities about when the roads are going to be opened.

And you know, with the extensive flooding there is, it could be days. I hope not weeks, but certainly days before different parts will be accessible to people wanting to return. The best authority is the local emergency management: Police, fire.

KING: So there's no 1-800 number?

EVANS: Well, we have a 1-866-GET-INFO number and that number is available. We try to gather as much information as we can, but in some cases, it's not quite as timely as that local authority. But 1- 866-GET-INFO would be one place to try.

KING: And that's toll free.

Fort Worth, Texas. Hello.

CALLER: Actually, you just asked my question. We evacuated, and that was one of the things I wanted to know, how to know when to go back, or how do we find out about our own parish, where we had to leave from?

KING: How do you -- how would you find out, Anderson, about where you left?

COOPER: Well, again, it's probably best trying with the local Red Cross, or, you know, looking local paper online, or waiting, trying to get in touch with local officials, local police departments.

But it's not an easy thing to do. I mean, one of the things a storm like this really shows us all is the limits of our technology. I mean, the officials are -- the officials aren't out there. They don't know yet what areas you can go back to. They haven't been able to get to those areas themselves. They don't know how many casualties there are. We know there are three confirmed dead here in Mississippi, but we don't know if there are more than that. We just don't have that information. And the officials don't have that information yet. And that is something we're going to see in the next day or two or three or four, before we really get a lot of answers.

KING: Dr. Shepherd, that is some hopeless situation, when you're trying to reach someone.

SHEPHERD: It really is. I can only imagine, you know, if I were trying to reach my family or whatnot, I'd certainly want to know as well. But you know, we're in an era where, you know, as dire as it seems, technology improves every day, and you know, hopefully in the future, we'll have new technologies and maybe even some that we'll help out with here on our end that will help even with some of these sort of emergency management issues as well. But who knows?

KING: Conroe, Texas, hello.

CALLER: Hello. Larry, before I ask my questions, I do want to say to the people there that I know what they're going through. I just moved a month ago from the Panhandle and went through a year of really bad hurricanes.

But my question is, do any of your reporters know anything about Moss Point? I have a daughter and grandson there, and I've lost contact with them a long time ago.

KING: Where is that?

CALLER: It's like, Gulfport, Biloxi, Pascagoula and Moss Point.

KING: Gary, we know?

TUCHMAN: We don't know about Moss Point. But I want to emphasize a very important point. Speaking of Moss Point -- and that is, no news does not mean bad news; 99.99 percent of the time, you have nothing to worry about.

We have all the satellite technology with us. Huge satellite trucks, us TV crews, and all of us, my crew and I, we couldn't get in touch with our families today, because we just couldn't call out, they couldn't call us.

So don't worry about it. Almost all the time, you have nothing to worry about.

KING: Lansing, Michigan, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry, thank you. I've been concerned about the thousands of animals that are in captivity, for example, like the shelters and the zoos and parks. And I haven't heard anybody mention about what has been done to keep them out of harm's way.

KING: Rob, what do we know? MARCIANO: I don't know much about the shelters, I don't know much about the zoos. All I can tell you is that in this hotel, where we rode out the storm, the other guests that came here for shelter from their homes, many of them brought their pets with them, they're extended family. And I'll say this much. Having those animals around did bring a bit of a sense of calm, so there's no replacing the calm, the love that an animal can bring to somebody in this type of situation. But as far as what the zoos and shelters have done, I don't have the answer to that question.

KING: Dave Mattingly, what about the zoo in New Orleans?

MATTINGLY: We haven't heard much about the zoo or what may have happened to, if anything, to the animals there. But talking more about what Rob was saying, we've seen so many people with their pets in the hotels here. I've also encountered a lot of people who have decided -- who decided not to evacuate because they wanted to stay with their pets. So again, this is a very big part of their lives, and not something they want to make a very big mistake by leaving their pet at home.

And there were shelters here in low-lying areas that were evacuated, so authorities took a great deal of care to make sure that the animals, wherever they could, were taken care of. And again, now that it's dark and the middle of the night, we still see people coming out of the hotels with their pets to walk them. So this is a new lifestyle for all of them living in these high-rise hotels here with their pets.

KING: Back with more. Don't forget, a two-hour edition of Aaron Brown hosting "NEWSNIGHT" will follow. We're around the clock, live, with this, of course. Don't go away.


KING: Again, we don't know if it will help, but 866-GET-INFO is the Red Cross national number, it's toll -- toll free. And we also get the latest, 1.3 million homes and businesses; 1.3 million homes and businesses are without electricity in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana.

How do you think this is going to rate, Sam?

CHAMPION: It's going to rate right up there, Larry. I'm not sure if the estimates will make it the costliest yet. It's going to be real close to that. But this is going to be one of the worst ever. I mean, you're looking at the damage, and I just feel for these people who can't get information, but they really do need to understand that we can't get information.

And as you've seen, your staff, your reporters, your crews just can't move away yet. They don't know if they've got too much debris around them or live power lines down. It's going to take days to clean this up. And if you don't hear information about moving back into your area, then just stay where you are, because if you don't hear it's OK, it's best to stay where you are. And because you're safe and everything's good, and as soon as the folks get things cleaned up for you, they'll let you know, and you'll be able to get back in. This is one of the worst, Larry.

KING: Marty, with today's dollars, it will be the costliest, won't it?

EVANS: That's exactly right. And you know, Larry, we depend on the American public to support our operations, so we're asking people to make donations at and at 1-800-HELP-NOW. We really need the financial resources to provide this operation.

KING: That's or 1-800-HELP-NOW.

Gary Tuchman, where do you from Mississippi?

TUCHMAN: Well, right now, we're going to stay in this area of Gulfport and Biloxi. And there is going to be lots of stories out there. These are stories that can last us days, weeks, months and years to tell. We'll be busy starting to tell them tomorrow.

KING: Rob, what do you do?

MARCIANO: I will be here at least for another day or two, maybe the rest of the week. Tomorrow, we'll get up in the morning, we'll go survey some of the damage. I'm curious to see, from a meteorologist's point of view, just how high that storm surge got. And we'll have to look for signs of that and talk with officials and see how far up inland the water came. And I'm curious to know that, and we'll be reporting about the damage as well.

KING: Anderson, you get some rest.

COOPER: I will, Larry. I will.

KING: And, Dr. Shepherd, thanks so much for your input tonight. We really appreciate it.

SHEPHERD: Thank you.

KING: We thank all of our panel and the guests who joined us earlier as well. We'll do a lot more on this tomorrow night, and CNN, of course, will cover it right through the day and evening hours, with all live programming.

In that regard, as we did last night, Aaron Brown will host a two-hour edition of "NEWSNIGHT." Mr. Brown is standing by in New York, where you're going to get a lot of rain in the next couple of days, according to Mr. Champion.

AARON BROWN, HOST, NEWSNIGHT: I expect we are, and he's never wrong. These weather guys, they're never wrong, except when they say it's going to be sunny. Nice job tonight, Larry. Interesting group of people.


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