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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Hurricane Katrina Hammers Gulf Coast States

Aired August 30, 2005 - 03:00   ET

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


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Welcome back to CNN's continuing coverage of Hurricane Katrina. I'm Rick Sanchez.
It's three o'clock in the East, two o'clock in the Gulf Coast, where we're following new information out of New Orleans.

CNN just learned this morning that authorities in New Orleans are preparing to evacuate both Charity Hospital and Tulane University Medical Center hospitals. Both have been keeping critical patients - some on life support - who must have access to lifesaving services.

A Tulane Hospital vice president tells CNN, a levee that holds back Lake Pontchartrain has been breached, a two-block span along 17th Street and Canal Street.

KAREN TROYER-CARAWAY, VICE PRESIDENT, TULANE UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: We don't have any confirmed reports of casualties at this time. Our biggest concern is rising water.

Our hospital is in downtown New Orleans, and we did not get any accumulated water from the storm when the storm actually occurred. But within the past two hours, the water has been rising at the rate of an inch every five minutes.

We now are completely surrounded by six feet of water, and we're getting ready to get on the phone with FEMA to start talking about evacuation plans.

SANCHEZ: Of course, as you've heard, leading up to this story, this is a potentially devastating problem, because the lake is well above New Orleans, and the city is below sea level.

Flooding has also affected Biloxi, Mississippi. As you can see in some of these pictures that we've taken for you, the streets literally turned into rivers and lakes.

Thirty people have been confirmed there dead. That's in Biloxi alone.

Alabama officials are going to be out later this morning to check out a bridge. As you can see, an oil rig broke free from its moorings - it was under construction - and it's wedged itself underneath the bridge in Mobile, Alabama.

Trucks carrying hazardous waste use the bridge rather than using a tunnel. We're going to be keeping a close watch on what this deadly and dangerous storm is doing, even throughout the morning itself. We have complete coverage of Katrina, which has now been downgraded, by the way, to a tropical storm.

Our Ted Rowlands is in Biloxi. Adaora Udoji is standing by in New Orleans.

First we're going to begin with meteorologist Bonnie Schneider. She's joining us from our weather center to bring us up to date on what this storm can still do, and might, in fact, be doing as we speak. Bonnie, over to you.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: All right, Rick.

Well, right now the storm has maximum winds of 60 miles per hour - still a powerful tropical storm that's bringing plenty of rain and a lot of storms to many locations.

Let's take a look at what Katrina has been doing. We've been getting these reports of Doppler-indicated tornadoes. And I just want to show you what I mean.

Let's go to our VIPIR source now, and we can take a look. This is the radar picture now. You can see the heaviest rain over parts of Kentucky and Tennessee right now.

But down through Alabama we've been getting a lot of reports of unstable weather with tornadic activity. And if we zoom into this area further, what we're starting to see is some spin going on, because the winds are actually coming in two different directions.

Look at these two circles, almost opposing forces. And we can show you a positive and negative mile per hour reading there for the winds. We've gotten winds about 22 miles per hour and 10 miles per hour going in two different directions.

So, really, when you have - and actually, it's representative of the colors here. Notice the green and then the red - winds going in two different ways. They start pushing at the same time, and we get that twist in the atmosphere. Next thing you know we get some tornadoes.

And that's why, if we go back to our other source, I can show you that we have a tornado watch in effect for a good portion of the southeast, as well. So, be careful, because we could see more of those tornadoes break out.

Speaking of wind, just to recap some of the wind gusts that we've seen with Katrina, look at these wind gusts when the storm was approaching and/or made landfall - very, very powerful ones in Pascagoula. Mississippi very, very hard hit, certainly, from Katrina.

In Gulfport, we had gusts of 100 miles per hour. And I remember when some of these were coming in earlier today. So, just looking back on that is not too far off to remember. But as we talked about the tornado watch box, just want to show you where that is. It's over parts of Georgia, into Alabama and down through the Panhandle of Florida.

But we're seeing some of the heaviest rain, actually, towards Tennessee right now. The rain has been coming down heavy and hard in the Nashville area, down through Alabama, as I mentioned before.

So, it's going to be a wet mess as this storm continues to work its way to the north and to the north-northeast about 21 miles per hour.

Right now, the storm here is located north of Columbus, Mississippi. But those feeders bands, those outer bands extend far and wide, hundreds of miles. So we're getting the rain over a big part of the country.

And if you're watching us from Kentucky, Tennessee, into Ohio, and even into the very northwest corner of Pennsylvania, you will be affected by Katrina.

We're expecting, right here as the storm passes, between two to five inches of rain over the next 24 hours. And some isolated areas may see more than that. We've seen that in Kentucky, and areas just to the west of Bowling Green we've had reports of eight inches of rain on the ground - Rick.

SANCHEZ: So, some of those folks living in that area around Pennsylvania and Kentucky and Tennessee, as well, especially if it's hilly, they've got to watch out for some of the flash floods - or washout might be a better explanation, I suppose.

SCHNEIDER: Definitely. And one more note, Rick, I just want to mention. We talked about these winds at 60 miles per hour. And a lot of folks might think, oh, that doesn't sound so bad. It's not a Category 4 anymore.

This is still a tropical storm. And tropical storm force winds can knock down trees. So it's still unsafe to be out and about right now.

SANCHEZ: And you're referring to sustained winds. You're not referring to ...

SCHNEIDER: Correct.

SANCHEZ: ... occasional wind gusts, which could be much higher.

SCHNEIDER: Absolutely. That's why a tropical storm is still a serious situation.

SANCHEZ: Bonnie Schneider, we thank you for bringing us up to date. We'll be checking back with you.

Meanwhile, Mobile, Alabama - nearly 100 miles away from New Orleans and Katrina's landfall. But the damage from the storm unmistakable.

Downtown streets were awash with flood waters. Winds from the storm's outer bands literally ripped an oil rig loose. Right now, Mobile is under a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

CNN's Ted Rowlands is live in Mobile. He's been joining us with the very latest from that area. And he's joining us once again.

Ted, good morning.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT, MOBILE, ALABAMA: Good morning again, Rick.

And one of the things that also we should note is that the curfew is in effect. Also, the power is out. And the power situation is going to be with us, or with the folks here, for an extended period of time. They say it could be days, even weeks, before power is restored to this city and the cities along not only the Alabama Gulf Coast, but also the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

And now here in Mobile, after they've realized that things are settling down a bit, their attention is actually going towards Mississippi. And there's some real concern here tonight.

In Biloxi there was extensive damage. We saw streets turn into rivers from Katrina. And also, buildings suffered damages - some totally destroyed, others have had minimal damage.

But there are at least 30 dead in Biloxi alone. And the expectation is, as the sun comes up that death toll is going to go up in Biloxi and in the cities around Biloxi. And this is the real concern.

The people that were in Bay Saint Louis, Pass Christian, Long Beach - these are all smaller cities between Biloxi and New Orleans with populations in the thousands - 6,000 to 17,000, some of these cities. The concern is that many people stayed and tried to weather this storm, and did not make it.

They are hoping to get in at first light. First they had to wait till the storm subsided. The roads into some of these cities have been washed out. But they are mobilizing tonight and overnight, and they plan to go in full force to assess the damage in those cities.

Here in Mobile, as we mentioned, streets flooded. The power has been out and will be out for some time. The curfew has been initiated.

And you mentioned that oil drilling platform that slammed into the Cochran Bridge here. That's causing some problems for people getting in and around Mobile - or will, once people are allowed back.

They are urging anybody that has evacuated, not only from Mobile, but any of the Mississippi Gulf Coast cities, as well, to stay away for a few days until all of this can be assessed, till the power can be restored and before it is safe to go back into those cities. Real question marks, however, this morning, Rick, as to the devastation that will be found this morning when the sun comes up and they're able to get into some of these cities that they have not been able to explore. They have not been able to contact a lot of folks in these cities, and that is concerning.

SANCHEZ: It's all about getting there and finding out what's going on. Ted Rowlands, we thank you for that report.

To New Orleans now, where punishing winds and rain from Katrina tore off part of the roof at the Louisiana Superdome, where 10,000 people were trying to ride out the storm.

The stadium is the most solid, by the way, of the city's 10 shelters. The Superdome is the world's largest steel construction room. It's unobstructed by posts, by the way, which means the roof goes from one end all the way to the other.

It's enormous. The dome covers 9.7 acres. It's 273 feet high. It has 102 restrooms, which breaks down to about 100 people per restroom. You can see the damage from Katrina on the Superdome from the aerial footage right there.

Three-quarters of the silver covering on the roof blew off. Rain did pour into the stadium, which is being used as a shelter, as we mentioned. It held more than 10,000 people who were seeking refuge at the time. All stayed in the building, by the way. They did not need to be evacuated from there, we should note.

Our live coverage begins this morning in New Orleans, though, where lives are feared lost despite no official death reports. This while thousands remain stranded from flooding in and around the Crescent City.

The preliminary reports of damage coming out of New Orleans and outlying parishes, though, is devastating already.

CNN's Adaora Udoji has been following the story - a story of an area miles long with homes almost under water and with, in many cases, people trapped inside of them.

She brings us now the very latest live. Adaora, over to you.

ADAORA UDOJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT, NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA: Thank you, Rick. Indeed, I think devastating is a key word, and one we keep hearing around here.

We are actually northwest of the city. And I think - I believe another boat - oh, you can see there's rescue workers down - we're actually standing on Interstate 10, a major artery, above what used to be a street.

As you say, there are dozens, if not hundred and thousands of homes that are submerged in water. And we have watched the incredible sight of hundreds of people being rescued, and these small boats coming back full of people. Somewhere around - one official told us here - somewhere around 500 people have been evacuated from their homes. They were trapped in their attics, on top of the roof, making desperate phone calls on their cell phones, seeking help, some of them waiting 10, 12, 15 hours.

Of those 500, we understand that there have only been minimal injuries. In fact, there was an elderly woman, 97 years old, who came out quite bumped and bruised, another man with a broken leg.

No fatalities at this point. But I think we were just listening to Ted Rowlands in Mississippi, and he was saying that rescue workers just have no idea what they're going to find when daylight comes.

It's pitch black because, of course, there's no electricity. And as one officer said not long ago, that actually, these people who were getting out are the lucky ones.

What they're most concerned about are those who are trapped somewhere other, elsewhere in their home, unable to speak, unable to call for help. And perhaps - they have no idea what they're going to find in the morning - Rick.

SANCHEZ: You know what would be much more difficult for these people, and that is if the water level continues to rise.

And we had a conversation not long ago with an official over at Tulane University Hospital - I don't know if you caught part of that conversation - where we were told that part of the levee has been breached around Lake Pontchartrain.

If that is indeed the case, as has been suggested, one would think the water where you are will be rising as well, which will make the situation that more difficult for rescue workers and the people stuck in these attics, right?

UDOJI: I think you bring up some amazing points.

The first point about Tulane Hospital, we actually spent the night there. And when we left early this morning, there was a general sense of relief, because the hospital seemed to weather the storm just fine. It wasn't flooded. They had their backup generators. They were all working fine.

But as we know now, 12 hours later, that they're having some severe problems there.

Second - to your second point about the rising water levels, we've heard from a couple of officials, including a state trooper, who says there are areas that are northwest of here, where actually the water is rising.

Of course, that just makes it far more treacherous for the rescue workers who are in these boats. It's very dark. They have no idea what they are riding over or what they are going to run into, whether it be electrical lines, or whether it be some kind of debris. I mean, there are so many hazards that just - it's complicating and compounding their rescue efforts. And as we know, Rick, we've been standing here seeing that there are a lot of people who need it.

SANCHEZ: The last thing they need is more water, because as it is, they have a very difficult task on their hands.

Adaora Udoji, we thank you for hanging in there and bringing us the very latest information on this unfolding drama, as it develops there around the New Orleans area of Saint Bernard Parish.

Speaking of rescue efforts, and rescue efforts that have been taking place on some of these boats, our photographer, Mark Biello, a veteran photographer with CNN, who has covered many disasters like this one, and wars, as well, got a chance to spend several hours today with some of those rescue officials. Actually boarded a boat, and then has had conversations with us.

This conversation he had earlier tonight with Aaron Brown, describing to him what he saw while he was in that vessel with those rescue officials. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

MARK BIELLO, CNN PHOTOJOURNALIST, NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA: In this neighborhood of Edgewood, which is not too far from the dome, off of I-10, there are hundreds and hundreds of homes that are completely flooded. And there are hundreds of people that are still trapped in the attics and in their homes.

We came across people on the rooftops, people punching holes in their attic spaces, because the waters filled up - all the way up to their attics. It is rising. We've seen it rise. It's a slow, gradual rise now. It's not dramatic as before.

But that's a big concern, especially with these people that are trapped overnight, up in the attic spaces, because literally, the air pockets, there's nowhere - we saw people sticking their hands outside through the rafters, waving little tin pans, aluminum pans, to signal, you know, or have some kind of reflection, as they were screaming to get them out, because the claustrophobia sets in, too, of these people that are trapped.

Apparently, what I think a lot of the rescue operations and a lot of the people don't realize, the magnitude of how many people are still trapped in the attics. They're chopping through with axes on the rooftops to pull people that are literally just breathing the last air in their homes. And they're up in the rafters, up in the attic spaces.

I think the biggest concern that they have is the survivability of these people that are still trapped, which they cannot get to this evening, because it's just too dangerous to take your boats.

The power lines are underneath the water, getting caught up in the props. And actually, some of these lines are hot. And also, the gas lines are still bubbling and sending out natural gas. These lines have not been cut off, or they didn't have time.

I think there's actually, unfortunately, an anticipation that there could be hundreds of deaths by tomorrow.

(END VIDEO)

SANCHEZ: And by the way, that situation that Mark Biello was describing is continuing tonight, or this morning, as we speak.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath, which is quite dramatic in certain areas. Thunderstorm watches, tornado warnings and more are par for the course this morning.

Let's check in right now with our meteorologist, Mike Musher. He's at the National Oceanic and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Atmospheric Administration headquarters in Maryland. That's bound to happen around three o'clock in the morning, with those multi-syllabic words.

Mike, we thank you so much for joining us.

MIKE MUSHER, NOAA METEOROLOGIST: No problem, Rick.

SANCHEZ: Can we start with this? Try and give us a sense of the severity of the problem in New Orleans, if, indeed, as reported, there is a huge breach in the levee that connects to Lake Pontchartrain.

MUSHER: Well, I can tell you that the water is not going to disappear any time soon. In fact, if you go out into the forecast over the next few days, temperatures are actually going to be warming up as we head into the weekend, with the temperatures probably in New Orleans around - probably over 90 degrees.

SANCHEZ: So, if indeed there has been a breach in the levee, and it's a major breach - it's being described to us as being two blocks long - characterize for us what that would mean for the area of New Orleans that we have been told is actually below sea level?

MUSHER: Well, like I said, obviously - and we haven't seen some of the pictures yet - but there is severe flooding. And hopefully everybody followed the advice from the hurricane center and the mayor of New Orleans, to evacuate before the storm arrived. And ...

SANCHEZ: But wouldn't that - let me be a little bit more direct.

The flooding that we're seeing, isn't that caused by just rainwater combined with the storm surge?

MUSHER: Yes. It's a combination of both.

I think the hurricane center at the time had a storm surge forecast up towards 20 to 30 feet. And a combination ... SANCHEZ: So, if we were to - if we were to combine a break in the levee in Lake Pontchartrain on top of those other two things, I imagine it would be much more difficult than it is already.

MUSHER: Yes, I agree with you.

SANCHEZ: Tell us, Mike, what this storm will continue to do now, as it leaves the area of both Alabama and Mississippi and continues northward.

When will this storm no longer be a threat?

MUSHER: Yes. Well, in the next 12 to 24 hours. Katrina is a tropical storm at this moment. It's going to move off to the northeast through the Ohio Valley, and decrease in intensity to a tropical depression.

And by the time we get out to 36 and 48 hours, it'll become an extra-tropical low and move off through northern New England.

In that time, we're expecting three to five inches of rainfall across the Ohio Valley into northern New England, with a severe weather threat of severe thunderstorms, possibly producing tornadoes this afternoon across a good portion of the Appalachians into the mid- Atlantic states.

SANCHEZ: So, people right now around Nashville and parts of Kentucky, as well, do they really need to be on their guard for this thing? Even though it's not a hurricane, it could still do quite a lot of damage.

MUSHER: Yes. Right now, Nashville up into western Kentucky seeing very heavy rainfall. And that rainfall is going to eventually move off over the next 12 hours as we move through the day, heading up through Kentucky up into Ohio and West Virginia.

And meanwhile, the bands of showers and thunderstorms over across Alabama, Georgia, will begin to slide up into the Carolinas and Virginia later on.

SANCHEZ: Mike Musher, thanks so much, sir, for helping us figure this thing out as the information continues to come in. It's always good to be able to talk to an expert, also, for the information on what the storm will continue to do.

We'll follow it here. I'm Rick Sanchez. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: We do welcome you back to CNN's continuing coverage of Hurricane Katrina.

We're getting close to that 24-hour mark now since Katrina first struck the Gulf Coast. The damage still revealing itself. Stories of survival being told as well. And we imagine there will be many, many more. Here now, Jonathan Freed with some from Biloxi.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

JONATHAN FREED, CNN CORRESPONDENT, BILOXI, MISSISSIPPI: With the wind pounding the Comfort Inn in Biloxi, Suzanne Rogers job ...

SUZANNE ROGERS, BILOXI, MISSISSIPPI RESIDENT: Do you need another bed, a rollaway bed in there with you guys?

FREED: ... is making the hurricane refugees here feel as comfortable as possible.

But around noon on Monday, it was Rogers who needed consoling ...

ROGERS: Let's go, Earl. Come on! Where's Molly?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've got her, I've got her.

ROGERS: Come on! Come on!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

FREED: ... when a gust blew out the window in her hotel room.

ROGERS: And all the windows on both ends of the third floor are busting out.

FREED: What did it sound like?

ROGERS: It sounded like a boom!

FREED: Rogers has lived in Biloxi all her life - a life marked by the last monster storm to come through these parts, Hurricane Camille in 1969, when Rogers was just nine years old, and says a storm surge almost drowned her and her family.

ROGERS: As it was coming in the front door, we had to go to the back of my aunt's house, while the water was filling up. And I can remember it filled all the way up to my neck.

And - as a little girl - and there was nowhere for us to go.

FREED: Rogers says the fear she felt on that day remained buried until now.

ROGERS: What just happened to us upstairs has - I was scared, very, very, very scared. It just put in the mind of Hurricane Camille.

FREED: But Rogers managed to push her fears aside by focusing on the people taking shelter at the hotel, who need her help.

Jonathan Freed, CNN, Biloxi, Mississippi. (END VIDEO)

SANCHEZ: Is it possible that for the very first time, we are seeing a major breach on some of the levees holding back the water on Lake Pontchartrain? Something that's been discussed often by many meteorologists.

Well, when we come back, we're going to let you hear from a person not far from that potential breach, and hear her description of what she says is taking place there.

Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: What we want to do now is bring you the latest information, some of the numbers regarding Hurricane Katrina - now downgraded, by the way, to a tropical storm.

Fifty-four people estimated to have died in Mississippi. Thirty of those confirmed dead by CNN in a Biloxi apartment complex that happens to be close to the beach.

Fear of rising flood waters the biggest concern in New Orleans. CNN's being told there's a two-block breach in the levee at Lake Pontchartrain that's pouring water into the city.

One hospital is evacuating. Another may do so, as well, soon.

Meantime, New Orleans police are working very long hours. As we've been reporting and showing you since midnight, successful boat rescues, some 300 people plucked from danger. Sparing children from the rising waters is a positive site coming from New Orleans, although many people, we are told, are still stuck on roofs and in attics.

Despite being downgraded to tropical storm status, several people throughout the Southeast are having a rough time thanks to Katrina.

Let's do this. Let's check in with our meteorologist once again, Bonnie Schneider, to get a sense of what those people are actually going through at this time.

What is it, Bonnie?

SCHNEIDER: And, Rick, I was just going to say, and what they're going to go through in the future. We can actually project with our computer models of where we think the rain will be heaviest.

And let's go right to our VIPIR source now, and I'll show you exactly what I'm talking about.

Here's where the storm is now. It's to the north of Columbus, Mississippi. But watch what happens as it sweeps on through, across Tennessee.

We're looking at some very heavy rainfall expected, three to five inches along the storm path, maybe two to four on the periphery of it.

But as we look into the future, look at this, Tuesday, 8:15 in the evening. So, as we talk about tonight, that's where we're finally expecting Katrina to be downgraded to an area of low pressure. Not to say that this won't continue to be a major rainmaker for the area.

Right along the border of Kentucky on into Ohio, back out towards Indiana - this is where we're expecting some very heavy rain. We're also expecting rain further to the east, as far east as North Carolina and back out towards Virginia, the mid-Atlantic states, as was mentioned earlier.

We may see the threat of tornadoes in this area in the Northeast, of where the storm center will be, as we've being seeing throughout the evening for tonight, as well.

In fact, if we go to our second source, now you'll see that we do have this band of rain continuing to push across Nashville, Tennessee.

I was just looking to see how much rain has accumulated in Tennessee. Some reports say in some parts just south of Nashville, right towards the border and a little bit further to the south, we're seeing about three inches of rain on the ground over the past 12 hours. About an inch has fallen in the past - or to two inches - in the past three.

So, the rain is coming down heavy and hard. It's also coming down at a pretty steady pace, so it's not subsiding.

This red box here indicates our threat for tornadoes. Now remember, we're still right before daybreak, before we start getting that sunshine. And when we get the sunshine later this afternoon, the heating of the day will cause the atmosphere to become more unstable.

And when you already have a factor out there like a tropical storm that's already creating instability, and then you add that heating of the day, the ground, everything becomes a little more unstable. We're likely to see more tornadoes break out in the afternoon than what we've seen in these overnight hours.

Taking a look at the track of Katrina, eventually the storm will become extra-tropical, but it has a ways to go. We'll still be contending with it through the day today and into the night.

It's still a tropical storm with winds up to 60 miles per hour. Gusts have been reported to be higher than that in some areas. But for the most part, from what I've been looking at, most of the sustained winds are right around 30 or 40 miles per hour, right near the storm center.

Not to say that we haven't seen some strong thunderstorms that we had a wind gust reported into Alabama, I believe, that was about 56 miles per hour a little while ago - Rick.

SANCHEZ: Thanks so much, Bonnie.

SCHNEIDER: Sure.

SANCHEZ: In the last hour, CNN received a report that sounds very much like a troubling, if not doomsday scenario that has threatened the City of New Orleans for years now.

We're hearing that there has been a breach in the Lake Pontchartrain levee surrounding the Crescent City. This is a two- block span, we're being told, around 17th and Canal.

Now, I had a chance to talk earlier with the vice president for Tulane University Medical Center. And she explains this to us, and what her concerns are.

Here now is Karen Troyer-Caraway.

(BEGIN AUDIO)

KAREN TROYER-CARAWAY, VICE PRESIDENT, TULANE UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL, NEW ORLEANS: Our hospital is in downtown New Orleans, and we did not get any accumulated water from the storm, when the storm actually occurred.

But within the past two hours, the water has been rising at the rate of an inch every five minutes. We now are completely surrounded by six feet of water, and we're getting ready to get on the phone with FEMA to start talking about evacuation plans.

SANCHEZ: So, your hospital has been open throughout this storm?

TROYER-CARAWAY: Yes, we have.

SANCHEZ: You've remained open. Have you been taking people who have been victims of the storm?

TROYER-CARAWAY: No, because nobody can get to us now. But, yes, earlier during the day when the storm initially began to subside enough, we did get some injuries, some broken legs, some minor injuries from falling debris.

And then the water began to rise. And since then, we haven't gotten any new patients, because the ambulance, the cars, the trucks, the vehicles, the fire trucks - the water is so high at this point, that the vehicles can't get to us.

So, we're contemplating air evacuation at this point, of the entire hospital, which we have over 1,000 people here.

SANCHEZ: There are 1,000 people in the hospital. And you are now saying that you are ...

TROYER-CARAWAY: Contemplating ...

SANCHEZ: ... contemplating evacuating all the patients who are in there?

TROYER-CARAWAY: Yes. SANCHEZ: Have you talked ...

TROYER-CARAWAY: If the water - if the water continues to rise at the current rate of an inch every five minutes - we have been on emergency backup generator power since about two o'clock in the morning yesterday, about 24 hours ago.

And at the current rate the water is rising, we will lose emergency backup generator power, because the water is rising, and it will get to our second floor where our emergency backup generators are.

We have patients on ventilators that need power supply for life support.

SANCHEZ: Well, how - let me ask you this. If there were to be an evacuation, as you suggest there may need to be, how would that evacuation be done, if the first floor is already under water? There's no place to drive up to your ...

TROYER-CARAWAY: No. We have a - we have a heliport on the top of our garage. Would have to have FEMA come fly in and get us.

SANCHEZ: So, the only way to evacuate some of your patients would be by helicopters. Others, I imagine, could be taken out by boat?

TROYER-CARAWAY: The patients that we have are mostly critically ill patients. I would have to say the majority of them would have to be evacuated by air.

SANCHEZ: Wow. And this is vice - this is Tulane University Hospital, which, as I recall, is just west of New Orleans proper, correct?

TROYER-CARAWAY: We're in downtown New Orleans.

SANCHEZ: Right in down ...

TROYER-CARAWAY: We're in the central business district of New Orleans.

SANCHEZ: When do you expect to make this decision?

TROYER-CARAWAY: Well, we just received confirmed reports from the Louisiana state police that the breach in the levee, on the 17th Street canal, is two blocks long.

Now, that's a breach in the levee that holds back the lake - Lake Pontchartrain.

Even with all the pumps operational, which we still haven't confirmed that all of them have been turned on. But even if they do turn on, they're not going to be able to compete with Lake Pontchartrain.

The water is rising so fast, I cannot begin to describe how quickly it's rising.

SANCHEZ: Tell me this again. And if you would, tell me what your source is on that information of the breach, which you characterized as what, a block long?

TROYER-CARAWAY: Two blocks long.

SANCHEZ: A breach two blocks long along the levee, where?

TROYER-CARAWAY: The 17th Street canal in Lake View, New Orleans.

SANCHEZ: And that would be one of the levees leading out of, or - yes, leading out of - Lake Pontchartrain.

TROYER-CARAWAY: That is one of the levee systems for Lake Pontchartrain. It is the geographical border between Orleans Parish and Jefferson Parish.

But the breach in the levee is on the Orleans Parish side, so it's dumping all the lake water into Orleans Parish.

SANCHEZ: And you're ...

TROYER-CARAWAY: And it's essentially running down Canal Street. I mean, from the top of our buildings, we have white caps on Canal Street, the water is moving so fast.

(END AUDIO)

SANCHEZ: Obviously, when we heard that information, we were taken aback. So, we've been making some phone calls to try and confirm it and see what officials are doing.

This is what we know at this point. The Army Corps of Engineers is meeting right now. They're at the command center in New Orleans, and we're expecting a statement from them on this particular issue about the potential breach of the levee.

We're expecting a statement in the next hour.

New Orleans business owners are going to try very hard to get the biggest tourist attraction ready for business. The historic French Quarter is battered, and barely above water in many places.

Here's CNN's David Mattingly with that story.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT, NEW ORLEANS: As the engine that drives New Orleans tourism, dire predictions of 20-foot flood waters in the French Quarter spelled a disaster that would have been felt for decades.

But as Katrina departed, the storm instead left behind an endless parade of debris - and surprises. What's most amazing to me as you walk around the Quarter, is how many people you see out on the streets right now. People who were told to evacuate didn't.

The streets that could have been hit by catastrophic flooding weren't.

MIKE BEVIS (ph), FRENCH QUARTER RESIDENT: All of these lights right here, the glass has been smashing against the wall and then coming down the street and everything.

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

BEVIS (ph): These buildings down here, they've been here for so long, ad the way they were built, that some of them, they're as tough as a bank vault, really.

RICK EICHMAN (ph), FRENCH QUARTER RESIDENT: The wind was rolling in this way ...

MATTINGLY: Upstairs, mardi gras bead makers Rick and Laurie Eichman (ph) stayed, so they could get an early jump on cleanup.

EICHMAN (ph): French Quarter residents are pretty hardy types. We're ready to start cleaning up and getting the show back on the road. And we want to have the place decent by Labor Day, so everybody can come down and have a good time.

MATTINGLY: It may be an ambitious goal.

Local residents became sightseers themselves, so they could take in all the damage.

There's one thing down this street that all the residents tell us we have to look at, and it has nothing to do with all of this debris in the street. There's a lot of masonry and a lot of lumber, apparently blown off of roofs.

It's right around this corner. In this park, we can see some huge trees that are down, crashing through the gate over here.

But it isn't the trees that they wanted us to come look at. It's what's inside.

Massive oaks fell all around, but not on, the statue of Jesus. The only apparent damage to the church - a clock that stopped when electricity failed.

And even as the rains from a receding Katrina continue to pour, there were signs the party was coming back to life.

What are you doing? Making a delivery?

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

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

Well, you made it through the night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

MATTINGLY: What's your concern now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Getting out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, getting out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Getting out and getting back to Chicago.

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

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely none.

MATTINGLY: David Mattingly, CNN, New Orleans, Louisiana.

(END VIDEO)

SANCHEZ: By the way, while we await some of the casualty numbers out of New Orleans - and we're being told by all informed parties there will be some - we already do know what some of the casualty numbers are in the area of Mississippi, specifically Harrison County.

We'll share those with you when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Welcome back. I'm Rick Sanchez.

Hurricane Katrina's strike on Mississippi has killed at least 50 people so far, caused some catastrophic damage in the state's coastal counties, as well.

Rob Marciano, now, with a look at some of the devastating damage witnessed in Biloxi.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

ROB MARCIANO, CNN WEATHER ANCHOR, BILOXI, MISSISSIPPI: Hurricane Katrina roared ashore across the coastline of Mississippi today with 135 mile an hour plus winds.

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

MARCIANO: And with that came some serious destruction.

We experienced the storm about six miles inland, and still a wide range of destruction from the sides of our hotel to the roof of our hotel being blown away.

But closer to shore, closer to downtown Biloxi, pictures coming in are just unbelievable. In some cases, homes completely wiped off their foundation.

The combination of wind and a massive, over 20-foot storm surge led to the pileup in some cases of 20, maybe 25 cars on top of each other. Other homes just kind of hollowed out, some other homes not even touched.

Casinos damaged, as they tried to float freely in the Gulf of Mexico.

We'll get a better look at it as we survey the damage tomorrow. But as of tonight, the pictures we see are not good.

Reporting from Biloxi, Mississippi, I'm Rob Marciano for CNN.

(END VIDEO)

SANCHEZ: Riding out a hurricane is difficult enough. Now, staying safe in the aftermath of the hurricane is something a lot of people take for granted, but it's extremely important.

We have compiled some tips for you now on how to weather a post- storm period, when all too often, there are many casualties as a result of storms.

Here we go. Number one, avoid tap water, because it could be contaminated. And if you have no alternative, boil the tap water for at least five minutes before using it or drinking it. But do not drink the boiled water if you are pregnant. Do not give it to infants younger than six months.

To make the most out of your food supplies during a power outage, here's a tip. Do not open the freezers or refrigerators unless you're going to use the contents. And even then, open it and close it immediately.

Food will stay safe for four hours in an unopened refrigerator, 36 to 48 hours in an unopened freezer.

Many people want to survey the damage immediately after a storm, but avoid driving for now. If you were evacuated, do not try and return to your home until authorities say it's safe to do so. And when you do come back, have I.D. with you, so that you'll be able to cross some of the checkpoints. That may be making it more easy for you to be able to finally get into your home.

Also, be sure to stay 10 feet away from fallen trees and power lines. Do not touch downed power lines, wires or metal objects. And do not remove a tree or object from a power line, especially if it's wet. And don't step in a puddle if there could possibly be a power line near it. It conduces electricity.

Now, once inside, turn off all electrical equipment that you were using before the electricity went out, and do not run a generator indoors. If you use a generator, do not connect it to the home's electrical supply.

Also, don't use matches or light candles until gas lines are checked. And also avoid turning the power on in your home before it's inspected by a professional.

Avoid using a telephone, except for emergencies.

These are some of the tips that can help you stay safe in the aftermath of a hurricane.

We'll bring you more tips, more information and the very latest developments in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, now tropical storm Katrina.

You're watching CNN. This is your hurricane headquarters.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: We welcome you back. I'm Rick Sanchez.

The City of New Orleans hasn't felt the direct impact of a major hurricane since 1965, narrowly avoided certain disaster a few years later in 1969.

August 17th and 18th, to be exact. It was a Category 5 hurricane, Camille, devastated the Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama coasts. The storm created gusts of more than 200 miles an hour.

That's estimated, by the way, since every piece of monitoring equipment was destroyed. It brought the highest storm surge ever measured in the United States, wiped out nearly every coastal structure from east of New Orleans to the Florida Panhandle.

Camille killed 143 people along the Gulf Coast, nearly that many in the flooding that followed, as the storm moved north.

Hurricane Camille and Hurricane Andrew, in 1992, are considered the only Category 5 storms to hit the U.S. mainland.

Here's one story we have to share, because Suzanne Rogers remembers the devastation of Camille first-hand. During Katrina, she worked to help others, now needs some help herself.

Suzanne Rogers talked to CNN's Paula Zahn.

(BEGIN AUDIO)

SUZANNE ROGERS, BILOXI, MISSISSIPPI RESIDENT: I actually went home about an hour-and-a-half ago, and there is no home to go to.

The apartment complex that I lived in is on the beach. And Ocean Springs is totally leveled. There's nothing there anymore. There's nothing but a bunch of ...

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Totally left - totally lost.

ROGERS: Totally lost. Totally lost. We actually had to park about three blocks away and walk as far as we could walk to where I lived at. And there's nothing there. They're gone. It's all rubble. There's nothing left.

And my neighbors had just built a big, beautiful home - a million-dollar home - and it is gone. All the homes on the beach in Biloxi - in Ocean Springs, excuse me - are gone.

And then, when I left there, after we viewed that - I have nothing left now - we went to Biloxi. We rode over to Biloxi to see about my mother, where my mother lives. And the water - the rivers have swollen in North Biloxi so bad that you can't get through to drive over there. So we drove to Front Biloxi, where the casinos are.

The casinos appear to be still standing. Of course, I don't know about the water and the tidal surges. But there are like 18-wheelers on top of cars, and homes in the middle of the streets. And there's people wandering down the streets with nowhere to go - homeless.

They've got maybe their - maybe a bag over their shoulder. And they're all in the middle of the streets with nowhere to go.

And the homes, houses and boats and cars are just - this debris is just everywhere. It's very catastrophic down here.

ZAHN: Hey, Suzanne, ...

ROGERS: And it reminds me of Camille.

ZAHN: I'm sure it does. And you were just describing what it was like to go back to your neighborhood. We should help the audience understand, you're talking about a storm that packed 135 mile per hour winds.

ROGERS: Yes.

ZAHN: But help us understand the construction of an apartment building where the whole thing went out to sea.

You said there's absolutely nothing left.

ROGERS: There's nothing left. All I found that belonged to me was a shoe.

ZAHN: A shoe.

ROGERS: And my - a shoe. That was it. And a chair that I had put inside of my apartment. I lived on the bottom floor. This was a two-story, brick building that I lived in, and it was very nice. Of course, we were on the beach. And there is nothing left. There's nothing left.

There's clothes - there's debris hanging from trees. And there's homes that were - that stood Camille, actually stood Camille. The homes that stood Camille didn't stand this hurricane. They're gone. They're absolutely gone.

And the home that I was telling you about that my friends had just built, it was just - it was just extremely gorgeous. And it was stories and a beautiful home. Stucco - it was made of stucco brick. And gone.

ZAHN: Nothing left of it either.

ROGERS: It was nothing but ...

ZAHN: Suzanne ...

ROGERS: Nothing left.

ZAHN: What are you standing in front of now? What's behind you?

ROGERS: I'm standing in front of the Comfort Inn. This is where I work. And we got pretty beat up last night, also.

ZAHN: Well, we ...

ROGERS: Today. This morning.

ZAHN: ... we could see from the pictures, when you were standing next to that window that made me very nervous.

What are you going to do now, Suzanne?

ROGERS: Oh, yes.

ZAHN: Where are you going to live?

ROGERS: Well, I've got family that live in Jackson. I've got a sister up there, but I'm, you know, presently worried about a younger sister of mine who stayed near the beach this morning, and like, we have no power and no phone - no way to call.

And, you know, my family probably - they don't know if I'm OK or not. They're all in Jackson. My children are in Jackson, and one is in Destin, Florida. And ...

ZAHN: Well, I'm hoping they have power tonight, so they can see that you're OK. That you're survived ...

ROGERS: Yes, right.

ZAHN: ... and seemingly undaunted by the challenge that lies ahead. We are so sorry, Suzanne, and we really appreciate ...

ROGERS: Well, ...

ZAHN: ... your dropping by to explain to us just how powerful ...

ROGERS: Well, you're so welcome.

ZAHN: ... the storm was.

ROGERS: Yes. It was very, very powerful.

(END AUDIO)

SANCHEZ: By the way, while everybody else was running away from Katrina, news reporters and camera crews are rushing in to bring you stories and images that, in often cases, take their breaths away, and many times yours.

Take a look at what they, in many cases, went through.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come with me. Everybody keep their heads up from stuff flying around!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Guys, we're in store for one nasty storm.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: It's like (UNINTELLIGIBLE) your face, as you try to turn north and look into the wind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is white-capping in the parking lot out here.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel real scared.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Be careful, Brian.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. You OK? Everybody's good?

(END VIDEO)

SANCHEZ: We also have some more news to report to you now, information that the twin span bridge is, quote, totally destroyed, and that 80 percent of the City of New Orleans is under water.

Totally destroyed, twin span bridge. Eighty percent of the city under water.

That information coming from the mayor - Mayor Ray Nagin - he's reporting that in an interview with WWL, a TV station in New Orleans. Obviously, disconcerting information, one we'll continue to follow up on. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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