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THE SITUATION ROOM

Katrina Officially Declared the Most Destructive Hurricane to Ever Hit U.S.; Bush to Address Nation From New Orleans Tonight

Aired September 15, 2005 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The Carolina coast where Hurricane Ophelia is nearly at a standstill, still hammering the region with a long, slow assault. We have new pictures of the devastation that are just coming in. We'll show them to you.
And it's 4:00 p.m. Central Time along the Gulf Coast where Katrina has just been officially declared the most destructive hurricane to ever hit the United States.

It's also 4:00 p.m. Central Time in New Orleans where President Bush will be making a major speech to the nation tonight about the disaster. That's coming up in just a few hours.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"Mission Critical" for coastal North Carolina. This hour Hurricane Ophelia, a very unwelcome visitor hammering away at the region. And these images are just coming in to CNN, new video of the damage being caused by this storm. This is Salter Path on the Outer Banks. Some areas have had up to a foot-and-a-half of rain. Some rivers are swelling under storm surges of up to nine feet.

And making matters worse right now, the storm is barely moving at all. The wind, the rain, the pounding waves just coming in, some areas now experiencing their second full day of Ophelia's assault. Along the Atlantic coast, Hurricane Ophelia is battering North Carolina's Outer Banks. The storm has been reluctant to move on, and the steady pounding has now taken a toll. We have new pictures, as I said, of the damage.

CNN meteorologist Rob Marciano is joining us now live from Salter Path in North Carolina. It looks pretty bad where you are, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I'll tell you what, Wolf, earlier today in THE SITUATION ROOM, I made mention of Hurricane Isabel which struck as a Category 2 storm just two years ago and that officials were saying that the damage from Ophelia not up to Isabel. Well, they didn't see this area.

This is Salter Path. This is about 10 miles from where we rode out the storm. This is on the bay side of the island. I mean, the ocean's over there, and all the damage you see behind me was done by what normally is calm water. This is -- behind me is a fish processing house, completely ruined.

Look how the wave action just tore apart this cinderblock. I mean, I don't want to say, but we haven't seen damage like -- this is similar to what I saw in Biloxi on a much smaller scale, but the storm surge that powerful, cinderblocks completely pulverized in.

By the way, I'm looking south right now. All the waves and wind came from the northeast. You can see how the northwestern side of that building is more blown out than this corner. You can really see where the waves came in here. Obviously, you can hear the hum of the generators. That's something very familiar, especially to the folks who are dealing with the aftermath of Katrina.

How in the world this can happen? This is a sound. You know, you're not supposed to have this sort of storm surge. Pan out and take a look at what is now pretty calm water, but last night, five and six- foot breakers were coming in here.

And what we have, apparently, are two inlets on either side of this island. We're situated right smack in the middle. During high tide of the ocean, all that water rushed into this area, which had been getting pummeled for two days by east and northeast winds. For two days the water had been piling up in the middle of this sound, and then when high tide came last night in advance of Ophelia, all that water rose up. And, Wolf, it's got to be at least a 10 if not 12-foot storm surge on the sound.

You know, you talk to the locals here, the locals who have lived through Isabel, the locals who have lived through Hazel back in 1954 -- that was Category 4 -- and they say they've never seen anything like this. Unbelievable here at Salter Path and all through North Carolina.

Wolf.

BLITZER: Rob, is it isolated, that destruction that we see behind you right now? Or is it up and down the coast as it was along the Mississippi coast in Biloxi as you know?

MARCIANO: Well, I'll tell you what. Jack, let's pan a little bit. Wolf, this is not the only spot. You know, we didn't just set up shop here because it was one place that happened to get some waves. I mean, this entire stretch of what used to be docks, fish warehouses and restaurants completely pulverized by this storm surge.

We were going to eat here three nights ago, before the storm run. This is the Crab Shack. This is a institution here at Salter Path. They've got a dock that goes out -- used to have a dock and the fishing boats. The guy that owns this restaurant actually has a fishing boat. He brings fresh shrimp and bay scallops right into his restaurant. I mean, the locals love this place. And it goes back over 30 years. And you can see down the stretch of beach dock waterfront area all the destruction.

So Wolf, no, it's not isolated. And what we've also heard -- we haven't been able to get to the other side of the sound, but directly across Bogue Sound from here, on the north side, similar destruction has been described to us. So we're going to have to check that out at some point, but that's a long drive away. One step at a time. Folks here are recovering from this. By the way, Wolf, you know, we do computer models that determine what will happen if say, a Category 4, Category 5 storm, when a storm surge comes up -- even a Cat 5 storm that would come through here would not -- didn't predict this would happen. An unbelievable, almost a freak thing. But it's one more -- it's just one more point that, you know, it's very difficult to predict what nature will bring, especially during a hurricane.

BLITZER: I don't know if you can reach over there. I don't know if those individuals behind you, Rob, want to say something, but I would be interested in getting their reaction. They're probably local residents who have seen their businesses, their homes pretty much destroyed right now. It would be good to get them if they want to discuss this, obviously. I'm not sure that they do. But if they do, it would be good to bring them over to the camera.

MARCIANO: We're going to try to do that. I just talked to some of the folks who live here off camera who are dealing with this kind of damage right now. And I tell you, I've heard this more than once in the last hour, this is nothing as compared to the poor folks who are suffering from Katrina.

So, I mean, if it's, you know, anything good is comes out of Katrina, it's that folks here, even after all this destruction, you know, are looking at the bright side of things and saying, hey, you know, it could be a lot worse. But we will try to get some folks over to you before the end of the hour and have you chat them up

BLITZER: All right. Good. I want you to chat them up. I want you to talk to them. But one final question, Rob, before I let you go. You're a meteorologist. Is a hurricane Category 1 which didn't even hit -- the eye didn't even hit. Is it supposed to do this kind of damage to brick buildings like that? Cinderblock?

MARCIANO: Not at all. What -- and we've said it time and time again the last two days. The biggest deal with this storm has been its slow movement. And because it was sitting and just flailing away 200 miles south of here for a couple days, that brought a consistent east wind, northeast wind in this area.

That meant that any water that could come in from the ocean high tide, any water that came down from the rivers and draining from natural freshwater rainfall, piled up in the sound. And then when the high tide storm surge came in, when Ophelia finally got close enough, all that water was just pinched up and forced up and on top of that, five and six-foot breakers. So to answer your question, no, this is not supposed to happen in a Category 1 storm. But this wasn't an ordinary Category 1 hurricane. That's for sure.

BLITZER: All right, Rob. Stand by. We're going to come back to you and we'll get an update of what's going on, see if some of those local residents want to share some thoughts with our viewers.

Let's get an update now on where Hurricane Ophelia is heading. For that, let's to our meteorologist Bonnie Schneider at CNN's Hurricane Headquarters. What's the latest forecast, Bonnie?

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: OK. Well, we have the latest advisory that just came through. Ophelia is now barely a hurricane. The maximum winds are at 75 miles per hour, and Air Force reconnaissance, their aircraft, reported that that's the winds that they found.

And some good news. The storm is starting to move, just a little bit, drifting now to the east/northeast. The more east it goes, the better, the more it moves away from the land. And it's really drifting very slowly east/northeast near three, and this motion is expected to continue. But once it starts getting over the open waters, we are expecting it to speed up a little bit.

Now, with this new information, we have some other updates for you. Instead of a hurricane warning because Ophelia is now a very low level hurricane -- just barely that with winds of 75 miles per hour -- the hurricane warning what was in effect, is now a tropical storm warning. And that stretches further north than it did before, from Cape Lookout, North Carolina, up to Cape Charles Light in Virginia. And that does include a small portion of the Chesapeake, down through here, the very lower point of the Chesapeake, right through this region here. So that's what we're watching for a tropical storm warning.

Now, as we take a look at the track of Ophelia, what we can expect is the possibility for tropical storm force winds and some rough surf as well further to the north as well. And that can be pretty far north, even up into New England.

A tropical storm watch is now in effect from Woods Hole, Massachusetts, up through Plymouth, Massachusetts. Now, that does include the cape and the island, meaning Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. And Woods Hole is the area where you get that ferry to Martha's Vineyard, so we're talking about an area that encompasses those islands as well.

Now, what that means is tropical storm-force conditions may be felt within the next 36 hours, meaning some strong winds as well. So right now we're talking about two separate areas from North Carolina to Virginia, and then back up to coastal Massachusetts, where we're watching for things just to pick up with the wind and the waves. That won't occur until the weekend. The immediate threat right now is to Virginia and the Carolinas where we're watching for Ophelia to continue its slow movement to the east/northeast now at three miles per hour. So, Wolf, the good news is at least the storm is finally on the move.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Bonnie. Bonnie Schneider at the CNN Hurricane Headquarters.

Tom Foreman is here in THE SITUATION ROOM with us. You're looking closely to where Rob Marciano was. What's going on from your vantage point, because I know you have got some new high technology, you can focus in on this area. TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Take a look at this, this is exactly what we were talking about yesterday. You and I were discussing the notion of if you have a storm like this, even if it's not that strong, even if it's a tropical storm and it sit there and sits there, it will do damage, particularly areas like Salter Point. I want to show you Salter Point looks like right here.

This is Salter Point. As we zoom in, you see the Eastern Seaboard here. We move -- Salter Path, excuse me. I keep saying it the wrong way -- Salter Path. This is the area right here. I'm going to highlight it here so you see exactly the spot. That's what it is. And that's where Rob is.

This is Bogue Sound over here, the part he's talking about. A lot of water up in here. This is actually -- Salter Path and all these areas are part of what's called the Crystal Coast down there. It's a vacation spot, a place to go fishing, a place where people camp a lot. Some of it is very rustic. Not a lot of people living there year round.

But this is really a 25, 26-mile long barrier island that is very narrow across the way here. So, when you move into these areas, you see how isolated this is with water on both sides. And that's what happens, a big storm like this comes in and sits, and it grinds on that water and it grinds on those buildings, there's no where else to go. There's only one road up and down here. So, that can make a small storm pretty damaging.

Now, look at the storm for a moment. This the wide shot of where the storm is right now. If you take a look at the storm -- and let me see if I can bring it in, in the proper way here -- you see the storm is sitting right out here in the middle of the ocean right now. Previously, it was above there. So, it didn't do -- you know, this is without the storm.

There's the shelf out there, which we talked about yesterday, below the water, which intensifies the power of the storm. If it's on this side of it, a little bit stronger. As soon as it gets out there, where it falls away, things start changing within the dynamics of the storm. That's one of reasons a place like Salter Path gets hit so hard.

So this is one of the reasons we were looking for it yesterday. If the storm will move off now, that will be good and it will be over. But this is good evidence of why even small hurricanes have to be taken very seriously.

BLITZER: Tom, look at Rob Marciano. He's there in Salter Path right now. You're showing us that destruction, which is pretty, pretty serious. Does it look like it's basically, though, over where you are, Rob, the worst of it?

MARCIANO: Without a doubt, Wolf. I mean, the core of the storm has moved on. We're getting a bit of a northwest wind now, which is indicative of the center being that way. Skies are brightening a little bit. And the winds have been blustery all day long, but nothing compared to what we saw last night.

But really, I'll tell you what, when we shut down our broadcast last night at midnight, that's when the winds really started honking. I mean, they were coming out of north seemingly faster than when they were coming when the eye wall was right on us. And when I talked to everybody around here, when the water started to rise around 10:00 p.m. and when the surge started to come in and do destruction, that happened after midnight. So, it was the surge and then that north wind that really broke the camel's back here in Salter Path.

Well, to answer your question no, Wolf, everything is beginning to calm down now, and the danger of any sort of future damage is over.

BLITZER: As Tom Foreman was showing us, Rob, you're really on a strip of land surround by water, and that water can be devastating.

MARCIANO: Oh, it's unbelievable. You really -- you can't stop water. Water and fire are the two things on Earth that are just -- mankind can't compete. And when you're talking about a hurricane churning up the Atlantic ocean in a little sliver of land like this, that has inlets on either side, and then water on either side, you know, it doesn't take much to get things rocking and rolling here. And it doesn't take much water, Wolf, to get damage that we have seen here. Cinderblocks just pulverized in some cases. Unbelievable.

BLITZER: All right. Rob, we're going to get back to you. Rob, thank you very much. Tom Foreman, thanks to you as well here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's check in with CNN's Jack Cafferty in New York for this hour's question. Jack.?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Guess who is back in the news, Wolf?

Former President Bill Clinton is hosting the first gathering of something called the Clinton Global Initiative. It starts today here in New York City. The summit aims to tackle some of the word's biggest problems: poverty, global warning, religious and ethnic conflict. Tickets go for $15,000 a pop. About 800 people, including 50 heads of state and 300 CEOs are expected to attend. This thing will last over three days.

Now, for 15 grand, you will be given an assignment. You will be expected to report back to Mr. Clinton. Those who don't report back, don't get invited back.

Critics are expressing concern that Mr. Clinton's mini UN, if you will, will dilute the work of the real UN, like anybody could tell if that happened.

Here's the question. What's former President Bill Clinton up to, do you think? E-mail us at CaffertyFile - one word -- @cnn.com. And we'll read some of the answers.

This is a magic name when it comes to email solicitation. All you have to say is the word Clinton, whether it's Bill or Hillary and people get to their keyboards and get to write. He elicits a lot of responses, pro and con, as you might expect.

BLITZER: And I suspect a lot of those responses, this being a family network, you're not going be able to read on the air, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Now, now, now. See, right away, you go to the lowest common denominator. You're not talking about situation with the intern, are you?

BLITZER: No, no, no. I'm just talking about some of the anger out there as far as Bill Clinton is concerned. Jack, stand by. We'll get back to you.

In New Orleans, the mayor is calling this a good day now that he's announced plans to reopen parts of city, the least damaged parts of the city by Hurricane Katrina. We'll have live reports from New Orleans and see if it's really ready for people to start heading back.

Plus, the president of the United States returning to the disaster zone tonight. We'll tell you what he's doing and what he'll say -- at least what we're hearing what he'll say tonight to try to comfort a concerned nation.

And more live coverage of the hurricane that simply won't let up. The drenching, damage from Hurricane Ophelia.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: These are live pictures that we're seeing right -- live pictures coming from New Orleans. Unfortunately all-too familiar. Still, big parts of New Orleans under water, as you can see, although, the water is going down and more and more parts of this city beginning to dry up.

The mayor earlier today making some optimistic statements suggesting that people will be allowed to start coming back in the coming days, including businesses that will be reopened in the French Quarter of New Orleans. But right now, at least in this part of New Orleans, you can see much of this city is underwater. And as much of this water is still very, very visible, it has gone down -- it has gone down significantly over the past two-and-a-half weeks. They're pumping out water big time in New Orleans. There's still, though, lots and lots and lots of work must be done.

There's also new information we're getting here in THE SITUATION ROOM from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the massive task of draining those floodwaters out of New Orleans.

Let's get the latest. Our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre is standing by with more. Jamie?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as we look at those live pictures of what's going on in New Orleans, keep in mind that it's not so much the pumping that's getting the water our, but gravity as the water is draining out into Lake Pontchartrain. And today an optimistic prediction from the Army Corps of Engineers. Barring any more storm, they're saying that in five days, some very significant areas of New Orleans will be essentially dry. And then they're predicting that by October 2 -- early October, less than three weeks -- they will have essentially gotten all of the water out of the city, again, barring a storm.

Also today, Wolf, though, an admission from the Army Corp of Engineers that they could have been much better prepared to do those emergency levee repairs in the middle of a flood, and essentially that they could have had and probably should have had more helicopters, more sandbags -- those big, 3,000 pound sandbags - pre-positioned, standing by to go in and do the repairs right away. And again, it wouldn't have prevented the flood but it might have speeded up the recovery, possibly limited some of the damage.

And the third thing they said today was that they're going to go back and look at a plan that they rejected back in the '60s and the '70s because of environmental concerns and a lawsuit, that would, instead of building up the levees, put big barriers to the two areas where the Gulf moves into Lake Pontchartrain. The idea is you can perhaps do a better job of protecting New Orleans in the future by preventing Lake Pontchartrain from filling up from the storm surge instead of having to build the levees up to withstand a Category 4 hurricane.

But again, the Army Corps doesn't decide this. They're just going to present options, but they're going to go back and look at the plan.

Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jamie. Thanks very much. Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon.

Coming up, up close and personal in New Orleans. Anderson Cooper is standing by. He will take us on a tour of the area. He'll tell us what he's experiencing in Katrina's aftermath.

Plus the youngest hurricane victims, revisited. We're on the scene for the mission to bring missing children and their parents back together.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Victims of Hurricane Katrina have lots of questions about their financial recovery.

Our Ali Velshi is standing by in New York. He has got the "Bottom Line" on some of the tough, tough issues, heart-wrenching issues a lot of these victims are facing, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, it's tough because at some point as the recovery, you know, goes forward, we have to start looking at the things that people have to do. We've already heard news today about some difficulties in terms of insurance coverage. We're now hearing that the House and the Senate have both passed bills -- hurricane tax relief bills. They're both a little bit different, but they will be reconciled. And certainly that gives some fodder to the president.

BLITZER: Ali, let me just interrupt you for a second. Look at that live picture that we're getting in of that house simply flattened over there. You can imagine the destructive power of this Category 4 hurricane. Go ahead.

VELSHI: And once we start looking at stuff like that, that's the issue, that it's not just about going back and saying hey, my house is gone. It's forms and it's applications, and it's things like that. So the government has at least started to move on how to get some tax relief to either people donating, businesses getting back on their feet or to residents of the area.

And I'm just going to give you some of the details. If you're a Hurricane Katrina victim, you can get another 13 weeks of unemployment benefit. According to these two bills that will be coming together, this is likely to be the outcome of it. It will provide for a tax break to people who provide others with housing from the area, the affected area. So it's going to give some tax breaks to employers who hire victims of Katrina and who keep people on the payroll despite the loss.

And we've seen a lot of that in the last few weeks, a lot of companies who have said we will continue paying our employees who have been affected. Also, the federal government is announcing that it's going to pick up 100 percent of the Medicaid costs. Usually that cost is split between the states and the federal government. If you're in that area, the federal government is picking up the cost of that. So we are going to hear some of that from the president tonight and more of it coming out of the government when these two bills are reconciled.

Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Ali. Thanks very much. We'll check back with you. We're going to come back after a short break, go over to North Carolina where are crews are on the scene. There's new destruction in the wake of Hurricane Ophelia. Our Rob Marciano is there. We'll go back there live right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The days since Hurricane Katrina struck, CNN's Anderson Cooper has been on the scene, watching all of this unfold. He's joining us now live from New Orleans. Anderson, thanks very much. Where in the city are you right now because that building right behind you looks totally destroyed?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah. We're not too far from the French Quarter, really the downtown area. You can take a look at the building, you know, see the -- it's very strange Wolf -- and you know, you've been in a lot of areas like this, a whole row of houses will be fine and then one house will have totally collapsed. And we're seeing this, you know, just about any block you go down in New Orleans. But there are whole parts of this town, really, which are OK. I mean, there are trees down or power lines down. And those are the areas that the mayor hopes to start moving people back in sooner rather than later. You know today he announced his plan to get about 180,000 people back in the city over the next couple of weeks. That surprised a lot of people because you know, when you think about it, Wolf, there are no schools open here. You know, you can't get gas. There's no electricity in a lot of the parts of the town. And still about 40 percent of New Orleans is still under water, Wolf.

BLITZER: There was so much despair in those earlier days. How are people -- right now, you're speaking to a lot of the residents, if there are any people around where you are, how are they dealing with a little more hopeful sign right now?

COOPER: Well, I think this announcement by the mayor of moving people back into the city, I think it caught a couple of -- a lot of people around here sort of by surprise. There has been a die-hard element which has never wanted to leave, which hasn't left. And they are certainly gratified, I think, they feel that they have been vindicated to some extent.

But, you know, people want to get back in here. But there are still -- you know, you go up in the Ninth Ward, you go in areas that have had really severe flooding, and they're still doing search and rescue operations, which are really just recovery operations, trying to get an accurate sense of how many people have been lost, how many lives have been lost, and get those people back to their loved ones and restore them their dignity.

There are still people who have died in this storm who are in their homes undiscovered. And law enforcement and National Guard and military troops are going door to door, breaking down windows. I talked to a guy from the 82nd Airborne last night. I said, what exactly do you do when you go into one of those homes? He basically said, you break the window, you stick your head in and you smell. And you know very quickly whether or not there are people inside.

BLITZER: Anderson, is there one moment -- I'm sure there are many, many moments -- but is there one moment that will forever be stuck in your head, in your brain and in your heart that you experienced that you want to share with our viewers?

COOPER: Yeah, you know, I think all of us who report, we carry the people that we have reported on with us always. And we never forget them. And you know, for me, it was probably in the early days out in Waveland, Mississippi, going out with this urban search and rescue team, Task Force 2 from Virginia, and just going to these people's homes and finding them drowned in their living rooms, drowned in their homes.

In one, there was a mother who had an infant child, and she was clutching on to a life preserver, a little child's life preserver. Clearly, she had been trying to put that life preserver on her child, hoping that life preserver would save the child's life. And it's images like those that I can't get out of my head. And I don't think anyone of us who was here and covering this can either, Wolf.

BLITZER: Anderson Cooper doing an excellent job for us in the area. Don't forget, to our viewers tonight, Anderson will be back on the air. ANDERSON COOPER 360 airs at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Then at 10:00 p.m., he and Aaron Brown will back for more coverage of this horrible, horrible hurricane. Anderson, thank you very much.

And to our viewers also, please don't forget the president will be addressing the nation tonight from New Orleans. That speech scheduled for 9:00 p.m. Eastern. We'll be here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we'll be carrying the president's speech live.

We showed you some new live pictures of Hurricane Ophelia and the damage that it caused right at the top of the hour. Let's go back to CNN meteorologist Rob Marciano. He's in Salter Path, North Carolina. And he has got more. Rob?

MARCIANO: Wolf, the sun just starting to finally come out now. And unfortunately, it's illuminating even more of the damage that nobody thought we would see here at Salter Path.

We pointed out to you a couple of things, a couple of fish houses and one very famous -- at least locally -- restaurant here called the Crab Shack. I've got the owners with me. They're brothers. They're the Guthry brothers and their nephew Brennan here.

Let's start with you, Eric. You were actually just up the road when the storm started rolling in. At what time did you last see the place last night?

ERIC GUTHRY, THE CRAB SHACK: I believe it was about 6:00.

MARCIANO: What did the water look like at that point?

E. GUTHRY: The water did come up right good. It hadn't gotten inside the restaurant yet.

MARCIANO: What are the local officials and maybe some of the local weatherman, how did they -- we were saying that there was going be a storm surge, but I've got to be honest with you, I never thought it would be like this, at least on this side of the sound. What were you hearing yesterday, or before the storm hit?

E. GUTHRY: Around a five-foot of storm surge.

MARCIANO: This kind of damage is much more than five feet.

E. GUTHRY: Oh yeah. We've had five foot in here before and it's nothing like this.

MARCIANO: You were not here last night when this happened. You're a firefighter by trade. And Craig, tell me -- give me -- tell me what this place was like before the storm occurred? CRAIG GUTHRY, THE CRAB SHACK: First off, we would be standing in the dining room. This whole place out here was a dining room. Walk down here, we had a deck out here. Right behind you was the deck. It was all glassed in behind you here.

MARCIANO: Really. I was told that there's boat docks...

C. GUTHRY: Yes. We have two boats -- one would have been here and one would have been here. We moved those a couple of days ago before the storm came.

MARCIANO: And what were those boats used for?

C. GUTHRY: Shrimping.

MARCIANO: To catch those shrimps, bring them right into the restaurant?

C. GUTHRY: Yes.

MARCIANO: And that's some fresh eating right there.

C. GUTHRY: Yes.

MARCIANO: That sounds good.

Show me inside, if you could. Watch your step. Obviously, you've got stuff going on inside. Is this -- you had seating in here. This is completely wiped out. This is cinderblocks! And the tile roofing, insulation down.

E. GUTHRY: This was -- like I said, this was brick. This was the oldest part of business. This used to be a fish house, and we made it into a restaurant -- my dad did. But there was seating on here. The waitress station. The kitchen is back here. You come out here to your outside deck to sit and stuff. We had tables outside on the deck that you could sit on.

MARCIANO: What's going through your mind? What's going through your gut right now? A family business like this, that's been around? What are you feeling?

E. GUTHRY: The hardest thing for me was having to be on the phone when he told my dad, talked to him. That was the hardest thing for me. When I came in this morning, I was shocked. They told me, but I couldn't believe it until I walked in here. I had to walk around a little bit and just look at and see and make sure it was true.

MARCIANO: How did your dad take it?

E. GUTHRY: He was -- he's very upset last night, I could tell you, when I talked to him on the phone. He just kept telling me, it's gone. The place is gone.

But we're working on it. We're going to get it cleaned up. We got all the mud out, the wood out. And we're going to rebuild it. MARCIANO: We actually -- I hate to be selfish, but we had heard great things about your place. We tried to get down here a couple of days ago to eat, and we missed out.

E. GUTHRY: Well, I wish you would. I tell you what. We're going to try to have it back before Easter. That's our job. I'm going to try to get the thing open before Easter. And I think we will. We will work hard. We'll do it. We sure will.

MARCIANO: I'm sorry this had to happen to you. We appreciate your good spirit.

E. GUTHRY: Thank you.

MARCIANO: The Guthry brothers. They own this place. It's the Crab Shack, Wolf. It's been an institution in this area for almost 30 years now. And it's pretty much gone. But they're in good spirits, at least.

BLITZER: I suspect, Rob, they're going to rebuild it, make it better than ever. I'm sure, given the spirit they have, they will. Rob Marciano on the scene for us in North Carolina.

Images from Ophelia, some in North Carolina are posting pictures of the damage there Online. Our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton is checking that situation. She's joining us now live. Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. We heard from our reporters about Ophelia battering the coast of North Carolina, but inland, there's been flooding in certain neighborhoods. And where streets are impassable, two local news stations have been asking their viewers to send in photos of the damage and the flooding in different neighborhoods.

This from WWAY TV 3, showing the roads. This one here is south of Wilmington, Bell Swamp Connection Road. You can see a car submerged there. A truck trying to pull it out.

Another one here from Greg and Karen Thompson, also at WWAY TV 3. This is actually a bridge with knee-deep water now, and another abandoned car.

Another local station here, WWECT.com, also has pictures from the viewers. Neighborhoods under a foot of water here. This one here is Wildwood Village looking more like a lake.

So, certainly flooding in neighborhoods, impassable streets, but not too severe. Maybe a foot of water from these photos that we're seeing. And also some people having fun with it. This group of young men having fun in the backyard. And also, I wouldn't recommend this at home, but there's some creative surfing in the back of an SUV there, Wolf.

BLITZER: That could be dangerous. Don't do that.

Abbi, thank you very, very much. Coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM, there are still children missing from Hurricane Katrina -- still parents holding out hopes of finding them. We'll tell you what one agency is doing.

And it's a pricey and exclusive invitation, reserved for kings, business titans and other very important people. That would be President Clinton's summit in New York City. What's it really for? We've been asking you that question, and Jack Cafferty is going through your email. He'll join us.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: They were literally displaced by the storm. That would be missing children from Hurricane Katrina. Since the disaster, we brought you some happy family reunions, also the heartbreak of parents still holding out hope.

Our Brian Todd is over at the National Center for Missing an Exploited Children in Alexandria, Virginia. He's joining us now with more. Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is the room where they deal with that heartbreak firsthand. They've just had a shift change in the room here. More volunteers have just come in. They are actively on the hunt for missing children. We're going to put up a couple of more pictures now. Very important to pay attention to these pictures for our viewers, because they are getting leads and calls virtually every time we're on the air and every time we put up a picture.

Here are a couple of more. Latara Thornton. She just turned 16 years old. This is an old picture you're seeing. Also with her, Kenneth Williams, 12 years old. Another fairly old picture but it does give you some idea of the appearance. The relationship between these two children is not known. They are on the same page on the Center for Missing and Exploited Children's Web site because these two were last seen together.

They were last known to be with the sister and the mother of Latara Thornton in Gretna, Louisiana. The mother is missing, Donna Thornton, is also missing.

And again, the relationship that Kenneth Williams has to Latara Thornton is not known. These two, however, were believed to be in a shelter in Marksville, Louisiana. Again, that is a lead that they are chasing here. If people have any information on that lead, they want you to call into the Katrina missing persons hotline.

Here's another picture, a little guy, Ace Martinez, nine months old, last known to be with his caretakers in Covington, Louisiana. This little guy's caretakers are also missing. The number to call if you have information on Ace Martinez, Latara Thornton, Kenneth Williams, anybody who you see with these people, 1-888-544-5475. Also go to www.MissingKids.com for information on these cases. Very quickly about the numbers, we've had questions about why numbers keep going up. They assure us they're being very conservative with these numbers. They are making very sure that they don't have duplicate cases. In many cases they say there are people who have never had the opportunity to call in because they've been displaced and are now calling in. People are in a state of flux and are moving around all over the place, so they're getting new calls in every moment. So, Wolf, we will keep you up-to-date on those calls as we get them.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us. Thank you, Brian very much. We will show our viewers some live pictures that we're getting in from New Orleans right now. You can see parts of this city continuing to dry up, other parts still very much underwater. Still a massive, massive program under way to deal with the enormous flood areas of New Orleans.

These pictures we just got in. This is new video. Check this out. Not only are the cars destroyed but all these personal possessions simply strewn about, literally thrown out of these homes. They're cleaning up. They're trying to do the best they can in this area. Very, very dangerous situation still.

But the mayor was upbeat today. He's holding out hope that in the coming days they will be able to get back into the city. These are live pictures, by the way. And look at this -- more of the destruction in factories and warehouses, in homes, all sorts of structures. Still the situation in New Orleans continues, the disaster very visible.

Coming up, passing notes over at the United Nations. What did President Bush write to one of his aides? We'll lighten things up a little bit. CNN's Jeanne Moos will take notes when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Got some live pictures coming in. Check this out. These are mobile homes in New Orleans -- and not only that, but look at how many of them there are there -- that people are going to be living in, temporary housing for individuals in the New Orleans area. Home after home after home. This is a huge, huge undertaking.

The president is going to be speaking extensively about it later tonight, and we're going to be getting some excerpts from the president's remarks. Suzanne Malveaux is standing by with that.

First though, let's bring in CNN's Jack Cafferty. He's in New York. He's been going through all of your email. Jack?

CAFFERTY: When does Zain Verjee come back from vacation?

BLITZER: I think she'll be back Monday.

CAFFERTY: She will.

BLITZER: Yes.

CAFFERTY: You suppose she's aware of what a tremendous job Fredricka Whitfield has been doing while she's been away?

BLITZER: You'll remind her when she comes back.

CAFFERTY: Former President Bill Clinton, Wolf, is hosting the first gathering of something called the Clinton Global Initiative starting today here in New York. It's a three-day deal, summit that includes CEOs and heads of state, trying to tackle some of the world's biggest problems -- poverty, global warming, religious and ethnic conflict.

The question is, what's President Bill Clinton up to, do you think? And as expected, we got a ton of mail on this.

Laney in Coconut Creek, Florida writes,: "Providing a springboard for Hillary to jump off. Whether you like them or dislike them, you cannot ignore leadership, decisive thinking and an effective track record for this team."

Gary writes, "I just returned from living in Vietnam for three years. Although there is vile hatred for President Bush throughout Asia, largely because of the ill-conceived war in Iraq, Clinton's name elicits tears of love and reverence. He's truly the best thing America has going for it internationally."

Ross in Paradise, California, "Bill Clinton is just being Bill, doing what he does best -- smiling and picking your pocket at the same time. Ulterior motive, laying the groundwork for the next election, so Hillary can get them back in the White House. Rumor is, they're running out of silverware and dishes."

Jennifer writes, "What's Clinton up to? Trying to build a legacy that he didn't do while in office for eight years."

And Joe in Jersey City, New Jersey, "Leave President Clinton alone. He's just a great, big, lovable bubba who wants to be loved in return. Besides, when he speaks, I'm reminded of a time when a president of the United States opened his mouth and actually said something."

That's all we have here, Wolf, in New York City.

BLITZER: All right, Jack, I'll see you not tomorrow but I'll see you on Monday, right?

CAFFERTY: See you on Monday. You and I and Zain will have a reunion.

BLITZER: All right, we'll see you Monday. Jack Cafferty, enjoy the weekend. Thank you very much.

Let's immediately go to our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux. She's getting excerpts of what the president plans on saying tonight. Suzanne is in New Orleans. Suzanne?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we just received four or five excerpts from the president's speech that he will be delivering. I am going to give you just a couple here. One of the highlights: This one going to the issue of national security, as well as the government's accountability, something that the White House over the last couple of days has been stressing.

This one saying that the president will say: "The government of this nation will do its part as well. Our cities must have clear and up-to-date plans for responding to natural disasters, disease outbreaks or terrorist attack, for evacuating large numbers of people in an emergency, and for providing the food, water and security they would need. In a time of terror threats and weapons of mass destruction, the danger to our citizens reaches much wider than a fault line or a flood plain. I consider detailed emergency planning to be a national security priority."

On to the next excerpt. He also says, "I also want to know all the facts about the government response to Hurricane Katrina. The storm involved a massive flood, a major supply and security operation, and an evacuation order affecting more than a million people. It was not a normal hurricane, and the normal disaster relief system was not equal to it."

Very important, Wolf, these two of at least four or five excerpts that we're getting here. The focus of the administration -- there has been a change in the strategy from the White House, that is to take accountability, to take responsibility, as we heard the president say two days ago in the East Room, but also to call for an investigation. As you know, Wolf, of course that is a point of contention, what kind of investigation and who he will hold responsible.

Wolf.

BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux, reporting for us from New Orleans. Suzanne, thank you very much.

Up next, the president passes a note. Was it top secret? Well, sort of a secret, but it's a secret no more. We'll tell you what it said when we come back.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: One of Birmingham, Alabama's, darkest days took place this week in history, on September 15, 1963. Four innocent African- American girls were killed in the bombing of a Baptist church.

In 1999, a gunman opened fire in the Baptist church in Ft. Worth, Texas. He killed seven people before taking his own life.

And the Archdiocese of Boston settled with alleged abuse victims for $10 million in 2002.

That is "This Week in History".

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: A lot of serious business for the president this week, from hurricane recovery along the battered Gulf Coast to global flashpoints over at the United Nations. But amid it all, something that may give all of us a little bit of a chuckle.

Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There's lots of paper passing at the UN, but when the president of the United States passes a note while seated at the Security Council table, well, a Reuters photographer with a long lens couldn't pass it up.

Not since John Kerry scribbled such copious notes during the first presidential debate has a note been so noted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the Iraqi people can choose their own destiny.

MOOS: Noted and lampooned.

JON STEWART, HOST, DAILY SHOW: What was he writing?

MOOS (on camera): But what was the president writing to his secretary of State? Was it about UN reform? Was it about the latest UN terrorism resolution?

BUSH: Each of us must act to share information...

MOOS (voice-over): But the president didn't mean to share this information. "I think I may need a bathroom break. Is this possible?"

Next thing you know, between speakers, the president gets up, and Condoleezza Rice temporarily takes his place.

Still, getting nabbed passing a bathroom note isn't as bad as getting busted for doing a crossword puzzle at John Roberts' confirmation hearings, as Oklahoma Republican Senator Tom Coburn did.

The Bush note has been whizzing around the Internet. It sort of reminds us of Saddam Hussein's first interrogation after he was pulled out of that spider hole.

When offered a glass of water by his interrogators, Saddam replied: "If I drink water, I will have to go to the bathroom, and how can I use the bathroom when my people are in bondage?"

But refraining from drinking isn't easy to do when you're in bondage at the UN.

(on camera): But anyone who single-handedly anchors a three-hour live television show must already know what it feels like to want to take a bathroom break, right, Wolf?

(END VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: She's right. She's right. Jeanne Moos, reporting for us, some serious reporting.

By the way, we're getting some more excerpts from the president's remarks tonight. Here's one quote from what the president will say, according to the White House. "The work that has begun in the Gulf Coast region will be one of largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen. When that job is done," he says, "all Americans will have something to be very proud of, and all Americans are needed in this common effort."

The president of the United States will be speaking tonight from New Orleans, 9:00 p.m. Eastern. CNN will have live coverage. We'll be back here in THE SITUATION ROOM for that, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, 6:00 Pacific.

I'll be back also tomorrow, as usual, 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Until then, thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

LOU DOBBS TONIGHT getting ready to start right now. Lou standing by in New York. Lou?

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Wolf, and good evening, everybody.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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