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Hurricane Rita's Wrath; Devastating Louisiana Floods, Two Texas Oil Refineries Damaged

Aired September 24, 2005 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, devastating floods in coastal Louisiana hours after Hurricane Rita slammed ashore. Hundreds rescued, but others feared trapped in their homes. Parts of New Orleans back under eight feet of water. Two Texas oil refineries damaged. We've got the latest from the worst-hit areas with reporters, mayors, emergency and healthcare workers and more all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
We are with you live tonight and we'll be back again live tomorrow, Sunday night. Let's begin by going to our hurricane weather center in Atlanta and Chad Myers. Was this less than expected or too early to tell?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Maybe a little less than expected, Larry, but I think that was because it wasn't the population center that New Orleans was. Where it hit, between really from Port Arthur all the way over to Cameron, Louisiana, not a lot of population, there's a lot of swamp.

But I'll tell you what, the devastation is Lake Charles is exactly what we expected from a Category 3 hurricane. Something else going on tonight. The spin making rain showers. The potential for flooding but the biggest thing tonight, zooming in here from Little Rock back on down to Jackson, there are 15 different counties right now, Larry, with tornado warnings going on. The spin of these little cells as they come onshore making tornadoes.

In fact, 10 tornadoes already reported on the ground, one fatality and more all night long and the only good news is I can tell you is New Orleans has basically no rain whatsoever today and none really expected tomorrow.

The track takes the storm into Arkansas and making a big loop back down, possibly into Mobile by Wednesday or Thursday. That slow, slow progress may make some flooding here. Ten inches of rain not out of the question for a lot of Louisiana, Arkansas, even into parts of Mississippi.

KING: Chad, are those tornadoes a natural occurrence?

MYERS: They are. They are a natural occurrence. These little storms that come onshore actually have spin with them, well the whole thing is spinning, the hurricane is spinning itself. Each one of these little cells spin as well and usually get little tornadoes. So not F-4, F-5 tornadoes, but they're F-1, F-2, maybe sometimes 120, 130 mile per hour tornadoes, and they cause damage. KING: Ken Reeves, by the way, is in State College, Pennsylvania, he's the senior meteorologist and director of forecasting preparations for AccuWeather. Ken will be with us throughout this hour. What's your response to what I just asked Chad? Is this less than you thought?

KEN REEVES, ACCUWEATHER METEOROLOGIST: Well, I don't think it's necessarily - I think Chad had the right answer on this one. It looks to me like where it made landfall probably wasn't as populated. Had it been another 70, 80 miles farther down the Texas coast, closer to Galveston, there will have been a lot more damage, a lot more problems going on, so really the location of where it made landfall was good for one aspect, those in Galveston and Houston, bad for those in Beaumont, Port Arthur and Lake Charles, as well.

KING: We'll be checking back with Ken throughout the hour. Let's go on the phone with Mayor Oscar Ortiz, the mayor of Port Arthur, Texas, who has been a nightly visitor, a visitor with us.

What's the latest from your area, Oscar?

MAYOR OSCAR ORTIZ, PORT ARTHUR, TX (on phone): Well, all I can tell you, Larry, is we have no power in the city of Port Arthur. We have no lights, we have no water, we have no phone service, we are completely in the dark. The governor was good enough to send us down about 75 state troopers and the reason we asked for that is because we were having some looting.

As a matter of fact, we've taken over - I've commandeered the Holiday Inn Park Central Hotel and we have something like nine prisoners locked up in this hotel that we caught looting. One of them we caught with a weapon in his hand trying to hold up one of our grocery stores.

But the big problem, Larry, has been fuel. Fuel for all these vehicles, all these state vehicles, all these EMS units, all these local fire trucks and so I find we have to beg every official to bring us fuel. I called Kay Bailey Hutchison, Senator Hutchison in Washington, and she was kind enough to respond and just about an hour and a half ago we got in a big fuel truck to fuel in all these state cars, all the city cars and we're back out on patrol.

My fear was that if we couldn't get that fuel then the vandals would take over the city of Port Arthur because we couldn't put our cars out there.

KING: Last night you were telling us how worried you were about the refineries and the chemical plants. What's the story?

ORTIZ: Well, the chemical plants, of course, have not opened. I personally checked them today. One of them is pretty well underwater. We're waiting for an environmental assessment. As a matter of fact, we have some environmental people out there checking the water to see what any contamination is in there and we should get that report first thing in the morning but the refineries here in Port Arthur, as many as we have, and two of the largest in the United States are still closed.

KING: Any casualties?

ORTIZ: Not yet. Not yet. We have not had a chance, Larry, to go house to house. You have to understand that the outside of Port Arthur is completely underwater. It's one to two feet just about everywhere you look. Our Sabine Pass community, we don't know what's going there, we're 10 foot into water there, we have not been able to get any police cars over there. We have an island with a lot of expensive homes. We haven't been able to get anyone over there, either.

So we're working in the dark right now, Larry, and we're just hoping that some of this is going to clear up tomorrow for us.

KING: And mayor, your residents who evacuated, don't come back yet, right?

ORTIZ: No, sir. I have put a 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. curfew. We are not allowing anybody. The state patrol is blocking all the entrances to the City of Port Arthur. We do not want anybody on the streets after 4:00. I have issued a no tolerance, anyone's that caught doing anything after 4:00 on the streets will immediately be picked up and arrested

KING: Thank you, Oscar Ortiz, he'll be checking with us every night.

Let's go to Lake Charles, badly hit area. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is there. You are at the Lake Charles Hospital, doctor?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I spent the last couple of days at the only hospital that decided to stay open in the middle of this hurricane. It's a small city, Larry, as you know, about 75,000 population. They kept patients in the hospital, some of the critically ill patients and they kept their doors open to patients that might be injured or need hospital service even during the hurricane, certainly after the hurricane as well. That's what I spent the last couple of days doing.

I wanted to learn how a hospital maintains function during a hurricane, Larry.

KING: And what did you learn?

GUPTA: Well, you know, it's interesting. A couple of things. A lot of people are comparing this most recently to New Orleans and Katrina. A couple things. The generators, for example. Remember Charity Hospital, the generators were in the basement. As soon as the flooding started they shorted out and they lost their emergency power.

The hospitals here, they actually keep the generators above ground, so if the flooding occurred they wouldn't run into that some problem.

They also stockpiled enough food and water for about eight days. Things like that really make a big difference. They also spent a lot of time on evacuations. At Charity Hospital, when the flooding started they still had 200 patients in the hospital. Hospital here in Lake Charles? They only had about less than half a dozen patients at the time that the storm actually hit.

So just a much better sense of preparedness and I think that actually is what got them through. No casualties in the hospital, all the patients that I just mentioned still doing fine in the intensive care unit, Larry.

KING: Can they do emergency surgery?

GUPTA: Yeah, they can do emergency surgery. Interesting story, actually. They had to go to emergency generator backup and during that time a gentleman came in with a severely broken leg. He was actually boarding up the windows in his house. He fell, broke his leg, came to the emergency room.

There was actually - the only doctor on call there was a neurosurgeon, not an orthopedic surgeon, a bone surgeon, so the neurosurgeon actually performed the operation on this gentleman's leg.

But that's the reality of a hospital in a hurricane. These stories like that and this particular gentleman, Larry.

KING: Now let's go to Rob Marciano in Beaumont, Texas. What's the situation there, Rob?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, it could have been a lot worse, Larry. But as we rolled around today, took a look at the city, we see damage widespread across the city. Some structural damage but for the most part scenes like this. A lot of roofing materials coming off. A lot of lampposts down, a lot of windowpanes blown out.

Obviously you can see power down, water down as well and officials echoing what officials in Lake Charles are likely saying, and that is if you have evacuated, of which this town 90 to 95 percent of the people have, don't come back because they don't have any infrastructure at this point. So stay where you are and just hang out there until they can get at least some water going and maybe some power going as well.

No fatalities as of yet. Probably because of the evacuations. There were a number of calls into rescue workers last night. They couldn't go out until later on today.

Interesting note, Larry, fire and rescue trucks, vehicles, they all piled into a navy cargo ship in anticipation of possibly seeing a major storm surge that would flood the entire city. That didn't happen, but early this morning they unloaded that ship and it was like a parade downtown with all those fire trucks and ambulances and paramedic vehicles heading to the calls that were made last night and heading out to making some rescues.

There was a triage center set up at the civic center for injuries. There is a hospital that was not evacuated and they had some damage and they are trying to get some of those patients out right now to some other areas. Right now they're in a staging area so that was the one thing that was odd to me, how much evacuation there was here. Ninety, 95 percent, and there was one hospital that stayed open and that hospital sustained some damage.

But no fatalities, always a good thing. Larry?

KING: We'll be checking back with you, Rob. Don't go away.

And we'll come right back with lots more on this Saturday night edition of LARRY KING LIVE and again, Anderson Cooper and Aaron Brown will host a two hour special at the top of the next hour. We'll be right back.


GOV. KATHLEEN BLANCO, LOUISIANA: Louisiana citizens are rightly frustrated and concerned so I want our people to know that I am creating the Family Recovery Corps. We have gone to have people trained to help our families who are from the impacted areas of both Rita and Katrina.


KING: Ken Reeves, at this point in the story, what's your biggest concern?

REEVES: Well, Larry, I think the biggest concern now is where Rita is going to go at this point because what we're dealing with right now is how much rain is going to be falling from this as well as the tornadoes, obviously, are concerned.

Now, the water which flows down the Mississippi may eventually pose some problems for New Orleans as well. That's kind of a lingering storing. If there's enough water that falls over the Mississippi Basin in enough quantity that that could be a problem downstream several days but Mississippi is kind of at a low level right now so that's kind of good news from that standpoint.

I wanted to kind of show briefly if we had brought the storm in a little more, that's where Galveston would have really been hurt very extensively but instead we have kind of brought it in more into this area through here and this is not a very populated area, very marshy, but you can push water up into Port Arthur and there's also a little lake right up there around Lake Charles, as well, and that's where you've got really some major league damage caused by that, Larry, in that area, because you put the storm a little farther over, but now the major concern, tornadoes and what additional rain may fall.

KING: Let's go now to - we'll be checking back with you, Ken, throughout the hour. Let's go back to Anderson Cooper in Abbeville, Louisiana. Anderson, we just got this in. Authorities responding Saturday to a rupture at Henry Hub, connecting numerous natural gas pipelines. You know anything about this?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: I have heard that report. I haven't been down there myself. It's in Vermillion Parish ...

KING: Right.

COOPER: ... which is the parish I'm in. Abbeville is the city I am in but I haven't seen it myself and I haven't talked to an official about it yet, Larry.

KING: What could it mean?

COOPER: Well, there have been, I guess there has been a problem in there in the past. It can affect, I guess, natural gas prices. Without knowing more I really don't want to go too far down that road because it's just speculation for me.

KING: What's the situation in Abbeville?

COOPER: Abbeville is being used as a staging ground for some rescue operations which are happening south of us. That's really the story in this part of Louisiana right now. The governor was just down here checking up on it. There may be anywhere from a couple dozen to a couple hundred families or individuals who are stuck in their homes. People who chose not to evacuate or who chose to come back early to check on their homes today but they didn't realize Larry, that floodwaters are still coming in.

Winds are still - heavy winds from the south are still bringing a lot of water into this area. Floodwaters are rising. The local sheriff here said in some parts as much as a foot an hour which is a great concern and a number of these people are stranded. They are trying to get some boats to them but these high winds make it difficult to get the boats out.

Coast Guard, military helicopters have been rescuing several hundred people today. About 250 people today and they bring them here to Abbeville but likely tomorrow all night they are going to be rescue operations and tomorrow morning as well. They're hoping to get some of those boats down there, Larry.

KING: Anderson, as a kind of veteran of this coverage, how do you explain no casualties so far? Except for that tragedy in Dallas?

COOPER: Well, what I think what we're seeing is a lack of information at this point. One, I don't think - I think people heeded the warning - people evacuated. The fatalities that we have seen were people who were evacuating. But I do think people really paid attention this time and that is certainly good news so you could read it as people really left.

I mean, a lot of these towns we were in, in Port Arthur, I was in Beaumont yesterday. You know, the mayor of Beaumont said 95 percent of the people had left so there just weren't that many people there and also, Larry, you know what's really difficult right now is I don't think we have a sense of the damage this storm has caused yet.

The reports are still sporadic. We actually had to come down to Abbeville to get an accurate count of how many people may still be down there, trapped, and even now all we can say is it can be a couple dozen or as couple hundred. There are all these kind of sketchy reports. I think tomorrow, by this time tomorrow we'll have a much better sense of exactly where things lie in terms of fatalities, if there have been any, and storm damage, Larry.

KING: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, what kind of psychological problems do the people face who have evacuated, who have - oh, Sanjay isn't there. I thought he was back.

We're going to take a break and we'll come right back with more, don't go away.


KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. Joining us in Baton Rouge is Brigadier General Robert Crear of the United States Army Corps of Engineers commander of the task force Hope for Hurricane Recovery.

What's been the impact, general, on New Orleans, of all of this?

LG ROBERT CREAR, U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS: Right now, certainly there is people who have less faith in the levee system. Let me just explain to you that what we had was an overtopping and what I mean by that is water created by the surge was higher than the levees that we had been working on.

Simply put, we had not had time to bring those levees to a level that we knew could stand a tidal surge.

KING: So the situation is what?

CREAR: The situation now is that this morning as soon as possible we were able to get helicopters in the air, we were able to drop 3,000 pound sandbags to stem the water from overflowing into the neighborhoods. We were able to also get rocks and locations and to shore those levees up.

KING: Do you have much confidence in them now?

CREAR: The levees themselves maintained their structural integrity, so we didn't have a break in the levees, so I have confidence in the levees. What we did not have is have them high enough to withstand the surge of eight feet and so we will continue to work on those levees until we get them to the level which is 10 feet, at this point they were at seven feet. So we were dedicated to getting the levees up, stemming the tide of water into the neighborhoods. Unwater the neighborhoods like we had done before to hasten the recovery of New Orleans.

KING: So what you need is more nice weather, right?

CREAR: That would be nice. We knew and we told everybody that the best that you could expect those levees to protect you from was a tidal surge - certainly not from a tropical storm or a hurricane, so time is what we really need. KING: What's been the effect on the morale of the people there, general?

CREAR: I think the - as far as the Corps of Engineers are concerned, our people our determined. They know that this was certainly was a setback in a way but also they knew that we were ahead of schedule in the unwatering process. They know that the levees themselves have maintained their integrity so we know the levees could withstand this.

Our job now is to get with it and get them to the height that they provide interim protection. We sent a date of 1 December to get those levees to a 10 foot height and then before hurricane season next year, that is 1 June, we plan to have them up to a level where they can withstand a Category 3 hurricane.

KING: Do we have more contamination from the toxic sludge?

CREAR: As we go out into the neighborhoods, EPA is a partner with us. Their - it is their responsibility as far as looking at the contaminations. I have heard that they have done testing and at this point it has been very positive. They have not found high levels of contamination.

KING: Would you tell us what Task Force Hope is?

CREAR: Task Force Hope is a greater organization. Right now I have about 2,600 Corps of Engineers volunteers along with contractors and right now, again, they've been here since day one.

Initially they are looking at saving lives and then sustaining lives, providing water and ice and ice and now we're setting the conditions for a recovery. We are providing those blue roofs that you see on top of houses. And we have the great task of doing debris removal. The Task Force Hope is doing this both in Louisiana and Mississippi.

KING: Is the Ninth Ward the worst affected?

CREAR: The Ninth Ward is certainly the worst affected. We also had overtopping on the West Side. However, that area has already been dried out because their pumps were working. So yes, the Ninth Ward is the most affected area.

KING: Thank you, general. Brigadier General Robert Crear, the United States Army Corps of Engineers, the commander of Task Force Hope.

Now let's go to New Orleans again and Jeff Koinange, our CNN correspondent. What's the - what's your standpoint from your view?

JEFF KOINANGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'll tell you what, Larry. The headline coming out of this day's lessons learned from the debacle that followed Hurricane Katrina, work crews were out feverishly in force around the clock today trying to repair levees that had, in the army's words, cracked. They were filling up sandbags, 7,000 pound sandbags. Army helicopters dumping them in the Industrial Canal, another canal not too far from that the natural levee had broken, water pouring into the Ninth Ward area. Work crews out in force, building roads to fill up sandbags, make sure that those mistakes that followed Hurricane Katrina, would not be repeated post Rita, Larry.

It's good to see at least people working literally around the clock less than 24 hours after Rita passed through, Larry.

KING: Is the mayor now saying the residents can return to some areas on Monday?

KOINANGE: Not the Ninth Ward area, Larry. Certainly not St. Bernard Parish or Orleans Parish. Why? The water, in some points as we walked there most of this morning was up to my knees, some parts up to my waist. That is a dangerous sign.

We know there are still some residents who had returned post- Hurricane Katrina. The army, 82nd Airborne was telling us today they're going to have to start conducting search and rescue and they'll probably start in the next 24 hours in boats just to make sure the people are safe and they evacuate them out of their, drain that water out, but the good thing is the 82nd Airborne tells us it will take a lot less time to pump that water out than it did post Hurricane Katrina.


KING: What's your assessment, Jeff, we just heard from the general of how the Army Corps of Engineers is doing?

KOINANGE: Unbelievable, Larry. Today we saw them out in force working with private contractors. It's fantastic to see at least people are taking the ball and running with it. Last time, everyone admits, Larry, somebody dropped the ball. Nobody knows now - nobody is going to lay any blame but at least now you can see everyone is working together, they know what to do now because this is what happened more than three weeks ago.

They have learned those lessons. That's the most important part. From here, they move on to the next phase, Larry.

KING: Thanks, Jeff Koinange in New Orleans.

Ken Reeves in State College, Pennsylvania, the senior meteorologist for AccuWeather. Did we learn a lot from Katrina that affected Rita?

REEVES: Well, I think that a lot of the people that are out there certainly learned a lesson from Katrina. I think that's why you saw such massive evacuations. In terms of the science of the weather forecasting, I think that there's still some examination that has to be done. I think we really need to take into the account that we need so much time now to evacuate yet the National Hurricane Center's watches and warnings only come out about 36 or 24 hours in advance and is that really enough time to really adequately deal with the situation and I think as a general public policy issue, that really needs to be examined a little more closely as well.

KING: Do you agree, Ken, then if Rita had hit a populated area like New Orleans, it might have been worse.

REEVES: Well, if Rita had come into Galveston or just west of Galveston there would have been tremendous damage done in Houston, even though it was down to a Category 3 level when it made landfall, so there would have been a lot more damage seen in Galveston all the way up to Houston so I think we can't learn fast enough, really, relative to where these storms make landfall, it makes a big difference.

In a relatively quiet year we had Andrew go across South Florida, which ended up being one of the costliest storms until the past two years.

KING: You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. Lots more to come. Aaron Brown and Anderson Cooper will co-host at the top of the hour and we'll be right back.


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: We're back. Let's get the latest from Chad Myers, our CNN severe weather expert.

Are we in, like, a holding pattern?


KING: Let's go to Lexington, Kentucky, as we include some phone calls. Hello.

MALE CALLER: Larry, hi.


MALE CALLER: I'm a Catholic priest, who grew up and lives in Orange, Texas. I evacuated my mom and sister. The question is, I know there were individuals in their neighborhood who are still there but still unaccounted for. Do you know anything about people going into the neighborhoods to search for individuals? Orange, Texas, was hard-hit.

KING: Where is Orange?

MALE CALLER: Orange is right between Lake Charles and Beaumont. It's right on the state line.

KING: Well, let's go right to...


KING: Let's go right to Rob Marciano, who is in Beaumont.

Rob, what do you know?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, it's difficult enough to get information out of Beaumont, let alone Orange. I can tell you what's happening here, and it may be the same case over in Orange.

This morning, fire and rescue crews started slowly going out to make calls, whether or not they were -- then, there was an issue I heard from Paula Zahn, Larry, that people were putting in missing person's reports. And some of them, you know, were false, or they were just doing it to see if -- you know, if their family members are OK.

So, there seems to have been a rush of these sorts of reports and requests. And I have a feeling that authorities are overwhelmed.

As was with the case with New Orleans, as the case here, certainly in Lake Charles and probably in Orange, you know, phone lines are down. It's difficult to contact people. I know family members are worried. Just try to be patient and try to think positively, is the best advice I can give.

KING: Dr. Sanjay Gupta at Lake Charles Hospital. Do these people affected by this, do they face some severe emotional problems?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, it's interesting, I think just in the wake of having so many things back to back. What's so interesting, a couple of things about that, Larry. Typically, malicious events, like a terrorist attack, tend to have more of a psychological impact than natural disasters tend do. But the sort of sequential nature, the fact that you have one natural disaster followed by another, it can have a pretty significant psychological impact.

What's most striking is that there's probably a lot of psychiatric diseases that sort of lies just below the surface. And having a natural disaster like that sort of unmasks that. So, people who would have been normal under normal situations tend to exhibit a little bit more psychiatric illness under these types of situations -- Larry.

KING: How do people get their pharmaceuticals?

GUPTA: That's very challenging. A couple of reasons why. One is that sometimes these patients are too sick to be able to tell the doctors what medications they were taking, and there are no medical records.

The second problem is that a lot of times the pharmacies are just simply not open.

So, the hospital, for example, the hospital that I was at, St. Patrick's, had a pharmacy. They kept a stockpile of all sorts of important medications -- life-sustaining medications in that pharmacy to give to patients should they need it.

Of course, that can only last so long. So, eventually the pharmacy has got to get up and running. And medical records probably need to be in sort of electronic format so they can be easily requested at some point -- Larry.

KING: Let's take another call. Rolla, Missouri. Hello.



FEMALE CALLER: We live in Bridge City, Texas, a small town located right between Port Arthur and Orange, Texas. There has been absolutely no coverage. We've heard nothing. Do you or anybody out there know anything at all about the destruction to Bridge City, if there even is any?

KING: Well, you're not there, are you, Rob?

FEMALE CALLER: No. We are in Missouri.

KING: All right. Rob Marciano, you're not near (INAUDIBLE).

MARCIANO: Well, I'm close enough, and I can speak to it, Larry.

KING: OK, go.

MARCIANO: The fact that this storm came -- the fact that this storm came on the east side of Sabine Pass bodes well for Bridge City. Bridge City is to the northeast of Sabine Lake. And the way the winds were working, that Bridge City should not have gotten any significant storm surge.

Port Arthur still did get a storm surge, not as bad as we were fearing. But if I could answer her question without any sort of, you know, firm commitment, I would say this: My guess is that Bridge City fared fairly well as far as the storm surge. I'm sure they got a ton of wind, and I'm sure they got a ton of wind damage as well. But as far as a serious storm surge, not nearly what was feared.

KING: Chad, if we're down to tropical winds of 40 miles an hour, what's the worry?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: The worry is the flooding right now, Larry. As the storm doesn't do very much in the next three days, there is Tuesday. It barely moves 500 miles by then. It just continues to rain and rain and rain.

Bridge City did report a wind gust to 104 miles per hour. That creates wind damage. But I will reiterate what Rob said. They did not get the storm surge that they were looking for.

KING: Ken Reeves, because it's a tropical depression, is that going to cause people to go easy?

KEN REEVES, ACCUWEATHER: Well, you know, in the media, you hear a lot of times where it's gone from a 4 to a 3, or from a 5 to a 4. And I think there's a little overreaction that people do make in that case, where they do believe that it's getting a little less severe or anything like that. It was a very a potent storm. And as Chad just mentioned, rainfall is the main concern.

But one of the things I want to point out, though, I pulled this graphic here off of our AccuWeather site,, just to kind of show Ivan's track last year. And kind of it went up and then weakened, but then doubled around again. And that was just the circulation itself.

The actual moisture got pulled up through western Pennsylvania and western New York while the actual circulation doubled back over portions of the Atlantic and back into the Gulf again.

And it could be that what we're going to see with Rita is kind of a similar type of thing. You can kind of see on my satellite picture here how the moisture is getting pulled up away. And Chad even made reference. It looked like it was moving a little faster.

But we might see the circulation kind of stall in that area while a lot of the moisture may get pulled up. That circulation may still be a concern if it doubled back and went back towards south Texas again, which is not out of the question, but certainly is a long shot at this point.

But the best thing I think might happen is it can pull some of this moisture away from the south so we wouldn't have the issue about continuous heavy rains over areas that really don't need anymore rain.

KING: We'll be right back with more and more of your phone calls, too. Don't go away.


KING: We asked Anderson Cooper at Abbeville, Louisiana, about reports of natural gas pipelines having problems south of him. And he didn't have the answer, because he hadn't gone south.

Joining us on the phone is Governor Kathleen Blanco, the governor of Louisiana.

Have you been south of Abbeville, governor?

GOV. KATHLEEN BLANCO, LOUISIANA: Well, I just toured parts of that region. And Henry Hub is the place where one-third of the natural gas for the whole country flows through that particular place. In fact, the spot price of natural gas is based on the pricing at Henry Hub. So, oil and gas people will recognize that name.

We understand that there is a gas leak and a possible shearing of an oil storage tank as well or a leak in a storage tank. We are watching that situation very carefully.

There is still a tremendous amount of wind, and the wind is driving the water in from Vermilion Bay onto the land areas. And the situation is tenuous right now.

KING: So, if it is a leak, what does that mean?

BLANCO: Well, it means that we have to go in and shore that up. We need to -- they need to plant that leak now, because natural gas, of course, is flammable. And it can be dangerous. Either there or they flare it. And, you know, that's another way to handle it.

But, you know, the whole oil and gas industry is in some very difficult straits right now. Our domestic industry is suffering, because of both hurricanes, because of Katrina first and now Rita. It's impacted both Louisiana and Texas' production. And also the refinery capacity for gasoline has been impacted.

KING: Anybody trapped there?

BLANCO: Well, Henry, the town of Henry has never really gotten floodwaters before. This is, I think, one of their first experiences. So, we know that a lot of citizens were there, because they felt safe there. And they have been evacuated. So, I'm hoping that all of them have been evacuated safely (INAUDIBLE).

KING: Thank you, governor. It's always good talking to you. You're doing a noble job.

Let's go to Galveston. Dr. Karen Sexton is incident commander for the University of Texas Medical Branch during Hurricane Rita. She's vice president and chief executive officer of hospitals and clinics at UTMB. Sean Callebs, our CNN correspondent, is on the scene as well.

Dr. Sexton, what's the situation regarding patients at that branch?

KAREN SEXT0N, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS MEDICAL BRANCH: We evacuated all of our patients on Wednesday and then our staff on Thursday and kept a skeleton crew. So, right now, we are operating an urgent care type emergency facility only.

KING: Did you make the decision to keep it open?

SEXTON: Yes, I did. When we decided to go on emergency status, our first concern was to get our patients out, and then to get as many of our staff out. But we also have a responsibility to our community, because we knew there would be firefighters and policemen and the city and the county officials, and we felt that we needed to be here for them.

KING: Sean Callebs, everyone is saying Galveston got lucky. Did it?

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It did in a sense of a natural disaster, the hurricane basically skirting this area.

But I really want to pick up on one thing that Karen talked about. They did keep that hospital open. Emergency officials here set up a command center. Things were going OK last night. Then a huge fire broke out around 11:00 Eastern Time. Firefighters had to leave this building at the height of the storm, literally run two blocks. They had their fire trucks locked up in the Convention Center to avoid debris, floodwaters, things of that nature. They were able to get in those trucks, drive down, put out the fire and keep it from spreading.

And three structures were destroyed during this. And the hospital ended up treating a woman, who was in one of those buildings. She had severe burns, was in critical condition, suffered burns over 20 percent of her body, and I believe she was on life support when she actually got to the hospital.

KING: Dr. Sexton, I know...


CALLEBS: It was very touch and go.

KING: Dr. Sexton, I know at UTMB there are high security bio- lab, mega-deadly viruses. What's the situation with regard to that aspect?

SEXTON: Well, we have a plan for conditions such as this, and we activated that plan. We went on emergency status on Tuesday, and we shut down the lab. We terminated and then fumigated. And we were completely closed as of Thursday...

KING: Any flooding...

SEXTON: ... according to our plan.

KING: Any flooding in the hospital?

SEXTON: No. Actually, we were blessed with the water being sucked away from us...

KING: What was overnight like, Sean?

SEXTON: ... the way the hurricane was moving.

KING: What was it like overnight there?

CALLEBS: You know, I think people really expected it was going to get worse. In the days leading up to this the forecasters had predicted perhaps as much as a 28-foot storm surge on the west and east ends of this island.

Now, Galveston is 31 miles long. It's protected by a seawall along 10 miles, and it's about 17 feet high. And people were concerned that the Gulf of Mexico was going to flow over that seawall, worried how these buildings -- there has been a lot of construction here, a new development on both ends of the island, how it would fare. But the winds were gusting, I'd say, close to 70, maybe 80 miles an hour. It simply poured all night.

And one of the concerns was that this storm would simply linger on this island and get saturated and just drench it for several days following the initial hurricane, but they got lucky. It moved to the right.

So, when the final chapter is written on this hurricane, I think people here are going to write a fairly positive chapter. It wasn't nearly as bad here as it could have been.

KING: We'll be right back with more of this Saturday night edition of LARRY KING LIVE right after this.


KING: Again, we'll be back with you live again tomorrow night. Anderson Cooper and Aaron Brown will co-host two hours at the top of the hour.

Let's take a call. Wichita Falls, Texas. Hello.

FEMALE CALLER: Yes, sir. I'd like to know why the area between the Texas state line and Lake Charles is being referred to as marsh land? And is there any coverage on the damage sustained there?

KING: Chad Myers, do you know why?

MYERS: Well, it is very low. There are a bunch of lakes in the area. You've got Cameron. You've got Holly Beach. And then from there, literally northward through a bayou-like area, the next real major city is Lake Charles.

Now, it is not the same as when it hit Bay St. Louis -- Katrina. Bay St. Louis all the way over to Gulfport and all the way over to Biloxi, which was a very populated area, because it's more solid land, this does have marsh in between the solid land, between the shore itself and into Lake Charles. So that's why we're calling it that.

KING: Ken Reeves, our senior meteorologist for AccuWeather, is there a timeframe for posting of the watches and the warnings versus the amount of time to evacuate? Are we going to have to look at that?

REEVES: That certainly is the case, Larry. You know, I heard that Galveston takes probably about 40 hours.

Let's look even to last year, Hurricane Alex, which caused some problems on the Outer Banks, where the way the watches and the warnings were posted didn't really give enough time for residents to actually get off the Outer Banks. And they had to sit and endure a very strong category 1 or a low category 2 type storm.

And I think because we're populating the coastline a little more aggressively than we have in the past, and we're using rules perhaps that are a bit out of date, we really need to examine, you know, to a national extent whether the Hurricane Center needs to issue warnings and watches earlier in order to facilitate a better evacuation, or at least a more orderly evacuation.

KING: Sean Callebs, with Galveston apparently pretty much OK, do you move on up? What do you do?

CALLEBS: Well, at this point, we are waiting to see. Certainly one thing we have been talking to, we've been talking to the CEO of a company that does oil drilling out in the Gulf of Mexico. They suffered some significant damage a month ago. We're trying to find out how much damage now.

We're trying to get out on one of the platforms to see what this is going to do, because it's hitting everybody in the pocketbook. We heard the governor of Louisiana talk about natural gas. It's my understanding that the U.S. gets about 80 percent of its natural gas from the Gulf of Mexico. So, we know all about the fuel oil prices, but they could really be hit as winter comes in for those homes that do depend on natural gas.

There's a chance that some of us are going to go back to the New Orleans area as well, because that's a story, Larry, that no one needs to be told is going to go on and on and on. The health concerns, the flooding, the levees. It's just a horrible situation there.

KING: Dr. Gupta, how is that dust-to-dawn curfew holding?

GUPTA: It seems to be holding pretty well for the most part. Obviously, we're out here as media. But the mayor is around here as well, so he knows we're doing this.

But he's real serious about this. You know, as far as hospitals go, you see a lot of activity in hospitals after the storm has passed. Why? People are cleaning up. Yes, they can have chain saw injuries from actually using chain saws to clean up debris. Then they have electrocution from power lines mixing with flooded waters.

And, you know, people need to be real careful, especially at this time and, you know, still keep up the vigilance, even the storm has passed. The hospitals could get a little busier over the next couple of days -- Larry.

KING: Where are you? Outside in front of the hospital?

GUPTA: Right now, we're actually right on Lake Charles. You know, the hospital is just a couple of blocks away. Lake Charles is behind us. The lake over here, as you may have heard, Larry, actually that was what caused a lot of the flooding in some of the roads around us as well. These roads have become somewhat impassible actually getting to the hospital. The hospital is just a couple of blocks over that way -- Larry.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with more. Bill Nye, the Science Guy, returns tomorrow night. Don't go away.


KING: Let's take another call. Lafayette, Louisiana. Hello.

FEMALE CALLER: Good evening, Larry.


FEMALE CALLER: Does anyone on your panel have any idea of the effect of Hurricane Rita, and whether it will have on the economy of southwest Louisiana and the oil industry?

KING: What's your bet, Ken Reeves?

REEVES: Well, I'd say that we really are still looking at what the damage is going to be going on in that area. And I think we'll know in the next couple of days what the true long-term effect will be.

Suspicions are that it isn't as bad as what Katrina did in southern Mississippi and southern Alabama just by virtue of the strength of the storm. But it has managed to disrupt a lot of the gas, as we heard the governor of Louisiana say, possibly could be happening. That could place a major impact in terms of the recovery efforts in that neck of the woods, as well as the affect it has on the nation.

KING: So, we don't know yet.

REEVES: A little too early. I think we're -- some of the reporters at CNN are having trouble even getting information about what's going on down there relative to how much wind, how much rain, how much damage.

So, until that information really comes out, it's going to be hared to asses what economic effect this is going to have.

KING: Homer, Louisiana. Hello.



FEMALE CALLER: Hi. How are you?

KING: Fine. What's the question?

FEMALE CALLER: Yes, I'd like to know some information on Delkam (ph), Erath and Abbeville? And I want to know when we'd be able to go back home.

KING: You got any idea? Well, do you have any idea, Sean Callebs?

CALLEBS: Of what area? I'm sorry. I didn't understand the question.

KING: No, I'm sorry. You're in Galveston. She was asking about Abbeville, when the people in that area there can go back home. Do you have any idea? Ken, would you guess?

REEVES: Well, I think the answer is going to be, you're going to have to listen to officials, because if there is damage, they've got to get it taken care of until it's safe to get back in there.

And the waters are not going to be a problem like they were in New Orleans. It was never really the issue. This water that's out there will recede fairly quickly. So that's not going to be the issue.

The real question, is it safe from the standpoint of public utilities to get back into the area? Heed the local officials, is the best answer.

KING: Dr. Gupta, do you stay in Lake Charles now? Or are you going to move on?

GUPTA: Yes, I think so. You know, we're anxious to see what happens to these patients. We're really anxious to see how long it actually takes to get the hospital up and running again.

One of the things we learned from Katrina is it's impossible to project all of the ramifications that this might have on a community, and on a hospital in this particular case. We want to see how that all plays out and to tell people about it -- Larry.

KING: Chad Myers, you still have those tornado worries?

MYERS: Yes, they're still out there. Every red county you see here, up around just north of Jackson, south of Meridian, still seeing some tornado warnings going on.

Back to the Abbeville question. A lot of the people there, a lot of the officials are saying, please stay off the roads. We don't want traffic jams. We don't want you using all of the gasoline sitting in traffic jams, because our emergency crews need that gasoline. Give us two days. That's the official answer. Give us two days, and then you can make your way back home.

KING: Ken Myers (sic), any chance Rita does a loop like Ivan?

REEVES: No, it looks like this feature could certainly take a loop back around. In fact, we're watching the tropics in a general sense what's going on. If you take a look at the satellite picture, we have a couple of major areas that we're watching for. This area heading into the Caribbean. That may be a named storm seven days down the road, somewhere, maybe over in here, heading into the Gulf. And there could be some other feature in here toward the end of the coming week.

So, Larry, this is the busiest time of the hurricane season. And unfortunately, I don't think it's over just yet.

KING: And thank all of our guests very much for being with us.

Before we go, our vice president, Dick Cheney, underwent surgery earlier today at George Washington University Hospital in the nation's capital to repair aneurysms on the backs of his knees. I think they did one knee. They're going to do another knee in a couple of weeks. Doctors say the procedure was a success. Mr. Cheney is expected to be out of the hospital in about 48 hours. And we have good thoughts for the vice president and best wishes for a quick and complete recovery.

We'll be back again live tomorrow night with a Sunday night edition of LARRY KING LIVE. And among the guests, we're bringing him back by popular demand, Bill Nye, the Science Guy.

Right now standing by in New Orleans is Aaron Brown. And down there in Abbeville, Louisiana, is Anderson Cooper. And they will co- host now two hours of special broadcasts dealing with Hurricane Rita and its aftermath.

Here in New Orleans is Aaron Brown -- Aaron.

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Larry, thank you. Good to see you. And good evening again, everyone. Anderson, as Larry said, is in Abbeville, Louisiana, tonight.


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