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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Aftermath of Hurricane Rita
Aired September 25, 2005 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, picking up the pieces left by Hurricane Rita's destruction. By most accounts could have been a lot worse. But don't tell that to southwest Louisiana where it could take a long, long time to recover from devastating winds and massive floods. There's reports up to 1,000 people may be stranded in Vermillion Parish, Louisiana. We'll get the lowdown from the sheriff there.
And the latest from reporters throughout the hardest hit areas, next on LARRY KING LIVE.
And returning to join us by the way here in the studios in New York, he was with us in Washington the other evening, is Bill Nye, the famed science guy of PBS. He's on the board of the Union of Concerned Scientists and they had meetings here in New York today, and we'll talk about that in a while.
Then we've got reporters all over the place. We'll be going to them, but lets' first go to Mike Couvillon the sheriff of Vermillion Parish, the area hit hardest by Rita.
How bad Mike?
SHERIFF MIKE COUVILLON, VERMILLION PARISH, LA: Terrible, Larry. Terrible.
KING; What, if anything, you know about the town of Cameron, which is -- they tell me is 80 miles from Abbeville.
COUVILLON: I talked to somebody with the sheriff's office from Cameron earlier, I would say the majority of the city is wiped out.
KING: Wiped out. What's the status of the flood waters right now?
COUVILLON: We still have about 30 percent of our power with water covering it.
KING: Any reported fatalities?
COUVILLON: None at this time, Larry. We're very lucky, however we're assuming that we will not have any.
KING: Yeah, you're prob -- the betting is you'll have something. I understand you have a great story about a mother you talked to today?
COUVILLON: Yes, I talked to her about an hour ago. I call her "Lucky."
KING: What happened with her?
COUVILLON: She chose not to leave after we requested her to leave and advised it was mandatory and she stayed. Well after the storm, the water rose and she just couldn't get out. She got out of her trailer, go in one of the neighbors homes. The water was rising fast, she put her three children on an air mattress, within hours she noticed she had but a foot left before it was on the ceiling. She grabbed the oldest child, went underwater swam up, put her oldest child on the roof, dove underwater again, retrieved her youngest one swam out, gave it to her oldest one, same back in and got the middle child and stayed on the roof until the wind slowed down and she found a boat and attempted to paddle out and the current was too strong for her to go anywhere then somebody showed up attempting to rescue people, found her, picked them up and she's safe.
KING: Wow. Thanks sheriff, we'll keep constantly in touch with you, I hope everything turns out OK for you.
Sheriff Mike Couvillon, the sheriff of Vermillion Parish. What do you make of this, Bill Nye?
BILL NYE, THE SCIENCE GUY: Well, I think it's just the beginning of what's going to be a lot of trouble. I mean, we're -- it's only September, it's only 2005 there can be a lot more hurricanes in the coming year, coming months, and in the coming years.
KING: Was this less than you thought it would be overall?
NYE: Well, maybe, I guess, because it seems have missed to the east by a few nautical miles, right?
NYE: But not by much. And it's certainly not good in New Orleans. I mean, things are as bad as ever, there apparently. So, the argument would be that hurricanes are getting because of global warming -- global climate change. And that seems to be true, but it's a very difficult thing to actually prove, but if want to evaluate risks, the world is getting warmer, there's no question about that and more heat in the atmosphere would generate more storms or more powerful storms. And so if you're going to take risks, this would not be a good one.
KING: So you're saying they'll get worse.
NYE: Yeah, probably.
KING: Let's go to Anderson Cooper on the scene in New Orleans.
You were in Abbeville yesterday. What do you make of what you hear from there today, Anderson?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I was actually there this morning, Larry, and I went on a search and rescue mission with some dedicated fish and wildlife service workers from Louisiana Fish and Wildlife and I got to tell you, I mean they're response had been amazing. They had boats in the water yesterday searching for people. They pulled about 250 people from their homes yesterday. These are people who either didn't evacuate originally like that woman the sheriff was talking about or people who chose to go back to check on their homes after they though the worst of the storm was over. Larry, what happened in Vermillion is, it wasn't during the storm that this flooding took place, it's when most people thought the storm was over. The surge still continued, they had this second surge that came. A lot of these regions are pasture land and normally don't flood at all. A lot of people there you know, have lived there their entire lives, 60, 70 years, can't remember anytime there has been flooding like this. So I went out on the boat today, we found four people who wanted to be evacuated from their home. The water had come up, the said in about 20 or 30 minutes they knew something was up and the water was -- when we got to them the water was just about at their doorstep, they had two horses that were huddled by the front door and they were very glad to see those workers from Fish and Wildlife Service, I can tell you.
KING: Anderson, the sheriff says that Cameron maybe gone. Were you ever near Cameron?
COOPER: Yeah, well, Abbeville, as you said is not too far from Cameron. There's a lot of towns around there. One figure I had heard was that 90 percent of the buildings in Cameron have been destroyed. But what is amazing, Larry -- and similar figures for towns around there -- what's amazing is that more -- the people have not died. And yes, I know the sheriff said they're still looking and that may change, but think about it. In Texas, during the storm and after, no deaths, there were the those deaths on the highway, those were people trying to flee from the storm. Louisiana, no official deaths reported, and in Mississippi, only one death officially reported and that was due to a tornado spun off by the hurricane, Larry. A lot of the people had just gotten out.
Jeff Koinange who heads back to Africa tomorrow, he's our African correspondent, he's be based in Johannesburg, he's in New Orleans.
What do you see there -- Jeff.
JEFF KOINANGE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'll tell you what, Larry. Today the Army Corps of Engineers in their helicopters dropping 7,000 pound sandbags into the levee that was at the Industrial Canal trying to fill that hole to make sure more water does not pour into the famous lower ninth ward which yester was what? Six, eight, feet of water? The water drying out very fast. The Army Corps of Engineers telling us that by weeks' end the entire city will dried out again. That way you can get more workers coming. We actually saw people repairing electrical poles, trying to reset -- get the power back in and in those areas that are going to dry off there's going to be more workers going in there. Mayor Ray Nagin saying that he wants people to start returning to places like Algiers in the west bank. He want between 250 and 300,000 people. And remember Larry, these are the people who had left before Katrina came back because they were told to leave Texas and then went again when Rita hit town, so these people have literally been doing the hurricane shuffle. Well, hopefully they'll be coming back and this time to stay, Larry.
KING: Rick Sanchez is in Abbeville. What's the situation there tonight, Rick?
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well as a matter of fact we just took a tour. You know, Anderson was talking about the Vermillion River and the Vermillion River plays a very important part in what's happening here, Larry. It's a river that essentially snakes though many of these little towns and some of the towns that we saw tonight. Towns like Intercostal, Forehead Island, Pecan Island -- as a matter of fact you're looking at Pecan Sand right now, this is video that's being seen for the very first time. This is video of a town that has been devastated. Home have been picked up -- I think Bill Nye will enjoy this from a science standpoint, if nothing else. The surge picked most of these homes up and moved them miles and miles. Sometimes all the way from the edge of the Intercostal into a place called White Lake and literally left them there. We found homes -- look at that tower right there. That tower was literally bent by the wind. This is about three or four miles from the Gulf of Mexico, by the way. So they obviously got the brunt of this, and the rest of the homes, as well.
Some of those homes that you see that look like they're standing and they're perfectly fine. Well, they may look like they're perfectly fine, but if you'll notice the foundation is sometimes two or 300 feet away from where the home is. I mean, most of them just leveled, one after another. This is Pecan Island that you're looking at right now. Video that's being seen for the very first time. We got off the helicopter just a little while ago. You see that home right there? That's a home that was pushed about a mile-and-a-half from it's foundation and ended up in water. And there's an alligator going right for it, as a matter of fact, because al of this area is now ever more infested with alligators than it was before.
KING: By the way, our reporters will remain with us. We'll be taking your phone calls. It is a live Sunday night edition of LARRY KING LIVE.
Bill, you -- you were dis -- we got to take a break, but we were discussing the other night, these storms are more powerful than Adam bombs, right?
NYE: Oh yeah. Oh.
KING: More energy.
NYE: Much more energy, by a factor or maybe 10,000 -- 10,000 Adam bombs. I mean every time. And the weight of the water is astonishing.
KING: What do you mean the weight?
NYE: Well, if you have an inch of rain fall Houston, it's millions of tons of water and it's got to go somewhere, so it pushes stuff over, it lifts up houses and carries them around, it's spectacular. KING: One inch has millions of tons.
NYE: It depends how much area you're talking about, but yeah, a typical city.
KING: We'll be right back with more on this Sunday night live edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
KING: We will be taking your phone calls by the way. Let's go to John Zarrella in Houston, Texas our CNN correspondent on the scene there.
What's the story in Houston, John?
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Boy Larry, a far different story than what our other correspondents have been reporting from Louisiana. The lights are on, you can see the headlight behind me there. That's Interstate-45. Evacuees are streaming back into Houston. More then three million evacuated. We saw that nightmare scenario with everybody on those highways. A much different story today. It's been like this all day, steady traffic moving constantly. A few tie ups here and there along the roads from Dallas and Austin, Texas, but for the most part. Lots of gas stations starting to open. We saw tanker trucks at several stations today and people just waiting patently in line for those tankers to get the fuel in the ground. So a much different story here today.
Schools are going to be closed anther gospel days. Phased reopening of the city, but the were very, very lucky here -- Larry.
KING: Thanks. We'll check in with Ken Reeves in a moment, lets check now in Lake Charles, Louisiana with Donald Dixon, who is the chief of police in Lake Charles.
What happened in your city, Chief?
CHIEF DONALD DIXON, LAKE CHARLES, LA: Well Larry, it's kind of a good news, bad news story. The good news is is we didn't have the utter total devastation we anticipated. The bad news is is we took a very serious hit. We have a lot of wind damage a lot of trees that are down into houses, some catastrophic losses. We didn't lose entire blocks, like you saw in Mississippi, be had some minor flooding yesterday that's receded. The good news is is yesterday it was basically a search and rescue, we hit all the houses that we had catastrophic damage, we had trees wind damaged. We checked all the areas that did have the flooding and I'm happy to report we had zero casualties at this time that we know of. The bad news is is that now we're concentration on property and our soul mission now is protect the property of the people who evacuated and I can't tell you how proud I am of the efforts of this entire parish to get the people out of here. They voluntarily left and then the ones who couldn't leave, we had 70, 80 Greyhound Busses, we got them out. So we had a very, very high evacuation rate. It's why were in such we're in such a good shape as we are right now. KING: Do you have looting?
DIXON: We have had some looting, Larry. It's been sporadic. We probably had about 15 arrests. We anticipate the ones who stayed, as time goes on and they start running out of food and water, that that will increase. I can sit here and tell you we own the streets of this parish. We will continue to own the streets of this parish. I called in outside resources with night vision goggles. We will continue to own the streets and I want to let the people who did evacuate know that we are going to protect you property. I also want to let them know that we're doing everything in our power and everything we can do to try to get this -- our infrastructure back. That's what really took a hit. Our electricity is down, I don't know how long it will be down. According to Entergy it was a devastating blow. We have no sewer, we have no water, we have no stores, we have no gasoline, so there's nothing to come back to. And it's a very unsafe city. We have still, huge trees that are fixing to fall down. We have telephone poles that are dangling. We had a serious injury last night. Somebody who was riding out at night and hit a telephone pole. It's just not a safe place to be. Please stay out of our city, stay out our parish, allow our emergency people to be out on the streets, allow us to petrol.
We have a dawn to dusk curfew. We have a zero tolerance. We will arrest you. We don't care -- right now, and get this, the only place you're going to go to is a jail that is un-air conditioned. We give you a bottle of water an MRE and that's it. Good luck, if we run out of jail space, we're going to start -- we'll put them in my office and chain them to a toilet if we have to. But if we catch you looting, you're going to jail, bottom line.
KING: Chief Dixon, taking no prisoners. Curfew still in effect, Chief?
DIXON: It is and it will continue to be in effect. We have no lights at night at all, none. So if you move at night, we're going to arrest you. That's a simple line. If you move at night you're not supposed to be out at night and we're not going to tolerate it.
KING: Is it true that some people were looting in an adult video store?
DIXON: Yeah, we caught some -- we caught some -- this is unbelievable, we caught some looters they had looted a porno store. You know, they're not Rhodes Scholars, what can I tell you? It's a poor choice of porno, too.
KING: One other thing about Cameron, we got a report earlier that Cameron is pretty much gone. What do you know about Cameron?
DIXON: Sheriff Macuso (PH) and I went on a helicopter ride today of our parish, first thing in the morning we're going to take a helicopter ride down to Cameron see what we can do to help Sheriff (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Duhuan (PH). It's my understanding -- Sheriff Duhaun (PH) and Sheriff Macuso (PH) and I sat out the storm at the sheriff's office the other night and he's basically said that Cameron is gone and every report we've heard it's in bad shape.
KING: Thank you so much, Chief.
KING: Chief Donald Dixon of Lake Charles Louisiana, coming on strong, as well he should.
Ken Reeves joins us, the senior meteorologist and director of forecasting operations of AccuWeather. Was this worse than you thought? About what you thought? Less than you thought?
KEN REEVES, CNN SR. METEOROLOGIST: Larry, when we were on a little earlier in the week we were talking about the potential damage along costal areas being similar to that of Katrina along southern Mississippi and southern Alabama. And last night when we were talking we were saying it was really too early to tell what the extent of the damage truly was going to be and now I think we're starting to get some real reports back that some of, you know, Vermillion Parish and Cameron Parish are really took a full brunt of this storm. They were to, what we call, the east side of the track, which is was same the same situation in portions of Mississippi and Alabama and the storm surge that came up with that really did tremendous amount damage in addition to the strong winds there even though Rita was probably a little weaker than Katrina was. You know, you don't know about the stability of the buildings in that are, but nonetheless, that potent a storm certainly is quite a factor.
I do -- I heard Bill Nye talking a little earlier relative to global warming and it's a fact. And I think there are scientists that don't necessary agree with Bill's take on this. One thing I will agree with him though, is that there is still plenty of hurricane season left. We continue to watch the Caribbean and also off the southeaster coast of the United States, but in the next seven days there probably will be at least one named storm, if not two in that general area and if you go back an look at the number of storms that have hit the United States, there were some really peak years and some even some major years, back in the 1880s, the 1930s and the 1940. Each of those year there were eight to -- or each of those decades, there were eight to 10 major hurricanes hitting the U.S. so this is not an unusual situation from the standpoint this happened in the past. The question is what sciences are really trying to wrestle with is will in continue to happen in the future? And that's really the issue.
KING: How do you respond, Bill.
NYE: Well, I don't think I said anything that controversial. I said it's hard to pin down, whether or not global climate change is responsible for the...
KING: But you said it's obvious that the earth is getting is warmer...
NYE: If you're going to take risks. Yes, the earth is getting warmer. People disagree about how much humans have to with that. But with the earth getting warmer, and more heat energy in the atmosphere, you're going to expect more powerful storms and maybe, this is the hard part to pin down, maybe more frequent storms.
KING: Maybe two more this week?
NYE: I don't know about that, but two more in the next three weeks.
KING: Two more named.
NYE: Yeah right, yeah. And so, if you're going to take risks as a society, if you're going to plan for the future, and by the future I don't mean this weekend or the next 10 months. I'm talking about the next 10 years, the next 30 years. Then we might want to really think about how we have paved over and destroyed wetlands in that are and how the houses are not really that robust when these things happen, and maybe we could take steps to have a lot better quality of life there.
KING: Well, it's more than that. We'll take a break and we'll be back with more. You're phone calls will be included in a while. Don't go away.
KING: Joining us from Port Arthur, Texas, he's been a regular with us all week, is Oscar Ortiz, the mayor of Port Arthur, Texas.
You lost your house?
MAYOR OSCAR ORTIZ, PORT ARTHUR, TX: Yes, Larry, I was notified this morning at 2:00 that a vehicle that was in my garage that belonged to my niece shorted out and caught on fire and destroyed my whole house. That's why I have to apologize to you I'm only in this hospital garb because my friends here loaned it to me. I feel like a vagabond, I don't have anything. I don't have shoes, I don't have any kind of clothes to wear, so you'll have to see me in this.
KING: Have you been out to see the remains of the houses?
ORTIZ: Yes, I have, I've been there once and it's gone Larry, it's all gone. Fifteen years of having something that you really treasure. My wife just got back from Nacadocious and she went over and looked at it and of she's also heartbroken because we lost a lot of picture of our children that were -- that we had from way back then and we'll never be able to replace. It's been very traumatic for our family.
KING: Sorry to hear it. What's the status in your city?
ORTIZ: Well, I took a flight over the city today, Larry, and we got a lot of devastation in Sabine Pass. We've also got a couple of refineries that are leaking. One of them I know is leaking gas. I don't what the other one is leaking. We haven't had a chance to examine that water. We also lost a lot of cattle in Sabine Pass, but the biggest amount was over in our Orange Bridge. I think we had a, must have been a heard of at least 200 and something cattle, but I'm estimating about 150 of are dead and just a tremendous about of devastation all over.
KING: Any fatalities? Not yet Larry. We had one young man that bitten by a dog, but luck we had a doctor there who sewed his hand up. We had another gentleman that we brought out of Sabine Pass on a Coast Guard ship. I don't know what his condition is yet, but so far, I'm keeping my fingers crossed. We're going house-to-house in Sabine Pass, although we had to -- have to get out of there by at least by 4:30, 5:00 because the high tide comes and you know, there's nothing we can do when that high tide comes in.
ORTIZ: But one of the things I saw out there was ship that just floated right on the highway. We had oil rigs out there that were dumped over, some of them came in to shore. You know the tremendous fore of the winds and all that. So, we got a lot of damage out there.
KING: Thanks Mayor, we'll check with you tomorrow. Hope everything turns better for you.
ORTIZ: Thanks Larry.
KING: Mayor Oscar Ortiz, the mayor of Port Arthur, Texas.
Marty Evans is at Red Cross Disaster Operations in Washington. She's CEO and president of the Red Cross.
What has this been like back-to-back for your organization?
MARY EVANS, CEO RED CROSS: Well Larry, it was something that we hoped wouldn't happen, but we were prepared for it. We had begun to move people, leadership teams in, supplies, meals, so we were ready. We opened about 250 shelters. We sheltered about 70,000 people. That's in addition to the continuing sheltering and feeding operations for Katrina, so Red Cross is on the job. We're working with our state and local partners and making a go of it.
KING: How goes the fundraising?
EVANS: Well, Larry, the good news is we've been able to support about half of the victims of Katrina -- half of the families. That's over half a million families that have needed emergency financial assistance. Unfortunately the fundraising is not keeping pace with the continuing needs of the victims of this storm. We've raised just under half of our goal for Katrina, which is $2 billion, and of course now we're assessing what the impact of Rita is going to be and we think it could be about the equivalent of Charlie, which last summer, the hurricane season of 2004, was a big hurricane, about a $30 million hurricane, so we're looking at it very closely and hoping the American public will continue to be our steadfast supporters.
KING: Why do you think it slowed down?
EVANS: The fundraising?
KING: Yeah. EVANS: Well, I think, you know, we had a lot of initial contribution, very, very strong initial contributions and I think we just have to remind people that the needs are great and so we're asking our donors to dip in and make that second contribution and then we know that people, there are people out there who haven't yet made -- had the opportunity to contribute.
Just by way of historical data. One out of four Americans during World War II was a Red Cross supporter, either a volunteer or a financial donor or blood donor. We're nowhere near that one out of four measure, so we're hoping people will step up to the plate.
KING: Marty will stay with us. We'll take break, and when we come back we'll check in with Rob Marciano. Make a sweep of all of our correspondents. Talk more with our panelist and take your phone calls. That's all ahead, don't go away.
KING: We're back on this live Sunday night edition of LARRY KING LIVE.
Before we get back with our panelists and sweep all of our reporters, make a grand sweep, go to your phone calls, let's check in, in New Orleans, with Lieutenant Commander Tom Cooper, Coast Guard Engineering Officer of the air station at New Orleans who flew eight hours yesterday making rescues in Abbeyville. Commander, what was that like?
LT. CMDR. TOM COOPER, U.S. COAST GUARD: Well, Larry, it was tough. It was just like, a little bit like Katrina. We tried to, as always, pre-deploy our helicopters as close as we could to immediately get in right after the hurricane passed through.
So, we were able to get down towards Morgan City where we waited and as soon as we could we started to fly in. We encountered about 60 mile-per-hour winds or so. We flew in, got right into Abbeyville and commenced hoisting people from their rooftops.
KING: What's the major problem with all that wind when you're doing that?
COOPER: Well, it's tough on the helicopter. It really starts to -- the turbulence starts and it makes you go up and down and it's really hard, especially when you're coming in to a hoist, Larry, as you can imagine. You're usually about 100 feet over rooftops and that turbulence can drop you down really quick and you got to really be on your A game.
KING: Anybody fall off the ladders?
COOPER: No, nobody fell off the ladders as the Coast Guard did it in Katrina and through Rita. We were able to effect all the rescues with our zero safety mishaps.
KING: They're pretty scared though aren't they? COOPER: The survivors as you pick them up?
COOPER: Yes. Yes, they are scared, Larry, to be honest but they're also relieved. And, while it's really hard to talk inside the helicopter just because of the noise you can see the look in the people's eyes and that speaks a lot.
KING: Any idea of how many people you hoisted up?
COOPER: Yes, sure. In the last couple of days since Rita, the men and women from Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans and we had four 60s from Air Station Clearwater together, the nine helicopters together were able to hoist up 60 people in the Abbeyville area.
KING: Keep it up, commander. You're doing a terrific job. Thank you so much.
COOPER: Thank you, Larry.
KING: Lieutenant Commander Tom Cooper, wow.
Let's go to Rob Marciano in Lake Charles, what's the situation there Rob?
MARCIANO: Water is receding just a little bit but as they do, you know, damage is strewn about everywhere. Evacuees are ordered not to come back because it's still very dangerous.
I drove from Beaumont into Lake Charles today. I used to -- I used to live and work here for a few years, so a bit of a nightmare nostalgia to come around and try to get through neighborhoods where I lived, where friends lived. It's a little bit -- it's a little bit tough to see. Huge trees down, I mean I've never seen so many big trees completely uprooted, at least here in Lake Charles.
Then we took a drive down south. Everybody is talking about Vermilion Parish and Cameron Parish. Well, we went down in Cameron Parish and went down to Grand Lake. I've got a friend who lives down there. I figured his house would be flooded, managed to catch up with him. Sure enough his house was flooded.
I suppose the thing that's really bad, Larry, and that's been the ongoing theme the last couple nights is that the waters here, they actually came -- they came in after the storm made landfall when really people were thinking maybe I can go back to my home now and they're really, really slow to recede.
We have this persistent southeast wind. The waters are so dreadfully slow to recede. People are getting anxious to check out the damage in their homes but there is still plenty of water down there in Cameron Parish.
Cameron, the town, you know, when we eventually get down there is probably completely wiped out. Holly Beach, Constance Beach off to the west as well. It's not a good situation for the beach communities that's for sure.
KING: Rick Sanchez in Abbeyville isn't this a tough emotional thing to cover?
SANCHEZ: It is. It is because you know that those aren't just homes.
SANCHEZ: That's where people live.
KING: Their lives.
SANCHEZ: That's where they were children. That's where -- and you think of what it felt like for any of us who have actually gone through a hurricane what it felt like when you're sitting there with your kids in your house wondering if you're going to be able to get out, wondering what's the safest thing to do and not being able to call anybody or do anything because you have no power. You have no electricity.
I mean those are desperate times for people and when you look at those homes you think of what it must have been like in those final moments. Whether they got or not they still went through hell in those moments.
KING: Yes. Bill Nye, you were asking about the water, where this water goes. We'll ask Ken Reeves. Ken, is it raining now, like north it is, is it raining in Cleveland?
REEVES: It's raining. A lot of the rain from Rita is now up into the Ohio Valley and it will eventually spread onto the east. It looks like the concern relative to what we talked about last night with some of Rita coming back down doesn't seem to be particularly likely at this point. Most of the moisture, as we were indicating yesterday, is getting pulled off to the north and east.
So, there should be some good weather from the standpoint of rain down in that area over the next several days to allow some recovery in that region but there is still persistent wind, which is keeping the waters from receding quite as fast.
KING: Bill Nye, what happens to the water? Where does it go?
NYE: Well, it falls in the river valleys and eventually flows down the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico but we hope it gets soaked up on the way. Now let me ask this, as this hurricane dissipates up let's say in the Ohio River...
KING: You're talking to Ken?
NYE: Yes, sorry Ken, in the Ohio River Valley does it -- it loses energy up there right. Now what's keeping this wind blowing from the southeast then?
REEVES: Well, it's the overall pattern still that's out there. You still have your high pressure system in the -- in just such a location that's allowing that wind to come in.
A lot of times along the gulf coast the wind is off the water anyway through most of the summer. It's just that the pressure grading is such that you're still keeping the wind a little bit stronger than what you typically would and that's just allowing the water to more slowly recede.
And keep in mind there was a tremendous amount of water dumped upstream as well for many of those communities. It's working its way down as well, luckily not into New Orleans.
NYE: So, that southeast wind is, I'm asking, that is the hurricane storm track at idle?
REEVES: Well, not exactly per se. The actual circulation is working its way up through I guess now up into extreme western portions of Kentucky. It is a very minor portion of what it used to be at this juncture, so it's really having much less effect on the overall scope of what's going on. It's being impacted more by other weather features that are on the map, which is the high pressure system off to the east.
KING: Marty Evans, does the Red Cross deal with the psychological aspects of this?
EVANS: Larry, we sure do. In addition to shelter, feeding, some basic financial assistance we also provide mental health support. We have a whole team of licensed clinical professionals who are volunteers who partner with us. They're in our shelters. They're in our service centers.
And oftentimes they'll be in the food line serving food. We found that that's a way where people can have informal conversations and you can really assess the mental health state of people who have been through extraordinary, extraordinary circumstances.
KING: We'll take a break and be back with more. We'll include your phone calls. Carol Lin will be with us at the top of the hour with more live coverage. Don't go away.
KING: Let's take some calls, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, hello.
CALLER FROM CANADA: Hi, Larry.
CALLER: I was wondering if Rob Marciano had any specific statistics on the water level and checked for damage in northern Cameron Parish in Big Lake and Grand Lake? There hasn't been any coverage and I have a lot of family there so anything is helpful.
KING: All right, Rob, can we help her out?
MARCIANO: Well, I have friends in Grand Lake and that's exactly where I went today and the word from the folks that I talked to, I can't really measure it. I will tell you this that in the home I visited water was up about two feet into that home and so think about how flat that is and that's right in Grand Lake.
I talked to somebody who actually rode out the storm and he had been in Audrey and rode it out as a child and he quote, unquote said that "Audrey was a drop in the bucket compared to Rita." Rita's water came up higher than Audrey, so it will give an idea of what kind of flooding is down there.
If you've heard stories from friends and family about how high the water got in Audrey down in northern Cameron Parish the water for this storm got about a foot and a half higher than that and we'll actually have a more detailed report for you coming up in the ten o'clock hour.
KING: Jeff Koinange in New Orleans what's the number one problem still facing that city?
KOINANGE: Well, Larry, it depends on where you look but if you look at Orleans Parish and St. Bernard Parish it's water. That water has to be drained out of those parishes sooner rather than later. Already there's so much destruction.
The good thing is the Army Corps of Engineers say in a week's time that will be drained out and then what happens then? Well, restoring water, power, sanitation that's going to happen.
Some neighborhoods are going to have to be completely erased and started from scratch because most of those homes have been condemned. That's going to take some time.
I think New Orleans as resilient and as hardy as they are they're going to have to be very patient, Larry. It's going to take months, if not years, to get this city back up and running.
KING: Jeff, you have a safe trip to Johannesburg. You've done yeoman-like work here the past three weeks and we salute you.
KOINANGE: Thanks a lot, Larry, appreciate it.
KING: Great having you with us.
Let's take another call, Camden, South Carolina, hello.
CALLER FROM SOUTH CAROLINA: Hello, Larry.
CALLER: I've been watching the show.
KING: Thank you.
CALLER: Where can we give other than monetary donations, clothing donations? Our Shrine club in Camden, South Carolina filled two 53-foot tractor trailers. One was sent to Houma, Louisiana and clothed between 5,000 and 7,000 people and we have another truck ready to go that can do just about the same. These clothes are bought, sized, ready. They have men's, women's and children's sizes. We also have formula, wipes, diapers, those types of things. Where can we send those to?
KING: By the way, I will add that in Rockefeller Center tonight Habitat for Humanity has tents all set up and people are coming from all over New York dropping stuff off, anything. Marty, what's the answer to his question?
EVANS: I think the best thing to do is call the Red Cross line at 1-800-HELP-NOW and ask to speak with the in-kind desk because depending on the way that those goods are packaged they may be able to be provided as bulk or it may be more difficult. So, since you have a large quantity the best thing to do would be to call 1-800-HELP-NOW and discuss the best track for your goods.
KING: We're going to hold Rick Sanchez and Rob Marciano. But I want to get John Zarrella to get a little time off as well. He's been doing such yeoman-like work as we said.
John, what's the wrap-up in Houston, pretty much getting back to normal?
ZARRELLA: Yes, I think the big issue is going to be Monday, first day back to work, a lot of folks just returning to the city, not sure if their places of business where they work are going to be open tomorrow, when they're going to open. That's really the extent of it here, Larry.
I think one thing to point out is, you know, I was in Lumberton just north of Beaumont during the storm and there are so many pine trees that came down, it's a very forested area, on power lines. They have snapped the power poles mile after mile.
We talked to people who have already been told it's going to be perhaps November before they get their power on. So, even people whose homes survived they've got a long road to hoe before they're going to be whole again -- Larry.
KING: Thanks John, John Zarrella, normally in Miami, tonight in Houston. We've got them everywhere folks.
Marty Evans, thanks very much. You'll be back with us again tomorrow night for another update. If you want to help, 800-HELP-NOW, 1-800-HELP-NOW for the Red Cross.
Back with Ken Reeves, Bill Nye, Rick Sanchez and Rob Marciano on the scene in Abbeyville and Lake Charles, more of your phone calls, don't go away.
KING: Bill Nye who is a member of the National Advisory Board of the Union of Concerned Scientists, wanted to get in a word here about our energy policy and what all this might have an effect on it. Explain.
NYE: Well, we spend right now about $800 million a minute on foreign oil to power mostly our transportation, our cars, cars and trucks, and so that's about a little over $1 billion a day that goes overseas.
So, if we had sources of energy here in the United States, let's say renewable energy like wind and (INAUDIBLE) solar cells, then we wouldn't have these foreign oil debt that we're spending all the time and we wouldn't have this infrastructure that would get destroyed along the coastlines. We could change that.
It's a big problem. I mean it's a huge thing to change but right now this -- our setup is bad for our health and bad for our security. I mean it's not a healthy place to be in.
KING: But we need the oil don't we?
NYE: Well, we need it. We're using it because...
KING: I mean what comes first?
NYE: Well, I think you do everything at once and the longest journey begins with a single step and so if you are able to make our energy sources to be greener or more renewable every day eventually you'd have completely renewable systems.
KING: I'd like to do a whole show on this if you'll come back for it.
NYE: Well, I'll come back, yes sir and thank you.
KING: A dumb question.
NYE: No such thing.
KING: And this is for Ken too. Where does weather begin?
NYE: Well, the earth is a sphere and so the heat of the sun and the spin of the earth create weather. Now, by a sphere I mean you can go any direction you want and you're still on the sphere. So, whenever wind blows east to west or west to east it ends up somewhere. And, by the way, when you pollute the air anyplace it ends up everywhere in the world.
KING: Ken, where does wind go?
REEVES: Well, actually it's interesting, Larry, the hurricanes serve a purpose unfortunately they devastate areas too but they serve a purpose of transporting energy from the lower latitudes to higher latitudes. It's the way the earth tries to kind of spread out its energy with time.
And, there's been some discussion about how you can try to control hurricanes or modify their behavior but one of the things I think that we've learned from our fire suppression techniques in the western part of the United States is that if you don't take care of the fuel that's there you could end up having catastrophic situations.
So, I'm a little nervous about the prospects of potentially modifying hurricanes or changing it from that standpoint but they're a necessary element in the atmosphere and the wind that is generated from them helps dissipate some of the energy from the lower latitudes to higher latitudes.
KING: Let's get a call, Grand Island, Nebraska, hello.
CALLER FROM NEBRASKA: Hi, Larry.
CALLER: I haven't heard anything about New Iberia. I have friends that live there that could not get out and I was just wondering if they're flooded or are they OK, is the town OK?
KING: OK, Rob Marciano, do you know anything about New Iberia?
MARCIANO: New Iberia it's in the heart of Acadiana basically, good Cajun people, mostly Cajun people live there. It's over by Lafayette, which didn't have nearly the damage that we had here but we should also mention that Abbeyville is close to Lafayette as well, not nearly as far, a little bit farther south than New Iberia.
But if I ventured a guess the reason that you haven't heard many reports out of New Iberia is that the damage there, at least compared to here, Abbeyville and southern parts of Vermilion and Cameron Parish is it isn't nearly as great, so I'd have you -- I'd say rest easy tonight, at least a little bit.
KING: Rick Sanchez, you agree?
SANCHEZ: Oh, absolutely. If you really look at it on a map, it's pretty much where the Vermilion River comes up and we drove all the way from Lafayette to both Perry and the other towns in this area and it seems to me like the major damage, the major storm surge damage starts right around this area from Abbeyville to Perry and then heads south from here -- Larry.
KING: We'll be back with more and then Carol Lin on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just this major street right off to our left. Everywhere you look it's just absolutely -- absolutely devastated and adding insult to injury as we come around our left orbit here through the shopping centers that again were mostly dried out and drained out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Long View, Texas, hello, hello Long View are you there?
CALLER: Yes, sir.
KING: Go ahead.
CALLER: Yes, sir. I am a postal worker from the Orange County, Texas area and we have been pretty much told we need to report for work in the morning and there's no power, no water and no gas as far as we know and we're just wondering how safe it is to return into the area, if it's safe, if we're going to be allowed even in.
KING: All right, who thinks what? Rob, what do you think? Should she go to work?
MARCIANO: Well, I guess the old adage of neither rain nor sleet nor even snow and all that stuff about the postal service holds true if they're making her come to work when they won't even let evacuees come into town. I don't have the answer for her except I suppose they really mean that slogan when they say it. Try to call your boss if you can somehow get a hold of him but it's not easy going to work when no one else is.
KING: Ken, what do you think? Ken Reeves?
REEVES: Well, Larry, they took a pretty big punch in there. I wanted to kind of show people, give people a perspective on this graphic here what the actual -- the path of it went in here.
Now, Audrey came over a smaller area so the surge wasn't as great. But, you know, in this area we're talking about Orange being right about in there and we talked about Cameron there and we also have Pelican Island out over here.
And this area from here to here took about anywhere from 15 to 18 foot of storm surge plus all the winds coming in from this direction and so that area really took a huge hit, so I don't know Larry. It seems kind of -- she should get a hold of her boss and try to persuade him otherwise.
KING: Ma'am, stay home.
Sabine Pass, Texas, hello. Sabine Pass, Texas are you there?
CALLER: Yes, sir.
KING: What's your question?
CALLER: Yes, sir. I'm from Sabine Pass, very close to where the eye came ashore.
CALLER: And there has been little or no news, no coverage on what has happened to our community. Does anybody know?
SANCHEZ: Yes, because it's been very difficult for people to get over there. As a matter of fact, one of the biggest problems that we're having is, you know, access. I don't know if she saw or heard any helicopters flying overhead today but that would be the only way.
I've only been able to get as far as Pecan Island and just a little bit further down is Cameron and a little bit further down from that is Sabine Pass. You know, I know that there were some people who got out there today and we've got plans to get out there tomorrow but I'm not quite sure what the damage is but guaranteed you got hit hard because the eye went through there.
KING: Bill, what's still to worry about?
NYE: Well, the...
KING: With regard to Rita.
NYE: The safety of the water. When you start to get all these bacteria in the water they start consuming the oxygen and the heavy metals accumulate up the food chain as fish eat little fish and then humans being in that water, if you have open cuts and so on, it's dangerous. You can get infections.
And, of course, it's changed everything, all these industrial materials when the paint of houses, the foundations is now let loose and spread out all over everything.
KING: Ken, what are you worried about?
REEVES: Well, Larry, I think Bill's got some good ideas about things to be concerned about. Also, the runoff water from upstream as well. There have been about 44 tornadoes from the system thus far. I don't think there will be a huge number more but nonetheless there still could be some more tornadoes upstream, Tennessee and Kentucky during the course of the night tonight.
KING: Rick, where do you head now?
SANCHEZ: We're going to be sticking around for at least another day and trying to get to some of those areas that that caller from California just mentioned and we're going to be focusing on a couple of other things tomorrow. For example, what kind of effect the pipelines took here, both the natural gas, you know, natural gas, 45 percent of natural gas used in the eastern part of the United States comes from an area seven miles from where I am -- Larry.
KING: We're about out of time. Rob, where do you go? Rob, I guess he's gone. Wherever he's going he's gone.
Thanks to all our guests.
And, carrying on the true tradition of the people who deliver the mail, we'll be back here tomorrow night unless there's a little rain in New York and then, bah, I won't be here.
And, right now we're going to turn things over to Carol Lin for "CNN SUNDAY NIGHT." This is a live edition with Carol right now.
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