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THE SITUATION ROOM
The Fury of Hurricane Katrina; Jury Rules Against Wal-Mart
Aired December 22, 2005 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you today's top stories.
Happening now, it's 6:00 p.m. in Louisiana. You haven't seen anything like this since the tsunami hit. You'll now see what it was like to experience the fury of Hurricane Katrina. We have extraordinary and exclusive pictures of the destruction.
In Baghdad, it's 3:00 in the morning. Saddam Hussein takes over his trial with another angry outburst, calling the White House the world's number one liar.
And it's 4:00 p.m. in Oakland, California, where a jury rules Wal-Mart employees were denied lunch breaks and awards them a lot of lunch money. I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Tonight, Hurricane Katrina as you've never seen it before. The disaster and the desperation now captured on home video. We have exclusive pictures from a man who kept his camera rolling as floodwaters rushed in and his life was on the line. Our Gulf Coast correspondent Susan Roesgen is in Slidell, Louisiana, and she has all the details -- Susan?
SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN GULF COAST CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the man you're about to meet was forced to retreat, to move higher and higher up these stairs with the water of Lake Pontchartrain chasing him every step of the way.
KENNARD JACKLEY, KATRINA SURVIVOR: Turn it on, press that button.
ROESGEN: Kennard Jackley says he only picks up his video camera when a storm is coming. And on August 28th, he knew a big one was on the way
JACKLEY: OK. This is it, insurance people. Let's see. Give you a close up of the living room.
ROESGEN: Jackley set out to make a video record of everything in this house so if the storm did some damage, he could make a claim for what was lost. He didn't know that this tape would be the last he would ever see of just about everything in the bottom half of his house.
JACKLEY: OK, never know there was a hurricane coming.
ROESGEN: This was the afternoon before the storm. But by daybreak the next morning, the wind was starting to howl.
JACKLEY: Mother Nature is angry, my friends.
ROESGEN: For 30 years, Kennard Jackley was a merchant marine, sailing through storms on oceans all over the world. And here he was in his own house watching a hurricane wrap itself around him. But he kept the camera rolling, and his commentary is a conversation between an old man and the sea.
JACKLEY: Enough out of you, there, whatever your name -- Katrina, or whatever the hell your name is.
ROESGEN: Eventually, Jackley realizes the situation is much worse than he thought. It isn't just the wind anymore, it's the water from the Lake swallowing his property.
JACKLEY: Uh-oh. There it goes. It's in. Here it comes. It's in the house. Broke the door lock. There it is. Oh man, I can't stop it now.
ROESGEN: Now, with no place but the attic to run to, watching his neighbor's homes start to float away around him, Jackley begins to question his decision to stay.
JACKLEY: When's this thing supposed to stop? Next time leave, stupid. I don't even think I saved my golf clubs.
ROESGEN: This is one of the few things that didn't float away. This is one of his wife's golf clubs. And to give you an idea of how high the water was here, I'm 5'8" and the golf club takes up to about 9 feet. But you have to remember that the water that was here came from the lake 200 yards away.
JACKLEY: Brave? I wouldn't go brave. Probably crazy
ROESGEN: Today, Kennard Jackley is starting to put his home back together. The whole bottom half of his house is bare. His wife's little beauty parlor, the washing room, and the sewing room, all gone. Upstairs, through the same balcony windows where he made his movie, life's starting to look more normal. Kennard's wife, Dookie (ph) is making gumbo for Christmas, and they plan to rebuild.
ROESGEN (on camera): Why stay here? Why put your house back together when you know the next one could come even higher?
JACKLEY: Why? This is -- well, I'm from Illinois, but this is the only house I've ever had, you know. And I'm not going to let a little rain hurt me.
ROESGEN: It was more than a little rain. JACKLEY: We had history made, didn't we? Part of growing up, that's what I say. You got to go -- you know, you got to do what you got to do.
ROESGEN: Hurricane Katrina made history, but Kennard Jackley is thinking about the future and whatever might come his way.
ROESGEN: Now, Wolf, the next time there's a hurricane, I want to be a with that guy because he is a survivor. I mentioned that he made that videotape initially for the insurance company in case he had some damages, which he does, and he wanted the insurance company to look at some of his possessions. But he doesn't think the insurance company has taken a look at it at all.
He says they're only given him $14,000 on a house that he says is worth $250,000. So now he's actually selling copies of that home video for $20 a pop to try to raise enough money to repair the house himself.
BLITZER: Susan, I understand we have another camera out there where you are. You can show us what this house looks like right now because in contrast to that dramatic video, the house still standing. But there it is. Actually, where is it? Is that the house?
ROESGEN: Yes, the house is still standing. It's cinderblock on the bottom, so that's why it's pretty secure down here. That's why it's still standing. A lot of houses along this road, along the lake, were just on piers, and they were all wood, and they were just blown apart.
This one still has the bottom, bare though it is. They're living upstairs right now, Kennard and his wife, and they're trying to make the best of it until they can repair the rest of it
BLITZER: Well, there it is, but it's obviously underwater, at least the ground level. Susan, thanks very much. Susan Roesgen reporting for us. And this video reminds a lot of us of the initial pictures we saw of that home video of the tsunami a year ago in Asia.
And we're going to have a lot more on this new video, the raw video, later this hour. We'll see it unfold as the hurricane hit. Also, we're going to hear from the man who shot it all and survived the storm, Kennard Jackley. He's going to be joining us live much more on this coming up.
First, I want to check the other news we're following today. Here in Washington, only a little while ago, the Justice Department released this memo. It's a detailed memo explaining why the president believes he had the legal authority to go ahead and to wiretap, to engage in surveillance of American citizens without court order.
This a letter sent to the leaders of the Senate, of the House of Representatives, making the case why the president believes he had full legal authority to go ahead with these wiretaps.
Senators, meanwhile, are heading back to Capitol Hill right now for yet another vote on the controversial USA Patriot Act. Just hours after they had approved the six-month extension of the anti-terror law, the House of Representatives threw a curve ball at them and at the president himself. Let's go to the White House. Our Suzanne Malveaux is standing by with more -- Suzanne?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, of course, the White House is keeping a very close eye on the developments on the Hill, and we have been told by a senior administration official that the president would be willing to sign off on a one-month extension, that is, if the Senate goes along with the House proposal.
All of this, of course, coming a day after the president failed to convince the Senate, essentially, to renew the Patriot Act in its entirety by next year. Also coming at a critical time for this president when he's trying to reaffirm his own political clout going into 2006.
MALVEAUX: President Bush heading to Camp David and his Texas ranch for the holidays is eager to set the stage for a new year.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This has been a year of strong progress toward a freer, more peaceful world, and a prosperous America
MALVEAUX: Aides say for 2006, the emphasis will be on the progress in Iraq and strengthening the economy.
BUSH: We had three sets of elections in Iraq, which were -- it's an amazing moment in the history of liberty. People are working. We've added 4.5 million new jobs since April of 2003.
MALVEAUX: But the president arguably got coal for Christmas when Congress, heading for its recess, delivered Mr. Bush two significant legislative blows. First, by blocking oil drilling in the Arctic, a key component of Mr. Bush's energy plan.
And second, by refusing to renew the administration's broad anti- terrorism law, the Patriot Act, for another four years. Instead, the Senate punted, extending it for six months to later review provisions Democrats and some Republicans worry may violate civil liberties. The Senate and House are still negotiating.
REP. JAMES SENSENBRENNER (R-WI), HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: The Senate's got to do its work. The House has done its work.
MALVEAUX: Despite the setback, in typical White House fashion, Mr. Bush cast the outcome as a success.
BUSH: The Congress understands we've got to keep the Patriot Act in place, that we're still under threat. (END VIDEOTAPE)
MALVEAUX: Now, the administration was able to push through a $40 billion budget cut package, but only after the vice president cut his overseas trip short to cast a tiebreaking vote in the Senate. And of course, Wolf, the big question going into the new year is what kind of political capital does the president have now -- Wolf?
BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux, thanks very much. Let's go to CNN's Zain Verjee -- she's at the CNN Center in Atlanta -- for a closer look at some other stories making news.
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf. After three days of hoofing it, or sharing a ride, New York commuters should be able to take the bus or subway tomorrow morning. Leaders of the transit union have voted overwhelmingly to end their strike, even though no contract agreement's been reached. Negotiators for the union and the city will now try to work out their differences through a mediator.
James Dungy, the 18-year-old son of the coach of the Indianapolis Colts, has died. He was found dead in his Tampa apartment early this morning. Police say they do not suspect foul play. A cause of death won't be announced until there's an autopsy. Dungy's father, Tony, has been having a remarkable season coaching the Colts. Until last Sunday, the team was undefeated.
Assisted suicide doctor Jack Kevorkian won't be getting out of prison any time soon. A parole board in Michigan has denied his request to be pardoned or have his sentence commuted. He's serving 10 to 25 years for helping terminally ill people kill themselves. Kevorkian's lawyer says the 77-year-old retired pathologist is himself terminally ill.
And a major recall of dog and cat food is under way after the deaths of several pets. The company, Diamond Pet Food, is recalling several brands. Fifteen pet deaths were traced to tainted food produced at the plants in South Carolina. The Food and Drug Administration is also investigating -- Wolf?
BLITZER: Zain, thank you very much. Let's go up to New York. Jack Cafferty is standing by with "The Cafferty File."
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: How Zain didn't have any panda stories? I like when she has those panda stories.
BLITZER: There's a limit to the number of panda stories.
VERJEE: That's a great question, Jack. Panda story I'm sure will be on the way, once again. But Tai Shan has been out in public today at the Washington Zoo, so we did have a panda story.
CAFFERTY: I don't know if you're aware of it or not, but they were playing that insipid music under you while you were reading the news.
VERJEE: No, I have it killed from my ear so I can focus on delivering.
BLITZER: All right, Jack, we've got to do your question.
CAFFERTY: Sounds like garbage cans being rolled down the alley. Beginning to feel a lot like Christmas as everyone runs around to buy gifts and wrap them and decorate the tree and all like that. There's a new poll out that asks Americans how they really feel about Christmas, 28 percent say they feel gung ho, 33 percent say ho, ho, ho, 23 percent say ho hum, and 11 percent say bah humbug.
So here's the question. What's the best Christmas you ever had? Email us at email@example.com or go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and we'll read some of the answers in a bit. Which group do you fall in there, Wolf?
BLITZER: The highest. Great time of the year.
CAFFERTY: Gung ho.
BLITZER: Gung ho. Good. Jack, what about you?
CAFFERTY: Ho, ho, ho,.
BLITZER: Thanks, Jack.
Coming up, we're going to have more of our CNN exclusive. We're going to watch Hurricane Katrina as it hit. We're playing this exclusive video for you. We're going to be playing it raw, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll watch the storm as it unfolded, as it moved in. Dramatic stuff.
Also, Saddam Hussein ranting in court again. Is he being handed the world stage to act up? We're going to take a closer look.
And Wal-Mart gets slapped with a multi-million dollar fine for denying lunch breaks to workers. We have that story, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: If you're just joining us, we have an CNN exclusive. The thousands who survived Hurricane Katrina's rampage will never, ever forget those first terrifying moments when it became clear that this disaster was beyond anyone's imagination.
Now, experience the nightmare as though you were there. We have more of our exclusive home video from Kennard Jackley, a Louisiana man, who shot this video. Watch and listen as he takes us through the early hours, before the worst became reality.
KENNARD JACKLEY: This is the downstairs. I'm boarded up. It's the day before the big show. Everything is looking good. Water's supposed to get up to that high. I don't think so.
Wind is blowing pretty good. I'll take some more movies when it comes in. Maybe I'll get on TV. Everything looking pretty good now. I think we'll be all right.
I think here it comes. We just had a gust of about 100 miles per hour just a little while ago. I got plenty of waterfront property. Better start selling it. About enough out of you there, whatever your name, Katrina or whatever the hell your name is.
The whole downstairs is underwater. My truck's right down there some place underwater. I might have to go to the roof. There goes my truck. Yes, we're going to have a lot of good stuff floating by here. Oh, there goes the house. It's gone. Man alive. Everything in it. Unbelievable. That's where she was, right there.
Man, there's some kind of heater or something. Man. There's Ray's refrigerator. Hey, his whole house is gone, too, man. I thought they was lying about -- where's all this stuff coming from? All up and down the road here, devastation. There's me, I got about another two feet before I'm going under the top floor of a two-story house.
I don't believe this. There goes a boat. There goes another. That poor guy just built that house over there. He's going down. I can't believe all this stuff. Look at that mess. Whoa, baby! That's all. Got a tidal wave coming. I never thought I'd die this way. Maybe that old tree will float over here and get me.
Man alive. Look at all the garbage. Here comes another one. Uh-oh, here comes a big one. Can you see that? Coming at me. Uh-oh, I hear the bottom of the floor bowing when them waves hit. It's going to lift this thing right off the foundation. It's just getting worse, it ain't getting no better.
Refrigerator. You think them insurance guys will understand when I show them this picture if I'm alive? I can feel the floor shaking. This whole house is going to have to come down, I guess. Here it comes, up the front door. It broke the front door. I don't know if you can all see that. It's up to the top.
BLITZER: That was only just the beginning of the water coming in off Lake Pontchartrain. That was just the beginning of what would become of Kennard Jackley's home. We're watching this. This is exclusive video. We're going to continue to show it to you.
We're going to keep riding out the storm, literally, as that water not only rushes into the lower floor, but as Jackley fears for his life. And I'm going to be speaking live with him. That's coming up as well.
Also ahead, Saddam Hussein versus President Bush all over again. We'll tell what Iraq's notorious defendant has been saying in court today. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: At this hour, we're showing you exclusive home video that captures Hurricane Katrina's assault on one man's home and nearly on his life. We'll have more of these dramatic pictures, lots more. And I'll speak live with the man behind the camera, Hurricane Katrina survivor Kennard Jackley and his wave. That's coming up very soon.
In the meantime, though, we want to take a look at some other stories we're watching around the world. For that, we turn to Baghdad, where Saddam Hussein is acting like he's in charge at his own trial. In his latest outburst, the former dictator lashed out at what he called White House lies. Let's go to Baghdad. CNN's Aneesh Raman is in the Iraqi capital -- Aneesh?
ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, good evening. For the second time in as many days, Saddam Hussein grandstanding at court, making this trial all about his personal plight.
RAMAN: In a courtroom setup to catalog crimes committed by Iraq's former leader, the chief defendant, Saddam Hussein, seems to have switched roles, pronouncing at length and seemingly at will against a trial he sees as illegitimate, a war he sees as illegal, and a president he sees as fraudulent.
SADDAM HUSSEIN, FORMER DICTATOR OF IRAQ (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): The White House lies once more. The number one liar in the world. They said in Iraq there is chemicals and a relationship to terrorism, and then they announced it later that we couldn't find any of that in Iraq.
RAMAN: And that was just the start. Saddam spoke again today about alleged beatings suffered while in U.S. custody, claims the White House says are preposterous and the court's spokesman says are patently false. The chief judge has given extraordinary latitude to the defendants, rarely cutting them off.
And Saddam is taking full advantage of that, at times interrupting graphic witness testimony detailing torture and executions by his regimes, presenting himself as the victim, and forcing the world to respond. It all might seem like a court out of control, but U.S. officials involved in the process say sometimes that's just how justice works.
CHRIS REID, REGIME CRIMES LIAISON OFFICE: Well, anybody who's followed televised trials in the U.S., in Britain, around the world, they know that there are hiccups, there are sort of adjustments that have to be made to defense motions, defense tactics.
RAMAN: Saddam's tactic seems to be to cripple the court and speak to the camera in the belief that the Arab world still craves a defiant voice against America.
RAMAN: And Wolf, court adjourned today. It will reconvene on January 24th. Next up, witnesses that will provide direct testimony, linking Saddam Hussein and those co-defendants to the alleged crimes they face -- Wolf?
BLITZER: Aneesh Raman in Baghdad, thank you very much.
Just ahead, the winds are howling, the storm waters are surging. More exclusive pictures you've never seen before. They'll put you inside Hurricane Katrina as the destruction begins. Stay with us.
BLITZER: If you're just joining us, you're about to see something remarkable, Hurricane Katrina as it hit.
Kennard Jackley -- Jackley had his home video camera trained on the winds and the floodwaters when Hurricane Katrina stormed into Slidell, Louisiana.
In this exclusive video, we watch as all hell breaks loose and Jackley rides out the storm and tries to escape with his life.
K. JACKLEY: Here it comes up the front door. Broke the front door.
I don't know if you can all see that. It's up to the top. OK. It's starting to come in the top floor. Here it comes. Man, here it comes.
See it coming up? There goes my guitar. Oh, yes, here comes the water up from the bottom. Here it comes. It's in the house. Broke the door lock. There it is.
Oh, man, I can't stop it now. Can't stop it. There goes another house. Man, this thing is something else. Oh my God. Oh, no. There were four houses over there.
Now they're gone, all four of them. Oh, man. Four houses gone. Look at the lake out there. I got a good view of the lake now. Oh, my God. This thing better stop. Here's another house.
Look out my front window. I used to have a yard out there. Now it's a junkyard. Man alive. It's knocking at my door. Look at the floor. It's coming up through the floor.
OK. I better get off the air, put this thing in a watertight bag. Man, look -- look at that stuff.
When is this supposed to stop? Uh-oh. The ground floor is buckling up underneath me. I got to go.
The whole floor is just shaking underneath me. All right. Can't go nowhere now. There goes Charley's boathouse. It's taking off now. Poor Charley.
All right, man. I'm going to try to keep this -- keep this documentary. Next time, leave, stupid. I don't even think I saved my golf clubs.
There goes your boathouse, Charley. Got your kid's boat underneath it, too, man. Oh, man. There's so much debris out here, man, breaking all the windows out of your house.
There goes your boat. Look at all that crap over there. All your furniture, everything is going to be gone, buddy. Holy mackerel. Man, this place is devastated out here. Whew. A lot of people's treasures floating down the stream here now. Man, this is unbelievable. Whew.
Everybody works their whole life to get something, and then look what happens. God-dog-it, Mother Nature, you're no good. You ever see such a mess, man? God-dog-it, look at all that junk out there. There's your boathouse. It's still there. Maybe we can save that boat.
Everything I own downstairs is gone. Dookie's shop is gone. I don't know what to tell you, buddy. We took a hammering, but you ain't seen nothing yet. Wait a minute until I go out on the back porch.
Look at this mess. Poor old Ray. Man, look at this. There's his boathouse. Good thing he didn't have a boat in there. Look it. All them houses over there, gone. My back porch is gone. God-dog-it, man. Man, when is this thing going to stop? Man, God-dog-it.
There's my neighbor Ray's (ph) boat. I guess the only good thing you can say about this thing, I don't see no floating bodies yet. Maybe mine. I don't know. Boy, look at it come in over there. That's the lake right there. Whew. Big old whitecaps coming in.
I will believe you next time when you tell me to get out. Whew. Never figured it would do this.
I didn't see underneath the house. See, that was his workshop. He had a lathe in there and everything. Oh, my God, man. Oh, Ray (ph). He had a lathe. He all kind of tools, everything a man could want in his workshop. That's all he ever did, was work on stuff and build stuff.
Oh, no. Poor old Ray (ph).
I guess I will be moving out of this neighborhood. Man alive. Ray (ph), my old buddy.
OK. I got pictures for you, Raymond (ph). I don't know what to tell you. Whew. That was a good (INAUDIBLE) Man, you're killing me here. You're killing me. I'm retired. I ain't supposed to be -- I'm on a fixed income here, man. How can I fix this house up again? Look at all this.
A lot of people got hurt this time. My boathouse. It's my boathouse. Holy mackerel, Andy. Unbelievable. Yes. There used to be a boathouse underneath this tree. Yes. That used to be a boathouse.
Man alive. I never even noticed it was missing. Yes. I see water coming out the downstairs, Dookie's workshop -- I mean, barber shop and beautician shop is gone. Uh-oh.
Oh, man, that's all my stuff coming out the door, them sliding glass doors down there. Just seen her TV going out the front door.
Oh, I got to call the cable guy, man. My cable is out. It's going to take five years to clean this mess up. Woo-doggie. All that down there is demolished. Unreal.
Don't mess with Mother Nature. Man.
BLITZER: What amazing video.
Up next, the amazing man who captured this video. He and his lovely wife, they are standing by to tell us what Hurricane Katrina was like in their own words. There they are. We're going to speak to them live. That's coming up.
BLITZER: Welcome back.
You have been seeing it with your own eyes and experiencing Hurricane Katrina just as Kennard Jackley did. The storm survivor kept his home video camera rolling through the rain and the wind and the danger.
Kennard Jackley and his wife, Dookie, are joining us now from Slidell, Louisiana.
Dookie and Kennard -- Kennard, can you hear me OK?
K. JACKLEY: Yes, I can hear you. Can you hear me?
BLITZER: Yes. I hear you fine. Thank you.
DOOKIE JACKLEY, HURRICANE KATRINA SURVIVOR: Yes.
BLITZER: Let's start with you, Kennard.
Tell us -- tell us what it was like, why you decided to, first of all, ride out the storm and keep your video camera rolling.
K. JACKLEY: Well, I just did it for insurance reasons at the beginning. And then I -- I just -- I -- I had stayed for every hurricane so far. So, this -- this didn't really have anything to do with me staying or not. But the thing is, I just wanted to -- I didn't think it would be that bad, to tell you the truth. And -- because the last hurricane I was in, the water, you know, barely got up to the road. So, I really wasn't worried about it.
BLITZER: And this water was coming in from Lake Pontchartrain, as you were there.
At what point did you realize that your life was literally in danger?
K. JACKLEY: Well, I don't know, when it started coming up the front door, I guess.
I mean, I -- when the waves got high and the wind started blowing harder, and -- I don't know. It just -- when the -- when it started coming in the upstairs, I was kind of, you know, worried a little bit.
BLITZER: I got to tell you, Kennard, it was amazing to me to see that you had the -- the ability to keep that camera rolling. How long were you shooting that videotape?
K. JACKLEY: Oh, about two-and-a-half, three hours, I guess.
BLITZER: And then what -- how high was the water when you stopped?
K. JACKLEY: It was coming -- well, like I say, it was -- when I -- it came in the top and then it started to recede, you know? So, I -- then I felt I was pretty well off.
BLITZER: And, Dookie, you had gotten out of town just before the hurricane came in. You were away from Slidell. Is that right?
D. JACKLEY: Yes, Wolf.
I -- I went to my sister. That's where we always evacuate. She lives in Fairview, about 30 minutes north of Dallas.
BLITZER: How long did it take for you...
D. JACKLEY: Our whole...
BLITZER: How long did it take for you to get in touch with your husband, as this hurricane approached Slidell?
D. JACKLEY: Well, he had called me the morning the -- the storm struck, about 7:30 in the morning. The water wasn't in yet, but trees had fallen all around the house and trees had blocked the road.
And, then, I hadn't heard -- I didn't hear from him again until midnight on Wednesday, Wednesday night at midnight. Todd Lewis (ph) of Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries was -- he was my angel. He called me at midnight to let me know that Kennard was alive. BLITZER: Kennard, what did you -- what did you learn from this experience that you lived through and now that we are living through, thanks to your video camera?
K. JACKLEY: Well, I mean, you got to get out of town.
K. JACKLEY: But...
BLITZER: That's the most important lesson you learned.
Well, you didn't learn that lesson before. If another hurricane were to come towards Slidell, you would get out of town?
K. JACKLEY: Well, I really don't know for sure. I probably would stay.
BLITZER: Well, where are you staying now? Is your home livable?
K. JACKLEY: Yes. We're upstairs.
BLITZER: So, the upstairs...
K. JACKLEY: We have got everything back on.
BLITZER: The upstairs is OK. The downstairs, what about the downstairs?
K. JACKLEY: That's her.
D. JACKLEY: Total devastation. Nothing's left. Everything was washed out, everything, even the toilet, the tub, the sinks. Everything's gone. Everything washed away.
BLITZER: Are you going to...
D. JACKLEY: Freezers, refrigerators, washers, dryers.
D. JACKLEY: It just...
BLITZER: Are you going to be able...
D. JACKLEY: ... all washed out in the surge.
BLITZER: Are you going to be able to rebuild it?
K. JACKLEY: Well, I don't know. We are probably...
D. JACKLEY: That's a tough one.
K. JACKLEY: That's a tough question. I -- I hope we can. But...
D. JACKLEY: It has to do with insurance.
K. JACKLEY: Yes.
D. JACKLEY: It all has to do with insurance.
BLITZER: Well, is the insurance helping?
D. JACKLEY: Not really. Not really.
We called in -- I -- we spoke to a private adjuster today with Card Associates (ph), a guy named Ken (ph). And he was very nice. And he flat told us that our insurance company is ripping us off. They're ripping us off.
BLITZER: We got a statement. We got a statement.
D. JACKLEY: He -- he named a number of things.
BLITZER: We got a statement, by the way, from your insurance company.
I will just read it: "Due to our privacy guidelines, it would be inappropriate for me to discuss the details of the situation, other than to say that the claim is still open, and we are committed to meeting all of our obligations to the policy."
Let's hope that you guys can get some money and rebuild your lives, rebuild your homes.
D. JACKLEY: Yes.
BLITZER: It's a remarkable story. And the -- the devastating, the devastating images were really incredible.
Kennard, what's next for you?
K. JACKLEY: Well, I guess I will go to Disneyland.
BLITZER: You know what? The -- the nice thing about that videotape that most of -- that our viewers now shared, you had a great sense of humor, even as this awesome tragedy was unfolding.
BLITZER: You still have a great sense of humor. And we want to wish both of you lots of luck.
D. JACKLEY: Yes.
BLITZER: Kennard Jackley and, Dookie, thanks to you as well.
D. JACKLEY: Thank you.
BLITZER: A beautiful couple. And we will share more moments down the road.
Good luck to you and good luck to everyone...
D. JACKLEY: OK.
BLITZER: ... who survived this hurricane.
D. JACKLEY: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you very much.
D. JACKLEY: Thank you.
K. JACKLEY: OK.
BLITZER: And -- and...
D. JACKLEY: Happy holidays.
BLITZER: And let me give you a merry Christmas and a happy new year.
D. JACKLEY: You, too. And...
K. JACKLEY: And to the rest of world.
D. JACKLEY: And you know what? Thanks for talking to that insurance company. That sounded promising.
BLITZER: Well, let's see if they live up to it.
D. JACKLEY: That sounded great.
BLITZER: Thanks very much to both of you.
D. JACKLEY: Yes.
BLITZER: Up next, more of the awesome forces of hurricanes. We're going to bring in our CNN severe weather expert, Chad Myers. What do we have on tap in the new year?
And Wal-Mart, jurors say it wouldn't let thousands of employees take lunch breaks. And they ordered the retailing giant to pay, literally, millions and millions of dollars. We are going to update you on what's going on.
BLITZER: We want to assess a little bit more of that amazing Hurricane Katrina video we have been showing you this hour, captured in Louisiana.
Let's bring in CNN meteorologist, our severe weather expert, Chad Myers. He's at the CNN Weather Center. And Tom Foreman, he is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Chad, first to you.
Slidell, it -- it was pretty amazing stuff.
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It truly was, Wolf.
And -- and to think about now where Slidell is and where it was in the storm, the storm was actually east of Slidell, but the water was pouring into Lake Pontchartrain because the wind was pushing it that way. Lake Pontchartrain was filling up. And when it filled up down there in New Orleans, we always know -- we know what happened to the levees there.
But the water to the east of Slidell was even higher. So, what we saw there from Jackley's video there, from Kennard's video, eight- to 12-foot storm surge, where, to the east, into Bay Saint Louis and Waveland, 12- to 20-foot storm surge there. And that was just east of where the eye went in, rather than west of where the eye went in.
And maybe that's why we didn't get any video from those places, because, really, no one survived long enough to get that video to us.
But I tell you what. He needs to get out of the next storm, without a doubt. And I think he will probably think better of it, staying next time.
BLITZER: I think you're right.
Tom Foreman, that was just one story we saw. Multiply that by literally tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, exactly.
And so many people have focused on New Orleans, because that's the big city and all. But look at this. This is Katrina's path. And let's go into Slidell, which is exactly -- we are going to show you where Kennard and Dookie live.
This is the path of the storm. You move into Slidell and this is what you're talking about. They're in this waterfront community here. You can see it quite easily when you travel around that area, when you know the area well.
Where his house was, the place we have been watching all of these pictures from, is right up in here. So, you see, it's clustered down on the water. Well, how much damage happened here? Boy, take a look at this. We come out here, a little bit wider. And I'm going to show you in the process here, look at the damage.
This is before the storm. That's after the storm. That's his neighborhood before the storm and after the storm. That's what happened in the neighborhood where Kennard and Dookie lived. And you get an idea of why it was so bad on Carr (ph) Drive that day, when he took those amazing pictures.
BLITZER: Totally amazing.
Tom, thank you very much.
Jacki Schechner is following this online as well -- Jacki.
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Well, if you want to take a look at how Slidell is doing now, you can do that via the Internet -- huge resources online during the storm -- now stories of recovery and rebuilding.
The city of Slidell's Web site is very comprehensive. They have a rotating slide show of photographs. And then there's video testimonials of people from the area talking about rebuilding, getting back into it, what they're going through now.
If we can pull up that audio a little bit, you might be able to -- to actually take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We definitely thought about picking up and leaving. We -- we -- we have a concern on how the community is going to rebuild.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHECHNER: Great stories of recovery, rebuilding, reconstruction, but wonderful spirits -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jacki, thank you very much.
Amazing, amazing video that we have been showing our viewers this hour.
Turning now to a legal defeat for Wal-Mart, in the name of workers who say the retailing giant denied them lunch breaks.
Chris Lawrence has the "Bottom Line" -- Chris.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a jury up in Oakland, California, decided that Wal-Mart must pay $172 million in damages.
A lawyer for the plaintiff said, you can't come into the state of California and break its laws. And it is a law here that, if you work at least six hours, employers must give you a 30-minute paid lunch break. The plaintiff's lawyers accuse Wal-Mart of under-staffing its stores and said they denied workers their meal breaks or did not compensate them for giving it up.
Wal-Mart says it is in 100 percent compliance with the law and plans to appeal this ruling. The company said most workers had agreed to waive their meal periods, and it already gave some workers their penalty pay. But this case is really just part of a bigger fight, as critics pressure Wal-Mart to increase its workers pay and provide them more benefits -- Wolf. BLITZER: Chris Lawrence, with the latest on Wal-Mart and its legal problems -- Chris, thanks very much.
Still ahead, a special family -- family memory, a gift you will never forget. What's the best Christmas you have ever had? Jack Cafferty has been going through your e-mail. Stick around.
BLITZER: Let's go up to Jack Cafferty in New York.
You -- you were watching that amazing video with us, Jack...
CAFFERTY: Indeed, I was.
BLITZER: ... and our viewers. It was pretty incredible, wasn't it?
That's a nightmare that I'm sure those folks are glad is long since over.
Three days to go now before Christmas, and the question is, what's the very best Christmas you ever had?
Cheryl in Tecumseh, Michigan wrote: "I'm 58 years old. I was 6 when Santa left me a pair of sidewalk roller skates, the kind that strapped on to your shoes. It was my best Christmas because it was the last Christmas that my parents were together. They were divorced after that. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. A child never gets over his parents' divorce."
On a happier note, Norma in Roseburg, Oregon, writes: "Jack, my daughter was born late on December the 22nd. Early Christmas morning, the nurses brought her to me wearing a red knit cap tied with a bell, also a small log with a red candle in it. I still have those and they are part of my Christmas each year. My daughter has teenage children of her own now, but that was my most precious Christmas."
Bob writes from Louisville, Kentucky: "The best Christmas I ever had was in 1955. I was a member of a small Army security detachment in Luebeck, Germany, on the border between East and West Germany. We decided to throw a Christmas party for children whose families escaped from East Germany and living in a displaced persons camp.
"I had the honor of being Santa. Each kid would sing a little song or recite a poem before receiving their gift. I noticed that one little girl didn't open her gift and asked her, through a translator, why she didn't open the gift. She said that the wrapped gift was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. And she wanted her mother, who was sick back at the camp, to see it before she unwrapped it. The party ended with the kids and a bunch of teary-eyed G.I.s, 3,000 miles from home, standing around the Christmas tree singing 'Stille Nacht,' 'Silent Night.'"
BLITZER: Nice story, indeed.
CAFFERTY: Good stuff.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jack.
BLITZER: Excellent stuff.
I will see you tomorrow here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
CAFFERTY: All right.
BLITZER: And, also tomorrow, a very special conversation. CNN contributor and columnist Robert Novak will join us here in THE SITUATION ROOM for his final interview on CNN. We will discuss a wide range of issues, including that CIA leak investigation.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"PAULA ZAHN NOW" starts right now.
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