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Hurricane Dean Strikes Jamaica; Oklahoma Flood Rescue; Rove to Leave White House Staff

Aired August 19, 2007 - 19:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: You want to talk about a dramatic rescue take a look at this. Hearts were pounding as this woman was plucked from Oklahoma floodwaters. We all watched in horror as she lost her grip and fell right back in. We've been watching video like this literally all day.
This man was trapped on his rooftop when his rescue came by way of boat. From helicopters to boats, even jet skis, whatever it takes. People in Oklahoma were desperate to escape the floodwaters. All remnants of Tropical Storm Erin.

But you can't blame Erin for this. A no-named storm caused a massive mud slide in Wisconsin strong enough to move a house. So where's Hurricane Dean? Yeah, good question. Brushing up against Jamaica's southern coast. At this very hour, we will take you there live. In the CNN NEWSROOM.

Wow. Good evening, everyone. I'm Tony Harris. Meteorologist Jacqui Jeras joins me in just a moment. There she is, in the CNN Hurricane Headquarters. Jacqui, we have a busy night ahead.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: That's right. We sure do. From the Caribbean to the U.S. Midwest, extreme weather is our top story tonight.

HARRIS: And Jacqui will give us an update on Hurricane Dean in just a couple of moments. But we begin this hour in central Oklahoma. Just look at these pictures. Major flooding in Oklahoma. There have been two confirmed deaths, and at least a couple of people are still missing. All day long people have been coping with swamped homes, power outages, even oil spills. But they're also stepping up in amazing ways to help out in some really dramatic rescues. Civilians launching their own jet skis and boats to get friends, neighbors and even strangers to safety.

And these are pictures that kept us glued to our screens today. The two separate air lifts of a couple who escaped a sinking pickup truck. This chopper from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol manages to pick the woman up first, and tries to fly her about a half mile to higher ground, but she just cannot hang on as you can see here and she splashes into the water. But it turns out okay. The rescuers swing back around and pick her up.

After she's safe, they go back for the gentleman. And can you believe it? It is airborne deja vu. He falls from the chopper, but is scooped up and taken to a safe location. And we have got some new pictures for you out of Seminole, Oklahoma, about 100 miles east of Kingfisher. Rescues by any means necessary. We've got people on jet skis. We'll get to these pictures in just a moment. And flat-bottom boats, on air boats, working together to ensure everyone is safe.

Well, a different storm system rained down on Minnesota overnight. Swelling rivers and creeks and washing out roads. At least four people died in the flooding, two of them when their car fell into a 30 foot deep pit of water. Several dozen people had to be evacuated from their homes. And officials are still worried about low-lying areas. More rain is forecast for tonight. And tomorrow.

And to the east, in Wisconsin, the storm dropped 10 to 12 inches of rain in some places. A state of emergency has been declared in at least three counties where roads and bridges have been washed out. A train derailed in a giant mudslide, even pushed a house onto a highway, if you can believe it. Fortunately, no deaths or injuries have been reported. Unfortunately several more inches of rain are possible tonight.

To sum all of this up. And to take a look into the future for us, Jacqui Jeras in the severe weather center. Jacqui, where do you want to start?

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, let's start in Oklahoma and we'll work our way to Minnesota and will hit Dean later on in the hour and we'll give you the latest information on that. This is a 12-hour radar loop, to show you the incredible amount of rain that moved through the Oklahoma City area. And Kingfisher, which is just to the north and west of there. Doppler radar is estimating between five and 11 inches fell overnight and into the early morning hours. And when all that comes in a short period of time, and those rivers swell on up and come out of their banks.

In fact, we're about an hour or so away from the river cresting in the Kingfisher Creek, which has already flooded much of the town. It could potentially bring in -- covering up 50 city blocks, if this crests where they're expecting it to, near record levels around 28 feet.

Now, this is from what's left of Tropical Depression Erin. Here's where the worst of the conditions are now. This thunderstorm pushing towards Muskogee. Could bring 35, 45-mile-per-hour gusts or so associated with that one.

It's weakening now, so the flood threat is diminishing a little built, but still a concern that we could see a few inches per hour. So that could aggravate a situation. There you can see all the way spreading on up into Missouri as we're expecting that to be tracking up to the north and to the east. Now that system completely different from what's going on up to the north into Minnesota.

We're looking at heavy rainfall with a system that's been kind of stalled out there. Very active jet stream. So it just brings in storm after storm after storm. And here we go with more rain from Makingo (ph) over towards Rochester, and here's Wynona, where the cars went off the road, in that area, flash flood watches are in effect here for you, too, as we can see another one to two inches of rain. And that rain's going to be spreading across the Ohio Valley, too, Tony. Check this out. Watches over to Cleveland where we're very concerned about the Ohio Valley midweek, because what's left of Erin could kind of hook up with this system and really enhance the rainfall.

HARRIS: Look what is going on on that map. Jacqui, appreciate it and I guess you'll be back later and maybe you'll give us an update on Hurricane Dean. Jacqui Jeras in the severe weather center for us.

Reporter Rosa Flores of our affiliate KWTV has been following the day's developments. And she joins us live from flooded Kingfisher, Oklahoma. Rosa, good to see you. Do you still have people out there unaccounted for this evening?

ROSA FLORES, KWTV CORRESPONDENT: Well, they actually have what rescue crews are doing at this point, they're going door to door to make sure every home is accounted for and every person is accounted for. Now you were just talking about that amazing rescue over water. I just talked to the two pilots who made that rescue, and they tell me that they are not trained to make these rescues, but they had to make split-second decisions.

And just as our hearts stopped, we all remember that moment when that woman slipped off the skids of the chopper. They said that they had to make those split-second decisions. They had to act fast. And of course, we know that that couple is fine. I just talked to authorities here, and they tell me they are safe at home, actually. But that's not the case for about 50 other people. There's a shelter set up by Red Cross, and there's 50 people in there. I just talked to the Red Cross workers, and they tell me that there's this eerie silence there. People are not talking, they're not saying anything. But then again, they don't what to expect. They don't know what's next. So that is kind of expected.

But again, what's going on now is rescue teams are actually going door to door to make sure that everyone is accounted for.

HARRIS: Wow. Rosa, just curious of a couple of notes. Folks in the area, rescue officials, local authorities, do they feel like they had ample time to make the preparations for this event, and I don't know if they expected to be as severe as it has turned out to be?

FLORES: Well, the water started rising very fast. I did talk to officials, they tell me that they sent out what they call a computer tree, a telephone computer tree this morning at about 9:00. What that is, it's this computer message that goes out to all the phones in this area. Now, some people got that message, other people did not. People were probably asleep at that time. And of course, those are the rescues that are going on now.

So they do tell me that the water started rising very fast, from talking to residents they say they didn't have time to get any of their belongings. They pretty much ran to safety.

HARRIS: Man. Rosa Flores for us. Rosa, great work all day. Rosa, thank you. More weather worries to tell you about straight ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM. Hurricane Dean hops the Caribbean islands. Scraping Jamaica as we speak. Susan Candiotti is there for us. Good evening, Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Tony. Things are starting to whip up here in Montego Bay, but they are not as severe conditions as they are in Kingston, where they are really taking a pounding. And authorities are on the scene of a house rescue. I'll tell you more about it, Tony. Back to you.

HARRIS: All right. Susan, we'll get back to you in just a couple of minutes. And the video of the day, a rough but successful rescue in Oklahoma. You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.


HARRIS: So, Hurricane Dean making a deadly track across the Caribbean. The monster storm already blamed for at least seven deaths. It is lashing southern Jamaica. Our Susan Candiotti is on the northern part of the island in Montego Bay. And Susan, we can see behind you, and we can see, by the way the wind is blowing you around a little bit, that the event is under way.

CANDIOTTI: Well, Tony, things are starting to get whipped up here on the north end of the island in Montego Bay. But so far, it's been very dry, actually, throughout the day. We do expect things to change over the next few hours. We are told that we can expect Category 1 force wind gusts. That would be anywhere up to 95 miles per hour. And so we were out and about taking a walk around to see how things were looking down on the beach, down on the street, and certainly waves are starting to get higher and higher, as we are seeing some white caps here. Very few cars, but occasionally you do still see them out on the street, unbelievably. And even some children out playing in the middle of the street.

Now, it is a much, much different story in Kingston, where at this hour they are really taking a pounding. I just got off the phone with the country's head of disaster preparedness and he tells me right now they're on the scene of a house that collapsed. There are injuries. They're in the middle of a rescue right now, but they don't know how many people are involved, or how serious those injuries are.

On top of that, another building has collapsed, crumbling under the pounding that they're taking from Hurricane Dean. Several roads on the eastern and southern end are blocked. We're having some difficulty with communications as well.

They have also cut off, as they had planned to do, Jamaica's power supply in order to preserve the power grid. And in other parts of the island, the water supply has also been shut down as a precaution.

More people, the government is happy to report, are taking advantage of the shelters that have been set up around the island. The numbers now up to 3,000 people. And they are expecting that if things go as they think they will, that the storm may pass the island entirely over the course of the next four to five hours. Finally, Tony, I am told that tonight they are already working on mopping up plans that will have to start at day break tomorrow. Back to you.

HARRIS: All right. Our Susan Candiotti, Montego Bay, Jamaica this evening. Dean is eyeing its next target, Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. If it hits there, it could be a brutal Category 5, the worst there is. Authorities are trying to get as many people out of harm's way as they can. Our Gary Tuchman reports from Cancun.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here in the Yucatan Peninsula this may be the last day for a long time that we don't see main wind or damage. A beautiful day here for the tourists. Lots of people on the beach. But also lots of people trying to get out on flights before this hurricane arrives. We arrived early in the morning here in Cancun. The plane was only about a quarter full. We got into the airport, everybody was heading in the other direction trying to get out. But there's certainly not enough flights and tens of thousands of tourists are still here, and what could be a Category 5 hurricane is on its way.

They've had some serious hurricanes hit the Yucatan Peninsula before. Just two years ago, Hurricane Wilma, a Category 4 hit, caused immense property damage here. Many hotels closed for months. Also caused loss of life. In 1988, though, a hurricane many measure hurricanes by was Gilbert, a Category 5 that hit here. Two hundred twenty-five people were killed in Mexico from that hurricane. They know hurricanes. They plan for it. They've taken preemptive measures. The huge light poles that line the roads along the Cancun area, many of them have been taken down. It's a lot of work to take them down, but they don't want them to come down in the wind and hurt somebody when the winds roar in.

Also billboards have also been taken down in order to prevent people from getting hurt. I'll tell you, just in Japan this summer on vacation when a typhoon bored in, and I was stunned by how little preparation the Japanese took. That's not the case here. Everyone is boarding up.

This is Gary Tuchman, CNN, Cancun, Mexico.


HARRIS: OK. Let's quickly get you to Jacqui Jeras now in the severe weather center, your hurricane headquarters. Jacqui, let's talk about Dean. The track and intensity of this storm.

JERAS: Just incredibly intense right now. It is bearing down on the southern tip of Jamaica as we speak. It's a Category 4 storm, 145- mile-per-hour maximum sustained winds. But you could see wind gusts beyond that. I'll get you a close-up satellite imagery. And look how big the eye is. You can see it is so close to the southern tip. It's almost scraping it as we speak. And I want to show you a radar image that we have out of Cuba from the meteorology department there. It's kind of far away but it shows you that the outer eye wall is just scraping Portland Point.

And so this is where the worst winds in the storm are. They very well could be seeing 140-mile-per-hour winds at times out here on the point. So a very dangerous extreme situation. Kingston is right over here. And we were seeing reports two hours ago at 81 miles per hour in Kingston.

However, we haven't gotten any reports in the last two hours, so that is very likely unfortunately probably out. So we may not get any more observations over the next couple of hours.

Here's the forecast track, moving westward, slightly northwesterly, as a Category 4 intensifying before it heads towards the Yucatan. That will happen Monday night into Tuesday morning and head into the Bay of Campeche.


HARRIS: All right, Jacqui, appreciate it. Thank you.

With uncertain hours ahead oil companies aren't taking any chances with Hurricane Dean. They're preparing for the unexpected. Evacuating oil rigs off the Texas coast, although Dean's projected path, as you just heard from Jacqui, puts northern Mexico in the cross hairs. Any shift, wobble, or turn northward could have put many oil crews at risk.


PERRY NELSON, HALLIBURTON ENERGY SERVICES: Weather is going to deteriorate pretty rapidly once the hurricane gets across the Yucatan. The rig I was on, right in line with it. So it's going to be terrible, I think.

VINCENT DUMLAO, PETROBRAS: We were evacuated twice this week. First from the Tropical Depression Erin, whatnot. And this is the time for the big one. It's been a long week of helicopter rides and scenic tours of south Texas. So, you know, safety is number one.


HARRIS: Safety's number one. We will be watching financial markets tomorrow to see how the evacuations impact oil and gas prices. And still ahead, dramatic rescue pictures out of Oklahoma, and authorities dealing with the risks that come with them. A live report coming up. And I will talk to an American tourist in Jamaica who told me yesterday. He's actually looking forward to his first storm. Oh, really? Well, he got what he wished for. We'll check in with him, straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: Well, Jamaica isn't exactly postcard perfect right now as Hurricane Dean misses the island with its Category 4 winds. Tourists seem to be the few heading, at least heeding the calls to evacuate. One American tourist who isn't evacuating, New Jersey's Ed Romaine. What is he thinking? Here's what he told me last night.


HARRIS: Have you ever been in a hurricane before?

ED ROMAINE, TOURIST IN JAMAICA (on phone): No. Looking forward to my first. I have absolutely no doubt in the world we'll be sitting in there playing pool, drinking mojitos and watching the wind go by.


HARRIS: Are you kidding me? Well, we know he's got the wind, but what about the drinks? Let's follow up with Ed right now. He is joining us by phone from Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Ed, any second thoughts about riding this storm out?

ROMAINE: No. There's plenty of mojitos, not a problem. We're actually sitting in here right now shooting pool, drinking mojiots, watching the turf that's absolutely pound up outside. Trees are falling. The wind is blowing. Hey, welcome to Jamaica.

HARRIS: So, Ed, wait a minute. Are you at least a bit worried? This is your first storm. You don't know what to expect.

ROMAINE: You'd have to have a sense of intelligence to actually have fear. It is really easy. It's a good time.

HARRIS: And you're saying you don't?

ROMAINE: We're just watching the trees fall down. You're OK.

HARRIS: So all right. Ed, tell us where you are. You're clearly in a hotel where you feel you're safe. How many people, it sounds like you have a bit of a party going on there. How many people are with you?

ROMAINE: We're at the World Plantation down here, there's probably about 25, 35 couples, I'd say, some with families. Some just couples.

HARRIS: So what is the location doing for you outside of providing the alcohol, obviously, and maybe a pool table or two? What are the officials there saying to you in terms of real preparations that perhaps you should be thinking about?

ROMAINE: Well, the staff here did all the preparation. They guide us around and tell us, OK, you're going to go here. They have a safe room. A safe building, so to speak. No windows. Solid concrete walls. We've been in there. We've been watching movies. They set up a bar, set up the food. They're the people who are going back and forth throughout the storm. The tourists, we're just -- we're having a good time.

HARRIS: All right. Ed Romaine from New Jersey, having a good time with mojitos and pool, with a room full of friends. OK. Talk to me after you -- he'll be back at 10:00. All right, Ed, you'll be back at 10:00 with us. We'll talk to you then.

Still to come, in the NEWSROOM this evening, remnants of Tropical Storm Erin. Take a look at one of the most dramatic scenes today. Rescue teams don't give up after a flood victim falls from a helicopter. The story next. And attention I-Reporters. Hit us with your bet shots. We've got some great Dean pictures from you. We will share some here in the NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: Deadly weather is topping the news. Flooding has struck central Oklahoma in the rural town of Kingfisher. Emergency teams are busy along the rain-swollen Cimarron River. In one case a victim lost her grip during a helicopter rescue. Moments later she was plucked from the water again. And finally flown to safety.

Floods are plaguing parts of the Upper Midwest. In Minnesota, for example, six southern counties are under states of emergency. At least four people have died. Hundreds have been evacuated. Now the National Guard is moving in.

In the Caribbean, the eye of Hurricane Dean is passing south of Jamaica. The latest pictures from Kingston show the city is raked by damaging winds and sheets of pounding rain. Dean is being blamed for at least seven deaths along its path through the Caribbean. It is expected to hit Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula as early as tomorrow evening.

More of our continuing coverage of Hurricane Dean in just a moment. But we have severe weather here in the U.S. to tell you about. Just look at what's been going on in Oklahoma today. This complements what was left from Tropical Storm Erin. Plenty to cause heartache, hardship for thousands.

There have been at least two confirmed deaths and a number of people reported missing and a compelling set of pictures here. Rescues have been nothing short of phenomenal from emergency management teams, to everyday people and neighbors helping out those in need.

The best rescues now, this being the most harrowing of the day. A storm victim losing her grip on this helicopter's landing skids. Luckily the chopper pilot was able to quickly turn around and ferry her to safety. Take a look at this.

Then there was this flood victim. Apparently barely conscious, or in some state of distress. A rescuer helps hoist him up to the point to where he can be transported out of harm's way successfully. We would like to thank KWTV in Oklahoma City and KOTV in Tulsa for their great aerial coverage of the story today.

Authorities certainly have their hands full dealing with all of the rescues, and the risks. On the line now with an update, Captain Chris West of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. Boy, captain, tell us about this day. The response of your teams. It has been quite an event to watch from this perch here.

CAPTAIN CHRIS WEST, OKLAHOMA HIGHWAY PATROL: Yeah, well, this all started about 2:30 this morning. We had that tropical system come in, and we had a bunch of tornado sirens going off across Oklahoma. Of course, the rain came down. That system just kind of hovered over us for about six hours. At one point Interstate 40 west of Oklahoma City was shut down for about six hours because we had two to three feet of water coming across it. The next thing we know, all these - (inaudible) that had fallen in these agricultural areas, hit these tributaries and creeks, and the next thing you know we had major flooding in some of our communities.

HARRIS: And Captain West, when did you start receiving the calls and when did you understand that you had a significant event and that you would need to mobilize teams for significant rescue efforts.

WEST: I think probably 9:30, 10:00 this morning, we started seeing the aftereffects of all the rain coming in. And there was requests for support from our aircraft division and some of the other areas, like our lake patrol section, with their air boats at least in Kingfisher County to help out. Thank goodness we were able to make rescues with our helicopters. Also able to use some of our air boats and pulled people from isolated farms that their houses had actually begun to flood. But it's been a really busy day.

HARRIS: Yeah. Are you in a situation now where you're really sort of getting the upper hand on this? For example, has the water started to recede a bit? Can you get some of these roads opened or is that going to take a while?

WEST: You know, U.S. 81, which is a major roadway running north to south in the state and it runs right through Kingfisher, I was here about 10:30, 11:00 this morning, it was over 25 feet, the creek was, Kingfisher Creek. They said that was the highest it had ever been. They expected it to crest at 6:00 tonight. But I think it actually crested between 2:00 and 3:00. And it's already begun to recede. So probably, hopefully tomorrow morning, 81 will be open again.

You know, then we're going to be dealing with the aftereffects of this thing. There's a lot of damage, not only to homes and businesses and automobiles, but to these agricultural areas. We have a lot of roadways that are going to be damaged from this. There's going to be a lot of debris that floated in to roadways.

And you know, road crews are going to have to get out and clear those. And of course, people are going to have to start dealing as far rebuilding their homes and businesses. So this is, you know, the response and rescue part of this thing is kind of winding down. And tomorrow we'll probably go into another mode where it's kind of like recovery.

HARRIS: Captain Chris West of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. Captain, it's great to talk to you. Thanks for your time this evening.

WEST: Take care.

HARRIS: And to the east in Wisconsin, a storm dropped 10 to 12 inches of rain in some places. A state of emergency has been declared in at least three counties where roads and bridges have been washed out. A train derailed. And a giant mud slide pushed a house onto a high way. Fortunately no deaths or injuries have been reported. Unfortunately several more inches of rain are possible tonight.

ANNOUNCER: CNN, your hurricane headquarters.

HARRIS: We talked about Ed Romaine earlier. He's definitely not the only tourist riding this storm out in Jamaica. So what are the hotels doing to keep their guests safe? Joining us now by phone from Kingston, Nicola Madden-Greig from the Jamaica Hotel Association, Nicola, thanks for your time this evening.


HARRIS: Hey, do you feel like you're ready for this?

MADDEN-GREIG: Well, we're passed ready now and we're now going through what I think is the more severe possibly storm. So our guests are hunkered down, going through dinner service at the moment and everything is as it should be in terms of preparedness.

HARRIS: So, Nicola, talk to us about the plan for the hotel and the guests there. Do you move everyone to ballrooms to ride it out? What do you have, food, music? Are there any distractions?

MADDEN-GREIG: Movies, entertainment, everything to keep everybody relaxed and feeling comfortable. And yes, we have to move everyone to one central area so that we can keep tabs on all our guests, make sure everybody is safe and comfortable.

So, so far people are just enjoying each other's company as we ride out this storm.

HARRIS: What are you most concerned about this evening? So you've got a plan, but every plan has some vulnerabilities. So what are you most concerned about this evening?

MADDEN-GREIG: Well, of course, we're watching the intensity of the winds and we will continue to monitor that. But where we have everyone at the moment is very safe, very battened up, and everyone is just relaxing. So we continue to monitor the wind intensity.

HARRIS: And last question, Nicola, so you ride out this storm. How stocked are you? There is the storm and then there's the aftermath, and that period of time you'll need supplies ...

MADDEN-GREIG: Well, we have full emergency facilities. Most of the hotels do in terms of generators, water. We have been preparing from about Tuesday of this week. So pretty much everything is up to stock. We have supplies that can last quite a while. Food supplies. We are doing suite buffet service this evening. So we are more than prepared.

HARRIS: Nicola Madden-Greig from the Jamaica Hotel Association. Nicola, thanks for your time. Appreciate it.

MADDEN-GREIG: OK, then. Take care.

HARRIS: Airlines in Cancun, Mexico, are hustling today trying to get tens of thousands of tourists out of Hurricane Dean's path. Dozens of flights have been added. The monster storm could increase its fury before it reaches the Yucatan Peninsula Tuesday. Our Harris Whitbeck is in Cancun.

HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Cancun International Airport, extremely busy on this Sunday. According to local authorities, 60,000 foreign nationals are hoping to get out of here before Hurricane Dean arrives. Some 28,000 still remain in the area.

Airport officials say at least a dozen additional flights arrived in Cancun. Those planes arrived from Mexico City, Canada and the United States. They arrived empty and are leaving completely full.

The airport officials say that the airport will remain open as long as possible. That could be as late as Monday afternoon. Meanwhile, authorities are positioning federal troops, medical teams and reconstruction teams in the area around Cancun to react to whatever Hurricane Dean might bring.

The last time a major hurricane hit this area was two years ago, Hurricane Wilma, after that hurricane hit there was massive looting in the city of Cancun. The government is putting federal troops here to prevent that.

Harris Whitbeck, CNN, Cancun.

HARRIS: We're going to try to work in another story here. Tough to break through on a day like today. Karl Rove says good-bye to the president. What sort of legacy does he leave.

And back to the storm, in case you missed what we think is the best story of the day, the Oklahoma rescue. We'll have that for you when we come back.



ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The housing market takes center stage again this week when the number for new home sales are released on Friday. Brace yourselves because the last few weeks have seen foreclosures skyrocket, home prices fall and the recovery forecast have been scaled back. We'll keep an eye out this week for the fallout in the financial market from the mortgage sector meltdown.

Last week Countrywide Financial, the nation's number one writer of mortgage loans took out an $11.5 billion line of credit to keep its business running, helping to send Wall Street into a temporary tailspin. According to the new figures from Zip Realty, the nationwide housing glut has grown in the past year. Seattle's housing inventory, for instance, had the highest jump, up 56 percent in the last 12 months. Some other big increases were recorded in Miami, Orlando and Las Vegas. The mortgage crisis affecting retail sales, too. Home Depot, the world's largest home improvement chain, said weakness in the housing market is causing its quarterly profit to slip almost 15 percent. All right. Let's finish with some good news this week. Lower gas prices. According to the Lundberg survey, gas prices peaked nationwide in mid-May when the average was $3.18 per gallon. Since then, prices have dropped about 40 cents. But it might not last too long if consumer demand increases.

Well, if you want more of this sorted of thing, watch me on "Minding Your Business" each weekday morning on AMERICAN MORNING. That's it from New York. I'm Ali Velshi.



HARRIS: He is one of the most well-known political figures, even though he rarely gives TV interviews. Well, now Karl Rove is breaking that silence and speaking out on the Sunday morning talk shows. And he did a lot of talking about his upcoming resignation, his boss' legacy and the 2008 election. Here's CNN White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Despite President Bush's dismal approval ratings and his party's weakened state, the president's top political strategist Karl Rove leaves defiant.

KARL ROVE, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF: He's got 17 months to get a lot of things done and he'll be using every lever available to the president to get things done right up to the end.

MALVEAUX: In a rare admission, Rove acknowledged his end comes without having met his primary goal, establishing Republican dominance.

ROVE: Is the Republican Party a little bit behind the curve? You bet.

MALVEAUX: But don't blame him for that, he insists. Rove rejected the notion it was his politics of divide and conquer that led to the failure in getting key legislation passed.

ROVE: There's some Democrats who never accepted him as president after 2000. And there's some Democrats who said, you know, the right path for their party was to obstruct him no matter what.

MALVEAUX: Rove maintained the foreign policy on Iraq was also sound.

ROVE: Look, was everything done perfectly? No. But was it the right thing to do? You bet.

MALVEAUX: Rove defended his strategy of using the war as a wedge campaign issue for 2004 and 2006 to paint Democrats weak on national security.

ROVE: And I defended every step of the way. MALVEAUX: Rove was also unapologetic about his role in leaking the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame. Rove said the president never admonished him for the leak nor was he criminally charged.

ROVE: I acted in an appropriate manner, made all the appropriate individuals aware of my contact.

MALVEAUX: While Rove says he will have no official role in any campaign, he's already impacting the debate by going after the front- runner Senator Hillary Clinton.

ROVE: She enters the primary season with the highest negatives of any front-runner.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I find it interesting he's so obsessed with me.

MALVEAUX: So does Rove have any regrets? He calls this one his worst moment in Washington. His rap at a dinner with Washington journalists.

ROVE: I had no choice. I was plucked out of the crowd. If you thought I wanted to -- I'm Norwegian. I don't dance. That's twitching.

MALVEAUX (on camera): Rove joked when he got offstage the president said, you're fired. Now not fired, but soon gone. Rove says that he will help shape the president's legacy, and no doubt he'll face a rich and controversial legacy himself. Suzanne Malveaux, CNN, Crawford, Texas.


HARRIS: MC Rove. OK. The man known as Bush's brain leaves the White House, while possible presidential candidate Fred Thompson finally arrives in Iowa. Still no formal announcement he's running. What's he thinking here? Just another wild week of politics. And we want to hear what's buzzing on the blogs from the left and right. On the left, Ann Friedman from the blog, and on the right, La Shawn Barber from the blog La Shawn Barber's Corner. Ladies, good to see you.

ANN FRIEDMAN, FEMINISTING.COM: Thanks for having us.

HARRIS: Who wants to see Karl Rove -- I don't know, who wants to see Karl Rove on a media blitz? Lashawn, were you happy to see Karl Rove out there defending the administration's policy every step of the way?

LA SHAWN BARBER, LASHAWNBARBER.COM: Actually, I'm not a big fan of Karl Rove.

HARRIS: Well, there's news.

BARBER: I am not your typical Republican voter here. I am not a Republican. I describe myself as an independent conservative. And I soured on Karl Rove ... HARRIS: What's the distinction here?

BARBER: Well, I'm not a member of either political party. I'm an independent conservative, very socially conservative person. I am against issues like abortion, homosexual marriage. I'm staunchly pro- immigration enforcement. And, you know, Republicans just happen to be candidates who support these things.

HARRIS: All right. I sort of took us off the path there just a little bit. So you're not a fan of Karl Rove. Ann, let me turn it to you, what did you think of the media blitz from Karl Rove?

FRIEDMAN: Rove has got this almost mythic status among progressives, as an evil genius.

HARRIS: Well, also, as being flat-out brilliant, right?

FRIEDMAN: Well, maybe. I think that was the short-term conventional wisdom. But you know, when you look at the midterm election results and when you look at scandal after scandal after scandal and you look how '08 is shaping up, maybe the genius part of that isn't so true.

HARRIS: So La Shawn, did you watch his performance on the talk shows today?

BARBER: I read some of the sound bites. I watched some of the clips. I know that he repeated what he said about Hillary Clinton. He said that her record on health care was sloppy. And she was fatally flawed in that she has negative numbers.

HARRIS: Did it bother you at any point in at least the one interview that I watched today he didn't seem to acknowledge in defending the administration's policy in Iraq, didn't seem to acknowledge the human toll that this war has taken. Not only on U.S. service personnel, but Iraqis.

BARBER: Well, you know, that's war. The fact that Karl Rove ...

HARRIS: You can acknowledge it, can't you?

BARBER: Well, yes. I can acknowledge it, definitely.

HARRIS: You can be human about it, can't you?

BARBER: But why he chose not to acknowledge it today on the talk shows, that's something that only he can answer. I did notice that he was quite evasive in some of his responses. As I said, I'm not really a Karl Rove fan. He and Bush lost me quite some time ago on this immigration non-enforcement stuff. But he's leaving. Ostensibly to spend more time with his family. How sweet.


BARBER: He's under investigation, so that's the reason he's leaving. And he has a lot to answer for. I'm sure that the journalists are going to hound him until they get their answers. HARRIS: Well, Ann, I'm going to get you in here in a second. Let me ask one more of La Shawn. Let's turn a bit to Fred Thompson. La Shawn, what do you think about Fred Thompson? Is he a Republican candidate who you think is a game changer?

BARBER: I think he is. As far as Rudy Giuliani is concerned, he is too socially liberal for me. So I'm looking forward to Fred Thompson entering the race officially. I like his stance on immigration. He's pro-life now. He didn't used to be. He used to be pro-choice. He understands the threat of global Islamic terrorism. He understands that it is an affront to Western civilization. It's that big. He understands the scope.

HARRIS: All right. La Shawn, I'm not going to let you filibuster here. Ann, what do you think, is Fred Thompson a game changer here and how does he get in the race and top Giuliani?

FRIEDMAN: Well, at least in Iowa he's got a lot of work to do. The man doesn't even show up at the state fair until Friday. I mean, voters in Iowa really want to see you put in the face time. And I don't really -- he hasn't been there. One photo-op at the pork producer's tent doesn't really make for strong caucus turnout.

HARRIS: Is that it, Ann? Is that the best zinger you've got for me? I'm out of time. Is that it?

FRIEDMAN: That's all I've got.

HARRIS: Is that all you've got? All right. La Shawn, Ann Friedman, thanks for your time this evening. We appreciate it.

BARBER: Thank you.

HARRIS: And still to come this evening, the best of our I-Reports from Hurricane Dean in just a few moments here in the NEWSROOM. You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.


HARRIS: OK. Again, look at this video. Man, this is what happened in Oklahoma today. This complements Tropical Storm Erin's leftovers. There have been two confirmed deaths, at least three other people are missing. But there are many more stories of heroism from emergency management teams to everyday people and neighbors helping out those in need.

Here is today's most harrowing video. A flood victim losing her grip on the rescue chopper's landing skids. A collective gasp here in the NEWSROOM when that happened. Luckily the pilot was able to turn the craft around, pick her back up again and ferry her to safety.

Then this flood victim, a Kingfisher man, finding himself in trouble. The rescuers hoist him up to a point where he can be transported out of harm's way. Unbelievable stuff. And many of you saw it live as it unfolded right here on our air, thanks in part to our cnn affiliates in Oklahoma. Oklahoma City's KWTV and Tulsa's KOTV. Our thanks to them. Let's bring Jacqui Jeras back in in the severe weather center. And Jacqui, boy, you were here. As a lot of that was unfolding today.

JERAS: Yeah, And it went on four hours and hours, those rescues kept happening. Those floodwaters for the most part have crested now, and are slowly beginning to recede. And that's what a flash flood is like. It happens very quickly, but it also thankfully tends to go down rather rapidly. Here's what's left of Erin right now. Still producing some nasty weather. See that cell right here? There is a tornado warning on it for Macintosh County. So still a lot of vorticity or spin associated with this storm.

And this is really unusual, by the way, Tony, I just want to show you this graphic from the fine meteorologists at the National Weather Service in Norman, Oklahoma. They took this image and froze it at 4:15 local time this morning. And look at this. It looks just like the eye of a tropical system, like a hurricane. This is a very tropical type nature storm over land. Which I've never seen anything like this before where you see a system weaken, it comes over land and all of a sudden it intensifies and dumps down 10 inches or more of rainfall. We also had wind gusts reported up to 82 miles per hour up over here near the Watanga (ph) area. So just incredible storm.

The good news is it is continuing to weaken. But still worried about flooding in northeastern Oklahoma and central parts of Missouri.

HARRIS: But Jacqui, then there was this other event in Minnesota as well, and stay with me here, because that is unrelated, correct, to anything, any of the remnants of Erin?

JERAS: Right. Absolutely unrelated.

HARRIS: OK. And we have an I-Reporter, Charlie Crutcher who e-mailed a short time ago these photos from Goodview, Minnesota. And take a look at these pictures. Charlie apparently just went to look at his wife's relative's homes. And he ran into this. A mud slide that uprooted some small trees. And he tells us it's been raining since, I guess Saturday, 8:00 a.m. And he also says some apartments had water up to the second floor. Businesses, homes, cars, all flooded out. Many roads still blocked off, including I guess Highway 61, which you know that area pretty well, Jacqui.

JERAS: I do. I lived in Wynona for a while, went to Wynona State University which isn't too far away from there. The beautiful Hiawatha Valley and 61 is the main highway. You take that up to get to the Twin Cities. So it's very major thoroughfare. There's been a lot of rain, estimated between five and 10 inches since late Friday night.

HARRIS: Wow. OK. Jacqui, appreciate that. Those pictures from our I-Reporter Charlie Crutcher. Charlie, appreciate it. Thank you.

And still to come in the NEWSROOKM tonight, dizzy by Dean yet? The very best pictures and video provided by folks just like you. I- Reporters, capturing the wrath of HurricaneDdean. You're in the NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: So, our viewers are sending us, well, you, amazing shots of Hurricane Dean as it barrels its way through the Caribbean. We put together some of the best I-Reports so far. Let's start in the Dominican Republic.


HARRIS: I-Reports. Thank you so much. We will update Dean and Oklahoma at the bottom of the hour. In the meantime, family feuds, rocky times and the making of a legend. Get the real story on the controversial life of the Godfather of Soul, don't miss CNN SIU's "James Brown, the Real Story," next. I'm Tony Harris. We will see you back here again at 10:00. CNN's SIU starts now.