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Continued Flooding in the Midwest; New Operations Against the Taliban; Consumer Prices Are Rising

Aired June 17, 2008 - 09:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins.

HARRIS: You will see events come into the NEWSROOM live on this Tuesday morning, June 17th.

Here's what's on the rundown.

COLLINS: New flooding fears in the Midwest. Concerns that waters could top more than two dozen levees.

HARRIS: In one city the water's running out and so is residents' patience. Police blocking them from getting home.

COLLINS: And an assault in Afghanistan. A possible strike against Taliban fighters may be complicated by human shields, in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: We continue to be so very concerned about the flooding in the Midwest and certainly what is happening watching the Mississippi river so closely. And now we have word that a levee has overtopped in Carthage, Illinois.

Let's get straight to Rob Marciano in the Weather Center.

Rob, good morning.


You know a number of these levees over the next couple of days are going to be suspect. And the language really doesn't really matter. All you need to know is if the water goes over the top of the levee then you've got problems. So we are getting word that there has a breach or some sort of failure of this levee in Carthage.

Let's zoom into this area. All these purple squares, those are flood river gauges that are in major flood stage at this moment. So here's Carthage, which on this map is pretty far from the Mississippi river. So there is some question as to, you know, where this levee is.

Is it a feed off of the Mississippi or is it right along here, which is where Hamilton is? Regardless where this river is going to crest or this part of the Mississippi is going to crest is not for quite some time.

We'll go to this map and show you exactly what we're talking about.

Carthage is right through here, so it's between Burlington and Quincy. And the forecast for this -- the Mississippi and these areas to crest would be probably late Wednesday night, so tomorrow night. So we still have another 24 hours before things start to possibly get worse in this area.

And then all that water is going to go down the Mississippi Thursday, Friday and Saturday, eventually towards St. Louis.

I should also mention that in St. Louis, we could see -- right now the forecast is to keep it below major flood stage. But the major flood stage there is 40 feet. Forecast now is 39.8. So that is going to be a close call.

The mayor's office saying that -- I'm just reading some information that's coming in to me. Yes, OK, just like -- I had some question as to exactly where this was. This is not exactly right in Cartridge or Carthage, I should say, but slightly outside of there. Either way, this is probably going to be an ongoing threat up and down the Mississippi...


MARCIANO: ... over the next couple of days.

HARRIS: OK, Rob. I know you'll be following it for us.


HARRIS: And maybe if we can get some better clarity on the Carthage situation. Just let us know and we'll get right back to you.


COLLINS: The mighty Mississippi and the big danger that's now heading downstream. The river is surging higher as it heads south. Tense days lie ahead in Iowa, Illinois and Missouri as the Mississippi climbs to its crest. The threat is dire.

The federal government says the river could wash over 27 levees. Armies of volunteers are stacking millions of sandbags, as you see here, to hold back the floodwaters. Hundreds of homes are now at risk.

In much of Iowa, the floodwaters are in retreat and angry homeowners are in limbo. Health officials say it's too dangerous for them to return home to assess their losses.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Cedar Rapids with that story.

Ed, I imagine that frustration is nearly uncontrollable. ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Boy, it has been, you know. City officials are now hoping they've got that a little bit more under control. We were at an area right here where there was a check point about an hour ago.

Now city officials have deemed these next few streets as able to -- or allowing residents to go back into these streets so they pushed the checkpoint back about four blocks or so.

But for the last couple of days it's really been a test here of who's been able to sneak past these checkpoints.



JULIE KIENE, FLOOD VICTIM: That's all over the streets.

S. KIENE: Inch-thick on everything.

LAVANDERA (voice over): It will take more than a hose and some water to wash away Shawn Kiene's pain right now.

S. KIENE: After just seeing my backyard, I'm not for sure I even want to go back to my house.

LAVANDERA: Shawn is in the Iowa National Guard. He and his wife, Julie, were allowed to go back to their home briefly, but couldn't even get inside.

J. KIENE: Piles of garbage and our backyard has 12 inches of water in it, floating garbage.

LAVANDERA: The basement filled with water and another six feet poured into the first floor. Mattresses and debris strewn all over the backyard.

J. KIENE: I wanted to go in the house, but then when I walked to the backyard and seen all that garbage and...

S. KIENE: Destruction.

J. KIENE: Destruction.

S. KIENE: It's dangerous. It's -- luckily, we got a quick glimpse and now I fully understand why they won't let us down there.

LAVANDERA: The Kienes and their 9-year-old daughter are staying with family until they're allowed back home.

COURTNEY KIENE, FLOOD VICTIM: I miss my room and everything that was in there because there was a lot of special things down there.

LAVANDERA: Fortunately, a 9-year-old is immune from the frustrations of adulthood. Shawn and Julie don't have flood insurance and the disaster cost Julie her job. And filing for unemployment benefits on the Internet is frustrating.

S. KIENE: You must file an unemployment insurance application along with your appropriate disaster unemployment assistance forms.

Sure, if you can find the damn thing online.

LAVANDERA: The floodwaters are receding, but the Kienes are left wondering if life as they remember it in Cedar Rapids has also dried up.

J. KIENE: We talked about just moving and not even try to fix it or rebuild it, but we haven't been inside to see really how bad it is. We still don't know what we're going to do.


LAVANDERA: Heidi, the officials here in Cedar Rapids say they've kind of devised this system as a way because they acknowledge the damage in these homes in many of these neighborhoods is a lot worse than what they had originally anticipated and they worry that there's a lot of foundation and structural damage to these homes that were moved in the rushing current of the floodwaters.

And so they say that even though a home might look OK, that there are some structural issues. In fact one person -- they told us the story of -- about a man who thought he was walking through a puddle of water yesterday and actually fell into six feet of water.

COLLINS: Oh boy.

LAVANDERA: So those are the things they're worried about here in Cedar Rapids -- Heidi?

COLLINS: It is such a frame.

All right, Ed, we'll be following the story, obviously, alongside you throughout the morning.

Thank you.

HARRIS: We try to get a little more clarity on the situation in Hancock County, Illinois, particularly the town of Carthage, maybe just a bit south of the town of Carthage, with a levee situation here. We're not sure if we're talking about an overtop situation or a breach.

John Jefferson is on the line with us. He is the sheriff of Hancock County, Illinois.

And, Sheriff, thanks for your time this morning. If you could, bring a little more clarity to the situation south of Carthage, is that correct?

SHERIFF JOHN JEFFERSON, HANCOCK CO., ILLINOIS: Actually, it's Carthage Lake, which is in Henderson County, the next county.

HARRIS: Henderson. OK.

JEFFERSON: But we are affected by the river all on the Mississippi as our county borders the whole river.


JEFFERSON: We have had a grain elevator collapsed into the river just this morning.

HARRIS: All right. So the extent of the situation that you're dealing with right now, describe that to us and what steps you can take even to sort of safeguard your community.

JEFFERSON: Well, the whole western side of our county is bordered by the Mississippi river. And that the levee system is -- it's leaking through the whole system. We're afraid it's going to go over the top. It's very, very close in several of our areas.

One of our communities of about 200 people is totally sandbagged off but today they're going to shut the power off to that town, which is going to turn off everyone's sump pumps, refrigerators, freezers. It's going to be a real dire situation for the people in that town.

HARRIS: OK. So what's the advice now to the people? Are you getting them into a mindset where evacuation might be called for?

JEFFERSON: We've had to evacuate some areas already, but the areas that have not been evacuated yet, we're just keeping our fingers crossed and hoping that the levee will hold.

HARRIS: OK. And you've sandbagged the tops of the levees, the sides of the levees? And tell me what you can do here in terms of -- I know the Army Corps is suggesting more sandbagging.

JEFFERSON: That's what they're working on.


JEFFERSON: The levee has been raised. What they're working on now is trying to stop all the seepage that's coming through the levees. And that's what their main concern is right now is the seepages leaking through.

HARRIS: Let's set a clock on this. What's the time frame? What's the critical period? I know you're sort of -- it sounds like you're sort of in the window now.

JEFFERSON: The 19th is when they're predicting the crest will hit but then the water is going to hold at that level for quite some time. So it's going to -- our time period is looking at least another week.

HARRIS: OK. Sheriff, we will -- if you don't mind we will check back with you from time to time to see how your town is doing.

John Jefferson is the sheriff of Hancock County, Illinois. Sheriff, thank you.

COLLINS: All right. We want to take a moment to head out to one of our correspondents who has been handling this story for several days now.

Sean Callebs is standing by near Burlington, Iowa, a little bit south of where we were showing you some of the pictures yesterday. We're going to zoom in and show you more. You see where Burlington is towards the top of that map.

I want to get out to Sean now with the very latest.

Sean, what's happening where you are?

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Burlington is going to be an area people are looking at very closely today. The river is supposed to crest, the Mississippi river. Already one big problem. A levee on the Illinois side of the Mississippi river gave way right across from Burlington. That allowed water from the Mississippi to pour into Carthage Lake.

What happened, Carthage Lake then spilled over and that poured into the Gulfport, Illinois area, flooding that area.

What I'm hearing from Homeland Security representatives in Burlington, it's mostly farm area but it's a huge problem. Burlington is also a pretty small town, about 25,000 people. And just to the north of it, as the river reaches its high, it is threatening a seven- mile stretch of levees just north of Burlington.

Now think about this. It's a small town. They're trying to watch seven miles of levee. They say boils are already coming out, meaning water is seeping through in areas and they're concerned about losing a big stretch of this, which would lead to a huge amount of flooding.

Again, this is chiefly farmland, but it could be a tremendous problem today.

We know that one bridge going into Burlington is closed. The Mississippi river is very high. So this is a situation people are going to be keeping a very close eye on in the immediate hours.

Again, this river is supposed to crest. Carthage, Illinois was not flooded at all. There was a levee on the Mississippi river on the Illinois side that gave way, allowing the river to pour into Carthage Lake...


CALLEBS: ... and that lake spilled over so a big problem there.

COLLINS: Yes. It was so powerful. We just spoke with a gentleman who told us there's a grain elevator that collapsed into the water there. So you get an idea once again, Sean, how powerful these waters are.

Listen, I'm curious to know, are they evacuating people yet? Is that something they'll be looking ahead to now where you are in Burlington in?

CALLEBS: Well, clearly that's going to be a big concern. But what they're telling me is they've been bagging -- sandbagging around the clock 24 hours. So people are simply exhausted.

The town has basically come to a standstill today while everybody focuses their efforts on emergency operations. The way they're looking at this -- this is the last line of defense for a large area.


CALLEBS: ... so they're doing everything they can to try and get sandbags up there, to try and get the levees to hold. Very important situation here along the Mississippi river.

COLLINS: Boy, from the pictures we're looking at, Sean, some aerial views, it's going to take a whole lot of sandbags, that's for sure.

We're certainly wishing everybody there our very best in trying to fight off those raging waters.

Sean Callebs for us near Burlington this morning. Appreciate it, Sean.

HARRIS: And still to come in the NEWSROOM this morning, California's newlyweds. Dozens of same-sex couples now legally married.

ANNOUNCER: CNN NEWSROOM brought to you by...


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN, the most trusted name in news. Now back to the CNN NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Questions right now about the strength of a Taliban presence in villages in southern Afghanistan.

Our Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon to help us sort it all out.

Barbara, good morning.


You're absolutely right. The questions keep growing about what is happening in a place called the Arghandab district. You're going to hear that name quite a bit over the next few days.

This is north of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, a longtime Taliban stronghold. But last week hundreds of prisoners including about 400 Taliban broke out of a prison in Kandahar and the belief is they began moving north into this area called the Arghandab.

There have been reports over the past several days of the Taliban either in control of villages in this region or at least present in this region and NATO is moving forces in now to try and deal with this.

As you see from the video we're showing, hundreds of Afghan forces now in the region, Canadian, U.S. troops, and this morning we are told British forces began to move towards this area.

They are dropping leaflets from NATO war planes now warning the people in the Arghandab to stay in their villages, to stay in their homes, that that is the safest place for them if fighting breaks out in the hours, in days ahead.

That's clearly a signal that NATO expects to take action to try and get the Taliban out of this region but it may be very tough going because NATO tells us they just aren't sure at this point how many Taliban are there.

They believe there is, in the words of a NATO spokesman, a significant Taliban presence but they have to still go in there and find them -- Tony?

HARRIS: I can't imagine wanting to stay once I receive one of those leaflets from NATO but that's maybe just me.

Barbara, does this have a broader implication for the security situation in Afghanistan? We are talking about a prison break and the implications of that.

STARR: Well, you know, to some extent, it is an isolated prison break. But in a larger sense, what it perhaps reflects is the U.S. concern that Taliban influence is on the rise in certain areas of Afghanistan.

If the Taliban have moved into these villages and they find shelter with people there who are sympathetic to the Taliban movement -- and that, of course, remains to be seen -- that would be another indicator of what the U.S. and NATO forces are dealing with.

What we know is this year is shaping up to be one of the most violent years with high levels of attacks throughout the areas where there are Taliban strongholds. And that is something of great concern.


STARR: Just yesterday we saw the British announcing they're going to be sending more troops -- Tony.

HARRIS: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us. Barbara, thank you.

COLLINS: The wedding rush is on in California. Hundreds of gay and lesbian couples flock into courthouses to legally wed. The state's Supreme Court cleared the way for same-sex marriages last month. They began last night, 5:01 p.m., I think it was.

The first couple to get married? Dale Martin and Phyllis Lyon. They've been together for 55 years.

California is the second state now to allow same-sex marriage. Massachusetts, the first. But unlike Massachusetts, California does not require state residency.

And another busy day at California courthouses. Eric Spillman with affiliate KTLA in West Hollywood, California this morning to give us the very latest.

So still lots of long lines there, huh, Eric?

ERIC SPILLMAN, KTLA REPORTER: Yes. Since today is the first full day that same-sex marriage is legally allowed here, this city, West Hollywood, at the forefront of the movement to support same-sex marriage, so they are going to accommodate what they believe will be a big crowd.

There's a lot of people here who are already lined up. Some folks have been here camped out since 5:00 p.m. yesterday waiting in line here to get licenses, marriage licenses, which are not going to be handed out until another couple of hours or so.

Let's go over here and talk to Richard and Edmund, who are among those waiting for the marriage licenses.

How long have you been together?


SPILLMAN: Have you waited for this day for all that time?

EDMUND, MARRIAGE LICENSE APPLICANT: Pretty much. We never really anticipated this day to come but we -- so we're here today so.

SPILLMAN: What does it mean to you to be able to do this legally?

EDMUND: It means that we're pretty much equal at least here in the state of California to any other couple that wants to get married. Unfortunately, we have -- we don't have to vote -- we have people vote on our marriage. We don't have to vote on anybody else's.

SPILLMAN: Who proposed and how did it go?

RICHARD: I think it was pretty much both of us. You know we both know we're going to be with each other for this time and we just decided to wake up one day and say, let's do what we've got to do.

SPILLMAN: All right. You have rings ready and everything like that?

EDMUND: I have my ring on. I've had it since December. Richard is not wearing his until we actually get married, though. SPILLMAN: Are you nervous?


SPILLMAN: Are you really?

EDMUND Yes, I'm really nervous. You know, it's been 14 years. This is a special day and now we're here so.

RICHARD: Very special day. Very special day.

SPILLMAN: All right. Edmund and Richard, thank you. Congratulations to you.

They've had to change some of the language regarding marriage officially here in California. Instead of bride and groom on the wedding application or on the marriage license application now it says "Party A" and "Party B."

COLLINS: That's so romantic.

SPILLMAN: And during the civil ceremonies that will be performed here -- yes.

COLLINS: Not very.

SPILLMAN: During the ceremonies, they're going to say at the end -- they're not going to say "I pronounce you man and wife," they're going to say, "I pronounce you legally married according to the laws of California."

COLLINS: All right. Well, very interesting.

Eric Spillman from our affiliate KTLA, West Hollywood, California this morning.

Eric, thank you.

HARRIS: Floods in the Midwest devastating lives and destroying crops. Why your grocery bill is likely to go up.


HARRIS: Midwest floods not only uprooting lives but devastating the crops we eat.

Stephanie Elam is "Minding Your Business."

You know, Stephanie, I can't keep reaching much deeper into my pockets here and I know the prices are going to go up for a lot of the produce that we eat here. So give us the toll here.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Tony, you know, and it's even beyond what we eat.

But let's take a look at the crops that we're talking about here. You've corn, soybeans wheat. All of these crops being grown in Iowa really have been slammed by this. So beyond the fact that we're taking a look at the pain -- the human pain that we're seeing there, we're going to have far-reaching pain as far as food concerns are.

On Monday, corn futures hit a record intraday high and Iowa is thought to have lost somewhere between 1 million and 3 million acres of corn production. That equals about 7 to 21 percent of its overall production.

And crops were already hit hard with cold weather during the planting season. So if you add this all together then than we're taking a look that this could mean the harvest will be down about 10 to 12 percent this year.

That's coming from the Iowa grain, which is a brokerage company out of Chicago that told us that. So this is, obviously, a huge deal. And some of the biggest impact will probably be in meat and dairy because, get this, this is surprising to me, nearly half of the corn that's actually grown here is for animal feed.

So that will affect dairy product as well as meat products. Of course, you know, there's things like corn syrup which are used in your sodas as a sweetener. Those also being affected there as well.

As far as nonfood uses, ethanol, of course. Toothpaste, your mouthwash, and then also some plastic uses as well are going to be affected. So some of these effects will be this year, some will be later.

And then, Tony, just to add more pain to this, because of all the flooding, that means the railways are a mess. They're going to need repair. A lot of the locks still close along the Mississippi river. So all of this meaning that to ship the crops out...


ELAM: ... and more corn is actually shipped away. It's exported from the United States than actually eaten here. This could also have an effect on the markets that way as well.

HARRIS: You know what, I need to get in the grocery store a little more often here. You're talking crops. I'm talking produce.

ELAM: I know.

HARRIS: Hello! Get into a grocery store, Mr. Harris.

You know some -- some economic numbers this morning. Please tell us what's happening with wholesale prices and if that's a number that should worry us.

ELAM: Well, it's not going to be as you would like it to be, I can tell you that first.

HARRIS: Yes. ELAM: But the thing about this is that a lot of this has to do with the volatility of energy and food prices. So let's just take a look.

The producer price index, as you're saying, looks at wholesale foods -- wholesale prices and it said for May it was the adjusted -- seasonably adjusted rate was 1.4 percent. It was up that much. April was 0.2 percent of an increase. So it is quite a jump.

Analysts were looking for a 1 percent jump here. But the issue is those energy and food...

HARRIS: That's right.

ELAM: ... costs are so volatile right now. Well, if you strip those out, in May, it was up 0.2 percent versus 0.4 percent of an increase in April. So we all know what this is about. I don't think that's a surprise to anyone out there because anyone who has been to a grocery store, Mr. Harris, knows that things cost a lot more.

I'm sure you've been to the gas station, though, so you know that.

COLLINS: He has shoppers beforehand.

HARRIS: Yes, I have shoppers.

ELAM: He has people. Yes.

HARRIS: Yes. I have -- my people have people.

All right, Stephanie, good to see you. We'll see what this number and how it might impact the markets when it opens in just a couple of minutes.

ELAM: Well, you know, I should tell you, Tony...

HARRIS: Yes. Yes.

ELAM: ... that it's really probably not going to have as much of an impact because Goldman Sachs came out and really beat the streets. So that's what we're seeing right with futures. So we'll keep our eyes on it. We got a couple of minutes to go.

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

ELAM: Thanks.

COLLINS: A moving memorial hitting the road to remember fallen troops. It's a cruise -- cross country run, that is, all about service and sacrifice.


ANNOUNCER: Live in the CNN NEWSROOM, Tony Harris and Heidi Collins. COLLINS: Welcome back once again, everybody. 9:30 Eastern Time now.

HARRIS: I'm Tony Harris.

I want to get you to the New York Stock Exchange right now as the opening bell is about to sound. And Stephanie Elam alluded to it moments ago. This has a potential to be a pretty good day on Wall Street for stocks.

Goldman Sachs posting a second quarter profit. Talk about the big investment banks and the problems they've been having recently -- Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns -- you certainly know the Bear Stearns story. Goldman Sachs, $2.1 billion in second quarter profits, should provide a little bit of momentum for stocks as the Dow gets the day started at 12,269. We will be following the markets with Stephanie throughout the morning, right here in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Also, certainly following the story across the center of the country, severe weather and all of that flooding.

Rob Marciano in the weather center this morning now talking about specifically -- Rob, this information that we have about that levee or the lake anyway, Carthage Lake.


COLLINS: And when we are talking about cresting, I mean, there seems to be sort of this big sigh of relief once the waterway has crested, but really -- then there's a whole another problem of trying to get that water out of there.

MARCIANO: When you're talking about cresting at record stage, which is already above major stage, it's going to be days after a crest -- after it actually crests before that water goes below the major flood stage. So yes, it's unfortunately time consuming and it's going to be just a nasty mess.

COLLINS: Unbelievable. I feel like we've been talking about it for weeks.


COLLINS: It's just a sad situation obviously. We are going to continue to update you, though, and Rob we will come back to you here shortly. It could be a while in many, many days for thousands of evacuees. In fact to go back to their homes in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Many are angry, though, about the delay.

Here now CNN's Dan Simon.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Breaking down doors. People got back into the flooded Cedar Rapids neighborhood but they were city inspectors, not homeowners, knocking down doors and climbing through windows seeing if houses were safe.

It was frustrating for residents who were told over the weekend they could start going back home, only to be told they couldn't.

LARRY VAN DEUSEN, FLOODED OUT OF HOME: The same house was safe for me yesterday, but it's not today. And it's not just my house, it's everybody's. Thousands of people could be doing work on their house and they're not letting us in.

SIMON: Larry Van Deusen is a landlord who has 12 houses that flooded including his own. He says city leaders are making a bad situation worse.

VAN DEUSEN: These are people that we put in office that are doing this to their own people. I guarantee they won't be there next time because I'll be doing everything I can to get them voted out of office. It's just silly. It's just silly.

You've got people all around here that could do the work. They've been sitting here for two days trying to do the work and they won't let us do it. It's -- it's just unbelievable that our own government would do this to us.

SIMON: But the city says the homes are too unsafe, citing a utility worker injured at an unstable house.

VAN DEUSEN: So you get one guy hurt now all these thousands of people have to suffer it don't make sense.

OFFICER BOB STAUFFER, CEDAR RAPIDS POLICE: It's not a good feeling and I understand their anxiousness of wanting to get back in and take care of business. As well, we're trying to work as hard as we can to make it happen. But we also have a responsibility to make sure the structures are structurally sound and safe before they go back in.

SIMON: So now crews are going block by block, inspecting every home in the flood zone. Search dogs looking for survivors or, worse, for bodies.

(on camera): This shows you just how high the water level got. People who live in these flooded neighborhoods, they were told to leave either a towel or a sock tied to their front door. When crews come through here, if they don't see that tower or sock, there's a fear that somebody may be inside.

(voice-over): It looks like New Orleans after Katrina. The neighborhoods filthy, worms everywhere. A lot of these homes will have to be demolished. Larry says that's why he wants back in to try to salvage what he's got left before it rots.

VAN DEUSEN: It causes more damage every minute that we're sitting here.

SIMON: Water levels may have receded, but tempers, they are rising. (on camera): One man here was so upset that he could not get back into his house that he allegedly rammed his car into a police officer who was guarding a checkpoint. The police officer was not injured but the man, he was arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon.

Dan Simon, CNN, Cedar Rapid, Iowa.


COLLINS: Protecting your home and your life savings. What you need to know about flood insurance. Certainly, an interesting topic in all of this story. Lessons learned from this Midwest flooding. And also, we want to remind you, if you can do so in a safe way, go ahead and send us your I-reports,

HARRIS: Our loss is heaven's gain. Words from a mourner as Boy Scouts killed in last week's tornado are laid to rest. Two funerals scheduled this morning in Nebraska.

Yesterday, Aaron Eilerts was remembered for a lifetime of good deeds albeit a very short lifetime, only 14 years. The Fourth Scout was buried over the weekend. Dozens of people were hurt when a twister tore through their camp in Iowa, Wednesday. Four are still hospitalized.

COLLINS: Honoring Iraq's fallen troops one mile at a time. A special tribute happening right now. Runners going the distance from California to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Along the way, they'll plant an American flag for each of the more than 4,000 U.S. troops killed in Iraq.

Jon Bellona came up with the idea. He is talking to us this morning from Moreno Valley, California.

John, if you can hear me, tell us a little about this morning so far.

VOICE OF JON BELLONA, RUN FOR THE FALLEN: So far, we've traversed 123 miles for service members. We are starting here actually. We're at the start for today's run. We'll be taking 57 miles. It will take us just south of Camp Pendleton at Oceanside, California on to the Pacific Ocean, where we turn east heading towards Arlington National Cemetery.

COLLINS: Wow. We're looking at some of the pictures now of the video of the group that you are with. Tell us how this came about. I mean, why are you doing this?

BELLONA: Pretty much through knowing my Hamilton College roommate and best friend First Lieutenant Michael J. Cleary. He was killed in action, December 20th, 2005.

Just knowing Mike, wanted to do something for him, as well as for his family and it's turned out to be something that is an amazing experience and something that's really for all service members that have been killed in action and their families and to those who are currently serving in the Armed Forces today.

COLLINS: It really is an incredible tribute and I'm sure it's a very emotional one for you as well. I know that you are actually running with Mike's sister and fiance. How does that feel?

BELLONA: That is correct. It feels great just to have Shannon, my sister, and Erin Cavanaugh (ph), my fiance, along with us, along with close friends of Mike and Shannon.

COLLINS: Do you think about him when you're running?

BELLONA: I think about him everyday. I know that each mile reading the sign card that over 20 schools have created for service members, but it's -- in reading -- thinking about that particular service member while we're running. But Mike is never too far away.

COLLINS: And we should point out as we're looking at right now the picture of First Lieutenant Michael Cleary -- great picture -- that this is really not for somebody who hasn't run before. I mean, you guys are doing like 15 to 20 miles a day.

BELLONA: It's definitely -- we're doing about eight to ten miles per runner. It's a relay, which makes -- definitely, the mountain miles yesterday made a bit of a challenge but we're actually getting through in about half the day and we're in good spirits right now.

COLLINS: Wow, it's great. It's just -- some really gorgeous pictures coming into us here. Love to see that American flag along the way. What an excellent tribute that you have come up with to your good friend, Mike. And we appreciate the story. And wish you the best of luck. Jon Bellona, thanks so much.

HARRIS: Family outings are no fun for a soldier who served bravely in Iraq.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They like to go places without me. With them there, I'm on the guard even more. You go to restaurants. You got to sit in an area where you can see the door, you can see everybody else. You don't want nobody behind you. I'm never happy or comfortable.


HARRIS: A sergeant struggles to recover.


HARRIS: Holding back the floodwaters along the Mississippi River, the government warns that 27 levees could be swamped in the coming hour and days. Joining us with an update, Ron Fournier, a public affairs officer with the Army Corp of Engineers. He joins us by phone.

And if you would, sir, I'm sure you're aware of this situation at Carthage Lakes. Is this the kind of situation that you have been warning communities about at least starting yesterday and maybe days before?

VOICE OF RON FOURNIER, U.S. ARMY CORP OF ENGINEERS: Well, we actually -- we started probably more than a week ago. I'm talking to them, discussing all the main stem levees about how high the water is going to get and of course, we developed that map that everybody is talking about. That talks about where the water might actually rise above and over the top of them.

We're letting the communities and the flood area district -- the district do the flood protection that these levees need to be shored up and they need to be raised to accommodate this high rising water. But we're not at all telling them they're going to fail. We're just telling them that the water is going to get very high.

HARRIS: I think that's an important point although it sounds like there was a bit of a breach at the Carthage Lakes levee. Is that what you're hearing? Is that your understanding?

FOURNIER: I actually have not been to the operations center today yet, so I haven't got that information, but that is going to happen. Levees are going to break. Levees are going to overtop. But you know, they're not all going to break and they're not all going to overtop but that's going to happen during this flood just like it did in 1993.

HARRIS: Ron, maybe quantify this for us. How concerned are you about the rising waters along the Mississippi?

FOURNIER: Well, we're very concerned of course. We've been at it. We have over 100 people out there. We've provided more than 10 million sandbags. We're working hard with communities to get these levees up and we're very concerned that the water is going to go over the top of them and that's not good.

So we need to make sure -- the communities need to make sure that these levees get built up to that level so when the rainwater hits them finally, hopefully the levees will be high enough to keep that water back in the river.

HARRIS: Have you release -- we're trying to get a handle on the actual communities which could be impacted by this. I'm sure you've contacted those communities but is there a way to make that list public. I'm sure the people in those communities would like to know.

FOURNIER: I think the people along the Mississippi River, everybody knows that news. It's not news to them. They know that river is coming up and they are out there sandbagging. They're working round the clock, sweating hard, and making this thing, making this fight work. So it's not news to them because they know the river is coming up and they're aware of it.

HARRIS: No, I think you're absolutely right about that. I'm also curious is that the best that the folks can do in that area? Is sandbagging the best option? Is there anything more?

FOURNIER: No. Sandbagging is just one option. You actually get bulldozers out there and you push dirt on top of the levee. You line it with plastics, then you put sandbags on top of it.

You're also (INAUDIBLE) called batter boards where you actually use 2x4s, 4x8s and you put them parallel on them and you raise them and that helps keep the river in. So there's different varying methods depending on where you're located and the type of the levee terrain. So sandbags are just one of the options.

HARRIS: OK. Ron Fournier is a public affairs officer for the Army Corp of Engineers. Ron, thanks for your time this morning. Appreciate it.

COLLINS: Something else we want to get out to you just in here in the CNN NEWSROOM regarding Amtrak Service. Quite a few disruptions taking place because of all of this flooding as you would imagine.

I mean, look at would you get a train through any of these areas with all of that water? Specifically Amtrak Services disrupted at Fort Madison and Burlington, Iowa and South of St. Paul, Minneapolis, because of the flooding on the Mississippi. And of course, the tributaries alongside and feeding into it.

Affected are several different routes. We're going to try and get these on the screen at some point. Hopefully, in case this is something that would pertain to you. But we're talking about some main routes here between Los Angeles and Chicago, through Kansas City.

The Zephyr Route between San Francisco Bay and Chicago, through Denver and Omaha, and then the Amtrak Empire Builder Route, that's between Seattle, Portland and Chicago through St. Paul.

So as you look to possibly do some travel here, you are definitely going to want to call Amtrak. That phone number 800-usa- rail. Again, 800-usa-rail. If you have travel plans, you're going to want to do that through June 20th, they're saying.

So it's like Friday on this one. So we'll stay on top of that as well. But, boy, as we continue here, you can see how this situation is really affecting several different routes of transportation along the Mississippi River. Man.

New developments to tell you about on the campaign trail. On the Democratic side, a big endorsement for Barack Obama from Al Gore. The former vice president likening Obama's candidacy to that of John F. Kennedy.


AL GORE (D), FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: On January 20th, 1961, as a 12-year-old boy, I stood in the snow in front of the capitol as John Fitzgerald Kennedy took the oath of office. I know what his inspiration meant to my generation, and I feel that same spirit in this auditorium here tonight building all over this country this year.


COLLINS: Republican John McCain is in Texas today. He was talking energy. Yesterday, urging a lifting of the federal moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling. Of course, we are keeping our eyes on the candidates.

Obama is holding a rally this morning in Taylor, Michigan. We're going to have live coverage when that happens.

HARRIS: Drink coffee? Well, listen up. News that could affect how long you'll live.


HARRIS: Today in Washington, a wake for the moderator of "Meet The Press," Tim Russert. Russert died last week at 58, taken by a silent killer, heart disease. Russert's doctor says plaque from a clogged artery broke off, traveled to his heart and blocked it.

According to reports, doctors knew Russert had heart disease but never realized how severe it was. Russert had no previous symptoms and he was following doctor's orders.


DR. MICHAEL NEWMAN, RUSSERT'S PERSONAL PHYSICIAN: Tim was a great patient. Tim Russert as a patient was a Tim Russert that we all know. He complied with almost everything that was asked of him. He was well-informed, asked good questions. Tim was a good patient. Are there things that all of us as patients could be better at? Sure. But Tim was a good patient.


HARRIS: Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women.

COLLINS: Here at CNN, we've been profiling soldiers in rehab at Brooke Army Medical Center. Today's story may change the way you think, not just about those wounded in war.

CNN's Barbara Starr reports.


STARR: Last April, Staff Sergeant Robert Henline's Humvee hit a massive roadside bomb north of Baghdad.

SGT. ROBERT HENLINE, U.S. ARMY: The vehicle flipped upside down about 15, 20 meters from the blast. I was the sole survivor of the five of us in the vehicle.

STARR: Once the picture of health, the 82nd airborne paratrooper now struggles all the time. His skull was burned down to the bone. His facial injuries require more surgery and now Henline has to make an almost unfathomable decision, whether to allow doctors to amputate his badly damaged hand.

HENLINE: It's a faster route to get function out of my arm and get healthy and get moving back in life again.

STARR: But the Staff Sergeant Henline is courageously acknowledging a deeper fight. His fight to recover from brain injury and post traumatic stress. Some days are so bad, it's hard for the whole family.

HENLINE: They like to go places without me. With them there, it's -- I'm on the guard even more. You go to restaurants. You've got to sit in an area where you can see the door, you can see everybody else. You don't want nobody behind me. I'm never happy or comfortable.

STARR: Henline knows exactly how uncomfortable some people are around him. But if you see Sergeant Henline on the street, he says, please stop and say hello.

HENLINE: That, I like. I'd rather have someone come up to me and just ask me what happened. I think a lot of guys feel that way, instead of just staring.

STARR: Barbara Starr, CNN, Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas.


HARRIS: Protecting your home and your life savings. What you need to know about flood insurance. Lessons learned from the Midwest flooding.


COLLINS: A painful win for Tiger Woods. Probably even more painful loss, though, for Rocco Mediate that's for sure. He was playing on a surgically repaired knee, Tiger, that is, against doctor's order. The world's number one golfer putted to a playoff victory at the U.S. open. And boy, was this a nail-biter.

Unbelievable. It took an extra day and a total of 91 holes for Woods to stop Rocco Mediate at San Diego's Torrey Pines. It was his third U.S. open win and 14th major title. You'll probably know it, if you're a golfer. That's four shy of Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major championships.

Despite the win, though, Woods admits he may have done additional damage to his wobbly knee and he says don't expect to see him on the tour for a while. British Open, coming up.

HARRIS: Yes, that's right. If you got up in the early hours of the morning like we do around here CNN NEWSROOM a.m., you would want to hear this story.

Coffee may actually do more than help to keep you awake. It could help you live longer. Harvard researchers found drinking up to six cups -- are you kidding me -- six cups a day, may cut the risk of dying from heart disease. This seems to work with decaf as well as regular coffee. However, researchers warn much more study is needed before they can recommend drinking coffee for your health. You can read the whole study in the Annals of Internal Medicine.


COLLINS: First, it's wine and now it's coffee.


COLLINS: Good morning, everybody, I'm Heidi Collins.

HARRIS: And I'm Tony Harris. Stay informed all day in the CNN NEWSROOM. Here's what's on the run down.

The last line of defense, nonstop sandbagging goes on in the Mississippi River communities. Right now, seven miles of levees are vulnerable. Two would break, a city threatened. Our reporter is there.

COLLINS: And some homeowners in the Midwest, we're told, they didn't need flood insurance. What you need to know to protect your property.