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Grand Canyon Dam Burst; John McCain Not Really in a Cone of Silence; Barack Obama Met With T. Boone Pickens; Tropical Storm Fay On the Way to Florida; Russian Troops Will Begin to Pullout Sometime Monday; Store Clerk Abducted in Texas Found Dead

Aired August 17, 2008 - 22:00   ET


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: The news starts now.
Hi, everybody. I'm Rick Sanchez. Let me just be real clear about this from the start because I know it's already getting a lot of attention on the political blogs.

I did speak to Rick Warren earlier tonight and he's told me that when he began his interview with Barack Obama, he believed that John McCain was sequestered so that he couldn't hear any of those questions that you saw on that faith forum. That's why he told viewers John McCain was in a cone of silence. It turns out now McCain hadn't even arrived at the worship center yet. So where was he? Did he possibly hear or know about some of the questions before they were asked? My interview with Pastor Warren is coming up in just a minute.

But, first, there is a breaking story taking place right now. This is a perilous situation. Take a look at these pictures. As we understand, that is part of the Redlands Dam. It's in a Supai region there in Arizona. The dam has actually burst and as a result the water is now flowing into parts of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.

All right, we switched the shot now. You're looking at a picture of one of the helicopters that is being used for rescues. Now, imagine this. There are people on the Colorado River, as there are always are. Tourists who want kayaking or on some of these rafts taking trips with guides when suddenly the Colorado River changes completely.

The water starts to rise. It becomes much more fast and certainly much more perilous for these people. So you see those folk there with the hats on. Those are some of the folks who have been taken on some of these tours. They have been taken out of the water. The water is obviously going too fast, too treacherous, too dangerous.

They've been put on top of some of those areas and they're going to be trying to get them out. As we understand, there are about 400 people that they need to either get out or have already been taken out of the area. Those are some of the people you see there. That's the LZ, the landing zone that's been set up not far from there.

We've been in contact with some of the folks on the Internet, communicating with me, as a matter of fact, from the Red Cross, who say that the Red Cross has been called in. They have now set up a location in Peach Springs where most of the people are being taken to.

They are getting on to those yellow school buses and being faired out of the area. If you look carefully now, by the way, you could see the downpour that's coming down as well. So the water is adding to the problems. It was the water that actually -- and the rains that created this dilemma to begin with. When it caused the rains to cause the Redlands Dam to burst.

Now, here are some of the steals that we've been getting in as well. And you can see here why this is so dangerous for the folks who might be -- I mean, there you see some of the water down there. But look at these precipices. Look how steep they are and imagine yourself now trying to get out of that water and climbing up into this area. It would be nearly impossible. So there are people who literally have been just holding on in areas like this along the steep sides where the two precipices that lead down to Colorado River.

Change the shot if you would, Roger. Let's take a look at one of the other ones that we've been getting in in just the last little while. All right, there's one of the rescues that's taking place. As you can see, people are literally being hoisted. And you could see, again, a look at the water levels where they are.

We've been talking to people today and listening to interviews of people who are usually in this area and they say the water levels would be usually about another 9 or 10 feet below that. So that's part of the problem that's being created there as well. And there we see some of the rescue officials who are on the scene.

I think we've got more one -- on more, Roge. Let's go ahead and do that switch. All right, there you see some of the helicopters. Really beautiful pictures if it wasn't for the flooding situation that we're in now. Did we have somebody on the air who can help us with this?

All right. Stay with us because this story is developing as we bring it in to you. And we're told now that KTVK's reporter, Kristine Harrington one of our affiliate out there is joining us now, and she's hopefully going to be able to share some information.

Kristine, I think it's your station that shot some of these pictures. Is that right?

VOICE OF KRISTINE HARRINGTON, KTVK REPORTER: That is correct. A lot of those helicopter aerial shots were gathered by us.

SANCHEZ: This is happening in the Supai Region? What is Supai?

HARRINGTON: Supai is an Indian Reservation here near the south rim of the Grand Canyon. And roughly 400 people live in this Supai village. They are actually year-round residents. So, those people have a needed to be rescued. But also we are told that there were some 200 campers down there as well.

And so right where I am right now is a road block here where (INAUDIBLE) police and the Arizona Department of Public Safety have set up a road block where they are checking all evacuees personal information and cross-referencing it with tribal police. Because here camping permits are mandated. So, it's a good way to keep tracking people and they want to be sure everyone is accounted for.

SANCHEZ: Speaking of keeping track of people, we've just heard from the Red Cross and you can go to If you have a family member or someone who was camping in the area -- so often this time of year, so many people do there, you can go to and then check safe and well. And they will list the names there, they tell us, Kristine, of all the people who were there. Those that have been accounted for and perhaps some of those who haven't as well.

HARRINGTON: Yes. And obviously, they are taking this very seriously. This is, in fact, the fifth time these people tell me that their personal information has been checked and cross referenced again with what they have down at the reservation.

So, again, the most important is to have everybody accounted for. So far, no serious injuries or deaths reported, which is really remarkable, given the video that you're seeing there.

And, in fact, the people here we're talking to are some of the evacuees that were first out. So they were not in quite as serious of a situation. But many of them telling us that at about 6:00 last night, they were warned there could be flooding. By 9:00, warned that it could be up to two feet. By midnight, they've started feeling the water in their tents and realized just how serious the situation was.

And by 2:30 came word that everybody had about ten minutes to find higher ground and that's when everyone who could pretty much ran up to the cemetery, which is the highest ground there in the area. We're told some 100 campers spent the night there and then hiked out at daybreak and then were air lifted to the village and then air lifted again out of there.

SANCHEZ: I'm just going to interrupt you for a moment because I'm told we just got this graphic that we didn't have before. I just want to show viewers. I'm going to do like a little box in the area that's really affected. There's that Supai area right there where I'm putting that X. Let me get the middle of the box. Right there, I'm putting the X. That's where the dam breaks. Actually has forced the evacuation. So a lot of the run of water has run in that direction, like into the actual river itself.

Can I ask you a question as I look at these pictures, Kristine? Those of us that are not that familiar with the Colorado under normal conditions, how has it changed the river? How much faster is it going? How much higher is it going as a result of this dam break forcing all of that water into the river?

HARRINGTON: Well, we're getting in mixed reports. Because initially it was only expected to go up about two feet, and now we're hearing it's 9 or 10 feet up from there. And more than water now, they have got mud throughout the village. And it's not just impacting the Colorado River there but the Havasu Creek and that is where some 16 people that were out on a rafting trip, we're told they are from Northern California. And in fact, this is pretty remarkable. They were just rescued and we just saw them taken out on a school bus. You may have seen video of people climbing on board the school bus.

Those are 16 people that were on a rafting trip here. A 16-day rafting trip. And they only had a couple days left on that trip. And yesterday the National Park Service got word that five rafts without anybody on board were seen floating and that was very bad news. Luckily, all 16 people were found safe but holding on to the side of a cliff. Each one then having to be rescued one by one. And that was the priority out here. To rescue those people one by one. And each of them safe and sound now being brought to that Red Cross shelter. They're not quite willing to talk to us yet. More anxious to shower.

SANCHEZ: Yes, I would imagine. So from what it sounds like you're saying, these waters right now are just moving way too fast for any of these rafters or tour guides to be able to take people through them then, right? Because they are fast to begin with, but now they are faster because of the water being forced down from the dam break.

HARRINGTON: Absolutely. Nobody was expecting this. I mean, it is monsoon season so rain can be expected but nobody expected this dam break.

SANCHEZ: So you have suddenly these turbid waters and these people not expecting this. Certainly you have a very difficult situation that is arising there. Kristine, can you hold on for just a second? You don't have a live shot coming up for your station yet, do you?

HARRINGTON: No, I'm good. Thanks.

SANCHEZ: Hold on just a second. I want to go to Jacqui Jeras. Jacqui Jeras at our severe weather center, who has been following these conditions as well.

In fact, you first started telling us about this earlier in the evening, Jacqui. What do you see developing from this and I guess because I'm seeing that rain, that heavy rain in the area, this is not something that's going to be alleviated any time soon, I imagine, right?

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, not necessarily. You know, there's still a chance of showers and thundershowers in the area. But the worst of the rain I think has already occurred. You still have maybe 30 percent to 40 percent chance of rain continuing. But the worst of the rain actually came in on Friday night and into Saturday, and then we get another douse seen into this area here throughout the day today.

So our radar is estimating that we've seen anywhere as much as maybe even eight inches of rainfall in the past two days. And there you can see the town of Supai and they didn't see the showers and thundershowers which had been pushing down to the south and east.

Now the latest update that we're getting in from the national weather service is that the flood warning has been extended now until midnight tonight and they are expecting that the river is going to be cresting in this area overnight and into tomorrow morning. So then they are expecting it to move down just a little bit.

Now, this is all connected, the Colorado River into the Havasu Creek into the Cataract Creek, and it's actually the Cataract Creek that had that break on the dam there. And you can understand why this is such a popular tourism area where people like to go and camp and like to hike. There are some beautiful falls in here. And really the only way you can get down to the Canyon floor here is by helicopter. And that's why we've had just so many helicopter evacuations going on there today.

Now, to give you a better idea of where this is located, we're going to switch over to our virtual earth map now. To put this in perspective for you, here you can see Las Vegas, here's Flagstaff, and then of course the Grand Canyon is right in the middle.

We're going to zoom in. There's the Havasupai Indian Reservation. There you can see the Colorado River right along the north. Here's the Havasu Creek and the Havasu Canyon. So the break was probably somewhere in here. It was actually about 40 miles away from the village of Supai. As we get more information, of course, Rick, we'll bring it along to you. But right now it looks like much drier weather is in the forecast once we get through by tomorrow morning.

SANCHEZ: Yes, you know, I was amazed, just looking at you as you were talking over those pictures of that actual dam break. I mean, we've got those pictures just a couple of minutes before we went on the air tonight. I think we are as amazed as anybody else. We are hearing all night, we've got some unbelievable pictures coming in. People are really in desperate straights out there. But it wasn't until we actually -- there it is again. Take a look at that.


SANCHEZ: Folks, that is not a water fall that you're looking at. That's not supposed to be there. That's not God made. That's an actual dam that has burst and it's causing that situation. We're going to be all over this story throughout the course of this newscast.

And, of course, the latest on this update to what happened earlier tonight in the faith forum and whether or not John McCain was or was not in a cone of silence. My interview is coming up with Pastor Rick Warren. We'll have that for you in just a bit. Stay with us. We'll be right back.


SANCHEZ: Once again, this breaking news that we're following for you. This is the very latest picture that we got tonight. This is from the actual dam burst. It's called the Redlands Dam. It's in Supai, Arizona.

Jacqui Jeras was showing you just moments ago, it's not far from Flagstaff, Arizona. Around the area of the Grand Canyon filled with tourists and some people who live there as well. Many of them being evacuated now by the Red Cross to Peach Springs we understand.

All over the story throughout the course of this next hour. And as we get pictures, as we get pictures, we'll turn it around and bring it to you right away. And welcome back to the world headquarters of CNN here in Atlanta.

Tonight, the John McCain team has canceled a meeting in Miami. The reason, Fay. This is the tropical storm that will brush by South Florida tomorrow morning. Making the McCain fund-raiser less of a priority, as you might imagine there for some of the officials. Instead, McCain has stopped by the Orange County Emergency Operation Center today, outside Orlando where he listen to state local officials lay out plans to face land fall.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We hope and pray that this storm will not cause any significant damage nor in fact do anything that would disrupt the lives, and particularly all of the many hundreds of thousands of visitors who visit here on a regular basis.


SANCHEZ: And, of course, Jacqui Jeras is having a busy night tonight. She's going to be telling you the latest on what's going on with Fay when it becomes a Category 1 storm as we expected. And possibly rushes up against the Florida Coast.

But now, a story about strange bedfellows. Before he held this town meeting today in Nevada, Barack Obama met with T. Boone Pickens. Why is that strange bedfellows? Well, that's the same T. Boone Pickens who four years ago gave $1 million to the swift vote veterans group that attacked John Kerry's presidential bid. As unusual as the meeting itself may sound, check out what happened when a reporter there got into the act with this very, very pointed question.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Senator, how does it feel meeting with someone who tore down your Democratic colleague in the last election?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Oh, you know, he has got a lot longer track record than that. He has been doing -- you know, he is a legendary entrepreneur and there are a lot of things that I think we have to unify the country around -- it is having an intelligent energy policy.


SANCHEZ: Did we say uncomfortable? The politics doesn't stop there, by the way.

A follow-up now on the faith forum that you watched right here on CNN, from what is being rich to when do a baby's human rights actually begin. And then this. When is a cone of silence not a cone of silence? And if it isn't a cone of silence, could one of the candidates, namely John McCain, because he just happen to go last in this interview -- could he have heard the questions that we were assured that he could not have been hearing? Hear now my interview with Pastor Rick Warren.


SANCHEZ: Let me start you this way. Were you surprised because I was just listening to Barack Obama there? Were you surprised that he didn't respond the way Democrats have almost consistently responded in the past, if they happen to have or share his position. They say something like, look, personally I'm against abortion, but I'm not against a law that allows it.

You asked him specifically when does a baby get human rights. He said, it is above my pay grade, at some point. Were you taken aback by his nuanced response?

PASTOR RICK WARREN, SADDLEBACK CHURCH: No. Actually, Rick, I think what we saw last night was two personalities exactly playing according to form. I see Barack Obama as kind of the thoughtful consensus builder. I see John McCain as the happy, straight forward warrior. And they both answered exactly according to casting. Just the way they work.

One of them tends to get right to the point. Barack is more nuanced. He's more -- he thinks things through. You know, he's a constitutional attorney. And so it didn't surprise me at all. In fact, it was a good balance to show the difference.

SANCHEZ: I heard somebody on our air today actually say the following statement. It seemed to me, he said, that Senator McCain was doing an interview with Wolf Blitzer, whereas Senator Obama was doing an interview with Oprah Winfrey. So, two different styles. And I think you picked up on that.

Let me ask you about this. Last night I heard you say that McCain would be in a cone of silence. And then half-hour into the event I hear our guys here at our political desk announced that McCain has just arrived at the worship center. And I'm thinking, you know -- hey, if he just arrived at the worship center, he couldn't have been in the cone of silence. Right?

WARREN: Well, that's true. He was in a cone of -- a secret service motorcade. That's exactly for sure.

SANCHEZ: But you said -- I'm going to quote you. I will pressure you just a little bit on this, because I love this cone of silence thing, and I want to borrow it with my four kids at home, by the way. "We flipped a coin," you said, "and we have safely placed Senator McCain in a cone of silence." That's what you said.

WARREN: Yes. SANCHEZ: Did you think at the time -- when you said that, did you think he was in the cone of silence -- did you think he was in the building?

WARREN: Actually, yes, I did. There was actually a question I got to Senator Obama in advance that I didn't get to Senator McCain because he wasn't there. I actually wrote down on a piece of paper the very first question, because I wanted them both to be relaxed. I said here's the very first question. I gave it to both of them to ask that.

But I also told Senator Obama, since there was one question where I was going to ask for a commitment, it was the commitment later about would you allow a PEPFAR type president's emergency plan for orphans.

And I thought if I was going to ask them for a public commitment, I ought to let him know in advance. I got to tell Barack Obama that in advance. I did not get to tell John McCain that in advance. It caught him by surprise, I'm sure.

SANCHEZ: I mean, just out of fairness. I mean, look, this is CNN. We try to be as exact as we possibly can. I just wanted to get it on the record. And, of course, there's going to be people out there, pastor, who are going to say, well, if he wasn't there, like a half-hour before the event started, what would have stopped him from watching an event that was on all three channels, on the radio, there's Blackberries, there's the Internet. There's everything else. So, I guess you don't know and I don't know whether he had the questions or not.

WARREN: You know what? In the first place, we asked them. We flat-out asked him. Did you hear any of the debate -- I mean, any of the discussion. And I trust the integrity of both John McCain and Barack Obama that they said they would abide by the rules. They knew the rules way in advance, that I would not give them the questions. I did tell them all of the themes, and went through all of the themes, said here's the kind of question, the themes that I'm going to deal with.

I'm going to probably throw out a question about the economy. I'm going to probably throw out a question about climate change, which by the way I never got to, and a number of other issues.

But I would not give them the wording of what specifically -- like for instance, it is one thing to say I may ask a question about the courts. It is another question to say, which of the existing Supreme Court would you not appoint.

SANCHEZ: Well, yes. And let's be fair. We called Senator McCain's office and they said that, no, we did not listen. We did not know. So what you're saying is part of that, we're just going to have to go on the honor system. And we certainly respect that.

Let me switch a little bit on the topics here. Going back to Barack Obama; did you expect him to say that he's against abortion personally? And were you surprised that he didn't say that? WARREN: Well, again, I know both of these guys pretty well.


SANCHEZ: I mean, I'm asking you this question as a pastor.

WARREN: I wasn't surprised by either of their answers. I figured that's what they were going to say.

SANCHEZ: Here, let me try another one with you then. Because, you know, I'm looking at this now as somebody who was really enjoying the event, sitting in front of my television watching this. There was one --

WARREN: The one thing I regret, Rick, is that I can't tell you how many times I wanted to ask a follow-up, because I could have gone for 30 minutes on every one. I know the pain of a journalist now, because they would say something and I'd go, yes, but what about. Yes, and I wanted -- everything, every bone in my body wanted to ask, yes, but -- but I decided to go for breadth rather than depth, because I knew I wouldn't get a lot of questions asked if I did follow-ups.

SANCHEZ: You know what you're doing now? You're feeling my pain. There is this producer who talks to me in this little thing right here, who's constantly telling me, hurry up.

Let me ask you this one -- there was another point that I think -- you know, I'm trying to pick up on things that I think will get more shelf life in the news. I think maybe that Barack Obama response on abortion may or may not get some shelf life.

McCain had a response to you when you asked him what constituted a rich person. And he kind of threw out the term five million in income. And I was thinking to myself, there are people all over America right now going, five million? Do you think the average American -- how close do you think he was, his figure, to what the average American thinks is a rich person?

WARREN: Yes. Well, he instantly knew that. That was one of those ones where the staff kind of grimaces and goes, oh! You know, I honestly believe, and I've said this before, that everybody in public life, Democrat and Republican, should get a five percent grace factor, because everybody says stuff you say that's stupid, you don't believe.

And later you go -- well, I wish I hadn't said that. I've done it. You know, I'm going to say it on this -- I'll say stuff on this interview with you that I go, I didn't believe that at all. You know?

So, we just have to not play gotcha on stuff like that and go, OK, he didn't mean that.

SANCHEZ: By the way, for the record, I've never made a mistake. Just ask my wife and kids.

WARREN: Oh, that's good! SANCHEZ: Rick Warren, you're a good man. I appreciate you taking time with us. Congratulations. You held an event. You had people there and you had all the networks on you as well. A job well done, sir. We appreciate your time.


SANCHEZ: From Mr. Warren, let's go now to Mr. Preston on Preston on Politics.

Mark, let's start with this cone of silence thing. Does this show, if nothing else to you, that when you prepare for something that's going to be seen by as many people as this, you better prep your staff because you're going to have both sides looking for any signs of bias.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Yes. Absolutely. Look, we're less than 80 days right now, Rick, to Election Day. And every time, John McCain or Barack Obama speaks, you know, they could deliver a fatal blow to their own campaign.

You know, last night we didn't see that with John McCain. He said something silly by saying that, you know, a rich person -- you know, somebody who makes $5 million. You know, John McCain speaks so often tough. That's what we saw last night.

SANCHEZ: Hey, let's talk about Joe Biden. Delaware's own Joe Biden. Their favorite son. We understand he's heading off to Georgia and that means that this guy is starting to build a resume. Maybe building a resume to be the next vice president of the United States if Barack Obama gets elected? That's kind of a presumptuous way of asking a question. Does he?

PRESTON: Yes, no doubt. No doubt. Look, he already have the resume. And that's why he is on Barack Obama's short list, Rick. Look, if he was picked by Barack Obama, he immediately gets Barack Obama those foreign policy creds that you and I talked about all the time that Barack Obama seems to lack. That's why we saw Barack Obama going to Iraq, Afghanistan and Europe. That's why he did the tour. He tried to build up his creds. If he brings Joe Biden along as his running mate, he instantly gets the creds.

SANCHEZ: Let me go to the Republican side. We got Cantor, Charlie Crist of Florida of course, Pawlenty -- everybody is talking about in Minnesota, Tom Ridge, Rob Portman and of course Mitt Romney for last because he seems to be kind of one of the favorites among the base. Who's off, who's down right now in that race?

PRESTON: Well, let's just break them apart. If John McCain picks Pawlenty and Cantor that means he's trying to reach out now to the conservative base, to the social conservatives, which he did try to do last night as well in tonight when we saw the replay of the forum. If he picks somebody like Tom Ridge, that means he's looking for electoral votes up in Pennsylvania. But he's also looking to run on national security. If he's trying to pick Charlie Crist, 27 electoral votes in Florida. A lot of votes down there. SANCHEZ: I'll tell you, it's a rough decision. I mean, you get something with one guy, but you lose something with somebody else. And it's almost like, you know, balancing it out. Mr. Preston, thanks so much as usual. Did I say "Preston on Politics" once again? Thanks for being with us. Back to our top story when we come back.

And we're expecting some new pictures coming in. Look at some of the old pictures that we have on the air so far. It's amazing to look at what's going on in the Grand Canyon with some of those areas where that dam has burst. We'll have it for you. And then, there's Fay and Florida as well. All of that story when we come back.


SANCHEZ: And welcome back to the world headquarters of CNN. I'm Rick Sanchez. It's taking out on Florida Keys. John Zarrella standing by down there. He's in an area that's called Key Largo. It's really the very beginning of the Florida Keys. And what's interesting is that's U.S. 1. U.S. 1 goes in one direction and one lane, going one way, one lane, going into another lane. So, if there's an emergency, it's tough to get out. That's why we always send some of our best reporters to this region.

What's going on tonight, John?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, we were crazy as reporters (INAUDIBLE). Actually we -- we actually made it all the way down to Key West. Now, you know, this spot. This is Duvall Street and of course mandatory evacuations of all tourists were ordered out of the Keys this morning. And all up and down U.S. 1, the traffic was backed up, massive traffic jams, all day long as people were making their way out -- the cars, the boats, the trailers, everybody heading out.

The Winnebago is moving north. Down here, though, on Duvall Street tonight, you still see it's kind of a party down here. A lot of people still hanging out on the streets but nothing like we would normally see on a night on Duvall Street. This is a Key West version of Bourbon Street.

Look here, this shirt shop. It's boarded up here. There's another one across the street that's boarded up. Down the way, we saw somebody putting up aluminum shutters on their building. So people here certainly getting ready, making precautions, preparing for Fay just in case it's worse than what they think it might be tomorrow. But again, still a lot of partying going on down here on Duvall Street in Key West.


SANCHEZ: Yes. Sloppy Joes, where they try and choose each year. Who looks the most like Hemmingway? Thanks so much. We appreciate the report, John Zarrella.

ZARRELLA: That's it. You got it. SANCHEZ: Hey, Jacqui Jeras, can you give us a sense of what -- those who are tracking this thing say it might do in terms of -- (A) how strong it will get and, (B) what the direction will be?

JERAS: Well, the simple answer is, it's going to start changing direction, Rick, and start pulling further to the north and move more parallel to the Florida's West Coast in terms of timing and impact. It looks like it's going to start west of the Keys now. And the Keys are going to be feeling the impact of the storm now with tropical- storm forced winds as early as may be mid-day tomorrow.

In the meantime, the storm has been trying to organize itself a little bit better here. It's just south of Cuba but had slowed down a little bit in forward speed. So, we think the earliest impact that we could see a landfall, if that happens in the Keys, which doesn't look like the best scenario any longer what happen late tomorrow night.

So, we'll be looking at Tuesday and Wednesday now for potential landfall on Florida's West Coast. The models had been consistently inconsistent until today, Rick. Things are looking a lot more definitive in terms of where this storm goes.

SANCHEZ: Somewhere either between the Florida Panhandle and the actual state itself, huh? But don't know. Thanks.

JERAS: It's a close call.

SANCHEZ: Yes. We'll be watching it.

Coming up, we're going to have an update on that dramatic story that we've been following in the Grand Canyon with Jacqui's help as well. These are people who are trapped when this dam has broken. There is a rush to save them underway. Some 400 people is what

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: So, we'll be looking at Tuesday and Wednesday now for potential landfall on Florida's West Coast. The models had been consistently inconsistent until today, Rick. Things are looking a lot more definitive in terms of where this storm goes.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Somewhere either between the Florida Panhandle and the actual state itself, huh? But don't know. Thanks.

JERAS: It's a close call.

SANCHEZ: Yes. We'll be watching it.

Coming up, we're going to have an update on that dramatic story that we've been following in the Grand Canyon with Jacqui's help as well. These are people who are trapped when this dam has broken. There is a rush to save them underway. Some 400 people is what we're talking about. Taking you back to that scene when we come back.


SANCHEZ: Welcome back. There is the money shot. That's the one that really got our attention just before we get ready -- got ready -- preparing to go on the air tonight.

This is the Redland Dam. It's an earthen dam that was holding the water back. It suddenly burst and started shooting into the Colorado River, making the situation very difficult there both for campers and hikers and kayakers and people on rafts who were taking tours as well as some of the people who live in the area as well.

We understand as many as 400 people have either been transported or in the process of being transported or evacuated from the region. There you see the area that we're talking about. Supai is where it is.

And I understand we have Tracey Kiest now from the American Red Cross to help us deal with this developing -- this breaking news story that we got word of as we were preparing to go on the air tonight with some of these pictures.

Tracey, are you there?


SANCHEZ: What can you tell us about your evacuation effort and what you're doing for these good people?

KIEST: You know, well, I just finished talking to our search manager and we've got about 30 folks who have already been evacuated, who've checked in to the shelter. They're in pretty good spirits.

Actually, I've just talked in the phone with a gal who was on a day hike when the flash flood hit and her boat was taken away. (INAUDIBLE) again in very good spirits, kind of waiting to hear what's going to happen next. They're doing well. The Red Cross volunteers are working to, you know, set up the cots, all of these folks to have a place to sleep and we'll have meals for them, emotional support, all that kind of stuff.

SANCHEZ: When you talk to these people who you've been helping, what are they saying? Was it like, all of a sudden, unsuspecting wall of water that's coming toward them? Or did the water just get faster? What happened?

KIEST: You know, the gal that we were just talking to, she said that they weren't -- they didn't really expect anything like this to happen. They're out on a day hike and, you know, when you prepare for things like these, you kind of look out for the weather and that kind of thing.

They knew that weather was going to be a factor but the flash flood hit so fast and so quickly that, you know, it took them off guard but they were safe -- they were safe. And then, of course, the emergency officials' first responders have rescued them and brought them to the Red Cross shelter.

So, again, amazingly in great spirits. These people were, you know, experienced people, experienced rafters as well. I also talked to a resident who seemed a little bit, a little shell shocked but she's doing OK.

SANCHEZ: Yes, I imagine it's from one category to another. If you're someone who doesn't have a whole lot of experience being on these rapids and you may be have experience with a one, a two, or three and suddenly it becomes a four, five, or six, it can be a pretty hair-raising experience for you.

There you see some of the pictures of some of the areas that are being set up by rescue officials as well. And from there, some of the folks with your organization, the Red Cross, have been moving people out.

Again, this is a breaking story for those of you joining us now. There has been a dam burst and it's called the Redland Dam. People are now being evacuated from the area there in the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.

Tracey Kiest, thanks so much for joining us and sharing your perspective on this and my thanks to all the good folks over to Red Cross.

By the way, we spoke to the Red Cross contact and she did also want people to know tonight that if you're looking for loved ones, you can log on to Again, that's and there's a place you can click on to. It's called "Register safe and well." And there you can search to see if your loved ones have registered at this shelter. I just wanted to pass that along as well aside from the interview we just did.

All right. Moving on to another big story that all the world is watching now. Russian tanks rolling into the sovereign nation this week of Georgia and now they're promising to roll out. Promise, though. That's the key word. Is it too little too late? Is the bear back? Who's at fault here? Is it Georgia or Russia? We'll talk to experts. Stay with us.


SANCHEZ: Welcome back. Word tonight that has to be encouraging for the people of Georgia. The troops, the Russian troops that is, that invaded 10 days ago will apparently begin to pullout sometime tomorrow. That's a promise from none other than the president of Russia himself.

Well, back up. We didn't say his troops would return to Russia. That's the problem here. Only that they'll head back to where they were before the invasion.

Now, chock it up to diplomacy. France's president has been involved in the negotiations since the conflict began. Germany's chancellor is now in Georgia, as well, negotiating. And the U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was there Friday as you know.

Also doing some diplomacy, U.S. Senator Joe Biden, believed to be on Senator Obama's short list as I forward mentioned with my talk with Mark Preston for vice president. He is in Georgia tonight. There's the pics.

He says that he wants to get the facts firsthand and to show his support for Georgia's democratically elected government. Biden is the chairman of the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee. Key point there.

The spokesperson says that Georgia's President Saakashvili requested this visit. Biden plans to meet with members of Georgia's government, the U.S. ambassador to Georgia and residents forced to flee their homes during the fighting.

So, who really started the fire in this conflict? To get closer to the truth ourselves, we have researched with several inputs. First of all, a quick history of the troubled past between Georgia and Russia. Check it out. And then we've got some real heavy-hitting guests to talk about the involvement -- the U.S. involvement in this thing. And who is right and who is wrong?


SANCHEZ (voice-over): 1991, Georgia declares its independence from the Soviet Union after the empire collapses. South Ossetia and Abkhazia want no part of it, though. They fight a war within Georgia to claim their own independence, but they failed.

1992, the Georgians and Russians set up a joint peace-keeping force to mediate the violence in South Ossetia.

2004, Mikheil Saakashvili is democratically elected the President of Georgia. The new president, educated at Columbia Law School and courting the West including the U.S., tries to get into NATO, which angers the Russians.

Saakashvili tries to bring South Ossetia and Abkhazia into the fold, but they'll have no part of it. Saakashvili offers them a partial autonomy, one where they have to remain part of Georgia.

In April, NATO tells Georgia it eventually will be allowed into their organization. That infuriates Russia further. Weeks later, Russia steps up ties with the breakaway provinces and sends in more troops.

Saakashvili accuses Russia of trying to start a war. NATO accuses Moscow of stoking tensions. That's where we are now. Georgia launches a surprise operation to seize control of South Ossetia. Russia responds by invading Georgia and dropping bombs.


SANCHEZ: Key questions that need to be asked in this. For example, South Ossetia, if they did not want to be a part of Georgia. Why should they be forced to be a part of Georgia? Is this what Russia is really after? Or is Russia really looking for something else? And what is the United States' involvement in this? All key questions for all Americans.

As we watch the drama unfolds, we've assembled a panel of experts. There they are. They will give us the low down on what's really going on between Russia and Georgia. That's ahead.


SANCHEZ: All right. We've got some new pictures. I want to share these with you. Take a look at that helicopter. Do you see the folks coming over to the helicopter now? Some of the folks that are going to rescued who were in that region. Some of them, obviously, were either kayaking or part of the hiking or some of the rafting expeditions that take place there in the Grand Canyon.

Again, this is a developing story. Breaking news. There's a rescue going on right there because of a dam burst. And we're going to be all over it, checking in with our affiliates as well as some of the reporters there on the ground.

Meanwhile, let's do a shift here and talk about more news on what some are calling the new Russian front, the border with Georgia. Who's right here? And who's wrong? And who should the U.S. -- and should the U.S. get more involved?

To sort this all out, we've invited a panel of Russian experts. Liz Sherwood-Randall. She's with the Council of Foreign Relations. She's also, by the way, the former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, the Ukraine and Eurasia.

And then, there's Anna Mulrine. She's the defense correspondent for "U.S. News & World Report". She's good enough to join us as well.

And Cathy Nepomnyashchy. She chairs the Slavic Department at Barnard College.

Ladies, thanks so much for being with us. Let me start with just -- and let me get you guys to respond to each other if you'd on this. Who's right here? Is anyone more right than the other in this argument between Georgia and Russia?

ELIZABETHG SHERWOOD-RANDALL, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: You know, I think there's blame to go around but the excessive Russian escalation of the violence, the destruction of not only military but civilian infrastructure and the fact that the Russian foreign minister said this week we should forget about Georgian territorial integrity to just that Russia has greater ambitions in mind.

SANCHEZ: What are -- Anna, do you believe that's true? Do you think there are greater ambitions?

ANNA MULRINE, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": I do agree with that. I do agree with that. I think nobody would dispute the notion that Saakashvili is a bit of a hot-head. With that said, I think there's widespread agreement, certainly within the Pentagon, that, you know, as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates says, the Russians seized an opportunity there. You know, there's a sense within the building that perhaps Russia baited him a bit. There are questions about the speed with which all those tanks, the equipment, could have arrived on the scene. Given the time --

SANCHEZ: Let me ask this question, Kathy. Maybe I'll ask it of you. I've been wondering myself. If the South Ossetians don't want to be Georgians, if they feel in their hearts that they really want to be Russians, why not let them be Russians?

CATHY NEPOMNYASHCHY, BARNARD COLLEGE: Well, that's a difficult question. I must admit that I having been recently in Abkhazia, I'm a little bit more comfortable talking about Abkhazia than South Ossetia, and I know --

SANCHEZ: Well, let me take that question to one of the other ladies, then.


SANCHEZ: Because I really -- I'm curious about that, Cathy, and I'll just come back to you in just a bit.


Ladies, either Liz or Anna. If the South Ossetians don't want to be Georgians, why do they have to be Georgians?

SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Look, since 1991, we have supported the independent sovereignty and territorial integrity of every single country that emerged from the break up of the Soviet Union. That's 15 new states.

So what needs to happen if we're going to have a process whereby some parts of some country decide to secede, that there is a negotiation in which all the parties can agree on an outcome, and that hasn't taken place. What we see taking place is the use of force to resolve the problem.

SANCHEZ: But back to my question, why can't the South Ossetians determine their own fate?

SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Because there are many ethnic groups have interests and desires to create their own country that could lead to the breakup of many places. And indeed one of the things we see is that there are lots of countries watching and worrying about the precedence that is being set in Georgia today.

SANCHEZ: I get it. I get it. It's a slippery slope argument. You let them do it, everybody else is going to want to do it.

Cathy, let me come back to you if I could then. Is the United States handling this properly? And is the United States the best arbiter in this situation given what's been going on with the maladies in Iraq for this country?

NEPOMNYASHCHY: Well, I think that it does create a real problem for us because obviously some of the Russian commentators have been using regime change -- a regime change in Iraq as a precedent for what is happening now in Georgia.

SANCHEZ: You think so? Do you think --


NEPOMNYASHCHY: Oh, yes. This has been very explicit. And there have the -- and Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin basically compared Saakashvili to Saddam Hussein.

So, from the very first day when Putin made his initial statement, it's really set the tone, even before the invasion. It was very clear that at the very least, the possibility of unseating Saakashvili as a motivation for what the Russians were doing --

SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Can I jump in here?

SANCHEZ: We're down to 10 seconds. If you can do it in 10, you can.

SHERWOOD-RANDALL: We need to play a leadership role with our key European allies to make it very clear that sitting heavy in Georgia is not acceptable, that Russian combat troops and peacekeepers need to leave and return to their August 6th position.

SANCHEZ: Liz, Anna, Cathy, my thanks to all three of you. We appreciate it.



SANCHEZ: Coming up, the beginning of a terrible crime that's caught on camera. A clerk kidnapped from a convenience store. The story with no happy ending.

Also tracking Tropical Storm Fay, possibly about to become a hurricane. Will it get all the way to a Two and where is it going? We'll be right back.


SANCHEZ: We bring you the story now I was referring to just moments ago. A store clerk in Texas whose abduction was caught on camera Friday has now been found dead. It's not good news. Police discovered Mindy Daffern's body in a remote area about 50 miles from the store.

The man who abducted her at gunpoint is in jail with charges of aggravated robbery and kidnapping. He is expected to be charged with capital murder now, we understand. By the way, coming up -- keeping an eye on Fay, the eye of the storm, that is. She's making her way towards Florida. Meteorologist Jacqui Jeras joins us next.


JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Welcome back. Fay just south of the Cuban coast, now getting ready to make landfall here tonight. And overnight, moving over the island and getting back into the open waters.

Intensification is expected while storm has been holding steady today at 15 miles per hour. Track has shift westwards throughout the day today. And our confidence becoming much stronger here on the track of Fay.

But something to keep in mind is as it moves parallel to the coast, it's just barely off shore. Any little wobble as hurricanes and tropical storms do do could certainly change the track of this storm. So, everybody in the West Coast is paying very close attention. Rick is back right after this break.


SANCHEZ: What I'm doing right now is called twittering. I'm actually responding to many of our viewers who've been saying several things, several comments about my interview with Rick Warren and the story that we are following out of the Grand Canyon.

This is what I do during the newscast. I communicate with you as you communicate with me. You can find me online throughout this newscast.

Sign up to follow my updates and get a minute-to-minute, day-to- day look inside my world and my team's world as we cover the news and prepare to bring it to you and even while we're on the air bringing it to you.

Just go to It's really And you can also find me on MySpace. If you want to go to that address, it's Same thing. And I'm on Facebook, too, but they're just kind of too difficult to figure out how to get through it but I'm there.

Thanks so much for being with me. I'll see you throughout the course of the night or what's left of it here on as well. We'll update you on the flooding near the Grand Canyon right after this.


SANCHEZ: It's an emergency and a bit of a huge rescue effort that's been taking place and it's deep into the Grand Canyon. We've been showing you these pictures since the beginning of the newscast. You see that right there? You see the water falling? That's not a waterfalls, folks. It's actually a dam that burst and its results had gone into the Colorado River.

And as a result, the river has suddenly risen. People have had to be evacuated. 400 at last count. We're going to be all over it throughout the night.

I'm Rick Sanchez. Thanks so much for being with us. We'll see you again here next weekend.