Return to Transcripts main page
CNN BREAKING NEWS
Continuing Coverage as Hurricane Gustav Makes Landfall in Louisiana
Aired September 1, 2008 - 01:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: It's WVUE that's sending us these. And you can see that wave motion that we're starting to see that's typical when a hurricane starts getting close to shore. I mean, look, this is the Gulf. The Gulf is not -- it's usually not very turbid. It's pretty tranquil area. All things consider, certainly compared to the Pacific and even the other side of Florida around the Atlantic.
So, you know, what this means is there's a big storm offshore and it's usually headed your way. This is a report now that we've got coming in. This is one of the iReports that from Cody Heitmeier. He filed this for us from Algiers, Louisiana.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CODY HEITMEIER, IREPORTER: Securing my house, I had to go there. Get everything I need in order to be ready for the storm because I will be out in the storm for the duration of it. So, I had to get my supplies, quick change of clothes. Up ahead of me is a police officer with its lights flashing. They are just probably going to the scene. This is a school in Algiers. It's called Oak Prairie Walker.
They are -- looks like everyone is out. They have a few busses there, but that's about it. This was one of pick up points in Algiers. You can see cars everywhere down the streets. This was a pick up point. This is one of the colleges in Algiers. It's called Delgado Community College, just down the street from where I live.
As you can see there's no activity going on in the streets. The entrances are barricaded. There's a large police vehicle traveling down the street right there. This is the Navy base. The Navy base in Algiers, they looked like they have some very secure lockdown. Nothing going on.
As I said, it seems like I'm the only ones out here, other than law enforcement, and that's because I'm on my way to my job. Like I said, I'm a firefighter for the port of New Orleans. I will try and send -- shoot some more video as I cross the Crescent City Connection Bridge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: And Cody joins us now by phone. Interesting as we look at those pictures. Not a lot of people on the roads, right, Cody?
HEITMEIER: No really, there's not. You know, just a strong military cousins and a strong law enforcement presence here. And people really heeded the evacuation warnings, which was great.
SANCHEZ: Is there any sense at this point -- where are you right now, by the way?
HEITMEIER We're at an undisclosed location in the city. And you know, I can't tell you enough about my company I work for. They have done great to take care of us. And we are in a safe area, but we are in the element.
SANCHEZ: What is the feeling of -- from folks there, who have gone through Katrina and are now witnessing what they fear could be something very similar to Katrina, at least in terms of its effect?
HEITMEIER: You know, a lot of people are obviously dealing with a lot of stress of everything that happened in Katrina. And also, this is bringing on a lot of that post-traumatic stress that they had to deal with. A lot of people obviously had left. And it's a very scary situation for a lot of people right now.
SANCHEZ: It's almost like they're, you know, just kind of riddled with anxiety, isn't it. I mean, I kind of experienced that myself with friends and family after some of the storms that I have been through growing up in South Florida. And it's hard to explain to someone who's never had it before. But it's almost something in the pit of your stomach and you can't really explain it unless you felt it. Right?
HEITMEIER: You're right. It's incomparable to anything I have ever been through before. And I have family members who are extremely concerned. They've gotten out of the city and they've called me repeatedly just to check on me. And because, see I wasn't here for Katrina. I was living away. I was living in New York and I came home. And they all experienced it. Now, they're so concerned for my safety because I'm here and I'm in it. I'm in the heart of everything. And some of the guys I work with, they have experienced everything. And they are -- I mean, they are pretty nervous about it, to be honest with you. But they are here, they are doing their job and they are not going to let down the city.
SANCHEZ: Cody, are you there?
HEITMEIER: Yes, yes, I'm here. I'm sorry.
SANCHEZ: Hey, thanks so much for that report, man. We understand we've got another correspondent standing by that we're going to go to now. We appreciate your pictures. We appreciate your commentary. And there she is. There's Jody. Pardon me. We're talking to so many people at this time, Jennifer.
Jennifer Van Vrancken is joining us now. She's there, showing us what effects she's seeing now from the storm as it starts to approach the city.
Jennifer, set the scene for us.
JENNIFER VAN VRANCKEN, WVUE CORRESPONDENT: Rick, this is an area of New Orleans that's familiar. It's the Lake Front area. So, this is where the Lake Front Lighthouse. It may be an image your viewer saw after Katrina. The Lake Front Lighthouse. It was a red roof structure that was smashed to bits.
So, this is a very familiar area. We've been out here about 2 hours now. I'm going to move out of the shot so you can basically see what's behind me. This is Lake Pontchartrain right in an area of New Orleans where usually people are out enjoying this Lake Front area.
When we first arrived down here, the waves were maybe two feet high and there was a nice strong wind. Over the course of the two hours that we've been out here, we've seen the winds picked up. At last report, they were close to 30-miles-an-hour. And we've seen the waves increased to about four foot waves at this point.
And the winds over the course of the evening will start to shift and become more aimed at our north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. This is the south shore on the New Orleans side. The winds, about 20 minutes ago, were really beautiful. You got the sense of one of those days at the beach where you felt it was nice and cool. It's wonderful.
In the last 20 minutes, however, you really start to feel the push against you. So you could feel the power of this storm coming in. It's a nice, cool night. There's really no rain to speak of. The mist that you probably see in the air is more just off the lake at this point from the wind blowing it in. So, we have not seen, certainly, by any stretch the really heavy wind and rain that we will see over the course of the next 12 hours.
SANCHEZ: You know what's interesting, Jennifer, when I first saw that picture, I thought it was just maybe off the coast there in the Gulf itself. But you're telling us that that's Lake Pontchartrain. Now as far as turbidity goes, in this particular area, this is not a lake where you usually see waves at all, if any. So the fact that this lake is showing that kind of wave condition, speaks volumes. You would usually, when you fly over it or when you're near it, it's tranquil, right?
VAN VRANCKEN: That's absolutely true. And in fact, the point that you'll see behind me, where you see a street light out there, this is the area of the lake where you normally see boats coming in to the yacht club that's right here at the southern end of the lake. It's in New Orleans. And you see the boats coming across usually a very tranquil lake, a beautiful picturesque scene. A lot of a seafood restaurants around this area.
So, again, this is usually some people are out enjoying, and there is not this kind of force of nature. After Katrina, your viewers would be familiar with this area because this is the lake that eventually pushed against the canals walls, our outfall canals breaking those walls and then flooding the City of New Orleans. So, it wasn't the gulf in that case, it was this lake -- Lake Pontchartrain and the force of the storm surge pushing against those levee walls and breaking them and flooding the City of New Orleans. So, it's two different elements tonight. New Orlenians are worried about the lake both on the south and north shore, much more so on our north shore of this lake and on the West Bank of New Orleans. And the West Bank was not an area that saw the destruction that New Orleans proper on the south shore saw in Katrina. But they are threatened tonight. So, again, when a hurricane whips this lake up, it can create a lot of storm surge and danger to people who live along it.
SANCHEZ: That's interesting. I'll tell you, as you watch that, you almost feel like -- OK, here we go. These are the very first pictures. This thing is going to be happening and it's going to be happening soon. And a lot of people who are -- as we said before, anxious about this, as you might expect, given what they've gone through with Katrina.
Jennifer Van Vrancken, thanks so much. We're so glad you're there. Thanks for filling that report for us. If we get a chance, maybe we'll be able to check back with you.
VAN VRANCKEN: Absolutely, Rick. Thank you.
SANCHEZ: We appreciate it, Jennifer.
Let's go over to Karen McGinnis now and try and get a sense of what's going on with the storm.
You know, it's interesting to see those pictures. This time, though, the storm is coming in at a different angle, isn't it? So, it's not really Lake Pontchartrain that most folks are concern about. It's actually more like the Mississippi, right?
KAREN MCGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It really is because all of that water is getting pushed up in towards the southeastern quadrant of Louisiana. There you see more of that wave action from our affiliate WVUE. It looks like this on Lake Pontchartrain. A tropical storm force wind. But I want to point out something else that's fairly interesting. I want to show you where the eye is. Still situated out in the Gulf of Mexico. Still a Category 3 hurricane. But here comes the eye. We'll zoom in. And I want to tell you about a Mesoscale Discussion.
That is we're looking at the potential for tornado's to increase. The closer the eye gets towards the coast, it looks like southern Louisiana could be in line for an outbreak of tornadoes. This is kind of what you typically see with the eye wall, but you can start to see some of these stronger bands associated with this inner eye wall that are expected to move on shore overnight and into tomorrow, Rick. So, we're watching that. There's a tornado watch in effect right now.
SANCHEZ: You're saying that you expect to see tornadic activity because of the way that this is shape?
MCGINNIS: Just because the hurricane force winds -- the inner circle. We start to see these supercells embedded around that eye wall. SANCHEZ: I see.
MCGINNIS: Yes, exactly. It's not necessarily how it's coming in or anything of that sort. But just the typical round of the thunderstorms that kind of surround that eye wall. So, Southern Louisiana, not just the wind, not just the rain, not just the flooding, but now tornadoes just a genuine threat for the rest of the overnight hours and into tomorrow before it makes land fall, perhaps around that noon hour.
But what has concerned me, now, we are starting to see some of these embedded supercells right around this eye that has now clearly showing up on our radar imagery. And we start to see some of these little movements, but movement now to north towards the northwest. Here comes a band. Boothville, Louisiana, right down here. This portion that just out, your in line for this next -- take a look at this line. It's just about ready to move on shore.
New Orleans, it looks like -- for the most part, light to moderate, but the winds are still going to be at tropical storm intensity. But check some of the other locations. Morgan City, Cameron, I checked some of the wind conditions there. They are looking pretty good. They are fair. Get a little breezy every now and again. But just wait. We're just hours away from things really turning badly.
SANCHEZ: All right, Karen, thanks so much. We'll hopefully keep checking back with you as we will our correspondents. I understand, one of our correspondents is on the ground there now in New Orleans. And we'll be checking with him when we come back. Stay with us. We'll be right back.
SANCHEZ: Here we go. This is from Ted Reese. He is joining us tonight on Twitter. We have been putting this plasma here together where we, from time to time, switch back and forth between twitter.com/ricksanchezcnn, as well as Facebook and MySpace.
Here's one from Ted Reese. He says "great coverage tonight. Like to say hi to my nephew Officer David Barnes in the New Orleans Police Department and wish him and his fellow officers well." We echo that remark. Thanks so much, Ted, for bringing us up to date on that. And we hope your brother is OK.
Chris Lawrence is not far from those police officers. He is joining us now as well. He is there -- I believe, you're in New Orleans, right, Chris?
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, yes, Rick. I'm at here at the Sixth Precinct. Actually, just outside. Take a look. You can see one of the few police cars that is actually on the street. And then, next to that police car, you've got one of the military vehicles. Some of the national guardsmen are also here at the police precinct. Now, right now, inside, there is a skeleton crew at the Six Precinct. (INAUDIBLE), about ten officers are inside. Right now, they're down. They are sleeping. Most of (INAUDIBLE) has gone to ground so to speak.
They have been doing patrols all night. But Rick, I got to tell you, there is just literally no one on the street. So, they have got a few cars out, but what they are trying to do now is rest up. Most of the officers have now moved over to the convention center. They'll bed down there. Again, a skeleton crew right here at the different precincts in the neighborhoods. And then, they'll wake up in the morning, and when that storm hits, they're going to reassess everything.
SANCHEZ: And the weather report right now as far as you can tell there, Chris, is what?
LAWRENCE: Very, very slight breeze, a light sprinkle of rain coming down. Nothing like I think we're going to see a little bit later. And I got to tell you, though, Rick, I mean, you know, having spent the night with the police last year, right after Katrina -- (INAUDIBLE) -- the attitude here is very calm, very cool, very professional. Last year, it was chaotic. Last year, you could see the fear in a lot of the officers' eyes. You could see how scared they were. This time, everything is almost by the book.
SANCHEZ: Yes. Chris, you would know. You were there. You are the man in the middle of it when it happened last time. Thanks so much for that report. We'll continue to get back to you.
Let's go back to our plasma screen just to check on some of the comments that are coming in from people. This one is from QRob. He says, "watching from Birmingham, Alabama, the weather is calm. The city has welcomed an estimated 10,000 Gustav evacuees." They are all over the place, folks. "Excellent tool agreed. What is the water temperature like in the track of the storm. Now, he asked can it curve and warm up and grow?"
Well, for the most part, they're saying it's staying on the track because most of the models seem to show that. So, DJLL, that's the answer to your question. As far as the water is about 80 degrees in the area where the storm is right smacked out in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico.
Going up now, let's see, K1mb3rly says, "Twitter relaying info on -- information important through home depot." "How does insurance policy change?" "And thanks for your wonderful coverage as a survivor of Hurricane Andrew, my heart goes out to the entire gulf coast." So, there's five of the messages that we have been getting in.
As far as insurance goes, we don't have the information to that question. But, obviously, there had been many changes in policies and insurance companies that weren't able to handle the overflow as a result Katrina. We'll probably be doing more in depth reports on insurance as the hurricane comes ashore. The first part and our priority at this point is getting people prepared and giving you the information that they need, which is what they're going to be doing throughout the course of the evening.
A very sad story, a New Orleans man says he's not leaving his home. His reason, interesting, guilt. Guilt from what? Losing his wife in Katrina. This is a story by CNN's Gary Tuchman.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Russell Gore knows there is a mandatory evacuation order. But he's not leaving.
How long have you lived in New Orleans?
RUSSELL GORE, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: 52 years.
TUCHMAN: And how old are you?
TUCHMAN: He's a proud New Orlenian whose reason for not evacuating is sad and startling. The reason involves this woman, his wife of 18 years, Cindy.
GORE: She meant the world to me, men, the whole world. That was everything to me.
TUCHMAN: Russell lives in this home in New Orleans east. It's the same home he rebuilt after it was destroyed during Katrina. He and Cindy were going to evacuate then but he saw cars not moving on the interstate.
GORE: Everything was just crowded and jammed up. And we went to looking and thinking about it. You know, we got a brick house. We can withstand the wind.
TUCHMAN: But floodwaters started pouring in the house. At first it was only a foot. Russell told Cindy to climb up these stairs into the attic.
GORE: And about ten minutes later, man, she started begging me to come up in the attic because water had reached my waistline. Ten minutes later, man, I had like almost nine feet of water in my house.
TUCHMAN: Russell and Cindy Gore were trapped like so many people in New Orleans three years ago.
GORE: I jumped up and ran, grabbed her, and sat her down, and I said don't panic. We're going to be all right. She sat down beside me, next thing I know I was talking to her, she leaned over and she was dead. I did everything I seen on TV that they do to survive a person, and tore her shirt off, beat her chest, breathe in her mouth, she was gone.
TUCHMAN: Russell says doctors told him she died from stress.
So Russell, how long were you up here for?
GORE: I was up a day and a half before she died. And I stayed here a day and a half after she died.
TUCHMAN: Russell was rescued by boat. He's an artist and photographer who is currently helping give food and water to the poor and homeless in New Orleans. One would figure after all he went through, he'd be gone.
GORE: No, I'm not planning to evacuate.
TUCHMAN: He knows he should have left the first time with Cindy, leaving without her gives him a feeling of guilt. Today is the three- year anniversary of the day she died.
GORE: I guess, I'm on the other side of life. I'm not on the beginning side. I'm on the other side of life.
TUCHMAN: Why not just go, go away for a couple days and come back?
GORE: This isn't a party, dude. This is personal. Until you have someone that really, that you love like that love, die in your arms and do without. It's just like losing a son in the battlefield.
TUCHMAN: Do you feel like you owe it to her to stay here.
GORE: I feel like I owe it to her. I ain't running.
SANCHEZ: I ain't running. It's a hell of a story. We'll be right back.
SANCHEZ: Welcome back. I promised you I'd stay with you until 2:00 in the morning. And that's exactly what we plan to do. A lot of information still coming in. This thing is getting closer and closer, Gustav is. We've got a lot of comments and questions coming in from you. Let's go through some of them right now. We can probably get through at least four or five of them. I mean, there's thousands coming in. So, you know, we can't get through all of them. But I guarantee you, I'm reading all of them. If not, during commercials breaks, after work.
Lucky 13 says: "Can you explain the mandatory evacuation?"
SANCHEZ: Yes, I can. Put me back on camera and I'll tell you. Here's exactly how it works. No, they can't tell you that you have to leave your home. Authorities at least in Louisiana can't do that. In some states, it actually is a misdemeanor to ignore an evacuation order, but not in Louisiana. However, here's what they can do. After everyone leaves, they then enact a curfew. And if they come by and see you outside your home after that curfew was enacted, you can in fact be charged with a crime for violating a curfew. That's essentially how a mandatory evacuation works in most of the areas around New Orleans.
Let's go to the next one: "Rick, just had a guest check in to the hotel." This is just a city boy. "Just had a guest checked in to the hotel where I work with an "I Survived Katrina" bumper sticker. They are here to stay." Many hotels getting filled up in that entire area.
Vivskivs says: "Great coverage on the storms. Thank you very much." "What are all the evacuees doing with their animals? Is there some type of pet evacuation plan?" Yes, we understand there has been. Most of the people with pets have been able to get out on their own. Those who have pets and had to use some kind of public transportation were told for the most part unfortunately they couldn't bring them with them. There have been shelters set up.
We have checked with some folks as well who tell us that many of them left their pets with either their neighbors or some of the friends in the area. So we haven't seen a big problem as far as pets being abandoned or left behind, at least as far as we can tell and we had been checking.
This Askmo24: "Rick, thanks for the updates. The Birmingham Police Department is doing an excellent job of taking care of everyone." Thank you for that. Great job for the Birmingham Police Department. And finally, MeadowsLing says, "My parents have evacuated here to Tallahassee from St. Charles Parish. Thanks for the great coverage."
We thank you for watching. So, obviously, there are a lot of people out there who are extremely connected tonight with us. Text a little while ago, Karen McGinnis, we had somebody sent an e-mail saying that, please tell my father-in-law to go to bed. He is addicted to the CNN weather reports. So, you know, people are really tuning into this thing and checking in with what's going on.
SANCHEZ: I understand you got some new data, some new info for us as well.
MCGINNIS: I do. We're expecting National Hurricane Center updates. Sometimes, we get them early. But, you know, as we get this close inland, they want to make sure all their data is absolute so that everybody knows what to expect with this.
I'm going to go through the graphics here but I want to also tell you some other things. We are starting to see the eye make its way into a radar loop. But some of these embedded cells that are wrapped around this eye wall, they are capable of producing tornadoes. There is a tornado watch in effect until 7:00 local time. There you can see it right on the side of me. We have got the wave action in Lake Pontchartrain from our affiliate WVUE. Then I know we've had a lot of viewers, and Rick, I know that they have instant messaged you about what's going on in Florida, Mississippi, also into Alabama.
We've kind of shifted that view over. I want to show you what's happening from Pensacola to Panama City. Maybe we can check those graphic poll so that the folks there know what to expect.
Panama City, extending on over towards right around Mobile. You're kind of in between waves. Take a look at that. You've got a little bit of a clearing there. Maybe some missed in the air. The wind is definitely kicking up. Then we shift a little bit further towards the west over the central and western coast of Louisiana. And you can see some of those bands are still moving across this Vermillion Bay.
Speaking of, I've told J.J., my producer tonight, that I definitely was going to take a look at what he has prepared for me. I wanted to take a look at some of these south central parishes of Louisiana. And, by the way, somebody, Rick, earlier had asked about the water temperature. And I had one report, just to the south of Dolphin Island, by about 64 nautical miles or around 74 or 75 miles south of Dolphin Island, they're reporting water temperature there of 84.4 degrees and they've had a peak wind, so far, 54 knots.
Want to show you -- they are saying at St. Mary's, also Iberia Peninsula -- they're saying that most of St. Mary's Parish, should the system move across St. Mary's, it is going to be flooded. Just about the entire parish, Rick, if you can imagine that. And that's in the south-central coastal region of Louisiana, could be, essentially, under water.
And Gustav -- looks like it's just headed right around Vermilion Bay.
SANCHEZ: You know what's interesting? I'm getting e-mails from folks, because, you know, we're paying all this attention to Gustav.
People in Florida, on the West Coast in Florida -- in fact, let me show you something. Go ahead, Dave, give me a shot up there. This is an e-mail I just got from Chris Holm(ph), my produce. I think you'll see his name up there.
He said look at this e-mail I just got. This is from -- this isn't an e-mail, right? This is one of the Facebook questions? Yes, he took it from Facebook, put it on here.
In West Palm Beach, Florida, you know -- you know what they want to know? They want to know, Karen McGinnis Hanna still coming?
MCGINNIS: You know we have not forgotten about Hanna. Hanna's threat. At least in the short term is not -- we're not as focused on that. But through the Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos, they're already seeing gusty winds. This is it. Tropical storm strength, still capable of producing damage, still capable of producing fatalities and injuries because of the flooding.
We're going to receive another update coming up in just about half an hour on Hanna. And maybe the next time you throw it to me I'll have my computer ready. And we can go -- can we go there now? All right, let's see. Is this island -- yes, that. We have it right here.
This is Hanna. Here are the Bahamas right here. There's the southern tip of Florida, looking pretty good right now, I might add. But it is at tropical storm intensity. What's it going to do? Well, from what our computer models are telling us, so far, looks like it's going to brush by the eastern edge of the Bahamas off the coast of Tampa as we go in towards Thursday early morning. Still as a tropical storm.
I'll tell you, this is that current, the gulf stream and it's warm. It's still warm, even though we're, I guess, officially into September now. The water temperatures here, just like with Hugo, just mushroomed off the coast once it hit the very warm waters.
But this is Hanna, going to brush by the Turks and Caicos side. I think I saw a report early of around 35 knot wind gust earlier there. And looks like, for NASA, just going to lie to the east of NASA. And then, by Thursday, comes perilously close to the east coast of Florida.
I said off the coast of Tampa, but actually this might be around Melbourne, maybe Daytona Beach or Merit Island as go towards the latter portion of next week, but -- of this week, rather.
But take a look at this. We're still putting it as a tropical storm right along the border between South Carolina and Georgia. As I mentioned, we're going to get another update from the National Hurricane Center. Computer models are still suggesting that this is going to at tropical storm intensity. So not increasing to hurricane intensity, but you can see how it has wobbled.
Its track, so far, has just been -- just kind of a jumble. But what has been so spectacular is that, at least with the computer models that have occurred with Gustav, they've been in pretty good agreement. There are only a few outliers, but most of them has -- have really focused in on the Louisiana coast, and perhaps the models are true for Hanna as well.
Back to you, Rick.
SANCHEZ: All right, Karen McGinnis, thanks so much for brining us up to date.
It's amazing that we would be talking about a storm that's getting ready to hit the United States -- Gustav -- and also having to make mention, at least, of another one that's coming right behind it.
All we can do is wait and see, folks. We'll give you the facts, we'll keep bringing them to you, and we thank you for sharing information with us as well. We'll be right back.
ANNOUNCER: Stay with CNN, you're "Hurricane Headquarters."
SANCHEZ: MySpace, Facebook, Twitter.com -- we are going to be talking to you, and you -- boy, I'll tell you in no uncertain terms been talking to us.
I'll tell you who's an interesting person to talk to tonight. One of our correspondents -- you know it's always interesting when you get -- I've been, as you know, the correspondent who's also out there covering the storm, and usually what they do is they slot us in different places.
We go -- you know, Rick Sanchez -- I'll get a note from folks here at CNN, suits here at CNN, you're going to be in such and such location. Anderson Cooper, you're going to be in such and such location. Gary Tuchman, you're going to be in such and such location.
Ali Velshi, you're going to be in such and such -- and you never know exactly where the storm is going to hit, so you may think you're going to an area that's going to get the storm, and then it veers and you don't.
Well, Ali Velshi has either picked the -- chosen the short straw or the large straw -- I guess it depends on how you look at it. From a journalistic standpoint, he's going to be right in the thick of things.
Ali Velshi is in Grand Isle, Louisiana, and if this thing continues on its present course, that will be where the eye of the storm will actually cross into the United States. I spoke to Ali, not long ago, here's what our conversation was like.
ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: This has changed very dramatically for us in the last 10 minutes or so. It was -- it was sort of calm and we can sort of feel a few raindrops. Now you can see it's coming down very heavily. We're looking over here and seeing wind.
You can't see much behind me because it's dark, but about a quarter mile behind me is the Gulf of Mexico. And as you and I discussed earlier, standing on the gulf a couple of hours ago, I could two dozen oil rigs. This is a central of oil offshore activity for the Gulf of Mexico.
Port Fourchon is very close to here. That's a major servicing area for all the offshore ports. It's where the helicopters fly in. There's also something called LOOP, the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, which is about 20 miles offshore.
Now you know we import a lot of our oil here -- Rick, and about 56 percent of it comes right into LOOP. That is shut down. The Gulf of Mexico oil operations are shut down. A pipeline that takes oil from here to Chicago -- a million barrels per day -- has been shut down.
Three of the four strategic Petroleum Reserve operations are shut down. Oil in this area is shut down completely.
Now we've also got fisheries around here, shrimping on the island. When we showed up two days ago to do this story about oil and businesses down here, there were shrimp boats all over the place. There isn't one anywhere around here. They're 60 to 90 miles north of here. They're gone.
Everybody's batten down and people are out of this place. There are very few people staying here as I told you. We're at the home of Dean Blanchard. He runs a shrimp processing operation. He built this house to withstand a hurricane. It's got steel beams. It's got steal right into the ground. Everything is screwed in, not nailed. He's got those straps on his roof and they're -- it's screwed down, too.
He says we're going to withstand this hurricane so we're here with him, with the fire captain. We're honker down. We're ready for this to come in. We thought it would be overnight, but as you can see from looking at me now, these outer bands are with us already here in Grand Isle. And I don't know whether it's going to lighten up between now and morning.
But it probably, in fact, just as I am talking to you, look how much heavier it just become.
SANCHEZ: Yes, hey -- and yes, you're there. I mean you're in Grand Isle. You're at the very place that all these forecasters are saying it's going to be directly impacted if the storm stays on its present course.
I want to show you something -- Ali, stay with me. I started doing a little research last night and I was enthralled when I came to some of the Web pages out there that described in detail just how much of our oil infrastructure comes from that area, where you are right now.
OK, there's the picture. I've asked Roger in the booth here to put it up on the telestrator. OK, you see those? See all those red things that you're looking at right there? Those are all oil rigs, folks.
SANCHEZ: And this, right here -- let me do the line of where the storm is going again, right? So this area here is going to be impacted. Again, one of the biggest concentrations in the United States where these oil rigs are.
As we look at the picture, most of those -- most of us being neophytes for this stuff, you are not, Ali. You've a pretty good picture. Experience says that you know exactly what impact this could have economically on us and has had in the past.
First of all, let me start with just a simple question that some people might have. What happens to an oil rig itself -- the actual apparatus -- when it's hit by one of these storms if it's a category 3 or so?
VELSHI: Well, they shut down well before that, even if it becomes into category 1. The oil companies want to be the first off here. So what they start doing -- let's say there's 100 people who work on one of these platforms, and that's what it sometimes averages out to.
They evacuate nonessential personnel. Essential personnel lock down that well. It's calling tripping the hole. They lock it down so that if that thing is pulled off its moorings, the oil from the well doesn't leak into the Gulf of Mexico. Then they evacuate. They got to do this by helicopter. So there's helicopter taxi services.
A few blocks from here is the Exxon Mobil heliport. They bring these people into land. They house them on land or these guys go home for a little while. These are guys who work two weeks on and two weeks off. So those facilities are secure.
But what happens is that -- the storm goes through the gulf and it can turn those things up. I mean there was a rig I was on three years ago right before Katrina hit. That rig ended up 160 miles off course. It was blown off and these things are -- they're really attached to the ground. So that's what happen.
Now that means that oil production is shut down. And you know how much oil we use in America. We can't afford that oil production to be shut down for too long.
Second problem, Rick, is if that oil doesn't get to refineries, or if any refineries get damaged. We've already seen, I think, six of them shut down in the neighborhood now. That means gas doesn't get out.
SANCHEZ: I'm going to stop you -- hey, I'm just going to stop you there for a minute before we get in the conversation of the refineries, because I also asked our crew to put together a map showing where the refineries are so people can get a better picture of that.
And this is the bulk concentration of refineries right here in the United States. Once again -- and look again at what we are looking at. Again, the path of the storm, as it's projected right now. And look where the refineries are.
Let me ask the question again. Now put the conversation you were just having with us about the oil rigs together with the conversation about refineries. What's the impact?
VELSHI: Well, the refineries are a big impact, because that is specifically the gasoline that gets to Americans. And oil refineries run at 85 to 95 percent capacity all the times. So if they have to slow down -- if the pipelines are damaged or they refineries don't get enough oil, they slow down in their production.
Here's where the Strategic Petroleum Reserve comes in. If oil is not getting to the refineries, the government says it will loan -- and this is how it works -- it loans oil to the oil companies until the oil flows again and then the oil companies repay the government.
We have 700 million gallons of oil in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, so that's enough for quite awhile. But this is the problem. Oil has to get to the refineries. If there's damage at any point, including the final point, which is transferring from -- the oil through the pipelines -- oil, by the way, moves at eight-miles-per- hour through a pipeline.
So once these things get damaged in the north -- in the northeast, in the Midwest, you start to see shortages, possibly, of gasoline and price spikes. So this is going to affect everybody. We've seen three days in a row of increased prices across the country. Prices are up way higher than that here in the south.
You're going to see this affect here. We're going to track oil prices, obviously. But you're going to see this effect very clearly. And you can see this weather coming down. This is not a joke. These oil rigs and these refineries, the oil companies are very concerned that something's going to happen to them.
SANCHEZ: All right. Got to ask the questions, too. Ali Velshi, thanks so much.
SANCHEZ: You know what's interesting. Sometimes before we set up some of the pieces to our reporters, you know, we get some comments from some of you. And interestingly enough, we got this one comment that I want to share with you now.
Here it is, let's go to our big board here. It says -- this is from Libby Smallbone. She's in Nashville, Tennessee. She's on Facebook with us tonight. And she's asking the question, "What's going to happen to the homeless in New Orleans? Are people going to help them?" Referring again, to the homeless.
Interestingly enough, Abbie Boudreau from our investigative team, set out to find out the answer to that question tonight by going directly to the homeless to ask them how they were doing.
This is an interesting report. Take a look.
MIKE MILLER, UNITY FOR GREATER NEW ORLEANS: Hello, hello, homeless out reach.
ABBIE BOUDREAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It's after midnight and Mike Miller's job just got started.
MILLER: Hello, hello. BOUDREAU (on camera): Wow. I mean it looks like someone could very well be living here right now.
MILLER: Hello, hello. Homeless outreach.
BOUDREAU: Come look at this.
(Voice over): Miller works for Unity of Greater New Orleans.
MILLER: Watch out for nails.
BOUDREAU: A nonprofit group that helps the homeless.
(On camera): Watch out for the glass right here.
(Voice over): We go from one abandoned house to the next.
MILLER: Obviously, he's not here. And now he's got his dog food.
BOUDREAU: In search of anyone left behind.
(On camera): Do you think homeless people will actually try to ride out the storm and abandon buildings like this?
MILLER: Oh yes, absolutely. Absolutely.
BOUDREAU (voice over): Miller fears not enough has been done to help evacuate the estimated 5,000 people who live in abandoned buildings.
MILLER: My homeless people who stay in and out of 71,000 abandoned (INAUDIBLE) properties. How do you find those people? How many people of those will be missed? And, I mean, is that the kind of thing that you can only count after a body total?
Hey, my friend...
BOUDREAU: Then, we meet this man. The only one left under the bridge.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.
BOUDREAU: And in this park, just five homeless people where Miller says there were 35 two nights before.
(On camera): Are you scared what might happen if you wait it out and the water comes?
MIKE, HOMELESS: I ain't scared of nothing.
MAC, HOMELESS: There ain't no water coming. BOUDREAU: What did you say?
MAC: It's not going to happen.
BOUDREAU: It's not going to happen?
BOUDREAU: No, it's going to happen.
MAC: It's going to Texas.
BOUDREAU: (voice over): Guitar Mike, as he calls himself, says he spent three days in jail for staying in an abandoned house. Now he's back on the streets. And like his friend, Mac, he doesn't seem too concerned.
MAC: I went through Katrina like I said.
BOUDREAU (on camera): Yes.
MAC: And I survived that one. And if it does happen, I'll survive this one.
BOUDREAU (voice over): Frustrating for Miller who offered to drive everybody we met to the bus station himself.
MILLER: Get on that bus.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am.
MILLER: How are you doing, doctor?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's up, my man?
MILLER: Hey. Oh dude, I've been looking for you, man.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's up, my man? How you doing?
MILLER: Better now. Where you been out, man?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In jail.
BOUDREAU: Only this guy takes him up on it.
SANCHEZ: What an amazing story told through the eyes and the -- really the experiences of some of the people who are there on the streets having to make those decisions and sometimes not being fully capable to be able to make them.
Let's take a quick break here because I want you to know that we're coming up on the 2:00 hour. What that means -- what is it? 1:48 now? What that means is there's another advisory coming from the National Hurricane Center. When they put out these advisories, that's the information that tells you whether the hurricane has slowed down, sped up, whether it's grown, what the intensity is in terms of millibars, and how vast it's become. So all the new data is coming in, and hopefully we'll be able to turn that around for you.
Let's go to a break now so we get that, hopefully, in Karen's hands just in time that she's here with us. Stay with us. We'll be right back.
SANCHEZ: Let's go right to Karen McGinnis. There's often an -- there's an advisory that comes in at 2:00 and it's 1:53. That doesn't mean that it's in her hands early, but sometimes it gets out a little early, right?
MCGINNIS: Sometimes it comes out fairly early so that we can give you right before that top of the hour information from the National Hurricane Center. They updated Hanna. Hanna has not changed much. Still has winds of -- 50 miles an hour. You can tell it's early in the morning.
We may be getting it now. I hear something printing of -- no, my producer is shaking his head just yet. But anyway, we're starting to see the eye make its way, closing in, somewhere along that Louisiana coast.
If you look carefully here, the thing about 10-plus hours before making land fall. It's position is probably just a little bit less than 200 miles off the coast of Louisiana. Water temperatures here, low to mid-80's, at least. I saw one report that was almost unbelievable. I had to look at it. But it had upper 80's.
This is shallow water and heats up very nicely. But that is just a shallow lay of that very warm water.
This red box that you're looking at is the tornado watch. I keep looking over to see, Rick, if we've got an update coming in. But, the chances of tornadoes threatening southeastern Louisiana are pretty good now, because we're seeing some of these super cells just kind of wrapped around the eye wall and that's typically where you see some of the strongest activity.
And it looks like, for the overnight hours, that the threat will increase, especially across southeastern Louisiana, but not excluding -- you know what?
SANCHEZ: You got it?
MCGINNIS: Yes, we do.
SANCHEZ: All right. Here we go.
MCGINNIS: All right. Here we go.
Tropical storm force winds spreading over extreme southeastern Louisiana. That has not changed.
Gustav has slowed down just a little bit more, Rick. It's moving northwest at 16. Now that's not dramatic, but we've seen this steady slowing down of Gustav. It had been 18-miles and hour, about six to 12 hours ago. Now it's down to 16 miles an hour.
It is expected to slow down even more before it makes landfall.
MCGINNIS: Yes, it is.
SANCHEZ: Well, that -- is that -- how significant is that? If this thing slows down, does that mean that there could be some other system that could cheer it and move it -- you know, further east?
MCGINNIS: Rick -- there really is nothing powerful enough. This is like a big bowling ball going down an alley. There really have to be something pretty spectacular to slow it down or to make it divert in some way.
The thing that would do that would be the land mass or some spectacular current or some other frontal system that moves across. But that's -- that's just not going to happen.
SANCHEZ: So, if nothing else, what this means is that, when we said that this thing could hit sometime in the early morning, forget about it. This things going to be much closer to a noonish(ph) landfall, right?
MCGINNIS: It would appear that is the case because it has slowed down just a little bit. Still a category 3. And there was some discussion in the weather department as to weather it was going to erupt and mushroom a little more to category 4 or if it was actually going to decrease because it was interacting with land.
There's two theories on that.
SANCHEZ: So still -- we're down to 10 seconds. Just confirm for me. Still a category 3.
SANCHEZ: Slowed down.
SANCHEZ: But other than that, it's pretty much keeping its personality.
SANCHEZ: All right.
SANCHEZ: Karen McGinnis, boy, I tell you, great hustle. Thanks so much for getting over there and getting that for us.
MCGINNIS: Thank you, Rick.
SANCHEZ: It's great to be able to get those advisories. That really is what most of us depend on.
For myself, for Karen McGinnis, we thank you for letting us take you through this for the last four, five, six, seven eight hours, however long we've been on the air.
My colleague, T.J. Holmes, is coming up now. He's going to be taking you through the rest of the evening or the rest of the morning, I should say, and then, obviously, we'll check in with "AMERICAN MORNING," taking you all the way through the night with Anderson Cooper.
Thanks so much for being with us. Good night. We'll see you again next weekend.