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Hurricane Gustav Hits Louisiana
Aired September 1, 2008 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CO-HOST: Good afternoon, everybody. All eyes are on the levees at this point. Hurricane Gustav puts New Orleans' post-Katrina flood protection system to the test. So far it's passing. So far.
Welcome back, everybody. I'm Soledad O'Brien, coming to you from New York -- Don.
DON LEMON, CO-HOST: And I'm Don Lemon, coming to you from Jefferson Parish just outside of New Orleans, where the winds are really picking up. We've got everything covered for you right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.
Boy, the winds are really picking up here, as we've been saying, as Hurricane Gustav is rolling through the state of Louisiana. We have seen some major power outages. This information just into the CNN NEWSROOM. We are told by Entergy, which is the energy company here in Louisiana, that 435 people in New Orleans and the surrounding metropolitan area are without power. And they may not be able to get their power back until much, much later on in the week. And the crews because of all this wind and all the water and the flooding, the crews may not be able to come out until Wednesday.
So once the crews do come out, it's going to take some time for them to get all of the electricity back up, because the power lines are down. They have to figure out where the lines are down, where they can connect them and where they have the problems.
I just spoke to one person, an EMS guy, as he came in. You see his truck there. He's in the truck now. I spoke to him and I asked him what are you seeing out there? And he said, "Not good. It's pretty bad because of everything that's flying around and all the power out." And there's still just a couple of people who are still in their homes. Some people, a few people, who are out on the streets.
But he said the winds are starting to pick back up again. We had thought they were going to die down. But you can see this cell -- this cell here has been coming through.
We've been talking a lot about the Louisiana area and what's been going on in New Orleans and Houma and Lafayette. And you heard the president talking about Baton Rouge -- well, you heard the president talking about what's happening in Texas.
We want to get now to Mississippi, where we have our Susan Candiotti, and she is stationed out there in Gulfport. Susan, are you seeing any winds and rain? What are you seeing happening in Gulfport?
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, plenty of wind, plenty of rain. We've been getting up to tropical -- just on the edge of tropical-storm-force or, rather, hurricane-force winds. Now down to tropical.
The wind has kicked up again right now as we continue to get that swirl of bands coming out of the southeast.
Let's walk over here a little bit to give you a better look, perhaps, at the gulf, where you can see those waves really giving a pounding to the beach here, where obviously they're going to be suffering from a lot of erosion.
This area where we're standing is about 19 feet above sea level; went up about ten feet higher than that during Hurricane Katrina by comparison. But by now the storm surge, which they were predicting anywhere from six to eight feet, at the very least, has come over -- this is Highway 90, which is closed down, naturally, to traffic. This entire area has been under an evacuation order for a couple of days.
I can tell you this, though, the clouds have lifted a little bit so that you can now see some of the buildings out on that pier back there. Before you couldn't see a darn thing.
We are seeing absolutely no traffic. Occasionally, you'll see someone wander out, but this is just not the place to be at this time.
In terms of power outages, you were talking about Louisiana. Here we've got more than 21,000 power outages reported, and we are also hearing of some reports of flooding, both in Harrison County and in parts of Gulfport, where we are, in some residential areas that were under an evacuation order. Also, some flooding in Hancock County. Familiar with Bay St. Louis, Pass Christian, Waveland, in some of those areas, so we're keeping an eye on that, as well.
So far we heard of a wall falling down. No reports, thankfully, of any injuries here, but they are anticipating flooding to happen. Flood stage levels to go anywhere from one to three feet above the flood stage, and they are warning people that have left this area not to come home, even when the weather gets better. Not to come back for at least three days, because they said they're going to have power outages to deal with, debris in the roads. So even when the weather gets better, they're telling people don't be in a hurry to come back.
That's it for now. We'll continue to monitor the situation from here in Gulfport.
Back to you.
LEMON: Hey, Susan, hang on. Don't go anywhere, because I remember Katrina being there in the Gulfport area, Pass Christian. I was stationed along that area after New Orleans. And the folks all along the beach there -- there's a beach highway with those beautiful homes, a lot of them antebellum and historic homes. That area was really hit hard, and there were people who were still living in trailers on the Gulfport/Pass Christian, along that area, and now they're having to deal with this, as well.
CANDIOTTI: I know, and we talked to some of those people in the last couple days, including today, and some left. Some abided by the evacuation order. And you can imagine the anxiety levels they have had, knowing that the storm is coming and not knowing exactly what to expect.
Some of the neighbors, indeed, have not come back. Some of the homes have not been repaired. But others have, some of those very homes that you were talking about.
And I was talking to a family, the Montileaux (ph), who decided to stay behind, and they're here. They got a power generator up. They have lost power, but they're hanging in there. And I asked them, "Why do you continue to live here right on the waterfront? How do you live with this threat constantly?"
And they said, "What can I tell you? We just love it here, love the area, love living on the water, and we're willing to take that risk."
LEMON: Yes, and not to be...
CANDIOTTI: They managed to miss a big bullet this time on this storm, Gustav, of course, but it's something they do have to deal with.
LEMON: Yes, and Susan, you know, you're talking about that part of it, but also that area provides a lot of the revenue for Mississippi for the government there, because you have all those casinos. Those casinos, a lot of them went offline after Hurricane Katrina, and they quickly got them back up, because they were right there on the water. But they -- and they quickly got them back up. But that is important to that state, because it gives a lot of money to the state.
CANDIOTTI: That's right. And once again, imagine this is happening on Labor Day weekend. Those casinos shut their doors at 7 a.m. in the morning yesterday, and so they are losing a lot of revenue, clearly, because of that.
The employees have gone home. They're not getting paychecks, not getting the tourism dollars. All of these hotels are closed up and down this Highway 90, as well.
CANDIOTTI: So they are hoping at least for a faster recovery than they did after Hurricane Katrina, not hoping for as much damage, because of where they are in relationship to where the eye wall passed down in Louisiana.
LEMON: All right. Our Susan Candiotti joining us from Gulfport, doing a helmsman's job there. Thank you very much, Susan Candiotti. We'll get back to you if you have any updates. Please, tell us about them.
All right. We're here in the New Orleans area, and the concern, of course, flooding. We saw the flooding after Hurricane Katrina. The winds were a problem for Katrina, but mostly the flooding is what caused -- really wreaked havoc on the area.
The 17th Street Bridge and also the Industrial Canal -- 17th Street Canal, I should say, and the Industrial Canal have been proven problematic over the last couple of hours with water splashing over the top.
We have CNN's Chris Lawrence, who is stationed there. He's following the latest developments on the Industrial Canal and that overtopping problem they're having.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are standing in the northern part of New Orleans by the Industrial Canal, up near Lake Pontchartrain. And take a look at the amount of water that is just pouring into the northern part of the city here.
Look at that sign that says, "Do not pass," the railroad crossing, the speed limit signs. You can see that the water is flowing like a river completely over it.
As we walk over here, you can see where this office is, and it looks like the water is probably halfway to the roof of that shed right there. And as we take you further out here -- it's going to be hard with the water here, but you can see that a lot of the equipment is already submerged. The amount of water pushed, we think, from the Industrial Canal and Lake Pontchartrain.
Reporting from the northern tip of New Orleans, Chris Lawrence, CNN.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: All right. Thank you very much. Our Chris Lawrence, who's at the Industrial Canal. We're keeping a close eye on that.
We showed you the new video in the last hour of the CNN NEWSROOM of that water lapping over the top. And Chris provided a very concise report about that, and that's his pictures coming up. We were on the phone with him earlier.
Last night we drove from the French Quarter as -- just as the storm was coming through the clouds. It was, you know, a nice evening, and then the clouds rolled through all of a sudden. We were originally heading to Baton Rouge when that first band came through. Baton Rouge/Lafayette area to go check out that area. And then came back here to the Jefferson Parish area, because some of the roads were really bad. And we were hunkered down all night, embedded with the East Jefferson Parish Emergency Management. But I want to get you further up, further west along the I-10 from New Orleans, past Baton Rouge, 45 minutes west of Baton Rouge to Lafayette and our Ed Lavandera. He has been standing by, monitoring all the developments from there.
Ed, I mentioned 435 people in the New Orleans metropolitan area without power. Do you have power? And also tell us the very latest there.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, here at the hotel we're staying at, we still do have power. And as I look around the streets and some of the homes that are near where we are, I can still see the power. We haven't heard any reports of widespread power outages.
But, of course, the initial strongest bands of this hurricane are just now starting to arrive into this area and a little bit further south into New Iberia, Vermilion Parish, St. Mary's Parish, St. Martin's Parish. Those are some of the areas that were, three years ago, small towns that were hit hard by Hurricane Rita and specifically flood waters. So that's what they'll be watching closely here.
We're in between bands. We've been watching the radar for the last hour or so and using the wind meter. In the last hour or so, the highest wind we've been able to clock here at this point has been about 21 miles an hour. Hardly anything close to what we anticipate to be experiencing here in the short hours.
So according to the radar, the last radar images we've been watching from the National Hurricane Center, shows that those initial bands that are tightest and closest to the center of this hurricane are still a little ways away from where we are, but we anticipate that to continue moving our way.
We've also checked in with various emergency officials in various towns south of Lafayette here, and they say that they haven't heard any -- have had no problems so far. But again that's where we stand now.
Many people evacuated these areas, but of course, there's still a great deal of people who have decided to stay behind and ride out the storm. So as the concern moves a little bit more west from where you are, Don, there in New Orleans, eyes begin to turn here to the small towns along the Louisiana coastal region south of Lafayette.
Don, back to you.
LEMON: All right, Ed. Thank you very much. Ed Lavandera with the latest information for us from the Lafayette area.
As I hear from Chad Myers, you guys should be getting it in a little bit, maybe some power outages. Hopefully not. We'll get back to you when we get more information.
My producer, who's working with me and doing a very good job here, is Paul Vercammen. He just came from upstairs at the emergency command center there, the room they have set up there, getting all the information. He's going to give me some information. We don't have time, so I'm going to interview you. Paul, give me the very latest.
PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN PRODUCER: All right. As you know, Don, because we were up there earlier, the scanners were absolutely buzzing, but it's very calm here in this parish right now. There's a fire in old Metairie, one-alarm fire. This was in a two-story house.
And the interesting thing is FEMA is not overwhelmed at all. In fact, you never hear FEMA officials talk like this, but they actually mentioned that it's kind of nice right now, so quiet. What they're doing is they're gathering information, and then they're getting ready to send out the assessment teams.
Also last night how many ambulances did you see go by us as we were going to Baton Rouge?
VERCAMMEN: One of the things EMS says, and this is the good news, they did a lot of heavy lifting yesterday. And as we saw this long line of ambulances heading out toward Baton Rouge, toward Monroe and other parts of Louisiana, they moved a lot of the patients out of here.
They said an estimated 100 ambulances left this area, and in some of those ambulances, they were doubled and tripled up. So you do the math on that. I mean, sounds like at least 200 patients left, so that's good news on the EMS front. They are not taxed.
And also police, fire, and others say all is relatively quiet. Despite how it looks to us right now and despite you almost being blown over five times, it's a pretty good review from upstairs right now.
LEMON: So yes, we saw the ambulances, and I spoke to the ambulance guy as he came out, and I said how is it getting? Bad. But we saw this whole caravan of ambulances as we drove from -- I was telling our viewers about just how eerie it was last night as we were doing live shots in the French Quarter. And you know, it was a pretty normal evening, and then all of a sudden this dark sky, this dark cloud rolled in, and then the storm came through and we had trouble driving, trying to get to Baton Rouge.
VERCAMMEN: Yes, that was ominous. I mean, as we looked up, we were sitting there on Bourbon Street. This inky black cloud just came right towards us, a wall of rain, a torrent. And we drove on through and then ended up back here.
And I'm sure you told some of the viewers, but we ended up spending the night here. That's why we have had access to talking to some of the folks here in the staging area, just to see how things are going for police, fire, FEMA, et cetera.
LEMON: And through the night, getting up, going downstairs to check on things.
Paul, thank you. Paul, you're doing a great job. I'll get more information from him coming up in a little bit. That's my producer, Paul Vercammen, who has been working this story with me since we got here on Saturday.
But all evening when we got here last night, we go up, we sleep on the cot or on a couch, and then come down, get a little bit of information and tried to feed it back.
We are following very latest developments on Hurricane Gustav, and our severe weather expert, Mr. Chad Myers, is on top of this. He is working the story from the CNN severe weather center, which is your hurricane headquarters right now.
You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.
LEMON: You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Don Lemon in East Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, just outside of New Orleans. Really, part of the New Orleans metropolitan area.
CNN has correspondents and crews stationed all over the Gulf Coast. From Mississippi to Texas, we're on top of the story.
Another person who has been following this very closely is our severe weather expert, Mr. Chad Myers. He has been watching this, as well as Lieutenant General Honore.
Chad, I want to toss this to you now, and you can talk about all of this. You can see this wind and -- really, more wind than rain that's coming through. I've seen more rain and felt more rain in the past couple of minutes than I have the entire time that I've been here.
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. This is a band that kind of expanded from the center that you're in right now. There is a break to your east, but it's not moving your way just yet.
Also, I want to let you know, Baton Rouge, I want you to be taking cover. A tornado was spotted about five miles to your southeast moving to the northwest, which means moving to the city. Not that we know that it's going to stay on the ground that entire time, but if you're in Baton Rouge, away from the windows, inside of your house, into the smallest room that you can, away from any glass if you can, maybe a closet, someplace. A lot of houses don't have basements. So I'm not even going to tell you to go there, but the smallest room on the lowest level of your house is the safest place to be.
Now we'll get to General Honore.
General, I guess we have -- we've -- we don't want to say dodged a bullet, because we thought that, too, when Katrina went by.
LT. GEN. RUSSEL HONORE, NATIONAL GUARD: Right. MYERS: We didn't have flooding and then all of a sudden, we started losing levees a day later. So tell us what you know and what you're -- I know you're doing all kinds of things with WWL radio. What are you hearing about what we've got going on?
HONORE: Well, I've been monitoring WWL. A lot of spotters or scouts, as you might say, are calling in with reports. As well as monitoring the co-engineer (ph) recent public affairs announcements.
And it looks like the levees are holding, and the good indicator was about an hour ago we saw at the Harvey Canal, where the water was receding. What that maybe be an indicator of is that maybe we're seeing the high part of the surge.
But what we don't know is the continuing impact of the wind that may be pushing water. But I think we've seen the rush that, if you would say what destroys buildings...
HONORE: ... like it did in Mississippi, in Biloxi and Gulfport, we're not getting that kind of event. I think that part of the storm is over with. For those people who evacuated New Orleans, I think there's still a threat of flooding, flooding from possible rain and internal to the city, localized flooding.
But I don't think we're going to see the event -- a Katrina event for the city. And for those who left their homes, I think that is past, but there still could be localized flooding in the city, particularly from the south.
MYERS: Right. So now...
HONORE: Or West Bank.
MYERS: Let's turn our attention away from the city for just a moment. Because we're doing OK here. I'm not sure we're going to say the same thing for Houma, Morgan City and Franklin.
MYERS: I think these people got surged.
HONORE: I think they got surged, and I think the assessments -- the governor of Louisiana is going to do a press conference in a few minutes. We'll hear what he has to say. But the first reports coming out of Houma, it will be interesting to see what their assessment is as to what type of damage they took from the eye.
MYERS: We know that Ali Velshi down here, right there, had about a six-foot surge, and then you push that water up into creeks and streams, and then through these towns. The water could actually be exponentially higher than five. We could have seen a ten-foot surge through these towns all along this Highway 90 corridor. When do we find out? When do we get into...
HONORE: Well, just to speak the language, we've got -- we don't have creeks and streams. We have ditches and bayous.
MYERS: OK. I know.
HONORE: And every now and then we'll have a canal. But I think the analysis is spot on. But the big news there is that water, if we do get the surge, it will come back out, because it's not incumbent by a bunch of levee structures like we had in the...
MYERS: It surges in and then it surges back out.
HONORE: Yes, sir.
MYERS: And we'll wait to hear from the governor about that.
HONORE: Yes, sir.
MYERS: The governor. And General, thank you very much.
We'll be back with more coverage in just a second. We'll obviously -- obviously, have that press conference when it becomes available. Thank you, General.
LEMON: All right. We've been getting warnings about the wind here from the emergency command. We don't know when they're going to pick up. Here comes one now. It gets really gusty where we have to brace ourselves for these winds, because we don't know how fast and furious they are going to come through. They told us to be careful here, to lock everything down, because it's going to get a little bit worse for the next couple of minutes.
And as we stand here and wait for the winds to come through to give you the very latest, I want to throw it back now to my colleague, Soledad O'Brien. She's joining us from New York.
And Soledad, I think the Republicans probably realize that it may -- I don't know -- be a little bit strange to be appearing to celebrate or to have some sort of convention, a full convention, when this is going on on the Gulf Coast.
O'BRIEN: Yes, no question about that. Lots of concerns that any kind of party would be perceived as completely inappropriate, as many people have evacuated out of their homes, and the nation's eyes are focused -- focused today on Hurricane Gustav and what kind of damage that hurricane is going to do.
It is strictly business today, in fact, at the pared-down Republican National Convention taking place in St. Paul, Minnesota. Speeches by President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have already been canceled. The first lady, Laura Bush, and Cindy McCain will both be speaking about hurricane relief efforts, and the rest of the schedule is going to be kind of determined on a day-to-day basis.
Senator John McCain, who's the party's presumptive nominee, of course, says he didn't think it would be appropriate to hold a political celebration during the storm.
McCain and his running mate, the Alaska governor, Sarah Palin, were in Mississippi yesterday getting an update on that state's hurricane preparations.
A little bit family news, in fact, to tell you about from the John McCain campaign. A senior aide is telling us that the 17-year- old daughter of McCain's vice-presidential pick is pregnant. Bristol Palin is her name. She's said to be five months along. She's a high school senior, says she plans to keep her baby, plans to marry the father.
The aide says McCain knew about the pregnancy before he chose Sarah Palin to be his running mate. For her part, the governor says that he and her husband are proud of Bristol's decision to have the baby and, quoting, "even prouder to become grandparents."
President Bush is reacting quickly to the threat that was posed by Hurricane Gustav. He's in Texas right now to get a first-hand look at the storm response efforts. Mr. Bush says he hopes he'll visit Louisiana, as well, but he wants to do it at a time that doesn't interfere with emergency operations.
These comments from the president took place just a short time ago in Austin, Texas. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The coordination on this storm is a lot better than during Katrina. A lot of it had to do with the governors.
Yesterday, I was on a video conference with the governors of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. There was clearly a spirit of sharing assets, of listening to somebody's problems and saying how can you best address them.
The federal government is very much involved in helping the states. Our job is to assist. Secretary Paulson is with me today, FEMA.
I do want to thank the state of Texas and other states for welcoming citizens from Louisiana. It's been a huge evacuation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: It has been a huge evacuation. Mr. Bush faced heavy criticism, you'll remember, for the federal government's response after Hurricane Katrina three years ago.
And, of course, it's all in the back of our minds today, Hurricane Katrina. A year ago, to mark the storm's second anniversary, CNN aired "Children of the Storm," a groundbreaking look at how Katrina had changed the lives of a group of students from New Orleans, teenagers. One of them was Amanda Hill, then 18 years old. She was a high school senior who was struggling with her grandmother to make ends meet. Well, today Amanda is riding out Gustav in Pensacola, Florida. She joins us from there by phone.
Hey, Amanda. Nice to talk to you. Are you there?
AMANDA HILL, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: Yes, hi, Soledad, how are you?
O'BRIEN: I'm doing fine but a more important question, of course, is how are you doing? How is your grandmother and who is in Pensacola, Florida, which is where you are?
HILL: We're at my aunt's house, which is my grandmother's other daughter. And we have my mom and we have my brother's dad and my brother and my Aunt Charles's family and me and my grandma.
And me and my grandma is holding up pretty good right now. We're all a little nervous and stressed out. We won't feel completely OK until we get home.
O'BRIEN: Yes, I can imagine. It must be like reliving it all over again. How difficult has that been, Amanda? Because we covered, really, your progress in getting the road home money and rebuilding your home, which a lot of volunteers helped you with.
What was it like to know that Gustav
was kind of steaming down that same exact path?
HILL: I'm going to be completely honest with you. I thought, you know, when I took that last look at my house when we locked the door and shut it behind me, I thought that was it. I thought I was going to come back to gut it again and probably sell and move somewhere else. But, (INAUDIBLE) right now, so far so good. So hopefully that stays right and we don't get flooded again.
O'BRIEN: You've got a nation of people who are praying for you. Everywhere I have gone, people are saying, pray for the people of New Orleans, they just can't take it again. The city is really not even in the middle, I think it's fair to say, of rebuilding.
What are your plans to go back? I know you guys have certainly struggled financially? Can you stay in Pensacola for a little bit until the power comes back on if that's the case?
HILL: Oh, certainly. That's what we plan on doing. We don't want to go back until the power comes on. But, as long as we just get back, I'll be OK. I can deal with it when we get there. I just want to get home to a house.
O'BRIEN: You sound so stressed. You're 18-years-old and I know you have had the burden, the weight of the world, on your shoulders for quite a while now since you were 15. Can you stick it out in New Orleans, which, you know, has -- hurricanes happen in New Orleans? HILL: Right, well, actually my birthday is Thursday, I will be 20. Hopefully I'll have a very good birthday instead of a very bad one, which I planned on. And -- I haven't decided if once I start to build a family (INAUDIBLE) if I'm going to live on the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain, which got flooded and destroyed, or I'll move somewhere else, but as long as my grandma is with me, I'm probably going to stay close to her.
O'BRIEN: All right. Amanda, it's good to hear you sounding well and hopeful. And we're watching the coverage too and it seems so far so good, that the levees are holding. So thanks for checking in with us. We appreciate it, and of course we'll continue to monitor what's happening with Amanda and all our children of the storm and, of course, everybody who is potentially affected by Hurricane Gustav, which is roaring through right about now.
Let's get right back to Don Lemon who is monitoring things on the ground -- Don.
LEMON: Soledad, you used the right word, roaring through is it. That was a great interview. We are all concerned about the children of any storm, any child here. I don't know if Chad Myers is listening, but we have been getting it here, getting pounded. As Soledad was doing that interview, as a matter of fact, I guess another band is coming through with the winds, winds that we could barely stand up here, and then all of a sudden just as sudden -- there's one right there -- not quite as strong as the other ones, but just as sudden as it comes through, then it subsides.
And what's really important about this -- come on in here. I want to bring in -- if you can get over here --
P.J. HAHN, DIRECTOR OF COASTAL ZONE MANAGEMENT, PLAQUEMINES PARISH: Easier said than done.
LEMON: I want to bring in P.J. Hahn here, who is head of the Coastal Zone Management for Plaquemines Parish. And we have been talking about -- with all of this erosion with the wind and rain, why it's important for us to protect our wetlands.
HAHN: Don, we can't protect the this area any longer by just counting on our levee systems. We need to look at coastal restorations, we need to look at enhancing and building back the barrier islands that are so important to Louisiana and the coastline, as well as our marshland and the ridges, the natural ridges. We need to go into those areas and do some work. And I think after this storm, more people are going to understand why it's so important and why Louisiana is so important to the rest of the nation.
LEMON: P.J. Hahn -- P.J., his heart is in this and he's so passionate about it. He's offered -- he's invited me to come back after this has all subsided and he said you want to talk about planet in peril, this is a -- that is a planet in peril when we look at this all along our coastline.
You also talked to -- you were telling me just standing here talking to us about the importance of these trees, these Cyprus trees.
HAHN: These Cyprus trees will knock down storm surge better than anything that we have out there. We need to start looking at regrowing our population of Cyprus trees down in that area because this is what's going to help stop storm surge.
LEMON: Tell them why -- you said something like because they don't blow --
HAHN: Well, the trees are layered. And if you notice the big, big trees we drove around earlier and we saw the trees that had toppled over because they have the high tops to them and they are full. These are not full, if you can tell. They're layered, and the wind cuts through them more easily. The problem is the (INAUDIBLE) level, and that's why we have to try to look at trying to build back that area of the coast to keep the fresh water in.
LEMON: Well listen, we're going to come back and we're going to talk to you. P.J. is going to take us out just as soon as this is over.
Thank you very much, thanks for taking care of us here.
We have seen some of the trees come up. There's a new hotel just in front of me here. We have seen some of the trees come out of the ground here, some of the siding come off these buildings. We have seen branches and signs fly through, not very near us, but in the area here. So we're getting another band of wind here and probably some rain, and again they have warned us to really hunker down now.
We want to go now to the governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, and I believe he's speaking from the command headquarters in Baton Rouge. Take a listen.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
GOV. BOBBY JINDAL, LOUISIANA: ... storm surge consistent with Category 3 strength. It has tremendous importance for our coastal areas. What we're seeing is 9 to 12 feet of tide elevation along our southeast coast. You see the storm continues to rise, the surge continues to rise on our west bank, a 10 to 12 foot surge is still possible.
We're seeing 110-mile-per-hour winds sustained along our water fronts. We're seeing hurricane-strength gusts along its expected track. We expect to continue to see that.
The good news for us is the storm is moving at 15 miles per hour. That is good news in the sense that it is not slowing down at this point. We expect it to maintain that speed over the next 24 hours as it moves over the state of Louisiana. Currently on the east/northeastern side of Vermilion Bay, we expect it to decrease in intensity down to the strength of tropical storm winds.
And within 24 hours we will -- through those 24 hours -- I think (ph) we will continue to see the threat of tornadoes. So I would strongly advise, even if you're in an inland parish, if this storm is coming over or near your parish, do be advised of the warning of tornadoes.
In terms of the tidal surge we expect --
LEMON: All right, that is the governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal. He's been holding those press conferences really every day since the threat of Gustav really got near and near to the shores -- to the coast of Louisiana. He is at that command center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he has been holding press conferences with Michael Chertoff, as well as other officials. You heard him talking about the coastal winds and I think he mentioned coastal erosion as well before we got that audio that was a little hum in the microphone there.
And then also talking about the threat of tornadoes. We know that tornadoes -- that these hurricane winds can spawn tornadoes and that can sometimes cause even more damage than when the hurricane rolls through.
We are following the latest developments on Gustav from the Mississippi Gulf Coast all the way to Texas. All the latest developments -- we are monitoring from the CNN NEWSROOM in Atlanta, as well as New York, and the worldwide resources of CNN.
You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: This has been the largest evacuation -- oh. OK.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe we should let you go. I want to get you out of harm's way there.
COOPER: That's all right. It's a cardboard sign, I think.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: That was our Anderson Cooper who is also here in New Orleans. He's in the French Quarter. We were down there very near Anderson yesterday before we got redeployed. We got deployed to Baton Rouge. And as we were driving to Baton Rouge, just as that first band starting coming through, the power started going out and we heard Anderson get knocked off the air as we were driving. We could definitely see why, because the wind and the rain -- it was really pounding within just a matter of minutes yesterday.
But of course then we got turned back around as we were crossing that Bonnet Carre Spillway right over Lake Pontchartrain, got turned back around and came here to the East Jefferson County Emergency Management Office which has really provided some great information for us. We want to tell you why, because after Hurricane Katrina -- they were on their own during Katrina. Each of these agencies, Orleans Parish, Jefferson Parish, St. Bernard Parish, and another parish -- excuse me, this thing is blowing in my ear here -- all of these parishes were working on their own during Hurricane Katrina, not able to get supplies from the state and coordinate with the government, so they set up this one place three years ago for this, and this is the outcome here. And so far it has been very, very coordinated.
All right. I want to toss now to my colleague, Christine Romans. She's joining us now from Alexandria, Louisiana. They have set up shelters all over the area and Christine has the very latest for us.
Christine, what are you seeing?
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are in Alexandria, Louisiana, where about 2,500 people are staying for the foreseeable future really in this shelter here. They have room for more. The youngest person we found so far is just 9-days-old, and there are quite a few elderly people who are actually in the medical unit. Two hundred and fifty beds here with doctors on duty, a pediatrician as well.
Behind me you can see people are gathered outside trying to get sort of the last gusts of fresh air as this storm is moving in. It is getting more gusty, it is getting windier. There are an awful lot of children who are staying here. And for now the mood is pretty good because people know they're out of the storm, but there's a lot of nervousness building about what's happening to their homes and -- people stopping us all morning and afternoon asking, do we have any specific information about their towns because they're just not really getting a lot of information from family and friends now because so many places have been evacuated.
Inside there is also a room with 500 beds for EMTs, for emergency response personnel. And you can't see it, but there are a couple of acres just beyond this building where there are 300 ambulances. They are all lined up, in order ready, for their marching orders for where to go once the storm passes through here where they need to get for first responder. So it's sort of a staging area just beyond here. A lot of ambulances, 500 EMTs sleeping in here, and then 2,500 people who are not evacuees according to the Red Cross here. They call them clients.
Everyone who comes in gets a bag full of toiletries. There are -- Save the Children charity is giving backpacks away for the children. There's daycare, there's some group events for the children.
So right now, everyone is kind of hunkered down, waiting to see what the storm is going to do here, where the wind is really picking up and the rain is starting. They'll all be moving in later in the afternoon when we can't be out here anymore. And then we're going to weather it from there. Back to you.
LEMON: All right. Our Christine Romans joining us from a shelter in Alexandria, talking to the emergency officials here and the people who were evacuating people out of town. Here is the sort of gamble that they took. When they were thinking about shelters that were in the state of Louisiana, exactly where to take people if they were going to take them into Louisiana, because they didn't know where the hurricane was going to go or even shipping them off to Texas. Texas at one point said that they couldn't take any more people because they felt that they were going to be overloaded with shelters as well, so they sent them off to places like Knoxville, Arkansas, Fort Smith, and what have you. Those are the people who got out of here by airplane.
And then the folks who got out by train went to places like Memphis, Nashville, and other areas that were closer that they were sure weren't going to get hit by the storm.
There are some in-state shelters, but again the gamble is that if you send people to in-state shelters, you don't know if they're going to get hit by the hurricane in those shelters, or if they're going to have to go -- to move them for a second time.
OK. We're following the developments here in Jefferson Parish, which is really the metropolitan area of New Orleans, getting the very latest developments for you.
I want to go to my colleague now, Soledad O'Brien. She's in New York. She's joining us with other news.
And at the top of that other news, Soledad, what will the Republicans do with their convention while all of this is happening down south?
O'BRIEN: Yes, it's sort of the $64,000 question, isn't it, Don? And of course, we've been told what they're going to do is monitor it day-to-day to make sure that they're making decisions that make sense for -- as they head along (ph). Of course it's sort of politics unusual to a large degree because the Republican Party is scaling down its national convention, taking place in Minnesota, because all of the eyes of the nation really are watching Hurricane Gustav right now.
The party's presumptive nominee, John McCain, says it just wouldn't be right to hold a big old political celebration during a storm. So let's talk more about that from St.Paul -- McCain spokeswoman, Nancy Pfotenhauer is joining us.
Nice to see you. Thanks for being with us. We certainly appreciate it. You're probably one of not that many people right now who is in St. Paul.
First, tell me a little bit about the plans. I know that it's been scaled back significantly. What will go off? What will not go off?
NANCY PFOTENHAUER, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN SPOKESWOMAN: Well, Soledad, we're going to do the things that must be done, that are required by our rules. And so that means we have to convene, we have to vote in the party platform. We have to actually nominate Senator McCain and Governor Palin as our ticket. Apart from that, it's really going to be based on the fallout, if you will, from Hurricane Gustav. We want to make sure all of our efforts are focused on helping the people in the Gulf Coast states, and we've done a number of things. Probably the one that I'm the most excited about is we've partnered with Target and Federal Express and with the American Red Cross. We're going to be putting together 80,000 comfort packages. We're building the facility to do that in right now, and we'll be able to start on Wednesday and we'll have volunteer shifts of about 200 volunteers working in 75 minute shifts throughout the day to get these packages out the door.
We have done a few other things, like put together a task force of affected states. We're flying people at campaign expense back home if they need to go home. And everything, basically, that we can think of to help.
O'BRIEN: The president had been planning to address the convention. Now we're hearing that that is not even necessarily going to happen.
What do we know about that? Will he, in fact, address the convention by satellite?
PFOTENHAUER: You know what, Soledad? I'm not sure one way or the other right now. I think people are being asked to be extraordinarily flexible, but this is a situation that calls for it, and like I was saying, anybody can hit the ball if it's pitched straight up the middle. It's can you hit it on the curve. The success for us is right now is making sure that we transition all this energy, all of the resources we have, to try to help the folks in the Gulf Coast region. And we're just trying to be as creative as we can and calling on everybody who is here. We're asking for their physical help, we're asking for their material help, and we're also being very sensitive to the fact that we've got many people here who come from these areas, and you need to get home.
Another thing that we're doing is we're literally praying for these folks. We'll have a prayer breakfast hosted by the Texas delegation, Governor Rick Perry, taking place tomorrow morning in the Presbyterian church here in St. Paul.
O'BRIEN: Are you concerned that you're going to lose out on an opportunity to introduce Governor Palin to a wider audience. She's not know by a lot of people, she's gotten a fair amount of flack for a lack of experience when it comes to national security, when it comes to foreign policy. Are you going to miss out on that because basically your convention is being sort of overwhelmed by hurricane coverage, if you will?
PFOTENHAUER: Well, that may be a -- quote, unquote -- "political downside," but it's just not the appropriate time to be weighing that, and we've got -- the American people will get to know Governor Palin as well as the people of Alaska. She's the most popular governor in the country and she's popular because she's got a real record of reform. This is a woman who has just walked the talk whether it came to energy or budget or battling corruption. And they're going to love her. They just need to get to know her, and I'm confident that they will.
But right now, we got to let the political chips fall where they may. We've got to do the right thing.
O'BRIEN: McCain spokeswoman, Nancy Pfotenhauer is joining us as they continue to work on the sort of abridged version of the Republican National Convention, as everyone else is watching Hurricane Gustav.
Thanks, Nancy. Appreciate your time.
We're going to continue, of course, to cover both stories for you. We're going to take a short break and we'll get to both on the other side. Stay with us.
MYERS: And now it's Hurricane Hanna. Yes I know we've been talking about Gustav all day, but just so you know, especially the East Coast people here, Hurricane Hanna now a Category 1 hurricane, but only forecast to remain a Category 1 hurricane but now a much stronger 90-mile-per-hour storm sometime during the day and you have to take this cone into uncertainty here all the way from about Wrightsville Beach all the way, possibly, to a landfall somewhere in Florida where the middle of the center is somewhere around Charleston, maybe to Ivy Island (ph).
Now, we're going to be very spoiled by how well the Hurricane Center and the computer models did with Gustav because this thing, this Gustav, was forecast to be right there five days ago. You can't get that kind of accuracy with absolutely every storm. But this one, they hit right on the money and they hit it out of the park. Even the Category 3 and at one point it a was a Category 4. That was even forecast by the models and by the Hurricane Center.
So we will have to watch to see what happens to Hanna. Right now one of the bigger threats from Gustav, all of these tornado warnings, well east of the eye.
Rob Marciano -- still in part of the outer eyewall and you can -- I can still see you trying to hold onto your hat there, Rob. Go ahead.
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Just trying to hear you, Chad. It's blowing as bad as it has all morning long and it doesn't seem to want to let up. There have been a couple bright spots in the clouds, a couple lulls at least in the rain, but the wind really hasn't let up at all.
Obviously we're in the French Quarter close to Jackson Square. We've been showing you the Mississippi River all morning long and how the waves have been going against the flow of the Mississippi. That part of the equation, at least, has changed. Now, at least, they're going perpendicular to the flow. And soon, they'll be coming with the flow.
So right now waves are lapping up against the northern side of the Mississippi levee. As we mentioned, the levee along the Mississippi is really not threatened. We're not concerned about that. It's the other smaller levees.
And even as I speak, you can see the clouds, or at least the skies begin to lighten. The wind, though, is not letting up. That's the situation from the French Quarter.
Don Lemon, let's get it back to where you are and the situation there.
LEMON: Hey, Rob, we are just west of where you are, maybe a little north and west, so that rain and wind that you get we get it just about a minute or so later if that much. We just had a really big burst of wind come through just a short time ago. And when that comes through, of course, the debris starts flying and we're starting to get some rain here as well. You can see the wind as we just sort of backed into it here to try to keep myself up.
We've been watching people here get deployed from all over the region. They're starting to go out and go into -- that's what -- this is one of these big bands coming through right now with this wind and you can see how it just -- the rain comes through and the wind it just pelts you and you can just kind of lean into it. And it holds you up because the wind is going so rapidly and it's so strong here. But again, when this happens, that's when all of the debris and everything starts flying and really they become projectiles and can really shear right into you, especially a stop sign or anything.
We're going to go to Tony Harris now.
Tony, you can attest to what I'm talking about. He joins us now from our hurricane desk.
Tell us about how to keep safe and one way to keep safe is just to stay out of this mess, Tony.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: That's one way to stay safe and I think that's one of the great maybe undertold stories. We'll continue to tell the story -- obviously from this desk is how effective the evacuations have been. Two million people out of Louisiana over the weekend and that has been a wonderful story.
And Robert, if you would, let's widen out. I just want to give you a look at our -- really the brain trust here at CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. This is our hurricane desk. We've got all kinds of pods set up here where we're coordinating all of our live shots, the shot with you there, Don, and everyone else. Rob Marciano working as well. The emergency desk as well.
A lot of times folks are concerned and send us e-mails wondering about our people, if they're are safe. The emergency desk over there is in contact with everyone in the field on a half hour basis just to make sure everyone is OK. And you see Victor Hernandez (ph) there who is essentially managing this entire desk.
Good luck with that, Victor.
Want to bring you back now to CNN.com, as you can see in our interactive board here. And Don, as you were mentioning, we want to give folks an opportunity to sort of check in with loved ones so that they can let their loved ones know that they are, in fact, safe.
Let me see if I can get this to work. We have got a tab at our Web site and here it is. You can see it right here. It's the Red Cross that it links to here. Are you safe? And I knew I would do that. I think I touched the wrong button. Let me back out just a second here, bring it back down and it's: Are you safe? And let's see if I can get this done a little better this time.
And it will link to a Red Cross page and there you go. There is some information there on (INAUDIBLE). I'll close that out a bit for you right here. And here we go. The American Red Cross's page, safe and well. If you were someone who right now has decided to stay behind, hunker down and try to ride this storm out, and you'd like to get information to your friends, your family, your loved ones, that you are OK, you can go to this site and you can actually register yourself as someone who is safe and well. And if you've got a loved one who stayed behind, you can actually search this site.
Right now I believe we're at about 6,000 people who have registered. Yes, just over 6,000 people who have registered their names, indicating to friends, families, loved ones that they are safe and well.
And again, if you'd like to search for your loved ones you can do that as well. So you back it out, get you to: Are you safe? And it is at CNN.com. We can't encourage you enough to register at that site.
Don, I want to send it back to you to wrap the hour.
LEMON: All right. Thank you very much for that, Tony Harris at our hurricane desk.
And of course, you can use all of those tools that Tony gave you. We've got CNN.com. You can go, of course, to the American Red Cross, as well. The winds are really starting to pick up here.
But also, your best source of keeping informed on this hurricane is to keep it tuned right here to CNN. CNN is your hurricane headquarters.
You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Don Lemon.