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Hurricane Ike Hits Texas Coast

Aired September 13, 2008 - 03:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And hello again, everyone. Tony Harris at the CNN Center in Atlanta. We are here all morning long, following Hurricane Ike, now just minutes away from landfall along the Texas coast. This hour, live reports plus an update on Ike's track, from the National Hurricane Center.
Here's -- here's what's happening right now with the storm. Landfall could be just minutes away, actually, winds now around 110 miles an hour, with gusts even higher. Some coastal communities are already underwater. Now they're bracing for a storm surge that could reach 20 feet. The colossal storm, some 900 miles across, in its path downtown Houston, the Johnson Space Center, and the nation's largest cluster of oil refineries.

Let's begin our coverage with our Susan Candiotti. She is in Clute, Texas.

And Susan, if you would, give us the very latest on the conditions you're experiencing.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, these winds are still spinning around and coming at us from a different direction than they were a few hours ago. We're getting gusts. We're getting strong sheets of rain going across here in the parking lot of the hotel where we're standing. The balcony is just over that direction, so shelter is just a short distance away. We're not in the middle of nowhere here.

Just going to walk over to where we had been standing before, over in this spot here. Just to show you right now that there -- the parking lot's getting a little more rain than it did before and to explain to you that we're only about four feet above sea level here. And there are a lot of levees that have been built up in this area over the past several years.

Everyone here talks about Hurricane Alicia back in 1983, when this area did experience a lot of flooding. That's when they built up the levees a little bit more. But it is still considered low-lying area, and a mandatory evacuation area, as well. And that's why a few days ago they put out the word, and more than half the people did leave here. And in this section, 70 percent of them left here. I would like to think that far more of them left the island of Freeport and Surfside. Rather, there's an island over there now, where all the homes were on stilts.

I'm told that on the weekends, this is a favorite, a place for people to go, where the population swells to about 5,000 visitors on the weekend, according to the police chief down here.

Authorities stopped going out on -- on runs in terms of we haven't seen any -- any kind of police vehicles go by for hours here. They stopped that a long time ago, when the winds got much, much stronger, as you can see they are now. And they have a plan to go out very early in the morning to see how people fared, see how bad the flooding is (AUDIO GAP)

HARRIS: Well, we're going to get moments of this when we lose our audio from time to time. And Susan, we've lost our audio with you for just a moment from Clute, Texas. We will get back to you in just a moment or so.

We want to get you to La Porte, Texas, right now. Rick Sanchez is there.

And -- and Rick, all right. So clearly, the winds have intensified where you are.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they most definitely have, Tony. We're now right smack dab on -- in fact, I'm standing on the yellow lines that are the divider on Main Street, La Porte. We're right in the downtown area. The winds are picking up. As you can see, a lot of stuff is being thrown around. Usually, I can hear it before I see it, which gives me a chance to make any quick darting moves, so if you see me make a quick skedaddle, as they say, it's because I'm seeing something.

Here comes one of those big bands that we've been talking about. It's -- it's really coming in off the side of Galveston Bay. Galveston Bay, I told you a little while ago -- we just took a ride up. Michael Hurd (ph) is my producer. Michael Hurd is now -- give me just a second here, all right? I'll compose myself for you.

HARRIS: No, no, take your time.

SANCHEZ: Michael Hurd is now trying to feed that video that we got moments ago just -- all right. Hurd is telling me in my ear that this video is going to be fed to Atlanta in a moment. And you're going to be able to see -- Tony, I don't mean to be rude, but I'm going to give you my back, man. You're going to be able to see, as you watch this video, when we feed it, how difficult it is and why -- oh, I think we're seeing some of it now.

HARRIS: Yes, we're seeing it now. Yes.

SANCHEZ: I don't know what you're seeing. Tony, what are you seeing?

HARRIS: It's a ride-along. It's a ride-along.

SANCHEZ: All right. It's a ride-along. We're going to be coming up on the very first flooding -- the flooding you see here around the -- when you see my live shot is just the rain. The flooding that you're about to see is we came upon the southern part of the tip of a city called Morgan's Point, and in Morgan's Point, you're actually going to be able to see the flooding that we came upon, where you couldn't cross anymore. It was so deep that we literally had to turn the car around, because that's part of -- that's actually part of Galveston Bay.

HARRIS: So the whitecaps we were seeing just moments ago...

SANCHEZ: ... on that video. Tell me what you're seeing, Tony, and I'll tell you what it is.

HARRIS: Sure. So the white caps we were seeing moments ago...

SANCHEZ: That you're looking at now?

HARRIS: ... were from Galveston Bay? Is that correct?

SANCHEZ: Tony, are you there?

HARRIS: Yes. Can you hear me, Rick?

Rick, can you hear me?

SANCHEZ: I'm not sure if I'm on the air. Tony, are you with me?

HARRIS: Yes, I'm with you. Can you hear me?

SANCHEZ: I think...

HARRIS: We may have...

SANCHEZ: I think my IFB.

HARRIS: Yes, your -- your IFB may just be shot, which means you can't hear me right now. But we saw some of the video that you fed back. OK.

Rick, can you hear me now?

SANCHEZ: What you're looking at there right now, I'm being told by Michael, is the -- is actually the bay, which is normally very, very tranquil. Instead, what you're looking at are huge waves crashing up -- it's about -- it's about, oh, 100 feet from where the bay would normally be. And you're seeing that palm tree, that sable palm tree, that is -- that almost a good part of it is already underwater. So you're also going to see on the video some of the trees that we came across that we had to go around. And at one point, you actually can see some of the power lines that have now come down that we had to navigate, as well. Because the wind is whipping them (AUDIO GAP)

HARRIS: OK. We just lost Rick. We are losing you, as well. It's just another indication that this storm is really picking up in its intensity.

Let's see what the scene is like in Houston right now. Our Jeanne Meserve is there. And Jeanne, I'm sure you can't see what's going on in some of the other locations. Maybe you're able to hear it, but Rick Sanchez is really being pounded right now in La Porte, Texas. Susan Candiotti's getting similar treatment in Clute, Texas. If you would, give us the latest on the conditions you're experiencing there in Houston?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, things are definitely picking up here. Every once in a while, you hear this big roar, and you want to look skyward to see if there's an aircraft in the air. But of course, what it is is the wind. The wind undoubtedly a factor tonight, by the way, in a big fire here in downtown Houston. Brennan's Restaurant, an institution here for 40 years, we're told, was seriously damaged when, about an hour and a half ago, a call came in.

We spoke to the fire chief who said when firefighters got there, there were flames coming through the roof. They were able to get it under control, but there's extensive damage to that structure. And two people were injured. He said two civilians were taken to the hospital and treated for minor injuries. No firefighters were hurt.

For the most part, though, first responders and everyone else in this city is hunkered down, waiting for the worst of the storm to pass. It is still a couple of hours away from this city. Needless to say, everyone in the county, everyone in the city who's involved in emergency response is ready to spring into action.

In addition, Houston is where the federal government has focused a lot of its assets. There are more than 1,000 members of search and rescue teams hunkered down at the Reliant Arena with all kinds of gear. They have boats. They have vehicles that can go in deep water. They have 18-wheelers full of their various specialized supplies. They are over there getting a little shut-eye while this storm hits, because they will not go out into the storm until conditions are friendlier. Particularly because this is a nighttime storm. They will not be able to see what is down in the street, including the power lines.

Power here in Houston, this part of Houston, still in tact, although we're told elsewhere in the city and in the county, it is down. We've seen a bright flash from transformers as they've exploded. But thus far, power has been maintained here.

The other big concern, of course, the big winds. As I mentioned earlier, high rise wind -- high-rise buildings right out here to my right. Right now in tact, but they are really afraid that the glass is going to come out of those and be quite a hazard to anyone who might be unfortunate enough to be out on the streets.

Back to you, Tony.

HARRIS: That's -- that's exactly the way to put it: unfortunate enough to be out on the streets. Jeanne Meserve for us in Houston. And we'll continue to follow the situation with Jeanne in Houston.

Let's see. You're looking at Clute, Texas, there on your right. And there's La Porte, Texas, and there's our Rick Sanchez. We're going to get to Rick in just a couple of moments. We will get you an update on the fire in Houston, to that institution there, Brennan's Restaurant. More of our expanded, extended coverage of Hurricane Ike in just a couple of moments. Right here on CNN.


HARRIS: As we rejoin you, welcome back to our extended coverage of Hurricane Ike. Let's take a look at these pictures that we have for you. I know Clute, Texas, is in one of those boxes. That's the position of our Susan Candiotti. As you can see, the winds are really whipping up right now, and Susan just moments ago in her live short absolutely getting buffeted by those pictures.

Gary Tuchman is in Galveston.

And I'm not sure. Do we have Gary's shot up? Is that where we want to go?

OK. Let's go to Gary Tuchman, Galveston Island. And you are still in the eye, I'm supposing, there, Gary, because it is very calm around you, obviously.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Tony. It's been about an hour that we've been in the eye of this very strong hurricane. But right now the winds are slightly starting to pick up, and the rain's starting to fall, so I'm not sure that necessarily means we're about to get the back end. But what I've seen, I've been able to take a jaunt around, because we have this calmness. And what I've seen -- we were warned when we came to Galveston that if the eye did come over Galveston that there was a good chance that much, if not most of this island city of 60,000 people would be underwater.

I can tell you right now that the flooding surrounds all four sides of us. I couldn't go that far. Behind us is the Gulf of Mexico. It's washed away the main street that runs along the Gulf of Mexico. And then on both sides, there's water up to my knees, and I couldn't get much farther than that, unless I wanted to go in water that went past my knees.

So I'm not sure how extensive it is, but it is a lot of flooding here, a lot of damage. We've seen the siding come off of buildings. We've seen light poles, power lines down. Behind me over here there's a palm tree that came down.

And we have more to come, because that's the one thing about it. Authorities always warn people, the eye of the hurricane -- you know, we've seen a lot of people walking around now. But it's only there for an hour or two, according to Chad, and then it could be as bad as it was before, with even worse flooding. So we hope that anyone who's taken this time in this early morning hour to come out gets back into their shelter if they're still here in Galveston, because the back end is coming -- Tony.

HARRIS: OK. All right. Appreciate that. Gary Tuchman for us, Galveston Island. Very quickly, let's get to Rick Sanchez.

Rick, I'm looking at your shot right now, and you're being tossed around just a bit. Let's get back to you, and as we do -- wow. Rick Sanchez is in La Porte.

Rick, give us an update on your conditions.

SANCHEZ: Well, things are starting to intensify here, Tony. I mean, you know, a little while ago we were talking with Chad about how we're probably going to get another 40 miles an hour, at least a couple of miles. We've already kicked in. Because I'm starting to see these consistent bands coming through now, with whipping winds.

We're kind of in an area now that gives us a little bit of shelter, because I'm standing on Main Street. And I've got some buildings in front of me, which kind of block a little bit of the wind. But just to show you how treacherous some of these -- and really how dangerous these projectiles can be, I've been (AUDIO GAP) top of one of these giant metal grates that seem to suddenly fly off a building. And I'm standing on top of it, because I figure I might keep my weight on it, it won't fly off.

But I'll kind of show you what I'm talking about. I don't know if you can see it right there. There it is. I mean, that's a big sheet of metal with -- that's almost like glass on the -- glass on the edges. You can imagine if that thing -- I'm putting it just so you don't think I'm crazy here. The wind is going this way, so I'm putting it downwind of me. So if it does get picked up, it goes in that direction. Pardon me. And doesn't come back toward us.

A couple of stories are developing here. You know, obviously, one is going to be the wind, the projectiles and everything associated with that wind. The other one, of course, is the flooding that they're expecting, because we are, you know, literally blocks from -- in that direction right there from Galveston Bay. We were originally reporting from Galveston Bay. We decided to move a little bit away from it because we were worried that the flooding would chase us out, and then we wouldn't be able to bring you stories at all.

But we've seen some pictures of what Galveston Bay looks like. A little while ago when I drove out there, you could literally see that the bay, in some ways, could remind some people out west who are watching us from California of, you know, the West Coast. You know, someplace on Malibu or something. That's how big some of those waves were suddenly coming in. In an area, again, that's a bay with a small opening, so usually it's tranquil.

And the reason I say that, too, is so people get an understanding of what we're talking about when we say that wall of water. The wall of water is pushing in from the Gulf of Mexico, further pushing it into Galveston Bay and then eventually trying to shove it up the -- the Houston Ship Channel. Which is going to really be a problem for some of the folks in and around Houston. That's why they're expecting that much flooding. We're talking about flooding that's not only going to be hitting this area now but also, as the storm intensifies, and even as the storm goes through, as Chad was explaining to us moments ago.

I'm going to walk towards you now a little bit, and I'm going to try and collect some of my wires, because it gets wrapped around trees, and then we're not able to move at all. I'm going to try and go over to this side. I know you're not going to see me here for a minute. Stay on this shot over there, Tim. I want to just see what's going on with this building. I want to take a look at that awning that we were looking at earlier. We might be able to give you a shot later of that. That thing is all ripped to shreds. Really not that much of it left, as are many of the signs.

And now on this side over here, coming back to you. Coming back to you. But now we're seeing -- but now we're seeing some pretty good flooding over here on the cross streets that cross through this part of -- this part of downtown La Porte. And still more winds whipping through. Obviously, we'll expect that, as the rain intensifies.

And by the way, the kind of rain that we were getting before was more of a -- of a small, misty, intermittent rain. Now, they're consistent -- it's a consistent rain that seems to be almost swirling. And the -- the drops themselves are much bigger.


SANCHEZ: You can really feel them as they hit you. So I mean, the situation here is one that's going to, you know, obviously take several hours. You can tell, when I drove a little while ago, when I did that drive-by so the viewers can see what it's like to actually try to take to the streets under these conditions. The power lines, the trees, the sudden flooding that you come upon. It creates a very perilous situation for anyone who's trying to get out around here. And it makes you really understand what officials say to citizens, "You've got to stay home."

HARRIS: That's right.

SANCHEZ: "We're going to establish a curfew. You've got to evacuate," why those warnings needs to be heeded. Because you see it now, and as the night progresses or as the morning progresses, I should say, it's going to only intensify. It's only going to get worse. And it's going to...


HARRIS: Now what was that?

SANCHEZ: I told you that thing would get going. It's only going to get even more difficult for -- for people trying to get out and about. So obviously, the key is to stay home tonight until this thing settles in the morning. And I've covered enough hurricanes to tell you that, as bad as things (AUDIO GAP) here...


SANCHEZ: ... you don't ever get a real good sense of actually what's going on until the very next day. HARRIS: Rick? Rick?

SANCHEZ: I can tell you, when I covered Andrew, we woke up that morning, and we said, "Ah, maybe not so bad."


SANCHEZ: Till we got into a helicopter and flew over it. And then we realized...

HARRIS: And you realized just how bad it was.

SANCHEZ: ... that part of South Florida was gone.

HARRIS: Hey, Rick, let me jump in for just a moment. We've got to get to...

SANCHEZ: Millions of dollars.

HARRIS: Let's -- let me jump in for just a moment. We've got to get to Chad Myers at our hurricane headquarters and, Chad, because you've got some new information for us.

MYERS: Well, I think we can -- we can safely call landfall now, Tony. And I'm looking kind of at the map here. And the extreme northern tip of -- of the -- the island here, Galveston Island. Just way up on the very north part, up by the lagoon, and I don't think we made it all the way over to -- to Bolivar. The -- the Bolivar Peninsula is essentially underwater at this point because of the way the winds have been coming onshore, 13 to 15 feet of a storm surge and that island, that peninsula, is not more than, you know, eight at its best.

So you know, most of the homes are on stilts. That's why they're out there. But right now, we'll just call it the center of the hurricane, the eye, directly on shore, Galveston Bay.

Do we have -- do we have Gary...

HARRIS: I think he is. I think he's available.

MYERS: Gary, I saw you laying on the ground, looking up at the sky. Did you see the moon?

TUCHMAN: I've got to show you this, because this gives you an idea of just how amazing being in the eye of the hurricane is. I'm just lounging like this. It's just a beautiful night. And I was -- it's funny, Chad, how well you know me. I was laying down like this and trying to see if I could see any stars whatsoever and the moon. And I'm sad to report I can't see any stars, and I can't see the moon. So I'm a little disappointed about that.

But I will tell you that our absolute calm point lasted about an hour, but the last 10 minutes the winds have started picking up. So Chad, if I'm not mistaken, maybe the back end is coming towards us now? MYERS: Yes, that's a ten-four. And they're going to be coming in from the due west for you now. So almost the exact opposite size -- the exact opposite direction of what you were seeing all day long. And this will push water back on the west side of Galveston Island, and it's going to be pushing it up. So far, we're still only 12 feet, and that's great news, because we showed some animations earlier: 15 feet left, found half of the island not really submerged. But 20 feet left, like, four square blocks not fully submerged.

It's not over yet, Tony. There -- this still isn't done yet. But we will get back to you, Gary, as the other side of the eye comes right now.

HARRIS: Amazing to think that we've got hours.

MYERS: I'm mind of boring compared to Rick Sanchez, right?

HARRIS: Yes. And Susan Candiotti in Clute. Yes, just amazing to think that we've got hours, still, of this to watch.

I want to show you some pictures, and Antoinette, is this from -- these pictures, they're coming from Galveston or from Houston? OK, great.

The new pictures, flooding pictures now from Houston, Texas, from our affiliate KTRK. And we want to continue to keep a very close eye on Houston, Texas, because as you've heard from Chad throughout the evening here, Houston is going to be subjected to high winds and surge. And you see some of the flooding that's going on right now.

Let's leave these pictures in and see if we can get back to Rick. Rick is in La Porte, Texas.

And Rick, we want to get back to you, because of the situation around you right now.

SANCHEZ: I never thought I'd be able to talk longer than a battery could last. Listen, I apologize for that. I guess you guys were trying to give me some instruction, but I couldn't tell what you were saying, because this little -- this little modulator I have on me that allows me to hear what you're saying, Tony...


SANCHEZ: ... apparently, the batteries went bad.

HARRIS: Rick, it's OK. We've got you now.

SANCHEZ: All right. Here we go. The situation here is pretty much what we were looking at before. We're still seeing a little bit of debris in the area. We're still wondering exactly how much more the flooding has intensified in the area around Galveston Bay. If you go straight down that way, from where we are right now, you come to what is Morgan's Point, which is where we were reporting from earlier.

I know for a fact, and I can guarantee that there's flooding there, because we just came upon it a little while ago when we drove into that direction and we came upon a road. And I didn't get out to try and see how deep it was, but I could tell that, if we had tried to drive our vehicle through there, that we would have gotten stuck in a real bad way. And we probably would have spent the night there.

So -- so we stopped there. Then we turned around and we went back on the main road that parallels the bay shore, came out to the other side, the other side of La Porte, which is the city where we are right now. And what we saw was a lot of damage, as well. And we -- and we saw that the bay -- had actually gone over the bay by about 60 to 100 yards. Not exactly sure. But that's where you're able to see that some of those trees that were way into the bay are now completely covered, as well.

We ran into some other crews there that were actually getting some video of that, as well, some of the locals here. And they said that they've worked this market for a long time, and they (AUDIO GAP) haven't seen anything like that.

HARRIS: Oh, boy.

SANCHEZ: Nor did they imagine -- or did they imagine that there'd be anything like that. Sorry, guys. There's another one of those large chunks of metal just ripped off. It's over there. I'm OK. It's -- I don't know if you can see it on camera, but there it's about another -- oh, I'd say about 50 yards from me. So we're OK. I'm eyeballing it now. And it looks like, if the wind were to pick it up and take it, it would be taking it in that direction. So we're OK.

As I said, we've got enough of a -- enough of a shelter here that we can kind of -- the wind is kind of coming in this direction. And there's a building in here, a sofa and mattress store here that's kind of sheltering us from the bad wind. Although you still get other pieces of debris that become projectiles, flying in from the other side. So as the wind intensifies, we'll probably be seeing a little more -- a little bit more of that kind of stuff for a while.

But the real story here -- I think, Tony, the real story here is going to be the -- you know, the inland flooding that we're going to be seeing...

HARRIS: That's right.

SANCHEZ: ... coming off of the bay. And here it comes. It's cool. But I think -- I think as the evening progress -- as (AUDIO GAP) progresses, I should say, we'll be checking on that from time to time to see just how many people may be flooded out or how many homes are flooding. I mean, we've been looking at some of that stuff going on in Cameron Parish, out in Louisiana. You know, they're talking about 2,000 homes underwater...

HARRIS: That's right.

SANCHEZ: ... as a result of some flooding that they've gotten there. And there's a possibility that we might get something like that here, as well. Let's take a little break. HARRIS: Yes.

SANCHEZ: Let's take a little break, Tony, you and I, to get -- I'll tell you what, Tony. You take us to break this time. I'll watch the metal. In fact, here it comes.

HARRIS: All right. Well, get out of its way. Rick, we're back to you in just a couple of moments.

Again, we're watching Rick's shot there, La Porte, Texas. We're also keeping an eye on Houston. We're also watching Clute, Texas, as well. That's where our Susan Candiotti is. Hurricane Ike making landfall just moments ago on the island of Galveston -- Galveston, Texas.

You're watching extended coverage of Hurricane Ike on CNN.


HARRIS: And welcome back everyone to CNN's extended coverage of hurricane Ike. The powerful storm making landfall just moments ago, over Galveston Island, as a strong Category 2. Probably need to check with Chad Myers in just a couple of minutes there.

There were indications that the storm was maybe just a mile per hour shy of a Category 3 status. Maybe it never made that. But, 2 or 3, it is still a very, very powerful storm. Some areas to see storm surge of up to 20 feet, maybe even higher in some areas. Some coastal communities are already under water. We are watching a number of locations and our correspondents are strategically located.

Our Rick Sanchez is in La Porte, Texas. We'll get back to Rick in just a couple of minutes. Our Susan Candiotti is in Clute, Texas. And let's go there right now.

And Susan, if you would, give us an update on the conditions you're experiencing there in Clute.

CANDIOTTI: Hi, Tony. We'll it's really coming down now. Although, I must say, even though Ike has made landfall, we are on the western side of that eyewall which means it's the slightly weaker side. Of course, if you're out here standing in it, it's pretty bad.

In any case, it has taken a technical toll on us just a bit. For hours, we were able to operate with a wireless microphone. But finally, this microphone took on enough water so that we're not having to hardline it. And that's why we're hopefully we are getting audio again. Last time it broke up a bit.

Of course, one of the best ways to see the effects of the rain. You can see it because the rain is lit up in these lights. You see these little trees moving? And of course over here, you see the palm tree up here? And these palms moving as well. That's a good indicator, a good visual aid to see how strong those winds are.

And of into the distance of course, we've been showing you all night long, the chemical plants that are operating and have been operating for years here. And they still have lights over here. We've been in the dark for hours and hours and hours. Boy, oh boy. I'm in the middle of some gusts right now. But in any case, they have a skeleton staff working there now. For the most part, we understand that their operations have been shut down during the course of the storm. Although, some were working at a vastly reduced capacity, we hear. When you see that flame burning on the top of one of the towers, that's a burn off we're told, of some waste material, part of the shutting down process that's been going on here.

And Tony, this is a very low lying area. It's very, very flat so it is prone to flooding. That's why it is under a mandatory evacuation order. And according to the authorities, most people did heed by that. More that half of the people did clear out and move inland, away from the storm, staying with friends, relatives, in some cases moving into motels.

Earlier this day, it would have been yesterday morning, actually, you were able to see a lot of people that were rescued who did not follow that order and waited until the last minute when the water started to rise. And the police had to come in and get them out. We saw eight people being rescued in that way. When they took out boats and in one case, a father and two of his teenage children came out on jet skis. And frankly, appeared to be nonchalant about the whole thing. But, nevertheless, they made the right decision in the end. That father got his children out of harms way.

We do understand there is one man who is in Surfside who decided to stay on that island and I'm sure the waters are rising because we know the storm surge was going to go up to 12 feet. And I know that those homes -- only the first floor can be of 14 feet, that's the first floor if they're up on high enough stilts. Some of those homes, we understand, are pretty old and don't even go up that high. So, at daybreak, the chief tells me, they will be moving in as part of their disaster drill and planning to go into see what happened. And of course, we'll be watching and waiting to see what happens also, Tony.

HARRIS: Well, Susan, I know you've covered a number of these hurricanes. You're getting absolutely buffeted right now. Be safe. We say it to you all the time, but, you are such a trooper.

CANDIOTTI: Thank you very much.

HARRIS: You are.

CANDIOTTI: (INAUDIBLE) keeping us safe, we are.

HARRIS: You are. You absolutely are. Susan Candiotti, and a terrific crew working this storm in Clute, Texas, for us.

Right now we want to get to Pat Trayhan. He is with the American Red Cross with the city of Houston.

Pat, good to talk to you. If you would, can you give us the latest on what you're seeing, the reports you're getting on conditions there in the Houston area?

VOICE OF PAT TRAYHAN, CITY OF HOUSTON: Yes. Just within the last 15 minutes, we began seeing heavy, heavy winds right at hurricane strength through the middle of downtown Houston, up to 90 miles an hour. On the southeast side of Houston, we have seen transformers go out. We have over a million people without power this evening. And our concern continues to be surge in the Galveston (INAUDIBLE) complex, for those people who live along the western shore, where the surge was going to be in the 20 foot, to 22 foot range.

HARRIS: And Pat, what was number again? A million now without power?

TRAYHAN: Yes. Over a million people without power, reported by Centerpoint.

HARRIS: And what we've been told is it could be anywhere from a week to maybe three weeks before people can expect, anticipate power back on. Is that the best guidance right now?

TRAYHAN: Yes. Within this last few minutes, Centerpoint estimated that it would probably be about 18 days. So, we're pulling up to almost three weeks to get the power back on.

HARRIS: And Pat, how concerned are you about broken glass in those high rise buildings, there in Houston?

TRAYHAN: We learned a lot from Alicia, and changes in technology have allowed us to do pretty good on that. But, we're going to have some breakages downtown. A lot of people use what's called a ballistic film on the windows to try to reduce the breakage. So, we hope that happens this time around.

HARRIS: And, so far, are you OK with the decision not to order more of a evacuation from Houston?

TRAYHAN: Yes. Under the -- the big difference -- what Rita was forecasted to be a Category 4 to a Category 5 storm. This storm was forecasted to be a Category 2 to a Category 3. And that's a big difference in making decisions in how many people you would ask to be on the road. So, that was big difference. Hard to compare this one with that one. The big difference is, this one actually hit us this time around. And so we are going to weather the storm, make plans and provisions to assist people once we get through the bad weather.

HARRIS: And you're keeping a close eye on the Houston ship channel, as well?

TRAYHAN: Oh, certainly. Many ships were asked to -- they typically ride the storm out. They get out ahead of the storm, ride it out at sea as oppose to in the docks.

There was some issues with one ship carrying Coke, of cold Coke. It's engines went out and so they were riding the storm at out sea, 22 people on board. So, we wish the best for them. But, for the most part, those ships are out at sea and that tremendously reduces any damage to the freighters and to the Fort.

HARRIS: Yes. And the idea with that freighter is, maybe the winds would push it into shallower waters where the crew could actually drop anchor.

TRAYHAN: Yes, we would hope that would be the case.

HARRIS: OK. Pat, appreciate it. Thanks for your time.

TRAYHAN: Thank you.

HARRIS: Pat Trayhan is with the city of Houston.

Let's stay in Houston, now and let's get to our Jeanne Meserve.

And Jeanne, if you would, we just talked to Pat. He's voiced a lot of concerns about the winds and of course, the rains whipping through your area right now.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We are definitely seeing them and feeling them. I walked up a couple of blocks to get a feel for how it was away from our relatively sheltered position and there are trees down, some signs flapping in the wind. But, thus far, not the kind of massive damage that you might expect.

But, we're early on here. The worst part of the storm is still several hours away from us. I will tell you that a situation we're watching still, is the fire at Brennan's Restaurant. We told you earlier about this 40 year old institution that went up in flames. Now, about, I guess two hours ago, when firefighters got there, there were flames coming through the roof. We're told that that is still not put out.

Of course, these are extraordinarily difficult situations in which to fight a fire. There's a strong wind. We're told that in that area, the buildings are packed very close together. So, some uneasiness about the fire, remaining fire, and what it's going to do. We also reported to you about that that there were two people, civilians who had some injuries. They were taken to the hospital. We're told their injuries were minor.

You heard the city talking about the surge problem. We're told that there are nine zip codes here, within this county where there was a mandatory evacuation. They don't really have a grasp on how many people followed those orders and how many people did not. As soon as things become passable, as soon as they can get people out there, the first order of business they tell me is going to be to go door to door and knock on the door and see if there's anybody there, what kind of condition they're in, what they can possibly do to help.

I'm told by some local residents, there has been some rising of the water here. No flooding that we're aware of yet. But trust me, we're keeping a hard eye on it. There are a few people out on the streets. People who think this is a party, they are sorely mistaken. It's going to get very dangerous here shortly -- Tony.

HARRIS: All right. Our Jeanne Meserve in Houston. And Jeanne will be there throughout the morning for us.

We've got our correspondents strategically located at important points along this storm path right now. Rick Sanchez is in La Porte, Texas. Our Gary Tuchman is in Galveston, right now. In the eye of the storm right now. But anticipating at any moment, the backside of that storm. As a matter of fact, we will get to Gary Tuchman, in Galveston, in just a moment. Our extended coverage of hurricane Ike, a storm that made landfall just moments ago, on the island of Galveston, continues in just a moment.


HARRIS: Let's get to the very latest on hurricane Ike. This monster storm made landfall just a short time ago. Maybe a half hour, or so ago. Galveston Island, Texas. A storm is still a Category 2; a very strong Category 2. Hurricane force winds felt in the Houston area right now. Where more than a million people are without -- a million people now, without power. Weather permitting, search and rescue teams are going out after daybreak in Texas and Louisiana, where some of these coastal communities, we understand, are actually underwater.

A fire's reported in Galveston and in Houston. A huge fire at Brennan's Restaurant, a real institution in the Houston area for 40 years. Two people injured there. Our affiliate KTRK reporting that a couple of the workers there and a child and one of those employees injured. The owner says a transformer explosion probably is the most likely cause of the fire.

Let's get you to Galveston Island right now. Our Gary Tuchman is there.

And Gary, for the last hour or so, you have been in the -- at the center of the storm, at the calm of the storm, in the eyes of the storm. But, now you're anticipating, really bracing for the back side of this storm, aren't you?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right. First of all, Tony, when you hear the eye of the storm, it sounds very menacing. But, the eye of the storm is actually the best part of the storm to be in, at that time.

Because, for the last hour and 45 minutes, we had an absolutely beautiful night. We had hundred mile per hour winds for about two hours, hurricane force winds for about four hours and then it has gradually turned into nothing.

Well, now the winds are starting to pick up again and we're anticipating some of the bad stuff. But, an hour and 45 minutes we've been under the eye here in Galveston, Island, hurricane Ike. But you know what, because it's dark, seems like a happy time. But we have no idea what's going on in this city. This is an important point to make.

And by the way, right now I'm standing on like, this little mountain that's protecting the 15 story hotel that we are staying in, also police officials and emergency operations officials. So, that's what this is that I'm standing on.

But, Galveston residents were told to evacuate. There's an mandatory evacuation. The National Weather Service came out with a warning yesterday that people who live in one or two story homes and one family homes near this beach, face certain death if they stay. Now you hear that, that's an awful thing. We just don't know what the situation is because police have not been able to go out.

Surrounding us, the roads are flooded. Behind me, the Gulf of Mexico, which has flooded Seawall Boulevard, which is the major boulevard that runs through Galveston. There's a 17 foot seawall. The seawall you don't see anymore. The road you don't see anymore. So, we know there's flooding. We just won't know how serious the flooding is until it's daytime. And we won't know if there are any causalities until daytime. So, the worst may still be yet to come -- Tony.

HARRIS: Wow. OK, Gary Tuchman, Galveston Island, right now.

Let's take a moment and welcome our international viewers watching now on CNN International. Let's give you a quick update, a reset on hurricane Ike.

It is an absolute monster of a storm right now. And the storm made landall on Galveston Island, just where Gary Tuchman is reporting from, oh, about a half hour or so, ago. Hurricane force winds, a strong Category 2 storm. Take a look at the radar and satellite imagery right here. You can see just how huge this storm is. 900 miles across at one point. Most of Galveston Island is now underwater in Texas. Some areas to see storm surge of up to 20 feet.

We want to take a moment now and look beyond the storm. Sunrise and beyond. It is pretty clear that there will be a lot of people in desperate need after this storm, this massive storm clears. Joining us now to talk about the emergency efforts already underway, Peter Tayhan, he is with the American Red Cross and he joins us by phone from Houston.

And Peter, good to talk to you, thanks for your time. I know you're very busy right now. You're prepared for all kinds of eventualities with this storm.

How have you prepared and what kinds of needs are you anticipating?

TRAYHAN: Good morning. Yes, we've been prepared and we are growing both resources as far as equipment and personnel, to be able to respond as quickly as we can once the storm has left the area.

Primarily, we're getting -- we've been sheltering folks in cooperation with the state. That will be continue to be our support for the first few days. With the intensity of the storm that we're dealing with right now, it's going to be critical that people do not return back to their communities right away. Give the local officials time to go through, figure out how much damage and what they need to do to make communities safe for people to come back. While that's going on, people will be at Red Cross shelters. Once these folks start returning, Red Cross will be there to provide the longer term sheltering if homes are gone. And then looking at what other type of assistance Red Cross can give. But right now, we're amassing materials and personnel to meet the emergency needs of families.

HARRIS: Well, Peter, I know that the Red Cross has had some struggles recently, just keeping up with the storms and the supplies necessary. How are you, how is the Red Cross in Houston, in terms of its ability to supply people with what they need right now?

TRAYHAN: We've been blessed to have dedicated volunteers and that's what keeps us together. Volunteers and equipment. What we don't have is the money. When we started Gustav, our disaster funds were down to zero. We are -- these hurricanes are going to cost an excess of $140 million for Red Cross to respond.

That's why the American public needs to respond because 100 percent of our funding comes from the American public. We don't let the victims of this disaster down. We will be there to care for them. We're asking the American public not to let us down. Help contribute money, contribute blood and contribute time to allow us to help the families who are so desperately affected -- daily affected by this disaster.

HARRIS: And Peter, one more quick question here. We're talking about a million people right now without power. Power not to be returned for anywhere from a week to three weeks.

Are you in a position right now to handle thousands, really, thousands of people who will need shelter, food, water?

TRAYHAN: Without a doubt we'll be able to handle it. We'll do it in two different ways.

Once we have millions of meals ready to eat, that will be the immediate response. And then we have mobile kitchens. Kitchens like Henry's Kitchen, Sisco's Kitchens which can produce tens of thousands of meals in mobile kitchens that will deliver them with emergency response vehicles, as well as fixed-site feedings.

We'll be there for the people. They expect us and we'll be there to take care of them.

HARRIS: OK. Boy, you have a awesome task ahead of you.

Peter Trayhan is with the Red Cross in Houston. Peter, thanks for your time this morning.

We are going to continue our coverage of hurricane Ike making landfall on Galveston Island within the last 45 minutes. It's a strong Category 2 storm. When we come back, we will get to that shot there on your right. Rick Sanchez is there. That is La Porte, Texas. We're back in a moment.


HARRIS: And welcome back, everyone to our expanded, extended coverage of hurricane Ike. This monster storm that made landfall within the hour on Galveston Island.

Rick Sanchez is in La Porte, Texas. And Rick, I just pulled up a CNN wire, just learning that two Houston hospitals actually lost power. But, the generators of those hospitals actually kicked in, providing power. So, the power went out at University General Hospital and Texas Specialty Hospital. This is a scene that we are probably going to be -- we'll watch this, it'll be repeated for hours to come.

And my friend, you're going to be in that storm, in those winds for hours to come.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. In fact, I had a conversation earlier with Betty Nguyen, who's been covering that part of story about what they're doing in some of those hospitals. Especially where you have people who are in critical care, or people who are infants in neonatal units and stuff like that. It's very difficult for them to try and deal with that. And try and put things in perspective.

And you were talking a little while ago, Tony, about calming people down. Boy, imagine if you're going through something like this and you're in that environment, how difficult it must be. As much as you'd like to leave. But, family members have to stay in the area to take care of their own. You guys got me there in Atlanta, or am I breaking up a little bit?

HARRIS: We've got you. We've got you.

SANCHEZ: All right. Listen, we got a couple of things to take care of. Oh, first of all, last time you talked to me, you saw -- I told you that there was some debris that was flying through and I was getting out of its way. Just for the sake of letting you know, it turns out that they were gutters from one of these buildings that had been ripped off the roof and it was in pieces, parts. And it was floating down, or rolling down the highway.

When we come back, that video I told you about, we've got it edited. I'll give it to you as a play by play. I'll share it with you. All this and more after the break at the top of the hour. Stay with us, we'll be right back.