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Special Hurricane Irene Edition: Irene Downgraded to Tropical Storm; New York City Housing Authority Evacuates All Apartment Buildings; Interview With NOAA National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read; Interview With New Jersey Governor Chris Christie; Interview With FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate; Interview With Freeport, New York Mayor Andrew Hardwick; Interview With Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy

Aired August 28, 2011 - 09:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: Hurricane Irene made landfall on Coney Island 15 minutes ago as a tropical storm.

This is special hurricane edition of STATE OF THE UNION.

Here is what we know right now. Now, a tropical storm with wind gusts at 65 miles per hour. Over 3 million homes in nine states are without power and at least 11 people have died.

Throughout this hour, we will hear from the team of correspondents reporting from all over the East Coast.

We start in New York where the real fear isn't the strong winds, but flooding. Joining us now is CNN's Soledad O'Brien, who is in New York.

Situate us first, Soledad, where you are and what you are seeing.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: I hear you. OK. Hey, guys, sorry, we're having audio problems clearly.

Listen, a lot of that is due to the water, the massive amounts of water that we're getting as we are on the West Side Highway.

Here's what we're seeing here, the West Side Highway is right over there, less than a block. You can see it already flooding its banks and those walkways that run along the West Side Highway are under at least a foot of water, at least 10 or 15 minutes ago.

Here's the big problem for the people in Lower Manhattan, it's this flooding. Keep in mind the actual rain is not that bad. We have not gotten the brunt of the hurricane yet. But look at this building. These are first floor apartments and water is pouring in.

We were speaking with the super, Carlos, just a few minutes ago, and he says he's never seen anything like this. It's really bad, he's been here overnight.

If you come back this way -- Jaime, let's get a shot this car that's underwater. We've actually seen this just a fair bit -- which is this vehicle that drove through and didn't realize just how deep the water is here, and now they are stuck, another car that came through has been pushed out but they're stuck. We haven't seen the owner there, and if they don't move it soon, because the water is rising so fast, they're going to be in big trouble.

Most of the vehicles we have seen have been police vehicles, but the people have really started to come out and take pictures and et cetera. Mayor Bloomberg, in his last press conference last night, told people to stay inside, and I do believe as soon as the winds get high again and the water rushing up, it's going to get very, very ugly here -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Soledad, situated as a little bit. I see that there are apartments that are now flooding, what else is in danger as that water rises as we expect it will? What's around you that is now threatened?

O'BRIEN: Well, you know, a couple issues, of course, is the power grid, right? Because in New York City, it's underground. So, that immediately makes a big problem.

They evacuated the New York City Housing Authority all the apartments that are owned by the city, because they're worried that as elevators go out and the power goes out or it's shut down by Con Edison, people will start getting stuck in their buildings. So, they have been trying to evacuate those folks.

Where I am standing, Candy, is what they call Area A, which is mandatory evacuation. But I got to tell you, a number of people still around. So, I'm assuming some people did not evacuate.

A block away is evacuation Area B, voluntary evacuation. But already this morning, we saw tons of water pouring into those apartments that are voluntary evacuation, which means that those elevators are going to down, the power very likely could go down, it's going to be a huge mess.

And the area I am in is the meat packing district, which used to be literally where they would pack meat and ship it off for distribution and then it became like a night club spot in Manhattan. So, in terms of massive landmarks, right where we are, nothing at risk, but when the wind comes through, lots of scaffolding, these tunnels -- it's going to be scary, and then, of course, water, water, water.

I'm really concerned that if it's up to the first floor windows, the bottom part of the window and it's not really raining yet -- I mean, this is not bad rain. It's going to get very bad when this hurricane does hit here.

CROWLEY: Thanks so much, Soledad. We want to go now over to Long Island, bringing in CNN's Rob Marciano.

Rob, I watched you all morning long. I know how bad it is there. Give us the situation and how has it changed in the last 30 minutes or so?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I'll tell you, just in the last 10 minutes, Candy, the winds have shifted. At one point throughout the morning, this wall was protecting us. I am standing in the same spot I have been standing, and now I have the wind at my back.

What does that tell me? It tells me it moved that way. The center of it is slightly going to the west of us. We're getting what is left of Irene's right eyewall. Winds have been sustained easily at 50 miles per hour where we stand with much, much higher gusts.

The water, as you can see behind me, has been relentlessly pounding this shoreline. The good news, if there is any, that high tide has come and gone, the water has not gone down because of the strong onshore flow. And the water pushed through the boardwalk, through the boardwalk and into town, like it has been doing all morning.

Right now, Candy, we're getting the most fierce weather we have seen all morning long. That's what is left of Irene's eyewall, and it makes its way onshore here on Long Island. Over a quarter million people without power. No doubt right now, lights that are on are going off across Long Island.

Back over to you.

CROWLEY: Bob, let me ask you to stand by, because joining me now from its headquarters in Miami, is Bill Read, who is director of NOAA's National Hurricane Center.

Mr. Read, it looks so calm there compared to what we have been watching. In the last 15 minutes, something has changed. Can you tell us what?

BILL READ, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Well, we had a hurricane hunter aircraft actually in New York harbor. We've confirmed that the winds now only justify a tropical storm, and I say only in the sense that we have been talking hurricane. So, we lowered the naming down to a tropical storm.

But as you can see, you were just showing, the impacts don't change. The tidal flood is underway, the huge waves on the beaches is underway, and the river flooding and rain flood is under way and the power outages is under way. That will not change.

CROWLEY: So, can you tell me, are we peaked here? We look at Long Island, we look at some of that flooding that's coming in. First of all, as far as the winds are concerned, have they peaked? How much more incoming water can they expect?

READ: The winds will start going down and swing around to the west coming off of land and then gradually subside during the afternoon. The large waves coming in, that will take a little bit longer before that breaks down. I think the rest of the day, you have a problem on Long Island and southern New England with that. The heavy rain is mostly north of the storm. The tides are going down. The astronomical tides, so you will see a reduction in the flooding in the tides in New York.

And then the focus fixes up in New England, as the winds swing around to the west and southwest for their south-facing bays.

CROWLEY: There's always another state to go through apparently with this storm.

Mr. Read, stand by with me for a moment because I want to get contact with our John King who is at Long Beach, who has been through the worst of it so far as I can see.

John, as you know, we have Mr. Read here -- if you have any questions or you just want to give us a situation update?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Let me take out to the boardwalk, Candy. I am on the boardwalk, and I am going out to the edge here where we can feel the winds. And I would agree with the assessment that the winds that are still pretty powerful, or not as powerful were about an hour ago.

But I'm going to ask Jerry Simon (ph) just to pan out --

CROWLEY: I'm sorry. We, obviously, have lost audio from John King. Let's go back, I think to the National Hurricane Center. Is that where we're going again?

Mr. Read, let me ask you something. We hear so much talk about these surges. Can you explain what a surge is and can you predict them?

READ: Yes, we have come a long way in the prediction of surge. It's a very complex process. It's primarily the winds pushing the water as the storm comes northward.

The big large systems like Irene produce the widespread tidal flooding we have had all up and down the eastern seaboard, and as the water comes up over the beach fronts or in some cases continental shelves, it gets lifted to higher elevations and it varies so radically defending on that wind direction and the time of the high tides and the obstructions in the way of it, it becomes a very localized event in the on slot of the hurricane and we're just now becoming capable of using tools to get us that information in a more rapid fashion.

CROWLEY: And so, just quickly, if I could ask you, after New York, tell me what is next kind of in the bull's eye, if there is a bull's eye at this point?

READ: I think it's the whole bull if you really want to look at it. This storm encompasses all of New England and eastern New York right now. Winds and rain, the tidal effects will be most pronounced on the southern coast of New England and what's going on right now in New York. The wind water flooding and the wind -- the power outages from the wind on the trees is going to be the event going through New England, and then often in the eastern provinces of Canada, where -- even though it's going extra tropical, with the heavy foliage and the high winds, you'll have trouble with that.

CROWLEY: Bill Read at the National Hurricane Center, thank you so much for the information. I'm sure we will talk to you many times during the day. Thank you.

Coming up, we are going to talk to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who like all these governors on the Eastern Seaboard have their hands full today. Hurricane Irene, now Tropical Storm Irene continues to pummel at this point New York.


CROWLEY: We are now calling her Tropical Storm Irene, but don't let that downgrade fool you, because this is a very fierce storm. We want to go now to CNN's Mary Snow. She is in New York's Battery Park.

Mary Snow, there you go.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Candy, we are at the southern tip of the island of Manhattan, where the -- the Hudson River meets the bay. Yes, Candy, I'm not sure if you can hear me OK, but we are right down at the southern tip of Manhattan, the island of Manhattan, where the Hudson River meets the bay. And as you can see, the water is coming over its banks, high tide, as we've been talking about, about an hour ago.

In this park, there had been anticipation that this would be flooded, and this is one of the evacuation zones. We've been in this park -- I'd say that the worst flooding is about a foot deep at this point.

We do know, we have gotten word that the northern tube of the Holland Tunnel has been shut down because of flooding, and that is the tunnel linking Manhattan to New Jersey. It's a little bit further north from where I'm standing, and that was one of the big concerns, in terms of flooding, about whether or not some of the tunnels would be flooded, particularly the subway tunnels, leading the city, of course, to shut down mass transit yesterday at noon.

Candy, I have to say that, you know, city officials are really bracing for a storm surge between four and eight feet. It remains to be seen how much flooding we will be seeing. But as I said, from what we can tell down here, it's about a foot deep at the deepest parts that we've seen.

CROWLEY: Our Mary Snow in Battery Park, along the Hudson. We want to turn now to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. He is in the New Jersey command center right now.

I know for sure, Governor, that there will be no one coming from New Jersey through the Holland Tunnel today, but what can you tell me about the situation in New Jersey, the latest information you have.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Candy, we have a serious situation in New Jersey. Half of our state is still being covered by the storm. We have over half a million people who have lost power. We have over 250 road closures. We have 15,000 people in emergency shelters, in 45 different shelters, and that number is growing.

And our real concern right now is flooding, Candy. We're talking about not only coastline flooding, but also inland flooding of our rivers that are swelling to -- to record levels. And so that's going to continue for another couple of days after the storm passes. So those are my real concerns now.

And the message I want to get to New Jerseyans who are watching your program right now is: Do not leave your homes. People want to get out there right now. It is still not safe for you to go out there. Let's let the storm completely pass this afternoon, and then people can start to leave their homes, where appropriate. But we've got flooding everywhere and flash flooding in all different parts of the state, and it's very dangerous for folks to get back out there already.

CROWLEY: And, Governor, can you tell me -- I'm sorry, I missed sort of the top, because we had some audio problems here. I know that you were very fierce the other day, saying you all need to evacuate where I've told you to. Are -- are their people in pockets where you are concerned for their safety?

CHRISTIE: Sure, Candy. I mean, we had -- let's talk about the good news first, which is that we evacuated over a million people from the New Jersey shore in 24 hours in an orderly fashion without big traffic jams and without huge hassles. People are safe and away from the shore. If we had not done that, I think you would have seen significant loss of life on the shore.

We still have people who've said they would not leave their homes. We're now going to be in the process early this afternoon of going and starting to do search-and-rescue missions along the Jersey shore to make sure that the folks who remained are safe and sound and also to assess what kind of property damage and infrastructure damage has been done along the shoreline.

CROWLEY: And looking down the road, Governor, tomorrow, the next day, what do you think is going to be the biggest problem facing your residents along the shore and inland?

CHRISTIE: Flooding. Flooding is going to be the big problem. Candy, we've had the wettest August in New Jersey history before Hurricane Irene. And so the problem is that we have saturated ground. We have -- we have swelled rivers. And with the winds that we've had, we also have a lot of trees taking down power lines.

So with half a million people and growing without power and with more flooding to happen on Monday and Tuesday, as these rivers crest, that's my big concern now, is the inland flooding, mostly, and resolving the coastal flooding. CROWLEY: Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, thank you so much. I know it's a busy day. Thanks for taking time out from your day to speak with us.

CHRISTIE: Candy, thanks for having me. Let's everybody stay home and stay safe.

CROWLEY: Thanks. Wise words from the governor.

I want to bring in now former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

We were talking earlier, first of all, we're one day from the anniversary of Katrina. You were around from Katrina. Things did not go very well in those -- that first week.

It seems to me, looking at the totality, talking to these governors, talking to FEMA, at least everybody's talking a great game. Does it strike you that everybody is on top of this?

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, FMR. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Well, you know, as Governor Christie said, the challenge really doesn't end when the storm passes. It's actually the days after the storm. Now, the real question here is the flooding.

If the water drains quickly, then it becomes a matter of cleaning people up, cleaning up the debris, getting people back in their homes. If you have a large part of the city underwater, as you had in New Orleans, that's, of course, a much more challenging and much more difficult environment to operate in.

Here it looks like, again, you're getting flooding in New York, but it's not really below sea level, so you anticipate, after six hours or so, the water is going to start to move in the opposite direction.

CROWLEY: Well, when you hear things, such as we did, that the northern tube of the Holland Tunnel has been closed for flooding, does that begin to concern you about -- because so much of what runs New York is underground.

CHERTOFF: Right. Well, that's exactly right. The challenge in New York, Candy, is that so much of the electricity and the other infrastructure is below the surface. And they're not equipped. They haven't built themselves to deal with hurricanes, because there haven't been a lot of hurricanes.

So once the water recedes, you've still got to ask yourself how much damage has been done, what do you have to dry out. That's going to affect buildings, where you have elevators, for example, that depend on power. It may affect communications. And so that's going to be a major determining factor in how quickly people can back to their homes. If you can't clean that up quickly, people could be out of their homes for days.

CROWLEY: You're going to stick with me throughout the hour. Thank you so much, Michael Chertoff.

We're going to take a quick break, but when we come back, we're going to get the latest from FEMA, the director.


CROWLEY: Tropical Storm Irene, she has been downgraded from a hurricane, but continues to cause destruction as she moves her way up the Eastern Seaboard. Right now one of the hardest hit places, Long Beach, Long Island. That is where our John King is.

We tried to talk to you earlier in the hour, John, and I heard you say, yes, the winds had died down a bit, and then you went away. So carry on. What's going on down there? Up there, actually?

KING: Apologies for the audio problem earlier, Candy. It's a little messy out here as we try to do all this.

The winds have died down some, but if I turn, you'll feel that if I turn into them, you can hear the winds blowing. So we still have quite significant winds here.

CROWLEY: What can I tell you? It is a tropical storm, as you can see, still interfering with lots of things, including our signal.

We now want to go to FEMA headquarters, where it's a good deal less windier, and Craig Fugate, who's the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. You and I know it as FEMA.

Thank you so much, Mr. Fugate, for coming back and talking to us again.

I want to ask you first, as you look at the totality of Hurricane and now Tropical Storm Irene, from North Carolina on up, what is causing you to tear your hair out right now?

CRAIG FUGATE, FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: Well, I think the thing that's going to be a big factor is going to be the power outages and how quickly they can get restoration going. And again, we're starting to assess it, but the thing that really tears my hair out is people that get out in these storms and try to drive around, or get out after the storm and go sightseeing.

Stay inside. Stay safe. Let the power crews do their job.

We're already hearing reports of, unfortunately, this was a deadly storm. We do have reports of fatalities. And for a lot of folks the dangers still exists.

In a tropical storm, many people think, well, it won't be that bad. We still will have trees coming down, heavy rain, strong winds. So, stay inside, stay safe, stay off the roads. Let the power crews do their jobs.

CROWLEY: Mr. Fugate, I have with me today helping me out former homeland secretary Michael Chertoff. And I wanted to bring him in on this conversation with his questions for you.

CHERTOFF: Craig, hi.

I know this is a tough day for you. Let me ask you, in terms of what you now see in North Carolina and Virginia as the storm moves away, what is your general sense of the degree of damage?

FUGATE: Well, again, talking to the folks down in North Carolina, they are starting their assessments. They have had some overwash, some road damages, a lot of trees down and power lines down.

It looks like a lot of the structural damage is in those areas you would expect it on the coast, with root damage a little further inland. So it looks like the top of things, they were expecting, that they were geared up for, and I think what's going to drive this response for them will be the power outages.

Virginia got so much rain, I think that's still unfolding this morning as we're getting an idea of how much flood and rain we're having, particularly in the tidewater areas of the state. And again, those assessments are still coming in.

CROWLEY: You know, one of the things, Mr. Fugate that Michael and I were talking about earlier is that your job kind of starts once Irene gets out of the way. So you're kind of moving from south, north as well.

Where are your FEMA folks now, and what are they concentrated on?

FUGATE: Well, we had our teams in each one of the states ahead of the storm to link up and get to work. And as the secretary says, a lot of things we're going to do will be after the storm. But we wanted to be there ahead of time.

And right now it's really -- looking at the state, they're dealing with life safety and rescue issues. We have teams ready to support that, generators to support power issues. And now beginning the assessment to determine, do they need additional assistance particularly? Are they going to be looking at additional assistance from the president in the form of more declarations?

CROWLEY: And finally, Mr. Fugate, before we lose you, when you look across the totality of this, honestly, this was not the worst- case scenario so far. Is that correct?

FUGATE: You know, a lot of people talk about worst-case scenario. I will tell you this -- this has been a deadly hurricane. We have reports of people who have lost their lives.

We still have flooding going on, and a lot of people have been impacted in different ways. So I will leave that to you guys to describe the storm. I'm just dealing with what we have. And unfortunately, we have had loss of life.

CROWLEY: Craig Fugate, yes, you're right. This has been a deadly storm. And it's still ongoing, we should say. And we will heed your advice and tell people, stay indoors.

Thank you so much, Craig Fugate. A busy day for you over there at FEMA.

CHERTOFF: You know, Candy, one of the things to remember here is a lot of people think the flooding ends when the storm ends. And you've got types of flooding.

You've got the flooding that gets pushed in from the ocean because of the wind, and then you also have the flooding that comes from the rain. And you have got swollen rivers. You have got what has been a very wet summer, so very saturated ground.

This is going to come together, and the danger is not necessarily going to end today. It may go into tomorrow, and that's why people have to be very careful about watching where they are driving and where they're walking because of this concern about flooding.

CROWLEY: And when you talk about the flooding -- and we talked a little earlier about New York -- and we're watching that water come in, we know there are going to be a lot of people who have been evacuated who aren't going get home for a while. And what kind of problem does that present?

CHERTOFF: Well, that, in many ways, is the greatest challenge of all in the aftermath of a storm, because people leave, sometimes they don't leave very well-equipped. They haven't really brought a lot of supplies with them. They may assume they're going to be back later that day.

Depending on conditions on the ground, that return can be delayed several days. And people are going to find themselves perhaps in temporary conditions that are not the most pleasant, and they're going to have to be patient. They're going to be concerned about communicating with loved ones, and there's going to be a lot of pressure on the communication system. So that's where you're going to see some pressure over the next couple of days.

CROWLEY: To get -- to get moving.

CHERTOFF: Exactly right.

CROWLEY: It's always like, how fast can you get things back to normal?

CHERTOFF: That's right. But you want to be safe.


CHERTOFF: Remember, you don't want to get people back into a dangerous place.

CROWLEY: Absolutely. Michael Chertoff is going to stick with me for the rest of the hour. We're going to take a quick break, and we'll be right back.


CROWLEY: Welcome back.

We are tracking Tropical Storm Irene as she pounds at this point New York, but certainly can do a lot more damage as she heads north. We want to bring in now our Ali Velshi, who the last I saw was close to the East River.

Ali, where are you? And what are you seeing now?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm on South Street at Peck Slip right on -- in lower -- in lower Manhattan. Let me tell you what the situation is where I am.

I'm -- look, this is what you're seeing in some parts of Manhattan. There's flooding. I'm up to my knees here, because this is a storm sewer that's backed up. But I can go 10 feet from here, and there's no water at all.

I'll give you a sense of what we worry about in New York. New York has the biggest electrical system in the entire country, and all of the cables are underground down below here. This is a Con Ed manhole. And you can see the water is just, you know, about six inches from the top here.

Most of Manhattan has maintained power, because there have been no major problems here. About 75,000 people in the five boroughs and in Westchester County are without power right now. That's the most recent update.

And I'm just going to walk you through here. This is the East River. So the Hudson River's behind me on the other side. This is the East River. It crested at about 8 o'clock and started over- topping its banks. Now, that was high tide. High tide has passed, and the river's going back a little bit.

So about half-an-hour ago, all of this was water. This was filled with water, and it started to flood some of the streets in lower Manhattan. But as you can see now -- well, let's go -- Emmanuel, let's take a look over here. We're probably about three inches below -- below the edge of the river, below the bank.

So I'm over here. About a quarter mile, about half-a-mile around, you've got Battery Park, the Hudson River on that side, New York Harbor. It's over-topped a little bit, so you've got some streets in low-lying areas in Manhattan that are -- that are flooding, some cars getting stuck.

Here's my local tree, to give me a sense of the wind. There's not much of it at all. So for now, we seem to have missed the worst of it. Unless something else happens, Manhattan seems to have dodged most of that bullet. There are probably people in Manhattan who are looking at this thinking, what's he talking about? It's entirely fine and no flooding at all, but that's the situation we've got now. It was looking dicey for about an hour. CROWLEY: Thanks, Ali, there at the East River. Looks so calm there, I kind of like it, but I suspect -- we want to go over to Rob Marciano, who has been in Long Beach, New York. Rob, if you can hear me -- and I -- it doesn't look nearly as calm, I can tell you, as where Ali is. What's going on there?

MARCIANO: It's not calm, not at all, Candy. Winds have only increased. You know, even as Irene, quote, unquote, "downgraded" to a tropical storm, we are in right now what's left of the right -- the right eyewall, no doubt about that. There's no wind (ph) anymore. The winds have certainly been -- continue to flow out of the east.

There you see the storm. That tells the story right there. That's (inaudible) boardwalk now (inaudible) and it's breached it (inaudible) flooding as I can see still a huge, huge issue. This has been our protection from the wind, this one little spot, is where we're able to get any sort of calm, as you say.

But it's been truly remarkable, Candy, to we watch the power of the ocean here, heavy, heavy waves, a lot of mast (ph) behind this surf, and it's been doing a lot of damage to this boardwalk, talking out the lifeguard headquarters here at Long Beach and flooding at least the inner four blocks of this town.

As you can see, though, folks are -- back -- back to you. I'm tethered to the camera, so I can't -- I can't talk to anybody.

CROWLEY: OK. Rob, I --

MARCIANO: Back to you, Candy.

CROWLEY: OK. I just want to ask you -- our eyes don't deceive us. Those are people sort of touring, sightseeing, right? These are not folks out working?

MARCIANO: Yes, I mean, nobody's working. This town is shut down. Every business is shut down. Most -- many of the residents have evacuated. But, obviously, you've got storm watchers. We get these everywhere. And, you know, everybody is curious, right? We've got all -- we all have a little weather geek inside of us, right?

You want to come to the edge of -- so my grandfather used to do it. Maybe that's where I got it from. But you want to come, you want to check out the waves. And -- and quite honestly, this is a pretty safe place to do it. You don't have a lot of flying debris because you're right on the -- on the surf. We've reached our high tide. We'll continue to get the surf pounding and encroaching on the boardwalk.

But as far as the water rising concern, I think that -- that part is over. But what we will continue to see is the -- are the waves and the wind, which won't let up, because just because we've -- Irene has made landfall, now we've got to get through the back half of it. And the rest of this afternoon, it's going to be -- well, it's going to be like this. CROWLEY: Wow, Rob Marciano, we just heard from the FEMA director telling everybody to stay put, but as you can see, there is some sightseeing going on. Thanks so much.

We want to -- now on the phone is the mayor of hard-hit Freeport, New York, Andrew Hardwick.

Mr. Mayor, thank you for joining us. Tell us what has happened to your city.

MAYOR ANDREW HARDWICK, FREEPORT, NEW YORK (via telephone): Well, thus far, we know that we have -- well, first of all, thank you for having us on. First of all, we have approximately 4,000 without power at this time, phone and power lines down, multiple trees down, and in some areas, we have reported four-plus foot of water in our southern streets. So --

CROWLEY: Now, you are right there, obviously, by the seaside, so have -- did you evacuate people prior to this? Are there people threatened at this point by the situation? Or has everyone -- in a safe place?

HARDWICK: I must say that the majority of our folks took heed to our -- our warnings and they got out of the flood zones, thank God, because we had a lot of folks that usually aren't that easy to move. But this time, they took heed, and in many cases, it's like a ghost town, which we're happy about. So we haven't had any calls for any serious concerns, other than, you know, the normal power outage, phone lines out, those have been the real calls. And trees down, naturally. But no real medical needs of any kind. So that's good, thank God.

CROWLEY: That's good. And one last question, Mr. Mayor. Looking forward, as you know what has happened to your city, what are you going to need?

HARDWICK: Well, we know that it's going to take us some time with cleaning up, and really getting our infrastructure back together with respect to our power. Because of the trees that are blocking, trees that are laying across homes and creating a special circumstance.

So it's going to take us a while to clean up. You know, and when you have got 4,000 people out of power, that's not a New York minute, if you know what I mean.

CROWLEY: I know exactly what you mean, Mr. Mayor. We had the same problem here in Washington. Thank you so much for taking the time out, and good luck to you, sir.

HARDWICK: Thank you for having us. And I just want to make mention that our emergency phone line is out as well, that's 516-377- 2200, is out. So they're going to have to call the police to get further information.

CROWLEY: OK. So that's a 911 call for folks in your area that need help? HARDWICK: Yes. Yes.


HARDWICK: We normally have an emergency hotline number that we hand out, but it's not working, we lost it.

CROWLEY: All right. Thank you so much, Mr. Mayor. Good luck to you.

HARDWICK: Thank you.

CROWLEY: So, Michael Chertoff, communications is key, obviously, but so many people mentioning the power. And it seems to me, and we have been talking without power it's just hard to get anything done. That's the port of first call, isn't it, in the wake?

CHERTOFF: That's exactly right. And we saw this six years ago in Florida, Hurricane Wilma, where because of the lack of power the gas stations could not pump, people could not get to where they needed to get, they could not get to the grocery stores.

Without power, you don't have your food, you don't have your medical assistance, and you don't have your ability to get around. In this case, you have got a very densely populated part of the country. When people come back they are going to need to eat.

If the grocery stores can't preserve the food, there's not going to be food, and that's going to be something that they will contend with over the next day or so.

CROWLEY: Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is going to stick with me for the rest of the hour. We are going to take a quick break, but we will be back.


CROWLEY: Welcome back to our ongoing coverage of Tropical Storm Irene.

Joining us by phone, Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy.

You know, Governor Malloy, you are not going to get Hurricane Irene, you are going to get Tropical Storm Irene. Is that a distinction with no difference to you?

GOV. DAN MALLOY (D), CONNECTICUT: Yes, that's a distinction with no difference. We have been getting pretty beaten up since last night. We have about 470,000 electric customers without power right now, which would actually top the number that we had had with Gloria 25 years ago.

And so, you know, there is precious little to celebrate, except that we've had very little loss of life. We know of one storm-related death, which was actually a fire, kind of an electrical problem caused by the storm. And, you know, we are not yet in possession of a good survey of the damage out there because we have parts of our state which are still being adversely impacted with gusts of winds up to 40 miles an hour.

And but, you know, sooner than later we will start to take stock of where we are and what is going on, but we're also told that we can expect high winds for much of the rest of the day, which is going to make repair difficult.

CROWLEY: And, Governor, what is your understanding from your weather folks? Have you have gone past the worst part and you are waiting for it just to ebb out, or are you bracing?

MALLOY: Well, you know, we have some of our communities in the western portion of Long Island Sound, so from New Haven say down to the New York border, has not seen high tide yet and won't for another hour and 10 minutes or so.

So we're keeping an eye on flooding because we've had a lot of wind blowing water into the Long Island Sound and it pushes it down towards New York City, and, of course, it piles up there. So we're keeping an eye on that as far as water damage.

We have a lot of streams and rivers that are over their banks. And so we're keeping an eye on that as well, trying to withstand the effect of the height of the storm in many of our communities, we're experiencing urban flooding because we were -- had periods of rain, you know, that was falling in excess of an inch of hour, and that generally does cause urban problems.

So, you know, we have had our hands full, but, you know, we hope that it's going to get better in the not-too-distant future, and then we will start the recovery effort.

CROWLEY: Looks to me from some of these pictures that we are showing now of your state, you are going to need guys a lot of guys with power saws and some electrical people to put those lines back up.

Thank you so much, Governor, for being with us, and good luck to you.

CHERTOFF: Thank you. Thank you very much. Take care, Candy.

CROWLEY: We want to go now to CNN's Mary Snow, and she is in New York.

And Battery Park, I think, is that right, Mary? What are you seeing?

SNOW: Well, Candy, actually we moved up a little bit north. We're about a block away from Ground Zero, taking a look at some of the flooding. And what you are looking at now is, if you could see it, this is just a street that has just really become under water. And you are looking at a car that was trying to make its way down, but decided -- the driver decided to back up and not take the chance. There are two cars here that are under water. This is right next to the Verizon building, which is also flooded. There have been sandbags out there since yesterday. Just talked to someone from the building. They say they still have power. There is flooding only in the basement. But this is the kind of examples of flooding that we're seeing around the city.

Also, parts of the FDR Drive, which is on the east side of Manhattan -- we're now hearing parts of the FDR Drive are now closed because of flooding. And as we reported earlier, one of the tubes in the Holland Tunnel, linking New York and New Jersey, also shut down because of high water.

CROWLEY: Mary Snow, thanks very much.

We want to see if a third time is the charm for our communications with John King, who is out there being pounded, although actually it looks a little better now, John, than it did the last time we saw you. I hope you can hear me. Just give us the situation.

KING: Well, Candy, the third time will be the charm, we hope here, in part because the conditions are getting better. You're right. As you see -- as you see, obviously, it's brighter out now. We can pan out and look at the water. You see we still have some substantial waves.

This sand berm that I'll show you here, at one point, it extended all the way across like a U, imagine it. But at high tide this morning, we were here when it all washed away, and water went out to the streets here of Long Beach. But just in the last hour or so, things have changed substantially. The winds are much -- they're still brisk winds, but nowhere near hurricane-force. And the rain has stopped completely. There are dozens of people now out walking along the boardwalk here, where earlier this morning you had fierce hurricane winds.

And earlier you could look just out in the street here. The water was halfway up the tires of some of these vehicles. It was a foot deep, two-foot-deep in some places. That was at high tide, which was in the 7:30 to 8:00 range this morning. Now the waters have receded significantly.

And you can see the passersby coming out, thinking (ph) here in Long Beach, Candy -- they had been told, because this is a barrier island, they were told, because the storm was heading this way, to expect the worst. They've had significant flooding. It's in the streets, though. There will be some property damage. Most of the power here is still on. The streetlights are on. There are some isolated power outages.

But most of the locals we've talked to say they've never seen it this bad, they've never seen the water come in as much, but they also think, based on what they had been hearing for the past 48 hours, they believe they have escaped quite -- quite comfortably, if you will. There will be some damages yet. And you see, there will be erosion on the beach, there will be some problems in this community for some time to come, but as the locals walk around and as daybreak now -- starting to get -- I wouldn't call it sunlight -- still a lot of clouds there, but a lot of light -- most people in this community think we have some flooding, we'll have some beach erosion, we'll have some damage, but they believe much less damage, much less of (INAUDIBLE) effect from this storm than they had been led to believe, that they believed themselves, just when we were talking to them last night, Candy.

CROWLEY: Amazing to me, having watched you earlier, John, that that power is still on. Thank you so much. We'll be checking back with you, of course.

And as we go to break, I think we're going to show our viewers pictures of lower Manhattan, which, as you can see, there is water where there is not supposed to be. A car that started out on the street no longer is. So they are seeing some substantial flooding, some areas already feeling that they have now actually gone past the worst of it. But as you can see, there is floodwater in Manhattan streets. We'll be back right after this break.


CROWLEY: Tropical Storm Irene, she seems to be moving northward, and that's why we want to bring in now our Gary Tuchman in Newport, Rhode island.

Gary, what are you expecting there?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, everyone here is getting prepared for the worst that Irene has to offer for this area. Newport, Rhode Island, population 25,000 year-round, but more than 100,000 on weekends like this. On a Sunday typically, this road, which is called Thames Street -- spelled T-h-a-m-e-s -- it's "Thames" in London, it's "Thames" here -- is virtually empty, except for a few tourists who are waving at us right now.

But they know the bad weather is going to come. And officials here -- police are going around the streets hoping for the best. But at this point, they say it's not going to be as bad. They think it's not going to be bad as 20 years ago when Hurricane Bob came calling and flooded lots of structures here.

Candy, back to you.

CROWLEY: Thanks so much, Gary Tuchman. That is the next port of call for Irene, I believe.

I want to, in our closing moments, talk to you, Michael Chertoff, former director of homeland security under George W. Bush. When you look at this, what do you think is next? What -- what worries you?

CHERTOFF: Well, first, I'm concerned about New England. There's been some reporting that the impact on New York is less than expected. It would be a bad thing if that misled people in New England into believing it's not a serious storm.

Remember, the angle of attack is different because of the geography of New England. And, therefore, you could have a bigger surge, depending on the tides. You could have greater wind impact. So people ought to be very, very careful at this point north of New York.

Second issue is getting power up quickly. That's really the basis for getting everybody back in their homes, getting food on the table, getting medical supplies where they need to get.

Third element is debris removal. You've got a lot of debris. You had an earthquake this past week; now you have water seepage. The structural integrity of some of the buildings may be a little bit questionable in areas that had a lot of flooding. Be careful about debris removal and about entering into a structure until it's been checked.

So the recovery process is usually a lot slower than the storm, and it tries people's patience, but it's important not to rush back into things when they're dangerous.

CROWLEY: I want to go -- this is Elmsford, New York, I'm told, Westchester County. This is a live rescue. I'm -- that's the information I have. But as far as I can see, these are men with a boat, right? Yes.

So you can see the extent of the flooding, Michael Chernoff, in some of these places, and you wonder whether this was a place that they called for evacuation or whether some of these folks are surprised by the extent of the flooding and how far it goes into the city.

CHERTOFF: And that's a problem with every hurricane. People really underestimate the extent of the flooding and they overestimate their ability to take care of themselves in a flood. And that's why we see incidents like this.

CROWLEY: Right, right. So they look like they have this under control and -- this may be someone just wanting out, not someone necessarily in distress, just someone wanting out.

Thank you so much, Michael Chernoff, former homeland security director under George Bush. You've added extremely to our -- to our coverage here this morning.

And we want to tell you that CNN, as long as this storm Irene -- now Tropical Storm Irene -- is pounding the United States, we will be on her. And coming up in the next hour, you will hear from Anderson Cooper and Soledad O'Brien, co-anchoring out of Manhattan, parts of which are right now underwater.

So I want to thank you again for watching us today and pass this along to Anderson and Soledad.