Return to Transcripts main page


Hurricane Isaac Coverage - 1:00 am Hour; Governor Christie - Speech Excerpts

Aired August 29, 2012 - 01:00   ET



NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: And hello to everyone. I'm Natalie Allen. Welcome to CNN's special coverage of Hurricane Isaac. Here is the latest that we have for you. Right now Hurricane Isaac is moving over Louisiana on the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Isaac made landfall over the southeastern part of the state near the mouth of the Mississippi River with 80-mile-per-hour winds. That happened around 6:45 p.m. Central time. Up to 20 inches of rain is expected and that's what we're watching closely as this storm moves ashore. We have correspondents all throughout the region covering this storm through the night for us. And we want to get straight away to CNN's John Zarrella. He's been with us in Gulfport, Mississippi and, John, you can tell us what you have been experiencing and what's going on right now.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDNET: Well, the worst of the weather that we've experienced through this entire storm is what we're getting right now. You can certainly see the trees are whipping around. The rain is horizontal. I was out there and behind me, tell the the viewers, we're watching behind me, of course, the Gulf of Mexico to the south and you have Highway 90 which runs all along the beach, the beach road throughout Mississippi, and one of the big concerns, of course, here has been for storm surge flooding for the road to go underwater at some point.

But as you can see, what we have had all day is the wind actually blowing from the east to the west. So you don't have that powerful onshore flow. But right now I was out there a few minutes ago with the wind meter and we were getting sustained tropical storm force winds right around 40 miles per hour. You know, I'll take a walk out here, Natalie, and the people will get a better idea as I move away from the hotel, a little better sense of the kind of wind that we're experiencing out here now. And it comes and goes and the rain in sheets.

A couple of things to tell everyone. There are 35 shelters that are open in Mississippi. They only had about 1500 people in those shelters at the last read that we had. But they had prepositioned all kinds of assets, Mississippi emergency management. They've got water, they've got food, they've got tarps for houses if they need them. They have just about -- generators are prepositioned. So aAnything that they need is ready to come in once the storm blows through.

The question, of course, that everyone has is how long is it going to be before it blows through because it's moving so slowly. The big concern is not only a storm surge but perhaps a bigger concern is going to be for inland freshwater flooding. We are seeing -- we arejust being pounded now by the sheets of rain that don't stop. Earlier in the day it would come and it would go. Now it's pretty consistent, as you can see, as the viewers can see. Natalie?

ALLEN: Yes, we've heard from some officials down south from you, John, that this is pretty rough hurricane as far as one of the toughest they've seen since Katrina. With all of the hurricanes that you've covered for so many years, how are you comparing this one so far to others as far as what you're seeing and the conditions?

ZARRELLA: Well, you know, it is a Category 1 hurricane and we're not seeing hurricane conditions here. And you know, one of the things -- it's real easy for viewers to get an idea of what we have. Look, the lights are still on. That's an indication that you're not experiencing those driving hurricane-force winds that are knocking out power. But clearly we are in -- what we are in here is a very strong, powerful storm side of the storm. We're 100 miles from the center of the storm.

So think of it that way if you're a viewer out there. We are 100 miles to the east of the center of the storm and you can see the conditions that we are experiencing here. And as you move closer and closer to the core of the hurricane where other teams are, where Anderson Cooper and Rob Marciano are, they are in the thick of it where they are getting those 75, 80-mile-an-hour winds. There was even a one report of a wind gust down near Plaquemines Parish on an oil rig of 106 miles an hour. That's Category 2 strength. Now, that was one wind gust at that speed. But this is a very powerful broad storm with the potential to drop 20-plus inches of rain and likely will and that's as much of a concern, if not more.

You know, they always tell you, Natalie, you run from the water, you hide from the wind. In other words, you can hide from the wind but if you've got to worry about water, you've got to get out and so one of the big concerns, of course, fresh water flooding. Natalie?

ALLEN: And you know, John, all day today we've been listening to people that were going to get out, people that were going to stay. Certainly the anxiety of Katrina and this being an anniversary comes into play for all of the people that have been so much there. What is your sense as far as people there in the Gulfport area? we see a few cars going by. How many are stincking this one out and just saying, "Enough is enough, I'll never go through another one?"

ZARRELLA: Yes, a lot of people did say that, no question about it. But a lot of people also understood that this was not a Katrina, not by any stretch of the imagination. But what we did see when we first got into town, hundreds of people that were filling sandbags to make sure that they could protect their houses. A lot of low lying areas here. In fact, the government tells us 80,000 sandbags were distributed in Mississippi in the coastal counties. Now, you can see we are getting another one of those -- those little bursts of energy and one of the other things they've done is they've got rescue teams available, water rescue teams. They know that if they are going to have that high water, they are going to have to be able to get in there and get people out.

We did see a lot of people saying to us -- and they did say that they have 110,000 who evacuated from the coastal communities. But what they say -- what these people were saying to us is, "Look, I never want to see another Katrina in my lifetime and I don't think I will." So many people said, "We're going to be okay in this one. We know it's a Category 1 but we know we'll be safe as long as we stay indoors, we take precautions. If we're told to evacuate, we will do so. But if we're not in an area that is an evacuation area --" a lot of people decided to stay put and ride this out.

You can feel it. The wind has really kicked up. Natalie, it's an interesting thing, we talk about it -- we're at about 20 foot here above sea level talking about, back to Katrina, this hotel that we're at right here, one of the most iconic visuals of all of Kkatrina out of Gulfport was a Pontiac Grand Am forced through the front doors of this hotel by the storm surge when it came in. So more than 20 foot of storm surge pushed that Grand Am through the front doors. In fact, inside is the high water mark in this rebuilt hotel. 28.10 feet all the way to the top of the first floor of this hotel. So well above where I'm standing now and you can see how far down the beach is from me, you know, right here at 20 feet, another eight feet. So that's how high the water was at Katrina. Now you can see another gust. Natalie?

ALLEN: All right. Well, that illustration, that reflection about the Grand Am tells it all about what these people have been through. All right, John Zarrella, hang with us, John. We really appreciate you and your crew's efforts. We're going thank you for your efforts. We're going to go now go a little bit south from you and bring in live Brian Todd, who is in New Orleans for us, a city that might be, you know, a little more on edge considering that they have to trust these refurbished levees. Brian, hello.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Natalie. Yes, they are on edge here. The eye of the storm made landfall a couple of hours ago and the winds and the rain really starting to kick up here in the French Quarter. We're going to show you down here, especially in this part of town, flying debris. A lot of trees flapping in the wind but a lot of flying debris around. That's a particular danger, of course, and especially in these overnight hours when you can't necessarily see it coming at you.

As far as flooding is concerned, we just talked to the joint information center here in New Orleans and tell us there is flooding in Lake Pontchartrain, which is just a little bit north of here along an area called Lakeshore Drive and West End Boulevard. Those roads are impassable by vehicle which is, they say, is not out of the ordinary when a storm like this comes. So that part was expected. A little bit of flooding up in that area.

For the most part, down here in the French Quarter and in most of New Orleans, no flooding yet. The levees and flood gates are holding. Lots of debris though to show you. I mean, look at these downed limbs and other things here and a lot of it is flying around down here in the French Quarter. Of course, it is 1:00 in the morning here in New Orleans. But the storm surge, you can see, is really kicking up the wind and the rain and really intensifying now, Natalie.

We also have to tell you about power outages. That's one of the things we keep looking around here. We want to make sure no power lines are flying around down here. But power lines are a big issue now. 265,000 plus customers in the state of Louisiana are without power at this hour. That is 99 percent of all of the power outages due to this storm right now. Just in Orleans Parish, in the city of New Orleans, I was just told 98,000 customers without power. So that is the big issue now. Flooding, not so much right now, but aAgain, maybe the most intense rain yet to come, Natalie.

ALLEN: Right and give us a sense, Brian, of how desolate it is there as far as how many people in New Orleans said, "No chance, even if it's a Category 1, we're going to evacuate and get it." And how many are there just hunkered down?

TODD: Well, it's very desolate. Now, we are in the overnight hours, that has to be said, but it's very desolate. Normally, it's summer, this time of night, you might see a lot of people out here in the French Quarter. I mean, these are very crowded, congested streets -- that's where our satellite truck is -- but you can see down there, no one walking around. No one walking around here in Jackson Square. I mean, this is a lively part of town, New Orleans with a legendary reputation for partying and overnight revelry; none of that tonight. So very desolate. And it's been desolate pretty much during the daytime hours, too

No mandatory evacuations for New Orleans but people understand even a Category 1, which is a low-grade hurricane, even in a Category 1, you've got to hunker down and for the most part that's what they've been doing. I think the lessons of Katrina so far very well learned in this city.

ALLEN: And certainly the timing is a fresh reminder from Hurricane Isaac's timing. Thank you. Brian Todd, we'll be back with you. Thanks very much, Brian. Don't forget, for the latest on Isaac's forecast track, you can go to We'll have much more coverage for you right after this.


ALLEN: And welcome back. We have the latest on Hurricane Isaac which is bearing down on the southeastern United States. You are watching live pictures as this slow-moving hurricane batters the famous Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Relentless bands of torrential rain beating down on southeast Louisiana right now as well as coastal Mississippi and Alabama. Winds are reaching speeds up to 85 miles per hour in some parts. More than 200,000 people are without power as they bear the brunt of this weather. Most of the folks without power in the state of Louisiana. We are with you all of the night bringing you all of the information on Isaac as we get it.

So we want to right now go to meteorologist Karen McGinnis who has the latest on, Karen, the path of the storm, what it's doing, where, at this moment. KAREN MCGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, this system for a lot of folks in Louisiana saying a Category 1 hurricane may not instill a lot of fear. But, in fact, this is a -- "fickle" would be one of the easier words to say and that is, it's going to be hovering off the coast here, we think, for the better part of the next 24 hours. It's got kind of a ragged looking eye associated with it.

But because of its erratic movement, moving a little bit towards the west and northwest fairly slowly, but as it does, it's going to throw all of that moioisture on shore as you've been hearing throughout the last few days. As that water rushes in, that storm surgeon the order of 10, 15, maybe close to 20 feet, already at Shell Beach, we've had a storm surge there of 11 feet. What does that mean? Well, if you can imagine, there is your home, barely rising above sea level and you've got 11 feet of water that is rising in your direction

All right. We're going to zoom in across this region and Chad Myers, who is still here after his valiant duty all night long, reported that there is a wind gust associated with a band that has just moved near New Orleans that had a wind gust reported of around 70 to 71 miles per hour. But the big problem here over the next several days, Natalie, as you've heard us talk about is the rain and the storm surge. Some of the rainfall totals around New Orleans over the next couple of days, we could see -- some of the estimates are as much as 27 inches expected.

Take a look at some of the wind gusts at New Orleans, here, we have right around 69 miles per hour and Slidell's got 43, Golfport -- wind coming out of the east, going towards the west, and right around Hammond, 33. Baton Rouge sitting about 24. So the wind is not necessarily the big issue. However, I will mention that in some of those downtown areas, once you get up several stories and maybe 28 stories, you're looking at a category higher hurricane. This is a Category 1 hurricane, supporting winds at 80 miles per hour, but those downtown buildings, it may feel like a Category 2 hurricane and you've got that wind battering. So we're going to look at damage associated with the wind the higher up we go. But it is going to be the city that is especially vulnerable.

Lake Pontchartrain, we have our reporters and correspondents out. I want to zoom in more closely and we'll take a look at some of these bands that are moving on shore. We had John Zarrella right around Grand Isle. Here is the eye. As I mentioned, it's looking ragged. But as this eye just kind of moves over the very warm water, it looks like that rainfall just keeps pumping in across this region and as it does, already in New Orleans we've had rainfall totals of about three inches. And if you can imagine over the next day or so, maybe another foot, maybe another foot and a half is certainly possible. So the devastation from this rainfall is going to be exceptional as we watch this system just kind of hover around here for the next day, day and a half.

Natalie, back to you.

ALLEN: Right, a storm that so uncertain but one thing that was certain was that it was going to be bringing lots and lots of rains. And they are socked in for a few days even.

MCGINNIS: It doesn't have to be a Category 2, 3, or 4. Category 1 can still produce that widespread damage.

ALLEN: All right, Karen McGinnis, thank you. We'll be in close contact with you and of course the uncanny timing of this storm cannot be ignored. Seven years to the day, Hurricane Katrina ripped through the Gulf.

And while Isaac, of course, isn't packing the speed and power of Katrina, the timing is unnerving. One of the men who was there, you'll remember, helping out as New Orleans slid into chaos in the wake of Katrina was retired Army General Russel Honore. And he joins me now on the phone from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. General, thank you for being with us. We really appreciate it.

LT. GENERAL RUSSEL HONORE (via telephone): Good morning, Natalie.

ALLEN: Good morning to you. First, I want to ask you, can you give us a sense of what it's like where you are right now?

HONORE: I'm in Baton Rouge. We've got about sustained winds at about 30, 35 miles an hour. No rain yet. But that storm is heading to Baton Rouge and my observation is that that storm will turn out lights from Plaquemines Parish in through all the east parish -- through East Baton Rouge Parish and all the way up to Alexandria and on through Monroe as it leaves the state. And this is going to be a major lights out and major flooding event in south Louisiana.

ALLEN: And we're hearing about that from all of our correspondents throughout as far as how much rain is coming ashore. We have to talk about the timing of this, General Honore, because you were the guy that came in and started getting things together when Katrina happened. It's almost a joke, a cruel one, of course, that this is happening on Katrina's seventh anniversary. What is the mood that you're hearing from people? Are they confident? Are they nervous? Has this been bringing up a lot of anxiety? What are you hearing?

HONORE: Yes, well, again, you got all the emotions. I've worked here because you got people who actually lost loved ones, who lost their homes to Katrina, and any time you mention a storm in the Gulf, they know what the potential of how bad a storm can be.

In this case, based on good science and prediction, local governments primarily in Old East Parish and Lowell Parish, if you're inside the levee system, advised to shelter and place people outside the levee- system in low-lying parishes, such as Grand Isle, were told to move. So we are facing this as a Category 1 storm that could have the effects of a storm a lot higher in category because of the slow movement and amount of water. So this storm still has a threat. The threat is flooding and turning the lights out for much of Louisiana south of I-10.

ALLEN: Is it hard to believe it has been seven years? And how do you feel about, as far as a the leadership and the organization that you've been seeing in the run up to this storm, certainly not to the category of Katrina but just the different approach and the lessons from Katrina that you heard on the run-up to Issac coming ashore?

HONORE: Well, I think Katrina was a life-changing event for everybody in America and all branches of government and levels of government, from local to state to federal, know that the more that you can collaborate, the better off you are. Much has happened since then, changes in laws and use of the Stafford Act and deployment of FEMA before the storms. So we've done a complete 180 from where we were prior to Katrina and collaboration and support between federal, state and local and that's helped a lot, as well as use of the National Guard -- deploying them early, getting them on location and in position and ready to go.

So the government at all level will learn, as we normally do, when something bad happens and you can see the effect of that in the tone of the government as well as reinforcement people. The government has done everything it can to get ready. That being said, Mother Nature can still surprise us and defeat anything built by man. So we've just got to be prepared. I think what I've seen is a lot more organized and a lot more focused than before Katrina when we were operating under different rules and laws as laid out by Congress before that.

So all for the good. I think we're in a better shape infrastructure, in command and control. A lot of better communication equipment. But let's see. This is just the first quarter of this event. We've got this one and then we've got tomorrow and the days after as we get into search and rescue and recovery from this event to see how well we do.

ALLEN: Well, we certainly hope you do very well and it seems like they've done everything that they can to make sure that anyone who needs the help will get it in the days ahead because they are in for many, many hours of difficult weather. We thank you so much, Lieutenant General Russel Honore. It's always a pleasure to talk to you. We appreciate it.

All right. You can get updates on Isaac on Twitter using #isaac and on Facebook, go to\CNN\group. We're keeping you informed on all levels and we're back with more right after this.


ALLEN: And welcome back to our special coverage of Hurricane Issac. We want to bring you the very latest. First of all, we have live pictures there as the slow moving hurricane batters the Gulf there on the right. That's the Superdome and on the left and very much abandoned Bourbon Street, as you can imagine. And litsen to the winds kicking up in our live shot we have there for you. Relentless bands of torrential rain beating down on southeast Louisiana right now as well as coastal Mississippi and Alabama. We've been told that winds are reaching speeds of up to 85 miles per hour in some parts and that more than 200,000 people are without power, mostly in Louisiana, as they bear the brunt of this weather. And we're with you through the night bringing you all of the information on Isaac as we get it so stay with us.

Right now we have with us the president of Jefferson Parish. John Young joins us on the line. John, thank you so much for talking with us. Looking at a map, it looks like Jefferson Parish was right near the area where this storm came ashore. So what have you been experiencing?

JOHN YOUNG, PRESIDENT, JEFFERSON PARISH (via telephone): We've been getting pounded pretty good but we're up to the challenge. I mean, Grand Isle is in Jefferson Parish, Natalie. We have Lafitte, Crown Point, Barataria, which is outside of the levee protection system. The main concern for those communities is tidal surge, storm surge, and then those areas within the levee protection system, there's just severe, tremendous amount of rainfall that is going to fall over us. Because every inch of water that falls, every drop of water that falls in Jefferson Parish, needs to be pumped out and that pumping station is designed only to pump one inch per hour the first hour and half an inch every hour thereafter.

So these bands are coming in quickly but fortunately we're getting breaks in the bands so we're keeping up with it and thus far we've been able to keep water off the streets and we don't have any issues with flooding at this point in time. But we're not out of the woods yet.

ALLEN: Absolutely. What about damage otherwise? What are you hearing?

YOUNG: Well, I just got back with 15 minutes ago from doing a riding survey of the parish. We're separated by the Mississippi River. So we have an east bank and a west bank and not a lot of damage at this point. We've had some power outages. Most of our parish has power but there are pockets of neighborhoods and commercial corridors without power. There is not a lot of debris on the streets at this point other than -- certainly not on the major arteries. On side streets, residential areas with trees, a lot of tree limbs are out and down.

But, again, we've been, unlike other parts of the country, we've been inundated with rain a little the last month, month and a half, almost on a daily basis so our soil conditions are very saturated and that -- with the wind, it leaves a lot of trees being uprooted and that sort of thing. So that's -- those three major concerns that we have, those areas outside of the levee protective system, tidal and coastal flooding within, the severe amount of rainfall, the tremendous amount of rainfall that's going to fall, and we're going to be in this battle for another 48 hours and then the third concern that is parish-wide would be loss of power. And our energy company cannot come in until the winds go below 35 to repair those lines so that we can restore that power.

ALLEN: Well, certainly too those folks that live outside the levee system have probably taken off and evacuated, I would assume?

YOUNG: Well, we issued a mandatory evacuation for those communities, Natalie, but these people have been through a lot and a lot of them decided to stay. Now, in Grand Isle, about 1500 residents, we had 30 to 50 that decided to stay so a lot of people left. But in Lafitte, Crown Point and Barataria, most of them decided to stay. They are going to fight it out. ALLEN: Yes, so they have a fighting spirit for sure there.

YOUNG: They still do. They have a -- we have a fighting spirit, we are very resilient down here and we are prepared for the worst and we're hoping and praying for the best.

ALLEN: Well, we certainly will take that with you, hoping for the best for you and it sounds like so far you are weathering the storm all right and we appreciate you bringing us the latest. Maybe we can talk with you a little bit later. John Young, with Jefferson Parish, thank you so much.

And don't forget, for the latest on Isaac's forecast track, be sure to go to We continue to cover it from all bases, online with our guests that we continue to speak with and our correspondents who are scattered throughout the southeast coast. We'll take a quick break. We're right back.


ALLEN: I'm Natalie Allen. Welcome back to CNN's special coverage of Hurricane Isaac. We're here with you through the night. Right now you're watching live pictures as this slow-moving hurricane -- and that's the key, the slow-moving part -- batters New Orleans on the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. This is the area of Bourbon Street getting hit by rain and wind right now, relentless bands of torrential rain beating down on southeast Louisiana as well as coastal Mississippi and Alabama. More than 200,000 people are without power as they bear the brunt of this storm.

Plaquemines Parish president Billy Nungesser says they are keeping a close eye on the levees. Of course, the storm came ashore right at Plaquemines Parish, south of New Orleans. Mr. Nungesser says he's already seeing some damage at his home and here's what he had to say about that a bit earlier.


BILLY NUNGESSER, PRESIDENT, PLAQUEMINES PARISH: Couple that's staying there with my finacee, we got about a two-foot hole in the roof. The water is flowing into the house. The back wall of the house actually buckled and the water is coming through the light sockets like you were standing there with a hose. That's the same kind of damage we received during Katrina and I'm just blown away that that kind of damage from this supposedly Category 1 storm. I was just shocked when I stopped there to change clothes.


ALLEN: Let's get right to Brian Todd, who's live for us in New Orleans.

You know, listening to Mr. Nungesser talk about the damage he is seeing, it's quite remarkable when this is a Category 1 storm, certainly with gusts of Category 2, but it's illustrative of the damage that some people can see with al of the water that they are going to get. Brian.

TODD: That's absolutely right, Natalie. And one of the things that people outside of Louisiana should know about Plaquemines Parish where Billy Nungesser is situated is that is a very, very low-lying area. We were down there a couple of years ago to cover the oil spill. Spent a lot of time with Billy Nungesser at that time. But his parish, very, very low-lying and a caostal area. It's a large parish. They are really in the eye of this thing and that's, of course, where the eye came ashore a couple of hours ago. So they are always kind of susceptible to not only hurricanes but tropical storms and even just regular storms during the summertime. That particular area of Louisiana, very, very susceptible.

We're going to show you a little bit here. Jackson Square in New Orleans. The rain -- I mean, it's amazing. Just a couple of minutes ago it was very intense and it changes directions constantly. That's what you've got to really worry about when you're out in a hurricane like this. The rain is going to change direction constantly. The wind will change directions. Therefore, the debris flying at you is going to change directions. So you've always got to keep a heads up while you're out and about like this.

A lot of debris falling in this part of New Orleans from the trees. You can see the trees whipping behind me here. The rain not as intense as it was a couple of minutes ago but it's going to pick up again, we know it. Two things that experts will tell you are the main killers at this point in a hurricane: flying debris, standing water. Our photojournalist, Kentu, he's going to maybe tilt down here just below me and you can see a lot of standing water in this part of the street here. That's a real danger for people walking and driving, Natalie, and that's what officaials tell us always. You know, flying debris, standing water, be very, very careful of those two things.

ALLEN: Absolutely. We appreciate your efforts. Brian Todd for us there in New Orleans. We wil be back to you. We want to head up now to Gulfport, Mississippi. That's where we find CNN's John Zarrella, who hasn't been getting hammered quite as much lately by the rain, but it looks like it's picked up again there. John?

ZARRELLA: Yes, quite a bit again, Natalie. And this has been coming on now for well over an hour, pretty much steady like this. And you can see, let's take a look at these lights out here which we couldn't show you before because they were not on, but look at the wind being driven through the lights there. You can see the rain being driven by that wind, the horizontal rain that is just being -- from east to west. We've had this kind of a flow all day today but now we're really getting steady tropical storm-force winds.

And the interesting thing here is, don't forget, we are about 100 miles from where Brian Todd is in New Orleans. So we are well away from the center of the circulation of the storm, which just shows how massive a hurricane this is that even this far out from the center, you're getting this kind of weather. Look in the distance there. That's the Gulf of Mexico. That's Highway 90. That is the main beach road that runs al through Mississippi. And one of the big concerns is that as the wind shifts and changes directions, as the storm moves a little further inland, that the water, the storm surge, that dome of water, will get pushed up over the roadway there probably later today. Still a good possibility that that might happen. They expect it up to 6 to 9 feet of potential storm surge here in the Gulfport area.

I'm to walk out just a little bit further, Natalie, because you can really get a sense away from the building, and you may not be able to see me well, but you get a sense when you step away from the building of just how strong the wind is and you can see that rain just pounding. And as you move further out, you're seeing a lot of little bits of debris on -- branches from the trees, tree limbs that have snapped off. Nothing significant and nothing major. Again, one of the things that we have to point out, a good barometer of how strong a storm is is whether you have electricity. Well, look at the lights. There's still electricity here in Gulfport, so that is a good sign that the winds have not been strong enough, at least not yet, to knock out the power here. Natalie?

ALLEN: Yes and, John, I want to ask you -- Gulfport of course decimated by Hurricane Katrina seven years ago and you were there. As you talk to people today, realizing that another storm is bearing down on the anniversary, what were their feelings? What were the types of things that they were saying to you, realizing that a storm was coming, certainly not as dangerous but certainly one that could do some damage?

ZARRELLA: Well, you know, everybody understood that this was a hurricane coming, that it was a Category 1, that it was not a Katrina. They knew that. But they also knew that they had to prepare. In fact, we stopped at one area where hundreds of people were pouring in to fill sandbags. In fact, Mississippi Emergency Management gave out 80,000 sandbags to people. And people were saying to us, "Look, we're going to be prepared for this." And if they lived in low-lying areas, these people were -- 110,000 did evacuate. But many of them did understand that they felt as if they could weather this storm. As long as they weren't in low-lying flood-prone areas, they were going to be okay to stay home.

ALLEN: It's got to be a tough call. Anyone who went through Katrina who never wants to see anything like it again, I can't imagine what the people have to go through. We appreciate your reporting, of course, John Zarrella for us there in Gulfport. We'll see you again, John. Thanks a lot to you and your crew.

Of course, you can share your photos, your video and experience of Isaac. We would love to see the pictures that you've gotten throughout this day Most of you are tucked in right now but as we see damage and see the wrath of Isaac coming in, we will share them on our air. Of course, is where to send your pictures and videos. We appreciate it.

A quick break. Much more for you right after this.


ALLEN: Well, before pounding Louisiana, Isaac, of course, played havoc with the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Well, today they finally got things well under way and tonight New Jersey governor Chris Christie had the plum speaking slot; he gave the keynote address. He is, of course, a rising political star. Some Republicans last year urged Christie to seek the nomination. That's how uninspired many were by Mitt Romney. Well, today it was Christie's job to inspire the base about Romney, to sell the nominee and his vision. And here are some highlights.


GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: I believe we have become paralyzed, paralyzed for a desire to be loved. Now our Founding Fathers had the wisdom to know that social acceptance and popularity were fleeting and that this country's principles needed to be rooted in strengths than the passions and the emotions of the times. But our leaders today have decided that it's more important to be popular, to say and do what;s easy, and say "yes" rather than say "no" when "no" is what is required. [ applause ]

In recent years, we as a country have too often chosen the same path. It's been easy for our leaders to say, "Not us, not now," in taking on the really tough issues. And, unfortunately, we have stood silently by and let them get away with it. But tonight I say enough. Tonight, tonight I say together, let's make a much different choice. Tonight, we are speaking up for ourselves and stepping up. Tonight, we're beginning to do what is right and what is necessary to make America great again.

Let me be clear with the American people tonight. Here's what we believe as Republicans and what they believe as Democrats. We believe in telling hardworking families the truth about our country's fiscal realities, telling them what they already know -- the math of federal spending does not add up. They believe that the American people don't want to hear the truth about the extent of our fiscal difficulties. They believe the American people need to be coddled by big government. They believe the American people are content to live the lie with them. They are wrong.

We believe in telling our seniors the truth about our overburdened entitlements. They believe seniors will always put themselves ahead of their grandchildren. And here's what they do -- they prey on their vulnerabilities and scare them with misinformation for the single cynical purpose of winning the next election. Here's their plan. Whistle a happy tune while driving us off the fiscal cliff, as long as they are behind the wheel of power when we fall.

Now, we believe that the majority of teachers in America know our system must be reformed to put students first so that America can can compete. They believe the educational establishment will always put themselves ahead of children, that self-interest will always trump common sense. They believe in pitting unions against teachers, educators against parents, lobbyists against children. They believe in teachers unions. We believe in teachers.

We have a nominee who will tell us the truth and will lead with conviction and now he has a running mate that will do the same. We have governor Mitt Romney and Congressman Paul Ryan and we need to make them the next President and Vice President of the United States.

See, you see, because I know Mitt Romney. I know Mitt Romney and Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear to put us back on a path to growth and create good paying private sector jobs again in America. Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear to end the torrent of debth that is compromising our future and burying our economy. Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear to end the debacle of putting the world's greatest healthcare system in the hands of federal bureaucrats and putting those bureaucrats between an American citizen and her doctor.

I believe in America and her history and there's only one thing missing now. Leadership. It takes leadership that you don't get from reaing a poll. You see, Mr. President, real leaders don't follow polls. Real leaders change polls.

It's now time to stand up. Let's stand up. Everybody, stand up. Stand up because there's no time left to waste. If you're willing to stand up with me for America's future, I will stand up with you. If you're willing to fight with me for Mitt Romney, I will fight with you. If you're willing to hear the truth, the hear the truth about the hard road ahead and the rewards for America, that truth will bear. I'm here to begin with you this new era of truth-telling tonight.

We choose the path that is always defined our nation's history. Tonight, we finally and firmly answer the call that so many genera generations have had the courage to answer before us. Tonight, we stand up for Mitt Romney as the next President of the United States and together -- and together, everybody, together we will stand up once again for American greatness for our children and grandchildren. God bless you and God bless America. [ applause ]


ALLEN: New Jersey governor Chris Christie there rallying the troops, giving the Convention's keynote address a short while ago. CNN's primetime coverage of the Republican National Convention continues Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan is getting ready for his big closeup.

Well, stay right there with us for our special coverage of Hurricane Isaac. It continues right after this break.