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Hurricane Harvey Devastates Parts of Texas; Local, State, and Federal Resources Mobilized for Recovery Efforts in Texas; President Trump Pardons Former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio; Sebastian Gorka Leaves White House; North Korea Test Launches More Missiles. Aired 10- 11a ET

Aired August 26, 2017 - 10:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[10:00:36] VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: The breaking news out of southern Texas where hurricane Harvey is barreling down on the coast. We are now getting our first real look at the destruction being caused by the storm. The sun is up there now. There's not much left standing in the city of Rockport, we know, according to CNN's Nick Valencia, who is there. He has seen some buildings down there. He described cars with the windows blown out, some stark descriptions coming from Rockport.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: And I want you to take a look at the damage that is being seen this morning now around Corpus Christi. Hurricane force winds ripped trees down. You see bricks off of that building. Street signs were torn down, and power lines. That's one of the big stories this morning as well. Almost 300,000 people do not have power right now.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got it.

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BLACKWELL: When you see that green bright flash you know transformers are blowing when you are out covering storms. You see the power lines going up in those quick flames as the storm passed through Rockport, again, which seems to have gotten the worst of the damage. Texas officials tell us now that more than 293,000 customers across the state have lost power. That number up significantly in just the last hour or so.

PAUL: Harvey is a category one hurricane at the moment. Yes, still a hurricane one packing 75 mile per hour winds. There are deadly implications here. Coastal cities could suffer from a 13-foot storm surge. There are places even far inland that could get as much as 40 inches of rain over the next several days, we are talking the next five to seven days here.

These are pictures coming to us here I believe from Victoria, Texas. President Trump is watching. He is tweeting this morning saying "Closely monitoring hurricane Harvey from Camp David. We are leaving nothing to chance. City, state, and federal governors working great together." And no doubt all of those leaders from local, state and federal are up and they are trying to discern what needs to be done now as we are getting our first real look since the sun has come up.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Nick Valencia kicks off our team coverage live from Rockport, Texas, where there is major damage.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I'm standing outside the public safety center in Rockport, looking at about half a dozen police cars with the windows blown out, flag poles bent over at the base. As a matter of fact, I was just speaking with the sheriff here, Bill Mills, who is really here. I can't begin to describe the look in everybody that we see here, the look in their eyes and what was their experience overnight. They just describe as simply put, just going through hell.

The sheriff tells me he believes that 50 percent to 60 percent of the town stayed. Just to give you a sense of how fearful they were as the storm approached, the mayor pro tem of this city was encouraging residents write their names and Social Security numbers on their forearms in case first responders had to recover their bodies.

Those first responders, as daylight has just broken in the last hour or so, they are just now getting out to assess the damage. I asked the local sheriff here what they need. He says we need all the help from the state that that we can get. He has at least 60 people, first responders, working here, including a volunteer fire staff. We just came from that volunteer fire department. It is made up of a collection of college-aged volunteers who rode out the storm there at that department. They said it was the worst weather they have ever been through.

I have a crowd forming around me right now because there's no way for people here to contact their family to let them know they're OK. As a matter of fact, we are one of the only news crews here. We are joined by a local affiliate here, KRIS. Their news station, we're told, has been trying to get in touch with them for the last three hours, as have their family members. They would like to tell their families that they're OK. We also have a couple residents here who are trying to use our satellite phone to call some of their family members to let them know that they're alive.

[10:05:02] This damage, Michael, is extensive, it's wide-ranging, it's significant. There's rain that continues to fall on us right now. The wind gusts are still aggressive. This damage in Rockport, parts of it are still barely standing. Michael?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: I would think that when the sheriff says if you're sticking around, you better write your Social Security number on your forearm, that would be the ultimate wake-up call. Is there any sign of anybody who didn't pay heed to the advice to get out of harm's way?

VALENCIA: I have to tell you, the sheriff also told me that they were backed up with 30 calls last night of people who were saying everything, that their roofs were ripping off their homes, walls were falling on people, but because the sheriffs were pinned down in their own department, they couldn't get out to help people. They said at one point during the eye of the storm they had a window to rescue about 20 people, transfer them to a safe location.

But they say as far as they know, all the first responders are accounted for. But they really, really are fearful that they are going to find people that have perished as a result of this storm because, as I mentioned, this whole town, the sheriff estimates at least half of them decided to ride out this storm.

PAUL: Again, that was Nick Valencia in Rockport. We are working to get him live again. That was him about a few minutes ago. But you can see he's in the middle of a hurricane, so hard to get some of that equipment to be working constantly.

CNN's Ed Lavandara, however, is live for us.

BLACKWELL: Ed, I see the wind and the rain have picked up since we spoke with you last. Let us know what conditions are now. What are you feeling?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, this is exactly the kind of thing, what has sprung up on Galveston island, that emergency officials up and down the coast are rather nervous about. This is another outer band of the storm that is still pushing its way inland and still kind of whipping the coast here and bringing a decent amount of rainfall.

So this is exactly the kind of scenario that going ahead into today that emergency officials from Galveston Island all the way down to Corpus and places more inland are extremely nervous about because even though the winds aren't as intense as clearly the wind damage caused therein Rockport where Nick Valencia is reporting from, but it is the rain away from the eye of the storm and the more center part of this storm that is going to wreak havoc here over the course of this weekend.

So that rainfall continuing, this strong outer band has been bringing a good amount of rainfall onshore here for the last 30 minutes or so. That continues to push inland as well. So that is one of those things that emergency teams are very nervous about. And it's not like you can pinpoint exactly where flooding is going to occur. So it's a reactionary kind of thing for emergency teams. You know what areas are generally prone to flooding but it's hard to predict exactly where dangerous and deadly flood waters could erupt.

So again, the reminders going out today to people across the region to be extremely cautious, to minimize the amount of time they spend outdoors, especially driving through these conditions. Flood waters on some of these more rural roadways can be a really dangerous situation. So you can't stress enough that people need to be very cautious and very wary if they are going to try to venture outside today. And obviously many people being urged not to do so today. Victor and Christi?

BLACKWELL: A lull does not mean the storm is over, and when those bands come back in, one does not want to be too far from home and safe shelter. Ed Lavandera for us there at Galveston, Ed, thanks so much.

Let's now go to CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar. She's tracking Harvey as well. And Allison, earlier today we were talking about tornado watches, tornado warnings. And yow you have got a report of a tornado?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, yes. So let's take a look at what the storm is doing right now. You can see one of the outer bands, hurricane Harvey right now 75 miles per hour, still a category one storm as we speak. It's the outer bands that now pose some of the biggest threat, especially in terms of tornadoes. This particular band, it's starting to train, stretching from Houston down to Galveston. You just saw in Ed's live shots how the conditions have been deteriorating quickly. And it's likely going to stay that way but often with training storms they hit in the same place over and over again.

But also, in those same outer bands, it's where you have a very great threat for tornadoes. So right now we have a tornado warning active just north of Conroe, north of Houston for those unfamiliar with this particular region. And we have been noticing tornado warnings all morning long along that particular outer band, so the northeastern section of the main storm. And that northeastern quadrant, if you will, is the area of concern for the rest of the day. Truly this red box here that does include Houston is under a tornado watch until at least 1:00 in the afternoon central time.

[10:10:02] That watch may be expanded or extended as we go through the day and they can assess the threat as to where it may be shifting. Overall, this is the general region where we expect severe weather today. That does include portions of Louisiana as well as Texas. The main threats here are going to be damaging winds and the potential for tornadoes.

One of the other concerns is travel. If you have any plans in or out of the Corpus Christi International Airport, they are closed until 11:00 a.m. central time Monday. The Victoria Regional Airport is closed until Sunday at 7:00 a.m. central time not to mention the airports in and around Houston. We're talking both the Bush Intercontinental Airport as well as Houston Hobby Airport. Numerous delays and cancellations at both airports, and those may only increase as we go through the rest of the day.

Now, the long-term threat with this storm is going to be the flooding potential because this storm isn't going anywhere any time soon. Today the heaviest rain will be in the central portion of the storm and off to the east. This is where we expect some of our heaviest rain. Now, not taking into consideration whatsoever all of the rain that has already fallen, this is how much more we can expect.

See this purple and white region? We are talking 10, 20, if not potentially 30 additional inches of rain. Victor, Christi, the reason for this, it's not really going to move much over the next five to seven days. So that's the one thing I want people to take away from this. Even when the winds start to die down or you notice this gets down to tropical storm strength only, please don't let your guard down because this storm is not going anywhere for the next week.

PAUL: Good point to make. Allison Chinchar, thank you so much.

All right, Captain Tony Hahn from the U.S. Coast Guard with us now from Robstown, Texas. Captain Hahn, thank you so much. We are talking to you because as I understand it a couple of barges have broken loose and there are people on these barges. What can you tell us?

CAPT. TONY HAHN, U.S. COAST GUARD: That's correct. So we have been monitoring the situation all night long, and as soon as we have a weather window for helicopters to launch, we have two Coast Guard and then 65 helicopters heading north to rescue those folks and get them out of harm's way. So they're out right now. We have good ceiling and visibility so I'm confident our crews can get up there and make sure those folks are out of harm's way.

We had multiple different things happen during the night. On a good news story there, we had almost all the mariners in Corpus Christi were able to get out of harm's way. So we didn't have a lot of these issues. We are starting our port damage assessments down in Brownsville. We are optimistic we will be able to get the Port of Brownsville open soon and then the port of Corpus Christi will take a while. We already have got our teams on the road doing port assessments from both a facility side and also from the waterway side. So we have to check that stuff out really closely before opening the ports.

And then we will proceed further up to Victoria and make sure that area is safe, too. But absolutely our top priority right now is getting people out of harm's way and saving lives.

BLACKWELL: Captain Hahn, let me quickly ask you about the barge search and rescue. Do you have an idea of how many people were on these two barges, and have you made any contacts with them?

HAHN: The one barge we are looking for four people on that barge. We had another vessel keeping an eye on them for us during the night. That barge lost its mooring, and so we are looking for those four folks on the barge. The other tug and barge, yes, we have communications with them. They are doing OK. But we're looking for the one barge that's floating.

BLACKWELL: Captain Tony Hahn with the U.S. Coast Guard just near Robstown searching for two barges that have broken away and a number of people starting that search and rescue effort. Helicopters out and pretty confident that you will be able to rescue them. Thank you so much for being with us.

HAHN: Yes, sir. Thank you. Appreciate it.

PAUL: Thank you, best of luck to you and the crew there, certainly.

BLACKWELL: We have got some live pictures here from Corpus Christi. I'm looking at the preview monitor. Here at the marina you have got a boat here that is partially submerged in the water here. We know that in these types of storms, considering the speed of the winds, the rough surface there of the water, that these boats are tossed around at these marinas. And now we have seen the damage here to at least this one.

[10:15:00] PAUL: And more to come. We have a reporter there live at the scene. We are going to talk to them in just a moment. Do stay close.

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PAUL: Thank you so much for staying with us for our live coverage of hurricane Harvey. This morning the Texas coast is still being slammed this hour, torrential rain. There are really, really tough winds coming onshore. Nearly 300,000 people do not have power right now. This after obviously the storm just took down numerous power lines.

BLACKWELL: There are two dozen Red Cross shelters open in Galveston, Austin, San Antonio. There are about 1,500 people who are in those. And we know that Harvey is a cat one storm now, down from a cat four when it hit the shore. But from the damage you are seeing here, there has already been some damage to these communities. We're going to see more of it as the sun comes up and as teams get to those reports of damage.

[10:20:08] PAUL: HLN Meteorologist Bob Van Dillen joining us live from Corpus Christi, Texas. There has been damage in the harbor there. Bob, walk us through. You look great now. We are glad you're OK. I know that it was a tough night. Help us understand what's going on there this hour.

BOB VAN DILLEN, HLN METEOROLOGIST: I'll tell you, on the southern side of the circulation, Christi, so the wind has actually shifted from the northeast where it was all day yesterday to now due west. Every once in a while one of those bands comes through. And that is when the rain picks up, that is when the wind picks up. You can see a look right here of downtown Corpus Christi. No structural damage that I can see.

We have all kinds of trees down. We do have stop signs down and stoplights down as well, but really, that's about it. We didn't see the tremendous amount of wind that other folks to our immediate north did. But we did get a little damage around here. You can see the harbor, some of the sails flapping in the breeze. They are kind of shredded right here. And this boat right here looks like it's resting on the ground halfway down. If you look over that boat, that is the Corpus Christi Bay. Twenty miles away, we're talking about Port Aransas, they were in the eye wall. They had a wind gust of 132 miles per hour. We're 20 miles away, and the strongest wind gust we had in Corpus Christi was 63. Pretty amazing, huh?

PAUL: Wow, no doubt about it. Hey, Bob, thank you so much for walking us through. Good to know you are all good. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: So the storm is stalling over the coast and forecasters believe inland cities could get up to 40 inches of rain over the next few days. PAUL: Which means obviously a serious flooding threat. We keep

thinking it is going to be on the coast. We forget about the trajectory of this as it continues to go over on to land. Houston mayor Sylvester Turner joining us on the phone. Mayor, thank you so much for being with us. First and foremost, what are conditions in Houston right now? How is everybody faring?

MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER, HOUSTON, TEXAS, (via telephone): Everybody at this point is faring well. This is going to be a major rainmaker for us, so we do anticipate flooding. There has been some street flooding already. But for now, the water is remaining within the banks of the bayou so that's some good news.

Communities outside of Houston Harris County last night, they received about nine inches of rain over a 12-hour period. There are a number of rain bands coming in and out. So this is going to be a major rainmaker. This is just day one. We anticipate four to five days of this. So we are asking people to stay off the roads if they don't need to be on the roads. But if they are on the road, they need to be very mindful of the streets and intersections that are prone to flood.

Our high water rescue teams are ready and strategically placed. The first responders are out and prepared to go. Underpasses that we know are prone to flood. We've already put in the necessary gates and barricaded them. And so we are asking people to really take care of seniors and people who are disabled. We have already been out on the streets yesterday moving people who are homeless into shelters, off of our streets.

The Port of Houston, which is number one in foreign tonnage in the country, business has ceased and they made preparations on that end. And I talked to the CEO of Exxon yesterday. The refineries have stopped for now. They are making preparations to make sure there's adequate fuel for the Houston Harris County area once the storm passes.

BLACKWELL: So Mr. Mayor, you are telling us the government and industry are taking this storm seriously. Folks who lived in Houston for a while remember back to tropical storm Allison when 35 inches of rain came down on the city. Are the people of Houston taking this seriously? Have they prepared?

TURNER: I am very, very proud of the people in Houston Harris County. They have been preparing over the last several days. We asked them to go ahead and get your hurricane kits, although we are not in the direct path of the hurricane, to get the necessary supplies, food and water, medications that you need in order to stay off the streets. They have done that. I'm very proud of them on doing that.

So the city is prepared. We have already been in communication with the Red Cross. We have identified potential locations to the extent we need them. We have been in communication and engaged the faith- based community. Over 30 churches at this point are making their facilities available just in case we need them. So it's preparation before the storm. We know it's going to last four or five days so we are tending to matters during the storm. And then the third element is to click into gear once the storm has passed. So we are prepared and the people are complying. We simply are reminding people, do not engage the storm. Don't look out and say I'm been in Friday and Saturday, and all of a sudden you decide to go out Sunday and Monday. This will be a serious, unprecedented storm with a lot of water between now and over the next four or five days.

PAUL: You make a great point. It's easy to look out the window and think it's clear, I can go out. Mayor Sylvester Turner, thank you so much, and best of luck to you and all the folks there in Houston.

[10:25:04] TURNER: Thank you for having us. And pray for the state of Texas.

PAUL: Will do. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: And of course we're going to continue to watch all that's happening across Texas with Harvey, the wind damage and the continued rain and flooding concern. But there is a lot that's coming out of Washington, including a presidential pardon, another White House departure, and new details about the Russia investigation and former NSA Michael Flynn. That's next.

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[10:30:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

BLACKWELL: Let's go straight to Nick Valencia. He is in Rockport, Texas, covering the effect of Harvey. And the reports are that there is severe damage there. Nick, what are you seeing?

VALENCIA: Hey, there, Victor. Yes, there is absolutely no question about it. This area was among the hardest hit. The hardest, I should say. It's about 30 miles outside of Corpus Christi where we were reporting from all day yesterday and earlier this morning. I was speaking to the local sheriff here who tells me the fears are they will be recovering bodies for the hours to come.

At least 50, perhaps even 60 percent of the town, he tells me, decided to stick this out. This is a community of about 10,000 people, a tight-knit community, a generational community from what local residents tell me. It is just within the last hour and a half or so that emergency responders have started to assess the damage, go house to house, see if people are still inside. We spoke to a local resident just a little while ago who tells me he knows of at least one family that is trapped by water. He can't access them.

Also, we know of calls coming in last night according to the sheriff. At least 30 phone calls were backlogged. And the sheriff and first responders couldn't respond to those calls. Calls included roofs ripping off homes, walls falling on people according to the local sheriff. It was about an hour and a half window that they had during the eye of the storm as that eye passed over Rockport that they had to try to he evacuate people, move some people to safety.

But this town was just hit directly by hurricane Harvey, and you can tell. What I'm looking at right now is at least six police cars, the windows, the velocity of the wind in this storm was so strong it blew out the windows of the police cars. The sewer main I'm looking at in the middle of the street is protruding water, so it's clear there is going to be at the very least a boil water advisory here for the days if not weeks to come.

First responders are limited here as well. The local sheriff and leadership tell me that they're in desperate need of resources from the state. They are encouraging state resources to make their way down to Rockport right now as they begin to figure out how bad things are here. Victor?

BLACKWELL: Nick Valencia there in Rockport. Again, the reports there are just stark. Brock Long, the new FEMA director, tweeted out just a few moments ago "FEMA is actively supporting Texas with search and rescue, mass care, disaster medical services, temporary power and life-sustaining commodities." Hopefully some of those resources get to the town of Rockport. They need them desperately. We spoke with the chief who said he had no communication capabilities, cell phone out, Internet out. Fortunately Nick has a sat phone and we will check back in with him a little later. Again, our thanks to Nick Valencia.

PAUL: And the whole crew there.

We have got our live team obviously covering hurricane Harvey in many different places. But listen, there's a lot that happened overnight in Washington at the White House that we want to get to.

BLACKWELL: President Trump pardoned a controversial sheriff, also lost one of his top aides, Sebastian Gorka, and moved forward on his military transgender ban as the Russia investigation takes a new turn.

PAUL: CNN's senior political analyst and senior editor at "The Atlantic" Ron Brownstein, and senior political correspondent for "The Hill" Amie Parnes, thank you both for being with us. I want to start with the pardoning of Joe Arpaio. A lot of people are speaking out about this, including John McCain, Senator Jeff Flake, both from Arizona, and former acting A.G. Sally Yates who wrote "POTUS reveals his own contempt for our constitution, our courts, and our founding principles of equality and justice." Ron, what do you make, A, of this pardon, and B, of the timing of it? Rarely do we see a pardon for somebody seven or eight months into a presidency.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. First of all, I'm going to say I'm just obviously thinking about everybody down in Texas, including all of my friends and family there. Yes, this is an extraordinary moment. For many Hispanics and others, I think Joe Arpaio is the equivalent today of what Bull Connor was in the civil rights era. He is the embodiment of the use of state power to enforce racial discrimination.

And the original order against him, the original injunction that he defied that led to this conviction, was issued by a judge appointed by George W. Bush. And it referred to only one of the many controversial areas of his tenure in terms of discrimination, the number of people who hung themselves under custody and the $100 million plus judgments that the sheriff's office had to pay out, the failure to investigate molestation cases. There was a wide -- there's a big list of complaints.

[10:35:00] And in fact, as you know, he was voted out by the voters of Maricopa County last year. So for the president to kind of step in at this point in the process after he had been convicted of failing to follow a court order is just an extraordinary statement coming right on the heels of Charlottesville. And you saw the largest paper in Arizona conclude yesterday -- today, this is a signal basically of not only tolerance but endorsement of racial discrimination and so forth.

BLACKWELL: That headline from them, at least buried in the story, that institutional racism is clearly Trump's goal from the editorial board at "The Arizona Republic." Amie, let me get you in here. We have to cut this short because of the breaking news. So after this pardon, the supporters will support it. The critics will criticize it. Those who have been silent will stay silent. Does this move anybody, really?

AMIE PARNES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No. I think this is strictly aimed at his base and rallying his base and making them feel better, I think, in the wake of Charlottesville. But it definitely doesn't do anything for President Trump, particularly when you look at the people he needs if he wants to be reelected. It's the people that the Republican Party are trying to aim at, Hispanics. And that was something, a place where he lacked a lot during the 2016, a lot of support during the 2016 election. And so I think the bigger picture and the ramifications of the bigger picture will actually take hold and have an effect on him in the future.

PAUL: All right, Ron Brownstein, Amie Parnes, so grateful to have your insight on this. Thank you for being here.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Up next, North Korea fires off a volley of missiles less than a week after being praised for showing restraint. CNN international correspondent Will Ripley has just arrived in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang and has been speaking with military officials. He will tell us what they have to say when we come back.

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[10:41:04] BLACKWELL: The most powerful hurricane to hit the U.S. in a decade has landed in Texas. And this morning we're getting our first look at the scope of the damage as hurricane Harvey is now becoming a catastrophic flood threat.

PAUL: Take a look at some of the pictures we have coming in from North Padre Island. This area was nearly hit by the full force of the eye wall when it came ashore as a category four storm a bit north. Look at that. Things are just down. In Corpus Christi you can see signs down, brick walls toppled, signs have been blown out there. Harvey is pounding the Texas coastline. Again the White House is making headlines over President Trump's pardon of controversial ex- Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio in the meantime. So a lot of things coming from different places, obviously, Washington and Texas this hour. BLACKWELL: In response to the pardon, civil rights groups and even

both Republican senators from Arizona are criticizing this move. Also late Friday, the White House announced President Trump's controversial adviser Sebastian Gorka is now out. And the president signed a directive banning transgender military recruits.

Plus, there are new details about the Russia investigation. "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting special counsel Robert Mueller is examining the possible role former national security adviser Michael Flynn played in trying to get Hillary Clinton's e-mails from hackers.

PAUL: As we have been reporting what's happening on the Texas coast, it looks like inland, that is where some real problems are going to be. Officials are concerned about the amount of rain and flooding that is headed that way. Take a look at the radar here. You can see how everything is swirling there. We have rain in Houston, up in Austin, San Antonio, Victoria really getting hit. Joining us, retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Russel Honore.

BLACKWELL: General Honore was the commander of the joint task force during hurricane Katrina and became known as the Category Five General. General Honore, thank you so much for spending a couple minutes with us. Your reaction to what we are seeing and reports out of Rockport, where our Nick Valencia says some of the town is just devastated there.

LT. GEN. RUSSEL HONORE, (RET), CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely, 140 mile an hour wind will take roofs off of buildings and flatten poorly structured buildings. So we pray for the best but we expect the worst there where the eye came ashore.

But that being said, the worst is yet to come in terms of the amount of pain and suffering that is going to happen because of the flooding. As you know, flooding itself is a major danger to our population. More homes get destroyed, more people die from flooding every year than any other event.

So the wind event, day one of Harvey is done. The sustained winds are going to keep helicopters from doing search and rescue and it's going to take power lines out. And as the storm churned and turned in Texas, the area of flooding is going to expand.

So day one, the priority is going to be keeping people alive and finding out where you have vulnerable people that need to be evacuated. And then take actions today for day two, which is going to be tomorrow, of places that you can project that will flood that have clusters of vulnerable populations such as nursing homes, hospitals, and low-lying areas.

So the emergency managers really have a tough time today in balancing search and rescue and keeping people alive, and then preparing for tomorrow to evacuate people that if they don't move them today they will be surrounded or underwater tomorrow. So thanks for having me on and we can share some of this information.

PAUL: We appreciate you sharing it with us, certainly. General Honore, real quickly, how much confidence, I guess, do you have in the leadership to take care of this for the next four, five, six days?

[10:45:05] HONORE: Well, regardless of how good the leadership is, let me say I think the leadership is good, solid, the relationship between the federal and state is solid. I haven't seen it any better. The relationship between the military and the National Guard, all integrated in military support to civil authorities. That's working good.

The problem is on any given day, Mother Nature can destroy anything built by man and create a disaster. This is a disaster. So regardless how good they are today, they will not be good enough to handle all the needs that are required with people that are isolated because of the effects of the weather, the wind and the expanded flooding. So there will be people out there waiting to be rescued. They are waiting right now, and because the phone systems and the communication grid is down, they don't know where they are and they don't know what their needs are because they can't get out. And that's the effect of this hurricane staying around, being a threat on day one, d-one and d-two, and d-three. We will have more people that are flooded and isolated based on the rain predictions that we are looking at. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: General Honore, let me ask you. You were pretty critical of the president yesterday afternoon for not proactively declaring a disaster there in Texas and instead waiting for Governor Abbott to request it. That happened late in the evening, the request and the grant from the president. Did that happen in time? The question really is, was that delay detrimental to the response potentially from the federal government?

HONORE: No. The way our national response plan is written, things were going by plan. The idea of -- the way this would normally work is the governors, and yesterday Governor Abbott did ask for it, I was hoping that it would come earlier in the day, but they were following the procedures that have been established over the years on how we do the storm declaration.

I wish it had happened yesterday morning to empower the states to get more people evacuated, and particularly those vulnerable populations, and to move more assets into position. In other words, hook the generator up to the hospital because the power's going to go out. Some of those things that could have been done, now they can be done today to affect tomorrow. But I'm wishing that had been done earlier, but the good news is it got signed before landfall, and that decision by the president is having positive impact today in and around Texas.

BLACKWELL: All right, Lieutenant General Russel Honore, thank you for being with us for just a few minutes. We will take a quick break and we'll continue our coverage of hurricane Harvey after this.

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[10:52:28] BLACKWELL: We will get more on the natural disaster that's happening right now in Texas. Our team coverage continues throughout the day. But right now we want to update you on an important international story. North Korea has launched additional missiles. PAUL: This comes less than a week after Secretary of state Rex

Tillerson praised the regime's restraint. So we understand these were short-range missiles. They weren't a threat to the U.S. mainland or to Guam, but CNN's Will Ripley is in Pyongyang. Yes, he is the only western television correspondent in North Korea, just arrived in North Korea within the last few hours. And I understand, Will, that you have just spoken with government officials. What are they telling you?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Christi and Victor. Yes, we have been meeting with officials here who told me that even though it appears on the surface that things have calmed in terms of the military activity up until just a matter of hours ago when those missiles were launched, they say that this is the most tense situation that many of them have seen in a number of years.

And the reason for that goes back to those words from President Trump, "fire and fury," "locked and loaded." Even though the news cycle in the United States has moved on, here in North Korea, they are still thinking about that. They considered it a threat. And while we have heard a lot of fiery rhetoric from North Korea over the last month we are now seeing something very different that we haven't seen since the end of July when they launched that intercontinental ballistic missile. We are seeing actual military activity.

So you mentioned those three ballistic missiles that were launched. You mentioned they are short-range. Two of them traveled just about 250 kilometers, or just over 150 miles, but that puts all of Seoul potentially in striking range, key U.S. military bases in South Korea well within striking range.

And even though this was one of dozens of missile tests ordered by North Korea's supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, we are also seeing him appear. He just within the last hour or so appeared on state media here on the evening news in North Korea. He was seen overseeing a special forces operation where commandos were simulating attacks on South Korean islands. So what the officials here are telling us is that they feel it continues to be a touch-and-go situation and they say do not be surprised if we see more in terms of military activity from North Korea given the fact we are about to enter week two of those U.S./South Korea joint military exercises that are happening just miles from where I'm standing here in Pyongyang. That's where thousands of South Korean soldiers are training alongside U.S. soldiers. It happens every August, and every August it always infuriates this regime. But particularly after that rhetoric from President Trump and those threats they say they have taken very literally and very seriously here in North Korea. Victor and Christi?

[10:55:09] BLACKWELL: Will Ripley for us in North Korea in the capital of Pyongyang. Will, thank you so much for that reporting.

PAUL: And we are so grateful that you spent the morning with us. We're going to continue to keep our thoughts and prayers with folks in Texas and watch as this storm continues to develop today. Thank you so much. BLACKWELL: Yes, there's much more in the next hour of CNN Newsroom.

Our coverage continues with Fredericka Whitfield right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Breaking news today. Hurricane Harvey now onshore and damaging parts of the Texas coastline. Welcome to the Newsroom. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Right now the storm is packing 80 mile per hour winds. Tornado watches are in effect and nearly 300,000 are without power.

But the next concern for Texas residents is flooding. The National Hurricane Center says flooding will be catastrophic and life- threatening.