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Harvey Pummels Texas, Brings Catastrophic Flooding; Flood Victims Desperate for Help as Waters Rise; Trump to Visit Texas Tuesday Amid Record Flooding; 1,000+ Rescued from Texas Floods Overnight; Rescues Continues as Night Falls on Houston; Texas; Nation's 4th-Largest City Facing Epic Flooding; NWS: Rainfall could Reach 50 Inches in Parts of Texas; 56,000+ Calls to Houston 911 in 15 Hours. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired August 27, 2017 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Thank you for being with us. The CNN's Special Report, "Diana, Chasing A Fairytale" will now air at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, one hour from now as we continue to follow the breaking news out of Texas.
I'm Ana Cabrera. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. And we are talking about life-threatening, catastrophic flooding from Tropical Storm Harvey. And we want to show you the frightening reality on the ground there right now, families wading through waist high water with small children, with animals in tow.
At least a thousand people have been rescued in Houston alone. And officials in nearby Galveston say 800 to 1,200 have been saved there. All day long, we have been seeing boat after boat and helicopters searching for people trapped in their homes.
The head of FEMA says this is a storm the United States has never seen before, one that will require teams to be on the ground not for days or even weeks or months, but years. Some areas brace for up to 50 inches of rain before all of this is over.
Now, President Trump just tweeted moments ago, "Wow, now experts are calling Harvey a once in 500 year flood. We have an all-out effort going and going well." The president has announced he will visit the flood zone on Tuesday following some heroing scenes including this one that played out live here on CNN earlier this evening.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The boats, we can get them out of here. So, I'm going to put the microphone down while we help them get into the boat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How you doing, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to give me your hand, sir, and I can try to pull you up. How are your arms feeling? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're good.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jason, you want to come up here and help.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can lift you if that's OK. OK, you're ready?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You ready?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got it. Get that foot in there. Not too bad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just sit wherever you feel like, you know, is the most comfortable for you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here. You have to sit right there on the edge.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. It's all that rain we had earlier today and I never bailed it out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A long night.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, we got -- hey, Ana, we've got this gentleman's wife and their daughter that still need to be pulled out of here. So, Austin Seth, who is the volunteer who had been taking us in.
I'll tell you what, we were just about to leave and we just happened to hear this woman ask for help. So, that's what Austin hear. They have two dogs as well. Come on this way little fella. So, they're trying to get her out. We'll keep working on this. And I got to be honest. The daughter told us that --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Again, that was earlier this evening. I want to bring in now CNN's Ed Lavandera who is still out there in the floodwaters.
Ed, give us the latest.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana. Well, night has fallen here along Interstate 45 and the roadway remains closed and anticipate that it will continue to happen throughout the night. But you can look that this is looking northbound along the interstate back toward the city of Houston. Emergency vehicles still out here.
The fleet of volunteers who had brought their flat bottom boats or any kind of boat that could get out on these waters have left for the most part. My indication was is that many of them were told that getting out there at night was just simply not a good idea and that they will resume those searches and those rescue efforts when the sun comes back up tomorrow.
However, having said that, there are still a team of first responders out here protecting the roadway and that sort of thing. So some of those efforts and obviously monitoring for the most severe of emergency situations. But obviously, the concern is for many people who weren't able to get out of their homes in these flooded areas tonight that they would, perhaps, be spending the night inside their homes at some point.
In fact, one of the guys who volunteered here -- hey, Ed Lavandera. What's your name?
[21:05:02] DAN BUCK, VOLUNTEER: Dan Buck.
LAVANDERA: Dan, you're a lifeguard down in Galveston, right?
BUCK: Yes, sir.
LAVANDER: You were making your way through there today, through these flooded areas?
BUCK: Yes, sir. We had four different units going through on jet skis. We were given addresses by via the rescue and response agencies. We would go check on them, make sure everyone's out of the houses if anyone was inside. We bring them to dry land, meet up with a boat and I would take them to safety.
LAVANDER: So, you were getting specific addresses.
BUCK: Yes, sir.
LAVANDER: Right. That's been kind of interesting because on social media and, I guess, other channels, you guys -- there are people who were very concerned about, you know, I have my aunt or uncle or my cousin in these houses. What did you find when you got to the addresses? Most people had left or did you --
BUCK: A lot of people had fortunately left already, but we were using -- social media was a big tool, which we're using to help collect information and find out what occupants were inside the buildings, where they were at, given specific addresses. We also had callback numbers. So, all that information really helped us.
LAVANDER: I was in there a little while ago. It was amazing to see the fleet of boats, wave runners, boats, every kind of different -- kayaks, whatever, inner tubes. Was it amazing to see the efforts out there today?
BUCK: It was good to see just the volunteer effort from any of the citizens around here with any kind of boats that were able to clear the shallow waters. We saw a lot of jet skis, which are all personal jet skis.
So, a good majority of the people out there were people volunteering and helping out. And that really helped out with the effort. We were able to go in with the jet skis and find out more information on what people were there and that we could relay the information to anyone with boats, they'll bring them to dry land.
LAVANDER: I think a lot of people have this question because I've been getting a lot of messages throughout the day, giving me addresses and asking for help. How is that information -- what would you tell people to get that information to folks like you? What's the best channel right now?
BUCK: The best channel is to call emergency services. If you know someone is in a location where they're in danger, call that, try to give as much information as you can. We want to know the occupants inside the building and we want to know age, sex, if they have any health issues or anything like that so we can get to them quickly and so we don't have any miscommunication about leaving anyone behind. If it's an apartment building, we want to know everyone that's in there and get it clear as quickly as we can.
LAVANDER: As you ventured out there today, was it stunning to see? Was it as bad as you expected?
BUCK: It was pretty devastating to see how bad the floodwaters really were and we didn't expect it to be this much, especially in Galveston, where we think it's a (INAUDIBLE).
LAVANDER: Appreciate it. Good luck and thanks for what you're doing today.
BUCK: No problem. Thank you.
LAVANDER: All right. Ana, so that's a -- I've been kind of flooded with social media messages throughout the day, people sending me addresses of loved ones and that sort of things. So, I know that's a -- that last question there is of great concern to a lot of people, those messages trickling their way down to a lot of these guys that are going out into these floodwaters. So, keep that coming.
If you're still concerned about a loved one out there, I think that's the best news we can share. It is very difficult, I can't stress enough. You know, we've been in this one area here in Dickinson, Texas, just south along -- just south of Houston, along Interstate 45, but it is very difficult. It's not like we can get in the car and manage to drive across town or to some other neighborhood.
The roadways are just simply -- mostly impassable in many of the areas. So, you know, keep passing along. If you have a loved one in there, keep passing along that information as you heard I mentioned then it will trickle its way down it sounds like.
How quickly that happens is hard to say. Let me get out of the way here of police vehicles. That's the latest here along Interstate 45, south of Houston, Ana.
CABRERA: Very active night ahead certainly for those emergency responders. Amazing effort by those volunteers. Ed, thank you for bringing us their stories as well.
Dan, that gentleman you just talked to who is out there on the jet skis rescuing people, to Austin Seth who is in the boat when Ed showed us that rescue of the elderly gentleman and his family. It's happening all across southern Texas area right now.
Let's get the latest forecast live from the CNN Weather Center. Meteorologist Tom Sater is monitoring Tropical Storm Harvey. And I know there's another tropical storm or system forming as well.
Tom, what lies ahead for Texas and the U.S. tonight?
TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, quickly, just to let you know what's happening in Florida around Bradenton and Sarasota last night, 7 to 13 inches of rain fell. They had to evacuate several residents, over 62 homes were flooded. The storm is actually off the coast of Jacksonville and it most likely will become Tropical Storm Irma. Already some watches in effect along the Carolina coast. That's another story. We'll cover that one tomorrow.
But right now, what we've seen in the last 12 hours is an expansion of the precipitation shield to the north and really off to the east. And with that even some thunderstorms with severe weather elements. But here are just a few of the locations. These are going to continue to be updated. We have had a 30-inch total already.
What's interesting about these five, over 2 feet, they're all different counties. And the list goes on and on.
Now, I want to share something with you. Dr. Ryan Maue, he runs a company called Weather Bell and they study all things weather.
[21:10:01] He calculated how much rain has fallen in the state of Texas. Get this, 11 trillion gallons of water with the potential by the time it's done to reach 25 trillion. So, that's more than double of what we've already had and that's been our fear.
The center now is getting pretty close. It's just north of Victoria here. It's about 40 miles now from the coast. It's picked up in speed and whapping 1 mile per hour, but that's better than 1 to 2 miles per hour. The system is still at tropical storm strength because it's feeding off its own rainfall that it's trapped on land instead of being on water. But it is moving off water.
First and forecast, we've got a strong band of thunderstorms moving into Houston again. We've got another tornado warning just to the west of Houston in Harris County, Fort Ben and another one off to the east. This band could have the potential just itself tonight to drop another two or three inches with the threat of more rainfall even off towards the east.
Bigger story however, Ana, the amount of rain will double in the Houston area and surrounding counties and in the next couple of days, the system moves to the north spreading the emergency services a little bit thinner covering that area.
CABRERA: All right, Tom Sater for us in the CNN Weather Center, thank you.
I want to bring in CNN's Brian Todd now and go back to him in Houston on the ground again with some of those people who have been rescued.
And Brian, it looks like things have calmed down a little where you are now.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's calmed down a little bit, Ana, but the rain has intensified here in the western part of Houston. This has been a staging area for really hundreds of people being rescued from the Omni Hotel, which is back behind the tree line there. This is Post Oak Lane and Woodway Drive here in Western Houston.
They just carried a lady on a stretcher who is having -- who had had back surgery and was staying at the Omni Hotel. And she -- her partner just told us that they made them leave because they need to get her some attention somewhere and then she's had a lot of people tending to her. They just took her away on a stretcher.
I just talked to a police officer -- we can take you down here to the staging area a little bit. The water here is at least chest deep behind me and it gets deeper over there at Buffalo Bayou. This is Buffalo Bayou behind me. This is one of those bayous that really helped Houston drain out water in the event of storms, but it's just overwhelmed now and it's completely flooded. The water gets to about 15 to 20 feet deep there in Buffalo Bayou. So, to get to any rescue point, you've to go via boat this way.
And I just talked to a police officer who said that they tried to get to an elderly couple in their 90s who live in a residential area behind me here. They could not find them. And so, they're going to try to go over land and meet up with some other private rescuers on boats.
The Houston police has asked people who have boats to call them and just to try to coordinate areas where they can pick people up, where they can go out and try to rescue people from homes.
And I got to tell you, it's been really -- it's been incredible to watch the operation here behind me in the staging area. Boat after boat after boat, private residents coming out and just pulling people out of the Omni Hotel. They pulled more than 100 out that we've seen in the last few hours, Ana.
And another thing about the 911 calls we just reported a few minutes ago, the office of emergency management says between 10:00 p.m. last night and 1:00 p.m. this afternoon, they've gotten 56,000 911 calls and in an average day between those hours. They get about 8,000. So people are calling 911. It is a very stressful day and evening here as nightfall comes to this area of western Houston. So, it's going to get worse here before it gets better and the rain is just intensifying.
CABRERA: Brian, do you get a sense people are panicking or no?
TODD: You know, I don't get that sense, Ana. It's been incredible to watch some of this. And we went with these rescuers right into the lobby of the Omni Hotel where the water is up to your waist and they're rescuing people and they're pulling people out and people are not panicking. They're stressed of course and they are very, you know, worried about their loved ones, they're worried about their homes. But you do not see people screaming, you don't see people panicking. You don't see chaos. You see a very orderly and just a committed rescue effort here. It's been very impressive to watch, I have to say.
CABRERA: And that's great to hear. Brian Todd reporting in Houston. Stay safe and dry as soon as you can get out of that water.
Hundreds of flood victims now are left without a home, at least for tonight. They will be spending tonight in temporary shelters on cots perhaps at the Houston Convention Center. That's one of several places open by the mayor of Houston as a shelter for those fleeing the rising floodwaters. Many of the people arriving at the George R. Brown Convention Center from a public housing complex about a mile north. The Red Cross saying some 1,800 people took refugee last night and 34 Red Cross shelters.
We've also learned that the Dallas Convention Center is also been open for folks who maybe needing to evacuate and have been able to get closer to Dallas.
Now, if you want more information on how you can help the victims of Harvey, just log on to cnn.com/impact with a number of resources there for you to do your part.
[21:15:06] We're back in just a moment.
CABRERA: OK, come and check out this video. A T.V. station in Houston, this is KHOU, is now empty and you can see why. Staffers forced to evacuate because of the rising floodwaters that was just rushing in, swamping the station. A weatherman at the station tweeted this video. We should note this actually happens despite the fact the station has floodgates around the building meant to stop water from coming in.
And we have aerial images showing how extensive the flooding is in Houston. This was earlier today. Official says they received more than 2,000 911 calls from people asking to be rescued in a very short period of time. They have 600 boats being used in those efforts.
Now, Rockport, Texas suffered a devastating direct hit from Hurricane Harvey. Today, one state official said the coastal town is, "Totally void of any functioning infrastructure." And this drone video shows how extensive the storm damage is there.
[21:20:10] Residents have also dealt with tornado warnings at times torrential downpours.
Now, Rockport is also where one of the two deaths from the storm that have been confirmed happened. And our Martin Savidge is joining us now from Rockport.
Martin, with an infrastructure that is suddenly been crippled, are people there determined to stay or are they leaving?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's a mixture. There are some people who are very defiant and some very Texas kind of attitude who say, look, I'm not leaving my home despite the fact that there's hardly any of my home and certainly no infrastructure left. Then there are the others who -- and these little ones who probably rode the storm out here. So one, they will never ride out a storm again and two, they want to leave. So it depends.
Some people have brought in generators. And if you have electricity, well, maybe that will help you a bit because otherwise in this town right now, it is dark. If it wasn't for the T.V. lights and the lights that have been set up by the Emergency First Response headquarters, there's no lights in this town, maybe headlights. So, it's very, very dark.
On top of that, something else that's happening here is the wind is picking up. And with all of this debris that is spread all over this area, that could be a dangerous thing too, especially if you're moving in the dark.
So, I think that anybody who says that they're going to tough it out, I've been in these kind of conditions for a long time in other circumstances. You find at the second or third day, your attitude to that changes dramatically.
Right now, actually, there are about 15 busses. These are the large charter busses that are all lined up. You can hear them maybe roaring in the background. They are here to take people away because the community leaders have said it's not wise for you to remain here because it's just not sustainable. And so these busses are ready and waiting for anyone who has decided they've had enough. But if you leave, just know it's going to be a long time before this town is ready to come back to.
CABRERA: And, Martin, we know earlier today they were doing a second search and rescue. This was the Texas task force that was on the ground there in Rockport as well as Aransas County. Have you heard how those efforts are going?
SAVIDGE: As far as we know, they're still ongoing and they were doing them even in the darkness. The problem is, you know, you have so much of this debris that it's not just as simple as looking the door peer into a few roads. You have to sort of fight your way through some of these buildings and through some of these houses. And it's not just a few, I should say.
Then on top of that, the streets themselves are full of debris and so driving make it's all very difficult. It's a great challenge. CABRERA: All right, Martin Savidge in Rockport for us tonight, thank you.
As we go to break, we want to leave you with some more images from the flood and the damage in Houston tonight.
[21:27:02] CABRERA: It is hard to overstate just how dire the situation in southern Texas is becoming, but here's an idea. In the last 15 hours, our Brian Todd is reporting more than 56,000 people have called Houston 911. That's up from about 8,000 on an average day. The need for help is becoming so overwhelming. Police are now asking the public for help. Tweeting for anyone with a boat to please come and volunteer.
And one man who actually found a search and rescue organization has had to rescue his own family and may now be in need of rescuing himself.
Tim Miller is the founder of Texas EquuSearch. He joins me live on the phone. His company has been involved in high profile cases like the search for Natalie Holloway as well as Caylee Anthony.
Tim, tonight we're talking about a search and rescue of a whole different kind. I understand your home has about three feet of water in it and now you're currently staying in your motor home which is on higher ground. How worried are you that you may eventually need to be rescued yourself?
TIM MILLER, DIRECTOR, TEXAS EQUUSEARCH: Well, I am worried. In fact, my motor home is in my barn which is a little bit higher than my house. It came up about three feet on my motor home also, but not inside of it because it's higher.
Right now, I've actually got my bigger boat, my rescue boat parked right beside my motor home. So if it's gets through the point where water is coming in that motor home, we're going to get my big boat and that's got a cabin. So, you know, all seven of us can be in the cabin and know we're not going to drown. And of course, we won't be comfortable, but, you know, there's not a lot of things that are comfortable right now in this situation.
CABRERA: What has been so remarkable to me, in part, is how calm and organized and thoughtful people have been in a situation that is clearly an emergency unlike any that many of you have had to deal with. What is going through your mind right now?
MILLER: Well, you know, I was worried about my house and we're doing so much search and rescue. And then when my granddaughter called and said, grandpa, we're in my attic and we're not going to live, we're not going to live. And, you know, like I said, we've been in searches all over the country and different parts of the world, but now I've got five family members in an attic and they called 911, they said they could not get to them and stay in your attic. If your power is not off, do not attempt to get down, you may be electrocuted. And they just knew that they were going to drown in the attic.
And as many searches as I have been on, it was like, oh my god, now my entire family. And I took a big risk and hooked up a little jon boat, 16-foot jon boat on the back of my truck and thank God the truck is diesel and many times didn't think I was going to make it through the high water and got three miles from their house and couldn't go any further. And, you know, got the boat to their house and got them out safely.
[21:30:05] And the heartbreaking thing is when we were going to get them, there's people standing on top of their cars saying please stop, please help and it's like, oh my god, my whole family is in the attic, I got to help them.
You know, people on the road and saying the same thing and it was like -- and it wasn't being selfish. And it's -- you know, I've lived here in Texas since the early '70s and never seen anything like this. And it's a, you know, it's a heartbreak. I hope it's not going come in as bad as they're predicting. It's going to come in -- I got called earlier on a 91-year-old man where water was in a two-story house in the second story and water is coming in there. It's a heartbreak that -- and you want to help them all.
MILLER: But then again, when it came to my own family, I have to do everything --
CABRERA: So, you have a daughter and a 1-year-old granddaughter who you went to rescue. Forgive me, I didn't mean to stop on you there and interrupt you. I want to show the picture of part of the rescue. Describe for me where this was in terms of the moment in the rescue of your family.
MILLER: Well, this was in Dickinson at 1505 Ditch Road which is not very far off the gulf freeway and her husband actually went to watch the fight last night and then couldn't get home. He was stranded on top of that overpass all night and still he had phone service. And I said, Brandon, I'm going to try to pick you up and just go get Mally [Phonetic] and the kids. And some of (INAUDIBLE) were fortunate enough to get Brandon picked up. And thanked God, would work because they helped get the rest of the family out of the house and, yes, of course, it's very emotional. It really didn't hit until afterwards. And I way out of time and cried.
CABRERA: I can only imagine.
MILLER: Yes. And our hearts are hoping for, you know, all the other ones that are missing at this time and, you know, pray for Texas at this time.
CABRERA: Absolutely. Catch a virtual hug through the television screen. Our best to you and your family. Tim Miller, thank you for spending time with us again. Hearts and prayers for people in Texas right now. We cannot reiterate enough that the life-threatening flooding is only expected to get worse in the coming days. And the outwardly, especially those who cannot move by themselves are among the most vulnerable.
Before the break, we showed you an unbelievable photo. This is a real picture taken at a nursing home in Galveston County earlier today. The residents here were, as you can see, sitting up in water that was above their waists in some cases. Around noon today, they were rescued, but not before the owner snapped this picture, sent it to her daughter in a text and was pleading for help. I spoke with the owner's daughter, Kimberly McIntosh by phone earlier. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
CABRERA: And Kimberly, I can only imagine what was going through your mind when you saw that picture.
KIMBERLY MCINTOSH, MOTHER OWNS FLOODED NURSING HOME: Yes, I almost couldn't believe it was real as well. When my mother sent it to me I was just texting her thinking everything was fine. I had spoken with her the day before and she said, you know, they were told to shelter in place and, you know, I don't think anybody thought there would be a problem because they hadn't flooded before or anything.
So, when I texted her in the morning to check in and she responded with those photos, I was totally shocked. And at that point, didn't really know what to do. So I asked her what I could do to help her and she just said they were waiting on the National Guard and if we could contact anybody to help them to do it.
So, and in that, her phone went dead. I mean, I have no more texts. And so, we were so upset thinking that, you know, they were in eminent danger. So that's when we decided to call emergency management. We were, you know, deciding what to do and that's when we decided to go ahead and tweet the photo to try to get as much attention, maybe find somebody who lived near them to get there with a boat.
CABRERA: I have to say when we saw this picture on social media, a lot of us said is this real because it looks fake. I mean, you just would never imagine seeing something like this.
MCINTOSH: No. I thought it was -- I mean it wasn't my mom, but I recognized the popcorn machine in the photo, for sure, because she uses that and I was like -- I mean that's -- I couldn't believe it. I was of the same opinion when I saw it. But I knew she was desperate that everyone there is her family. I mean she spends more time with them than she does with her kids and grand kids. She loves everyone there.
[21:35:01] I mean she spent the last night with them there at the house rather than go home just to make sure everybody was safe. And she has a disaster plan in place. I mean she had it in place. I spoke with her days before. They told her to shelter in place. That's what they did. CABRERA: I know a lot of people who are watching this right now are just relieved that everybody there made it out OK, that they were rescued, but take me behind the scenes and the emotion that you were feeling from hearing what was happening on the other end of the conversation with your mom. I mean, walk me through what that emotion was like, what they were doing prior to the rescuers getting there.
MCINTOSH: I mean, like I said, it was a quick text just to her in the morning, just what's up. Just thinking everything she was going to tell me maybe the power was out or something like that and then to get those pictures in response and she -- very brief in what she was saying that that she needed help.
And at that point, we just had to take it upon ourselves to try to do whatever to save them because she said the water was rising. That was the last thing I heard. So my thought at that point was they're all -- I mean they're going to be dead within hours. So at that point, we tried calling, you know, emergency management. We tried everything.
We were really grateful because the Galveston County Emergency Management Office took our call and we told them we couldn't call 911. We were in Tampa. We needed them to help that they were in eminent danger. And they were very good. We were able to call them back and we finally got through and they gave us updates at that point. So we're very grateful to the National Guard and Galveston office of emergency management for helping us out because we were totally stressed out trying to make sure they got help. I mean because there were reports on the Twitter that they had gotten help, but we had not -- we did not confirm that until, you know, hours later.
CABRERA: Now, have you been in touch with your mom since they were rescued?
MCINTOSH: Just my stepfather. He texted me to let us know that he did -- he was in the back of the National Guard truck and they were fine. And I know there were a total of 15 residents and 11 of them went to area hospitals and everybody is OK. So that was our big relief. And once we knew that, then we felt 10 times -- hundred thousand times better. It's a helpful feeling being in Florida and not being able to help when, you know, that people were, you know, people could have easily died.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Our coverage of Tropical Storm Harvey and the catastrophic flooding in Houston continues, right after this.
[21:41:47] CABRERA: It has been a traumatic 24 hours along the gulf coast of Texas with so much more to come. Harvey is bringing epic flooding to community sparing no one, not the elderly, not the young, not pets, no one.
CNN's Derek Van Dam is joining us now from Houston.
Derek, where are you? What are you seeing? Le DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Ana, we are near the Brays Bayou, just southwest of the city center of Houston and we're actually at a Harris County search and rescue staging operation center. There have been large military-type vehicles that have collected people that have been coming in from boats.
We've talked to some of the constables here. They have rescued over 100 people, some of them with medical conditions. We talked to an individual who actually rescued somebody who just had surgery, had a feeding tube within the past 24 hours and their house became flooded and needed to move immediately. He was basically bedridden, stuck in his house with rising floodwater. So it's a dire situation here.
And we've seen families that have been rescued. We've had several kids and cats and animals that have also been loaded on to some of these large military-style vehicles.
We actually have one of the multiple rescue boats that continue to come in to this point. It really is just about a quarter of a mile away from here where the Brays Bayou actually gets its deepest. And we're hoping to head out there soon, but apparently the water is rushing extremely fast and conditions there are very dangerous.
We've heard that water levels have easily climbed to the first level of apartment buildings. So a lot of people in apartment buildings down this road had actually gone to second and third floors to seek rescue or seek shelter from the rising floodwaters.
We are currently in one of the feeder bans at the moment as well. Again, we're just south and west of the city center of Houston and we've looked at the latest radar and the heavy rainfall. I mean, it's easily coming down 2 to 3 inches an hour right now, which is the worst timing, the last possible thing that we could have right now because just when the water started to slowly recede across this area, it looks as if it's just a matter of time before they start to rise again. Ana?
CABRERA: And sadly, it's just at night fell as well there. Derek Van Dam, stay safe. Thank you for that report.
Let's turn to our Brian Todd who is out in it as well in Houston right now.
Brian, we can actually hear that water coming down as it is dumping.
TOOD: A feeder band light up a little bit earlier and it looks like the water was receding, as Derek alluded to where he was, that looks to be the case here as well but it's coming down again very heavily.
CABRERA: Brian, I'm sorry, we can't hear you. We're having some audio issues with you, Brian. We'll come with you in just a moment, but we have more live images again this high water rescue vehicles that are on scene.
Let's go back to Derek. What exactly that you're witnessing there, Derek?
VAN DAM: All right, Ana. So, what you're watching is the District 1 in Harris County, the constables with one of the high water rescue boats. And, basically, they've used this as a staging point for the rescues. So they go out to all these individual homes, everybody impacted by the rising flood waters.
[21:45:08] And you can see that they're saving anyone from small children to full adults and even their pets as well and their most important belongings. You can see just people are relieved to at least be to dry water. You can imagine just what they've gone through over the past 12 hours as these floodwaters continue to go.
We've heard about the medical concerns. There's some people -- there's elderly woman that has literally running out of oxygen. So, we're hoping to go to her next because she has actually been calling for help here for the past couple of hours. Ana, you can see people just relieved to be on dry ground.
CABRERA: Yes. So good to see that smile on that woman's face, I was taken by that. And you see these children being rushed off, being held and to think that they have been stranded and how scared they must have felt as they are watching the water creep up wherever they may be. So, you're at one of the shelters, is that right, nearby one of the shelters where these people are being dropped off, Derek?
VAN DAM: I'm at a staging area. So this is for the Harris County Constable. This is an area that is a makeshift region where boats have been able to access. So we're actually outside of a shopping district just outside of Brays Bayou. And the water here is deep enough so the search and rescue boats can actually make it to a dry spot, but still go out to the bayous and the affected households in this area.
CABRERA: Do you know where those people are going from there?
VAN DAM: Are you talking about the search and rescue teams?
CABERA: Those who have been dropped off and just rescued. Yes, where are they headed now?
VAN DAM: Well, it's amazing because we've actually run into some of the drivers of these military-style large SUVs. One is off in the distance there. You can see with some of the flashing lights. And they load the families on to that and they brought them to dry locations where they can pick up -- have family and friends pick them up. They can get fresh foods and water to drink and at least a little bit of safety from the rising flood waters.
CABRERA: All right, Derek Van Dam again in Houston, thank you very much for that. Great to see that rescue happen again right here on live T.V. The people who are now hopefully off to a better place.
Brian, I know we've got the audio issues worked out. What is happening where you are right now? Another scene of many a rescue we've witnessed today.
TOOD: That's right, Ana. This is a very busy staging area here not far from the Omni Hotel where hundreds of people were stranded earlier. They got more than 100 people out of there. We believe they've gotten everybody out of the Omni Hotel where the water was basically waist deep.
We rode along with some rescuers who pulled people out of the lobby of the Omni Hotel. Some of them had to go up to the substaircases to get to some of these people. Just hundreds of people were brought right here to this staging area including one woman who had back surgery who was really in pain here. Being tended to by people. She was taken to a stretcher. She had been evacuated from the Omni Hotel.
People there were telling us that the water was rising. There was gas fumes on the hotel so they felt like that had to leave, including the one woman who had had back surgery and was carried out in a stretcher.
The Houston police asked people anybody who had a boat to come to some of these areas and call them and coordinate with them. And we saw that in droves here.
I'm going to talk to a gentleman who organized some of this. His name is Ty Solsbery. Ty was here and called a local radio station when he saw one of the boats pull up.
Ty, what made you think that this would be a good place to stage and the people needed rescuing here?
TY SOLSBERY, HOUSTON: Well, I live just a quarter of a mile right down the road. And I came down here to assess the amount of water and how much it was rising.
TODD: Move this way a little bit. There's a car. So, go ahead Ty. Keep going.
SOLSBERY: And there was a gentleman came through the boat and said that there were people at the Omni that was stranded that I get some more boats there. So, I tried to call 911 and 311, the city emergency numbers couldn't get through. So I called the local A.M. radio station that does weather and fishing repots and asked them if they would go on the air and to -- I gave them our location. And within an hour, we had over a dozen boats here, gentlemen from all over. We had two jet skis and an air boat.
TODD: Well, Ty, great to do that because we witnessed a lot of these boats, these private rescuers coming and doing this.
SOLSBERY: They were all private. They were all private guys. They came from everywhere, even as far as South Texas.
TODD: Thanks for talking to us. Good luck toy you and the neighborhood. Hope your house stays intact. Thanks very much.
Yes. I mean, it was an amazing effort here guys. You know, you had dozens of people in boats and in jet skis and in wave runners pulling people out of the neighborhoods there and and out of the Omni Hotel.
[21:50:04] And again, these feeder bands are coming down. Their night is not over yet.
CABRERA: Brian Todd in Houston. Boy, you guys are out there in the thick of it. Thank you very much.
Quick Break, we're back after this.
CABRERA: Welcome back to CNN. Let's go back live to Derek Van Dam who is live on a rescue boat. Derek, take it away.
VAN DAM: Ana, we are currently under a search and rescue operation with the first precinct in Brays Bayou Area. This is just southwest of Houston. And we are literally about to go door to door to check for people who are still stranded in the rising floodwaters. You can see how heavy it's raining right now. Conditions are pretty treacherous. They told me I need to hold on because the eddies in the water get violent and they shake the boat.
[21:54:59] So we're approaching the Brays Bayou pretty quickly here and that's where the water has really started to get deep and very strong, and the currents have become very fast. You can imagine that the water is rising quickly.
I'm with Officer Medina. He's been on the search and rescue boat all day long. I'm wondering if you can tell me a couple of the stories that you've had today on the rescues.
MEDINA: We had situation of rescuing people out of attics, people with medical conditions, elderly people, all different types of situations with animals, kids, babies, 3-month-old. I mean, the situations are very from -- there are still people over here that want to stay but we're getting the people that are not taking in that much water over here, that are on the second floor that are choosing to stay. But everybody that wants to come, we're putting them here and get them to dry land.
VAN DAM: When I talk to people that say that the water levels have risen all the way to second floor or at least the top of the first floor. So why would people want to stay, especially with rain coming down like this?
MEDINA: We'll both see in a second, we're going to start going down there. And there's people that are not under water as far as on the second floor. And they got food and they got the family there and they want to stay there and ride it out so.
VAN DAM: The medical conditions that you've experienced today, tell me a little about that. Were they immediate threats that you need to rescue and --
MEDINA: We're having diabetic issues and other heart problems and different things like that that it was immediate. We had to get them out of there.
VAN DAM: OK. And then, you've had complete family rescues as well, with small children. I mean, how do you get them onto the boats? So what is that process? We're about to see it, but how do you go about doing it because that's obviously a delicate process in waters that are four, five, six feet deep.
MEDINA: Yes. We're going in there for them and getting the boat as close as we can to the doorstep and started to chain and bringing them to the boat. We've been pretty successful with that.
VAN DAM: So you form a human chain to do this?
VAN DAM: OK, all right. Excellent. And that's all in training that you guys have to do this safely because I can only imagine there are so many opportunities for things to go wrong, especially when you're talking about rushing currents. So have you seen the water recede over the past couple of hours or what exactly has been taking place with the floodwaters now?
MEDINA: It was receding at one point and then, now that the rain has picked up heavily again, it's starting to rise again. So at one point, it was dropping six, eight, 12 inches and now it's risen back probably to that level, maybe even more.
VAN DAM: Office Medina, it's my understanding that we're going to an elderly woman who is short on oxygen now, is that true?
MEDINA: Yes, sir.
VAN DAM: Can you tell me a little about what you know?
MEDINA: That's exactly the story. She short on oxygen, she is stranded, and she's taking in water and that's what we're going next.
VAN DAM: OK, all right. We're going to have quite an operation here ahead of us, I can imagine.
MEDINA: Absolutely, absolutely.
VAN DAM: Yes. Guys, just to set the scene, you can see this boat could probably easily hold about 10, maybe 15 people, so plenty of room on here. But again, it can become very unstable very quickly, especially when the water starts to rise.
We've got several of the constables who have been working throughout the day and they have told me some heroine stories, incredible stories of search and rescue, and people so grateful to have the opportunity to get on dry land. And you can see the families riding by now.
There are still several more people to come. You can imagine as we go door to door, we're find people who have tried to bunker down in these conditions. They know, inevitably, their time is up and they need to be rescued. Ana, that's all we've got right now and we'll keep a close eye on things here. We're going to go to this elderly woman who is short on oxygen and hopefully, we can bring you an update later.
CABRERA: All right. Derek Van Dam, God bless her, God bless those people who are working so hard tonight. Thank you.
And finally, I want to thank you, our viewer, for staying with us today as we follow this absolute horrible story, the devastation in southeast Texas. And during times like this, it's so easy to focus on the destruction and the despair, but I want to leave you with this.
It is a moment captured during our coverage today. And it truly shows what all of our reporters out there on the ground have encountered time and time again. And hat is, ordinary people stepping up in extraordinary ways.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys just jumping in to help out?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir. Yes, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where are you coming from?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Texas City.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Texas City?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you going to do?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll go try to save lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: "I'm here to save lives", he says. To everyone in Texas, we are thinking of you. We are praying for your safety. And we'll be back with you tomorrow morning. For now I'm Ana Cabrera.
Up next, it is the CNN Special Report "Diana, Chasing A Fairytale." Goodnight.