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Houston Evacuee Makes Emotional Return Home; Port Arthur Volunteer Saved Dozens of Lives; Price Gouging Spikes Gas Prices; Dallas Celebrity Chef Helping Harvey Victims. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired September 1, 2017 - 11:30   ET




[11:31:02] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This has been too much for me. I don't know if I'm going to be here very long.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this the worst part, the personal stuff?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, this is the stuff you can't replace, right? This is my son's birth announcement. I mean.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just very confusing. Can't get it wrapped up in my mind what's going to be next, what I'm going to need to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not even real. You see this stuff on TV. This is total devastation in every way, physically, emotionally.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Floodwaters are beginning to recede across much of southeastern Texas. That's not washing away the agony. Bringing into full view, however, the devastation from Hurricane Harvey. New pictures this morning. An overflowing river and piles of debris knocked out part of that rail bridge. Nearby roads are washed out in that area near Humble, Texas.

Just minutes ago, in Beaumont, Texas, the city opened a distribution center to hand out drinking water. Folks have been lining up in their vehicles and getting much-needed water. All 135,000 residents are without water after the floodwaters knocked out the pumps for the water system. The Army Corps of Engineers is hoping to deliver new pumps today.

One Houston had a very emotional woman return to her ruined home.

Rosa Flores was with her.

Rosa joins us now -- Rosa?

ROSA FLORES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fred. We met Willie Marie Burden at the convention center and she was telling us about her ordeal. This is her house. We kept in touch with her. The water was really, really high at the highest point. Wherever the brick is darker, that's the water line.

She explains, at 3:30 a.m. Sunday morning, the water started rising very quickly. She had to escape. She spent the entire Sunday at a parking lot. It kept on raining. She said they were waiting to be rescued.

In the back of her mind was her dog, Lassie.

We met her at the convention center. She spent a few days there. Then she came back to her house.

You can see the water line past her door. Everything inside, for the most part, completely destroyed because the water created a giant soup of furniture and belongings and that sort of thing.

We were in there with her when she saw that everything was destroyed. That didn't faze her.

Here is what did. Take a look.


WILLIE MARIE BURDEN, FLOOD VICTIM: Hi, Lassie. Hi. I know that storm scared you. But I'm glad you made it.

FLORES: It's OK. It's OK.



FLORES: Now, on top of all that, that was Willie Marie's birthday. She just turned 66 yesterday. Imagine all that emotion, losing everything, reuniting with her dog. She is a symbol and sign of resilience. Look at all the stuff in front of her house. She and her family have been in there trying to get stuff out, trying to recover. You can see the mounds of furniture and tables and belongings all around her street. All of her neighbors, Fred, trying to do the same thing, coming together, helping --

WHITFIELD: All right. Rosa, it's extraordinary to see the amount they pulled out. That's emotionally and physically exhausting, especially after she's been though. We are glad she's got her life, she is OK, and her dog is all right, too.

Rosa, thank you so much. Still wish her a happy birthday.

As air and ground rescue operations are ongoing this morning, we are hearing the stories of people helping one another. There's so many of those extraordinary stories.

Here is another one. One man who was awaiting rescue in Port Arthur, Texas, took matters into his own hands and helped to save dozens of his neighbors.

He is Gailan Phillips. He is joining me on the phone from Port Arthur.

Gailan, your story is impressive, too. You were on the rooftop, waiting, trying to flag down rescues. You were told that they were on their way to another home to rescue, they would be back. Apparently, they weren't able to come back, but then you took matters into your own hands, how?

[11:35:57] GAILAN PHILLIPS, PORT ARTHUR RESIDENT (via telephone): In my yard a few minutes after the helicopter hovered over to another house. We got on the boat and went from there.

WHITFIELD: You could have, in that boat, gone to safer ground and shelter. But instead, you all decided to help other people and, in the end, upwards of 50 people. How did you do that?

PHILLIPS: Yes, ma'am. Basically, we picked up as many people as we can. We got a lot of address requests, people that needed help on social media. As we were going to their homes, there were dozens of people that need help on the way. Excuse me. So, whoever we could fit in the boat at that time, we fit them in the boat and took them down to the fire station a couple blocks up and dropped them off and headed back out and repeat that.

WHITFIELD: Gailan, you are 23 years old. Your mom, I understand, was back at the house. As you were helping to assist other people, you know, describe for me how your mom was doing? You left some family members on the rooftop, right? So if the choppers came back, they could see people were in need. Describe all of that for me.

PHILLIPS: Yes, ma'am. My mother was in the attic, still. I left her. She told me to go on ahead. They were going to wait for the chopper to come back. Eventually, the chopper never came back and my mother called my uncle and told him they were still at the house and could we come get them. An hour after leaving the home, we had to pick up her and my stepfather and the dog.

WHITFIELD: Oh, my goodness. Amazing how social media, cell phones and the ability to still connect with people through this storm, the aftermath of the storm, really has been instrumental in helping out one another.

Describe to me the looks in the faces of people you were able to rescue. Many of them were people you didn't know or were most of them people you did know in the neighborhood?

PHILLIPS: No, ma'am. Most of them I didn't know. I actually picked up one of my classmates, so I knew her. They were people I have seen before, but not people I knew. Their faces, everybody was relief and happy to get away. Nobody was really just, you know, down. Everybody just was so happy to be, you know, taken out of that situation, so to speak.

WHITFIELD: Wow. Even though you may have known some people at the glance, now, after this, you clearly are family from this point forward. So, describe for me what you, friends, family in the Port Arthur area really need most right now? PHILLIPS: Right now, I would say probably clothes and food and just

hotel rooms that, I guess, as safe as possible and as close as possible. Just shelter and probably supplies and funds while they are away from their homes. I would say pretty much anything people can donate, I'm pretty sure they would greatly appreciate it.

WHITFIELD: I'm sure after that plea and that great description you just gave, much more help, donations all on the way.

Gailan Phillips, thanks so much to you and for all you have done to help out so many people.

PHILLIPS: Thank you, ma'am, for having me. No problem.

[11:39:43] WHITFIELD: Thank you for sharing your story and experience.

For ways you can help those affected by Hurricane Harvey, go to

So, long lines, prices as high as 20 bucks for a gallon of gas. Price gouging is an ugly reality for some in the Harvey flood zone. Details on that, straight ahead.


WHITFIELD: The Texas attorney general's office says it has received hundreds of reports of price gouging in areas hit by Harvey. $20 for a gallon of gas and $8.50 for a bottle of water and $99 for a case of water. There are out-of-this-world prices being charged for essential items in some stores. Yes, this video shows it really is happening. And there are really long lines you are about to see for gas. This price list at a regular gas station itself is an indicator of the skyrocketing prices as well.

Alison Kosik is at a Dallas gas station.

Alison, what are you seeing in Dallas?

[11:45:06] ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Even in Dallas, far away from where Harvey hit, I am seeing gas stations completely out of gas. The one over my shoulder, the 7-Eleven, has been out of gas almost the entire afternoon. At this gas station, we have seen lines snake around the property quite a bit. Now, we are starting to see this gas station run out of gas. It got a shipment of gas this morning. Shipments of gas, supply is coming in, but not coming in enough, enough to fit the demand. The demand you are seeing is partially happening because of what we are seeing on social media. News went out about refineries shut down, pipelines shut down. That created panic in the social media world and people started posting pictures. Everybody came out en masse with their cars to fill up their tanks. The supply wasn't there.

Ironically, Fredricka, the supply is somewhere else. It is where -- it is in Houston, in Port Arthur where the refineries are shut down. Gasoline is in storage containers. The problem is, the refineries are closed. And you are seeing the pipelines operate at full capacity. We are not seeing supply come in as quickly to certainly meet the demand we are seeing, as we see the lines continue to wraparound this gas station -- Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: Oh, my gosh. I mentioned that price gouging at the top of the intro to you in the form of water, $99 for a case. Are you seeing prices like that for necessity items, even in Dallas?

KOSIK: So, I haven't seen it for necessity items. I saw one gas station double the national average, but it was $4.49 for a gallon of regular, much higher than what I have seen in and around Dallas. You have to wonder if something was going on there. Ken Paxton, the Texas attorney general, put out a warning to gas stations, don't take advantage of the situation. You could be fined a lot of money if you hike the prices when they shouldn't be hiked.

As you said, there are gas stations around Dallas where some people have complained they have seen $6 to $8 a gallon. They have received hundreds of complaints about this. The attorney general office says if you see that, call into their consumer hot line -- Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: It seems heartless, particularly at a time of need like that, if the conditions are the motivation for the price hikes.

Alison Kosik, thank you so much, in Dallas.

Celebrity chefs helping to feed people in the Harvey flood zone. Straight ahead, we'll talk with a chef who turned her restaurant into a food bank.


[11:52:16] WHITFIELD: As people pitch in to help each other in the aftermath of Harvey, one Dallas celebrity chef is doing her part. Former "Top Chef" contestant, Tiffany Derry, is partnering with Dallas food banks to help victims. People can drop off canned foods, diapers, toiletries and towels at her restaurant. That's not all. The crisis hits home for her. Tiffany's parents had to flee their home in Beaumont.

And Tiffany joins us now from Dallas.

Tiffany, good to see you.

First off, how are your parents doing?

TIFFANY DERRY, DALLAS CELEBRITY CHEF: My parents are fine. The thing is they're alive and healthy. So that being said, they're good.

WHITFIELD: Good. So you have family in Houston and also in the Beaumont area, but what was the moment, the thought, perhaps, the image or even conversation that you had that got you to spring into action like this?

DERRY: Honestly, you know, seeing so many of the photos of what was transpiring in Houston at first. And my family lives in Houston. I have a baby brother in Houston. And one day, I got a call that he didn't make it to the store to get any food or water, and all of a sudden, he's stuck. And you know, he's young and doesn't have groceries and was eating his last can of chili that someone shared with him. And that right there just made my heart break. I can't get there. My parents are stuck. My brother, my family. So I said, OK, what do we need to do? We need to organize some food to get to Houston, and then Beaumont happened and all areas I grew up in, know very well, further damage there. I said we have to do something about this. And as a chef, I decided to get with other chefs and other organizations that are already working out on the field, especially not being able to get there by commercial jet. The community protections are there and we're going to put our resources together and make a stronger impact.

WHITFIELD: Are these mostly non-perishable items you're asking people to donate, to drop off at your restaurant, The Cupboard there in Dallas, and then somehow all of that stuff is going to get to the folks in Houston?

DERRY: Correct. So there's actually multiple facets to what we're doing. One of them, we have drop locations. One is at The Cupboard, at my restaurant. There are others. Especially as a community. Everybody can't use the same thing. You know? For some folks, it's easier to bring cases of water or diapers, whatever that non- perishable item is. For others, easier to donate in other ways. So we have financial donations going to the Mercy Chefs. And also larger businesses donate cases of vegetables and fruits. And it's easier for us to get that to them. So a restaurant can say, you know what I want to send six cases of lettuce or I want to send six cases of oranges. And they already worked with some of the companies that are already delivering to Houston, and will soon be delivering to Beaumont. We were just able to help organize, getting on the same page.

[11:55:28] WHITFIELD: Wow. An amazing colossal undertaking. And I know folks are so grateful you're doing that. And you do, indeed, have a heart of gold by doing that. And, of course, a great chef, too.

Tiffany Derry, thank you so much. All the best to you and your family, and all of those around you who are making sure that people have what they need.

Thanks so much for joining us AT THIS HOUR. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

Our special coverage continues right after this.