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At This Hour

Part of Louisiana Unreachable, Extent of IDA's Damage Unclear; Rescues Underway as Flooding Inundates Louisiana Towns; 1 Million Without Power in Louisiana, New Orleans in the Dark; Hurricane IDA Slams into Louisiana on 16th Anniversary of Katrina; T.S. IDA to Bring Flooding to Eastern U.S. as it Moves Inland. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired August 30, 2021 - 12:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Top of the hour. I'm Kate Bolduan. We continue with the breaking news a catastrophe unfolding in the Gulf Coast. Daylight is giving us a very sobering picture now of some of the devastation unleashed by Hurricane IDA.

Over 1 million customers are without power in Louisiana and Mississippi, including all of New Orleans. The powerful Category IV storm slammed the area with unrelenting winds rain and storm surge for hours. Louisiana's Governor is right now urging residents to shelter in place stay where you are saying that it is too dangerous to venture out.

The Louisiana National Guard is out right now searching for survivors and anyone who needs help in incredibly dangerous conditions. These are pictures from the U.S. Coast Guard you're looking at here. An official in Jefferson Parish says there is downed power lines in the Mississippi River after the ferocious winds there brought down a key and very important electrical tower.

You can just see that is danger written all over it. CNN has learned President Biden he will be addressing the hurricane relief efforts this afternoon. Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Nadia Romero. She's live in New Orleans for us. Nadia, watching your live shot last hour was perfect evidence of how challenging the power situation is in town? Hopefully we'll stay reconnected. Tell me what you are seeing.

NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, hopefully this time, Kate and that's part of the challenge, right? We have issues with cell service here. A lot of people don't have power to even let their family members know that they've survived this storm.

And then we have power outages all throughout the city. So we're back on Bourbon Street. Just about 10 minutes down the road from where we were the last time we spoke Kate. And you can see that people are starting to come out and take a look at the damage that was done here.

A lot of the shop owners who call Bourbon Street home are able to come out and take a look and see that their sandbags were -- did the boarding up of their windows, it actually worked. And we saw some shops where they decided not to board up their windows were rusted out.

So that is what we're seeing this morning as people come out and assess the damage here on Bourbon Street. We spoke with one woman who lived in New Orleans her entire life in the same home she grew up in her childhood home. She's 75-years-old now her name is Angel. People say that she's the "Angel of the neighborhood". Listen to her describe the storm last night.


CAROLYN JOHNSON WILLIAMS, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: I've never ever they said it was 185 mile an hour winds so I believe it. And the tree you know, that was something hit my glass. I feel like 1000 instead of 75.

ROMERO (on camera): You survived so many storms?

WILLIAMS: That's why maybe they called me Angel.


ROMERO: Everybody calls her Angel and she was sitting out on her front porch as she does every day checking in with all of her neighbors and the neighbors were coming up to her checking on Angel at 75-years-old making sure that she had survived the storm.

And that's what we've seen really all across New Orleans as people are picking up. They're doing it together as a community. We've seen a New Orleans EMS Officers out, police officers out patrolling the streets as well helping where they can. But it's been neighbors helping neighbors. And that's something that you see in only special communities after big storms like this.

BOLDUAN: Nadia, we saw - heard from the governor this morning who's telling - who's essentially saying shelter in place, stay where you are, do not venture out because it is too dangerous. Of course, some you know, some are even connected to enough power to even hear his warnings and his suggestions. We're seeing people walking around you. What are they saying? What are they trying to get out of their checking on properties?

ROMERO: So we're in this major tourist destination, right? So a lot of the people who you're seeing behind me are people who were stuck in New Orleans that were here over vacation because you know a week ago we didn't even know if Hurricane IDA would actually be a hurricane let alone a Category IV storm with the strength that she brought.

So a lot of people continued on with their vacation plans and came down to the French Quarter only to see Hurricane IDA rapidly intensify into this major storm. So they missed their flights out they missed their opportunity to leave so they had to hunker down in their hotels.

Now many of the hotels around here if you can see, a lot of the shops are so close and a lot of the hotels don't have power. So people are out on the streets because it is so hot inside of their rooms with no AC going. And this area wasn't worse off was - wasn't hit as bad as other places. But when you start to go out towards the neighborhood that's when you see the downed trees and the power lines. And that's the area that where the governor is really talking about you should shelter in place, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely Nadia, thank you so much. Let's get over to CNN's Ed Lavandera. He's live in Laplace, Louisiana he has just left which is West of New Orleans and what are you seeing there?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He Kate well, behind me you can see it's almost just eerie reminiscent of what we experienced 16 years ago during Hurricane Katrina and seen helicopters, Coast Guard helicopters dropping over neighborhoods.


LAVANDERA: And these are neighborhoods and subdivisions that have been largely cut off for the last 12 hours or so, by floodwaters. So we've seen here in Laplace scenes like this in fact just a little while ago, Coast Guard chopper, and one of the crew members descended into this neighborhood behind us where we have seen boats pulling people out, they have been trapped inside their homes in these areas.

This is subdivisions that are surrounded by various different waterways and lakes. The water started rushing out into these neighborhoods according to the residents we talked to here this morning about 10 o'clock last night and they spent the entire night in their homes as the floodwaters were quickly rising.

And we heard from a one woman elderly woman who said she spent the night sleeping on her kitchen island watching the water surrounded. Another resident escaped into his attic to get away from the floodwaters as well.

And now you have seen kind of the flotilla of people showing up in small boats getting into these neighborhoods and quickly pulling people out here. So that is once again a scene that was unfolding. One resident, we spoke to Kate said, who spent their entire night they had neighbors; they had a two story home.

Neighbors that came through the floodwaters to get into their homes so they could get into the second floor of their home and they described what they endured last night as "Hours of Agony". And that is the scene that is unfolding here in Laplace, which is a small community along Interstate 10, just West of New Orleans.

And what we've heard repeatedly from residents here is that, look, we're used to floodwaters coming in storms like this. But what was very different and incredibly terrifying about this storm last night was the intensity of the winds.

Usually, when hurricanes approached this area of Louisiana, the storms have died down enough where the winds are manageable. But this is a situation where Hurricane IDA maintained strong hurricane force winds, winds, maybe a two or three by the time it got to this area of Louisiana last night. And that's what they say made this one so much different from what they've ever experienced in storms before this. And you can see these crews around here this morning. They continue the boats are lined up. This is another across this highway, where residents have been blocked off.

We've seen small boats continuing to go into these neighborhoods behind us over here, pulling various people out. Probably in the hour that we have been here, Kate, we've seen more than a dozen different people getting pulled out of these neighborhoods.

As you've had volunteers, you've got law enforcement agencies going into these floodwaters helicopters above us, and all sorts of different - people trying to help out as much as they can and get them out of these situations as they wait for this floodwater to receive Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. It is so sad, but it's something so strangely comforting when you see them deploying those boats, and you see the helicopters overhead that that helps is on the way and they're getting - they're getting added so quickly today. Ed thank you so much. Ed is going to be in Laplace for us. We're going to get back to Ed in just a little while.

In the meantime, we know that the Louisiana State Troopers are urging residents to stay at home as they really are just still trying to I think get their arms around the level of damage that the state is facing right now. Joining me now on these efforts is Retired Lieutenant General Russell Honore. He's, of course the Former Commander of the Joint Task Force Katrina.

It's good to see you. When I was just talking to Nadia Romero, and she's laying out what she's saying about you know, power is out throughout New Orleans transmission lines, they say have fallen into the Mississippi River comes out completely in some places with the cell phone towers of having fallen. What would be your first focus right now?

LT. GENERAL RUSSEL HONORE (RET.), FORMER COMMANDER OF JOINT TASK FORCE KATRINA: Well, I think they're on it. The Governor has the task force of state and federal officials going in and searching -- do a search and rescue. They know what to do. The challenge is the vast amount of terrain they're going to have to cover from the North Shore; North where the storm went all the way down to Houma, Louisiana.

And that area is hard to navigate roads are blocked because of trees. So search and rescue air and boats right now and got to get the roads open. And those parish officials are working on that because without the roads, you can't do the evacuation.

A lot of these areas, I would suspect Kate it is going to have to be evacuated after the storm because you can't sustain families where there's no drinking water and or toilets flush because you don't have electricity and you do not have COMS.

If you do not have communication, you can't coordinate. If you can't coordinate you can collaborate and you can get stuff where you need. I think they'll come a point in time here the next day where parish officials wants to get the roads open will encourage people to evacuate and then the state will manage where those evacuation sites where the hotel rooms are going to be, because we got to use hotel because the majority of our state has not taken the shot.


HONORE: Because they are anti vaxxers, which means all hospitals are full. And one of the big jobs the government and FEMA is now going to have to stop pushing and they need to push today is send gasoline trucks to Louisiana. We had six refineries closed; those refineries normally provide gas and much of the Eastern United States.

But we can't get gas locally to the stations. So after Katrina, we sent gas trucks in the Mississippi to fill up the gas stations with - along with generators. You got to get the gas stations opened, roads opened so people can leave because most people will probably want to leave because they're going to be could be weeks without electricity.

And it's best for them to go to a designated hotel room someplace to wait so that electricity can cut back on, it would be hard to sustain a million people without one in drinking water and toilets in this today's world. They don't have the option that we had 100 years ago.

So management of gas and FEMA, if you're listening, send in gas trucks. We did it after Katrina. The government is going to have to manage gas, because that will be the critical things. The hospital is going to need be revealed. Many Sheriff Departments will start running out of gas in the next 24 hours.

You've got to get gas to Louisiana, so people can do to search and rescue, the hospitals can stay open, and then get the critical infrastructure open. That pumps drinking water and pump out sewage. So gasoline is going to be a key to how this response goes in the next two to three days. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Yes, and actually we're speaking with a doctor in - Children's Hospital in New Orleans for the last hour, and that's one of the things he said he was most concerned about, was the fuel situation, because they're generally they said that - he think he said he had - they had enough. They had enough fuel for a few days to keep their generator going.

And they think they have access to more fuel to come in. But that would be devastating if it gets to the point of they're running out of gas, not only for rescue operations as you're laying out for sheriff's departments, and troopers.

But also then you talk about what that means for the hospitals who you know, they're going to be starting to see more and more patients coming in with what they're seeing - with what they're seeing there. But how do you do this without COMS?

This seems to be the most immediate problem. The Police Department in - said this morning that it is lost all communications because of the hurricane. To me, I don't know - I don't know what you do if you don't have that.

HONORE: They'll work through it. The AT&T one of the big providers, much of this system is down and went down to 2016 to try to harden it a bit. But we got to build up for 200 mile an hour win and obviously - 700 mile an hour wind standard is working.

And they're going to have to move some mobile systems which they do have, I would suspect they're on the road in two to three days, you'll see some improvement people need in most right now. So they can get help they need.

But when the cell towers go down, that is a problem we have. And we got to figure out how we build them stronger? And I've said for years, we need to figure out how do we take the cell towers down during the storm and then put them up after the storm passed? Industry does not listen to me. They listen to the Harvard engineers.

BOLDUAN: General, the Governor says that IDA is the most severe test for the levee system since Katrina. It seems from all reports so far that the levee system largely held. What do you think that has meant for this storm and with obviously we're still waiting to see really the full extent of the damage?

HONORE: Well, the region was obviously more resilient to flooding this time. That being said, you know the biggest problem after Katrina when the levees fail, and the government built but did build the levees back better through design.

They put gates in soda flow surge water that went into Lake Pontchartrain wouldn't enter the city. That being said that water kept moving, and that some of the water that ended up in Laplace based on the wind and how it kept pushing water in the Lake Pontchartrain and some of that surge water.

Laplace was also the receiver of a large amount of rainfall, which on its own, provides a flooding in Laplace room that has a heavy storm. So they got the combination of two things, a lot of wind damage in Laplace, water from the lake from surge, and rainwater.


HONORE: So they got the trifecta of bad news and the search and rescue people are in there now, going door to door to check on people. And they'll be doing that for the next 24 hours till every house is checked on the first round of surge, which we call a knock. And listen, if anybody is in the home, then they're going to have to go back and go through that home to see if there's any body in it.

BOLDUAN: General thank you, as always, always appreciate your time and perspective on this.

HONORE: Help the volunteers and we need to generate a law in Louisiana that requires all gas stations and pharmacies and grocery stores have generators. We tried that after Katrina, the Louisiana legislature said no, they didn't want to impose those small business. This is why we need to generate a law in Louisiana. BOLDUAN: General, thank you so much. Coming up for us, we have more live reports coming in from the Gulf Coast and the latest forecast track on where IDA is heading now? We're going to have that ahead. And later rockets fired overnight at Kabul's Airport as American troops enter these final hours of the withdrawal from Afghanistan.



BOLDUAN: This just into CNN; AT&T is reporting that 40 percent of its wireless network in Louisiana is down - means 60 percent is operating normally. But still we can clearly tell that is having a big impact in the state also this, more than 1 million customers through power customers, electrical customers throughout the state without power right now at this hour.

The Town of Houma has been especially hard hit raging winds causing extensive damage. CNN's Jason Carroll is there for us live once again. Jason, show us what you're seeing?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, Kate, the best way to describe it is no matter where you look in this section of Houma, there seems to be some form of destruction. Take a look behind me.

That particular house just a few moments ago had an opportunity to speak to the man who grew up in that house that was a house yesterday before IDA took a wrath and took her toll on this community. He says he grew up here it's been in his house and his family since his great grandmother lived there.

They came out there today to salvage what they could was heart wrenching. He used to get his hair cut right across the street there at that barber shop. You can see the roof is gone. The barber shop nearly destroyed. Right next to that though that house still standing spoke to the man who lives there.

He rode out the storm decided to stay there with his wife he did not want to evacuate. He said he had written out storms in the past and thought he could ride out this one part of his roof is gone. The car part - the carport is gone. He said at one point it got so bad yesterday Kate he got down on his knees and prayed.


LIONEL HAWKINS, RODE OUT HURRICANE IDA AT HOME: We were at this home but it was -- you know. And - I prayed and when - I got on I would love to take care of his parents and protect us. Give us another opportunity to breath.

CARROLL (on camera): You got down on your knees and prayed?

HAWKINS: Yes sir, definitely and my wife.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CARROLL: Yes. And so Kate again, no matter where you are in this town, it seems like you turn around and there's more destruction. Take a look on this side over here. The roof on that building there, part of it gone behind us here if we just whip around very quickly you can see the destruction in that direction.

It's every direction you look at Kate I spoke to one man who lives just around the corner from here. He waited out the storm as well. Basically he heard a loud noise. He said he woke up at one point went outside and saw that a roof had landed on right next to his house.

What he's trying to figure out this morning is whose roof is it? You look around there are roofs that are missing in so many different directions. I asked him as well why you decided to stay. He didn't want to leave his pets. He didn't want leave his pet so he decided to stay.

But again here in Houma, whether you look in this direction out here, the next direction over there, again, it's just destruction and some form of destruction nearly everywhere you look, Kate.

BOLDUAN: No kidding. Great report Jason, thank you so much for that. I appreciate it. Hurricane IDA has weakened to a tropical storm now but flooding and the threat of tornadoes continues as the storm is now moving along. CNN Meteorologist Chad Myers he's back with us. He's tracking this. IDA just won't quit Chad, where are you most concerned now?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Right now the Gulf Coast anywhere from about Pascagoula, Moss Point all the way over to Destin just got a big storm there. And these storms are really making heavy, heavy rainfall two or three inches an hour and in some spots you walk outside and you would get wet in one minute. That's how hard it's raining there.

And some of these storms are rotating just had this storm right there. That's West of Mobil, that's Pascagoula Mass Point, that storm has a little bit of rotation on it too. But these streams of rain and there's going to be more and more it will develop as the day goes on.

Those streams of rain will continue to pump moisture into the storm. This is a very warm Gulf of Mexico taking humidity here and shoving it up here and so we're going to take that rain and move it all the way up even toward D.C. toward Philadelphia certainly Pittsburgh over the next couple days.

There is the heavy rain everywhere that's orange is four to six inches, two to four, a little bit less in the yellows, but we have winds still. I mean, they're not big wind not like we had yesterday, but we still have 40 mile per hour gust, 43 in Meridian 23 in evergreen Pensacola. You guessed it the 37 last hour that was likely with a thunderstorm Kate.

BOLDUAN: Chad it is good to see you, thank you so much. We're going to keep tracking that. Chad's got it for us. Coming up for us, U.S. stops a rocket attack aimed at Kabul's Airport just hours before the U.S. withdrawal deadline. [12:25:00]

BOLDUAN: The very latest on the crisis in Afghanistan, next.


BOLDUAN: The Pentagon confirms the U.S. thwarted a rocket attack from ISIS-K at the airport in Kabul overnight, as many as five rockets fired on the airport.