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Hurricane Dolly Makes Landfall in South Texas; How to Fight the Afghan War

Aired July 23, 2008 - 14:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Tracking Hurricane Dolly. The CNN severe weather center following the storm every step of the way as it slams ashore right on the Gulf Coast.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the pictures definitely say it all. Fierce winds and driving winds pounding the Gulf Coast, right along the U.S./Mexican border.

Chad's been talking about it all morning and afternoon, Hurricane Dolly blowing ashore with the threat of inland flooding and tornadoes. Thousands of people have already fled to shelters, and Mexican soldiers, according to our Harris Whitbeck, are out rescuing people now that have been stranded at the mouth of the Rio Grande. And Texas has mobilized its National Guard.

Now, CNN has crews all over the place. We've got a crew in South Padre Island. And Susan Roesgen is getting drenched in Brownsville, Texas. We're also in Mexico.

Let's start with folks riding out the storm in South Padre Island, and it's a very bumpy ride. Here's Ted Oberg from our affiliate KTRK.


TED OBERG, REPORTER, KTRK: It's awful down here. This is the worst we've seen.

We believe this is the eye wall coming on shore here in South Padre. Our wind meter is not going to tell us exactly what these winds are, but it is fierce.

We've seen all sorts of damage from one end of South Padre to the other. The roof on the McDonald's next door is peeling off as we speak. We've seen light poles flow down this street, traffic lights knocked down.

It is awful.

(voice-over): Since well before the sun came up, Hurricane Dolly has been pounding South Padre Island. Waves here, eight to 10 feet. The rain is coming down in powerful sheets, often sideways.

Hurricane-force winds are shredding awnings, toppling signs, and causing spotty power problems. The fire department here on the island is incredibly busy, racing to catch up with fire alarms set off when the power goes out.

That, however, is little compared to what Jacqueline Bell is facing.

JACQUELINE BELL, RESIDENT: Well, when we heard the first, you know, bang, I thought it was one of the air conditioners flying. And then we went outside and we saw the debris and we saw the neighbors leaving, because it was the neighbors' roof.

OBERG: That roof didn't go far. The crumpled pile sits between buildings in this small apartment complex. And lying there on the ground, it does little to stop Dolly's rain.

BELL: It's raining inside. And upstairs is the same thing. I'm not going upstairs anymore.

OBERG: She left the apartment, nervous it will collapse further.

Where she isn't causing damage, Hurricane Dolly is creating awe. The few tourists who remain here on the island are out this morning to see the storm, ever mindful of the power it's bringing.

TRACY DAVIS, TOURIST: I expect it will get worse. I expect to see higher winds, higher tide over the next couple of hours. So that's when it's really going to be interesting.

OBERG (on camera): Yes, interesting to say the least here. She was right, it has gotten worse, a lot worse.

Most tourists took off yesterday. The causeway closed about 10:00 last night. And since then, everyone who was here has to stay here. There are, no doubt, many, many tourists on South Padre right now who wish they'd left yesterday.

On South Padre Island, Ted Oberg, 13, Eyewitness News.


PHILLIPS: Well, Ted obviously couldn't leave. He's got to cover the story.

Our Reynolds Wolf, also, he's right there in the eye of the storm on South Padre Island. He actually had to change locations. It was getting a little hairy. He joins us on the phone now.

Reynolds, tell us exactly where you are. And what are the conditions?

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Same spot, Kyra. We've actually just changed locations from actually one room to the other. We were upstairs.

We were in a two-story building on South Padre Island. The windows we have actually are facing the Gulf of Mexico. Those winds, many of them, protected by hurricane shutters.

Now, on the side of the building, I had been speaking with Chad. Chad Myers had talked about how, whenever one of these storms passes, many people do not -- put up some kind of protection for other windows on the building. The moment I got off the phone with Chad, went back upstairs, we heard a little bit of a creak, and then, boom, the window shattered.

A large window shattered. We had to scramble, get every bit of electrical equipment that we possibly could, and move it from one room to another. It was like a three-alarm fire, just grabbing everything we possibly could, and ran to the other room.

We're now in there. We also put together a little bit of what we refer to in the TV business as a "look live," where we actually got out in the elements to give the viewers an idea of just how intense this wind has been, how incredible the rain is. We're going to try -- we're efforting that, trying to get it back to you and the viewers as soon as possible.

Right now, no let up whatsoever in terms of the wind. It is still pouring.

The best way I can describe it to you and the viewers at home is if you were able to, say, step out onto the tarmac of a major airport, say, Hartsfield-Jackson, for example, in Atlanta, and the sound you hear of jet engines, that high-pitch whine, that is essentially what we're hearing outside. Every now and then you'll hear another noise. It's a frightening noise. It's like a piercing train whistle, Kyra. It's the sound of the wind going right through the telephone line, stretching across the roads.

Now, if anyone there is into archery, you know how, like, say, an archer draws back on to a bowstring? That is the effect that I'm seeing right now as I speak to you across the street.

I'm looking at what appear to be either power lines, telephone lines. They're lines. They are arching like you would not believe. In some cases, actually touching the ground.

What was shocking about this, is I really I thought about 10, 15 minutes ago, that this was really beginning to lessen as this drives off to the west. But the enormity of the storm really shows you how just widespread, how incredible the force of these winds truly are.

It should begin to weaken once it moves over land, back to the mainland. Then it's going to be another problem. That problem is going to be the threat of flooding and possibly a foot of rainwater falling in parts of south Texas.

Kyra, that's the story here. Hopefully you've heard me loud and clear. I'm going to send it back to you.

PHILLIPS: I do hear you very loud and clear. And giving us a really good account of what you're seeing.

If you don't mind, I want to bring in Chad Myers.

Chad, I'm probably guessing you've got some questions for Reynolds right now.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Reynolds, I'm getting information now about flooding in the city and on the island itself. And actually, the wind blowing water the wrong way from the bay over the island.

Typically, we think of the water coming in from the Gulf of Mexico and blowing over and into the bay. But have you seen any flooding, or you just can't even stick your head out to even look at it?

WOLF: Well, we actually shot, again, as I mentioned, a look live just outside. Gosh, hopefully we'll get that to you fairly soon.

The water was just coming up just about to the middle of my shoe. However, out in the parking lot, I would say it is more than ankle deep.

No surprise whatsoever that on Padre Island it could be even deeper as that water stacks up, as you mentioned, coming in from the bay side of things. Just amazing the intensity of the storm.

And Chad, again, regarding those windows, you nailed it. You really did.

MYERS: Well, you're at five inches per hour with your rainfall totals right now. And that's an incredible number. You just can't even get that to run off at that pace.

Here's what you look -- this is what it looks like there, Padre Island. I mean, just big condos all up and down. Is that where you are? Are you on this little strip of land here?

WOLF: We are on that little sliver of sand, you bet. That's exactly where we are.

MYERS: Now, this thing -- this Padre Island -- you've heard of South Padre Island, but Padre goes all the way up to almost Corpus Christi, when it becomes North Padre Island. There are so many cuts in that island because of hurricanes in the past cutting through there, where the sand just washes away and then never comes back.

Do you think there's a threat of a cut coming through that populated area now?

WOLF: You know, how many times have we seen that happen? I mean, I know that's happened with many major storms we've had along -- at least up towards Louisiana, the Alabama coastline. I mean, at times it can take out bridges.

From our vantage point, I mean, it's impossible to say, but is it possible? Absolutely. It certainly could happen. The thing I...

MYERS: What do you think the maximum height of that island is, eight feet, 10 feet, 12? What do you think?

WOLF: My goodness, it is such a flat island. I mean, you know, you compare it on the other side of the Gulf, you look at Cuba, and you look at -- especially over towards western Cuba, where you have higher elevation. I mean, how many times, Chad, have we seen storms come across that? They weaken considerably, they pop out the straits of Florida, and they ramp up in power once again.

Here, there's really nothing to impede the wind. So, in terms of the height, I would say it may be 10 feet at max above sea level.

MYERS: Wow. Yes. And that could be overwashed with a Category 2 land-falling hurricane. Probably up here north is where the biggest slosh would be, as we call it.

Reynolds, just stay safe. And if you have breaking glass, just stay out of the way. We don't want you to get hurt out there.

WOLF: You bet, chief.

MYERS: It does. When you go to cover a hurricane -- and I did every one in '04 and '05 -- you're anticipating a great story, and then all of a sudden you get excited, you got get your stuff, and then it gets a little bit scary. And then all of a sudden, it gets dangerous. And then it gets sad, because now we're in the dangerous part.

After the dangerous part is over, then you go outside and you look at how much devastation. And some of the forecasts now are almost $3 billion to $4 billion in damages from this storm -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Wow. All right. Well, we're going to continue checking obviously with you, Chad, as you're monitoring things, and also our Reynolds Wolf there on South Padre Island.

Thanks to both of you -- Don.

LEMON: You guys were talking here. I was checking my BlackBerry, reading e-mail from one of the producers there on the ground, Chad.

Aaron Cooper, he says, "There's at least a foot of water covering parts of Padre Island. It appears the wind is forcing it from the west. I'm at the Holiday Inn in Padre. The water covers half the parking lot. It's substantially up in the last hour."

"If it goes up to a foot, it will be in the lobby here. And Padre runs right through the center of South Padre Island."

So you know they're getting hammered by it as well.

MYERS: They are.

LEMON: We want to get now to -- getting guidance in my ear, Chad. Before we go back to you, I want to get to Gary Tuchman. He is in South Padre as well. He's on the phone. He can talk to us about this flooding and what he's experiencing as well.

Go ahead, Gary.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, we're at Long Island (ph), a different part of it than Reynolds is. But I can tell you, we're safe, but we've kind of gotten trapped by the floodwaters.

The floodwaters are rising very quickly via the highways and roadways that go through this island. And we were just driving to go back to our hotel, where we considered it even more safe, and the waters were two to three feet deep on the road leading out to this area, this parking lot area that we're on, on the southern part of the island. So we're kind of stuck right now. As I say, we're in a safe position, but it has shown us that there is massive flooding here right now.

A short time ago, we were out near the causeway at the bridge, the Queen Isabelle Bridge that connects the mainland to this South Padre Island. It's a two-and-a-half-mile long bridge, and that's where the bay is that Chad is talking about.

And that bay water is flowing over this narrow barrier island. It's a half a mile wide. It's actually (INAUDIBLE), and much of it is uninhabited. But it's a real party area during the spring and the summer, tens of thousands of people here.

But right now, much of it is under water. And anyone who's outside like us right now has to stick in a dry area and just kind of hope for the best, because right now we're at the peak of the rain.

I mean, one very unusual thing about this hurricane, I've been in stronger hurricanes -- this is a Category 2. But I have never felt the rain coming down as hard and as rapidly and as quickly. And part of the reason is, it's hailing. It is very painful when this rain comes down on you.

So that's the issue we're facing and that's why we're seeing so much flooding.

LEMON: Hey, Gary, we want you to be safe. Thank you very much. If you get any new information, something happens, please call us and we'll get you back on the air.


Gary Tuchman, who is also on South Padre Island.

In case you're just tuning in, we're going to tell you that Dolly has now made landfall, South Padre Island. We have reporters all over the area.

Our meteorologist, Chad Myers, is here. Reynolds Wolf is on the ground as well. He is covering it.

And we also want to tell you that people in Texas are new facing a triple threat here: a powerful hurricane, potential tornadoes, and, of course, endangered levees.

Our Susan Roesgen is live in Brownsville. And we're going to join her and she's going to give us the very latest there.

It looks like it's coming down, Susan.

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is coming down, Don. But I think what you have to remember in all of this is South Padre Island, where Reynolds and Gary Tuchman are, has about 2,000 year- round residents. This is Brownsville, with 180,000 people.

Where are they? The smart ones are inside.

There is a fear of flooding here, but the emergency management team right now says they're holding steady. That's the word for the day, holding steady, because that's part of the levee right behind me. It's basically an earthen levee that runs for hundreds of miles all along the Rio Grande River. That's the national border between the United States and Mexico.

Right now the levee is holding. So they're not expecting the Rio Grande to rise above it or to breach it. And that's some good news for flooding here for 180,000 people.

Now, we have had some power outages. The sign in the motel parking lot here says, "Summer Special: HBO." That's if you've got any power to turn on your television set today.

This is basically right along the Rio Grande River. There's a hotel here. I'm in the parking lot. And in this hotel are about two dozen people who are from Mexico. They're Mexican nationals. And they want to get just across the river on one of the four international bridges -- three international bridges that cross the Rio Grande.

But they were worried about this. They were afraid that they couldn't get across the river even though it's only about a quarter of a mile away. So they're staying here now in this part of Brownsville, in the hotel right in front of me, to stay safe until later tonight.

Again, no reports of any injuries here. No reports of any major flooding, not yet anyway. Cross your fingers.

And they did, in fact, Don, let the local jail -- the Cameron County Jail allowed about 75 inmates to go home, nonviolent inmates, to get out of jail late last night so that they could help their families prepare for this, so that even they could make sure that their families were safe.

There are about 2,100 people now in shelters, various schools in this area. But we understand that that's really just precautionary. There hasn't been any major problems yet.

Most people are at home. Most people are not outside. And no reports of any injuries -- Don. LEMON: All right. Susan Roesgen in Brownsville, just one of the many reporters we have stationed all over Texas, all over the area, tracking this hurricane.

Also, we want to talk to you about our iReporters. They are armed with their cell phones and their cameras. They're giving us a firsthand look from the heart of this hurricane.

And if you would like to share you were videos, your photos or your stories, just log on to, and of course please be safe -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. Will President Bush order more troops to the war zone? We're going to bring you details of his meeting with the military's top brass.


PHILLIPS: Well, with Taliban attacks on the rise in Afghanistan, are more U.S. troops needed to fight that war? President Bush addressed what some view as an urgent issue with the military's top brass at the Pentagon earlier today.

CNN's Barbara Starr joins us with all the details -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, President Bush was here for about 90 minutes today, meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Tank, that secure conference room just down the hall from where CNN's own offices are in the Pentagon. By all accounts, the situation in Afghanistan was at the top of the list, if not one of the top number one, two or three issues to be discussed with the president.

Commanders on the ground in Afghanistan are making, you know, constant, if not desperate, calls now for more troops, more assistance. The Joint Chiefs of Staff are looking to try and send more troops to Afghanistan.

But for the political side of the house, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the civilians who run the Pentagon, they're saying they may have trouble finding the troops to send because Iraq is still a drain on the military. There was a news briefing about all of this. Listen to what the spokesman, Geoff Morrell, had to say.


GEOFF MORRELL, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: They need more forces sooner than later. That message has been sent loud and clear. I can also tell you that the chiefs, as is their job, are working to determine whether or not they can meet the needs of the commanders anytime soon.


STARR: Meet the needs of the commanders on the ground in Afghanistan, where those young troops are fighting and dying, Kyra. What the commanders want is another three combat brigades. That's about 7,000 to 10,000 additional troops.

And what they're hearing from the Pentagon is, not so fast. We probably can't send you that number of forces until sometime next year, until they get more troops freed up from Iraq.

They're looking at some stop-gap measures, perhaps sending a few hundred more forces by the end of the year. But by all accounts, that is not going to make a fundamental difference where the fighting in Afghanistan has been very tough in recent weeks -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Yes. And the loss of life of those soldiers as well.

Barbara Starr, thanks so much.

We're going to talk more about fighting that war in Afghanistan and what's the best strategy. We're going to talk about that with a general who served in the Afghan war zone. As a matter of fact, he just retired from running the command there. We'll get his opinion on this -- Don.

LEMON: And our big story here today in the CNN NEWSROOM, of course, Hurricane Dolly has made landfall.



PHILLIPS: Hello, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips, live in New York.

LEMON: And I'm Don Lemon, live here at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta.

We are tracking Dolly today in the CNN NEWSROOM.

PHILLIPS: 2:28 Eastern Time right now. Here's some of the stories we're working on in the CNN NEWSROOM.

The eye of Hurricane Dolly has slammed into extreme south Texas this hour along the Mexican border. The Category 2 storm has sustained winds of about 100 miles per hour.

And Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is meeting with Mideast leaders today in Israel. He also laid a wreath at Israel's Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem.

President Bush now says he will sign a bill designed to assist the nation's ailing housing market if it passes Congress. The House is expected to pass the bill later today. The Senate could vote tonight.

LEMON: Our developing news story today in the CNN NEWSROOM, Hurricane Dolly is packing quite a punch as it makes landfall right along the U.S./Mexican border. Winds are gusting up to 120 miles per hour. We could see a storm surge of eight feet and as much as 20 inches of rain in some places. Thousands of people along the Gulf Coast are in emergency shelters. Fourteen Texas counties already have been declared disaster areas. And FEMA and the Red Cross are standing by. So is the National Guard.

PHILLIPS: We want to go to Aaron Cooper right now on South Padre Island. He's one of our producers working with our correspondents there. He's actually out on the street, firsthand look with the camera, as he's driving through, collecting i-Reports, talking to those that have not left South Padre Island.

Aaron, you're joining us now, I guess, by phone. But we're able to get some of the video that you were able to shoot along with the crew there.

Not at this point. OK.

Go ahead and just tell us what you're seeing as you're driving through on the phone collecting i-Reports, Aaron.

VOICE OF AARON COOPER, CNN PRODUCER: Actually, Kyra, it's kind of interesting. We're using a cell phone that can actually broadcast video, and that's how you're seeing me right now. And if I turn the camera, you will be able to see a little bit about what's going on outside.

The winds are certainly softening, everything really very hard. The buildings around here are beginning to see some damage. I've been inside a number of these buildings, talking to some people, looking for i-Reporters, looking to have people tell me what is going on and why they chose to stay -- what they're doing.

I talked to some people that wanted to stay because they had never seen a hurricane before. In fact, one man drove down from Oklahoma because he'd never seen a hurricane and wanted to experience it. It's hard to believe, but there are a lot of people here that wanted to stay. They weren't concerned or they thought that this hurricane would not be bad enough that they would need to leave. There are some people that just continued their vacations.

In other places, I talked to people that just -- their livelihoods were here. One man that I talked to that ran a gas station said that he simply needed to stay and make as much money as he could before he had to shut down and take cover for the storm. It was his family business. He needed to do as well as he could.

Other people I talked to have just been kind of nonchalant about it, as it were. They were just hanging out in their hotel rooms, sitting in the dark, because most of the power is out here now, and just waiting for the storm to pass. I talked to one couple who hopes to be out on the beach later today.

PHILLIPS: Now, did you say that you're giving me this live video feed through your cell phone, Aaron?

COOPER: Yes. In fact, this is a cell phone that can broadcast live video, and you can see me right there. You can see the video live as it happens over the cell phone tower.

PHILLIPS: Unbelievable.

COOPER: In fact, that's one of the ways I'm transmitting back the i-Reports. I'm sending them over an additional signal that goes through the cell phone towers.

PHILLIPS: Now you're not driving right now are you?

COOPER: No, no, I'm not driving. The wind is too hard to drive, so I've taken cover here back behind this hotel here in South Padre Island and waiting for the worst of it to pass.

PHILLIPS: So tell me, is it pretty much desolate then right now? Does it look like everyone has pretty much left the area, they've been able to do that? But you guys, of course, there are staying in the area to cover the storm for us.

COOPER: Well there are a lot of people that have left the area. But there are also a lot of people that kind of hunkered down. Nobody is out on the streets. Even the media is headed off the streets now. In fact, the street in front of this hotel has at least a foot of water in it. So nobody is out driving around outside.

But once you get inside some of these hotels, once you get inside some of these residences, there are people that stayed. There are people that just kind of hunkered down and are weathering the storm. I'm sure we'll see more of them if they come out after the storm passes.

PHILLIPS: All right. Give me a little bit there along the side and front of you, Aaron. You're looking, actually, at the amazing ability of technology here. Aaron Cooper, one of our producers there, through his cell phone, able to bring us these live pictures. Obviously, it's tough to get a connection via our other means of technology.

This is South Padre Island. You can see how the wind and the rain is affecting the area there. Aaron telling us that pretty much everyone has evacuated. We'll stay in touch with Aaron and our correspondents there, including Reynolds Wolf and also Gary Tuchman.

Aaron, great job. Thanks so much.

LEMON: Yes, it is a great job.

We should leave that video up, Aaron. If you can hear us, leave that and we want to look at some of these pictures.

But as Aaron is doing this, I'm going to turn now and I'm going to go to our Chad Myers, our severe weather expert and talk about this.

You heard Aaron say -- you know what? For some people it was business as usual, they were just sort of riding it out. I shouldn't say business as usual. PHILLIPS: Oh my gosh, that was --

LEMON: But that happens growing up on the Gulf Coast. You get a Cat 1 you get a Cat 2 and you don't really leave your home, so it's not unexpected. Maybe folks should be seeking shelter.

MYERS: Yes, people put themselves in harm's way for a number much different reasons, Don. And one of them is because I don't want to leave my stuff because when I come back, if my house is opened up by the hurricane, all of my stuff will be gone.

Well you can replace stuff. It's just -- you can't replace yourself. That's the issue at this point in time. And I think this storm probably is stronger than a lot of people thought.

It's not blowing onshore and the waves are not coming onshore, especially blowing in the wrong direction. Let me go to the radar picture here. The north side of the storm is blowing onshore. The south side, right there, blowing offshore. Zoom right into Brownsville, and most of the weather is blowing -- what I would consider, if you're a weather person -- the wrong way. This is the -- it's supposed to be the easy side of a hurricane.

Well ,there is no such thing on Cat 2 as an easy side. But the hard side, the north side up there, is gone. The whole northern part of the eye wall (ph) is history. It's just -- it absolutely does not exist. Here's the problem, down to South Padre and then down to Matamoros, and also into Brownsville, you are on the bad side of a storm that now is putting down five inches of rain per hour. And that five inches of rain per hour is doing damage.

And also, the wind, Dave (ph), the wind now blowing the wrong direction here on this storm. There we go. This is where our men and women are here. They're on this barrier island. And we know that Reynolds Wolf is right there on the right side of the screen there. These are pictures -- they're amazing, they're Microsoft Virtual Earth.

You can go on the Web site, actually, and see them yourselves. But these are fly-overs, these were literally taken from airplanes. And you can see what these pictures look like -- now this is obviously pre-hurricane -- but you can see the east side and the west side. Most people protect the east side, because that's where the Gulf of Mexico is. The problem is the wind is blowing the other direction and breaking windows out from that direction because those windows are not protected from that way because you never put up hurricane shutters on the west side of the storm.

Who would care if the wind came from the west? Well that's the wrong answer to this one.

This is a three dimensional view of this storm. The south and east part of the storm is in good shape. You can see there is practically no northern eye wall whatsoever, Don.

LEMON: Yes. Matamoros you were talking about that. And just -- we have Harris Whitbeck stationed there. That is right across the border from Brownsville. Mexican soldiers are helping out there. As many as 23,000 residents refused to heed warnings there, Chad. So, you mentioned that --

MYERS: We're going to have 20 inches of rain in some spots. That is going to cause flooding, Don. We're just going to get big- time flooding here. If you're in a flood zone, you need to get out of it.

LEMON: Severe weather expert, Chad Myers.

Thank you very much, sir -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Our CNN i-Reporters have been sending us incredible pictures from the heart of Hurricane Dolly. Our Josh Levs here to share them with you.

And Josh, I'm assuming you've gotten a lot of them from all over the place.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have. And Kyra, we're about to hear some real drama; we're about to speak with some people who are actually in a boat right now on South Padre Island.

Let me quickly show you, we've got pictures all over dotcom (ph) here. This is -- the kinds of things we're getting. I want to focus in on this one right here. What we're going to have to do now is the control room is going to bring up this image for you in full because we have this picture.

These are boats that dock at South Padre Island. And right now, we are joined by Lisa Graves.

Lisa, are you there?


LEVS: OK. Now tell us, you right now are in one of these boats inside South Padre Island. And I understand you're rocking like crazy.

GRAVES: Yes. It's absolutely outrageous here. We -- the winds are -- just, I can't describe it. In all my life, I've never seen anything like this. We're actually in the cabin of the boat in the marina. We had a sailboat that broke free of the docks across the way and got caught up on our bows and we had to run out and cut the anchor lines. And it was just -- it tore the front of the boat all to pieces.

LEVS: This is -- yes, this is wild. I was just finding out, you guys have had 10 inches of rain in the last few hours. If we have the video of what's been going on in South Padre, let's go over to that to remind the viewers of how rough it is in this area while they are dealing with some of these conditions there.

Now Lisa, what's the deal? Why are you all staying inside the boat? Why are you even in the boats right now?

GRAVES: Actually, my boyfriend is Steven Murphy (ph), he's the captain and owner. And his brother is Patrick Murphy (ph), owner of the Thunderbird. And they are actually here to man the boats and make sure that they can ride out the storm.

LEVS: They just wanted to protect them.

Now, before I let you go. I understand one of the concerns is you guys are connected right now to some big poles where you dock.


LEVS: And if one of those poles were to pull out, it could physically cause a hole in your ship, causing the ship to sink. That's what Steven told me earlier.

GRAVES: Yes, actually that's the problem we had just faced because whenever that sailboat got caught on us, it was actually -- caused the Thunderbird, his brother's boat, to puncture a hole in the port side of the boat.

LEVS: It's amazing. I know we have some pictures also of the boat. We can look at that. And if we have the other pictures of the boats, let's look at those too.

OK. I'm going to show you right here what these boots looked like before I let you go because this is the Web site -- Captain Murphy's. Let's close in right here. The ship that we're speaking to right now is this one on the right over here called Murphy's Law, and the other one right next to it is Steven's brother's boat, which is right there as well.

Now obviously I want to emphasize, Lisa, you have told us you're not putting yourself in any more danger by talking to me right now, but your conditions are incredibly rocky. And you're -- what -- a little concerned for your safety, right?

GRAVES: Oh yes, definitely. My phone has -- everybody's phone has been ringing off the hook. My mother thinks I'm absolutely crazy. But we actually didn't think it was going to be this bad, so we decided to stay here and make sure the boats were tied up. And we've had some problems. If they hadn't have been here to watch it, there would have been major damage. So they actually --

LEVS: No, I understand. They were concerned about their property and all these things.

Lisa, obviously, put yourself first, put your safety first. We wish the best to all of you. We're going to keep up with you guys; we're going to keep calling you. We want to make sure you make it through this storm OK.

We'll be speaking with you later on OK, Lisa?

GRAVES: OK, well thank you. LEVS: All right. Kyra, you can tell, drama like that coming to us left and right. Next hour I'm going to show you some video from Brownsville, Texas that just completely blows me away. You'll see.

PHILLIPS: All right, Josh. Thanks so much.

If you would like to share your videos, photos, or stories with Josh, just log on to And of course please stay safe.

LEMON: We're going to talk some politics as we continue to follow Dolly.

It is a packed schedule for Senator Barack Obama as he wraps up his visit to the Middle East and gets ready to head to Europe. Today's schedule included stops in Israel and the West Bank.

And CNN's Paula Hancocks joins us now from Jerusalem with the very latest on that -- Paula.


It certainly has been a jam-packed day for Senator Obama, and it's not over yet. At this point, he's meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert. They had a brief couple of words to reporters before they went in. Obama all day has been saying that he is a great friend of Israel, that would not change if he became the U.S. president. But he's had to do a balancing act as well, having to say that he wanted to help both sides, the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Now he went down to Sderot, this is a town very close to the Gaza border, which has borne the brunt of many of these Palestinian militant rocket attacks, to witness the damage firsthand. A little earlier on, he also went Ramallah in the West Bank to talk to the Palestinian president and prime minister. He got slated a little bit by some Palestinians saying he only spent an hour there, as opposed to 36 hours in Israel. But on the other hand, some Palestinians appreciated the effort, as Senator John McCain did not come into the West Bank when he visited the region back in March.

But of course, for Israelis, there is only one main issue at this point, and that is Iran.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I continue to say that Jerusalem will be the capital of Israel. I have said that before and I will say it again. And I also have said that it is important that we don't simply slice the city in half. But I've also said that that's a final status issue. That's an issue that has to be dealt with with the parties involved, the Palestinians and the Israelis.

It's not the job of the United States to dictate the form in which that will take, but rather to support the efforts that are being made right now to resolve these very difficult issues that have a long history. Now --


HANCOCKS: Obama talking there about an issue he had earlier on by saying that Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel -- Don.

LEMON: Paula Hancocks in Jerusalem, we appreciate that -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: With Barack Obama in the Middle East today, John McCain is back home pushing his strategy for winning the war in Iraq and bringing American troops home. For the Republican candidate, a familiar setting to talk about that issue, a town hall in Pennsylvania.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: An unconditional withdrawal, my friends, without paying attention to the facts on the ground could lead to our failure, a resurgence in our enemies and then we would have to go back. My friends, when I'm president of the United States, we will come home; we will come home with victory and honor. But we'll never have to go back because we will have won this conflict.


PHILLIPS: After his visit to Pennsylvania, McCain heads to New Orleans to visit Governor Bobby Jindal. The Louisiana Republican is being mentioned as a possible running mate for McCain.



ROB MARCIANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Another rush hour, another hoard of drivers cursing high gas prices and the companies that make money for them. But one company, Colonial Pipeline of Atlanta, is helping its employees save money on gas and reduce air pollution.

VALERIE SAEED, HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGER: It's kind of humorous to say that, although we transport the oil, we don't actually own the product. We still transport the product. We're going green, to a certain degree.

MARCIANO: Colonial has joined a number of companies that let employees telecommute. Not everybody's job can be done from home, but 65 people at this office, 25 percent of the eligible staff, do telework some of the time from a day or two a month, to a few times a week.

SAEED: Folks are definitely getting on board. I've been having more requests of, can you help me train my team on teleworking?

MARCIANO: Software developer, Dean Darsey has been teleworking for a couple of years.

DEAN DARSEY, SOFTWARE DEVELOPER: Two to three days a week I can work from home, which translates into only now every other week having to fill up.

MARCIANO: Colonial provides a laptop and cell phone and guidelines for making the home office ergonomic and productive. Dean says it's easier to be productive in the quiet of his home and ...

DARSEY: It feels good to be part of an effort to make the environment better, to help do a small part to clean the air.

MARCIANO: Rob Marciano, CNN.



PHILLIPS: President Bush mulling whether to send more troops to Afghanistan right now and with good reason. Attacks by Taliban insurgents are on the rise. Joining us on the phone, Army officer with firsthand experience in Afghanistan -- General Dan McNeill, recently commanded U.S. and NATO forces in the Afghan war zone.

General, thanks so much for joining me.

I guess I want to get your first reaction to what you think about President Bush considering sending possibly 7,000 to 10,000 more troops to Afghanistan.

VOICE OF GEN. DAN MCNEILL, U.S. ARMY: Well, I think that's something that's been under discussion for sometime, and I'm not privy to exactly what the points of discussion would be today. But I believe that most who have knowledge of Afghanistan and the international effort there have agreed for sometime that it's an underresourced force. Not just -- it is not just a U.S. issue. It's NATO's responsibility to resource the wars. And presently, I think NATO has not resourced it to the level which it should be resoruced.

PHILLIPS: So, you've got the president coming forward, talking about sending more troops to Afghanistan. And then recently, Obama was quoted as saying, "As president, I would pursue a new strategy and begin by providing at least two additional combat brigades to support our effort in Afghanistan." And that is the same numbers the president is talking about, General. And he went to say, we need more troops, helicopters better intelligence gathering and more non- military assistance to accomplish the mission there.

Is Obama on the right track in your eyes?

MCNEILL: I think a more notable personality who's been commenting on the size and the manning of the force is the secretary general of NATO. Who since late 2006, has been appealing to the 26 members, plus the 14 non-NATO members of the alliance in Afghanistan, that they have to do more.

And I am in agreement with those who say that not only are more maneuver forces need but more flying machines and more intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance systems are needed, as well.

PHILLIPS: Can we afford to send these troops, sir, when we're already strapped in Iraq?

MCNEILL: I think that question would be better put to Admiral Mullen or the Marty Dempsey, the Commander of CENTCOM.

PHILLIPS: Why are attacks by the Taliban on the rise?

MCNEILL: I don't think there's sufficient pressure on the insurgents. In sanctuaries, they're out of reach of the international security forces and the Afghan Brothers. And without that pressure in those sanctuaries, I think you would see a very predictable rise in insurgent attacks inside of Afghanistan.

PHILLIPS: What about the Afghan border with Pakistan? That's definitely a weak spot.

Is there any chance or, you know, were you involved with even getting the Afghan locals to set up their own patrols? Like what we send in Iraq, the Sons of Iraq?

MCNEILL: Well, I think you can find in any one of the number much places, the Afghan Brothers are doing their best to do their part. Certainly they've got a ways to go in training and equipment. But at least they're trying to do their part.

And earlier this year, we had a number of operations in the border areas that were led by the Afghans themselves. And I think their force is getting better.

But, you're talking about as the crow flies, greater than 2,000 kilometers a border. And if you consider the elevation changes in that distance, it's even beyond that. You can ask any law enforcement agency in the southwestern of the United States about absolute control of the border, any border. And they'll tell you it's a very difficult challenge.

You could also ask our German brothers or our Korean brothers about controlling (INAUDIBLE) lines. And they'll tell you a very difficult proposition. I think that absolute control of that border is probably not an achievable goal. On the other hand, I think where the insurgents are in sanctuaries, if there's pressure on them and there are supporting operations on the other side of the border, you will get good results.

PHILLIPS: Well, we know the president is meeting with the joint chiefs today, talking about Afghanistan. So, we will monitor that, bring any developments.

General Dan McNeill, always good to talk to you. Appreciate it.

MCNEILL: All right. Good to talk to you. Bye, now.

LEMON: Theirs are stories of struggle and success. Of great joy and great sorrow. Tonight, Soledad O'Brien with an eye-opening look of what it means to be black in America.

The conversation tonight centers around black women and family. Tomorrow, "The Black Men." Don't miss this unprecedented CNN report starting tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern.


PHILLIPS: Well, we doubt this is the kind of encounter that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown expected, much less wanted. The man to Brown's right, super glued his hand to the sleeve of the prime minister. Dan Glass says, he was trying to draw attention to global warming. Brown took it in stride after having a little trouble freeing himself. Glass was on hand, so to speak, to receive a charity award. British police decided not to get involved in the sticky mess.

LEMON: Oh, man.

One minute, hundreds of fans cheering, the next minute fleeing in panic. We'll tell you just what happened and where it happened.


LEMON: All right, Take a look at this video. A festival suddenly erupts in panic. Bleachers at a bull fight in Colombia collapse like an accordion, sending spectators plunging to the ground. Dozens were injured. Two people dressed as clowns try to distract the bull away from the horrified crowd. Officials are trying to determine just what caused the stands to give way. Very interesting video there.

The next hour of the CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.