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Hurricane Gustave Upgraded to Category 3 and Heading Towards the Gulf Coast; Is FEMA Ready This Time Around?; John McCain's Surprise VP Pick, Governor Sarah Palin: Does She Have What It Takes?

Aired August 30, 2008 - 10:00   ET


T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Gustav is on the way. This hurricane this morning upgraded to hurricane 3. That's a major hurricane and now we have word that evacuations are under way.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: From the CNN Center in Atlanta, it is Saturday, August 30th. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. Good morning, everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen.

HOLMES: And hello, everybody. I'm T.J. Holmes.

NGUYEN: We've got a lot to tell you about today. The other big story everyone is still buzzing about, that of course being John McCain's V.P. surprise. Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Some just love this pick. Others are still asking has McCain lost his mind? We're going to get to all of that and delve into who exactly Sarah Palin is.

HOLMES: Well, Hurricane Gustav now really has its targets set on the Gulf Coast of the U.S. The Category 3 storm in the Caribbean could get even stronger before making a U.S. landfall. We talked to our Reynolds Wolf now about this storm. Category 3 now. Possible Category 4. And God forbid a Category 5 as it heads towards the Gulf Coast of the U.S. We've got it covered for you. Our Chris Lawrence right now in coastal Louisiana where mandatory evacuations have been ordered in some spots.

Our Sean Callebs now covering the worst for us from New Orleans. And of course our Reynolds Wolf tracking the storm in our weather center. But we do want to start right now in just a moment with our Sean Callebs. We'll get to all of our guys and Chris, Sean as well as Reynolds here in just a moment. Stand by, guys.

NGUYEN: But in the meantime, we want to get you this latest news. FEMA was criticized big-time in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Well, this time around FEMA is taking an active and open role in preparations for Hurricane Gustav. And CNN's Kate Bolduan is joining us now live at FEMA headquarters in Washington this morning where I understand you have the FEMA director with you.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we are here this morning. This is a briefing room where all of these daily briefings from FEMA headquarters will be taking place, where we'll be really going over disaster preparation as well as relief if need be. As you mentioned, Betty, we are hear with FEMA's administrator David Paulison who is kind enough to take time out this morning. Administrator, you said you just came back from the region. How do things look so far? DAVID PAULISON, FEMA DIRECTOR: Things look very good. I was very pleased with the preparation of all of the states from Texas all the way to Florida ready for the storm. Right now it's tracking into Louisiana so it could be then but it could be anywhere in the Gulf Coast. We want to make sure they're all ready.

BOLDUAN: We were talking just before we went on. This looks like it could be a nasty storm. We all hope for the best. But you have to prepare for the worst. How is FEMA preparation today different than it was three years ago which was clearly we've been talking a lot about now.

PAULISON: We've looked at those lessons learned from Katrina and what went wrong and what didn't work right, not just with FEMA and the entire emergency management system. We have changed from reactive to pro-active organization. So what you see now is the things on the ground now. You already see hundreds of buses, hundreds of ambulances, urban search and rescue team.

Supplies are already there. Evacuation routes are laid out. Evacuations centers are already there where they are going to be staying. Supplies are in place there. We have trains on the ground. We have planes on the ground. All of those things that didn't happen until after Katrina hit are now happening before the storm comes in. That's a major change.

BOLDUAN: Where is the key focus for FEMA? I know you talk about better communication from federal, state and local levels but where is the key in making sure that if something happens and if people need help, they'll get it quickly?

PAULISON: It's the communications, it's working as partners individual of instead of individuals like we did in Katrina. Working with the state, working with the local community. Understanding what the issues are. Meeting every day. We have a video conference every day with all of the states on and all of our players and all of the federal partners.

HHS is there, HUD, NORTHCOM from the Department of Defense, the National Guard, we have the Red Cross in there. Anybody who is going to play in this scenario meets every day at 1:00 and we have a long meeting to make sure we all understand what the issues are. And if there's a gap in the system anywhere, we know what it is and fill it quickly.

BOLDUAN: And you say that is different, even that communication is an improvement from years past, correct?

PAULISON: Much different. Much different. And also the states are talking to each other. I talked to every govern area from Texas to Florida and they're talking with each other sharing information. Right now Louisiana is doing a contraflow plan. That affects Texas and Louisiana and Mississippi. They have talked to both governors on how to get people out of the city. And that's a major change.

BOLDUAN: Where are concerns right now? Where are you really keeping an eye on? I know, clearly levees is one of the number one things we talk about when we talk about a hurricane possibly hitting New Orleans. What is the concern that FEMA has right now where you are watching closest?

PAULISON: The most important thing right now is evacuations. The Corps has done a wonderful job of rebuilding those levees and making them stronger and higher but there's still a lot of vulnerable areas. We don't want people to stay in the city if this hurricane comes in. We want them to evacuate. The governor is onboard with that, the mayor is on board, all the parish president.

Mississippi governor is doing exactly the same thing. Moving people out with mandatory evacuations to make sure they don't stay there. There's no reason for people to have an excuse to stay in the city this time unlike last time. Like I said, hundreds of buses are already on the ground. We have trains ready to roll to take people to Memphis. We have airplanes at the airport ready to fly people out if we have to. There's multiple opportunities for people to evacuate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much.

And one thing we were talking about before is just on an individual level the administrator says is preparation, preparation, preparation. Getting your house and your home and your family prepared for this. It's something we talk about but something administrator says needs to be really hit home for people out there getting ready for Gustav to come ashore. That's what we have here.

Betty, back to you.

NGUYEN: All right. Thank you for that, Kate.

And just to let our viewer he is know on the right-hand side, that's not flooding that has occurred. In fact, that is Port Sulfur in Louisiana. And these are areas in fact where you can't get in via roadway. They are out in boats today and they're getting people prepared and letting them know that evacuations will take effect and right now a lot of the areas just under voluntary but again T.J., as we've been noting, some areas are at least getting ready to start those mandatory evacuations.

HOLMES: A lot of those in place. Some in place now. Some are going to go into effect later in the day and tomorrow as well. And people are getting out. We want to head back to Sean Callebs now who is in New Orleans.

And Sean, we were just listening. I don't know if you could hear as well the FEMA administrator Paulison talking this is not like it was three years ago. We've got different plans in place. We have options for people trying to get out.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Without question. The response already has been better than what we saw three years ago but let's face it, T.J. The Feds set the bar pretty low in the response last time. So it wouldn't have taken great deal to make it better. What we're seeing here, we're at Amtrak station, Greyhound. There are city buses going to 17 various locations bringing people who otherwise wouldn't have a mode of transportation out of the city. Those people are being brought here. They expect to have 30,000 over the next 24 hours and then they will be taken to shelters north of the city.

People in New Orleans kind of do things their own way. There's already some confusion this morning. People were supposed to go to those various locations and be brought here. Well, scores of people showed up here long before the center was ready to open and it kind of caught people off guard. Still, the city's homeland security chief says they are dealing with this problem.


COL. JERRY SNEE, NOLA DIRECTOR OF EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS: Again, we're just being flexible. We could tell them go away and go back to the spots where we told you to go to but that would be ridiculous. It is not going to do us any good. The Sheriff's Department jumped on it quick and put them in lines and knew we needed some room to set up, to finish setting up and we're just going to adapt. We're going to get our citizens out.

Again, it's frustrating to see that they don't listen but it's good seeing that they are coming. They have listened about getting out of the city and that's the most important thing. So we'll do everything we can to ensure they get out.


CALLEBS: Indeed the most important thing they're trying to prevent a repeat of those horrific images of people trapped at the Superdome, trapped at the Convention Center. This year there will not be a shelter of last resort. So people don't get out now if they're really on their own.

A few other things, it's oppressively hot here today. There is some concern about elderly and many infirm standing in lines, long lines throughout the day. The Red Cross is on its way here to provide water and some comfort for those people.

Also, the mayor has asked hotels in the city to urge visitors to leave. Voluntary evacuation. The hotels are getting those notices out to people right now. And T.J., they not going to evacuate hospitals. You remember thirty-four people died at Memorial Hospital after the storm last time in the days waiting for help to get there. Things have changed. They're better prepared.

However, they are going to be evacuating nursing homes. That's how things are unfolding here. It is going to be a very hectic day. As many as 30,000 people evacuating New Orleans over the next 24 hours -- T.J.?

HOLMES: You know, hopefully the storm changes course and doesn't hit and doesn't hit hard anywhere in the U.S. But you know what? Like you said you were there and it's a different scene this time around as people are preparing to leave. Sean Callebs for us, we appreciate it. We'll be checking in with you again.

NGUYEN: Lets get more on the preparation. Chris Lawrence has some evacuation information for us. He joins us now live from Belle Chasse, Louisiana. As I understand it, those mandatory evacuations in your area are going to be starting in just a few hours from now.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. They've already started evacuating people here. You can't evacuate the entire state at once. You would have gridlock.

So the plan is always to evacuate lowest areas first. Those areas closest to the Gulf like where we are right here. You might look around and see a lot of empty chairs. There are 25,000 people in Plaquemines County, or Plaquemines Parish, I should say. A third of them have already left. That does leave a lot of people but think about it.

If you can drive here yourself, you could drive yourself out so what they do is they have buses that are going all out all around the parish right now picking up people from these pickup points and then they're bringing them here, processing them, registering them and then getting them on another bus to get them up north to the northern part of Louisiana away from the storm. Those buses are out. We've seen a few evacuees get processed through. More will come through in the next hour.

Another concern here is the levees. This area is protected by the levees. The levees in turn protect two major oil refineries as well as a facility that produces and delivers five percent of the natural gas that the entire country uses. They're worried that if those levees breach, what will happen to those installations.


BILLY NUNGESSER, PLAQUEMINES PARISH PRESIDENT: That road takes all the supplies to people, everything to the oil rigs. As we evacuate it to get back out there to get back to work, you need those roads and those ports to get people offshore and the equipment to get back drilling and pumping oil.


LAWRENCE: Back in January they put in a request to fast track federal funds to shore up those levees. Fortunately, that request was turned down. Now they're going to just have to wait and see and hope for the best as Gustav makes landfall.

NGUYEN: The good news is evacuations have already started. The assisted ones have already started. I understand that mandatory ones will go out at noon today. People are definitely getting the word and obviously as we can see by the folks behind you, they are indeed getting out. Thank you, Chris. We'll be checking in with you shortly. HOLMES: We'll turn back to our Reynolds Wolf now who has been keeping an eye on this thing for us this morning. Reynolds, the possibilities. We have Category 3 we have word of this morning and we could get 4 and dare I say it could get stronger than that?

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It could. But one thing to keep in mind is if it were to achieve strength say like to a Category 5 storm, it's almost impossible for them to retain that power for very long. So when a storm reaches that strength it usually is a short lived thing and then it either goes to a Cat 4 or Cat 3. Right now, it is Category 3 roaring through the western Caribbean like a giant saw blade at this point. Right through Havana, they are getting some of the rough stuff as we speak.

When I say rough stuff, we are talking about strong winds and heavy rainfall and heavy surf action on the southern part of the island. I also want you to notice the last couple frames you'll notice a little bit of a jog to the north right here. That's something very important to notice because the National Hurricane Center is going to watch that and they know very well that just a bit of a deviation in path in the short order could mean tremendous difference as to where this storm might end up.

For example, as this storm is just following a path just based on basically a straight shot going toward Louisiana coast but here at the start you have a jog to the north that could veer it off in a different course closer to Alabama and maybe to Pensacola. It all depends on what happens over the next couple hours.

As the forecast stands right now, we do anticipate, and so does the National Hurricane Center, that the storm is going to continue more of a northwesterly direction by 2:00 a.m. on Sunday, winds of 125 miles an hour and into the center of the Gulf of Mexico 125-mile-per- hour winds still a Category 3 storm. A major hurricane at 2:00 a.m. on Monday. And boom, it goes right up into the Louisiana coastline as we get to 2:00 a.m. on Tuesday weakening a bit. Not a tremendous difference.

But from 125 to 115 and I would expect we'll see a lot of changes in this power. A lot of changes in its path, too. A lot can happen between now and Monday and certainly into Tuesday. Plus you have got to put in the cone of probability the storm could move more to the north perhaps more to the west or certainly to the east and we'll have to just watch that for you very carefully.

Got a whole lot of information we're going to be sharing with you throughout the rest of the morning. Not only on the storm but we'll also talk about people who actually research these storms, who actually go out in the field and get in the path of these storms to bring some information that helps keep you and your family safe at home.

Let's send it to you guys back to you at the news desk.

NGUYEN: OK. So bottom line, though, people along the Gulf Coast even if you're not in New Orleans whether you are to the east or to the west of it, you still need to be prepared. We don't know exactly where this is going to hit.

WOLF: Absolutely. And keep in mind, we're still in the middle of hurricane season. We have got through the rest of November. If it an active season, sometimes you go beyond those bounds. It is possible for these storms to form in December.

This is just the time that if you happen to be living near a warm body of water along the Eastern Seaboard or anywhere in the Gulf Coast, certainly as far south as Texas and even into parts of Mexico, you have to watch out for these kind of systems. It's that kind of year where you have to put those hurricane preparedness kits together. Easy for me to say.

It is just a time to be vigilant. Along the Mississippi coastline, parts of Alabama, Mississippi, Texas not out of the loop either.

NGUYEN: OK. We're all on alert. Thank you, Wolf.

WOLF: You bet, guys.

HOLMES: All right. Well, do you know who Sarah Palin is? If you don't, you need to get to know that name. She could be your next vice president and the first female vice president of the United States. We'll get a whole lot more on the new GOP ticket and more on presidential politics in just a second.

NGUYEN: Along with Gustav. We're still talking about that and a couple of high tech hurricane trackers. How do they get amazing video of those big storms? Well, we are going to ask them.


NGUYEN: The presidential candidates and their V.P. picks or are on the trail in crucial states today. John McCain and newly named running mate Sarah Palin hold a rally in Washington, Pennsylvania this evening. Now, Barack Obama and Joe Biden will be in Dublin, Ohio, a fast growing suburb of Columbus. And this morning they're attending funeral services for Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs-Jones in Cleveland.

Well, John McCain says his new running mate can help him shake things up in Washington. He certainly shook up the presidential race by choosing the first term Alaska governor.

Our Dana Bash hit the trail with him after the announcement.


DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John McCain's urgent task is exposing his running mate to battleground state voters. Their first campaign stop, some Buckeye shopping.

But inside, McCain and his wife went one way, Sarah Palin and family went another. This new political pair hoping for the country to accept them as a team. Even before they really know each other. McCain met Palin just six months ago only once until meeting again this week before making her his running mate but moments like this are a big reason McCain picked her.


BASH: Images of a young mother trying to do it all. Someone he hopes female voters will relate to. But what about voters who wonder why the man running on experience would pick a small town Alaskan mayor turned first term governor. That's what we wanted to know.

QUESTION: (Inaudible)

PALIN: Well, I appreciate the experience in elected office I've had to give me good experience and to get ready for this job. It's been good experience.

BASH: Talking points down, she got back on McCain's Straight Talk Express and as they stopped again to get ice cream and greet more voters, one thing was clear, bringing an unknown running mate into Ohio didn't just bring buzz, it also generated intrigue.

It's a bold choice that has many in Washington shaking their heads but at least on day one, turning heads on the trail.


BASH (on camera): The area where John McCain is hoping that picking Sarah Palin will help him do well enough in this battle ground state to actually win the White House. This is where Hillary Clinton did very, very well during the Democratic primary.

There are a lot of blue collar conservative Democrats who might actually take a look at John McCain and the idea that he could be somebody they could vote for because he put someone on the ticket who perhaps shares their values. That's certainly the kind of message that we're going to hear at this rally later tonight with the two of them -- Betty?

NGUYEN: And we'll be talking much more about this throughout the show today. Dana Bash joining us live today. Thank you, Dana.

BASH: Thank you.

HOLMES: This is a serious situation. A deadly situation already has taken place in the Caribbean but Hurricane Gustav now Category 3 upgraded just this morning is headed toward the Gulf Coast of the U.S. It has a bull's eye right now on the City of New Orleans.

If we look at that cone of uncertainty if you will but still every area along the entire Gulf Coast from Florida to Texas could get hit by this thing. You're looking at live pictures here on your screen of people trying to get out there on the bottom left corner of the screen. People heeding those warnings in New Orleans and getting out of town. We will keep an eye on all things going on in the Gulf Coast and exactly where this storm is going. Stay right here.


NGUYEN: We are all over Hurricane Gustav from all of the angles, in fact. This is some new video coming in to CNN from I-10 in Louisiana. As you can see, traffic is bumper to bumper. Thousands of people leaving New Orleans and heading inland to avoid the storm.

HOLMES: Well, evacuations of oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico began earlier this week with nonessential workers leaving first. But all platforms will be sealed off. Remaining workers choppered out before any hurricane hits. Our Ali Velshi is on the phone with us now from Grand Isle, Louisiana.

Ali, of course, concern for these workers but a lot of people still have concerns about what's happening any way in our energy market and what this is going to mean for possible oil prices and possible gasoline prices down the road.

ALI VELSHI, CNN SR. BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, T.J. I'm in Grand Isle. This whole area, it is a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico and this whole area is the onshore operations for all of the offshore oil work that goes on. ExxonMobil is less than a mile away from here. Their whole operation. There's helicopter ports, these workers mainly from this part of the Gulf have been evacuated at this point.

I can see rigs from the area that I'm in. It's also a big fishing and shrimping area. I am right now at a shrimp processing plant where shrimpers come in, sell their shrimp here and that shrimp gets processed and shipped out. Well, the guys at the plant are in the process of just shutting everything down and securing everything before the storm rolls in.

Then all along this area you saw pictures of the I-10. We're far south of that and it is people who are evacuating this part of the southern Louisiana and moving out to higher ground. We've already seen the price of gas spiking in this part of the country and in others.

What we're worried about here, T.J. is the oil production about 25 percent of U.S. oil production comes from the Gulf of Mexico. They have to shut all that down and the danger here is not that it is shut down for a few days. That's OK. The danger is like after Katrina that it actually gets damaged. There were a lot of rigs and platforms damaged in Katrina and by the way, despite damage that happened in Katrina because they are effective at shutting things down, there was no oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico.

So, that's where I am right now. The waters are looking a little choppier than they were yesterday. I was out in the Gulf next to a rig yesterday. It's a little choppier now. There's an eerie sense of calm around here. But folks are not taking chances. They are evacuating in most cases. There are still some die hards that are sticking around. We might actually spend some time here with one of them. But people are getting ready and they're preparing for a big storm.

HOLMES: And Ali, a point there quickly if you can wrap this for me. But I think I heard you say, and I think this is right, people get concerned that this storm is coming and people having to evacuate and production is being shut down but that's not the point. We could sustain a couple of days but if there is damage, that's the issue we need to worry about.

VELSHI: That's right. Katrina was so rough in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico that it mangled a lot of pipes and toppled more than 40 rigs and platforms. We could sustain oil not coming in from the Gulf for a week or longer. That's not the problem.

The good part is they will evacuate and there's not any loss of life in the Gulf of Mexico. The bad part is if the storms comes in and it's churning heavily now as it gets into the Gulf of Mexico, that's a danger to the oil infrastructure. One quarter of our domestic production comes from the Gulf of Mexico, T.J.

HOLMES: All right. Our Ali Velshi again in Grand Isle, again the onshore oil operations for what's happening offshore there. Ali, we appreciate you this morning. Thank you so much.

VELSHI: OK, buddy. We'll talk soon.

NGUYEN: Hurricane Gustav is due to hit the U.S. Gulf Coast in just a couple of days but people in the Caribbean have already been through this killer storm.

HOLMES: Josh Levs here again with us this morning with I-Reports from Jamaica. Give us a hint, really, the storm is on its way to us, give us an idea really of what could be on the way.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You guys have seen a little clip of this video. It's pretty incredible what we got this morning. Let's just go to it right now.

It's from Castel Johnson as you can see right there and this is in the Black River. It's in southwestern Jamaica, capital of the St. Elizabeth's area. It's amazing. We have seen pictures of what it looked like just before. It looked beautiful. Then this comes along. Castel says in the end everyone in her family is fine, it all worked out OK. But we do know from authorities in Jamaica, as the storm as it crashed through there four people were killed. Actually fewer than were killed in the dough Dominican Republic.

We actually have some photos. Let's go over to those right now. I want to show you these because these are from Kingston where more people live. Very busy area there. And you can see the storm crashing through there. This is coming to us from Sonya Fuller who talks about physically seeing some people who are losing their homes.

Just look at more of these. She's saying people around her were losing their homes and were displaced and having to move into shelters right now trying to find places to go. And that in some cases she saw people who are really facing severe devastation as a result of this.

We are also hearing this is Jamaica, they have been through storms before. Some people saying you know what? It's not the worst we've ever seen. I do want to tell you guys that every time you send one of these I-Reports, keep in mind do not put yourself in danger in order to get these. We screen them first to make sure people did not go to danger to get these.

But if you are there and do have photos in a safe way, videos, send them to us at If you're in the middle of a big storm and obviously, guys, you are right. It gives us a little taste of what could potentially come to the United States. Reynolds is tracking that. There could be deviation. But we know it's possible that this massive storm could hit us.

NGUYEN: Thank you, Josh.

LEVS: Thanks.

HOLMES: Hurricane Gustav our top story. It is now a Category 3 storm upgraded a few hours ago. Winds now at 135 miles an hour. We have seen it grow from 110 to 115 to 120. Now we're up to 135. Some mandatory evacuations already have been ordered in Louisiana as well as Mississippi. Many more are on the way. And we are also seeing many people leaving on their own, getting out of the projected path of that storm.

A day after his vice presidential shocker, John McCain campaigns in Pennsylvania today with running mate Sarah Palin. Many Republicans are praising McCain's decision to pick the first-term Alaskan governor. McCain calls her a reformer who represents the future of the party. But some observers are still questioning her experience. Reaction is all over the map on this one. And some people love the choice. They think she's fantastic. Perfect for it. But others not so much. We're going to hear some of those opposite opinions coming up.


NGUYEN: We've been talking all morning long about people evacuating ahead of Hurricane Gustav but not everyone is leaving. And we have heard that before.

HOLMES: Unfortunately, yes. Some people are actually looking forward to heading into the danger zone. Folks like our Reynolds Wolf sometimes. He's over in the severe weather center keeping an eye on a couple guys who do this kind of thing for a living.

WOLF: Absolutely not. You have to be a little cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs to do this kind of thing.

Think about it. When you have these big storms, these big tropical systems when they come onshore you have people that do massive evacuations but you'll also have a handful full of people like Michael Watkins and Mark Sudduth that do the opposite. They go to the storm. We're with them today. They're with I understand you do this quite a bit. You cover a lot of these storms. And you bring some neat equipment with you, don't you?

MARK SUDDUTH, HURRICANETRACK.COM: We do. Technology today allows us to do more than we have ever done before and geared more toward keeping us safe that we've developed equipment that we can leave out to measure wind, barometric pressure and video which matches up with that and leave this equipment out while Mike and I go somewhere to be safe during the height of the storm.

WOLF: Explain to viewers at home. What you do is you set these up in a place where people shouldn't be.

SUDDUTH: That's right. Even the reporters sometimes have to leave because it gets too dangerous. This is meant with these tiny cameras and the equipment inside to be a virtual storm chaser, if you will, to stay out in harm's way where we cannot be because it would be too dangerous.

WOLF: So Mark, if you and Michael were out there and you see reporters, that's not the place you want to put this. You want to put this in a place where people cannot be.

SUDDUTH: Right. For example, during this storm if this hurricane threatens New Orleans enough to where there could be problems with the levees, Mike and I will take a couple of these boxes, we have five of them, put them on the levee system to monitor what's going on live and in real time. We'll be sharing that exclusively with CNN so the world can see what happens.

WOLF: Now, Michael, you have lost some of these in the past, haven't you? You don't always get them back.

MICHAEL WATKINS, HURRICANETRACKER.COM: That's right. During Hurricane Katrina in 2005 we actually lost three storm cases to the elements. We set up a little bit too close to the water. We thought we would be OK and we weren't. We were able to retrieve some of the data but we lost most everything.

SUDDUTH: We learned a lot from that.

WOLF: So heads up to people who happened to be in Mississippi and Louisiana, if you dig out into one of the swamps or something and you see one of these big cases this is what you might find on the outside.

SUDDUTH: Give is an e-mail. We'd be glad to see it in this historic storm. Those are probably long gone in landfill somewhere but we did learn a lot from Katrina and throughout the '05 season we plowed ahead and by the time we got to Hurricane Wilma we put one of these in Everglades City and recorded the storm surge and we were able to study that storm surge in Everglade City from a vantage point that nobody has ever seen before and were able to study that storm surge in time lapse from these fixed camera positions. This camera is tiny it has no moving parts.

WOLF: Let's get a look at this. SUDDUTH: It's a simple bullet cam. No moving parts. We use an L-bracket and some electrical tape. Nothing fancy. In a hurricane, you know this, less is more. And the smaller the better. Because the hurricane's job is to take heat out of the tropics and break your stuff. We don't want that to happen. So we've reduced everything to as small as we can get it.

WOLF: And it's all to gain more knowledge to help everyone stay safe when these big storms come ashore.

SUDDUTH: It does. It helps us understand what's going on. We send video feeds back to our Web site at We share that information to our members. They fund our work. We have a subscription service that members sign up and fund our work and in return we share these video feeds free of charge with emergency management.

We did just that during Hurricane Wilma especially in Collier County, Florida, and then just recently with Tropical Storm Fay we can share it with the media because we want people to see what's going on but this is a safe and responsible way to do just that.

WOLF: OK. Well, I do appreciate it, folks. You heard them at home,

This is the place to go. Great place to check out when the storms come ashore. Very experienced. The experience you get first hand so the rest of us don't have to. All right, Betty, let's send it back to you.

NGUYEN: They can take you into places where we as journalist can't go because of the danger. So it's obviously something that's much needed. And appreciate that insight. Thank you, Reynolds.

All right. So here's the question. Is she ready? That's what a lot of people are asking about Sarah Palin. The Alaska governor. Does she know how to handle an assault rifle? Well, obviously, she does. Take a look at that. Can she handle the number two spot on the Republican ticket? We're going to ask that question.


HOLMES: And people are heeding those warnings. A live look. People are getting out of Dodge. This is a look at the pictures live pictures out of New Orleans. People hitting the roads getting out of town as Hurricane Gustav makes its way toward the Gulf Coast. That storm upgraded to category 3 a little earlier this morning.

Evacuation orders are in place. Some mandatory. Others put in place later. We know that the airport also will be shutting down tomorrow so people trying to get out that way as well but our meteorologist Reynolds Wolf and our correspondents are on the story and we're all over it for you here at CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. SARAH PALIN, (R) VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was rightly noted in Denver this week that Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest hardest glass ceiling in America. But it turns out the women of America aren't finished yet and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all.


NGUYEN: There you have it. Alaska Governor Sarah Palin giving a shout out to Hillary Clinton supporters. Now Palin will be the first woman to be nominated for vice president on the republican ticket but is she ready? That's a question a lot of people are asking this morning so let's get into it. Ann Friedman is editor of a and deputy editor of the magazine "The American Prospect."

And S.E. Cupp, coauthor of the book, "Why you're wrong about the right." She joins us from New York.

Let me start with you, S.E., you wrought wrote an article in the "New York Daily News" saying Palin is good for women but not because she's a woman. Explain this.

S.E. CUPP, "WHY YOU'RE WRONG ABOUT THE RIGHT": That's right. She's a great candidate for vice president because she's conservative and committed conservative. She's got real strong conservative credentials, unimpeachable in fact and conservative agendas that limit government and cut taxes are good for women. They're good for Americans. So for those reasons she's fantastic for women.

NGUYEN: All right. But Ann, let me ask you this. A lot of critics are saying, I have spoken to some women who echoed this that in a way this is almost insulting to women to just put a woman on the ticket and expect female voters, Hillary Clinton supporters, to go McCain's way.

ANN FRIEDMAN, FEMINISTING.COM: Well, it's true. Women voters are like male voters in that they look at a candidate's experience and positions when deciding who to vote for. We're not an alien species that says this looks great to me. She looks exactly like I do. So it's time to vote for her.

As far as what S.E. said, conservatives make good presidents for women, I think we have seen how the last eight years have gone for women with a really conservative president in office. I don't know how switching Bush's gender would have affected his policies toward women. I don't think it would.

NGUYEN: Well, S.E., let me ask you this because McCain has really attacked Obama on the issue of not being ready and not having that experience yet he goes and picks a vice president who only has two years as governor. Is this woman ready to lead? Does she have the experience? Should something happen and she had to step into that spot as president?

CUPP: Well, she's held elected office for 13 years. She has more experience at the bottom of the McCain ticket than Obama does at the top of his. She's the only one of the four candidates running to hold executive experience. She's run a business. She's run a town as mayor. And she's run a state.

NGUYEN: She's mayor of a town that had 10,000 people. Now she's governor of a state that has some 600,000 people. Don't you think that that weighs into the factor here?

CUPP: I think combined with McCain's unquestionable experience they make a great team. And I think that she brings some really small town experience which is great and the experience of a working mom, which I think should count for something as well.

NGUYEN: On the issue of experience, Ann, let me ask you this. S.E. just brought it up. A lot of people are saying that this is a valid argument that because she has served as governor even if it was for two years, she has more executive decision experience.

FRIEDMAN: Well, look, I mean, as you pointed out, she's represented a fraction of the population that the members of the Democratic ticket have represented. And I'm actually less concerned about her lack of experience than I am about the fact that she's already under investigation by her own stage legislature for corruption. She's only been in office 18 months. That's something I want to see people talk about. Not just how much time in office but what's been going on while she's been there.

NGUYEN: Again, let's not blow that out of proportion. It's still an investigation. And that stems from a phone call that was made to get, allegations ...

FRIEDMAN: And several e-mails, etc.

NGUYEN: To get her brother-in-law fired and then she says that phone call was not made from her department. This could be ...

FRIEDMAN: She is under investigation by her own state legislature. That is true.

NGUYEN: That is true. All right. Ann Friedman, S.E. Cupp. We do thank you for your time today.

CUPP: Thank you.


HOLMES: Well, St. Paul, Minnesota, about to be in the national spotlight this week for the Republican National Convention. We'll talk to the one who is responsible for rolling out the red carpet for him there. There he is. He's a Democrat. Poor guy.


NGUYEN: Take a look. We are covering Hurricane Gustav from all angles. There's new information coming into CNN. Louis Armstrong Airport in New Orleans will close at 6:00 tomorrow evening. Again, the airport in New Orleans will close at 6:00 tomorrow evening. No flights in or out after 6:00 p.m. Sunday.

Also, we'll keep you updated throughout the morning and all day long right here at CNN for latest developments. We do want to add this. Some of the airlines are making arrangements today to add additional flights. Delta being one of them. To make sure that people who want to evacuate the city will be able to do so on a flight out of New Orleans.

HOLMES: There was a police raid in St. Paul, Minnesota. A site of the Republican National Convention. It was a rental hall that was raised. It was used by a group used to protest the convention. Police would not say what they are looking for in the search of this place. No actual arrests were made but arrests pictures were taken of the people inside.

The group said the hall was used for workshops and training, nothing illegal. They claim police are trying to disrupt plans made for Monday and the mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota, Christopher Coleman, joins us now live from Xcel Center. Sir, can you tell me first, what do you know about the raid? Do you know what police were looking for at this place where protesters were organizing?

CHRISTOPHER COLEMAN, ST. PAUL MAYOR: We have a big week in St. Paul. We have a lot of folks coming into town. We have delegates, media members, guests, we have people that are coming in to legitimately protest. We know there are some folks here that want to engage in criminal activity and we want to make sure they doesn't disrupt the people that are coming in to participate in the convention whether they're here to protest or they're here to be a delegate.

HOLMES: But did you think and have evidence of any reason to believe this particular group was here to do something illegal?

COLEMAN: It's an ongoing criminal investigation. There was a search warrant executed by the Sheriff's Department in Ramsey County. We're in the middle of it clearly we know that there are folks that are engaging in criminal activity. That was pursuant to this investigation so we'll find out more information as we go forward. But absolutely we want to make St. Paul safe for everyone to be here.

HOLMES: And the last on this point as far as this raid goes, I know that search warrant you talked about wasn't released what was in that search warrant and what they were searching for. Can you now tell us what's in that search warrant and what police were looking for?

COLEMAN: The Sheriff's Office is going to have a press conference later this morning. They'll be able to talk more about that at that time.

HOLMES: All right. Let's turn to this -- you are rolling out the red carpet for the Republicans and you, sir, are a Democrat. Tell me what you got up your sleeve to sabotage the event this week.

COLEMAN: No. No. We want people to come and have a good time. This is an incredible opportunity for us to showcase our community. We have 45,000 people coming in, 15,000 media members. This is a great community and not too many people know about it because we're in the heartland in the middle of the country. They'll see a beautiful place with a thriving economy and a great educated workforce. So that's what we're going to show off for people.

HOLMES: Tell us what you learned to do right and what did you learn to make sure you don't screw up from watching Denver and what they did with the Democratic National Convention this past week.

COLEMAN: Well, I was out in Denver for a couple of days. It was a great opportunity to see how they had set up everything from how they greeted people at the airport to how they dealt with the security issues. People had a good time. I talked to folks that were there all through the end of the convention. Obviously what happened on Thursday night was a spectacular and historic moment. People had a great time there. I think we're going to duplicate here in the City of St. Paul.

HOLMES: All right. Last thing to wrap up here. You have a different situation there. You are a much smaller town, I suppose, than Denver. And also you have the president supposed to be coming. Right now it depends on what happens with Hurricane Gustav. Don't know what will happen. But still right now we believe the president will be there. You have a different security situation in a lot of ways. How are you all, I guess, prepared to deal with that being a smaller city and you have the president coming.

COLEMAN: Well, to correct you we actually - our metropolitan area is quite a bit larger than Denver. Between Minneapolis and St. Paul and Bloomington and others.

HOLMES: I'm sorry. I was just counting St. Paul. Forgive me.

COLEMAN: That's OK. It depends. Sometimes I only count St. Paul and when it is to my benefit I count the entire region. But we're well prepared to handle everything including the presidential visit, the vice presidential visit as well as the candidates. We are really anxious. We're ready to go. We've been planning this for over two years. So we're fired up, ready to go and excited to have guests from around the world really.

HOLMES: All right. And again, that is Mayor Chris Coleman, the mayor, the Democrat, who is hosting the Republicans this weekend. Again, he's the mayor of St. Paul but depending on what day it is he may be mayor of the entire metropolitan region there. Mayor Coleman, we appreciate you giving us some time. Talk to us, good luck. We'll check in with you again.

Thanks much.

NGUYEN: I like how he used that to his advantage.

All right. Growing stronger. We've been talking about it and we'll continue. It's important information. Gustav reaches major hurricane strength this morning. Evacuations, they are already under way. We have the storm covered from all angles for you. We're live from the Gulf Coast right after this quick break.