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CNN Larry King Live

Panel Discusses Damage Caused By Hurricane Rita

Aired September 26, 2005 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, mile after mile of splintered homes, flooded cities and broken hearts. With the southeast reeling from the devastating one-two punch of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. We've got the latest on the damage done and the recovery efforts from inside the disaster zones.
Plus, "Good Morning America's" co-anchor Robin Roberts, Katrina literally hit home for her destroying the charming Mississippi town where she grew up and where her family still lives, all that and more next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening. The story continues. We're continuing in New York covering it.

Marty Evans of the Red Cross joins us later.

My co-anchor here in the studios in New York is Bill Nye, our science guy, back for another visit, the scientist, engineer, best- selling author and Emmy-winning television personality. He's the host of the "Eyes of Nye" on PBS. And he's on the National Advisory Board of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

But we're going to begin with another person who is going to be with us for the whole hour, our friend Robin Roberts, the co-anchor of ABC's "Good Morning America."

Hurricane Katrina hit very close to home for Robin slamming the small Mississippi down of Pass Christian where she grew up. In fact, "Good Morning America" has launched GMA Gets it Done, a year long help rebuild the Pass.

Give me a little background here, Robin. Where is Pass Christian? You're in Biloxi now right?

ROBIN ROBERTS, "GOOD MORNING AMERICA" CO-HOST: I'm in Biloxi. I'm outside my mother's home. I would invite you in but it's a little crowded. My sister and her family are living there because their home in Long Beach, Mississippi nearby is unlivable and right beyond that is Pass Christian, our family home of 30 years unlivable as well.

And you said it, it's a charming, charming town of about 6,000 in Pass Christian. Eight percent of that town, Larry, gone. The high school where I went to no longer exists so, yes, we're going to have a year initiative with "Good Morning America" to help the Pass because that's what we affectionately call it here in the area, the Pass get back on its feet. We had some supplies that were delivered today. You should have seen those eyes light up to see the school supplies. Our goal is -- our immediate goal is in the next two weeks to get the school up and running and get the kids back in school.

KING: When did you go there I mean recently?

ROBERTS: This is my third time, yes.


ROBERTS: This is my third time in the region. I just got here again today but I've been here three times since Hurricane Katrina hit. It's hard to believe it was a month ago today that it hit. But I just got back today and I had a bunch of supplies with me from some wonderful sponsors.

And, I know you've heard this from your viewers as well but, you know, people want to help and that's what we're doing at "Good Morning America." We're helping people and our viewers have been just tremendous, our sponsors and we're giving the supplies.

The school -- because, you know, it was very specific with us. We asked Pass Christian officials what do you need right now? And they were specific in their needs and we fulfilled those needs.

KING: What was it like emotionally when you first saw it?

ROBERTS: Oh, you don't want to go there. Oh, man. It was unlike anything I've ever experienced, Larry. I went through Hurricane Camille and my family when we moved here to the Mississippi gulf coast. My dad was in the Air Force at Keesler. We moved about a couple of weeks before Camille. I thought that was bad.

Nothing compares. You just can't imagine coming back to somewhere where you grew up and it just being gone. It's a region. It's not just one town and I -- I just can't put into words still. And coming back after a month of being here the three times that I have, very proud of the people here. They're working hard.

There are some wonderful volunteers that are giving of their time and they're going to rebuild but it is -- it's still devastating and they -- the first time I left here, Larry, right after the storm hit everyone said "Please don't forget about us. Don't let people forget about us" and that is our mission. But, you've got to come down here to see it for yourself. It's unbelievable still the devastation.

KING: By the way, people who want to donate can go to the Salvation Army website and earmark the contribution specifically for this cause. Tell me about the name Pass Christian, get a little history of that.

ROBERTS: Pass Christian, P-A-S-S, Christian, it's lovely. It's just -- we call it the Pass. It's about 6,000 people. The high school was about 100 when I graduated in 1979 and that was like the biggest class in years. But charming, jazz there, Creole food, the people, it's just a -- it's how you said it before. It's charming. It's quaint. It's like many -- many towns you have up and down the Mississippi gulf coast here.

KING: Any background to the name?

ROBERTS: Gee, you know, I always know this about you, Larry, you always ask that one question that I can't finally get a hold of. I don't know the history of the name Pass Christian but just that it's music to my ears every time I hear it.

KING: Knowing you, Robin, with a sports background you will find out tomorrow the entire history.

ROBERTS: Yes, sir I will. I will have it on "Good Morning America."

KING: You bet. You'll scoop me.

Bill Nye, the cover of the new "Time" magazine today says "Are we making hurricanes worse?" Are we?

BILL NYE, "THE SCIENCE GUY": Well, even if we're not...

KING: Are we seeding them? What are we doing?

NYE: Well, we're adding heat to the atmosphere and so it's very reasonable that if you're adding heat to the atmosphere you're going to make hurricanes worse. Proving that is quite difficult because the time scales of these things are 30 or 50 or 80 years of these cycles where these very strong hurricanes come.

But, there's no question there are more stronger hurricanes than there used to be. It's not clear that there are more hurricanes but the ones that are there are stronger.

And, if you're going to have risks, if you're a voter and taxpayer, if you're going to make a decision as a lawmaker, I would suggest, I think it's obvious that the world's getting warmer and so we need to take steps to mitigate the effects of hurricanes.

Just if you're going to -- if you're a betting guy, a betting gal, it's probably going to get worse and, if it's not, we could definitely improve our quality of life anyway.

KING: Someone told me there was a whacko the other day who said that maybe the environmentalists caused this.

NYE: I'm very skeptical of such a claim, very skeptical.

KING: Anderson, what's the aftermath now in New Orleans and you have been there forever?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, you know, they're still cleaning up and it's going to be a long haul. Larry, Mayor Ray Nagin today again talked about allowing people back into Algiers, allowing business owners back to the French Quarter. They want to try to get, you know, some businesses up and running again.

But, you know, if you look even just behind me you get a sense of the difficulties in all these communities. I mean I don't know if you can tell but that's a car in a tree and this is just one street that we randomly picked. This is Stafford Street in Lakeview.

There is a lot of cleaning up that needs to be done. Search and rescue crews have gone through here. They have marked every house. They have looked into every house. They have checked every car for bodies.

And there are still stray animals running around and locked in some of these homes. But there's a lot of cleaning up that needs to be done and it's going to be a long time before this city gets up off its knees -- Larry.

KING: Robin Roberts, how's your mom and the rest of the family doing?

ROBERTS: Well, thanks for asking. They're -- they're doing well. This is the home where they weathered Katrina. My sister came from Long Beach which is nearby. I have a sister in New Orleans. Every time I see Anderson in New Orleans I try and find my sister's home which is still under water in New Orleans east.

But, you know, it's hard. My mother is 81 years old. She's resilient. But it's been very hard. It's been -- these last two hurricane seasons have taken their toll, taken their toll on the people of the coast. They're weary. Their spirits are still high. But my family is hanging in there. I'm very proud of them as I am with all the people here on the gulf coast.

KING: Rob Marciano is in Sulfur, Louisiana. Where is that, Rob?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN WEATHER AND NEWS ANCHOR: Sulfur is just west of Lake Charles. It's in Calcasieu Parish, southwest Louisiana. It's right along the I-10 corridor, so it's pretty far inland but it was one of the communities that was raked by the eastern eye wall as this -- as this storm came ashore.

It's a community that has another number of petrochemical plants, employs a lot of folks that way. And what strikes me here and all the damage that I find along I-10 is how far inland it is.

Typically, when we -- when we cover hurricanes we go right to the coast and show the worst devastation. That's typically where it is. But this time around we're having a hard time getting to the coast because all the roads are flooded down there and so we're talking mostly about what's going on near the I-10 corridor.

But now that we're getting down there, we're starting to see the pictures. Word now, Larry, is that the communities down there, especially in southern Cameron Parish, right along the beaches, are for the most part gone. Seventy to 90 percent completely destroyed homes. That could lead up to 10,000 people being displaced from their homes.

Of course, the good news from all of this, as opposed to Katrina, is that 90 to 95 percent of the people were gone, so we have very few in the way of fatalities -- Larry.

KING: Bill.

NYE: Yes, in your lifetime did you see more development? Did you see more wetlands taken over by development since you were a reporter?

MARCIANO: Not so much here in southwest Louisiana. The beach communities down south are pretty small. They're not necessarily resort communities, you know, some snowbirds go down there and there's long time residents live down there.

Probably across southwest Louisiana, southeast Texas what you've seen is more development of the waterways in order to accommodate the shipping lanes and certainly that forces unnatural things to happen across the swamplands.

And, I know what you're getting at is, you know, has that buffer been taken away? And, the answer to that question is yes, not so much by the beach communities but probably by the shipping canals.

NYE: Channelization and so on.

KING: Let me get a break. We'll be right back. Robin Roberts and Bill Nye with us all the way.

We'll be checking in more with our reporters.

We'll check in with Rick Sanchez in Erath, Louisiana in a moment.

Other guests coming aboard as well, don't go away.


KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE.

Before we check in with the mayor of Lake Charles, let's check in with Rick Sanchez in Erath, Louisiana. Where is that?

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, that's just a little bit south of Abbeyville. We're probably about 30 miles, Larry, from the gulf coast. And what's interesting is I'm standing in an area that despite the fact that it's 30 miles from the gulf coast consider this.

The push, the surge of water that came in as a result of Rita actually affected the people in this area because it overflowed the banks of the Vermilion River. Yesterday, the area where I was, I walked through the same area and the water was above my waist. Thank goodness today it's receded somewhat and it's below my ankles.

But this is an important area as well because this is the same area, about three miles from where I'm standing, where one of the biggest hubs for natural gas in the United States is.

It's called the Henry Hub and it's been under water all the time as well. We've done a couple of flyovers over it trying to figure it out because there have been a lot of reports that part of the Henry Hub had a pipeline rupture.

KING: Yes.

SANCHEZ: So, that's certainly something to consider as well.

KING: We'll check back with you. Don't go away yet Rick.

Let's check in with Mayor Randy Roach, the mayor of Lake Charles, Louisiana. I know flooding was a big problem. How are we doing in that department mayor?

MAYOR RANDY ROACH, LAKE CHARLES, LOUISIANA: Well, Larry, the good news is that the water has gone down. The lake is back in the banks and things are starting to dry out and we're doing pretty well as far as the flooding is concerned.

KING: Yesterday, last night on this program your police chief was on. He said to evacuees "Don't come back." What are you saying tonight?

ROACH: Well, Larry, we're continuing that message right now. We're just about 48 hours out of the storm and we have done some initial damage assessments. We've started working on the streets. We're going to complete our damage assessments tomorrow.

And then we intend to make an announcement on Thursday as to what we realistically think people can expect relative to their need and their requests to return home.

We know, we've been inundated with phone calls. Everybody is wanting to come back, wanting to check on their property and I can assure them that we're doing everything we can to speed that up.

But the bad news is, Larry, is that it's not just the flooding. It's not just the rain but what's happening here in southwest Louisiana and all across this region is we have no power.

And Intergy, who is the major utility company, advised us this afternoon that they are concerned that because of the damage to the main transmission lines that feed Lake Charles that it looks like we could be without power for at least 30 days and when you're without power nothing else works.

I mean your street lights don't work. Your sewer plant doesn't work. Your water plant doesn't work. Now, we've got generators for some of this and we're working with FEMA right now and the Army Corps of Engineers to bring in generators but that's going to be a little bit longer term solution and we're working to that as fast as we can.

KING: How well is FEMA doing? ROACH: FEMA is kicking in. It takes a while, as we all know. I mean you take a situation like this it comes to an area that on Thursday morning early was informed that they were in the bulls eye as far as the storm is concerned and we've been tracking that all week.

You know, we initially started out with the middle Texas coast and then we move up and finally we make it here in Louisiana. So, I think all things considered FEMA is moving as best they can. We're trying to move as best we can.

We just met with General Honore and he had some concerns and we expressed some concerns about some things that we felt needed to be clarified. He's working with us on that. FEMA is working with us on that and we're working through the process.

We're literally, Larry, we're working around the clock. Remember when I came on earlier I said good evening -- I mean good morning. It's really evening. It's kind of like day and night are kind of the same for me.

KING: Thank you, mayor. You remember -- that was Mayor Roach. We'll check back with him again tomorrow I'm sure.

Robin Roberts, do you remember once a hurricane passed through we stopped covering it after it left. That's no longer true, right?

ROBERTS: Yes. No longer true. I think that it's going to be changed now forever after Katrina. We saw that this past weekend with Hurricane Rita. The coverage was unlike what we've seen before and even after it became a tropical storm, a tropical depression you just never know.

Because I remember being live on "Good Morning America" on that Monday when Katrina hit and everyone and even the experts were like, kind of dodged one there. And I lost contact with my family.

Then it all started escalating and then the levees broke in New Orleans and then the situation here and that's when I got on the ground late Monday night, early Tuesday morning why I wept on the air because I had no idea of the devastation.

Sometimes the pictures that we see are not indicative of the damage of a hurricane, so I think because of Katrina we're going to see the coverage of hurricanes unlike we've ever seen it before and it's going to stay even after the hurricane passes through an area.

KING: Bill Nye, it's raining tonight in Baltimore. I know that from baseball. And it's raining in Boston. It rained out there, raining in Philadelphia. Is this part of Rita?

NYE: Yes, it spun off into...

KING: It goes that far?

NYE: Yes, it's an enormous amount of water and it gets up in to the jet stream and gets blown west to east. And, I remember very well as a kid Hurricane Camille it raining on the East Coast and Hurricane Betsy and Agnes it would rain days after the hurricane -- after, if you will, the coverage had stopped.

KING: Is there some more storms out in the Atlantic?

NYE: There's two more right now, right.

KING: Two I think, yes.

NYE: And it's still September. I mean it's -- September is almost over.

KING: This runs until November right?

NYE: Well, and people I've been hearing the number November 30th, the official end of hurricane season. I'm not sure that nature...

KING: I don't remember any late in November.

NYE: Well, maybe this will be the first year and they've been -- you referred earlier to that "Time" magazine article. It may be the first time that the 21 names chosen every year or used up...

KING: Run out.

NYE: Yes, and then we start Greek letters. Now, I don't mean to be flip about it but it's a very serious thing and as the world gets warmer these things will probably get worse and we taxpayers and voters I think can take steps.

KING: We'll take a break, come back, have one more report from Rick Sanchez and check with Captain Bruce Jones, the commanding officer, U.S. Coast Guard in New Orleans. Don't go away.


R. DAVID PAULISON, FEMA ACTING DIRECTOR: There are people out there that lost everything. They lost their homes. They lost all their possessions and we are going to stay here and help them and make sure we get them back on their feet and back on the way to recovery and get some lives back where they should be.

SEN. MARY LANDRIEU, LOUISIANA: FEMA will be here for the long run because this is going to be a long run.



KING: Before we check in with Captain Jones, one more report from Rick Sanchez in Erath, Louisiana. I was just talking with Bill Nye, Rick. What has this done to you as a reporter to be around this day and night?

SANCHEZ: Well, it's certainly taken a toll on me. I mean I heard Robin say a little while ago and I guess if she was brave enough to say it, I'll say it myself. I've shed a couple of tears since I've been covering this storm, just watching the reactions from people.

I was talking to a couple earlier today over at one of the hotels. It's a family of -- three families, nine people with little kids. They're all living in a little room in a local hotel over here, really tough conditions.

And, I said "Why do you stick around? Why don't you just go on with your life somewhere?" And they said "Because we have to go back just to see it. We know our home may possibly be destroyed but we need that little piece of finality. We want to visualize it. We want to look at it with our own two eyes and be able to just maybe then start to rebuild, maybe then be able to walk away."

And they're having a tough time because some of the officials aren't letting them back in to see their home. So, it's a real tussle to see what these people are going through and it's tough and vicariously you feel for them.

KING: Takes its toll on you, thanks Rick, great work, Rick Sanchez reporting from Erath, Louisiana.

Now let's check in, in New Orleans, with Captain Bruce Jones, United States Coast Guard, commanding officer of the Coast Guard air station. Four weeks ago tonight you were out flying post Katrina rescue missions. What's the toll taken on you and your men and women?

CAPT. BRUCE JONES, U.S. COAST GUARD: Good evening, Larry.

That's a great question. Our folks are tired. They worked hard. They were winding down from Katrina when we saw Rita on the radar scope coming into the gulf and we got ready to respond to Rita.

But we have been giving our folks time off. All of our aircrews have been able to rotate out of theater. And I should point out that Coast Guard aircrews from 26 different air stations, that's every air station in the Coast Guard from Alaska to Puerto Rico to Hawaii have come into New Orleans and Alabama to hit the coastal Mississippi and Louisiana areas and help us with response.

KING: What does it do to you, captain, when you see a whole area swallowed up from the air?

JONES: It's overwhelming. When we evacuated on Sunday, the day before Katrina hit four weeks ago, we went west to Lake Charles and Houston to wait for the storm's passage. We knew at that point it was going to be a cat 4 or cat 5 hitting our own home in New Orleans.

We knew it was going to be bad and we knew from Hurricane Pam exercise last year that there was going to be significant flooding. But, you know, intellectually knowing that and recognizing it emotionally are two different things.

We flew back over our home in New Orleans on Monday, four weeks ago today at 3:00 in the afternoon and started rescuing hundreds of people off rooftops. It was just -- it was a lot to comprehend, so we just put the thoughts out of our mind and went into action and did what coasties do. We responded.

KING: Did many of your people lose their homes?

JONES: Yes. I have 105 people in my command, 16 of them lost their homes. They were out there working around the clock fixing aircraft, flying aircraft, jumping out of helicopters on cables to rescue people through attics and windows and they've been working around the clock ever since then, including Hurricane Rita response two days ago.

KING: Robin Roberts, these are amazing stories these Coast Guard people and the work they do aren't they?

ROBERTS: Well, it's amazing. I mean it's a story that you -- that you just can't get enough of, Larry, and you know, a lot of people were just so heartbroken and rightfully so after Katrina and after Rita and then you see these men and women who -- you heard that gentleman.

I mean they lost their own homes and they're out there helping others and so many people would come up to me, this is again my third time back in the region since Katrina hit four weeks ago today and they want to make sure everyone knows that there are -- yes, they have problems but they're so appreciative of the hard work of a lot of people in the military.

Today at Pass Christian when we were unloading supplies there were a lot of Seabees from California that were here volunteering. It's just been an amazing part of this tragic story.

KING: And it's interesting to note, Bill Nye, that the people put in charge of post Katrina and post Rita in charge are Coast Guard.

NYE: They're experienced with flying helicopters and running rafts I guess. I've been on Coast Guard vessels and they can move rafts on and off boats pretty quickly, on and off ships.

KING: How do you train for something like this, Captain Jones, when you -- I mean you don't have bad weather to train in do you? How do you train?

JONES: Coast Guard boats, Coast Guard ships, Coast Guard helicopter crews train hard. We train regularly. Our helicopter crews are out there every night of the week just about when it's not a hurricane going on with night vision goggles.

We go offshore at night. We practice hoisting to boats in rough weather. Of course, nothing like Katrina or Rita but if you train hard enough and train regularly enough with the right equipment and you have good doctrine and you have good risk management practices, somehow it prepares you to respond to devastating events like this.

Plus, you know, every year even if it's not a major hurricane like Katrina, we have Nor'easters that come through. We have gales. You have the routine terrible weather our crews in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest face.

So, you have a whole cadre of Coast Guard men and women throughout the United States who are -- who have extensive experience going out in bad weather and doing rescues and we do it on a moment's notice. We don't have to have, you know, two days planning to prepare for an event that we know is coming.

What we're trained to do is have a firehouse mentality. We're on duty 24/7, 365 days a year. When the horn goes off at 2:00 a.m. and we h ear that a cruise ship is sinking offshore in 30-foot seas, we go.

We go out there. We use our equipment and training. Our on- scene commanders, our aircraft commanders that are on scene are trained to make decisions. They're empowered to make decisions. They don't have to ask for permission. They look at what's out there. They look at the resources available. They take the appropriate action and they save lives. That's what we do every day of the year.

KING: And what's the main work you're doing now?

JONES: Right now our rescues have tapered off dramatically by helicopter in the last 24 hours. We're coordinating with local parish officials in the affected areas to provide whatever logistical help we can.

Primarily our captains of the port in coastal Louisiana and Texas are working with the Army Corps of Engineers to restore waterways, open the waterways to commerce. They're making sure the channels are at the appropriate depth, they haven't silted up because of the hurricane storm surge.

They're working with the EPA to clean up oil spills. They're repairing aids to navigation. They want to help the communities get back in business and get back to life.

NYE: Captain, how much aerial refueling do you have to do?

JONES: I'm sorry did you say aerial refueling?

NYE: Yes. Where do you get your fuel when there's all this trouble with the refineries and so on?

JONES: Right, as far as helicopter jet fuel do you mean?

NYE: Yes.

JONES: Yes, there's plenty of helicopter jet fuel in storage at various airports surrounding the area. So, our primary concern after Katrina when we --when we flew back from Houma, Louisiana just a few hours after Katrina passed over the city, we were concerned that we wouldn't be able to operate out of our air base and we wouldn't have jet fuel available to refuel our helicopters and conduct rescue operations.

Fortunately, we found that our fuel truck was OK and we had one of our petty officers go help with the Navy restoring the electricity to their fuel farms, so we were able to get access to fuel for dozens and dozens of helicopters within just a few hours.

KING: Captain, I salute you, Captain Bruce Jones, U.S. Coast Guard, commanding officer of the air station in New Orleans.

When we come back, Robin Roberts and Bill Nye will talk more and then other panel members will be joining us. We'll be right back. Don't go away.


KING: We're back with our panel for the hour, Robin Roberts in Biloxi, Mississippi, the co-anchor of ABC's "Good Morning America" and here in New York, Bill Nye, The Science Guy of PBS and of the National Advisory Board of the Union of Concerned Scientists. Robin has in her reportorial manner, we understand found out the history of Pass Christian and what is it?

ROBIN ROBERTS, CO-ANCHOR, "GOOD MORNING AMERICA": Well, you know, as soon as I didn't know the answer, the phone in my mom's house behind me started ringing off the hook. And I was told that a Frenchman named Christian found a pass, and this was in the 1600's, he found a pass. His name was Christian, so they named it Pass Christian. I was going to hold that information for ""Good Morning America"" but I love you too much, Larry, to let that pass. So that's -- that is the answer to the question you asked me earlier.

BILL NYE, THE SCIENCE GUY: So Robin, in this usage of pass is something you take a boat through?

ROBERTS: Correct. There's -- as you know, there's waterways all up and down the Gulf Coast and that's why there are so many casinos that had to be on the waterside. And in the pass, there's a number of little outlets and that's why, as you know, Bill, the storm surge was so severe here. I mean the winds were not as high as Camille in 1969, but the storm surge and what it left behind, our home in the pass, we have a two-story home, and the first floor was completely covered with water, completely flooded. In fact a neighbor from two houses down swam to our house and climbed on the second story and he weathered the storm there, so yes, there are waterways all around here on the Gulf Coast.

KING: Anderson Cooper, who will co-host again two hours tonight at the top of the hour, doing his own show and reporting all day. We asked Rick Sanchez this. What has this done to you?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I don't think any of us who have been reporting this story or who have been privileged enough to be here will ever forget it or are the same. I mean, I think everyone here -- I was talking to some of those Coast Guard pilots you were talking to today -- I was talking to them earlier today. I mean they say they are changed. The people you see today are different than they were you know a month and a half ago before these storms ever started. And I think none of us really know in what ways we have changed, but it just feels different. I can tell you I went home for a day and a half recently, and it was strange being around people who hadn't been through this and who haven't been here and you know they're watching TV shows and I don't know, Martha Stewart has some new reality show on, and it just feels like if you haven't been here, it's very hard to relate to what is happening elsewhere in the world. It's going to be a strange thing going back.

KING: And the people must leave long impressions with you.

COOPER: Absolutely. I don't think anyone who does this job should do this job unless they're willing to be changed by the stories that they report on and changed by the people they meet. And I carry the people I've met along with me in my heart and I have done this. You know I carry people I met 15 years ago, when I first starred in Africa working. I remember those people and I carry them with me.

KING: Yes.

COOPER: I think that's what you're supposed to do as a reporter. You're supposed to open your eyes and your mind and your ears and your heart and allow yourself to be changed so that you can tell an audience what it's like being here and what it feels like.

KING: It's obvious from watching you. Anderson will be back at the top of the hour. Robin Roberts, what's it's done to you reportorial...

ROBERTS: Anderson said it so well. Yes, he said it best. I think that you cannot be the same person. So many of us, we don't like to admit it and I was -- I have to say, initially, I was embarrassed when I broke down on the air that Tuesday morning after Katrina passed through. I had driven all through the night. We flew to Lafayette, Louisiana, 200 miles to the west of here.

We drove all night long, through such devastation. This was before any clearing whatsoever, didn't know what I was going to find here, hadn't seen my family, and I was so grateful that I found my family well and I knew that there were so many people that were waking up that morning not knowing about their loved ones. And that's something that stays with you.

And I know as journalists, we're supposed, you know, remain objective and stay outside of the story, but when you see such devastation, when you see such heartbreak, when you see such spirit, how can it not change you for the long-term? It just, it just does.

KING: How does it affect you, Bill? Because you look at a lot of this intellectually, the concerned scientists you gather together in meetings.

NYE: Well how to say, I'm more concerned than ever. The whole thing is very disturbing. I feel like our society is hurtling toward more and more of these tremendous problems.

KING: Because we don't think about tomorrow?

NYE: We're not -- well, tomorrow or 10 years and so on. And these -- the hardships that all these people are going through were predicted. And people didn't believe it. We didn't trust the numbers, if you will. And I only see the situation getting worse. And roughly, I believe that we could have a much healthier and much more secure society if we weren't as dependent on oil and if we were more respectful of wetlands, for example.

And these are things that you can analyze as a scientist or an engineer and evaluate. But convincing everyone that it's worth doing is quite difficult. So when I look at these stories and see the misery, I don't see -- right now, I'm not sensing that our society is going to make any changes.

KING: And misery comes to you because you think it's preventable?

NYE: Yes, absolutely.

KING: Let me get a break and come back. And when we come back Marty Evans - finally -- Marty has been on this show so much, first time together in the same studio, a admiral by the way in the Navy.

Marty Evans, the president and CEO of the Red Cross will join us. Don't go away.


KING: Joining us here in New York now is Marty Evans, president and CEO of the American Red Cross. Their Web site is The phone line for donations is 1-800-HELP-NOW. And in Houston, Texas is Wydell Dixon, the founder of the Whiskerville Animal Sanctuary in Texas City, Texas, rode out Rita at the sanctuary with hundreds of animals. How are they doing, Wydell?


KING: That's a kind of panic for animals, isn't it?

DIXON: Well I can tell you it was more of a panic for us. The animals acted like nothing was going on at all.

KING: Marty Evans, last night you told us how funds had slowed down. Any change today?

MARTY EVANS, RED CROSS PRES./CEO: No, it's been pretty much steady state today. But we put out a very strong call for additional funds and we're confident that shows like yours, people will hear and dig deep and maybe make that second or even third contribution.

KING: How much does it concern you that Bill Nye says it's going to get worse?

EVANS: It concerns me a lot. It means that we're going to have to redouble our fund-raising efforts, because you know we are a nonprofit, private organization, and we can only do what the public will sustain as far as their contributions. It also concerns me because we need more volunteers. We've launched a 40,000 new volunteer campaign, and then we see people coming in and volunteering so that's good.

KING: These are people who have to give up their time, right?

EVANS: Well they do.

KING: They're not paid, are they?

EVANS: No...


EVANS: ... not at all.

KING: Has Elizabeth Dole kept in touch with you? You succeeded her, did you not?

EVANS: Well there was actually one person in between us, but she has been a wonderful supporter. She certainly encouraged me, but it's great to have a U.S. senator who is very pro Red Cross.

KING: Wydell, did they make a mistake in Louisiana in not letting the people take their animals?

DIXON: As far as I'm concerned, they certainly did. I guess you would have to look at every situation for what it was, though.

KING: What was their concern do you think?

DIXON: Are you saying the people that left their animals behind or...

KING: Yes, that were told to leave their animals behind. What do you think officials were thinking about?

DIXON: I really couldn't say. I can't even imagine them asking them to leave their -- your pets are your family members.

KING: What do you do with them now when you have them all?

DIXON: What do I do...

KING: I mean what happens -- the owners come back for them? What eventually happens?

DIXON: Well it just depends. I mean we had people coming into our sanctuary days before the storm wanting us to take on even more when we had 300 to deal with ourselves. We had already evacuated our dogs, but we had 300 cats to deal with.

KING: Robin, you have any pets? Your family have any pets down there? ROBERTS: I have a Jack Russell. There are no pets here, but my brother went through the situation. He's in Houston. And they, of course, had to evacuate and he had some large dogs and it was of concern. But they're in Texas. I remember in Galveston, they were letting people take their dogs...

KING: Yes.

ROBERTS: ... on the school buses and evacuate and I think maybe in part because they learned that so many people you know, they are your family. And they did not want to evacuate, so I think that's one of the lessons. I think we learned a lot of lessons from Katrina that carried over to Rita and that's why we saw them -- the evacuation and people heeding the warnings.

But yes, it's -- it was a big concern during Katrina and I remember Hurricane Katrina -- Camille in 1969 being in a shelter and when the winds started going, you could hear dogs starting to howl and those were dogs -- little dogs that people had stuffed in their bags. But the wind started going and then you know what do you then? And they allowed them to keep their dogs, but it's been a concern for quite some time when it comes to hurricanes and pets.

KING: You can only imagine the effect on animals, right Bill?

NYE: Well anytime you're going to get drowned, I think if you're a mammal, it bugs you, yes. And like so many people, I think many of us would rather hang out with dogs than people, some of the time...


NYE: ... so I guess we learned a lesson.

KING: Wydell, what are they like not when they're not with their owners?

DIXON: Well actually all of the pets that we had or all of the animals that we had in our sanctuary were all rescues that we already had in our possession. I will tell you, however, there were people in my city that had gone off and left animals. We picked up seven before we ever hunkered down for the storm once we had already evacuated the dogs.

KING: Marty Evans, what's this been like for you, to go through this? This is your first big one, right, back-to-back? I mean you've had other, but nothing like this.

EVANS: Well certainly the scale and scope of this is incredible, almost, except we're living through it. You know I get my inspiration from Red Crossers and just seeing what people will do to help their neighbors and, you know, some of our Red Crossers come from across the country, they drop everything, they go to the worst of places and the worst of times and they stay on the job for hours. We have to almost forcibly make them take a break.

KING: Have you traveled to the areas too?

EVANS: I sure have. I have been down four times.

KING: If you want to get more information on the animal sanctuary, the Whiskerville Animal Sanctuary in Texas City, the Web site is We thank Wydell Dixon. And we'll be right back.


KING: Before we talk with Cindy Griffin, the executive director of Habitat for Humanity in Jackson, Mississippi, let's take a call from Round Rock, Texas. Hello.

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: Hello, Larry, how are you?

KING: Fine. What's the question?

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: My question is I'm an evacuee from Hurricane Rita and I'm from the Beaumont/Port Arthur (UNINTELLIGIBLE) area. We're not seeing any coverage of what's going on in our area. We have heard that we won't be able to go back to our area for at least a month. We've gotten in touch with FEMA, but they're telling us that there's not -- they can't really help us right now, because they're overwhelmed with the Katrina victims, which I do understand that.

My question is, do y'all have any idea how we could -- you know, what coverage, why we're not seeing the coverage of our area?

KING: All right, let's ask our reporters. Robin, why are we not covering Round -- Robin -- Texas?

ROBERTS: Oh she has a very -- she has an excellent question, but I tell you, there are people that are saying that in so many communities, up and down the Gulf Coast, in Louisiana. Alabama feels that they haven't gotten the coverage that they deserve following the hurricanes of last year and following Katrina as well. You try, as a news organization, to do the best you can and you often say, in the case when we're covering Pass Christian, saying this is an example of other small towns in the devastation area. And it's helpful if somebody has a connection with it. But it's something that we're hearing from the people of Beaumont, that we're hearing from the people in Ocean Springs, Louisiana, Mobile, Alabama. It's something that's very difficult, because it's such a large scale, the devastation area.

KING: Let's check in Jackson, Mississippi, with Cindy Griffin, executive director of Habitat for Humanity, which is -- your goal is what, build housing right?

CINDY GRIFFIN, EXEC. DIR., HABITAT FOR HUMANITY: Absolutely. We want to help as many people as we can get back into their homes as quickly as possible.

KING: And what is the Enterprise Foundation?

GRIFFIN: The Enterprise Foundation, I believe, is an entity that is doing research for the coastal area to determine the extent of the damage.

KING: And they have estimated...

GRIFFIN: But I'm not really familiar with them...

KING: But they've estimated more than 455,000 housing units will be needed. How are you going to do this at Habitat?

GRIFFIN: Well, Habitat for Humanity is not going to be the only builder. We are going to focus on what we can do very well and that's build for low-income families. We'll be building decent, affordable homes. We will not be the only builders that we won't try to solve all housing needs for the area.

KING: And you started Operation Home Delivery; the focus is home in a box. The housing frames assembled at locales away from the zone. They're doing it right here in Rockefeller Center.

GRIFFIN: And we're doing it in Jackson, Mississippi.

KING: And then...

GRIFFIN: We're having a great time.

KING: You build them and then transport them?

GRIFFIN: Absolutely. What we're doing is we're building the interior and exterior walls, we are framing them, we're putting the top and bottom plates. Then we're breaking them down into 12-foot modular components and we're going to put those in a shipping container with other materials. So when the construction crew receives them at the affected location, they'll be able to take this out, do a quick assembly, and have the materials to, at the end of the day, actually have their house blacked in or weatherproofed, if you will, and get a real quick start on their build.

KING: And as "Good Morning America" has launched "Get It Done" (ph), Habitat with -- Habitat for Humanity is working a lot with the "Today" show. Bill Nye wanted to add something.

NYE: Yes, Cindy, are you guys -- I'm not being facetious in any way. Are you planning to have houses on stilts or higher off the ground so if there's another storm in the next few months, they'll be a little better off?

GRIFFIN: There are plannings being done and I'm not privy to all the plans for the technical parts of it. Locally, in Jackson, Mississippi, we sat down with some architects and made sure that the frames that we were doing could meet the codes that were required by the -- the building codes down there in place. But I do not -- I will leave that to the experts on the ground.

KING: Robin Roberts want to ask you something -- Robin.

ROBERTS: Yes, if I could, it's wonderful the work that you all are doing, Cindy. The one question that I have that I have been asked by others, the cost efficiency. Building it, as you say, and then breaking it down and then shipping it to the respective areas, why is it done in that manner, as opposed to building it in the area and not having to have the cost of shipping it down to various areas?

GRIFFIN: Well, that's a real good question. And when you think about Hurricane Katrina wreaked her devastation in a matter of hours, but it is going to take us literally years to rebuild and this is a fast response. This is a first response. We can't even get down into the affected -- many of the affected areas to begin building.

So this is a way that we can start building, putting components together so that when we can get down on the ground, we can start building immediately and have a fast start. And, of course, once the infrastructure is in place and crews can get down there on a more regular basis, then our emphasis will shift to a more normal building procedure, rather than the shipping procedure.

KING: Thank you, Cindy. If you want more information, the Web site is

Rob Marciano, quickly, before we take one more break, are you very concerned with two storms out there in the Atlantic about another one coming?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN WEATHER & NEWS ANCHOR: Certainly, very concerned. What kind of unnerves me -- and I realized it when I heard Robin speaking -- Robin Roberts speaking about Pass Christian, is that in the last month, we've had history repeat itself twice. Camille and Katrina came in virtually the same strength, virtually the same spot. Hurricane Audrey back in 1957 came here, virtually the same strength and spot, as did Hurricane Rita. So, you know, I don't want to be superstitious, but it's -- it makes me -- it gives me chills to think of what may be coming down the pike later on this season.

KING: And I'll ask Bill Nye when we come back about hurricanes in the future, what we might be able to do. We'll be right back with Marty Evans, Bill Nye, and Robin Roberts. Don't go away.


KING: Bill Nye, what about hurricanes in the future?

NYE: Well the world is getting warmer, there's no question about that. People debate whether how much humans are involved, but the world is definitely getting warmer. And so more heat in the atmosphere probably means bigger hurricanes. And bigger hurricanes are big trouble for all of us.

Now, we as voters and taxpayers can make some choices. I mean this could be a real turning point. This could be a real opportunity for us. Right now, at the current prices we spend about 800 -- no -- $800,000 a minute on foreign oil, a minute. So in a day, we're spending about 1.1, a little more than $1 billion a day goes overseas.

Now, if we were to develop alternative means of getting energy, and I'm talking about wind, which is heavy industry, people will be out there welding windmills and if we had domestic sources of solar cells, of photo voltaic (ph) cells, we could use the most distributed sources of energy, wind and light, to avoid or prevent the use -- reliance on foreign oil, which would be good for our health and our security. This could be a big opportunity for everybody.

KING: Robin, give our best to the folks there in Pass Christian and the best of luck to you. And thanks for being with us tonight.

ROBERTS: Always good to talk to you, Larry. The people here say thank you and keep it coming. They're very appreciative. Thank you.

KING: How much has this cost the Red Cross so far? How much have you raised?

EVANS: Well we've raised $947 million, but it's actually going out faster than we can raise it right now. It's going to be about $2 billion for Katrina alone and then we don't know yet what it's going to be for Rita. But the needs are so great and the resources we provide are really relatively insignificant, a family of four, about $800 of emergency financial assistance to bridge the gap to federal funds.

KING: Thank you all very much. The -- again for the Red Cross, 1-800-HELP-NOW.

Tomorrow night in addition to getting you updates on the aftermath of these hurricanes, Chris Lawford will join us, the son of the late Peter Lawford and Patrick Kennedy Lawford.

Joining us now in New York is Aaron Brown; in New Orleans is Anderson Cooper, as this dynamic duo continues on for another night.

Mr. Brown.