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New Day

Rescue Efforts Continue in Houston, Texas; Tropical Storm Harvey Makes Second Landfall In Louisiana; New Jersey Governor Chris Christie On Harvey's Destruction. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired August 30, 2017 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: It is 7:00 a.m. here in Houston where I am, and we do begin with breaking news because tropical storm Harvey has made landfall again, this time in Louisiana where it is hammering that area with very heavy rain.

I am here in Houston. And this scene around me is just incredible. This is Buffalo Bayou. And I am surrounded by water. I don't know if you can see this, Chris, but behind me, this is normally a walkway. This is normally a river, but it is about one-fifth the size of what you see now it has swollen to. There's supposed to be an interstate and highway all around me. It's closed. You can't see it, but there is a tree lying across the highway because that's how high this bayou had gotten. It brought trees with it. So there's just no better illustration of what downtown Houston is facing than all of this water.

This is the area where the reservoirs are let out into. So they are trying to keep up with the more than 50 inches of rain, Chris, that has fallen in this area. And as you can see, they can't keep up with. It has swollen over and bled onto highways and on ramps. So those reservoirs are being emptied into here, into Buffalo Bayou.

It's just incredible. We're watching right now. Again, you can't see it right now, but a city bus has been totally immobilized trying to cross some of the water and is being towed away by a tow truck. There are now three mega shelters that are open in the city of Houston just to handle the thousands, the tens of thousands of evacuees who have been trying to flee Harvey's flood waters. And of course they are not out of danger, just because it is not raining here where with are we are, they are still expecting massive flooding and people are still trapped in their homes, Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: They don't believe the water will crest until later this week. And that will be the first point where they can start to assess how long it will take to dry out. Alisyn, stay safe. We'll be back to you in a moment.

And unfortunately, where Alisyn is right now is actually the best news we have for you in terms of Harvey coming back on shore because areas the western parishes of Louisiana and some small parts of east Texas are getting another two feet of rain in just the last 24 hours. Harvey is posing a flood threat to several states now that will be in its path. All of this as President Trump is back in Washington. He got some

criticism, he got some praise for what he did when he was down in Texas. We have it all covered for you. Let's begin with CNN's Polo Sandoval live in Richmond, Texas. Where Alisyn is, Polo, they're worried about what the water that is already there will mean. Where you are, they're worried about having more water and dealing with what is there as well.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Chris. Just because the skies are clear doesn't mean the threat is over, especially here in Fort Bend County where we continue to see many of these evacuations that have taken place. The water that has overflowed from the nearby Brazos River is slowly invading this neighborhood here. So as a result many of the people who call this place home, for example, will be waking up in Houston. And that is where officials are tracking sadly an increasing death toll among them. A Houston police officer, Sergeant Steve Perez, we're told he gave nearly half of his life to public service in uniform, serving the Houston community there. We are told that he -- his body was sadly recovered just yesterday. He put on that uniform on Sunday, went out to work even though his wife begged that he not go out there because of the deteriorating conditions, and sadly he did not make it.

There are still many people that are unaccounted for, including a family of six, the Saldivars. We heard from some of their loved ones who say hope is very quickly diminishing that they may be found alive again.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The current just lifted up the van and started pointing it towards, you know, into the water. It just took the van. And he had his window down so he managed to get out the window and he tried to get around the van, but he couldn't. It was too strong. The current was too strong.

RIC SALDIVAR, LOST SIX FAMILY MEMBERS IN HURRICANE HARVEY: You can hear the kids screaming and trying and get out of the van, and he kept telling them go to the back of the van, open the back doors, open the back doors. But from what he's describing, I'm sure the kids couldn't even grab a grip on the van just to reach the door, much less open it. And he said it just went under the water.


SANDOVAL: And back in is what now the bank of the Brazos, there is a mandatory evacuation in place here, Alisyn. Officials here in southeast Texas are hoping to prevent more tragedies from happening.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, Polo, what a tragedy to hear the story of those final moments. That is just really heartbreaking. Polo, thank you. We will be with you throughout the rest of the program.

[08:05:06] So the American Red Cross says that more than 17,000 Harvey evacuees are now in shelter as across the state. There are these two new mega shelters and they are open in Houston to try to alleviate some of the massive crowding we've seen in the first shelter where I was just in the past hour. CNN's Rosa Flores, she is live at one of the other shelters. This is the NRG convention center which can house an additional 10,000 people. What are the conditions there now, Rosa?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, we've learned that there are 1,000 people at this shelter. And Miss Faye McDaniel is one of them, and she is actually asking for help this morning because, as you know, it's been a very chaotic situation with the rising waters. So -- and she tells us that she is missing her family. So she's trying to reunite with her family. If you could tell us, Miss McDaniel, your full name, where your family is, and hopefully somebody's watching and they can come reunite with you.

FAYE MCDANIEL, FLOODING VICTIM: OK. My name is Faye McDaniel. I have a son Charlie McDaniel and a daughter Tina McDaniel that lives in Houston.

FLORES: In the downtown area?

MCDANIEL: Yes, the downtown area.

FLORES: And just so everybody knows, she was at the Arbor Terrace in Kingwood, which is in north Houston, and she's here with her dog Patches. And so we know a lot of families are going through what you're going through, Miss McDaniel, so if anybody recognizes her, if her family is watching, she's at the NRG, Alisyn, right here waiting with little Patches down here which is just a beautiful, beautiful little dog, and they're allowing people to be here with their dogs. So again, Miss Faye McDaniel, she's right here, she's safe. And hopefully her family will come reunite with her pretty soon. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Rosa, let's hope we can connect her with her family. That's part of the power of television. Let's hope they are watching and can be reunited. Thank you very much, Rosa.

So this tropical storm Harvey, it has made landfall again this morning for a second time. It's made landfall in Louisiana right near the border of Texas. And that's where we find CNN's Drew Griffin. He is live in Beaumont, Texas, which is getting pummeled by rain. I understand, Drew, at this moment what are the conditions there.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, pretty breezy. We're getting 30 mile-an-hour winds. We're getting bands and bands of these thunderstorms that are coming through, just more rain, Alisyn, on top of the two feet or more that they had here yesterday. It's made rescues overnight almost impossible. Port Arthur, we're hearing, which is about 20 mile the south of me, is inundated. In fact we have pictures from our partners at 12 News Now that show the shelter where people were sent to, that is being flooded now.

We do know that at sunlight today, they will start the boat rescues. They've been trying to go out with dump trucks around Jefferson County, other high water vehicles, but really the call from the sheriff was you're just going to have to stay in place and ride it out unless it's a dire emergency. And they're going to have to evaluate the situation. The biggest problem, Alisyn, is mobility. You can't get around. The

roads just about everywhere are very, very deep. We've had just a few cars attempt to go through and we've seen several of them die just behind me here. So as the rain continues to fall, this event is not over. Everybody is still hunkered down in place, hoping, hoping that the wind, Chris, will die down, that the rain will stop and the water will start to recede. Chris?

CUOMO: You're making the right points, Drew. Thank you for being there for us. Wind moves water. So how much nor rain is going to fall? Where will the winds be? Will those dams in and around Houston hold up? CNN meteorologist Chad Myers is facing these questions for us. What do you have for answers?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I think the maximum amount of rain we get today is probably somewhere around 10 inches. And that is like Sabine River, just to the north of Beaumont, Port Arthur, where Beaumont picked up 25 inches in 24 hours. And Orange Texas, right there on the border, picked up nine inches of rain in four hours overnight. That's the same thing that happened to Houston the night that it really flooded.

Here goes the storm for today. Up toward the Shreveport and even showers in Little Rock and Memphis and maybe even a shower in Atlanta, but there's the heaviest rainfall just to the west of Alexandria, Louisiana for today.

Now I'm going to get you to the map of these reservoirs. The Addicks reservoir right here and the Barker reservoir right here. We know that this is 109 feet above sea level, the water is. We know that this part of the dam is 108, water going around. Water coming out the spillway, yes, but water is going around.

[08:10:01] Now, I want to show you what the city officials were thinking in 1950. This is what it looks like right now. Here is the dam. It's a park. There's never water in this reservoir unless you get tropical storm Harvey. This is what it should look like with green grass. Notice all of the land and all of the houses back out here. Now, I take you to 1950. There's not a house. There's a farm. There's probably more cows than people because this is farmland. This is what was supposed to drain into this reservoir and stay here in case there was a big flood. Well, look at the farmland, creeks, streams, rivers, and cows and you can see what it looks like now, hundreds of thousands of houses, hundreds of thousands of square feet of concrete that the rain just runs off rather than soaks in. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Chad, that is quite the illustration for us. And I have more illustrations here right now for us. I finally coming down here to the Buffalo Bayou, a river, in other words, to anybody in the northeast, you can finally see what the folks in Houston are grappling with. This river that I'm standing next to, this Bayou has swollen to about five times its normal size, and you can see -- this is a walkway normally behind me, and look at how fast these River Waters are moving. If you tried to cross somehow this walkway, you can see how easily people can get swept up and can get carried away or can get trapped. You think that you can get past it. You think it's shallow, and it is just moving at such a clip it instantly becomes dangerous. And that's what the Coast Guard has been dealing with for all these past days. They've been working around the clock trying to rescue all of the tens of thousands of people who have been stuck in their homes or stuck in their cars on the road because this fast moving water caught them unawares.

So let's get an update on the operations from the commander of the Coast Guard Atlantic area. This is Vice Admiral Karl Schultz, he joins us now on the phone. Admiral, thank you very much. We know it's another busy day for you. Tell us what's happening there this morning.

VICE ADMIRAL KARL SCHULTZ, COMMANDER, COAST GUARD ATLANTIC AREA: Good morning, Alisyn, it is in fact a busy day. The center of gravity is shifting a little bit. We're in Houston and weather is getting a little bit better today. That will better enable our rescue operations for all responders. We should see less rain here today which is a very positive thing, so that will give us a chance I think collectively through the state so see and get a sense of how many folks are still in need of rescue.

Listening on your weather there, you're absolutely correct, the 25 inches, 24 hours down in the Port Arthur, Beaumont, southeast Texas area is becoming a note of high activity. We've had a lot of calls last night. We are prepositioned with nine rotary wing helicopters flying out of a fort operating base in Sulphur, Louisiana, to hop into southeast Texas as soon as the weather abates. We've can't launch right now but those helicopters will be ready to go here as soon as we get a weather window. We've got six of our flood response shallow water boat crews that are heading out again this morning. They were on the water last night and they were on the water with state and local partners, and Americans helping Texans and Louisianans there.

So we are prepositioned and actually in the fight down there to respond. That is sort of where the urgent cases -- emerging cases are here today. Back here in Houston we still are in the fight with all kinds of capacity that we've had. And we are stripping capacity from Houston or southeast Texas. We've brought other stuff in here from further east, so we will be attenuating the urgent cases there when we can get in there. Boats should get in there this morning. Helicopters are on standby to get in there. And let me stand by for your questions.

CAMEROTA: Well, admiral, can you give us a sense of the scope of what you're looking at? You're right, Mother Nature is giving us a little reprieve right now, but how many rescues do you think you still need to pull off today in the Houston area?

SCHULTZ: Alisyn, two things. Mother Nature has given us a reprieve. I think that story as Harvey is picking up a little speed and coming ashore, but it's tracking north. Hopefully that's going to be a little more of a finite window. Here in Houston we're dealing with a near stationary system for multiple days. So this maybe a pulse of wet torrential rains in that area, but hopefully it's not going to be anything near the duration we saw in Houston. In terms of the rescues, like I said, we will stay connected to the

state here in Houston and attenuate the most dire rescues there as we triage and the calls and I think we are operating as seamlessly as absolutely possible here. And what I want to leave you with is it we are in the fight with the state and localities to get into those emerging areas of high demand nor rescue right now, and we'll stand by.

But like I said, last night our team, just to give you one example, they were on their way back after a very long day down in Port Arthur and they came across a nursing home which needed evacuation.

So, we're getting situational awareness here and again bad weather is going to have the same kind of effects it did here in the early days of the urgent rescues in Houston that you just can't get in from the sky into that. We were pushing in on the water here, OK?

CAMEROTA: Yes. Well, Admiral, we know you're in the fight. Thank you so much for all you're doing. We've seeing all of the video and to all of your men and women there who are helping, we will obviously be checking back with you throughout the day. Thanks so much for being with us on NEW DAY.

SCHULTZ: Thanks, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Let's get back to Chris in the studio.

CUOMO: All right, Alisyn, thank you very much. There is no substitute for experience. Making it through a storm like Harvey, like Sandy, it takes experience. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie knows firsthand what these storms can do and what it takes to respond.

He learned it in 2012 and he learned it unfortunately the hard way. He joins us now. Governor, always a pleasure. So, your perspective on what you're seeing in Harvey. Where do you think the heads of those in charge need to be?

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, NEW JERSEY: They need to be in a spot now where they say, how do we return our citizenry to some sense of normalcy because if you look at the big picture right now, it's overwhelming, what's ahead of them. It's overwhelming.

We're five years in and we're still not completely recovered. And so, we have four steps to normalcy in New Jersey that I laid out two days after the storm, restore power, clear the roads, make sure gasoline is available for generators and cars, and return kids to school.

If you could do those four things within the next 14 days then people are going to have a sense that they're being helped, saved and that their lives have a chance to be normal again. That's what they want more than anything else.

And the most important thing for Governor Abbott to do, I told him this -- he has to be visible and out there to his people. Don't stay in the emergency operations center 24 hours a day. You can't relate to this as a governor until it actually happens to you, Chris. But when I would go out there, people would grab me and hug me and say thanks for not forgetting us. People are afraid they are going to be forgotten.

CUOMO: Well, you're a symbol of government as well as the leader of the government. The governor here has shown a stiff back. He wanted the federal involvement. He wanted the president to come down. The president did come down. We'll talk about that.

But the National Guard, they were slow to request. They're there now. There's 30,000 more military being made available. The governor hasn't said he wants it. What do you make of those kinds of moves of restraint?

CHRISTIE: Well, we've told him we've got 3,500 National Guardsmen and women in New Jersey who have experience from Sandy. We were ready to send if he asks. I think what he's going to find over the next 24 to 48 hours is he's going to ask because --

CUOMO: Why not ask? Why wouldn't you take everything?

CHRISTIE: Well, I think part of it -- because sometimes if you don't have the need, Chris. You don't know exactly how are you going to deploy them, you have a lot of people standing around and not knowing what to do.

But I will tell him what's going to come next, looting is going to come next. When the water --

CUOMO: They started the curfew in Houston. You believe that the good nature you're seeing with people which is amazing and unprecedented here at Harvey, this concern citizens core, it's only a matter of time.

CHRISTIE: It's only a matter of time that the bad elements that exist in every society and every state will try to take advantage of it.

CUOMO: Desperation too, right?

CUOMO: Well, some of it, but I think it's more the opposite, Chris, like we saw it at the Jersey Shore that people were coming in criminals, who are trying to come in on boats to go in and loot houses that they knew were empty.

And so, we put National Guardsmen in every town along the Jersey Shore to make sure that looters didn't come in. That's the next thing he is going to be seeing. So, I think he will be asking for more National Guard.

Because you're going to need to prevent that looting and it gives those people a sense of safety and security as they go back to their homes and have to deal with the emotional trauma. Think about this, Chris.

Photo albums of lifetimes of history will be gone. The videos of their children will be gone. Books that are important. Yearbooks from high school will be gone. The trauma that people are about to suffer.

They think it's bad now when they are in the shelters, wait until they go home if their home has been destroyed completely or all their belongings had been ruined. It takes away a part of your life. We need to have them feeling safe and secure while they are going through that trauma.

CUOMO: Now you have a sensitivity that's part of your personality. I know people know be like surprise, but people who know you know that's a big part of who you are. The president had to go down there and perform yesterday, and I mean that in a positive way. He had to be the consoler-in-chief.

Let's play a piece of sound that became a point of criticism. I want your take on it.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This was of epic proportion. Nobody's ever seen anything like this. Governor, again thank you very much, and we won't say congratulations. We don't want to do that. We don't want to congratulate. We'll congratulate each other when it's all finished.


[08:20:06] CUOMO: So, he says this. He says, great crowd, great crowd. You could say this who he is. This is how he talks and he is somewhat new to this, but this is a special moment. It requires certain skills that you exhibited in grand fashion during Sandy. What do you make of the president's appearance?

CHRISTIE: I think yesterday he was himself. I think you hit that nail on the head. I think what he wanted to show was the builders confidence yesterday. We're going to come down here, we are going to fix it.

He said you're going to be back on your feet real quickly. We're going to get it all done. I think when he goes back here this weekend -- because remember, the difference here is he wasn't in Houston. He wasn't near victims.

CUOMO: By design so that he didn't --

CHRISTIE: Interfere.

CUOMO: Or stall efforts, but you were a hugaholic and you say why you did it. People need it. You've talked about the survivors, don't call them victims. You dealt with those empathy points. He didn't.

CHRISTIE: He didn't yesterday because he didn't see the people. I will tell you that when you see those people, and I know him, he won't be able to avoid and won't want to avoid hugging and making those people feel better.

The fact is yesterday was a competence day. He was at the emergency operations center, with the governor, he was with his own cabinet. I believe when he goes back on Saturday, and he starts to see victims and see real damage there is no way as a human being you can see that and not be affected. I think you will see that personal side of the president come out then.

CUOMO: Two other points. First, the moment that you have with President Obama. I think we have it up here. Do you have any regrets about that moment?

CHRISTIE: No, I'd do it again today because here's the bottom line. I remember, before that picture was taken and that's been called a hug. That's an interesting looking hug. When I give hugs, I give hugs.

The fact is that remember what was going on at that point. We were six days away from a national election where I'd been the number one surrogate in the country for Mitt Romney and I'm beating the be-Jesus out of this guy all summer and fall.

But what we both knew was people had died and were suffering and we had jobs to do and it can't involve politics. I know I got a lot of criticism when I ran for president in the Republican primary for being nice to the president by saying that he did a good job, by shaking his hands like normal human beings do.

You know what? I wouldn't change it if it happened today in New Jersey. I do would do the same thing with Barack Obama if I had a chance because you know what it did? It created a relationship between the president and I that served the people of New Jersey and that's what I was elected to do.

CUOMO: That certainly is the job in moments like that. Now, I apologize for how hard I've been pushing to get you on the show. I was very happy to hear you were going out today, but here's why.

You're one of the only people who can talk about this plainly in this moment right now. When it came time for the money to get paid for Sandy, you got the first chunk of money like $9 billion.

There was then that second, third, fourth iterations of the bill. Big price tags, $50 billion, $60 billion. It was hard to get Republicans to vote for it. It got passed without them.

Tom Price, who is the secretary of HHS now didn't do it. The speaker of the House didn't want it. Cruz changed what he says happened back then. He says two-thirds of it was pork. Two-thirds of it was not pork, Governor, and if we don't call it out for what it was then, why would it be any better now?

CHRISTIE: I've been calling it out for the last 24 hours. Let me very clear about this. Senator Cruz was playing politics in 2012 trying to make himself look like the biggest conservative in the world. What I said at the time both to him and to everybody else was if you represent a coastal state, don't do this because your day is going to come and you're going to expect people to help you. Two-thirds of the bill was not pork.

As you know, "Washington Post" did a fact check (inaudible). It is an absolute outright falsehood. And the fact is that that money is rebuilding New Jersey and rebuilding New York still to the day because that's how long these kinds of things take.

What I'm urging all the people to do is Hurricane Andrew, they passed the bill in 10 days. Hurricane Katrina, they passed the bill in six days. Sandy was 66 days. We need to get back to the Andrew and Katrina stage.

Congress needs to get back to work next week and pass a bill that starts to fund the recovery. It should not be connected to the debt ceiling. It shouldn't be connected to offsets.

Because if the federal government is not here, Chris, to help people when 50 inches of rain fall on them in historic way, then what the hell are they there for? That's it.

I have no sympathy for this and I see Senator Cruz and it's disgusting to me that he stands in a recovery center with victims standing behind him as a backdrop and still repeating the same reprehensible lies about what happened in Sandy, and it's unacceptable to me.

Absolutely unacceptable. I'm not going to let him get away from it. One of the reasons I came on this show is to remind people the past is prologue. If we allow this politics to be played by either party in the next few days, the only people who will suffer are the people in Houston, who are suffering right now.

[08:25:05] CUOMO: What you ignore you empower. If we ignore what happened during that process, it will happen again and God forbid, we can't have that. Governor, thank you as always. Appreciate it. Alisyn, to you.

CAMEROTA: OK, Chris. I am here in Houston this morning. I am at the Buffalo bayou, which has swollen to five times its normal size. You can see behind me normally a walkway, but now it is under all of these sort of very rapidly flowing river waters.

We've seen so many amazing stories of survival all across this city. You're looking, I believe at video right now of Spring, Texas where boats are out still looking for people who are even at this hour days later, still trapped in their homes.

We don't often, however get a picture of exactly what's going on inside those homes unless somebody happens to be with a photographer. Our next guest is that very person. We have here "National Geographic" photographer. Her name is Erin Trieb.

She normally documents trouble spots across the globe like Iraq and Afghanistan, but this week it was a disaster in her own home. She was back here at home. She was visiting her mom here in suburban Houston, and Harvey came to pay a visit.

And Erin joins us now. Erin, you are often in disaster zones of one kind or another, but you came home to visit you were not expecting what you encountered this week. So, tell us what was unfolding in your mom's house.

ERIN TRIEB, CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER, "NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC": Right, Alisyn. Yes. I was home visiting my mom and sister just for a short trip and the storm came-started hitting last Friday and really took hold of the neighborhood that they both live in on Saturday.

The night before I went out of my mother's house and water was starting to come to the doorstep and I thought overnight it would drain but it didn't. Then the next morning we went outside and we were in a foot of water outside.

CAMEROTA: And so, you grabbed your camera. You started documenting this, as you will, because you're a photojournalist, this is what you do for a living, but what were you thinking when you realized that the water was encroaching on your mom's house and sister's house was even worse?

TRIEB: Well, you know, my first job, I feel like is to help my family and to be there for them. But I tried to do that while taking photographs, and for me, at the moment, the most important thing was actually video, because I could see the water inch by inch seeping into my mother's house.

So, I just started taking selfie videos of myself and my mother while this was happening. I mean, it's really hard to balance trying to take pictures of a catastrophic event and being there for your family at the same time. So that was a new experience for me.

CAMEROTA: I can imagine. Which one -- where your priorities are and what you think you're supposed to be chronicling versus helping and so what did end up happening? What did you decide to do?

TRIEB: Well, the water began coming in to my mother's house after we were expecting, hearing anything from a foot to three feet, and she lives on a one-story house and I did not want her to be waist deep in water and stranded and have to get up on to the roof.

So, after about an inch came in, I decided it was time for her to evacuate. So, we gathered up as much stuff as we could. She has three dogs. We had to put them in trash bins and basically carry them out into the flood waters.

Luckily, we found refuge at a neighbor's house across the street so we didn't have to go that far. But after that I kept documenting into that wading over to my sister's house, which was about four blocks away in chest deep water.

CAMEROTA: That's just an incredible story also, how one house across the street cannot be under the deluge and right across the street, it can be a catastrophic situation, but your pictures really help capture what goes on inside these homes of tens of thousands of people today, even millions.

So, Erin, thank you very much for sharing all of your story and your pictures with us. Great to talk to you. We are glad to hear that your sister and your mom are doing well.

TRIEB: Yes, they are doing much better. They are starting to dry out things so luckily my family is OK and that's the most important thing.

CAMEROTA: Amen. We are really happy to hear that. Thanks so much, Erin, for being here. Chris, back to you in the studio.

CUOMO: All right, Alisyn. So, we're hearing so many stories about people stepping up, doing everything they can. It's exactly that kind of spirit that is also directing criticism towards a very popular pastor in Houston.

Crushed on social media for not opening his mega church for victims soon enough. He's on your screen. You know his name and his face. Joel Osteen tells his side of the story, next.