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CNN: Heartbreak and destruction in small towns and large

Editor's Note: A day after Hurricane Katrina battered the Gulf Coast, CNN correspondents report back on what they are seeing.

View from a hotel

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CNN's Jeanne Meserve reporting via videophone Tuesday from hotel rooftop in New Orleans.

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New Orleans (Louisiana)
Mississippi
Gary Tuchman
Anderson Cooper

Posted 8:28 p.m.
CNN's Jeanne Meserve in New Orleans

I am on the rooftop of the hotel where we're staying. We have a vista of the city here. We can look down at the streets from here, but I have been down in those streets.

People are on the streets carrying satchels. They're oftentimes just plastic bags. Sometimes, they have a plastic box. They have put in these boxes all of their earthly possessions that they can. And they are dragging them, floating them, carrying them towards the Superdome, which is the place they understand they should go to get help.

When we got to the Superdome, we were told, 15,000 to 20,000 people are inside or at that facility, most of them actually not inside at the hour we were there. Inside, there were a few people in the seats. There were kids down on the field actually playing football.

Many people are doing good deeds. Yesterday, when I was out on I-10, watching that horrible flooding and the people trapped in their houses, there was one family who wouldn't evacuate until the elderly woman who lived next door was taken out. And they inflated an air mattress and put her on that to try to keep her afloat. I saw people who were disabled today being hauled through the streets by other younger, healthier people.

Everybody wants to know, what's the situation? Everybody wants to know, is it better over there? Everybody wants to know, how is it in the Superdome? Let me tell you, if they get to the Superdome, they don't know that they actually are in a good position. If you're in a hotel, you don't know it.

You think it's the worst of the worst, but, you know, it really isn't. It's those people who still are out there, still in their homes, still struggling.

Blocked roads and newfound cousins in Mississippi

Posted 2:20 p.m. ET
CNN's Anderson Cooper on his way to Gulfport, Mississippi

We're trying to find a way to Gulfport, Mississippi, from Meridian. We luckily just found some gas at the Wal-Mart. Got some beef jerky too. We were nearly out of gas last night. Down to about a gallon, if that.

We finally got a place to stay around 1:30 a.m. last night. We stayed in this Choctaw Native American casino in Philadelphia, Mississippi. It was kind of strange to see people playing slot machines at 7 a.m. this morning. They were serving biscuits and gravy and keeping the slot machines going.

At the gas station we were in line for about a half an hour. Hardly any of the gas stations are open. After a storm like this everyone is swapping information in line at Wal-Mart about where to find gas or food.

The main roads have been shut down. Right now we are trying to find out what road is open. We're trying to move our big truck. We wanted to go down highway 59 but we heard it was closed.

We're in the midst of what everyone else is facing in terms of trying to get gas and food and ice. The Wal-Mart was really the only place open. We stocked up on a lot of jerky and Gatorade. Strip malls are closed. No restaurants are open. Along these back roads in Mississippi, you have local residents who are coming out with chainsaws and clearing the roads with their neighbors.

People came out in Meridian and helped clear the road for a CNN crew. My dad was born just south of Meridian. Turns out it was my cousins who helped clear the road. That was a bizarre incident. When we were stuck last night I thought about trying to track one of my cousins down to give us some lodging.

A tree for refuge

Posted 2:20 p.m. ET
CNN's Gary Tuchman in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

I can't tell you we were shocked at what we saw, but very saddened. This old town, lots of antique shops, lots of stores, beds and breakfasts, everything completely destroyed.

We talked to a woman who decided not to leave her bed and breakfast because it survived Hurricane Camille. It did not survive this time. The house was destroyed while she was in it.

She and six other people got out and waited in a tree as waves were coming up to them They waited three hours in the tree, terrorized. The water finally let down and they survived.

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