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CNN BREAKING NEWS
Millions Flee to Avoid Hurricane Katrina
Aired August 29, 2005 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are facing a storm that most of us have feared. I do not want to create panic, but I do want the citizens to understand that this is very serious.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Serious, fierce and dangerous, Hurricane Katrina has millions of people fleeing their homes, hunkering down, hoping for the best, yet facing this possible nightmare.
Welcome to CNN's special edition coverage of Hurricane Katrina. I'm Randi Kaye.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Tony Harris. We'll be live with you for the next few hours bringing you live coverage of this monster storm, as it hits the Gulf Coast.
Then looking ahead, you can expect an early edition of "Daybreak" at 4:00 a.m. Eastern. So let's get you started. Hurricane Katrina is now a Category 5 storm, the most dangerous designation a hurricane can have.
And people in Katrina's way are reacting as she slogs towards landfall. So many of the people who call Louisiana home and are either unable or unwilling to evacuate are huddling in New Orleans Superdome and other emergency shelters that are set up.
Meanwhile, those who are able and with transportation are making their way out of town, here is a look at New Orleans Interstate 10, which is backed up, as you can see, by the thousands trying to fleet Hurricane Katrina.
As we said, Katrina is a Category 5 storm. Only three previous Category 5 hurricanes have hit the United States.
KAYE: And one of the main concerns we know is the area, the city of New Orleans. And that's because much of that area is surrounded by three bodies of water...
HARRIS: Mississippi River...
HARRIS: Lake Pontchartrain.
KAYE: That's right and the Gulf of Mexico. But because, Bonnie, we want to bring you in, because of this -- well, you're looking at some waves there right there. That's in the area of New Orleans there. And those waves, we know, have been getting more fierce as the night has progressed -- Bonnie?
BONNIE SCHNEIDER, METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. Then they will get worse as we move into the overnight hours. And eventually, as we approach landfall, which is likely to occur between about 7:00, 8:00 a.m. Central Time near Grand Isle or anywhere in the southeast coastal sections of Louisiana.
This is such a large storm, such a powerful storm, that we're already starting to feel the effects of it certainly. And things will go from bad to worse, unfortunately for this point, because you can see right now the center of circulation, according to the latest advisory, is 105 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River. That places it 170 miles south, southeast of New Orleans, because New Orleans is a little further inland than the coastal areas.
But still, a very, very wide storm. We have hurricane force winds that are outward of 105 miles. So that's actually larger than we had earlier this afternoon on either side. So you know, from east to west, we're talking about an expansive storm that brings winds that are hurricane force, meaning winds 74 miles per hour or greater.
Those are tremendous winds. And that's what we saw when the storm was a Category 1 coming through Florida earlier in the week. And you saw the damage that that did to the trees breaking down.
So this is going to be a storm that'll affect much of the central Gulf Coast. Also want to mention tropical storm force winds extends outward of 230 miles. So this is a massive storm, not only in strength and intensity, but also in size.
Our latest track, we're getting closer and closer to landfall now. And that's likely to occur here in the coastal sections here of southeast Louisiana for these parishes here. Some of our biggest concerns, areas like Grand Isle, where we may see a direct hit actually from this hurricane in the early hours of Monday, and then into the mid morning hours, we're talking about the storm possibly passing directly over the city of New Orleans.
And really, even as we move in onto Monday and into Tuesday, this storm will still be powerful, still affect much of the U.S. mainland. And it's likely to hang on to Category 2, possibly even Category 3 strength once it starts working north into Mississippi.
So it's such a large storm and it's such a massive storm that it's going to take a lot to knock it down.
Just want to mention storm surge. That's actually one of the biggest killers that we get from hurricanes. And this storm is going to produce storm surge, not only high, but wide. Look how far we are stretching from east to west when we're talking about storm surge. Five to six, 10 feet towards the back sections of central and western Louisiana parishes, and then right along the coast here. 10 to 15 feet.
The worst area, we're anticipating as we've been telling you all day long, is 20 to 30 feet possible. That is a tremendous amount of water and a pretty small location that's already well below sea level.
And then we head further to the east. I'll step out of the way so you can see, to Mobile, to Pensacola, places like Biloxi, Gulfport, Pascagoula all will be affected by this storm when we're talking about storm surge.
We're already getting some strong winds. These are sustained wind speeds. We're likely to see gusts even stronger than that, especially as we move into these overnight hours.
New Orleans already getting wind speeds now of 33 miles per hour. We're most likely getting those gusts that are stronger than that.
So Randy, Tony, this storm has not yet made landfall, but it's already, we're starting to feel those effects.
HARRIS: OK, Bonnie, thank you.
KAYE: Of course, the National Hurricane Center in Miami is tracking Hurricane Katrina as well. Let's go live to Richard Nab at the Center for the latest on their perspective of the storm.
Richard, the situation looks more dire by the hour for New Orleans and the surrounding Gulf Coast.
RICHARD KNABB, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Yes, the hurricane is remaining on our forecast track. And it has not weakened. We still have a Category 5, potentially catastrophic hurricane with maximum sustained winds near 160 miles hour that is inching ever closer to the coastline.
The center of circulation is now only about 90 miles off of the coast and about 160 miles from New Orleans. And we want to emphasize that this is not just a concern for New Orleans. It's also for the coastlines of Mississippi and Alabama and for most of southeastern Louisiana.
Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion as soon as possible.
KAYE: We are talking about a storm now that's about, what, 400 miles wide? This is a tremendous storm.
KNABB: Yes, so over the last couple of days, we've been seeing this storm not only intensify, but also grow much larger. Tropical storm force winds extend outward over 200 miles from the center. So tropical storm force winds are already being experienced on the coastline. And the conditions will only deteriorate further as we go through the night. Hurricane force winds are not far behind.
KAYE: Aside from Hurricane Andrew back in 1992, forecasters have really had very little experience in tracking, in forecasting a Category 5 hurricane. What has the challenge been like for you?
KNABB: Well, our ability to forecast the intensity changes in hurricanes is -- lags behind our ability to forecast the track. However, even a couple of days ago, we had all indications that we were going to have a major hurricane on our hands.
It's very difficult to forecast a Category 5 hurricane occurring much in advance. But now that the system seems to be maintaining this intensity, we have very high confidence that this is going to come ashore as either a Category 4 or Category 5 hurricane with potentially catastrophic damage. And it doesn't seem to be wavering from our forecast track. So within the hurricane warning area, the conditions will go downhill tonight. And the impacts are going to be devastating.
KAYE: These are critical hours here, as we approach. We're down to about five, six hours, maybe seven hours if they're lucky before this hurricane makes landfall. Take us through briefly if you can just what's going to happen over the next hour, maybe the next two hours, as it gets much closer to landfall?
KNABB: Right. As the center gets close to the coastline, the conditions will go downhill very rapidly. Right now, we're seeing a gradual increase in the rain bands and the tropical storm force winds. But once the center of circulation, the eye of the hurricane, gets close to the coastline, you will see a rapid increase in the winds. And especially near and to the east of where the center crosses the coastline, there will be a rapid rise in the sea level associated with the storm surge. And so, we are very concerned about what the impact of the surge, the winds, and the rainfall and the possibility of tornadoes could have over a large area.
Not just at the coastline, but conditions will be going downhill in inland areas overnight and during the day. So this is going to produce tropical storm or hurricane force winds dozens or hundreds of miles inland.
KAYE: All right. Richard Knabb at the Center of the Hurricane Center for us live tonight. Thank you.
HARRIS: And Randi, all along the Gulf Coast, people are bracing for the fierce force of Katrina. The deadly storm is nearing Gulfport, Mississippi. And joining us now on the phone is Joe Spraggins. He is a director of emergency management for Harrison County, Mississippi.
And Joe, thanks for talking to us.
JOE SPRAGGINS, EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: Thank you very much. HARRIS: Where are you right now?
SPRAGGINS: I'm sitting at the Emergency Management Center in Gulfport, Mississippi.
HARRIS: So you are in Gulfport?
HARRIS: Give us a sense of what it's like there right now?
SPRAGGINS: Well right now, it's not very bad. The winds are just now getting up to around gale force winds. They ran 40 miles an hour. Little rain bands coming in, but nothing really bad at this point.
HARRIS: Joe, what are you expecting and when?
SPRAGGINS: We're expecting within the next couple of hours, that it'll be tropical storm winds that will start then around -- the strong winds will hit around 4:00 in the morning from around 4:00 to 6:00 in the morning, when they'll start getting strong.
And then the eye of the hurricane will probably come through around 10:00 in the morning.
HARRIS: So here's the scenario. Let me paint it for you. You're informed about a day ago that you've got a major hurricane heading right for your doorstep. This is your job with Emergency Management. What do you do?
SPRAGGINS: Well, you start planning. You start -- the biggest thing that we had was to try to get people out of there. We was trying to get people to understand the intensity of this storm and what type of catastrophic damage it could do. And we was trying to get them to understand, to please leave. If they could leave, leave. And that was the main thing we were looking for, to get them to leave.
And so far, we had quite a few of them leave. And we have about 3400 in shelters at this time.
HARRIS: Did you put in place a contra flow system?
SPRAGGINS: There was a contra flow system that was put in place out of Louisiana through Mississippi. And that was up on Interstate 59 and Interstate 55. We did not put a contra flow system on Interstate 10 this afternoon.
HARRIS: And where were you telling -- in what direction were you sending folks?
SPRAGGINS: We were sending folks north and northeast. And to the east and northeast is basically what we were looking. And the reason for that is obviously going to the west, it was already a problem when people tried to evacuate out of New Orleans. So we had to be able to move to the north and then go to the east from that, or either straight north.
HARRIS: How many people do you believe are potentially in the path of this storm? How many folks have you had to evacuate?
SPRAGGINS: I would imagine we've evacuated probably 70,000 or so people. They've evacuated just from Harrison County. We have about 185,000 people in the county. And I would imagine about 40 percent of them are so at least evacuated. And to some (INAUDIBLE) people it was a long ways off or just north of the interstate area, somewhere to get away from it.
HARRIS: Paint a picture, if you would, of what this storm might do to your area?
SPRAGGINS: This storm is going to be a little different than we've seen in a long time. You're looking at -- we're looking at 20 to 28 foot surge -- water surge, you know, coming in. And if you go back to Hurricane Camille in 1969, it was 25 feet. So that ought to give you an expression there what to look for.
The idea of 160 mile an hour winds with that type of surge, and the biggest problem that we're looking at too is not only having the storm surge itself, but having somewhere between 10 and 12 hours of hurricane force winds coming across the Gulf Coast.
HARRIS: So it will sit there and just churn?
SPRAGGINS: It will sit there and churn. And that's -- it's going to be very -- if you can just if my estimate of it, if you'll look at what happened to the coast of Florida and Alabama last year with Ivan, I think you can multiply that by another third to see what we'll get.
HARRIS: Boy. All right, Joe, be safe. Thanks for talking to us.
SPRAGGINS: Thank you very much. And you all pray for us.
HARRIS: We will. Thank you.
KAYE: New Orleans, which has dodged so many direct hits from previous hurricanes, likely will take the brunt of this storm. And as we said, a Category 5 hurricane is the most dangerous relative to wind speeds.
Our Adaora Udoji joins us live from New Orleans via videophone. Adaora, what is the situation now where you are?
ADAORA UDOJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Randi. We're actually at the Tulane University Hospital and Clinic. They are hunkering down. Just as we've been listening to you, one guest after another tonight. They are hunkering down in New Orleans. And no more so than at the Governor (INAUDIBLE) Hospital, including Tulane.
We're actually standing here in the lobby because we're already having difficulty getting out. It is not business as usual here today. All elective procedures have been canceled. They are concentrating all of their efforts on the people who need it the most. And they are also preparing the building.
You're looking at some pictures right now of some of the nurses and paramedics and some of the support staff moving the emergency room from the first floor. Of course, the big fear being flooding, moving it from the first floor up into the third floor.
Many hospitals in the area, particularly some of the smaller ones south of here, closer to the coast, very concerned about flooding. In fact, we heard that there was one that tried to evacuate, but just simply could not.
Here at Tulane, they started the day with about 120 patients. By the end of the day, that had grown to somewhere around 150. Mostly because those other smaller hospitals just couldn't cope.
In addition to the preparation of moving that emergency room from the first floor to the third floor, they've also had to do things like go to the second floor or cafeteria, pharmaceutical and other drugs moving those kinds of things.
And this is what the manager of the nurses in the ER, this is how he explained it to us a little earlier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UDOJI: This is not ordinarily an emergency room?
BRIAN DEAN, MANAGING NURSE: No, it's not. Actually, we're moving the emergency room to the third floor, just in case the hospital floods. It's rather to be safe than sorry.
UDOJI: And that literally means you have to move all of your equipment and your people and your patients from the first to the third floor?
DEAN: Correct. We have to move all of them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UDOJI: Now the Tulane University Hospital is fully staffed. There are dozens and dozens of doctors, nurses, support staff that are all here, spending the night, some of them even bringing their family members, Randi. That is, of course, to be prepared to be here just in case anything potentially happens.
And of course, as you mentioned, New Orleans has had their share of hurricanes over the years, or I should say near misses. So there are plenty of drills that they have worked through over the last couple of years. And luckily, most of the time, they've been spared pretty much the case.
But of course, this time, looking like they really could get hit hard -- Randi? KAYE: And Adaora, what's extremely alarming about this are some of the comments that we wanted to follow up on from the director of the Louisiana State University Public Health Research Center in Baton Rouge. He's saying that this could be our equivalent of the Asian tsunami in terms of damage and the number of lives lost. So I can just imagine the number of people that are going to require treatment in that area?
UDOJI: You know, it's really interesting, Randi. We've been here all day. We've talked to a lot of people, not literally at the hospital, but in New Orleans. And it all depends on who you ask.
I mean, we spoke to a police officer who said she's lived here 11 years and just has a terrible feeling about this particular storm. We spoke to some workers earlier today at the airport, who are much more fatalistic about it. We're not rushing home. We're not planning on boarding up their home.
So there are some people, those many who have lived here for some time, if not their entire lives, who are taking it more in stride. But of course, you hear the officials talking about potentially how hazardous this could be all day long, encouraging people to evacuate the city.
But of course, now probably too late. So for those people who are here, there are various centers that have been opened where they can go. The hospital, of course, will be open, caring for those people who have the greatest need. I mean, they've been very specific about that in terms of what they are going to be able to take care of, those kinds of injuries that they're going to be able to take care of at this particular time, given all of the incredibly emergency precautions that are being taken, that they are really focusing all of their attention on those people who are going to need it, the help the most.
And how many that will be, Randi, obviously...
KAYE: We don't know yet.
KAYE: All right, Adaora Udoji, thank you so much for that live report from New Orleans.
HARRIS: Right. And while we've been focusing on New Orleans, residents along the Mississippi Coast are also evacuating. Our J.J. Ramberg is in Biloxi, where I understand, well I can see it for myself, it is raining again. Hello, J.J.
J.J. RAMBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there Tony. Yes, the rain just started coming down again. We have gotten a little bit of a lull.
Also, we're just starting to feel some breezes. By no means any sort of tropical storm first or hurricane force winds, but breezes which we hadn't been feeling before. Let me just give you a sense of where I am. I don't know if you could see behind me, but at the top of that ridge there, that's Interstate 10. We're about six miles from the coast here. Everything on the other side of that is under a mandatory evacuation order.
Also, you can see the streets around here are pretty much dead. That's because we've been under a curfew since 9:00. People here just hunkering down, waiting for this storm just like they're doing across this whole Gulf.
RAMBERG (voice-over): New Orleans, the Big Easy, a place where people usually go to cast away their cares. Not tonight.
With Hurricane Katrina stampeding through the Gulf of Mexico, once rollicking streets turned into a ghost town. Highways jammed with evacuees taking flight.
And the Louisiana Superdome turned into a shelter for thousands, who may be uncomfortable for a while.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not worried about what's tolerable or intolerable. I'm worried about are you alive on Tuesday morning?
RAMBERG: Many people leaving Louisiana are heading east to Mississippi, but the mayor of Biloxi says people fleeing Katrina need to keep driving.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have evacuated all the hotels and motels and casinos in our city. So you know, there's not any room at the inn, so to speak.
RAMBERG: Across the Gulf region, those who couldn't evacuate sought shelter from Katrina wherever they could.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's incredible. I never expected this to like ever like happen on our vacation. We knew there was a storm on the way, but never to this like extent.
RAMBERG: Katrina's expected to make landfall mid Monday morning. It could become the fourth Category 5 hurricane to ever hit the United States.
MAX MAYFIELD, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Everything has come together. And this is one of the most powerful hurricanes on record.
RAMBERG: And you know, a lot of the people that I've spoken to today remember 1969. That's -- you were talking earlier about Hurricane Camille, which was the last Category 5 hurricane to hit this area.
One woman I was talking to at the gas station, I said are you going to evacuate? She said no. And I said were you here for Hurricane Camille? And she said yes. And her eyes started to well up because it was so scary for her. And she's scared of something like that happening again tomorrow night and tonight.
HARRIS: So J.J., are folks there heeding the warnings? And my guess is you have a mandatory evacuation there. Are folks getting out of town?
RAMBERG: Yes, you know, I-10 is right behind us. That was the street I -- you probably can't see it because it's so dark right now. But it was pretty much bumper to bumper traffic all afternoon.
If you look now, it's cleared out. There's nobody on there. And one thing is, that's not just people leaving Mississippi. That was also a lot of people leaving Louisiana and making their way through here.
As far as the mandatory evacuations go, the shelters have filled up. Most of the shelters have filled up. So people are heeding them. But of course, there's some people who are just kind of taking this in stride and saying I'm going to ride it out -- Tony?
HARRIS: And those folks who are going to try to ride this out, they understand that once this storm makes landfall, it's going to sit on them for a while. Do they understand that?
RAMBERG: And I certainly hope they do.
RAMBERG: Officials here have been warning all afternoon, they've been very clear to say how devastating they think this can be.
HARRIS: Very good.
RAMBERG: And they've been very clear to tell people to get out.
HARRIS: J.J. Ramberg, J.J., thank you.
KAYE: Throughout the night, we are going to be bringing you the latest -- very latest forecast with Bonnie Schneider. We'll have that for you right after the break. CNN Special Edition coverage of Hurricane Katrina continues in just a moment.
HARRIS: Bonnie Schneider is with us, Randi, on night long.
KAYE: We're all here.
HARRIS: Yes. And Bonnie, I'm sort of curious, we were talking a little earlier about there is a better side of this storm to be on. And if you're on the right side of the eye wall of this storm, that is not the better side. SCHNEIDER: That's right. That's right. And see, that's if you're looking at it straight on. It would be like the northeast quadrant is the worst of it.
But I have to say with a storm of this magnitude and this size, really anywhere near it...
SCHNEIDER: ...you're going to have those hurricane force wind banks. And outward of the storm's center for 100 miles. So you're talking about 200 miles of an area where you can get winds of 75 miles or greater. It's really going to be pretty devastating for anyone in that vicinity.
And actually, we have a very good perspective to show you. This is the viewpoint. Imagine that you're standing let's say in New Orleans. And you're even further out along the coastline, looking out of the Gulf Mexico.
Here we are at the present time, right around the midnight eastern time. And watch what happens as we put this into motion. Certainly the lightning, you'll see that. Thunderstorms. Heavy, heavy rain as we work our way into the early hours as this hurricane comes on shore.
This is an interesting perspective of what the sky looks like. And certainly even into the early hours, once the storm makes landfall, the rain gets just more intense and more heavy.
And we are expecting that landfall to occur into the mid morning hours. But we really because the storm is so large, it will be affecting quite a large area. And we are expecting the passage of the center of the storm possibly even through New Orleans, but landfall will first occur in those southeastern parishes right along the coast there of Louisiana.
The storm getting closer and closer to making its landfall. And landfall is defined when the center of the storm or the eye of the hurricane, the center of the eye, passes over any land, whether it's barrier island, or a land mass. That's when we defined officially landfall.
But as I've been saying, this storm is so large and such a powerful magnitude, we're going to be feeling those effects, whether or not the eye passes over or not really -- especially in this area here towards Mississippi as well.
Just to let you know, the distance right now of the storm is 170 miles to the south, southeast of New Orleans. The movement remains to the north, northwest near 10 miles per hour. So it's moving a little bit faster than it did when it dumped all that rain 20 inches over Florida and South Florida when it first made landfall.
Here's the official track from the National Hurricane Center. Right now, we're looking at maximum winds at 160 miles per hour. And we're looking for really even after this storm makes landfall, that it maintains its hurricane status as it crosses over Louisiana on into northward towards Mississippi.
So if you're watching us inland in Jackson, further towards Tupelo or even Memphis, Tennessee and you're thinking the storm, Louisiana, not a problem for -- think again, because it's going to affect so many areas inland, that we're going to be feeling those hurricane force winds as well.
Obviously, when you have strong winds, you're going to have power outages. And this is also something pretty interesting to take a look at.
This is when we calculate the amount of power outages, what we're expecting. Obviously, the biggest calculations would be for southeastern Louisiana, on into Mississippi as I mentioned.
But notice that we're expecting numerous power outages back out eastward towards Mobile, towards even the panhandle of Florida. It doesn't take a lot of wind to knock down a tree or knock down a power line. And we're going to see those hurricane force winds and tropical storm force winds right now incidentally extend outward of 230 miles. So again, the magnitude of the storm will probably cause quite a lot of thousands of power outages as a result.
Here's another perspective from our satellite standpoint. Notice the well defined eye. Notice the darker red or orange you see here. That indicates the highest cloud tops, the most intense thunderstorms.
Those occur around the eye wall. The center of the storm, of course, calm, but that's by no means that the storm is over when the eye passes through, because you have the back side of the storm.
And once again, Tony, what you were talking about is this northeast corner. Here, what we tend to get the worst of the winds, remember, the flow of the storm is in this direction. So we're getting that pumping of the moisture from the Gulf and that wrap around activity.
So really, anywhere in this vicinity certainly will be feeling those strong winds. Landfall, again, expected in southeast central sections of the Gulf, especially into Louisiana. We're expecting that into around the 7:00 hour Central Time. But again, that time may fluctuate as we get closer.
HARRIS: But you know, Bonnie, your point is the relevant point. There's no better side to the storm.
KAYE: Yes. Yes, I (INAUDIBLE) no matter how you look at it.
SCHNEIDER: The only better place is maybe all the way west, towards Texas, which of course had its share of hurricanes and tropical storms, too. And it's really just the roll of the dice of, you know, when the storm decided to make its turn to the north, why we're going to see this part of the country getting the landfall, rather than down towards coastal Texas or Mexico. And that's the way the storm worked itself out this time.
HARRIS: Yes. Don't stop at Texas. Head on out to Arizona. Keep going. Just keep -- all right, Bonnie, appreciate it. Thank you.
KAYE: Well, it is one of the nation's biggest tourist attractions. And it's known all over the world. But tonight, Bourbon Street is ground zero for Hurricane Katrina.
Our David Mattingly is there and joins us via videophone. David, how are the winds holding up right now.
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Randi, about the only thing hitting the streets in the French Quarter tonight is the rain. We have a steady rain falling here on Bourbon Street, where the party literally never stops.
Tonight, however, we did find the last bar open on Bourbon Street. And inside, we found stranded tourists and New Orleans residents alike, all of them making the same kind of plans to find a good sturdy hotel, and to ride this storm out as best they can.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's on the second floor, which is probably pretty good because we're not too high above all the winds. So hopefully, it doesn't rise to the second floor. So I'm pretty sure we're OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We did. We came down Thursday night, expecting to leave Monday or Tuesday. And there's no place -- actually no gas available. The highways are all jammed up. We're stuck here, but we're making the best of it, as you can hear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: And they'll be making the best of a bad situation when they wake up in the morning, as this storm is expect to come in here. They should be waking up to hurricane force winds and torrential rains and possibly that flooding we've been hearing so much about. Back to you.
KAYE: And David, let me just ask you, because the latest reports are showing that possibly we could see 20 feet of water in the French Quarter along Bourbon Street possibly. Have they done anything there to prepare for that? Is there any sandbagging or anything like that going on?
MATTINGLY: There is very little sandbagging going on, very little boarding up with doors and windows. It's almost a sense of resignation that if it's going to be that bad, some sandbags and some plywood isn't going to help very much.
And just to give you some perspective, if we do have that much water here in the French Quarter, it will be way over my head and well into the second floor of a lot of these buildings. So that's the worst case scenario that they're looking at. And that would probably have an extremely long (INAUDIBLE) back on this very, very highly visited section of New Orleans.
So no one looking forward to that worst case scenario.
KAYE: No, absolutely not. David Mattingly, reporting live for us tonight from the French Quarter. David, thank you.
MATTINGLY: And that would probably have an extremely long-term impact on this very, very highly visited section of New Orleans. So no one looking forward to that worst case scenario.
KAYE: No, absolutely not.
David Mattingly reporting live for us tonight from the French Quarter.
David, thank you.
We are going to take a quick break right now. And when we come back, we will hear again the forecast. And please stay with us for our special coverage of the anticipated arrival, about maybe five-and- a-half hours from now, of Hurricane Katrina.
HARRIS: The dangerous Category 5 hurricane is approaching land. Heavy wind and rain is hitting Long Beach, Mississippi.
Fire Chief George Bass joins us on the phone with the latest.
Chief, thanks for talking to us.
CHIEF GEORGE BASS, LONG BEACH FIRE DEPT.: Yes, glad to be with you.
HARRIS: Well, tell us exactly where you are. You are west of Gulfport, is that correct?
BASS: Gulfport is our sister city and we are to the west.
HARRIS: All right. How have you spent this day?
BASS: We've been preparing today. We've spent our early morning hours making sure that we had all of our equipment in line, our manpower taken care of, allowed them time to take care of their own homes and their families and pretty much been situated in the stations now. We've had to close one of our stations. It's going to be in one of the flood zone areas that have been required to be evacuated, but now we're pretty much sitting and watching and plotting.
HARRIS: How many men, women in your department? BASS: We have 47 personnel with 8 dispatchers here in our station.
HARRIS: And all of that, at this point, they're all essential, at this point, would that be correct?
BASS: Absolutely, yes. We've been out to a non-related event earlier this afternoon where we required about 25 firefighters on a commercial structure fire. And not the way we wanted to start off the evening and this event.
HARRIS: Yes. OK. And in terms of the evacuation order, did you have any responsibilities in terms of visiting neighborhoods?
BASS: We did. We visited the area along Highway 90, which fronts the Gulf. And we went around, the fire department, the police department, on loud speakers, advising everybody to strongly heed the warnings and the mandatory evacuations. That, having experienced Camille, we know what we're about to face here and we're looking for some of the same devastation that we experienced then with the same type of a storm surge that we had in Camille.
HARRIS: Talk to us about what you're expecting. You mentioned Camille, but go into a little more detail, if you would, please.
BASS: Well right now we're being told we could expect from 24 to 26 foot storm surge. In our area here along our Long Beach coastline in Harrison County, we'll be looking at probably a two to three block area that would be underwater, similar to what we had Camille, with pretty much heavy destruction and total devastation in the first two to three city blocks.
HARRIS: Chief, are you in a bunker of some kind? Your building, can it withstand that kind of a storm surge?
BASS: Well we were fortunate enough in 1996 to have a new central fire station built, and it was built to 180-mile-an-hour wind rated capacity. So we feel pretty safe here. We do have alternatives that we can go to if we have to, but we feel pretty safe in this facility, although we haven't faced this type of a storm since we've been here. We've had some near misses the last few years, Hurricane Georges in '98 but -- excuse me -- nothing of this capacity.
HARRIS: These hours, these hours before the storm makes landfall in your area, edgy, nervous, anxious? How would you describe it?
BASS: Nervous anticipation right now. We've got several young firefighters. The older folks, like myself here, I being 15 years old when Camille struck...
BASS: ... can remember that. But I have firefighters here now that weren't born then. They haven't seen this. They've seen the clips. They've seen the newspaper articles and the magazines that showed the destruction, but they're really a little anxious about what we're about to face.
And I've tried to calm their nerves. We've had staff meetings. We had little competent meetings with all the folks and tried to assure them that you know we would be taken care of. We've said our prayers and we've asked that you know things go right for us. And so far things are good, but we haven't got to the meat of the problem yet.
HARRIS: And have you given any thought to what life is going to be like, let's say, Tuesday?
BASS: Well we have discussed at several of our administrative meetings the post event and what it's going to be like for us. And I think the thing that is really concerning us is the devastation we'll have to face and the possible loss of life here of those who did not heed the warnings and get out.
HARRIS: Chief, be safe.
BASS: Thank you.
HARRIS: Thanks for taking the time.
BASS: OK. Bye.
HARRIS: All right, we'll take a break and come back with more of our continuing overnight coverage of Hurricane Katrina. A live picture now from our affiliate in New Orleans, WVUE. This is off Lake Pontchartrain, a parking lot there, but you can see the tree being blown, bending a bit, and some of the waves actually lapping the short there, Randi. We'll take a break and come back with more of our coverage right after this.
KAYE: The city of New Orleans hasn't felt the direct impact of a hurricane since 1965 and narrowly avoided certain disaster a few years later in 1969, August 17 and 18th to be exact.
A Category 5 hurricane called Camille devastated the Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama coasts. The storm created gusts of more than 200 miles per hour. That's estimated, since every piece of monitoring equipment was actually destroyed in that storm. It brought the highest storm surge ever measured in the United States and wiped out nearly every coastal structure from east of New Orleans to the Florida Panhandle. Camille killed 143 people along the Gulf Coast and nearly that many in the flooding that followed as it moved north.
Hurricane Camille and Hurricane Andrew, back in 1992, are considered the only Category 5 storms to ever hit the U.S. mainland.
HARRIS: And, Bonnie Schneider, it ends up being the storm surge, in most cases, with these storms that end up costing the most in terms of lives, isn't it?
SCHNEIDER: Absolutely, because of the flooding. You know when you talk about storm surge and the water coming through, you can see this circulation. Imagine a spoon in a big bowl of water and you're stirring and stirring and the water comes up on the top.
Well that's happening at the same time where that entire mass or bowl of water is pushing in some direction. So you have the water rising and a big dome coming over. And it's very possible we could see up to 20 feet. That's a tremendous storm surge, but it's a Category 5 storm, so certainly that's a possibility.
Here's a look at the most recent live real time radar, and you can see those rain bands coming along the southern shores there of Louisiana and Mississippi. Let's zoom in tighter now and we'll take a closer look at some of these rain beds and some of these very heavy thunderstorms that are working their way across Louisiana and Mississippi right now. The weather really is deteriorating.
We could show you some real time wind speeds right now as they pop up on the screen. Grand Isle 44-mile-per-hour winds. Already getting tropical storm force strength. And as we kind of move along the coast, you'll see those winds are getting stronger and stronger. I checked just about 10 minutes ago and the winds right along the coastline were about 10-miles-per-hour slower and not as intense. So we're really seeing those winds pick up.
In New Orleans, the big focus for Hurricane Katrina, right now we have winds at 37 miles per hour. Those will certainly increase over the next six hours. We're looking for landfall some time into the early morning hours on the coastline, more towards Grand Isle, but then of course the storm is likely to pass near or over New Orleans. Biloxi right now getting wind speeds at 23 miles per hour. So the winds are picking up in Mississippi as well.
A massive storm, we have hurricane force winds that extend outward from the storm center, or eye of the storm, 105 miles. And not to mention the fact that they really the winds extend even further than that. We have tropical storm force winds that extend outward of 230 miles.
And I just want to mention one other major factor we have when we have a major hurricane like this is tornadoes. We have a tornado watch right now in effect for covering quite a few states, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Keep that in mind. We may see some tornadoes break out in this vicinity.
One good thing now that we're in the nighttime hours, we tend to get less tornadoes at night than we do during the day. But once that sun comes up, we're at the daylight hours, we're likely to see more of these spawning, especially when the storm comes onshore. Because, Randi and Tony, even once this storm makes landfall, we're talking about it maintaining hurricane status for quite some time even after. It's going to take a lot to knock down this one.
HARRIS: So you could move inland with a Category, what?
SCHNEIDER: We could see this sustain itself at Category 2 or even Category 3 status as far north as the storm center coming towards Mississippi. We'll be watching that for the, I'd say, the early afternoon, the later hours of the morning today.
HARRIS: That is great. OK.
Bonnie, thank you.
KAYE: And I'd say head north. Head far north.
KAYE: As far north as you can.
While New Orleans appears to be Hurricane Katrina's target, all the proximate communities near the Big Easy will have a hard time as well dealing with the heavy winds, the rains and of course the accompanying storm surge.
The coastal and casino resort town of Biloxi, Mississippi, just one of the nearby towns affected, and that's where we find CNN's Jonathan Freed.
Jonathan, what is the situation there at this hour?
JONATHAN FREED, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Randi, first of all, I can tell you that we spoke to each other several times this afternoon from the stop-and-go traffic that we were in heading from New Orleans to here. And here is proof that we finally made it. And that's also proof that the people that we were with, who were trying to evacuate, were able to make it out of New Orleans as well.
It was a long, long trek, Randi. It took us the better part of eight hours from the time that we left New Orleans around midday. It was a very frustrating drive for people. But, for the most part, they were very, very calm. None of the weaving in and out of lanes, the way you might see somebody do on the morning commute to the office, trying to shave 30 seconds here, 20 seconds there. People just very content to be out on the road and heading away from New Orleans.
Now when we arrived here, what I can tell you is that we find it's just starting to rain now. The wind is really just beginning to pick up here now. It's been largely calm, a little bit of rain off and on up until now.
We're at a hotel, which is approximately four miles from the coast. And a lot of families are staying here, Randi. Earlier, a little bit surreal, despite the size of the storm that's coming and what it is expected to do, children running around and playing, a definite sense of adventure on their part. Of course now that the rain is starting to come down and it's later, we don't see them around now.
KAYE: And, Jonathan, what is your plan as the storm approaches that area, we're down to maybe about six hours now?
FREED: I couldn't hear the question. Could you repeat that for me?
KAYE: Asking what your plan is concerned about your own safety there as the storm gets closer and approaches that area.
FREED: No, it's a good question. That's something that we are continually discussing here, taking up the lay of the land, where the hotel is, where the wind is expected to come from. We're taking into account where we place the satellite truck, trying to keep it up on the air as long as possible.
We are prepared to move, depending on where the wind actually affects us here. We think we've picked a spot where, at least here, anyway, we'll be all right for the next little while. It's largely open, but it's -- the hotel pretty well -- it's sort of oriented east west, and of course the south would be that way where the storm will be coming from.
So we think that we could get on the side of the building over there, which is where our satellite trucks are parked, and to find some shelter, hoping that's going to keep us on the air a little longer than if we stayed out here.
KAYE: We hope so. We hope so, too. Now that you've finally got yourself to Biloxi, we want you to stay there and be safe. Thank you -- Jonathan Freed.
FREED: All right. Thank you.
HARRIS: We'll take a quick break and come back with more of our continuing coverage of Hurricane Katrina. We'll be right back.
HARRIS: And most of the southern Gulf Coast is bracing for Hurricane Katrina, but the biggest worry may be the biggest city in Katrina's path.
Let's go back to New Orleans proper where Adaora Udoji is live.
And, Adaora, when we last spoke with you, you were at Tulane University Hospital. You still there?
UDOJI: We absolutely are. And you know what, Tony, this place is very busy. In the last couple of hours, it's gotten approximately 60 new patients, folks coming in from some of the centers that have been fed up where people can go to get away from their homes if they're not in a very safe location.
We are at Tulane University Hospital and Clinic. We're actually inside the lobby. We've been having a terrible time trying to get a signal out. The rain has started. And right now you're looking at some pictures in their emergency room, their emergency room, which is on the first floor. Earlier today, they had to evacuate it to the third floor. They're very concerned about flooding. They had to take people and equipment and patients up to those third floor.
It is not business as usual, Tony, here today. All elective surgery has been canceled. They are dealing with those people who are in the greatest need. They have a critical care unit here, also a neonatal unit here. They started the day off with about 120 patients here, but now it's looking more like 180 or so. Just like many hospitals in the area, they are bracing themselves. They are bearing down for this hurricane.
Just to the south, a much smaller hospital actually tried to evacuate, but they had some problems, so they couldn't. Here at Tulane, as I mentioned, they were indeed doing a little bit of moving around here themselves, moving that emergency room to the third floor. Also, on the second floor, there are pharmaceutical drugs, there are -- there was the cafeteria. They are also moving that to higher ground. Again, concerned about flooding.
There are dozens of doctors and nurses and support staff here in the building, as we speak. In fact, it kind of looks like a dormitory. There are air mattresses in every office. You see people upstairs with their TVs on trying to watch and see what's going on. At the same time, get some rest, because they just don't know what's coming.
They believe they are as prepared as possible. They have gone through many drills over the years. Of course many hurricanes heading this way over the years, some of them hitting to various degrees, but none of them, Tony, expected or have hit as hard as Hurricane Katrina is expected to come in in the morning -- Tony.
HARRIS: Adaora, you make a good point, it's the not knowing that really just sort of zaps your energy. So, yes, maybe that would be the best piece of advice is just to try to get some rest before the storm makes landfall.
Adaora Udoji, thank you.
KAYE: CNN is your hurricane headquarters. We will be live with you throughout the night. So keep it here, you are watching special coverage of the anticipated arrival of Hurricane Katrina.
HARRIS: Let's get another check of weather now. Bonnie Schneider is standing by.
And, Bonnie, I don't know, as we look at that storm behind you, I have to ask you,...
HARRIS: ... I know you love the science of this as well, so when you take a look at a storm like that, that has to be intriguing to you scientifically.
SCHNEIDER: It really is, because you know, Tony, we were talking on Saturday morning about how large Katrina could get. And we had talked about it being Category 4, possibly a Category 5, that all the conditions were right for this storm to just explode in a short amount of time, and that's exactly what happened. It's almost like the worst cast scenario occurred. You had the warmest, deepest water for the storm to go over and you had really little to no wind sheer to break the storm apart. It really had nothing to do but grow, expand and intensify. And that's exactly what we're seeing.
This is a Category 5 hurricane with maximum winds at 160 miles per hour. The movement right now is towards the north-northwest at 10 miles per hour. Landfall is expected towards the early part of this morning. I'd say we're looking ahead towards the mid-morning for the storm to pass over New Orleans, but the first landfall will occur once the storm comes into contact with the outer islands here of Louisiana and the southeastern parishes. That's where we're going to be watching for landfall.
But a massive storm, with hurricane force winds that extend outward of 105 miles. So really we're going to start to feel those strong, strong winds, I'd say, within the next two to three hours. And of course we'll be here to bring that to you.
HARRIS: Oh boy, OK.
Bonnie, thank you.
KAYE: And be sure to keep it here. You are watching special coverage of the massive Category 5 Hurricane Katrina as it heads towards the Gulf Coast.
KAYE: In the eye of the storm, New Orleans and the central Gulf Coast brace for Hurricane Katrina.
I'm Randi Kaye at the CNN Center in Atlanta.
HARRIS: And I'm Tony Harris.
Our special coverage of the landfall of Hurricane Katrina continues.
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