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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Hurricane Ike Approaches Landfall; More of ABC's Interview with Sarah Palin; Gas Prices Jump in Gulf Area

Aired September 12, 2008 - 23:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening from Houston. "Breaking News" in cities and towns all around us and soon to be here; Hurricane Ike coming ashore, flooding the Texas Gulf coast, taking dead aim at the nation's fourth largest city putting 14 million people in this entire area in harm's way, perhaps nearly 6 million people in the Houston area alone. The concern in Houston of course, high wind, we'll cover that later.
The coastline now taking the worst of it as sea walls are getting pounded, streets flooded. People who chose to ride it out, they now have no choice they're in it for survival. All day people being rescued, it won't be easy now or even possible at all in some places. There is a crippled freighter as well with 22 people floundering around somewhere offshore.

The power is now out in Galveston. That's a new development it happened in the last hour. So is this, new damage projections; FEMA now estimating $11.8 billion worth. Nearly 100,000 buildings could be damaged, 4,500 according to projection will be destroyed. There are 341 hospitals in harm's way. Authorities tell us several dozen oil refineries and chemical plants and as I said some 14.9 million people. Among them, CNN correspondents are deployed from Clute in the southwest to Galveston, La Porte, Bay Town and Beaumont.

Here's what everyone is watching, the water levels. Take a look at Galveston Island, in three feet of water. These are projections and then in five feet of water. And finally 15 feet of storm water.

Now, at 15 feet the island is nearly inundated. The forecasts well, they predict anywhere from 18 feet, 20 feet, 22 feet possibly more. The storm now hundreds of miles wide, winds of 110 miles-an-hour gusting higher, borderline, borderline Category 3, still moving to the north-northwest taking dead aim at Galveston, the bay, canal and later Houston.

Let's go first to Gary Tuchman and Rob Marciano in Galveston with hurricane Ike literally everywhere they turn -- Gary

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, Rob and I have decided to seek some refuge with our crew in a parking garage because frankly it's got too dangerous out there. I mean Rob for the last hour while we were standing out there, it got pretty wild. Didn't it?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm glad we did move because as soon as we got here and by the way as you've mentioned earlier it took us a long time to walk that stretch of 200 yards but winds have really become ferocious and we're starting to see debris now flying behind us. And the waves just keep getting larger. This is just getting really, really intense. I think we're starting to get scraped by the northwestern eye wall now it seems.

TUCHMAN: I mean the darkness makes everything so much harder. I mean Rob and I have been here all day standing right by the Gulf of Mexico. And went on top of the seawall, the 17-foot seawall which pretty much disappeared hours ago but during the day at least we could see the debris. And a lot of the debris that was coming out of the Gulf of Mexico flying towards us was unrecognizable. But the problem is getting dark here and you don't know what's hitting you anymore and it got too dangerous.

But the fact is this is a tremendously treacherous situation for people who decided to stay behind, right.

MARCIANO: Well, absolutely and just that walk. The wind was getting funneled between two buildings it was accelerating. It was easily a 100 miles-an-hour. At times that we were falling down. If we had slipped, I mean the wind would have taken us away a great length of distance.

So it's really getting treacherous out there. And you're right, with it being dark. I think the one thing that we haven't talk too much about Gary, because we've been so focused on the surge is the wind with this storm. And now that we're getting to the core of that wind field which is so big, it is going to stretch so far in through Houston where Anderson is, beyond that to Dallas all the way to the Oklahoma border this storm is going to affect millions of people.

TUCHMAN: Speaking of the wind, a very unusual situation. While we were doing this 200-yard walk from the beach to here, our sound technician, her name is Lisa Britman -- and Lisa is taking a nap right now because she's been up for about 20 hours. But as we were walking -- I mean we are walking as a group to protect ourselves because it was that treacherous. We just wanted to make sure we were all together.

And I looked behind me, I didn't see Lisa anymore. And she was just way back. And I ran back to her, I realized, I felt terrible, she was carrying this heavy bag. Said Lisa let me take the bag, so I took the bag. And then, Lisa started getting blown backwards. So I put my arm around her and I just started pushing her because the wind was taking her backwards.

Literally I didn't think we'd both be able to get to this parking garage, it got that bad. So we're thinking we're prepared, we've done these storms for years, we know what to do. We can only imagine what people are going through, decided I don't need to leave, I lived in Galveston my whole life, the last serious hurricane was 1983 25 years ago. I'm going to stay behind and I mean these people are going to be pretty affected.

MARCIANO: Well, this one lady right over here, we're walking up to this position, this parking lot, it is buried in cars just to get above where the surge may be. And this woman and her dog, the dog's barking at me. This woman says can you give me a jump, my car's dead, the windows are down and we're cold? So we just jumped her car. And now she and her dog are going to ride this storm out in this parking lot no more than 15, 20 feet from us.

TUCHMAN: Now, when the eye crosses, likely we'll see the moon, right?

MARICIANO: Well, it's not as clear in the eye as we would typically see. It is not a well defined eye but we very well will see calm wind, we could see some stars, we could see the moon if it clears up by the time it hits here. But until then it's going to be a rough ride and it'll be a rough ride behind it, that's for sure.

TUCHMAN: Rob thank you, you know we have no idea the amount of damage because of the nightfall. We'll only know that tomorrow, Anderson. Back to you.

COOPER: Gary, do you have any sense of how many people actually stayed on that island who ignored the warnings?

TUCHMAN: I asked the mayor today how many people evacuated. About 60,000 people live here on Galveston Island. She told me yesterday their estimate was 40 percent of the people left but they didn't know how many people left today. I think it is a good percentage.

I went up and down these streets earlier today. They were so quiet, there was no one in these houses. A few people here and there I think it is a significant evacuation, at least I hope it was a significant evacuation.

COOPER: All right, I guess we'll see tomorrow. We'll check in with you guys throughout the hour as long as we are able to maintain a live shot.

Let's check in now with Chad Myers is in the CNN Weather Center. Chad, I got to tell you, just looking at that picture it doesn't look that bad. I hate to say that almost but what are we not seeing? What is the greatest danger for Galveston right now?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: They are in a windshield basically. The entire area that they're in, they're behind the building and so because the wind is going around them, that's the only way they can actually stay on the air. Where they just go around, this is the west side, or to the east side of the building, the winds would be completely different.

So what they're seeing is there. What you're seeing on TV is nothing like what the people or the trees -- hopefully that's all that's out there -- what we're feeling on that east side of the building.

This is the radar right now. And there's the middle of Galveston Island. We'll take the radar off for just a second. And then you'll be able to see the coastline.

See it here right there? Now, we'll put it back on, there's our reporters right there. Those guys are right there in the middle of it. So this is the -- I'm calling this as outer eye wall, because I believe that this eye wall here will come around and hit them again all the way here as a secondary smaller eye wall will generate itself over the next few hours. And that smaller eye wall will be a faster wind speed because of the way it's basically it's that old thing where the ice skater that has her arms in goes a lot faster than if she puts her arms out.

So this is a three-dimensional picture of what the hurricane is right now. It is spinning around, here's north. I'm bringing you around. And here is the section, right there, that second is going to come around and it is going to be the new inner eye wall as it comes around and hits Galveston Island later in the night. That's how this whole thing is going to work.

What else is going to be different about this whole thing is that when this storm reaches downtown, this is still going to be a very strong probably 100-mile-per-hour hurricane. We have buildings here in downtown.

I'll just touch on that one. And what's that, that's the JP Morgan Chase building. That is 75 floors high; 1,002 feet high. We will absolutely have winds over 120 that high off the ground, no question about it. And there are other buildings that not quite so high but there are a lot of buildings in downtown Houston. There you go, spin it all the way around and you can see them.

Now the difference what we're not seeing, I guess that's what you where saying, is where they are in Galveston, they have -- I'm going to get a wrap here so I'll get back to this later on. But Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: All right, Chad, you were just showing the Chase tower. We're actually about two or three or four blocks from that. I can see it very clearly right now. So we're going to keep a close eye on that, I know it got hit hard during Rita.

Actually there's a live picture there off on the left. Again he said a very tall tower. And as you noted when those hurricane-force winds come down to street level, it is one thing. Up 40 stories it is another thing entirely and a lot stronger winds up there.

So we're going to check in now with CNN's Rick Sanchez who is in La Porte on the banks of Galveston bay. Residents of La Porte took evacuation orders seriously. Rick joins us now from Main Street. Rick how is it?

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you can see, very different from the last time we talk, Anderson. Things are obviously starting to pick up here. Just to give you a little bit of a frame of reference, I was just checking, I'm essentially equidistant between you and the fellows down there in Galveston, I'm about 30 miles from you and about 30 miles from them. So everything that we're feeling here you'll probably going to be feel afterward.

This is the first time that I can say since I have been here that we are getting consistent, consistent bands of rain coming through the area, which is also consistent with what we've been seeing on the charts at least in terms of what this hurricane looks like. It's a large hurricane. So with a smaller hurricane we wouldn't be feeling this now but we certainly are now. Kind of the kind of storm that makes you have to hold your hat.

I was just reading on the discussion, speaking of discussions, my old friend Avila down at the National Hurricane Center in Miami who I think is one of the best writers and one of the best scientists they have down there wrote, quote, and I'll read you the quote, I'll give you quote, he said that "prepare for this storm as if it were a Category 3 because it very well might be." So he makes the point that this thing could be intensifying as we go.

Again, even if it doesn't we are only talking about wind speed. We're going to get hit by a large storm here. We're going to get hit by a dangerous storm. And we're already starting to feel its effects at least here in La Porte. What we're starting to see now as you can see beneath me some inland flooding as well for the very first time although, this is all from rain, by the way, Anderson. This is not from Galveston Bay at least not at this point. Back to you, man.

COOPER: All right, thanks very much, Rick. We'll check with you.

We're going to be following Ike all night.

New information too, on the deadly train wreck in southern California. The death toll there may be rising.

And as always, you can weigh in with comments, suggestions, story ideas on our blog and join the conversation at ac360.com.

Also tonight, politics, Sarah Palin, round two of her first interview since being named John McCain's running mate. She talks to Charlie Gibson. We'll play excerpts from that.

And the Obama force is calling this the first day of the rest of their campaign. What do they mean? Candidates taking some pretty tough shots at John McCain today. Senator McCain firing back. We've got the details tonight on "360" live from Houston, Galveston and points in between.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Galveston's Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas has had quite a day to say the least and a long night ahead of her. She joins me now by phone. The city lost power a couple of hours ago. I understand we just lost contact with her again. You are looking at a live picture from Galveston, you get a sense there of the strong winds that they are starting to hit. And it's very difficult maintaining contact with anyone.

We have Gary Tuchman and Rob Marciano there. and we'll try to get to the mayor in just a moment. More on Ike through out the night.

With "Breaking News" out of southern California as well. There's news all over another tragedy, this one man-made. A deadly train wreck in San Fernando growing even deadlier.

And "360's" Erica Hill who has the information joins us now. Erica what do you know?

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Anderson, we are getting some more numbers out of there, we are learning now -- actually that we're hearing perhaps ten to 15 may be dead, and we are -- Ted Rowlands is still on the scene for us in Chatsworth in San Fernando Valley. Ted, what have you learned?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erica that number actually according to the AP -- and these numbers are changing by the minute -- maybe up to 20. So we're talking about doubling of what we are now, the confirmed dead as you can see. They're still at it here.

They're expected, according to the mayor of Los Angeles to take another three to four hours to pull all of the victims out of what is left of the lead car which is now a mangled metal of this commuter train.

This took place almost four hours ago and for the past four hours people have been pulled from this train in different conditions. They've been ferried by medical helicopter; they had a triage center set up here. They've dealt with victims here.

And meanwhile, family members still within the last hour looking for their loved ones, trying to find them. It is still a relatively chaotic scene although it is settled down considerably. But still again, they expect to be out here for another three to four hours trying to pull people out of what is left of the lead car of this commuter train that head-on hit a Union Pacific freight train collided about four hours ago. They were on the same track going in different directions.

The obvious question, how could something like this happen? They say they're going to deal with this tonight, and then of course that is first up, how could this have happened. Obviously it was a switching error but they don't know exactly how that error took place. A fatal error as we said; now the latest numbers coming from the AP, up to 20 people dead here in Los Angeles -- Erica.

HILL: All right Ted thanks. We'll continue to follow that.

I'm going to toss it back to Anderson now. Anderson I think you may have the mayor available at this point.

COOPER: Yes, that's just terrible what's happening out in California. We'll continue to follow that.

Let's re-establish contact with Galveston's mayor Lyda Ann Thomas. Mayor Thomas, does the city, the power in Galveston is out. What is the scene there right now?

LYDA ANN THOMAS, MAYOR OF GALVESTON: It's very dark here. We have no power anywhere on the island, although the University of Texas Medical Branch says its generator is going. The wind is high. The waves are high. The eye of the storm is about to -- in a couple of hours will come over and things will be quiet, and then we'll get the rest of the storm. We have so far not had any reports of loss of life, which I'm grateful for. I believe the damage to the city will be extensive. We've had three fires so far.

Unfortunately we have not been able to get to any of them. But we believe the properties -- we hope the properties were vacant. And the real problem right now is the storm itself and the wind. The waves are crashing over the seawall. But so far it is the waves and we are very concerned, of course, about the surge.

COOPER: You tried your hardest to get as many people off the island as possible. Do you know how many stayed? I know you also set up a shelter of last resort. Do you know how many folks are using it?

THOMAS: Yes. We have 239 citizens at the Paul High School. As far as how many people left we really don't have a count. It is just a guess. Not as many as we had hoped. But we don't want to speculate. There really are still a lot of people here and we base that on the number of calls we've been getting in our emergency center for rescue work.

COOPER: Well, mayor, I know it is going to be a long night. It's been a long couple days for you. I appreciate your time tonight. We'll check in with you throughout this evening.

We have much more ahead on hurricane Ike.

Also a lot of politics, Sarah Palin, and new answers from round two of her first interview. That's coming up as the winds are starting to blow here in Houston. We continue to follow the hurricane. All of it; live from Texas coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And welcome back. You see the radar there. We just got some new radar readings and from aircraft as well. This is a strong Category 2 storm, very close to being a Category 3, we are told that wind levels several hundred feet off the ground make it -- or a Category 4.

So if that maintains those stronger winds up high, several hundred feet up high as they come up to here in Houston, we are starting to feel stronger winds here in Houston. No telling what kind of impact it's going to have on some of these taller buildings. At the very least we are expecting just a lot of broken glass and that's dangerous for anyone who's out.

So of course -- and I literally still see some people out in bars, hanging out on the streets, kind of sight seeing, if you will, waiting for this storm. The message from authorities here is you folks need to get inside. We are very close to a parking garage, and literally ten feet and we are inside if this situation warrants that. We're going to continue to cover the hurricane and we'll have much more on Ike ahead. Along with the breaking story, we're also following on today's major news though from the presidential race. As we told you earlier, more on the record from Governor Sarah Palin today. ABC News releasing another excerpt from her first interview with the news media.

Palin sat down in Alaska, with ABC's Charlie Gibson who asked her detailed questions about where she stands on earmarks, abortion and more. Here's Governor Palin in her own words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLIE GIBSON, ABC ANCHOR: You said you now agree with John McCain that earmarks should be eliminated. The state of Alaska, governor, this year requested $3.2 million for researching the genetics of harbor seals, money to study the mating habits of crabs. Isn't that the kind of thing that John McCain is objecting to?

GOV. SARAH PALIN, (R) ALASKA VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Those requests through our research divisions in Fish and Game and our Wildlife Departments and our university, those research requests did come through that system, but wanting it to be in the light of day, not behind closed doors with lobbyists making deals with Congress to stick things in there under the public radar. That's the abuse that we're going to stop.

GIBSON: Roe v. Wade. Do you think it should be reversed?

PALIN: I think it should and I think that states should be able to decide that issue. I am pro-life. I do respect other people's opinion on this also and I think that a culture of life is best for America.

What I want to do when elected vice president with John McCain, hopefully be able to reach out and work with those who are on the other side of this issue, because I know that we can all agree on the need for and the desire for fewer abortions in America.

And greater support for adoption, for other alternatives that women can and should be empowered to embrace to allow that culture of life. That's my personal opinion on this, Charlie.

GIBSON: John McCain would allow abortion in cases of rape and incest. You believe in it only in the case where the life of the mother is endangered.

PALIN: That is my personal opinion.

GIBSON: Would you change and accept it in rape and incest?

PALIN: My personal opinion is that abortion allowed if the life of the mother is endangered, please understand me on this. I do understand McCain's position on this. I do understand others who are very passionate about these issues who have a differing view.

GIBSON: Homosexuality, genetic or learned? PALIN: Oh, I don't know. But I'm not one to judge and, you know, I'm from a family and from a community with many, many members of many diverse backgrounds. And I'm not going to judge someone on whether they believe that homosexuality is a choice or genetic. And I'm not going to judge them.

GIBSON: Is it sexist for people to ask how can somebody manage a family of seven and the vice presidency? Is that a sexist question to ask?

PALIN: That question is kind of irrelevant because it is accepted. Of course you can be the vice president and you can raise a family. I'm the governor and I'm raising a family. I've been a mayor and have raised a family. I've owned a business and we've raised a family.

When people have asked me when I was governor and I was pregnant, gosh, how are you going to be the governor and have a baby in office, too? And I replied back then, as I would today, I'll do it the same way the other governors have done it when they've either had baby in office or raised a family -- granted, they're men, but do it the same way that they do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So what did you think of Palin's answers? Good news? Bad news for the GOP?

Let's ask our panel. Joining me now, is CNN's senior political analyst and former presidential advisor David Gergen; CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen and Republican strategist and former senior advisor of Mitt Romney, Bay Buchanan.

So David, how do you think Palin handle herself overall tonight?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Overall, she was poised in many ways she was likable. I think she was a little more relaxed than she was last night. I think for her base there are going -- and I would assume Bay Buchanan will be very pleased overall because she didn't make any serious, serious gaffes that got her into deep trouble which was a very important part of this. She passed the test. These were probing questions from Charlie Gibson, these were not soft balls.

On the other hand, I don't think that -- I think that the people who were coming in her direction who haven't already come over are not going to find this sort of appealing, it's not going to bring them over. In fact I think a lot of people on the other side are going to be continued to be scared by what they see. Because her knowledge base when she knows something about it such as energy issue, she's quite good.

But there are so many issues on the national level and the international level that she's really never had to think about. Her answers in those areas were very thin. And I think a lot of people are going to say, you know, this confirms for the people who are against her -- this will confirm what they've been thought all along or have been thinking. COOPER: Hilary, there was also this bite where she talks about Hillary Clinton. I don't know if she's trying to reach out to some of Hillary Clinton's supporters. Let's listen to what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIBSON: I saw you quoted somewhere as speaking rather admiringly of Mrs. Clinton, Senator Clinton, during the primary campaign. You think Obama should have picked her?

PALIN: I think he's regretting not picking her now. I do. What determination and grit and even grace through some tough shots that were fired her way; she handled those well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Let me actually ask this to Bay Buchanan. Bay, do you think she can actually reach out to disaffected Clinton supporters?

BAY BUCHANAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes. I do for a couple reasons. What is she doing? I agree with David, there are some questions she's a little thinner than others but she has answers that are good. But there's something else that's coming across here. And that is that she's a strong, tough, determined, composed woman and that she's very, very confident.

This is leadership. That's what it's about, leadership isn't just knowing all the facts and figures and names of foreign leaders. It is about having that kind of spine that's very -- that she's a very tough lady. She's somebody that you're going to have to deal with here. She doesn't back down under pressure.

In fact she's composed, very, very composed. I think if she keeps up this performance, and I expect she will; continues to get national media like she is, she puts Barack Obama on that bridge to nowhere.

COOPER: Hilary, do you agree with that? Do you think she's actually going to start taking questions from actual citizens?

HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, you know, it's Friday night, it is the end of a long Sarah Palin week. I'm just kind of hoping that we're going to go into next week actually talking about the issues in this campaign.

And it's interesting that David brought up energy. That seems to be an area of expertise of hers, although really what it is, is, she's an expert on oil and natural gas. And she and John McCain have opposed virtually every other source of alternative fuels. We've got to find a way to get this campaign away from the personalities.

I agree with both David and Bay, she's likable. But guess what? All four candidates in this race are likable. All right, we've established that; now let's kind of get to the issues.

BAY BUCHANAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: But you know -- ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: David Gergen, the Obama folks say, look, we want to talk about issues, the McCain camp doesn't want to talk about issues. I'm sure the McCain camp says we are talking about issues but this is a tough fought race and we're fighting tough just like Obama is. Who's right? I mean and do they really both want to talk about issues?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No. I think we've established in previous conversations that the Republicans would much more rather make this about personalities. That's what their convention was about and they've made great gains with Sarah Palin's personality and her novelty and her celebrityhood in the last ten days.

But I do think Hilary's on to something. My sense is, Anderson, now that she's answered these questions and we've had this intensive Sarah Palin period, my sense is the campaign is going to begin to move on. That it's going to get back to much more about McCain versus Obama next week and it will then start to move out on the issues.

Obama got to launch some much more aggressive effort today going after McCain; he's gotten very personal again. I think they said one thing about McCain that was way over the line when they said he'd rather lose his integrity than lose the race. I think that's a really unfair comment, just like questioning Obama's patriotism earlier on the McCain side.

But I think the focus is going -- is likely to start moving back now. And when we do that we're going to start paying a lot more attention to issues. After all the next -- the first debate is now two weeks away.

BUCHANAN: You know, Anderson --

COOPER: Go ahead.

BUCHANAN: The key here is people vote for lots of different -- a couple of different reasons. One is issues, sure. That's one reason people vote. Also they vote on personalities, on that excitement, on that feeling that somebody's a true leader and they feel good about this.

And that is what they are capturing right now. If they can capture that and pick up a couple of the issues like drilling, which is very, very popular, they will win. And right now we're playing on our field, Republicans are playing on our field and the media is helping us do so.

COOPER: We're been trying to focus as much as possible on issues all throughout the week even while covering Sarah Palin.

We'll continue next week on the issues. David Gergen, and Hilary Rosen, Bay Buchanan, thank you very much. I appreciate you staying up late with us on this night when there is a lot of "Breaking News" all over the place.

BUCHANAN: Sure.

COOPER: We have more coverage of hurricane Ike and the price you're going to be paying at the pump. Some are paying already; we're starting to get some more rain here in Houston.

We'll get a report from the biggest oil refining town on the continent right in harm's way. We'll check in there, we're looking at a live picture there from -- that's from Clute, Texas. You can see the storm's starting to move inland a lot more.

And as I said, now we're starting to feel some stuff here in Houston. Hear about people who decided to stay and had to be rescued as hurricane Ike comes ashore. See how are they are doing right now.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Looking at a live picture of a train crash that occurred about 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time; 3:00 p.m. in the Los Angeles area in Chatsworth, California. At last we have the death toll at 10 people confirmed dead.

Let's check in with Steve Whitmore with the L.A. County Sheriff's office, he joins us on the phone.

Steve, at this point has everyone been accounted for or what's the situation?

STEVE WHITMORE, L.A. COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: No, it's still a medical rescue operation and everybody has not been accounted for. This will go on for quite a while. And as you've just mentioned, there are at least ten people that have died; 30 to 40 have been injured. And this will be going on for a while.

And the next agency that will take over obviously is the NTSB, National Transportation Safety Board will come in and they will do the investigation itself as to the cause and as to the speed and all those questions that are going to be answered.

COOPER: And we're seeing five pictures of firemen taken earlier on top of the train looking in. Is that -- are they searching for people? Is that what's going on?

WHITMORE: Yes. This is still a rescue operation, medical triage. People are being found, people are coming out and there are, unfortunately we're finding some that have died.

COOPER: I know you said the investigation is obviously going to take place and that's the next phase. At this point do you know anything about how this happened?

WHITMORE: No. As you might imagine, sir, at this point there's lots of speculation. There's lots of authorities, there's lots of people looking at it, but that will all be compiled in one central investigatory packet which will be supervised by the NTSB and those are the answers that will be sought and be solidify. So I would be comfortable waiting until then.

COOPER: Ok, do you know how many trains were involved? I mean was it one train hitting another?

WHITMORE: Yes. It was a Metro Link train that collided with a United Pacific -- I think it was a private carrier.

COOPER: All right, well obviously I mean the pictures are just horrific. And I know you got a lot of work ahead of you tonight. We appreciate you taking the time, Steve Whitmore, from the scene.

Back to Ike, the storm starting to be felt here just a little bit; being felt on an epic level not far from here.

Let's go now to Susan Candiotti is in Clute about an hour's drive southwest of Houston. She's been talking to people who stuck around despite orders to leave the area, and then those folks had to be rescued -- Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They did and that happened earlier this day in a spot where we can't even get to anymore, Anderson. That's because the bridge leading to the coastal community of surfside is now partially under water; the road and the bridge that leads to that.

So everyone had to get out. Two people came out by jet skis. They were led out by police escort. I asked them why they waited so long. And this is a father and two teenage children. And he said, well, the surf looked good to me.

So you know, kind of an odd attitude but he was pretty blase about the whole thing you might say, not the kind of thing police were looking for. They were not happy about having to go in there taking boats in and in fact wading in over half a mile to bring some people out; eight people in all.

One couple lost their dog that the police just couldn't get to. It washed away in the surf. Another man and a woman came out and they said they came out because of their pet hound dog that they want to get out as well.

Some people came out on their own and the police chief said that these are people who just didn't want to leave their homes, they don't care about the evacuation order but now they think they got everybody out except for one man. I tried to reach him by cell phone. The phones aren't answering this night and we certainly hope that he is ok.

It's going to be a long night, Anderson. We're starting to feel those outer bands just a little bit stronger now. The wind and the rain, a little bit stronger than it was just about an hour ago as those outer bands get closer and closer to us.

We'll be here throughout the night of course and see how bad it gets. And curious to see how many of those homes that are on stilts are still going to be there in the morning. Authorities want to know that, too. COOPER: All right, Susan Candiotti, we'll check in with you throughout the night.

You may be hearing a little bit of electrical saws in the background here, the place where we are staying is starting to board up here, a sign of what is to come. Hurricane Ike is also taking a huge toll at the pump.

I also should just to point out its very frustrating for emergency personnel, for police, for firefighters, paramedics to put out these mandatory evacuations, and then how folks basically kind of not only blow it off but kind of go out drinking and hooping and hollering, and waiting for the storm, and then need to be rescued at the last minute.

It is incredibly frustrating. You hear this from emergency personnel and at the height of the storm frankly there's nothing they can do. They can't go out and risk their lives anymore than they already have but it is a very difficult situation obviously. As those storm waters come on, there's going to be a lot of people, those who chose to stay in Galveston who may need to be rescued in the early morning hours tomorrow. We're going to have to try to cover that as well.

Across the southeast we are hearing reports of gas prices surging. One big factor is Bay Town, Texas; it's packed with oil refineries as well as oil rigs and chemical plants.

CNN's Ali Velshi is in Bay Town near the Exxon Mobile complex where they were finding more than half a million barrels of crude a day. What's the scene there, Ali?

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the Exxon Mobile Bay town refinery is the biggest refinery on the continent. Refineries are concentrated in this part of Texas and there are 26 of them in the state; 13 of them are shut down. They're on lockdown right now because refineries can't operate if they're flooded and refineries can't operate if the power goes out.

Now, just a few moments ago over to the south we saw some arcs in the sky, blue arcs which look like transformers that are being affected by the storm. The power has not gone out in Bay Town yet but the bottom line is trucks stopped delivering gas to gas stations earlier this afternoon and we have seen price spikes.

We have reports of $4.95 a gallon in Atlanta. $5.49 a gallon in parts of Florida, Georgia and Alabama have anti-gouging laws and the government of those two states have both warned that people will be prosecuted if they do this.

But the bottom line is there are shortages of gasoline across parts of the south. And if these refineries are damaged, if they can't get the water out of those refineries if they flood and if they can't get power up very quickly, Anderson, you will start to see shortages moving their way north from Texas and you'll start to see prices going up.

Some of it will be reasonable because of the fact that there are real shortages and there is a supply and demand problem. In other cases they won't be, there will be gouging taking place and that is something that authorities across the south and further north are going to start to look into.

The other thing, Anderson, the offshore rigs around here are better equipped for a hurricane like this than the refineries are. We just had recent a update from the hurricane center that just about 200 or 250 feet aloft we might get Category 4 winds.

Well, there are towers like that at many of these refineries around Texas that could endanger them and that could endanger the energy supply across the country -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Ali Velshi reporting. Ali we'll keep checking in with you.

We're going to check in with Gary Tuchman on the scene in hard-hit Galveston. And we'll have the latest on the freighter adrift in the Gulf its crew. At this point no hope of rescue for them, not for now, they're just bracing for a long and no doubt terrifying night.

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COOPER: At this moment 22 people aboard a freighter in the Gulf of Mexico, these shots were taken earlier. They tried to make a rescue effort, they couldn't do it, conditions were just too bad. Right now the folks on the ship are frankly helpless. We can only imagine what they're going through. They are stuck in the middle of hurricane Ike at sea about 140 southeast of Galveston, simply too dangerous to rescue them.

They lost all propulsion on board that ship earlier in the day. They sent out a mayday yesterday morning, I think it was around 4:00 or 5:00 a.m. But at this point they are pretty much on their on, earlier by phone the captain of the freighter said his ship was drifting. As we said the rescue attempts were suspended. Officials say the weather should be making it impossible to try it right now. They'll try to do it when the winds calm down.

Back now to the view from shore at Galveston; CNN's Gary Tuchman is there live. Gary, how is it?

TUCHMAN: Well, Anderson, I can't even comprehend what the people on that ship are going through right now. It is impossible to even imagine because take a look at this Gulf of Mexico right now. It looks like a scene from a Hollywood movie; it looks like from the "Ten Commandments" when the Red Sea was parted.

These waves are over 20 feet going over the seawall which stands up to 17 feet at that point, going across the road. And the reason we're here now, we're in a sturdy parking deck structure, a remarkably safe place to be while we're having these hurricane-force wind. And all I could think about right now is the National Weather Service's warning last night saying that people who live in one and two-story buildings near the beach face certain death if they stay. This is the moment. These are the winds. We've had hurricane force winds for the last couple of hours. We may have the eye within the next couple of hours. But this is the moment where people who are inside those homes who decided not to leave are facing the most treacherous time. We're very concerned about them, as are the authorities who are not going out right now because it is too dangerous to do any rescues -- Anderson.

COOPER: Gary, there is what the mayor called a shelter of last resort that they set up at the last minute. Have you heard much about the situation over there or I mean you don't see any people about, do you?

TUCHMAN: No, there are no yahoos out here tonight, Anderson, because you literally can't stand. That's why we're here, we were outside by that seawall for hours. I weigh 170 pound. I couldn't stand up anymore.

And even walking towards here, we've got a 200-yard walk from that beach to here. It took us about 15 minutes to get here because the winds kept pressing us back. So there's no one outside and the power is out, there's no way to get in touch with that shelter.

COOPER: I understand, Gary. Chad is just telling us that Galveston pier got a wind of 87 miles an hour. That's hurricane-force wind. So it seems like it's starting to be getting more and more intense. Do you think you're going to be able to stay up for much longer?

TUCHMAN: In this location where we are, this is a very sturdy structure. I think we can stay up through the duration of the storm.

COOPER: All right, well there's a lot more to cover, the leading edge of hurricane Ike starting to hammer in. And we're going the latest forecast from our Severe Weather Center.

We'll also check in with Rick Sanchez in La Porte, Texas.

And while the massive storm is taking aim at Texas we're going to look next door to Louisiana where hundreds of homes and businesses have already been flooded.

All that and more when "360" returns.

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COOPER: Looking at a live picture of Galveston there. As Gary Tuchman just walked across it but you can see the waves starting to crash I mean big waves coming on shore and those palm trees getting hit pretty hard.

We're going to check in now with CNN's Rick Sanchez who is in La Porte on the banks of Galveston Bay. Residents of La Porte, a lot of folks evacuated; 90 percent left town. Rick joins us from Main Street. Rick, what is the situation?

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, things are getting a lot more intense, Anderson. And there's no question about it. You know you always know when you're starting to get hurricane force wind gusts by the pain from the actual droplets when they hit you. It's that stinging sensation you get from the rain as it starts to come through.

You know, La Porte is going to get hammered. We know that, we're expecting it. And now we're getting reports from police officers. I've had several conversations with them over the last ten minutes or so. They've been stopping by and what they're telling me now is that the inland flooding has officially begun.

Where it was expected here in La Porte, just a couple of blocks from where I'm standing where Galveston Bay has actually gone over its bank in some parts and we're starting to actually see roads that are being inundated not only in La Porte.

We understand it might be happening in parts of Kima and certainly as far as Morgan Point is concerned, as well; an area where we were reporting from earlier today.

We're also now starting to see, you know, the typical stuff you see when you get hurricane force or at least strong tropical force winds. We're seeing tree branches falling off, hitting our trucks full force. We're seeing the rattling of some of these buildings around here.

And you can always tell when some of these folks left not thinking this storm is going to be as strong as it is because as I look around and I look at some of these buildings, I'd say that maybe one out of every four or five is boarded up. The rest of them have a lot of glass and it's exposed. So let's see what happens throughout the course of the evening and as the morning falls.

Anderson, back to you, my friend.

COOPER: All right. Rick Sanchez thanks. Stay safe, Rick.

Some new information now from the CNN Severe Weather Expert, Chad Meyers; Chad, what have you got?

MYERS: Anderson, really what the whole thing is here is that they're looking at the radar now. Now that the radar and the storm is close enough to the radar that they can actually pick it up. They point to the radar up into the sky and this is a Doppler radar and we talk about this all the time.

A train as it comes at you as you're sitting at the train gate changes sound as it comes and then it goes. Well, that change in sound can also be heard as the wind blows in one direction or the other and so the wind, they now know is blowing at about 120 and in some spots about 125 miles-per-hour; at the top of those skyscrapers that I was talking about in downtown Houston.

Now, this storm may slow down a little bit. Slow its speeds in circulation a little bit because it's going to have to go inland about 40 miles to get to Houston but that is what was on the latest discussion by the National Hurricane Center that they have found winds higher than what they're finding at the surface. At the surface, there's topography, there's trees and there's drag. And that drag will slow the wind speeds down a little bit. 400 feet in the sky, there's no drag -- Anderson.

COOPER: We should also just point out that Chase Tower, which is just a couple of blocks from our location, Chad, you showed it earlier on your map but, again, it is a very, very high tower. That's a live shot. You see it there on the left. It's got some lights in it, so we still have electricity in that part of Houston. We saw some lighting in the sky earlier about an hour and a half ago, well it looked like a transformer blowing up and certainly as far as we can see, there's still power in all this area.

That tower got hit pretty hard in Rita. We'll continue to follow it through out this evening. As Chad has been saying the storm covers a lot of territory. We've been focusing on Texas.

There's "Breaking News" as well out of Louisiana; flooding in the New Orleans area. We'll have more of that as hurricane Ike comes ashore.

Stay tuned.

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COOPER: Welcome back. We are live in Houston. That's the scene right in La Porte, Texas.

Here in Houston, we are starting to get the first outer bands of the storm starting to come in; a little more driving rain. Nothing too severe, though, at this point, but again, as Chad pointed out, it is the wind at higher elevation, several hundred feet up it is going to be whipping through these skyscrapers that's going to be of primary concern that we're going to be watching over the next couple of hours as we remain live.

We also have "Breaking News" tonight out of Louisiana, where hurricane Ike has caused several levee breaches. Right now, there are reports of nearly 2,000 structures under water.

I'm trying to find Erica Hill who has an update. Erica, where is this?

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, from what we're being told, we initially heard about the breach in Lafitte which is in Cameron parish. We are hearing from Governor Bobby Jindal telling the Associated Press, we know at this point 160 people have been rescued so far but the flooding actually extends from Plaquemines parish, which we all know so well from Katrina, all the way over to Cameron parish, which is on the Texas state line.

Now Governor Jindal also said he feels about 1,800 homes and businesses have been flooded in Cameron parish but expects that number to increase to a full 2,900 homes in the area, we're also told in another area, at Terrebonne parish, I may not be pronouncing that correctly, at least four breaches there. We're also hearing at least 100,000 people right now are without power; some of those people still without power since hurricane Gustav. Now, in Cameron parish, we actually spoke with the Director of Emergency Preparedness there who told us there was at least six feet of water in the streets there. And we did mentioned early on the broadcast that the breach and the temporary levee in Lafitte which I just mentioned as well and that happened around 8:00 p.m.

It is really considered that the storm surge from Ike is the cause here. Now we have some information from NOAA that the real time monitor puts the surge there at about four to five feet above normal since this morning.

We're also going to continue to follow this for you throughout the night, Anderson. We can tell you these that the Director of Emergency Preparedness there in Cameron parish also told us, he thinks this is absolutely devastating because the town is still rebuilding from Rita three years ago. And he is worried that at this point with this current flooding the town may not recover -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Those areas, a lot of people ignored, forgot about Rita but it was devastating for a lot of those areas in western Louisiana. We're going to be following live throughout the night; another edition of "360" starts in another hour.

We're going to be live in that hour.

Let's hand it right now "LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.