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CNN BREAKING NEWS
Hurricane Ike Hits Texas
Aired September 13, 2008 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. All eyes on Ike. Ike's eye on land. The storm has made landfall. The hurricane is now just whipping the Texas Gulf Coast this morning and whipping around half of the scene and crew.
There they are. They are working and working hard. We've got our Betty Nguyen. She's there for us in Houston. My partner who's usually here with me. She is out and about. And also our Reynolds Wolf.
We have several other correspondents, we'll be checking in, keeping an eye on this massive storm.
Good morning to you all.
Meanwhile from the CNN Hurricane Center and our headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, I'm T.J. Holmes. It is September 13th and a hell of a day so far.
Flooding, savage winds, fires even breaking out. Hurricane Ike ravaging the Texas shoreline and Houston, the nation's fourth largest metro area, getting pounded now and it may get a whole lot worst.
You're looking at some of those fires that have broken out. Firefighters right now can't get to a lot of them because of some flood waters, sometimes it's just too dangerous to get out there.
The storm arrived about three hours ago in Galveston. It came on as a Category 2 storm. Category 2 doesn't -- doesn't sound so bad but don't let that fool you. The water level among the coast as much 12 feet above normal. We have storm surges, they're nearly twice that.
Also, we've got thousands of homes that are flooded. Streets, as we always see and you always hear, it sounds so cliche now, but they have turned into streams and rivers. Millions of people without power. Could be weeks before they get it back, according to many of the officials there who are working on that power.
And also this, the warnings were out there. People were told to get out. Evacuation orders were in place. But, still, thousands of people around the Galveston and Houston areas ignored some of those dire warnings.
You may remember some of the warnings that people would face certain death, was the warning that the officials put out. Those were their words, they would face a certain death. Some people decided to stay and ride it out and they are there now and they are in trouble because a lot of rescue teams, a lot of people cannot get to them right now.
We're going to turn now to our Jacqui Jeras. She's here with me in the Hurricane Center.
Jacqui, good morning to you.
JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning.
HOLMES: Everybody is wondering, it came onshore. So does that mean the worse is out of the way? Or we got a whole lot to look forward to?
JERAS: We've got a whole lot to look forward to throughout the day today in terms of, still, seeing some very dire conditions. You know the worst of it is hitting, as we speak, in Houston, but we still has several hours to go of these hurricane force winds.
Here you can see the eye or the center of the storm. It's north east of Houston now, but only about seven miles -- or 17 miles away. And there you can see that eye wall moving right through the area here.
So we're getting tremendous wind gusts, well beyond 75 miles per hour at times. We're going to see torrential downpours with this. Rain coming down so heavy, urban flooding very likely across the area. And we're going to see a lot of damage.
We're getting some reports that, you know, glass is coming out of some of the buildings in downtown. We're going to be seeing street signs all over the place. You know, tree, branches, large branches coming down. Some possibly being uprooted.
And you know, it's dark outside right now. It's 5:00 in the morning in Houston and across the state of Texas. And so as the sun starts to come up, I think we're going to start to see a lot of this damage and getting a lot more information. There are millions of people without power at this point.
You know land fall happened at about 2:10 Central Time. It happened over Galveston. And we're going to be looking at this intensity of this storm weakening a little bit. But in the meantime, you know, we're still up there at 110 miles per hour.
That's one-mile-an-hour away from a Category 3 storm. So this is certainly a very powerful system. It's moving northwesterly right now but it is going to start to take that turn up towards the north and the east.
So in addition to those wind threats today, we're going to continue to see water makes its way onshore. The worst of the surge pulling down a little bit now but still extremely high. And you see that big red box there, T.J. That's where the threat of tornadoes, another issue that we'll be dealing with throughout the day and even into the evening tonight.
HOLMES: All right, well, Jacqui Jeras here for us this weekend. We appreciate you.
We talked about an eye wall. We just saw that from Jacqui, that eye wall is heading right there through Houston, and right in Houston right now is my partner Betty Nguyen who is there.
And let's get to you quickly, because, Betty, I'm told you're just about to get blown away out there.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: You would think so out here. And let me tell you, these winds are blowing very hard. We've clocked them somewhere between 115, 130 miles per hour.
At times it feels like it's blowing even harder than that. Not only are the winds blowing but we are seeing a lot of debris blowing through downtown Houston right now. We have the video from our affiliates that show glass that is right now on the streets.
The windows have been blown out and there's a major concern here because just a few blocks down the street to my right is the JPMorgan Chase building. That building has about 75 stories. A lot of glass in it. It's the largest building in Texas.
And so when these winds are whipping up like they do, especially in downtown when they can create a tunnel effect, we can expect a lot of glass to be on the streets by the time this is said and done. In fact, we have a traffic light somewhere in the parking garage that blew off just right down the street from where I am.
But to give you an idea of the situation here, there are close to 4 million people already without power. So far where we are at this hotel, which is a very solid structure, I'm on the tenth floor and I could feel the building swaying back and forth this morning.
The power is still on where we are but there's no telling how long that will last.
A lot of people in the Houston area, about nine zip codes, were told to evacuate.
Now I went out yesterday and talked to some of those people and I found one lady who was still trying to decide, even as of late yesterday, whether she should stay or go. And her main concern was her pets.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But that's all I've got.
NGUYEN (on camera): If you could take them with you, you would have already left?
NGUYEN: And again, a lot of people still deciding, you know, whether they made the right decision to stay in this storm. I want to take you now to our Reynolds Wolf who is out in it as well. He's in Clute, Texas and he's been watching the situation there.
REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hey, Betty, last night around 8:00 or so the power went down and then the winds really began to pick up, reaching a crescendo right around the midnight hour.
And now it's been kind of interesting. We'll have strong gusts that will come through that will almost knock -- knock you off your feet and then you'll have a little bit of a, I guess, a calmer stretch.
The wind, if you haven't been tuning in from home, is going from the upper right to the lower left-hand corner of your screen. Kind of coming in horizontally for the time being. And really to tell you the truth it is not been particularly heavy. It's been almost like a fine mist, kind of a steam, rainy at times.
I will tell you that we're seeing a lot of debris around the area. In fact, if you look over here for a moment -- I'm going to walk over here with Joel Delarosa. (INAUDIBLE) these tiles were picked up all night long.
We've been hearing these things go off as the winds have been increasing over the midnight hour. Not -- certainly not the heavier tiles. And still, you could hear them ripping.
At the same time, we have these plastic things. Plastics, they were covering the lights. Those are ripping apart also. We could hear those all night long, so a bit of a mess.
Certainly not a mess for the time being across the way over at BASF. You can look across the lake, you can also see that big flame. That flame is set up over the chemical plant, one of the largest in North America, to burn off the excess chemical.
I've been told that this area has been staffed with over 137 people to keep a sharp eye on this flame to make sure there aren't any leakages, to make sure there aren't any problems in the situation of flooding, which is, obviously, always a possibility with these storms.
The situation that we have here, Betty, I can tell you that, obviously, we're on the weaker side of the storm but big concern still for much of Galveston, obviously, Houston where you're located, we're very concerned and certainly keeping our fingers crossed for you guys.
NGUYEN: No doubt. Thank you, Reynolds.
And here in Houston, as you can see, it is still raining sideways, sheets of rain are just coming through downtown.
And T.J., I got to tell you, we're in for it for a while because this storm is far from over. HOLMES: Yes, and that danger is not going. And a lot of concern, of course, was for those high rise buildings and a lot of windows flying out.
I assume that a lot of people, you can tell, heeded those warnings and I assume downtown Houston is a ghost town. There's nobody down there and nobody buzzing around, is it?
NGUYEN: Absolutely not. They'd be crazy to be out here in this kind of weather, although there are a few people here at the hotel who wanted to come outside and try to get a glimpse of the storm.
But look at what I'm standing in. They could barely get outside the covered parking garage because the winds are just really whipping through here very fast. Like I said, somewhere between 115, 130 miles an hour.
And then all of a sudden you get a little bit of a break in it. So this thing is really moving through. And again, it is moving through quite fast with the winds in downtown Houston.
HOLMES: All right. Well, our Betty Nguyen there.
Betty, we are going to be talking to you plenty this morning. And be sure you hold on to something, because like you said, those winds are really kicking in. It's not over by any means. We'll be doing this for the next several hours.
Betty, we'll see you again soon.
But stay here with us. We're keeping an eye on all of our correspondents. We've got several there. Gary Tuchman, Reynolds Wolf, Betty Nguyen, Sandy -- Susan Candiotti. We got them all down there in that region.
We're getting some help from our affiliates as well as we always depend on them. A live look on this right side of your screen there. Many of our affiliates in the area. Certainly we'll be dipping in, listening to them as their coverage continues down there as well, helping us to tell this story.
Also our iReporters helping us tell the story. We've got our Jacqui Jeras here in the weather center. But we will continue to give you this coverage of this massive storm. Hurricane Ike has made landfall. But the worse is probably yet to come.
Stay here with CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: That's why it's important for people to stay off the streets at this time. Let this storm pass through, this hurricane pass through the area. There's a lot of debris on the road. There's a lot of big poles, there's signage, there's signs dangling. There is no power anywhere throughout the city that we have seen. The only ones with power are hospitals and hotels with generators, things of that nature. The only folks that are on the street right now are the police and...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: Again, that was one of our affiliates there. One of our affiliate reporters KPRC that was in Harris County in Clear Lake, specifically. But certainly get a whole lot of help. And you could see of the challenges they're up against and some of the elements.
A lot of those reporters are out and including our own correspondent who are really all over that region. We've really blanketed that region for this storm today.
And there you go. That's -- too many to even name, really, but we have enough of them in Houston, San Antonio, Galveston, Baytown, Beaumont, Clute, as well, La Porte. They are all over the place. And one spot we have one of our correspondents, my co-anchor here on this show, our Betty Nguyen, there in Houston holding on to something I see there.
NGUYEN: Well, I told you a little bit earlier about how fast these winds are whipping through downtown Houston. These buildings around here create a tunnel effect. And a lot of debris is on the street. One thing including this, my photographer here, Mike Gomez, help me hold on to this traffic light.
This blew down just -- from down the street, maybe a block away, not even that far. And can you just imagine this whipping through downtown? It can cause some major damage. That's why a lot of people are warning folks, if they do stay in this area, especially in high rises, to get away from the windows.
As of yesterday, officials estimate that at least a quarter of the windows in downtown Houston will be blown out because of this storm. And there's no doubt we're already seeing a lot of debris in the streets, not only traffic lights but tree limbs. We've heard glass shatter.
And as you can see, T.J., the winds are still blowing very hard.
HOLMES: Those winds are still kicking up there. We're going to get a little more and try to get a better picture of what those -- the winds and that rain is exactly doing in Houston.
Betty, you hang tight there. We're going to get back to you.
Our Jacqui Jeras is keeping an eye on things here in the weather center for us. She's here to my right. She's been helping us with this.
And, Jacqui, I see you're working and you're pounding a way and you have a lot going on in the weather center today.
HOLMES: But we saw that picture from Betty. And Houston is such a big concern right now.
HOLMES: What are they getting now? And what do they have to look forward to?
JERAS: Well, people need to stay inside, certainly, and be in a secure location. And, you know, particularly, you want to stay away from doors and windows. And that's a big concern.
In fact, I was just checking my e-mail here because we got a report in from Aaron Cooper. He's one of our producers who out -- who's out there. And you know, we've heard some speculation and some reports that maybe some windows have been blown out. And he's confirming that many, many -- windows have actually been blown out of the JPMorgan Chase building, which is, you know, the tallest building there in the state of Texas.
And so he said there's so much debris going on that they're not able to get out and shoot any video of this or trying to do that, but they want to make sure they are safe. There you can see a picture of that building. And, yes, windows on all sides, pretty much everywhere.
And we just heard that report from Betty saying, you know, maybe a quarter of the windows were blown out. And he's also reporting, by the way, that, you know, windows are blown out at all levels.
So this is one of the things that we are talking about is the intensity of this storm. You know, maximum winds may be 110 miles per hour but you get up 30 stories in a building like that and you add a category...
JERAS: ... because the winds are stronger the higher up that you go into the atmosphere. So it's a big difference in the intensity of the wind up at higher levels. And that's why we're real concerned about people that live in condos and high-rise buildings and also, of course, mobile homes are very vulnerable what place to be.
I know you're waking up, you want to get outside and see how bad it is, see what kind of damage that you have out there. But really, Houston is feeling the brunt of the storm right now. You're in that eye wall. You're seeing hurricane-force winds. And this is going to be lasting for several hours.
You know you don't want to get outside until enough later today to see what's going on because the storm is going to be hitting you very hard really throughout the entire morning.
HOLMES: But really, the same -- will it be that same intensity or we can start to see it taper off or it's going to be like this for several hours?
JERAS: Yes -- well, I think we're going to see it weakens, certainly.
JERAS: You know it's over land now. So it's lost its heat source, its energy, you know, the thing that gives its strength. However, we think it's going to stay at hurricane intensity probably until this afternoon. So, you know, we've got a ways to go before we see Ike become a tropical storm...
JERAS: ... and then eventually a tropical depression.
HOLMES: All right, our Jacqui Jeras here in the hurricane center as it is today, keeping an eye on things. Thank you. We'll be checking in with you plenty this morning.
Also want to check in right now with Jana Sweeney, who's with the Red Cross in Houston. And of course, the Red Cross has been jumping into action.
It's been very busy, Miss Sweeny, over the past several weeks with all these storms going on. You tell me right now, what is the need in that area currently or do you kind of have to wait until this thing blows through and that's when you kind of jump into action?
JANA SWEENY, RED CROSS: We really do have to wait for it to blow through. But that doesn't mean that the Red Cross isn't currently in action throughout the state of Texas. You know we've been supporting so many of the shelters in different locations -- Dallas, San Antonio, Huntsville, safer areas.
Once the storm passes we'll look at addressing needs here in Galveston, Houston, Harris County.
HOLMES: How many people, would you say, if you do have a number, but just can even tell me how busy they are, the shelters that are in place? Are people actually certainly using those right now?
SWEENEY: They are. And it was interesting, last night when we got the final shelter count, the number was still pretty low and we were a little bit concerned about that. But it's just increased all day long. And I don't have an exact number for you but apparently when I talked to my colleagues in Dallas and San Antonio they said people were just pouring in the doors.
So I think people waited maybe a little late but they did get to safety.
HOLMES: What -- I guess what happened here? We've had so many with so many other storms, we saw. We saw Gustav, we saw Hanna, we saw Fay. And you know, there's been so much reporting about this storm and these other storms. Do you think that helps people kind of get the message? And maybe like you said, they were a little late but people aren't messing around. And they're not trying to, you know, be bull headed and say I'm going to stay in my home, I'm going to stand on my ground, I'm going to ride this thing out.
SWEENEY: You know, I think it had. I think seeing so many storms, I was really -- I'm impressed. My family -- my entire family lives here in Houston. And when I came home, this is the first time that I've seen them this well prepared for a storm.
They had all the patio furniture, you know, latched to a fence. They'd hauled in all the potted fence. They had a ton of water. They had propane tank for their grills. They had glue tarps in case they had to patch the roof.
And a lot of that was due to the fact that I've been in Baton Rouge for Gustav and, you know, kept calling home and talking to my mom and talking about the storm damage that I saw. And she took it very seriously. My brother who lives in a lower part of Houston moved to my mom's house with all his kids.
SWEENEY: They've really been prepared.
HOLMES: All right. Well, finally here, we had last week on our show here a Red Cross official talking about the Red Cross is in desperate need of those -- of donations. And of course, some people hear that, sometimes it goes in one ear and out the other, and say, well, of course, all these organizations always need money.
But, said the Red Cross was about to or was already working on debt, using borrowed money because, you know, Gustav didn't seem as bad, relatively speaking, I mean, compared to Katrina, so some people just don't give as much. And of course, the economy is down.
Tell me, how have you -- what you're doing, is your job being effected at all by that lack of funds? And also, make that plea for people to start giving money and what you need and where they need to send it.
SWEENEY: Absolutely. You know, that is -- we're in dire need right now. Our disaster relief fund has been desperately low since the Midwest floods earlier this spring. You know it's been one major disaster after another.
Visually you don't see an entire city wiped out but it is expensive in miles and miles and miles of land and thousands of people that are, you know, really impacted by these events. And it's just -- it's been such a drain on our resources.
Thank goodness we have tons of volunteers. They're willing to go out but volunteers aren't free. We've got to get them trained. We've got to get them moved to the right location. So anything that people are willing to do, either look into, you know, signing up becoming a Red Cross volunteer for the future, donate to the disaster relief fund right now.
HOLMES: All right, our Jana Sweeny there doing what the Red Cross does in Houston, providing those shelter and certainly the work you're doing is going to continue for quite some time because people are going to need help there for quite some time.
Jana Sweeney, with the Red Cross -- ma'am, thank you so much for your time and good luck to you there.
SWEENEY: Thank you.
HOLMES: And again, we were just talking there about how you can help. There are ways. We know you want to reach out and there are ways you can help victims of this storm.
We have a way. You can go to one of our Web sites, our "Impact Your World" page. You can find links to organizations who are offering assistance.
Again, that's CNN.com/impact. Again, we have a collection of resources there and organizations you can certainly donate to.
Stay right here with us. We are not going anywhere with this storm. We have our people all over this thing as Ike, Hurricane Ike, now has its eye on land and has its eye as well on Houston.
ANNOUNCER: Stay with CNN, your hurricane headquarters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: As far as how much damage we've seen here, as we were driving here down Allen Parkway, we did see a number of limbs on the road, a number of tree limbs down. Saw a couple of lights down, stop lights down. So a number of road signs that were down as well.
Here in this area we don't see -- we're in a parking lot. We only have some palm trees here. Palm trees can, obviously, withstand wind like this much better than a lot of other types of trees.
So once this dies down, which probably won't be for another hour or two, we'll try to take a quick drive around the western part of downtown Houston to see what type of damage there is.
But as of right now, with no electricity around here and not having to be hunkered down in this area we can't really go out and see much more of the damage. But I can tell you here the wind is whipping just as bad as it has all night long. I'll turn it back inside to you. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you so much, George (INAUDIBLE), who is now traveling all around.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: Again, one of our affiliate reporters there we were listening to. But he was kind of alluding to this, this video we're show you now. New video we're just getting in of downtown Houston.
This is coming to us via -- actually our Betty Nguyen and her crew actually were there in downtown Houston and shot some of this stuff (INAUDIBLE) for us.
But just take a look at what's happening right now in downtown Houston. Certainly the concern there about certainly flooding but also so much debris, so much is going to be banged around. And talking so much about the glass, those panes that are going to be knocked out of many of those high rise buildings.
And take a look there, just -- well, you can see the power of the storm here in some of this video here. Just -- the whole place is kind of being littered right now with all kinds of debris.
Our Betty Nguyen -- we see other of our reporters, Jeanne Meserve, holding on literally to a traffic light that had come down. We have some of that video. We'll certainly show you and share with you throughout the morning.
But this is some that we're getting in from downtown Houston.
Again, our Jacqui Jeras saying they are going to be going through this in downtown Houston for the next several hours. They are just getting started. It might get a little weaker, it might let up a little bit, but still it's going to be pounded and pounded and pounded.
This is coming to us from our affiliate here. This is -- I see that live bug. I see that live bug. Is this a live picture? No, probably not here. No, it's not a live picture but some video from KTRK.
There you see another one of our affiliates there. Again, just showing some of the destruction, some of the mess that's going on. And, again, this is not like this is one swift swoop, one one-time thing, it blows through and it's over.
This stuff is going to continue for the next several, several hours. You see some of those power line in there. It reminds us -- we see the power on here but we're told there are some 2 million -- 4 million, actually, folks without power now in the Houston metropolitan area.
Again, our crews -- Betty's crew there on the left, you're looking at her pictures, and on the right is our affiliate's picture. But still, both showing the picture that is going on in Houston and the surrounding areas. We're told there are some 3.5 million people in this impact zone. Many people did evacuate. But some, as we always see and sometimes leave us scratching our heads, they decide to stay. They want to ride it out. They don't want to leave their homes for whatever reason it be.
And God help them, we certainly hope they can make it through this storm OK.
We will continue to monitor our affiliates and one of them is going to help us out right now. We have a live report from KHOU.
Let's listen in to what he's talking about.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You hear from time to time various pieces of sheet metal and the like clinging and building clinging and so everything, so you know, we've been able to bring in these pictures for eight hours.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And we're just talking to Dr. Neal...
HOLMES: All right, we just lost that picture again. We were listening to one of our affiliates there, KHOU, a live reporter there. But so much going on with that weather, that strong wind, that rain, that some of those signals are a little wishy washy right now but that's all right.
We'll continue to go back to a lot of those affiliates. And again, these are a lot of the pictures -- new pictures we're getting in of some of the damage. This is some of the first we're seeing. And of course, it's still dark right now. 5:30 in the morning there in Houston, still dark.
But when the light hits, and daybreak hits, we're certainly going to get a better picture of just how bad that damage is.
Now they're not alone there in Houston. A lot of places are really being affected by this right now. There's another effect to talk about as we look at these live pictures. That effect is on gas prices, would you believe?
I mean Arkansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, pretty much anywhere in the southeast right now. Look at that. $5.23. The average has been around $4 and a little less around the country. So what in the world is going on?
We've got long lines, prices going up, 15 and 30 minutes is all it takes sometimes for the price of gas to hike up in some places.
Listen to these drivers actually in Atlanta talking about the rise in the gas prices. Wait for it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some TVs that the gas prices are going up quickly, as they're going up on the sign as I'm sitting there. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't even know what it says there. Is he changing it? He looks like he's changing the gas -- oh, man.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gas -- when I pulled in, the sign saying that the gas is $3.69. Right now I think it's $4.50.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: Goes up before you even get to the front of the line after you get there.
Josh Levs with us now following this. You know, this happens. People, when there is a shortage sometimes, you know, supply/demand, that stuff happens and prices go up.
How do we know we've got a supply/demand issue yet? This is happening before Ike even made landfall. What have you been able to find out about it?
JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I'll tell you. I mean, right now I have way more questions than answers. We didn't expect it to jump like this. The kinds of stories we're getting are astounding. Some places where there were drivers who are literally sitting there watching as people came out of the gas station and increase the prices 50 cents or more.
Let's listen to this Memphis driver.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In 30 minutes it changed -- I think it was $3.78 to $4.64. And I asked the girl that was working there, I said how long before the prices go up, and she said minutes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEVS: Again, minutes. I have never heard anything like this. So here's those series of things that we're looking into. For one thing, we want to encourage you to send us your iReports. We got this one from east Tennessee, Mike (INAUDIBLE) sent us this. Let's close in on it for a second.
And he tells us, dozens of gas stations already out of fuel in east Tennessee. So what is going on here? Partly, yes, there are these concerns about supply and demand because, obviously, what's going on with Ike. But there's also the question of are people just afraid that they'll run out of gas station so they've converged on these gas stations, fill their tanks, and for that reason they're running out?
So we these concerns about gas. But that's only the beginning of the energy concern. There's also natural gas pipelines. Let me show this. This is from the government here, the Energy Information Administration.
Let me go on over here. And this is a map right here. Let's close in. This shows you Texas. The south most region, natural gas pipeline that everywhere you see a blue you've got a natural gas pipeline that goes out of Texas into other states.
And where you see gray, you see the ones that are inside Texas. In fact, Texas has more natural gas pipeline miles than any other state in the entire country. All of that is natural gas pipeline miles and as we have been pointing out here at CNN Money -- and I highlighted it, it's right there -- all the major crude and natural gas pipeline that were flowing out of the region have been completely or partially shut down.
OK, you can't see the word. But the idea here is that these energy concerns aren't limited to just gas stations. They're also going to be seen most likely in our natural gas prices all over the country.
So are we seeing price gouging or, T.J., are we just seeing a case in which a lot of these stations feel the need to raise their prices because so many people are converging on them so fast?
We're all over that today. If you're out there, you see gas prices going up, send us your iReports. And we're going to keep bring you answers throughout the morning every hour this morning, everything we know about why gas prices are so quickly on the rise, T.J.
HOLMES: All right, we're going to hold you to that. We want some answers to these things.
LEVS: I'll be here.
HOLMES: All right, Josh, we appreciate you.
LEVS: Thank you.
HOLMES: Ladies and gentlemen, stay with us. We are all over Hurricane Ike which is all over the Texas coast right now. Houston in the midst of it. Stay here. We've got our correspondents all over the place. We'll be here with you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The power went out a few hours ago. It is naturally pitch dark out here and you're starting -- you know, you (INAUDIBLE), you hear things that go bump in the night? You're starting to see it, but you can't -- you can't, whoa, like this bush I'm holding on to, you don't know where that stuff is coming from.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: That's our Susan Candiotti. Thank goodness she's still with us even though she got blown around a little bit there.
We got a little more three hours now, a little more than three hours that we've been into Hurricane Ike as it made landfall as a Category 2 storm in Galveston, Texas. We have got our affiliates out there for us. We have our correspondents out there for us.
And no matter where you are in this country you may think you are safe and away from the storm, however, this storm is likely affecting you. You drive by a gas station and you will know what I'm talking about.
Welcome back to you all. I'm T.J. Holmes here at CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. And as you can see my partner, Betty, is in Houston this morning.
Good morning, Betty.
NGUYEN: Good morning, T.J. Yes, we are already feeling the effects of hurricane force winds here in downtown Houston. The good news is this particular area, I still see some of the street lights on. And we do have electricity near this hotel where I'm standing.
But there are parts of downtown Houston that are without power. In fact, a lot of Houston without power at this hour. Some $4 million is estimated do not have electricity.
Now a little bit farther to our south they are also feeling the brunt of this storm. They are in a city called Kemah. It's right near Galveston Bay. And we took a little adventure out there yesterday to talk to some of the folks who were indeed in the evacuation zone, some nine zip codes were in the evacuation zone.
And I spoke with a couple who didn't seem too much in a hurry to leave. In fact, they decided to stay and they were just kind of sitting on their porch looking at the storm as it came in. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have food and everything for water and, like I said, we have 250 gallon water tanks. So we're prepared. We're really prepared.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) 20-foot storm surge. So I mean, this place, it won't even reach the second floor.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not at all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then with the generator, the water and everything else, we should be fine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NGUYEN: Well, let's hope they were fine. Again, that storm surge is really what they were dealing with down there in Kemah, because, again, that sits right there on Galveston Bay. And as you well know, T.J., this storm hit Galveston around 2:00 a.m. local time.
And right here in Houston, we are still getting blunt force winds out here, hurricane force winds and sometimes topping 130 miles per hour.
Now I also took some pictures while I was down in Kemah to show you some of the flooding in surrounding areas there, some of the buildings, some of the stores, they were already under water as of yesterday.
And that one couple that I spoke with even told me that the water was rising as fast as an inch every 15 minutes. So I can only imagine what they are facing right now as Hurricane Ike is really bearing down on south Texas.
HOLMES: All right. Our Betty Nguyen -- again, Betty, can't help but say it, you hold on there. You hang tight. We're going to be checking in with you plenty. We'll see you again shortly.
And as Betty was just mentioning Galveston and how bad Galveston was getting hit. Our meteorologist Rob Marciano is there, also our Gary Tuchman. We're going to check right now with Rob Marciano.
And Rob, we have you on the phone. We weren't able to get a live signal to see your face this morning. I don't know if that's indicative of what's happening there, but I have to admit, when I saw you there yesterday, and we talked about how bad it was going to be in Galveston, I was a little worried about you and worried about your safety. So tell me, how are things going for you guys there?
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, that's very sweet, T.J. We're OK. Our equipment not faring too well. And quite frankly, the shot that we had fallen back to be our safe haven, which we did successfully last night, got into the eye and had an hour or two of calm.
The last hour and a half has been absolutely pandemonium. We had to shut down the shot. Our equipment took a beating as did the personnel. And it just -- it was flat out not safe to be there.
So into the hotel we came which is built like a fortress. But alas, everybody is being evacuated from the upper floors down to the lower floors because windows are beginning to blow -- are being blown out.
And these thick re-enforced concrete walls of this structure are swaying from side to side. The back side of this storm certainly proving, at least for Galveston, to be the worst. And the waves pounding in the other direction, everything going the opposite direction of what it was all day and all night long yesterday.
And not yet to be sun up here yet, T.J. but, you know, it's going to look like to be a long morning as much as it was a long night.
HOLMES: All right, all right, Rob. You hang tight there. Keeping an eye on things. And like he said, pandemonium is the word our Rob Marciano use there in Galveston.
I want to head over to Jacqui Jeras who's with us as well while we're working at this new video still out of Houston. And Jacqui, this is, I guess, is what we've been talking about. We've just lost that picture coming in from one of our affiliates. But Houston is getting pounded, will get pounded for quite some time. And also, what's the situation in Galveston right now?
Rob is hunkered down.
JERAS: Well, yes. Still seeing the hurricane force winds. You know, they extend out more than 100 miles from the center of the storm. The problem is, is that most of all of our weather observation sites have been blown away in the wind. So pretty much nothing is operating and this is just some guesstimates.
We're getting some unofficial reports around the Houston area of winds around 75 miles per hour or so and Port Arthur just reporting wind gusts of more than 80 miles per hour. So we know that they're out there and we know that they're strong and certainly very damaging. So now is not the time to go outside.
You know I want to show you a 3D perspective on the storm. The eye of the storm is just now to the north and east of the Houston area. And this eye is just incredibly huge. 40 nautical miles across. And you know, they're very calm conditions within the eye. So if you live in La Porte, if you live up here towards Anahuac, now is not the time to go outside, because things seemed calm because the storm is moving to the north and west and you're going to get back in on these stronger winds very shortly.
Let's go down to 3D and show you here. You can see some of the worst thunderstorms and worst winds right here into the Houston area. You know these thunderstorms go way up there 40,000 feet into the atmosphere and certainly capable of producing tremendous winds and lots of damage.
All those windows getting blown out in the downtown Houston area as well as power outages. It's a really scary thing to be hold up inside right now in Houston. I know because it's dark, you probably don't have power, and the winds are just howling.
Well, as the storm continues to move in this direction you're going to continue to see these bands move on through. Some weakening with the storm can be expected in the upcoming hours. But we're still looking at 110 miles per hour. This will be hours that you will be dealing with hurricane force wind gusts because the storm strength and because of the storm size.
Here's a sampling of some other recent wind gusts that we've seen. Anahuac had winds of 102 miles per hour. That's a gust, not a sustained wind. Houston, 83, 83 in Freeport, Galveston, 78, and 74 in Pasadena.
Probably going to see this weaken down to a tropical storm real late today -- T.J.?
HOLMES: Real late. That means we've got a whole lot of hurricane still left in it. JERAS: You bet.
HOLMES: All right, Jacqui, we appreciate you this morning.
We are getting some damage reports starting to come in. We got breached levees that are sending water rushing into communities along the coastal Louisiana area. The town of Lafitte inundated by about six feet of water, we're told. At least 1800 homes in that region are flooded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw today, my house, it's got water all the way to my roof so far and it's still coming up. You know what mean? It is hurtful. You know what I mean? You work down here all your life and lose everything. And it's hard to get backwards you lose.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: So many stories like that really in situations like this, storms like this. And Louisiana's governor actually said so far more than 160 people have had to be rescued from Ike-related flooding.
We want to turn back to Houston now. Our Betty Nguyen is there but our Jeanne Meserve has been there.
And Jeanne, the last time I saw you, you were holding on to a traffic light. Tell me what the situation is there now.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, the winds are even fiercer than they were at that point and a lot more rain coming down. And we have gotten to eyeball some damage. The JP Chase Morgan building, one of the tallest buildings in the country, is a couple of blocks away.
One of our crews did make their way up there and could see that windows have indeed been blown out on the ground floor and a couple of stories up. It's just coming into daylight now. We hope to get even a better assessment of how much damage there is to that building and to some of the others in the area as daylight arises.
I have to tell you one of the problems with a storm like this is that we can only see what' in our immediate vicinity. And that's really true of governmental authorities, too. Just a short time ago I spoke with the governor's office. They said at this point they had some early damage assessments from Galveston.
They are not good, by the way. But apart from that they don't have much information because the situation is just too fierce out here. They cannot get their teams out to take a look.
They were sending teams out yesterday. I traveled with a FEMA team from Houston down to Galveston and back again. They were taking pictures, taking videotape of some key infrastructure. So they had a reference point. So when they go back today they'll be able to see exactly how much things have been damaged. Also saw some flooding there. And the people I was with said, hey, these places that are flooded now, those houses are going to be gone tomorrow. They were really expecting some pretty massive damage.
As soon as the weather does clear, they are going to be putting up aircraft, they have helicopters. They also have a predator, unmanned drone that they'll be putting up. Again, this is something they put up on the day before the storm to get a look at the landscape.
They'll get that up and also possibly a P-3 which I saw in operation after Gustav to go up there and from the air give them the big picture assessment of what's happening as the smaller teams and the local authorities get out on the ground and are really able to gauge what's happening.
Back to you.
HOLMES: All right, our Jeanne Meserve there for us in Houston, keeping an eye on things.
We'll turn about 60 miles south of where she is now to Clute, Texas. And there's our guy, my buddy, Reynolds Wolf, in the midst of things there. Your shots have been all over the place. Sometimes it's raining hard, sometimes it's light, sometimes it's windy, sometimes it's not.
So what is it now?
WOLF: Exactly. A little bit -- I would say everything right now. We've got the wind, obviously, a little bit stronger. That kind of -- the rain certainly has picked up since the last time we spoke here in Clute.
You know, Clute, T.J., is located in Brazoria County, Texas, home to a roughly a quarter of a million people. About 70 percent of the population did leave. There was a mandatory evacuation. But in the state of Texas if you want to stick around, you're not going to leave. You're welcome to stay.
So other people did. Haven't been seen on the freeway with the exception of this car. This person we've been seeing quite a while. They could be, as far as we know, a county worker. We have a medical facility that's close by that's operating with a skeleton crew.
As I mentioned, this county is home to over a quarter a million people but it's also home to quite a few chemical plants. Across the way, that's BASF. Behind that you got Dow and, then you have, of course, Shell and you've got Gulf Oil, all in this area. Plus you've got the Strategic Petroleum Reserves all in this particular area.
I'll tell you yesterday we actually made a drive right down to 88, went closer to the coast, to a place call Surfside -- Surfside, Texas. It had already been evacuated. Now I'll tell you, this is about 10 hours, 10 hours before the eye came ashore and it was already flooding. You already had water up. Homes are up on stilts. So it was easily that -- I'll say at least three, four, five behind. We are going to try to break away the next couple of hours and sneak over there and take a peek and then show you the story to you, show what's been happening and what happened overnight.
I know one of the biggest fears not really just what's happening in terms of the weather condition, but the fears that people have of what might be left of their home, some of their prized possessions that they've had to leave behind. And many of them are not going to know what's left for a couple of days.
Let's send it back to you, T.J.
HOLMES: All right, our Reynolds Wolf there for us in Clute, Texas, keeping an eye on things, again, about 60 miles south of Houston.
Houston is also where our Betty Nguyen is keeping an eye on things.
And Betty, you continue to set the scene for us there.
NGUYEN: Yes, Houston is under the gun right now as we have hurricane force winds really bearing on downtown as of this moment. And one of the major concerns, T.J., are all of the glass windows that fill these skyscrapers in downtown Houston.
I know the JPMorgan Chase building which is just a few blocks to my right. They've have already experienced a number of windows that have been blown out. You spoke with Jeanne Meserve a little bit earlier about that.
But not only are windows in the street, I'm seeing tree limbs. I'm also seeing traffic signs, traffic lights blowing around. And that's just in this particular area where we still have electricity. There are parts of downtown Houston that are without electricity, completely in the dark.
So we haven't even been able to get out to those areas and find out what the damage is like there. I will tell you some 4 million people are without power here in Houston.
And we are just getting word that Homeland secretary Michael Chertoff is going to be really touring the Houston area today. We don't have the exact time on that. But as soon as we get more information on that, of course, we'll bring it to you.
But in the meantime, we are still experiencing the brunt of Hurricane Ike. Houston is in no way out of the woods just yet. And we do expect this to last for several more hours.
HOLMES: All right. Our Betty Nguyen there for us. Thank you, Betty.
We'll continue to check in with her and our correspondents. Stay here with us.
LEVS: Hi, I'm Josh Levs at the CNN Center. We are following your iReports from the path of Hurricane Ike. And we're going to start now with these from Chris Gilliam. Some powerful images coming to us just in this morning.
And Chris tells us that in that area they lost power for about four hours and are expecting to be without power for a good part of today as well. This is over at Dauphin Island, Alabama.
Just some of the many pictures flocking in to us here at CNN. We've had teams following these throughout the night. We've also gotten a lot of videos from our iReporters. Let's take a look at this from Witold Piorun.
And that's coming to us from Houston. And we're told that he went outside just to take a walk. And as he was filming he started to see a lot of this, including a piece of a gas station that fell down. You can see there the powerful clouds, the powerful winds. Obviously, just enveloping large portions of Houston. A lot of people concerned about their safety.
If you are in a place to take, safely, pictures and videos, go ahead and send it to us at ireport.com. We screen these first to make sure no one went to any danger.
And Houston was one of the big places we're keeping an eye on today and Betty Nguyen is there right now. She's going to join me now.
Betty, I know you're seeing a lot of these images as well right there in Houston.
NGUYEN: Yes, I'm looking right now down the street because there's a piece of corrugated steel. I don't know if you can hear it right now that is blowing -- blowing our way so we're a little worried we're going to be hit by some flying debris but one of our crew members was able to pick some of that up.
And he had -- come over and show us what's blowing in the streets of downtown Houston right now. We heard this big crash. We didn't know if it was some of the windows blowing out. But instead, this is what we're seeing.
Look at all of this in downtown Houston. Not only do you have corrugated steel blowing through the streets, you have tree limbs, you have traffic lights. And the winds are really picking up. I mean there are times when they blow up to 130 miles per hour. So we're looking at a hurricane force wind.
But on top of that, there are a lot of people who are really hunkering down, trying to ride out this storm the best they can. And the hospitals are a number one place where people really need to get medical care and especially during a storm when you lose power that can be a major problem.
And yesterday we decided to go and visit one of these hospitals here in Houston where they, in fact, were trying to get some of the babies out of harm's way because of flying debris like you just saw, which they expected would be blowing at some point during the storm.
So take a look at the people we were able to visit with yesterday.
NGUYEN (voice over): Babies at Houston Memorial City Medical Center were on the move. Their neonatal intensive care unit is surrounded by windows which could have put them in the path of flying debris.
Getting these newborns to a more fortified part of the hospital was a careful process. It took a team of nurses to pack up the equipment and prepare the babies for their trek to the other end of the building.
DR. SHERRI LEVIN, OB-GYN: I'm moving them early when they're not behind the eight ball, you know, trying to get them moved, because supposedly our worst night will be from midnight to 6:00 a.m.
NGUYEN: They rode out the storm in a room usually reserved for day surgery. It had all the necessary equipment to handle major medical emergencies during a storm.
That put parents like Joshua Price at ease. His twins were born Thursday night.
JOSHUA PRICE, FATHER: They're taking every precaution necessary regardless of where this storm may go.
NGUYEN: Beds were set up for parents in the next room so they could stay with their babies throughout the storm.
Courtney Lewis says she couldn't imagine being anywhere else.
COURTNEY LEWIS, MOTHER: I just had a cold vision of him in this little plastic crib by himself. And no matter how great the nurses are they have all these other babies to take care of and now I can sit here and bond with him, too, because he was -- yesterday he was a week old. Wednesday was the first time I ever got to hold him.
NGUYEN (on camera): Really?
LEWIS: And so this will give us some extra bonding time.
NGUYEN (voice over): Her only concern was how the rest of her family would fair as they hunker down at home.
NGUYEN: And it's a good thing that they got those babies out of harm's way because at that particular neonatal intensive care unit there were no boards that were blocking the windows. But the good news is they were down in a portion of the building which was fortified.
And I will tell you this. What is very interesting that we learned from one of the chiefs there at that hospital is that September, in fact, is the number one month for deliveries. So you have more deliveries in this month. And just imagine trying to do that when a hurricane is coming through downtown Houston.
So those folks are in a safe place right now, but there have been a number of hospitals throughout Houston who have lost power. But the good thing is that they do have backup generators and they are all up and running because some 4 million people in the Houston area are without power at this hour.
We're going to be covering this storm from all angles this morning. So you want to stay right here with CNN.