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AT THIS HOUR

Harvey's New Landfall Expands Catastrophic Flooding; Rescues Underway In Houston; Harvey Shatters U.S. Rainfall Record: Storm Not Over; Homes Flood As More Rain Hits Port Arthur, Beaumont; Texas/Louisiana Border Braces For Catastrophic Flooding; Interview with Louisiana Lt. Governor. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired August 30, 2017 - 11:00   ET

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


[11:00:00]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- for joining us. "AT THIS HOUR" picks up our special coverage now.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in for Kate Bolduan. This morning, Tropical Storm Harvey makes new landfall and floodwaters are now rising very quickly in areas east of Houston along the Texas/Louisiana border.

Heavy rain is creating a dire situation in Port Arthur, Texas. Floodwaters have rushed into the makeshift shelter inside the civic center. Evacuees now have to endure yet another scramble to higher ground.

Port Arthur's mayor says the entire city is under water and the nation's largest oil refinery there is shutting down because of the flooding. Here is one breathtaking visual to underscore the record shattering amount of rain.

This is what Interstate 10 normally looks like near the Texas town of Winnie. Today, that exact section of I-10 looks like a seascape. In nearby Harris County, about 30 percent of all land is under water in square miles, that's bigger than New York City and Chicago combined.

At any moment, we will hear from Texas Governor Greg Abbott. He will update the emergency response intensifying across his state.

So, one of the hardest hit areas right now is Beaumont, Texas. In the last 24 hours, the city got 26 inches of rain and more is on the way. It's a very dangerous situation for people taking to the roads. Watch what happened next to one of our teams this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look at this. Get out, dude. You got a power cord?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Incredible. Our Drew Griffin and his crew ran over and was actually able to pull that man from the car. Drew Griffin joining me now live from Beaumont. So, Drew, give us an idea what happened. I mean, how commonly are people having a difficult time telling what's road and what's water?

GRIFFIN: It's why authorities tell us not to go out when it's this kind of environment because you can't tell the road from a ditch, from a river. This river ditch is right behind me.

This fellow was actually trying to come across the parking lot of a fast food joint. He thought he would just cross over onto this road that looks like it's covered in water. It's not a road. It's about 10 to 12 feet of current going down a drainage ditch.

We tracked him all the way down until we were able to get a rope on him as he climbed out of his driver side window. We threw the rope on. We pulled him over to the bank. We got a little bit of tape what happened after that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to thank these guys for saving my life. Thank you.

GRIFFIN: Where you from, buddy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Winnie, Texas.

GRIFFIN: Winnie, Texas. So, you guys have been hit pretty hard in Winnie. What's your name?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jerry (inaudible).

GRIFFIN: Jerry, somebody needs to come and get you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm staying at the motel right up here.

GRIFFIN: OK. Take a breath. Take a breath. Get some water.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN: It's just a split second. The guy made a bad decision. If nobody was here, there would have been no way that he could have been rescued because I can see just the top of his truck now visible in that ravine in that swift flowing water.

This is what's taking place around Jefferson County, Beaumont, Texas. Port Arthur is 20 miles south. People need to just stay in place. As bad as you think it is where you are, if you are at anywhere near dry and it's not a life-threatening emergency, you just need to wait.

Wait for the water to go down because getting out here puts your life at risk and the rescuers' lives at risk.

WHITFIELD: So incredibly frightening. Thank goodness you all were there. Very unfortunate he is staying at the nearby motel. So, thank goodness he wasn't too far away. All right. Drew Griffin, we will check back with you there. Thank you so much. Let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd. He is in Houston and on a boat. They continue to, as we see right there, rescue people. Extraordinary, Brian. What's going on?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, we're in the lakeside forest neighborhood west of Houston. A massive evacuation here all by private boat. You see some fire and police units. Ferrying people to trucks where they can get them on loaded on trucks and then out of this neighborhood.

We have five people in the boat and four dogs that we pulled out of a house around the corner here. Pretty good coordination between the private boat operators and truck drivers and officials down the street.

According to the residents, these waters were not as high as this until this morning. The rain pretty much subsided last night. The local citizens told us that they believed it's from the Buffalo bayou, from the Addicks reservoir that spilled over. This is a late stage flood here.

[11:05:10] You see they're trying to get these dogs and everybody -- the dogs are a little fidgety right now and scared understandably. They're asking me to help with the dog. I will hold him.

So, Fredricka, this is kind of the situation here. They're just trying to get these people in an ordinarily way. Our producer helping with the dog here. A little bit of -- a dog freak out there.

A lot of stress among the animals. The people are fine. They're being evacuated to trucks and everything down the road. Take them to a safer place.

WHITFIELD: Well, it's all hands-on deck, clearly there, Brian. So, give us an idea. I mean, we have seen such an incredible mix of good Samaritans, officials in this operation right here. Are these people who just happened to pitch in with their boats to help people in the neighborhood?

TODD: Yes. I mean, a lot of good Samaritans coming out here. There's a surprising amount of coordination among them. They communicate with each other. We will come upon another boat where they will go down one street and they will tell us that, we think there may be people who need help down this other street so why don't you turn down there.

It's a lot of informal communication, of course, but they are communicating. You've got city officials coming in here at the same time trying to get a read -- that's a constable truck right there.

So just a lot of intermixing of city officials and private boat operators helping out here.

WHITFIELD: So, then, Brian, as this boat and others kind of go down what are now waterways, are people flagging them down? Are they putting markers outside their homes to let people know that they want to be rescued? What's happening?

TODD: People are basically flagging them down, Fredricka. In one of the other neighborhoods where the water was even higher, at the height of the storm, they were telling people to put towels and everything out of their windows. We're not seeing that here.

The people are coming out and flagging them down if they want to be picked up. Some people are actually saying, don't pick me up, I'm OK. I will ride it out. So, a lot of people like these gentleman over here seemed to be willing to stay.

But a lot of people here -- they're afraid now because this was a late event in the storm. The water just rose this morning.

WHITFIELD: So, for those who are saying that they want to stay, are they being asked any other additional follow-up questions from authorities there like do you have food, is there anything you need?

TODD: We haven't heard people ask them that. They are basically just asking, do you want to stay or go because they are -- just trying to figure out what's going on here. They're in such a hurry to get people out who want to get out.

These are private boat operators. They're not really in a position to ask whether people have food or not. That's up to the search and rescue teams and city officials to come out here and ask that.

But it seems people here are in a pretty decent shape. They're concerned about their homes because this water rose so late, early this morning. They don't know if it's going to go higher or not. They're a little bit scared.

WHITFIELD: All right. Heroic work that so many of you are doing and all of those boaters, rescuers, et cetera. Brian Todd, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

All right. Let's find out more about the biggest threats in Texas and Louisiana right now. Our meteorologist, Chad Myers is following all that from the CNN Weather Center -- Chad.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Biggest threat still rising water in Houston and surrounding. I mean, you know, still going to go up. But tonight and overnight, we're watching and hoping that Beaumont, Port Arthur can dry out. They have had 26 inches of rainfall in 24 hours.

That doesn't compare to 52 inches in Cedar bayou, but that has been over 120 hours. It's the devastating flood happening in Beaumont, Port Arthur, not getting a lot of tv attention because all the crews are in Houston.

But if you are in Beaumont, Port Arthur, they know you are flooded. Keep tweeting, calling. The boats are on the way as well there. We have seen so many reports and pictures coming in.

People sitting on their roof taking a picture and sending it on Twitter saying, please come save me. Here is the storm in 12 hours or so over Louisiana. It's still raining. There still will be some showers in Louisiana. I think the heaviest rain might be over Mobile and Pensacola.

So, let's get to this map of the reservoir. Two of them, Addicks and Barker. Brian Todd is right there. Built in the '40s, hold back water from the farm and ranch land here. I will show you a picture what that ranch land looks like now.

The water comes down the creeks and out into the Buffalo bayou. It comes in to Barker and out the Buffalo bayou to Houston being right over here. So, they have let some water out of Barker trying to relieve the pressure, but it didn't work. They didn't relief enough pressure.

[11:10:06] The water is now 109 feet high. Up here on the top of Addicks, the top of that levee is 108 feet high so you know what's going to happen. The water is going to come out of here and then down into the suburbs, down into the residential areas where our Brian Todd is now with the rescue crews.

In 1953, that's what this place looked like right here. Same levee right there. Just being built right there. Here is Barker. Look at this. There's no one here. No one lived there.

All they were trying to do was to stop the flood from getting down here into the bayou to Houston. Most of this rain soaked in because there was no concrete. There were no buildings. There were no rooftops to get into the creeks and streams. Never did they ever estimate how much water could runoff.

That's where we are now. In 1953, there's the top. Here is where Brian Todd is. I will show you again. Here is where the water is going around and down here where Brian Todd is, there is not even businesses there yet.

Let me change the picture. Take a look what's happened over the past 50 years, urban sprawl, urbanization and flash flooding. Never would anyone consider 30 to 40 inches of rainfall over such a wide area, spilling into this reservoir, which really on a normal day is a city park.

WHITFIELD: What an incredible view. All of it under water. Thanks so much, Chad Myers. Appreciate that.

So, as Chad just said, Beaumont and Port Arthur, Texas, are facing life-threatening floods. Many parts of Beaumont are under water.

Officer Haley Morrow from the Emergency Management Office of Beaumont, Texas, is joining me right now on the phone. So, Officer, what are the current conditions in Beaumont right now? How would you describe it?

HALEY MORROW, EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT OFFICE, BEAUMONT, TEXAS (via telephone): Well, right now we are just -- for lack of a better term, treading water. We are trying to get to all of the people calling in for emergency rescue. Not to mention the people who have called on a non-emergency rescue just because of floodwaters that are rising.

Right now, our neighbors in Port Arthur and the other surrounding counties are taking water in their shelters. So that's creating a bit of a problem because our shelter is almost at max capacity.

Now we're having to deal with trying to help out our neighbors as well. It's all hands-on deck. The Emergency Management Office is up and running. We're just continuously monitoring and trying to get logistics and planning going.

WHITFIELD: How are you getting to people that you believe are in need? Are you using boats and high-water vehicles? How do you know which residents to go to?

MORROW: Well, we are continuing to tell people to call 911 or our non-emergency 311 lines. Our police and fire are in zodiac boats. Our officers and our EMS personnel are in high water vehicles.

We do know that Port Arthur is accepting volunteers with air boats and things of that nature. We're in a little better shape than they are. So, we are continuing to just use our official police, fire, and EMS to respond to emergency situations.

WHITFIELD: And what are your options on shelters, if you have some of your primary facilities taking on water? What are your other options?

MORROW: Well, we and the city of Beaumont, we are not taking water in any shelters. We are still dry. That footage from the shelter is from Port Arthur. A lot of the footage that is being shared is all from Port Arthur.

We do have flooding. We are in dire situations, but our shelters are OK. The only problem we are having right now is that they are almost at max capacity. So, logistically, we are trying to work out another facility.

Especially because now that the shelters in Port Arthur are taking water, everyone is looking to Beaumont to assist and we're really strapped with trying to get our citizens to safety as well.

WHITFIELD: And then Officer Morrow, it's so sad to hear this information about one confirmed death in Beaumont. A woman found with her toddler daughter clinging to her. The mother was lost, but the little girl survived. What more can you tell us about the circumstances there and how the little girl is doing?

MORROW: We are now at two confirmed fatalities, unfortunately. We had another one this morning. We don't have a lot of detail on that one. Yesterday, at 3:30, our officers responded to the southbound service road on I-10 in reference to a high-water rescue where a vehicle was flooded out.

The mother and child were swept into a canal. When the first responders got there, they were about half a mile from the vehicle, almost underneath a trestle. [11:15:07] Had it been a few moments later, they would have been swept under there and our boats wouldn't have been able to get to them. They spotted the child who had a pink backpack on and she was clinging to the back of her mother who was already deceased and floating in the water. So that was devastating for our first responders.

Across the city, our first responders are mentally and physically exhausted. That involving a child and just a true testament of a mother who put her own life at risk and sacrificed her life to save her child. That was devastating news here in Beaumont.

WHITFIELD: It is devastating. All right. Officer Haley Morrow, thank you so much. All the best to you and your friends and neighbors and family there in Beaumont. Appreciate it.

All right. Coming up for us, they went there for safety only to get flooded again. Some evacuation centers in Texas now taking on several feet of water. We will see more about some of those places, the stunning images and where these folks go from here straight ahead.

Plus, the incredible displays of heroism keep coming out of Texas. How these Texans formed a human chain to save a stranded driver.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:20:28]

WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Amid all the tragedy, Houston had more than 50 rescues by the fire department since midnight. There are also remarkable stories of ordinary people jumping in to help each other.

Like we see in this heartwarming video, a group of people forming a human chain on the interstate to try and rescue an elderly man who was being swept away by the floodwaters in his car.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go, go, go, go, go!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Grab him!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you all right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got a blanket for him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to pick you up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Wow. Isn't that something? So, touching, people helping people in extraordinary ways right now. The person who actually took that video, Marissa Castillo, told CNN the man was taken to a local hospital and reunited with his son. All right. Joining me now, Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser. So, good to see you, Lt. Governor. Seeing stuff like that happen in an extraordinary way in Texas is so heartwarming.

I know the folks in Louisiana know exactly how to put themselves into action if they are faced with the same kind of devastation. Give me an idea right now. Harvey made landfall a second time. Now it's moving northeast across Southwest Louisiana. What can you tell us about the conditions there?

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR BILLY NUNGESSER (R), LOUISIANA: We're getting these rain bands. Our concern will be after the storm comes well ashore and those rivers start flowing south with the heavy rains, the unknown. Will they inundate neighborhoods and new areas that have yet to flood? People tend to let their guard down after the storm comes ashore. We will have to watch this for several more days as those rivers start to flow south.

WHITFIELD: And what are your biggest concerns besides, you know, sometimes people taking it too casually? What else are you most concerned about?

NUNGESSER: Well, it's those people that go to bed and not be watching as these rivers flow south and leave their banks and head where they want, rescuing people at night. Five people in Lake Charles had to be rescued last night. The sheriff's office plucked six more people out of the floodwaters.

It's people not knowing where to go and whether to evacuate. Much like on a larger scale what's happening in Texas. Just not knowing where that water is going to go, unlike when a storm comes ashore, you can see it. That's the scary part about the storm and the rainfall just adds to it.

WHITFIELD: Of course, people are taking it upon themselves to help out one another in the best ways they can. Their instincts just kick in to high gear. You have actually been asking for volunteers. In what capacity are you asking them to pitch in?

NUNGESSER: We're asking people to go to volunteerlouisiana.gov. You can click where to help to make donations or to volunteer. This morning, we started providing fuel to the Cajun Navy. They're coming back to Lake Charles and fueling up and going back to assist people in Texas.

I'm sure after this storm, the gutting of homes and helping neighbors, Texas will need a lot of help as will those 500 people that flooded in Louisiana. We are great neighbors in Louisiana and Texas, as across America.

The volunteer efforts will be greatly needed. I'm sure neighbors will be there to help out, just like we just saw risking their lives to rescue people. That's the great thing about America.

WHITFIELD: It is indeed. You mentioned the Cajun Navy. One has to wonder, there are going -- millions of people displaced. [11:25:10] For other portions of Louisiana, perhaps not touched by Harvey, how do you see that Louisiana will be taking in people from Texas, whether it be in a temporary manner or perhaps permanently?

NUNGESSER: Right. We have a 2,000-bed shelter. The governor has ready entry in Shreveport and waiting for the call from Texas if they need that, we will open that immediately. It's ready to accept people as soon as Texas sees the need.

We have many more shelters that we will make available, keeping enough for our people as well. We're very good at this, unfortunately. We will be there for the long haul to assist Texas.

And hopefully we can help them through the FEMA process and getting people assistance immediately, but it's going to be a long, long time before Texas recovers from this size of devastation.

WHITFIELD: All right. Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser, thank you so much. All the best to you and everyone there in Louisiana.

NUNGESSER: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Right now, I want to go to Houston City, a council meeting right there. Senator Ted Cruz is speaking and also there with him, Congresswoman. Let's listen in.

SENATOR TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: -- and every one of us, even as we have our friends to the east in Beaumont and Port Arthur that are experiencing this storm, it is a wonderful thing in Houston to wake up this morning and see blue skies. It's been a long time since we've seen blue skies. We will rebuild. We will be stronger. I want to thank the incredible public servants that are gathered here today and united and standing as one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Thank you, Senator. Congresswoman?

REPRESENTATIVE SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: There's a lot of love in this room. As I saw the emotion of my friend, I am at that point. I'm going to try to contain myself. If I had known the mayor would give me this privilege, I would have dressed up. I've got around my neck my identification because I am part of the staff here.

I thank you for the privilege of being here to be able to be part of the dynamic unity that has been shown by council members listening to what you have done across the city in your over districts overlapping the 18th Congressional District.

You are deserving, as you have supported the captain of the ship. Mayor, for the steadiness of your thinking because so many times the heart is big and love is big. But in times of tragedy and crisis, catastrophes, the mind needs to be able to embrace the right decisions.

So many of you know that I have said across the nation that you are not here and what would you have wanted to happen. The only thing I believe, Mayor, that the tribute will come in days and months and years is that we save lives. You save lives.

You did it because firefighters were not eating or getting their medicine, police officers were not eating or getting their medicine, nor were they at home pulling out rugs and furniture and taking care of the dogs and cats and moms and dads and children. They were out.

I saw that. I had -- I don't know how to say it. The right to join them on getting 60 people out of a church. It was firefighters and police officers. Let me thank the United States Army Museum who brought their equipment out, old military equipment that did work. It did work.

And those firefighters hauled them down and we went and got these people. These are the kinds of episodes that happened in this catastrophic event. I want to, one, say that the federal government is the umbrella on a rainy day.

We didn't have rain. We had a monsoon. Nobody could understand what we're facing. Let me again thank Houston, let me thank the brand of this great city. We have a brand. Get it done. Everybody put it on the table to get it done.

I want to thank the United States Coast Guard who are working today as we speak, the Texas National Guard, 12,000 of them here. Marine unit that just came in that is going to continue to do some final sweeps.

We have an ATB cooking truck. Maybe you could go out to get some food right in the back of the Georgia Brown Convention Center --