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Hurricane Rita: The Aftermath

Aired September 26, 2005 - 19:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone from New Orleans, a city that took a double hurricane hit. Tonight, some of a rebound, but signs of devastation all around me remain. It's 4:00 p.m. on the West Coast, 7:00 in the East, and 6:00 p.m. right here in New Orleans. 360 starts now.
ANNOUNCER: What you don't know about Hurricane Rita. Cities and towns stomped by Hurricane Rita. Some swamped by 15 feet of water. And thousands of homes destroyed.


CONNIE MASON, ERATH, LA, RESIDENT: You watch the poor people in Katrina and you say, thank God it wasn't us. This is our turn.


ANNOUNCER: Now the draining begins. The losses tallied. But with two major storms in a months time, who's going to pay for it and how? Big hint, hide your wallet.

Horror on the highway. What really caused a bus to explode during that mad rush out of Houston. Two dozen were killed. Was it just a tragedy or neglect. Tonight, we take you inside the investigation.

You could run but not hide from Rita. Tonight, taking a stand with just a video camera. Amazing images from the storm as it happened. Tonight, what it's like to be in the middle of the furry.

This is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360, "Hurricane Rita: The Aftermath."

And good evening to you. We come to you tonight from New Orleans, on Stafford (ph) Street to be exact, in the city's Lakeview section where there is a developing story not to far from here. Once again, from the besieged 17th Street levee and the overflowing Lake Pontchartrain.

Today, the steel curtain that was used to protect the levee during Hurricane Rita was removed and that caused a little bit of leaking. We've been seeing that here on the street we're on right now. The city is going through deja vu tonight. Once again, it's got to pump out and drain streets flooded by a hurricane. Four weeks ago it was Katrina, tonight it is Rita. We'll get to that soon.

But first, here's a look at what's happening right now "At This Moment." Let's get you up-to- date.

Streets are still rivers in parts of Southwest Louisiana and Coastal Texas. Much of Louisiana's Cameron Parish is under 15 feet of water and most of its homes are destroyed 90 percent of them by one estimate. There are seven confirmed deaths from Hurricane Rita there.

A tornado from the storm killed one person in Mississippi. In Texas, a man was killed by a falling tree. Five others were apparently killed by a generator's carbon monoxide fumes. No deaths have been reported here in Louisiana.

Louisiana is going to ask Congress for more than $31 billion to rebuild and improve its levees and major roadways damaged by Rita and Katrina. The ninth ward in New Orleans still flooded tonight because of Hurricane Rita. The Army Corps of Engineer plans to have the water out, they say, within a week. They're working hard on that.

President Bush said today that he knows there are a lot of issues to be resolved before the military can take charge of disaster relief. His proposal sparked some criticism from within his own party. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has expressed concern that it would lead to more bureaucracy.

Well, at the height of a really bad storm, with the wind howling and the water lashing at your face, you lose your ability to see and hear. Those losses are temporary. Once you regain your sight and your hearing, you can begin to face the permanent losses. Take a look.


COOPER, (voice over): It was a day of reckoning of sorts for those hit by Hurricane Rita. Some returned for the first time to see what was left of the homes they'd left behind.

CONNIE MASON, ERATH, LA, RESIDENT: We had about 2 feet of water on the whole block. There's mud, debris everywhere. Everybody else's trash is in our yard.

COOPER: Rita may not have packed the power of Katrina, but don't tell that to residents of Southwest Louisiana counties like Cameron, Calcasieu and Vermilion and Jefferson County, Texas, some areas still suffering under more than 10 feet of flood waters.

MAYOR OSCAR ORTIZ, PORT ARTHUR, TEXAS: We thought we were going to have about 20 foot storm surges. What we did get in Sabine Pass was 10 foot. So that put all the houses under water. But, you know, we got enough damage off the winds simply because we have no power in the city of Port Arthur. We have no water. We have no gas.

COOPER: More than 1.2 million are without power in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas. The cumulative effects of two massive storms. For some, that power won't be restored for more than a month.

But today is about coming home for many, not nearly as monumental a task as leaving was just a few days ago. The 3 million Texans forced to flee from the storm faced little traffic on their way back.

It was a different story for those heading home to New Orleans. They sat in long lines of cars, preparing themselves for the worst. A first glimpse of what remains of their homes and belongings since Katrina struck four weeks ago. But it would be hard for anyone to steel themselves against the devastation some saw today.

ALAN QUESADA, ARABI RESIDENT: I mean it's like being on the moon. I mean it's just nobody. And it's completely dead. It's devastating.

COOPER: Mayor Ray Nagin resumed his plan to allow residents and business owners to return to some areas. But the story was much the same in most neighborhoods, most parishes, from Algiers to the French Quarter.


COOPER: In St. Bernard Parish and the lower ninth ward, flooded again when a levee gave way in the rains of Hurricane Rita, the destruction is just about complete.

JOEY DIFATTA, ST. BERNARD'S PARISH COUNCIL: There are pockets in New Orleans that had dry and these folks are back to a lifestyle that they're used to. But for the lower ninth ward and for all of St. Bernard Parish, it will never be the same.

COOPER: Maybe not but some storm-weary New Orleanians remembering the big easy as it was are ready to come home, ready to start again.

ALICE BERG, ALGIERS RESIDENT: I'm seeing national guardsmen with automatic rifles and pistols. It's kind of heartbreaking seeing the port-o-lets on the corners and the floats aren't here. You kind of wonder, when does the parade start.


COOPER: Well, you know, a lot of you probably think, look, this storm Rita was, you know, late Friday, early Saturday morning, we must have known it by now, all the areas have been hard hit. But we're just really getting information these last day or so about some of the hardest hit areas. Joining us live right now from a very hard hit place, Cameron Parish, Louisiana, which is southwest of New Orleans, is the man in charge, Lieutenant General Russel Honore, commander of Joint Task Force Katrina.

General, thanks very much for being with us.

What is the situation in Cameron right now?

LT. GEN. RUSSEL HONORE, JOINT TASK FORCE KATRINA COMMANDER: Yes. I'm in Cameron at the temporary headquarters for the Cameron Parish president and the government. We're located at the Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Center, which is on Highway 27 just north of Creole, Louisiana. About 15 miles so from Cameron. COOPER: How bad is it there?

HONORE: It is bad. Cameron is destroyed. The only building that's usable in Cameron and Creole combined is the courthouse. All the other buildings are destroyed, sad to say, but that is the situation with dead cattle and dead rats littered across the road. It is a bad situation.

COOPER: Do you have any sense of I mean with the dead cattle, I heard reports of several thousand. Is that accurate? And any reports of people?

HONORE: No reports of people in this area. But the all the infrastructure is destroyed, with the exception of the courthouse. We made it to the courthouse today. We're hoping to get light in the courthouse tomorrow. And we're in the process of clearing the streets, the main routes.

But the city is destroyed. The churches, the schools, the hospitals. None of those buildings are usable anymore. We're in the process of getting basic life support and clearing the roads and making it safe so the parish government can move back to the courthouse.

On the point of the cattle, there's probably 2,000 cattle that need food and water. We are working tonight to figure out how we could get helicopters to move the large bales of hay in. We can do the hay. Now we're working through the problem, how do we get water to these cattle who are scared and running around in the marsh. We will work that hard. But if there's anybody out there with a solution, we could use some help. The point of contact here is Mr. Freddy Bogour (ph). He's a USDA veterinarian in Cameron Parish.

COOPER: What how long I mean, what do you do now? What do you do tonight with darkness falling? What do you do tomorrow? What are the priorities?

HONORE: The priorities is to continue to try and get recoup the government. To get the government back up and running in a suitable place. Right now this building behind me, we moved in (INAUDIBLE) telephones last night so they could communicate with the state. We brought in food and water. There's a two FEMA trucks here with ice and water and food for these parish government officials and people from the electrical power system and who actually know the infrastructure in the parish.

We also brought some medical people forward. We brought a Marine, a Navy landing team in to start doing initial clearing at the courthouse. It's a priority of work that has been set by the parish president, Mr. Freddie Richard. And that is what we are doing. We have a national guard engineer battalion will to show up tomorrow to turn Highway 27 into a two-way road. Right now it's covered with parts of the marsh that rose up and is setting on the road. So we've got much more to do to get the government in the courthouse. Over.

COOPER: I just I was just finally if you could say again, who is the point of contact if there is anyone out here who is listening who has any suggestions on what to do with those cattle who are needing food. Who should they try to contact?

HONORE: Mr. Fred Bogour. And we'll make sure that number gets flashed out to you later so you can share it. The cattle are scared. They've been drinking some of the brackish water. It changes their temperament. It causes them to excrete more of their body fluids and they're losing weight. So we could use some help with that. Some big brained people out there can figure it out. We've got helicopters. We've got to figure out how we get water to these isolated cattle.

COOPER: As soon as you get us that number, we'll try to put it on our Web site and we'll try to get it on the air later tonight. We'll be doing a two-hour broadcast. Lieutenant General Russel Honore. Appreciate it. Appreciate all your efforts.

All day today we've seen firsthand the destruction brought by Hurricane Rita. The lives it has taken. The lives it shattered. But at the same time we realized, it could have been worse. It could have been much worse. Remember, before making landfall, Rita was at one point the third strongest hurricane ever recorded, cat five, winds of 170 miles per hour. CNN Meteorologist Rob Marciano joins us from Sulphur, Louisiana, with more on the rise and fall of what was a perfect storm.


ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Anderson, there's no doubt that Rita was a historic hurricane. From the damage across the coastline of Texas and Louisiana, to the size and strength which the storm grew in the Gulf of Mexico. Here's a look at the hurricane from start to finish.


MARCIANO, (voice over): When Hurricane Rita roared across the Florida Keys on Tuesday, it was still dangerous. A 100 mile an hour punch. It was still only a category two hurricane.

The next day, Wednesday, the warm, deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico provided the energy that super charged it back into another monster storm. It ramped up to a category five with winds of 175 miles per hour. The third strongest ever recorded in the Atlantic.

As the storm moved slowly across the Gulf, the so-called cone of uncertainty of Rita's path offered grim possibilities. Would there be another direct blow to an already besieged New Orleans, already reeling and paralyzed from flooded levees after Katrina three weeks ago? Or would Rita make landfall on the fragile barrier island of Galveston, Texas, a city where thousands of people were killed in a notorious storm a century ago.

By late Wednesday, we all thought it looked like Galveston was, in fact, the bull's eye. So after the painful lessons of Katrina, state and local officials wasted no time evacuating hospitals, nursing homes, people and pets, not just in Galveston, but millions in the Houston area also cleared out.

The next day, Thursday, Rita was still huge. When slowed to a category four but still, it was nearly 400 miles across. It was as if the coasts were being stalked.

Going into the weekend, by Friday, the storm track had shifted east. It now looked like the target had shifted and the Texas/Louisiana border would be ground zero. And even with somewhat diminishing wind speeds, meteorologists offered a new and serious warning. After landfall, they feared a stalled storm could dump up to two feet of water on the Texarkana region causing terrible flooding. So after midnight Friday, it was anything but clear what to expect and where.

Amid the fragile coastline of the oil refineries and the fishing ports of the Texas/Louisiana coast, a little weakening from cooler waters and from landfall meant Rita hit land at 3:30 a.m. Saturday just a little east of Sabine Pass. Some of the worst flooding was on the Louisiana coast where flood waters reached nine feet in some places. And, of course, there's also new flooding in New Orleans because of the already damaged levees.

But other weather forces bring some relief to areas inland. A rain is spread out along the dying Rita runs into a strong cold front as it hobbles weakly to the north. So instead of 24 inches of rain dumped in one place, the rain is spread east along the cold front to the areas that badly need it.


MARCIANO: So a little bit of good news among the devastation here in Texas and Louisiana. And the other bit of good news, Anderson, as you know, most everybody was evacuated and there's been little loss of life.

Back to you.

COOPER: Yes, an amazing evacuation it was. Rob, thanks very much for that.

Along with heavy rains and flooding, Rita has spawned several destructive tornadoes. This video is from Alabama where multiple twisters were reported on Sunday. As many as four touched down in Tuscaloosa County. Two people at a trailer park were not seriously injured, however.

And I just want to show you what's happening right here on Stafford Street. This place has been it's completely evacuated. Look at this. This is a car behind me that has just been tossed up into this tree. An enormous tree has fallen on this house. We are seeing block after block like this in dried out New Orleans as the flood waters are gone. It is amazing what they have left behind. Truly horrific. We'll show you more about this scene coming up.

But still to come tonight on 360, evacuation nightmare. What Hurricane Rita taught us about getting out. Are our cities at all prepared for another disaster? Your city. New York. Los Angeles. Chicago. We'll look into it.

Plus, inside the fury. A man armed with a camera points and shoots as Hurricane Rita comes roaring in his home. It is unbelievable footage and he narrates the whole thing. You'll meet them ahead.


COOPER: Welcome back to this special edition of 360.

We're on Stafford Street. And I want to show you some video taken earlier of the steel curtain around the 17th Street Canal levee that was removed earlier today. They took that out. It was in order to let some water back in slowly. So we're having a little bit of leakage.

And if we come back on Stafford Street, you can actually see some of the leakage. It's actually here. We've actually had to move our position because the water is still coming in.

But also, just to give you a sense, you know, I know a lot of people think like this story is over and people are kind of moving on. But just to give you a sense of what the people of New Orleans still have waiting for them when they come back to a place like Stafford Street.

I mean, look at the power of this storm. This is someone's car and it's just been completely pushed up into a tree. There's still a baby seat back in the car. And then this tree which is I mean it's just an enormous, beautiful old tree. It fell down on the house. That car is now in the tree.

And then over here there's another house which, I don't know if you can zoom in on the car. I think it's a Mercedes there. It's just been pushed up by the flood waters when the 17th Street Canal was over top, the water just came up. But you can see the rescuers have put they have searched that house. They put the x on. The 9-22. That's the day they searched here, September 22. The zero down at the bottom quadrant. That means nobody was found. There were no bodies found inside.

I want to show you across the street, this other house, on the other camera. You also see a quadrant. But in the right-hand side it says cat. That means there was a cat still inside that house. We have actually called we actually have seen this cat. We've been giving it some food today, some water, and we've called the Humane Society, given them the address, asked them to come and pick up the cat.

But there were animals trapped in houses all around here. And a lot of the rescue workers, and we're going to talk to one a little bit later on tonight, will tell you they walked down the street and they can hear the cats, you know, crying out inside the house. They can hear the dogs barking. And those are dogs which are desperately waiting for their owners to come back, which are hungry and which are still dying and there are thousands still in need here. Let's check in with Erica Hill for the day's other top stories.


ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Anderson, we're going to start off in Iraq tonight.

Actually, I lied. We're going to start off in the U.S. but dealing with a protest for the Iraq War. This happening outside the White House today. And Cindy Sheehan was arrested, carried away by police with a big smile on her face. She and the other protesters had sat on the sidewalk. That is against the law. Sheehan's son, you may recall, was a U.S. soldier, was killed in Iraq. Now last month she held a vigil at President Bush's Texas ranch where she hoped to meet with Mr. Bush and ask him why he thinks her son died for a noble cause. That was her wording there but that meeting never happened.

Meantime, on to Fort Hood Texas now where Army Private Lynndie England may now face up to 10 years in jail for the abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. Now, she was in many of those abuse photos. Today a military jury convicted her on six charges.

Back in Washington. Administration officials tell CNN, President Bush could announce his next Supreme Court as early as Friday. Now that's just a day after John Roberts is expected to be confirmed as chief justice of the United States.

And on Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist denies having insider information when he sold stock in June in a hospital company co-founded by his family. The stock price dropped after his sale due to a disappointing earnings forecast. Frist says he will cooperate fully with investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission and federal attorneys in New York.

And, Anderson, that's the latest from Headlines News. We'll hand it back to you in New Orleans.

COOPER: Erica, thanks. We'll check in with you in about 30 minutes.

Ahead on 360, rebuilding New Orleans. It's going to be tough. What will it take to bring this great American city back to life again? We'll take a look at that.

And the story of the man who videotaped the flood waters coming in his own home.

Stay with us.


COOPER: There's so much we still need to know about what has happened here. Over the last month, not just with Katrina, but also with Rita. And it takes time to investigate these kind of things. It takes time to get the information. It is, as we've said a lot of times, like piecing together pieces of a puzzle. Some of the most horrific images from Hurricane Rita came a full day before the hurricane ever made landfall. They were the first victims of the storm, the 24 elderly evacuees, who were killed on Friday when the bus that they were being transported in exploded on a highway near Dallas. As the funerals for the passengers begin, so to does the investigation into exactly what went wrong and why. CNN's Dan Simon investigates.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): The moment these disturbing images flashed on television, Judy White (ph) says she had a horrible vision, that her father had been a passenger on the burning bus.

JUDY WHITE: And I just had a feeling, this pit in my stomach I don't know what it is, but I just knew.

SIMON: In fact, 86-year-old London England had been one of the elderly evacuees from the Brighton Gardens Nursing Home near Houston.

WHITE: I pray that he was asleep maybe since it was so early in the morning and they had been on that bus so long. That's what haunts me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was trying to be safe. They were trying to keep him safe and he lost his life trying to be safe. And we just really had a hard time with that. SIMON: They are also having a hard time because they, too, are evacuees. Their house in Kenner, Louisiana, flooded. Judy White took her family to live in her father's Houston home.

WHITE: You just get to where you don't even think one day ahead. You think one minute ahead. You know, just, you know, I have to make it through this day.

SIMON: Questions over the fatal bus journey are mounting. Local authorities say the vehicle, operated by the Texas-based company Global Limo, was not properly registered. But a waiver signed by Governor Rick Perry allowed the bus to be put in service specifically to aid in the Houston evacuation. Perry defended his decision.

GOVERNOR RICK PERRY: We took no safety precautions away at all. I mean, we were very clear this was to get as many vehicles on the road, to get people out of harm's way. But the safety requirements were absolutely not waived.

SIMON: And, in fact, authorities say there weren't any indications of safety problems with that bus. And the company says it will cooperate with the investigation. Some victims' relatives are already talking about lawsuits. But England's family says it's too early to think about that.

WHITE: Right now the loss is so new and the pain is so . . .


WHITE: Great right now and waiting to bury him and, you know, pay tribute to him has been more in my mind than, you know, than all of that.

SIMON: Relatives say London England was a broadcasting pioneer, helping transmit overseas radio broadcasts for the Navy during World War II. Later he would take to the microphone himself, reporting on some of the biggest stories of his generation.

WHITE: When you met London England, you never forgot you met London England. And he loved people. He loved to talk. He loved to tell stories.


SIMON: Well, coming to you live from the nursing home. And, obviously, the staff here is just so distraught over what happened. They thought they were doing the right thing by putting those elderly residents on the bus. As for what caused the bus to catch fire, still no word yet. There are some operating theory that perhaps it overheated. But we're told it could take up to 18 months to figure out the exact cause.

Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: What a life that man led and what a way for his life to come to an end. The investigation continues. Thanks.

Coming up next on 360, the moment of impact. What would you do if suddenly you woke up and flood waters were pouring into your house? The man you're about to meet grabbed a video camera. And he's a veteran. He just came back from Iraq. He saw the worst of Rita right in his own home. We'll show you what happened.

Plus, a town devastated by Hurricane Rita. Its residents now fighting with police to try to get back in. We're going to take you to some of the places, the small places, the small towns hardest hit by this storm.

We'll be right back.


COOPER: You're looking at a little bit of water from 17th Street Canal coming down Stafford Street, here in New Orleans. This street just completely devastated. Some of the people have been coming, visiting us today, said it looks like a movie set. But of course, it's not a movie. This is real and this is what is awaiting the residents when they return her in New Orleans. Here's a look at what's happening right now at this moment. Let's get you up to date.

The Department of Energy says that more than 1.2 million customers are without power tonight because of hurricanes Rita and Katrina. Most of those customers are in Texas. Crews are working to clear roads of fallen trees and debris so that utility workers can try to get the electricity going again.

Thousands of people who left Houston because of Hurricane Rita return home today. The city has set up a voluntary plan to stagger the traffic back. So far there hasn't been any gridlock like there was before the storm.

New Orleans's Mayor Ray Nagin is going ahead with his plans to try to reopen the city, in parts. Today he gave the green lights to residents and business owners in the Algiers section as well as business owners in the French Quarter, uptown and central business district. However, he did warn those coming back to assessing the risks involved.

On top of the billions of dollars in damage, Hurricane Katrina killed at least 1,033, 799 of those were from Louisiana. Katrina is the third deadliest storm on record.

There once was a wee bit of a place called Holly Beach, just a bunch fishing camps and cottages, really, with a population under a couple hundred. Well, Holly Beach isn't there any more. Louisiana officials who flew over the area said after, they wouldn't have known there had been a town there at all, but for a couple telephone poles that were jutting out of the water. CNN's Gary Tuchman has also been in and around Cameron Parish where there are more than a few stories like the story of Holly Beach. Here's a look at a forgotten town.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The 82nd Airborne has arrived.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you guys going to be doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fixing the state.


TUCHMAN: Fixing the state and more specifically, fixing Cameron Parish. One of the areas of Louisiana hit hardest by Hurricane Rita. But while the troops go over the bridge into the devastated town of Hackberry, the people of Hackberry are being told by police they can't go because it's not considered safe.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm aggravated, I'm upset. We're getting to the point to where we have to make each other laugh instead of cry, but I understand their job. But, eventually they're going to have to let us in. They're going to have to.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Either that or we're going to have to outlaw to do it, and I know it's going to be hard. I was very tempted this morning to go by boats. And they said they was arresting us, it was almost to that point to say we just don't care. Arrest us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know they're doing it for safety reasons. I understand that a lot. But we're not going in there to take nothing out, we just want to go look to ease our minds.

TUCHMAN: Cameron Parish is where the eye of Hurricane Rita crossed. As a matter of fact, this is the precise spot, on the southwestern tip of the state. Most of the buildings in this parish have been destroyed or heavily damaged. Towns have just disappeared from the map. In the neighboring and also devastated parish of Calcasieu, Harold Herman was able to talk his way in. But what he saw was not good. He lost his home and his nest egg.

HAROLD HERMAN, CALCASIEU RESIDENT: It's like where do you start? You know, what do you do first?

TUCHMAN: His gas station convenience store, a business he built years building up, destroyed.

(on camera): What do you think the monetary damage is?

HERMAN: You know, this place is worth a million dollars and right now I don't think you could give it away.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Back at the bridge they wait in the blazing sun, hoping police change their minds and let them see what happened to their homes. In the back of their minds, though, they know the news will likely not be good.


TUCHMAN: Most people are aware of the need to keep people out of situations like this. But, when we see hurricane after hurricane, including Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita as it gets very arbitrary. If you know somebody, you're often allowed in, if you don't know somebody, you are often kept out. I mean, these people who you saw were kept out, despite the fact they wanted to get in all morning. We are told that tomorrow a lot more regular people will be allowed to go back to their homes which may not be there -- Anderson.

COOPER: It is so sad. Gary Tuchman, thanks for that.

We also talked to lieutenant -- General Russell Honore, earlier, commander in charge. He said, not only are there are thousands of cattle which have died in that area, there are many more which are desperately in need of food and water that they can drink. He's kind of out of ideas, he's trying to get anyone who's watching this, if they have ideas how to help the cattle to contact officials there. He said he would send us the number and once we get that number we're going to try to put it on our Web site, we'll also try to talk about it later tonight on "NEWSNIGHT," a special edition.

Here in New Orleans, as we told you earlier, part of the city reopened today, but mostly for business owners. They're returning to see what's left of their livelihood and begin the process of rebuilding. But, some business men and women got on that after Katrina struck and are working hard to get back on their feet. CNN's Adaora Udoji reports it has not been easy. Take a look.


ADAORA UDOJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Scott Boswell had not one but two big dreams of restaurant grand openings. In the best of times not an easy task here in the Big Easy, but these are hardly the best of times.

SCOTT BOSWELL, RESTAURANT OWNER: Thanks for supporting us, man, really appreciate it.

UDOJI: Somehow in the wake of Hurricane Katrina's chaos, he opened "Stanley's," his second restaurant in the French Quarter. It was the only thing open for blocks.


UDOJI: But banged up around the corner, his first restaurant, the four year old smash hit "Stellas" is a mess. He had just started renovating before the storm.

BOSWELL: It was devastating for me, because, we don't have any money coming in.

Progress. Progress.

UDOJI: He does have determination, so did his mother, his sous chef and the sous chef's girlfriend. The four of them started things going. Five more workers showed up four days later and now, they're all working day and night serving up simple meals.

PAT BOSWELL, SCOTTS'S MOM: He needed to work. The people here needed food. And I said, "we can do this." He said, "how?" and I said, we just serve cheeseburgers, cheeseburgers, cheeseburgers.

UDOJI: No classic New Orleans, but good enough, especially since the generator they're using almost ran out of diesel fuel. Ingredients? They scour streets far away from the city for open stores, making daily trips, this one for $1,600 worth of food and drink. Boswell delivery trucks are not allowed back in the city. The sous chef on the grill, he flew all the way home from culinary training in France just for his friend.

JUSTIN GIROURARD, SOUS CHEF: I knew he would want to open up and sell burgers, so that was a good reason to come back.

UDOJI: Others want the same thing. West of them in Jefferson Parish business owners paste on poles and lawn signs displays declaring they're open. Some big chains like Lowe's not only got up and running fast but they're selling the goods to help everyone else get going and Outback serving up steaks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Joel, party of two.

UDOJI: Most of the area is roughly 70,000 businesses, though, are still abandoned. A great many of them small businesses like Boswell's that employ 20 people or so and they need everyone which, right now, is a big problem.

BOSWELL: All my employees are scattered all over the United States.

UDOJI: And getting them home is just the first step.

BOSWELL: I have to figure out housing for them, because some of their houses have been destroyed. They don't have places to live. UDOJI: They don't have places to live or furniture or clothes.

(on camera): Did you ever think that that would be one of your main issue, was getting your employees some clean clothes?

BOSWELL: I told them, I said every day here we do things I never dreamed I would be doing ever in my life.

UDOJI (voice-over): As word of mouth travels, more hungry customers are showing up. That's their great reward in the city they love.

P. BOSWELL: One lady came and said, "Thank you. It's the first day we felt normal in 23 days."

UDOJI: Like everything else here, it's all upside down. If the general rule for a restaurant is the customer doesn't want to see how you cook then here in the Big Easy, the secret to customer satisfaction may just be show 'em how you do it. That's what makes it so good.


UDOJI: Now, Scott Boswell's case, he's in contact, Anderson, with all 25 of his employees, expecting that many of them will come back. But he's just one of tens of thousands of business owners, many of whom have no idea where their employees are. In fact, the hotel where we're staying, the Royal Sanesta (ph) usually runs on 500 employees, now they're about 40. They haven't heard from all of them, so it just creates a lot of confusion and complication as New Orleans' economy tries to recover -- Anderson.

COOPER: And that Hotel Sanesta (ph) which is where we're staying is doing a great job keeping it up. But, there are going to be a lot of jobs here, and you get that realization when you come to a street like Stafford Street, which is where we're on, you know, this place is just completely destroyed. People aren't allowed back here in this area. And you walk around and it's just so eerie. I mean, there's still -- look, there's little child's Lego toy here. And you get a sense of sort of how this all happened. Look, this is water from the 17th Street Canal, it's still kind of coming in because they took up part of the emergency repairs that is they had done today, so it's getting a little bit of leakage coming in. But, here's a transform that just fell over, there's a little kid's football. It's just all still just kind of laying out here, you know, more than a month now after Katrina.

And then come over here, you got to look at this, two cars just completely on top of each other. And not only do search and rescue teams go into houses and break into houses and you know, they put the "X" on and the zero on the bottom of the "X" that means nobody inside. They also check these cars because sometimes people would try to, you know, get into their vehicles thinking they could outrun or out drive the flood waters -- zero meaning nobody was actually found inside this vehicle. It's just so eerie to see these -- I mean, it's just block after block like this in this entire neighborhood. And this is what people are going to be coming back to. I mean, how do you -- how do you start? Where do you begin to clean up? Look at this. Mardi gras beads, right here, a sign of better days.

A lot more ahead. How all of us, around the country, are going to be paying for what has happened here with Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita at the gas pumps and through a lot of other things in the economy. We'll look at that.

Also, we're going to look at the animals who are still desperately in need. You're going to meet one woman who is trying to do what she can, a vet who's come here on her own dime to try to help the thousands of animals in need. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Well Hurricane Rita hammered Texas and Louisiana but the entire country has also taken a big hit. And as expected, the price of crude oil went up today, so did the cost at the pump as I'm sure you all noticed and with winter approaching, Americans may be feeling the full force of the storm for a long time to come. CNN's Ali Velshi investigates from New York.


ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's true, most refineries were spared the worst of Hurricane Rita, but your wallet might not be.

TOM KLOZA, OIL PRICE INFO. SERVICE: The hurricanes are going to haunt us for really about four, five, six weeks or so. And then we'll be OK in November and December.

VELSHI: At a national average of about $2.80 a gallon, gasoline costs nearly a dollar more than it did a year ago. If it stays around this price, that's 500 bucks more per year for the average American driver, 500 bucks seems like a deal compared to what you'll soon pay to heat your home, especially if you live in more than 50 million American homes that is use natural gas.

The government says that if it is a cold winter, it could cost you 71 percent more to heat your house this year than it did last year. That's $600. If you use heating oil, you will pay about 30 percent more to heat your home this winter. For most Americans, it's still hundreds of dollars that you won't have to spend on other things, the other things you buy that make America one of the strongest economies in the world. And that's if nothing else goes wrong.

PHIL FLYNN, ALARON TRADING CORP: We are extremely (INAUDIBLE) if we have another tropical storm that shuts down production, I fear for the economy.

VELSHI: The president knows it is a real fear. For the second time in a month, he urged Americans to conserve.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can all pitch in by using -- by being better conservers of energy. We can curtail nonessential travel that makes sense for the citizen out there to curtail nonessential travel. It darn sure makes sense for federal employees.

VELSHI: Oil companies are urging conservation too. ExxonMobil is buying full-page ads encouraging drivers to save gas by reducing trips.


VELSHI: You wonder why oil companies make a lot of money off of the price of high oil would want to have drivers curtail their use of fuel. Well part of it is that a lot of people think that at $3, $3.50 a gallon, where we've kind of seen gas get to, people will start making other choices and if Americans really decide to get serious about conserving fuel, Anderson, that's going to be more damaging than the energy industry than any hurricane -- Anderson.

COOPER: Hmm. Fascinating. Ali Velshi thanks for that, appreciate it.

Coming up next on 360, the flooding. Caught on tape a man with a camcorder, a man, records this -- it's just unbelievable video. I've seen it over and over as we were editing the piece today. You're not going to believe your eyes. We'll be right back.


COOPER: I'm now permanently in awe of professional camera people, including the one standing in front me right now, David Albridden (ph) also Neal Hallsworth (ph) and Phil Littleton (ph) and people I've been working with the last couple days. All of them take absurd risks to show the world dangers that most sane people would not stand in one place to try to photographer. But then there are some amateurs with nerves of steel as well.

Here's a footage made by a fellow named Cliff Schoke (ph) who really should have been doing something else, like running for the hills as the water started to come in his house. Take a look.


COOPER (voice-over): At around 5:00 a.m. Cliff Schoke (ph) woke up thinking that Hurricane Rita left him and his dad, Boyd, unscathed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got up, and I looked in the backyard and it looked like the yard was moving. I ran in the house to tell my dad that the water was coming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's up to the window. We can wait down here until either the door busts or whatever, you know. If the door busts, we're going to have to get up there. Ain't really a whole lot they can do for us, son.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tried to get everything we could in the attic. Stuff to break, you know, the ceiling open with and food, water, stuff like that and the camera.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Starting to come back in at the door. We get major damage.

COOPER: Despite the rapidly rising water, Cliff and Boyd remained remarkably calm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here comes a shoe floating by.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The wind picked up. The water was already four foot in the house, four-and-a-half-foot and then the waves just started pounding the house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After it gets up a wave, it's going to bust them windows.

Yeah, we all right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At about that time, my uncle called and said they had a boat ready of people trying to come in and...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I ain't seen no snakes yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The house was breaking apart. So I made a decision. I crawled to the north side of the house and took my shotgun and blew the wall out just in case it failed. We didn't want to be in the attic. I jumped out the window and I swam across the road to the neighbor's house and got a boat. I mean, and as I was swimming across Highway 82 in about six-foot of water, the Coast Guard helicopter was coming over and I was, like, man, that's good news.

COOPER: Coast Guard choppers were rescuing dozens stranded residents in Vermilion Parish. But Cliff had a boat and thought he is his dad would be OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because I had the boat started and we was in good shape then. So, I went and picked up my dad.

I don't know where to go now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, you ain't got no power lines down so just...

COOPER: They weren't sure where to go. Every place they looked was flooded. That's when their problems really began.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We was just trying to north -- let it go north anywhere to where we could walk or you know, anything. Just to save fuel, we turned the motor off and we started floating and I was, like, man, dad, the boat's leaning. So I ran to the back of the boat and I opened the hood and the engine's almost underwater. So I grabbed a trash can and I start -- anything that could go wrong was going wrong, I started bailing it out -- bailing it out as fast as I could. We was sinking right there. So we turned the motor back on, and we got up against a tree. I finally got the water back down. I was, like, dad, we need to turn around and go, try to make it in. When we turned around, the boat ran out of diesel. So, by that time the helicopter was coming back around. I flagged him down and they came pick us up. That's all there was to it.


COOPER: And that's all there was to it, he said. Cliff Schoke returned from Iraq a couple of months ago. He served 15 months there. He had just bought a pickup truck, he bought a new boat. All of those are gone now.

Let's find out what is coming up at the top of the hour on Paula Zahn.

Hi Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi Anderson thanks, sad story. At the top of the hour. We're actually going to go back and take a fresh look at one of the most sensational stories to come out in the days of Hurricane Katrina. There were, as you might remember, shocking reports of violence and rapes and killings at the New Orleans convention center, and even at the Superdome. It's worth going back to ask what really happened and why is it that the police chief of New Orleans and the mayor repeated many of these allegations. A fresh look and some answers that may end up surprising you, all that in about six months from now -- Anderson.

COOPER: Paula, thanks very much.

When we come back, we're going to look at the moment of impact. What it was like when Hurricane Rita came crashing ashore. We'll be right back.


COOPER: A lot of you who are watching our coverage of Rita coming ashore Friday and early Saturday morning might not have been able to stay up until the eye of the storm actually came onshore, so we thought we'd take a look back, show you what it was like for us covering this storm. It is an extraordinary experience to be standing there hour after hour and witnessing, the battle of course is to try to stay on air and to stay safe. Take a look.


COOPER (voice-over): Wait for a hurricane, it's often a tense time. You read the latest forecast, try to find a safe location to broadcast from. We set up near the Neches River in Beaumont, Texas. We also had a fallback position for when things got really bad. It got dark pretty quick. The rain was constant, in a matter of minutes we were all completely soaked. By around 1:45 a.m. we'd retreated to our more secure location.

(on camera): It's just miserable out here. It just continues to be sort of nonstop, this pouring rain. Just, you know, every minute after minute after minute without any letup.

(voice-over): As the hurricane approached, the rain increased and the winds shifted dramatically.

(on camera): The winds are just constant now. They are just whipping and it's like a thousand needles just pricing you as you're trying to stand out here. I'm just going to try to get over there because you can't even look into it -- you cannot look to where the wind is pointing because it's just too extreme.

(voice-over): Around 3:30 we lost our satellite truck and could no longer transmit live images. Producers and engineers tried to get us back on the air. It's frustrating to be there and not be able to broadcast. I called into CNN on my Blackberry. A photographer captured what I was seeing in pictures.

The site that I am seeing right, I wish we could broadcast right now. It is a sight that I have rarely ever seen before. It looks like a solid white -- just a solid wall of white that is just sweeping across the entire region. There are just a few trees visible. There's one light, which is actually a car light from one of our vehicles and it is casting an eerie glow to this wall of white wind and water. It is eerie, it is beautiful and it is horrible at the same time.

(on camera): About 20 minutes later our engineers were somehow able to get the satellite dish working again. The winds were nearing 90-miles-an-hour.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have Anderson Cooper back with us who's in Beaumont -- Anderson.

COOPER: (INAUDIBLE) this is, without a doubt, the height of the storm. You probably -- it doesn't really do it justice, what you're seeing behind me. But it is literally this solid wall of white, and it almost -- I mean, when you're here, it looks like you're in the middle of a snowstorm. It is just a blizzard of snow, but it's not, it's just water and wind. I have never seen anything like this.

COOPER (voice-over): There comes a point in every storm when you have to decide whether to stay or go. After that live shot, we moved indoors.

We sat inside for the next few hours. Some of us fell asleep. We were all tired and wet but happy we'd once again made it through the storm.


COOPER: Well, that was what it looked like for us behind the scenes. When you come back at 10:00, from 10:00 to midnight, tonight, Aaron Brown and I are hosting a two hour edition of "NewsNight" we're going to have the story of Michelle Rocky, a vet tech who has come here on her own dime to save animals lives. This is a puppy that was brought to her earlier today. A puppy who has been out there now, here in New Orleans for the last month on its own. There are so many animals like this. We'll have their story at 11:00 Eastern Time. I hope you join us.

CNN's primetime coverage continues now with Paula Zahn.

Hey Paula.


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