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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

"Life-Threatening' Hurricane Hours Away From Landfall; Hurricane Intensifies To Category 4, Hours Away From Landfall; North Korea Fires Several Ballistic Missiles Into the Sea. Aired on 7-8p ET

Aired August 25, 2017 - 19:00   ET

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


[19:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: That's it for me. Thanks for watching. CNN's breaking news coverage of Hurricane Harvey continues right now with Erin Burnett OutFront.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, I'm Jim Sciutto in for Erin Burnett. And OutFront tonight, we are following two major breaking stories.

Harvey, now a massive category 3 hurricane barreling down on the Texas Coast with nearly 20 million people in its path and about to make land fall in the coming hours.

And, our other breaking news, North Korea firing several unidentified projectiles, likely missiles. We're standing by for the response from the White House and we will have much more on that in a short time.

But first to Hurricane Harvey. The massive storm packing winds up to 145 miles per hour. Torrential rains and the potential for massive flooding in the coming days with the storm surge of some 12 feet.

The FEMA director, Brock Long, saying Texas is about to have, quote, a very significant disaster. Texas officials now telling citizens who do not evacuate -- listen to this, to write their names and social security numbers on their forearms.

Just how big is this hurricane? You're looking at Harvey from outer space now. A camera on the International Space Station revealing the amazing brute of the storm. Harvey expected to make -- to be the strongest hurricane to make land fall in the U.S. in 12 years since 2005.

Rain fall totals up to 40 inches are expected in some areas. That's more than three feet, causing widespread flooding. Made even worse as the storm is predicted to stall over the region for several days.

Large parts of south Texas could be, quote, uninhabitable for weeks or months. This, according to the National Weather Service. State and local officials have been urging residents in the path of the storm to evacuate. The governor telling people to, quote, put your life first, your property second. Our reporters are live from the Gulf Coast covering this major storm from every angle while our meteorologist, Chad Myers joins us from the CNN Weather Center. But first, we begin tonight with Martin Savidge, he is live in the direct path of Harvey in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Marty, we're learning just now that it's been upgraded to a category 4 storm. What exactly does that mean and look like on the ground where you are?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it looks and feels stunning. This storm is really grown into a monster here in many, many ways. We're seeing the absolute worst of it right now that we've seen so far. And I'm not saying the worst is over.

The air on top of what you're feeling with the wind has turned the rain into a midst, it's pulverized the water. So, you got so much water in the air it's almost like a fog now. That's a combination of just heavy rains coming down and the incredible winds that are now buffeting in this area.

We're under an extreme wind warning, which means that we could see gusts of air up to maybe 145 miles an hour. Now, if that happens, you're not going to see me. It's not because I walk off, it's because I would be blown off. There is no way to stand up in that kind of wind force.

The power of this storm has continued to grow primarily due to the gasoline called the Gulf waters offshore. And now it is coming in not just with these brute force winds, category 4, but on top of that, what appear to be days of rain and feet of water falling from the sky. The likes of this, I think even Chad would say we can't imagine for some time. Jim?

SCIUTTO: No question, a multi-day event that we are preparing for. Stay safe there for us Marty.

I want to go straight to Ed Lavandera, he's also OutFront live in Galveston, Texas where this monster storm closing in on residents there as well. Ed, tell us about the conditions there and how they've changed because you've been there over the last several hours.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the winds have remained at a very steady pace here and the highest we've seen throughout the day. But, Jim, just a few moments ago you look out into the surf here, the Gulf of Mexico, and that is as intense and wild as I have seen it throughout the day.

And it might be hard to pick up on the video images that we're able to pass back. But if you look 500 and 600 yards out there, you can see or I can tell just with my eyes, see these waves leaping up over some of the initial waves that you see. So you can imagine the intensity and how frightening must be if you are on a boat trapped out there in these storm waters because what I'm seeing here from the shoreline is just stunning. And the storm surge slowly and slowly throughout the day pushing closer toward this sea wall here in Galveston Island. But the odd thing is, you know, there still remains a great deal of traffic. People driving up and down this sea wall area. This part on the eastern edge of the storm here on Galveston Island, voluntary evacuations.

[19:05:07] At this point, I can't imagine that at this point they'll really change this. But really what officials outside of that immediate area of the eye of this hurricane want everyone from Houston all the way down to Corpus Christi to Victoria, Texas, and all these points in between is the flooding that will come with this storm in the coming hours and in the next couple of days.

That is what emergency teams are really bracing for the worst of. I don't want to minimize the wind impact of all of this. Obviously, the storm of this magnitude in that immediate area around the eye of that storm is going to cause devastating damage. But it is the rain fall that is also going to be something that will be incredibly worried about here over the next day or so as heavy amounts of rain fall.

They have pre-positioned we're told emergency teams, high water rescue teams in various areas to be able to respond quickly to what they anticipate will be a number of people trapped in quickly rising flood waters. So, that is a great concern.

And you can hear the winds and just how high and sustained they are at this point. Even though there are bands of rain whipping through and there's occasional breaks in the rain fall like we're exposing now, the winds really maintaining and sustaining the highest peaks that we've seen so far today. Jim.

SCIUTTO: Several feet of rain expected in some of the worst hit areas. Ed Lavandera there for us in Galveston, Texas.

I want to go now to Chad Myers, he's live in the weather center. Chad, this storm now a category 4 storm, serious and dangerous. Tell us what difference that makes as it grows in strength.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: For about five square miles, a big difference between losing your roof and losing the rest of your house. But we're only talking about the inner core of the eye wall that will have that gust to 130, maybe gusting to 140 or so miles per hour.

We talk about the eye wall's strength. I need you to not pay attention to the eye wall at this point in time. This storm is bigger than that. It's bigger than the number four. It is a rainmaker that is not going to move after it gets to San Antonio, it's going to stop.

It's going to sit there over Texas for five days and put down a couple feet of rain and maybe even four feet of rain. Some astronomical mind blowing number, four feet of rain. How could that be possible after 12 feet of storm surge washing over the barrier islands there very close to Corpus Christi?

There's our Marty Savidge right there at Corpus Christi. He is positioned right there. There is the eye wall. And let me talk -- you asked me a question, what does it mean? Do you see that right there, that crescent shape, it will come back in place. That, that is where the 140 to 130 mile per an hour winds are. That's it.

This is 60, 70, 80, maybe some more on there. But we're talking about this most dangerous area moving over Rockport, moving over (INAUDIBLE), with 79 miles an hour wind there. And the eye wall isn't even there yet.

As this goes on shore, typically we say, oh, the storm is on land, it will die. You know what? There's not much land there. This is bay, this is Back Bay, this is still water, this is still wet.

Plus, it's raining on top of what is dry. So we're not going to see that instant degradation of the storm. It's going to continue for quite some time and it's going to continue to spin over the exact same areas.

So here we go. Here's Corpus Christi, there's our little (INAUDIBLE), there's Martin Savidge, this is the area that has so much wind. The hurricane hunters are still flying through it. And I know we think that our reporters are brave standing out there, they can get back behind a building.

These hurricane hunters have been flying through this thing now for 48 hours. One plane after another after another after another. One goes home, one goes out. They've been just watching this storm grow and grow and grow.

Category 4 storm right now going to make landfall just to the northeast of Corpus Christi probably in about two hours. This is kind of an area that has a lot of seashore. But there are a lot of buildings, there are homes and there are businesses that are in the way of 130 miles per hour storm, which is essentially equal to an EF-2 tornado.

SCIUTTO: And that work they do, those storm chasers flying through, gives a better sense of exactly how strong the storm will be, how long it will be with the state of Texas. Chad Myers, thanks very much.

Out Front now, the Corpus Christi Fire Chief Robert Rocha. Chief, thank you for joining us tonight. We know you got a lot of important work to do.

First, I want to say, what are the main issues you're dealing with now, particularly in terms of evacuation as these winds hit a 145 miles per hour?

FIRE CHIEF ROBERT ROCHA, CORPUS CHRISTI: Well, Jim, we're beyond the scope of evacuation. There are four items that we have a lot of concern about for the city, the wind, the heavy rain, the storm surge and the risk of tornadoes.

What we're now asking residents to do is shelter in place. Do not go outside. Do not drive your car. [19:10:07] I want you to know, Jim, half of the deaths that occur, occur when vehicles get stuck in high water, and we don't want to see that. We want to see our residents ride this storm out. If they haven't evacuated yet, they'll need to stay in their home and ride the storm out.

SCIUTTO: That's an important advice because a lot of viewers are watching for this kind of crucial information right now. So to be clear there, you're saying, if you have not evacuated yet from the storm hit areas, the worst hit areas, better just to shelter in place?

ROCHA: That's correct, Jim. We've got plenty of resources in place. Corpus Christi Fire Department, Corpus Christi Police Department, as well as Texas Task Force One are prepared to make rescues once the storm passes.

SCIUTTO: Help explain to our viewers. We just had Chad Myers on, talking about, and the National Weather Service has said this as well. This is a multi-day event, possibly longer, weeks the effects of this. A storm surge of 12 feet. Tell us how that would play out in your area.

ROCHA: That's going to be detrimental to the area. Just along Mustang Island and Padre Island, the main highway, 361 will be impassable. People will not be able to get on or get off at Mustang Island.

Secondly, Padre Island, Padre Island is going to be affected because of the storm surge. On top of that, the storm is going to stall, as what the weather people are telling us. The storm is going to stall above us and around us, which means that we're going to get heavier and heavier and heavier amounts of rain.

There is no place for the rain to go. Streets are going to flood. People need to be concerned. People need to stay in their homes.

SCIUTTO: Chief Rocha, there's been a lot of talk about federal health, et cetera. Do you have the resources, you and your colleagues need there now? If not, what do you need most?

ROCHA: We had incredible support from the Texas Department of Emergency Management. We have many resources in place, both law enforcement, the firefighters in place ready to conduct rescue operations. We've already got in three position close by. They're here, they're ready to help.

SCIUTTO: We've heard of officials in one town in the storm hit area that's instructing people who have not evacuated that this is alarming advice. Rockport, this is from the Rockport City in Texas, if they have not evacuated to write their names and social security numbers on their forearms. Is that undue, unnecessary advice or is that a measure of the seriousness of what you're facing?

ROCHA: Well, the city of Corpus Christi has not issued any request like that to our residents. What we do ask residents is to do this, be cognizant of your surroundings, stay inside, be patient during the storm and listen to what the city officials tell you to do and do exactly what they say.

If we just follow the instructions of what we're trying to get done and trying to keep people safe, we can get through this. But people are going to suffer if they try to go out in this environment.

SCIUTTO: Final question, I know you've got a lot of work to do tonight, landfall expected in the next couple of hours. Already looks pretty bad where you are. Tell us what kind of challenges you're going to be facing overnight.

ROCHA: Well, number one, what we've done is we've stocked our fire stations with personnel, resources, but they're going to have to ride the storm out. Currently right now, Jim, it is very difficult for firefighters and law enforcement to get out and do any type of work. In fact, it's detrimental.

We don't want to put any harm to our first responders for getting out there in this type of weather. We want our people to hold back, wait until the storm clears, and then when it clears, get out there and do the work that we need to do.

SCIUTTO: Chief Rocha, you're on the front lines there. We know you're doing hard work. You're going to be facing a lot of dangers. We wish you the best and we're going to be thinking of you these coming days.

ROCHA: Thank you very much, sir.

SCIUTTO: OutFront next, Harvey gaining strength. It is now a category 4 storm. Landfall, just hours away. A professional storm chaser will tell us why this hurricane is different than any other in recent memory.

Plus, a family in Corpus Christi staying put. Why are they taking a risk with a monstrous storm, dangerous storm on their doorstep? I'm going to talk to them, live.

And the more breaking news, North Korea has fired several unidentified projectiles, likely missiles. This despite repeated warnings from President Trump.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:18:23] SCIUTTO: Breaking news, Hurricane Harvey now a massive category 4 storm, closing in on the state of Texas. Conditions getting worse by the minute. Right now it is pounding. The Texas Coast with drenching rains, a dangerous storm surge and destructive winds that are expected to reach 145 miles per hour.

And as we come to you live tonight, the warnings are dire, the language is stark. Quote, this is a life-threatening situation, according to the National Weather Service. Another official telling residents who did not evacuate that it's too late they're telling them write their name and social security numbers on their forearms should they find a body later. This monster could unleash a storm surge up to 12 feet. And on the top of the wind and waves, this storm could stall, dumping some 40 inches of rain by this time on Wednesday.

Brett Adair is a storm chaser. He is OutFront live in Fulton, Texas. Brett, we are looking now, showing our viewers some of the video that you shot inside this storm earlier in recent hours there. What conditions are you seeing and where exactly are you tonight?

BRETT ADAIR, STORM CHASER: Jim, we've moved just south of Fulton. We're actually in Rockport where on state road 35, just south of Fulton, we've been watching some pretty intense, you know, moments here with Harvey as it approaches the coast. The eye wall is just offshore.

I think we're a couple of hours from landfall but we're beginning to get to the hurricane wind gusts. We watched the (INAUDIBLE) seafood restaurant up in Fulton, we saw part of the roof get ripped off of it. It was (INAUDIBLE) I think several, you know, power flashes.

[19:20:06] But, one of the good things we have seen, not many people on the roads and people seem to be heeding the warnings here.

SCIUTTO: That's good to hear, Brett. You know, we had Chad Myers, our meteorologist earlier and I asked the difference between a category 4 -- three and four now that it's been upgraded. He said a category 3 hurricane, you lose your roof, a category 4, you could lose your house.

You know, the power of these storms very well. Tell us in particular about the power of the storm surge.

ADAIR: Well, I'll tell you, first of all, the biggest difference in this storm versus the storms we've seen in the last several years is, we have a major hurricane (INAUDIBLE) but it's intensifying as it's moving in. So what you're having is, you're having a storm surge that is up under that center low pressure and expands out on the ocean surface.

The water level rises and the more powerful that pressure follows the winds around the (INAUDIBLE) circulation, the higher the rise and the further (INAUDIBLE) can be pushed. So, you know, once you get up above category 2 status, you really start worrying about dangerous storms surging (INAUDIBLE), you know, three foot to five foot, in this case the potential for 12-foot of storm surge.

SCIUTTO: And when folks say 12-foot of storm surge, we're talking about 12 feet of water. Is that right? I mean, water that would be a story high, just to be clear.

ADAIR: Yes, that's absolutely correct. And it comes in quickly and it's very devastating, it's very hard to run from. That's the reason the government puts the mandatory evacuations out. And they urge everybody to leave ahead of time.

SCIUTTO: You have as what you do, it's dangerous work, you've covered a lot of hurricanes in the past. Base on what you seen so far, what makes this one different?

ADAIR: Well, it's absolutely the strengthening coming inland. You know, we dealt with Hermine and Matthew last year. Those storms came in, Matthew maintained its intensity, Hermine was a strengthening storm but it was, you know, category 1, category 2 type system.

This one being a major hurricane, the wind fields are wider and storm surge begins earlier. So you're getting impacts for a longer period of time. And this one also forecasted to stall out and perpetually put catastrophic flooding in some of these areas. So, it's very different animal that we're dealing here -- with here.

SCIUTTO: Now, we have heard of some people who did not obey those orders to evacuate. In fact, in a couple minutes we're going to speak to a family that did just that. You say that the roads have been mostly clear. But have you seen evidence of people who did not listen to those warnings and are holding out?

Brett Adair, do we still have you there? Sounds like we lost the storm chaser, Brett Adair. He's right in the middle of it there and describing really just frightening conditions.

I want to move now to Horacio Villarreal Jr., he lives in Corpus Christi and he plans -- he's one of those people planning on riding out this hurricane inside his home.

Horacio, first of all, thank you. You just heard the storm chaser describe how dangerous, how life threatening this storm is. Can you tell us why you didn't listen to those orders to evacuate, those calls to evacuate?

HORACIO VILLARREAL, NOT EVACUATING CORPUS CHRISTI: Well, we live probably about a good seven to eight miles inland from what would be considered Corpus Christi bay. Corpus Christi is situated on a bay coming in from the Gulf of Mexico.

And one of the reasons we decided to stay here was the fact that we have considered going up to Houston but the way that they were predicting the storm, that it was kind of build in between Corpus Christi and Port O'Connor, they're predicting probably 40 to 50 inches of rain. And going up to Houston where we have family would be very difficult if we decide once the storm passes to get back. You know, there are several bridges that we need to cross over going from here up to Houston.

So, we hunkered down here in our house, got the supplies that we needed, you know, and just decided just to ride it out.

SCIUTTO: What are the conditions where you are right now? We keep hearing from folks and we've seen our reporters live on the coast there. We just talked to a storm chaser who are seeing and feeling the storm as it strengthens hitting land. What are you seeing where you are?

VILLARREAL: Well, the wind is very -- it's intense. And, you know, I went outside to pick up some debris in my backyard and just listening to the wind and the rain that was coming down, it's very intense.

The -- you know, the rain is just -- it's very dangerous to be out on the street because there's a lot of items that are starting to fly around in our neighborhood. And as long as, you know, you've got everything all situated, it's you know, you should be fine.

[19:25:05] We have no intention of leaving our home until all this pass. And, you know, I know that the winds right now they just went up from a category 3 to a category 4, so it's rather intense and just hoping that, you know, our lights have just now turned on and off several times over the past minutes. So I suspect probably between now and by the time the hurricane comes on shore, we probably going to lose our electricity.

SCIUTTO: I imagine this going to be a difficult nightmare for you. Officials just north of where you stand, they're telling residents write their names and social security numbers on their arms in case they have to identify them. I just wonder if dire warnings like that make you second guess the decision you made to stay.

VILLARREAL: Not necessarily for us. We're -- I feel bad for the individuals where the hurricane is going to hit. We're probably -- from there at least a good 25, maybe 30, maybe 40 miles from where we live. That's not to say we're still not going to get the, you know, the brunt of the storm. But nonetheless, it is very -- it's a scary situation.

Been through several hurricanes in the past, and, you know, we've -- back in 1970, we were hit by a Hurricane Celia and that one made a direct hit here in Corpus Christi. So I've been there and I have -- actually, the moment during the storm where you can go outside to and the eye of the storm comes through and it's just very calm, then all of a sudden that passes and then the storm picks up again.

So it's very -- you know, it's something to respect and obviously not to play with. So I'm hoping that everyone over there in that area where the storm is going to hit, you know, is safe and, you know, I guess more than anything, they're just trying to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

SCIUTTO: Well, listen, we wish you the best. We do. I imagine it's going to be a difficult late night there. Please do all you can to stay safe.

And OutFront next, Hurricane Harvey now a category 4 monster. Outer bands of Harvey lashing the Texas coast as we speak and will only get worse as darkness falls there. I'm going to speak to the Texas lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick who's in Houston tonight.

Also breaking news, North Korea firing several unidentified projectiles, most likely missiles into the waters right off the Korean Peninsula. What is the response tonight from the White House?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:30:59] SCIUTTO: Welcome back. We are following the breaking news. Hurricane Harvey now a category

four storm. Winds 140 -- 130 miles an hour and up. Just hours away from making landfall. The Texas coast bracing for the life- threatening hurricane, tornado like winds up to 145 miles an hour now. Some places could see up to 40 inches of rain, millions in the storm's path.

One Texas mayor going so far as advising residents who refuse to leave to write their Social Security numbers and names on their arms to help first responders identify their bodies.

Marty Savidge, he's OUTFRONT live in Corpus Christi, Texas, where conditions are getting worse.

Marty, every time I talk to you it is windier there. It is tougher there. Tell us what you are seeing right now.

SAVIDGE: All right. Every time you do come, Jim, I keep saying, well, this is the worst we have ever seen. Well, this is officially the worst we have seen so far with Hurricane Harvey.

What had been sort of gust winds now is just turning into a full-on blow. Just keeping my eyes in this direction because if anything is going to break or come our way it is obviously from that way.

But the wind gusts are just proving now to be almost a physical force that beats upon you. On top of that, the fabric and everything that you are wearing is flapping so loudly, it makes it hard to hear. Plus the trees. The water is mystified in the air.

I mean, this is truly where a storm becomes not just a hurricane but a major hurricane. And this, of course, is not the full force of the wind. We're actually sheltered somewhat by the large building in which we're operating out of. So if I was, say, 100 yards out away from here, it is almost impossible to stand and it would be almost equally impossible to hear.

It's just nature delivering an unbelievable force and the thing is, it is going to go on, not just for hours, but the rains will go on for days. This truly could be catastrophic, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Marty, I remember in covering hurricanes, oftentimes the storm surge moves so quickly, you know, it is hard to compare, hard to track. Are you seeing evidence of that already as you have been standing there as the sea waters come closer?

SAVIDGE: I did go down to the water's edge here. You know, there is not a beach in Corpus Christi. They've got a sea wall that has been built. So far there is not an indication of it overwashing or anything like that.

There are areas where you will see the water overrunning beaches and certainly overrunning roads. But down here, no, we're not seeing that as yet. Now, of course, you still got a little bit of time before the eye wall makes its real push on shore. That's often when you get the last big surge. So, everyone will be cautiously watching that as well as watching the

sky to see what may be coming out of it, including the potential for tornadoes, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Eyewall is expected to make landfall in the next couple of hours.

Martin Savidge there in Corpus Christi, stay safe.

I want to go back now to Chad Myers. He's in the Weather Center.

Chad, I know you have been watching the storm minute by minute. What have you been seeing in the last few minutes?

MYERS: I want to describe to our viewers and to you exactly how we went from three to four. I think that's important, because the storm technically didn't change pressure. Now, the storm is still the same or lower pressure than Sandy was when it hit land up near New York City. Same pressure or lower.

So, this is a big storm and has been big for a couple of days. But the arms of the ice skater were pulled in. And you're saying, what? So the storm eye diameter is smaller.

Think about the figure skater during the Olympics and she pulls her arms in and she spins nice and quick. She does whatever that is called. That's what happened to this.

So, what was 130 miles an hour storm or 145 miles an hour storm gust would be 160 miles an hour storm if we got the eye to about eight miles.

[19:35:06] That's where Andrew was. But that's not going to happen. We don't have time. The pressure is not low enough. But that's how we got where we are.

So, we raised it one category because of the wind speed. But the storm itself is the exact same storm we talked about six hours ago, the exact pressure, 940 millibars. The hurricane hunter aircraft still flying back and forth.

The problem is, typically, we'll go to bed tonight, oh, let's put this hurricane away. We're all done, OK, by tomorrow, not this time, because the storm will not move. It will not move.

This is what we call a spaghetti model. This is true spaghetti. This is confusion with all the models trying to say where it thinks it is going to go. Five days with nowhere to go except sit there and rain. Storm surge, yes, six to 12 feet.

The people you were talking to up in Fulton or wherever they were, Rockport, they're in trouble. They shouldn't be there. There should be nobody left on that island.

Unfortunately, some people make decisions that they're going to have to live with. Hopefully, they do live with it because that's going to be a tough place to be tonight if this category four makes direct landfall there and I think it does.

SCIUTTO: And to be clear there, Chad, of all those models, though they showed disparate paths, the one consistent thing this storm hanging over that coast. Just a matter of where.

MYERS: You know, we showed the cone. And this is the one day size, the two-day size, the three-day size, the five-day area of we don't know has all the other days inside it, day five, four, three, two, one.

So, in the five days, this thing doesn't move for about 350 miles. It's not going to move at all. The center will sit there and spin and we're going to be getting three to four feet of rain.

SCIUTTO: Right. Stays there, keeps dropping that water.

Chad Myers, I know you're going to be watching this all night. Thanks for joining us.

OUTFRONT now is the mayor of Victoria, Texas, another one of these towns, in the path of this storm. It is Paul Polasek.

Thanks for taking the time.

Eighty miles from where Harvey is expected to make landfall, can you tell us, Mayor, what you are seeing there now?

MAYOR PAUL POLASEK, VICTORIA, TEXAS (via telephone): Well, currently, the wind is picking up. It's not too severe just yet and the rain is starting to pick up.

SCIUTTO: Are you confident -- I know you have been making all the preparations you can to protect people, to protect property where you can. Are you confident your city is prepared for this?

POLASEK: Yes, we are. I am confident to the best of our ability. It ramped up so quickly and the intensity of it so quickly, it's the only thing I wish that -- you know, there was nothing we could do about that aspect of it. But every step of the way, it's the preparation and the forethought is right on target for us.

SCIUTTO: How many people have you seen who chose to stay behind, despite the storm coming through?

POLASEK: You know, just a rough estimate, an unprofessional estimate, I'd say about 60 to 65 percent of our residents have stayed, which is concerning to me. So --

SCIUTTO: Sixty to 65 percent. So most, two-thirds. There was no order, I imagine, that there was a suggestion or a recommendation they leave?

POLASEK: No, we did a mandatory evacuation, but we were unable to force people to leave. But we did announce a mandatory evacuation yesterday at a certain point. As soon as we got the news that the intensification of this, we did that. SCIUTTO: Well, that's just amazing, a mandatory evacuation, which

you're doing not just to protect them, I imagine, but to protect the first responders, et cetera, who have to take risks to save people's lives.

POLASEK: Absolutely, absolutely. I mentioned in our press conferences and et cetera, so. It just all happened so quick. People are having a hard time, the public, a hard time picking up and leaving. So, we're going to do the best we can.

SCIUTTO: Well, imagine it's going to be a tough night there. It's going to be dark. I'm sure there are going to be power outages. The storm getting stronger.

How are you going to get through the night in effect? Because you've got a lot of people there. But you also -- you got risk that you'll be facing yourself.

POLASEK: Yes, sir. You know, we're focusing on communicating to our residents as long as we can, social media and other news releases and in the local media. And if we can keep them informed, and they follow our advice to shelter in place and just don't venture out. I think we can minimize loss of damage to property and lives.

SCIUTTO: Mayor Polasek, our thoughts go out to you. We know you've got a tough day, days, maybe weeks ahead of you, and we're going to be continuing to cover this and we'll be thinking about what you are facing down there.

POLASEK: Thank you. Thank you, sir.

SCIUTTO: OUTFRONT next, we are going to go live to the Gulf Coast where conditions are worsening by the minute.

[19:40:01] Winds reaching up to 145 miles an hour now, and 20 million people in hurricane Harvey's path tonight.

Also, North Korea firing several unidentified projectiles. The military says these were missile tests. How will the White House respond?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: Welcome back and we are back with our breaking news.

Hurricane Harvey now a category four storm. It is expected to become the most powerful storm to hit the continental United States in more than 10 years, with winds reaching 145 miles per hour. Officials now are warning of catastrophic flooding.

Ed Lavandera is in Galveston, Texas. He was right in the middle of it there.

Tell us what the situation looks like now and how it has worsened in the last several minutes. LAVANDERA: Well, Jim, you know, as we have seen throughout the day,

these bands of rain and wind have come. There will be lulls. While we are experiencing lulls in the rain, there are no more lulls in the sustained winds that we're experiencing here.

And one of the things incredibly striking to me, it is hard to make out on the video, on the picture we're showing you here.

[19:45:04] But when you look out into the Gulf of Mexico here, just beyond those initial white caps out there, way out in the distance, you can see other white caps erupting out of the water. Can't tell you how just stark that looks. It's like the power and the furry of the water that has churned up out there in the Gulf of Mexico is extremely powerful. For that to be visible really says something about how treacherous the conditions are out there in the water.

And then when you look up in these winds, the low level clouds here, Jim, really stands out just how quickly they're being pushed over top of us here and these got to be able to watch the bands of rain and wind come through and approach us. We're just probably a couple minutes away from the next band of rain that is about to hit us. But here as we're approaching nightfall, Jim, really must say that it's really concerning after years of covering different storms all over the country, one of the things that really strikes me is these types of storms in the dark. You can hear the wind, but you can't feel or see in fact debris that's going to be picked up in these wind storms here in the coming hours. That makes this all the more dangerous, Jim.

SCIUTTO: And we see that traffic behind you there. Clearly people, a lot of people, have not listened to those orders to evacuate this storm.

Eddie Lavandera in Galveston, Texas.

I want to go straight now to Logan Poole. He's in Fulton, Texas, which is just north of Corpus Christi. He is also a meteorologist.

Logan, we have seen conditions deteriorating over the past few minutes, the strength of the winds. You are at the Fulton Fire Department. Tell us what you are seeing there now.

LOGAN POOLE, METEOROLOGIST (via telephone): Right. As Eddie mentioned from Galveston, before earlier today, we had rain bands incessantly moving in with breaks in between. That's changed here as we are closer to the core of the storm and the rain just will not stop. The wind is picking up readily and minute by minute. We're seeing shingles and pins starting to fly be and anticipating that category four Hurricane Harvey moving very close to where we are in Fulton.

SCIUTTO: Yes, our Chad Myers said earlier, the difference between a three and four, three, you lose your roof, a four, you lose your house. I wonder what emergency officials are doing there now. Are you responding to emergency calls? Because it appears a lot of families have not obeyed the orders, the recommendations to evacuate. POOLE: That's unfortunately not going to happen according to the fire

chief here. Now that we have reached in excess of hurricane force winds, they have closed their doors and they will not be responding until conditions get here better for them. So, these people, if you are here and you consider stepping outdoors, you should probably hunker down and sit this one out and don't come out until it's over.

SCIUTTO: That's the thing. Of course, the first responders, they face dangers, too, when they go out.

You are a meteorologist. You are there in the fire department as well. Can you describe what a 12-foot storm surge will do to the community where you are in Fulton?

POOLE: Particularly in East Fulton, it is going to go underwater. There is little doubt about that. The majority of the town is below that 12 feet storm surge mark. That includes town of Rockport as well. There will be tremendous damage from the storm surge. That's not to mention the winds.

And should this sit and spin for days, which is a possibility, the rain fall is going to be tremendous just adding insult to injury. So, just a bona fide disaster unfolding here in East Texas.

SCIUTTO: Several feet of rain predicted, in fact. Logan Poole, you are among many people facing a lot of danger tonight, please do all you can to say safe. We're going to continue to watch this story.

And OUTFRONT next, breaking news, North Korea firing several missiles despite repeated warnings from President Trump. What is the White House saying about it tonight?

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[19:52:54] SCIUTTO: Welcome back to OUTFRONT.

We are following major breaking news stories. One, Hurricane Harvey intensifying to a category four storm. The storm just hours away from making landfall there.

And other big story: North Korea firing multiple short-range ballistic missiles. U.S. Pacific Command now says that two failed in flight. One blew up almost instantly, this just weeks after President Trump threatened Kim Jong-un with fire and fury like the world had never seen if the rogue nation made any additional threat.

Michelle Kosinski is OUTFRONT at the State Department tonight.

Michelle, what are you hearing from the State Department, reaction from the administration?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Jim.

Right, there's nothing yet from the White House. Nothing yet from the State Department. And what you said there from Pacific Command, these are three short-

range missiles, and they all failed very quickly. It was just last month that North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile. In fact, they did that twice.

They threatened the U.S. territory of Guam. That sparked the president to threaten himself fire and fury on North Korea if that threat continued, or was made real, saying that the U.S. was locked and loaded.

Also, the U.S. believes that North Korea is moving closer and closer to being able to miniaturize a nuclear weapon. So, after all of that, the tough talk on both sides, there was nothing. North Korea hadn't launched anything for weeks, leaving the State Department to say maybe that's a step in the right direction, and now this.

But this comes right in the middle of a 10-day period when the U.S. and South Korea are working together on military exercises. Yes, that is to counter the North Korea threat. North Korea sees that as a threat, so that may be why Kim Jong-un now launched these three relatively small missiles that failed to express his displeasure, but not wanting to stoke the fires any more, Jim.

SCIUTTO: North Korea often responds to those military exercises.

Michelle Kosinski at the State Department tonight.

OUTFRONT now, former State Department spokesman, former Pentagon press secretary, John Kirby. He's also a retired rear admiral in the U.S. Navy, former assistant secretary with the Department of Homeland Security, Juliette Kayyem, she's a CNN -- and also, CNN senior political analyst Mark Preston.

[19:55:06] John, if I could start with you. By our count, this is the 19th missile launch by North Korea this year alone. Each test, you will often say they learn something from. What's the military significance of these tests tonight?

JOHN KIRBY, CNN DIPLOMATIC & MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I think -- I think Michelle's got it right. I think this is largely a reaction to the exercises, but let's not -- let's not just hang our hat on that. I mean, they do learn from each of these missile tests. These are short-range missiles. It doesn't mean that while they may not be a threat to the United States, they certainly are a threat to South Korea and to the Korean peninsula neighbors. So, it's got to be taken seriously.

But I do think, obviously, they continue to try to move forward on a ballistic missile program that could potentially become nuclear capable sometime in the future. That's really what the essence here, as well as reacting to South Korean and U.S. exercises going on.

SCIUTTO: Mark, only a couple of days ago on Tuesday in Phoenix, that the president claiming something of a victory, saying it looks like Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, respecting the U.S. Can we look at these tests as North Korea defying President Trump again? MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, no question. And,

you know, we shouldn't be too surprised, Jim, because we've heard this from North Korea over the past 72 hours. They have come out, they have said some very harsh things about these exercises that are taking place between South Korea and the U.S. military.

And they noted that they are willing to go head to head with the United States. So I don't think as we sit here on a Friday evening that we should be too surprised, the fact that North Korea and Kim Jong-un has decided to move forward.

SCIUTTO: Julie Kayyem, you work for the Department of Homeland Security. Folks at home I imagine wondering, what is -- what is the gravity of the threat from the North Korean missile program today?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: There's nothing changed today compared to even yesterday in terms of the threat to the continental U.S. but you raised a great point, which has to do we have a homeland security threat of Mother Nature's making, Harvey, and then, of course, this North Korea threat. And after 9/11, you see it in the personas of H.R. McMaster today, and Tom Bossert, the homeland security adviser, the White House got smart and divided those duties. So, you have one person focused squarely on the homeland threat, which right now the immediate one is Harvey, and then someone like H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, focused on the international/national security threat.

So, we, the United States, have also learned that we have to rub our belly and chew gum at the same time.

SCIUTTO: John Kirby, you've dealt with this threat at the State Department and the Pentagon in your military career, as well. One sort of overriding reality truth seems to be that despite all the talk, the threats, the sanctions, U.N. resolutions, North Korea keeps marching on. It keeps testing and making progress, not only with missile technology but nuclear technology.

KIRBY: That's correct. That's what makes this a bedeviling problem for the United States and for the rest of the international community, which is why they've got to continue to pursue international pressure objectives, like sanctions, like continuing to hone military readiness there on the Korean peninsula and in the Western Pacific, and on trying to get the international community to continue to galvanize against this threat.

I still believe though that there's room for diplomacy here. I don't -- we certainly have to have military options available. I think still there's diplomatic initiatives to take root, and I hope they're continuing to pursue that.

SCIUTTO: Before I go, it's been quite a night of breaking news. More breaking news tonight. The president very quietly signing a presidential memorandum directing the Pentagon to move forward with a ban on transgender troops, banning the Defense Department at the same time for using any resources to pay for medical treatment for transgender service members. John, you know that when the president first tweeted about this a

couple of weeks ago, the service chiefs didn't jump right on board. One, they said, give us an order in effect. But two, you heard a lot of comments from them saying anybody willing to serve should be allowed to serve. The president here defying those words of support.

KIRBY: Yes, right. So, a couple of things here, Jim. Certainly, this new ban could put the chiefs in a little bit of a difficult position given that they had moved forward on plans to lift the ban under President Obama. But look, they're all professionals. They'll follow the direction of the commander in chief.

But I think, look, this new policy was -- the DOD helped craft it. They helped shape it, and if you read it carefully, it will show that Secretary Mattis actually has some flexibility built in here on how he implements it and how he develops the strategy to go back.

SCIUTTO: John Kirby, Juliette, Mark Preston, thanks very much. And thank you for joining us. I'm Jim Sciutto. It's been great to be with you this week. Our breaking news coverage continues with "AC360" and John Berman tonight.