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Hurricane Relief Efforts Continue; Houston Shelters Breach Capacity, Continue to Take Victims; Louisiana Braces for Another Harvey Landfall. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired August 29, 2017 - 16:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Brianna Keilar, in for Jake Tapper.

We're going to begin with breaking news in the national lead. The president minutes ago arriving in Austin, Texas, he is about to get a tour of the emergency operations center there after stopping in Corpus Christi earlier in the day near where Hurricane Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane.

Today, there are new warnings to residents. Get out now, as a levee is pushed to its limit near Houston and Harvey continues to relentlessly pour down on the Gulf Coast.

Just moments ago, we learned that a Houston police officer named Sergeant Steve Perez was killed in this storm, drowning on his way to work on Sunday. His police chief overcome with emotion as he was explaining the decision to not go in after him.


ART ACEVEDO, HOUSTON POLICE CHIEF: It was too treacherous to go under and look for him.

So, we made a decision to leave officers there waiting until the morning, because as much as we wanted to recover him last night, we could not put more officers at risk for what we knew in our hearts was going to be a recovery mission.


KEILAR: Harvey has set now a rainfall record in the continental U.S. and another foot-and-a-half of rain could fall.

Now the storm is over water again. It's maintaining its strength. It's about to make landfall again. Parts of Louisiana, including New Orleans, 12 years to the day that Katrina made landfall, are under flood warnings.

Today, we witnessed more dramatic rescues. Everyone from the entire Texas National Guard to police and first-responders to just regular people with boats taking part in life-saving efforts. The Texas governor estimating that 1,000 people are still trapped, and there are people on roofs who have no food and water.

There was even a 73-year-old woman who was found upside down and trapped in a current grabbed at the very last second. The Red Cross said 17,000 people are in shelters across Texas. Some could be there for weeks or for months.

Our correspondents are across this region. They are covering the president's visit and they're deep inside the disaster zone as well.

CNN senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny is live for us in Austin, Texas, which of course is where the president has arrived to tour an emergency operations center.

Jeff, many said responding to this storm would be a test for President Trump. How does he think this response has gone so far?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, there is no question this is the biggest test yet for President Trump, certainly of a natural disaster of this making.

He used a variety of adjectives today when he was in South Texas earlier this afternoon. He called it epic, he called it historic, he called the response terrific. So he is praising the local response here. This is what he had to say earlier this afternoon in Corpus Christi.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You are special. We're here to take care. It's going well and I want to thank you for coming out. We're going to get you back and operating immediately. Thank you, everybody. What a crowd, what a turnout.


ZELENY: So, Brianna, at least that clip there and earlier remarks that he made almost sounded as though he was coming to a small campaign rally of sorts.

And that, of course, is not what he is here in Texas for. He has had a variety of serious meetings with the governor of Texas. He will be arriving here at the state emergency command center behind me just within the next several minutes or so. He's also traveling with the two Republican senators, a few members of his Cabinet also on board.

But, Brianna, one thing I am struck by here, seeing all the stories of emotion, all the stories of loss, of devastation still unfolding. We do not know the extent of the damage here. Very little in terms of empathy from this president. Very little in terms of emotion or talking directly to the people of Texas.

He's been talking about the businesses, talking about the response and his crowd. But certainly this is a test, a new moment for this president. But how he will ultimately be judged, Brianna, as every president is in a disaster like this, is not on today. It's on the response and the recovery and how Texas rebuilds if they get federal funds, et cetera, months, perhaps even years, from now -- Brianna.

KEILAR: That is right, and so many people in need as we look at these pictures. Jeff Zeleny is going to stand by for us as we do await President Trump going to this emergency operations center. We hope to get more information about how things are going there in Texas.

I want to go now to Houston, which is where more than 3,500 people have been rescued and more still need help as the water continues to rise, flooding roadways, swallowing homes.

And CNN's Brian Todd is in Houston for us.

Brian, I know you rode along with a Customs and Border Protection helicopter team today. What have they been doing and what did you see?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, we just landed a short time ago after flying much of the day with that Customs and Border Protection unit called the Marine and Air Operations Unit.


TODD: Their operations, their rescues have gone at a furious pace. This unit alone has rescued hundreds of people from flooded homes, often in very dramatic fashion.


TODD (voice-over): From the air, this is what Houston looks like to responders urgently trying to rescue flood victims, inundated houses, roadways and businesses stretching in all directions.

CNN rode along with the Customs and Border Protection agents in the Air and Marine Operations Unit as they piloted helicopters to save people in some of the worst-hit areas.

In our Black Hawk, we hover next to another helicopter as a hoist is lowered. Six people and a dog were lifted out in that one operation. Other victims have been rescued by hoist, like this rooftop rescue on Monday of four people.

In one of those neighborhoods, we touch down in a sliver of a parking lot that's not flooded. And our first wave of evacuees is hurried onto the chopper.

(on camera): We just landed in a very heavily flooded neighborhood north of Houston and picked up nine people, cramming everybody they can into this chopper.

(voice-over): One 80-year-old victim told us there is waist-high water in her house and she lost everything. She was evacuated by boat to a collection point, then by helicopter from there.

(on camera): What would you have done if these guys hadn't shown up? LAURA COX, FLOOD VICTIM: Well, we would have had to go to the attic.

And I don't know what would have happened. They're lifesavers.

TODD: (voice-over): In these conditions, with each flight, these agents have to deal with significant danger.

OSCAR PERU, U.S. CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION: You have multiple aircraft doing the same thing in the same vicinity, right? Low visibility and then also going in there and pulling the people out of, you know, the water that's 40 feet high.

TODD: Crews have rescued more than 3,500 people in Houston alone. As they race to save as many victims as they can, authorities are telling victims, hang in there.

ACEVEDO: Don't give up on us. Seek the higher ground. We will get to you. We have assets. At every passing hour, more boats are getting in the water.

TODD: In Baytown east of Houston, Hunter Lombard thanked first responders as they evacuated his mother in a dump truck.

HUNTER LOMBARD, FLOOD VICTIM: We knew it was going to be rough, but I wasn't expecting all this.

TODD: Authorities say more than 17,000 people have evacuated to shelters, more of them half of them at the Houston Convention Center, and more are still coming.

In Brazoria County, closer to the coast, a levee was reported breached, which could worsen the flooding there. And the Addicks Reservoir west of Houston began spilling over today. It has already flooded more than 2,000 homes and it will keep rising for the next day or two.

JEFF LINDNER, HARRIS COUNTY FLOOD CONTROL: The streets are going to be flooding. They will continue to flood. New streets will continue to flood. New homes will continue to flood.

TODD: Flooding along the Gulf Coast now stretches from Galveston, Texas, to Lake Charles, Louisiana and beyond.


TODD: And, of course, rescue efforts are complicated by the fact that authorities don't seem to have an accurate count of how many people are still stranded.

CNN has pressed officials in several jurisdictions about that. They have not been able to give us estimates, Brianna, because, of course, calls keep coming in. The situation keeps changing and the rescue efforts keep evolving.

It is a very rapid-moving situation. Hard to get those estimates of those still stranded, Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Brian Todd for us in Houston, thank you for that report.

I want to go now to CNN' Ed Lavandera. He's in Friendswood, Texas, which is southeast of downtown Houston.

Ed, tell us what conditions are like where you are.


This really kind of speaks to the magnitude of how widespread the flooding is across the Houston region. It's not just inside the city of Houston as well, but in so many communities in the outlying areas as well.

As you mentioned, we're in the small town of Friendswood, which is southeast of Houston. Here in the last 24 hours, more than 2,000 people have been evacuated and rescued from neighborhoods just like this. This is just talking to a neighbor here just seconds before we came on air. I had asked him if he had seen anything like this and he said no one in this neighborhood had ever seen anything like this and described the entire flooding situation as simply ridiculous.

You look back here at the streets, and again throughout the day, we have seen a stream of volunteer of people showing up with their boats, making their way out and navigating these floodwaters to get as many people out of here as possible.

We have seen the rainfall continue for a better part of the day. Of course, over the last couple of hours, we have had a little respite from that, but again people not exactly sure when exactly these floodwaters are going to start receding, and it can happen soon enough. Of course, that threat of rain very much making people nervous and they can't wait for the rainfall to end here as well.

As we show you here someone kind of showing up with their boat to try to make their way here to their home in this neighborhood here in Friendswood, Brianna, as they try to come to terms with everything they're seeing here around us this afternoon -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Just incredible pictures that you're showing us there of the devastation of Friendswood, Texas.


Ed Lavandera, thank you for that report.

Shelters now are filling beyond capacity. The Red Cross says no one, though, is going to be turned away.

I want to go live now to the Houston Convention Center, where we have our Rosa Flores -- Rosa.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, we are learning about the intense near-death experiences of the people who have been rescued. Thousands are already here.

But city officials know that the need is growing -- what they're doing to accommodate when I see you next.


KEILAR: Welcome back.

Shelters in Houston are overflowing with Texans who are looking for some safety from Hurricane Harvey.

I want to bring back CNN's Rosa Flores. She is at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, which, Rosa, is over capacity. It's holding the most victims right now of any facility.

What are you hearing from the people there inside the convention center?

FLORES: You know, the people here

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: I want to bring back CNN's Rosa Flores. She is at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston which, Rosa, is over capacity.

[16:15:05] It's holding the most victims right now of any facility. What are you hearing from the people there inside the convention center?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, the people here are overwhelmed. Just imagine the traumatic event of being plucked from the roof of your home or being rescued by boat.

I talked to one woman who was in a wheelchair who was rescued by jet ski. I talked to this other gentleman who says that they were waiting for eight to 10 hours for his family to get rescued, and then when the boat arrived, there was only room for his wife and his children. Take a listen.


ISAAC SANDOVAL, HURRICAN HARVEY VICTIM: On the place we were staying, I called some friends and they showed up with a boat. But the boat was too small, so they had to take the kids and woman first. And they said they would come back for us. They said they would come back for us but they never did.

In that moment when they left is when the stress and the pain started getting horrible, because to see your loved ones go and you don't know what's going to happen, you look around and everything is sad because people is getting floated trying to save their families. Then you see your family, your loved ones go and you don't know what to do is very sad.


FLORES: Now, early this morning, the Red Cross said there were about 9,000 people here. Brianna, we have seen people roll in all day long on buses, and so we know that that number has increased. The Red Cross at this hour trying to tally what that new number is, but as the need continues to grow, city officials tell us they are opening a second shelter. The location has not been announced yet, though. Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. The city opening a second shelter.

OK, Rosa Flores there. Thank you so much for that report.

Harvey's devastation is really part from over at this point. It's a tropical storm and it's taking aim at Louisiana. So, what can that state expect since it marks 12 years to the day of Katrina.

Plus, our other big story that we're following. North Korea's missile test this time right over Japan. What option s are on the table for the Trump administration to respond?


[16:21:36] KEILAR: We're back now with the breaking news.

As President Trump tours the devastation in Texas, Louisiana is bracing for Harvey to make landfall yet again. That state is activating its emergency plans eerily, on the exact same day that it marks 12 years since Hurricane Katrina made landfall.

Let's go to meteorologist Tom Sater. He's in the CNN severe weather center.

Tom, what should Louisiana, and also areas beyond Louisiana, expect?

TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I think, Brianna, the problem now really for the federal and local emergency services is to start to get ready for areas north of Houston and to the east of Houston, including a good portion of southwest Louisiana, because the color purple or any city in the U.S., if they get 10 inches, they're going to flood. And we've seen that now in southwestern Louisiana.

This is no longer the size of the state of Kentucky, so when you look at the numbers, we're most likely on the verge of breaking an all-time U.S. record. That was 52 inches in 1950, Hurricane Hiki,but that was in Hawaii. The record was in 1978, that was Amelia, tropical storm that hit Texas and dropped 48.

So, now, we're looking at, for the lower 48, all-time records. But when we talk about what is needed for the emergency services, for possible rescue events, the rain is going to start to ease up in Houston. Sure, they could get a couple more inches, but because it's still spinning offshore, Brianna, it's a siphon. It's this vacuum, if you will. It's got a moisture source, and that counterclockwise motion is going to drop more rain, Fort Arthur, Beaumont, into Southwest Louisiana, Lake Charles.

We're seeing some rain. Of course, they canceled schools in New Orleans. They didn't get as much as they were expected, but here's the problem spot. Again, to the east and north, we're still looking at landfall to be during the pre-dawn hours Wednesday morning. This will be the second landfall. But again, because it's still moving so slowly, the amount of rain could easily be 10 to 20 inches in that area that's already had 10 to 20 inches.

Now, the spacing, it's nice to see it. See that separation? That is a surge of movement. That's a faster pace, which is what we want to see, but we're still going to be in this for several hours for southeast areas of Texas, eastern Texas, those counties there and southwest Louisiana.

So, again, Brianna, they're looking at a magnificent area of coverage that we have the warnings that are now extended east and north.

KEILAR: And gearing up for that overnight. Tom Sater, thank you so much for updating us on that.

Joining me now is Louisiana's former governor, Kathleen Blanco.

Governor, thank you for joining us and certainly bringing the experience that you learned while you were governor of Louisiana during Katrina, 12 years ago. I'm sure that that has not escaped your attention today as we look at Louisiana in the crosshairs. What are your biggest concerns right now with Harvey?

KATHLEEN BLANCO, FORMER LOUISIANA GOVERNOR: Well, it's a little too much deja vu. I see so many more people needing to be removed from the waters, to be rescued, to be given a place where they can dry out, get food, be warm, change from their clothing. I know they probably left with just what they were wearing.

So, it's just -- it's a lot. It's a very, very trying time for those who are victimized by this flooding and this extensive rain that's been generated from this massive hurricane.

KEILAR: So, as you are looking now at Texas still very much in the middle of this and dealing with the aftermath of Harvey and you're looking towards Louisiana, are there enough local and state and federal resources?

BLANCO: Well, that remains to be seen. You know, when you have such a very large area impacted, it takes a lot more than anyone would ever imagine. So, I think we'll be seeing more and more assistance coming from all around the country. There are many, many willing and able people who are finding their way into the disaster area to try to make sense out of something that feels senseless to the victims.

KEILAR: As we look towards Louisiana, what advice would you give the current governor, Governor Edwards, as he's trying to help get Louisiana through this storm, considering you certainly have some experience from what happened during Katrina? Are the warnings of Katrina being heeded here?

BLANCO: Well, absolutely. I think Louisiana's paying a very large amount of attention to everything that's going on, because some of our state is in harm's way as well. Our current governor, John Bell Edwards, is really doing an excellent job.

We, in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, of course rewrote the disaster plan. And so, governors since that time have had a good master plan to follow. That came about as a learning experience through our Katrina disaster, and I think it's stronger than it ever was.

KEILAR: When you look at what's happening in Texas, do you think Governor Abbott is heeding the lessons learned from Katrina?

BLANCO: Well, Governor Abbott did have -- well, governors of the past did have hurricanes to deal with on the Texas coast. You know, Galveston has been impacted many times and all along that coastal area. And Houston has also been impacted.

So, I know they have good plans and good master plans. I think that perhaps I would encourage them to work at a coordinated response, a very big regional coordinated response to get as many people out of dangerous areas that they could possibly do before a disaster strikes.

We were successful in pulling out many, many people, over 1.3 million people in a region of 1.4. Now, I understand we're dealing with over 6 million people in the Houston area, in the region. So that's an even bigger jump, but very serious.

It just puts more people in jeopardy if they aren't prepared to leave or encouraged to leave at the very beginning, at the outset of such an event.

KEILAR: And we may now be past that point, right? But we've heard people say, who dealt with disasters, they say you ask people to leave -- and you know this -- a lot of times they just don't leave. But you would have liked to see a more concerted effort to get people evacuated ahead of time, right?

BLANCO: That's right. When you remember Katrina, we were dealing with about 60,000 people that had to be rescued. I'm thinking that the numbers are going to be larger in Texas at the end of this story.

KEILAR: All right. Former Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck as we certainly look towards Louisiana next with this storm Harvey.

And coming up, the warnings --

BLANCO: Our prayers are with them.

KEILAR: Oh, they certainly, our prayers are with them.

This is the next story that we're looking at. The warning North Korea may be trying to send after its fourth missile test in just four days.

Plus, breaking news related to the special counsel Russian investigation. What we're learning about new subpoenas issued, coming up.