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EARLY START

Death Toll Continue to Rise; Flood Starts to Recedes Local Government Faces Gigantic Problems; Disasters Brings Positive Relationship Within Communities; President Trump Change his Tone; Europe Remembers Princess Diana. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired August 31, 2017 - 03:00   ET

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


[03:00:00] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Harvey is moving north, but the scope of damage done in Texas is just coming into focus. New evacuations, a climbing death toll, and a chemical plant now on the verge of exploding.

We're live in Texas. Good morning, everyone, and welcome to Early Start one hour early. I'm Dave Briggs.

RENE MARSH, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Rene Marsh. It's Thursday, August 31st. It's 3 a.m. in the east. Two a.m. in Houston.

And the skies above southeast Texas are clearing. But as Harvey heads north, it leaves many worries in its wake. The human toll just keeps getting worse. The number killed in the storm jumped overnight to 37. And it is still expected to rise. That number includes the six bodies of the Saldivar family found Wednesday in their white van that had been washed away in the flood.

BRIGGS: Such a tragic story. At the reservoirs upstream from Houston, a controlled release is now happening at the Addicks dam to ease the water spilling out around the ends of the reservoir, as you can see there.

We had been told water levels in the two reservoirs would peak sooner than previously thought. But now a mandatory evacuation order was issued in some areas around that Barker dam. We'll have more details on that throughout the morning.

MARSH: And one more round of heavy rain taking a hard parting shot at Port Arthur and Beaumont, Texas on the Louisiana border. We've just learned the city of Beaumont has lost its water supply after pumps failed in the floodwaters.

Eleven official shelters where people had taken refuge started flooding. You're looking at those images there. Now workers at the Texas health care emergency operation center are keeping a close eye on hospitals and nursing homes. Patients at one nursing facility in Port Arthur evacuated yesterday as hallways flooded.

BRIGGS: At least 16 hospitals in Texas remain closed this morning, already strained medical centers bracing for an influx of new patients as roadways start to clear. And in some cases that will take time, though. This is interstate 10

east. Yes, I said interstate. You think it was the shore, if not for the highway sign you see there off in the distance.

MARSH: Wow. That is amazing. And this morning, the emergency officials hold a news conference to discuss the dangerous situation at the Arkema chemical plant outside of Houston. The company that owns Arkema says the most likely outcome is that the plant will explode.

BRIGGS: We're learning more about the heroic rescue efforts as well taking place all across the Houston area. You're looking here at a human chain formed to save an elderly man whose SUV had been swept away by the flood. The man was saved thanks to this brave and spontaneous act of team work.

For the latest, let's turn to CNN's George Howell who is live for us in Houston this morning. Good morning, George.

GEORGE HOWELL, HOST, CNN: Dave, good morning to you. So we're here at this major shelter, this convention center here in downtown Houston as we understand it at this point, some 8,000 people are calling this home. Their temporary home, trying to get a good night rest to try to figure out the next step for their lives.

Eight thousand people here, Dave. And at a nearby convention center, another large shelter, another 8,000 people. So in totality, you're looking at about 16,000 people who are staying at the shelters until they can figure out what their next is.

Let's talk about the storm itself. This storm now a tropical depression. It's moved out of this part of the world. But again, this storm set a record, a weather record, dropping 52 inches of rain in a single storm.

We understand that a third of the city of Houston believe this or not, and it's true here, under water, this major city. When you drive through the streets, you can see it in neighborhoods. You can see it on roads. These underpasses that in fact, are covered in water.

In nearby Beaumont, Texas, search and rescue efforts continue through the navy. They airlifted 25 men and women who were in need of rescue.

Some other things happening here throughout the Houston metro area. The Houston Hobby airport, a very important airport just to the south of the city reopens on Saturday. That is very important when you consider the infrastructure of this city, Dave, getting back to some sense of normalcy. But again, this recovery here, it is going to take more than weeks, more than months of quite possibly years.

BRIGGS: George, when you talk to people there, how long are they planning on staying in those shelters? And what are the conditions like?

[03:04:58] HOWELL: Right. So the conditions are what you would expect at a convention center, right? People have cots to sleep on. They dim the lights at night so people can try to get a good night's sleep. But there are so many different individual stories. I mean, there are

people who have friends and family. Perhaps they can leave the shelter and go stay with them. There are people who have nothing. And what happens with them? I don't know. You know, and that's the question.

But I do know this. Here in the state of Texas, my home state, and I do have to say it is a proud sight to see, people coming together, strangers helping strangers. Neighbors helping neighbors. And they have in mind those people who have nothing, they have in mind every effort to try to help them step by step as they try to recover.

BRIGGS: George Howell knows well the Texas spirit is alive and well, despite the terrible conditions across that state. Thanks, George. We'll check in with you in about 20 minutes or so.

MARSH: And Harvey is now just a tropical depression, headed into the Ohio Valley. But flooding is still a major concern in its wake. Meteorologist Karen Maginnis has the very latest on the storm's path this morning. Good morning, Karen.

KAREN MAGINNIS, METEOROLOGIST, CNN: Good morning, Dave and Rene. Yes, through the Mississippi River valley, some areas will see 2 to 4 inches of rain. But some other areas right along the Mississippi region could see as much as 10 inches as we head towards the weekend.

It looks like it travels across Louisiana and into northern sections of Mississippi, right around Tunica and Oxford, Pine Bluff in Arkansas. That looks to be a spotlight for some potentially heavy rainfall.

Then going into Friday morning, through Memphis, towards Nashville as a tropical depression. Now at the National Hurricane Center is no longer issuing any advisories. So now this becomes sort of a state issue and local issues as to what happens regarding the flooding.

Still, that area of low pressure, the remnants of what remains from tropical depression Harvey will sweep through the lower Appalachian Mountain region. So some areas here could see significant rainfall as well.

The center of this system is now just about over Alexandria, Louisiana still producing some heavy rainfall. And have I seen on Twitter out of Beaumont, Port Arthur, they are still asking for some high water rescues. And what we're looking at out over the tropical Atlantic, tropical storm Irma could become a major hurricane by this weekend. But we'll keep you updated on that. Back to you, guys.

BRIGGS: Boy.

MARSH: Another one.

BRIGGS: That's not what anyone needs to hear at this point. Karen Maginnis, thanks so much.

One Houston suburb slammed by catastrophic flooding is the city of Pasadena, Texas. Joining us now by Skype is the mayor of Pasadena, Jeff Wagner. Good morning, Mr. Mayor. Thanks for being with us this morning. What are the conditions like in your city?

JEFF WAGNER, MAYOR OF PASADENA, TEXAS: As you know, we've received 46 inches of rain. That's a total of a whole year in four days. So, most of our city is underwater.

MARSH: So we want to talk to you a little bit about now that we've heard the storm is eventually now that it's moving out. When will this process of going door to door possibly looking for unfortunately bodies occur?

WAGNER: Yes, ma'am, you're exactly right. We started some of that today. And then, actually yesterday. We're on today now. And today we'll be -- all our task force out hitting every door we can.

BRIGGS: Do you get any sense of just how many people are still needing rescue there in Pasadena?

WAGNER: No. But I know so far we've rescued a thousand people here in Pasadena. I'm pretty sure at this point we've rescued everybody that needs to be rescued. Now it's actually going in and finding things that we don't want to find.

BRIGGS: Have you found the water level is at least beginning to decrease? Or is it holding firm?

WAGNER: It's been a blessing it's decreasing. So we are seeing the water levels going down.

MARSH: And so what's the process? Because obviously, these hours now, you talk about finding what you don't want to find. How is that going to be coordinated, and how will you move forward with that?

WAGNER: We'll use our Office of Emergency Management along with our fire department and police department. And we'll use all our engineers to go out and assess all of the damage. And again, looking in the houses and cars that we have not been able to find yet.

BRIGGS: We're seeing some video both of rescues, but also of the supplies that have been pouring in to suburbs and cities like yours. Talk about how much you have received from the people of Texas and people around the country?

WAGNER: Yes. We started to take donations yesterday. And we have a small gym, one of our city gyms. We had to stop that because there are so many people giving so many donations.

[03:10:03] We have a mall near our city hall, Dillard's, a company owns it now. Now and they're gone, it's vacant. So we called the company. They opened Dillard's up. The Dillard's bottom floor got so packed with all the donations, we had to go commandeer a Macy's that just moved out of Pasadena, empty Macy's. And we used that. And it's also packed right now.

Just today alone we had 1,100 volunteers sorting all our clothes and all the medicines and all the baby materials. And already we've serviced -- not only we've gave out 1,455 people. BRIGGS: That is the very best of this storm. Unfortunately, your city

also represents the very worst. Probably the most heartbreaking and tragic story we've heard throughout this flooding is that of the Saldivar family, washed away in their van. If you can share your thoughts about the great grandparents and the great grandchildren lost in the horrific flooding there.

WAGNER: Again, that's the most tragic thing that we've heard about. Now that -- those people actually, they live close by us. That did not happen here in Pasadena. But that's a very tragic story.

BRIGGS: So what's the thing you guys need this morning?

WAGNER: Right now all we need, as far as the donations, all the food and stuff, we've got so much of that, we're good on that. We just need our employees, the fire and police department to go out and go to the neighborhood that we can't get to.

The waters are going down. We need to get out there and find out if for rescues, of course, you know, we're looking for life more than property. But we are also looking for making sure, again, finding bodies. And we're hoping that's not going to happen here in Pasadena.

BRIGGS: We hope not.

MARSH: All right. Thank you so much, Mayor Wagner for joining us. Our thoughts with you and with everyone in your city.

And coming up, the president with a big shift in tone. After coming under fire for forgetting the victims during his visit to Texas. We'll show you what he says now.

[03:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRIGGS: Today, Vice President Mike Pence set to visit Texas to view Harvey's devastation. President Trump will return to the gulf on Saturday. And ahead of that already changing his tone after coming under fire for failing to focus on storm victims during his Texas visit.

MARSH: Well, he tweeted yesterday after witnessing firsthand the horrors and devastation caused by hurricane Harvey, "My heart goes out even more so to the great people of Texas."

Later, in Missouri, for a speech on tax reform, the president kept his focus on the people hit by the storm.

White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny traveling with the president has more from Springfield, Missouri.

JEFF ZELENY, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Rene and Dave, President Trump came to Missouri on Wednesday, focusing on tax reform, but also again addressing the citizens of south Texas, Houston directly, and Louisiana about the storm recovery efforts.

Now this of course is going to be something that is front and center in his administration's agenda going forward in the fall. That recovery package. But on Wednesday in Missouri, he talked specifically to those victims.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To the people of Houston and across Texas and Louisiana, we are here with you today. We are with you tomorrow, and we will be with you every single day after to restore, recover, and rebuild. Our thoughts and prayers remain firmly with the citizens and our fellow people, great, great, great people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: So the president certainly adjusting his message from one day earlier in Texas. He received a wave of criticism for not directly addressing the victims and acknowledging that rising death toll.

The president did do that on Wednesday in Missouri. And going forward, the recovery effort now, the government aid package is something that his administration is focused on. This of course now is at the front of the president's agenda. Tax reform, other issues will take a step behind. Rene and Dave?

BRIGGS: No question about that. Jeff Zeleny, thanks. Check on CNN money now. President Trump making his opening pitch for tax reform, as Jeff mentioned. The president giving a speech in Missouri yesterday, the first in a series to rally bipartisan support for tax reform. But the speech was scant on details, focusing instead on potential economic benefits, especially for the middle class.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We're here today to launch our plans to bring back Main Street by reducing the crushing tax burden on our companies and on our workers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Trump's tax pitch struck a broad outline like a simpler more competitive tax code slashing rates across the board, including corporate taxes. The president also wants companies to bring offshore profits back home. He promises helping companies will work workers. So the theory cutting corporate taxes will boost U.S. investment creating jobs.

But critics argue there is no guarantee tax savings will go towards job creation instead of to shareholders. Tax reform was a core campaign promise for Trump. But GOP leaders in the White House have still yet to finalize all the details on their tax plan.

Official says they plan to do so next week. Congress returns from recess on Tuesday. And look, the president hit up Claire McCaskill, the democratic senator there in Missouri.

MARSH: Yes. BRIGGS: But first they have to get the Republican Party online just like on health care. We'll see whether they rally behind whether it's tax reform or tax cuts before bringing democrats in.

MARSH: Yes. And the president met with leadership from Capitol Hill yesterday. But something tells me they've got a lot of talking to do.

(CROSSTALK)

BRIGGS: Yes. They've got, yes, they've got a big fight ahead.

MARSH: Yes. And coming up, Princess Diana is being remembered today across Europe. Twenty years after her stunning death, we are live in Paris.

[03:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARSH: Well, a somber anniversary in Europe this morning. Twenty years ago today Princess Diana died in a horrific car crash that shocked the world. Diana and her boyfriend Dodi Fayed and their driver killed in a high-speed crash inside a Paris tunnel after being pursued by paparazzi on motorcycles.

CNN's Jim Bittermann covered the crash that fateful night and he joins us now live from the crash scene. Jim?

JIM BITTERMANN, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Morning, Rene. Yes, a bit of reminiscence today but also for a lot of other people there has been a steady stream of a lot of people over the last 20 years to come this monument which in fact is not a monument to Princess Diana.

It's in fact the torch from the Statue of Liberty, a replica of the torch that was erected by the Herald Tribune years before the days of Princess Diana.

In any case, it's become the monument because we're standing right over the tunnel where the crash took place and where Princess Diana was so badly injured, she eventually died in a nearby hospital.

Those days were full of stories, including mystery and suspension, the glamour of the Princess, and the incredulity that this kind of thing could have happened in the center of Paris where traffic accidents are very, very rare.

In fact, though this one was. And so there was a great deal of suspicion about exactly how it happened. But two investigations, a French investigation and a British investigation, both exonerated anybody except for Henri Paul, the driver of the car who was had both drugs and alcohol in his system when he was driving that night.

[03:25:09] And he came into this tunnel going about 90 miles an hour with the Mercedes that was literally flying as it came down the tunnel ramp. In fact, the skid marks in the pavement the next day indicated that the car was off the ground, the tires weren't even in contact with the ground. So it was tragic accident. But at the moment and for now and 20 years

later, it is nothing but an accident, right, issue?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We had been told...

MARSH: All right, Jim Bittermann reporting live from Paris for us. Thank you so much, Jim.

BRIGGS: All right. The storm is moving on, but the devastation from Harvey is just beginning to show. Resources stretched to the max dealing with trillions of gallons of floodwater and danger lurking beneath the surface as well.

Live coverage from Houston, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[03:30:00] MARSH: Harvey is moving north, but the scope of the damage done in Texas is just coming into focus. New evacuations, a climbing death toll and a chemical plant on the verge of exploding.

We are live in Texas. Welcome back to Early Start. I'm Rene Marsh.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It is 3.30 Eastern Time, 2.30 in Houston, Texas where between 40 and 100,000 homes have been impacted by the flooding.

The skies above Texas are clearing. But as Harvey hits north, it leaves many worries in its wake. The human toll continues to get worse. The number killed in the storm jumped overnight to 37 and is still expected to rise.

That number includes the six bodies of the Saldivar family, found Wednesday in their white van that had been washed away in the flood.

MARSH: And at the reservoirs upstream in from Houston, a controlled release is now happening at the Addicks dam to ease water spilling out around the ends of the reservoir. A mandatory evacuation order was issued in some areas around the Barker dam.

We'll have more details on that throughout the morning.

BRIGGS: One more round of heavy rain taking a hard parting shot at Port Arthur and Beaumont, Texas on the Louisiana border. We've just learned the city of Beaumont has lost its water supply after pumps failed in floodwaters.

Even official shelters where people had taken refuge started flooding. And now workers at the Texas health care emergency operation center keeping a close eye on hospitals and nursing homes. Patients at one nursing facility in Port Arthur evacuated yesterday as hallways flooded.

MARSH: And at least 16 hospitals in Texas remain closed. Already strained medical centers bracing for an influx of new patients as roadways start to clear. In some cases, that will take time. This, yes, that is interstate 10 east. Look at that. You would think

that it's the shore if it wasn't for that highway sign.

BRIGGS: Hard to believe that image, isn't it, Rene?

MARSH: Yes.

BRIGGS: This morning emergency officials held a news conference to discuss the dangerous situation at the Arkema plant outside Houston. The company that owns Arkema says the most likely outcome here is that the plant will explode.

MARSH: And we are learning more about the heroic rescue efforts taking place. You're looking at the human chain formed to save an elderly man whose SUV had been swept away by the floodwaters. The man was saved thanks to this brave, spontaneous act of team work.

For the latest now, we turn to CNN's George Howell. He is live for us this morning in Houston. Good morning, George.

HOWELL: Those story lines you guys are going through just dizzying. And to think about how long this story will continue on for weeks, for months, for years. A lot happening here in Houston, Texas.

Let's talk about the center that we're at right now, the George R. Brown convention center. It's been open for a shelter. Some 8,000 people calling this their temporary home right now. And then at the nearby NRG center. So they have capacity for 10,000 people. There are 8,000 cots. Just gives you a sense of how many people here in the Houston metro area are in need of help until they can figure out their next steps.

Let's talk a bit more about the storm itself. Harvey now a tropical depression. It's moved on out of here. And hey, we don't miss it in this part of the state. But I'll tell you this. It's left a lot of damage.

A third of the city of Houston remains underwater. And you can see that as you drive through the streets. You go through these neighborhoods. Flooding is still a concern.

We also understand from one military official, it's unclear how many people are still in need of rescue. The Houston Fire Department going door to door in fact, canvassing, looking to see what they still need to do in these neighborhoods that have been effected, affected, rather.

Nearby Beaumont, Texas, you guys touched on this a bit. But the rescue efforts continue there. The U.S. Navy airlifted some 25 men and women who were in need of help. And here is a little stat that is interesting and really puts this in perspective. This storm broke a weather record. In fact, dropped 52 inches of rain in a single storm. So this storm dropped a lot of water. Left a big punch in this part of the world.

MARSH: George, can you talk to us? You spent a lot of time at that shelter. Talk to us about the mental state of the people who you have been speaking with.

HOWELL: You know, so two stories going on, right. So we tell people about the damage. We show you the destruction. It is heartbreaking. And there is a great deal of despair.

However, when you speak to them, there is a strong sense of optimism. People are, you know, optimistic about rebuilding their lives. And they have the support of strangers. They have the support of neighbors. They have the support of friends and family that are in their lives.

[03:35:02] So you do get a sense, Rene, that regardless of where you are on that spectrum, you are within a community here in the Houston metro area. Where you will receive some form of help there is a sense of support here.

BRIGGS: George, a U.T. Austin man. Nobody knows the spirit of these people better than you. It's good to see the people of Texas a coming together and really lending a hand to one another.

HOWELL: It is proud to see.

BRIGGS: Yes, George. Thanks so much. All right. Harvey now as George said a tropical depression headed into the Ohio Valley. But flooding still a major concern in its wake.

Karen Maginnis tells us more about all of that and the storm's path as well. Good morning, Karen.

MAGINNIS: Good morning, Dave and Rene. Yes, we're not finished with what remains of Harvey. It is still at tropical depression intensity. But over the next 12 and 24 hours along the interstate 20 corridor from Shreveport to Monroe, we could see 2 to 4 inches of rainfall. But some locally heavier amounts.

Also Pine Bluff, Arkansas going into late Thursday then into Friday morning. Memphis and Nashville, going into Friday. Still the remnants of this capable of producing as much as 10 inches of rainfall through that Tennessee River valley, even into portions of the Ohio River valley.

Could touch off the threat for severe weather all the way from Tupelo to Birmingham to Atlanta as a frontal system is draped across this region with that tropical moisture interfering. Could trigger the potential for an isolated tornado and some heavy downpours as well.

There we go. But we're not finished. We look at the tropical Atlantic. And here is tropical storm Irma, coming off the coast of Africa. Could be at major hurricane intensity, going into Sunday. Category 3. It is still out over the open waters of the Atlantic, approaching the Lesser Antilles.

This is one to watch because as we reach the peak of hurricane season, these systems tend to be tricky and a little harder to forecast out about five to seven days. So we'll keep you updated on that. Back to you, guys. BRIGGS: All right, Karen Maginnis live for us in the CNN center in

Atlanta. Thank you so much. It's tough, the circumstances when you look around at some of the quotes you're seeing, Rene.

The Port Arthur Mayor Derrick Freeman, put on Facebook, our whole city is under water right now. So we feel like as Karen said the storm has moved on, and maybe the storm -- story has moved on, it is just beginning for the people in Houston, Texas.

MARSH: Yes. I mean, whether it's what do you do next?

BRIGGS: Yes.

MARSH: I mean, all those people in shelters, they have nothing. So, now housing.

BRIGGS: And for how long.

MARSH: Right.

BRIGGS: How long can they stay in those shelters? Can they ever go back to their homes? Some of the homes Miguel Marquez showed us yesterday, doubtful they can ever go home too.

MARSH: Right.

BRIGGS: All right. Flooding continues to slam the U.S. oil industry, forcing America's largest refinery to shut down. Oil company Motiva is closing its Port Arthur refinery and won't reopen its doors until the floodwaters recede.

That closure on top of 13 other key refineries already knocked offline, cutting about a fifth of the nation's refining capacity.

Meanwhile, a major gas pipeline to the east coast is also shut down and that disruption means higher gas price. But they haven't budged much yet. The average only at about 6 cents from last week.

However, gas futures rose 13 percent since Friday, and that spike will eventually trickle down to consumers increasing prices, somewhere 15 to 25 cents nationwide. That of course is the one thing that does resonate with people. How much is that going to rise? It should be temporary, though. It should come back down and not make a long-term increase in gas prices.

MARSH: So now this next story, and this next guest really embodies what we've been hearing. But before that, we'll get to that at the end of the break.

The president, we want the talk about him coming up after the break. The president makes a big shift in tone after coming under fire for forgetting the victims during his visit to Texas. We'll show you what he said.

[03:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MARSH: A Houston baker and two of his coworkers got stuck at work when Harvey started bearing down. In order to keep their worries about their families at bay they just kept on baking. They're now feeding flood survivors with one thousand baked goods that they made.

We are joined live on the phone with El Bolillo -- sorry about that, and owner Kirk Michaelis. He's joining us now. Tell us a little bit about what went through during the storm as it was bearing down and how you all spent your time.

KIRK MICHAELIS, OWNER, EL BOLILLO BAKERIES: Yes, hi. Good morning. We have three stores here in Houston, Texas. And two of the stores where we thought were in higher areas, and we had some bakers come into the store to go to work on Saturday so we could open up Sunday morning.

And to our dismay, the waters came in and surrounded the stores. And we were unable to get to these bakers until Monday. And one of the bakers, Jorge Abundiz, his family was in a trailer. And he tried desperately to get to them, and they were calling him constantly, dad, you know, the water is rising, the trailer is getting close, and we're afraid we're going to float away.

And Jorge and his team still kept on baking. And they did a tremendous job, produced a lot of product. And my other store did the same in Pasadena. And when I was able to get to them on Monday morning, we called in to some of the police department, and then some of the crews came in and pulled the bread out, took it around to the shelters around Houston. And it was -- kept their mind off their families and a blessing for us to be able to do that for the community and help out.

[03:44:56] BRIGGS: A blessing for the entire community as they used more than 4,200 pounds of flour over the course of their time stuck in your bakery. An amazing story. But also your home we're told became a temporary shelter as well. Share us that story.

MICHAELIS: Yes, sir. When I came in and I picked up the four bakers that were at the wayside store, and I got them to the house, and they were -- one of the guys Javier, was like, kind of funny, I said what's the matter, Javier. He said well, you're not going to go get the other guys. The other guys? Yes, they're in Pasadena. And I had no idea. I thought they all got out. And they never called.

So I have an old jeep that is kind of jacked up a little bit and made it through the flood. I had water actually in the jeep when I got to them. And I got them all back to my home. I had seven guys staying at the house with me and my wife. And they're just amazing, these guys.

They worked through the entire time and created a lot of product. And they -- we sat around and smiled and talked, and then they started thinking about their families again.

And I have a friend up in one area that left and checked on them. And everybody was doing good. And Jorge got the call that the water had started receding. And so everything was well. A couple of the bakers still were running a skeleton crew. We're open now. We're cooking. But several other bakers and some of the employees are still unable to make it because they're still in the water and they're still trapped.

MARSH: So how did your employees' homes fare? I mean, were they completely flooded out?

MICHAELIS: The water didn't come into the store or into stores at all. They were still able to cook. They had electricity. I was really blessed. The stores did really well. And no water got in except a few leaks.

But they just created bread. When I drove up to the store, they were putting it in boxing. They were boxing it and bagging it because they knew the storm was going get worse and we're going get flooded and we weren't going to be able to sell the bread.

So, I wouldn't be able to open. So we started boxing it and sending it out. And we're doing that right now. I'm actually at one of the stores in Pasadena. We're cooking right now to take over to the mall here, the mayor here. I think you spoke to him.

BRIGGS: We did.

MICHAELIS: Earlier. And he is having an event in the morning. We're providing all the pastries and baked goods for the event for people to come up and pick up clothing and shelter.

BRIGGS: The images we're showing on our screen of Beaumont and Port Arthur and different communities around Houston are devastating. Rivers sweeping through towns. Homes completely inundated with the floodwaters.

MICHAELIS: That's right.

BRIGGS: What do you see when you walk around, when you look around your community?

MICHAELIS: Well, I tell you, I live close to Dickinson. I live in League City, Clear Lake in 518 that's completely close i-45 is shut down. Quite a few people and friends in the Dickinson area were evacuated completely. It's horrible.

And you really don't realize what it's like until you go through it. And I personally have been through it. Our home burnt down. We lost everything on Christmas Eve. And it's just tough to have everything taken from you. And you don't really realize it.

That's why I am the way I am right now, trying to reach out and do I can for everybody. This isn't about us and anything of promotional purposes at all. It's about reaching out and trying to help the community that has helped us for 21 years to grow where we're at right now. And we're just trying to be a blessing to other people that have been to us.

BRIGGS: But we know this is not for promotion. But there must be, Kirk, hundreds, if not thousands of small businesses like yours that again, the first priorities to those that have lost their lives, those that have lost their homes. But how difficult will the next couple weeks and maybe even months be for small businesses all across the Houston area?

MICHAELIS: Well, it is tough. We're having trouble getting product. In fact, a bakery called me yesterday and asked if they could borrow some product. And we did. We gave them some flour and some shortening to get them through so they can open up.

They're up towards the Cypress area where it's really bad. And they're not going to start delivering for two more days. It's tough getting milk right now. And tough getting eggs down from the farms. It's just -- it's just difficult. And a lot of the small businesses that don't have the space and didn't have any product on hand at the time, it's going to be tough. They can't do it.

[03:49:58] And thank God for people like Budweiser that's bottling water and changing up and really doing really good for the community. And it's just a blessing to see Houston come together like it is and help the people that are out there.

MARSH: Kirk Michaels, thank you so much for doing the good work that you're doing.

MICHAELIS: Yes, ma'am. I really appreciate you all out there putting it out. And letting the people know that Houston is strong but we do need a little help.

BRIGGS: Houston indeed is strong. We love do see that enduring spirit, even at the worst of times. Kirk Michaels in the El Bollilo Bakery doing great things, thank you so much, sir.

MARSH: Thank you so much. And today, Vice President Mike Pence is set to visit Texas to review Harvey's devastation. President Trump will return to the gulf on Saturday. The president is changing his tone after coming under fire for failing to focus on storm victims during his visit to Texas.

BRIGGS: The president tweeted yesterday, quote, "After witnessing firsthand the horrors and devastation caused by hurricane Harvey, my heart goes out even more so to the great people of Texas."

Later in Missouri, for his speech on tax reform, the president kept his focus on people hit by the storm.

White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny traveling with the president has more from Springfield, Missouri.

ZELENY: Rene and Dave, President Trump came to Missouri on Wednesday, focusing on tax reform, but also again addressing the citizens of south Texas, Houston directly, and Louisiana about the storm recovery efforts.

Now, this of course is going to be something that is front and center in his administration's agenda going forward in the fall, that recovery package. But on Wednesday in Missouri, he talked specifically to those victims.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: To the people of Houston and across Texas and Louisiana, we are here with you today. We are with you tomorrow. And we will be with you every single day after to restore, recover, and rebuild.

Our thoughts and prayers remain firmly with the citizens, and our fellow people, people, great, great people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: So the president certainly adjusting his message from one day earlier in Texas. He received a wave of criticism for not directly addressing the victims and acknowledging that rising death toll. The president did do that on Wednesday in Missouri.

In going forward, the recovery effort now, the government aid package is something that his administration is focused on. This of course now is at the front of the president's agenda. Tax reform, other issues will take a step behind. Rene and Dave?

BRIGGS: All right. Thank you very much, Jeff Zeleny, traveling with the president.

Corporate America writing big checks to help the victims of Harvey. We'll tell you who and how much on CNN money stream, next.

[03:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRIGGS: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says he and President Trump have a plan for responding to North Korea's provocative nuclear and missile tests. They're just not saying what it is yet.

MARSH: And this comes after President Trump tweeted Wednesday that talking is not the answer to reining in North Korea. A remark that seems to contradict statements by top cabinet officials.

For the very latest let's turn to our Paula Hancocks who is in Seoul, South Korea this morning. Paula, that tweet, how is that going over there in North Korea? Any reaction?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, Rene, some news to bring you first of all. We understand that there has just been a show of force from the U.S. and the South Korean air force. We understand eight jets were involved. There were two B-1B bombers from Guam. There were four F-35Bs from Japan U.S. jets along with a couple of fighter jets from the Korean side.

They carried out a bombing drill here in South Korea. They said that they were trying to strike the enemy's key facilities, saying that this was to strongly counter North Korea's repeated ballistic missile tests and the development of nuclear weapons.

This is something we often see between the U.S. and South Korea, a show of force against what they see as the North Korean provocations.

Now, as you say, the leaders of the U.S. and also Japan have spoken once again. Another phone call twice in two days. And they say they agree on what they have to do. But they haven't specified what they will do. So that is certainly raising some questions, not least here in South Korea as the president of South Korea know what they have agreed to do.

So, certainly there is a lot going on after this missile launch. And some confusion as well. When you see that Donald Trump tweet and then you hear from the secretary of defense saying that obviously there is diplomacy. There is always a diplomatic route to take.

So certainly people are asking which should they believe at this point, the secretary of defense saying diplomacy can work, or the U.S. president saying the time for talking is over. Rene?

MARSH: Lots of mixed messages. Thank you so much, Paula Hancocks, reporting live from South Korea.

BRIGGS: Let's get a check on CNN money stream. Global markets mostly higher today following a rise on Wall Street with the tech heavy NASDAQ jumping 1 percent. Talk of tax reform driving U.S. stocks higher.

President Trump yesterday made his first public push for reform with an emphasis on corporate tax cuts. Investors also eyeing some economic data with strong reads on private sector employment and GDP.

Corporate America writing big checks to help the victims of Harvey. Big business pledging more than $72 million for disaster relief. That includes dozens of companies, Caterpillar, Wal-Mart, Amazon, Bank of America among them with Verizon alone contributing $10 million.

Corporate America has stepped up its giving in recent years. Good for business and attracting employees as well and the giving often goes beyond money.

[04:00:01] For example, Anheuser Busch halting beer production to make cans of water, donating more than 100,000 cans to the American Red Cross. Our bakery owner friend there mention that story.