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Claudette Hits Texas, Fisherman Rescued

Aired July 15, 2003 - 19:01   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: First off, no-no, Claudette. At this point, it's a tropical storm again, but in its few hours as a hurricane, Claudette packed quite a wallop. Striking the Texas coast while its winds were at their peak, coming ashore about 80 miles southwest of Houston.
Now, its winds ripped off roofs, downed power lines, pulled down a brick wall in one place. No injuries are reported. But the storm sank a shrimp boat and two men had to rescued. We're going to talk to the rescuers in a moment, show you that amazing video.

Also, as I mentioned, Claudette is weakening as it moves inland right now, but here's what it was like at the height of its power.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can see the rain and the wind in Port O'Connor. And damage to the home. The rain really hurts, so excuse me if I don't look at you while I talk.

You can see some of the damage now on some of the roofs of the houses.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very devastating. It's not what I thought was coming at all. It's not what I thought. I thought I'd get up this morning and, you know, the storm would be blowing over. Because I've been out here for many storms but not one like this one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we've been through a lot of them down there, but this is high water for us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The winds started beating hard on the house and it's rocking back and forth. And I just hid in the house; I got kind of scared.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The situation is going from bad to worst. The rain has ended but the wind is getting even stronger. You can see right here, the force right now, we'll continue to bring you updates throughout the day.

The power is out in the city of Port Lavaca right now. Authorities are urging everyone to stay indoors if they have not evacuated right now.


COOPER: Unbelievable images.

Galveston was among the Texas cities hit by Claudette and that is where we find Martin Savidge tonight -- Martin.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening to you, Anderson. The situation here much improved from what it was earlier this morning. Wind gusts blowing in, and there's still an angry sea, but it's churning out in the Gulf of Mexico.

For the most part, this was a minimal hurricane. The people of Galveston say they are very surprised at the damage it did. They're on the eastern part of the storm that struck here. Some say that is the worst part to be in. You can see the damage behind us here.

The beach front properties, those they call the flood roll, they suffered the most. Foundations have been kicked out from underneath many of the homes. Roadways along the western part of the island here not only under water, but many have been churned up and torn up by the action of the water.

This whole area was underwater earlier this morning. No reports of any deaths or injuries in this area. However, city officials say it was much worse than they thought it was going to be.

Curfew in effect now from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. They have declared the western part of the area a disaster area.

You see this home here. Take a look at the distance down there where you see those piles driven into the beachfront there. We're told that as of last night there was at least a five-foot earthen wall erected there, mainly made of sand. It had been placed in anticipation of the storm. By this morning it was gone.

Then you take a little bit more of a look right over here. That is somebody's drier sitting out there. It was busted out through the walls of a home when the water came pouring through. We don't know where the washer is at this point.

The cleanup has begun for some people, though. They know their beachfront property cannot be rebuilt. It will have to be torn down -- Anderson.

COOPER: Unbelievable images. Martin Savidge, thanks very much.

Now as we reported earlier, two men had to be rescued when their shrimp boat sank in the storm. They were picked up by a Coast Guard helicopters. All caught on videotape.

Lieutenant Brian Kostecki was the pilot of the chopper, and Petty Officer Claude Morrissey pulled the fishermen out of the water. These two gentlemen join us now from Houston.

Thanks a lot for being with us. You have had quite a day, quite a 24-hour period, I'd imagine. You got the rescue call early in the morning. How long did it take you to get airborne, lieutenant? LT. BRIAN KOSTECKI, COAST GUARD PILOT: Good evening, Anderson. We got airborne about 28 minutes after I took the call this morning at about 5:52 a.m. Houston time.

COOPER: You arrive on the scene. You fly out to -- was it difficult finding these two in the water?

KOSTECKI: Actually, it didn't take very long. The first thing we spotted was the sheen coming from their sunken boat, the sheen being the fuel coming up from the boat out of the water.

COOPER: So there was actually -- we're looking at the video right now, taken, I guess, from your helicopter. There was actually fuel in the water that you had to contend with, right?

KOSTECKI: Yes, sir.

COOPER: All right. Then Petty Officer Claude it's your job to go actually into the water. How did you fish them out?

PETTY OFFICER CLAUDE MORRISSEY, COAT GUARD: We went with a direct method off the helicopter. It's a seat attached to the helicopter and you use a lift sling to take them out.

COOPER: Do you jump directly into the water or do you bring that down with you?

MORRISSEY: We chose not to do that, me and the pilot, because the current was pulling us -- would have pulled the survivors. So we went with the direct method. I stayed attached to the helicopter and put a sling around them and lifted them out. The only problem was one guy had a bunch of line attached to him. It took me, like, two minutes to cut him free of all the line with my knife.

COOPER: So he was actually -- What was he actually tied to?

MORRISSEY: He was, I think, tied to the front of the boat. It was kind of weird having to cut out line like that. I must have cut about four or five lines before I freed him up.

COOPER: Had he done them that himself to guarantee his safety?

MORRISSEY: Yes. He did it himself. I think if he didn't do that he probably would have been swept away or swept towards another point, not know where he went. Him and his buddy stayed together, which was really important. They stayed together, and they were right there to pick them out.

COOPER: Lieutenant, how tough is it trying to keep the helicopter stable while these operations are going on? I mean, the winds are gusting really hard.

KOSTECKI: Well, Anderson, actually the helicopter is actually fairly stable as long as you can keep it pointed into the wind. And we were able to do that pretty well. We didn't have any other obstructions out there. And even though we had 35 to 45 miles an hour winds out there, it stayed pretty stable and we didn't really have any problems with controlling the aircraft and the hoist.

COOPER: Claude, how did these guys -- I mean, we're seeing this video. One of them made a peace sign. They must be extraordinarily grateful.

KOSTECKI: Yes. They're really grateful. Getting them up there and getting them out of harm's way. It's a total crew effort to do it. And the pilots and the flight mechanics, they do a big part of my job for me.

COOPER: Lieutenant, I mean, is this business as usual for you? I guess you've done this plenty of times before. But you know, it's remarkable for us to see these kind of images.

KOSTECKI: Well, this is the kind of thing we do do from time to time. But this is definitely a pretty special one for me. I've been flying for the Coast Guard for about four years and I'd say this is probably the most interesting and exciting case that I've been on, especially as aircraft commander.

COOPER: We appreciate your efforts and your willingness to come in and talk to them, show us the video, Petty Officer Claude Morrissey and Lieutenant Brian Kostecki. Thanks very much. Great work.

KOSTECKI: Thank you.

MORRISSEY: Thank you.


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