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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Hurricane Katrina Upgraded to Category 5

Aired August 28, 2005 - 07:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, this is not a test. This is the real deal. And I don't want to panic you, but I want to make sure that you understand that there is a major hurricane that is in the Gulf.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: City leaders fear luck may have run out for New Orleans. Since 1969, the popular tourist spot has managed to dodge major hurricane damage, but Katrina could be a very different story.

Good morning from the CNN Center in Atlanta. This is CNN SUNDAY MORNING, the 28th day of August as we brace for Katrina. I'm Betty Nguyen.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Tony Harris. Thank you for being with us for what is going to be a very, very busy morning coming up. A series of live reports as people brace for Hurricane Katrina.

But first, here's a look at what else is making headlines this morning. Now in the news, at least 21 people have been wounded this morning in a suicide blast at a bus station in southern Israel. Police say the bomber detonated his explosives as suspicious security guards approached him. The Palestinian Authority condemned the rush hour attack. There's been no claim of responsibility.

Cindy Sheehan says she will leave Crawford, Texas later this week, more than three weeks after launching her anti-war protests near President Bush's ranch and as busloads flocked to Camp Casey named for her son, who was killed in Iraq. Even more Bush supporters converged on their own hub, Camp Reality. They say the anti-war protesters give hope to insurgents in Iraq and jeopardize U.S. troops.

In Iraq, negotiators have signed off on a new constitution, but concede it's unclear if the Sunni Arab minority will accept it. Minor amendments were hammered out in a week of painstaking negotiations. The draft will now go to the National Assembly, which convened just a few minutes ago to receive it.

NGUYEN: You heard it, we are your hurricane headquarters. And this morning, the message is very clear. Get while the getting is good. Hurricane Katrina is on the way and the potential for disaster is high. Katrina is now a powerful Category 4 storm. It's saw winds are up to 145 miles an hour.

Forecasters say the storm may even get stronger before it slams ashore somewhere between Louisiana and Mississippi. In New Orleans, people are being urged to evacuate, even though roads out of south Louisiana are jammed with cars. Officials worry too many people are not taking the warnings seriously enough.

Thousands of people in Florida are cleaning up from the damage that Katrina left on its first swipe at land. We want to give you a live picture right now. The storm hit southeastern Florida Thursday. And the AP reports Katrina is now being blamed for at least nine deaths in the state. Now that live picture obviously is in Louisiana, where folks are on the freeways this morning, trying to get out of harm's way.

So where is Katrina and how fast is she moving? Let's go to meteorologist Brad Huffines, who's in for Rob Marciano this morning. Good morning, Brad.

BRAD HUFFINES, METEOROLOGIST: Betty, this storm is absolutely one to take very seriously if you live anywhere in southern Louisiana, all the way to Mobile and Pensacola, because this storm is large enough with the wind speeds that are most powerful, that it can, in fact, with hurricane force winds, much of South Alabama, much of Southern Mississippi, and all of southeast Louisiana.

In fact, as the storm continues to push toward the shoreline, hurricane warnings remain in effect. Along the coastline, not just along the coastline though for Morgan City all the way past Mobile to the Alabama, Florida state line, but hurricane warnings also are in effect for the inland counties as well, because hurricane conditions are expected within 24 to 36 hours. That's the definition of the hurricane warning.

As we zoom out just a bit, you see that a flood watch and flash flood watches are now issued for southeast Louisiana, southern Alabama, into southern sections of Mississippi because between 10 and 15 inches of rain is possible.

We'll focus a lot on New Orleans on CNN, but I want you to make sure that you're weather aware from New Orleans through Biloxi into Mobile, because the storm surge flooding in and around southern Alabama, south Mississippi, and southeast Louisiana can be anywhere from 10 to 15 feet of seawater being pushed toward the shoreline, even higher in and around southeast Louisiana.

We'll have a complete weather update in just about 20 minutes.

NGUYEN: Yes, that is a large watch box there. And everyone inside that watch box needs to be very aware. Thank you, Brad.

HUFFINES: This is a big hurricane, too.

NGUYEN: It sure is. Hurricane Katrina could be especially devastating for New Orleans because the city is six feet below sea level. The mayor has called for evacuations, but officials are worried that too many people are taking the monster storm too lightly.

CNN's Jeanne Meserve joins us now from New Orleans. And are folks there really ignoring evacuation orders?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, it's a voluntary evacuation order. The New Orleans mayor is having a series of phone calls and meetings this morning, after which he's going to make a decision on whether or not to make this mandatory. He said last night he was leaning towards it, though, this is a major logistical challenge. This is a city of a half a million people.

I don't know if you can make it out in this light, but behind me is one of the evacuation routes. And you can see even though it's 6:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning here in New Orleans, people are leaving town. These are the people who have heeded that warning to get out and the forecast, warnings that came from people like the governor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. KATHLEEN BLANCO, LOUISIANA: Real threat. It's very serious. We want them to get out of town. The storm's surge could bring in 15 to 20 feet of water. They will not survive that if indeed that happens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MESERVE: Although traffic has been moving smoothly along the evacuation routes, gas has become a problem. A lot of stations have run out. There were people scavenging last night and this morning from what we could see. And from what we've heard, the situation has not gotten any better.

And this is the easy part. It is only going to get worse from here. According to some estimates, there are 140,000 people in the city of New Orleans who do not have cars and do not have the means to buy a train or a bus ticket to get out of town. The mayor said that he is considering things like commandeering buses to try and get some of them out, if they do indeed go to a mandatory evacuation. He also is enlisting the help of local churches, hoping that they can reach out to some of the people, particularly the elderly and infirm, who may be around this city.

So a major problem here. Great difficulties. A decision expected shortly on whether or not to make this a mandatory evacuation.

Back to you.

NGUYEN: Right now, it is just voluntary evacuation. But Jeanne, let me ask you this. Even though it's voluntary, the folks who are thinking about getting out of town, let's talk about the timeline here. How much time do they have before it's just going to be too late?

MESERVE: Well, they're expecting the rains to move in late today. And they've said that because this is such a low lying area, some areas will become difficult rather quickly.

NGUYEN: Right.

MESERVE: But we do have the whole day ahead of us here. A lot of time, if they can get people into vehicles of one sort or another, if they can find the gasoline, it's still going to be a push, but they hope to get the majority, if not everybody, out of harm's way.

NGUYEN: Yes, and then you have traffic to deal with. So the best bet is to get out early if you can.

MESERVE: Yes.

NGUYEN: Jeanne, thank you.

MESERVE: You bet.

HARRIS: Well, tens of thousands of people in Louisiana don't have the means or the transportation to evacuate. Others simply choose to stay put. The Red Cross has some advice to help them weather the storm.

Joining us now is Kay Wilkins of the Southeast Louisiana Red Cross Chapter. Kay, are you there?

KAY WILKINS, CEO, LOUISIANA RED CROSS: Yes, good morning.

HARRIS: Oh, good to talk to you, Kay. You can help us a lot here this morning. So first of all, give us a sense of where you're focusing your energies right now?

WILKINS: Well, right now, we have -- we spent yesterday actually packing up and leaving the city of New Orleans, and had our chapter staff and volunteers go to a staging area outside the risk area of New Orleans.

And we've spent the night in staff shelters, and have also been working with emergency preparedness officials, helping to seed and set up shelters for persons who have started the evacuation yesterday.

HARRIS: And Kay, when you talk about the risk area of New Orleans, are you just talking about the city proper?

WILKINS: No. Anything basically below I-12 in southeast Louisiana is at risk. So whenever we set up shelters, we set them up outside that risk area, because we don't want to give anyone a false sense of security.

HARRIS: And Kay, I-12 takes you through what areas?

WILKINS: I-12 will take you from a little bit above Slidell, Louisiana, all the way through Baton Rouge.

HARRIS: Well, that's pretty wide area.

WILKINS: It is. It's a very wide area. HARRIS: How many people are you talking about that possibly you may have to contact or help in some way or the other?

WILKINS: Well, there are about 1.2 or 1.3 million people in that southeast Louisiana area. One of the things that we have been doing year round is trying to get everyone to have a plan in place, so that when something such as a recommended evacuation occurs, everyone has an idea of where they're going.

Of course, the more people who go to stay with friends or families, or go to hotels, that's better for us because that does leave more room in the shelters for others who cannot get out early enough, or who have nowhere to go.

HARRIS: Are you in the process now of setting up a series of shelters? Or has that work already taken place?

WILKINS: A little bit of both. It started happening yesterday morning about this time, actually, as we readied shelters that were well outside the risk areas, well above that I-12 corridor, if you will. And continued even through now. I mean, we are already within the chapter today, looking at different shelters that will be set up for persons who are coming into our area, outside the risk area.

HARRIS: Kay, you mentioned the plan. And part of that plan includes a disaster supply kit. And why don't you walk us through some of the items that you would love to see in everyone's, not just the folks in Louisiana or in the path of this storm, but what are the elements that you would love to see in everyone's disaster supply kit?

WILKINS: That's a really good question. If people will think about the idea of going camping, and what they would need for their family to survive or to be happy for a three day camping trip, that's a mind picture you want to have.

And it includes food. What types of food does your family like? What types of snacks are easily accessed and don't require that you heat them up, for instance?

Water is always important, especially today and the days coming, when you know that the humidity is going to be very high and the temperatures are going to be high. You want to keep yourself hydrated. We recommend one gallon per person for at least a three to five day period.

In addition, you need to think about any medications that you may need to take, and that you take on a regular basis. Put them into a special container, a waterproof bag. Bring them with you. Take your important papers.

If you -- I was listening and you were talking about the evacuation and the lines and the time...

HARRIS: Yes.

WILKINS: ...it takes. What would you need to keep your children quiet during that time? Think about car games, travel games, cards. If you care for an elderly parent, what type of special equipment or supplies do they need? And also, what type of special dietary requirements are there?

It's also important that we be sure to have a flashlight with extra batteries.

HARRIS: Right.

WILKINS: Because you never know where you're going, whether the power will stay on or stay off. And certainly Tropical Storm Cindy taught us that in the New Orleans area a couple of months ago.

Those are basically some of the things.

HARRIS: Very good. Very good. Kay Wilkins of the Southeast Louisiana Red Cross Chapter. Kay, we appreciate your time this morning. Thanks for talking to us.

NGUYEN: As Hurricane Katrina lines up to make its second assault on the southeast, President Bush has already declared a federal state of emergency in Louisiana.

FEMA is coordinating all disaster relief efforts in Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama. The agency has positioned supplies and emergency rescue teams for a quick response in any area that gets hit.

Now behind Hurricane Katrina, hungry, thirsty, and without air conditioning, sweaty Floridians are getting at least some relief. National Guard troops have been mobilized to distribute food, bags of ice, which you see here, and bottled water.

After Katrina knocked out power and flooded streets and homes, people lined up for miles just to get their hands on these supplies.

HARRIS: And ahead this hour, Louisiana National Guard troops are mobilizing to help with hurricane evacuations and preparations. We'll talk live with the Guard unit's spokesman in about 20 minutes.

Also, money from Mississippi casinos accounts for a good portion of the state's revenue. We'll talk with Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway in the next hour of CNN SUNDAY MORNING.

And in our third hour, Federal Emergency Management Director Mike Brown will talk to us live about the agency's latest hurricane relief preparations.

And that brings us to our e-mail question of the morning. Yes, we have a question this morning. Never let a morning go by without a question.

NGUYEN: A question.

HARRIS: They are scenic areas, but they're also prone to natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes. So is the risk of losing everything, including your life, worth living there? E-mail us your thoughts at weekends@cnn.com. And we'll read your replies throughout the morning.

NGUYEN: Well, you know what? The temperature isn't the only thing that is heating up as we talk about hurricanes. We also want to talk about the situation that's brewing in Crawford, Texas.

HARRIS: That's right. Bush supporters and anti-war protesters are filling the roads to the president's hometown. We'll have the latest on the rival rallies.

And now to Brad Huffines in the CNN Weather Center -- Brad?

HUFFINES: And a flood watch is in effect now for many of the counties about to be affected by the hurricane. Let me show you a live shot of traffic leaving New Orleans. People are leaving in droves. Traffic's backed up, but that doesn't mean you need to stay home. You need to go out and join them. This is a dangerous storm. A full weather update is coming up in just a few minutes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: For those of you just joining us, all roads point north out of New Orleans, as Louisiana prepares for the worst ahead of Hurricane Katrina. The mayor advises people who cannot evacuate to at least get a hotel room above the third floor.

I want to take you to southern Israel. A suicide bombing today wounded at least 21 people. A detonated himself outside a bus station in Beersheba.

Iraq's constitution committee signed a draft charter, after making some minor amendments. The changes were made in hopes of appeasing the Sunni Arab minority. It now goes before the National Assembly. And Iraqis will place their vote in October.

HARRIS: Let's get the latest on the path coordinates, all the numbers associated with Katrina. Seems like a good idea.

NGUYEN: Some pretty big numbers considering she's a Category 4 storm already.

HARRIS: It's the story of the weekend.

NGUYEN: Yes.

HARRIS: Let's check in now with CNN meteorologist Brad Huffines. Good morning, Brad.

HUFFINES: Good morning, Tony and Betty. It is a tremendous hurricane. And usually, we take time to talk about life, a little frivolous at times, but this morning, it's really time to get down to business with 145 mile an hour Category 4 Hurricane Katrina moving west, northwest at 10 miles an hour now.

Let me show you the forecast track of Katrina, as it continues to move up towards Southern Louisiana. This is the latest hurricane forecast track from the National Hurricane Center, which puts the center of the storm offshore, about 2:00 a.m. in the morning tomorrow morning, with winds of up to 155 miles an hour. That's a borderline Category 4, Category 5 hurricane, which could be one of the largest hurricanes to hit this part of the Gulf Shores, or any Gulf coast of the U.S. since Hurricane Camille in 1969.

The center of the storm should move ashore somewhere in southern New Orleans -- I should say southern Louisiana near New Orleans.

As of right now, the forecast track puts the eye of this storm directly over New Orleans over Lake Pontchartrain, which means that you're going to be seeing hurricane force winds, lots of rain, lots of flooding, which of course is why we have this flood watch in effect for not just the areas where we have a hurricane warning, but also inland because of the 10 to 15 inch of rainfall expected from this hurricane in isolated areas.

As you saw here in Miami, we had already seen between 10 and 18 inches of rain falling and some isolated areas because of this hurricane.

Meanwhile what's happening around the rest of the south is we're seeing that hurricane continue to affect not just sections of Louisiana, but also parts of Alabama and Mississippi.

What does a Category 4 hurricane mean? It means winds of 131 to 155 miles an hour. Storm surge, 13 to 18 feet. And in southern Louisiana, some storm surge, Tony and Betty, could be up to 25 feet. That means if you live 25 feet above sea level or below, you need to find higher ground. That's how serious this is.

HARRIS: And also ahead, the roads near the president's home in Texas got a little crowded on Saturday.

NGUYEN: Those for and against the war in Iraq converge on the president's hometown for a little confrontation. That story, next on CNN SUNDAY MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Well, thousands of protesters gathered near President Bush's Texas ranch yesterday. They rallied on opposite sides of the street and opposing sides of the nation's war in Iraq.

And that divisiveness was reflected in the volatile emotions. CNN's Ed Lavandera has the story from Crawford.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll fight for my country any day they ask me to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President won't meet Cindy, yes, he won't see you. ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The winding country road leading toward President Bush's ranch turned into the battle line over the war in Iraq. Supporters of the war set up in what they call Camp Reality just across the street from what anti-war protesters call Camp Casey.

It was the most intense response to anti-war activists since Cindy Sheehan launched her protest three weeks ago. More than 1,000 people turned out for this rally. Bush supporters called Sheehan a friend of the terrorists. This picture says it all. What they think of her fits on the backside of a horse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cindy Sheehan, get on the bus, get out of here. Texas don't want you.

(CHEERING)

HOWARD KALOOGIAN, MOVE AMERICA FORWARD: How many more American soldiers are going to die because you are giving hope and encouragement to our enemies?

LAVANDERA: Several people from both sides were arrested during protesting. Security was bolstered to handle the crowds. Close to 3,000 people poured into Crawford Saturday. The traffic and the scorching heat actually made this normally quiet road melt.

In the Cindy Sheehan camp, her supporters are celebrating what they call a growing anti-war movement just a short distance from the president's home.

CROWD: Not one more.

CINDY SHEEHAN, WAR PROTESTER: Yell it so he can hear it.

CROWD: Not one more.

LAVANDERA: Sheehan is the main attraction. She poses for pictures, signs autographs. These crowds view her as their voice to attack the president.

SHEEHAN: He doesn't even know that there are people in the country that disagree with him until we came to Crawford to ruin his vacation.

LAVANDERA (on camera): Cindy Sheehan's Crawford protest is coming to end. She says she will leave here on Wednesday, but Cindy Sheehan isn't giving up. She says she will continue this protest in Washington.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Crawford, Texas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NGUYEN: Here are some other stories making news across America today. In Miami Beach, Florida, rap music mogul Suge Knight is hospitalized this morning with a gun shot wound to the leg. The 40- year old co-founder of Death Row Records was shot at a celebrity filled party hosted by hip hop artist Kenye West. Now the private gathering was held in advance of tonight's MTV Video Music Awards. No word on who shot Knight.

Now to Fort Worth, Texas. About 1,000 mourners gathered to say goodbye to the NFL's Thomas Herrion. The San Francisco 49ers lineman collapsed and died after a pre-season game in Denver last week. An official cause of death is likely weeks away, pending a toxicology report.

Today marks the anniversary of a landmark day in the nation's Civil Rights movement. 42 years ago, Martin Luther King Junior helped lead the march on Washington, demanding equal rights for African- Americans. He drove home the message with his famous speech, "I have a dream."

And human cannonball David Smith senior waved to crowds in Mexico, sailed through the air, and landed to applause in the United States. He becomes the first person to be fired from a cannon and cross an international border.

The U.S. border patrol signed off on the feat, which is also an art project on the border cities of Tijuana and San Diego.

And of course, a big question this morning, how fast can people in New Orleans get out of town? Here's a live picture. Some of them already taking to the roadways. We'll take you live to Louisiana with another story there. But of course, it's all dealing with Katrina as it bears down. That's next right here on CNN SUNDAY MORNING.

HARRIS: But first, we've been asking CNN viewers to contribute as citizen journalists by e-mailing their photos from Hurricane Katrina. This one comes to us from Aldibek. It shows the storm's wrath in Pompano Beach, Florida. Overturned tree there.

And in Dural, west of Miami, Wes Roddy shows a tree toppled by the winds. OK, just flip flop the order of the pictures and now you've got it. And we've got breaking news. Breaking news to share with you.

NGUYEN: Yes, we have learned that Hurricane Katrina is no longer Category 4. She has been upgraded to a Category 5 storm. This is a monster storm that is churning in the Gulf and headed straight for Louisiana and Mississippi.

But as we have just learned, this is a breaking news, Katrina -- Hurricane Katrina now a Category 5 storm. We're going to bring in Brad Huffines in a little bit to talk about the flow here, and why Katrina has been upgraded, and what kind of damage that could possibly cause.

We'll take a quick break right now. We'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HUFFINES: I'm meteorologist Brad Huffines in the CNN weather center. The National Hurricane Center now says that hurricane Katrina has upgraded itself to a category five hurricane with winds upward and above 160 miles an hour. Here's what a category five hurricane means. Winds of above 155, storm surge 18 to 20 feet and higher. Residences and industrial buildings can be destroyed. All shrubs, trees, signs blown down, massive evacuations on low ground within five to 10 miles of the shoreline. Required, in fact lots of requirements already across the coastline of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. More on hurricane Katrina in just a couple of minutes.

HARRIS: Brad, let's take a moment, if we could, and sort of break this thing down. It has intensified from a four to a five as you've just mentioned and that speaks as to how this storm is picking up energy, picking up fuel over the gulf.

HUFFINES: It does. It speaks to the water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico, because as you move from where the hurricane is now and you move toward the shoreline, the water temperatures in this part of the gulf are actually very, very warm now, between 85 and 95 degrees in some areas. So this hurricane as it moves across this warm water, the warm waters act like fuel to the fire you may say, intensifying these hurricanes.

Now what happens usually as these storms move ashore, this doesn't mean that it will move in and hit the land as a category five hurricane. It just means that as of right now, we have now indicated winds of 160 miles an hour in this hurricane and think of this Tony, as this thing comes ashore, imagine the size of the eye being 25, 30 miles. That's basically like having an F-3 or F-4 tornado that's 25 miles in diameter heading toward the shoreline of Louisiana or into portions of southern Mississippi, possibly in Alabama, because as you see what we call this cone of uncertainty, if this storm does waiver in the next few hours anywhere from five to 10 degrees, we could see it move inland and the center of the storm anywhere from almost the Texas shoreline all the way to Florida. So we're still watching this entire area from New Orleans up through Mobile Bay. That's one of the areas we've got to watch very, very carefully.

HARRIS: OK, Brad, let me take another moment now because this is a fast developing story and a fast developing storm. Talk to us, if you would, about the best and worse case scenario for landfall and this storm striking New Orleans, which is the city that we are the most concerned about this morning for obvious reasons.

HUFFINES: I'm going to change right now and go to our tightened radar. I'm going to leave the screen for just a moment and zoom in to New Orleans and I want to show you, Tony, what New Orleans looks like and what this area seems to be as you move over and you take the map and we slide it over, take the map and look at New Orleans for instance. You see the city of New Orleans right there and Lake Pontchartrain is here, the city of New Orleans is here and the Mississippi River that runs through there.

HARRIS: Can we lose that warning?

HUFFINES: I will drop it in just a second. I can't get a drop off that quick. What I want to tell you, as that storm now moves towards the shore shoreline and the winds continue to pile the water up along the coast and possibly into and around Lake Ponchartrain and even up the Mississippi River through the city of New Orleans, that could very well mean that the flooding begins in the riverbeds across southern Louisiana first. Of course, as you know, 70 percent Tony of New Orleans sits below sea level, 70 percent and they use Lake Pontchartrain as the place where they pump out any additional water. So if the water is coming at you from the Gulf of Mexico up the Mississippi delta or other rivers in and around southern Louisiana, we could very well see a major flooding event in New Orleans, as this hurricane, if it continues its track right now, which does put the center of the storm right over New Orleans, Lake Pontchartrain and into southern sections of Alabama.

HARRIS: OK, Brad. We're going to give you a moment here, to sort of get that map, so we can lose the hurricane warning and better what you're talk about. OK Brad, appreciate it, thank you.

New Orleans is battening the hatches, as you can expect, for the second assault by hurricane Katrina and those who can get to higher ground are doing just that. CNN's Jeanne Meserve is well, unfortunately, not one of them, at least not yet. Jeanne is live in New Orleans where we hope Jeanne, people are heeding the warnings.

MESERVE: Well, some of them are; some of them aren't. I can tell you that last night, we went down to the Bourbon Street area. There were plenty of people down there and we talked to a couple of people in the restaurants, the managers and the waiters. They said they were seeing about a quarter of the business they normally do, but they were seeing that much.

Let me tell you the situation, look at this city. As you were just mentioning, it is a city with water all around it. It sits about six feet below sea level. It has a levee system which has settled to a height of about 12 or 13 feet. They are looking at a storm, now they're saying the storm surge possibly 18 to 20 feet high, five to 10 inches of rain, you do the math. This is a grim situation for the city of New Orleans. Even before this storm escalated to a five, the mayor couldn't have put things more plainly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, this is not a test. This is the real deal and I don't want to panic you, but I want to make sure that you understand that there's a major hurricane that is in the Gulf of Mexico and that most of the meteorologists that are out there are predicting that it's going to hit somewhere around the New Orleans area.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MESERVE: Of course, many people are leaving. You can see behind me a little bit of the traffic, even at this early hour. Some people are heading out of town, many headed out yesterday. And we expect the situation to become even more congested on the highways. Things have flowed fairly smoothly thus far, but it is possible that the mayor may call for a mandatory evacuation of the city. He said he was leaning towards that last night. He was going to be having a series of meetings and phone calls this morning with officials at the Federal and state level before he made his final decision, but with this news that Katrina has moved up to a category five, well, we'll see what happens shortly. He has to be facing a very tough decision here.

HARRIS: And maybe, Jeanne, maybe this upgrade of the storm makes what would have been a tough decision a little easier. Jeanne Meserve for us in New Orleans. OK, Jeanne, we appreciate it. Thank you.

NGUYEN: President Bush has declared a state of emergency in Louisiana ahead of hurricane Katrina. Now that means there will be Federal help to coordinate relief efforts. The state's national guard troops are mobilizing to help. And joining me now from Baton Rouge is Lt. Colonel Pete Schneider. Lt. Colonel, let me ask you this first of all, we just heard that this has been upgraded to a category five storm. Does that change your preparations any?

LT. COL. PETE SCHNEIDER, LOUISIANA NATIONAL GUARD: No, ma'am, not one bit. We would prepare for this storm whether it is a four or a five. It's the same methods. The time has come to evacuate.

NGUYEN: And what kind of preparations are making you to help people in that evacuation?

SCHNEIDER: Well, the first thing we did at 4:00 p.m. yesterday, we began our contra-fold (ph) plans turning all the outbound interstate 10 outbound. We had begun prepositioning equipment, personnel, supplies to the zones that will be able to move in as soon as possible as the storm passes.

NGUYEN: As we just heard from Jeanne Meserve, our correspondent there in New Orleans, saying that some people are heeding the warnings, but others are not. Are you seeing the same thing?

SCHNEIDER: Well, people in New Orleans tend to think that the hurricane that we've always planned on that we thought would come in and do this much damage would never come. Some people are skeptical to compare this to other hurricanes which is not a good idea. Every hurricane is different. Every hurricane should be treated different. This is a dangerous, dangerous hurricane and poses a huge threat to southeast Louisiana.

NGUYEN: So what is going to be your biggest challenge right now?

SCHNEIDER: The biggest challenge is getting everyone out of the city of New Orleans. We don't want people left on the highway, as the hurricane rains and hurricane winds approach and to continue the message that there are routes to get out of New Orleans, get on the road and get out of the city.

NGUYEN: Is there a timeline in which you're working, a time in which people, that's the latest that they can get on the roads and get out of the city?

SCHNEIDER: Well, our contra-fold plan calls for us to close down contra flow six hours before the onset of the storm. So, citizens need to heed that warning and should be, by this time, on their way out of New Orleans.

NGUYEN: So they have basically today to get out and that's going to be it.

SCHNEIDER: Yes, ma'am. They have, we would like everybody on the road by daylight. As you know as the sun goes down and nightfall comes, the danger increases.

NGUYEN: How is the national guard itself staying safe in this hurricane, because we have already seen what Katrina has done to Florida, looking at seven possibly, even nine deaths in that state.

SCHNEIDER: Well, the Louisiana National Guard is very experienced in dealing with storms, hurricanes. Our soldiers are out of harm's way. Some are in armories hunkered down along with equipment. Others are in the central part of the state prepared to deploy in. Our helicopters have been moved and are ready to move in once the storm passes for evacuation and also for surveying the damage. We have engineer assessment teams that will move in to assist in clearing debris off of the roads. We have aviation and we also communication assets that we can bring to bear to assist local parishes for communication efforts because we anticipate cell phone towers will be down and it will be hard for local officials to communicate.

NGUYEN: You have a lot of work ahead of you. We appreciate your time this morning. Stay safe in this storm. That's Lt. Colonel Pete Schneider of the Louisiana National Guard. Thank you for being with us.

HARRIS: And looking ahead this Sunday morning, in our next hour we will talk to the mayor of Biloxi, Mississippi, another major city in the eye of this storm. We'll also get a live report from the National Hurricane Center on exactly what we can expect today from hurricane Katrina. Then in the 9:00 a.m. Eastern hour, the national director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency joins us to talk about relief efforts. And remember our morning e-mail question. Is it worth the risk to live in areas where natural disasters happen such as hurricanes and earthquakes? Tell us what you think by sending us your comments at weekends@cnn.com.

NGUYEN: Coming up this Sunday morning, Iraq gets one step closer to democracy. We're headed to live there to Baghdad for the latest on a push for an Iraqi constitution.

HARRIS: And the sun is rising in New Orleans and we're watching you this morning. Be safe. A live picture there of I-10 west as folks head out of the city and if you're watching us this morning, listening to us this morning, I think you've heard enough to give you the indication that now is the time to pack what you need and to get out of the city. Hurricane Katrina is now a category five storm heading on a path towards the Louisiana/Mississippi coastline. If you can hear us, if you can see us, head on out of the city. Take a break and come back with an update on Katrina as CNN SUNDAY MORNING continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS: And checking our top stories in case you're just waking up with us. Less than 15 minutes ago, Katrina was upgraded to a category five storm. Fortunately, thousands of folks are taking evacuation warnings seriously in Louisiana. Hurricane Katrina is on its way toward the coastal gulf states, packing 100 -- this is an unreal number here, 160 mile-an-hour winds.

A suicide bombing at a bus station in Israel leaves at least 21 people hurt. The bombing happened in the southern town of Beersheba. I see we're staying with pictures of -- OK, two security guards were seriously wounded in that attack.

And rap artist Suge Knight is in good condition after being shot in the leg in Miami. Knight was at a party for the MTV video awards when the shooting happened. Police say witnesses haven't been able to provide much information.

That time of the morning again to check some of the other stories making news around the world.

NGUYEN: There's more news, despite Katrina, which is coming ashore and we'll be following that. But we want to talk about a controversial move that some delegates in Iraq have signed for this draft constitution. And for those details let's go to Anand Naidoo at the CNN international desk. Good morning Anand.

ANAND NAIDOO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks and good morning from me and the big story out of Iraq this morning, the constitutional committee has signed off on a draft constitution. It is now before the national assembly, but not everyone is celebrating. CNN Aneesh Raman is in Baghdad with the latest. Aneesh.

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anand, good morning. After months of deliberations, after two weeks of delays, a draft constitution now complete in Iraq. It is being read as we speak at the national assembly. We don't know whether the assembly itself will vote on this draft document.

It comes as you say, after intense negotiations between the Shia/Kurd coalition and the Sunnis. That has long been the sole question dogging this process. Will the Sunnis come on board? The major issues for them were Federalism, how powerful regional governments will be and de-Baathification, what to do with former members of Saddam's regime as well as with the Baath party in the new Iraq. The Shia/Kurd coalition tried to compromise on some of those issues, sidelining details for the next government that will come into power at the end of the year, but clearly, not enough for the Sunni negotiators on the drafting committee.

They have come out almost immediately and said that they reject this draft constitution. The Sunnis of course do have the numbers to reject the constitution in the referendum to come by mid-October. There are though some Sunnis on board. The vice president, Ghazi al- Yawar, the speaker of the national assembly, Hajim al-Hassani. They have both signed on to this document. So, essentially, a rift of sorts emerging in the Sunni community and the essential question now facing this Iraqi government is whether this constitution will pass the referendum in mid-October Anand.

NAIDOO: All right, Aneesh, we're going to have to leave it there. We have some breaking news here as well. Thanks. Betty?

HUFFINES: Just in, National Weather Service in New Orleans has issued this statement. Katrina is expected to make landfall along the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico, obviously a major hurricane, category five hurricane now. While exact location of landfall of course is not necessarily certain, it could vary from New Orleans all the way to Pensacola, Florida. But it also means that the significant and life-threatening storm surge of 15 to 20 feet above normal is possible near and to the right of the landfall area.

So as this storm comes ashore, watch out for the storm surge especially to the right of the eye of the storm. If the storm comes inland across southern sections of New Orleans, near Port Sulphur, you could very well expect to see storm surge 15 to 20 feet above sea level and above the normal high tide when this storm comes ashore tomorrow morning, which could inundate much of southern Mississippi, including the New Orleans area and southeast New Orleans -- southeast Louisiana as well, up towards places like Mandeville, up to Biloxi, Gulfport, Mobile. They could also see some very serious storm surge damage as well. A full update in a few minutes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: All right. We want to take you back to New Orleans and show you a shot that we've been showing you most of the morning, but we have to explain it a little bit. I was a little confused by it and others have been confused by it, as well. This is a shot of I-10 west. It's heading out of New Orleans and we've been telling you for most of the morning that the contra flow plan, which is essentially all roads lead out of New Orleans. The contra flow plan has been in effect, but you see that there are a couple of cars still heading east into New Orleans and you see more of the traffic heading out, but there is a bit of a blockage there. There was a point in the road that the folks have to get past and once they do that, the full contra flow plan takes effect so that all the roads you see here will be heading out of New Orleans.

NGUYEN: If you look at the top of your screen, the top left hand side of your screen, under that live bug, maybe we can get that out of there so you can see. That's where it opens up and you see both sides of the freeway open to traffic, right there underneath the live bug. See it? See how the freeway is open there. So this is a little bit of back up before you get there, but as you can see, folks are heading out because Katrina is a category five storm. We want to get the latest on Katrina and her path and for that, let's go to meteorologist Brad Huffines. Brad, what is the latest?

HUFFINES: Well, I want to actually point something out on this picture you're seeing right now. We don't necessarily know why. Let's go back to the live picture of the people evacuating from New Orleans and what we're seeing and I can't explain it, maybe we can find out why you see a lot of traffic in the left-hand lane because you might look at this picture and you may say one of the things that we were asking here a moment ago. Why aren't all lanes being used? I'm sure there's a reason why. But looking up, you can't really see the blockage. There may be an accident or something like that. But all of those could very well be a problem in the traffic up ahead. That's why of course the traffic is going outbound.

Let me show you the latest warning still. It's from the latest advise from the National Hurricane Center, still a hurricane warning in effect from the Florida/Alabama state line all the way through southern Louisiana, including all of New Orleans. Now remember, we draw the line along the shoreline, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's only along the shore. A hurricane warning is in effect for all of the parishes, which of course as you very well know and the rest of the country, Louisiana doesn't call their counties, counties. They're parishes. All the parishes in southeast Louisiana, all the counties in southern Alabama and Mississippi, a hurricane warning.

Of course, what we are most concerned about now as this category five hurricane moves ashore with winds up to 160 mile an hour, now sustained winds along the center of the eye. As that storm continues to moves up and along the coastline of southeast Louisiana, the problem will be, not only the wind damage, but also storm surge. All this gulf water being pushed up the mouth of the Mississippi, up and around the Gulf of Mexico towards Gulfport and Mobile, 15 to 20-foot storm surge possible. We'll keep watching this and have updates as soon as they become available on CNN.

HARRIS: OK, Brad, thank you. We have just a couple seconds here. We can get to a couple e-mails. Our question this morning is, do you think the risk is worth it, the risk of living in paradise? And New Orleans is just a fabulous city. There's no doubt about that. And this from Carl Smith from Ozark, Missouri who writes, people have the right to take whatever risks they wish. However, the rest of us shouldn't be forced to foot the bill for their folly.

NGUYEN: Well, Michael Brown lives in New Orleans and he says, as a New Orleans resident who evacuated to Atlanta yesterday, I certainly have doubts about living in New Orleans over the past 24 four hours. However, even with the dangers, the city of New Orleans is a wonderful place to live with a great way of life and exceptional people. These people are the reason New Orleans will survive this storm and recover to its former self. We can't wait to go back.

You know what? Michael is very smart and he got out and got out early, because this is a category five hurricane and we're going to stay on top of it all morning long.

HARRIS: And don't just limit your comments to this situation in New Orleans. (INAUDIBLE) and California, as well. We're going to take a break and we'll come back with more of CNN SUNDAY MORNING.

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