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Hurricane Katrina Heads Towards New Orleans

Aired August 29, 2005 - 05:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: It is Monday, August 29. Katrina turns New Orleans into the Big Uneasy. Katrina's weakened just a bit in the last two hours, but it is still mean, it's massive, and it's a real monster. We're going to bring you the very latest.
Also, highways turn into rivers of headlights as thousands of people flee from the storm. They're heading east, west, north, anywhere they can. But not everybody is leaving. Many are honkering down under a massive roof. We've been telling you about that. The Superdome becomes a super dorm.

ANNOUNCER: From the Time Warner Center in New York, this is DAYBREAK with Carol Costello and Chad Myers.

COSTELLO: And good morning to you. Welcome to DAYBREAK. The extremely dangerous Category 4 Hurricane Katrina bearing down on the Gulf Coast. The eye is expected to make landfall later this morning. We'll have live reporting from all around the affected area, but we start at the CNN weather center to find exactly where this storm is now and when it will make landfall.

Hello, Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: And good morning, Carol.

This is really a very large storm that's going to do an enormous amount of damage, both physical, mental, and even to the economy down here. Right now, Grand Isle, just to the south of New Orleans, it's way out there. You have to drive down back country roads, all the way down past into the bayou. But the wind gust there was 91 miles per hour.

And then 60 miles to the east here of the mouth of the Mississippi just had a wave in one of the buoys at 46 feet. From the top of the crest to the bottom of the trough, 46 feet. Can you imagine what those waves will do as they make their way toward land and then finally up and over possibly some of these buoys?

Here's downtown Louisiana right here, downtown New Orleans. The map here, the French Quarter, right about there. Because as you look from the French Quarter on top of the levy, right across the Natchez, you are actually looking to the southeast.

So that's where it is raining now in New Orleans, but it hasn't rained a lot. And the winds are just picking up.

The very, very latest, I have two things of -- two pieces of breaking news here for you. A tornado warning again for Hancock County, including Waveland, Diamondhead and Bay St. Louis. Doppler indicated a tornado very close to southeast of Pass Christian, about seven miles southeast of Pass Christian there. And it is moving off to the west at about 60 miles per hour. A very fast-moving storm here.

Now, for Katrina for the rest of the area, there are the red counties there that you see. There's Bay St. Louis right there. That's going to move right along I-10.

A couple of things now about the new 5:00 a.m. advisory. Katrina is moving to the north at 15 miles per hour, picking up some speed. That means less of a chance of flooding, but it also means more of a chance of damage to the eastern part of the eyewall, because remember, if the winds here are 150, and the entire storm is moving 15, you have to add those two together, and then you get 165.

So technically, on the east side of the storm this is still a Category 5. But on the west side, because you have to subtract that number, it's a Category 4. That's what happens when you're right on the edge.

Anyway, maximum sustained winds 150. Right now, wind gusts to 91, Grand Isle.

It was reported in New Orleans the newest, latest gusts, 71 miles per hour. The hurricane center saying some levies in the greater New Orleans area could be overtopped. Significant storm surge flooding could occur elsewhere along the Gulf Coast.

If those levies, Carol, are topped in New Orleans, here's the problem: the pumps can't keep up, the pumps can't get that water out. At some point the pumps get flooded. They're diesel engines. The diesel engines stop, they come to a grinding halt, and then no more water can be pumped out at all.

I was talking to some folks who were talking to the mayor yesterday. If he can't get that water out right away, and get it out when those pumps are running, it could take six months to get all that water out.


MYERS: Could you imagine...


MYERS: ... the downtown French Quarter?


MYERS: Garden District?

COSTELLO: You know, all of those -- all of those beautiful historic buildings.


COSTELLO: It's just sad.


COSTELLO: It is sad. Well, let's keep our fingers crossed.

MYERS: The thing that will help New Orleans the most is if this thing does turn to right a few more degrees and keeps it well to the east of New Orleans, gets it up into here. But, of course, that doesn't help Biloxi or Mobile now, does it?

COSTELLO: No, it doesn't.


COSTELLO: It does not.



Let's go to Baton Rouge now, shall we? Anderson Cooper is standing by there live.

Hello, Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey. Good morning, Carol. Good morning, Chad.

Yes, still just raining a very little bit here in Baton Rouge. Just a taste of what is to come, no doubt.

We were talking to Chad a little bit earlier. Chad giving us the heads up that we're going to basically be on the northwest side of this storm, really out of the worst part of it. So that is certainly good news for the people here in Baton Rouge.

You can see across my soldier the Mississippi River. We are going to be watching that for any level of flooding.

Not expecting the kind of storm surge that they are expecting down in New Orleans, that 28-foot storm surge. But you can see oil tankers parked, docked on the far side, on the west side of the Baton Rouge -- of west Baton Rouge, on the other side of the Mississippi River.

There are a lot of boats just docked up there. There's also an old -- it looks like a battle cruiser, some sort of a Navy vessel which is in dry dock on the east side of the water. We'll be watching that if the water does in fact rise, if that is affected, or if that is affected by the winds.

But the people of Baton Rouge here, you know, still sleeping through the night, waking up, don't know exactly what to expect. You know, a Category 4, borderline Category 5, how it is going to impact this city, you know, is still unclear, but we'll certainly be bringing it to you live -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Well, we may have the man to know. Anderson Cooper, thanks. We'll get back to you.

Richard Knabb from the National Hurricane Center joins us live now.

Good morning, Richard.

So tell us, what will happen to Baton Rouge? Answer Anderson's question.

RICHARD KNABB, HURRICANE SPECIALIST: Well, in Baton Rouge, they are, as you mentioned, in the northwestern portion of the circulation. And tropical storm-force winds extend outward quite a ways, up to 200 miles from the center. And hurricane force-winds extend outward up to 100 miles.

So they can certainly experience a few hours there, perhaps several hours, of tropical storm-force winds and the possibility of hurricane force and frequent squally weather. And there's always the possibility of isolated tornadoes, although the threat for that is stronger to the northeast of the center.

COSTELLO: Yes, let's talk about New Orleans, because they really could take the biggest hit. What's in store for them over the next few hours?

KNABB: Yes, we are also concerned about the coast of Mississippi taking a very significant, perhaps even more direct hit, but in New Orleans, the hurricane-force winds and gusts are just about starting. And sustained hurricane-force winds are expected later this morning, with the center, the eye of the hurricane, passing near or over New Orleans about midday.

As the center passes over, the very strong winds of this major hurricane will be impacting the New Orleans area. That could cause extensive damage to structures. And storm surge flooding is a concern.

It is still possible that the levies surrounding the city could be overtopped. It's going to be very close on whether or not the surge is going to be high enough to overtop those levies.

COSTELLO: Is there any way that this hurricane can diminish in strength?

KNABB: We think it's possible that it could fluctuate in intensity a little bit during the next 12 hours or so before it really gets on to the mainland of perhaps Mississippi. But we don't think that weakening is going to be significant.

It's still expected to be a Category 4 hurricane as it makes landfall during the next 12 hours. And a Category 4 hurricane is capable of producing extensive damage.

MYERS: Richard, it's Chad.

COSTELLO: Go ahead, Chad.

MYERS: It's Chad Myers up in the weather office, Richard. I have a question for you. It looks about two hours ago this storm gulped in a bunch of dry air, possibly weakened the storm a little bit. But just in the past couple of frames on the satellite picture the eye is actually shrinking, getting smaller and smaller, possibly making the interior of that eastern part of the eyewall even stronger yet.

So we kind of have a battle going on here, don't we?

KNABB: Yes, we do. But I think primarily we're talking about a hurricane that's largely maintaining its own in terms of the -- of the intensity.

We haven't seen tremendous increase in the central pressure measured by the aircraft reconnaissance. The pressure right now is at 915 millibars. That's still extremely low.

So there really overall has not been a tremendous change in the intensity. And we don't think a great amount of weakening or change in strength is going to happen before it moves fully on land.

COSTELLO: Richard Knabb, many thanks.

Let's go back to Baton Rouge and Anderson.

And Chad, if you'd stay with me, because this storm has confounded the experts. I mean, remember the models that you were showing us? They were all over the map.

MYERS: Well, right, but most of them were right over Louisiana. You know, a couple of them were off to the left, a couple of them were off to the right. But 10 of the 16 were hitting Louisiana.

And I don't think the models could have been much better considering, Carol, no one lives out here. We can't send up a bunch of weather balloons until the NOAA aircraft flies back and forth and sends these drops on, or these little almost like parachute little guys that they send into the Gulf of Mexico to find out where the winds really are.

So I think it's done a pretty good job. The hurricane center really hit this one pretty well.

COSTELLO: I guess -- I guess what I was thinking of, there was no real hint that this would become a monster storm when it developed as a tropical depression out near, what, the Bahamas last week?

MYERS: Right, I'll go with that. I will go with -- but once it got into the Gulf of Mexico, literally four days ago, Carol, we said, oh my gosh, it's in the Gulf of Mexico, this is bad, everyone needs to prepare for a major hurricane.

COSTELLO: Anderson?

COOPER: Carol?

COSTELLO: Are you still with us?

COOPER: I am. I'm listening -- I'm listening to you guys. It's very interesting.

COSTELLO: And you heard the answer to your question about what would be happening to Baton Rouge and -- what's happening there, Anderson?

COOPER: I'm sorry. You're breaking up a little bit, which is maybe why I have all these awkward pauses.

But basically -- actually, you know, it's interesting. As I was listening to Chad talk, the winds have actually picked up here just in the last five minutes or so, I'd say. You know, nothing really all that significant, but definitely noticeable.

It's actually getting a little bit chilly. The rain, which had been, you know, kind of falling straight down, it's starting to fall a little bit on a slant. But it is really nothing of -- you know, it is just a small taste of what we are expecting.

And if you look at the other shot that we have of the bridge over the Mississippi River, heading -- the bridge to west Baton Ridge -- that is the I-10 bridge -- it is virtually empty at this point. All the people -- I mean, at one point that bridge had been packed.

When we drove across it about two hours ago, it had slowed to a trickle, people evacuating. But the roads, I mean, I guarantee you, right now, the roads right around the border of Texas and Louisiana still have got to be packed, because it was bumper-to-bumper traffic just for -- for hours and hours on that highway.

We drove all the way from Houston to Baton Rouge just a couple of hours ago, and just -- you know, we were virtually the only ones going -- going west -- going eastward. Everyone was heading westward. I've never seen a traffic jam like that, just very slowly moving, heading toward Houston -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Well, we're glad that people got out.

Miles O'Brien is not far from you, I believe. He's at LSU.

Good morning, Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. It is always reassuring when you're kind of doing the salmon routine and heading in the direction that everybody else isn't, I guess that's one of the occupational hazards.

What we did yesterday was we kind of did it both ways. We came from the airport in New Orleans, went to downtown near the French Quarter, and did precisely what Anderson was talking about, drove in. Wide open streets into town, bumper to bumper, not moving at all in the other direction.

We got to town and did an assessment of the site and realized it probably wasn't going to be a very good place to stay on TV throughout the arrival of Katrina. The wind picking up here just a little bit in Baton Rouge. And so then we went outward, westbound, with the flow, and that's where that 80, 90-mile-an-hour -- 90-mile drive became a four-and-a-half hour ordeal.

We're here on the campus of Louisiana State University. Students have had classes dismissed, and so there's probably behind some of these walls a pretty good party going on right now. But this is not a laughing matter.

And the reaction in New Orleans I think is telling, because that is a city -- it is, after all, a city where they let the good times roll, and there are drinks named after storms. And in this case, the place was shuttered and people took heed because that word of that big storm surge in a low-lying city like New Orleans is nothing to trifle with, with the possibility of those levies, as they say, being topped, being run over. And then who knows what comes after that as that flooding continues in that basin, which is the Crescent City -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Miles O'Brien. Thank you. We'll get back to you.

Right now we have Ed McCarthy of CNN Radio. He's on the northeast side of this storm in Mobile, Alabama. The ways are pretty -- pretty big there.

Ed, bring us up to date on what's happening where you are.

ED MCCARTHY, CNN RADIO: Well, good morning, Carol.

We are starting to get more wind and more rain as we're getting the outer edges of this monster storm. So we're waiting. A few hours from now certainly it will be much worse, but at least we're getting the indication that it's on the way. This is the appetizer, so to speak.

This has been a situation here in this location where many people have been coming, seeking shelter. Yesterday was just an extremely long day, as we heard from Miles, about people traveling, how long it has been to get to place -- from place to place.

It took one man I spoke with six-and-a-half hours to get from New Orleans here. But he's very happy that he has a place to stay. Many people don't, and they've been wandering all night like vagabonds trying to find a place. Hotel space has been at an absolute minimum.

COSTELLO: People are actually wandering the streets now, Ed?

MCCARTHY: Well, they're not wandering the streets. They're driving around, Carol. And they've been looking for places to stay. But everywhere in the area hotels are booked, and they're very discouraged because they're fatigued at this point. They've been driving all day. They were inching along Interstate 10 yesterday, trying to make their way to I-65 and Mobile, and head north, away from the storm. New Orleans has been a city that has been under evacuation orders for a couple of days. But when you get closer to the storm, that's when it becomes more intense on the roadways.

And certainly yesterday people were calm and collected as they were traveling out, but certainly very tiring, as they are getting just a short distance at a time. So they tried their best to get out and get a room. To get reservations, though, a very, very difficult matter.

COSTELLO: How frightening, though. I mean, aren't there shelters that they can go to?

MCCARTHY: Well, there are shelters, but the problem is, when you're not from an area, Carol, you know, you don't know where these shelters are. And you're in line on the highway, you don't know where to get off, you don't know where you're going to be. You're afraid to get off because you're going to lose time.

So many things go through your mind. We speak from experience, because we were evacuated twice yesterday.

We were in Point Clear, Alabama. We were told to get out there. We had to leave.

And then we ended up in the city of Mobile on Water Street. I guess the name of the street probably should have given it away that it was a bad place to be. So we were evacuated there for a second time, and made our way north of Mobile.

So we are just in the city, just outside the city limits, a little bit further north, where we are in a safer location. But it is interesting when you're traveling and wondering what your next step. And for many of these people that I spoke with from Louisiana that had made their way here from New Orleans, one man said, "I just hope I can go back and have a home to go back to."

There are insurance adjusters here. I spoke this morning with a man from a tree company, expecting that all these trees will be down, and they'll be cutting the limbs and sawing them and trying to get them away from power lines. Power crews are moving in now.

So they're trying to get everything in place here. And Mobile now is an area where they're expecting a 15-foot storm surge. That is very significant. We'll watch that.

As you know, Mobile has been spared in the past. And our CNN crews were set up in that downtown area, and Mobile was lucky. It may not be lucky this time.

New Orleans may not be lucky this time. That's for certain.

So we're going to have to wait and see. We're just a few hours away from the main event here. COSTELLO: All right. Ed McCarthy of CNN radio -- we'll check back to you -- reporting live from Mobile, Alabama, this morning.

CNN's coverage of Hurricane Katrina continues right after this.


COSTELLO: Federal and local aid agencies are prepared to move in the minute the storm moves out, and they expect to face the worst possible scenario.

Joining us to talk about the plan of action is Lieutenant Kevin Cowan of the Louisiana National Guard. He's in Baton Rouge this morning. He's also the spokesman for the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

Good morning, Lieutenant.


COSTELLO: You're prepared, I know that. So tell us how you're prepared.

COWAN: Well, we're prepared and waiting. We have -- we have the resources on standby that we may need, anything from more food and water supplies, to heavy equipment to help clear roadways or whatever is necessary. We're ready to go.

COSTELLO: Are there -- how many troops are there available to help?

COWAN: The last time I checked we had about 3,000 troops that are currently on standby. We also have -- in the total National Guard, we have about 14,000. So we have a few reserves we can call if we need to.

COSTELLO: And they're mobilizing in a certain area, I would assume, because there's not much you can do right now.

COWAN: Correct. They're at strategic locations. What we don't necessarily want to do is pull National Guardsmen from their homes in the danger site. So we try to pull National Guardsmen from areas that are outside the danger zone and have them stage -- in a staging area where we can coordinate the activities and send them where they're most needed.

COSTELLO: So, as soon as this storm hits and it's somewhat over, you'll deploy them to where they need to be?

COWAN: Correct.

COSTELLO: OK. I want to talk about the Superdome and the people inside. Can you tell us what it looks like inside there with that many people?

COWAN: Well, I haven't actually been inside the Superdome to see, being in Baton Rouge. But from what I hear, there's -- it's a little crowded, but there's ample room for everyone. It seems to be going all right with the 30,000 or so people that are there.

COSTELLO: What kinds of things have you prepared for these 25,000 people?

COWAN: Well, you want to make sure that you have adequate needs as far as food and water go, make sure that they have facilities for the restroom, and somewhere for them to sleep. It's not going to be the Hilton, but at least it's a safe place that they can stay and not have to worry about the storm.

COSTELLO: Do they have enough water? Could -- were you able to bring in enough for them?

COWAN: Oh, yes. There's plenty of water, and we actually have more water staged and ready to go once the storm does pass through. We have the capabilities with our coordination with the state police, local law enforcement agencies, to where we can get out on the roads with our National Guard vehicles loaded down with the supplies, and get them down to wherever they need to go relatively easy.

COSTELLO: What kind of food have you provided for these people?

COWAN: Typically, we have the military meals ready to eat, the prepackaged food that the Army guys eat. It's healthy and tasty, and it's easy to package and easy to transport.

COSTELLO: Now, once the electricity goes out in here, it could get really hot, especially after the storm kind of passes over. It could reach 100 degrees inside. What will you need to do at that point?

COWAN: I'm not really sure what the plans are for that. You'd need to speak to the parish emergency manager for that area. But I'm sure that they have generators on hand to assist with the cooling, whether it's fans or trying to run the air-conditioning system.

COSTELLO: But at some point, maybe, those people may need to be relocated if it becomes too unbearable inside the Superdome.

COWAN: Oh, this is true. And the Superdome is a refuge of last hope. So if the storm passes us by relatively unharmed, as opposed to what we thought we were going to be getting, the people may be able to go home, but they also may be able to transfer to a more capable, long-term shelter.

COSTELLO: Well, you know what another problem might be? I mean, these people may go home to find their homes gone. And these are people who don't have very much in the first place.

What do you do?

COWAN: Well, each parish has an emergency manager that coordinates with the Red Cross and various organizations throughout their parish for shelters in that area. So once -- once a determination and assessment is made, they will -- they will then put out the announcement through the local media where they need to go for more sheltering.

COSTELLO: Lieutenant Cowan, you're from Louisiana, right?


COSTELLO: Tell me what you're feeling right now, knowing that there is a possibility that much of New Orleans could be gone.

COWAN: It's really tough. I've been in New Orleans numerous times. Actually, my military unit is based in New Orleans. So just the history and all of the tourism, it could be a very detrimental hit for Louisiana.

Hopefully, we'll pull through this OK. We're just keeping our fingers crossed.

COSTELLO: All right. Well, Lieutenant Cowan, thank you for your efforts. Just awesome.

Lieutenant Cowan joining us live from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, this morning.

Let's go to Adaora Udoji. She is live in New Orleans, outside of Tulane Hospital.

Adaora, tell us how things are going from your...


COSTELLO: You're inside. You're inside the hospital now?

UDOJI: I'm inside. I am, indeed.

We're at the Tulane University Hospital and Clinic. And it is a waiting game. Just like the lieutenant in Baton Rouge is talking about, that's what they're talking about here.

I've been talking to doctors and nurses and paramedics, some of the police officers who are part of the security team here. I mean, they've spent the last couple of days, Carol, preparing.

Earlier today, they even had to evacuate their emergency room, which is on the first floor, to the third floor, because they're really concerned about flooding. And not only about flooding, but, of course, that they're -- the flooding, excuse me, has affected patients. And those patients in emergency rooms, they also went upstairs to the third floor.

They've been doing a lot of things here trying to get ready. And now they're just waiting to see exactly what's going to happen.

And joining us to tell us about what some of those concerns are, are -- is Kim Ryan. She is the chief operating officer of the hospital here. So what are some of the big concerns, Kim?

KIM RYAN, TULANE UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: Well, our concerns are always providing safe patient care to our real complex patient population.

UDOJI: So what kinds of things have you been doing in the run- up?

RYAN: Well, the last 24 hours have really been spent implementing a plan that our staff has developed and practiced many times.

UDOJI: Give us some specifics. Come on, you can do it. I know it's early.

RYAN: Well, we have a fair amount of patients that are on life support, they're on ventilators to help them breathe, they're on assist devices that help their hearts to beat. And we needed to make sure that if power went out, that we could continue to provide that life support for that patient.

UDOJI: And how did the night go so far? Or I should say night, and then early morning, because you've been up a long time.

RYAN: We have. The night's gone very well so far. We have -- got about a 150 patients in here.

We have been able to provide (INAUDIBLE) patient care. And we know that the next however many hours we're here we'll continue to do that.

UDOJI: You had sort of a mini rush last night. I know that Carol a few minutes ago was talking about how there's an evacuation center and there's lots of folks who are there. And you actually had how many, do you know, came here to the hospital?

RYAN: We had about 60 patients that showed up over about 30 to 45 minutes. And those were patients who were medically fragile.

They were on oxygen at home. They are on dialysis. And they couldn't evacuate.

So they went to the dome a few blocks over and were triaged and found that they needed more acute care. And so we had them by ambulance brought here. And we then assessed them and provided them shelter and the care that they needed that they couldn't get at home.

UDOJI: How are they doing?

RYAN: They're doing great. They're getting some sleep, finally. And we're going to be feeding them a little bit. And I think they're going to do fine.

UDOJI: And so you're actually a native from New York, from Rochester. But you've been through how many hurricanes? RYAN: I've been through eight hurricanes in seven years.

UDOJI: And so what's your feeling about this one?

RYAN: Well, this one, there is a seriousness about this one. It kind of snuck up on us. It got a lot stronger, it changed track. And we mobilized, but it was a little more concerning than the others have been.

UDOJI: Kim, thank you very much.

That's Kim Ryan, the chief operating officer of Tulane Hospital here. And she, like so many, have been working straight. I mean, we're talking 24 to 48 hours for some folks who have been here.

And literally, Carol, it almost looks like a dormitory in here because you have air mattresses in just about every corner, because not only do you have the administrators and the doctors and the nurses and support staff, but some of them have even brought some of their family members. So they're all trying to get a little sleep because no one knows what the rest of the day is going to bring -- Carol.

COSTELLO: You know, I was talking to someone from Methodist Hospital a little earlier, which is also in New Orleans. They have a number of newborn babies and premature babies in that hospital. And they let both mom and dad stay with the baby. And of course, you know, you want to stay where your baby is. So tough going this morning.

UDOJI: Oh, absolutely.

COSTELLO: Yes. Adaora Udoji, reporting live from New Orleans this morning.

While south Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast awaits Katrina, many people in those areas still have very vivid memories of Hurricane Camille. It's a story by which other hurricanes in that region are measured.

Camille made landfall on August 17, 1969, with winds around 200 miles an hour. The storm surge was 25 to 30 feet in some areas. Homes and businesses were flattened; highways ripped apart. Trees were uprooted far inland.

Camille killed 256 people. Thousands of people were left homeless.

CNN's coverage of Hurricane Katrina does continue right after this.


COSTELLO: And good morning, everyone, thank you for waking up with us. Welcome to the second half-hour of DAYBREAK, an early edition. Coming up in the next 30 minutes, just look at the size of it. Katrina is still massive, still dangerous, even though it's lost just a little bit of steam. It's now a Category 4, but it hinges right there on the Category 5 level. We'll bring you the latest. And gale force winds, heavy rain and high surf, the Gulf Coast already getting a pounding.

Let's go to the Forecast Center now to check in on the latest track of this storm.

Hello -- Chad.

MYERS: Good morning, Carol.

One fifty officially from the Hurricane Center at 5:00 a.m. was the max sustained winds, but the pressure has been going up fairly steadily. Now it's not a Category 2. It's certainly a major hurricane, probably still the Category 4. But some of the flight level winds have been dying off a little bit as it's making very close to making -- the eyewall making some landfall here.

Now that does not say that's a landfall. The center of the eye has to make landfall before we actually can declare landfall. But somewhere down here between Empire, all the way down to about Boothville and even into Venice -- I'll zoom in here for you one more time -- you begin to see that this storm really is now coming on to this.

And this shoreline is kind of a relative term, because there isn't much shore here. This is still all swamp. All the way from New Orleans, all the way down through Port Sulphur, all the way down through Empire and then finally stopping at Venice as far as the road goes here, and the rest of it is just all big and swampy areas. So this isn't truly a landfalling hurricane yet.

But you say it's hit land, it's going to start to die. No, this is still very warm water here. Nothing really to worry about here for New Orleans yet. The winds are picking up. Winds at lakefront 71 miles per hour. Don't expect that we're going to see 120-mile-an-hour winds in New Orleans today.

My biggest concern with New Orleans is actually the water pilling up in Lake Pontchartrain and actually flooding New Orleans from the wrong side, from the side that really no one expects.

This storm will eventually move over Mississippi right through and possibly very close to Nashville. It could be farther to the east than that. And that's what I think is going to happen, because I think there's more of an northeastward drift here with the jet stream to push it a little farther to the east.

But you can still see the cone. We always talk about the cone. It could be as far east right here as even eastern Kentucky. So we're going to see a lot of power outages, wind damage, all the way from, well, here from Biloxi and Gulfport, right on through Mobile. And then to the east side of this eyewall, this is where the wind damage is going to be, a lot of power lines down, right through this area and even wind damage right up into parts of eastern Tennessee. Not a lot of wind damage. But you know it only takes a couple of big pine trees to knock down more power lines and then you're without power for a couple of days.

The biggest thing you could do right now if you still have power in these areas here, turn the freezer up to full blast. Not the refrigerator, I don't want you freezing the milk. Turn the freezer up to full blast. And that way if you do lose power, at least everything in your freezer is frozen solid. It'll last longer if you don't have power for a day or two -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Very good tip. How strong is the strongest wind gust right now and where is it?

MYERS: The biggest wind gust we had was 91 miles per hour. And here's New Orleans itself. It is south of New Orleans, still very close to where the shore was down there around Pass Christian. Another wind gust here to around 75 to 80 miles per hour.

Dave (ph), is this a tornado warning or is this a severe thunderstorm warning?

DAVE: Tornado.

MYERS: Tornado warning. We'll get those out for you here. We did see quite a bit of spinning going on with a storm that was moving right along the I-10 here towards Slidell. This is all the way back -- here we go -- until 4:45 for Hancock County. This is still the old warning that we had for you as the storm was sliding on by.

Right now the spin is actually not that far from Slidell. So they did not push the tornado warning into the parishes here of Louisiana. Neither St. Tammany Parish or Plaquemine's Parish, you're still in good shape there without a tornado warning on it. But, still, this storm is getting closer. The closer it gets, Carol, the more this weather deteriorates.


MYERS: Back to you.

COSTELLO: All right, Chad, thanks.


COSTELLO: We'll get back to you, of course.

Let's -- we want to head to Gulf Shores, Alabama now. A reporter from WPMI, our affiliate there, has this report. In fact, they filed it a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RICHARD ALLYN, WPMI-TV REPORTER (on camera): Coming down here though. Wind conditions picked up significantly. In fact, we were in our live truck, quite a huge vehicle, and the wind literally carried our live truck from the left lane to the right lane, which was a clear indication that these winds are nothing to be laughed at.

And, at this point, we are out here. We're in Gulf Shores. We hope to stay out here as long as we can.

It's really hard to show you the flooding that's out here right now, but it is pretty intense. Let me see if we can show you -- I don't know if this is really going to work. I don't think you're really able to see the water anyway. But suffice to say that roads are beginning to flood, and we haven't even seen the beginning of the storm surge yet, and that is the most serious issue we're facing.

The winds are going to be bad, that's a given. But the most serious, the most deadly thing we're facing now is the possibility of storm surge in Baldwin County. I believe anywhere up to seven to nine feet storm surge, even worse in Mobile Bay. So that's one thing that, for that reason and that reason only, you should be evacuating or should, at this point, be hunkering down.

And we will continue to be bringing you live reports out of Gulf Shores as long as we possibly can.

For now, Pat (ph) and Kim (ph), let's throw it back to you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey, Richard, can you hear us?



ALLYN: I can hear you loud and clear.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, great. How long will you guys be staying in Gulf Shores?

ALLYN: How long are we going to be staying? We are -- it's sort of a wait-and-see mode right now. Right now there is a roadblock about a mile up the road where no other vehicles are allowed down. They are allowing the media down. We did see another media outlets truck leaving as we were approaching, which my photographer, Michael Tart (ph), and I agreed was at that time.

But we will be here as long as we possibly can. We're just we're waiting to see how high this water will go. We definitely don't want to find ourselves in a situation where we're trapped down here. That doesn't do anyone any good.



COSTELLO: We hope not. We were dipping into WPMI TV. That's out of Alabama. That was from Gulf Shores, Alabama, and the reporter's name was Richard Allyn. Our thanks to them.

On to Biloxi, Mississippi now, another city bracing for Katrina, tens of thousands of residents have fled that city.

Kareen Wynter joins us live from Biloxi.

Good morning.

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, good morning to you.

That's right, the community here of Biloxi, while they're gearing up for Katrina's arrival and we're feeling it quickly, the conditions out here are declining. We're experiencing a lot of heavy wind, as well as the rain, which it's blowing the rain in a sideways direction.

We had a chance to speak with Biloxi police this morning, and they tell us the roadways are quiet, that there is very little activity. However, they have been spotting quite a number of travelers, people who are trying to make it to local shelters.

Now the water is beginning to rise in some spots, so they say now is not the time to venture out. They're urging the public, Carol, to stay put wherever they are.


KAREEN WYNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hurricane Katrina has Mississippi's coastal communities bracing for impact.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Regardless of whether it's a 5 or a 4, the potential for destruction of property and loss of life is very high with this storm. It's a very dangerous storm.

WYNTER: In Biloxi, Mississippi, police enforced a mandatory evacuation order and overnight curfew. Thousands of residents fled the city, while others spent the night in local shelters.

To the south and west in New Orleans, where forecasters predict Katrina could make landfall, there was also a mandatory evacuation. More than 20,000 people sought refuge in the Louisiana Superdome.

The state's governor said she expects extensive property damage, but hopefully not a high death toll.

GOV. KATHLEEN BLANCO, LOUISIANA: We know we have seven (ph) people out there. So we want them to survive. We want them to be right about it, but we're hoping for the best.

WYNTER: Alabama's governor ordered residents in low-lying areas to evacuate. President Bush declared states of emergency in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is going to be the biggest natural disaster that the Red Cross has ever responded to, if it meets the projections. WYNTER: Federal Emergency Management workers say they're prepared to assist storm victims once Katrina finishes unleashing its fury.


Now, Carol, just like that, in the middle of our story, the street lights behind me, along this popular interstate, it's quiet right now in the morning hours of course, but the power went out just like that. There are already reports of power outages in the area.

Now there are four local shelters set up for residents, three of them already jam-packed, filled to capacity. We mentioned the situation with water already rising in many spots. Biloxi police also tell us that many city streets are already flooded, as well as a major highway here. It's impassable in some spots due to the storm surge -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right, Kareen Wynter reporting live from Biloxi, Mississippi.

And just the effects on the economy could be devastating in Mississippi, especially if it affects the casino industry. For example, there are 27 state-regulated casinos in the state of Mississippi. They generate 60,000 people per day and they generate $400 million per year, and that's in state taxes. So they'll be watching those.

Let's head to Baton Rouge now. That's where Miles O'Brien is standing by now.


O'BRIEN: Hello again, Carol.

The rain is really coming down now. The so-called feeder bands kind of wax and wane as they come through, and we're getting a pretty good dose of rain right now. The wind still not too significant here in Baton Rouge. We're a long way west of where you just checked in from.

Yesterday we took a long, arduous trip from the center of New Orleans to here. It took us about four-and-a-half hours for that 80- mile drive.

Meanwhile, back in New Orleans, we're told all but about 300,000 people in that city of 1.6 million metro area have been evacuated. Now many, 20,000 to 30,000 of those evacuated who had no other place to go, some of them, the least fortunate among us, ended up in the Louisiana Superdome. And there's some concern right now about just how safe they might be.

CNN's Jeanne Meserve is there now with more on that part of the story -- Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Miles, I am in a parking garage which overlooks the Superdome. And for now, structurally, at least everything appears fine. We can look down on the streets from here and see that, at this point in time, although of course there's significantly puddling down there, there's nothing that I think qualifies as a flood. The wind and the rain is really whipping.

I'm under some cover here, but I can see that the drainage system just here within the garage is having a really difficult time. When you're on the lower floors, water is starting to bubble up back out of the drains. Up here we're seeing a huge puddle being created because the drains here are just unable to accommodate the volume of rain that's coming down.

We could overlook much of the city from this garage. And when I look, walk around the perimeter and look, I can see that most of the city, at this point in time, to the west and to the south of us appears to have lost power. About a half an hour ago, I saw a huge blue flash out on the horizon to the west, indicative of some sort of electrical problem out there.

We, fortunately, do have power here. We're sort of, as I mentioned, adjacent to the Superdome. And many of the office buildings right around me appear to have power. But clearly some parts of the city already have been hit in that respect -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: And, Jeanne, as I'm told, you're not being allowed inside the Superdome. Why have been reporters -- why are reporters being told to stay outside?

MESERVE: Well this is not unusual. I've covered hurricanes before where they've been very reluctant to let cameras into shelters. It has to do with privacy. Some people just don't want to have their pictures taken, and so they want the cameras to be kept outside. So I don't think that it's anything extraordinary in this situation.

Clearly they have a lot of people in there. I don't know if you saw the pictures yesterday, but there were long lines of people waiting out in the rain waiting to get in there. We know they have some seriously ill people in there and doctors and nurses to take care of them. So they've got a lot on their hands. And I think the first order of business for them has to be taking care of those people, not accommodating us, to be perfectly frank.

O'BRIEN: Jeanne Meserve outside the Superdome, all those good reasons. And we hope everybody in there is safe and sound as Katrina, Category 4, almost Category 5 storm, bears down on New Orleans and on this entire Gulf Coast this morning.

Also here in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, just a couple of miles from where I stand, I'm on the campus of Louisiana State University, is Anderson Cooper. He's very near the water near the river where he is getting a sense right now of whether there's much traffic out there and what people are doing this morning. Hopefully they're hunkered down -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, Miles, we certainly hope they are and it does seem like that. We haven't seen much traffic on the bridge going across I- 10.

I'm actually right on the banks of the Mississippi River, the east side of Baton Rouge. Over my shoulder is the west side of Baton Rouge. But already we've seen just in the last 20 minutes or so the water starting to come up here on the banks. This area had no water in it just a few minutes ago. The water is gradually coming up. Over the next hour or two, we're going to be using this sort of big huge root of a tree as kind of landmark to see, to judge where the water is. So we'll sort of be checking in on that.

One thing we're also watching is along the banks here there is this memorial, a World War II memorial, the USS Kidd, which is dry- docked. It's a museum, a naval war memorial. The water could very well come up to where that museum is, could come up to where it is dry-docked. So we'll be watching that.

But there are levies here. Probably where I am is probably about 50 feet below where the streets of Baton Rouge are. So you know it would take an awful lot of storm surge in order for Baton Rouge to get flooded. And from everything that Chad Myers has been telling us, Miles, that is not going to happen. Baton Rouge is not going to be seeing this 28-foot storm surge that they're talking about for New Orleans for some of the other coastal areas. But we're going to be watching the water very closely here.

And, as you know, the rain just continues. The winds have been gradually picking up. Nothing too severe yet, just a pretty constant, steady blowing of wind. It is definitely uncomfortable to be out here. But you really don't get a sense, at this point, of this monster, which is slowly coming toward the shore, moving, at last we heard, at some 15 miles per hour, a relatively slow-moving storm that is supposed to linger over this area.

Baton Rouge, most likely, the northwest quadrant of this storm, which is still a very wide storm, as we've been talking about all this morning. But the bottom line for Baton Rouge, flooding, from what we're told at this point, should not be a major problem. Storm surge not a problem. But, as we all know from these storms in the past, this inland flooding which can often occur in a day or two after the hurricane hits, often takes many lives. So we're going to be watching the water very closely -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Yes, and we should remind people, and I've got my wind meter here, Anderson, it's only about 10 miles an hour right now. It's not much at all.

And we are, as you look at that counterclockwise rotation of a hurricane, we're kind of on the protected side of things. Having said that, the way the water flows and the way that things build up, there could be some problems on the back side of things if people are on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain.

But in the case of Baton Rouge, and part of the reason, quite frankly, we're here, is this is much higher ground than New Orleans, which is, after all, below sea level. In some cases, 10 or more feet below sea level, protected by those levies and pumps. So in some respects, Baton Rouge was a good place for people to evacuate to. We hope that bears itself out.

Because the other thing to consider here, and I was talking to some people, Anderson, earlier yesterday about this, this hurricane force winds should extend as much as 100 miles radius beyond that eye of Katrina. And that puts us smack-dab where we are right now. And I don't think Baton Rouge has experienced that -- Anderson.

COOPER: No, they certainly haven't. And it's really hard to get a sense now when you see the conditions with that 10-mile-an-hour wind, which is really nothing. This rain, which is a steady rain, but it's by no means you know hurricane force. It's nothing compared to what we anticipate seeing. It's very hard to get a sense of what is coming and what is going to hit Baton Rouge.

And as people wake up and they hear that it is a Category 4 storm now and as they hear that Baton Rouge will not be directly hit but will be getting that northwest quadrant, let's hope people don't start to, you know, breathe a sigh of relief and just think this thing has passed. Because it still could be a very dangerous storm in Baton Rouge with 100-plus-mile-an-hour winds -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: All right, thank you, Anderson. We'll check back with you in just a moment.

Let's get back to Chad Myers. He's got some more information for us.

Chad, even as we speak here, we're getting a band here, a lot more rain and the winds picking up significantly, as we speak -- Chad.

MYERS: Yes, good morning, Miles.

Every time a band comes over you, every time you see some green or yellow, maybe even some orange that comes over Baton Rouge, that's when the winds are going to pick up.

Now off to the east of here, this is the dangerous side of the storm, the business end, if you will. A new tornado warning actually for the town of Mobile, the city of Mobile, right here on Mobile Bay. It's this cell right up here as it moves on up toward the north and toward the northwest at 65 miles per hour.

Doppler indicated a tornado very close to the USS Alabama. Now that wasn't on the ground. This is Doppler radar saying that they see the rotation very close to the USS Alabama. That's right there, downtown Mobile, right by the I-10, going to move across I-65 and then eventually on up toward Georgetown. We'll keep you up to date whether this continues or not. But a tornado warning right now for Mobile -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Thank you, Chad. Thank you, Miles. Thank you, Anderson.

We're going to take a quick break. We'll be back with much more as CNN's coverage of Hurricane Katrina will continue.


COSTELLO: We've been talking about the flooding danger to New Orleans, a city below sea level.

We have Susan Roesgen on the phone right now from WGNO. She is right near the Superdome now.

Hello again -- Susan.

SUSAN ROESGEN, WGNO-TV REPORTER: Hello, Carol. I am over at the Hyatt Hotel, actually, right across from the Superdome.

COSTELLO: Tell us what it's like.

ROESGEN: Well I just walked through the third floor ballroom area where about 3,000 tourists and locals are spread out on blankets. They have allowed pets to come into this area, so occasionally you hear a dog bark and you get a sense of normalcy in that respect. A lot of children are there.

I spoke to a woman who had a C-section just six days ago. She has a 6-day-old baby. Her father told me that the family named the baby Jordan (ph). It's a boy. But he would certainly have named the baby Katrina if he had been a girl instead.

The grandfather, by the way, if you have any knowledge of New Orleans Mardi Gras, as many people do, is a former King of Zulu. He was King Zulu 1991. So we have royalty here in the Hyatt Hotel tonight.

COSTELLO: Is the Hyatt just accommodating people who could not get out of town?

ROESGEN: Yes, that's basically it. Many of them tourists whose flights were cancelled on Saturday and Sunday and some locals who came here. I was actually surprised that they opened their doors to locals. Obviously, you're paying for a room, it's not a shelter, it's still a hotel, unlike the official city shelter which is the Superdome right across the street.

COSTELLO: Susan, you chose to stay in New Orleans, maybe against the advice of your boss. Tell us why you decided to stay.

ROESGEN: Because I love this city, and I'm a journalist first and foremost. And this is where the action is. I don't want to say it's fun to cover a hurricane. I have covered many hurricanes in this area, certainly along the Florida Panhandle, for many years. You go out in your requisite yellow slicker and run and chase somebody else's misery.

This morning we are looking at our own misery. I live here in the city, not far from where I'm talking to you right now. And so I boarded up my house, sent my little dog away and now I'm just here waiting to see what happens. And I want to bring you there at CNN as much of it as I can. COSTELLO: Many of the buildings in New Orleans are historical buildings. They're very old. What kind of challenges does that present?

ROESGEN: Quite a few, actually, not only old, but termite ridden. And a lot of the big trees, the big beautiful oak trees, the magnolia trees are termite ridden. And that's a real problem, because in a good stiff gust, you could have these massive oaks land on your house or you could have structural damage in these old wooden houses, many of them Victorian-era houses, and you could have real problems in that respect as well.

We do have skyscrapers in New Orleans, you know it's a modern city, but not all of them are up to hurricane code. It isn't like Miami where we expect to get hurricanes every year.

COSTELLO: So inside of the Hyatt, Susan, how are people keeping safe? Are they on the upper floors? Are they in the middle of the building?

ROESGEN: You know that's what's really interesting to me, Carol, they said at about I guess about 1:00 local time, look, we want everybody off of the upper floors, which go up into the 20s. I have a friend who is helping us take video tonight up on the 23rd flood. They said, look, we want everybody to move down to the third floor, that's it. It won't be safe. There is too many windows in this building.

But then about an hour ago, they decided to sort of be lax about it. You could sign a waiver saying that you would accept the risk of going back to your hotel room. They had stopped the elevators so you would have had to climb up 23 flights, but now the elevators are back on again. So it's kind of a New Orleans sort of sentiment here.

We have a, you know, laid back lifestyle, a laid back approach to even major events like this. And so I think I've got to commend the hotel management. I think they're keeping everybody as stress free as possible. If they want to go back to their rooms, if they want to go to the ballroom where they've spread out blankets and pillows, they're letting people make that choice.

COSTELLO: OK, Susan, something I'm wondering about, the hotel is near the Superdome. The Superdome is where all of the emergency officials and the Red Cross is located. Why didn't people go there?

ROESGEN: I think because they thought that the conditions would be pretty primitive. Last time the Superdome was pressed into service as a shelter was in 1999 during Hurricane George. You may have talked about that this morning. That was almost a direct hit. At the 11th hour, the hurricane went away from the city.

There were about 7,000 people and Hurricane George who went to the Superdome and it was a disaster. There was looting. People walked out with television sets. There were fights. It was not a good scene. So this time around only people who really felt they had no place else to go and thought they might perhaps get medical attention went to the Superdome.

COSTELLO: So what kind of measures, security wise, are they taking inside the Superdome this time around to make sure that doesn't happen again?

ROESGEN: You know I wish I knew exactly what was happening inside the Superdome, I don't. But I can tell you that the area was surrounded by National Guard. Army National Guard were out there, and they don't mess around. So I'm sure that, again, the lessons that were learned in Hurricane George in 1999 are probably not being repeated today.

And one of the reasons the lines were so long getting into the Superdome was that the National Guard insisted on patting everybody down, checking for weapons or other contraband. So it took a long time just to get people into the Dome. But those who got in I'm sure knew right away that it was not going to be the way it was last time.

COSTELLO: I'm sure. Susan Roesgen from WGNO reporting for us live. And stay safe. We appreciate it.

Let's go to the banks of the Mississippi, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, that's where Anderson Cooper is this morning.

Hello -- Anderson.

COOPER: Good morning, Carol. Good morning, Chad.

Yes, we are on the banks of the Mississippi. We're on the east side of Baton Rouge just waiting for this storm to come. The rain picking up just a little bit. The wind sort of continuing. The last we heard from Miles O'Brien, his reading was about 10 miles an hour. Really nothing to speak of.

But we're watching very closely this water here on the Mississippi as it gradually rises. We've seen it rise a little bit over the last hour or so. We'll be watching very closely, not expecting that major storm surge that they're expecting at the coast in New Orleans and around Biloxi. But, as always, we know that that inland flooding can be a real threat, especially in the days after the hurricane comes. So we're going to be watching that very closely.

But it is the wind foremost of all which people here in Baton Rouge have to be careful of. That wind, which picks up debris, which picks up pieces of wood, like we're seeing here along the shore, things which normally (INAUDIBLE) become deadly objects as they are hurdled through the air -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right, Anderson, we're beginning to lose you. Tell us quickly how you're managing to stay safe along the banks of the Mississippi.

COOPER: Whoa, I'm literally sinking actually now, right now on the banks of the Mississippi. Yes, I was actually sinking there for a second. You know it's very safe here. I mean the water, it's really not that bad, and that is a very good thing. There had been some fear that Baton Rouge was going to be right in the eye of this storm. It is moving more toward the east from Baton Rouge. It's still going to be in that northwest quadrant. And with the storm that's 100 miles wide from the eye, you know no place in this area is safe. But Baton Rouge is not going to be bearing the brunt of this storm, and that is a very good thing indeed for the people here -- Carol.

COSTELLO: But as Chad has been telling you, Anderson, flying debris, that's always a concern, so you stay safe. And thank you very much for your reporting this morning, and I know you're going on throughout the day and probably throughout the night as well.

Chad, you're going to be joining "AMERICAN MORNING" because it's about to start right now.

I'm Carol Costello, thank you for joining our special coverage this morning.


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