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Hurricane Katrina's Aftermath

Aired August 30, 2005 - 02:00   ET


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Let me ask you this question, because it's somewhat perplexing to us, at this time, that there is absolutely no report of casualties in this area. Do you suspect that there will be casualties, just from what you have been able to see when you were out there on that boat for those two hours?
MARK BIELLO, CNN PHOTOJOURNALIST: A lot of the rescue operations, again, I think they're appalled and they are actually shocked at how many people are trapped, are still trapped, are overnighting as some of these waters rise.

That they anticipate, and this is just an estimate from when we were talking to some of the local officials, they think there could be 1,000 to 2,000 casualties from drowning or people trapped in their homes. Not only that, there are a lot of animals that are trapped up on the rooftops and caught in power lines and in trees. And it's just a very, very disheartening scene going through.

SANCHEZ: Yes, we should tell you that we talked to one of the officials there a while ago, and he told us the area that you're talking about, and of course you didn't see all of it, Mark, but you saw certainly a good portion of it. We're talking about a 20 square mile area. That is an awful lot of homes, thousands and thousands, right?

BIELLO: Yes, it is. And, again, the boats that we've used, these are private boats that go out, you know, on rivers and the gulf. And just as we were leaving, some of the Wildlife Management boats were showing up. And the boats they need are the shallow bottom fishing boats or bass boats that usually navigate into bayous that have, you know, a very shallow hull base so they can clear these power lines, the debris, the cars that are flooded.

It's significant flooding there. It's not just a few inches or a few feet, it's very, very deep. And it's hard to imagine how far this goes, as far as the eye can see in all directions of the amount of people that are still trapped there and the amount of damage and stranded people.

When we were coming back, since we ran out of light, it was too dangerous and hampering rescue operations. If you can't see where you're going, the props will get caught up in the power lines or the phone lines or wrap around a gas line. So it's just too dangerous for a lot of rescue operations to get to these people.

And as we were coming back on the boat I was travelling with, we had to leave a family. There was a family that was up on the rooftops and there's just no way to get to them this evening. So they're going to have to overnight on their roof.

SANCHEZ: I'm not sure if -- well, I'll ask the question, why did these people end up in their attics? Did they not figure out that if the water kept rising they would be creating a trap for themselves? I know this is a question you may not be able to answer, but I'll ask it anyway.

BIELLO: We talked to one local law official, and she was a police officer that was here in the past. And she sort of made a reference, and this was before the hurricane, saying that what people learned in the area is that they've put a statue of Saint Joseph in the lawn and they always keep an ax to hack their way out of the attic in case the floodwaters rose. But again, you know this is sort of not a joke, but it was just talk.

And I think a lot of these people, why the people were still there, why they were trapped, again, you know this is a low-income area. They didn't have the means, they didn't have the communications, they didn't have...


BIELLO: ... perhaps television or weren't listening or when the power went out.


BIELLO: But these people have stayed. And I think that the estimates, it's caught everyone by surprise of how many people are still trapped.

SANCHEZ: Yes, and obviously there's no way to tell, because no one knows how many people chose to stay, nobody knows how many of those homes are empty and which ones have people in them still. But just from what you're telling us, it does sound like there are an awful lot of people still in those homes, as we speak.

BIELLO: And a lot of these people are handicapped. A lot of them are physically -- and you know, I mean, we -- there was one gentleman, an elderly gentleman that was clinging on to a tree. He was a double amputee, about 70 years old, and he was hanging on to a tree until -- since, I guess, about 6:30 in the morning, completely exhausted and just terrified. He had no where to go. Perhaps there were no family members. There was -- it -- the bottom line was there was no place for him to go to to get out once these floodwaters came in and flooded this neighborhood.

SANCHEZ: Veteran news photographer Mark Biello who has gone around the world for CNN collecting pictures, stories and sounds, sharing with us, as well, the pictures, the stories and the sounds that he has seen tonight in that area around New Orleans.

Mark, my friend, thank you so much for being with us, and please stay safe. BIELLO: OK, thank you -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: Appreciate it.

We're going to be keeping you informed this morning with the very latest information about how Tropical Storm Katrina, which is continuing to affect more and more people still, heads its way through the northeastern parts of the United States.

Now in Mississippi, at least 54 people have lost their lives due to the brutal storm. CNN can now confirm that at least 30 of those died in Biloxi, Mississippi or Biloxi, Mississippi alone, I should say. Many of those people were found dead in an apartment complex near the beach.

In Louisiana, at least one house we saw flattened by the storm, many others as well. As you can see from this aerial view, many people in the New Orleans area are struggling as well with massive flooding. And some of the pictures that we have been showing you and sharing with you, as well as the words you just heard from Mark Biello's own account.

And after causing incomprehensible damage across both Louisiana and Mississippi, Katrina has now been downgraded to a tropical storm but as flying tornadoes and thunderstorms in Tennessee and Georgia and in parts of Kentucky as well. We are keeping a very close watch on what this deadly and dangerous storm is doing right now. We've got complete coverage of Katrina, which has now been downgraded to a tropical storm.

Our Ted Rowlands is joining us now. He's in Biloxi. Adaora Udoji is joining us as well. She's going to be in New Orleans filling us in on what's going on.

But first, we're going to go to our meteorologist, Bonnie Schneider. She's at the Weather Center to bring us up to date on what the tropical storm is doing right now.

Bonnie, over to you.


Well right now this storm is continuing to (ph) lots and lots of heavy rain and strong winds. Maximum winds with Katrina are at 60 miles per hour. So it's still classified as a tropical storm, but a very strong one indeed, just below hurricane strength. Remember in order to be a hurricane, this storm would have to have maximum winds at 74 miles per hour or greater.

Some of the biggest concerns we're going to experience with Katrina in the next 12 to 24 hours is rainfall and flooding and strong winds. But switching over, if we could switch over to our VIPIR source, we'll show you some rainfall that we're expecting and anticipating in the next 12 hours.

Here's what we're looking at. This is our most recent radar picture. And as we project into the future, heading on into Tuesday, look at these amounts of rain that we can expect through the Ohio Valley. This area in yellow indicates the heaviest rain. And some of it may even climb up to another two to three inches from what we're seeing right now. Many of these places are getting rain, as we speak, especially into northern Kentucky.

So just to let you know, if you're going to plan on doing some traveling or you have to do some driving in the next day or so, we're expecting very saturated grounds for Columbus, Cincinnati, down through Louisville, Kentucky, one to three inches possible. The areas in lighter green do indicate some lighter rainfall.

But it's interesting to note that Katrina is affecting such a wide portion of the country. In fact, if we switch back to our other source now, I'll show you that we're looking at the storm on a wide scale on our track that's moving to the north-northeast. The current movement is at 22 miles per hour. And eventually the storm will weaken even further. In fact, we're expecting some weakening over the next day or so. But, still, it's a strong tropical storm that will bring flooding.

A fast moving storm, but such an expansive storm that we're seeing the rain kind of re-loop and repeat itself over and over again and train, as we say, over the same spots. Take a look at Nashville right now, we've had rain there for the past few hours and that will continue. These areas in yellow indicate more heavy rain moving from Huntsville up towards Nashville. So a good portion of the mid-south, the Ohio Valley is facing some heavy rain through the night tonight and on into tomorrow -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: Bonnie Schneider bringing us the very latest on what is left of this hurricane, now a tropical storm, we should say, and the damage that it could still cause.

Let's take you now back, if we possibly could, to New Orleans and an area that's been called St. Bernard Parish and the 9th Ward. This is where real drama is unfolding as rescue efforts continue to try and get people out of these attics and out of the roofs of their homes where they are literally stuck in many cases.

CNN's Adaora Udoji is live with more on this story, and she's joining us now to bring us up to date.

When last we talked, you were seeing boats bringing people toward you. Is that process still continuing -- Adaora?

ADAORA UDOJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Rick, absolutely. If you take a look right now, yet another boat. They have just been coming one right after another. This one is incredibly packed with men, women, children, families, many of who have been stuck in their home for at least 12 or 13 hours. We've spoken to some who have actually made it to ground, saying that they made phone calls, as you said, from their attic, some of them from the top of their roofs, making those calls on cell phones.

Interestingly, most cell phones not working in the area, but they were able to call 911. And they're coming off the boat with whatever they could carry, sometimes with their pets. They have no shoes, nothing. Most of their homes totaled.

We've been speaking to rescuers. As you can see, they are out there on the boats of all different sizes. There are at least two, three dozen of them. Some of them from the fire department, the police department, from Wildlife and Fishery Enforcement Agency who made the trek down nine hours, leaving around 6:00 a.m. this morning to come down here to help out.

They have absolutely no idea how far and wide this flooding has affected the many homes, hundreds of homes here. We've been told that in the last five, six, seven hours that they've pulled several hundred, at this point, somewhere probably around 500 people who were trapped inside their homes, the water sometimes 10, 11 feet high.

And, again, not clear exactly the area. We spoke to an official earlier from the Wildlife Enforcement Agency who was saying that he thought it could be perhaps as far and wide as 20 miles. But he also told us, fortunately, at this point, that most people just had scratches and bruises, no serious injuries beyond a broken leg.

Of course these people are exhausted. We spoke to some of them saying that they had run out of food, that they were no idea if anybody had heard them. And we also heard that, in many cases, they were heard screaming for help, that there were the few passerbyers that have made it out. Like we're right standing on a highway, actually, and they were just screaming for help because some of them just simply didn't have cell phones.

So rescue work is going on here at St. Bernard Parish. Again, where you mentioned, some estimating that perhaps as many as 40,000 homes are underwater at that location. Then further south of here, in the 9th Ward, which is close to the French Quarter, again, incredibly flooded. And rescue workers are just having a really tough time getting to them -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: It's amazing to think of these people who are literally trapped in their own attics, in many cases, not knowing, by the way, if those floodwaters are going to continue to rise. And they're probably in complete darkness, as well, as they scream for help. And what's interesting, Adaora, is that we're noticing now, or at least I've noticed just from watching your reports tonight, that the boats are coming back with more and more people, are they not?

UDOJI: They are, absolutely. And, Rick, you make an excellent point, though, which is the water level. Have spoken to some officers who say actually in the afternoon and into the evening the water levels have been rising, and they can't begin to explain that. But what that creates is another whole level of treachery.

Which brings me to another point, which is there are actually some areas, from what I understand, Metairie, which is northwest of here, that are inaccessible to rescue workers because there are some parts of the streets that are flooded, perhaps up to 10, 15 feet of water. But you go a little further and then it's dry land. So they can't bring a car into the area and they can't bring a boat. So they can't even begin to estimate how many people are trapped behind those lines as they work through the areas where they know there are people where they can get those.

SANCHEZ: Amazing story. Adaora Udoji following the story for us, bringing us the latest of what continues to be a drama that unfolds there around that 9th Ward in St. Bernard Parish. We will be checking back with her throughout the morning as well.

Well despite the dire situation in New Orleans, there are those looking to profit from the misfortune of Hurricane Katrina.

CNN's John Zarrella has more on the floodwaters and some of the looting in the floodwaters.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Water lapped against houses. Streets became rivers. Motorists tried driving through it. Some made it, others didn't. On one flood-prone stretch of Interstate 10, cars bobbed in it. One driver was pulled from his vehicle just before it went under.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was driving on I-10 westbound trying to get to Kenner, to the Williams Boulevard exit, and I didn't see the water. It blends in with the gray of the road and I just drove right into it.

ZARRELLA: Katrina slid to the east of New Orleans, sparing the city, which is below sea level, the bone-chilling consequences of a direct hit. But it was bad enough.

Ask Charlie Wegman, two feet of water surrounded his house.

CHARLIE WEGMAN, HURRICANE SURVIVOR: I'm 64. I've never seen this area flood like this. I've never seen this much flooding anywhere in this area in all my life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not even from Betsy?

WEGMAN: Not even from Betsy.

ZARRELLA (on camera): New Orleans is a hole. And as the rain continues to fall, and it has been falling all day, the bowl is filling up. Nearly every street has some degree of water on it. Behind me water ankle deep to knee deep. This is Alegian Field (ph). At the edge of Alegian Field is the lakefront. Impassable. We can't get there.

(voice-over): All this water was just from the rain. Some spilled over the levees that protect New Orleans. While the city staggered, some took it as an opportunity, an opportunity to loot. They poured out of a supermarket, shopping carts loaded. For as bad as it is in New Orleans, the cliche is indeed appropriate, it could have been so much worse.

John Zarrella, CNN, New Orleans. (END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: And then there are those who are trying to get from one place to another and finding it impossible to do that, certainly on any of those coastal roads along the gulf. Places like lower Alabama where roads have been closed due to flooding.

That is where CNN's Ted Rowlands is picking up the story for us. He's just outside Mobile, Alabama to bring us up to date on what the effect has been there in that region.

Ted, good morning.


And the problems here in Mobile pale to comparison of what we have been seeing over these last few hours in Louisiana and to the problems that many fear are taking place in the Mississippi Gulf Coast region, in the smaller towns that have not been fully investigated by search and rescue folks. And they are waiting, in a lot of those cases, until morning.

In Biloxi, Mississippi there has been 30 confirmed deaths. CNN is confirming that number now. And that death toll is expected to rise at daybreak as they assess the damage there. Biloxi was hit extremely hard by Katrina. Buildings devastated, some completely, some partially. Streets flooded. And there have been -- there is a real concern, as we said, that there is going to be more destruction discovered at first light tomorrow.

The problem here is that first they had to wait until Katrina had moved through. And now, as soon as the sun went down, it is too rural in a lot of these areas to go in and search for people. There are a number of communities that there has been no or little contact from. Bay St. Louis, Pass Christian, Long Beach, Waveland, these are all communities in between New Orleans and Biloxi and just past Biloxi along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

And there is real concern tonight that when they do get in there tomorrow they're going to find a lot of destruction. And they're concerned about the folks that didn't heed the warnings to get out. These are all communities ranging from 6,000 to 17,000 people. And the question is how many of those people tried to whether Katrina out and how many gambled and lost.

Here in Mobile, streets flooded throughout the day today. They are coming down now. But the power is out here. As you might imagine, there is a curfew that has been instituted and it will be for some time. From dusk until dawn nobody is allowed on the streets of Mobile to preclude the problems that we saw in Louisiana with the looting. There are patrols out there. We have been hearing them bark out orders to folks that are breaking the laws here, to get back into their homes.

There is an oil-drilling platform that came loose and bashed into the Cochran Bridge here in Mobile. That caused some problems there. It's safe to say there are a lot of problems around the region and a lot of problems they really don't have a full comprehension of.

One thing, a sobering note we can add at the end here, one thing we do know is that they have ordered teams with cadaver dogs from Miami and from Tennessee. And they are due here tomorrow morning to start the search and recovering efforts that will be beginning in earnest -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: We'll expect that assessment some time in the morning. And we expect to follow up on it for you here on CNN.

Ted Rowlands bringing us the very latest there from Mobile, Alabama.

We thank you, Ted.

Well many people in Alabama are stranded and homeless after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast. Reporter Jennifer Mayerle from our affiliate station WKRG in Mobile talked to one man who emotionally described his loss and his struggle to try and survive this storm.


JENNIFER MAYERLE, WKRG-TV REPORTER (on camera): How are you doing -- sir?

HARDY JACKSON, MOBILE RESIDENT: I'm not very good (ph).

MAYERLE: What happened?

JACKSON: The house just split in half.

MAYERLE: Your house split in half?

JACKSON: I hardly have back room (ph). We got up in the roof, all the way to the roof, and water came. And the house just opened up, divided.

MAYERLE: Who was at your house with you?

JACKSON: My wife.

MAYERLE: Where is she now?

JACKSON: I can't find her body. She's gone.

MAYERLE: You can't find your wife?

JACKSON: No. She told neighbors, she told, I tried, I holded her hand tight as I could, and she told me, "You can't hold me." She said, "Take care of the kids and the grandkids." And my kids...

MAYERLE: What's your wife's name in case we can put this out there?

JACKSON: Tony (ph) Jackson. MAYERLE: OK. And what's your name?

JACKSON: Hardy Jackson.

MAYERLE: Where are you guys going?

JACKSON: We ain't got nowhere to go. Nowhere to go. I'm -- I'm lost. That's all I had. That's all I had. I don't know what I'm going to do.


SANCHEZ: That was reporter Jennifer Mayerle from our affiliate station WKRG.

Well despite some of the reported deaths in Mississippi and elsewhere from Hurricane Katrina, still no official storm deaths to report from Louisiana, although Governor Kathleen Blanco believes it's an "inevitability" -- to use her word.

Charged with securing the areas involved is the Louisiana National Guard. And Lt. Kevin Cowan is joining us from Louisiana's Office of Emergency Preparedness in Baton Rouge with more on the developments as he has seen them throughout the day.

How vital a part of all of this was the National Guard? I imagine, looking back on it now, it was a good call to have them out there, right?

LT. KEVIN COWAN, LOUISIANA NATIONAL GUARD: Well, absolutely. The National Guard is there to assist in every way that they can, anything from assisting local law enforcement with security, to assisting with search and rescue operations, to delivering supplies, water and food to the evacuation shelters. So we're just glad that we could help out.

SANCHEZ: What most people probably oftentimes don't realize is that the most important part of a hurricane happens after the dramatic pictures are done. For the next days, weeks, months, maybe a year, there's a lot of work that's going to need to be done in this area. How do you start out confronting or approaching this huge, massive problem? We're being told by some in some areas it's as big as 20 square miles of flooded areas. How do you go after something like this?

COWAN: Well I'd like to start by saying one of the most important parts actually comes before the storm, trying to convince the citizens to leave while the sun is still shining and the skies are blue. Try to get them out of the danger area so that we don't have those catastrophic casualties that are predicted in such major storms. Now...

SANCHEZ: Well let me follow up on that then, because we're trying to get a better handle here as to how many people did or did not heed that warning. Do you have a sense as to how many people did or didn't? COWAN: The numbers that we've been hearing is approximately 80 percent of the population of New Orleans were able to evacuate and evacuated safely.

SANCHEZ: Give me that number one more time.

COWAN: About 80 percent of the population.

SANCHEZ: Eighty percent. Well we're looking at live pictures right now in that area. I don't know if you've been watching our coverage throughout the night, but we've been focusing in on St. Bernard Parish and the area around Ward 9, the 9th Ward there in Louisiana. And we're told that there are many people trapped in their attics still.

COWAN: Absolutely.

SANCHEZ: Does that figure with some of the numbers that you have been coming up with?

COWAN: Yes. And there's really no way to accurately judge how many people did not evacuate. It's kind of hard to tell.


COWAN: So what we're doing is we're working with Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, because they have the boats that can get in the water and can get in to the flooded areas to help rescue those people. We're also working with the Coast Guard with their helicopter support. We have National Guard helicopters. We have the Civil Air Patrol that is also assisting with spotting those that may be on the rooftops so that we can get it pinpointed to where we can rescue them.

SANCHEZ: Hey, thanks so much for joining us, Lt. Kevin Cowan from the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness. We'll certainly be checking back with you, sir, to try and get a better sense of what's going on there.

We have someone else that we want to talk to now, someone who may be able to give us a better sense in terms of the possibility of casualties. I know we haven't gotten any numbers yet from the area around New Orleans yet or Louisiana even. But we're going to be able to talk now to the Vice President of Tulane University. It's Karen Troyer-Caraway who's good enough to join us.

Ms. Caraway, tell us, if you would, what you've learned of casualties, if any at all, in that area around New Orleans, because it seems to be perplexing many.

KAREN TROYER-CARAWAY, V.P., TULANE UNIV. HOSPITAL: Yes, it is. We don't have any confirmed reports of casualties at this time. Our biggest concern is rising water. Our hospital is in downtown New Orleans, and we did not get any accumulated water from the storm when the storm actually occurred.

But within the past two hours, the water has been rising at the rate of an inch every five minutes. We now are completely surrounded by six feet of water. And we're getting ready to get on the phone with FEMA to start talking about evacuation plans.

SANCHEZ: So your hospital has been open throughout this storm?

TROYER-CARAWAY: Yes, we have.

SANCHEZ: You have remained open. Have you been taking people who have been victims of the storm?

TROYER-CARAWAY: No, because nobody can get to us now. But, yes, earlier during the day, when the storm initially began to subside enough, we did get some injuries, some broken legs, some minor injuries from falling debris. And then the water began to rise.

And since then, we haven't gotten any new patients because the ambulance, the cars, the trucks, the vehicles, the fire trucks, the water is so high at this point that the vehicles can't get to us. So we're contemplating air evacuation, at this point, of the entire hospital, which we have over 1,000 people here.

SANCHEZ: So, there are 1,000 people in the hospital. And you are now saying that you are...

TROYER-CARAWAY: Contemplating.

SANCHEZ: ... contemplating evacuating all the patients who are in there?


SANCHEZ: Have you...

TROYER-CARAWAY: If the water...

SANCHEZ: Have...

TROYER-CARAWAY: If the water continues to rise at the current rate of an inch every five minutes, we have been on emergency backup generator power since about 2:00 in the morning yesterday, about 24 hours ago. And at the current rate the water is rising, we will lose emergency backup generator power because the water is rising and it will get to our second floor where our emergency backup generators are. We have patients on ventilators that need power supply for life support.

SANCHEZ: Well how -- let me ask you this, if there were to be an evacuation, as you suggest, there may need to be, how would that evacuation be done if the first floor is already underwater? There's no place to drive up.

TROYER-CARAWAY: No, we have a heliport on the top of our garage. We'd have to have FEMA come fly in and get us.

SANCHEZ: So the only way to evacuate some of your patients would be by helicopters. Others, I imagine, could be taken out by boat? TROYER-CARAWAY: The patients that we have are mostly critically ill patients. I would have to say the majority of them would have to be evacuated by air.

SANCHEZ: Wow. And this is vice -- this is Tulane University Hospital, which, as I recall, is just west of New Orleans proper, correct?

TROYER-CARAWAY: We're in downtown New Orleans.

SANCHEZ: Right in down...

TROYER-CARAWAY: We're in the central business district of New Orleans.

SANCHEZ: When do you expect to make this decision?

TROYER-CARAWAY: Well we just received confirmed reports from Louisiana State Police that the breach in the levee on the 17th Street Canal is two blocks long. Now that's a breach in the levee that holds back the lake, Lake Pontchartrain. Even with all the pumps operational, which we still haven't confirmed that all of them have been turned on, but even if they do turn on, they're not going to be able to compete with Lake Pontchartrain. The water is rising so fast I cannot begin to describe how quickly it's rising.

SANCHEZ: Tell me this again, and if you would, tell me what your source is on that information of the breach, which you characterized as, what, a block long?

TROYER-CARAWAY: Two blocks long.

SANCHEZ: A breach two blocks long along the levee, where?

TROYER-CARAWAY: Seventeenth Street Canal in Lake View New Orleans.

SANCHEZ: And that would be one of the levees leading out of, or, yes, leading out of Lake Pontchartrain?

TROYER-CARAWAY: That is one of the levee systems for Lake Pontchartrain. It is the geographical border between Orleans Parish and Jefferson Parish. But the breach in the levee is on the Orleans Parish side, so it's dumping all the lake water into Orleans Parish.

SANCHEZ: Yes. And you're...

TROYER-CARAWAY: And it's essentially running down Canal Street. I mean, from the top of our buildings we have white caps on Canal Street the water is moving so fast.

SANCHEZ: Wow, that is new information as far as we can tell here. You say you had a conversation with some police officials about this?

TROYER-CARAWAY: Louisiana State Police. SANCHEZ: Louisiana State Police. And they confirmed that to you?


SANCHEZ: So it looks, at this point, that if this water continues to rise you are going to have to make a decision and it certainly appears that that decision will be to evacuate. Are there any other buildings, aside from yours, that are going to be affected by this, by the way?

TROYER-CARAWAY: Yes, Charity Hospital is currently in process of being evacuated by air. They have 90 patients on ventilators. They are working right now with Louisiana National Guard and FEMA to try and air evacuate. They are directly across the street from us.

SANCHEZ: And the waters continue to rise. You mentioned earlier that the waters were already at the very top of your first floor.


SANCHEZ: And now they're coming to get on the second floor.


SANCHEZ: And it's rising at what level you said?

TROYER-CARAWAY: An hour ago the water was rising at an inch every five minutes. But the rate of rising water is increasing. So I can't tell you. Extremely busy right now.

SANCHEZ: Wow, Karen Troyer-Caraway, thanks so much for bringing us up to date.

TROYER-CARAWAY: OK, I've got run. Thanks so much.

SANCHEZ: We wish you the very best. No, thank you for being with us.

We're going to take a quick break.

The news coming in, as we speak, really developing on the air as it -- as the information changes. Both Charity Hospital and Tulane University Hospital facing the possibility of evacuation because, according to the Vice President of Tulane University Hospital, Karen Troyer-Caraway, who we just spoke to, there is a levee that has been breached along the 17th Street Road and canal. And, as a result, that breach is so large that the water that is in Lake Pontchartrain is now pouring into the road. And that is the reason, she says, that they're now considering this evacuation. We will continue to look into that as we do other stories and other developments on this story.

I'm Rick Sanchez. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SANCHEZ: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of Hurricane Katrina, and let's try and catch you up now on some of the information as it's coming in. And let's start with the very latest information that we just received moments ago, the very first reports that we're now learning of significant damage along the levees that hold back the water there in Lake Pontchartrain.

And this is important because all along, as we've been following the story, you have been hearing many officials say one of the biggest concerns they have is that Lake Pontchartrain is above sea level, the rest of New Orleans is not. And if Lake Pontchartrain, obviously, has a problem, then that water will pour into the area.

Well, we just had a conversation you may have heard here moments ago with the vice president of Tulane University, Karen Troyer Caraway. She is saying that she has been in contact with state police, who have told her that the levee has, indeed, been breached along 17th and Canal Street and that the water is now pouring out of there at such a rate that her hospital and at least one other in the area may need to be evacuated.

So once again, the very first report that we have learned of a possible breach, or major breach, we should say, of Lake Pontchartrain. It's something we here at CNN will continue to investigate as the morning goes on.

By the way, other information that we've been gathering throughout the morning. In Mississippi, authorities estimate 54 people are dead as a result of Katrina, 30 of those, by the way, as we confirmed here on CNN, dead in Harrison County, Mississippi, at the Biloxi St. Charles apartment complex. And that's where a massive storm surge is being blamed for damages that are being reported there. Governor Haley Barbour terms the scene as catastrophic -- his word.

Meanwhile, there's good news in New Orleans. Nighttime search- and-rescues have saved hundreds of stranded people who have been literally stuck in these flood waters. These are one of the pictures you're looking at now of boats that are being used to go to the places where people are either, A, on their roofs, or B, stuck in their attics, calling for help, many of them being rescued. Unfortunately, many more still need to be rescued.

Let us take you out now to our own weather center and check in with Bonnie Schneider to find out what's going on with the storm as it continues to go in what appears to be a northeasterly track, Bonnie?

SCHNEIDER: That's right, north-northeasterly, Rick. And that movement's about 22 miles per hour, so the storm's moving fairly quickly. Only problem is, it's just so large in size that this area, concentrated area of rainfall continues, and right around the center of circulation, which is now, I'd say, to the north-northeast of Columbus, Mississippi. Some of the heaviest places where we're getting most rain is in Tennessee right now. I just want to show you some real-time radar of what we're looking at. Poor Memphis! It's been coming down there for the past couple hours. And I was talking earlier about one of the effects from a hurricane or a tropical storm, when you have bands of rain, is what we call "training (ph)" -- not necessarily a squall or a front that brings about a line of showers but just a band of precipitation that either moves from south to north or north to south and just keeps on coming and doesn't move from left to right or east to west. So that's what we're seeing with this.

Also, if we head out to another state -- and we'll just slide our radar picture over there -- you'll see that we also have rain in other parts further to the south. Let's slide on down to Alabama. And as we look towards the Alabama-Georgia border, heading towards Columbus, we're getting plenty of rain right here along this interstate. So just be careful. There are still so many bands of rain that have to be contended with.

And if we could go to our VIPIR source -- just want to show you the results of what a hurricane can do. All these big circles that are popping up indicate areas where the radar sites were knocked down. We don't have readings. Take a look at this. From Atlanta down through Pensacola, Florida, Slidell, Louisiana, and then back through Lake Charles, all those radar sites are out as a result of Katrina.

And if we go back to our other source now, we'll show you what we can expect from Katrina. The rain continues, and it's working its way to the north-northeast, so heavy rain for the Ohio Valley, on into Ohio itself later on and tomorrow and into tonight. Right now, we've got some very heavy rain, as I mentioned, into Tennessee and Kentucky. The potential is this for tornadoes to break out. We haven't had any spotted on the ground, but we have had indicated -- Doppler-indicated tornadoes through the Georgia area. and even into parts of North Carolina some were spotted on radar. So just be careful in that vicinity. This is not a good night to travel, or even tomorrow, even you can stay inside in this vicinity and try to avoid some of this rain.

If you're wondering how much rain can we expect on the highest amounts, as Katrina works to the north-northeast, we're talking about a concentration of between 2 to 5 inches, and some of the heavier areas will certainly get some of the heaviest amounts of rain, like in Tennessee and in Kentucky.

Incidentally, Rick, we have reports of 8 inches already on the ground in parts of Kentucky. And since this storm is moving to the north-northeast at 22 miles per hour, which is, I guess, considered a quick movement, it's still going to take a while to push this storm out of there, so Kentucky is still under the gun for a lot of rain tonight.

SANCHEZ: A lot of people still being affected by this storm. Bonnie Schneider, thanks so much for bringing us up to date. We will be checking with you throughout the course of the morning.

Despite warnings to leave their homes, many residents of New Orleans chose to just ride out the storm, as you've been seeing in our coverage throughout this morning. Rescue efforts fell on the shoulders then of New Orleans police. CNN's Jeanne Meserve once again, filing this report earlier with Paula Zahn.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: There are people in these houses. They are one-story houses with small attics. The water came up very suddenly, they tell us, after most of the storm has passed. They believe it was the surge. It came up quickly. They fled to their attics, those that could. And now boats are going around, and they are yelling and they are knocking and they are busting out windows and they are dragging people out of their attics.

But they -- they have too few boats. They have -- there are only two boats working this area. I'm told that the New Orleans Police put out a call to all its officers, saying, If you have a boat, bring it her, help us. But the officers who have boats cannot get to them, in many cases, because the roads are flooded to their homes. And so I just saw in -- saw some people bring in jetskis. They are going out on jetskis to try and rescue these people.

There's one story that there's an officer up on this bridge, and his mother is stranded in one of the homes that we can see from here. I can't imagine what that would be like.

And you see these people walking up, Paula. They look shell- shocked. They look like refugees. They are refugees. They're piling them into vehicles as best they can and taking them back into town, where, hopefully, they can get some warm clothing and help. They have clearly lost everything.

And I am told what I am looking at is not the worst of it, that the central part of this ward is much worse off than what I'm seeing here. There will be deaths. I have no doubt about it, Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And you're talking about this tremendous toll in human cost this storm has taken. We understand, as desperate as some of those survivors, at least the ones we saw waiting in the water look, as they looked up at the helicopter, I guess, looking for rescue, is there are some huge health concerns with poisonous snakes out there, fire ants and mosquitoes infesting the city. Have you heard much about how concerned health officials are about those folks who weren't fortunate enough to get out?

MESERVE: Can I tell you, Paula, I think, right now, people are thinking about something much more elemental. They're just trying to save their lives. It comes down to that.

Yes, we heard things in the previous days about the possibility of there being serious health issues because of the rising water, but this is life and death. This is life and death. There's just no doubt about it.

ZAHN: Jeanne, you haven't...


ZAHN: Jeanne, you haven't had the ability, since you're in the field, to see what this looks like from the aerials. It just goes on and on and on. And from our perspective here, you're not talking about, you know, dozens of homes, it looks like hundreds and hundreds of homes affected.

MESERVE: I wouldn't be surprised to hear that. I wouldn't be surprised at all. And certainly, as far as my eye can see -- and I'm at a fairly high vantage point, and on our way out here, we thought we were seeing horrible flooding when we went through neighborhoods where cars were covered. Well, that turned out to be nothing to what we saw when we got out here.

And as I say, they say that there are areas inaccessible by roadways, something we can't get to, where it looks even worse. Rescue personnel told -- tell me that there are -- there are bodies floating in the water there. The people I see -- these are people, Paula, let me explain, who are people of limited resources. These are people who did not have the wherewithal to get out of town. They didn't have cars. There's no way they could pay for a hotel room. They stayed in their houses because they had to.


MESERVE: And then the water came up. And I'm sure there were elderly here. There are infirm here. It's just -- it's just horrific.


SANCHEZ: And tonight, the water continues to go up -- Jeanne Meserve earlier today, describing to Paula Zahn what was the very beginning of this drama, as it was just starting to unfold, with the waters rising in that area, now told to us as Saint Bernard parish and the 9th ward.

Well, there's grave concern in Gulfport, Mississippi, as well, and the surrounding area around Harrison County, an estimated 50 people confirmed dead. CNN's national correspondent, Gary Tuchman, has more from Biloxi.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a day that felt like it was never going to end. For hours in Gulfport, Mississippi, we had sustained winds of 135 miles per hour. It was devastating to the town of 71,000 people. We went through the town as the hurricane was nearing its completion to get a look at some of the images in much of Gulfport under water. U.S. 90, the beach road right along the coast, was under 10 to 12 feet of water. But even five miles inland, much of the town was under water -- homes, businesses, used car lots all floating in water.

We saw at one point a police officer with five people. We asked why was he with five people in a truck in the middle of all the water. He told us he rescued them, they couldn't swim, in the waters near their house. We talked to another police officer, asked him how the city was doing. He said he hadn't had time to look because he had to deal with looters.

So that's what was going on in Gulfport, Mississippi, devastated town. It will take an awful long time to clean it all up. How long it will take is anybody's guess, at this point.

One silver lining story we want to tell you about, though. There's an aquarium right on the beach in Gulfport. It was deemed that it was unsafe for the bottlenose dolphins, six of them, to stay there. It was felt that they would not survive. So last night, they were brought to a hotel about four miles inland. They treated the pool with salt water. The put the dolphins inside the swimming pool. While the winds were blowing at 135 miles per hour and all havoc was outside, I walked back to the swimming pool and the dolphins were, to coin a phrase, swimming merrily, having a fine time. And we're happy to report that those bottlenose dolphins are OK.

This is Gary Tuchman, CNN, in Biloxi, Mississippi.


SANCHEZ: One wonders how they got the chlorine out.

When we come back, we're going to be telling you what the hurricane, now a tropical storm, is doing as it continues on its trek and what it possibly could do to the people living along Tennessee, parts of Kentucky, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Stay with us. We'll be right back.


SANCHEZ: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of Hurricane Katrina, now Tropical Storm Katrina. I'm Rick Sanchez.

By the way, Katrina's still moving across the Southeast, where there are several thunderstorm watches and tornado warnings, as well. Michael Mach is a meteorologist at the National Weather Service's southern region operations. He's in Fort Worth, Texas, and he's good enough to join us now by phone.

Let me ask you, Michael -- you study these things for a living. When you look at this particular storm, Katrina, and you compare it, perhaps, to other hurricanes and other storms which you've followed, what stands out about it?

MICHAEL MACH, NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SOUTHERN REGION: Well, to me, it looks like a 100-year storm. The very broad nature of this particular storm and the widespread area that it encompasses is certainly something that is on a -- perhaps a once-a-century type of timeline.

SANCHEZ: Did this thing sneak up on us, so to speak?

MACH: Actually, we, of course, had been following it ever since it went through southern Florida there. And the Gulf waters were running in the upper 80s, and that very warm, moist Gulf air there was just the fuel that it needed to spin up and to become the tremendous category 4 and 5 hurricane that it was and for the length of time that it was out in the Gulf of Mexico there. Certainly, we had been monitoring it for several days and realized its tremendous potential, as it did eventually make landfall...

SANCHEZ: So -- so...

MACH: ... in the last 24 hours.

SANCHEZ: So I guess what we take from this is that once in a while, if all the conditions are just right, these things can literally spin -- pardon the phrase but -- out of control.

MACH: Well, it certainly is a storm that certainly defined its own being, and you could just see from the eyewall itself, being 30 miles across, was a very intense hurricane itself.

SANCHEZ: When we look at the areas around New Orleans and the type of flooding that is still taking place there, according to some of the people that we are talking to, do you expect that the damage from this storm will be as bad as anything we have ever seen, certainly in the last 50 years, let's say, from Betsy on?

MACH: Well, I'd certainly think the only comparison we've seen is, like, Hurricane Andrew, and I think so far, during our lifetime, we've really never seen a hurricane that will produce as much dollar damage and...

SANCHEZ: But the difference -- let me tell you, the difference that I can see and just from being in Andrew for many months, covering it, is Andrew didn't create this type of flooding. And Andrew, as I recall, only actually killed two people the night of the storm. Of course, many others died afterward doing work and everything, so -- it was not a deadly storm, and it didn't really bring that much water. It was a windy storm, correct?

MACH: Well, that is true there. The -- this particular storm, of course, with the levee system and the fact that it's affecting New Orleans and -- you know, New Orleans itself is a tremendous -- has tremendous swamp land there. There's a tremendous amount of water potential there, and now we're seeing that some of the levees are being breached, and that's just compounding the problems that are already there, even after the storm has moved well into the Tennessee Valley this morning.

SANCHEZ: So this storm could still do more damage, and I think that's the important thing to take away from this conversation, if nothing else, right?

MACH: Well, the rainfall rates are still 1 to 2 inches across much of Tennessee per hour, and there's some heavy 3 or 4-inch amounts that are still occurring over parts of Alabama and northern Mississippi. And there are various strong line of thunderstorms. In fact, I just had a call from our Birmingham office, and they were indicating that they were still receiving widespread 60 to 65-mile-an- hour winds there in the northern half of Alabama. SANCHEZ: Wow. Michael Mach, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service southern region operations in Fort Worth, we thank you for this conversation that you provided us with, and the insight, as well.

MACH: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Riding out a hurricane is one thing, staying safe in the aftermath is quite another. We have compiled some tips for you to weather a post-storm period. Avoid tap water because it may be contaminated. If you have to use an alternative, boil tap water for at least five minutes before using or drinking it. But do not drink the boiled water if you are pregnant, and do not give it to an infant younger than six months.

And to make the most of your food supplies during a power outage, do not open the freezers or refrigerators unless you're going to use the contents. Food will stay safe for four hours in an unopened refrigerator, 36 to 48 hours in an unopened freezer.

Many people want to survey the damage immediately after a storm, but avoid driving for now. If you were evacuated, do not return home until authorities tell you it's safe. And when you do come back, have ID with you to cross many of the checkpoints that will be set up in your town.

Be sure to stay 10 feet away from fallen trees and power lines. Do not touch downed power lines, wires or metal objects, and stay away from the water around them, as well. They conduce the electricity. Certainly, do not remove a tree or an object from a power line, especially if it's wet. Many people who I just mentioned died in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew died because of that, work they were doing around the house and power lines.

Now, once inside, turn off all electrical equipment that you were using before the electricity went out. Do not run a generator indoors. And if you use a generator, do not connect it to the home's electrical supplies.

Also, don't use matches or light candles until gas lines are checked. Avoid turning the power on in your home before it is inspected by a professional. Also, avoid using a telephone except for emergencies.

We're going to continue to bring you the very latest. Also, information that you may be able to use. And if you're in the area right now of Tennessee or Kentucky and the hurricane or the tropical storm still heading your way, good idea to stay inside. Good idea to stay away from windows. And try and keep the air from coming into your home because once it does, it will look for a way to get out, as well.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SANCHEZ: The city of New Orleans hasn't felt the direct impact of a major hurricane since 1965, narrowly avoided certain disaster a few years later, in 1969 -- August 17 and 18, to be exact. It was a category 5 hurricane, and it was called Camille. It devastated the Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama coasts. The storm created gusts of more than 200 miles an hour. That's estimated, by the way, since every piece of monitoring equipment was destroyed at the time, not to mention the fact it wasn't state of the art, as it is now.

It brought the highest storm surge ever measured in the United States, wiped out nearly every coastal structure from east of New Orleans to the Florida Panhandle. Camille killed 143 people along the Gulf Coast, nearly that many in the flooding that followed as it moved north, as well. Hurricane Camille and Hurricane Andrew in 1992 are considered the only category 5 storms to hit the U.S. mainland.

We want to bring you up to date now on some of the other stories that we're going to be bringing you, including some of the interviews that we're going to be doing with some of our own reporters and photographers. We're going to have that for you in just a little bit. We'll be back.


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