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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Update on Hurricane Rita; Galveston Evacuation; Texas Senator Says Galveston's Prepared; Funding For Hurricane Rebuilding; Hurricane of 1900 In Galveston; Possible Damage to Galveston; JetBlue airline circling over Long Beach, California

Aired September 21, 2005 - 19:00   ET

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


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Rita gaining strength as it charges toward Texas and Western Louisiana. Good night from New York. Now, ANDERSON COOPER 360 begins.
Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Lou, thanks very much.

Good evening, everyone.

Tonight, we are live in Galveston, Texas, where a state of emergency is in effect. Category five Hurricane Rita heading this way. It is 4:00 p.m. on the west coast, 7:00 in the east, 6:00 p.m. here in Galveston. 360 starts now.

ANNOUNCER: Category five, 165 miles an hour. Make no mistake, Hurricane Rita is a monster.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now's the time to leave.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Roads are crowded, thousands pack and millions hold their breath. As it roars towards land, Rita is far more powerful than Katrina. If Rita hits Houston, it could look like this.

Taking aim at Galveston. Rita is on a collision course with a city still haunted by the hurricane of 1900. Thousands were killed. It remains the worst natural disaster ever in America. Why so many worry history could repeat itself.

Three weeks ago, New Orleans was under water. They predicted 80 days to pump out all the water. Incredibly, tonight the streets are dry. But for how long? Can those fragile levees take another hit?

The cops in New Orleans saving the town and speaking out an a man made disaster.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were people dying. I didn't sign up for this. You know, I didn't sign up to be abandoned. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Working around the clock with little pay and nowhere to sleep.

Tonight, they have been forgotten. But now, they're at last breaking their silence. This is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360 "State of Emergency."

COOPER: Welcome, again, to 360.

We left New Orleans this morning so we could report to you live from here in Galveston, Texas. A city in the cross hairs of Hurricane Rita. Behind me stands the remembrance monument for the more than 8,000 people killed right here in Galveston in the historic hurricane that hit here in 1900. They called it a 100-year storm.

Like Katrina, which has claimed more than 1,000 lives so far, that hurricane was a category four storm. Rita, which tonight is churning along with terrifying 165 mile per hour winds, is stronger than both of them. It is a category five hurricane. And topped (ph) what's happening at this moment. Let's take a look.

Galveston under a mandatory evacuation. The 60,000 residents who live here are being ordered out today. Texas governor, Rick Perry, pleaded that others up and down the coast should begin making their evacuation plans. The governor warned that "homes can be rebuilt, lives cannot."

The dire warnings are being sounded across the Gulf Coast tonight. Late today, President Bush declared states of emergencies in Texas and again in Louisiana. Also, the U.S. military is mobilizing some of its troops, placing them on standby for the hurricane.

And the acting director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency says that truckloads of water, of ice and meals ready to eat are being staged in Texas and more supplies are on their way. We are going to be following their activities very closely indeed.

We know the power of Rita but consider its astonishing size for just a moment. It is 280 miles from end to end 280 miles. Now, as a category five hurricane, the storm surge can tower 18 feet above normal sea level. Of course, for now, that is out at sea. It is out there but it is heading this way. The question is, will it reach land and when it does, at what strength? CNN meteorologist, Jacqui Jeras, is tracking Rita and joins us now from the CNN Weather Center in Atlanta.

Jacqui, where is that at?

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, it's about 600 miles from you right now, Anderson. East-southeast of Galveston, Texas. A powerful category five, as you mentioned. And now it's in the history books. Aircraft reconnaissance flew into this storm and found pressure of 904 millibars. And that makes it number five on the list of all-time intense hurricanes just shy behind Hurricane Katrina which had 902 millibars at its peak. Winds were 175 at the time with Katrina. Right now we're at 165 with Rita.

It's moving in a westerly direction on its way for the Texas coast. Hurricane watch have been posted from Port Mansfield, extending up towards Cameron, Louisiana. Then tropical storm watches extended eastward to Grand Isle, Louisiana.

The forecast track has it continuing to push west through the Gulf of Mexico. We'll likely see fluctuations in intensity. We very easily could see this drop back down to a four and then go back up to a five. Or possibly even down as much as a three before it makes landfall.

But we still think it will be a major hurricane by the time it reaches the Texas coast. And we think that will happen sometime late on Friday or early Saturday. Much of the day Friday we think this storm will be already effecting the Texas and Louisiana coast as it is such a very large storm.

Also we have to think about what's going to happen inland, not just here on the coast, because this is still forecast to be maybe a category one as it gets near Austin, Texas, and that can cause power outages. Another thing to think about with those power outages and the people that are evacuating are the heat, Anderson.

Heat in the seas across Eastern Texas this afternoon were beyond 100 degrees. Tomorrow, possible record highs. And with people stuck in traffic and trying to evacuate, they need to make sure that they have water and food with them in their car as they evacuate also -- Anderson.

COOPER: Jacqui, we are going to check back in with you because this thing is moving fast and changing quickly. I'll check back in with you a little bit later this hour.

Here's a way to look at all of this. Only 24 days after Hurricane Katrina, another once-in-a- lifetime storm is barreling toward the already-devastating Gulf Coast. And this time, local, state and federal agencies are pledging to be fully prepared for the worst-case scenario. Which is clearly on the minds of the people here in Galveston. CNN's Deb Feyerick has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DEB FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): They carried their bags, their babies, their fear.

RACHEL ROGERS, GALVESTON EVACUEE: I'm just scared.

FEYERICK: Have you ever been to a shelter before?

ROGERS: No, I never have. This is going to be my first time.

FEYERICK: There were the old, the young, the frail, without their own transportation, boarding the buses to join the exodus from Galveston. Julia Marshall (ph) and her five children only settled on the island this summer. They moved, you guessed it, from New Orleans, because they were tired of the floods.

JULIA MARSHALL, GALVESTON EVACUEE: I'm prepared to be gone if need be at least two weeks or more. And I have medication and everything that my kids need to, you know, prepare myself for that.

FEYERICK: When Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas saw the latest hurricane threat, she sent teams of volunteers into the city over the weekend to figure out who of the population of more than 58,000 would need a ride. Two thousand people signed up.

MAYOR LYDA ANN THOMAS, GALVESTON, TEXAS: We have called for evacuation many times on the island. We're a sand bar and we're storm ridden fairly often. But this is the first time that people have responded the way they have.

FEYERICK: From the time the first bus pulled up, to the time the last of the 80 buses left just before lunch, it took just two hours to get everyone on board to head north. Also emptied, Galveston's four nursing homes and both hospitals. For those who fled Katrina, this latest evacuation wasn't easy.

ANN SELTZER, FEMA: For some of them, they're taking a deep breath and saying, OK, we can do this. I've just done it. I've done it before. And others are just physically and emotionally exhausted and it's just gut-wrenching for them to have to move on.

FEYERICK: Move on to safety. For some, not knowing when or if they'll come back.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: I think it's fair to say, Deborah, everyone is emotionally and physically exhausted in this region. Not only the people covering it, but the people who are living here.

The reaction here, though, is very different than what we saw in New Orleans. The mayor here has really learned from the mistakes than were made in New Orleans.

FEYERICK: There's no question. It was on the fore of everyone's minds, don't let what happened in New Orleans happen here. And as a matter of fact, last week when the mayor heard that this was coming, she made sure she got her people out, signed up people who didn't have a ride out, made sure that they were registered, and then ordered an evacuation 72 hours before the storm is even supposed to hit.

COOPER: And they've got a command center set up. They've got rooms, hotel room, for first responders to stay in. And it looks like they have this thing as well in hand as possible. We're going to continue watching very closely.

Thank, Deborah.

The state of Texas already had its hands full even before it found itself staring down the barrel of Hurricane Rita. Remember, Texas has been trying to provide for tens of thousands of people Katrina displaced from neighboring Louisiana. So things in the lone star state must be very tense indeed just now. Joining us to talk about that from Washington, we're pleased to be joined by Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Senator, thanks very much for being with us. I know it's a busy time for you.

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R), TEXAS: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: How convinced are you that in terms of the emergency response on a local, on a state and a federal level that Texas is more prepared to handle this hurricane than Louisiana was?

HUTCHISON: I definitely think we are. I just talked to the FEMA administrator and he has told me all the things that are pre-portioned there. The Florida FEMA teams are all on their way to Texas now. There's an orderly process for the evacuations. First voluntary and then mandatory.

And I think the system for predicting where these hurricanes go is so much better than we've ever had before. And while I was born in Galveston and I'm used to dealing with hurricanes, I think this is we are as well placed and positioned as we could possibly be under the circumstances.

COOPER: You know, the big mistake, or one of the mistakes that was made in New Orleans was the lack of buses and the lack of bus drivers to take people out, even though they knew there were some 100,000 people who didn't have access to cars. Do you feel like the people who don't have their own vehicles, that preparations have been made for them? Adequate preparations?

HUTCHISON: Yes. I am very impressed with what the county judges and the mayors have done. The preparation that they have. They've started really early this week when this storm was way out there, trying to determine who wouldn't have the ability to transport. They've emptied the hospitals in Galveston, as you heard, and the nursing homes.

I think that we have systems in place. We have evacuations systems and timetables. I think everything is very well coordinated. I think the state's doing a great job. I think the local people are very tuned in to what needs to be done in these circumstances. And even though we thought we couldn't take one more thing with all of the Katrina evacuees that we had, nevertheless, we're going to take one more thing and we're going to do a good job.

COOPER: It's a big hearted state and a strong people here, so I have no doubt you're going to. You've got a nuclear power plant in South Texas. How concerned are you about that?

HUTCHISON: Well, Anderson, I think that we have built those power plants so that they can withstand a lot. But 25 percent of the refining capacity in America is right in the path of that storm. So I think all of us are going to have to be prepared for what might happen. We are doing everything possible. And one of the things I think that was done after Katrina is that, we stabilized gasoline prices very quickly. The president acted to let our SPRO be let out, our strategic petroleum reserve. We had imports from foreign countries that was very helpful in stabilizing the supply of oil. But this is something we have to watch very carefully in the Galveston, Houston, Texas-city area. There are 21 refineries.

COOPER: Yes, we'll definitely be watching that. Senator Hutchison, I'm sure we'll be talking to you again. Appreciate you being on tonight. Thanks.

HUTCHISON: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: You know, the country's attention is currently focused on the Gulf Coast for two good reasons, of course. Well, actually, two bad reasons. The hurricane that was Katrina and the hurricane to come, Rita. But we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that America's other coast and therefore other places susceptible to storms. Here's a download from weather.com.

Which calls weather.com calls these among the most vulnerable areas. Other than currently threatened New Orleans and Galveston. On the Atlantic, Long Island, New York, home to millions of communities and commuters to and from Manhattan. Wilmington, North Carolina. Miami, Florida, also. And on Florida's western coast, the city of Tampa.

Still to come tonight on 360, how Hurricane Rita could be worse than Katrina for people living away from the Gulf. And one worst case answer. Dire predictions about the price of gas. We just talked about it with the senator. We'll take a look at how the category five storm could send gas prices soaring and affect you at the pump when you try to fill up.

Plus, New Orleans, who would have thought the water would be pumped out and the city dry less than a month after Katrina hit? Believe it or not, it is tonight. We get a look at what was left behind.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, if Rita strikes as a category four or five hurricane this weekend, there is no doubt that it's going to cause a lot of damage. Perhaps in the tens of billions of dollars. All of this while the federal government is still trying to figure out how to pay for Hurricane Katrina's destruction, which some estimates put in the $200 billion price range. CNN congressional correspondent, Joe Johns, investigates trying to pry out some answers from lawmakers who don't really want to talk about what they might have to give up. Let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): Republicans say the best way to pay for Katrina, not to mention Rita, is to squeeze the budget but not raise taxes or undue tax cuts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything is on the table. We'll take a look at it.

JOHNS: But what does that mean? We spent the day trying to figure it out. This morning, die hard conservatives offered a stack of suggested cuts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amtrak.

REP. DENNIS HASTERT, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The foreign operations budget.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Prescription drug benefits.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The corporation for public broadcasting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cutting NASA.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The earned income tax credit.

JOHNS: The list isn't exactly new.

How are you all going to get this done? I mean, it would take tremendous political will and pressure and a lot of people have recommended these things for years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the only thing that moves us is the voters.

JOHNS: But the next election is a year away. The Treasury is already borrowing money hand over fist to pay for Katrina. Over $60 billion and counting. And the Pentagon alone is on track to spend over $50 billion this year for the Iraq War.

One idea, revisit the just-approved $286 billion Highway Bill stuffed with $24 billion in special projects. Those projects some critics call pork.

JOHNS: Mr. Chairman, back again. How you doing?

Transportation Committee Chairman Don Young of Alaska got the bill through Congress. Like most lawmaker, Young funneled money to his home state, including $223 million for a remote bridge. Critics call it a bridge to nowhere.

And one of the members I spoke to said, Chairman Young needs to give up his bridge.

REP. DON YOUNG, TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: You know, it's sad when people do thing when they don't know what they're talking about. As far as my bridge goes, the state's not about to give that money up. I have no authority to do that, nor does any other member.

JOHNS: Isn't there a bunch of stuff in that Highway Bill, at least $24 billion, that could be taken out and used for the people in New Orleans, in Mississippi and the places that were effected?

YOUNG: No. That money is not there. That money is for transportation. That is not added pork. See, that's the way the whole media "The Wall Street Journal," yourself respectfully, you know, and Sam Donaldson don't know what the hell you're talking about. This is grand standing by individuals that don't know what they're talking about. I'll go back to that. It's ignorance and stupidity.

JOHNS: Republican Tom Tancredo of Colorado insists that nothing is sacred.

You're calling on Don Young to give up his bridge in Alaska.

REP TOM TANCREDO (R), COLORADO: Me? Hey, listen, I don't even know about this bridge in Alaska. I've been hearing about it ever since this whole flap began. But why not?

JOHNS: Give up Medicare? The president's sacred cow.

TANCREDO: I know. Stranger things have happened in politics. I can't think of any right now but it's possible.

JOHNS: Stranger things have indeed happened. But up here, they don't happen that often.

Joe Johns, CNN, Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: So the question remains, where is the money going to come from. 360 next, the deadliest hurricane to hit the U.S. It happened right here in Galveston, Texas. We're going to take a look at how that storm wrecked this community and whether Rita could do the same.

Also ahead tonight, the errors of Katrina. How some police officers feel abandoned in New Orleans as they tried to help those in need. And they still feel abandoned. They feel like they're getting ripped off and no one is paying them attention. We'll let them speak out ahead tonight. We'll get the inside story from one police officer.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: You're looking at an oil rig far off the coast of Galveston here. Those rigs have been evacuated. There is a state of emergency in this area. People are being asked to leave and leave quickly. The road out of here is jam-packed with cars. They're going to close incoming traffic we are told and turn all the lanes to outgoing traffic to get as many people off Galveston as possible.

You know, a lot of people along the Gulf, survivors of Katrina, is waiting fearfully for Rita. Maybe tempted to think that things were better in the good old days. Well, they weren't. There were no cars, there were no highways, there were no radio, no radar, no forecasting. Forecasting was really just a matter of looking at the sky and watching the barnyard animals.

All of which is to say that in 1900, on Saturday, the 8th of September, the people of Galveston, Texas, they had practically no warning of the approach of nor really any way to flee from what history now records as the deadliest weather this country has ever suffered. Imagine, just standing on this beach and all of a sudden realizing death was coming. CNN's Bruce Morton takes a look back.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): Katrina was so awful, a whole city under water it seemed, that you had to wonder, have we ever had anything worse? The answer is yes. The hurricane that hit Galveston, Texas, 105 years ago this month.

Galveston is an island. A big sand bar, really. Just under nine feet high. The hurricane storm surge was 16 feet high and flooded everything.

How many died? About 7,000. But there could have been more. Homes shattered. Buildings down.

This was the orphanage. Ten nuns latched themselves to 93 children. Three children escaped, everyone else drowned. They had to burn most of the bodies. Funeral parlors smoldered for two months.

But they came back, voted, 3119 in favor, 22 against to build a sea wall. And they raised the island. Jacked-up buildings. Seven hundred jacks to raise St. Patrick's Catholics Church. They jacked up more than 2,000 buildings and raised the island by as much as 16 feet, all with the technology of 1900. No big power tools back then.

The work took 10 years. Mostly finished by 1910. Galveston has stayed a small city. Houston replaced it as the big port in the area.

And now, of course, the people of Galveston are evacuating again. And despite being higher up than they were in 1900, despite the sea wall they built for protection, the guessing is that if Rita hilts, the island of Galveston will be under water again. The sea wall they built is 15 feet high. Hurricane Katrina's surge was 22 feet. And if Rita's that big, it would go right over the wall and flood the island.

Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas said, I think the island would be destroyed. There wouldn't be anything left.

The good news may be that people in Galveston know all about Katrina and are taking evacuation plans very seriously. The city of Galveston made this presentation of what would happen if a Katrina- size hurricane hit there. And as you can see, the island's under water.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, we want to talk more about the topography of this part of the world. Literally its ups and its downs and why it's venerable. We're joined in Austin by University of Texas Research Associate in Geology James Gibeaut.

Thanks very much for being with us, Professor. Appreciate you being with us.

Let me ask you first about this island. With Galveston, the worst-case scenario. How vulnerable is Galveston to a direct hit from a category three or higher hurricane?

JAMES GIBEAUT, GEOLOGIST: Well, the beaches along Galveston Island have been retreating over the last 100 years or more. And this has created a situation where many houses are very close to the beach. The natural dune system is not very high. It's not very wide. And so Galveston Island is set up to be over washed completely and to have episodic shoreline retreat. A beach erosion of 100 or 300 feet or more.

Now that's the south ...

COOPER: We have this map I'm sorry. We have this map that shows the layout of the island with the sea wall which really only protects a third of the island. Now should the hurricane move south, what kind of damage can we expect to see to Galveston?

GIBEAUT: Well, as you've said, the sea wall only protects a third of the northeast end of the island. And that is where the urban core of the city of Galveston is. However, there are many homes and many new developments that have been put into place since 1980s or so that could suffer catastrophic damage washing over of the island, large waves battering the developments and homes. And possibly, in some places, a total breach of the island on the very south western end.

COOPER: I want to show our viewers a model using the actual flooding data from Karla in 1961 against the modern Texas Gulf Coast. We see and there are storm surges could send flooding as far inland as Houston. How far could the damage spread and how bad it will be as it moves away from the coast.

GIBEAUT: Well, the damage will depend on the developments that it intersects. And it could extend tens of miles in some places because it's a very low-lying, gentle gradient landward.

COOPER: Professor, we appreciate you joining us. Thank. And we'll be talking to you again, no doubt, in the next couple of days. Thank you.

GIBEAUT: Thank you.

ANNOUNCER: Three weeks ago, New Orleans was under water. They predicted 80 days to pump out all the water. Incredibly, tonight, the streets are dry. But for how long? Can those fragile levees take another hit?

The cops in New Orleans. Saving the town and speaking out an a manmade disaster.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were people dying. I didn't sign up for this. You know, I didn't sign up to be abandoned.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Working around the clock with little pay and nowhere to sleep. Tonight, they have been forgotten. But now they are at last breaking their silence. This special edition of 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back once again to 360. We're live in Galveston, Texas. Behind me is the Gulf of Mexico. Nearby the sea, it is relatively calm. It is actually a beautiful day here in Galveston. All that, of course, is going to change very soon. Somewhere over the horizon is Hurricane Rita. The most destructive hurricane possible, a Category 5. And it is expected to make landfall here or very close to here by Saturday, early Saturday morning.

Here's what's happening at this moment. The White House has declared states of emergencies for here in Texas and Louisiana. Mandatory evacuations are underway in Galveston right now, as well as Corpus Christi and areas near Houston. Texas is trying to find room for those fleeing Rita. The states homeland security director said there are plans for 250,000 people to be given shelters, but if needed, he says Texas can house half a million evacuees.

And a grim statistic from Hurricane Katrina. Today, the death toll climbed past 1,000. We knew it was going to happen. It is still a horrible thing to actually have to report. The number of confirmed fatalities from Katrina now stands at 1,033.

Before Sunday, Rita only existed as a big what if on weather service computer model. Too terrible for people to even really think about. And two days ago it was real, it became real, a menacing tropical storm. We know what it is tonight, and we have a good idea of where it is headed. Tracking it for us is CNN meteorologist Jacqui Jeras who joins us from the CNN Weather Center in Atlanta.

Jacqui, this is a massive, wide storm.

JERAS: Yes, it is. In fact, not only has it been growing stronger throughout the day, it's been growing wider. In fact, the wind field on this storm, tropical storm force winds. That would mean 39 to 74 miles-per-hour extend across about 350 miles. So 350 from wall to wall of this storm, and the intensification has been continuing to drop, as well. The storm has made it in record books as the fifth most intense storm, and that is just behind Katrina.

Now, I want to show you just how big this is. We talk about don't focus on the exact line of where it's going, because the storm is so huge, even if it doesn't make a direct hit on you with the eye or the eyewall, it's going to be impacting people hundreds of miles away from the center of the storm. As it gets close to the Texas coast, take a look at that. That's the tropical storm force wind field. That pretty much engulfs the entire Texas coast and parts of Louisiana, if it stays on a current projected path.

As it makes its way inland then, we will watch for the tropical storm force winds to extend out hundreds of miles inland, so that could reach you into the San Antonio area, Dallas, we think, probably, maybe tropical storm force, but certainly not hurricane force winds as it moves on in. The watches have been posted as of the 5:00 Eastern Time advisory, 4:00 Central, from Port Mansfield extending over to Cameron, Louisiana. Then tropical storm watches extending eastward to Grand Isle, Louisiana.

Here's that forecast track for you, and keep in mind that cone of uncertainty. It extends out into western parts of Louisiana, and extends way down into southern parts of Texas. But right now we have pretty good confidence it is going to be moving in somewhere between Galveston and Corpus Christi -- Anderson.

COOPER: Jacqui, the fact that this is a Category 5 at this time so long before it's going to make landfall. What are we reading into that? Could it grow in strength? is it going to -- could it weaken in strength? I mean, Katrina wasn't a Category 5 just before it struck, the previous day.

JERAS: Katrina and Rita both reached the 5 status, and then Katrina, of course, went down to the four before it made landfall. Rita could also do the same thing, weaken back down to a four. In fact, if you look at my map here, there you can see the number 4, before it makes landfall. It's very common with storms this strong -- for them to change in intensification.

It's very hard, physically, for the storm to stay this strong for a very long period of time. We have what we call eyewall replacement cycles, and the thunderstorms build up and then they collapse, and then the wind speeds increase or decrease along with that. It's very possible it could be down to a 3 before making landfall. But we feel like this will be a major hurricane, a 3, 4, or 5, at landfall -- Anderson.

COOPER: Serious all those numbers. Jacqui, thanks.

As you just saw Hurricane Rita could strike as far south as Corpus Christi, Texas. CNN Chief National Correspondent John King joins us from there with a look at how that city is preparing for the storm. John, do they seem ready?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They do, at least they say they are getting more ready by the hour, Anderson. The scene behind me very much like the scene you have before you in Galveston, Texas. The mayor told us today, Henry Garrett, that he has been told to expect the storm to hit about 110 miles up the coast that way, which of course is much closer to you in Galveston. But the mayor says that is dependent on that turn for the north.

He says he can't count on that, so he is preparing as if the storm will hit right here in Corpus Christi. We were at his emergency operation center today, when he received word the storm had been upgraded to a Category 5. Evacuation orders for about 15 to 20 thousand already were in place then. The mayor decided at that moment to issue orders tonight.

All 250,000 people in the Corpus Christi and surrounding areas will be under mandatory evacuation orders to leave by tomorrow afternoon. Now the mayor says a month ago, a year ago he would have waited until tomorrow to make that decision. Acting more quickly, he says, one of the lessons of Hurricane Katrina.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR HENRY GARRETT, CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS: One of the things that we've changed is that the time on evacuation, the time lines on evacuation. We felt we need to, you know, boost it up a little bit, because of what happened in New Orleans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now you can see the preparations happening along the shore here. A medical clinic across the street putting up barriers along the windows today. Houses, of courses, many people coming to help their beach front homes. The top priority, today, was getting people out of hospital and nursing homes that did not have transportation.

Again, the mayor saying that he will evacuate all of this town by tomorrow afternoon. Helicopters and other flight -- aircraft from naval air stations evacuated today as well, although, the mayor assures us, Anderson, that they can get helicopters back in here, if they need them for search and rescue. And the mayor says that this -- Katrina has been a wake-up call. He says so far when he calls the governor or he calls FEMA, he's getting everything he needs and getting it fast -- Anderson.

COOPER: John, thanks for that. The damage from Rita may not just be along the Gulf Coast.

I mean your wallet could take a hit as well. Just like before Katrina, offshore oil platforms and ports are being evacuated. Just like after Katrina, gas prices could climb. But this time, the experts fear, it could be worse. Prices cost hit a whopping $5 a gallon. CNN's Ali Velshi explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): If three bucks a gallon shocked you, get ready for this. Katrina took a chunk out of America's oil production. But the country's biggest refineries were spared. They are in Texas. And now Hurricane Rita is on its way, potentially, to finish the job that Katrina left undone.

PHIL FLYNN, ENERGY TRADER: This could be the worst storm that we've ever seen, when we talk about the potential damage and the potential price ramifications when it comes to the oil industry. VELSHI: Oil watchers say look for new record highs, when you go to the gas station. Here's why. The country's biggest refinery, ExxonMobil's Baytown, it refines half a million barrels of oil a day. It's between Houston and Galveston. It may be right in Rita's path. Massive nearby gasoline factories owned by BP and Shell have already been shut down.

Depending on what Rita does, 21 refineries could lie in its path, accounting for more than a quarter of all the gasoline refined in America. The fear of those refineries taking a direct hit has some people making predictions no one would have believed a year ago.

FLYNN: It's more than likely we would see gasoline prices probably push up towards, you know, $3.70, $4 a gallon, maybe even as high as $5.

VELSHI: That's a worst case scenario. Best case scenario isn't very good either. You see, those refineries that have been shut down, can't just be turned on once Rita passes. Even if they are not damaged, they will be down for the better part of the next week. Rita will hit, that much is certain. When it hits and how hard it hits will make all the difference. Ali Velshi, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Ali, thanks. We have some breaking news to report to you. We've just gotten word that there was a JetBlue airplane in the sky. It cannot lower it's landing gear properly. We have some video I want to show you. The front landing gear is not coming down completely. It took off from Burbank en route to New York. Right now JetBlue flight 292 has been rerouted to Long Beach.

It is apparently -- that is where JetBlue's headquarters are. They are actually planning to circle around in Long Beach, so people at the headquarters can try to look at the aircraft and get a sense of what the problem exactly is. It is obviously a very sensitive issue.

They are going to try to fix it as well as they can from on the ground, watching the sky to see if there's anything they can do. We are going to keep following this story throughout this hour and throughout the evening as it develops to bring you any updates.

Again, we are watching very closely this JetBlue aircraft that has been rerouted, circling around Long Beach. They cannot bring the landing gear fully down.

Ahead on 360, the latest on Hurricane Rita. We're going to get another update from the CNN weather center.

We're also going to take a look at what is going on in New Orleans. We do not want to forget -- in the rush to cover Rita -- we do not want to forget the ongoing problems that they are having in New Orleans, in particular the police officers.

A lot of them I have been talking to feel like they have been forgotten. Certainly underpaid, badly equipped, certainly abandoned during the storm. But even now, many of them feel they have been abandoned in the aftermath of the storm. One police officer speaks out in silhouette because he didn't want his identity known. We'll explain why ahead.

New Orleans is dry tonight. The flood waters are gone. We're going to take you also through the streets and show you what the water has now left behind.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: I want to bring you more of our breaking news story. A JetBlue aircraft is in the sky at this moment. Now, there's a problem, the front landing gear is not going up completely. The plane took off from Burbank en route to New York. But right now JetBlue flight 292 has been rerouted to Long Beach where officials at the JetBlue headquarters are actually just trying to get a visual on it to see if they can figure out what the problem is. If there's anything they can do to correct the problem with the landing gear.

They can't get the landing gear up all the way, so they can't continue the flight. But the problem is, they can't also not land with the landing gear as it is now they currently believe.

We are told an affiliate has reported that they have dropped some of their fuel over the ocean. That, of course, would be in advance of any attempt to land the plane. Always, they would try to either burn off the fuel or drop the fuel so that if there was some problem when they landed there's less material that is combustible.

But at this point, we are told that this plane is circling en route, or circling around the Long Beach area for JetBlue officials to try to get some sort of bead on exactly the problem is, either try to get this landing gear up all the way. That would, of course, be the ideal. But then there's the concern could they get it back down again or just trying to get it all the way down again so they can get this plane landed on the ground. We're going to continue to follow this story throughout the hour.

A lot ahead, however. New Orleans dried out. We're going to take you through the city to see what the water have left behind. A lot has been left behind. Plus, New Orleans police officers speaking out about why they feel they have been abandoned.

Also going to have another update on Hurricane Rita, now a category 5 storm. But first, this debut of a CNN public service announcement, featuring a new song by the Goo Goo Dolls called "Better Days." If you want the help Katrina victims, CNN has a Web site to turn to.

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: I want to bring you back to our continuing breaking news story that we are following. You're looking at a JetBlue aircraft that has its landing gear is stuck. It is right now currently flying over Long Beach. This plane took off from Burbank in California. It was supposed to be heading to New York. You know, of course, the landing gear was down for that. As it took off, they started to raise the landing gear, but they couldn't raise it all the way. There was some sort of malfunction.

Unable to raise the landing gear all the way, and yet not able to raise the landing gear back down in order to land the aircraft again. So there's the dilemma, what do they do?

Right now, they have rerouted to Long Beach where they are trying to get -- they're trying to burn off what fuel they have. There was a report from an affiliate that they had dumped fuel off over the ocean. We have not been able to independently -- to verify that. That would be sort of, of course, something they would want to do or burn off fuel in the event they were going to try to land this aircraft. The last word we had were from officials that they were going to take it to Long Beach because JetBlue has their headquarters there.

And they are hoping some of the JetBlue officials can visually inspect the plane to try to get a sense of what the problem is with the landing gear. We have not had any communication, obviously, with this plane or anyone on board the aircraft. But this is a live picture we are getting out of Long Beach, California.

The plane took off as I said from Burbank, California. Obviously a very precarious situation and a scary situation for anyone who is on board flying over Long Beach right now. They are going to be circling we are told. These pictures coming from KABC as we continue to watch this aircraft. We're going to bring you any updates as warranted. We were watching this very closely.

Gary Tuchman who has been in New Orleans all along, as these flood waters now are receding and New Orleans is essentially dry -- we learned that from the Army Corps of Engineers last night -- there's a lot that of course the water has left behind, a lot of it too difficult to even look at. Gary Tuchman took a look at what you can see on the streets all around New Orleans right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When he's on his porch, Joseph Glover (ph) says he feels like he's on top of the world. For more than two weeks he is barely on top of the water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had enough food to last me about 30 days and water to last about equally as long.

TUCHMAN: His neighborhood was like most in the city of New Orleans, inundated. But he did not want to evacuate.

(on camera): How deep did these waters get? What was the deepest you saw the water?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The deepest I saw the water was about right around five feet in the street, because I'm five feet seven and it was slightly over my head. TUCHMAN: So you know anxiety (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Now, Josephine Avenue is dry. The water lines on the buildings show where the water stood for more than two weeks. The devastation on Joseph's first floor shows where it was in his house. That's why Joseph did not leave the second floor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was told you have two pit bull dogs, you cannot take those dogs along with you. We have to euthanize them. Well, you see, I didn't know what euthanize means until I got back home and looked in the dictionary. Euthanize means killing them. So I didn't want them killed, so I'm glad I didn't go.

TUCHMAN: The streets look like a car graveyard with all the vehicles that were under water. Joseph says he personally swept the nearby roads to tidy up the neighborhood. Now this gardener by trade works on retrofitting his lawn mower to use as a generating because he also doesn't plan to obey police orders to evacuate if Hurricane Rita comes nearby. And if Josephine Avenue gets flooded again, Joseph says he will keep his spirits up the same way did he last time.

(on camera): Joseph, you said you were jumping from here into the water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From here into the water.

TUCHMAN: But there's a truck here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, but we would line up about ten feet back that way and come running through the door and jump.

TUCHMAN: Like running starts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Running starts.

TUCHMAN: Like the Olympics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, hopefully, yes.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): A sense of humor combined with a stubborn sense of entitlement about his right to stay where he is.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCHMAN: Just a few days ago we'd be driving on Interstate 10 here in New Orleans which is elevated most of the way, and we would be surrounded by water on both sides. The interstate was like an island. It was an incredibly sight.

Now it's almost all gone, but the fear is not yet gone that it could happen here again except for people like Joseph. He says he's not leaving no matter what unless he is forced. And hopefully he'll be as lucky as he was this time if it happens next time -- Anderson.

COOPER: Gary, thanks for that.

Coming up next tonight on 360, taking aim, Hurricane Rita setting its sights on Galveston, Texas. Who else is in harm's way? We'll have the latest from the CNN Weather Center, and an update on this plane -- this JetBlue aircraft -- circling over Long Beach, a problem with its landing gear. We'll bring you up to date in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We continue to follow this breaking news story out of Long Beach, California. You're looking at a live picture of JetBlue flight 292 circling Long Beach Airport. There has been a problem with this aircraft's landing gear. Now, this plane left Burbank Airport at 3:00 p.m. -- or after 3:00 p.m., I should say. It was bound for New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.

They could not raise the front landing gear, the front wheels properly. Apparently according to the Associated Press the plane's front wheels turned sideways and unable to fully retract. They cannot land, we're told, with the wheels in this position.

The flight which is flight 292 has been circling the Long Beach Airport which is about 30 miles south of Burbank. The plane was rerouted to there. This Long Beach airport is a hub for JetBlue. Earlier I said I was the headquarters. It is not.

They are hoping to get some sort of visual inspection of the landing gear, the front wheels, to get a sense if there's anything they can do either from on board the aircraft or from the ground just in terms of giving them advice. It's an Airbus 8320. It has been dumping fuel over the Pacific. That, of course, something they would do in preparation of any landing.

The would try to reduce any amount of flammable liquid or flammable material that they would have on board so they are dumping the fuel. That means, of course, that the time that they can spend circling is greatly reduced. So at some point they are going to have to make a decision whether or not to attempt to land this aircraft with the front wheels as they currently are. But that, of course, is not an ideal situation.

Officials are trying to get this figured out and we're going to continue to bring you updates as warranted. Also very quickly, we want to bring you in with CNN's Jacqui Jeras at the CNN Weather Center in Atlanta for the latest on Hurricane Rita. Jacqui, where is this storm now? How bad is it?

JERAS: Well, the storm is about 600 miles away from you, Anderson, and it's gotten worse, believe it or not. This just in now to the CNN Weather Center from the hurricane hunters. They have been flying in this storm now for a while and they just recorded very low pressure in the storm. And they are estimating now that it is at 898 millibars.

And if that's true, that means that this would make it the third most intense hurricane on record and not only that, they are mentioning that additional deepening and intensification is expected for at least the next 12 hours. The 8:00 Eastern time, 7:00 Central time, advisory should be coming in any minute. And I imagine it's a little later than we usually get it because they are recording all the data. And we will very likely see these winds go up with that.

When the pressure drops in the storm that means it is intensifying. And we usually see wind increases when we get those pressure drops. We mentioned the watches which have been posted along the coast here from Port Mansfield extending over to Cameron, Louisiana, tropical storm watches across much of the Louisiana coast.

The forecast track has it continuing to move on a westerly direction. It looks like there might be a little bit of wobble that has been taking place to the north, but that's very common. We see little bumps and ridges within the path.

It is forecast to weaken some as it gets closer to the coast. The water temperatures in the western Gulf are a little bit cooler, so they are not quite as favorable but certainly enough to sustain a major hurricane, 3, 4, 5, at landfall along the Texas coast Saturday morning -- Anderson.

COOPER: Jacqui, it is scary to see it strengthening in just in the time we have been speaking on the air. Let's hope those waters, those cool waters which are closer to this coast do, in fact, slow it down, get it down as much as possible before it makes landfall. Jacqui, thanks very much for that.

We're continuing following this story out of Long Beach, California, this plane circling around in need of some sort of information. We're going to get a lot more ahead though. CNN's Paula Zahn continues our coverage -- Paula.

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