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Hurricane Gustav: Gulf Coast Braces for Cat. 3 Storm

Aired August 31, 2008 - 23:00   ET


JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: And look at this, going out into time, still into Thursday, hovering. And there you can see the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex area right there, not too far away, but we think on east side is where you're going to be seeing the heaviest of rainfall. But the potential could be easily 10 to 20 inches on this thing.
So not only are we dealing with surge flooding, we're also going to be dealing with the fresh water flooding from the rains.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: The important question, if this thing slows down, is there a shear or any other system there that would then make it change its path later on?

JERAS: Well, I don't think there's anything right now that we see that's really going to make it change its path. But, you know, the longer it stalls down and the longer it stays over water, you would think, well, we've got more time for intensification. However, I don't think that's going to be the case this time around for two separate reasons. One of which is the shear that you were just talking about.

We've got enough shear as it is getting closer to the coast that that I think is going to prevent it from some real strong intensification. And then the other thing is, even though the water temperatures are very warm, you know, we're talking well over 80 degrees still into the northern Gulf, it's kind of a shallow layer of that warm water.

And so if it sits in one place, it churns up that water, right? And the deeper you go into the ocean, you know, the colder that water is, so that's going to upwell a little bit and it's going to lose a little bit of its octane fuel, so to speak, to feed that storm.

SANCHEZ: All right. Why is it a Category 3 now when it was a Category 4 in waters that maybe aren't as warm as they are now? And will it perhaps become a Category 4 again before it hits the coast?

JERAS: I don't think there's enough time for this thing to become a Category 4. And I just don't think the water or the wind conditions are favorable enough for that. The reason why it got to a 4 over Cuba, it was in a very warm current of water. And there was really very little shear. And so it just intensified very rapidly. It was part of the loop current that we were talking about.

There's this big area south of Cuba, kind of wraps around the coast and moves up to the north of there. But it really kind of stalls out somewhere down in here. And then you start looking at some slightly cooler water as you head up to the north. So that's why we've seen the change. There has also been a little bit of dry air that has been in training to the storm throughout the day today. That's lesser at this time.

So there are a couple of factors that have been fighting it today -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: All right. Final question, and then I'll let you go so you can look up Hanna. But -- because there are some folks joining us now who may not have heard this conversation earlier, if this storm right now stays on its present course, as it is, in a beeline, then the folks around New Orleans will at most -- and not counting tornadic effects, because I know there's tornados that can have all kinds of wind gusts and all kinds of things, but not counting those, the most that they would feel is a Category 1 hurricane force wind, right?

JERAS: Yes, I think that is a good assessment, Rick. Yes, wind gusts certainly, there we go, Dave Hennen, on the ball. Thank you, Dave. We showed you this map a little bit earlier in the show. And this is a computer model forecast. And this shows the gusts. This is not sustained winds, just the gusts. And here you can see New Orleans.

And, Dave, go ahead and flash that if you don't mind, because it's kind of hard to tell the difference between the colors. So this out here is tropical storm force winds. So that's 39 to 74 miles per hour, 74 in this area, up to 96 mile per hour and that's gusts.

So but one thing you want to point out, look how close the Category 2, the Category 3, and even the Category 4 wind gusts are. It's not that far away. So even a shift of 20 miles really could make a difference for New Orleans when we're talking about winds.

And even though we feel really confidence on the track that it's going, every now and then, hurricanes like to take a little wobble. So it just certainly is not something you can predict. So we'll really have to watch for any of those wobbles or changes.

SANCHEZ: I'll tell you, this is great information, Jacqui. This is the kind of stuff that people are sitting at home -- I mean, really want to know. What's this thing doing? What if it does this? What if it does that? We'll be asking the questions. And I'm so glad that we have you there to answer them.

Now, let's talk about the other side of this, the political effect of this storm. I guess you could say that's a wobble as well for the Republican Party, what they're going through right now, and as well now the Democratic Party trying to figure out how they're going to do this. Let's go first to reaction today from Barack Obama. He's also -- he's going to be echoing calls for Gulf Coast residents to flee the hurricane's path.

His comments today, here they are.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We want to find out first from folks on the ground what's going to be most helpful. We don't want to solicit a bunch of canned goods that can't get there or bottles of water where they already have water. So we're going to wait for -- over the next 48 hours to find out what would be the most useful.

I think we can get tons of volunteers to travel down there if it becomes necessary. And so then the question is, you know, what people on the ground think they need. And once we determine that, then I think we can activate, you know, an e-mail list of a couple million people who want to give back.


SANCHEZ: So how do the Democrats deal with this situation? How do the Republicans deal with this situation? They're in the middle of a convention, right? My producer told me moments ago in my ear that we have an interview coming up with one of the delegates. Her name is Jennifer Palmieri. Immediately I thought, oh, you mean a Republican delegate? He says, no, she's a Democratic delegate.

So obviously, thanks, Jennifer, for joining us. First question right off the bat is what is a Democrat doing in St. Paul at the Republican Convention?

JENNIFER PALMIERI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I'm actually not a delegate. I'm just here to represent. I saw a lot of my Republican friends when I was in Denver, so I'm just here to represent the Democratic point of view.

SANCHEZ: How do you represent the Democratic point of view while you're at a Republican convention? Who's going to want to hear you out?

PALMIERI: Well, apparently CNN does, which is great.


PALMIERI: But I did note that there were many Republican consultants and a lot of McCain staff that joined us in Denver, so we're happy to be here in St. Paul. But I think as the McCain campaign and others here are doing, as we're sort of dealing with it hour by hour, to see what happens.

SANCHEZ: Well, let me ask you a question that a lot of folks have been wondering tonight. Do you think so far that the way the Republicans have been able to deal with this, and really what we're seeing is, look, we're going to make our decisions piecemeal, we're not sure exactly how this is going to end up, but we're going to first and foremost make decisions that are sensitive and respectful of what's going on on the Gulf Coast, right call?

PALMIERI: I think that that's the right -- I think that they have made the right decisions and probably the only decisions that they can make. And I also -- I know it's probably frustrating for the media and others to sort of, you know, fly by the seat of our pants here, but I think that -- I understand that you can't make decisions, you just have to go sort of a day at a time.

And I guess tomorrow they'll see how bad the storm is and make decisions about programming on Tuesday and thereafter. I don't know how disappointed they are that President Bush isn't coming. And I think Democrats are probably more disappointed to not see President Bush here tomorrow than some Republicans. But I think they're right to make decisions, you know, as the circumstances allow.

SANCHEZ: You think so? You think George Bush would have been a negative for them and that they're actually better off not having him represented on day one of their convention?

PALMIERI: I think that that was not going to be the strongest night of their convention, certainly. And I think that -- I mean, I would imagine that what the Republicans hope to get out of this convention is a few days of trying to critique Senator Obama and then a few days of trying to introduce Senator McCain and Governor Palin as sort of the new brand of the Republican Party.

And then kind of -- I would think that they would try to seek some distance from President Bush. And I would imagine that's -- you know, and we'll just have to see how this all turns out. It may be that they all come back around on -- we see everyone here on Tuesday, or it may be that it's just a very different convention.

SANCHEZ: Jennifer Palmieri, not a delegate, certainly a strategist, we'll continue talking to you. Thanks so much. We appreciate your input tonight.

PALMIERI: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: When we come back, not just the politics of this storm, but certainly all the effects that it's having along the Gulf Coast. We're trying to reach base now with some of the folks there who are actually feeling this. We're also going to be touching base with some of the affiliates to bring you the very latest pictures as they come in, no matter what they look like. We know some of these picture are going to be grainy.

From time to time you're going to see things that you're going to try and wonder what's going on. So are we. But we're doing this somewhat on the fly tonight. As we get this stuff, we're going to turn it around and share it with you as soon as we get it. So stay with us. You'll see the latest information, the latest pictures, right here on CNN.


SANCHEZ: Here we are once again. Welcome back, everyone. I'm Rick Sanchez, at the world headquarters of CNN, preparing for what may be some kind of landfall tomorrow with Hurricane Gustav. Let's put the loop up again.

All right. The storm right now, as it tracks, this is the latest information from the National Hurricane Center, is 226 miles due south of New Orleans. Got that? Two hundred and twenty-six miles due south of New Orleans.

If it continues on its present track, it's going to be going over Grand Isles, which is just west of New Orleans. So that kind of gives you a picture. That means New Orleans itself, New Orleans proper, would probably be feeling Category 1 to tropical storm force winds.

That does not include the wind gusts and that does not include the tornadoes that often are brought in by this powerful storm. So keep that in mind as well. Obviously, that's if it stays on its exact present track and those things do wobble, as you know.

By the way, something else that's important to share with you that we learned on the 11:00 advisory is that the storm has slowed down somewhat. Don't know what the effect of that will be. Could be absolutely nothing. It could mean that it could be affected by another weather system. We'll keep checking. And as we get the information, obviously we're going to be sharing it with you.

In the meantime, maybe it's a good time -- my colleague Anderson Cooper would tell you in many discussions that we've had about the storm that while New Orleans got most of the attention, it was actually parts of Mississippi that many saw with their own eyes where people were literally devastated by Katrina.

So if you lived through that, what are you thinking tonight? How do you deal with that? We've got two parts to this report. First, I'm going to be talking to somebody who is with one of the Mississippi newspapers there. He's an editor.

But first, a look back at what happened and how people are dealing with it now. Let's roll that, Rog (ph).


LINDA SANDERS, BILOXI EVACUEE: I put on my wedding band and I grabbed my rosary. When I called 911, I figured somebody just needed to know where we were, and I actually was thinking that they would just come and find our bodies.

HARRY SANDERS, BILOXI EVACUEE: Finally you could see the water start going out. And I told her at that time, I think we're going to be OK. I think we're going to be OK.

HARDY JACKSON, KATRINA SURVIVOR: What you did for me later that morning, I just want to say (INAUDIBLE), thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you.


JACKSON: Thank you, thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They say we were stupid for staying here, but if we hadn't, a lot of people would be dead right now.

GROUP: Through the Father and Son he worshiped and glorified, and the life of the world to come, Amen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are only bringing bodies out of Harrison County here. So if she was over in Biloxi, they kept her body in Biloxi.

ANGELA ELLZEY, D'IBERVILLE RESIDENT: I mean, we're not as bad as New Orleans, but we need help just as bad as New Orleans.

MAYOR RUSTY QUAVE, D'IBERVILLE, MISSISSIPPI: And for the last two weeks FEMA has promised me trailers or tents.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm getting angry. I was upset, but now I'm getting angry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): My house is gone.

I can't play no more. The guitar is full of water, but I've got my family.


SANCHEZ: Those were the moments then. Let's talk about the moments now. Stan Tiner is the editor, the vice president of the Biloxi Sun Herald. His newspaper won a Pulitzer for its coverage of Katrina. He joins me now by phone.

Stan, let's start with you personally. As you saw the pictures of this storm forming what was going on in your head?

STAN TINER, EDITOR & V.P., BILOXI SUN HERALD: Well, you can't -- you can't get Katrina out of your head if you live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast or in New Orleans or the places that were visited by that terrible storm.

So you think about it and you have memories and it really is a palpable feeling that is known across the coast. There's a lot of trauma that still exists here. Those who study it, Rick, have observed in past disasters that there's like a straight line that tends to go up for about 18 months and then it declines.

In I think both New Orleans and in Mississippi, that has not been the case, that there still continued to be a lot of problems that people are having to deal with because Katrina is the gift that keeps on giving. It just doesn't stop.

SANCHEZ: You know, let's talk about that mindset though. Because for a lot of folks who are listening to us from around the country who don't live in an area that has been affected by something like a hurricane, I remember after Hurricane Andrew that I had family members and friends who shortly after the hurricane, when they would see a big storm coming that lasted for a long time, they literally would feel a sense of anxiety to the point where tears would come to their eyes.

Are there still people in your community dealing with that anxiety at that level as well? TINER: Absolutely. And you saw it in the package that you did before you came on the phone or we got this conversation going, is, it's just beneath the surface. But you know, a point that I would make quickly, and maybe it's a cliche, but often cliches have a lot of truth in them, I'm so proud of the people in this region who survived Katrina and who stood up in the midst of all the pain and suffering that existed then.

And sort of went on with life, they helped each other, and we got a lot of help from the people of America who came and helped us stand up. But those south Mississippians are someone that I think everybody can be proud of.

And I will kind of take the conversation to the last day or two, that this is the first real test of who we are and what we are in terms of the hurricane event that really seemed to have us in the crosshairs. And so that was a real sense of where we are on the road back.

And I think that everybody has done a good job of showing that they have shaken off those feelings that are in the hearts and that you all know about. You have colleagues in our newsroom, we lost a lot of homes and we suffered a lot as an organization. And sometimes we have to sort of hug it out and move on because some of those feelings do come back but then you get on and do the job.

And in this period here, I think it showed that not just on an individual level, but as a community, and as communities working together, that I think that you would have to say that there's a lot of competency that has been derived from Katrina that has been illustrated in the last few days that we're able to deal with this one much better.

SANCHEZ: Well, they certain are some of the most resourceful people we've seen exhibited in this country for a long time, all the good folks who were able to pull themselves up from the boot strap after that horrible situation there in Katrina. Stan Tiner is the editor, the vice president of The Biloxi Sun Herald, won a Pulitzer for his newspaper's coverage of this.

And I'll tell you, that's as good an award as you can get in our business. We thank you, Stan, for taking time to talk to us, sir.

TINER: Thank you, Rick. I enjoyed being with you.

SANCHEZ: All right. Good luck.

All right. Let's do this, let's check with some of the folks who are checking with us. Hey, Rog, switch that picture out real quick. There's the latest picture that we've been seeing. Still don't look like you've got rain bands. But certainly a lot of shaking, which means it's starting to get extremely windy there.

Let's go back to our big plasma over here and show you the question that people are asking. See right there in the middle, it says, from Eric Cougar (ph): "How long will Anderson stay out there? When will he go? Does he have a plan?"

Hey, what do you say, let's ask him? When we come back, there's Anderson Cooper. We're going to take a break. On the other side, Anderson joins us with for latest on him and the latest on the storm preparations. We'll be right back.


SANCHEZ: Welcome back to the world headquarters of CNN. I'm Rick Sanchez. As promised, I want to take you right back to New Orleans and my colleague, Anderson Cooper. I was going to ask him a question myself, but let me ask him a question that folks are asking me to ask him.

This is Ashley Diaz (ph) on Facebook, just sent this e-mail asking, "was wondering if everybody has been evacuated from New Orleans." I guess she wants to know what the evacuation went like.

Anderson, what's your answer for that?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: The vast majority of people, Ashley, have been evacuated. They estimate about as many as 10,000 people may still be in the city of New Orleans. The state estimates of 90,000 to 100,000 people may still be in all of southeastern Louisiana. But it is the largest evacuation in Louisiana history.

But again, they don't have exact numbers on how many people remain. That may be a problem down the road if rescue operations need to take place. But again, all of that is hours away. We're still waiting for the bulk of this storm to really come onshore and tomorrow we'll know a lot more about how many people remain.

Because right now, I mean, you can hear kind of radios behind people's locked doors here in the French Quarter, but you don't see -- there's virtually no one on the streets. There's one bar -- one restaurant that's still open called The Oceanic Grill, and it's packed right now with police officers and reporters just trying to get some solid food. But that's about the only place that you can actually see life in the French Quarter.

SANCHEZ: What are they doing about the curfew? Did you mention when that was going into effect or has it gone into effect?

COOPER: Yes, curfew is in effect. And it was dusk to dawn. So you know, reporters can still be out. We all have identification, identification that has been approved and verified by the city of New Orleans. But other -- you know, there are heavy police patrols and National Guard troops on patrol all around the French Quarter.

SANCHEZ: And some of the folks are wondering what your schedule is going to be tomorrow. Are you going to be broadcasting from there tomorrow evening? I know you're going to be helping us head some of our coverage from there, right?

COOPER: Yes, without a doubt. I mean, we have teams deployed all throughout this region. We're going to have folks on all night long. The major part of the storm we're anticipating around dawn. So my plan is to be back on the air, I may try to catch a few hours' sleep tonight if I'm able to, if the storm allows us to.

I'm going to try to get back on the air at least by 5:00 a.m. East Coast time tomorrow and basically broadcast all the way through the storm as long as we can stay on the air and all the way into tomorrow night for primetime coverage.

So I want to get there. I want to be here. Right now what we're doing -- and you know this, Rick, you've covered these storms. You literally are scouting out safe locations, places where your satellite truck is not going to get blown over, because when that satellite dish on the truck goes up, it actually acts as a sail.

And in serious wind, it can be lifted up and tossed over. So you find a place where there are two walls and 90-degree angle, you can kind of hide the satellite truck, lodge it between those two walls, and that allows you to broadcast as long as the satellite transmission can get out.

SANCHEZ: Oh, boy, do I ever. And by the way, when you can sleep, get it. Because you won't be able to get it after the storm hits, right?

Anderson Cooper...

COOPER: Yes, that is certainly true. That is certainly true.

SANCHEZ: Anderson Cooper, following things there for us. He is the right guy for the job. Glad we have him there. Thanks, Anderson. We'll be checking back with you as well.

Let's do this now. Let's try and get caught up with some of the other information that we've been getting with Don Lemon. He, we understand, is at a very familiar place. Jefferson Parish, remember how much we heard about Jefferson Parish during Katrina? Let's go to Jefferson Parish now and find out what is going on there with perhaps evacuations and so forth.

Don, are you there?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I am here. We're on one of those special cameras where we can kind of go live anywhere. Anderson said we had been scouting out locations. We have been doing the same thing around the area. We're at the Jefferson Parish East Bank Emergency Operations Center. You guys will probably get beds. Anderson probably gets a hotel. We get to sleep on cots. And we'll be broadcasting throughout this storm here as well.

This was an office building in East Jefferson Parish. But after Hurricane Katrina three years ago, they sort of retrofitted this building after the roof blew off. And so they put in a new roof, put a generator up on the roof, and then put windows in that can sustain winds of up to 250 miles an hour.

Now here's what this is. This is a coordinated effort between Orleans Parish, Jefferson Parish, Saint Bernard Parish, and Plaquemines Parish, so that they have a coordinated effort. Last time, most of them, they were on their own here in the storm, trying to sort of fend for themselves when they need supplies and -- emergency supplies and trying to get people out of their homes, people -- ambulances and what have you.

So yesterday in the parish -- one of the parishes, they said they needed 30 ambulances, so they coordinated with the state very quickly because of their efforts here, and they were able to do that. We've got people from EMS here. We've got the National Guard here, state police, local police, someone from the Wildlife and Fisheries, and a number of people.

And they're all monitoring their computers, their certain parishes, their certain parts of local as well as state and federal government, to try to get help to people when that storm starts to comes through and the people who are left start to call in, or if there is flooding or what have you, they can get to it very quickly, Rick.

So we're monitoring. We'll be here all night. We'll be sleeping on cots off and on, catching our catnaps and updating you.

SANCHEZ: Know well about those catnaps. There is Don Lemon, he is reporting to us from Jefferson Parish. Anderson Cooper reporting to us from the French Quarter. We're going to be telling you when we come back what's going on with the evacuations. We're also going to be catching you up on the very latest data, if you haven't heard it, on the storm itself. The details of what Gustav is doing right now.

And then this, as promised before, what's going on with that other storm coming behind this one. Yes, we hear there's another storm called Hanna. Is it true? And what's the projected path for Hanna? We'll tell you. Stay with us. We'll be right back with Jacqui Jeras.


SANCHEZ: If you are born and grow up in the tropics like I do, you know that every one of these hurricanes has a different personality. One might be narrow, the other one might be wide. One might be really slow and ponderous, the other one might be really fast. And what is the personality of this particular storm?

Well, part of the picture is still unknown because it hasn't really finished up what it's going to do, right? But here's a question coming into us from Eric Cougar. Let's go to the big plasma board. This one comes in just a moment. Eric wants to know: "OK, so how does Gustav compare to Katrina in size, intensity, water temperature, winds, speed, et cetera?"

That's a great question. Jacqui Jeras, I hope you're listening. We're coming to you in just a little bit so you can answer that one for us as well. Boy, we're keeping her hopping as we go here, the latest on the storm. First though, before we do that, I want to go to the Red Cross family. That is, the Seeleys. They are helping with volunteers. Peggy and Joe are also joining us. And they're being joined, by the way -- or we should say, they're being helped tonight by their 14- year-old daughter Colleen Seeley.

All right, Seeleys, are you there?


SANCHEZ: Where are you and what are you doing right now?

J. SEELEY: We are sitting on the edge of the shelter in Pearl River, Louisiana. It's the same first shelter that opened during Katrina, it's the first one opened in the state of Louisiana for this storm.

SANCHEZ: How many takers you got so far?

J. SEELEY: We have 365 takers here. We have police support. And we have three people who came down national Red Cross from Pittsburgh and other areas of Pennsylvania to help. They're doing a fantastic job.

The attitude is calm. It's like nothing is happening outside. People are really taking it well. We have been managers here before here. And we have a big community. People that will do their best as Red Cross volunteers to help them.

SANCHEZ: By the way, let me ask you a question what about what people are saying when they get there. Are they saying that they're doing now what they didn't do during Katrina?

J. SEELEY: Not necessarily. More people had made sure they brought their medications ahead of time. We made sure we have brought our meds that we had so we would not have a problem. Still, some people come in not thinking about bringing medications, et cetera. But the attitude is really great.

SANCHEZ: Tell me, what is -- what are you seeing around you? Are you seeing any strong wind gusts forming? Any rain bands coming through there in Pearl?

J. SEELEY: Actually, it's like a typical April morning. Gentle rain outside. It's cool. It's like it has been air-conditioned. No wind gusts yet. No problems that we're aware of. Just a quiet rainy night.

SANCHEZ: You know, it's the calm before the storm, as they say. And we're expecting that the storm will start to be felt maybe within the next hour or so, if not sooner. Hey, listen, Seeleys, thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate you guys joining us and filling us in on what is going on there.

J. SEELEY: Thank you, sir. SANCHEZ: All right. New video coming into us there. There you see some of the rain that has been experienced around the area in New Orleans. As we explained, earlier, they really come in patches. They come in bands. It's like a swath as my arm is going right now. It will come through, it will go away, and then maybe it will be followed by another one. It really is a circular motion.

Let's talk oil, if we can, because this is an important part of the story that so many Americans are interested in, what's going to happen to the price of oil? Will the flow of oil in this country actually be interrupted by this large storm? Kevin Kerr (ph) is good enough to join us. He's the kind of guy who predicts these things, looks at what is going to happen in the future.

Kevin, just given what you know right now, what do you say? Do you think there will be some kind of undoubted interruption in the flow of oil into the United States because it's hitting this particular area?

KEVIN KERR, EDITOR, GLOBAL COMMODITIES ALERT: Yes, well, there's a lot up in the air right now. We clearly already have interruption. We've had all of these platforms cleared, refineries shut down, pipelines basically secured. So we are going to definitely have disruption. Whether it's prolonged or not will depend on what the damage reports show tomorrow and over the next few days.

SANCHEZ: All right. Well, let me stop you there and ask you what the worst-case scenario could be that a guy like you would understand and most of us would not?

KERR: Yes, absolutely. The worst case scenario, in my opinion, would be if the Louisiana Offshore Platform where we off-load these big, very large cargo carriers of oil, if that were to be damaged with significant damage, that would be the worst case scenario because that's the only place we can really off-load these huge carriers of oil.

So that would be a significant problem. And also, the refineries, as your map, earlier when you were talking to Ali, showed, we have a ton of refineries right in the eye of this storm. If those refineries are damaged, those are not as easily as fixed as platforms and pipelines. And those take a long time to fix.

SANCHEZ: Well, if this thing -- let's go back to my map that I showed earlier today. If any one of these rigs that we're looking at right now that I'm showing our viewers, especially in this area here where the storm -- because it seems like there are so many of them, how can the storm possibly go through there and not seriously affect them? Are they that rigid that a Category 3 storm won't blow a good portion of them away?

KERR: Well, a lot of the reporters are coming in before the storm came in. A lot of the oil companies are saying they learned from Katrina. They've anchored these down better. I believe that to some extent. But like as you said, when you have 130-mile-an-hour winds, there's not a lot you can do. Many of these rigs will be damaged and they will pull away from their anchors.

They will -- as Ali pointed out earlier, some traveled 100 miles away. So we could see that kind of damage with these kinds of winds.

SANCHEZ: All right. So tell me now how I'm going to feel that in my pocketbook if indeed something like that or akin to that were to happen. Explain to us from an economic standpoint how it goes from that to me feeling it the next time I go to fill up, if it does?

KERR: You know, interestingly, you may see crude prices drop initially. The problem is going to be the refined product, the heating oil and the gasoline. If the refineries are damaged, that is where we're going to feel the pinch. You're going to feel it in your wallet, especially cities like Chicago and other areas who are served by some of these pipelines, it's going to be a big problem.

And already heating oil prices are going to be double this year. This could increase prices even more. It could be a force majeure for heating oil.

SANCHEZ: Hey, look, that's good stuff. You're a smart guy. We appreciate you taking us through this and explaining to us something that's quite complicated for most. Thanks so much for being with us.

KERR: Thanks, Rick.

SANCHEZ: When we come back, we're going to be talking about the storm itself. Let's just break this thing down. Hopefully, we'll be able to have that game, 20 questions, we'll play that game with Jacqui Jeras and try and break this thing down so all of us can understand it as best we can as it relates to Gustav.

And yes, I've gotten your e-mails and your Twitters, and I've seen what you've got on MySpace and Facebook. You want to know about Hanna. We'll tell you about Hanna when we come back.


SANCHEZ: I know what you want, details on this Hurricane Gustav. Let's get them to you by going over to Jacqui Jeras.

Jacqui, one of the first questions to you because folks have been e-mailing me this is, how does Gustav compare to Katrina in size, intensity, water temperature, wind speed, et cetera? And you don't have to have those in order, by the way.


JERAS: We might have to rattle them off one by one. The sizes of the storms, very comparable, actually, about 400 miles across, you know, give or take a few for both of the storms. Intensity, way different at this point. When Katrina was about 150 miles away from the coast, the winds were about 165, 170 miles per hour, so it was a Category 5, and we're looking at Category 3 right now.

What were your other questions? SANCHEZ: I think what they wanted to know is speed and winds.

JERAS: Speed, I'd have to check on for you. I just mentioned the winds, which is the same as the strength of the storm. I think water temperatures maybe asked, was the question, was the difference in the water temperatures?


JERAS: Temperatures for the water, the sea surface are warmer than average on both accounts but overall there were greater areas of warmer water during Katrina.

SANCHEZ: Katrina hit as a 2 to 3, right? Came ashore as a 2 to 3?

JERAS: It was a 3 when it made landfall, yes. It weakened pretty significantly. But one of the huge differences that we have between the two storms is where they're going to end up hitting. You know, Katrina was over here. And Gustav is going to be over here.

SANCHEZ: But I guess I mentioned that because it looks like this storm is going to come into shore as a 2 or a 3.

JERAS: Yes, 3 is our best estimate right now. Still a major, major hurricane with 115-mile-per-hour winds. I mean, it could be a strong 2, that's certainly a possibility. And you know, as this thing slows down, that's going to have a big change as it starts to interact with land and it starts to enter a little bit more shear, we could potentially see a little bit of weakening before landfall. But we have to be prepared for a 3 or better -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: So I guess the most important part of the hurricane is when it actually touches with the coastline, when it starts affecting people. And safe to say, then, that it looks like this storm is going to be comparable to Katrina when that happens.

JERAS: Well, it's impacting people right now. And that's something to keep in mind is that, you know, landfall isn't just the end all-be all. It has already been starting. The tropical storm force winds are there. We lost some of our crew coverage. We didn't get our signal out of the air in New Orleans because of a thunderstorm from Gustav that went through already.

So as we head into the overnight tonight, Rick, I think even, you know, as many as three to four hours from now we could start to see some hurricane force wind gusts begin to arrive as well, so.

SANCHEZ: And one final question, the latest trajectory shows that this thing is heading somewhere around Grand Isle which is about what, 100 miles or so west of New Orleans?

JERAS: It's more south-southwest of New Orleans. Here's New Orleans. Grand Isle is down about here. So we're looking at it coming down this way and heading kind of between Houma and Morgan City, if you know that area. SANCHEZ: So people in New Orleans are going to be feeling some of the effects, at least in terms of either Category 1 or tropical storm force winds.

JERAS: Right, we think at a minimum, absolutely, and they're going to be dealing with surge issues too, Rick, because the elevation is so very low. You've got Lake Pontchartrain, you've got the Mississippi River and those winds are going to be pulling in from the southeast, pushing all of that water up.

SANCHEZ: And then there's the question of the levees. I'll hold that one, we have our own experts on that. Drew is going to be checking on that, our investigative reporter, in just...

JERAS: And don't forget Hanna.

SANCHEZ: Oh, Hanna, please!

JERAS: You wanted to ask me about Hanna.

SANCHEZ: Yes. I almost -- see, I told you to tell me. I told you to remind me. What's going on with this other storm? That's what people are calling it, "the other storm."

JERAS: It is. And now here I go with my computer not moving on me. Give me one second to fix it, if you don't mind. I'm sorry.

SANCHEZ: I'll give you the intro here. Jacqui is about to come back and she is going to let us know what's going on with Hanna. It's a storm that's just off the coast of, I guess, Florida on the other side. It's nowhere near the Gulf. But it may end up somewhere near the Gulf after tracking in some direction.

Some folks have this thing going to Cuba, and then I heard today that it's going to be really staying around the Bahamas.

JERAS: It's going to linger around the Bahamas for a while. There's not a lot of steering with it right now. So this is the satellite picture we have here from Hanna. And it's actually starting to get a little stronger. Those winds are up to 50 miles per hour now.

And as I advance this and show you the track and where this thing is going, it's going to hang out for a couple of days and then start to curve on up towards the north. So here's our official track. Not a lot of strengthening is anticipated in the upcoming days. And look at how far out we're still talking, Rick.

If this thing curves up here towards the Carolinas or into Georgia, we're talking late week, into Thursday or Friday, which is kind of why we've been ignoring Hanna just a little bit because Gustav is more of an immediate concern.

But if -- we see this Florida potential, we're talking in the middle of next week. So we've got one storm after the other, and not to mention, we've got another tropical wave much farther eastern into the Atlantic which has the potential to become a depression here in probably 24-plus hours.

So they are lining up. Those conditions are favorable. It is going to be a busy September, my friend.

SANCHEZ: This could be from the frying pan to the fire, huh?


SANCHEZ: Thanks for letting us know.

CNN's Joe Johns is joining us now. He's standing by in St. Paul with the latest on the Republicans' effort, I should say, to try and deal with this really perplexing situation.

What are you hearing, Joe?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, people here are watching TV just like you are and paying a lot of attention to it quite frankly, Rick. What we do know now is that this is not going to be the convention that they planned at all. What they planned was that four- day extravaganza which was basically going to be an advertisement for John McCain and his running mate, Sarah Palin.

It doesn't look like it's going to be work out as planned. They're pretty much playing it by ear right now. Tomorrow, for example, the president of the United States, George Bush, is not going to show up. The vice president, Dick Cheney, is not going to show up as planned. They're going to have a sort of truncated program, a couple of hours, and then they're going to go away and see what's happening in New Orleans and sort of play it by ear.

There are some things you have to do at these conventions. They're not all parties. They have to pass a party platform. They have to elect as nominees their ticket for president and vice president of the United States. They plan to get all of that done, but how and when right now quite frankly, Rick, is anybody's guess.

SANCHEZ: You know what's interesting, as you look at this, strangely enough, we've gotten some preliminary numbers back today that CNN has conducted. And even though it was the Democrats who just put on one whale of a show by all indications, even from Republicans' own words -- own mouths, I should say, they haven't really held that bounce that others have had after conventions in the past.

The Republicans haven't even had their convention, may not have it until middle of the week, and yet somehow they're dead even with Barack Obama. What -- is there any explanation for this, Joe?

JOHNS: Well, not really. I mean, one of the things you have to think of, one of the things you have to ask is whether the naming of Sarah Palin, for example, as the vice presidential running mate for John McCain might have had an effect, might have cut off sort of any bounce that Barack Obama had.

But quite frankly, if you look at the polls, Barack Obama has sort of been underperforming in the polls throughout, and 100 different reasons for that. We do know that Sarah Palin really got a lot of appreciation from social conservatives out there.

A lot of people on the right really liked her selection because they feel like she stands with them. And that may have sort of solidified conservatives over in the corner of John McCain, where they weren't at least that interested in him before the naming of Sarah Palin.

SANCHEZ: Yes, we should mention as well that, you know, presidents in our country are not elected by a popular poll, so it's not about what most people want. It's about what people who happen to live in key states want. And when those numbers come in, that's probably when we'll have a better indication what's going on with this thing.

Joe Johns, you're the best. And somehow, I just love listening to your voice. You've got great cords, man.

JOHNS: Thanks, man. You do, too.

SANCHEZ: Appreciate the conversation.

JOHNS: I love you, Rick.


SANCHEZ: Joe Johns, following things there for us from St. Paul.

When we come back, the very latest from both Jacqui and others who have been following the storm along the Gulf Coast.

And you know what, I wanted to share something with you. There is this e-mail that I just got moments ago. This is written to me from H. Holliman (ph) in McKinney, Texas.

She says: "Rick, I was just traveling on I-45 today between Dallas and Houston and while traveling south, I passed what seemed to be miles of National Guard troops heading to the Gulf Coast. I could not help but notice the very young and brave young men and women, citizen soldiers heading into harm's way. Please find a way to thank these incredible people, thank them for putting their lives on hold, leaving their jobs and their families. It was uplifting to see their travelers waving with pride and encouragement as they watched them go by."

You asked, we'll do. Thanks so much for the comment. Well said. We'll be right back.


SANCHEZ: We have got a couple of pictures to show you now as things start to settle there in New Orleans. It's still Sunday night, but in about eight minutes or so, we're going to be going, creeping into what is an ominous Monday morning for the folks there along the Gulf Coast.

The picture you see on the top left -- as you look at this triad here, the picture you see on the top left is from WVUE, it's one of our affiliates there in New Orleans. Obviously, the picture you see on the bottom is the loop itself and how close the storm is now getting to the actual coastline. As you can see, the rain bands are already affecting the coastline.

And then the picture you see on the right is from our own bureau. You know, we put in a Gulf Coast bureau after Hurricane Katrina. We are manning it daily. It's obviously very well staffed right now. You know, Sean Callebs usually handles most of the reports coming in from down there, as well as Susan Roesgen.

We're going to be hearing from them throughout the course of the evening and, of course, tomorrow when this thing starts to actually touch down. So there's the situation there as it stands right now.

The flooding that happened in New Orleans three years ago was caused by serious design flaws. CNN's Sean Callebs, speak of the devil, talked with an expert who actually studied the levee design to see how it will hold up now.


SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Katrina was a powerful storm. But it shouldn't have caused so much devastation. Eighty percent of the flooding that destroyed New Orleans could have been prevented. That's according to a eight-month study by the National Science Foundation.

ROBERT BEA, U.C. BERKLEY ENGINEERING DEPT.: That's the essence of the story, is to say that undesirable, unanticipated breaching in the levees is what brought us to our knees.

CALLEBS: Bob Bea, a Cal Berkley researcher, is one of the authors of the study. During Katrina, almost all the water that poured into the heart of New Orleans was driven south, down canals leading from Lake Pontchartrain. Scientists say the reason flood walls and levees gave way is simple.

BEA: Well, we were trying to do this in a cheap way, save money.

CALLEBS: We now know a design flaw by the Army Corps of Engineers allowed raging water to eat away soil far below the water line. The Corps had drilled sheet piling 17.5 feet into the ground to guard against erosion. Scientists say it wasn't nearly deep enough.

BEA: Today we're driving them to deeper than 60 feet.

CALLEBS: The Army Corps of Engineers says it won't comment on the study until it has read the entire document. Even with poor levee design, massive floodgates now going up along Lake Pontchartrain would have provided tremendous defense against flooding, according to the report. But don't blame the Corps for that. Scientists say years of quibbling, back and forth among local governments, killed floodgate plans.

BEA: Well, it's petty. We have been dysfunctional. We've forgotten really what the name of the game is, and that's to protect the public.

CALLEBS: The Lower Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish, hit hardest by flooding, the study says in large part because the Army Corps used cheap, porous soil instead of more stable clay on earthen levees that eroded quickly. Bea knows firsthand of what he speaks. He lived in New Orleans in the 1960s and saw his home flooded by Hurricane Betsy.

So with the new flood protection plans going on, would he move back?

BEA: The answer is no. I wouldn't come back here and buy a house. I would come back here and rent a second floor apartment, which says I would proceed cautiously.

CALLEBS (on camera): The scientists concluded that not only was all of the massive flooding predictable, it was preventable. That for decades warning signs were out there, they were simply ignored.

Sean Callebs, CNN, in New Orleans.


SANCHEZ: All right. Here we go. This is one of the pictures that we're getting. And it does look now -- if you look at the very top there, you see how it looks like they're -- it's almost that image you get from time to time where it looks like it's raining sideways.

Chris (ph), I didn't hear when you told me where this was from. Go ahead and tell me in my ear and I'll share it with the viewers. What is this? This is right over the French Quarter, as we speak. Looks like we're getting some rain bands.

This is Washington Artillery Park, I'm being told now by my executive producer. Say again, Jackson Square? Right at the foot of Jackson Square is where this picture is being taken. There you see, as the pictures come in, we're going to be sharing them with you.

We'll also be sharing with you the very latest information from the National Hurricane Center as we stay with you tonight following the very latest. Now just above me there, you can see above as I'm pointing to it now, that's that WVUE picture from the affiliates.

Then let me go over here to the other side. See that right above where I'm pointing to right now? That's the picture from our own bureau there in New Orleans. We're going to keep those hunkered down. You'll see them move from time to time, that's because of the wind gusts that are coming in. A little bit of rain from time to time. For the most part it looks to be sporadic.

As we follow it, we'll share it with you. And we expect to share also all of the reactions that are coming in. Let me show you something real quick. We got this, Dave (ph)? Look how many people, tonight, are talking to us and listening to us. This is when I last checked. They still maybe updated it more, 4,623 people are now just on following this newscast as we bring it to you, on the air, sharing responses with us, commenting on what we are doing, as well as another thousand, we understand, that are also with us on Facebook and MySpace, and 500 on MySpace. And 500 on MySpace.

So that's another 1,500, we're reaching almost 16, 17 -- or 7,000 people already who are just sitting there talking to us and helping us. Because we get as much from this as we give, helping us understand what's going on with the story.

I want you to know something, we appreciate it. We'll be right back.