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Hurricane Ike Nears Texas Coast; Evaluating Sarah Palin

Aired September 12, 2008 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: There is no shortage of news tonight, not just the storm news all around us and about to hit Houston, more striking moments from Sarah Palin today, escalating verbal warfare between John McCain and Barack Obama.
But we begin with the obvious. The pictures, you see them there, Hurricane Ike -- a new weather bulletin expected any moment. But you don't need a bulletin to get a sense of what's happening, as seawalls get pounded, streets flooded, and people who should have gone by now take their chances. Their lives are in their own hands at this hour on Galveston.

They were being rescued all day -- you see it on the right-hand side of your screen -- until conditions got too bad for the choppers to fly, too dangerous for the rescue workers to risk their own lives. There is a crippled freighter, as well, right now, with 22 people floundering somewhere offshore -- no contact with it right now, the power out in Galveston.

That's a new development. So is this: new damage projections, FEMA now estimating $11.8 billion worth. Nearly 100,000 buildings could be damaged -- 4,500, according to projection, will be destroyed, 341 hospitals in harm's way, several dozen oil refineries, chemical plants, and 14.9 million people, among them, CNN correspondents from Clute in the southwest, to Galveston, La Porte, Baytown, and Beaumont.

And here's what everyone is watching, the water levels. This is Galveston Island in three feet of water, then in five feet of water, and then 15 feet of storm water. At 15 feet, the island is nearly inundated. There is a picture. The forecast predicts -- get this -- 18 feet, 20 feet, 22 feet, possibly more, the storm now hundreds of miles wide, winds 110 miles an hour, gusting higher, borderline Category 3, still moving to the north-northwest, taking dead aim at Galveston, the bay, the canal, and here in Houston.

Let's begin tonight with Gary Tuchman, Rob Marciano in Galveston, directly in the path of this thing, Hurricane Ike literally everywhere they turn -- Gary.

Can you hear?

OK. We're obviously having trouble hearing Gary's Mike. You can tell they are in the eye of this storm. We are going to try to get their mike situation worked out. You can see, though, those bands of water whipping ashore. You can see, also, the -- the ocean surf behind them.

Let's go now, right now, to Chad Myers at the CNN Weather Center.

Chad, where is this storm?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: These guys are really getting pounded now, about 55 miles to the center offshore, but the western part of the outer eyewall is now getting right into Galveston. And that's what these guys are getting pounded with.

This may, in the next hour, may be the worst winds they see all night long, because they very well may see the eye. The eye is only about 45 miles wide right now. That means it is getting smaller. That means this storm is potentially getting faster in the middle right through here, because, like an ice-skater that brings her arms in as she's spinning around, goes a lot faster, compared to arms and legs out, spinning slowly.

This thing, if it gets smaller, this gets down to 30 miles across or so, the winds could go up to that major category. See, there's Galveston right there. Look, they're right on the edge of this squall. And any time you get contact, Anderson, just break in, and tell me that you have got them, because I know what it is like to stand out there waiting for a live shot.

Here comes the next sweep around. This is the most dangerous part of the storm so far right now. Luckily, that's offshore. The problem is, this is going to work its way all the way around the storm. And it is going to come back at us again from the other side. That may be somewhere up here near La Porte, where our Rick Sanchez is.

Galveston, 41 miles per hour right now, that was sustained, but I just saw a gust to over 60. And that's what we're going to expect for a lot of the night. And, eventually, those guys are probably going to get into somewhere around 80 or 90. I hope we can stay on the air that long. But, so far, they're good with water. They're on a nice -- the nice high spot in Galveston -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Chad, we will come check in with you throughout these two hours.

We're live for the next two hours. Then Larry King is live. And then we're live for another hour. We are going to be following this thing all evening long.

People across the country have already gotten a taste of the storm, at the gas pump, we're talking about, gasoline futures rising, wholesale prices up as much as $2 along the Gulf. It could get a whole lot worse. Here's why.

Take a look at the oil refineries in the area, the nation's largest in Baytown, number three in Texas City, six and nine in Beaumont, and Deer Park, along with 18 other major refineries, huge oil rigs out there as well, big chemical plants.

CNN's Ali Velshi is in Baytown, near the ExxonMobil complex, where they refine more than half-a-million barrels of crude a day. Ali, what is the scene?


The refineries are shut down. Thirteen of the 26 refineries in Texas are shut down right now. Baytown is the biggest one, as you said. Now, what's going on here is, they're shutting them down because they are worried about losing power and having those refineries flooded.

Unlike the rigs offshore, these refineries are a little bit more sensitive to these storms. You will remember, after Hurricane Katrina and Rita, we had some refineries offline for six to nine months.

Now, what's the effect? As you said, the price of wholesale gas today peaking at $4.90 a gallon. That's a big jump. We have seen retail gas at gas stations, if you can still get it in some of the gas stations in Texas, shooting up. We have seen Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, even Florida, $5.50 for a gallon of case.

You know, one of the things you talked about at the beginning, $11.8 million -- billion dollars in potential storm damage, that's insured damage. That doesn't count the extra money that everybody's going to pay in gasoline costs.

Now, here's the thing. Anderson, if this takes a few days to clean these refineries out and get the water out and get the power back, that will be OK. The problem is if they are damaged. These refineries cannot run when they're wet. They cannot run when there is no power. So, that is what we're looking at right now.

If you look at where we are, we're in Baytown, east of Houston, north of Galveston, as Galveston Bay moves into the Houston Shipping Channel. So, as that water keeps getting forced into Galveston -- into Galveston Bay and into the shipping channel, it is a certainty that this area, with so many refineries, is going to flood.

So, as we stand right now, 13 of 26 refineries -- that's about half of the Gulf Coast's refining capacity -- offline tonight, in expectation of Hurricane Ike -- Anderson.

COOPER: Ali, thanks. We will check in with you.

You see the difficulty we are having with Gary Tuchman's audio. Before -- just before the sound went out, Gary filed a taped report. But I think can we go to him live?

Can we?

Gary, let's see. Gary, can you hear us? What's happening in Gulfport?


COOPER: Excuse me -- in Galveston. TUCHMAN: Right. Anderson, we hear you perfectly. I'm with meteorologist Rob Marciano. We have both been here all day in Galveston. The conditions have gotten very treacherous here.

We're right along the Gulf of Mexico. This is the boulevard where people drive up and down along the beach. Every night, it is usually very crowded. But, right now, the 17-foot seawall here on Seawall Boulevard, you see can the water is going over the top of it, and very treacherous. We can't stay out here much longer.

But I can tell you right now, Rob, this is really something, just being out here. The rain's been coming down for the last couple of hours. Do you think the eye is going to come over right over where we're standing?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It has got to be (AUDIO GAP) north. But because the wind has been coming in the same direction, that means that the storm really hasn't deviated from its course.

I will tell you what's been amazing to me, Gary, is that, as soon as last night, how high the water was, how big the wave setup was so early before the storm even got here. We had waves crashing over the seawall before it even started to blow in rain. So, this is just the wave setup.

And once the storm comes in, then we get the surge on top of that. So, I'm impressed with how well that seawall's been doing. They knew what they were doing when they built it. And, certainly, the folks who live behind it who are battened down for this storm hope that holds well when it makes landfall in a few hours.

TUCHMAN: We had a wind meter here a short time ago. We were getting 90-mile-per-hour gusts. One of the most amazing things I want to ask Rob (AUDIO GAP) that, last night the National Weather Service said that people who live in one or two-story homes and one-family homes along the beach face certain death if they stay.

Now, is that hyperbole?

MARCIANO: Yes, I -- I have never heard that kind of warning before. There was a similar warning that came out of Katrina, the New Orleans office out of Katrina, that pretty much described what was going to happen to a tee.

So, when I read that, driving in here yesterday, I said, we aren't staying in Galveston, no way, no how. But, like you have mentioned in earlier -- in earlier shots (AUDIO GAP) is a perfect spot. It's elevated. And the -- and the structure is built like a fortress. It is kind of eerie, though. I will tell you, when the -- when the lights go out and wind picks up and the waves keep building, it is a bit frightening, for sure.

TUCHMAN: Well, that's one of the things. The power just went out here a short time ago, so you have this complete dark situation. You also have people who have stayed here in Galveston. It's a mandatory evacuation. And we are being told by authorities that if anyone's caught not evacuating, they're planning on arresting them.

But, I will tell you, the authorities are right now inside our hotel. They decided, once it reached hurricane-force gusts, they wouldn't leave. (AUDIO GAP) in the hotel we're staying at (AUDIO GAP) e-mailing all day about this, and Rob, too.

We're in a 15-story hotel that was built to withstand hurricane- force winds. We are not in a one- or two-story building. We are along the beach. It is a safe place, relatively safe. Nothing is perfectly safe, but police and emergency operations officials are staying inside our hotel with us (AUDIO GAP) ride it all out.

But one thing that's interesting, we hear this dire forecast. And the drenching rains are coming down now. We hear this dire forecast. This isn't a Category 4 or 5. It's not even a Category 3 yet. Why such a dire forecast?

MARCIANO: Because the storm is so big.

And I'm just echoing what Chad and everybody else has been saying. This is just a huge storm. The size of it has taken up more than half the Gulf of Mexico. The wind field has been tremendous, larger than Katrina. So, it hasn't been that big or that strong, but it's been big and it's been a pretty slow mover.

So, one of reasons that the surge was so big during Katrina is because it was a huge storm. And then the Gulf of Mexico, you have got to remember how the floor of this Gulf is shaped, the bathymetry of it. It is shallow. So, everywhere around the Gulf is susceptible to surge. And with this sort of wave action and the size of the storm, that is what has the National Weather Service concerned.

That's why they put out that warning for one- and two-story homes probably not having a chance if you live in Galveston, especially away from the seawall.

TUCHMAN: What is absolutely incredible is, behind us, about 25 yards, is a 17-foot-tall seawall.

Now, last night, Anderson, when we talked to you, we could see 17 feet down, and there was about 100 yards of beach. The beach has completely disappeared here in Galveston.

And to my south, and to the southwest, actually, there's no seawall. And there is -- there is immense flooding down there. For a few hours, there's been flooding. Much of Galveston has flooded. And that leads to this next question I'm going to ask you. We have heard these forecasts that almost all of Galveston could be under water by tomorrow. Is that realistic?

MARCIANO: It is realistic away from the seawall.

And you have got to remember how the island is behind -- it's an island. So, the water goes around where the seawall isn't, then and gets on the back side of things. And, then, as the winds change, we could see a reverse -- a reverse surge of sorts. So, we will just have to wait and see, but, certainly, there are some high spots on the island. They will do OK. But a good chunk of the island, where you get that 15- to 20-foot surge, the seawall that is built 15, 16 feet is not going to do a whole lot of good.

TUCHMAN: They haven't been hit by a big hurricane for 25 years, Hurricane Alicia, here in this part of Texas. They're getting hit now -- Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Gary, the concern, the surge, not only from the seaside, but also from the bay side, at this point, do you have any sense how much of the island so far is flooded?

TUCHMAN: I will tell you, it was happening all day. When I keep hearing the word surge, I'm thinking of the Iraq war. But we are talking about a hurricane now, a different kind of surge.

And I will tell you, there's more concern on bay side, and that's not far away from us. That's about a five-minute drive from here. And there's thoughts that it could be up to a 22-foot surge. Now, the elevation of this city is seven feet. That's shorter than Yao Ming, who plays on the Houston Rockets, by the way. So, it is a very flat city (AUDIO GAP) surge, and a lot of danger.

So, right now, a lot of the city's under water, but it is unclear, because it is dark out now, just how much (AUDIO GAP) and we just hope that people (AUDIO GAP)

COOPER: In terms of where you are, how much of the beach has already been lost? Do you have an estimate from earlier in the day?

TUCHMAN: Yes, I will tell you, all of it's lost. And that's what's incredible.

When I talked to you last night, Anderson, you could still toss a Frisbee on the beach. There's no beach anymore. It is gone. And this is the street that's 17 feet above the water. And, right now, you can see the water that looks on the same level as us.

So, this gives you an idea. Look at these waves. This is just incredible. Now, we have seen wave like this all day. Obviously, now it is getting worse. But it really didn't start raining until about four hours ago. And now the rain is coming down in buckets. And this is the time where the authorities in Galveston are all watching and hoping for the best, and really hoping that most of the people here have left, because this is a very serious situation.

And what Rob said is just the most important part. This is just such a huge storm. It is just so big. It took up virtually the entire Gulf of Mexico at one point, and now it's coming over this part of Texas.

And, Anderson, it is going to be over you pretty soon.

COOPER: Gary and Rob Marciano, we're going to check in with you throughout this next two hours, likely as long as you are able to stay up with that satellite.

That's, of course, the big concern for us here, trying to stay on the air at the same time as trying to stay safe. We will keep you posted on that. We will also have a live report from here in Houston.

Also, today, a full day of politics -- Sarah Palin giving more of her interview to Charlie Gibson. We will show you some of the excerpts from that. And also John McCain on "The View" facing some pretty tough questions. And we will show you some of that as well.

Stay tuned, live from Hurricane Ike, ahead.


COOPER: You're looking at pictures earlier from Galveston. You can see the surf really coming up, pounding up that seawall, getting some -- some big breaking waves on that seawall. We will see what happens over the next several hours, that this is really just the beginning of this storm. We have yet to see this storm's full ferocity, and especially here in Houston. We anticipate it hitting in a matter of hours.

We have already started to get a little bit more rain, a little bit more wind, just a few little drops of rain. But people here know what is coming. And a lot of tall buildings here in Houston, there's a lot of concern about that. We will talk about that.

Let's check in right now with Erica Hill, who has some breaking news about a possible levee breach or overtopping -- I'm not sure which -- in New Orleans.

Erica, what are you hearing?

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we're being told at this hour, Anderson, is that it's actually in Lafitte, which is in Jefferson Parish, and that the levee has failed. Now, this is apparently a temporarily levee. It failed within the last couple of hours, I believe around 8:00.

The mayor there has said hundreds of homes are now flooded. We're getting a little bit more information coming in, some questions about what the weather has been like there. What we're told is that this is really related more to as, I'm pull up the details for you here, not bad weather, but really a continuation of the storm surges from Hurricane Ike.

What they have been trying to do, we're told, is to -- this is from the information director here that we're getting this information. The information director for the Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration says, they have been trying to direct resources to Lafitte since this morning. The sandbagging didn't work. Ultimately, the levees failed, not a firm answer on the damage, but, again, the mayor says hundreds of homes flooded -- Anderson.

COOPER: Hmm. All right. We are going to continue to follow that story. Erica, thanks. We will check in you.

We are going to bring you complete storm coverage over the next two hours, and going to break into any coverage we're doing with any new developments, especially out of Galveston. As you saw, we have correspondents there and all throughout this region.

But we do want to give you a sense of what's happening in the world of politics today, a lot of big stories there, Governor Sarah Palin's interview, her first since becoming the Republican vice presidential candidate. Today, she spoke again to ABC's Charlie Gibson.

And, for a second straight day, Palin's answers are providing ample ammunition for both her supporters and her critics. Our panel weighs in after the break.

But, first, decide for yourself how she did. Here's Governor Palin in her own words.


CHARLES GIBSON, ABC NEWS: You said you now agree with John McCain that -- the earmarks should be eliminated. The state of Alaska, Governor, this year, requested $3.2 million for researching the genetics of harbor seals, money to study the mating habits of crabs.

Isn't that exactly the kind of thing that John McCain is objecting to?

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Those requests, through our research divisions and fish and game and our wildlife departments and our universities, those research requests did come through that system, but wanting it to be in the light of day, not behind closed doors, with lobbyists making deals with Congress to stick things in there under the public radar, that's the abuse that we're going to stop.

GIBSON: Roe v. Wade, you think it should be reversed?

PALIN: I think it should. And I think that states should be able to decide that issue.

I am pro-life. I do respect other people's opinion on this, also, and I think that a culture of life is best for America.

What I want to do, when elected vice president, with John McCain, hopefully be able to reach out and work with those who are on the other side of this issue, because I know that we can all agree on the need for and the desire for fewer abortions in America and greater support for adoption, for other alternatives that women can and should be empowered to embrace, to allow that culture of life.

That's my personal opinion on this, Charlie. GIBSON: John McCain would allow abortion in cases of rape and incest. Do you believe in it only in the case where the life of the mother is endangered?

PALIN: That is my personal opinion.

GIBSON: Would you change and accept it in rape and incest?

PALIN: My personal opinion is that abortion allowed if the life of the mother is endangered.

Please understand me on this. I do understand McCain's position on this. I do understand others who are very passionate about this issue who have a differing view.

GIBSON: Homosexuality, genetic or learned?

PALIN: Oh, I don't -- I don't know, but I'm not one to judge.

And, you know, I'm from a family and from a community with many, many members of many diverse backgrounds. And I'm not going to judge someone on whether they believe that homosexuality is a choice or genetic. And I'm not going to judge them.

GIBSON: Is it sexist for people to ask how can somebody manage a family of seven and the vice presidency? Is that a sexist question to ask?

PALIN: That question is kind of irrelevant, because it's accepted. Of course you can be the vice president and you can raise a family.

I'm the governor, and I'm raising a family. I have been a mayor and have raised a family. I have owned a business, and we have raised a family.

What people have asked me when I was governor and I was pregnant, "Gosh, how are you going to be the governor and have a baby in office, too"?

And I replied back then, as I would today, "I will do it the same way the other governors have done it when they have either had a baby in office or raised a family."

Granted, they're men, but do it the same way that they do it.


COOPER: Sarah Palin.

Well, coming up: Palin on Palin, round two of her ABC interview. She talks about the bridge to nowhere, a project she first supported, then didn't. We will get our panel's take on that.

Plus, all the breaking news from here in Texas, Hurricane Ike taking aim. They're starting to feel the first licks of the shore -- of the storm, particularly, there you see, in La Porte, also live on Galveston and points in between, the evacuations, rescues, the forecasts -- all that and more still to come.


COOPER: There's a picture from Galveston just a short time ago. Ike is getting closer here in Texas -- in a moment, much more on the monster storm, now almost as big as the state of Texas itself. We have got reporters in the field across the state.

First, though, an update on today's political storm, Alaska's Governor Sarah Palin, round two on her interview on ABC. We just showed you some of that, her discussion with Charlie Gibson, raising some eyebrows tonight.

Asked about that -- that bridge to nowhere, a project she first supported, then didn't, listen to what Palin had to say.


PALIN: The poster child for the earmarks was Alaska's, what people in the lower 48 refer to, was the bridge to nowhere. Of course, it was a bridge to community with an airport in southeast Alaska.

But that was excessive. And an earmark -- an earmark like that, not even supported necessarily by the majority of Alaskans, we killed that earmark. We killed that project.

GIBSON: But it's now pretty clearly documented. You supported that bridge before you opposed it. But you turned against it after Congress had basically pulled the plug on it.

Do you want to revise and extend your remarks?

PALIN: Obviously, Charlie, with the federal government saying, no, the rest of the nation does not want to fund that project, you have a choice. You either read the writing on the wall and understand, OK, yes, that project's going nowhere. And the state isn't willing to fund that project.

So, what good does it do to continue to support something that circumstances have so drastically changed? You call an audible, and you deal in reality, and you move on.

And, Charlie, we killed the bridge to nowhere and that's the bottom line.


COOPER: She also commented on family, glass ceilings, and whether Obama should have picked Hillary Clinton as his running mate.

We're digging deeper tonight with CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, a former adviser to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton, CNN contributor Hilary Rosen, a Democratic strategist, and Republican strategist Bay Buchanan, a former senior adviser to Mitt Romney.

So, David, can this hedging on the bridge to nowhere undermine her represent tag as a reformer at all? Or how do you think she handled the question?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That she should have extended and revised her remarks, and not provided this sort of dodgy answer that I think people see through.

Overall, Anderson, last night, as you know, I defended her on her foreign policy answers, especially about the so-called Bush doctrine. But, tonight, on the economic front, I thought her answers were incoherent. And she clearly is not as well-brief on that...

COOPER: Incoherent?

GERGEN: Well, she was pressed by Charlie Gibson on a couple occasions to name three things that a McCain-Palin administration would do that would be different from Bush.

And, so, she started with tax cuts. Well, that's what the Bush administration is doing. She talked about oversight of agencies, like Fannie and Freddie. That's exactly what the Bush administration tried to do, was blocked by some Democrats in Congress, according to Bush people as an interesting piece in "The Washington Post" today.

Third thing she said she would do, they would cut spending now -- or control spending. That is legitimate. That would be a change. But, when asked, she started on like entitlements, you know, find -- we will find efficiencies in the agency.

I'm sorry. That's not where spending is. The spending is not in the agencies. The agencies are just passers. They're spending a huge amount of the money that goes out for entitlements like Medicare and Social Security.

And then she complained about the deficits and how big the deficits were, when every major study, the big major studies that have been made about the economic plans by Senator McCain, as well as by Senator Obama, by the way, are that they are increase the deficits and increase the debt.

So, I thought, overall, it was an incoherent answer. It reflected a -- I think it left a lot of openings for the Democrats.

COOPER: Hilary, Palin also brought up Hillary Clinton and breaking the glass ceiling. Let's listen to what she said.


GIBSON: I saw you quoted somewhere as speaking rather admiringly of Mrs. Clinton, Senator Clinton, during the primary campaign. You think Obama should have picked her?

PALIN: I think he's regretting not picking her now. I do.

What determination and grit and even grace through some tough shots that were fired her way. She handled those well.


COOPER: Hilary Rosen, do you buy her appeal -- her newfound love, apparently -- apparently, of Hillary Clinton?


HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I thought, most of the interview, actually, she came across as quite likable, and -- but that comment I found rather sort of snide and almost a little, well, you know, McCain got a girl, and I bet Obama's regretting he didn't get a girl, too.

You know, I just found that really off-putting. I -- I want to go back, though, to some of the things that -- she tonight acknowledged that she was a seeker of earmarks, and, you know, despite her boasting over the last couple of weeks not. Only, she tried to distinguish tonight, well, it's just kind of abuse of earmarks.

And I think, you know, this sort of constant backtracking now is a problem that they're going to have to deal with, that, really, the earmark issue is what they would do with the money that they're saving.

So, OK, cut out all the earmarks. What are you going to do with it? And that's the part she didn't have an answer to, other than, we're going to give all the money we save in tax cuts to the wealthy and subsidies to the oil companies.

You know, Barack Obama has a different plan. With the money he saves from reform, he's going to give tax cuts to the middle class and improve health insurance. That's, I think, what people need to start focusing on, instead of, you know, we have now gotten her on her -- on her flip-flops. Now I think we ought to move on past the bridge to nowhere.

COOPER: Well, no doubt her supporters see it completely differently.

Bay, Palin seemed to change her position on climate change, now saying man is partially responsible. Just last month, she clearly said -- and I'm quote -- "I'm not one who would attribute it to being manmade."

Did it seem like a flip-flop to you, or does it make sense to you?

BAY BUCHANAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: No, I think, Anderson, that was the error, the one thing that I said made me a little nervous. It's certainly not going to be a big issue.

But what makes you nervous is that the handlers somehow feel that she has to start parroting the positions of John McCain, which would be a real mistake. You know, the key to her success, the key to her popularity is that she's Sarah, that she feels very passionately about things. She doesn't (INAUDIBLE) to disagree with people.

We know she disagrees with McCain a little bit on life and even more so on ANWR. And it's -- nothing wrong with that. It makes her that much more interesting and exciting, because she's her own person.

And so I would warn handlers not to try to mesh her into being just a parrot. And that's what was the real beauty of the second day of these interviews, is the real Sarah came across. She was a little nervous yesterday with the foreign policy. She did fine. She passed. She probably hit a good double. No home run, but she passed.

So today I thought you saw the real Sarah, the real comfortable person. A little -- she's just a charming person, and she sells herself very well through that screen, that television screen.

COOPER: Supporters -- so fascinating. Supporters saw it one way, her detractors see it completely differently. We're going to continue to talk about this, play more of the interview throughout these next two hours.

Still ahead, though, on the program, things get even nastier on the campaign trail. Charges, counter charges, gutter politics or charges of gutter politics, and an avow from one side to fight back harder than ever. We'll talk about that.

And take a look. Rick Sanchez in La Porte, Texas, covering the approaching assault from Hurricane Ike. I'm in Houston. You can see, it's starting to rain pretty heavy there. Houston has yet to receive the rain, the wind. That's what people are really concerned about here, especially with all these high rises, all this glass that could be swirling around. We'll bring you the latest on the monster storm from all across Texas when we return.


COOPER: Long lines of traffic at gas stations today as people were still heading for safer ground. Let's check in now with CNN's Rick Sanchez in La Porte, on the banks of Galveston Bay. Residents of La Porte took evacuation orders seriously; 90 percent left town. Rick joins us now from a very empty Main Street.

Rick, how hard is it hitting there? It doesn't look too bad.

RICH SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the rain bands had been intermittent earlier in the day, but now they're actually pretty consistent. The wind has picked up and obviously.

I think when I heard you talking to Chad a little while ago, Anderson, he mentioned that La Porte was going to really be right in the eye of the storm. Is that right?

COOPER: That's what he said. He said it looks like it's coming straight for you. SANCHEZ: Oh, great. This is why La Porte is important or significant in this case. La Porte is one of the cities that's right on the edges of Galveston Bay. Places like Kima, that was just recently built up, which most officials here are saying is going to be under water, as well as Morgan's Point, as well as La Porte.

And what we're looking at here is a hurricane where just the coastal cities aren't going to be affected like Galveston, and you were talking to Rob and Gary just a little while ago. But the areas inland that are actually (AUDIO GAP) -- why because that wall of water is going to be pushing into the Gulf of Mexico into Galveston Bay and eventually up the Houston Ship Channel up toward where you are, Galveston -- Anderson, around Houston itself.

That's why this thing is so significant. That's why they all essentially called off the evacuation order earlier today. Police essentially have established a curfew here, as well, and they're being real mindful. They keep going by about every five minutes or so to check on what's going on.

But as you said, most of the people have heeded the warnings, most of them are gone. We're expecting in the next hour or so that we'll really be starting to feel some of the same things that you saw Gary and Rob feeling down in Galveston just a little while ago.

But the thing to be looking for here, the real thing to be looking for that's going to make this significant in terms of a personality of a storm that may be different from Andrew, may be different from Katrina, is it's the first time we're seeing a really big storm go right into a metropolitan area. That's what people are going to be looking at. That's why Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, told me he's extremely concerned.

Back to you, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Rick. We're going to continue to check in with you.

Again, we are live throughout these next two hours, and Larry King takes it live. Then we take it live for another hour. We have much more coverage of Hurricane Ike still coming up.

There's a lot of people, if you can believe it or not, in Houston. A couple bars are still open. People are drinking, walking around, looking for the storm, basically. The storm's yet to come. Hopefully, at some point they're going to go inside.

But first, let's check in with Erica Hill for a "360 News and Business Bulleting" -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, following another developing story at this hour, at least ten people confirmed dead now, dozens more injured when two trains collided in Los Angeles. This happened just hours ago with the beginning of rush hour. Rescue teams there still working to free the trapped victims.

Ted Rowlands is in Chatsworth, California, with the latest for us.

Hi, Ted.


A horrific scene, as you can see, as rescuers still look for potential victims in the front car of this commuter train that officials say had as many as 350 people in it when it collided head-on with a Union Pacific freight train just about three hours ago during the Friday evening commute.

Since then, rescue workers, along with help from people in this area, have been desperately trying to help the injured. Helicopters have been ferrying people from here to local hospitals. A surgeon was even brought here to work on people in triage areas. A lot of people were injured here and dealt with on the scene.

Family members, as you can imagine, very concerned about their loved ones. They're trying to meet people up, get people to the appropriate spots to hook up with loved ones. And if they're in hospitals, get that information to them.

It is little less chaotic than it has been over the last three hours, but as you see from pictures here, a horrific scene here in Los Angeles. And it is expected to be a very, very long night as the search for victims continues -- Erica.

HILL: All right, Ted. We know you'll stay on top of it. Thanks.

Alaska lawmakers today voted to subpoena Governor Sarah Palin's husband, several aides and phone records in their investigation. This is all into the investigation into Palin's firing of the public safety commissioner.

Palin is battling allegations that she and her advisors pressured the commissioner to fire her former brother-in-law and that the public safety chief was fired when he refused.

As we reported earlier, the wholesale price of gas spiking to nearly $5 a gallon on the threat of Hurricane Ike. The price of crude oil dipped below $100 a barrel for the first time since April but climbed at the close to just over $101, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Erica.

We are starting to get just the first outer bands of the storm now, starting to get a little bit of rain hitting here in Houston. Again, it is the rain that's going to be an issue here, causing flooding in low-lying areas, and also the wind. Hurricane-force winds expected to hit here around 3 a.m. East Coast Time. Before that, of course, tropical storm winds doing a lot of damage to a lot of these buildings. That's expected. More on the storm when we come back.

And later we'll talk to Dan Rather, who was doing what I'm doing here in Texas, well, before I was born. Nobody did it better than he does. We'll talk to him about storms in Galveston, covering hurricanes.

Plus the latest from Galveston, where Ike is already hitting. That and the latest bulletins when 360 continues, face to face with Hurricane Ike.


COOPER: We understand Chad just got the latest update on the storm. You see the radar track there. Let's check in with him at the CNN weather center.

Chad, we are just starting to feel rain, really, for the first time in Houston.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, this has been a fairly dry west side of a hurricane. And you know, we have hurricanes that are all different. They all have their own personalities. Some are just so wet, you just get out there ten hours before the eye is close and you're just soaked.

But this storm has been a little bit dry on the west side. The 11 p.m. advisory is in. I know, it's early. We don't have the discussion yet, which is why they think all these things, but we have the preliminary numbers. They're keeping at 110 miles per hour. They're not making it any stronger at this point.

But they are still moving it over Houston as about an 85-mile- per-hour storm. And here's the rub with that, Anderson. That's at the surface. If you go up 30 stories, like some of those buildings are in Houston, you're going to add another 10 to 20 miles per hour on top of those numbers. So on top of the buildings that you're under, we're looking at 105, maybe 110 wind. So that's right up there to strong Category 2. Even though you're inland, and it will be dying a little bit, those winds will not be dying for those tall skyscrapers there in Houston, and a lot of glass is going to come down tonight.

And I know I always sound like a mother hen today on these storms, but I need you to be in a safe place so that we can go through the night and I don't have to worry about glass falling on you. So keep that in mind for your go-to place when this all starts to unwind.

COOPER: Yes, we've got a couple fall-back positions, so we feel pretty good about it. And we're watching very closely the Chase Tower, which took a bit hit during Hurricane Rita. We're going to show that to you later in the broadcast and see how it fares over the next couple of hours.

Chad, how is Galveston doing right now? Where are they in terms of the storm?

MYERS: They are on the outer -- there's almost two eye walls forming. They're on the outer part of the eye wall now, just coming onshore right now.

And there's another eye wall that they're going to get, the inner one, that is really just developing. They're in about a 60- to 70- mile-per-hour wind now, but I do believe they're going to be 100 before it's all done, and then they're going to get right smack dab in the eye. They are -- our reporters are going to look up and probably see the moon, Anderson.

COOPER: Wow. We're going to check in with Gary Tuchman and Rob Marciano in just a moment. Chad, we'll check in with you again. Much more ahead.

Gas prices up throughout the country on this threat of what Hurricane Ike could do to many Houston's refineries. We'll also take a look at that. A lot more ahead.

Forty-seven years ago this week Hurricane Carla slammed into the Texas coastline. A young Texan named Dan Rather was there, reporting. We will talk to him next.


COOPER: That video you're looking at comes from an iReporter in Galveston. It was shot earlier today, with the worst still to come in Galveston. The worst is yet to come in Galveston, but it's getting pretty bad there now. Let's check in with Gary Tuchman.

Gary, I understand you changed positions. Where are you?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We have a fall-back position, Anderson, in a parking garage, a much safer place to be. We were going to stay out on the beach as long as we could, as long as we felt it wasn't risky to the livelihoods of the CNN people I'm with. It came to the point where it was too risky to be there anymore. So we moved into this parking garage where the wind are lessened.

But you can see what's going on back there. It is a wild scene on the beach behind me. About 200 yards away from the beach here in Galveston, Texas, right now. All day long that 17-foot seawall, the water's been coming over it. That's the case right now, but buckets of water are coming down.

Just to walk the 200 yards from that beach to the place we're walking, took us about 15 minutes. It was wind that was just pushing us back. It was just impossible to get to this parking garage. Fifteen minutes to walk 200 yards gives you an idea.

What kind of devastation is taking place in Galveston, Texas, right now? We have absolutely no idea. It's a very foreboding situation, because it's dark, the power is out. The reason you see lights on me is because we have our own battery lights that we're using but most of Galveston is in the dark.

Anybody who decided to stay is right now experiencing a very frightful evening, particularly with children. We always think about that, the children left behind.

It sounds like a roaring freight train that's going through this city, torrential rain. The forecast for the possibility of much of this city to be underwater a few hours from now. And it really is a very frightening evening, particularly for the people whose lives are connected to Galveston, Texas.

Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Gary, I want -- Gary, I want you to stay with us as long as you can. I also want to bring in Chad Myers, who's monitoring the situation.

Chad, the National Weather Service, as we look at Gary's picture, the National Weather Service had said it was certain death for folks in one- and two-story homes. Is that just hyperbole? I mean, I know in the wake of Katrina everyone's worried, and they want to get messages out. Were they exaggerating?

MYERS: Oh, wow, probably not to the point that I would say they were out of line. Put it that way. I mean, if that moved a few people out of the way in buildings that are going to be completely inundated, then that's -- that was probably a very accurate and good statement.

The problem is, you have all these people that want to stay in their homes and protect their stuff but don't realize that the water's going to be over the top of their roof, and there's not going to be anything left to protect when they're done. So there's no reason to even be there. And I think that's what the weather service was trying to get across.

And, look, if you're in a one-story building, even if you're in a two-story, still, this could really be completely over your head. And that's what happened in New Orleans. And people were in their homes, and they climbed up into their attics. And then the water still kept coming, and they couldn't get out. And we lost a lot of people in their attics in New Orleans, and it was very sad. And I think that's what -- that they didn't want that to happen here in Galveston or Baytown.

We're -- not where our Gary Tuchman is, but you know, if you go just about a mile to the west of Gary, it's only five feet above sea level. If there's a 17- or 20-foot surge, he's going to -- that person's going to be 15 feet under water. That's certain death.

COOPER: Chad, for folks who -- for folks who are watching at home, when is Galveston going to get the worst of it? When is Houston?

MYERS: Galveston is going to get out of the worst that they're seeing now in about 45 minutes. They're going to get the outer eye wall away from them. They're going to be in a lull. And then the inner eye wall that is just really developing is going to try to get over the top of them. And I would say that's probably still three hours away. And we make landfall, which is -- which means that the center of the eye makes landfall, touches land somewhere. I don't think that's probably until 2 or maybe 3 a.m. in the morning.

COOPER: All right. We're going to bring you live -- going to bring that to you live to all our viewers who are watching at home, watching around the world right now. Chad, we'll check in with you. We lost Gary Tuchman. We're going to try to re-establish contact with him. It is tough out there in Galveston, though, right now.

In a moment we're going to talk to the man who -- well, who wrote the book on hurricane coverage, Dan Rather. He's next. We'll talk to him about the storms he has covered from Galveston and all points around Texas.

Also, more, as well, on the storm surge: when, where, how much ground it may cover.

And the latest on that crippled freighter. Twenty-two people on board right now, powerless in the grip of Ike. We're trying to find out where it is and what the conditions are right now that they are facing. They tried a rescue mission. It failed. We'll give you an update ahead tonight, live from Texas. We are back.


COOPER: Nearly 47 years ago to the day, Hurricane Carla slammed into the Texas shorelines, taking direct aim at Galveston. It remains one of the most powerful storms to ever strike the U.S. Covering it back then, a young reporter named Dan Rather. Take a look.


DAN RATHER, HOST/MANAGING EDITOR, HGNET'S "DAN RATHER REPORTS": Evacuation of all islands in low coastal areas along the Louisiana and the upper and central Texas coast has not been completed. Evacuations should be hastened before it is too late.


COOPER: Like all of us, Dan Rather is keeping a very close eye on his home state as the hurricane approaches. Dan Rather's the host and managing editor of "Dan Rather Reports" on HGnet. He joins me now.

Dan, thanks for being with us. As this storm approaches, what worries you the most?

RATHER: What worries me the most is that people, particularly those who live along the Texas coast, will take the attitude, well, it's another hurricane. They're never -- quote, "never as bad as they're advertised."

The weather bureau has called this a colossal storm, and that's apt. They're talking about $10 billion in damage. More than 4,000 houses, it's estimated, will be destroyed.

This is a particularly dangerous hurricane, as has been pointed out since it's coming and aimed directly at Houston, where water -- usually causes the most damage and death in a hurricane -- and let's hope it doesn't cause any death this time. The fact that Houston is a great metropolis, the country's fourth largest city and has these tall buildings, the wind will cause a lot of glass damage.

What also worries me, Anderson, is when we talk about a storm surge, what used to be called in the old days a tidal wave, a storm surge usually lasts for many hours and can cover as much as 150 or 200 miles of the coast. That and the fact that people who were in what I will call the northwest quadrant of the hurricane -- that's above Houston on the coast and all the way into Louisiana, places like Morgan City -- are in great danger. I don't want to be an alarmist.

When these hurricanes hit, I think the favorite word is "steady." Steady but be alert because this is literally a colossal hurricane.

COOPER: You know, the National Weather Service, as you know, said that people living in one- or two-story homes in the Galveston area, if you don't evacuate, will -- and I quote -- "face certain death." Have you ever heard such a dire hurricane warning? I mean, I was kind of shocked by it.

RATHER: Never. And neither has anyone else ever heard such a dire hurricane warning. I don't know what was in their head. But the weather bureau people and weather forecasters are always trying to strike that balance between not causing panic but driving home to people, particularly in the low-land areas -- and there are a lot of those areas along this section of the Texas coast -- of just how dangerous this storm is.

In this case, I'd have to weigh in on the side, while a borderline case, probably apt to say that, because many people who are in one- or two-story houses, those who haven't gotten out are certainly in danger of dying, and so are their families.

COOPER: You were there in 1961 when Hurricane Carla hit. What was the aftermath like? How long did it take for Galveston to recover?

RATHER: It took a very long time for Galveston and the surrounding areas to recover, Anderson. And it will in this case.

You know, Texans, they still have a frontier mentality. They're great about helping one another. Houston is the can-do capital of the world. They have a great community spirit.

But this area is going to need a lot of help for a long time, because the damage is going to be so severe. And it's going to take a lot of us playing neighbor helping neighbor, not depending on the federal government, the state government, or local government -- let's hope that they do a better job than they did, say, in Katrina. But it's going to -- it will be a long time coming back, particularly in a place as low as Galveston.

COOPER: Dan Rather, appreciate you. You really pioneered storm coverage. You were the first one with live hurricane coverage. I appreciate your expertise. Thank you very much. We are all following in your footsteps on this one.

RATHER: Thank you very much, Anderson. Tip of the Stetson to you.

COOPER: All right. A dramatic rescue today. Victims caught in a dangerous surf ahead of Hurricane Ike. They were saved. But there are others tonight that can't be rescued, not now. They're on a freighter in the Gulf Coast. The ship has lost its power to steer. It is drifting.

CNN's Erica Hill has the latest on what's become a struggle to survive -- Erica.

HILL: Anderson, I'm going to get you the update on that freighter in just a minute, but I do really want to update you very quickly on another story we're getting.

In Nueces County, where we just spoke with Captain McDonald (ph) of the sheriff's department there, where Corpus Christi is, we can confirm now one death as related to Hurricane Ike.

The details we have, again, from the sheriff's department. Two 19-year-old men apparently out on the jetty there. They jut out about 100 yards. A wave came, swept one of them onto the rocks. There were some other folks there who tried to help. At least one young man, though, swept out to sea. He has been declared dead.

The Coast Guard is now working on a recovery mission but so far no body. We're told that there is a large storm surge there. The surf is very dangerous. Again one person confirmed dead as part of Hurricane Ike in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Anderson, in terms of that freighter we know at this hour there is no way to reach the 22 people who are aboard the Antalina tonight. It is stranded in the middle of Hurricane Ike. Frankly, it's at the mercy of this massive storm.

The 584-foot freighter was heading south from Texas when it lost the ability to steer and began to drift. The most recent video we had of the freighter is about 140 miles southeast of Galveston. A distress call was sent out early Thursday morning.

When reached by phone, the captain of the freighter earlier today described the desperate situation.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is everybody OK on the ship?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, everybody's OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And are you anchored?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are under buoy. We are under buoy. And now we finish ten miles, drifting by the water.


HILL: The captain also said that he did see a helicopter nearby.

The U.S. Coast Guard and Air Force sent a jet and a helicopter. The rescue attempts, though, were called off by mid-afternoon. Coast Guard officials said the extreme weather made it, quote, "impossible."

Now, we don't know the exact location tonight.

Anderson, too, we do want to let you know, we've also just learned of another major concern. Efforts apparently under way to shut down a highly sensitive medical lab in Galveston. Similar labs to this one handle pathogens like anthrax and smallpox.

Governor Perry's office, though, tells us tonight all of the biological agents there have been destroyed, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Erica, thanks. We'll check in with you throughout the next hour.

Still ahead, much more on the monster Hurricane Ike. I'm in Houston. We've got reporters up and down the Texas coast in the projected path.

Also coming up, a lot of politics. Governor Palin sits down for round two of her first interview since being picked for the Republican ticket. Where's Palin's answers? Were her answers good news or bad for the GOP? You can be the judge.

And things are getting nasty on the trail. Both McCain and Obama dishing out, taking tough shots, trading charges of gutter politics. All that ahead on 360.