Return to Transcripts main page


Hurricane Ike is almost as big as the State of Texas; Deadly Train Crash

Aired September 13, 2008 - 01:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Larry thanks very much. The storm has certainly started to hit Houston. In the last hour we have seen a major difference. You can see the rain bands coming down, the big concern here, the large amount of rain causing flooding in low-lying areas and also the winds. Not just here at street level, whipping around debris, taking up potential breaking glass, but higher up, hundreds of feet up when it could potentially hit some of those big skyscrapers like the one you see behind me, the Chase Tower that got badly hit in Hurricane Rita.
We have breaking news tonight not only here in Texas and Houston and also in Galveston and points in between, we also have breaking news in Louisiana where we have seen flooding and also in Texas, where there has been a deadly train crash, just a horrible train crash. At least 10 people dead in Los Angeles. We're going to bring that to you throughout this next hour, but there is storm coverage that we need to inform you about. All across Texas we have been seeing Hurricane Ike coming ashore over these last several hours and it is certainly here now.

Take a look. It has been brutal all night, the leading edge is now fully ashore, the eye wall and peak winds not far off, potentially, more damaging, many times more damaging than massive storm surge. The latest radar picture sobering, take a look, 700 miles across, borderline cat three.

Winds at ground level, but as I said, a few hundred feet up, winds at cat four, a big problem here in Houston. We'll talk about that. We have correspondents covering all the angels. Across the map, Galveston include in La Porte and Baytown, home to the largest refining complex on the continent. Let's check in though with Gary Tuchman who is in Galveston, amazingly his live shot is still able to stay up. Gary, what is the situation there?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we are in a parking garage, which is a very good place to be because outside there right now is really a living hell. It's getting more dangerous, more hazardous. I hear things crashing to the ground, but there's no way for us to know what it is because it is just so dark outside right now and there's a parking lot right under us. We're in the third story of a parking garage right at the beach in Galveston. It is starting to flood and the floodwaters are coming from this direction. That's where the Galveston Bay is.

I don't know for sure if it's flooding from the bay but it's the first time we've seen floodwaters roiling down this parking lot. Farther in the distance where you see the waves, that is the Gulf of Mexico and that is where Hurricane Ike is coming. Its eye will come here within the next couple of hours, but right now this is the eye wall, the most dangerous part of the hurricane.

The streets (INAUDIBLE) Sea Wall Boulevard, but Sea Wall Boulevard is no more. It has disappeared. It is under water. Last night at this time when I was talking to you, Anderson, we saw 75 to 100 yards of beach front. That sand has been gone all day. The rain has been torrential now for about seven hours.

The winds have been tropical storm force winds for 11 hours, hurricane force for about three hours. We have had gusts of over 95 miles per hour. I'm going to stick my microphone out here so you can just listen for a second...


TUCHMAN: I don't know how much you can hear there, but it's just incredible. It sounds like a perpetual freight train rolling down the streets here in Galveston, Texas. Last night the National Weather Service said that anyone who's in a one or two-story one-family house on the beach must evacuate or will face certain death.

We don't know if that's the case. But all we're thinking about right now are people who didn't evacuate and who may be in those small houses near the beach. Anderson?

COOPER: Gary, I want to ask you about debris. You have seen or maybe heard flying around because down here in Houston on the street, I mean, we picked this street in particular because it's virtually empty and you get a real sense of anything that may be coming down, anything that may be flying through the air.

That's going to be a big concern in the hours ahead as those hurricane force winds really start to hit us here in Houston and start to hit the glass and those skyscrapers. I don't know if you can see across from me, a lot of these buildings around here are already boarded up.

The hotel where we're staying has been boarded up. I imagine things are pretty locked down tight there in Galveston. Have you heard a lot of debris flying around, Gary?

TUCHMAN: Yes, perpetually. It's constantly happening, Anderson. And I see -- I can stick my head over this railing and there's a hotel next door and it's lost a lot of its siding, it's lost a portion of its roof. The hotel we're staying in is to my left.

It's a very, very well fortified position where we're staying. It's a 15-story hotel. There are emergency officials that are staying and police, but it's totally in the dark now. They had a generator. It's one of the reasons we stayed here.

The generator is not working, so there's no power whatsoever and windows are popping out of the hotel, so everyone is safe inside the hotel. Let me make that very clear. It's in a mote. It's on a hill. It was built to survive a hurricane and that's why lots of us are staying there.

But I will tell you, it's a very scary night for anyone who stayed behind here in Galveston. They were warned and people were told yesterday to get out. Most people appear to have gotten out, Anderson, but there are still a lot of people here and the most frightening time to experience a hurricane is right now in the overnight hours when you can see absolutely nothing.

COOPER: Yeah, especially on Galveston and when the electricity is out you just -- you can't see the wind. You can't see the rain and that's scary enough. You hear things. But it's that debris flying through the air that really can cause a lot of damage.

You know amazingly, we are seeing people still walking around here in downtown Houston. They're kind of coming out of their homes looking around, taking pictures, you know want to see what's happening. Authorities are urging people stay inside as much as possible.

I mean the winds have barely begun to blow here in Houston. We are getting a lot of rain, but this is just the beginning from what we are told. We're going to check in with Chad Myers shortly, but right now let's go to Rick Sanchez who is in La Porte, Texas. So, Rick what are the conditions there?

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Take a look around, Anderson. I mean I think you get a pretty good idea. I mean you've been in these things. You know. We are certainly getting at least slightly slammed right now and every indication is that we are going to get slammed even worse.

I was talking to Chad Myers a little while ago and he's saying that where we are, La Porte is going to get the eye wall, so obviously we're going to get a lot of wind. The big concern is also the, you know, the inundation that we could be faced with if that Galveston Bay, the waters start going over the banks as they already have in some places.

Not to the point where we are now here in downtown La Porte, but there's every indication that we will get some flooding. We're already getting -- you know you were talking just a little while ago with Gary about what's going on with debris falling all over the place. In fact let me show you.

I'm going to try and make my way over here for you. I can't get the big, big branches because they're too heavy, but here's one. Pardon me, Anderson, for walking out of frame there, but I'm coming right back to you, man. This is what I'm talking about, this thing right here.

This thing just fell a little while ago. Let me change microphone here, this big hunker just fell a little while ago and it fell right next to the spot where we were over there, where our truck is and you get a pretty good indication. I mean this is the kind of stuff that can do a lot of damage. And throughout the night, as you know, I mean, hurricane damage is incremental. Hurricane damage it doesn't -- it's not like a tornado. It doesn't come through and bang it happens. It happens little by little by little.

First a roof tile, then an awning and before you know it, an entire roof can be gone. So throughout the night we're going to be watching for this kind of stuff. Obviously when the winds get real strong just like our fellows down there and our colleagues down there in Galveston, we'll try and get out and see if we can find a place where we can still talk to you while we're not getting pelted too much. I do have a report for you about what's going on. Whoa, there goes another transformer, Anderson.

Another one of those situations where suddenly you get in the dark and then it comes back, it seems to be flickering on and off in this area. We are getting reports that part of the area around La Porte and Morgan's Point (ph) and Kemah, there is inundation, there is flooding and part of the banks have overflowed. I don't know how extensive, I haven't had a chance to go over there. That's what some of the police officers are telling us and obviously it's only going to gets worse, Anderson.

COOPER: Rick, how come you got exempt from the "you got to wear a red raincoat memo" that went around?

SANCHEZ: I had a feeling that you would -- you know, I started out -- I have it in the truck and I started out thinking I was going to put it on and then I got so damn wet...

COOPER: It doesn't any good...


COOPER: It doesn't do any good, frankly, yeah.

SANCHEZ: You know what? I'm going to get me a big insignia that says AC 360 and put it right here for you...

COOPER: OK. At this point, frankly, I mean it makes as much sense to wear one of these as a T-shirt because you get sopping wet anyway, but Rick, great coverage, Rick.


COOPER: We're going to continue to check in with you throughout the night. It is, you know, pretty dismal all along here. Anyone who is outside basically is drenched at this point.

Let's check in with Chad Myers though who's tracking the storm. Chad, it's hard when you're on the ground here in Houston, even though we're looking at the radar just to get a sense of where this storm is, how bad it is now and how bad it's going to get. Because you've been pointing out, the winds down here ground level aren't nearly what they are a couple of hundred feet up, so where is this storm? CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It's about I would say 80 miles from you. It's 33 miles officially from Galveston Island, so you add the distance to get up to Houston so still quite a distance away, at least probably six hours before the worst of it gets to you, but as you were saying this, I just found some interesting winds here.

Sabine Pass (ph), 91 miles per hour, that's a gust, but 91 miles per hour, 800 feet off the ground, the Doppler radar indicates 108 knots. That's 124 miles per hour. That's 800 feet in the sky. There are buildings 800 feet in the sky in Dallas, Texas.

And if you get those winds against those glass walls, you are going to break a lot of glass and you're going to see that glass raining all around you, Anderson.

COOPER: Chad, we are going to check in with you a lot throughout this hour. It is a night of breaking news, not just here in Texas, but in Los Angeles, well a deadly train crash. I mean the pictures have just been horrific. An hour ago, the death toll was 10, is now up to 20 people confirmed dead.

We've been seeing rescue crews trying to find people living and not living inside that train still. We'll try to get an update for you on that. A lot more ahead, stay tuned.


COOPER: Those are the pictures from live shots of Galveston, Texas, which has been bearing the brunt of this storm thus far. The outer bands just starting to hit Houston, but as you heard from Chad Myers, it's going to -- the worst in Houston is not for another six hours, perhaps. That's much later than previously we had thought.

We had been told it would maybe 2:00 a.m., 3:00 a.m., local time. Looks like it's going to be later than that. But we are starting to get some pretty decent-sized gusts right here. Let's check in Erica Hill because the other story we're following right now is this just horrific train crash in the Los Angeles area in California.

Erica, where does the death toll now stand? What we do know?

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Unfortunately, Anderson, it is rising. "The Los Angeles times" reporting 15 people killed in that rush hour crash today. The Associated Press saying as many as 20. CNN has learned a police officer is among the victims. Dozens are injured, as many as 70 we're told.

Several people in critical condition at this hour. The accident happened around 4:30 p.m. Pacific Time in Chatsworth, which his in the L.A. area. Authorities say a freight train collided with a commuter train. It was packed with hundreds of passengers. You're actually looking at live pictures now from our affiliate KTLA.

It looks like -- my monitor is a little dark, but it looks like -- there you are -- we can see the rescuers there on top of this car, which appears to be on its side trying to get into those windows, trying to free anybody who may still be trapped in there. We know that surgeons are also on scene to treat the wounded.

Jeff Buckley's father was on that train at the time he gave this interview that you are about to hear, Mr. Buckley had not found his father. Take a listen.


JEFF BUCKLEY, FATHER WAS ON TRAIN: It is bad. I mean the train itself is destroyed. The front -- the front car is just gone. And the people -- injuries from real, real bad to -- to just minor cuts and bruises but everybody in the triage center had some type of blood or cuts or something. You could just tell by the people screaming that the closer to the train were the worst and then as it got further down, people were sitting and talking and they were air-vacing (ph) people, you know every five minutes as fast as they could get them on to the helicopter. It's the worst thing I have ever seen. It's -- for a while, I was fine with it but after a while it just became -- I thought I was going to get sick.


HILL: CNN's Ted Rowlands is live in Chatsworth on the scene there. Hi, Ted.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Erica. They plan to be at this for a number of hours throughout the night here searching for more potential victims in this wreckage. The L.A. fire chief described it, saying it was a horrific scene inside that first car, the lead car in the commuter train. He said not only are there bodies on top of bodies, but it is mixed in with metal from the train's engine.

They are also using cadaver dogs looking for potential bodies that are outside the train area. It has just been a real horrific scene. People in the area say it was like a bomb went off. Some people on the train described it like this.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Were you on the train?


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Tell me what it was like.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was like running into a brick wall at 60 miles an hour. I don't remember much. I just woke up and there were people laying all over the ground and I started helping whoever I could.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And you pulled your friend out?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, I helped him out. He couldn't really walk, so I threw him over my shoulder and got him out of the train.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Just describe the scene for me. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bloody, a mess. Just a disaster. It was horrible.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a little sore, a little shaken up, but it's nothing I can't deal with.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you in shock, do you think?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no. I'm not in shock. I just got a -- my back's sore and my legs are sore, but I'll be OK.


ROWLANDS: Again, the death toll right now approaching 20. It may grow as the night goes on here and at this point, officials say they don't know why these two trains were sharing the same track going in opposite directions. Erica?

HILL: Ted, you mentioned this is expected to continue for several hours through the night. We're looking at some of these live pictures here again from our affiliate KTLA. Of the rescue workers working on this car that appears to be on its side, is this where most of the injuries and perhaps most of the fatalities were centered within this particular car, do you know?

ROWLANDS: I'm sorry, Erica. I didn't hear the back end of that question. I think you asked if that's where most of the injuries were in that front car, yeah. Obviously, that was the lead car there and that's where they'll be concentrating the efforts for the last few hours, but a lot of the folks on the train were injured in all three of the cars.

The fire that erupted though initially really prevented rescue workers from getting to the front car for sometime. In fact one witness said it took 20, 30 minutes before the firefighters could get water there. Nobody's criticizing the fire department because they have done what seems to be an excellent job, but just think of the horrific nightmare for these people trapped in this car.

They said -- one passenger said he went in there and tried to help. He could hear a man yelling help me, help me, but he was pinned underneath and he said he did everything he could, but he was too close to the fire and he couldn't go in to help that man. A lot of stories like this. Just heartbreaking. And what these people must have gone through trapped inside that train.

HILL: So true. Sadly a nightmare may be an understatement. Ted Rowlands thanks. Anderson is standing by with much more hurricane coverage. Anderson?

COOPER: It's hard to imagine what is happening inside those train cars right now. We're going to continue to follow that story very closely over this hour. Those live pictures incredible. We're going to go back there. We'll check in more. We'll try to find out exactly how fast these trains were going.

We're also going to take a look back to Galveston and points in between from Galveston to here in Houston, find out, talk to some people who decided to stick this storm out despite incredibly dire warnings, warnings frankly, of certain death in the Galveston area and low-lying homes. We'll talk to some people who decided to try to ride it out and see how they are doing right now. We'll be right back. Our coverage continues.


COOPER: (INAUDIBLE) seen a live shot from La Porte, Texas, where the wind, rain is coming down pretty strong there, just some pretty steady sheets. I want to check in with Susan Candiotti who is in Clute, Texas. Susan, what's there? What's your situation?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Anderson. Right. We are about 50 miles south of Galveston. And the weather is definitely worsening. The wind gusts are getting more and more powerful. The parking lot at a motel starting to fill up with just a little bit of water, but this is the time of the night where I'm starting to look over my shoulder because the power went out a few hours ago. It is naturally pitch dark out here and you're starting -- you know you know the expression, you hear things that go bump in the night.

You are starting to see it, but you can't -- you can't -- whoa. Like this bush to hold on to. You don't know where that stuff is coming from, so -- and then you hear the sound that almost sounds like an airplane is approaching, a bit of a roar and then it subsides and you know it's just the wind coming through. Behind me is the -- are those chemical plants we were telling you about, used to be able to see them more clearly. Obviously, it's still lit up pretty well, but you can tell the difference now because the clouds are getting lower and lower, so it's looking more and more misty out there. But earlier today, I'm sure that the...


CANDIOTTI: ... town of Seaside, which is an island, just to the west of where we are here to the south of where we are right now, I'm glad those people got out because the water is surely rising. When we left there at sundown, the water was up about seven feet, so I can only begin to guess what it is right now. A couple of people actually came out on jet skis -- whoa. And then they had people come out on -- the police had to take some rescue boats in to get others out.

Fortunately, we are hearing tonight no injuries. People are staying inside. Most of the town has left. It really is ghostly out here. And clearly, getting a little bit more windy as the night goes on. Got to have these bushes to hold onto. Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Susan, all right. Well try to stay safe. I hope you are near something if it really picks up, you can go inside. That's what we're all trying to do. We're all generally located pretty close to very strong structure. We've got a big parking garage right next to us. If the winds really pick up, we can just kind of dart inside. I want to go to Steve Whitmore, who's with the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, this other breaking story we're following out of Los Angeles. Just this horrific crash and we're looking at it. We are going to be seeing some live pictures.

Steve, what is the situation now? I understand, Steve, that when we last talked, there were 10 confirmed fatalities. We have now heard reports of 15 to 20. Can you give us the correct number?

STEVE WHITMORE, L.A. COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT (via phone): Yes, sir. Well, the confirmed fatalities right now is still 10 at least. Now, that number could very well increase. There's a lot of conflicting information right now but -- so obviously our job is to make sure before we release anything publicly. That number could increase.

The latest injury count, however, has increased exponentially. We had 20 people that had minor injuries. We had 47 that were critical and ground transported to local hospitals and we had an additional 40 that were severely critical that were air lifted to area hospitals, so that's where we are right now.

We are still in a rescue mode. The L.A. City Fire has the lead on that. They are as we speak still on top of the train. The private carrier train and they are making their way in to the mangled wreckage. We had some dogs out here. We had two dogs, nine helicopters have been employed to transport the 40 critically injured.

COOPER: Steve, we are looking at pictures from KTLA, from our affiliate, and it's just what you talked about. Rescue workers, paramedics, firefighters, I mean essentially on top of that train. It almost looks like they're performing surgery.

Can you describe the conditions in terms of -- I mean there is metal. There are people in those trains. What is it like trying to get to those people, trying to sift through this wreckage?

WHITMORE: It is most difficult. And what they have done initially is that they brought out struts, hydraulic struts that they actually use to lift the side of the train. If you notice (INAUDIBLE) severe angle. They pushed it up so they could at least stabilize it so the firefighters could then begin their entry down into the actual train itself.

And there's metal everywhere. Obviously, they're using several different Jaws of Life. Several different tools and (INAUDIBLE) methodical. It is slow going. But they want to make sure that everything, everything has been done to rescue whoever is there.

We have already found survivors that were actually trapped under some fatalities, so this is a -- there was 220 people on board the Metrolink train and the Metrolink train was going about 55 miles an hour. The private carrier train in the opposite direction was going about 40, 45 miles an hour and they met head-on. COOPER: So, one was going 55 miles an hour. The other was going 45 miles an hour. They hit. They met head-on. How many cars, it's a little hard to tell from these pictures and God bless these rescue personnel for the work they're doing, how many trains are involved in this mangled crush of steel that we are looking at? I mean, how many cars.

WHITMORE: Well there's two Metrolink cars and then to be honest with you, it is difficult to tell the exact number of the private carrier but it looks perhaps as -- I don't know. You probably would have a better view of that. And I have been up at the scene but because of the force of the impact, you're looking at least three to four cars, at least.

COOPER: And I mean my goodness, these pictures, it looks like there is some fire personnel inside the train car as well as ones on top, kind of reaching in or trying to cut in.

WHITMORE: Exactly. This is going to be a very slow, methodical process, obviously, safety first. It's very difficult right now as you might see from the overhead, the officers lining up in the corridor. There has been a reported LAPD officer that was killed on this train. A deputy sheriff, L.A. County deputy sheriff was injured.

As a matter of fact, he was on the train and was injured, had broken bones and a punctured lung and still jumped off the train to begin the rescue and was joined by about 15 other initial deputy sheriffs because the L.A. County Sheriff's Department is given the jurisdiction of inside the train and all of its security.

And then quickly all the multi-agency force arrived because of not only the need, but the jurisdictional issues, Sheriff's Department inside the train, LAPD, their jurisdiction. L.A. City Fire because of their rescue and L.A. County Fire to provide the medical transport.

COOPER: I understand, we are just looking at pictures of confined space rescue technicians who are working in that space. I never heard that term before, so these are experts in working obviously in very limited space areas.

WHITMORE: Correct. These are the best of the best.

COOPER: Do you -- have you heard any eyewitness reports in terms of, you know, was there any warning? Was this thing just -- you know, suddenly out of the blue, the passengers got hit. Have you heard anything from passengers?

WHITMORE: No. We have heard a lot from passengers and as you know fueled by fear and emotions and yes, it was -- it appears to be sudden, but the National Transportation Safety Board, they will be the lead investigation on this when it gets to that point. Those questions will be answered, the causes, what happened, and the ultimate question is what caused the accident.

COOPER: Do you have any sense -- I mean, obviously you have no sense of how long this is going to take. It is going to take as long as it takes the rescue operation.

WHITMORE: It's going to take as long as it takes, but I imagine obviously through the night, obviously tomorrow, the next day. When it becomes a rescue, the rescue operation is called off, then it shifts to a recovery. I do not know. I do not know because of the wreckage, because of the mangled wreckage, lack of a better phrase, apologize for being redundant, they're being very methodical. They're being very cautious and it's a precarious situation and so they will not stop until it's done.

COOPER: Well, it is at times like this we really appreciate that we have folks like these experts who are on the scene doing what they're doing and let's hope their work is swift and they're able to save more lives. Steve Whitmore, we'll try to check in with you throughout this evening.

Our coverage continues here from Texas as we cover what is happening in California, also big developments here in Texas in the Galveston area as the storm slowly, slowly makes its way to the Houston area, but you are looking at live pictures of Galveston right now. Our coverage continues throughout the night. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Welcome back. Live pictures of the storm that -- where's that? That's in La Porte, Texas, a lot of rain, heavy rain there, but of course it's Galveston right now. Chad Myers reporting 12-foot storm surge was reported just recently in Galveston, gusts over 80 miles per hour. I should also point out that some 725,000, more than 700,000 people without power in the greater Houston/Galveston area.

A lot of folks without power and we're already being told it may take two to three weeks to get those people back online and get them power, but really the brunt of the storm, not hitting Houston yet. Won't be here with those hurricane-force winds, we are told, for maybe as much as five or six hours from now.

So it's going to be a very long night indeed for all the folks here in Houston who are watching it on TV. We have been seeing some bright flashes that sort of blue-greenish light, which often signals that a transformer is blowing up. That might account for some of the people out and we also saw some fire trucks and paramedics dashing off toward the downtown area, but very little damage at this point in this part of the downtown that we have been seeing.

We're even seeing some people still kind of, you know, coming out of bars and walking around and running around and kind of being silly in the storm. Let's hope those people go inside because the big concern is as the winds increase, especially those upper winds hitting those glass skyscrapers and glass shattering and being taken up by the wind. Let's check in with Gary Tuchman who is in Galveston, who's been bearing the brunt of this thing so far. All right, Gary, how is it? TUCHMAN: Well, Anderson, we have had at least three hours now of hurricane force winds. We have come into this parking garage to seek refuge. Literally, if we wanted to stand out there and broadcast like we were throughout the day, we couldn't do it. There is no way to stand on your two feet anymore.

The winds are that strong. Right now conditions are as bad as we have seen them and there is a lot of damage. I know that because I just took a walk about 15 minutes ago. You can walk out for a short period of time if you're not with the camera equipment and the camera crew just to take an eyeball.

Opened up the big metal door in this parking garage to walk outside and slammed shut immediately and it kind of reminded me of the scene in "The Wizard of Oz" when the door hit Dorothy in the head. That's what almost happened to me, so I stood a little farther from the door, opened it up and walked out and I saw right next to us there's a Holiday Inn hotel here on Galveston Beach about half the siding of the hotel is gone.

The concrete is in the parking lot along with water that is starting to flood the parking lot next to us. Behind me, a lot of palm trees. About 15 minutes ago, one of the palm trees came crashing to the ground. What's absolutely amazing to me, you have these light posts that are here and they've been wavering back and forth like the last three hours and they haven't fallen yet.

That's just based on my little walk where I saw all the damage from nearby buildings. There is significant damage here on Galveston Island. And it makes you think about the people who didn't evacuate. We're in a solid parking lot structure. It's a three-story parking garage, a great place to be. We can continue broadcasting all throughout this storm. We have no doubt about it at this point, but anyone who is in a small home near the beach right now is having a very scary evening. Anderson?

COOPER: And again, Gary, I should just point out in case, as you can see, we're seeing more paramedic vehicles going off toward the downtown area. We're not really sure what that's about. We'll try to find out. I want to bring in Chad Meyers. Gary, stand by. Stay with us if you can. Keep the shot up. Chad, again, just an overview, where is the storm in terms of where Gary is and in terms of where Houston is?

MYERS: Gary is in the eye wall now. This is as bad as it's going to get for Gary, as bad as it's going to get for Galveston, period. The storm surge right now is 12 feet. I expect it to maybe go to 20. Still that's still a pretty solid number because the low is still too -- you know, it's still to the southwest.

The center of the eye where most of that water is going to be pushing up and on the shore is 38 miles across -- that's from eye-to- eye -- and now Galveston right there on the eye wall. You, too, are going to get the eye wall. You know this is going to be probably a 90, 95 mile-per-hour storm for you, Anderson. A couple of things, though. Eighty-five-mile-per-hour gusts in Galveston and that's where that picture is from. I was just watching KHOU (ph) on and they are telling us and they were telling people that they're getting many, many is all he could tell me -- many calls to come rescue them on Galveston Island. Their water is up to the house and they need to be rescued and there's no way anybody can get out to them to save them at this point. Anderson?

COOPER: You know, Chad, I want to bring in Gary on that point. Gary, how frustrating it's got to be for rescue personnel to suddenly be getting calls now from people in Galveston saying come rescue me when I mean, yesterday, the National Weather Service said look, you face certain death if you stay. All day today, they even went around on a garbage truck at the last minute trying to round up people and telling people you know what, if you stay, write your Social Security number on your arm. How frustrating has it got to be for these folks to now be getting calls saying come rescue me.

TUCHMAN: Anderson, it's the ultimate nightmare. This is what you hope never happens and this is precisely why people like you and me and Chad get into this business because we think by standing out in these winds sometimes and demonstrating how dangerous it is that it encourages people to leave. And I truly believe that most of the people have evacuated Galveston Island, but I think fewer people would have evacuated Galveston Island if the news media hadn't covered hurricanes like this over the years, so I truly believe that.

But here's a fact. Even if the rescuers wanted to go out right now and rescue people, they couldn't do it. It is way too dangerous right now. And aside from that, it's dark, so you are stuck. There's no way people could say they didn't know. It was on TV. It was on radio. People were talking about it for 48 hours that there was a mandatory evacuation.

People made this decision. Now I certainly feel horrible for people who are stuck right now and scared, especially children who didn't have a choice in the matter when their parents decided to stay, but there's nothing that can be done right now. We are just hoping that when the sun comes up tomorrow, indeed if we can see the sun that we don't have a large number of casualties.

COOPER: Chad Meyers, do we know at this point how much flooding there has been? I mean I remember seeing an animation (INAUDIBLE) earlier of what it would look at, at you know five feet of storm surge, then 10, then 15 feet. Do we know how much storm surge there has been at this point or do we not know because, you know, we haven't had people out there checking out because of the conditions on Galveston?

MYERS: No, I know exactly that number. The Galveston Pleasure Pier (ph) is 12.17 feet above low tide and we just lost low tide. In about two hours, and some, we get up to high tide. That's not going to help. That's going to put two more feet of real water back on to this island, so we showed earlier what 15 feet of water would look like around Galveston Island. That's where we are going in the next hour. Right now it's, 12, going to 15. And I can really be sure that somewhere it's going to be close to 20 feet as the eye -- a lot of times the surge, the bubble of the surge doesn't really happen until after the eye passes you. The center of the eye passes you and then you get the winds from the other direction that just takes all that water and pushes it right over the top of you.

COOPER: All right. We are going to be checking in with Chad throughout the night, also Gary Tuchman. Our coverage continues. We'll talk to Sean Callebs in just a moment. Stay tuned. We'll be right back live from Houston and points in between.


COOPER: A live shot there in Clute, Texas. Earlier we talked to Susan Candiotti who is there, again, just conditions worsening. Chad Myers just told us a few moments ago Galveston is getting the worst of it now. At this point, it is as worse as it's going to get in Galveston, but it's still heading up north and west and it's going to hit Houston here and get a lot worse. I'm joined by CNN's Sean Callebs who has covered a lot of these storms. He covered five storms this year. I know you're sick of it. Everyone is sick of it, but still the worst is yet to come for Houston.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, we've been talking with emergency officials here in Harris County (ph) throughout the day. One thing they told us is once these hurricane force winds -- and we're nowhere near there yet -- starting hitting this city, they're going to have them for 10 to 12 hours. So I mean this isn't going to blow through quickly. Everybody knows how big that storm is. There are a lot of concerns. They -- we just got the phone. There's flooding in parts of the county. They don't know how bad it is because they can't get there.

Now secondly, we heard Gary talk about the concerns down Galveston, how do you get people out who need help at that point. Well the authorities here made the decision, too. Once the winds get 55 miles an hour or greater, they're not going to be running ambulances or police cars out to assist people, either, so it's going to be a long, difficult period.

COOPER: We have seen some police vehicles clearly they're still doing it at this point but at a certain point they've just got to cut it off.

CALLEBS: Yeah, that's -- I think that's the big thing that they've been driving home and they really shouldn't have to go into areas unless they're the areas that are really vulnerable and that's the reason they're telling people to, you know, evacuate the areas that are the great concern and they did a pretty good job of getting upwards close to a million people out of this, the fourth largest city in the country in about 24 hours, really amazing.

COOPER: While you were talking, we saw some flashes in the sky, again that were probably transformers because it's sort of that bluish green flash of light that we're so used to seeing. We still have power in this area, but the latest report we heard was some more than 700,000 people, 725,000 people already without power and may be out for two to three weeks.

CALLEBS: You know and let's kind of build on that, too, because we know Gustav did to Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas. There are still people in Louisiana that don't have power from that storm and now they're getting from the outer bands of this storm, so it's going to be a major problem. We've heard Ali talk about Port Fushon (ph) too down on the Louisiana coast, how critically important that is to our nation's oil supply. I've got some e-mail pictures today from Port Fushon (ph). There's one road leading in there. It's swamped. I mean this thing is going to do a great deal of economic damage to the country.

COOPER: We're going to continue with Sean and others throughout this evening. It's going to be a long night no doubt about it. We're going to try to stay up as long as we can. I want to tell you about two other things that are happening. This freighter that is out there, some 22 people on board this freighter. We don't know its location at this point.

They attempted a rescue operation earlier. This freighter called for help around early yesterday morning, early this morning, I should say, Friday morning. The authorities tried to help launch a rescue operation, but the conditions were simply too bad. They have lost propulsion. They can't steer the ship at this point, so they're basically just, you know, they're out there floating around.

We'll try to find out an update on that and also want -- that's a picture of the ship earlier. Want to give you an update on this train crash. Two trains colliding head-on in Los Angeles. They were on the same track, one going about 55 miles an hour, the other 45. That's a live picture of the rescue operations underway.

Confirmed at least 10 dead, AP says more. Other reports say more. Conservatively, at least 10 people are dead. There may still be people alive and they are working desperately to try to find them and help them. We'll have a live update on that, too. We'll be right back, live from Houston.


COOPER: You are looking at -- that's the Anthalena (ph). It is out there somewhere at this hour and you can only imagine what that crew -- there's 22 people on board that ship -- must be going through in this kind of storm, unable to direct their ship. The motors are out. They had sent out a mayday call early this morning, I think it was around 4:00 or 5:00 a.m. Local Time saying that they -- that basically the motors had conked out. They couldn't get them restarted. They have been facing -- you know some people have been talking about swells up to -- or waves as big as 50 feet out there. You can only imagine what that ship is going through.

I'm sure tomorrow we will hear the stories of what is happening out there right now. U.S. Coast Guard attempted a rescue operation. It was simply deemed too dangerous at the time. They had kind of thought maybe the ship as it got into shallower waters, if it was literally blown into shallower waters the ship might be able to drop anchor and that might be able to steady it or the other option was going out into deeper waters, but they weren't at this point we frankly do not know where that ship is.

But it is dark out there and it is dangerous out there to say the least. Let's check in with Ali Velshi, who is in Baytown, Texas, a suburb of Houston. Ali, what's the situation?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, I'm about 40 miles east of you right now and I imagine what I'm getting is probably headed your way. The rain started very heavily here. It's been raining for a few hours, but it just picked up, the wind just picked up a great deal. This is of course the home to the biggest refinery on the entire continent.

We've lost power here in Baytown three times and it's come back three times. I don't know who built the electrical system up here, but the bottom line is there are a lot of critical operations here including those refineries. They are shut down. I should tell you 13 of the 26 refineries in Texas are shut down completely just to protect them.

They're going to try and start them up and they want to see how badly they flood and how much damage there is but you know you and Chad were talking about at a higher level, there being heavy, heavy winds. Well those refineries is susceptible to that because they have got a lot of towers that could be affected. The other thing, of course, Anderson, is across the country we're seeing gas running out at stations particularly in the south, but we have seen prices go up in Atlanta to $4.95, in Florida to $5.49.

We're seeing this sort of thing. We are in the infrastructure. This is not about the offshore production of oil in the Gulf of Mexico, Anderson. That has been shut down. There's no oil coming in anyway. This is the refineries, they are more susceptible to this kind of damage and this kind of wind and rain, than the rigs and the platforms are offshore.

But Anderson, this is another one of those strange squalls that come through. It's just settled down in the course of my conversation with you, actually. But it's these gusts are coming through and they are feeling -- they are feeling pretty heavy at this point, Anderson.

COOPER: Ali Velshi, we'll continue to check in with you throughout the hour. We are also following not just the breaking news here in Texas but a major story out of the Los Angeles area, two trains colliding head-on, 55 miles an hour, the other one 45 miles an hour. The damage at this point at least 10 confirmed dead, but we're going to have a live report from Ted Rowlands who is on the scene. Those are the live pictures there. I mean you see the rescue personnel. They are working inch-by-inch going through this wreckage through the twisted steel, through the twisted bodies. We'll be right back with a live report.


COOPER: You are looking at live picture (INAUDIBLE) our affiliate KTLA. I mean it was just devastation. It is just a horrific scene in Los Angeles. Two trains collided. Ted Rowlands is on the scene. Ted, explain how this happened, what we know. I mean I know there's an investigation yet to come. But what do we know at this -- this late hour?

ROWLANDS: Well, basically, Anderson, a Metrolink train, that's the commuter train with three cars and an estimated 225 people started in downtown Los Angeles at Union Station, and then when it got up to this area in Chatsworth, which is northwest of Los Angeles, it for some reason was on the same track as a freight train going in the opposite direction, a Union Pacific Freight Train and the devastation you see is the result of these two trains colliding at about 4:30 this afternoon in a Friday evening commute.

The people on board that train just tell horrific stories -- the witnesses -- the survivors that got off that train. One individual was in the last train, the third train which was relatively untouched from the outside he said people all around him were injured, there was blood all over and that was in the third car. He said he was able to get out. He walked up the first car and the back of the first car was open.

He helped a few people out, but then a fire started and that was the biggest problem at first, getting water on a fire which erupted shortly after this accident. He said he could hear people screaming inside that first car. He got as close as he could, he said then he had to back away because of the heat of the fire.

For the last six hours plus, and it will be continuing throughout the evening here. Firefighters have been painstakingly going inside this car and removing victims of this. We just saw the body of an L.A. police officer being taken out of the car. Officers were on each side of that body when it came out, a very solemn moment here.

They took a break from the rescue effort for a just few moments before going back into it as that officer was taken out -- taken out of the train, the body of that officer who apparently according to the LAPD was off duty and on her way home, a female officer but a horrible, horrible scene here, Anderson. One that is going to continue for much of the night and into the entire night and into tomorrow at least before they declare it a full recovery. Anderson?

COOPER: Ted, stand by. On the phone we're joined by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Mr. Mayor, this is just a horrific scene that we have been watching. What can you tell us about what happened?

ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA (D), MAYOR OF LOS ANGELES (via phone): Anderson, it is horrific scene. As one of your folks just reported, we just recovered the body of an off duty police officer whose name I can't give at this point because not all of the family have been notified. We have had the -- at least 10 dead. And that number will go up as the night continues.

About 135 injured, 45 were taken immediately, another 40 shortly after that and about 50 minor injuries. They have taken within -- we have taken these patients to all of the trauma centers in the county. The -- we're in a rescue mode still at this point because there are a number of bodies still to be extricated from the wreckage as you see before you, I imagine. This is a devastating, horrific scene without question.

COOPER: I've been at train crashes like this before and there's really very few things which are worse. Do you know -- are there any people at this point alive on board that train? I mean, we are watching rescue operations currently underway with (INAUDIBLE) firefighters, closed condition experts -- do you know is anyone still alive on that train?

VILLARAIGOSA: At this point we don't know who's alive or dead. But clearly there are folks there who are deceased. There was one individual reportedly who was under the wreckage and seems to have walked out. I mean we pulled him out, but I mean walked out on his own. He was injured but was able to walk away. But I can't confirm that he actually was in that wreckage. But that's what's been reported.

COOPER: At this point what is your primary focus and obviously there will be questions down the road about how this could happen, but I guess obviously right now the primary focus is just the rescue operation currently underway.

VILLARAIGOSA: Well, you hit it on the nail. We are in a rescue phase at this point. At this point, it would be irresponsible for me to speculate on just what happened. I was here within half hour of being notified on my BlackBerry. I was on the other end of town. I flew in on a helicopter.

Something -- I had a sense that this was going to be worse than the initial reports of two fatalities and less than 10 injuries. As I said, more than 135 people have been -- received medical attention and we have at least 10 fatalities, but we fully expect that number to grow as the evening continues.

COOPER: I know you're busy. Very briefly, a final question, we've received calls from people who think they may have loved ones on that train. What should we be telling them? Is there a number they can call? Who should they contact?

VILLARAIGOSA: Yes, we have a family unification center at Chatsworth High School, at the corner of DeSoto and Devonshire, in Chatsworth. The phone number there is 818-678-3422. There's another number that people can call, a hotline for additional information at 816-371-5465. And again, thank you for sharing that information with the public.

COOPER: We'll put those numbers on the screen shortly Mayor Villaraigosa. We appreciate your time.

And again, we are going to continue to watch this operation currently underway. I mean, this is a surgical procedure, if you will, as you can tell from those firefighters literally sitting on board that train, meticulously trying to get inside, trying to see what the situation is, inside. We are going to continue to follow that. And our thoughts and prayers are with the families of that LAPD officer and the others who are known to have perished. Those who are injured and those who are still missing at this point.

Let's go to Tony Harris, who is in Atlanta, who will continue our coverage for the next several hours -- Tony.