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CNN BREAKING NEWS
Hurricane Ike Hits Galveston Island
Aired September 13, 2008 - 04:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Winds now around 110 miles an hour, with gusts even higher. Some coastal communities under water and on edge; in some areas the storm surge could create a wall of water 20 feet high.
This is a colossal storm, some 900 miles across. In its path, downtown Houston, Texas, Johnson Space Center, and the nation's largest cluster of oil refineries.
Let's bring in, very quickly, here, our Rick Sanchez; he is in La Porte, Texas.
And, Rick, if you would, give us a reset on conditions where you are.
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, things have been pretty hectic here. We've been seeing a lot of debris flying all throughout. We're standing right on Main Street, here in La Porte. And interestingly enough, Tony, things are real calm all of a sudden. I mean, comparatively speaking, anyway, to what they were before.
We're still getting some bands coming through, but the rain is certainly not as strong as it was before. And I wouldn't be surprised if we're either at the eye or somewhere near the eye right now because it seems to have a completely different attitude than it did a little while ago when we were talking to you. We're going to check on that with Karen Maginnis in just a little bit.
But in the meantime, I've been telling you that I wanted to show you what was going on, because one of the reasons that we're here, is because La Porte is one of the areas that they decided to evacuate early on today. So, I'm going to walk over to the truck over here and I'm going to try and see what this video looks like. I think they have it edited now. We took about a 20-minute drive. Let me open the door to the truck. Take a look at this video and I'll narrate it as we're looking at it - or I'll do my best to narrate it.
All right, we're walking through. And what do we have? All right, we're looking at the video now. It looks awfully dark, obviously, because we were driving through there. And now you're going to be able to see part of what we were seeing when we were driving into - out of La Porte, and driving into another city in that area, right there.
All right, we're going through the area now. And this takes you to Morgan's Point. Now we're approaching Morgan's Point, proper. And as you can see in some of the video there, we're going to be coming up on one of those turns. What's difficult about this is that a lot of times you're not able to see in front of you very well. But you do, at the last minute, see either trees or from time to time, unfortunately, some power lines that are already down on the road. Not to mention some of the power poles themselves that have either fallen or are starting to fall.
At this point, I think we get pretty close to seeing. We get pretty close to seeing some of the flooding that we had found before. There we're driving back over - OK, that's the bridge. That's one of those bayous that they have. By the way, here in Houston they call them "bay-os" and in Louisiana they call them "ba-yous". Just for the sake of clarification.
We're - OK, there's one of the signs that says, "Welcome to Morgan Point". Now we're looking at some of the video of the area here. That's around the actual awning that we were talking about earlier. This is tape I think is about a minute and 20 sec - about a minute and 20. There's the awning when we first started seeing it get ripped off.
All right, I think we missed most of the stuff I wanted to show you. But either way, you got a pretty good idea there of what we're talking about. I think what we missed was the actual flooding, which we came upon, a couple of the power lines and some of the trees that have come down, as well.
All right, this is eerie, OK?
SANCHEZ: I'm standing in Main Street, La Port. And it is as still and as calm as it's been all day.
HARRIS: Now, that's crazy, right there.
SANCHEZ: I would love to check with Karen Maginnis at some point here and find out if - go ahead, go ahead. We're on the air here. Sorry about that.
This guy just about ran me over. What's he thinking?
Let's go over to Susan Candiotti and see what's going on.
Susan, what's going on down by your - I know you are right up there on the coast, right?
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we are. We are getting whipped pretty good here, Rick, at this time. The wind is constantly changing directions and now it seems to be coming in from north to south. It is - and I know you're familiar with this - hitting us sideways right now, coming at us.
I'm keeping an eye on the hotel sign. It's still staying put. The owners were kind enough to let us stay here. Handing over the key to us. And I'm just watching little things. You can hear big things banging and bumping and you don't know where they're coming from. And noticed that some parts of the roof are - coming off. Picking up a piece here, or two. There's a few pieces of debris here. But we haven't seen - of course, we're just stuck in this one area, though. Haven't seen any trees bend over. Nothing like that so far. But obviously, it's a huge county and we're going to be checking for that kind of damage.
Power has been out here for hours and hours. This is a very low-lying area. Has been like where you are, under mandatory evacuation orders for several days. And many people did get out. The majority of the people did get out, but not all of them. On an island, for example, of Surfside, we've been telling you about that coastal community that is just a few miles down the road and it is now cut off from the mainland because of the water that has washed out the road there. In fact, at least seven feet of water that we know of before the sun went down, so obviously it's higher than that at this point. I know that we are expecting a storm surge of up to 12 feet.
Exactly where we are, in terms of where the storm is. I guess we're on the western side, obviously, of the eyewall.
I know that Karen Maginnis, you're keeping an eye on things for us at this hour. Is that pretty much were we are? We're in Surfside/Freeport. And behind us is a chemical plant, which still has power up. Yep, still lit up there. You can see the flame coming up from the tower there. And they're managing to keep their power.
KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Susan, I was watching you before you went on the air. And it was a little bit of a lull. You were kind of in that mostly light rainfall. Though wind was still part of the difficulty there.
But now we're starting to see some of these stronger rain bands move across your area. That's why you're probably feeling it a little bit more strongly and the rain is going to pick up.. Actually, if this yellow band makes its way down toward you, which I think it will. You're really going to be buffeted here, probably in the next 10 to 15 minutes.
As opposed to what's happening with Rick Sanchez. Rick Sanchez is at La Porte. He's just right on the edge of this now very ragged eye, that is moving right across the bay area. Here's Galveston. Here's the mouth of the port. And you go all the way up here and you've got Houston just to the west. Well, this is where it's all fairly quiet right now. But that's not going to last long because we've got Ike that is moving to the northwest and now is interacting with land. It's looking a little bit more ragged. But nonetheless, still holding together as a Category 2.
Now, I want to point out one thing. I was monitoring the TV stations around Houston. They are going on non-stop. They're saying a 1.3 million without power, 1.5 up and down the coast. And they're saying they could see, all total, the entire 2 million customers that they have, that could be without power for the next two to three weeks.
Let's go ahead and bring Jeanne Meserve, who is going to tell us what's going on where she is -- Jeanne
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Three, four, five ... MAGINNIS: Jeanne, can you hear?
MESERVE: Hi. Can you hear me there?
MAGINNIS: I can. Yes. Jeanne, where are you? And what's going on? It looks like you are taking a little bit of rain and wind with you, right now?
MESERVE: Yes. We-it is very windy here in downtown. I took a gauge down to the corner here and I was clocking winds as high as 130 miles per hour. And there is some glass coming down. We've heard some shattering, not from the high rise, that we're aware of, but some of the buildings right in our vicinity that are, you know, about eight stories high.
In addition we can see some damage. There is an exterior ceiling fan in a business down here that's come apart. And even more frighteningly, there is a street light down here that's come loose of it's moorings and it is just sort of dangling by a wire and the power is still live. Trust me, we're keeping a very close eye on that.
Power is still on here in downtown. Although we do see those flash of transformers, periodically. We're (AUDIO GAP) offices that there were two hospitals in town which lost power. Those were University General and Texas Specialty Hospital. But emergency generators kicked in immediately, so there was no problem with patient care at those hospitals.
In addition, we're told by county management officials that a community by the name of Pasadena, which is enclosed by the city of Houston, has lost power completely, including to the emergency operations center there. Needless to say, they're trying to recover from that. I'm sure they're trying to get emergency generators up and operating; but the situation definitely still escalating, here in the City of Houston. Back to you.
HARRIS: Yes, as we're watching these pictures deteriorate, the conditions really getting dicey for you, Jeanne, and certainly for Rick Sanchez. Although, Rick appears to be - at least right now - perhaps in the eye of the storm, right now, where it is really calm. So, perhaps in the next hour or so, he'll be looking at the back side of that storm, where conditions will deteriorate as well. And also, Clute, Texas, where Susan Candiotti is right now, she is still being buffeted by heavy winds.
We're going to continue our coverage. You're looking at dayside (ph) pictures, obviously, of some of the flooding, and a little earlier, some of the storm surge as well. We will continue our extended coverage of Hurricane Ike, which made landfall on Galveston Island, last hour, right here, in just a moment, on CNN.
HARRIS: And welcome back, everyone, to our extended coverage of Hurricane Ike. This monster storm made landfall just last hour over Galveston Island; hurricane-force winds whipping Galveston. Talking about winds inland now, in Houston - our Susan - I'm sorry, our Jeanne Meserve was able to track a wind gust of 130 miles and hour. Most of Galveston is actually underwater right now. This is probably a great time to get to our Gary Tuchman. He is on Galveston Island.
And Gary, the last time we spoke to you, you were in the calm of the storm, the eyewall. My friend, things have certainly changed since last we spoke?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tony, that's ancient history. The eye has passed us. So, we're now in the back end of the storm. The wind has changed directions and therefore this parking garage, which we felt so smart about getting and having a safe and easy place to do live reports and stay in the air all night, is not offering us quite as much protection. It's still a great place to be. It's nothing like being outside but because the wind has changed direction we're getting a little bit on this third story of this parking garage.
But you can see behind me, the waves from the Gulf of Mexico. These are huge waves that are actually going over the palm trees that you see in the back ground, hopefully. When this day started there was a road there. It was call Seawall Boulevard. Normally a very busy road. And then there was a 17 foot seawall going into the Gulf of Mexico. Well, you no longer see the seawall and you no longer see Seawall Boulevard, because Seawall Boulevard is now at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. Now, ultimately, we may see Seawall Boulevard again in a couple of days or so.
But this gives you an idea of what's going on here in Galveston, Texas. This is immense flooding. This is a town of 70,000 people with an island about 40 miles southeast of Houston. This part of the island, the west end of Galveston Island, there is no seawall. And that's where we believe - and it's hard to tell right now, because it is still dark outside - but there is immense flooding.
And this area where we are, where there is a seawall, there's flooding on the streets here, there's flooding to the sides of us - both sides of us. The water is about up to you knees. And the reason I know that is because when we were in the eye -- and there's about an hour and 45 minutes that we were in the eye -and hour that it was totally calm. I mean the wind was zero miles per hour. But when I walked down to the first floor of this parking garage the water was up to my knees and I couldn't really go that far to take a look at how much flooding.
But there are fires burning in the city. Earlier today, a 200-acre boat storage area went on fire. Firefighters decided just to let it burn, because there were no people there. It was too dangerous for them to do anything. And that's what happens during hurricanes sometimes. That you have these fires and they let them burn. We don't know how many people have stayed behind. We don't know what kind of casualties we might see in the morning. We certainly hope we don't see any, but we know that that is a possibility - Tony.
HARRIS: Boy! OK, our Gary Tuchman on Galveston Island. We want to bring in Karen McGinnis. Meteorologist Karen McGinnis from our hurricane headquarters, right there. And, boy, is that the satellite image of this storm?
MAGINNIS: This is the radar imagery and we can see the enhanced bands around the eye. Did you want to ask me something specific about the reporters there? Yes?
HARRIS: All right, so in relation to one another, so that maybe we can get a better idea of the actual path of this?
MAGINNIS: Yes, the last time we saw Rick Sanchez, he was located, let's see -
HARRIS: In La Porte, yes.
MAGINNIS: Let's see if we can come up with La Porte, here. Yes, there's La Porte.
MAGINNIS: This is the big Bay of Galveston. Here's the entrance, the mouth of the bay. There's Galveston. They're saying that the eye is over Texas City, which is just about here. You take Interstate 45 up to the northwest and Texas City is just about there. La Porte is where Rick Sanchez is and he was walking around saying it's pretty nice.
MAGINNIS: That's because he's along the edge of this now ragged eye, which is a Category 2 Hurricane Ike. And then we have, right around Houston, we have Gary Tuchman. Garry Tuchman is probably getting blown around. I had a report out of Houston of a wind gusts of 66 miles an hour, their last observation. But their sustained winds were right around 50 to 55 miles an hour. Jeanne Meserve is also in this vicinity. And we've got this very intense band that's moving across this direction.
And then, in Clute, that's where we have Susan Candiotti.
HARRIS: OK, OK.
MAGINNIS: She was standing around for a while. I watched her on one of our monitors. Then the rain came in. I'm looking at it now. She was saying the rain was coming in from different directions. That's exactly what its doing right now. The rain looks like it's coming in from the north. We've got some rain that is coming in sideways.
MAGINNIS: It is really being blown around. You can see some of these small shrubs and they're bending. They're not breaking, but they are bending. This is Clute, down at the bottom of your screen. And right now, it's saying we've got light to moderate precipitation, but we think this band is going to maybe sneak further down that area. So she's really going to see that rainfall become moderate to heavy.
HARRIS: Yes. MAGINNIS: It looks heavy already to me.
MAGINNIS: Now the wind is really beginning to pick up. We're going to watch this wind and rain come down from the north, so she is getting it from a different direction. But right through the bay, that's where things are looking pretty good. But that's not going to last very long. We still have supporting winds of 110 miles an hour. Just one mile an hour below what would be a Category 3 hurricane. I checked and monitored the TV stations in Houston. They're saying just under a 1.5 million people, with Central Point Energy. Central Point Energy has about 2 million customers around Houston. They potentially, all, could loose power. But they're saying right along that eastern coast, that southeastern coast, they have about 4.5 million people, Tony, that are without power - that we know of right now.
MAGINNIS: And this system is just winding it's way, right across the bay, taking it's time. And you can better believe folks in Dallas and through that ArkLaTex (ph) region, over the next 12 hours or so, they're going to feel the affects of this as well, because it was such a broad system. We just kind of watched it grow exponentially over the last 24 hours.
HARRIS: If I read between the lines here, you're talking about, once this storm really is completely on land, you're talking about potential flooding, what? - in Missouri, maybe? Certainly Arkansas, maybe Kansas?
MAGINNIS: It does look like Arkansas. I think some of the threat may extend into the Ozarks.
MAGINNIS: Oklahoma is one of those areas. And some of these areas - if you remember back in the spring?
HARRIS: Oh, yes, yes.
MAGINNIS: They were suffering from flooding. So, they've seen all the rainfall they really want to see, for the year.
HARRIS: That's right.
MAGINNIS: And the year is not even up. In some cases they've seen - I don't know -50 percent and 100 percent, again, of what they would typically see. We saw those - the worst areas where in South Dakota and Missouri.
MAGINNIS: And in Illinois, but even in some of those areas that you mentioned. HARRIS: Yes.
MAGINNIS: And Arkansas, and -
HARRIS: And Kansas.
MAGINNIS: And portions of Oklahoma, we're also seeing that severe spring flooding as well.
HARRIS: Terrific information. Thanks, Karen. We're back to you in just a couple of moments.
You know, so much of the gas and oil production, refinery capacity for the United States, our supply, comes out of that Gulf region. So much along the Texas coast, we've talked about Louisiana, particularly during Gustav, but so much of it is also centrally located there along the Texas coast. It is already, Ike is, having an impact on gas prices. We will detail that for you and give you the latest information on Ike in just a moment. You're watching our extended coverage of Hurricane Ike, a monster storm that made landfall last hour, right here on CNN.
HARRIS: Welcome back, everyone, to our extended coverage of Hurricane Ike This storm made landfall just last hour over Galveston Island. And most of Galveston, we understand, is now under water. Some areas could see storm surge of up to 20 feet. More than 1.3 million customers - boy, that's about what? Are we getting close to what, 3 million people without power in the Houston area? Is that correct? I think that 1.3 number is probably where we are right now. But we'll check on that with our Jeanne Meserve, who is in Houston, in just a second.
We want to get back to Gary Tuchman. He is on Galveston Island.
And Gary, you are in the thick of it right now, the backside of this storm?
TUCHMAN: We're in the backside of the storm now, Tony. And the winds are picking up again. And it's like deja vu, what we were experiencing before the eye came over.
By the way, just for historical reasons, I know the time that the Hurricane Center said that the eye crossed over Galveston Island, but I'm betting that ultimately history will show that crossed a half an hour earlier. Because a half an hour before the time they said, it was completely calm here. And the time they said, the winds started picking up. There's a little delay. Either way, it crossed here in Galveston.
And what we saw is what I've seen before when the eyes have crossed. People came out, they started looking. They looked at the damage. And now, they all seem to be back inside, the people who have stayed. And most of the people, to be honest with you, who have stayed are members of the news media, police officials, emergency officials. We're staying in 15-story hotel. Not on the beach, but it's a 15- story hotel, an incredibly solid structure surrounded by moats and surrounded by hills. And they've done a good job of protecting the structure, although some glass has broken. But there are some other smaller structures nearby that haven't done so well. There's a hotel to my right, which is just to the east, and it has lost half the siding on the building. Bricks and concrete are in the parking lot right next to me, in addition to water. You see the bricks floating in the water.
How much flooding there is on this island? We don't know exactly. We know it's extensive. We were warned it would be extensive when this all began. We were warned that most of this island could be under water. I could tell you that parts of it are not underwater, that we see right near the beach, right now. But other parts, when I walked around, are under water. How deep it is; how extensive it is; how damaging it is, we won't know until daybreak, Tony.
HARRIS: Hey, Gary, quickly. Is that the information you're given - you're being given on the number of people who made it out of Galveston Island? Because earlier - as you know-earlier in the day, yesterday, we were getting indications that as many as 20,000 people, anywhere from 40 to 60 percent of that island's population had made a decision to actually try to ride out this storm. Are you getting indications that even more people evacuated?
TUCHMAN: I'm sure more people evacuated. I'm always wary of that kind of information.
TUCHMAN: There is no way officials know. Especially, in a city of this size, with 70,000 people. The mayor of Galveston told us yesterday 40 percent of the people had left. But she wasn't sure how many people left today. I did a little canvassing today. It was about 16 hours ago. It's really hard to believe now, I was actually rollerblading, for exercise, around the streets. It was a hot, sunny morning here in Galveston. Going up and down streets, you know, almost every street was completely evacuated. I saw one or two people, after looking at scores of homes, who were still in their houses. I think there was a large evacuation here. I think that most people left. But undoubtedly some people did stay behind and it is those people we're very worried about right now.
HARRIS: Yes, OK. Our Gary Tuchman. Gary, appreciate it. Thank you.
We're going to take a quick break. And we'll have more of our extended coverage of Hurricane Ike in just a moment.
HARRIS: Let's get you this Hurricane Ike update now. It crashed ashore a little over an hour ago, with 110 mile an hour winds; a very strong Category 2 hurricane. Landfall in Galveston, where there are flooding concerns to be sure. More than 3 million people in Houston area without power. We'll get an update on that number from our Jeanne Meserve in just a couple of minutes. At least two deaths in Texas blamed on Ike.
This is a live picture. Where is this? Where is this picture? Pretty dramatic.
Let's get to our Susan Candiotti. She is in Clute, Texas, right now.
Boy, I am not sure - well, your picture is about as bad as the picture we saw just a moment ago. How you holding up there, Susan?
CANDIOTTI: Oh, pretty good. Just good and wet as you can imagine but we're getting pretty strong rain bands in as Karen Maginnis was telling us and predicted that we would, we are in the middle of a pretty heavy rain band right now where it is coming in pretty sideways and appears to be spinning around and at this point coming in from north to south.
In Clute, it is part of Brazoria County where there are about 300,000 people. You were asking how many people got out. Well, officials tell me at least half of them left for drier parts of the state, out of the path of the storm and they're really happy about that and they figure a good 70 percent more got out of the low-lying areas, particularly the coastal communities, for example, Surfside. I am walking a little bit over here to give you some better - a better view of some of the palm trees that are blowing pretty hard here.
In this particular area we have not been seeing any downed power lines. We're seeing some of the lampposts here outside this hotel kind of waving and wiggling and bending but just a little bit, nothing bending over, just at the top shaking a bit.
I'm going to give you a look at where Mike Miller (ph) and Steve Handler (ph), our crew have been helping us from up on the balcony there. That is where the lights are set up so they are making sure that the camera is kept just a little bit dry to make sure that it is up and running.
Up on that balcony, they're shooting me from up there.
Back down here and across the way we've had something to look at all night. Kind of a beacon of light in essence. This is a huge chemical plant complex. A number of different companies, Tony. We've been telling you about it all day and all night long.
They have virtually shut down operations. When you still see flames coming out from a couple of the towers, we're told that that is exhaust, but you have chlorine manufactured over there, they deal with liquid nitrogen, that kind of thing and we understand they go through disaster drills to prepare for hurricanes and they say that they haven't had any leakage. So far everything is OK, we hope it stays the case.
What we want to know when the sun eventually does come up is how well these - how high the storm surge came up. We were told it could be up to 12 feet and we want to know how all those homes did over there on Surfside on that island and how high up the water came because you'll remember yesterday ...
HARRIS: That's right.
CANDIOTTI: Some people had to come out by boat and jet ski to get the heck out of there.
HARRIS: Will that be one of the areas you visit first, one of your first stops, Surfside?
CANDIOTTI: Oh, it certainly will because they are cut off from the rest of the mainland so I want to see how high up that water came and you know, Tony, that's on a series of levees that they built here to help protect this part of the mainland from rising storm surges. So yes, I want to see how those houses did that are built up on those stilts, how many of them were flooded, how many of them perhaps were not.
HARRIS: OK, Susan.
CANDIOTTI: And I want to see how that one gentleman made out. We know at least one man who is in his 60s would not come out and I hope ...
HARRIS: Who is he? I believe his name is Roy Wilkinson, is that who you're referring to?
CANDIOTTI: That's who it is, you're right. I tried to give him a ring earlier in the evening but the phone wasn't working so we sure hope that he is OK, but he's a crusty fellow to hear the police chief tell it and he just wasn't going to budge, that's his homestead. He was going to stick around and make sure his property was OK. I hope he's OK.
HARRIS: Yeah, yeah. We'll keep our fingers crossed for him and hopefully he can ride this out in good stead.
Let's bring in our Gary Tuchman, he is on Galveston Island. And Gary, what's the latest there - oh, boy. You're getting buffeted (ph) pretty good right now.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tony, it's absolutely remarkable. As much as I've covered hurricanes over these years, the change in weather when you're in the area where the eye comes over is unbelievable. I mean, 30 minutes ago you saw me, I was down behind here, I was lying down on the concrete looking up at the stars, no wind whatsoever, looking for the moon, looking for the stars, it was a picture perfect evening and now we're getting the back end of this hurricane and this parking garage that we're in which was a really dry place to be when the hurricane was arriving now a poor place to be as the hurricane has departed because the winds have changed directions so we're getting it pretty good although it's not as bad as it would be if we were outdoors in it right now.
And once again we have these tropical storm force gusts. It would be very hard to stand and be safe and the reason we don't want to be out there anymore is because we've seen lots of bricks - let me take my hood off now. We've seen lots of bricks toppled off of buildings nearby, I've lost my earphone so if you have a question I'm not going to be able to answer it right now.
So bricks are coming down, the wood is coming down, the cedar is coming down, signs are coming down, telephone polls are coming down, trees are coming down and it's not a safe place to be outside right now but Galveston is really getting it seriously and I just feel ...
HARRIS: Boy. All right, Gary. We'll get back to you in just a couple of moments. We'll give you a moment to make your connections and get wired up again so we can talk to you.
Gary Tuchman getting hammered now by the - he's good now? He's getting hammered now by the back side of that storm. All right, Gary ...
TUCHMAN: I'm fine now.
HARRIS: You're with us?
TUCHMAN: I'm fine.
HARRIS: I just want to quickly get over to the camera - whoa! You are getting hammered right now. Do me a favor if you would please. If you could just - I'll shut up for a moment if we could just off of your microphone hear the intensity of that storm in your microphone.
TUCHMAN: I want you to listen to this, Tony. I mean, I'll just put the microphone out there.
The sound that you hear perpetually during a hurricane is the sound that you hear people describe a tornado going through the house. It's like a freight train sound that you keep hearing. But because it's coming from a different direction it's a little different sound we hear right now.
But I can tell you we're seeing the Gulf of Mexico continue to flood the area right behind me. Behind me a 17 foot seawall that's now not there anymore. I don't mean it's destroyed, the seawall, the seawall is there, because it's very sturdy, it's been there for decades. But it's disappeared under the water and also the main street, the highway next to the Gulf of Mexico also under water.
I mean there are waves on the highway, Seawall Boulevard, if you've ever been to Galveston, that's the major thoroughfare along the beach. There's a 17 foot tall, 10 mile long seawall that protected the city for years. One thing to keep in mind, I mean, they haven't had a major hurricane hit here for 25 years. It was Hurricane Alicia. Killed 21 people in this area, Houston and here. Caused billions of dollars in damage.
So it's been 25 years so anyone who is under 30 years old doesn't remember a hurricane ever hitting here before and hopefully most of those people have left because if they haven't left, this is a really scary evening.
HARRIS: There he is. Gary Tuchman just getting pummeled right now, buffeted by the back side of Hurricane Ike. Gary, appreciate it, thank you. Let's get the bigger picture expand on this and the big picture is right there on your right and you're right behind Karen Maginnis right now in the weather center. And Karen, we won't be able to actually see a lot of the pictures, the very vivid pictures of the surge because it's nighttime but it sounds like this storm is doing quite a job to Galveston and some of those other coastal communities.
KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: And as we anticipated with a strong Category 2 hurricane, that is what we were looking at. Aside from the rainfall and aside from the wind, all of which is quite a bit of damage, it was that storm surge, that's why they built that 17-foot tall wall. The storm surge was expected to be around 20, possibly 22 feet and as Gary Tuchman is kind of verifying with us, it's at least 17 feet.
We've seen some other reports, you go to Sabine Pass or you go to Lake Charles and they had some storm surge reports of 10 to 13 feet and they weren't even within the timeframe that we were looking at, the landfall for Hurricane Ike.
Now, Ike made landfall just about two and a half hours ago, it would be 3:00, so hour and a half ago.
Now we're watching. I know this kind of moves slowly, we're used to seeing that very fast-moving picture, the enhanced satellite imagery but I want to show you this because we were talking in the weather department here but look at this particular line. This is kind of like the boundary to the eye. The eye is actually right about here. Right over the bay, the port is just about in this vicinity and that's where our Rick Sanchez has been located.
Houston is where we have, Downtown Houston, Jeanne Meserve there. Look at this. This has gotten really fierce looking over the last couple of hours.
HARRIS: Karen, just a second here because we've got you in this triple, quadruple crazy box here. Can we take Karen full and Karen, would you go through that explanation again for us?
HARRIS: This is better.
MAGINNIS: The eye is just about here. Doesn't look very good and not very symmetrical. Once it moves over land they get kind of ragged and torn up. This is holding together, still a Category 2. A strong Category 2. Meaning 110 mile an hour winds with some higher gusts at Anawak (ph). That's right here.
We had a storm chaser report 102 wind gusts reported there. But this is what I was talking about, Tony.
HARRIS: Yeah? MAGINNIS: This particular line. We just kind of watched it and it was yellow with some red in it. But now we're watching this red increase, especially right down here. Why? Because now we're going to be really watching for tornadoes across this area.
HARRIS: Yeah, that's right.
MAGINNIS: We've seen some Doppler radar indicate tornadoes in Louisiana. That's still pretty far away from this system. But this is kind of the wall boundary, if you will, and this northern and this western edge. And as I mentioned, Rich Sanchez is just about here and he is kind of chilling now but not for long and then we have Gary Tuchman in this line, look at this right there. There is a little bit of red right there and that's where we see the potential ...
HARRIS: So that is headed for Rick.
MAGINNIS: Rick is right in through here. This system is going to lift up and yes, I think we've got some stronger activity further to the south so he is really going to get walloped here probably in the next 30 to 40 minutes or so.
HARRIS: I hope you're listening, Rick.
HARRIS: All right, Karen. That's a good look at that, thank you.
We want to get to Houston now and our Jeanne Meserve. Jeanne is there and Jeanne, these numbers, we can't even keep up with these numbers on people who are without power right now. If you would, give us the latest on conditions right there in Houston.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is really howling. When they say the expression, the wind is howling, well, this is what they're talking about. It just is - you keep looking to the skies, you've got a 747 over you. There was a big fire in Houston tonight, that's one of the stories we've been tracking, Brennan's Restaurant, an institution here for 40 years, burned pretty much to the ground we're told.
Apparently things under control at this point in time. Two injuries, minor, to civilians, no injury to firefighters but obviously a much less than ideal situation in which to be fighting a fire. Our crew who drove across town to shoot that told me about coming back across town and how it is just incredible to be in some of these streets where the wind just comes howling down between the windows and then it hits an intersection and maybe a crosswind and there's sort of a little mini tornado in every intersection, making it extraordinary difficult and dangerous to get around in the city.
You can see right now as we're talking, the wind has really picked up, the rain has really picked up, this is the worst we've seen it so far. We have had some glass down out of some of the windows near us. We've seen pieces of tin apparently coming off roofs or construction going down the street past us. But this is getting worse, and amazingly enough I'm looking at two people at the intersection down here standing in the middle of the street, apparently thinking this is a really fun time. As we've said before, the potential for it to be dangerous downtown here is very great, there are very tall high rise businesses here. We've been told that they have done some special reinforcing of the windows to try and prevent shattering, which has been a problem in hurricanes past.
But nobody would be surprised if we see it again with the strength of the winds that we're seeing here now. Tony ...
HARRIS: Boy, oh boy. And there she is. Our Jeanne Meserve in Houston right now getting hammered a bit and just as a footnote on this, two Houston hospitals actually lose power a short time ago but we understand the generators, the generators kicked on immediately so power was provided without any interruption. Dr. Brian Kirshon is an OB/GYN at Women's Hospital of Texas in Houston and he is on the phone with us.
And doctor, if you could, just talking about these hospitals, University General Hospital and Texas Specialty Hospital losing power for a short time but power provided by generators. Did you lose any power at your hospital?
DR. BRIAN KIRSHON, WOMEN'S HOSPITAL OF TEXAS: We did indeed. In fact, about three or four minutes ago we had a blackout for about five seconds but the generators kicked in, fortunately and we are back on emergency power.
HARRIS: Boy, doctor, it sounds like lessons were absolutely learned from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, backup systems, redundancies are certainly in place, aren't they?
KIRSHON: They are indeed. And - but by tomorrow we'll see what backup plans can do.
HARRIS: How are you situated in terms of your ability to handle any emergencies in the area right now?
KIRSHON: We're actually perfectly capable of doing so. In fact, as I speak, a patient has just walked into labor and delivery.
KIRSHON: I don't know how she braved the storm but she's coming in in labor ...
HARRIS: And that means you probably have to go, correct?
KIRSHON: That's correct.
HARRIS: All right, doctor. The best (ph) deliver that baby.
KIRSHON: Thank you.
HARRIS: A Hurricane Ike baby. Doctor, get to work. We will take a break.
We'll come back with more of our coverage. Hurricane Ike, the strong Category 2 hurricane making landfall just over an hour and a half ago on Galveston Island. We're back in a moment.
HARRIS: Let's get you the latest information on Hurricane Ike, it made landfall over an hour ago now over Galveston Island. Most of Galveston we understand is now underwater. Our Gary Tuchman is there and he is getting hammered right now by the backside of the storm, some areas could actually see storm surge of up to 20 feet. Live pictures now, great, thank you, Antoinette (ph). Live pictures now from Clute, Texas, that's where our Susan Candiotti is. Take a look at these pictures and the intensity of that rain, more than 3.5 million people are without power right now in the Houston area.
You know, we've been talking about the potential impact of this storm on the oil refinery, the oil production, the offshore oil production industry for the United States. We're getting some indications now from AAA. The latest information on the national average for a gallon of gas is now for unleaded gasoline, AAA reporting that it has increased, the price has increased to $3.73 a gallon. That is up over five cents from yesterday and represents the fourth consecutive increase.
So obviously some impacts already being felt from Hurricane Ike in the Gulf on oil and particularly gas prices. People far from Hurricane Ike's path certainly feeling the pain of higher gas prices, the prices are just jumping now and some stations are actually running out, particularly across the Southeast.
The concern? Supply problems due to the Gulf of Mexico and the oil rigs there being shut down. The other big worry? Refineries in Texas actually could be damaged by this storm. Prices at one Atlanta area station jumped from 3.59 a gallon to nearly $5.00 a gallon in just a few hours. Talking about those crazy high gas prices, in Atlanta we've seen some of them, that's for sure, blame it all on Ike.
Richard Elliott of our affiliate here in Atlanta, WSB, has more.
RICHARD ELLIOTT, WSB CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Everyone is in a good mood here at the Tucker Shell Station.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's crazy.
ELLIOTT: A long line for gas, gas with prices that are going up, even as they idle.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because we noticed on TV that the gas prices were going up quickly and they're going up on the sign as I'm sitting here.
ELLIOTT: Sure enough, while folks were waiting, prices here rose 40 cents a gallon.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't even know what it says there. Is he changing it? He looks like he's changing the gas - oh, no.
ELLIOTT: Gas prices are spiking everywhere because of Hurricane Ike. Governor Purdue did activate Georgia's price gouging statute to protect consumers from unlawful price hikes but it won't stop legitimate price hikes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's scary (ph) because when I pulled in the sign was saying the gas is $3.69. Right now I think it's $4.50 (ph).
ELLIOTT: Across the street at the nearly empty BP station it was a different story. Yellow bags on the pumps meant they were out of gas. That is until the tanker truck arrived to fill her up. And as the gas flowed in, so did carloads of customers who waited patiently until the tanks were topped off.
The yellow bags were snapped off and folks were ready to pump and go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it will be high over the next weekend but by the beginning of next week, hopefully things will either settle down or we'll figure out where things are and we'll just go from there.
HARRIS: I want to tell you something, trying to get - as you all know, our world headquarters are based here in Atlanta and trying to get into work today I had to get some gas. Long lines, unleaded regular, in many of these places you just couldn't get it which means you were limited to the medium grade and the premium grade and those prices, well over $4.00. $4.30, $4.35 and even higher in some places. All of this because of the impact of Hurricane Ike, or is it? Maybe we need to take a closer look at that.
Back to our coverage of Hurricane Ike in a moment. We are also following a developing story out of Southern California, a packed Los Angeles commuter train collided with a freight train during evening rush hour. At least 10 people are dead, including a police officer. Dozens of others injured. The collision started a fire that was brought under control. The rescue operation is still under way. The Los Angeles mayor telling CNN the death toll is likely to grow.
Our extended coverage of Ike will continue in just a moment. Our correspondents actually just getting hammered right now. In La Porte, Texas, also in Galveston and in Clute, Texas. That's a live picture of Clute right there. We're back in just a moment. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: And thank you again for staying with us for extended coverage throughout the night, everyone. I'm Tony Harris in the CNN NEWSROOM. Let's get you the latest on Ike right now. Galveston Island being hammered right now as the eye of the storm finishes, sort of passing over that area. Our Gary Tuchman is there. You're looking at Clute, Texas now.
Sea surge topping 17 foot high, that sea wall there in Galveston. Besides the flooding, fire is reported there as well. In Houston, more than 4 million people without power, high winds, heavy rains downing power lines there. A very dicey situation in Houston. Now three deaths in Texas blamed on Ike.
Still talking about Houston now. They're bracing for its worst hurricane in a quarter century. Emergency workers trying to make sure the most vulnerable are protected, and that includes the youngest residents of that city. Our Betty Nguyen explains.
NGUYEN (voice over): Babies at Houston Memorial Medical Center were on the move. Their neonatal intensive care unit was surrounded by windows, which could have put them in the path of flying debris. Getting these newborns to a more fortified part of the hospital was a careful process. It took a team of nurses to pack up the equipment and prepare the babies for their trek to the other end of the building.
DR. SHERRI LEVIN, OB/GYN: My moving them early, we're not behind the eight ball, you know, trying to get them moved. Supposedly our worst time will be midnight to 6:00 a.m.
NGUYEN: That put parents like Joshua Price at ease. His twins were born Thursday night.
JOSHUA PRICE, FATHER OF TWINS IN HOSPITAL: They are taking every precaution necessary regardless of where they think this storm might go. That's awesome.
NGUYEN: Beds were set up for parents in the next room so they could stay with their babies throughout the storm. Courtney Lewis says she couldn't imagine being anywhere else.
COURTNEY LEWIS, MOTHER OF INFANT IN HOSPITAL: I just had a cold vision of him just in this little plastic crib by himself. And no matter how great the nurses are, they have all the other babies to take care of and that way I can just sit here and bond with him, too, because he was, yesterday he was a week old. Wednesday was the first time I ever got to hold him. So, this will give us some extra bonding time.
NGUYEN: Her only concern was how the rest of her family would fare as they hunkered down at home.
Betty Nguyen, CNN, Houston.
HARRIS: Betty also snapped a few pictures for us. Take a look at these pictures. These are from Kemah, Texas, right on the western edge of Galveston Bay and she will join us live from Texas about an hour from now. She will be joining her partner on CNN SATURDAY MORNING, T.J. Holmes.
We're going to take a quick break now. We're going to come back with more of our coverage of Hurricane Ike in just a moment.
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