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Hurricane Ike Brings Storm Surge, High Winds to Houston Area

Aired September 13, 2008 - 05:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Hello again, everyone. I'm Tony Harris in the CNN newsroom. We have been following Hurricane Ike throughout the morning; a monster storm slamming Galveston, Texas, right now. Houston feeling the storm, as well, already. Power knocked out to more than 3.5 million people. We have live reports from Texas and updates from our Weather Center.
So, Hurricane Ike roars ashore less than two hours ago now. Made landfall over Galveston Island, Texas. Winds now around 110 miles an hour with gusts even higher. Some coastal communities under water. More communities at risk in some areas the storm surge could create a wall of water, imagine this, 20 feet high. At least three deaths are blamed on the storm. The colossal hurricane, some 900 miles across: In it's path, downtown Houston, Johnson Space Center and the nation's largest cluster of oil refineries.

Let's get to our Susan Candiotti. She's been with us all morning long from Clute, Texas.

And, Susan, for anyone who is just joining us, they're seeing about all they need to know about your situation right now, just from this picture. Give us - what are you feeling right now? We see what we see in the picture, but what does it feel like for you?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tony, the reason I'm facing this way is because it has hit me the back, so facing sideways here. It's coming at us in sheets from this direction. And it feels like pinpricks hitting your back. And as you see the rain lit up by these strong lights that we have trained on it, it's fascinating to see because it is just coming straight across and then kind of twirls and twirls and swirls, going down in that direction, sweeping across the concrete parking lot. And then you just watch the trees react and the light post react. They're kind of wiggling a little bit, yet nothing has bent over, from here, anyway. We haven't seen anything uprooted.

But obviously, something went wrong, somewhere, because far earlier, last evening, jeeze it was early on, maybe 7 o'clock in the evening, when we weren't getting much weather at all, quite frankly, that's when the lights went out. So, we've been in the dark for several hours now. And naturally, these lights are powered by our satellite truck operator, Kenny Stafford (ph), who is able to keep that generator going and that's where we're getting our own power.

But off in the distance, I like to call it the beacon in the night, over there. You see the flames coming up from these chemical plants, through the tower. They're burning off excess chemicals, we are told. And that they have gone through disaster drill over disaster drill and that's why they say they can stand up to a storm.

Remember, Tony, we are on the weaker side of this hurricane. As these bands go around and around and around, although - it's really hitting us now. Obviously, this will pass at some point and it will eventually calm down, but the big concern here, from everyone in the county, is what that storm surge is going to look like. Earlier in the night we were told it could go anywhere from 10 to 12 feet. This area is four feet above sea level, but it is protected by a series of levees. They were built to try to prevent that storm surge. And they've also tried to use various locks here to try to control the water flow. But all of this is going that way.

And in that direction, that's where you've got the coastal community of Surfside, just a few miles down the road, where people are living on an island there, called Surfside. Freeport is next door, as well. Houses on stilts. We're wondering what that storm surge is going to do because the bridge that goes over the intra-coastal to Surfside, it was under water on that side. And when we were there yesterday, during the daytime, after they rescued about eight people from there - I mean, the authorities got out, too.

The sheriff's office, the police department, the fire department, they even had the Coast Guard represented. And they said, that's it, everybody's out of here. And that means them, too. So we know that the emergency operations center, several miles away from here, inland, and out of that low-lying area, they're OK. They're stationed there all night.

You've got a couple of substations of the police department hunkered down and keeping an eye on things as well. We have seen virtually no traffic, an occasional car. I can't figure out where they're going quite frankly. But as far as we know, we have seen - or rather - heard of no injuries.


CANDIOTTI: The question is how these people are going to make out. Hopefully, they're going to make out all right. But this is, I would say, certainly the heaviest rain that we have had all night long.

HARRIS: Susan, just a quick favor. Would you allow us just to listen to that storm, for about 10 seconds or so? Can we just hear it?

CANDIOTTI: Absolutely. It is a good representation of what it is. Not only listening to that, but I wish you could hear the wind, right now. You can't because it does sound like planes flying over head. But I'll be quiet now so you can get a sense of hearing that rain and the wind.


CANDIOTTI: I mean, that is just hitting you straight in the face and you just - I mean, you - it is like getting hit by blowing sand.

HARRIS: Yes. Wow. All right, Susan, thank you so much. You may need to get a little shelter here, Susan Candiotti, Clute, Texas, right now, just getting buffeted, pounded by the winds and the rains associated with Hurricane Ike.

Let's get to Tim Melton, now. He is with our affiliate in Houston, KTRK. He's in Baytown, Texas.

And first of all, Tim, let me thank you from everyone here for being such a terrific affiliate and providing us with such great pictures of this storm. You and your teams, there, at KTRK, have been absolutely tremendous.

If you would now, give us a sense of the conditions where you are right now?

TIM MELTON, REPORTER, KTRK TV: Well, listening to your last report, pretty much the same. I don't think the winds are quite as strong here. They have been. We're a little bit - we're probably 30, 35 miles away from Galveston, coming north, back toward Houston. But the winds, at times, they've died down a little bit now, but the rain is continuous.

And I think, Tony, the thing that really gets you about this storm, not only is a hurricane a horrific event, but when it comes and hits in the middle of the night. This thing really started to hit the coast and start to take its impact around midnight Houston time. And when the lights start to go out and we have traveled 50, 60 miles up and down these highways around Houston, during this storm, and you see the transformer - we see a blue flash of light on the horizon. Those are transformers blowing.

And you can be driving down a highway and you can see lights in the distance. You see a transformer blow and the lights disappear. And so you're in total darkness, the winds are blowing. It's constant. And when we're driving down the highway, it almost looks like snow in the headlights, because the wind is blowing the rain sideways, horizontally. And it's really a difficult thing because it goes on for hours and hours. Our station has received calls. I'm sure you've folks have, either tonight, or in the past, people saying, "When is it going to end?" Because it is so persistent; it just pounds you and pounds you. And every time you think there might be a little bit of a lull, the wind just picks back up again.

HARRIS: Hey, Tony, I'm going to jump in.

MELTON: It's going to continue for hours now.

HARRIS: Yes, Tim, I'm going to jump in for just a moment. And thank you for that terrific reporting, because I've got to get our Jeanne Meserve. She is in Houston, right now, and I understand - some of the guidance I was given - well, there it is - just a moment ago, that she is literally hanging on.

Let's toss it to you, Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the kind of souvenir you can pick up on the streets of Houston tonight. This is obviously, a traffic light. It was hanging on the corner to my right, dangling by one wire for a couple of hours. Now the winds have reached such ferocity that it brought it down and blew it down the street. So, here you go.

Very strong winds here at this hour. Clearly things continuing to pick up. Remarkably in this part of the city we still have power, although we know there are widespread outages elsewhere; hundreds of thousands of people now without power, throughout this city, and throughout this state.

Houston is a place where a lot of the first responders have been assembled. The federal government took over the Reliant Arena and they have prepared a large space over there in which there were all kinds of crews assembled, including almost 1,000 search and rescue workers. They have all kinds of specialized vehicles and boats to get around in the storm. But they are not going to get out until this is past. It may be hours and hours and hours before we have a full assessment of the kind of damage this storm does. It is simply too dangerous for crews to be out and about assessing, in part, because of the downed power lines that there are, all across the city and all across the state.

We do see some emergency responders going through the street. The occasional police patrol going through to check on the few people who are unwise enough to be out here. Also, to keep an eye on the damage, but as yet no comprehensive assessments for what's happening in this city. We did earlier hear some glass come down in our vicinity, but one of the tallest buildings in the country is off to my right. We don't know yet if glass is coming out of that. That's what they've been really worried about, although we're told that all kinds of protective measures have been taken to try to keep that glass in place, including protective films that are put in there, hopefully to make breakage a little bit more difficult.

But the winds, here, truly gusting, the rain really coming down at this point in time. And, of course, more is on the way. Back to you.

HARRIS: All right, Jeanne Meserve, just hanging on there in Houston. We want to get the big picture on this. Meteorologist Karen Maginnis is in the Weather Center, for us.

And, Karen, as we take a look and reflect back on those pictures from Jeanne Meserve. She is still getting those outer bands, those feeder bands, and I mean, the wind speeds where she is right now. How intense are we talking about?

KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Between 80 and 87 mile-an-hour gusts.

HARRIS: And that is absolutely nothing to play with. We're talking about signs down. We're talking about windows being blown out at that point.


HARRIS: And I know you're concerned about the winds, and you are also concerned about the surge as well.

MAGINNIS: And I want to show you what's happening on our radar. Now, this is not quite as sexy looking as the enhanced radar, or satellite imagery that rolls along and looks very interesting. Just to get your bearings, here is the mouth of Galveston Bay. Here's Galveston Bay. This is Trinity. Right here is Baytown. This is the eye, ragged though it is. And just a little jog over here is Houston. Where you see this orange and where you see this red, that's where we're seeing intense rains, gusty winds. This is no longer light to moderate; it's moderate to heavy, to very heavy rainfall.

She mentioned the building behind her; the JP Morgan Chase Building. This is Virtual Earth image. And this is a view of downtown Houston. This is the building that they're talking about, right here. It's a five-sided building. And they're saying they're hearing crashing glass? Well, what we can say about that is that during a Alicia, they lost 48 panes of glass associated with that particular hurricane. But that's what is near her. It would just terrify me. And does terrify me to even think that she's even close to anything like that with these 80 plus mile an hour gusts.

University of Houston, the main campus, 80 mile-an-hour wind gusts. Houston Hobby (ph), an 83 mile-an-hour wind gust. And the eastern Galveston Bay, that was the other area, Gary Tuchman is at Galveston, now. Gary not going to be on the rollerblades. I know he loves to go out an investigate things on his rollerblades. Not doing that. Hasn't been doing that. And it looks like he is really going to be in store here for quite a bit of intense activity.

HARRIS: Well, Karen, let me get there.

MAGINNIS: And Gary, I think you're right there.

HARRIS: Yes, why don't you get us to him?

MAGINNIS: All right, Gary Tuchman, standing by in Galveston.

Gary, is this about the worst that you have seen so far tonight? I'm not sure Gary can hear me. Because it is so loud.

Now, Tony you had him hold out his microphone so we could hear -

HARRIS: Yes, and the reason he may not be able to hear you right now, he may be perfectly wired into us, but it may just be the intensity of what he's going through right now, correct?

MAGINNIS: Absolutely, because we're looking at it. This is just about the worst that we've seen all night. And the hurricane made landfall, a Category 2; still has Category-2-force winds. There we got a close up of Gary.

HARRIS: He may have us now.

MAGINNIS: He's hanging on. I think he's holding on to some -

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Can you hear me talking? MAGINNIS: We can here you talking, Gary. Tell us what's going on?

TUCHMAN: OK, good, good. We're going to tell you right now that this back end of this hurricane - here's the (INAUDIBLE) the front end of the hurricane. Just incredible that an hour and a half ago there was not wind, totally calm. And that's what happens when the eye crosses. We're really getting nailed now. We're in a parking garage, third story of a parking garage and because the winds are going east to west, because the hurricane is coming towards us, we were getting no wind here. We could see what was going on with the hurricane, but now from west to east, the hurricane has past us and the wind is coming into the parking garage.

This is still a relatively safe place to be. But I guess it looks rather violent right now. Another palm tree is going down. I'm not very tight here. We are on the third floor. The flooding, I can see it when I look down there. The Gulf of Mexico is coming a little bit closer to us. This is just a heck of a day for Galveston, Texas. It has not been hit by a hurricane in 25 years, they are getting nails with hours of torrential rain and these winds. And I just feel this is so awful and terrible for anyone who is in their house right now, on this island. It must be an absolute nightmare. Back to you guys.

HARRIS: All right. Karen, stay with me here for a second. Because Gary just described a situation where he says, it feels to him like the backside of this storm is actually stronger than the leading side of the storm.

MAGINNIS: Here's what he's facing, Tony, right now. We've got the heavier bands now, along this southeastern quadrant, that are going to flow in across this region. Now, this storm system is moving like this. It's moving off towards the northeast. These are actually getting worse. These particular cells, just to the north of Houston. We've had some wind gusts here, over 80 miles an hour. That's where Jeanne Meserve is.

HARRIS: Hanging on, yes.

MAGINNIS: And Gary is down here. He's hanging on.


MCGINNIS: Third story. And nonetheless, yes, we've got these bands here. This is not going to let up. Gary is not going to get a break in 10 minutes or so. This is going to continue for - I'd say at least the next 20, 30 minutes or so.

HARRIS: With this kind of intensity?

MCGINNIS: Yes. It going to be sustained. You might get a little bit of a break and then it's just going to jolt again.

HARRIS: Do you see him in that shot? You are saying another 20, 30 minutes of this?

MCGINNIS: Absolutely, absolutely. This is what he's looking at. This is what's going to slam into this Galveston area and push even more water on shore. We see some storm surges here. He says the wall - you can't even see the wall. The wall is 17 feet tall. He said it has just disappeared. Not that it's gone, but it has disappeared because he got all that water that has been washed in, that storm surge that we always talk about.

We always talk about the backend of these systems and this is it. This is what we're looking at. These particular bands associated with Ike, that is still Category 2. Now, it doesn't look like, until we go into Saturday evening, doesn't look like it is going even, you know, go down to maybe -

HARRIS: Are we talking about tropical storm force winds, even?

MCGINNIS: Maybe later on this evening. And it's looking a little ragged. There's no clearly defined eye. So, once it moves overland, we talk about this. People know very well, that the energy of the warm waters is really what feeds these. But now we've got a whole different problem. We've got windows falling out of skyscrapers. We've got the potential for tornadoes. We've got severe flooding. We've got the storm surge. And this is going to lumber along, making it's way, moving northwest at about 12, 13 miles an hour now.

HARRIS: Can Gary still hear us?

Gary can you hear us?

TUCHMAN: Yes, (INAUDIBLE), Karen. I can hear you guys fine. It is hard for me to hear your specific words, I do hear you when you call my name. And I can tell you, Karen, I think you were just saying - I'll have to apologize - but do you have any idea what kind of wind gusts we're getting here right now?

MCGINNIS: We need to check the wind gusts right around Galveston. I don't know that they've got their - we don't believe that they've got their monitoring system up. It's probably gone down a long time ago. But the last reports that we had around this system, were gusts - well, steady winds, around 50 miles an hour, 50 to 55; gusts, up and over 80 miles an hour. That being reported, Beaumont, Port Arthur, that's up the coast. Houston, Hobby (ph), 83-mile-an-hour gusts. University of Houston, their main campus, had a wind gust of 80 miles an hour.

Gary, I think you are looking at 50 to 60, but the way your hanging on makes me think that its closer to that hurricane force. Yes, it's these bands right here.

TUCHMAN: Yes, yes. I would bet you we're talking 80 miles an hour right now, just based on what we felt before. Really in to it, like it stops right now, like it is just totally calm, then it just picks up -

HARRIS: Yes, that's crazy.

TUCHMAN: It is like a wind machine that is pressing against us. It's a really great phenomenon. And (INAUDIBLE) when this hurricane is over and we talk about what happened, I think we will talk long and hard about, you know, the fact is it came in at 110 miles per hour, Category 2. But it is so enormous, that the even is just lasting so long, and it's pummeling the area, with the rain and the winds for such a long period of time. So, I don't know what's worse, a Category 2 that lasts for 18 hours, or a Category 4 that lasts for nine hours?

MCGINNIS: Gary, I'm looking at the radar. And as I told Tony, earlier, I don't know if you could hear me or not. That's why I'm keeping my voice up, because I know we're competing with the very strong wind there. But you've got these not just heavy rain bands, they're very heavy rain bands, surely accompanied by some very strong winds. And I think if you stand out there, you're going to be battered for probably the next 15 to 20 minutes. This is not going to give up in the next five or 10 minutes. This is going to be kind of a lengthy event that takes place here, Gary.

TUCHMAN: All right, it's a little hard for me to hear you, Karen. It sounds like you were saying another 15 to 20 minutes we're going to get the hardest rain bands. Is that correct?

MCGINNIS: You're going through it right now. It's a continuation of what you're going through right now.

HARRIS: And, Gary, let me just jump in to add here, we're getting some information from the governor's office indicating the first reports of damage. And as you've been talking about, through most of the morning, that seawall, there, Seawall Boulevard. That seawall has been flooded, under water right now, confirming your reporting. Kemah, the Kemah Boardwalk is under water. We're talking about heavy infrastructure damage. This coming from the governor's office. Multiple fires, as you've also been reporting, in city. But the rain, actually, has been putting those fires out. The University of Texas Medical Facility has been evacuated, but the ER and operating room on the first floor - wow, the ER and the operating room, and the first floor of that hospital, flooded right now; and boy, and on back up power as well.

So, a lot of this is just confirming what you've been reporting. Information now flooding into - sorry - pouring into - boy, sorry, again. Information now being delivered to the governor's office, of the damage specifically to the infrastructure there in Galveston.

TUCHMAN: Tony and Karen, it's a bad situation. What we're going to do now is we're going to repair some of our equipment before it blows off this parking garage. We'll come back to you shortly if you will.

HARRIS: OK, that's great. Let's get - Karen, we're going to go to Rick Sanchez, who I believe is on the phone with us now from La Porte, Texas.

And, Rick, if you would, give us an update on conditions there in La Porte.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are leaving La Porte and have been making our way back to downtown Houston. It's pretty remarkable. We're in a car right now. We're going about 18 miles an hour. We've been on 225, Highway 225. At one point on 225 we came to a part of the highway that was under water and impassable. We tried to make it through and just realize that we would have been stuck with water basically getting into the car.

So, we turned around and went the wrong way on the highway, unfortunately, until we could find our way to an exit, to make it back into the city. Now we're on 45. On our way there we had to obviously take some side roads and there are lot of power lines on the road. We saw buildings that have been destroyed. And parts of them were flattened and on the side of the road. We also saw, you know, plenty of debris on the highway.

But the eeriest part of the whole trip was realizing that we were smack dab in the middle of what was the eye of the storm. And Tony, I guess, Karen could probably vouch for me. It was so still. Remember when you and I were talking and I was in the middle of all that and everything was just swirling and it was crazy?


SANCHEZ: And parts of buildings were flying around me?

HARRIS: That's right.

SANCHEZ: Soon after that, in that very same place where I was, you literally could not see a leaf blowing in those trees. Nothing.


SANCHEZ: It was almost as if you were in a vacuum; because, in fact, we were in a vacuum. We were in the eye of the storm. It was a pretty remarkable thing. We used that as an opportunity to finally make our way back to Houston, since we've been going since early this morning. Then soon after driving for about - oh, I'd say 10 minutes - man, we hit the eyewall again. I should say the other side of the eyewall. And that's what we've been (INAUDIBLE) with now for the last, oh, 25 minutes to a half hour. So, driving through the wall, leaving the eye, and now we've been pounded by rain and pounded by wind as well as we make our way back into Houston. But it's been quite a remarkable journey, actually.


SANCHEZ: As unique as any I've ever taken.

HARRIS: Well, Rick, as you head to Houston, just know that our Jeanne Meserve is there. As you know, and she is literally hanging on there in Houston. So, you're driving into a situation where the winds are going to be there. They're certainly following you. On your trip to Houston, they will be there, and the winds are strong and growing in intensity. So, you are driving into a real situation in Houston. And you know the dynamics there, in terms of the glass being blown out of buildings there. So, as you drive there know that you are driving into a real situation and we're going to get back to you in just a couple of minutes, and also to Jeanne Meserve. We're going to continue our coverage of Hurricane Ike making landfall over two hours ago, now. And boy, a dicey situation in Houston, right now.

That is Clute, Texas, that you're looking at now. Our Susan Candiotti is there. We're back in just a moment.


HARRIS: Back everyone to our continuing coverage of Hurricane Ike. Ike is now blamed for three deaths in Texas. Intense Category 2 storm, we're talking about here. It has crashed ashore. It happened a couple of hours ago, on Galveston Island. Boy, that island now getting pounded by the back end of the storm. Our Gary Tuchman has been reporting from there. And if you were with us just moments ago, he is just getting hammered right now.

Texas officials reporting the eastern and western ends of the county are under water. Water actually pouring over the seawall; multiple fires are burning, have been burning. Rain has put some of them out. The infrastructure, a lot of the infrastructure there on Galveston Island, has sustained heavy damage. We won't know the full extent of the damage for sometime.

We want to take you to Susan Candiotti. There she is, in Clute, Texas. And if I'm -hi, Susan, if I'm not mistaken, the winds have died down. The rain has subsided, at least a bit where you are now?

CANDIOTTI: Exactly. It's still coming across sideways, but I think it is a little bit lighter than it was before. And, honestly, we've been using wind meters out here, throughout the night. I haven't gotten any readings that were super, super strong, but obviously, the gusts are strong, occasionally. Just to give you a little quick walk down here, you see behind us -- you can see in the distance those lights from the chemical plants that we've been watching all night long. We see the trees moving walking out in front of the hotel here to another cluster of palm trees down here, yet another indication of how hard the wind has been blowing and the reason that the camera is now out here is we're trying to stay on the air and one way we can do that is to try to keep it as dry as is possible so Mike Miller is up there on the balcony and he is underneath to show you that we're one story up in this two story motel.

A motel that was nice enough to kind of close it all down and say, here's the key and you guys can keep yourselves protected from the storm as best you can. Power, the power has been out for hours and hours here and I think one of the lasting images I will take away from this storm has to do with some of the people that were rescued yesterday during the daylight hours, when the surge was already coming up on these homes that are set on these stilts and that was one woman who the police chief told me, I saw one arm, anyway, she had written a message on one arm, "I love you," and on the other arm, the police chief said, she had written some of her personal identifying information, so that in case, obviously, something happened to her, that if she was lost, that she would be found.

But the good news, of course, is that they were rescued, they did get out OK along with their dog. Some people lost an animal, I know, during another rescue, sadly, it washed out into the sea. And a couple of other people came out here. You recall that man with his two teenage children waiting till the last minute and they came out on jet skis on police escort. The police had to convince them to get the heck out of there ...

HARRIS: Well, Susan, I don't think I'll forget that moment. We were on the air together with that yesterday afternoon and they come out and you walked up to, I guess it was one of the teenagers and you asked the question of why did you wait so long to leave, why did you, requiring a rescue to get out of there and the one young woman said, I don't know.

CANDIOTTI: I don't know, and it didn't really seem that bad, but oh well, obviously the police had convinced them to leave. I did ask her the lesson she learned from the experience and she said, I guess it's better to get out early, and yes, I would say she is right about that. I'm not sure about dad but when we asked him why he got out, he said, I don't know, the surfing was pretty good, the surf was good.

HARRIS: Is that one of the communities that you're going to want to visit when you get sunrise and the opportunity to move around a bit? I'd imagine that would be one of your first stops.

CADNIOTTI: Oh you bet. I want to see how they made out over on the Island of Surfside and whether in fact that one man in particular who we think rode out the storm, whether he is OK. I know the police chief is going to want to check on him.


CANDIOTTI: They know that man, they know his history, they couldn't convince him to leave and they want to see how well he made out.

As well, I don't know how they're going to make it over there, if they're going to have to take boats over there once the winds calm down or what because the road was washed out on this side of the bridge so I don't know how they're going to get over there and how long it's going to take them to do so.

HARRIS: Well, Susan, you've done terrific work. You always do but this is really something else. Give our thanks to your career as well. Just terrific work covering this.

CANDIOTTI: Thanks, Tony, I will. Thank you very much.

HARRIS: OK. Susan Candiotti, Clute, Texas.

Ike's effects are felt for hours along the Texas coast and you're helping us tell the story with your I-Reports. This is Stewart Beach, the area of Stewart Beach, Galveston now. Jerome Baker took these pictures about 3:00 yesterday afternoon. He said the waves were huge and the only way to get to the area was by boat.

William Babu (ph) sent in this picture of his front yard in Houston. This tree an early victim of Ike's winds. Can you imagine when we get - today what we'll see? And George Halloran (ph) is a storm chaser from Florida. He shot this video of the road as he was traveling to Galveston, but he actually had to turn around while he still had a chance to get out of the area OK.

Send us your videos and I-Reports, your photos to us at But you know, look, if you're in Galveston right now don't think about it, La Porte don't think about it and certainly in Houston don't think about it. You've got hours of this storm still ahead of you and there is absolutely no need to put yourself in harm's way.

You know, it doesn't matter where you live, Ike may already be showing up at the gas pumps. CNN's Josh Levs with a story that is changing by the minute. And Josh, don't get me started, I'll let you do your report and I'll tell you about my experience trying to gas up to come into work this morning.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I have a feeling I know what your story is like because so many people are already facing this.

Anyone who got up early, especially this part of the country, it's incredible. Take a look at this video, look at this. We're out of gas in Knoxville, some areas of Florida, gas already at $5.49 a gallon and in Atlanta, the longer you wait around there, the more you're going to pay. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We noticed on TV that the gas prices were going up quickly and the price is going up on the sign as I'm sitting here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't even know what it says now. Is he changing it? He looks like he's changing the gas - no - oh, man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because when I pulled in the sign said that the gas is $3.69. And right now I think it's $4.00.


LEVS: Did you hear that? It jumped 50 cents just while he was there. Some people are seeing it jump even more than that. A basic idea of why it's going on. Let's zoom in on the board behind me. I'll get out of the way.

This is a list from the government of the top oil installations, basically, in the United States, the refineries. And look at this. Texas, Texas, Texas, Texas. And this is the big one right here, 13 out of 26 are shut down. And actually over at CNN MONEY we're following this closely and you can see this here.

About a quarter of U.S. fuel production was shut down as of yesterday afternoon. The government hasn't released updated figures yet but you can tell, Tony, why this is happening in so many places and this is something we're going to keep a close eye on today because it does seem incredibly sudden and there are gouging laws so we need to make sure gouging doesn't happen as well.

But why is this then this quickly, why didn't they have more supplies in advance? A lot of questions to be asked today and Tony, literally all over the country anybody stopping for gasoline will in some way feel the effects of Ike today.

HARRIS: I was going to tell my story but please, everybody is going through this right now. I mean, it's crazy right now in the Southeast trying to get gas and the prices are just spiking and we just really want some answers to this because we should have some supply and apparently we don't and there's a run on gas right now. Josh, appreciate that, thank you so much.

LEVS: You've got it.

HARRIS: We'll take a quick break and we'll come back with more of our coverage of Hurricane Ike. When we do, we will visit once again with our Jeanne Meserve. When last we visited with her hanging on as the winds were whipping in Houston.


HARRIS: Welcome back, everyone, to our coverage of Hurricane Ike. When last we visited with our Jeanne Meserve in Houston, I told you a moment ago, she was really just hanging on to a sign that had been blown down by the winds there. She's in a little better shape right now. Let's get to Jeanne if you would. Give us the latest on conditions there in Houston.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ike is definitely paying a visit to Downtown Houston. The winds are really whipping here. I clocked them as high as 130 miles per hour down on the corner a few minutes ago. The intersections are where it's incredibly dynamic because you have the wind coming down between the buildings at different angles. They meet and then they sort of whirl into a vortex, incredibly powerful at those particular areas.

There have been some windows in the local buildings. We don't know if they're coming out of the high rises. In these conditions, we're not going to walk down there and look. I can tell you they have taken steps to reinforce the buildings in some of these buildings, but the JP Chase Morgan building which is just a couple of blocks away here did lose several dozen windows back in Hurricane Rita and I have to believe in these force winds and they may lose a few more today.

But my takeaway from this thus far is that Downtown Houston is doing remarkably well. We are here with power, which none of us expected to have at this point in the storm. There are a few trees down but not every tree is down. There are some signs down but not a lot. The building damage that we have been able to see walking around the few blocks around us simply does not look that severe at this point in time.

But, of course, I want to caution there's still plenty to go with this storm. Of course, wind isn't the only problem here, rain isn't the only problem. They're also worried about flooding. Nine ZIP codes in this county were put under a mandatory evacuation order because they are close to water or next to the water.

They do not know how many people are still in homes in those areas. I've been told by county emergency officials that one of the first things they will do when they can go out is go door to door knocking, saying are you there, is anybody there, are you safe? Trying to figure out if they have any problems in that respect.

But thus far, mighty windy down here in Houston, back to you.

HARRIS: Boy, Jeanne Meserve in Houston for us. On the line with us right now is Dr. Casey Boyd. She is staying in Galveston. She is part of the essential emergency personnel there on Galveston Island and Dr. Boyd, thanks for your time.

I'm just curious, have you received any calls for help at this point? I'm hoping it's been a quiet night.

DR. CASEY BOYD, I-REPORTER: Yeah. No, we haven't heard anything. I think there's like two patients in the emergency room but nobody else has come near us and we're not expecting anybody for several more hours because nobody can get to the hospital anyway.

HARRIS: Now where are you located on the island, because we're getting all kinds of information from the governor's office of pretty widespread infrastructure damage?

BOYD: We're towards the east end, the northeast part but last time I checked all the area around the hospital and even the circle drive outside the hospital is completely underwater. And even the first floor and the basement of the hospital are flooded.

HARRIS: So explain to me this concept of being essential personnel. I think we get it in the abstract but look, people can't get to you, you can't get to them. Why are you there?

BOYD: We were told Thursday morning at 9:00 a.m., there's 500 of us that were declared essential personnel and we were ordered to go home, secure our apartments and our houses and get our stuff and come back at 7:00 p.m. Thursday night and plan on staying through the storm. They evacuated all the patients as of Friday morning, early, but we're just waiting until patients come in to see us because it's definitely going to be some need after the storm passes.

HARRIS: Do you have a sense of the storm where you are? What have you heard, what have you seen?

BOYD: I'm on the ninth floor of the hospital right now. That's the only place I can get a signal but it's still pretty bad. I think we're still in the eye of the storm down here so we have several more hours.

HARRIS: You nervous, you edgy at all?

BOYD: I am. I think it's been interesting to see the transition in people's moods because everybody is stuck here in the hospital. We eat all hour meals together, we see each other, we're not allowed to leave and on Thursday when this all started everybody was carefree and relaxed and then as it's progressed people are starting to get real tense and depressed because we don't know what's happening to our houses or our families.

HARRIS: Boy, Dr. Casey Boyd. Essential personnel there on Galveston Island. Dr. Boyd, be safe and thanks for your time.

BOYD: Thank you. You're welcome.

HARRIS: Let's take a quick break. We're coming back with more of our coverage of Hurricane Ike. Landfall a couple of hours ago. A very strong Category 2. Our reporters, Jeanne Meserve is in Houston. Our Rick Sanchez is on his way to Houston. Betty Nguyen will be joining us at the top of the hour for CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: OK. Let's get you the latest now on Ike. Ike hit the Texas coast just a couple of hours ago now and it is still raging, still charging. Galveston got a break, a short one when the eye passed over but Gary Tuchman reporting from there a short while ago was just getting - man, he was just getting hammered by the backside of the storm. Houston not even feeling the brunt of the storm yet. Our Jeanne Meserve was there and at points actually holding on to the signs that were downed by the storm.

More than a million people, 4 million people, in fact, are without power in that area. The storm still has sustained winds of 110 miles an hour. We could see tornadoes spin off from this storm today.

Rick Sanchez is on his way to Houston right now. He spent most of the overnight hours in La Porte, Texas getting pummeled, hammered by this storm. We've cobbled together some of the more compelling moments of his reporting in the overnight hours and for - this is ready for you now, let's take a look.


RICH SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm watching - whoa, I'm watching awnings - good gosh, Tony, I am looking at an awning on a building that is being literally ripped off piece by piece and it's about to fly away.

I'll see if I've got enough wire. This is a big difference from what Gary says he's feeling being in the middle of the storm. We're still in the middle of this thing and there you see what it's like when you get inside this thing. The rains are coming high and there goes my cap. My gosh, I'm getting out of this. There goes another transformer as well. And I am going to step back out of it because it's just getting a little too rough. As you can see a lot of stuff is getting thrown around as well, but usually I can hear it before I see it which gives me a chance to make any quick darting moves.

So if you see me make a quick skedaddle, as they say, it's because I'm seeing something. Here comes one of those big bands now that we've been talking about. The flooding you see here around me when you see my live shot is just the rain. The flooding that you're about to see is we came upon the southern part of the tip of a city called Morgan's Point and Morgan's Point, you're actually going to be able to see the flooding we came upon where you couldn't cross anymore. It was so deep that we literally had to turn the car around.

Oh, things are starting to intensify here, Tony. I mean, a little while ago we were talking with Chad about how we're probably going to get about 40 miles an hour, at least a couple of miles have already kicked in. But just to show you how treacherous some of these - and really how dangerous these projectiles can, I've been standing on top of one of these giant metal grates that seem to suddenly fly off a building. And I'm standing on top of it because I figure if I stand on it won't fly off.

The kind of rain that we were getting before was more of a small, misty, intermittent rain. Now it's a consistent rain that seems to be almost swirling. And the drops themselves are much bigger, you can really feel them as they hit you.

It's everything you could possibly imagine and then a little bit more of hell (ph).


HARRIS: Rick Sanchez covering Hurricane Ike as only Rick Sanchez can. Really compelling stuff. Rick is on his way now to Houston, Texas.

We're going to take quick break and continue our coverage. Is that Jeanne Meserve right there trying to position herself? OK. We'll come back and wrap up our coverage with Karen Maginnis and turn things over to T.J. Holmes and Betty Nguyen for CNN SATURDAY MORNING.


HARRIS: OK. Let's give you a bit of a recap right now. Take a look at the image. That is a monster storm, that 1.9 hundred miles across (sic), Hurricane Ike making landfall just a couple hours ago in Galveston, Texas on that Island. Many of those communities along the coast absolutely underwater right now. Numerous fires there on Galveston, heavy damage reported to a lot of the infrastructure there at Galveston, at least three deaths reported at this time blamed on the storm.

In some areas still anticipating seeing storm surge of up to 20 feet. If you're talking about Galveston, our Gary Tuchman has been there throughout the morning. At times he has been absolutely pummeled by the storm and the heavy, heavy winds he was in, and if you can imagine this, there was a moment where he was actually in the eye of the storm and he was lying down on his back looking to the skies looking if he could see the moon and the stars and then literally 20 minutes later he was being pounded by the backside of the storm.

Live pictures now from our Houston affiliate, KTRK, OK, not live but moments ago of some of the damage here, that looks like a gas station and there is heavy damage as you can see there. If you want to talk for a moment about power outages, as many as 4 million people now are without power. That's in the Houston area. Talk about La Porte, Texas for a moment, where our Rick Sanchez has been for most of the morning, is on his way now to Houston but La Porte absolutely pounded. A lot of damage there as well. Our Susan Candiotti has spent the overnight hours the early morning hours in Clute, Texas. Heavy winds pounding her position there.

No idea of how much storm surge and how high. If you're talking about Galveston, again, for a moment, the Sea Wall Boulevard totally flooded, overtopped by the tide there.

We're going to continue, obviously, to cover this because Houston is still getting hit right now.

I'm Tony Harris. Thanks for being with us for our special Hurricane Ike coverage.

We are tracking the storm all day for you. CNN SATURDAY MORNING with T.J. Holmes and Betty Nguyen gets started after a quick break.