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Texas Wakes Up to Hurricane Damage; LA Commuter Train Wreck

Aired September 14, 2008 - 06:00   ET


T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everybody. I'm T.J. Holmes at the CNN world headquarter in Atlanta, Georgia, and in specifically our hurricane headquarters this morning. We're talking about Hurricane Ike. It has left a mess in its wake. Now the search and rescue begins. Those squads are entering a second day of looking for survivors, looking for people who didn't heed the warnings and tried to ride this thing out. We have our correspondents all over Texas. Also, there you go, they are all over the place, blanketing that area.
My co-anchor, Betty Nguyen is in the area and we'll be hearing from her shortly. Also our Reynolds Wolf, he's going to be there in Clear Lake this morning. We'll tlak to him as well.

Our Ed Lavendera in San Antonio, Rob Marciano is going to be in Galveston for us and of course our Jacqui Jeras here in the hurricane center. She has all the information about where exactly the storm is now. Now it's a tropical depression. I do have that right, Jacqui? It's a tropical depression.

She's going to have everything, the speed, direction and intensity. It's still a massive storm here. We'll be hearing from her in the severe weather center. Over correspondents all over the region, as well, we'll be hearing from them all. Checking in with them all.

Ike has just been a terrible storm. A depression now is still soaking many parts right now. It's in to the Midwest this hour. In Texas, though, rescue crews are rescuing those holdouts who were trapped in Ike's massive surge and deluge. The storm is being blamed for at least four deaths, we know of, and among them a 16-year-old boy who drown in his house in Louisiana. Also, two drilling rigs are reported adrift in the Gulf of Mexico. Also, in Houston, Texas, their home opener was supposed to be today against the Baltimore Ravens. It's been postponed until November 9th. Part of the stadium's roof has actually blown away.

So a lot to get into and a lot to tell you about. We will start with our Ed Lavendera. Tell us what is happening with the search and rescue efforts. He is in San Antonio, Texas for us. Ed, good morning to you. The search and rescue is going to be a major project for this crew today.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It has been, T.J. And the reason we're in San Antonio is because this has been the staging ground for many of the aircraft that have been used in the search and rescue operations. Yesterday, we spent almost seven hours in the air with an Air Force search and rescue team and it was incredible what we saw.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): Hurricane Ike devoured Crystal Beach. Hundreds of expensive homes on this tiny coastal island exploded, shreds of debris left floating in the water. And as you fly over, you only see the stilts of where many homes once stood. Even some of the concrete slabs were torn apart.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) Katrina all over again.

LAVANDERA: Crystal Beach sits on a barrier island just east of Galveston, the heart of Hurricane Ike ripped through here and the storm surge delivered a brutal blow. We flew over with an Air Force search and rescue team, hunting for people who road out the storm and incredibly, they were people below, alive.

Across the devastated region some 100,000 military personnel are involved in the search and rescue mission. Even as hundreds of people were pulled out on Saturday, some encountered only defiance on this search and rescue mission. Food and water was left behind for them.

Crystal Beach appears completely cut off from ground help. Even a cow that survived the storm could find refuge on the back door step of a home. Another nearby town, High Island is also surrounded by water. An area where oil rigs decorate the coastal landscapes, it's bizarre to see those rigs now sitting in water. As you can see, the chemicals and oil pollutes the flood waters. Everywhere you look in this area, you see water where there isn't supposed to be water. How long it will take to proceed isn't known, but you can't help but wonder if Crystal Beach and this sliver of island, can survive.


LAVANDERA (on camera: T.J., it was incredible. At one point, I turned to the pararescue jumper that I was sitting next to on the helicopter and he had a GPS device which showed we were supposed to be flying over nothing but land, but as you looked out of the helicopter, all you could see for as far as you could see was water. It was incredibly difficult to make out now what was once dry and what was once completely underwater. A devastating scene.

As for those people who refused to get help yesterday, the team I was with yesterday, after spending the night there in the dark with mosquitoes in total isolation, they think the people will start to get on the helicopters, if not today, perhaps tomorrow. T.J.?

HOLMES: All right. Ed Lavandera there for us in San Antonio. Amazing pictures. Nothing but water where land should have been. Ed, thank you. We'll be checking in with you plenty this morning. We want to turn now and get the latest on the storm, where it is and what it's doing, tropical depression now. Jacqui Jeras is here with me in our hurricane headquarters, if you will.

This is still making its way. Where is it? And still moving at a pretty good clip.

JERAS: Yeah. It is. In fact, it's going to continue to move faster. Ike is now up into northern parts of Arkansas, but it's hooking up with that cold front. We talked a little a little bit about this yesterday. And so we are seeing some showers and thunder showers already into the Houston area, once again, unfortunately. So this is going to cause additional problems, it's going to complicate things if any more rescues are need. And certainly with all that cleanup.

Let's go ahead and take a look at the map, show you the radar picture and show you the worst of the showers and thunder showers across the area. There you can see them. It's particularly in the Downtown Houston area and northward, but we are getting developments near down near Galveston and into the Galveston Island area. You can see all of this pushing up towards the north and the east. We're going to see very heavy downpours. As you know, of course, everything is very, very saturated here. So anything that falls down could run off and we'll likely see some additional urban flooding on top of this.

Now remember, all of those people without power in the Gulf area and the Houston area, look at the conditions expected in the week ahead. You know, this is not September in the Midwest. This is September in Texas. And things are going to be very warm and muggy and uncomfortable for these people for a very long period of time the.

We do have the threat of tornados, as well. You can see our tornado watch. This is a very big one. It goes all the way from the tri state area, the boot heel of Missouri down into Eastern Texas and across much of Louisiana. That threat will be ongoing today and we'll watch for that to shift a little farther up to the north.

All right. There you can see the center of circulation near the state line of Arkansas. It's about 115 miles away from Little Rock. And the strength of this thing is still up there, 35 miles per hour. As it moves up to the north and the east, believe it or not, we're thinking there will be some additional strengthening here. And we could see some wind gusts in the Ohio Valley as this thing pushing 50 miles per hour. Even though this storm is becoming extra tropical now, T.J., we're going to continue to have problems with Ike at least through Monday and then we'll watch the weather conditions improve.

We're dealing with a little bit of surge into the costal areas. We have high water levels. All that water gets pushed up there. It is going to take a while for that start to recede, but we think it will gradually do that through the morning. And a lot of that water is going to pull out there, at least the saltwater, even the surge flooding will look better later on today.

HOLMES: It's so fascinating to watch storm go from the coast and be so defined making its way pretty much across the country.

JERAS: It's a huge, powerful storm. Takes a lot to slow that thing down.

HOLMES: It could pick up some steam still. That's not what I was expecting to hear this morning. Jacqui Jeras, thank you so much.

I want to let you all know our Betty Nguyen, Reynolds Wolf, the other two thirds of our morning team here, been out and about. We're going to be checking in with them. But just like so many others, they're having a tough time making it around. There is so much debris, there are flooded streets, they're trying to make their way to their live shots, they're having trouble with signals, with weather, so we're out there trying to cover this story and certainly we'll run into technical problems, run into debris just like so many other kinds of people are going through and we'll be checking in with our crews out there as soon as we can get them up and ready.

Meanwhile, Betty did file a report for us. She went and checked out what this storm did to really multi million dollar boats that were in a particular place in Kemah, Texas.

Take a look at this package.


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: This is the situation in Seabrook, Texas, which lies along Galveston Bay. As you can see right there, we have a gas station that is underwater. Just to the right of that gas pump, you see a boat called the Julianne. It's not every day you find a boat pulled up to a gas station, but many places in this area are underwater, several feet of water to be exact.

Check it out, this is another boat, this boat is not on its trailer, but it was somehow slid off the curb here into the water. But over to my right are several more of them. These are expensive boats, nice boats, some of them are still on their trailers. I'll find you one that is. We're not really sure how they landed here and we did speak to the owners and they say, what you're looking at right here docked on this bridge are $4 million worth of boats, new boats. How they're going to get them out of there, how they're going to be able to recover what is lost in this storm is unknown at this time.

We are down the street from the local dairy queen. It doesn't look like anyone will be going through the drive through anytime soon. In fact if you look up at the top of the building, you can see parts of the roof are missing. Blown away in Hurricane Ike. And I'm standing from this vantage point looking inside the restaurant area and you can see water has filled much of the doorway here.

So obviously, folks here will have a lot of cleanup to do. And look at the sign over to the left. It's kind of ironic, especially when you're looking at so much damage. It says, now hiring. Considering what they're going to have to be cleaning up, they may not be doing that anytime soon.


HOLMES: If they're hiring anybody, it might be cleanup crews right about now. Again, our Betty Nguyen. We will be checking in with her live. We have our Reynolds Wolf, though, and clearly Texas and -- that is where he is right now. Again we were trying to get to him. We're having all kinds of issues out there with some of our crews out there. But we have our Rusty Dornin with us, I believe, this morning, talking about what is going to be a major project today, a lot of the rescue efforts that will be going on. A lot of people on this effort. At least 1,000 people have been dispatched by Governor Perry. Take a listen to what Rusty Dornin found out.


RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bridge City, Texas lies between two rivers. But post Ike, it resembles a lake.

(voice-over): Storm surge poured into the town, stranding more than 400 people in their flooded homes. Alan Swiere and his wife decided to ride out the storm but then all hell broke loose.

ALAN SWIERE, BRIDGE CITY FLOOD VICTIM: We got up and then within 30 minutes, the water was almost two feet deep. What we were concerned about was getting trapped in the attic but I had an ax just in case the water came up in the attic.

DORNIN: Rescue teams used everything from boats to dump trucks. We joined a team of monster trucks. Dave Stangus had already rescued more than 40 people.

DAVE STANGUS, FIRE AND RESCUE: Two of these trucks and two big earth movers and then what pick ups can come in here.

DORNIN: Earlier, we had seen a man with a dog on the roof of this house. But the water was too deep to get to him. It turned out to be Dom Dickerson (ph) who cut a hole to get on his roof.

We actually saw you but couldn't get you so you had to wait and find another boat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Had to wait for another ride.

DORNIN: Power lines were down and rescuers faced other obstacles as well.

The storm knocked out cell phone communication and many people had to just yell out to rescuers. There were those that rode out previous storms who never thought this would happen.

(on camera): Were you concerned about your own life with the waters rising.

GREG BENOIT, BRIDGE CITY FLOOD VICTIM: Certainly. Once the wind started blowing like it did we didn't realize it was going to be quite that bad.

DORNIN (voice-over): But nearly every person we rescued had nearly the same answer.

Would you ever stay again if you heard a storm like this was coming.

JAN SPARKS, BRIDGE CITY FLOOD VICTIM: Oh, no, and I'm getting rid of that house. DORNIN (on camera): Hundreds of people have been rescued by teams continue to search flooded streets just in case someone is left inside and stranded. Rusty Dornin, CNN, Bridge City, Texas.


HOLMES: And just one of a number of our correspondents we'll be hearing from this morning about what's happening with the rescue efforts, the cleanup. And still this storm is making its way through parts of the Midwest right it now.

Stay here. We're going to talk about panic around gas prices. Are you one of them that had to run right out and fill up. Calm down, everybody. We'll tell you how much prices have jumped within the last 24 hours. And if there is any end to this in site, stay here, still to come.


HOLMES: Good morning to you all again. We're covering this hurricane, hurricane Ike, downgraded now to a tropical depression, but it's still making its way through the country causing heavy rainfall.

We're going to head to Texas. Our Reynolds Wolf, there he is, we have him here with us this morning. Reynolds, good morning to you.

You know what? First of all, tell us what you've had to go through this morning. There's a lot of debris you saw, a lot of flooding. Just give us an idea of getting up this morning and really what the challenges were for you and what you saw all around as you were trying to make your way to that camera.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: T.J., this is a family show, so I really can't go into the full description that I'd like to give you. But the thing that's important about it is the trip that we took to get here is the same trip people in Texas will be trying to take if they are just trying to go to a store and buy a loaf of bread or maybe get some formula for their babies or they're trying to visit their friends. It's an exercise in futility. We were trying to go, which any other day would be a normal route, just going from Houston out here to the space center, Johnson Space Center. Let me tell you, there are trees, there's all kinds of debris all over the roadways. It is just a nightmare trying to get from one place to another. And that's just for one CNN crew. I can't imagine what it would be like for a family of four in a minivan trying to make their way around town or around the state for that matter.

It is a tremendous mess. Talk about a tremendous mess, we are right across the street from the Johnson Space Center. We're at the intersection of, let's see, NASA Road 1 and that sign over there says Space Center Boulevard. You can Google it at home if you want to.

But take a look right behind me. We have a sailboat. This is normally a nice little lake we have, in the background we've got a hotel. Both - it looks a little awry for the time being. The sailboat has actually been pushed out of the lake and is behind a dock, kind of tilted if you will up on the grass, grass by the water on the bottom of the boat. That looks OK but it is going to be interesting once this water recedes and they're going to have to get that boat and somehow put it back on the water. I'm sure they'll find a way to do it.

Just a weird thing to see this morning. We've had a few intermittent showers. Not really directly related to what is left of Ike which continues its march to the north and the northeast. But it has just been a bizarre morning. A lot of things not working here at this time. We should have streetlights up and down here. Down this roadway. That is not going to be the case. We've only seen some traffic lights in Downtown Houston that were working, but when you get outside the perimeter of Houston, it's just a mess.

It is just pandemonium just trying to get from one place to another. We'll send it bhack to you, T.J.

HOLMES: All right. Reynolds, we're glad you did make it to that spot. We're going to get our Betty Nguyen up and running, as well. Again, our crews are all over the place going through exactly what you went through this morning.

But it's good to see you this morning. We're going to be talking to you plenty throughout this morning. Thank you so much.

WOLF: Good to see you.

HOLMES: We've got to let people know about these gas prices we've been keeping an eye on throughout the night.

They are up again. This is the fifth straight day of this. AAA reports a jump of almost six cents nationwide from Saturday into Sunday. We're up to an average of $3.79 a gallon. Now we had been doing well, we had been dropping and gas prices around $3.50 or $3.60. That was the average. But now it on the way back up. More of the same ahead, possibly.

Fuel supplies could be tight until the refineries that Ike shut down are back on line. That could send prices substantially higher, another thing that could send prices substantially higher, Jacqui Jeras. And I know you have some strong feelings about this. But that's exactly right. It doesn't make sense for us in Atlanta and other places, people just flooded those gas stations. Long lines, prices shot up.

JERAS: If you think about it, how much money are you really saving by getting it a day ahead of time instead? If everybody goes, the supply runs out and those prices go up even higher than they normally would have. It's simple economics.

But you know, it is a concern, obviously, when the damage is going out there and in today's economic status overall. You know, my experience going into work this morning, I'm getting a little low on gas. Not quite needing it just yet and I thought maybe I'll fill up if I could. Twelve gas stations on my way in opinion 12, count them, mind you. They're all blacked out. Some of them have that police tape lined up around them. I couldn't get them. So I've got enough to get back into work tomorrow.

But if I'm going to have to work Tuesday I might have a problem.

HOLMES: See, and I had the same issue. I went by my gas station this morning, I didn't need gas yet, but no prices up at all. There is no gas, don't even stop.

JERAS: By the way, look behind you. I put this up on Google Earth. There is the track of Ike and there's all the oil platforms. So you can see how it went through there. We're also getting reports that two of the buoyed ones have become loose and are floating around out there. So they have sustained some damage and certainly there's a reason why prices are going up. But when you panic you create more issues.

HOLMES: It doesn't help to go out there and increase that demand.

JERAS: Only if you need it.

HOLMES: Yes. Only if you need it. From her mouth to your ears.

All right, that is some good advice. But stick around. We'll be talking about gas prices this morning and a lot more about damage.

Ike hit more than Texas. We've been talking about Texas a lot. It did, the eye wall did make landfall there in Texas but there is also damage to tell you about in Louisiana, also damage in Mississippi. We're going to show you that through some of our I-Reporters. Stay here.


HOLMES: The storm, Hurricane Ike, now being blamed for at least four deaths in Texas and Louisiana. Among the dead, a 57-year-old man who was blown down by the strong winds, actually broke his neck. Rescue crews in Texas still trying to reach thousands who refused to leave in the wake of this storm.

We do know according to officials at least 940 people had to be rescued, that was as of Saturday night. So a whole lot more rescues going on.

Also we talk about these gas prices. They surged as Ike tracked close to the nation's largest refineries and petrochemical plant. Also, another little bit of information here, the Houston Texans having to punt on their home opener. Their game with the Ravens has been pushed back now to November 9th. Their stadium, the roof of it actually blown away. So a lot of damage being assessed down there right now.

I want to head to another spot that saw heavy damage. Our Rob Marciano has been, before the storm he was in Galveston, during the storm he was in Galveston and he's still in Galveston, good morning to you, Rob. Tell us what you're seeing. As far as you can tell, how did Galveston make it through this thing?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, you know, every time we think that they got lucky, we see another batch of this city what has been absolutely demolished demolished. And this is one of them. This is kind of a business district right on the water and it looks very familiar to say the Mississippi Gulf Coast after Katrina. Tremendous surge in this area and obviously when you have that many buildings that close to the water, you're going to get this sort of destruction. Just piles and piles of debris.

Some of this is actual boardwalk, other of it is actual infrastructure for businesses. A couple of nightclubs are amongst this piled up debris. There is a Hooters in here, as well. You can see it's kind of piled up next to a Wendy's behind it still standing. A Dominos on the other side of the street still standing, as well.

Kind of dark, I know, but as you get a sense for exactly what this part of Galveston had to go through with the pounding waves that destroyed this part of the city.

Obviously, no light, there's no power and there's no water in the city and I can't imagine when that may very well be restored. The mayor is saying this island is closed. They are not letting anybody in as of yet. They don't know when that's going to happen. They'll let you out if you can bob and weave amongst the debris.

But right now, they're still reeling, but they are in recovery mode. Yesterday, the fire department, search and rescue teams went out. They went door to door. They got through about 42 structures, about 17 of which were collapsed completely. Of those 17 there were about 10 fires.

So they went through those structures and they find some survivors. No fatalities as of yet, as of yesterday. But you have to remember that this island is 32 miles long and up to mile marker 11, 11 Mile Road, it goes under water after that point, so you're talking about more than half, if not two thirds of this island is still under water on the west side.

And they're still going to have to wait for that water to recede and do search and rescue there, do recovery and do assessment before they can give the all clear. I heard Ed Lavendera, Tony, T.J., talking about what's going on on the east side over by the Bolivar Peninsula. And that just from what he's reporting seems to be not a good situation once we get down to the west side there. A similar deal as far as that goes. So there is still a lot to be uncovered here, T.J., and every corner that we turn, there seems to be more destruction. So this story continues to unfold, even though the island here, the Galveston a seawall held up pretty well for the most part. Obviously Galveston took a nasty, nasty hit. T.J.?

MARCIANO: All right.

And we'll be seeing more details about it as we start to get daylight there in Galveston. Rob Marciano is there with us where he has been again since before the storm even came ashore. Rob, we appreciate it. We'll see you again here shortly.

And stay with us here, folks. Of course we'll have extensive coverage of Hurricane Ike which is now a tropical depression and a lot of the rescue efforts. But we'll be talking about other stories as well, including the details of what may have caused a commuter train crash near Lose Angeles. Was texting a factor?


HOLMES: Good morning, everybody. Welcome back on this CNN SUNDAY MORNING. I'm T.J. Holmes. We have extensive coverage of Hurricane Ike, the latest on that storm which is now a tropical depression and it's finally time for me to welcome in and say good morning to my co- anchor, Betty Nguyen. There she is.

We finally got her up. We'll be checking with her in just a second.

NGUYEN: Atlanta! Talk to me.

HOLMES: She's standing by. We'll talk to her in just a moment.

NGUYEN: Atlanta, talk to me.

HOLMES: There she is, getting ready for that shot. But we'll check in with her and see what she's seeing down there in Clear Lake, Texas. Also, Ike here. Like I said, now a tropical depression. It is really just dumping rain onto the Midwest this morning. Made its way through Arkansas as well. In Texas, though, this hour, crews are rescuing those holdouts that were trapped in the Ike's massive surge.

Now the storm is being blamed for at least four deaths that we know of, among them a 16-year-old who drown in his house in Louisiana. Now two drilling rigs are reported adrift in the Gulf of Mexico and also the Houston Texans home opener with the Baltimore Ravens has now been postponed. They will be pushed back to November 9 because part of the stadium's roof has blown away.

Also as Ike moves on, a big part of the story now is the search and rescue, also the search and recovery efforts, as well. At least is 1,000 member strong search and rescue team are out right now. FEMA is wading into what Texas Governor Rick Perry is calling the largest search and rescue operation in that state's history.

Now, many did not evacuate. They opted to ride out Ike. Well, homeland security chief Michael Chertoff says now they'll have to determine what the consequences are of those people who did not get out of there so hopefully many of them were able to ride it out but certainly many of them do need some help right now.

Let's take a listen to some of those people who were able to ride out this storm. Take a listen to them in their own words.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We drove in on the road, Pin Oak on this side and it looked like a bomb had gone off in the neighborhood. Trees down everywhere. I said, man, these poor people. I can't imagine what's going to happen when I get over here. I didn't see anything. Just a few branches on houses. When I get here, the biggest tree I have was sitting on top of the house. I was shocked. Wife pulled up, she didn't even see it and I said man, it hit us, it got us this time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We heard a really, really loud explosion and we felt like we were being sucked out of the room. And it just flew away and half of the roof fell on me and my brother. The other half flew away. My sister, who was sleeping next to my dad, flew away. My dad grabbed her in the air, pulled her down

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was truly scary, the whistling, the noise, and something. We weren't sure if the tree was on our roof, our neighbor's roof. We lucked out because in the morning we walked out and it was a mess, a disaster outside.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: About chest deep. The water got about chest deep on me. And it was -- the furniture was floating, the couches were floating and everything and I had an air mattress in the other room so we got on top on the air mattress and just rode it out in the house.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We saw t he lights coming down in the building next to it and it was still sparking and still on. And it was just insane, we could just watch all of it happen and you could hear it all happening too. It was definitely very scary.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was crazy watching furniture and debris fly out of the windows and not know if you were going to be alive in the next few minutes. It's crazy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every time a big wave would crash up, it would take something away from it. So we got off the first floor and came up to the second floor to try and watch the news to see what was going on, and then our camera here got washed away. So we lost power. That was about probably 11:00 last night. After that, we just had to sit up here and hold on because this thing was rocking and bouncing every time the waves would hit underneath it. It would clearly lift the structure up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had my family in the boat on the way over here. Anything would happen. We could run into a car floating, the motor could die. Anything could happen and I am thinking I am going to get caught out in the middle of town in a boat with my whole family, in 100 mile an hour winds. When we got here, when we were safe and sound and behind the doors closed, I was relieved. It was everything they said and more.


HOLMES: Everything they said and more.

Jacqui Jeras, just to hear those personal accounts, that helps to tell this story. I'm kind of, for lack of a better word, a tornado guy. So when I hear about some of these winds in a hurricane, the ones we saw with Ike are comparable to winds we would see in what kind of tornado?

JERAS: In an F-1 or F-2 tornado. Absolutely. That is one large tornado-like thing that is taking place. In fact, sometimes the National Weather Service at times will actually issue a tornado warning because they want you to treat it like it was a tornado, you know, but getting to the lowest level of your house, away from doors and windows because winds that strong cause all the flying debris. That's the exact situation we saw in the Downtown Houston area and those pictures look just like what we saw here in Atlanta back in March when we had a tornado move on through there and cause all of that window damage.

Now we've got more complications to deal with today. We do have the threat of tornadoes moving in, let's say from western parts of Tennessee on through Louisiana. But we have a cold front that is moving through and hooking up with Ike. Really, the main reason why Ike could move through so very quickly and it's going to accelerate up to the north and to the east, but we're still dealing with the problems with this front. Look at all of the rainfall this in this area.

It's also part of the reason why we're having complications with some of our crews out there. We're worried about their safety because there's been a lot of lightning with these, as well. Here is Galveston Bay and there are some thunderstorms starting to develop just north of the town of Galveston itself moving up to the Baytown area near Beaumont and Port Arthur, towards Spring. Most of the heaviest rain is along the I-10 corridor and northward. We're going to see this stuff build back through Victoria and push through the region. We're going to see more heavy rain throughout the day. Everything is really saturated already so a lot more runoff and flooding concerns, many of the rivers are plum full, as well so today is not as good today to get out there and travel still.

I know you want to get back to your homes, I know you want to evaluate the situation. But there's still a lot of obstacles and debris and power issues that you're going to be dealing with.

And with no power, for example, in the Houston area, look at those temperatures. Still, in the 80s and seeing all that humidity, not a comfortable thing. The water levels are going down a bit, T.J., so that is some good news, but we're still dealing with a little bit of surge. We think later today things will get a bit closer to normal when we're talking about the tidal situation.

HOLMES: All right. Anything closer to normal we will take right about now. Jacqui Jeras, we appreciate you. We'll be talking to you again plenty this morning.

Our crews are out there trying to cover this story as she said, and running into a few issues. So we're getting a little help this morning. Some of on our I-Reporters showing us a lot of the damage and our Josh Levs has been monitoring some of those the I-Reports.

And we're glad we have them. They really help us tell the story in cases like this.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, they are. I mean there are a lot of people who are in some of the worst hit areas who were able to safely take pictures.

We're actually leading our Web site right now with some. And what I want to do is start out with some from Houston that we've gotten here from Chad Porter.

Let's go to some of these pictures showing the destruction. That's the Chase Tower, we're going to be hearing a lot about that. I'll show you in a minute what the Chase Tower supposed to look like. The tallest building in Houston. Let's scroll through some more of Chad's photo. I told you what he told us when he sent us these.

He told us, "This was scary, but I rode it out."

There was flooding in his loft which looks out at the tower. He says he lives on fourth floor and he had water coming own on him from the fifth floor.

But we're hearing a lot about Houston. Let's look at some areas we're getting, as well. The next ones I'm going to show you come from Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. And these come from Marsha Floyd, her daughter sent these along. And this is an area that got entirely flooded out.

They had it really rough and the description she was giving was powerful. She says she saw a seven-foot surge over there even though the weather by the time she went outside to take some of these pictures, the weather was relatively OK. You can see the damage, the destruction to all those homes over there.

And finally one more place I want to bring you guys this morning. Slidell, Louisiana. And Ken Germain.

Again, we're seeing a lot of flooding in this area and this is important to keep in mind. The whole Gulf Region was really struck here. He says the whole southern part of our state is pretty much under water.

He says we're OK, at least we'd have power. He says, the only thing that's really uncomfortable right now, in his words, quote, "You can't go anywhere."

Let me zoom in on the boards behind me really quickly. These are some of the latest reports we're getting at I-Report map. These are reports that have just come in, as I understand it, this morning, from the Gulf area. We're going to keep piecing through them, T.J. and we'll keep reading you more throughout the day as we get a sense of what has happened to these communities that were along the path of Hurricane Ike.

HOLMES: And yeah, we're getting a better sense of it. Thanks to those IReports out there. Josh, we appreciate it. We look forward to seeing more.

Relief agencies out there mobilizing to help the victims of this storm. And there are ways you can help as well. You can go to "Impact Your World" page. You'll find links to organizations that are offering some assistance.

Again, that's

We do have other stories to cover this morning. Other headlines including more about that deadly commuter train wreck that was near Los Angeles. You are not going to believe this. What investigators think the engineer was doing at the time of this accident. Stay here, CNN SUNDAY MORNING.


HOLMES: OK. Let me get right to my co-anchor here. Betty Nguyen, good morning to you finally. In Clear Lake, Texas and the rain is starting to come down on you. Tell me your situation this morning, Betty.

NGUYEN: Well, what I can tell you is the folks down here along the Gulf just cannot catch a break. The rain is starting to come down. We understand there is a squall line according to one of the sheriff's deputies that's headed our way. But let me tell you about where I'm standing. This is a bridge between Kemah and Seabrook. Check out all of this the debris behind me. It is littered with items from homes, from cars, from who knows what.

This right here probably came from somebody's attic, some kind of a Christmas item there. This is just the tip of the iceberg. We have seen entire roofs down that way. And actually, I was here a little earlier, T.J. Yesterday when it was daylight outside, to give you a glimpse of how much debris litters this area.

Take a look.


NGUYEN: As Hurricane Ike came ashore, families along Galveston Bay expected to lose shingles off their home, but who would imagine losing an entire roof. This is what's left of someone's home. In fact, as I walk down here, you can see there's a mailbox here. I don't know if it belongs to the home that this roof used to cover.

But if you look inside, there's some items. I'm not seeing any bills or any mail in there. I guess that's a good thing. But all along this bridge that connects Kemah to Seabrook, just loads of debris. Right here is a baseball. Some kid is missing his toy. But that doesn't even compare to some of the items that we've been looking at.

There's some toothbrushes over that way. I've got a chair here. There's a couch down the way. Honestly, when you look at this, it just really shows you the devastation of Hurricane Ike. Because when you put it into perspective, this isn't just a bunch of junk that's washed ashore. These are items in people's homes, these are memories. And right now, there's no telling how long it will take for people to clear this off of this roadway and for this town to get back to normal. (END VIDEOTAPE)

NGUYEN: And T.J., to understand how all of this got washed on to this particular bridge, you have to really realize how tall the storm surge was here. We were told earlier this morning that waves reached as high as 17 feet, so a lot of this debris came from homes that are on my left, which is Galveston Bay. You also have Clear Lake to my right. So there's no telling where all of it came from. There are boats, there's like I said, computers, televisions, even small things like toothbrushes. But you know, bottom line, folks have lost just about everything in this area and I understand, I know you're confirming about fourth deaths. I spoke with the Galveston County sheriff, a sergeant with them a little bit earlier.

He says in Port Bolivar, they know of at least three deaths. So I don't know if that has been added to the count. I don't believe so at this point. Again, they're doing search and rescue efforts this morning, just as soon as they can get out and it's daylight and it's safe.

HOLMES: Yeah. That's going to be -- again, it's always kind of scary sometimes, Betty, when daylight comes and you get that whole picture of what is happening out there. And yes, we will get on that information and try to find out and confirm how many deaths. We've been told four but you're being told at least three in that one particular area.

So, Betty, thank you. Glad we've finally ...

NGUYEN: Well, and what he told me, too - sure, I was just going to add this, what he told me too is not only are they going out for the search and rescue efforts again today, but when it comes to Port Bolivar, he says 80 percent of that particular peninsula, wiped out. So that is going to give you a better indication of what they might find once they're able to get out and about.

HOLMES: All right, Betty, again, thank you there with our Reynolds Wolf out there in the field as well. Thank you. We'll be checking in with you again here very shortly. And again, what was Hurricane Ike is now a tropical depression. It is a on the move. We're looking at a clip right now heading for the Midwest. It's now blamed for at least what we know, have confirmed four deaths, those are in Texas as well as Louisiana. Among them, a 57-year-old man who was blown down by the strong winds and broke his neck, also a 10-year-old that was hit by a tree branch and a 16-year-old that drowned in his home.

Well, the rescue crews in Texas are trying to reach thousands who refused to evacuate and of course found themselves trapped, found themselves stranded and found themselves in need of rescue. Well, gas prices, we continue to keep an eye on those as Ike has tracked -- or as it tracks close to the nation's largest refineries and petrochemical plants.

And one more note, a sporting note here. The Houston Texans, today's game with the Ravens had to be pushed back now to November 9 because their stadium, the roof of it pretty much blown away. So a lot of details still coming out and a lot of damage assessment and we are only scratching the surface, we are finding out.

Also stay here for this one. We have a bundle of joy to tell about at a pretty inconvenient time in a most inconvenient place. But we got a happy ending here.


HOLMES: There are no survivors of a jetliner crash in Russia. This was a plane that was flying from Moscow to Perm in Russia. It crashed early today in weather that was described as mediocre. There were 88 people on board the plane, among them seven children. Also among the dead were citizens of Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland, as well as Ukraine. There was also an American that may have been on board. Officials now are checking with the U.S. Embassy to possibly confirm that. Rescue crews have recovered the flight data recorder that could give them more details about what was going on on that plane when it went down.

We are learning more about what may have caused a deadly commuter train wreck in Chatsworth, California. That is not too far outside of Los Angeles. Twenty-five people killed in this crash. Ted Rowlands has the details.


ROWLANDS (voice-over): Now that rescue crews have completed the horrific job of pulling victims from the wreckage, the focus at the scene has shifted to the investigation.

ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA, L.A. MAYOR: It was firefighters there who searched the entire area of the wreckage, it was determined that there are no more victims there. And no more individuals to be found.

ROWLANDS: More than 130 of the estimated 220 on board the commuter train were injured. More than 40 of them, critically. Overnight as crews pull bodies from the wreckage people waited for word from loved ones that they couldn't contact.

For a few moments overnight, rescuers stood silent as the body of an off-duty L.A. police officer was lifted out, killed like most of the other victims on her way home from work.

The commuter train originated in Downtown Los Angeles and was headed northwest. At the point of the collision, there's a stretch of single-shared track. Authorities are still investigating this but at this point officials believe the engineer of the commuter train, somehow, missed a warning signal that a freight train was coming in the opposite direction.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We believe that it was our engineer who failed to stop at a signal.

ROWLANDS: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger toured the site this afternoon praising rescue workers and offering condolences to the victims and their families. GOV. ARNOLDS SCHWARZENEGGER, CALIFORNIA: I just met the family of bun of the officers that died in this accident here. So it's a very, very tragic situation. It's one of the train accidents modern history in California.

ROWLANDS: The condition inside the lead train car is being described as horrific.

DEP. FIRE CHIEF MARIO RUEDA, L.A. FIRE DEPARTMENT: It's been very, very difficult work. But the firefighters and police officers have just done a great job. I'm very proud of them.

ROWLANDS (on camera): The engineer of the commuter train was killed in the accident. Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board say they are looking into reports that that engineer may have been text messaging shortly before the crash. Ted Rowlands, CNN, Chatsworth, California.


HOLMES: Let's turn to presidential politics. There he is, John McCain, the Republican candidate. He'll be in New Hampshire today scheduled to attend a NASCAR race at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway there. It will be the first in the race for the chase, the cup, the championship coming up now in NASCAR. Meanwhile, his running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is in Colorado. However, she has does have the day off.

Turn to Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama, he is at home in Chicago. His running mate, though, Senator Joe Biden is in North Carolina. Biden is going to host a community gathering this evening.

And later today we'll hear from the candidates on the campaign trail live and unfiltered.

CNN's BALLOT BOWL, 4:00 Eastern, 1:00 Pacific Time today.

Well, Hurricane Ike, yes, I don't know how you want to describe this thing. It's being described as a howl, barked, snarled, chewed, whatever you want to call it, through the Texas coast for some 24 hours. CNN will be bringing you the latest as this storm struck. Check it out.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The National Weather Service has said that anybody who lives in a one-family house that's only one or two stories high faces certain death.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: It's going through a major metropolitan area, one of the biggest cities in the United States. It's been a while since we've seen a storm actually do that.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Sea walls get pounded, streets flooded and people who should have gone by now take their chances. Their lives are in their own hands at this hour on Galveston.

VELSHI: Thirteen of the 26 refineries in Texas are shut down right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It sounds like a roaring freight train that's going through this city. Torrential rain. Forecast of the possibility of much of the city to be underwater a few hours from now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the waves keep getting larger. This is getting really, really intense.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're starting to feel the outer bands just a little bit stronger now. Wind and the rain, a little bit stronger than it was just about an hour ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the moment. These are the winds. We've had hurricane-force winds for the last couple of hours. We may have the eye within the next couple of hours. But this is the moment where people who are inside those homes who decided not to leave are facing the most treacherous time.

COOPER: 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 his us here in Houston and start to hit the glass in those skyscrapers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is naturally pitch dark out here, and you know the expression, you hear things go bump in the night. You're starting to see it, but you can't -- whoa-oh.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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're stuck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got some e-mail pictures today from Fort Bouchon (ph), and there is one road leading in there and it's swamped. This is going to do a great deal of economic damage to the country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Winds stronger than they have been before. Water streaming into the parking lot now. And coming down in the proverbial sheets.

SANCHERZ: It's finally getting to the point now where we're seeing large chunks of metal flying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The eye of Hurricane Ike is right over Galveston. It is completely calm. It is not raining. I could sit down here and have a picnic.

SANCHEZ: Rains are coming hard, and there goes my cap. By golly, i'm getting out of this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just won't know how serious the flooding is until it's daytime and we won't know if there are any casualties until daytime.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Heck of a day for Galveston, Texas. A place that hasn't been hit by a hurricane in 25 years. They are getting nailed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some 4 million people are without power here in Houston.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Downtown Houston, we're taking a look at the debris, because the sun is starting to come up, and we're being able to see a little bit down the street, a little bit farther than we were a little bit earlier.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now that the sun is up, though, beginning to get a little bit of an assessment from our vantage point.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This was a powerful of storm that blew through Downtown Houston, and just as we are getting daylight here, we're getting a good look at the damage left behind.