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DR. DREW

Hurricane Coverage; Heaviest Rain From Hurricane Isaac About to Hit New Orleans

Aired August 28, 2012 - 21:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST: Good evening. We are continuing the hurricane coverage.

Here is the very latest. It made landfall 8:45 Louisiana time in Plaquemines Parish, just southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River. I guess there`s some good news here, if you just hold that for a second. Some good news which is that Mississippi, which has been in a serious drought, is going to get some wet coming up. Winds sustained 80 miles an hour, gusts about 100 miles an hour.

Isaac is, at this time, being called a category 1 hurricane. There are speculation it could go to category 2. Winds are extending 60 miles from the eye.

Isaac, naturally, is dangerous. More than 100,000 people without power in Louisiana.

Anderson Cooper is on the scene. He`s a little soggy. He`s going to be with us shortly.

I`m going to go out to meteorologist Bob Van Dillen, who is in New Orleans. Is he available? Can you guys tell me in the control room?

OK. We are going to -- this is a moment by moment kind of coverage. We have people on the ground there, we are live. And so, oh, we have got him now? Fantastic.

Bob, you are out there in New Orleans. What can you tell us what it looks like right there on the ground?

BOB VAN DILLEN, HLN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Hey, Dr. Drew, I am. I have been here all morning long, and I got here last night. When I got here last night, if you could believe it, there were just stars in the sky -- no clouds, hardly any wind. Right now, things have drastically gone down hill.

We`re watching the center of circulation, the eye get close to New Orleans right now, about 80 miles away, looking at 80-mile-an-hour sustained wind storm moving right in this direction. So the wind has picked up markedly in the last hour and a half to two hours. The rain, you can see it coming down. And that`s going to be a problem because the northwesterly movement of the storm, the way it is actually moving in that direction is very slow.

So it is going to rain over a huge spot for a longer period of time. We see as much as 10, maybe 20 inches of rain. I can tell you right now it is just coming down very hard.

PINSKY: Now, Bob, I`ve watched you throughout the evening and it is clearly getting a lot worse there. When I was watching you an hour ago there were people sort of walking around Jackson Square, I believe you are right there at Jackson Square -- is that right?

VAN DILLEN: Yes, that`s right.

PINSKY: OK. Now, one of the things that`s caught my attention about this storm, I don`t see electrical activity in the sky. Just the way the telecast is going or is there something about this storm?

VAN DILLEN: No, that`s typical.

PINSKY: That`s typical of a hurricane?

VAN DILLEN: That`s pretty typical.

PINSKY: Tell those of us in the southwest here, they don`t have a lot of electrical activity? That is strange.

VAN DILLEN: No, it`s pretty typical because the entire atmosphere is pretty uniform, not looking at any friction, not looking a at a lot of changing in electrical currents at all. I did see one lightning strike that is about it. But you`re right, not a lot of lightning with an oncoming tropical system.

PINSKY: And my understanding the big issue we have really been concerned about this evening is, of course, the storm surge. Again, I`m in the southwest. We worry earthquakes here, never seen a hurricane. There are storm surges, that there are tornadoes within the hurricane.

Explain to people how the storm surge and the tornadoes do their damage.

VAN DILLEN: Well, the storm surge is actually the worst, because it`s -- essentially, if you`re sitting in a bathtub and you blow to that water, you actually make ripples. Picture huge circulation like that pushing the water out ahead of it, it is essentially a wall of water, the storm surge.

Now, the first half of the storm surge comes in about six hours before the center of the circulation comes ashore and then an hour before the center comes energy the rest of that storm surge comes rushing in.

So, at this point, we are looking at maybe a six to 12-foot storm surge for lower parts of Louisiana, getting into lower Mississippi, even the big bodies of water, like Lake Pontchartrain, they can have a storm surge and their storm surge looks like about five to eight feet.

You talk about tornadoes. That`s another problem. You get the circulations coming in off the Gulf of Mexico, no friction, right? And you have water. Then it comes ashore, then all that wind right at the surface begins to slow down, but above it, it continues to plow on through.

That gets that directional shear going, the speed shear and the tornadoes coming down. So, tornado watch -- I haven`t seen warnings for that yet. So that is some good news, Dr. Drew.

PINSKY: Now, you mentioned Lake Pontchartrain having its own storm surge. How big is Lake Pontchartrain? We think about a lake here we don`t think of something that could have a storm surge. Is it a giant body of water?

VAN DILLEN: It is, giant. Is there a bridge that goes right almost through the center of it, took bust 15 minutes to get across it. So you can`t see the other side if you are standing on the other side.

PINSKY: So that, of course, is the big issue, this is the water, the rain, whether the levees will hold this time. Are people concerned about that taking cover, getting out of town or people hunkering down for the storm?

VAN DILLEN: Well, the only thing I have seen concern-wise for the leverage breaking is a couple hotels with sandbags that are up against the wall and some boarded up windows. That`s it. I haven`t talk about anybody talk about concern about this that.

And that to me is the biggest part, because I`m afraid of not just the salt water coming in in Lake Pontchartrain but the fresh water flooding from the rain we`re going to see. Ten to 15 inches, that`s a lot to pump out of the city. There`s no doubt about it.

PINSKY: And, finally, we`d tragedy here in southern California where somebody tried to help someone in a vehicle accident where a poll was knocked down into a -- some water and people were electrocuted. How do people protect themselves from those sorts of things in a situation like you`re in?

VAN DILLEN: The worst thing you can do is try to go over water where you actually see a live wire dancing around it, because that`s a great conductor, the water. And, luckily, haven`t seen any downed power lines yet.

I don`t really have much of a power line issue where I am. We do have the street lights right behind me. We have a big church steeple with a lot of things on top there that could fly off, but I haven`t seen any downed power lines yet or any concerns. I`m sure that will be a problem with power outages.

PINSKY: And, finally, this is a slow-moving storm. I see where you are in Jackson Square. I know behind there is where you get your beignets the French cafe. How many days is this storm going to sit over before people sit out their way and having coffee and beignets again?

VAN DILLEN: Here it comes. You guys have to redial in?

PINSKY: No, we are here. We are with you. No, no, no, I`m with you. No, no, no, I`m with you. Come on, man. Go back out in front of that camera.

VAN DILLEN: OK. We got time.

PINSKY: Oh, we lost your audio. We`re going to go to out now to a CNN iReporter, Gerard Braud. You are by Lake Pontchartrain, if I get that right, you are on Skype and you and your family are hunkering down. Tell us what is going on there?

GERARD BRAUD, 30 MILES FROM NOLA: Well, I`m hunkering down, the family has left. We are not under a mandatory evacuation. We were instructed to shelter in place. Out this way, you would see Lake Pontchartrain, if we had daylight. The lake on our side, 30 miles north of New Orleans, is calm as glass right now. Some gusts of wind blow through every now and then but we are about 200 miles from the eye. So, we are not feeling the full brunt of this storm.

However, when morning comes, what Bob was talking about, that tidal surge it is going to punch right into Lake Pontchartrain. The bridge he talked about it is the world`s longest bridge, 25 miles long, it`s right there out of my front porch window.

Now, how do I survive this? This house is 15 feet above sea level, so that means water will come up about three to four feet into the yard tomorrow. He was talking about a five to eight-foot sea level rise. The land here is five feet. So, we are expecting three to four feet.

So tomorrow, it is going to be a pretty spectacular sight. Right now, not so much.

PINSKY: Now, are you out on a patio or something? Do you have a board things up? Are you worried about winds in addition to the water?

BRAUD: I`m on my front porch. So I will walk right here and show you what we have here. These are hurricane shutters.

PINSKY: Got it.

BRAUD: And all of these close up and we just lock the house down and I`m good for several days. I`ve got lots of food. I`ve got a backup generator. I`ve got enough supplies, water and food. We are going to be in good shape here.

PINSKY: All right. Stand by. I bet you`ll be going back to you as we go through the evening here, a very excellent report from right in the middle of all this at Lake Pontchartrain.

I have other people calling in who are in the middle of the storm.

Becky, you are in Louisiana, I understand. You and your family are in Baton Rouge and you are going to ride the storm out?

BECKY, CALLER FROM BATON ROUGE, LA: Yes, sir, we sure are.

PINSKY: You`re not worried? Who is in your family? How many people are there with you? Are your kids scared? Help me understand.

BECKY: I`m with four others. I`m here with my husband. I`m 51. He is 52 and I have a 22-year-old daughter who works at a local hotel, so she spent last night there and she is spending tonight there all night. She stays is full with evacuees.

PINSKY: Are you scared to ride this storm out? Baton Rouge could really get hit right, you know, it is right in the line of the storm, right?

BECKY: Right. I think if it were a category 3, we would be -- we might have gone north and evacuated with other people. But since it is a 1 or 2, we have been through those before and they don`t tend to be as bad.

PINSKY: Becky, hold on a second. Is my -- meteorologist available, is Bob available, because one of the questions is he -- yes, I`m going to go to him. One of the questions I have is how do we know for sure this is going to remain a category 1? How secure can people feel, like Becky, saying hey it`s just a category one, I`m going to ride this thing out?

VAN DILLEN: You mean, how do we know it`s not going to bomb up category 4 or 5 real quick? It`s not going to happen.

PINSKY: Even 2 or 3 all of a sudden? Maybe it could just pick up or cause -- some complications that we can`t predict?

VAN DILLEN: You`re right about that, but once a storm comes inland, it loses that power source in the center. The power source is the open water because it`s warm, it`s full of moisture, you get all the thunderstorms that feeds into it and allows those things to grow. Once that eye goes inland, loses that moisture source, it begins to weaken.

So, once it`s inland, it is very rare to see a storm pick up strength, unless it is over a marshy area, which it is now. So you still 80-mile-an-hour winds, expect to see that carry through at least midnight.

PINSKY: Where are you going to spend the night?

VAN DILLEN: That`s a good question. Hopefully on your couch, you can tell me why I`m insane enough to be out here.

No, we have a hotel that`s about -- I`m on the 17th floor, which is also a problem as well, because the higher you go up, Dr. Drew, the more the winds are.

So, if you`re on the 30th floor, that`s actually another category to your hurricane. So, if the winds are gust at say 75 at the base, at the lobby level, you are to the 30th floor, those winds could be gusting near 95 to 100 miles an hour because there is no friction.

PINSKY: Are these buildings set up -- here in southern California, we answer earthquakes, buildings have codes to anticipate that. Is a similar kind of building code in Louisiana to anticipate?

VAN DILLEN: Yes.

PINSKY: Yes.

VAN DILLEN: It lasted through Katrina, I know that much. I think we will be OK. But thank you. We should be all right.

PINSKY: Thank you for the report.

Anderson Cooper is on location as well. He will be joining us live and we are going to continue to take calls. I encourage those of nut storm to give us your firsthand reports, 855-373-7395. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are dealing with a big storm and there could be significant flooding and other damage across a large area. Now`s not the time to tempt fate. Now is not the time to dismiss official warnings. You need to take this seriously.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PINSKY: President Obama is absolutely right. We need to take this storm and those of you in that vicinity need to take this storm seriously. People perhaps did not during Katrina and we hopefully learned our lesson.

One of the great advantages we have here at broadcasting live is when a significant event happens in our country, we can cover it live, we can talk to people on the ground and we can take calls from you all who are living through this.

And our hope is not only will we all deepen our understanding and support one another through something like this, but should any of us go through something like this, we will have some information, learn something about how to survive it.

Dale Archer is someone you have seen on this show, you recognize him as a frequent guest. He is at Lake Charles, Louisiana. He`s a frequent guest for us. And he is a psychiatrist who fled New Orleans for a safer spot, more than 200 miles west of New Orleans.

Now, Dale, you are a psychiatrist. You help people with PTSD. I`m really excited to talk to you tonight because you are somebody who`s living through this storm with mental health training there required to help your own family. What are you doing to help them?

DALE ARCHER, EVACUATED NEW ORLEANS HOME: Well, you`re absolutely right. You know, it`s a little bit tricky for me because I do have a place in New Orleans and my clinic where I treat patients is in Lake Charles. So I actually to go back and forth to make sure both places were secure.

Certainly in terms of my family, I have elderly parents that live here in the Lake Charles area. My kids are grown. They are worried about me being here. Fortunately, I don`t have to worry about them at this point.

PINSKY: Are they outside of the Louisiana area?

ARCHER: Yes. My daughter lives in New York and my son, actually, lives in China.

PINSKY: And did you live through Katrina? Have you had to treat people who have been through these storms previously? Are you anticipating seeing people in the aftermath of all this?

ARCHER: Yes, I did live through Katrina and also hurricane Rita which hit Lake Charles. Interestingly, when Katrina hit, they evacuated and Lake Charles was one of the evacuation destinations. We opened up the civic center of the city to the evacuees and provided them free medical and psychiatric care there. We barely had them for a month when hurricane Rita came in and forced all the individuals to be evacuated.

So, there are a lot of people I worked with and really have no idea what happened to them because they were transported to parts all over the U.S. And then, of course, after Rita and Lake Charles, we were dealing with our own hurricane and the posttraumatic stress situation after that was very significant.

PINSKY: Now, we are watching video of, I guess some college students who are involved -- sort of being swept into the storm surge. We did a little piece earlier before the break about what a storm surge is. You see the ocean coming up over the banks of what is normally the beach and people get swept into this and, of course, the storm surge is the thing that is potentially the most deleterious.

Is there any concern there on the ground, Dr. Archer, about the levees and about the amount, the volume of water that they are going to have to handle?

ARCHER: Well, you know, I was in New Orleans for the last three days. There the concern is version very significant because of the amount of rainfall that is predicted to be coming. Here in Lake Charles, we are not as concerned but then again, you just don`t know.

I was in New Orleans thinking that was going to be the most dangerous. I got back to my house in Lake Charles and I was putting furniture in from the patio inside and a giant oak tree was blown over, about a 50-foot oak, landed right in my swimming pool. So, here I thought that I was going to be safe here and it was very, very scary for that to happen.

PINSKY: I think we are looking at a picture of that fallen tree right now, that was from I guess this afternoon.

ARCHER: It was.

PINSKY: Dr. Archer, thank you.

Joining us from New Orleans, the noted chef, John Besh. He is hunkering down with his family there tonight. John, we were going to get you by Skype but I got you by phone, you lost power.

JOHN BESH, CHEF (via telephone): Right. We are already out of power, doc, I`m sorry about that these things happen come hurricane time.

(CROSSTALK)

PINSKY: You are with your family there. What are you seeing and hearing?

BESH: I am. I -- we have just put the little fellas to bed, get everybody -- speaking with the doctor about posttraumatic stress disorder, nothing more evidence right now than just the idea of this happening seven years later after the incredible trauma due to hurricane Katrina and its aftermath and my children have been on edge all day. I have four boys ranging from 16 to 8.

And as you can imagine, they have really -- they know about Katrina, understand being pulled out of their schools and sent across the country to find a place where they can live while we rebuilt in the meantime. It`s taken its toll. We just put them to bed. I have been at the restaurants all day, closed everything down, really wanted to give the -- all of our employees a chance just to play it safe.

You know, in years past, we wouldn`t even have talked about a category 1 hurricane. I don`t mean to downplay this, but the truth is we took these things for granted. And after Katrina, we will no longer do that. Or I hope not anyway.

PINSKY: Look, John, I think --

BESH: Let everybody off, we could concentrate on feeding first responders and --

PINSKY: John -- John --

BESH: -- having systems in place, if you need to take care of family, go do it. If you want to work then we will put you up in one of our hotels where you can then help feed some of the firefighters and New Orleans police officers here in town.

PINSKY: John, I am glad you brought that up about how the folks of New Orleans are responding to this event and how different this is on the heels of Katrina.

BESH: Right.

PINSKY: We`ve got people that work in the newsroom that are from New Orleans. I said why are we concerned about this one? And they all said the same thing, exactly what you are describing, you don`t understand, when you have been through something like Katrina and another hurricane comes along, you`re anxious all day even when you are not living in New Orleans, you feel terrible, something could go wrong. Who knows where this might go.

By the way, you were one of the first guys to come out and rebuild and keep a positive mental attitude. So you`re going to stay in through this storm, yes?

BESH: Yes. I am. I`m staying here. You know, if the winds were a bit heavier, I certainly would make sure I got my family out. The only thing we are worried about is the tidal surge, not within the city of New Orleans, the levee system is up to par and I think it`s going to do its job.

But we are just outside of the levee system where we live. So we are actually -- the water is encroaching to the house.

PINSKY: OK. John, I`ve got to interrupt you, John. I`m sorry to do so. I appreciate your report there from where you are.

But I`ve got Anderson Cooper standing by. Anderson, are you there?

John Besh was bringing up the issue of the levees and the shear volume of water it is going to what have to handle. What`s going on there on the ground now? Are people concerned about that?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Without a doubt. I mean, the volume of water that`s coming down has increased significantly just in the last 30 minutes or so, Dr. Drew. And I have talked to our meteorologists and our weather experts, they say the worst is yet to come. You know three, four, five hours from now, we are going to see even more water coming on the ground.

So that home owner is already getting water in his house, that`s worrying sign, no doubt about it, because all night long, until maybe even 8 a.m., there`s going to be a lot of water pouring down.

Chad Myers, our severe weather expert over at the weather center in Atlanta, thinks there may be as much as 20 inches of rain in the New Orleans area by 8 a.m. That`s lot of water.

And the pumps here, even though they put in some $10 billion of new levees and new gates and pumps to pump the water out, not just keep the water from getting into New Orleans but also to pump the water -- that comes down -- out into Lake Pontchartrain, those pumps are not going to be able to pump out 20 inches of rain fast enough.

So, there`s going to be flooding no doubt about it just a question of where it is going to be and when it is going to be.

PINSKY: Anderson --

COOPER: As you can tell -- yes, Dr. Drew? Yes?

PINSKY: I`m going to do something very cruel, I`m going to make you stand right there and continue to withstand what you`re withstanding.

I have to go to break. I want more from you. Please stay right there viewers, you stay with us as well. Be right back.

COOPER: OK.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PINSKY: Again, we are continuing our live coverage of the hurricane.

Anderson Cooper, are you still with us? I know -- there you are. Thank you so much doctor.

COOPER: I haven`t blown away yet.

PINSKY: Anderson, thank you so much for staying it is almost cruel leaving you out there I do appreciate you continue the report. I know you may have to go any second. Please, if you do let me know. Stay safe out there.

COOPER: Sure.

PINSKY: But help understand exactly what the concerns are about these levees, but as said they spent $10 billion pumps. Why aren`t they able to withstand a category 1 hurricane?

COOPER: Well, no, they put $10 billion into this entire flood protection system, the levee system, the flood gates, the pumps, but just a question of how much water can these pumps pump out? They are still building in some of these areas, you know, 20 inches of rain in this amount of time, I don`t think there are pumps that can deal with that amount of rain.

Just to give you a sense of how much rain there is I want to show you, right now, we are under a roof. We are going to step outside here for a second and give you a sense of not only the -- you know, the -- it`s not so much the wind here. There`s not a huge amount of hurricane-force winds hitting the New Orleans area, but it is just this water that`s just pouring down.

That`s our satellite truck, which we pushed to the side of a building in the event that some wind does pick up, that satellite dish can literally act like a sail and a gust of wind can flip the entire trick. You try to keep it against two walls that form a 90-degreeing angle so that if the wind does change direction, you can still continue to broadcast.

But the water we have started to see even here in this port area, I don`t know, it`s a little bit dark, but you can see the water starting to pool in this area. So, there`s going to be flooding in New Orleans, just a question of how much and how long it is going to stay here. And a lot of that we won`t know probably until daylight tomorrow morning, Wednesday morning, Dr. Drew.

PINSKY: And we have talked to you a few minutes ago, did you say there are residences being flooded already and there are people reporting to you that this thing is getting a little out of hand?

COOPER: No, no, no. I don`t -- I can`t tell you where -- what if there has been any flooding. I don`t have any reports of any. I haven`t seen any myself.

But with 20 inches of rain coming down, there is going to be some flooding just because the pumps aren`t going to be able to -- just a question of how much there is and in what areas. But, you know, we won`t know, we won`t get a real assessment of where things are probably until daylight. It`s dark now.

Authorities have a much better handle on things than seven years ago, the leadership, the local, the state, in the federal level a completely different story, a lot of lessons learned since hurricane Katrina. We`ve already seen police out in patrol cars going around. We have had a number of vehicles pass by this area, just patrolling.

So, they are keeping a very watchful eye on things, but people are just hunkering down, going to make it through the night and then reassess and see where we are in the morning.

PINSKY: Anderson, thank you so much. Go get dry somewhere. Stay safe tonight. I appreciate you sticking around for this report.

And we`ll check in with you tomorrow to see what the actual aftermath is. Thanks so much.

COOPER: All right. Sure thing.

PINSKY: All right. We got to go. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PINSKY: We are going to check back in with HLN meteorologist Bob Van Dillen. Bob, what`s going on there now?

BOB VAN DILLEN, HLN METEOROLOGIST: Hey, Dr. Drew. We are in a little bit of a lull right now. But I just peeked my head in the door to see the radar picture, and we`re right on the beginning stages of seeing the inner workings of the storm`s rains moving towards New Orleans.

Now I just say it`s been a lull. Now it`s starting to pick up again. But the real heavy rain is just starting to move in towards New Orleans. I`m in Jackson Square, which is really the heart of the French Quarter. The rain has picked up big time in the last three to four hours.

When I first got here earlier this evening, we had some passing showers. We had blue sky in and out. Right now, the sun has set and you can still see just a solid deck of clouds with heavy rain going by.

The biggest thing that we are concerned with, it is not just the wind, Dr. Drew. It`s all that rain. You heard Anderson Cooper talk about it; 10 to 20 inches of rain is no joke. It`s hard to pump out anywhere, especially in New Orleans.

PINSKY: Bob, are you saying that the eye of the storm is moving in now and that`s where the heavier rains are? Or how do we understand that? You said you watched something on the radar. What did you look at?

VAN DILLEN: I looked at the radar pitch, just the loop of it coming in. The eye is actually a clear spot. There`s no rain in the eye. It is the eye wall, which is the ring of rain around the eye, That`s where the strongest winds are in the hurricane. That`s the core.

The outside of that eye wall is pretty wide. Now, the beginning stages of that is moving in towards New Orleans. The eye wall itself, if it is still together once it reaches us, will most likely get here in another three to four hours. When that happens, that`s when we have the winds sustained a 80 to 85 miles per hour, maybe gusting as high as 90.

So we`re just at the beginning stages of the worst weather of New Orleans.

PINSKY: Got it, Bob. because I didn`t understand. Yes, now I get it. So we will be checking in with you to make sure that everyone now gets through that in one piece. Thanks for checking in with us. I appreciate that.

Now, joining me is a storm chaser. His name is Jeromy Carter. He has been documenting Hurricane Isaac. Jeromy, where are you now and describe the scene there.

Jeremy, do I have you?

JEROMY CARTER, STORM CHASER: Where are we at here? We are on Highway 22. We are on the northwest side of Lake Pontchartrain, about probably five miles north of the north shore, in a town called Fellington (ph), I think it is, Louisiana.

PINSKY: And how is it there?

CARTER: Well, we got winds probably 30 to 40-mile-an-hour gusts. And it`s not raining at all. It is really kind of surprise. We are just kind of waiting on the storm to catch up with us. And then we are going to follow it over to Baton Rouge.

PINSKY: Jeromy, let me ask you something, why do you do this? Why do you chase storms? What is that?

CARTER: Well, I absolutely love it. I grew up in Oklahoma City. And watching the news when we would have a storms outbreak, we have tornado outbreaks, and all the big guys are tornado chasing to watch and watch weather, and then also watching hurricane coverage through the years, I felt like the storm chasers were having an absolute ball chasing.

PINSKY: You didn`t want to be left out. All right, Jeremy. Be careful. Thank you for calling in.

Tanya in New Orleans. Tanya, you have got a report for us? What`s going on there?

CALLER: Hi, Dr. Drew. Yes, I live in St. Bernard`s Parish, out in Chalmette, I`m riding out the storm with my family. It is coming down pretty hard out here. But I basically wanted to call in and gave a voice to people that are in my situation, that decided to ride out the storm. I know a lot of people around the country, especially after Katrina, would wonder, even though it is only considered a category one hurricane, are wondering why would you stay and ride out this storm, especially after Katrina?

Well, there are many people especially with the economy the way it is, in my situation, that my family is in, that we are living paycheck to paycheck. And we just had to do the best decision that we could for our family with the information that we were given. Our area, even though it was one of the areas that was hit first by the hurricane, we were under only a voluntary evacuation.

So, I mean, you know, there`s many families in our areas in our situation that live paycheck to paycheck, and don`t have the means just to get up and leave. So, with the information we were given, we went and stocked up on our water, stocked up on our food. And we`re going to ride it out and do the best we can in the situation.

PINSKY: Tanya, that is a really excellent point. I`m so glad you brought that up, because that is something I have heard from a number of people I have been speaking to in New Orleans, which is that it is expensive to -- both in terms of gas and finding a place to stay, it just really -- not just inconvenient, it is costly.

And a lot of people, I think, are in your position. Are most people in your neighborhood staying in? Tanya is gone. Tanya, thanks for that call.

I got to take another break. I am going to keep taking phone calls. The number is 855-373-7395. We`re looking at a live picture there. You see it in the lower right hand corner of the picture -- oh, finally some -- what the heck was that was? That was some lightning or it looked almost like Transformers perhaps blowing up.

And you see the radar of the storm live there in the right hand corner. This is a live picture of New Orleans. I believe that is the Superdome there. And we will be back with more reports from New Orleans after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PINSKY: HLN is continuing its hurricane coverage. And a reminder that HLN meteorologist Bob Van Dillen, who you just saw, will have the overnight developments regarding Hurricane Isaac on "MORNING EXPRESS" with Robin Meade starting at 6:00 a.m. tomorrow.

And if you remember what Anderson Cooper was telling us, we really won`t know what the full impact of this will have been until the assessments are made when the sun comes up tomorrow. Robin will have those reports.

Now joining me is former Army Lieutenant General Russel Honore. He was the commander of Joint Task Force Katrina. He was the point person for relief and rescue efforts at the time of Katrina. And he sort of pulled that all together and really bailed out the city of New Orleans.

He now is in Baton Rouge. General, what is your assessment of our preparedness for this particular hurricane?

LT. GENERAL RUSSEL HONORE, AUTHOR, "SURVIVAL": Well, over -- since Katrina to now, we have spent a lot of federal money, and people have spent a lot of time and money to improve our infrastructure, starting with the levies, improvements with our command and control, the complete overhaul of FEMA and its ability to respond early, be able to preposition equipment and assets as needed.

The federal government declaring a disaster before the storm, as we did during Katrina, but also following up that with assets to assist the state. So a lot has been done. And nationally and regionally, we are in a lot better shape than we were before Katrina.

PINSKY: Now, general, not everyone has to ride through hurricanes. And obviously it`s -- we have been focusing on the population of New Orleans tonight. But there are many of us scattered around the country that have different kinds of potential national -- natural disasters we have to live through.

What advice do you have? What can we learn tonight that can help any of us navigate through something like this, should, God forbid, we have to go through it?

HONORE: Well, going into every day waking up thinking that you may have to be your own first responder, meaning you may have to take care of your family, because there`s devastation all around you. If you approach it from that perspective, that you have to be prepared to take care of your family, look out for your neighbors and reach out to your relatives, particularly those who are elderly and have special medical needs -- if we approach it that way, we would be a better off as a nation. We`d be more resilient.

We can`t put this as a government function to come if a disaster happens, because disasters can happen any time. Even with all the improvements we have made to the infrastructure, we must remember that on any given day, Mother Nature can destroy anything built by man.

So we need to be prepared to deal with those that we know about, whether it`s hurricane, volcanoes or earthquake.

PINSKY: FEMA has a basic -- what`s called their basic disaster supply kit. In it are water, three days -- at least a gallon per day per person, food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food on hand, battery-powered or hand-crank radio, flashlight, obviously, whistle for help.

I would say at least probably a week`s supply of medication, as you mentioned, general, for the elderly, certainly three-day supply to get through. Do people need to have ways of protecting themselves? Are things likely to break down? Do you have to prepare for certain social disorder? Or is that thinking this too far?

HONORE: I think if we deal with the disasters that have historically come to our neighborhoods, because most of these are not new. It is a repeat of history, whether it is flooding. We lose more homes to floods every year than any other event in America.

So if you are in a flood-prone area, you probably already know that, unless you just moved there and there hadn`t been any flooding.

So, what are the most likely disasters that might come to your community? If you`re out on the west coast, it`s going to be earthquakes probably. And if you`re in the middle west area, out in the Rocky Mountains areas, it could be a fire.

So, one of the most probable, you got to be ready.

PINSKY: General, first of all, thank you for joining me here this evening. Secondly, thank you for the service to the New Orleans community on the heels of Katrina. I do appreciate it. Thank you for joining us again.

I`m going to go out to a caller at this point. It is Irving in Florida. Irving, you had a comment or question?

CALLER: Yes, I do. I am an emergency responder. (inaudible) -- to the public that they will not evacuate until normally when we cannot get to these people. Very first thing is that they are to evacuate when we declare it. Now that it is not safe to evacuate, we don`t want them to. It is a little too late at that point. Now, I`m --

PINSKY: Irving, there has not been a mandatory evacuation called for in New Orleans, to my understanding. Are you saying they should have done so or that if they do, we just got to be sure everyone does, in fact, evacuate.

CALLER: I`m in Florida. We are on the east side of the hurricane. That`s the worst part that you want to be in. We have had lightning all night. No rain yet. But they are issuing orders to evacuate in some areas. And they said, well, it is not going to come this way. And all of the sudden, the storm hits, we cannot get these people.

So in the state of Florida, we are having the same trouble that they are having up there. People just not leave when it was safe.

PINSKY: Now I`m looking at the map of where the storm is hitting now, Irving. I see it hitting the Panhandle up there. Is that where are you now?

CALLER: I`m in Central Florida.

PINSKY: So you are over here by Tampa. You`re where the Republican National Convention is, yeah?

CALLER: Well, we are just north of Orlando, an hour south of Gainesville, right in the middle.

PINSKY: You are saying it is bad there, too?

CALLER: Yes. The thing is we announced to evacuate. We are not doing this because we want to be mean to the public. We find that it is safe to evacuate at the moment that we issue it.

PINSKY: All right, my friend. The warning is taken. Go out to Lorraine in Arizona. Lorraine, you had something to say?

CALLER: Yes, I am so thankful for Dr. Drew. I watch him every day.

PINSKY: God bless you, Lorraine. Thank you.

CALLER: And the people of New Orleans are in my heart and in my prayers. I have friends that had their family reunion there a year ago in May. We had 75 rooms in a hotel. And everything was -- all the sidewalks were broken up, but we didn`t care, because the people there, they are so warm and loving.

I pray for them every day.

PINSKY: Thanks for that, Lorraine. I think we will keep the people of New Orleans in our prayers through the night. I think it is going to go OK.

Again, if you heard our meteorologists, there`s this sort of wall that comes in after the eye of the storm that there`s concern about. But if I were a betting man, I would bet on the levees and on the pumps that they put in place. But it is a little bit dicey, I must say.

So we are going to continue this coverage and take more of your calls after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PINSKY: Welcome back. A reminder that I just took a call from Lorraine who kept the people of New Orleans in her prayers. But the fact is we really won`t know what happened here in New Orleans until tomorrow morning when the sun comes up. We had a report from Anderson Cooper on the ground there, who was telling us, reminding us that that`s when we are going to find out what really has happened through the night here.

Another reminder, Robin Meade will be covering this, 6:00 a.m., as soon as the sun comes up. I know I`m going to be running to my television to see what she has to say and what she finds out. It`s going to be very interesting.

Again, I`m betting on those levees. I`m betting on those pumps.

Amy, you are in New Orleans. What do you got for us? Amy, are you with us? Always dicey talking to somebody in New Orleans. Do we have Amy?

Patricia in North Carolina, what is going on?

CALLER: Yes, hi, Dr. Drew. I have a comment. I was a novice to hurricanes until Hurricane Irene here on the North Carolina coast last summer. And one thing I learned is that when you think the storm is over, it is not, because of the lulls that can happen between the bands of the storm.

So when officials say stay inside, they really mean it.

PINSKY: Did something happen to you particularly?

CALLER: No, but I watched the video that you were playing here of the boys out on the edge of the surf acting like it`s a game.

PINSKY: Yes.

CALLER: What I`m thinking is when people go out there, like people did here on the piers especially during the night of the storm here last summer, not only are they putting their own lives at risk, but rescue personnel as well. So, you know, you are out there and they have severe flash flooding risks here because of the low land. And you`ve got the same situation down there in Louisiana. And there are the boys right there on the surf acting like it`s a game.

And they had people doing that here last summer at night on the pier.

PINSKY: Patricia, that is a great point. Thank you for pointing that out. This is no fooling. People goof around in this weather. But it is something that can really be potentially quite dangerous. We are going to take more calls after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PINSKY: Going right out to callers, Rhonda in Florida. Rhonda?

CALLER: Yes, Dr. Drew.

PINSKY: What do you got?

CALLER: Let me tell you something, please let your people know out there and everybody that`s around, this storm has been packing a punch. And it`s 450 miles away from me. And we had 13 inches of rain at my house. School`s been closed, 27 inches of rain in parts of Palm Beach County.

This -- they have to take this storm serious. Listen to your emergency people. Like listen, stay in the house, they tell you not to go out, stay in. Like --

PINSKY: Yeah, I that is the message from the night, Rhonda. I appreciate you saying it again. Those of us who are not in the path of this storm will be saying our prayers for the people of New Orleans tonight. But those that are in it need to heed the experts.

Lisa in Michigan, running out of time, what do you got? Lisa?

CALLER: Hello?

PINSKY: Go right ahead, my dear.

CALLER: I want to know why these people aren`t evacuating. I`m appalled, sitting at my house in Michigan, never seen a storm like this. What`s going on with these people?

PINSKY: Lisa, I`m going to tell you, it is easy for us to say get out of there, but these are people -- it is expensive to get out of there. They`re not being mandatorily -- there is no mandatory evacuation. They are following the direction that they are supposed to follow to stay indoors.

And again, let`s expect that the emergency readiness that has been prepared will, in fact, not break down tonight and will do what it`s supposed to do. That`s what I`m betting on.

Our best to everyone who is in the hurricane`s path. Stay inside. Stay safe. Thank you all for watching and calling. I`ll see you next time.

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