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Water Overtopping Levee in Plaquemines Parish; Fired Up!

Aired August 29, 2012 - 04:00   ET


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hurricane Isaac whipping the Gulf Coast right now, literally sitting over Louisiana. Torrential rains testing the levees that were built to make sure Katrina never happens again. We're live in New Orleans and up and down the gulf.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Game on. Governor Chris Christie plays to the crowd in Tampa.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: We have Governor Mitt Romney and Congressman Paul Ryan -- and we need to make them the next president and vice president of the United States!


BERMAN: Making the case for Mitt Romney, kicking things off at the Republican National Convention. We're live at the convention where Paul Ryan, it is his big day here today.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman. I am Berman, live in Tampa. This is the CNN grill, a hub of activity for the Republican convention.

And, Zoraida, I will have more from here coming up in a little bit.

SAMBOLIN: A lot happening overnight. We're really being looking forward to it, John.

I'm Zoraida Sambolin, back here in New York. It's 4:00 a.m. in the east.

Up first, it is still coming down in sheets. Hurricane Isaac just sitting over New Orleans and the Gulf Coast right now.

Take a look at the radar. It's nowhere near over. The rain stretches over 1,200 miles. It could dump 30 inches of rain before it heads further north.

And Isaac is producing a dangerous 11-foot storm surge, as well. Isaac made landfall as a category 1 hurricane in southern Louisiana last night, with 80-mile-an-hour winds. It is a relentless rainmaker.

And a major test for the levees that were reinforced right after Katrina.

CNN has the Gulf Coast completely covered -- five correspondents standing by.

And first to Brian Todd. He is live from Jackson Square in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

I have been watching you getting drenched. What is the latest there?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Zoraida, the latest is that we're getting a very intense burst of wind and rain as you can clearly see. Take you down here a little bit on the French Quarter, it's just sweeping down this street.

We're a little bit out of the light. I come back into the light and you can see down here, the wind is just whipping these trees. A huge amount of flying debris I've got of kind of keep my eye out.

My brave photojournalist Ken (INAUDIBEL) is going to take you through some of the illustration of some of what they're dealing with here. More than 12 intersections in New Orleans we are told by city officials are experiencing street flooding. I don't know if officially this is one of them, but you can see what this is experiencing right now, debris -- flying debris, a huge problem.

Look at the street behind me. It is littered with debris. And it doesn't especially have that many fallen trees. But we're told that in more than 25 intersections, there have been trees that have been coming down. We've got some that are really whipping in the wind above us. We have to be a little careful here.

One city official told me a short time ago that in the 25 intersections where trees have come down, in at least two of them, trees have hit houses and people have needed to be evacuated from those houses. That's the closest we've had to come to people being actually rescued in the city from this hurricane. But there have been at least two instances where people have had to be evacuated from their homes, Zoraida. So things are getting more treacherous here downtown.

SAMBOLIN: Brian, it looks very isolated where you are. Is there a police presence also ensuring that everybody is safe there?

TODD: There is a police presence here. Pretty heavy police presence downtown. In this section of the French Quarter, we've seen the police come by probably tree or four times this morning.

They're not hanging around. They're moving around a lot. They're closing bridges. That's one key consideration.

They're limiting movement -- not only because they want to just keep an eye on where everyone could be going in this situation, but also because of course some streets are impassable, some of the off-ramps and bridges are impassable. So, they've got to man those as well. But, yes, a very heavy police presence in New Orleans this morning.

SAMBOLIN: And this is a big test for the levees. A lot of people are very hopeful that they are going to be holding up. What have you heard about that? TODD: We've heard that there has been no instances where the levees have been breached so far. We were in touch with officials just a short time ago. No breaches so far.

This is an $11 billion upgrade to the levees, floodgates and walls in this area. They are telling us that it's holding. They say that the pumping stations, which are going to be so crucial, are working to capacity. But the problem is we get another squall here, when the rain is this intense when the pumping stations are at capacity, the rain and the flooding may drive them a little bit over capacity and the capacity may not be enough to handle rain.

So there is going to be isolated flooding. This was expected. But it is getting more intense now, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So, we can see certainly it, we can hear it. And be safe. We're going to check back in with you.

And hurricane Isaac is causing flooding this morning along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Here's what it looks like in Biloxi. Hurricane curfews are in effect until 7:00 this morning in three coastal counties -- Hancock, Harrison and Jackson.

CNN national correspondent David Mattingly is live in Gulfport, Mississippi, which has been getting pounded with wind and rain for hours.

Talk us through the situation there.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've seen tropical storm force winds and rain since about midnight and it's not letting up at all. Make no mistake about it: this hurricane is a marathon. We may not be seeing the worst problems yet here on the Mississippi coast, because we still have a ton of rain coming town. Right now, it's not raining that hard, but at times during the evening it's just been blinding with the rain out here.

The wind has also been coming directly out of the east as the storm has sort of stalled off Louisiana there. So coming out of the east, we haven't had that big of a storm surge yet either. I just walked down to the beach which is right across the road from me down here. The water is lapping up to the seawall in some places, not really pounding hard against it, but again, the wind is al pushing it straight that way.

So as soon as the wind comes around, starts coming out of the south again, we're going to see more water coming in this way. So stay tuned.

This tropical storm force storm here on the Mississippi Coast is probably only begun to do its damage with last check with emergency management in Mississippi, the number of people without power was in the hundreds, really expect that to change because as all this rain comes down, the ground will get completely saturated. The wind will be pushing trees over. That takes out power lines. That puts people in the dark. So again, Zoraida, stay tuned. We're just beginning here.

SAMBOLIN: David, have people been respecting the curfews that are in place?

MATTINGLY: We haven't hardly seen anybody out. There are police out. They have been patrolling the streets. But when they said a curfew from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m., people seem to be paying attention to that. Besides, who would really want to be out in this?

SAMBOLIN: I would have to agree. But you always have those people that are trying to get out and see what's going on. We'll continue to check in with you, David Mattingly, live in Gulfport, Mississippi. Thank you very much.

And now to meteorologist Karen Maginnis in the CNN hurricane headquarters. She has the latest stats on Isaac. What is Isaac doing now?

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, we had kind of a scare for two hours as far as what Isaac wasn't doing. It wasn't moving at all. It was stationery.

Now the latest information has it moving to the west/northwest at just about eight miles an hour. Eight miles an hour is not much. Hurricane hunters are still going through this, they do that alpha pattern where they zigzag and take different perspectives, different observations from different quadrants of the system.

Still a category 1, still supporting 80-mile-an-hour winds sustained, but gusts are higher. We have a report of a wind gust near Belle Chase that was at 113 miles per hour.

What are we going to see as far as the impact is concerned from Louisiana onward over the next several days? Well, we're already seeing some record rainfall reports coming out of Mobile, Alabama. They had almost 4.5 inches of rain yesterday. That's Mobile. That's away from the core of the most intense rainfall wrapped right around the eye.

The eye by the way is looking a little ragged, but don't be fooled by that. We're still looking a category 1 hurricane.

As we go through time, as we head towards Wednesday evening right around that Baton Rouge, perhaps at tropical storm intensity. But look at this broad a coverage, extending into Arkansas, still affecting Louisiana, will impact Mississippi. The remnants will just kind of ring out and flow out across this ArkLaTex region, this Arkansas and into Texas, as well as into Nebraska and Oklahoma. A little too the too late, but it looks like it will just meander across this region.

As we get further out on that forecast track, it becomes so ill defined and so spread widely that we're not going to see any substantial rainfall. I think the biggest rainfall totals that we're looking at here will be right around 20, maybe up to close to 30 inches of rainfall. But we'll be back in the next 20 minutes and bring you another update.

Zoraida, back to you.

SAMBOLIN: Karen, what about the storm surges? I keep on reading about that. In some areas, it's saying up to 12 feet. What you can tell us?

MAGINNIS: Well, just to give you an idea, right around Chalmette, they were looking at a storm surge of 11 feet.


MAGINNIS: That's that wall of water that gets pushed up and just kind of builds up. That, Zoraida, was at low tide. So at high tide when you start getting an additional six or eight or 10 inches of rainfall and you get that rainfall and still that wall of water that moves in, so this really has been the rainfall that we have watched most significantly -- always had, this hasn't had the high winds of a cat 2, a cat 3, a major hurricane, category 3 or above.

But, yes, that storm surge could be 10 to 15 feet.

SAMBOLIN: We certainly hope they haven't underestimated the flooding. Karen Maginnis, live for us in Atlanta, we'll check back in with you, as well.

And coming up in a few minutes, we'll hear from storm tracker Mark Sudduth of Mark has got an app to help you keep an eye on hurricane Isaac. He is with us in Gulfport.

So let's send it over to John Berman, he's live in Tampa for the RNC. And I got to tell you, a lot going us for us.

BERMAN: So much going on down here, Zoraida. I was on the floor last night of course. Chris Christie delivering a keynote address, but what had the delegates truly energized was Ann Romney delivering the heart.


ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY'S WIFE: Tonight, I want to talk to you about love.


BERMAN: Millions of people introduced to the woman who could be the first lady as they talks about her husband's softer side. We are live from the Republican National Convention here in Tampa, coming up next.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. You're taking a live look at Gulfport, Mississippi being pounded right now.

We still want to say good morning to you. Our top story, of course, this morning: we're up early tracking hurricane Isaac, which made landfall over Louisiana last night as a category 1 storm. It was exactly seven years ago today that hurricane Struck. And residents of the area have either evacuated or they are hunkering down riding out the storm in their homes.

There's a group of people from who chase storms like this, setting up live cameras and this is one of them that you're looking at.

The site's founder -- do we have it there for you? Mark Sudduth is in Gulfport, Mississippi. He's joining us by phone.

Good morning to you. Are you there? Mark, are you with us?

MARK SUDDUTH, HURRICANETRACK.COM (via telephone): Yes. Can you hear me?

SAMBOLIN: Yes, I can hear you just fine. Good morning to you.

So we want to know exactly what you're seeing. I know you have cameras set up all over the place -- if you can walk us through that and what exactly you're seeing this morning.

SUDDUTH: Well, it's really been an interesting few days for sure. The effects as you can see from the cam views, that shot there, dramatic, but not as bad nearly as Katrina obviously, but people need to realize that every one of these systems is different. You need to take each one of them seriously and understand what you're up against.

And I think that's what our technology has let us do to see these storms and hurricanes from a different perspective, but using technology to do it rather than putting ourselves out in harm's way directly. It really helps to do that and keeps us safe.

SAMBOLIN: I know that a lot of our meteorologists and you as well have been calling this a really major rain event. Are you seeing the signs of that, are you capturing that?

SUDDUTH: Yes, squalls rotate on shore in that counterclockwise fashion. And with Isaac moving as slow as it is, it sort of has a foot in the water, if you will, so it's able to still maintain some of that energy. It wants to keep the process going, of lowering the air pressure and lifting the clouds high in it to the atmosphere which wring out all that moisture.

And then these bands, these waves of heavy rain, and it just depends on where you are and how long one lasts in your area, determines how much rainfall. Unfortunately with Isaac, a lot of rain coming especially for southeast Louisiana.

SAMBOLIN: Now, I know, Mark, you said you're doing this as safely as possible, so you're using a lot of cameras. Can you talk to us about the setup?

SUDDUTH: Oh, yes. Cameras, everything we've did done is actually with off the shelf technology, assembling different pieces of technology that already exists to make a product that we can deploy into hurricanes. We actually did this seven years ago today, the true irony, was the debut of Gulfport, Mississippi, this very technology where we used security type bullet cameras and instead of them in a building to watch for people that are up to no good, they keep an eye on hurricanes. And we power them with large marine batteries and then we use a laptop and air card to get the video out to the Internet.

SAMBOLIN: Mark, I don't have a lot of time here, but since you have all of this technology and you're in a lot of different areas, have you seen any people out or do you think people are really playing it safe? Because a lot of people are hunkering down.

SUDDUTH: I think once conditions began to really deteriorate, people could see firsthand this was not just a weak storm. The traffic really evaporated. There was a lot of people out and about until it started getting nasty.

We have a camera on the 17th Street Canal in New Orleans and there was a lot of people looking into it yesterday. We haven't seen a soul go by in the last several hours.

So I think people hunkered down, which is what they are supposed to do if they hadn't had to evacuate.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, indeed. We're happy to hear that you're not seeing a lot of people out and about now.

Mark Sudduth, founder of, thanks for spending some time with us this morning.

And for you if you're interested in tracking that storm, it's going to cost you $9.99, go to their Web site and get that information.

So, let's send it over to John Berman. He's live for the Republican National Convention, and a lot going on last night and a lot of talk this morning about who gave the best speech, John.

BERMAN: You know, absolutely. And those speeches really just a few hours ago just down the hall here from the CNN grill. I should say Paul Ryan is the headliner tonight.

But again, last night, it was all about Chris Christie who delivered the keynote address, but the biggest speech of the night probably from Ann Romney -- of course, Mitt Romney's wife. It was her goal to try to maybe soften up the image of the former Massachusetts governor. Well, did it work?

Well, I'm joined by CNN chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin. She's joining me now.

And, as we said, we've been talking all week about the so-called likability gap. You need to take some of the edge off perhaps Mitt Romney.

So, Ann Romney talked a lot about their marriage, which some people have called a story book marriage.


BERMAN: Let's listen.


ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY'S WIFE: I read somewhere that Mitt and I have a story book marriage. Well, let me tell you something. In the story books I read, there never were long, long rainy winter afternoons in a house with five boys screaming at once. And those story books never seem to have chapters called M.S. or breast cancer.

A story book marriage? Nope, not at all. What Mitt Romney and I have is a real marriage.


BERMAN: Who is the audience here?

YELLIN: The audience is two fold. One, it's women voters which we can look back to, and it's also general voters I think who have been sold this idea that Mitt Romney's sort of a plutocrat who has lived this unbelievably privileged life and nothing they can ever touch.

And this is trying to break down the idea that they're just regular folk who suffer just like the rest of us and have had hard times. She delivers that message better than anybody. She's an extraordinarily winning personality and connects very well with people. But then again, it's also as I mentioned women voters and Mitt Romney has a huge challenge with them.

BERMAN: There are parts of here speech that were not at all subtle. At one point, she in fact said I love you women. Not subtle. But you know, she did handle a nuance well. And, in fact, in some cases got more political than I think some people were anticipating.

We have a clip of her talking about the attacks on Mitt Romney's success.



ROMNEY: It's true that Mitt's been successful. At each new challenge he's taken on. You know what? It actually amazes me to see his history of success being attacked.

Are those really the values that made our country great?


ROMNEY: As a mom of five boys, do we want to raise our children to be afraid of success?


ROMNEY: Do we send our children out in the world with the advice try to do OK?


BERMAN: You know, she even got into the we built it refrain at one point. So how did this work? Ann Romney, political warrior.

YELLIN: I think she deliver it is with a soft touch, so she can get away with it without tainting her brand, if you will. But the question is: who does this connect with? Because obviously it's trying to go to that same message that the president is engaging in class warfare, that seems to resonate with the Republican base. Does it work with swing voters and that's who she's best at trying to reach.

BERMAN: It is interesting, though. Peggy Noonan wrote a column this morning that said that Ann Romney gave a terrific speech, but she may not have made a full case of why to vote for Mitt Romney. She made it clear she loves the guy --

YELLIN: Right.

BERMAN: A lot, but not the case to vote for him.

YELLIN: Well, the whole challenge for Ann Romney was to say let me show you another side of Mitt Romney that y'all don't know and so you can understand him better. Because if you think that he's stiff, as people have said here, let me tell you what he's really like. And I'm not sure as Peggy Noonan was say has gone she really revealed another side of him that was unclear.

BERMAN: The other big speaker last night, Chris Christie, talked a lot about himself as governor of New Jersey.

YELLIN: It's kind of remarkable.

BERMAN: But he also did talk a little bit about leadership and the president. I want to take a quick listen to what Chris Christie said.

YELLIN: We are in an era of absentee leadership without purpose or principle in New Jersey. I'm here to tell you it is time to end this era of absentee leader in the Oval Office and send real leaders back to the White House. America needs Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan and we need them right now!


BERMAN: Time for tough choices, Chris Christie says.

YELLIN: Right. And that's the theme this year. You know, ready to fire Obama. That's the message that the GOP wants to deliver. It sort of surprise, it took 17 minutes to mention Romney and Ryan.

Is that surprising to you? BERMAN: It was a long time. It was a long time.

And also the Chris Christie speech started so soon after Ann Romney may have cut off what would have been the praise and applaud for maybe the more impressive speech of the night.

YELLIN: Yes, good point.

BERMAN: All right, Jessica, so glad you're here. We'll talk to you throughout the morning.


BERMAN: As we said, Zoraida, Paul Ryan speaks tonight, a lot going on here. Now, back to you talking about this hurricane in New York.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, indeed, thank you very much.

And I do have an update on hurricane Isaac. It makes a second landfall. We're just getting this information here. Reports from an Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft and NOAA radar indicate that Isaac has made a second landfall along the coast of southeast Louisiana, just west of Port Fourchon, around 2:15 a.m. Central Time.

So we're going to continue to monitor the situation and check in with our meteorologist shortly, to give you an update on what exactly that means.

It is now 25 past the hour and we are minding your business this morning. Hurricane Isaac is barreling down on one of the nation's largest production and transportation hubs for oil and natural gas. But there are a lot of goods that go in and out of that region to the rest of the country, as well.

Christine Romans has more on how important this region is to trade across the country.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And if you look at that picture again, you can see that from that satellite imagery that quite frankly that is the core of the shipping and receiving of some major, major commodities, raw materials and finish materials that are used throughout the American economy and quite frankly the economy of the region in the world.

So right there is a very, very important spot where you have ports now that have been locked down and closed, cranes at the port of New Orleans locked down as of yesterday.

You have oil rigs all over the place. You can see where the storm is coming right in. We know from the government, from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental enforcement, the latest numbers are that 85 percent of oil production has been closed. Hundreds of those rigs have been evacuated.

And what they've done, Zoraida, is they've gone in subsurface valves of these oil rigs where they're drilling and these platforms where they're drilling below the surface of the ocean. They've closed down those valves so that then forbid if there's some serious damage to any of these rigs or platforms you will not have oil leaking to the bottom of the ocean. So, safety and environmental concerns number one in the industry.

I want to take a look at map, as well. This is not just oil production. I want to show you chemical plant storage and where they all are. Now, you've got this big offshore port where they unload these big tankers of oil. And then they go to the refineries where it's refined in to gasoline and then there are chemical by-products, chemical products that are stored all along these facilities, right along path of here. All those facilities, that industry has hunkered down.

And again only safety personnel on staff as they're trying to make sure that nothing will get hurt, leaked or released from any of the storm damage.

Let's take a look at how this is a transportation hub because this is not just about oil and oil byproducts. The Mississippi River comes right down into the Gulf of Mexico, right? Right there by New Orleans -- iron and steel, grain, rubber, paper, wood, coffee, coal. I mentioned the chemicals. All of these things are going and out of those ports.

So, those ports we told you yesterday, completely shut down. Six huge ships are weathering this inside the port of New Orleans. One those ships is 780 feet long.

They've done this before. They have been very ready. Nothing is moving in and out right now.

SAMBOLIN: You know, I'm really happy to hear about all the safety measures that are in place because you worry about that.

ROMANS: The guy who runs to the port says we've seen this rodeo and we know exactly what to do.

SAMBOLIN: That is good news. Thank you very much, Christine.

And next on EARLY START, they got out during Katrina, but decided to ride it out this time around.

We have two live looks at New Orleans right here. We're talking to a New Orleans resident who is staying put with his family as Isaac unloads on the city.

As Isaac looms large off the coast of Louisiana, some iReporters hit the river front. This was iReporter S. Reagan 1985 saw few hours before landfall. He described it as pretty gusty with trees swaying and signs blowing off the buildings. These are brave souls out there.

Send us your Isaac iReports, but I need to remind you to be safe. We don't want you to be the story. Look for the signage of hurricane Isaac, at


SAMBOLIN: These are live pictures from Gulfport, Mississippi. Hurricane force winds, hundreds of thousands without power, and now a serious tornado threat.

Take a live look here. This is Gulfport, Mississippi. A lot of waves, a lot of blowing trees.

We have reporters all over the place for you this morning. We're going to check in with all of them. It will only get worse before it gets better, folks.

BERMAN: Ann Romney shines at the Republican national convention. She's selling her husband as tender and tough.


ROMNEY: No one will work harder. No one will care more. And no one will move heaven and earth like Mitt Romney to make this country a better place to live.


BERMAN: We'll have more on that speech that may have stolen the show just ahead.

Also tonight, all about Paul Ryan. His big speech at the Republican National Convention.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I am John Berman. We're live here in the CNN grill onsite in Tampa for the Republican National Convention. And I will have more from here in just a few minutes.

SAMBOLIN: Do you have a preview of that speech, John?

BERMAN: We haven't seen it yet. But I guarantee you, he's been working on it very hard for the last several days and weeks, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Looking forward to that. Thank you very much.

I'm Zoraida Sambolin in New York. It is 33 minutes after the hour.

We're up early for you. We're tracking hurricane Isaac. It has made its second landfall on southern Louisiana, it is barely moving at all. It's dumping a dangerous amount of rain.

There are flash flood warnings for New Orleans and parts of surrounding parishes in effect right now. That storm is barely moving and it's producing a dangerous 11-foot storm surge, as well.

After a long night and a long morning of torrential rain, New Orleans praying that the levees do hold, seven years to the day after the worst nightmare in the city's history, hurricane Katrina.

CNN has the Gulf Coast covered for you. Five correspondents standing by across the entire region. First, we're going to go to Brian Todd. He's live from Jackson Square in the French Quarter of New Orleans where you've been whipped around all morning long.

TODD: Yes, we certainly have been. We're getting a very intense burst right now, wind and rain. Downed power lines, downed trees are a major concern right now. At least 25 intersections in New Orleans are reporting downed trees. At least two rescues from homes as a result of downed trees falling on those homes. That's what we're hearing from city officials.

We have the perfect illustration for you as to why. Look here at Jackson Square, this tree above us is whipping pretty violently in the wind here. A lot of debris behind it, flying debris a huge issue here, a big danger right now as the storm intensifies.

Over here in Jackson Square, you've got some of the smaller trees whipping around and some of this could actually become uprooted. They're that small and vulnerable.

Another thing that's a real killer in these situations. Street flooding -- they knew there would be isolated street flooding even with the pumping stations work to go capacity. Street flooding has occurred in more than a dozen intersections in New Orleans.

It's looking a little bit like this, a combination of flooding and debris all over the place. They're telling people to not walk in these areas. The water is deceptively deep and most are heeding those warning. There are not many people out. We know it's before 5:00 in the morning eastern time or 4:00 local.

So obviously not a lot of people are going to come out anyway and they're not going to come out in this weather. But people are heeding the warnings of officials so far.

SAMBOLIN: And there is a police presence, as well, to make sure people heed that warning, right?

TODD: Absolutely. The police have been very consistently patrolling the streets of New Orleans, obviously mindful of what happened during Katrina and afterward in 2005, they don't want a repeat of that. And so far, they're telling us no major incidents to report.

We're getting a very intense squall right now coming from this direction. A problem here, Zoraida, is that the wind changes directions quite often. I hope I don't have to grab my photojournalist. We're going to try to keep him from toppling over.

The wind changes direction constantly and the water changes direction constantly. That's what it makes it hard to navigate. It feels like a million needles hitting your skin. And it's just hard to walk about feet five on these conditions, just giving you an idea what it's like to navigate around. That's a good reason why you don't see a lot of people out.

SAMBOLIN: Brian, it seems like the winds are very, very strong, but you are standing there without a lot of movement. Are you in an area where you're a bit protected there?

TODD: We have buildings around us, but you know what? It's not so much protection. What we're really concerned about is a lot of flying debris from the tree areas behind us is that's been a real concern.

But there are intense bursts coming down this way where it's a little more open, we're getting with one right now. And again, it keeps changes direction. So that tends to throw you off in these situations. Another intense burst coming right over the park right now, and we're always keeping our eye out for flying debris. That's a pretty clear and present danger right now.

SAMBOLIN: Well, you're doing a yeoman's job for us. But please be safe. We'll continue checking in with you all morning long. Thank you for that report.

And hurricane Isaac delivering a slow motion beating to southeastern Louisiana right now. The storm is stalled out right now, 310,000 customers are already without power in Louisiana. And by the time this system finally moves on, over two feet of rain may be left in its wake. Maybe more.

Our special coverage of hurricane Isaac continues now with Brian Todd -- actually, we'll talk to somebody who is riding out the storm. We have Joe Locascio, are you on the phone with us.

JOE LOCASCIO, RESIDENT (via telephone): Yes, I am.

SAMABOLIN: Good morning to you. And I understand that you are now without power. Can you tell me what you have been enduring?

LOCASCIO: We're getting the worst of it right now. All the wind -- the trees are just unbelievably fly back and forth. And there is debris, too, from siding from a house like a few houses away. But this one is flying down the street.

I'm not in my porch, but I'm right in front of my porch like the big window on front of my porch.

SAMBOLIN: And how many people are will with you? I understand you have some of your family members.

LOCASCIO: Yes, my wife, my daughter and her boyfriend, and a dog and a cat.

SAMBOLIN: A dog and a cat.

Ad how long have you been without power so far?

LOCASCIO: We lost power in the evening for about an hour and then it came back on. And then it's been off for about an hour, be maybe an hour and a half now.

SAMBOLIN: Now, your neighborhood was hit with six feet of floodwater back during hurricane Katrina. And floods are a really big concern again this morning. We know this is a major rain event. What are you seeing and are you concerned?

LOCASCIO: I'm not concerned with the rainwater so much, although the streets are starting to get piled up with -- not so much water in my block. It's getting piled up with debris from trees. And some debris from some stuff flying around.

But mostly when I look out, I can see just leaves and that's what you usually see from a storm, if you don't see not major damage, you see tons and tons of leaves or branches.

SAMBOLIN: And, Joe, a lot of conversations about the levee system. And I know a lot of people are confident that the levee system is going to hold up during this hurricane. How do you feel about that?

LOCASCIO: I feel like they've done a lot of work on the levees and I think they'll hold. The issue now is after the power went out, I turned the radio on and I've been hearing your broadcast a little bit. Since the storm has stalled, that's what concerns me now is that it can still get stronger and it stalled. But that is concerning.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, I can tell you that it's actually made a second landfall, as well. We're really grateful that you've taken some time to spend with us this morning, you and your family. And please be safe.

LOCASCIO: Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: All right. That was Joe Locascio, riding out that storm.

So now let's go to Karen Maginnis. She in the CNN hurricane headquarters in Atlanta with the very latest on Isaac's path.

And this gentleman was a bit concerned. We told him that it's made a second landfall. What does that mean?

MAGINNIS: It means that the first time it made landfall, it was just a little slip of land. So, the interaction as far as tearing it apart really wasn't a big factor. But now it's definitively moved on shore, that is the eye has crossed the land. And right around in this vicinity, still packing 80-mile-an-hour wind gusts.

But it is that eastern edge that is the most powerful that our correspondents are really feeling the impact of the waves of storms moving on shore. Even in Biloxi and Mobile, they've seen three and four inches of rainfall.

As we go into the next several days, what happens? Well, we have a category 1 hurricane right now. And we think as we go into the next 24 hours still the impact is going to be 15, 20, maybe 25 inches of rain. Already we've seen on the order of 4 inches of rain in a number of these areas.

How about the winds? Highest wind gust I've seen in New Orleans, 70 miles an hour in the past hour or so. A barge came loose near Chalmette, hit three boats. One sank. No one injured. Zoraida, that's the power of hose winds. SAMBOLIN: I know. I mean, we're talking to Brian Todd out there. That's what they're worried about is all of the debris that is flying flew the air, as well. Pretty powerful.

MAGINNIS: Exactly.

SAMBOLIN: All right, Karen. We're going to continue checking in with you. Thank you for that.

So let's send it over to John Berman. He is live in Tampa for the Republican National Convention, our other top story -- John.

BERMAN: You know, Zoraida, really just kick this off a few hours ago. Chris Christie delivering the keynote address. But it was also Ann Romney who electrified the crowd. She was talking about her husband, revealing the personal story that Mitt Romney is often reluctant to share and you see him right there, he was even in the house for a little smooch.

We'll have all the details when we come back.


BERMAN: These are live pictures of Gulfport, Mississippi, whipping winds, downed trees in the area, flying debris.

Hurricane Isaac is now back on land in southern Louisiana and it's continuing to pound the Gulf Coast. President Obama has declared states of emergency in Louisiana and Mississippi's coastal areas, including Harrison County, which has ordered mandatory evacuations for residents in the low lying areas.

Two other nearby counties have issued similar orders and an estimated 175,000 residents could be affected by all of this.

Rupert Lacy is the director of Emergency Management Agency for Harrison County. He joins me over the phone. He's in Gulfport. Are you there, sir?


SAMBOLIN: And I understand that you had a tornado warning in your area earlier. I believe now it has been downgraded to a tornado watch, 45 to 50-mile-an-hour winds, trees are down all over the place. You can tell us what the situation is right now? Is there any major damage?

LACY: Again, our responders as wind the winds have picked up, we've had our responders seeking shelter. And of course if we don't need to put them out on the roads, we've had them in three designated locations to be protected from the wind and rain. We've had rain off and on all night.

We do have gusty winds. Gusts have gone up to right at hurricane force and then they'll die back down. But in the early evening hours last night, we started to pick up the winds and then of course, it's just been off and on all night.

SAMBOLIN: So assessing the damage is really maybe a premature question. You're saying safety first which I think is a great idea.

Now, we understand there were mandatory evacuations in effect for the low lying areas of Harrison. What guidance are you giving to the residents in those areas?

LACY: Of course we've had shelters open since yesterday afternoon. A total of six public shelters with cooperation of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, Red Cross and emergency management in Harrison County.

Residents did seek the shelters, but of course we didn't have the rains early on. A lot of those residents waited, you know, at their homes and those shelters are in high grounds throughout the county and close to, you know, two locations in populated areas.

The question was or that we're looking at now is that Isaac was kind of a slow get-goer for us, that being under the hurricane warnings, we had light rains yesterday, but everything started to pick up as the sunset. And we were told that by the Weather Service and National Hurricane Center.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, it seems like it will be prolonged here. So we wish you well. We'll continue to check in with you and make sure everybody in that area is doing well.

Rupert Lacy, emergency management Harris County, Mississippi -- thank you very much.

We're going to head over to Tampa where John Berman is standing by.

BERMAN: Thanks, Zoraida.

You know, today is Paul Ryan day officially here in Tampa. The Wisconsin congressman will address the Republican convention tonight in primetime as he accepts the nomination to be Mitt Romney's running mate.

Now, last night really just a few hours ago the GOP got their party started with two big names.

There she is, Ann Romney. She talked about the compassionate Mitt Romney and why America can and must trust him to fix the nation's problems.


ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY'S WIFE: You may not agree with Mitt's positions on issues or his politics. By the way, Massachusetts is only 13 percent Republican, so it's not like it's a shock to me.

But -- but let me say this to every American who is thinking about who should be our next president: No one will work harder. No one will care more. And in one will move heaven and earth like Mitt Romney to make this country a better place to live.


BERMAN: Ann Romney followed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie who used part of his speech to make the case against President Obama. This was the keynote address.


CHRISTIE: We ended an era of absentee leadership in New Jersey. I'm here to tell you tonight it's time to end this era of absentee leadership in the Oval Office and send real leaders back to the White House. America needs Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan and we need them right now.



BERMAN: So earlier, Mitt Romney was officially nominated by the GOP delegates. It was the state of New Jersey that put him over the top.

There was a bit of a ruckus on the floor during the delicate roll call. Officials, they clearly snubbed Texas Congressman Ron Paul. They refused to read vote total aloud from the podium. I can tell you, I was on the floor when it was happening. And those Ron Paul delegates were not happy at all.

So what are the Democrats doing right now? We do have this. A prominent daughter of a Democratic family, Chelsea Clinton, featured in a public service ad urging young people to vote. Take a look.


CHELSEA CLINTON, FORMER U.S. FIRST DAUGHTER: Young people always felt like their voices haven't been heard. In this generation today, for the first time in American history, we're on track to earn less than their parents did.


BERMAN: We don't see a lot of Chelsea Clinton, that ad for a nonprofit group called Our Time.

Again, today, Paul Ryan, his big speech in prime time tonight of course. We'll be here. Back to you, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: We are looking for that. But Chelsea Clinton not telling them who to vote for, right? Just telling the young people to vote.

BERMAN: No, she didn't say in that public service announcement. But both of her parents are pretty clear that they're supporting President Obama. So, it's safe bet that she's on that --

SAMBOLIN: I'm just hoping we rally that youth vote, period. Thank you very much, John. We'll check in with you really soon here. Hurricane Isaac is causing flooding this morning along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Isaac is still centered miles away from Mississippi's three coastal counties, Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson. But its effects are already being felt.

CNN national correspondent David Mattingly is live in Gulfport, Mississippi, which has been getting pounded with wind and rain for hours already. Walk us through that, David.

MATTINGLY: Well, we've seen nonstop tropical storm conditions since about midnight here. But look at this very moment, not a drop. Absolutely dry right now. Nothing but wind just pounding in here.

Now as soon as I say there's no rain, I'm starting to feel the rain again. But that and he just the way it's been. We've had wave after wave after wave of wind coming through here.

We're looking at, according to the forecast, about a foot of rainfall on the Mississippi coast. That's going to cause all sorts of flooding problems that we know of. We've also been watching for a storm surge from these conditions here. It hasn't really materialized yet.

The water is up. Now, it's just across the street back there in the darkness behind me is where the beach is. The water is up over the beach. And it is lapping up against the seawall in some places.

But the wind is blowing directly out of the east because the storm is just stalled over to the west of us here. As long as that wind is coming in from the east, it's pushing the water that way; when those winds come around from the south, it will start pushing it in toward the shore and that's when we'll probably see a storm surge. We're looking at a high tide typically about middle much the morning, after the sun comes up. And we'll see just how high the water comes then.

But right now, we're looking at about we've had an update on the number of power outages. We have a couple of thousand customers without power -- a couple of hours ago, just a couple hundred. So you se that number going up as long as the ground is saturated, as long as the trees are coming down, the power lines are going to go out and people are going to be in the dark.

So, again, this is a marathon. We're just beginning.

SAMBOLIN: We're really concerned about that. The flooding is really something that could potentially become a crisis here.

David Mattingly live in Gulfport for us. Thank you very much.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

SAMBOLIN: We have breaking news into the CNN newsroom. This is coming from the National Weather Service.

They are saying emergency management officials in Plaquemines Parish reporting overtopping -- there's the operative word -- overtopping of a levee on the east bank, from Braithwaite to White Ditch. This will result in significant, deep flooding in this area.

I'm going to read it again because the wording here is very important. Emergency management officials in Plaquemines Parish reported overtopping of a levee on the east bank, from Braithwaite to White Ditch. This will result in significant deep flooding in the area.

We're going to try to get you more information on this. We're going to head over to Karen Maginnis. She is standing by in Atlanta for us.

I know that has been a major concern, Karen, that the flooding that could happen -- or the amount of rain which results in the flooding and then potentially what it could do to the levees in the area.

MAGINNIS: Yes, let's just mention that the levees are not fail proof. They can only handle a certain amount. After Katrina, they were reinforced, rebuilt, all kinds of improvements. This is from Braithwaite to White Ditch. It's about an 18 mile area.

They're saying evacuations are under way and significant deep, flooding is possible. That is the Plaquemine County. That is the same county or parish I should say for New Orleans, where they have flood watches and flood warnings out for all the parishes -- three major parishes surrounding New Orleans.

We're going to get you more information on this. As Zoraida just said, it was overtopped, not breached. It did not collapse. But there has been so much rainfall and more to come, because this system is moving very little, and for very morning hours, it was stalled. It is primarily this eastern edge that has seen the most significant rainfall coming up from the south and from the east.

This western edge is essentially collapsing. But to reinforce this measure of or the extent of this flooding, we have the report coming out of Braithwaite to White Ditch in Plaquemines Parish that has been overtopped. They're estimating we could see over the next 24 hours in some of these areas 15, 20, perhaps as much as 24 inches of rainfall. And so anything that we have seen so far is going to be worsened by that high tide.

All right. We've got information come being here. We want to take a look at this. Hopefully we can bring this.

All right. Here is Braithwaite, right along -- here's Chalmette. We have a report of a barge that broke loose and hit three boats and sunk one of them. No people injured. Nobody was on board.

But from Braithwaite, all the way down towards White Ditch, I believe it is this levee right here, they're saying about 18 miles. And evacuations have already taken place. And they've seen significant rainfall and reports are significant deep flooding expected.

Yes, Zoraida?

SAMBOLIN: Karen, here's my question for you. In that area, we were talking a lot yesterday about a pumping system. Could that have anything to do with this as well as a combination of it? Because Rob Marciano was saying his primary concern yesterday was the pumping system and whether it could handle the volume of water that was headed toward it.

MAGINNIS: Exactly. I think the estimates are it can handle half an inch after a certain period of time. Initially about an inch an hour, and then over time, about a half an inch per hour. But we have seen those rainfall rates that have been very steady about an inch an hour. So you get a build up that has nowhere to go.

But they were reinforced, they were improved across this area, so they were shored up to handle. But we have to consider this as a category 1. We wouldn't take a whole lot about that, but because it has moved very little and has continued to rain over the same place for now days but especially in the last 12 to 24 hours, that is the key to just how much these levees can take and these pumping systems can take.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, that accumulation really is what a lot of people are worried about and I heard some of the pumping systems also were not working at this time. We'll try to verify that information. Stand by for us because of course we want to continue following this story.