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Hurricane Harvey Roars Toward Texas Coast; McConnell Offers Praise, Trump Criticizes McConnell; Business Booming for Russia's Arm Dealers; Apple's Billion Dollar Investment. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired August 25, 2017 - 04:30   ET



[04:31:15] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Hurricane Harvey gaining steam as it gets set to slam into Texas. The first major storm there since Ike in 2008. Record-setting rain won't move out for days.

And rainfall will be life threatening, we're told. That's what forecasters saying. This is a life-threatening situation.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, that rainfall and how long it will linger, the biggest problems here. I'm Dave Briggs. It is 31 minutes past the hour.

Hurricane Harvey building strength as it takes direct aim at southeast Texas, now a category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 105 miles per hour. Harvey is rapidly becoming more powerful. It was just a tropical depression this time yesterday. The National Weather Service says Harvey will bring life-threatening amounts of rain, nearly three feet in spots. The storm will linger for days. We'll have the full forecast for you in just a moment.

ROMANS: This morning, there are mandatory evacuation orders for at least a dozen cities and counties along the Texas coast with voluntary evacuations in other areas. Governor Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster in 30 coastal counties and activated 700 members of the Texas Army Guard, Air National Guard and Texas State Guard. Now, Texas highways filled yesterday with cars all in one direction -- Interstate 37 out of Corpus Christi backed up for miles.

BRIGGS: Those choosing to stay in place not taking chance, filling sandbags, stacking up on food and water, boarding up windows, store shelves as you might imagine in Port Aransas, Texas, clearing quickly. As the city canceled court hearings and issued self-serve sandbags to residents.

Officials warning people this storm is not to be taken lightly.


MAYOR RON NIRENBERG, SAN ANTONIO: The storm has the potential -- and I want to stress the potential, things do change -- to be a weather event that we talk about for years to come. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Even the most fragile young lives being evacuated from Corpus Christi. Ten babies evacuated from a neo-natal unit intensive care. They're all expected in Ft. Worth this morning.

BRIGGS: One federal government resource helping track Hurricane Harvey are the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA, as many of you know them. Their turbo-prop aircraft known as Hurricane Hunters.

And joining us now on the phone, aboard a NOAA hurricane hunter above the Gulf of Mexico is flight director, Jack Parrish.

Good morning to you, Jack. Thanks so much for being with us.

ROMANS: Hi, Jack.

JACK PARRISH, HURRICAN HUNTER FLIGHT DIRECTOR (via telephone): Good morning to you. We're making an approach to Lakeland. We've been here for just about eight hours this evening.

BRIGGS: What do you see when you look at the storm compared to others you've seen in the past?

PARRISH: We saw a very, very --

ROMANS: Can you hear us? I think we lost your audio. No small thing to be flying through a hurricane and trying to call in to morning news.

PARRISH: Can you hear me now?

ROMANS: I hear you. What are you seeing?

PARRISH: OK, we can see a large, large area of heavy rainfall to the north and west of the center of the storm. Anybody in those quadrants from the center are in for a lot of miserable days of weather especially as this thing stalls over coastal Texas.

BRIGGS: What about the measurements? It's one thing that you see. What types of numbers are you measuring from Harvey?

PARRISH: Yes, sir, during the short time that we were in the storm, we saw a steady pressure of 967 millibars in the center. We were measuring flight-level winds a little over 100 knots. Especially strongest winds north/northeast of the center, and then a tremendous amount of rainfall, we were measuring on radar as well.

[04:35:07] ROMANS: Yes, we're told this is a life-threatening situation. The National Hurricane Center says -- a life-threatening situation because of all that rainfall. You say it will be days of rainfall. Can you tell me what it's like to fly into the storm, what it feels like? I think the plane you're in is nicknamed Kermit, right? What does it feel like flying right in a hurricane? PARRISH: Yes. We're flying on a NOAA 42, robust turbo-prop aircraft.

It can handle the weather. We see the really heavy rain bands of the rain, full of thunderstorms, a certain amount of lightning. We get bounced around every time we run into one of the rain bands. Not too bad. And then the eyewall is the roughest part.

And then we get to the center and it's extremely calm. Just unimaginably calm compared to how bouncy it is outside of that. Tonight, we made three passes through the center from all quadrants to get accurate measurements of the winds and rainfall all the way around the center.

BRIGGS: You mentioned the sustained winds. Is this something by your measurements that you expect to strengthen into a category 3 hurricane before making landfall in southeast Texas?

PARRISH: We observed a strong category 2 storm this morning. Another NOAA crew will be coming out later. The air force crews, as well, be covering the storm constantly until it makes --

BRIGGS: It sounds like we're having some more audio issues with Jack. We'll get him back. You can follow NOAA on Twitter @NOAA on Twitter for all the latest updates on that storm.

ROMANS: All right. For the latest hurricane forecast, let's bring in meteorologist Karen Maginnis live in the CNN weather center.

And you heard Jack. He was in -- actually on those rain bands, in that -- that weather. This is a big rain event.

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is. It has been 12 years since we've seen anything like this, and that was Ike.

I wanted to give you the latest statistics regarding this. It is a strong category 2 hurricane, at 111 miles per hour. That's when we see it switch over to a category 3.

At this point, that is not going to make a lot of difference because we don't have anything steering this hurricane in any particular direction. There is no shear. Water temperature is very conducive to this strengthening.

It is powerful. You can see it pretty much engulfs the entire coastline of Texas. We've watched the eye. As the center pressure drops, we start to see it strengthen. So, you'll start to see the storm surge, as well, pretty heavy rainfall bands have produced all around Galveston, Texas, some rainfall reports in excess of an inch of rain.

This is still early. We're looking at days of precipitation going into next week, and the computer models are all over the place.

What computer models? They plug in different parameters, the computer spits out different scenarios if they anticipate that this hurricane, Hurricane Harvey will do. Here's one outlier, brings it back across Mexico. Most of these show a loop, looping right or left. But either way, as

it lingers along the coast, this is going to be the greatest impact with the storm surge. And with a category three, we might see a storm surge of nine to 12 feet in addition to, computer models are estimating, possibly 40 inches of rainfall right around Port Connor.

Where will it make landfall? It looks like in the vicinity of Corpus Christi. But as I mentioned, there are no steering currents taking place here, nothing that is really a true guiding force, but it is powerful.

Folks, it's headed out into the interstates. They've boarded up their homes. They prepared with food and taking their families away from this. If you haven't prepared, you should. That's how dangerous it is -- Dave, Christine.

ROMANS: Karen Maginnis, thanks for that.

You know, Hurricane Gustav and Hurricane Ike were back-to-back storms, terrible storms in 2008. That was the last time you really saw the Gulf Coast slammed like this. You know, Ike was the first to hit landfall, a hurricane to make landfall over there in Texas.

I covered the storms at the time, you know? When she talks about days and days of rain and misery, we're at the leading edge of what is going to be a tough few days, maybe even a week or so for folks who live down there.

BRIGGS: Yes, and Ike killed 21 people. So, if you're wondering, should I stay or should I go, and you have the options of leaving, get out if you are in the direct path of the storm. And remember, this could hit New Orleans. So, still too many memories of too many terrible storms.

ROMANS: Forty minutes past the hour.

President Trump turning to Twitter to warn everyone in Harvey's path, tweeting: As Hurricane Harvey intensifies, remember to plan ahead.

[04:40:06] The president getting regular briefings and has spoken with the Texas Governor Greg Abbott. The White House announcing it stands ready to provide resources where they're required, but is downplaying concerns about preparedness. As you know, there's no permanent secretary of homeland security which overseas FEMA.

BRIGGS: Let's to politics now.

President Trump and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell taking very different approaches as they try to get this relationship and the legislative goals back on track. McConnell offering mostly praise for the Trump administration in a speech at the Kentucky Farm Bureau event. President Trump, on the other hand, not so much. He kept up the attacks on the Kentucky Republican on Twitter before and after McConnell's speech.

ROMANS: That's right. McConnell was having a breakfast speech, talking up the administration and president the moment he slammed McConnell for failing to repeal Obamacare and for this, quote, I requested that Mitch M and Paul R, that's House Speaker Paul Ryan --

BRIGGS: That's Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell --

ROMANS: Yes. Tie the debt ceiling legislation into the popular V.A. bill which just passed for easy approval. They didn't do it, so now we have a big deal with Dems holding them up, as usual on, debt ceiling approval. Could have been so easy, now a mess.

BRIGGS: A Senate Republican leadership aide says the idea of tying the debt ceiling increase to a popular veterans reform bill had been discussed, but the idea was rejected by hard-line conservatives. The House Freedom Caucus, who's been supportive of the Trump administration. They want provisions to curb government spending and did not want to vote against the V.A. bill.

But, for now, the White House trying to dispel the notion of fractures in the Republican Party.

Our Sara Murray has more from the White House.



President Trump spent much of the day yesterday railing against members of his own party including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Despite all of that, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders insists the president has a fine relationship with Republican leadership.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, I think the relationships are fine. President Trump has worked with Leader McConnell to reach out to other members and to work on those shared goals. And we're going to continue to do that when the Senate comes back from recess.

MURRAY: They're still hoping to take on an ambitious plan to overhaul the tax system and they're planning on releasing more details on that next week. And in spite of Trump's grumbling tweets, Huckabee Sanders says they do expect Congress to raise the debt ceiling with relatively little fanfare and without attaching anything along with it.

Back to you guys.


ROMANS: All right, Sara. Thanks.

Speaker Paul Ryan brushing off the president's criticism about not passing a debt ceiling bill, promising that one is on the way.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: And we will not hit the debt ceiling. We'll do this before the debt ceiling. There are many options in front of us on how to achieve that. We'll do that, because this is about paying the bills that we already racked up, making sure we pay our debts.


ROMANS: That was a tax event at a Boeing plant yesterday. The clock is ticking on the debt limit. Congress has to raise the ceiling before early October, otherwise, the United States won't have enough money to pay about a quarter of its bills, forcing the government to pick and choose what gets paid on time.

An example, in October, if the treasury pays big line items like Social Security, Medicare, and defense, it won't have enough to cover tax refunds, federal worker pay, and veterans' benefits. The debt limit will be hit exactly when Congress needs to pass a spending measure, avoiding a government shutdown. The last shutdown cost the U.S. economy $24 billion.

And again, you see the debt ceiling become this political football about spending restraint. The debt ceiling used to be pro-forma you just raised it, because the Congress already spent that money. So, if Congress to get some restraint, they need to do it before they get to the debt ceiling stage.

BRIGGS: But you don't hear much about fiscal conservatives much in Congress now. Paul Ryan not talking much about fiscal restraint.

ROMANS: Yes. They have the debt ceiling. They have to have a spending bill. They're trying to do tax reform at the same time.

BRIGGS: No big deal, right?

All right. Not one, not two, but three bench-clearing brawls between the Yankees and Tigers. What sparked all of this? Next.


[04:48:22] ROMANS: All right. Five employees with the Denver Public School System, including two coaches placed on leave after the release of a disturbing video from a high school cheerleading practice. Now, this video shows a teenage girl screaming in pain as she is physically forced to perform a split. An adult in the video appears to be pushing her down, ignoring her cries to stop, to "please stop."

Police say child abuse detectives are investigating the incident at east high school. The school's cheerleading coach now on leave, says the video is being taken out of context.

BRIGGS: Powerful.

New details about the gunman who shot and killed a former co-worker at a restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina, before taking hostages and holding off police for hours. One of the owners says the shooter was a disgruntled former dishwasher at Virginia's on King. Police identify the victim as the executive chef, 37-year-old Anthony Whitten. According to witnesses, diners crawled under tables and ran for the door when the shooter entered and announced, I am the new king of Charleston. He was shot and critically wounded by police after being cornered.

ROMANS: Her pipe dream finally came true. Fifty-three-year-old Mavis Wanczyk of Chicopee, Massachusetts, is the sole winner of the $758.7 million Powerball jackpot. Mavis discovered she won while leaving her job late Wednesday at the Mercy Medical Center. One of her co-workers is with her, by the way, and she was so shaken, the co-worker followed her home. The friend said, sign the back and get home.

So, how did she celebrate the life-changing event?


REPORTER: What are you going to do to celebrate?

MAVIS WANCZYK, POWERBALL JACKPOT WINNER: I'm going to go hide in my bed.



[04:50:04] ROMANS: As for Mavis' job, she called in rich, telling her longtime employer she would not be coming back to work ever. Mavis did what most winners do. She took the lump sum payment of $480 million. That's $386 million after taxes.

And I'm so happy for you. And my advice as a money person is think about how you're going to grow that money, not how you're going to spend it. A lot of people -- that's a very big jackpot. That's an unusually big jackpot. But a lot of people --

BRIGGS: You can still buy a boat.

ROMANS: You can buy a boat if you want. But seriously, think about how to grow it and live off the proceeds and keep that net for to pass it along for generations.

BRIGGS: Get a lawyer, get a good financial adviser, change your cell phone number and change your e-mail.

All right. A good old-fashioned base brawl in Detroit as the Yankees and Tigers fought in what may be better than Mayweather-McGregor Saturday. The benches cleared three times, that's where things got started with Miguel Cabrera and the pitcher threw down leading to this melee at home plate, continued for some time.

One inning later, Yankee reliever Dellin Betances hit Detroit's James McCann with a helmet. Scary as he goes down. The benches cleared yet again. Then, on the eight, the Yank's Todd Frasier was hit, and again, both teams emptied the benches. Eight ejections, including the two managers, fines, and suspensions, you bet they are on the way. The bad blood between the two has been simmering since last month when four players were hit in a game at Yankee stadium.

Justin Verlander took a little humor from the situation tweeting, that escalated quickly, from "Anchorman," of course.

ROMANS: Of course.

All right. Apple bringing a billion-dollar investment to Iowa, but it's getting tax breaks to do so. We'll tell you the tradeoff. That's next.


[04:56:19] BRIGGS: Business is booming for Russia's arms dealers who are once again pushing for global dominance after years of decline. Russia is now moving into markets once dominated by the Americans.

CNN visited Russia's biggest arms fair.

And Fred Pleitgen is live with what we found.

Good morning to you, Fred.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It certainly was fascinating, Dave. It's called the Army 2017 Expo. And, really, everything is on offer there, from tanks, all the way to ballistic missiles. It's actually on a very large fairground that was built especially for military expos.

That shows how important the arms industry currently is and will be in the future to the Russian government. One of the things they told us is, yes, they are trying to move into markets traditionally dominated by Western products, especially, of course, American products, especially if you look into the realm of fighter jets. You look, for instance, also at attack helicopters called MI-28UB, which is an upgraded version of a gunship that they've been trying to sell to foreign countries.

So, it's one of the things where they say, look, our products are getting a lot better, our products are still a lot cheaper than the ones that you have from the U.S. And also, we don't ask the kind of questions that America would ask, for instance, about political instability. For instance, about internal uprisings, about human rights, as well.

And they say it's a lot easier to get your hands on Russian arms, they also say those arms are now extremely improving in quality, as well. As you see, quite an aggressive marketing campaign going on there, especially in light of the fact that the rest of the Russian economy under the sanctions that Russia is under, having a lot of trouble at the moment. And, of course, the oil and gas prices around the world also hitting Russia pretty hard. So, they hope that arms exports are going to be a big, big thing moving forward -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Sanctions not going away any time soon. Fred Pleitgen live for us in Moscow, thank you, sir.

ROMANS: And let's get a check on CNN "Money Stream" this morning. Global markets higher today after U.S. stocks closed down. The concern on Wall Street, government funding, including making sure the U.S. raises its debt limit on time, from Washington to Wyoming. Investors today are tuning in to the Fed's annual Jackson Hole Conference. The heads of the both the U.S. and E.U. and Central Banks speak. Watch if the Fed Chair Yellen speaks about future interest rate policy especially interest rates this year.

Apple is bringing a billion-dollar investment to Iowa. CEO Tim Cook announcing plans to build a $1.3 billion data center in Waukee. That's just outside of the capital city of beautiful Des Moines, Iowa. The facility will help power Apple's App Store. Apple already has data stores in California, Oregon, Nevada and North Carolina.

Now, Iowa's giving Apple significant tax breaks for this project, $208 million worth. Such incentives are common, some criticize the high price tag especially as the center will only create 50 permanent jobs, although Apple says there will be hundreds of jobs from construction to engineering as this endeavor gets underway.

Starting Monday, Whole Foods is getting cheaper. That's when Amazon closes its $13.7 billion deal to buy Whole Foods. The first order of business: cutting prices, making some of whole foods' products more affordable including organic items like avocados, brown eggs, salmon, almond butter.

Amazon says the price cuts will continue and prime members will get additional discounts. The deal will be good for consumers but is making grocery chains pretty nervous. Stocks for retailers like Kroger and Walmart plummeted on the news.

Amazon is a disrupter. This deal gives it access to the $700 billion grocery market. Right away, I think Amazon was smart to say we're going to start cutting some prices on categories because, you know, the criticism of Whole Foods is the nickname is whole paycheck because it was expensive. If they want to go in there and really dominate, that was a pretty key first move.