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Texas Slammed by Hurricane Harvey; Rockport, Texas Hit Hard; Trump Pardons Arpaio, Gorka Resigns & Trump Signs Military Transgender Ban; Texas Slammed by Hurricane Harvey; Rockport, Texas Hit Hard; 10 Ill Infants Safety Transported Away from Storm; Dramatic Footage of Harvey Hitting Texas. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired August 26, 2017 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Thanks for joining us.

We are following breaking news. Hurricane Harvey causing damage in coastal areas of Texas and also expected to bring life-threatening floods. Live pictures right now where Governor Greg Abbott of Texas, where at any moment, we understand, he'll be taking to the podium there and will update us on emergency responses and damage. We'll take you there live.

Right now, Harvey is packing 75-mile-per-hour winds. Tornado watches are in effect. Nearly 300,000 are without power and Harvey is not letting up. The National Hurricane Center says flooding will be catastrophic and life-threatening. The mayor of Rockport, Texas, telling me there is widespread devastation.

We'll have full team coverage throughout the state as Harvey continues to slam Texas with rain.

Let's check in right now with Polo Sandoval, who's in Victoria, Texas, where the elements are certainly picking up -- Polo?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is what it still looks like in parts of Texas, particularly closer to the coast. Here up main street in Victoria, Texas, you can see this wind is still enough to move debris around. The only thing that's not flying around are things that are grounded like these garbage tins that are actually bolted to the sidewalk. We're able to -- we're right next to a parking garage so we're able to seek shelter. But at least I'm able to step out just so you can see for yourself the intensity of these winds. And believe it or not, they were even more intense a little while ago. What I'm able to see now on authorities like the Victoria Police Department, which you'll see, are finally able to leave this parking garage and make their way onto streets. An officer just turned off the road here. That gives you an idea that authorities are now being able to go out into the community here, community of about 65,000 to 70,000 people, and make sure that nobody is in need of any help because as you heard from the mayor here, Fred, in several media report, is that he was afraid that a majority of the residents here chose to not evacuate, chose to stick around. When the eye of the storm was passing over the city or close to the city, authorities had to seek shelter. Again, this is what we're seeing right now. We'll wait to hear from Governor Abbott to hear the latest and see exactly how much damage was caused by this storm. As authorities said before, Fred, the worst is certainly not over. After this wind subsides will be the threat of flooding.

WHITFIELD: We can see the wind picking up around you. Can your photographer -- I see a couple vehicles too. Can your photographer give us a panoramic view of things around you?

SANDOVAL: Sure. Absolutely. Actually, a bit restrained here because, if we can pull out a little bit, you're able to see the wall of this -- or at least a portion of this structure we're using to seek cover. So we're not able to give you that much of a wide shot but you see behind me, you see limbs, we of seen lids off of garbage cans, seen some of the siding ripped off of some of the Houses. Again, this will give you an idea as we see a few people driving through town including authorities, this is some of the things that will have to happen. We'll try to make our way to Port Lavaca, closer to the coast. We of seen some pictures of boats on the road itself. The worst is not over. Authorities say people should still stay indoors until threat is over.

WHITFIELD: That protective that you have there is very wise. I've covered a lot of hurricanes myself, too. Good to have that kind of stability for you, your crew, and the equipment.

Thank you so much, Polo.

Let's go north to Houston and find our Rosa Flores there.

Where, last check, you were getting a lot of rain. Now it's dissipated. This is how hurricanes are. You have these bands. It kind of comes and goes but doesn't mean that it's all over. Describe what's happening with those rising waters.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Like you mentioned, we're getting a little break from the rain but every now and then some wind gusts. You can still see that this bayou is still a raging river flowing out towards the Gulf of Mexico. Houston is a bayou city. You see these bayous through neighborhoods and this is of course the big worry for residents once they see these bayous swell, they know that eventually it could reach their homes. I want to show you in this direction because this is actually a running path. If I were to continue walking these steps you'd see a running path that runs through downtown. If you look in this direction, you can see the lights there that normally would light up this at night and you can see the water level right about where those ducks are, the water level on those light poles and on those trees. You can definitely see that this area is under water. Houston expecting between 15 to 25 inches of rain in some isolated areas up to 35 inches of rain. You can see right now we're getting a little break. Last check with power outages, there's about 12,000 to 13,000 people without power. Center point energy in this area working around the clock to try to get people back online. Overnight about 140,000 people were put back on the grid. But, again, Fred, this is the concern here in Houston. The rising waters, flash- flooding. It can happen very quickly. And of course, city leaders here asking people to be very vigilant, to check on their friends, their neighbors, to make sure that everyone is ok. They recommended that people have water and food for four or five days because Houston is in it for the long haul.

[13:05:55] WHITFIELD: OK. And we are at any moment awaiting comments from the Texas governor, Greg Abbott. That's why we have the small screen in the corner. We'll take you there when it happens.

Thanks, Rosa, in Houston.

Let's head south to Galveston, Texas, where we find Ed Lavandera.

You, too, experiencing these bands of rain that come and go. What's happening now?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This has been a steady band on the outer edge of this storm. It's been bringing rainfall like this, not overly heavy but it is steady and consistent and it's a decent amount of rain. You can definitely see as we were able to do a pass on several of the roadways and venture into the island a little bit a little while ago, get a sense that it has very much the potential cause a lot of flash-flooding and cover up some roadways. That's the kind of thing that emergency teams and officials up and down the coast are worried about as this day progresses and the amount of rainfall continues to drop on this region. So that will be something that they're worried about as well. The port of Galveston here remains closed, a couple of cruise ships that were supposed to dock here this weekend. They are out at sea away from the storm waiting for the port to reopen. That's an interesting kind of tidbit. I have a friend who is on one of those ships. They had docked in New Orleans to refuel and back out at sea waiting to figure out what to do next and figure out the time line and when this port will reopen so they can get back in here to the port and get the folks off the ship. Those kinds of things very much unfolding here.

For the most part on Galveston Island, we of spoke within the sheriff in town, some of the minor street flooding, the power is on so that's good news. As you venture west, away from here, those are the areas that doesn't have like the seawall protection and you get into the lower lying coastal areas of great concern. So those are the areas where the flooding could be a major problem as we continue into the day today.

WHITFIELD: Ed Lavandera, thank you so much in Galveston.

Rockport hit very hard by this storm where the town's mayor says there is widespread destruction.

Let's check in with our Nick Valencia there.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fred, we were here just after the sun came up and what we saw on the way in, this community was especially hard hit by Hurricane Harvey.

We've talked with community residents all morning long and one pulled up to our live shot, Robert Jackson.

You rode the storm out. Everyone I have talked to says it was living hell. What was it like for you?

ROBERT JACKSON, ROCKPORT, TEXAS, RESIDENT: About the most stressful thing I've ever been through. All night long it just blew and blew and blew. It never moved. Normally hurricanes will kind of move, but it hunkered down on top of us. I was getting texts from people telling me they were hearing all these crazy high wind gusts and everything. I was looking outside and saw trees going down and roofs blowing off. It was pretty bad.

WHITFIELD: I'm sure a lot of people have come up to us asking us to use our satellite phone because they can't get in touch with their family. Have you talked to yours?

JACKSON: Yes. I got a little bit of word out. And maybe they'll be watching tv. I got a couple of phone calls. A neighbor rode the storm out also and they have an old-fashioned landline that doesn't require electricity and I was able to make a couple calls.

VALENCIA: What was the worst you've seen? The sheriff said roofs getting ripped off home, walls toppling on people.

JACKSON: A number of buildings that are completely flattened that have been here forever. I've lost three, four, 500-year-old oak trees in my yard, blown over, blown down. I of got a huge magnolia tree sitting my roof.

VALENCIA: Ever seen anything like this before?

[13:10:02] JACKSON: Yes, I've seen it before. I've never personally been through it before. But, you know, this is a really bad hurricane as far as hurricanes go.

VALENCIA: We understand this is a community that has missed or sort of dodged the bullet, right? The hurricanes in the past have missed this community. The sheriff told me about 50 percent or 60 percent of the town decided to stay because this is -- it has been a missed target in the past.

JACKSON: I didn't realize that many stayed. I thought I was about one of the very few stupid ones that stuck around. It's my last one to ride out, I'll tell you that.

VALENCIA: The experience was that harrowing?

JACKSON: Yes. It was just all night long. I didn't sleep a wink. It just -- it sounded like a freight train with square wheels. It was just loud as it could be. You know, I just didn't know when it was going to take my roof off, you know.

VALENCIA: Glad you survived and your family even more happy I'm sure.

Thanks for taking the time. Good luck. We wish your community well.

We're just off to the side of it here, Fred, sort of an impromptu press conference going on. First responders have been canvassing the area all morning long just to assess how bad this community has been hit. If you can make that out, some of those flagpoles have been bent at the base. Just beyond that public safety center you could see one of the cell phone towers that had a lot of -- just been damaged. You can't get a cell signal out of here. We've been trying to broadcast the last hour here using a satellite signal.

But he community here as just really no doubt about it gone through a lot. At least 200 people are in a local shelter but the real emphasis according to the sheriff is the concern about finding bodies in these homes. There was a very ominous and dire warning given by the local leadership last night asking local resident who did decide to wait out this storm to write their Social Security number on their forearm and their names in case local officials had to recover those bodies. Those officials are going door to door and asking for all the help they can get throughout the state. The community still reeling after Hurricane Harvey touched down earlier.

WHITFIELD: All right, Nick Valencia, thank you so much, in hard hit Rockport, Texas.

Stay with us. At any moment, Texas Governor Greg Abbott will be giving an update on Hurricane Harvey. We'll bring his remarks as soon as they begin.


[13:16:24] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield, in Atlanta.

At any moment, Texas Governor Greg Abbott will be giving an update on Hurricane Harvey from that location in Houston. He'll be taking to the podium and, when he does, we'll take husband remarks as soon as he begins.

A new video into CNN out of Victoria, Texas. Take a look. You can see the heavy rains there, the winds bringing down tree limbs, in fact. And we'll take you back to Victoria later on in this hour.

When the wind and rain die down, another danger remains. Authorities warn of catastrophic flooding in parts of Texas.

Meteorologist Chad Myers is tracking the storm.

Chad, where is Harvey right now?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Not that far between San Antonio and Victoria. And still a 75-mile-per-hour storm. Now, I know that doesn't seem like what it was, but 75 miles per hour will still bring down power lines and trees and get in the way of the rest of your day. I don't want you to be out. Things are flying around at 75 miles per hour.

Obviously, the next story as we progress into this evening will be how much rain came down. There are already spots along I-10 at 10 inches of rain. In fact, a couple spots already over a foot. That's over a foot, when landfall happened about 10:00 last night. So in 12 hours or so, we've already had a foot of rain. And the rain still exists right here. Here's Victoria, there's San Antonio, there is the center. If you are anywhere near the center, you're still seeing those 75-mile-per-hour winds. If you're in these outer bands, you could still see 50-mile-per-hour winds. That's severe enough to not be outside.

Houston dodging a slight bullet now, the eastern suburbs are really in it where the heavy rain is in Galveston. But Houston proper, from K.D., Sugarland, Pasadena, you had a storm, but west of the city fairly try drive but I believe another rain band will come in and the potential for tornadoes. Anytime a storm comes in that's a pretty strong storm, it can spin and that can create a tornado, not a large tornado. But ask Katy, the people in Katy, Texas, what a small EF-1 or EF-2 tornado last night did to them. Take cover if you hear or see the warning that's on your phone. Don't take it lightly. There will be many tornadoes. The Houston Weather Service office has issued 50 tornado warnings since the storm came onshore. The storm doesn't move, that's the problem. Fredricka, the storm just doesn't move. Already seeing the bayous here in parts of Houston going from nothing to something. It could rain for another 72 to 120 hours. That's a lot of rain. Everywhere you see that's white, that's 20 inches, and that's the size of South Carolina.

WHITFIELD: And its neighbor, North Carolina, folks there remember what Floyd did as it sat and just submerged and caused an awful lot of damage.

This hurricane is really unique, too. That it sits and just looking at your map, it is substantial. Very wide. But there's still a bottom portion of it that sits over water, which is why it continues to be able to be called a hurricane, right?

MYERS: That's right. It was such a big hurricane, even though it went from 130 or 140, 140 gusts, absolutely, in Rockport. Now down to 75. It's lost a lot of its strength, but because it started so high, so that's why it's still a hurricane, and as you said at least a third is still gathering strength over water. The other two-thirds losing strength over water. But some of the rivers are already at moderate flood stage and we of just started this marathon.

[13:20:12] WHITFIELD: My goodness.

All right. Chad, thank you so much.

Folks hopefully will be heeding those warnings. Not out of the woods just yet.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is joining me from Austin, Texas.

Ken, what are your thoughts, particularly as you hear from chad who says this is a very slow-moving storm, but perhaps you've seen some of the images earlier, there are folks, in their vehicles from Galveston to Victoria, Rockport, who are venturing out even though the storm has tot dissipated. They want to see the damage. What are your concerns particularly about people who are venturing out already?

KEN PAXTON, TEXAS ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, obviously, we wish they wouldn't. It would be better for us if they would stay safe and it also allows first responders to get where they need and keeps them from having to deal with new people. So obviously we prefer especially this places like Rockport, Ingleside, Port Aransas, some of the worst hit areas, we prefer people stay in their homes and stay safe for now.

WHITFIELD: You're near Austin. What weather conditions are you experiencing there?

PAXTON: So we're getting some of the remnants. Certainly, it's gusts of wind, lots of rain. That's been going on for the last three or four hours. And obviously, we're expecting that for days. I know that San Antonio's getting hit. And we're obviously, ultimately a lot affects us getting hit.

WHITFIELD: It is early, but are you getting any numbers or assessments about injuries, people who are missing, anything?

PAXTON: So there were rumors early on, and I think they're still out there, that some people didn't come off the islands and, potentially, are in trouble, but I think the governor's going to have more information on that. My last report was first responders were going in early this morning to try to find some of these people and attempt some rescue efforts. But we'll see what happens when the governor comes out in a few minutes.

WHITFIELD: There are three prison facilities, I understand, evacuating from major flooding. What is the plan for safely transporting, sheltering people?

PAXTON: You know, I think there's always a contingency plan in effect for all kinds of possible disasters for the prisons. They usually have backup locations they can take them. Obviously, with weather conditions like they are it makes it a little more difficult. They're prepared for this. Texas is not new to hurricanes. We've been successful dealing with them in the past. Obviously, this is the worst that maybe in any of us have seen given how long the storm may stay around. But we have plans in place. I think you'll see as the governor works this through with the president we'll do well at handling a lot of the issues we're dealing with.

WHITFIELD: Any particular areas or cities that you all are being warned might be experiencing potentially the worst in damage?

PAXTON: Yes, and I think the one is mentioned, Rockport, Ingleside, Port Aransas and Aransas Pass are the ones I've heard are the most damaged. I have, obviously, law enforcement officers down there and those are the reports I've gotten from the briefings.

WHITFIELD: And a major disaster, declaration has been issued. What kind of federal resources are you going to be able to dispense?

PAXTON: Well, you know, we're grateful for the president doing it so early, because that allows us to get equipment in here, financial resources and allows us to know with certainty that we have those resources. So I think it's making a tremendous difference for our efforts going forward knowing we have all the resources we need. And the president has promised whatever we need we have.

WHITFIELD: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, thank you so much. All the best.

PAXTON: Thank you. We appreciate that.

WHITFIELD: Again, we are awaiting to hear from the governor, Texas Governor Greg Abbott at any moment from this location. Of course, when he arrives, we'll take you there live.

Meantime, Washington was hit with its own torrent of headwinds overnight. The president of the United States pardoning a controversial former sheriff, and yet another top aide resigning. Details next.


[13:28:40] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. At any moment Texas Governor Greg Abbott will be giving an update on Hurricane Harvey from Houston. When that happens, we'll have his remarks live.

As Hurricane Harvey continues to batter Texas, President Trump tweeted this morning he's got an eye on the storm: "Closely monitoring Hurricane Harvey from Camp David. We are leaving nothing to chance. City, state, and federal governments working great together."

So with much of America focused on that monster storm, President Trump now getting a lot of criticism for a series of headline moves made at the height of the hurricane's landfall. First, he pardoned former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The controversial lawman was convicted of criminal contempt related to targeting undocumented immigrants and was facing an October sentencing.

Then, the White House announced Trump's controversial White House adviser, Sebastian Gorka, resigned.

And that was followed up by another major headline as the president signed a directive banning transgender military recruits.

[13:30:00] Let's discuss all of these major stories with our panel, Jay Newton-Small, contributor to "Time" magazine, Julian Zelizer, a CNN legal analyst and historian and professor at Princeton University. Also with me, CNN legal analyst, Michael Zeldin, a former special assistant to Robert Mueller at the Justice Department.

Thanks to all of you.

If I have to interrupt you, it will because the Texas Governor Greg Abbott will be giving his press conference on Hurricane Harvey.

Julian, let me begin with you.

Why would the president do this?


Julian can't hear us.

Jay, what's the motivation of the president doing these giant things while Hurricane Harvey is heading toward Texas?

JAY NEWTON-SMALL, CONTRIBUTOR, TIME MAGAZINE: Sure. Back from the Clinton White House, the Bush White House was like this when I covered it. There's the long-standing tradition of the Friday night dump. When you're White House correspondent, you know not to make plans for Friday night. Everything they don't want to talk about, they dump it Friday night, so it gets lost into the weekend, especially a weekend like the where the entire country's attention is quite rightly looking at hurricane. You would expect that most of the actions the president might take on a Friday night, most controversial actions would not be talked about, kind of get buried. In this case, Donald Trump sort of turned that tradition on its head and did such controversial things on a Friday night, here we are still talking about it and probably still will be at least in part well into next week. He did this, in part, because he wanted to sort of say, like mainstream media, fake news as he likes to call the mainstream media, I'm still me, I'm still in control, still doing things, a little bit of thumbing your nose saying here, I'm the president, I'm in power, and this is what I'm going to do.

WHITFIELD: The president's pardoning of former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio inspired some thoughts from Arpaio himself last night. Take a listen.


JOE ARPAIO, FORMER SHERIFF, MARICOPA COUNTY, ARIZONA: I love that president. He supports law enforcement. And I'm very humbled. If you recall two years ago, I supported him. And I said publicly recently, pardon or no pardon, I will be with him to the end. I'm going to have a news conference early next week to get to the bottom of this, show the abuse of the judicial system in politics. I'm not going down without trying to defending myself to all those people that don't like what I've done.


WHITFIELD: Julian, Arpaio was convicted of racial profiling, facing a sentence in October. What's the message the president is sending here?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: He's sending a strong message to his base, as he did in Charlottesville and Phoenix, that he still stands for the same views he stood for back in that campaign. Very hard line on immigration. And he's sending a message he will flex his presidential muscle when necessary, including on pardons. So I think that's also a message to Robert Mueller and the investigators who are looking into the Russia scandal.

WHITFIELD: Michael, some of the harshest criticism coming from Arizona Senator John McCain, in the midst of getting his cancer treatments. The GOP Senator sent out this this statement saying, "The president had the authority to make this pardon, but doing so, at this time, undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law, as Mr. Arpaio has shown no remorse for his actions."

How harmful are those words coming from McCain at this point, Michael?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: They are powerful words. And they are true in the sense that the president has the full authority under Article II to make a pardon. But there are rules in place within the Justice Department, they have an office of pardon attorney. And that office of pardon attorney is that office that's supposed to make recommendations to the president on the adequacy of a petition for pardon. And so there's a process. You usually wait five years after the time of your sentencing. The U.S. attorney in the district usually weighs in on it. If there are victims, they get to the weigh in on it. The individual who is considered for pardon is supposed to show contrition and that there is supposed to be this waiting period so that there isn't a denigration of the rule of law, and all that stuff. You know, the president has sort of thumbed his -- put his nose -- whatever the expression is, I can't get it out right -- but has sort of ruled against that principle. And I think that that's what McCain is speaking about. And I think that's what's most offensive about the circumstances under which this pardon was given.

WHITFIELD: We'll have to leave it right there. Very short segment for a very deep topic, indeed.

Julian Zelizer, Jay Newton-Small, Michael Zeldin, thanks to all of you. Appreciate it.

And largely, because we are waiting for the press conference to get under way involving Texas Governor Greg Abbott, as Hurricane Harvey continues to hit that state.

Back to the breaking news that we're following. Residents hit by Hurricane Harvey are heading out to survey the damage left behind.

Our Nick Valencia is in Rockport, Texas -- Nick?

[13:35:14] NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, Fredricka. We have been here all morning long in Rockport surveying the damage on our own and watching residents heading out. I know our viewers have seen the scope of the damage. And to some, it may just be another community, but to the people who live here, this is their home, a place they built, roots of a community that's been here for generations. Partly that's a reason why people decided to stay, because they wanted to help out their neighbors.

We've looked at some of these businesses that have been flattened, among them, this jewelry store.

We're joined by the owner of this jewelry store.

Ruben, come on in here, man.

You've been waiting a long time to tell your story. I know it must be really hard to look at that building. What is it like to show up and look at your shop just destroyed? UNIDENTIFIED JEWELRY STORE OWNER: I was just absolutely devastated,

heartbroken, sad, you know. But I knew it was going to happen at some date. I thought years ago a different hurricane. But with Harvey out there and as it was coming along the coast and strengthening, you know, we thought a tropical storm, no problem. OK. We can deal with that. We get 40-, 50-mile-per-hour winds off the ports. I, knew this one was going to be a lot stronger. And I thought, well, OK, this could be the last time I ever make my jewelry here.

VALENCIA: Were you able to get anything out? Any precious metals in there?

UNIDENTIFIED JEWELRY STORE OWNER: Some things, not everything. I didn't get to save all of my equipment so, I of lost some of that, but I was able to get my paintings. I of got beautiful paintings with my cranes, you know, my art inspired by our famous whooping cranes.

VALENCIA: Do you have insurance at all? Is this insured?

UNIDENTIFIED JEWELRY STORE OWNER: I just don't always have the insurance, you know. I didn't have it on this one. So I did try to save what I could. You know, I was working hard to try to cast jewelry Friday night and was able to do that but then trying to pack up boxes and trying to head out of town before Harvey hit where you have that window of opportunity to escape and that's what I was trying to do. I wasn't trying to ride out the storm. Ended up riding out the storm because I live if apartments out here and the hurricane went through apartment. I've lost my apartment.

VALENCIA: You lost your apartment, you lost your business.

UNIDENTIFIED JEWELRY STORE OWNER: I lost my apartment. I lost my business. I don't have an apartment now. So I have to find a new place now. My studio is gone. I have to find a place to show my work. So I'm looking for maybe a gallery interested in showing my beautiful crane paintings.

VALENCIA: How are you still able to smile right now? How are you able to be optimistic? I've been talking to you for a long time off camera.

UNIDENTIFIED JEWELRY STORE OWNER: Yes. Well, it is one -- the cranes are connected to the Phoenix. And you heard the story of the Phoenix rising from the ashes? Well, I'm going to rise from the rubble, the timbers, the concrete. I'm going to rise again. I just don't know where exactly. But I do -- I got to keep making beautiful things and my gold and silver jewelry. I've got to make these beautiful paintings with the cranes. I got to find a new home.

VALENCIA: You have to rebuild.

UNIDENTIFIED JEWELRY STORE OWNER: I have to rebuild. You know, starting all over again, like that Phoenix. I don't know what it is about me that keeps occurring, a theme in my life. I don't know. Just because of the crane connection or what.

VALENCIA: We know a lot of people will be rooting for you and we appreciate you taking the time.

UNIDENTIFIED JEWELRY STORE OWNER: Thank you. I appreciate pit.

VALENCIA: God bless you, man. I hope you are able to recover.


VALENCIA: We have been saying this, in talking to Ruben, Fredricka, as these outer bands of Hurricane Harvey continue to pound down on us, this storm is not going away. A hurricane should have just come and gone by now after making landfall, but this hurricane is continuing to sit over Texas, continuing to dump rain on top of us. And continuing to blow wind very aggressively in our direction -- Fredricka?

[13:39:09] WHITFIELD: All right, Nick. We hope the best for Ruben. Wow, such optimism he, indeed, has.

Stay with us as we wait for the governor of Texas to give an update on Hurricane Harvey. We'll bring you his remarks when it begins.


WHITFIELD: At any moment now, Texas Governor Greg Abbott will enter that room and take to the podium and give an update on Hurricane Harvey. We'll bring you his remarks as soon as it happens.

Images of Corpus Christi today confirm hospital officials had good reason to worry about how Harvey could impact some of their most fragile patients. Crews transported 10 critically ill infants from Corpus Christi to Fort Worth. The babies had been at Driscoll Children's Hospital. By Friday evening, all made it to Cook Children's Hospital.

On the phone with me right now, Sheryl Lynn (ph) Heartline. She is the director of the neonatal intensive care unit at Cook.

Sheryl, I'm glad you could be with us.

I understand the parents were not able to travel with their children, so how are the families able to stay connected with the progress, the status of their little babies?

SHERYL LYNN (ph) HEARTLINE, DIRECTOR, NEONATAL INTENSIVE CARE UNIT, COOK CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL (via telephone): Yes. Good afternoon. They, absolutely, can call and check in at any time. As they start to trickle in, you know, after the storm, we will get them accommodated and make sure they have a place to rest their head.

WHITFIELD: What were some of the specific concerns you had for these children and why they need to be transported?

HEARTLINE: Yes, so all 10 of these babies were the sickest of the sick in the NICU. So took lots of equipment. And they could not be without power. If the power went out there, these babies weren't going to live. So we had to get them out of there before the storm actually hit. [13:45:08] WHITFIELD: Oh, my goodness. So what were some of the

health concerns, you know, and the conditions of some of these children? I mean, are they all infants or are they all just days old? I mean, what is the common denominator of these babies?

HEARTLINE: Yes. They all came from their NICU. And they do range in age from just a few days on up to quite a few months old. But all have life-sustaining interventions going on that they need to have continued. So very thoughtful at Driscoll to plan that in advance before that hurricane mowed through and get those kids out of there.

WHITFIELD: I understand it took about 18 hours from making a decision to move them, to get them to this other hospital. Talk to me about what it takes to move these babies particularly with the conditions that you just described.

HEARTLINE: Yes. It takes us about 18 hours from the word go. This is a huge collaborative effort from -- Teddy Bear Transport actually led this. They reached out to Dallas Children's and, of course, Driscoll helped as well. And that all happens before they ever hit the hospital, that as a great team that we are to take care of the Texas babies. We all come together, make it happen, and move on.

WHITFIELD: You're Cook Children's Hospital there in Fort Worth, these children, for those just joining us, coming from Driscoll Children's Hospital in Corpus Christi. Have you heard anything about that hospital, how it did through this storm?

HEARTLINE: I have not. There may be some correspondence going on in upper administration. That's how the call came in, to begin with. The original plan was, of course, to get these babies back to their home and their families, back to their homes. So, really, we were just kind of waiting to see what happened and how severe the damage is.

WHITFIELD: Any idea how long those families can expect those babies to stay at Cook in Fort Worth?

HEARTLINE: Just until we determine the damage. And as soon as they're ready to take their babies back, we'll be happy to, you know, send them back down there. But it's all up to how the hospital fared.

WHITFIELD: All right.

Sheryl Lynn (ph) Heartline, you have the perfect name to be the director of the neonatal intensive care unit at Cook. Heartline, that's pretty perfect.

Thank you so much for your time. Thank you.

HEARTLINE: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All the best to you and, of course, to all those babies and their families.

Meantime, we're still awaiting the press conference to get under way involving Texas Governor Greg Abbott. We'll bring you those remarks as soon as they begin.


[13:52:33] WHITFIELD: All right. Live pictures right now the place in Houston where Texas Governor Greg Abbott will be holding a press conference after being briefed on emergency responses and damage. When that happens, we will take you there live.

Meantime, this is what we know. Right now, the storm is packing 75- mile-per-hour winds. Tornado watches remain in effect. Nearly 300,000 are without power. And the next concern for Texas residents, flooding.

When the eye wall hit last night, the images were truly remarkable. Here are some of the most dramatic moments of when Harvey made landfall.


UNIDENTIFIED NEWS CORRESPONDENT: We're being hit by a pretty significant band from Harvey as it is making landfall here about 50 miles as you mentioned south of where we are. We're here in Port Lavaca. There's the bay just in front of me ere. And that storm surge from Harvey is pushing water from the bay this way. That rain is coming through and it is stinging as the wind is blowing it sideways right now.

UNIDENTIFIED NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Storm surge has been a big issue further up the Texas coast, but here in Corpus we've been dealing mainly with strong wind. And it's been going for about three or four hours now. This is a slow-moving storm, which means that these winds are going to stay strong at least for a little while longer. And so there's going to be issues here in Corpus for a while longer.

UNIDENTIFIED NEWS CORRESPONDENT: These are about some of the worst conditions I have ever been in during this type of a hurricane. Look at that wind right there. Not only is the water, the wind is whipping it into a froth. There is no power anywhere in the city of Rockport. We are starting to see trees go down everywhere. We're starting to see a lot of debris. In fact, when we were sitting in our live truck earlier trying to get our story together, at one point, we thought the truck was going to tip over. And that's with two full grown men sitting inside.

UNIDENTIFIED NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Some people getting kicked out of this hotel. The owner is nervous because half of the building is apparently missing. We're taking our first look at it. This is only from the front half of the hurricane. This is incredible. This is kind of our first look, guys, at the first half of Hurricane Harvey's damage in the parking lot. The eye was here a second ago these were 140, 150-mile-an-hour gusts. Now it's a beautiful evening.


[13:54:47] WHITFIELD: All right. The experiences of Hurricane Harvey last night. Now it has been downgraded to a tropical storm. The next hour of NEWSROOM starts right after this.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WHITFIELD: Hello, again, everyone. And thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We're following our breaking news. Harvey has just been downgraded to a tropical storm with 70-mile-per-hour maximum winds. You're looking at live pictures out of Austin, Texas, where Governor Greg Abbott will be holding a press conference after being briefed on emergency responses and damage. And we'll bring that to you live as it happens.

All right. Tornado watches are in effect. Nearly 300,000 are without power. And Harvey is not letting up. The National Hurricane Center says flooding will be catastrophic and life threatening in parts of Texas. And the mayor of Rockport telling me there is already widespread devastation. We'll have full team coverage throughout the state as Harvey continues to whip Texas.

So one of the hardest hit areas is Victoria, Texas.

CNN's Polo Sandoval is live there.

Polo, you're still experiencing all the elements there. Tell us what's happening.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPODNENT: Yes. Yes, it's amazing, Fred. Almost on cue, somebody was listening, right, when you mentioned that tropical storm and 70-mile-per-hour winds. They certainly did kick up --