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Rain, Flooding Expected in Texas Following Storm; Press Conference with Rockport Officials; Interview with Land Commissioner George P. Bush; Majority in Victoria, Texas, Rose Out the Storm; Houston Hit Hard by Hurricane; Houston Mayor Discusses Hurricane Damage; Eyewitnesses Describes Hurricane Making Landfall; Texas State Rep. Describes Storm Damage; Assessing Trump & Pence Storm Response. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired August 26, 2017 - 15:00   ET


[15:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: But right now, the major concern is torrential rain and flooding. The National Hurricane Center warns there will be catastrophic and life-threatening flooding. The governor says some areas have already seen 20 inches of rain, and another 20 to 30 more could be on the way in some places.

Harvey took down trees, power lines, and knocked down buildings. Officials say nearly 300,000 people are without power.

Rockport, Texas, a coastal town about 10,000 or so, was among the hardest hit areas overnight. The mayor there ominously warning anyone planning to ride out the storm to write their name and their Social Security number on their arm just in case of the worst and their bodies need to be identified.

Today, people woke up to the widespread devastation, but no deaths have been confirmed. Thank goodness.

As the storm lumbers slowly inland right now, this area is facing dire warnings of tornadoes, torrential rain, and days of flooding to come.

Joining us right now CNN Meteorologist Chad Myers.

Chad, what is the biggest concern as far as the movement and intensity of this storm over the next 24 hours and beyond?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: The concern is that it stalls. It's still moving a little bit now but about three miles or five miles per hour. If it stalls and the rain is in the same spot for so many days, we're talking five days before the computer models actually push this anywhere, there's nothing to push it away. Right now, the center of the storm is very close to Yorktown, Texas. That's where the center of circulation would be. There's not really much of an eye left. It's a 70-mile-per-hour tropical storm. But that still means there are 70- mile-per-hour winds out there. And an awful lot of rain that's already come down. This is from 24 hours, really from about 14 hours because that's when landfall was, just north of I-10. That's 10 inches of rainfall. And there are some spots we've seen updated over a foot already. Over a foot since really about 10:00 last night. That's a pretty enormous number that has to drain off. That's not soaking in. And the storm is still sitting there and spinning.

Houston, you're in good shape for right now. Eastern neighbors, eastern suburbs not so much. But so far, you're in this little dry slot area here. And that will fill in tonight. You will have very heavy rainfall in Houston tonight. There could be 10 inches of new rainfall by morning. I want you to wake up and be very careful, especially if you leave before the sunrise. Houston, there could be flash flooding in your city -- anywhere around the city, Sugarland, Katy. I'm talking Houston proper, by morning --


ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Press conference right now with the mayor of Rockport, Texas.

Sorry, Chad, to interrupt.

We want to take you live right now as the mayor of Rockport, Texas, is briefing everybody.

CHARLES J. WAX, MAYOR OF ROCKPORT, TEXAS: -- organized, getting better organized and taking care of the people that stayed.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What's the extent to your county, Judge?

WAX: I would say it's bad. I'm not an insurance man, but if I was I'd say several hundred million dollars.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Judge, you're talking 12 to 14 injuries, what were the nature of those injuries?

WAX: Minor injuries. Slip, fell.


WAX: Broken leg, things like that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Any reported fatalities?

WAX: Yes. One.


WAX: So far.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you talk to us about that?

WAX: It was someone caught in a fire and his house in the storm and we didn't know about it until today.


WAX: Pardon?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you -- (INAUDIBLE) -- the person?

WAX: Yes.


WAX: I didn't say it was a woman, did I? I didn't even say what, who it was.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You seem to be getting emotional about it, Judge.

WAX: Well, I hate losing anybody.

UNIDENTIFIED ROCKPORT CITY OFFICIAL: We're not here in the business to watch people's lives to be taken away because of this hurricane. We're here to protect and serve people. This is the time to let us notify the family, let us step back and get things taken care of. We don't need to know male, female, race this or race this, let's get ahold of the family and let them know the situation if we can find out who it is and everything. That's what we're doing. There's reason for us to broadcast all to the United States saying hey this is what occurred. But right now, with one fatality, we've been very blessed.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mayor, can you talk about the resilience of Rockport? Talk to us about the community, what the nation doesn't know about your town.

WAX: We're strong. We have three entities in this community, and when something like this together hits, we work as one unit. We have our differences politically, we call each other names, but when this happens, we're brothers and we take care of each other.

UNIDENTIFIED ROCKPORT CITY OFFICIAL: We have assessed our school district, we've gone through our buildings with the chief of police and school district. I have walked the schools. And we have damage in our schools. That's going to make a difference on when school can start back up. We've been in contact with the superintendents to let you know that. We don't know what the story is and when that's going to happen. Right now, the most thing we got to do is get cleaned up and start cleaning up and finding out what we got and see what -- if you drive through this town right now, you see telephone poles laying on the sides everywhere. You can't get back up and running until AEP gets here and there's crews from Georgia and everywhere else to come in and help us, that's what's going to happen. Poles getting re- stuck, start running wire again, start getting electricity to everybody, we can start doing things. Right now, were working off of a lot of free hands and labor.

[15:05:22] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is there a timeline for that - (INAUDIBLE)?


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What about the people who left? When should they come back?


WAX: When we tell them.

UNIDENTIFIED ROCKPORT CITY OFFICIAL: We'll put in our web page, on the county Web page, on the city of Rockport Web page.

WAX: It will not do any good to come back now.


WAX: Be part of the problem, not part of the solution.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What do you need right now?

UNIDENTIFIED ROCKPORT CITY OFFICIAL: A lot of prayers. That may sound ridiculous to you all, but right now, we could list you 13, 14 sheets of paper telling you what we could use this, we could use that. But the problem is if we put it out there over the nation, they'll start sending us 18 wheelers and we won't have any place to put it. The world cares about each other and they reach their hands out to everybody. We know that. We've seen it every day during Katrina. But right now, we just need people to give us a chance to get ourselves back on our feet and see what we do need and see how fast we need it here.


UNIDENTIFIED ROCKPORT CITY OFFICIAL: Well, he's talked to the governor. He's talked to the Senators. They've all offered help, whatever we need. That's what's going on. You know, it's not any political race. There's no Democrat or Republican in this race. It is the city of Rockport, the county. That's what's in this race.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What's most striking to you as you've gone out through the community to survey the damage?

UNIDENTIFIED ROCKPORT CITY OFFICIAL: Well, we rode together and saw everything laying on the ground.

WAX: When you see some buildings that you thought were going to be here forever, and some of them have been here forever, gone, it's shocking.

UNIDENTIFIED ROCKPORT CITY OFFICIAL: You see buildings that you think, whoa, I wish it was gone, this shed here, but it's still there. It's amazing how mother nature just doesn't pick out -- it's very random about whether it picks out and destroys. Doesn't just pick out one thing and say we're going to destroy that. Mother Nature's hard to deal with. And if you test mother nature, she'll slap you right back real good.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You've been affected by it personally as well. Can you talk to us about that?

UNIDENTIFIED ROCKPORT CITY OFFICIAL: I've lost my barn, my cars, part of my House now. And we got one coming back in here at 6:00 that we're a little concerned about having some more wind and rain. And I hope I go home and have rest of it. Has it hit us in the pocketbook each individual in this town? Yes, Judge has been hit, I've been hit. The mayor of Rockport's going to be hit when he sees what happened to his house. It's all -- we've all been hit.

WAX: I live in old part of Rockport in an old house. When I finally got to check on it earlier today, I found that my house is OK but I can't get to it because the tree's laying right in front of the front door. And I need a big chain saw and somebody bigger than me to cut the tree down.

UNIDENTIFIED ROCKPORT CITY OFFICIAL: I got some of the biggest oaks in the town. There's beautiful oaks in my backyard, they're now on top of my building. You know, that makes you sad. That's part of fulsome and county it's the oak trees. It's the birds that come here and stay here. Right now, we can't bring tourists in here, and that is an issue to us.

WAX: That's our livelihood.


UNIDENTIFIED ROCKPORT CITY OFFICIAL: Let's go with him first. He spoke first.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Part of the history in this town has a windmill stuck in it, kind of speaks to the resilience of it from back then. Are we going to see something like that now?

WAX: No. We see a tree on top of a pickup truck took its place.


WAX: Yes, it's still there.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You had mandatory evacuation in the whole county?

WAX: Yes. Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What percentage of folks do you think stayed and did not evacuate? Do you have an idea of how many people are here?

WAX: About 40 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Stayed. So what number would that be, just a rough number?


UNIDENTIFIED ROCKPORT CITY OFFICIAL: Our number in our county total count population is 20,00025,000, something like that.

WAX: 24,500.


CABRERA: We will continue to monitor this news conference. These are with officials in Rockport, Texas, one of the areas we know that did suffer some extensive damage. And the big headline from that update was one person now confirmed dead from what was Hurricane Harvey, now a tropical storm. We also heard them talk about a lot of downed trees, that there are houses that are completely gone. It seemed to be random which one stayed, which ones are now destroyed. And so they are still assessing the damage in this one part of Texas hit hard by this massive storm.

And yet, there is still more damage that could happen as the torrential rains begin.

I want to turn to an exclusive interview we have with Texas land commissioner, George P. Bush. His agency plays a very important role in hurricane preps and oil spill prevention along the Texas coastline.

Commissioner, thank you very much for taking some time with us, especially as your state is reeling from this monster storm, bracing for potentially catastrophic flooding.

If one of your close friends or family members was trapped in one of these areas hardest hit, like Victoria or Rockport, Texas, right now, what advice would you give them?

[15:10:22] GEORGE P. BUSH, TEXAS LAND COMMISSIONER: Well, it's to continue to reach out to local officials. The state of Texas is here to support. And we have vast amount of resources that have been inserted in the vicinity. Search-and-rescue operations have already commenced. And we continue to assess damage not only to property but potentially to life. And that's got to be the priority right now. Making sure we get basic materials to the residents of the vicinity. And then of course assessing the historic floods that will continue to impact our state, particularly southwest of Houston where we're anticipating north of 20 inches in the coming days until Thursday of next week.

CABRERA: Do you know if there are any other confirmed fatalities outside of the one death we just learned about in Rockport?

BUSH: Well, the governor just briefed from the State Operations Center and there have been no confirmed fatalities as of that brief. So that was actually the first time that I'd heard of a confirmed fatality. And that speaks to the situation right now. It's very dynamic. Because of downed power lines and the dangerous situation, our first responders are now trickling out throughout the coastal communities to assess what the final toll will be. And this is going to be a long marathon as it's been described by officials, chief at the State Operations Center have indicated to elected officials here in Texas.

CABRERA: There are obviously a lot of oil refineries as well along the Texas coastline. Any damage that you know about so far there?

BUSH: So several refineries actually closed in anticipation of the storm last night in the Corpus Christi vicinity. You have about a quarter of the nation's petroleum product refined in the Texas gulf coast. So we've already seen wholesale gas increase by 25 cents before landfall last night. We hope that that figure does not increase. I know the attorney general is keeping an eye on folks that might price-gouge in coastal areas of our great state. But there are prepositioned fuel depots up and down the coast that will try to get to larger industrial facilities so that we can get gas where it's needed and prioritizing resources where it's drastically needed at this time.

CABRERA: I know since you were elected in 2014 you have commissioned a study to determine some of the risks to the different parts of the Texas coast to try to protect those areas. But I read in one article that you worried you might not have the right answers or be able to take action soon enough before a major storm like this one hits, saying this is what keeps you up at night. Right now, as you assess everything, what is your biggest concern for Texas?

BUSH: Well, right now it's about life, protecting life, and making sure that we're getting our search-and-rescue teams out and responding to the crisis as it unfolds. Several of these communities that were finally getting media out to will see about three to five days maybe without power. And you have elderly, you have young people that may be without food and shelter during that time. So that's got to be the immediate priority. Then we'll begin the process of rebuilding and recovering as we always do as Texans. But as a leader, I came into office working on a coastal master plan. We finalized that plan. I'd asked the legislature in the prior session to fund some of these programs to mitigate storm surge. So while we work on that in the long-term, in the short-term we got to protect life.

CABRERA: Yes, no doubt about it.

Your uncle, George W. Bush, was criticized for his handling of Hurricane Katrina. What does the current president, President Trump, need to do right now to help the people of Texas?

BUSH: Well, accepting the governor's declaration was the first of several steps that he has followed through on. And so I know that the FEMA director has pledged the full weight and support of the federal government behind the state efforts. And as Governor Abbott briefed earlier today, the state is completely behind our counties and localities and areas of mandatory evacuation and where we've seen the crisis hit the most here in Texas.

But as I said, this is a dynamic situation, it's ongoing. We're anticipating a vast amount of precipitation through the state, close to 12 million people could be under some sort of flood advisory in the coming days. So there's more work to be done. And the federal government has been there and stepped up and we're communicating in a really expedient fashion.

[15:14:52] CABRERA: Good to hear it.

Texas land commissioner, George P. Bush, we would love to stay in touch with you in the coming hours and days. As you speak, the threat is not over yet.

Thank you for your time and our best wishes to you and your state right now.

Now, Tropical Storm Harvey does remain a threat. Heavy rain, flooding, as we've been discussing, expected over the next several days. Ahead, a live report from Houston, Texas. And more on what the White House is doing to help.

You're live in CNN NEWSROOM.



CABRERA: I'm going to turn now to the town of Victoria, Texas, roughly 40 miles north of Rockport. People there are bracing for torrential rainfall that could hit that area as well. Dramatic video from this morning shows Hurricane Harvey walloping the town with rain and strong winds.

Let get right to CNN correspondent, Polo Sandoval, in Victoria, Texas.

Polo, you spoke to some folks there who refused to evacuate. How is everybody doing?

[15:20:02] POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPODNENT: So far so good, Ana. Certainly, the damage we're seeing here in Victoria is not as severe as what the folks in Rockport have seen. However, it certainly is a situation. Yes, there's debris on the streets. And so far, a whole lot of law enforcement officials we've seen on the streets here making their rounds checking up on folks.

We've also seen that wind that continues here. And that is the wind that's keeping utility crews from making their way out and beginning repairs by handheld monitor here showing winds gusting close to 40 miles an hour. That's too high for the crews to get out and get electricity back online for some of the people that decided to stay behind.

A majority of the community here choosing to simply hunker down, including one gentleman that my colleagues had an opportunity to speak to. He said if his mother wasn't able to evacuate because of her age, he was simply going to stay. Take a listen.


GEORGE SANTIAGO, VICTORIA, TEXAS, RESIDENT: Got a rental car here just in case we need to move her. But she's 94. It's not that easy just to move, pick up and move her. So we were going to move her we were talking about moving her before the storm. Then we thought it might be best might not make the trip. But she's doing fine.


SANDOVAL: And it is still -- again, you're hearing from one individual, one of many people decided to stay put.

At this point, the recommendation by authorities is to stay home, don't try to make your way out to see the damage firsthand, especially since we expect much more rain in the coming hours. And that's a concern here, Ana, is that flooding. We've already seen plenty. We've seen some isolated pockets of flooding. Officials here fearing it's going to get much worse since we're only about half a mile -- or rather 30-minute drive from the coast -- Ana?

CABRERA: All right, Polo Sandoval, keep us posted. And do stay safe, my friend.

Tropical Storm Harvey has caused a wide path of destruction through the heart of Texas. We'll have a look at the damage and recovery efforts just how those are going just ahead.

You're live in CNN NEWSROOM.


[15:26:24] CABRERA: We are continuing to stay on top of what is now Tropical Storm Harvey. The impact just being revealed, residents are still bracing for the floods that could come. All of the torrential rains that are in the forecast in the next 24 hours.

Harvey hit as a category 4 hurricane, the strongest in more than a decade to slam the U.S. mainland, leaving many areas inundated with floodwater.

One of those cities right now feeling it is Houston.

CNN's Rosa Flores is there, and joining us now.

So the city we know is bracing for more than a foot and a half of rain, Rosa. Are officials and residents ready?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, officials here have been warning residents to be ready for four, five-days-worth of sheltering in place in their homes without being able to leave. And right now, what they're recommending, at least the Office of Emergency Management is recommending is for people to be aware of possible changing conditions for people not to travel. And the reason why they warn about changing conditions is because conditions can change very quickly, especially when you're talking about flooding.

And I want to show you something here because those changing conditions are very visible right here. On this tree branch, you see some debris flowing over. Now, you can see I'm probably about 5'11" tall, and you can see it's about my height. And even on this walkway here you see a lot of the mud accumulating. That's because there was water here. The water level, of course, came down. And you can see right now this is Buffalo Bayou. And normally, it is a normal bayou, it is not gushing like it is right now. Right now, it looks more like a raging river than anything else. And on these trees as well you can see how the water level is still pretty high. And this is what city leaders here are warning people about, the

conditions can change very rapidly. Flash-flooding happens in Houston very quickly. And so there are dips and valleys in some of these interstates in this city that people can be in a lot of danger if they try to drive through or even walk through. Take a look over here. This is a walkway, normally you'd be able to walk through there. It's very lovely on a normal day. Right now, it's very dangerous and treacherous because of these raging waters that continue to flow out. The good news, Ana, is that they are flowing in the direction of the Gulf of Mexico. These bayous are designed to drain water out into the Gulf of Mexico.

But of course, the concern is we are expecting more rain, 15 to 25 inches here in the city of Houston, in isolated areas 35 inches. We just don't know when exactly that's going to be. But officials here asking people to be ready for the next four or five days because conditions can change very quickly. And it can put people and it can put lives in danger.

CABRERA: Right. There was deadly flooding, in fact, in Houston back in May. And that was before hurricane. There was an enormous amount of rain, but nothing like what we're going to see here or what's expected at least from Harvey.

Were they able to, I guess, mitigate some of the risks that they experienced during that initial rainstorm in May that turned so deadly and tragic.

FLORES: Well, city leaders here tell us that they have resources deployed in strategic areas around the city to make sure that they're ready to respond because, again, there are no evacuation orders in the city of Houston. They're asking people to shelter in place.

[15:30:00] But with that said, they are asking people to monitor conditions around them to stay away from creeks and rivers and bayous because of the ebbs and flows in the levels -- in the water levels of these waterways. But the city and first responders are ready to go. They have high-water vehicles. They've got boats. They've got apparatuses that are ready to be deployed in case people need to be rescued.

So they are expecting that they might need to have rescue operations throughout the city of Houston and the suburbs and around the metro area. And people are ready. I've been in contact with firefighters who they're ready to go.

The good news, of course, right now is that we are not getting hit by rain. You can see it is a very light rain right now. But it ebbs and flows. So, you know, we say this a lot of the times when we cover weather, but people are going to have to be patient and also vigilant, Ana. Again, city leaders asking people to be aware of changing conditions. And if they see water rising very quickly, they're asking people to call for help.

CABRERA: All right. Rosa Flores for us in Houston. Thank you. The bayous of Houston, as Rosa's been showing us, are just bursting

with seams of rainwater -- bursting at the seams. Take a look at this. This is what White Oak Bayou looked like before Harvey. And there's what it looks like today, filled with water. The river rising 14 feet in just six hours with just over three inches of rain falling.

With Harvey still lurking in the Gulf of Mexico, a lot more rain is in the forecast.

Joining us Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

Mayor Turner, thank you so much for joining us.

How is your city holding up right now in terms of your assessment? I know you obviously have much broader look than our reporter on the ground seeing pockets in areas and neighborhoods.

SYLVESTER TURNER, (D), MAYOR OF HOUSTON, TEXAS: Well, at this point the city is holding up quite well. People are cooperating with us. We've asked people to stay off the streets unless there's an emergency, but stay at home. That's the safest place to be. We do know that there are areas that are prone to flood. And we're watching them very, very carefully. With few exceptions at this point, the water has stayed within the banks of the bayous. We are very fortunate that we're getting some breaks in between these rain bans. That's happened to allow some of the water to recede. That's a good thing.

But high-water rescue teams are ready, strategically placed. First responders are doing an excellent job. Underpasses that we know prone to flood, the gates are down, are barricaded. So we're good on that end. When we're working with the Red Cross, we have already have shelters ready to go, staffed and supplied in case we need them. And the faith-based community has been engaged. There are about 25 to 30 churches making their facilities available if we should need them. So the focus is to make sure that we are taking care of our seniors, people with disabilities, low income persons living in neighborhoods, communities that are prone to flood, we're watching those areas very carefully. And then all of yesterday, the police out on the street doing our best to move people who are homeless off the street and into shelters. So we are prepared. We asked people to cooperate with us. There's no evacuation for Houston or our county. We're just asking people to shelter in place and be patient.


TURNER: This will be a four or five-day event.

CABRERA: I want to play a warning Governor Greg Abbott gave to Texas drivers last hour and I'll talk on the backside.


GREG ABBOT, (R), TEXAS GOVERNOR: As you're traveling, if you are traveling out on the road, always watch for water on the road remembering that when you come across water it could be far deeper than what your eye observes or the swiftness of the current can be far stronger than what you perceive. You all know the well-known phrase and that is turn around, don't drown. Don't risk your life.


CABRERA: We know with flash-flooding it can happen so quickly, Mayor. And we were showing some images of cars still really driving down the highways there as if it's just any given day. Are people doing what they need to be doing?

TURNER: Most people are cooperating with us. I think this is the first day, and we've had several hours where there's been little or no rain so people may assume that things are clear. But things can change quite a bit. This is a serious storm. It's unprecedented. It will be four or five days of a lot of rain. There are some streets that are already flooding. So we know that's going to take place. We have only had one or two cases of structural flooding. But over the next four or five days, I'm expecting more flooding in the city. And so we're asking people the safest place to be is to be in your home. Don't get on the streets unless it's an absolute emergency. That will help our first responders to do their job. And it will help to keep everyone in the city safe. The city is prepared. We're going to do -- we'll do everything we need to do. If the people cooperate with us, we'll get through this and we'll take it one day at a time. But this is a serious storm. We're expecting two to three feet of more rain. This is a major rainwater event for us, and so it's very, very important for people to stay off the roads. And if you have to travel, if you have to travel, you know, turn around, don't drown. Don't run the risk, don't try to go through any undersection of the streets that are already flooded.

[15:35:30] CABRERA: Those words of caution are so important right now. We can't overstress them.

Mayor Sylvester Turner, thank you again for your time and good luck as the days come.

A broader look at how Tropical Storm Harvey hard hit Texas, and how the state is handling it. just ahead on CNN.


[15:39:52] CABRERA: We're continuing to follow Tropical Storm Harvey as it churns over south Texas, drenching parts of the state right now. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has declared a disaster in 50 counties. And he says, as of yet, there are still no fatalities. Overall, that update, the latest update we brought you at the top of the show was one fatality now in Rockport.

So as officials get out on the ground, they are now getting a better sense of what's happening in their individual jurisdictions. And we may start to see additional damage reports. And hopefully, not, but we could still see more fatality reports coming in as the evening draws on.

Here is some sound from an eyewitness who was on the ground during Harvey as it was a hurricane when it first made landfall.


UNIDENTIFIED TEXAS RESIDENT: This is like 2:30 this morning, and I just heard a loud noise. And I had my grandson. Whatever he learned in school, he was prepared because he ran into the closet and he had his hand above his head like this and he was in a fetal position. I'm so proud of him. And then we ran out, and we went on to the steps because there's a coat closet.

UNIDENTIFIED TEXAS RESIDENT: It was crazy. It was like I was scared when I heard it outside.

UNIDENTIFIED TEXAS RESIDENT: Yes, she was telling me it sounded like who was driving out in this weather, I'm like, baby, ain't nobody driving out there. And then she's saying like maybe it's a train or something. But, really, it's the wind. A lot of wind. But the tornado was coming through, passing through.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So we've seen the side of your mother-in-law's house. Big holes all over the place, parts of the roof are gone. When you came over here, were you surprised this had happened?

UNIDENTIFIED TEXAS RESIDENT: I was like I couldn't believe it. I thought it was just going to be some rain and maybe the hurricane, but not expecting no tornado to happen.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: A lot of people have asked the same sort of question, can this happen again. I mean, we're on day one of maybe four or five days of rain and wind and that sort of stuff. Are you worried you go to sleep tonight you won't even know something like this is going on.


UNIDENTIFIED TEXAS RESIDENT: It's scary. It's the second time something like that's happened and we didn't see a touchdown last time. But get in the closet or get in the bathtub, they say get in the center part of your house, get away from the windows, all that.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: -- get in the closet.

UNIDENTIFIED TEXAS RESIDENT: It's a scary, eerie feeling. I mean, I heard that whistling and that freight train noise first time and, I mean, it really -- I can't explain it. It's scary. I'm grateful and blessed my House didn't get touched.

UNIDENTIFIED TEXAS RESIDENT: This came from over there from that house, from the roof from that house from all the way damage the side of the wall.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What do you think about something like this?

UNIDENTIFIED TEXAS RESIDENT: Devastating. Yes. First time, first experience, devastated.


CABRERA: Joining us now, Texas State House Representative Todd Hunter, in Corpus Christi.

Representative, thanks for being with us.

You've been out assessing some of the damage. What have you seen?

REP. TODD HUNTER, (R), TEXAS STATE (via telephone): Well, it's just like I heard your audio. It sounded like -- just so you know most people haven't seen the damage since about 7:30 this morning. It's the first time they could see. It's been pitch black. It's like listening for eight to 10 hours a jet engine is what we heard. That sound is the wind coming in. First time we could see damage around this area was 7:30. I've been all over the area. Port Aransas looks like a wreck. Power lines, they've had to get National Guard, state guard to help us clean up along with the Texas Department of transportation. You have had power lines across the roadways. Stoplights don't work here. Just to let people know this is serious, people have had power out since 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. Yesterday.


HUNTER: So it was quite a storm.

CABRERA: Unbelievable. It sounds like it. And we know there's more to come.

Right now, we're learning there are 1,000 people involved in search- and-rescue efforts across the state. 1,800 military personnel on the ground ready to help in any way.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing residents right now?

HUNTER: Well, what everybody needs to know is when you get into a catastrophe like this, you need to use as much common sense as you can. Number one, if you have a hurricane or strong force winds or water, watch out on the roadways. Be very careful not only just for the flooding but is there a downed power line. A lot of injuries are by the power lines themselves. Watch debris. What happens after these storms, you have more trees --

[14:44:37] CABRERA: All right. I think we just lost you, unfortunately.

That was State Representative Todd Hunter joining us by phone, talking about it sounding like a jet engine as this hurricane bore down, making landfall. It happened overnight. It is now a tropical storm with wind gusts up to 70 miles per hour and rain falling hard in some areas.

We heard from the mayor of Houston that they're expecting two or three feet of additional rainfall in the next several days.

Thanks, again, for those officials spending time with us.

More on the federal response and what the government should be doing to help Texas just, ahead, live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


CABRERA: President Trump says he is closely monitoring Tropical Storm Harvey from Camp David. Meanwhile, Vice President Pence is at the White House also helping to coordinate some of the response efforts.

And I want to bring in Douglas Brinkley to talk about the response to the major storm.

We know the president obviously is monitoring everything from Camp David. You have a lot of experience looking back into the past in terms of how presidents have responded to their first national disaster tests. You've written book about Hurricane Katrina. You're the author of "The Great Deluge, Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast." So given all of the experience you have, we understand the president did have a teleconference on this storm earlier. He had lots of questions about flooding and power outages. How much does the president directly get involved in what is happening on the ground?

[15:50:45] DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, to put things in perspective, in Hurricane Katrina nearly 3,000 people lost their lives. And as CNN is reporting now, we have one fatality so far. Hopefully, no more. So you can see the difference in scope. Also with New Orleans, the black out there, the breached levees, the Corps of engineers' failures turned it into a surreal other-worldly disaster. We're not seeing that in Texas. We're seeing flooding and problems, yet to come, but thank goodness this was no Katrina.

I think President Trump has an obligation to get down to Texas to let people know that he is reassuring the country. Don't do what George W. Bush did which is a fly over and wave from Air Force One. Get down on the soil, inspect sites, talk with local leaders. I think Governor Abbott is doing a good job. Texas land commissioner, George P. Bush, who CNN just had on, is doing a good job. The state seems to be handling this as well as they can right now. And it's important to get the electricity back on and get the first responders able to get to people in need.

CABRERA: We know President Lyndon Johnson after Hurricane Betsy, went and visited within 24 hours. When is the right time to make a visit without interfering with the emergency responding efforts?

BRINKLEY: I think that is a great question. But we just saw the disaster that occurred in Charlottesville, and President Trump never went. I think he needs to get on planes and go places. So I would suggest he get down here earlier, rather than later. Lyndon Johnson was quite remarkable in 1965 because he actually went at night in a boat and tried to help people out of homes in the lower Ninth Ward saying, "I am your president, I am here."

The big thing that part of the role is -- we've been talking about mass shootings or Charlottesville. The president represents the American people. So we want to make sure that we're doing everything we can to help people stricken by the storm in Texas and Louisiana. And he has to become our voice, and our voice of reason and our voice of caring. And I hope in the coming days he will be able to get down here and try to show that the federal dollars and appropriations will be coming here, and FEMA is operating in a functional way. During Katrina, it went a AWOL on the country.

CABRERA: Republican Senator Chuck Grassley warned President Trump to pay attention to the storm. And I want to show you the tweet. He said, "@donaldtrump, hurricane, keep on top of Hurricane Harvey. Don't make the same mistake President Bush made with Katrina." The president responded, "Chuck Grassley, got your message loud and clear. We have fantastic people on the ground. Got there long before Harvey. So far so good."

What is your assessment of how the federal government is doing so far?

BRINKLEY: Well, you know, it wasn't just George W. Bush's flyover. President Barack Obama was very slow to go into the gulf south region when we had the famous B.P. oil spill and people were saying, where are you. I think it's important that Donald Trump did some showboating and grandstanding on Friday with Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the Sebastian Gorka and transgender in the military, kind of overloading the system when you should be focused on this first natural disaster, and doing tweets that show a kind of leadership and caring and get out of the politics for a few days.

CABRERA: Do you think that the politics took away from how he's responding to Harvey in some way?

BRINKLEY: I don't think, because in the end Texas was able to do what they needed to do, proper evacuations. We do have a disaster in county after county here in Texas, but with only one fatality so far, it looks like, while it is dumping a lot of rain, we will get through this. But Thursday and Friday, the president didn't know what the result would be of a storm like this, and he didn't seem to be able to get out of that antagonistic news cycle of last week, when I think he should have treated a category 4 hurricane as a sacred event, one of prayer and calm, and the pulling together and uniting of America, not doing something as radical as pardoning Joe Arpaio in the middle of 150-mile-per-hour winds whipping into Port Aransas and Rockport.

[15:55:32] CABRERA: It was a category 4 at the time.

Douglas Brinkley, thanks so much for your time.

BRINKLEY: Thank you.

CABRERA: Stay with us. Much more on the breaking news out of Texas, what is now Tropical Storm Harvey. It's downgraded from a hurricane. But the danger from this storm will last for several more days.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

But first, it's back to school time. And in classrooms around the country, students are about to be learning about the people who make this world better. One teacher in suburban New York has developed a unique way to help his students get inspired by some amazing individuals. Take a look.


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