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Texas Gov.: Our Priority is to "Protect Human Life"; Harvey Rains Pummel Houston; More Than 250 Texas Highways Closed Due to Flooding; Trump Expected to Travel To Texas as Early as Tuesday. Aired 3-4pm ET

Aired August 27, 2017 - 15:00   ET


VICE ADMIRAL KARL SCHULTZ, U.S. COAST GUARD: -- pre-positioning response capabilities throughout the South Texas region and into the state of Louisiana. We've got resources from the entire coast guard. From California, Maine, down the eastern seaboard through the gulf states that are here to support the state and FEMA. We've got eight helicopters that are out flying this morning with another eight flying into the area that are rescuing citizens from the immediate region here.

We've been down -- we still remain down in Corpus Christi. We're pushing more boats on the water from all parts of the country. My cousin is a border protection, air, marine partners have resources here and again, we are in the fight to support the state of Texas here with the full efforts of the entire coastguard.

A couple just messages as the maritime guy up here. This is a very, very dangerous storm with catastrophic consequence, and folks need to not underestimate that. It is going to be a sustained challenge for the coming days.

Many times folks wrongly presume the wind event is going to be the most challenging event. I've seen over the course of my career, it is actually the water event. And we are in for a real significant water event in the coming days.

So, heed the word of your emergency managers. To the citizens that are out there that are self rescuing and helping other folks with their boats, we're going to need that capability, the response lines, the EOC numbers, the coast guard numbers are overwhelmed right now.

We are trying to attenuate the tasks. Our men and women are flying their helicopters around, very serious rain bands, in and around them. The boats on the water are dealing with challenges.

So understand, patience is important here but your United Cost Guard as part of the DHS federal team is all in on this and I'll stand by, Governor, for any questions at the end. Thank you, sir.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: Thank you, Admiral. Once again, we are in the situation where we have priorities. Our top priority is to protect human life. And from the state of Texas side, we are working with local officials to do everything we can to protect our fellow Texans.

Secondly we're involved in the rebuilding process and that process has already began. And as these storms begin to depart the state of Texas, we will be very aggressive in the rebuilding process.

One of the most important aspects of my conversation with the FEMA administrator earlier today was to help people understand that the rebuilding process is going to be a long process, but is something that we will be able to get done. We're going to be able to get it done, because we have a very effective federal partner working with the state of Texas, which will serve as a very strong partner for our local communities.

With that, I'll be able to take any questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you could speak to the people of Houston, we've got images (INAUDIBLE), we've got people being rescued off their rooftops. There were some conflicting reports in the beginning about evacuation. Is this going to be Katrina -- Hurricane Katrina part two?

ABBOTT: Well, you know, as far as the evacuation and now is not the time to second guess the decisions that were made, what's important is, that everybody work together to ensure that we are going to first, save lives and then, second, help people across the state rebuild. And because of the effort that we've been able to put together, I think and believe we will be very successful at both.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're getting word that there's -- they're running out of boats and high-water vehicles in Houston in the Harris County and need assistance but the state is having trouble getting those resources there. Can you comment on that?

ABBOTT: Sure. Every -- whether it be a vehicle, a boat, or air, we provided to Houston every asset they asked for. In fact, we have already had in the air something like 20 helicopters involved in rescue missions. We have boats. So I think about 60 boats over there, and countless high-water vehicles.

And so everything they've asked for has been provided, and we stand ready to provide even more. And on top of that, we have both DPS as well as National Guard, in full operation mode.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) getting more resources in there right now?

ABBOTT: Not at all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have any update on some fatalities?

ABBOTT: I do not. There obviously have been reported fatalities, but I'm not in position to confirm that they are related to the storms.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How (INAUDIBLE) from the Houston gulf coast area? ( INAUDIBLE) out there?

ABBOTT: We don't have that information, do we?


ABBOTT: We don't have that information.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tell the number of rescues (INAUDIBLE)?

ABBOTT: On our numbers?

SCHULTZ: The challenge is, they're happening so fast right now in and around those rainbands, it's hard to keep track of the number that we're actually doing.

[15:05:02] If I asked them to report to me how many they were doing, that would take them away from actually doing the rescues. So it didn't get them out there. We'll collect that data at the end of the evening.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you just -- you know, kind of put this on a scale of how this disaster compared to previously ones both nationally and then in Texas? One of the worse or the worst?

ABBOT: Well, as you know, with that being a category 4 hurricane, it's the strongest storm Texas has had since 1961. And when you consider the larger population now than what we had back then, obviously, this is a very large disaster. And -- then you consider the fact of the size of it, ranging all the way from Corpus Christi to Houston and parts north of Houston. And you have not only the wind component but also the rain component and the flooding. And so, this would be a very large disaster.

One thing that I'm very proud of is the fact that the federal government has so quickly responded to provide all of the aid the state of Texas has needed, that helps us respond much more robustly. And going back to whoever asked the question, that the federal government has conveyed to the city of Houston, that Houston asked for assets that the federal government is providing them also.


ABBOTT: I have called the mayor several times. I have his cell number, and I left messages for him. Repeatedly, to let him know that whatever he needs, the state of Texas will provide.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's your message specifically to people of Houston?

ABBOTT: We want you to be safe. We want you to know that we are working with Harris County and with the city of Houston to ensure that we're going to provide you with the resources you need to, first, save your life, and then, second, rebuild your lives. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) talk to me about the cooperation of the federal government but a couple days ago, in this very room, you talked about how people in Houston should consider evacuating, then there was a message from local officials in Houston saying it's not necessary. Has there been a breakdown of communication within the state and local officials about how people should respond to this incident which frankly we all saw coming 48 hours ago?

ABBOTT: Right. I have spoken with the county judge on a daily basis, and first, to offer any help the state of Texas can provide. But -- we've moved beyond whether or not there should have been an evacuation or not. And we are at the stage where we just need to respond to the emergencies and necessities the people of Houston have. But, again, it's not just people around Houston, it's in this large triangle region.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And time for one more, guys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many choppers did you say we had in the air with the coast guard?

SCHULTZ: Yes, eight coast guard in the air where they -- probably in the air now. There's probably upwards of 15-plus of helicopters and coast guard as part of a much broader team.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably 20 between the coast guard and the DPS.


SCHULTZ: And those that are also deployed for rooftop, you know, rescues, et cetera?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) you said earlier today that you were going to ask for an expanded federal disaster --

ABBOTT: Thank you for asking that. I missed that. Dave (ph), I can always count on you.


ABBOTT: As of this moment, I've made a state disaster declaration for 50 counties, and a federal disaster declaration for 19 counties. The federal disaster declaration for those 19 counties has already been granted by the president. I do anticipate adding more counties to that list.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that's the first time (INAUDIBLE)?

ABBOTT: Correct.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks guys. We got to go.

ABBOTT: Thank you.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right, you heard from Texas Governor Greg Abbott there talking about the resources being dedicated to this disaster zones. Fifty counties declared state declaration, places of emergency and federal -- emergency declared areas in 19 counties. You heard the governor there talk about 3,000 state guard and National Guard service workers who are dedicated to descending on these troubled areas. Five hundred vehicles being involved, six shelters and 14 aircraft.

Two hundred fifty highways that have been closed as a result of the flooding that you continue to see and this state bracing for more water as a result of rain. That will continue until Friday, bringing more floodwaters to the areas.

[15:10:01] One of the hard-hit areas is Downtown Houston. That's where we find our Rosa Flores there.

And so Rosa, have you seen more people who have been walking through the high waters similar to the images that we're seeing in roads and highways in the Harris County area who are trying to get out of their homes that have been taken over by high water?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, we have seen more vehicles try to go through those high water areas like you mentioned, and first responders tell us all the time to let people know that, that is a bad idea. That's what you don't want to do.

Now, Fred, I want to show you around here because what it really feels like in Downtown Houston right now is like being in a shrinking island. Why? Because this water keeps on creeping up closer and closer to us.

You can probably see the I-45 north ramp that goes to Dallas. The sign only, the ramp, you can't see it anymore. The water is gushing there. We can only show you the tree tops in that area because the water is so high.

Now, we have moved multiple times today to bring you pictures from a safe location because it's very difficult to maneuver in the downtown area because water is coming from everywhere. As we turn around this way you can see yet again that's another street, another outlet, yet it's creeping --

WHITFIELD: All right, we're losing that signal. This is what happens when you have floodwaters because we got a lot of cable that also gets drenched with high waters as is the case there in Downtown Houston. Look at these other images that we're seeing there around the Harris County area. You see those air boats, motorboats that are being used to traverse the city with so many roads closed. All right, we're going to try back with Rosa Flores. I think we've got that signal back. All right, Rosa, continue.

FLORES: Yes, as I was saying, it really feels like a shrinking island here in Downtown Houston because we're surrounded by water, and water keeps on creeping up closer and closer to the higher ground. You can see over my --

WHITFIELD: All right, sorry again. That happens intermittently with weather and conditions like this with our technology marrying with a lot of water.

All right, Ed Lavandera is south of Texas there. I mean, south of Houston there in Dickinson, Texas, just outside of Galveston.

So Ed, earlier we saw a lot of boat activity rescues taking place where you are. What's happening now?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fredricka. What is unbelievable, let's just look here, this is -- as you mentioned, Dickinson, Texas, just south of Houston. We are standing on Interstate 45, not on some little small road that has been flooded out in all of this. This is the major interstate that takes you between Galveston Island and the city of Houston. And you can see, there's been a fleet of people who have shown up here along Interstate 45 with their own boats and have just deployed these boats out into the water to rescue like we see three there just going down.

This is a -- would be like the on ramp to the interstate here. A fourth person here starting to make their way or maybe coming back from already picking somebody up. These two guys here starting -- trying to start their boat about to launch off again. So we see this nonstop.

And then, I can give you a sense here. There's huge trucks like this, these folks are bringing these people here to the edge of the water and they're getting in in large trucks like this. Some of them have been buses, some of them have been trucks, dump trucks. Whatever it might take to get people to shelters that have been set up a little further south of where we are. But this is a military-style vehicle filled up with people there in the back.

So we are seeing this repeatedly here along the interstate, and this is an area that we've talked to various people behind the tree lines that you see. It's kind of hard to make out as we stand here on the interstate.

The roads are impassable hence, why you need these boats to get into these neighborhoods. I've talked to a number of people who say -- one gentleman who had come from a mobile home neighborhood back in this direction where you're looking toward, that was about an hour and a half ago. And he told me that there were still, he believed, about 1,000 people or so still trapped in that neighborhood and that the water was getting to the top of the home there's.

Spoke with another woman, as you saw, Fredricka, a little while ago, who's sitting on their rooftop in a neighborhood of people sitting on rooftops. Some of them have been rescued by coast guard helicopters who've been hovering over the area throughout the area.

But when you look at this scene here and you think about this is Interstate 45, you might see every one on another area there were people standing on top of the overpass there. This is looking towards the north. The city of Houston back in that direction probably another 25, 30 miles or so. And that is kind of the point of no return.

[15:15:07] There's -- that exit there, the water is way too high on the other side of that overpass, impossible to drive through. And even if you come over just to this side, this is actually kind of fascinating here. This is the barrier that stands here between the north and southbound lanes of Interstate 45, and we're able to kind of walk around here in this area, Fredricka, but if you look over here just on the barrier that divides both of the roadways, just look at how much water is on this side of Interstate 45

This is the southbound lane that takes you towards Galveston Island and this is a good foot and a half, two feet of water here on this part of the interstate. Several cars have been stranded. Some people we had spoken to were trying to drive through this and their car stalled out and they were -- you know, jumped out of that situation.

But really, the story of this area here in Dickinson is just the fleet of people who have been jumping into the -- into action here to help out first responders. Just the demand of people calling for help is completely overwhelming, and that is why a lot of these people -- some -- one person I spoke with said that there have been a Facebook alert to various communities that said, if you have a flat bottom boat, get out here to Interstate 45 and help out what you can.

It also puts first responders we're talking to -- we've spoken to them a little bit in a little bit if a precarious situation. They don't necessarily want anybody who's willy-nilly kind of going out there and trying to do what they can because that can also create problems.

But, you know, at this point, this is such a desperate situation, that they are taking all of the help that they can get. So, you've seen these boats launch out back over here. You can see several more, the fleet of trailers and boats that are kind of standing back here on the scene. Everyone kind of deploying and helping out where they can. Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: Wow, it is kind of gridlock because it really does looks like a mix of a road -- I mean, vehicles that just got stuck because they can't get through, you know, the impossible portions of I-45 there. At the same time, it also turned into sort of -- torn into like a boat ramp, Ed, with so many folks who've come out with their vehicles to launch their boats, to assist in those rescues.

And the governor was just talking how much people are going to be relying on these good Samaritans who have the right kind of apparatus in which help one another.

Ed, we're going to check back with you there from Dickinson, Texas. And now we're going to also head further up north in the Houston area to a suburb known as Sugar Land there. Polo Sandoval is there in Sugar Land, just southwest of Downtown Houston. Very, you know, highly concentrated residential area, but what are we looking at right now, Polo? Where are you?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Some of the residents that you'll be -- residencies that you'll be able to see behind me in a few moments. But first, I want to show you what some of these bayous look like in the city of Houston.

This is right off of Interstate 69, Fred, Brays Bayou. This is usually a small creek. You can see what it looks like today. This is really what is fueling concerns of flooding.

And off in the distance, you're able to see a coast guard helicopter that we've seen circling the area and hovering above this bayou for the last 15, 20 minutes or so. A little while ago, we saw them lower a cable with a hook and then came right back attached to nothing.

So, we're not quite sure what kind of efforts are happening here but obviously these are the kinds of -- this is the kind of air craft that's often for used for rescues. We have seen rescues take place here in Houston quite a bit, so, again, we're going to try to find out exactly what's happening there.

But this has certainly drawn quite a few people -- on the interstate as you can see but then they're met by --

WHITFIELD: Oh my goodness, we lost that signal as is the case when you've got, you know, high humidity, at 78 degrees there. High humidity typically on a good day in Houston, even more so now that you've got all this accumulation of water after 20 inches of rain, more rain on the way through Friday.

A terrible situation in much of south Texas there all the way up to Harris County, Houston. We'll check back with Polo there in Sugar Land.

Meantime, residents of the Houston area are waiting through incredible situations as you see right there. Sometimes knee-high, waist-high, even chest-deep water and they are also being rescued from their homes by boats. And in some cases they're urged to head to the rooftops, because of the rising water. Take a listen to some of the stories of survival.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw this lady and she told us her situation and we tried our best to flag down some help but these jerks wouldn't stop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're here since 4:00 in the morning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you've been walking, literally from Scarsdale 45 --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, no boats and no cars tried to stop (INAUDIBLE). Nobody stopped and we yelled for them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where are you guys coming from?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Far off Third Street down so it's about shoulder length over there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So is your house two stories? One story? What made you guys --

[15:20:01] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One story.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, and it's flooded?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's flooded. Everything is flooded over there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to try to see what we can salvage from the wreck and hope for the best I guess.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You said somebody in there needs medical attention right now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Her name is Ashley, she's got two kids and their family is there. They're on insulin pumps. The babies are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just pray, just pray. That's all I ask. Just pray for my babies.



WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. No running water, little communication, and no functioning infrastructure in the area. Those chilling descriptions shed light on the conditions in Rockport, Texas right now, a coastal city there on the gulf. That's where we also find CNN's Martin Savidge.

So, Martin, officials, you know, warned that Hurricane Harvey would leave cities uninhabitable for weeks and perhaps even months. And it looks like you just might be seeing that where you are?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, absolutely. I mean, you know, (INAUDIBLE) struck by and I was listening to all the reporting coming out of Houston and it is heartbreaking.

[15:25:02] But then you look at the devastation here, it is the same exact storm is responsible for both, but, of course, Harvey came ashore here and as a category 4 then. It's mass destruction. Everything from businesses that you see here.

The hard part is trying to convey to you the scope of it, how much of this town. It's about 10,000 people, but if you include the outlying area, it's much more than that, that has been impacted. It's home after home. It's business after business. And it's just a huge debris field. Almost all of this that has been caused as result of the massive winds that in some cases here were a 130, maybe some say a 140 miles an hour.

So that kind of devastation is everywhere you look in this town. And then you get these crazy ironies, much like you see in tornadoes. This is the Book Nook, you can the books are all on the shelves but, of course, the roof is completely gone.

You know, this is the type of stuff you're accustomed to maybe with tornadoes but with a hurricane, it's -- not usually. Except in this case, yes, because it was such an extreme storm.

The good news is that they are starting to establish the first responders. The grocery market, or parking lot here is being used. ou see the National Guard is here. J ust about every agency of the Texas government is here.

And as you point out, city officials are saying the public should not be here. If you were here and rode out the storm, and there were a few, and they say nerve again. But if you are here, then you should leave.

And they've got busses that anybody to take them to other parts of Texas to do that. If you are thinking of coming home after evacuating, no, don't. This is not the time.

In fact, it may be a long time before people can come back. It's dangerous, there's no electricity, there's no sewage, communication is very limited. And right now, the first responders need to get out and do the search and rescue and that's what they're doing. That's the high priority.

The other concern, natural gas. They're trying to cap it off. There is a lot of national gas leaking in this community and you know what the hazards to get from that.

So, they are struggling greatly here. But at the same time, some of the resources that initially came here are being resent back up to Houston to help there because of that problem.

WHITFIELD: Yes, it is a bad situation in Houston. But like you said, you know, there are folks who are kind of trapped in between. Perhaps they left Rockport area, thought they might be able to find refuge in Houston, if they even made it there because so many roads are impassable. So what is the case or is it the case that you have some people who left the Rockport area, finding it uninhabitable, and then they're making the way back or they just kind of stuck in between, nowhere to go?

SAVIDGE: Yes. Their biggest problem now, yesterday, it was water. You had all the major highways here covered by a lot of water. That has drained out somewhat, thank goodness because the rain here isn't as consistent as what you're seeing in Houston. Now, here, the problem is debris or power lines or power poles. There is a lot of stuff that has come down and that is hindering a lot of the side roads. They brought in heavy earth-moving equipment and that's being used to clear the path for the emergency crews. The side streets and stuff like still very difficult, and there is still a lot of standing water.

So, debris, power lines, power poles, those are the biggest hindrance in and around this area.

WHITFIELD: All right. Martin Savidge, thank you so much.

Well, let's head north now toward the Houston area to a Houston suburb, in fact, where helicopters are in the air conducting rescues. Polo Sandoval is in Sugar Land, just southwest of Houston. So, what is happening right there?

SANDOVAL: Well, Fred, we showed you some of those pictures of a coast guard helicopter hovering over one of Houston's bayous here in Southwest Houston. Just a few minutes ago, we watched as one of those recognizable baskets that they often used for rescues was lifted up, hoisted up, just behind a tree line.

Again, this is a -- we're directly right next to I-69 as you're driving into Houston from Sugar Land, a municipality just outside of the city. So it's very likely we may have just witnessed one of these many rescues that have been taking place here in Houston, Texas.

I took a closer look, an aerial view of more or less when that helicopter is hovering, we do -- we did recognized what appear to be several apartment buildings, a cluster of housing units just behind the tree line. And also, most importantly, it also appears to be where two of these bayous meet.

Some of the water that you're looking at is what's known here as Breeze Bayou, that actually meets another one. This is usually a small creek, and -- but as residents tell me, you know, obviously in the last several hours, all of that rainwater has been flowing into these bayous and now creating this raging river that is now the scene of this, one of the latest -- what appear to be the latest rescues taking place.

And as we can see in these live pictures that cable is once again lowered down below. So it will be interesting to see if there could potentially be another rescue here just taking place, Fred.

WHITFIELD: And so, Polo, in the time that you've been there, have you seen this has been a particularly active area for this coast guard chopper in assisting?

[15:30:08] SANDOVAL: Sure. We've only been here for probably about 30 to 45 minutes, and I can tell you that this was the first helicopter that we spotted in the area. This is also drawing quite the crowd.

We do want to stay on these pictures, but if I could, I would show you the bridge what we're standing on. And I could tell you there's at least six to 10 people that have just -- that are standing and watching what could be this dramatic rescue here.

So this certainly has led people to come out, to see what exactly is happening. And there we go. You can actually see one of those individuals being hoisted up above or into the helicopter, the coast guard helicopter here in Southwest Houston.

WHITFIELD: Wow. All right, pretty extraordinary. We're going to continue to look at this, because oftentimes when you're seeing rescues like this you might see a rescuer attached to that cable, go down, you know, assist someone in basket, bring them up. Difficult to tell, it looks like one person. So perhaps that line that we saw dropped down may be a rescuer was already on the ground to help get that person in? And on that line, and lifted and --

SANDOVAL: Wait. Absolutely. That's very well -- that's very likely.

And again, as I said, we can't really get close to the area where this apparent rescue just took place. But I did look at the aerial view, on the satellite view if you will, and we did see a cluster of homes there and some apartments in the area. And also, as we mentioned a little while ago, it's where two of these bayous meet.

So as you may imagine that certainly can lead to a dangerous situation there because of the flooding, as we see this bright orange coast guard helicopter in Southwest Houston leave the area, Fred?

WHITFIELD: Yes, difficult to know. And in that case, it also could be a rescuer doing an assessment and not taking anyone but we'll have to find out the story on that. But the pictures in and of itself, very dramatic. Certainly painting a picture of just how desperate and dire the situation is.

We heard the governor earlier say, at least in terms of military aircraft, there were 14 that are involved, that have been dispatched today.

All right, thanks so much, Polo. We'll check back with you.

All right, now, let's bring in Tom Sater who is monitoring what is now a tropical storm, Harvey, but it is not finished. It has about, what, four or maybe even five more days of business to do right there in Texas?

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. You know, Fredricka, last week, even last Thursday, the computer models kept the storm in the state of Texas until Saturday. We have a new model run. I want to show you and at least for this model, the European model wants to drop it out late Thursday night, but it's still that several days of rain.

And when you look at these numbers, they're all from different counties in Texas. The bottom one is Harris County, that is of the, of course, the Houston area. And I hate to say this but it looks like we may double this number. When you look at the pictures right now of the high water and the rescues taking place from the amount of rain that has fallen, can you imagine doubling now whatever you've picked up? We'll get another amount of this. This is what has fallen already in the color of purple.

Just to the east of Houston and purple all the way over to near the border of Louisiana. You can see a large swath of 10 inches plus and inside there are many areas in white that are 20 plus. And we've seen those numbers even in around the Houston area, and around Sam Houston Tollway inside of course metro are.

Then you add this to it. Anything in purple is another 10. And white, it's 20-plus and that includes the Houston area.

It now slides to the east of Houston, to the west, and greater numbers to the north. So what you're seeing as far as devastation will become more broad for eastern Texas, and then into Louisiana.

Now, where Martin Savidge was in Rockport, their problem is, of course infrastructure, no electricity. But the center of Harvey is now sliding back down pretty close to Rockport. Its winds are sustained at 40.

When it slides back into Rockport, that's going to keep, you know, any electrical workers from trying to get poles back up or trying to restore power. It may put them back a few days but it's a mess. I know they've got a lot to work on. But the system that is moving south offshore will get back into, of course, the gulf and this is a refueling stop.

This is like pouring gasoline back into the small engine here that continues to churn. That's like turning the vacuum on or the siphon so more water from the gulf can get dumped on the state of Texas.

I want to show you a computer model. First, let me show this one, this is the National Hurricane Center, this goes out 120 hours. So, again, it's still in the state of Texas and you can see how it refuels and moves northward.

A European model which has been extremely, extremely well in handling this, since back on Wednesday, I want to show the model. Here's where we are, Corpus Christi, the center slides offshore. Notice the rainband up in Houston, we're going to play this twice so you can really see what's happening. Gets into the waters, Houston back into the heavy rain, stays in it, slides to the east and to the north. Then eventually slides this out late Thursday in towards Friday into Louisiana.

[15:35:10] I want to show you one this more time. Focus on the bright colors on Houston. Here is Houston, now, instead of watching where the center is, if you just keep an eye on those bright colors of heavy rainfall, band after band, hour after hour. No matter where the storm moves, it continues to flow this moisture into the area. Now it seems to be more on the western flank, but this is why we're looking at the possibility unfortunately of doubling our rain totals, a one in 1,000- year rain event. Hashtag, pray for Texas.

WHITFIELD: My goodness, indeed. All right, we are all doing that. Tom Sater, thank you.

So some residents of the Houston area in particular are being rescued from their homes by boat and as you saw, there also helicopters in the air. And others are being urged to head to the rooftops because of these unpredictable rising waters. Take a listen to some of the survival stories.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's pretty terrifying, I must admit. Watching that water come up, come in, and keep coming up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, you've gone through this twice before?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, this is probably the last time we're going to do this here. I don't think we're going to do it again. I don't think so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. And so what happened to the house?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the water started coming up the yard, I noticed it about 1:00 in the morning, starting coming in various parts in front of the house so I started picking things up. From that point, woke up my wife, my son, made sure they were safe, start putting things up high.

On about 3:00, we decided to come over to my neighbor's second story house because it's a second story. Put them up there and then started grabbing different neighbors. Getting them out of their single stories, get up into the second story here. So we had about, last count, 11 people, 6 dogs, 2 cats. So, it's a kind of a Noah's Ark for the last seven or eight hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And now we're actually waiting for emergency --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we had an HPD officer with us, one of the cadets, and she requested emergency evac around about 2:00 in the morning and we requested them multiple times from multiple different sources. Anyone we checked to ask to help us, no one's come.

We haven't heard anyone, we haven't seen anything, short of neighbors coming and helping us.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've got my buddy here with a kayak, who's had other people in a raft, just trying to keep all the animals safe and try to get everyone out of here in one piece.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just moved here two months ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold on. You just moved here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two months ago. We own a house in Corpus Christi, too so we got a double (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, you're lucky you weren't in Corpus Christi.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you plan to do now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hopefully get my daughter to come pick us up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How bad was it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It wasn't that bad because we were just watching the water rise, so. And thank goodness Simone (ph) came and knocked on our door and got everybody, got everybody in the neighborhood. And then she helped, she's a police officer and she helped us. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you think at that point?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought it was worse than I thought it was.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It kind of surprised you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was very surprising, how fast it rose and everything. I didn't think it would rise that fast, but it is. So, welcome to Houston.


[15:42:50] WHITFIELD: All right. We've seen some extraordinary images coming out of the flooding that has resulted in Texas, south Texas. Immense flooding, but this image is just heart-stopping. It's unimaginable and it is hard to believe, but you're seeing right here the images of how this water is so life threatening. And how it has put the most vulnerable in grave danger.

But as a result, this image that went out from this La Vita Bella Nursing Home in Dickinson, Texas where you see the water is waist high and you see people who are living in this facility, they're sitting in the chairs, the water is at their shoulders. And in some cases, a woman closest to us, who's in a walker, you see the water is at her waist.

We understand 20 to 25 people have been rescued from National Guard helicopters, people who are staying at this La Vita Bella home. This massive flooding outside seeping inside this assisted living home, leaving these elderly residents stranded. And you can only imagine how frightened they must be.

We do understand that 20 to 25 people have been rescued. Still unclear whether there are anymore rescues that have to take place at this facility. But we do know from our Ed Lavandera reporting in the Dickinson, Texas, area, there have been a number of people who remain stranded in other residences in that vicinity, and they, too, are awaiting rescue.

All right. So let's get to another area of the flood zone, north of those images out of Dickinson, Texas, just simply heart-stopping. Let's going to Houston now, Downtown Houston which is commercial, there are government buildings and, of course, there are residences, too. Rosa Flores is there and the water remains high there.

What's the situation?

FLORES: You know, there are a lot of intense and stressful moments for the residents of the metro Houston area. We know that more than a 1,000 rescues happened overnight. More than 2,600 calls into the offices of first responders.

[15:45:01] It is unclear how many cars are submerged and look behind me, streets and bayous are now raging rivers. The images are unbelievable to see, Fred. I mean, we are -- I'm at the loss of words to describe just how much water is in the Downtown Houston area.

I mean, you see signs to the interstate that you can't see anymore, that you wouldn't be able to drive to. You see the traffic lights that were working earlier this morning that are now off. We were doing live shots where those traffic lights, we're very early this morning and now it is completely unsafe for us to even head in that direction.

You see that the water is flowing and gushing. Well, it's gushing towards the Gulf of Mexico. Houston is a bayou city. These bayous are designed to flush the water out of the gulf, out of the city and into the Gulf of Mexico.

Right now, they are burdened by all of this water. They are being tested by all of this water that surrounds the entire Downtown area.

I want to take you on a 360 look here. You can see that everywhere you look, and I walked multiple blocks in this direction, and every single street looks like what you're looking at right now. It really feels like we're on an island that keeps on creeping closer and closer and tighter and tighter as the water creeps closer and closer.

Earlier this morning, Fred, we were able to walk beyond the cones, we can't do it anymore, again, because the water keeps creeping up. As the governor mentioned and his local officials have mentioned, they have resources placed all over the city. Strategically placed all over the city to rescue people, if need be, and we know that the 911 call center has been overwhelmed, because so many people are seeing what you're seeing here, except where the bayous meander through the neighborhoods.

People are seeing that water creep up closer and closer to their homes and they're extremely concerned, Fred. Not only those people but their family members. We've talked to people here in the Downtown Houston area who were worried about the people and their families who are in the areas where you saw Ed Lavandera talk to folks and where you saw Polo Sandoval as well.

And so, they're communicating by phone. They're keeping that line of communication but the stress and the worry still hanging over the residents here in Houston. WHITFIELD: All right, and it is very frightening and we're seeing more images that continue to pour in. People who are being rescued, people clutching all that they have. They're clutching their pets, they're clutching each other, neighbors have been helping one another, along with first responders who have been out there with boats, with high-water vehicles and that we've seen choppers in the air.

Thank you so much, Rosa.

So President Trump, we understand now is expected to travel to Texas as early as Tuesday. We understand, soon, he will be arriving back at the White House after spending the weekend at Camp David.

Let's go now to CNN's Athena Jones live at the White House.

So, Athena, what's behind this decision-making?

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fred. As you mentioned, the president has just departed Camp David, expected to touch down here in the next 15 or 20 minutes. We've been talking for the past couple of days about the president saying that he wants to visit Texas, in the words of one senior administration official, as soon as possible.

One concern being he doesn't want his visit, the footprint of his visit, the security necessary, to hamper any rescue or recovery or rebuilding efforts there on the ground. But now we're learning from several sources familiar with the president's plans that he could visit the state as soon as Tuesday.

The location or locations he is likely to visit haven't yet been set, but we understand that they may be leaning towards the city like San Antonio, that is a city that is less hard hit.

They want to avoid the hard-hit areas as I mentioned so they don't get in the way of any sort of rescue and recovery efforts. But the idea of making this visit very early on would be to show that Texas has the support of the federal government.

So we're still awaiting an official announcement from the White House on the president's travel plan. But I can tell you just a while ago, he held another conference call, a videoconference call from Camp David with Vice President Mike Pence and several others from his cabinet, and other officials, who were at the -- in the White House Situation Room.

They covered many of the same topics and raised the same points covered yesterday that we learned in the White House readout. We know the president stressed the expectations that all departments and agencies will focus on priority number one, which is saving lives, preventing the loss of life.

They talked how search and rescue efforts are going to transition into having to restore power. Having to provide life-sustaining necessities for people who may have been stranded. And they also talked about the need for the folks who are there still in that area to follow the instructions of state and local officials

[15:50:02] And as for how engaged the president has been on all of this, Fred, we know he began receiving updates, several updates through the night on Friday night from chief of staff, John Kelly as the storm was making landfall in Texas.

He received more updates Saturday morning, he continues to monitor the situation, he's tweeted about it at least half a dozen times just since last night. And we know that Texas Governor Greg Abbott said this morning on state of the union that he has spoken to President Trump several times and the White House's Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert who is playing a key role in coordinating all of the federal government's efforts to help -- the recovery efforts said that he has spoken to the president and to the vice president at least like a dozen times each.

So this is all part of the White House's efforts to show that they are very much engage, very much monitoring developments and stand ready to help. And, Fred, Houston is my hometown, we know this as it's unfolding, the situation that's ongoing, we have so much more rain still expected and so folks here are very well aware of the direness of the situation there, and the fact that it could get still worse. Fred?

WHITFIELD: And so, Athena, have you had a chance to talk to any of your family members in Houston or any relatives that are there?

JONES: Yes. The ones I managed to reach all say that they are fine, but I know that one family member left Downtown Houston right around the street from where Rosa Flores is standing to go further north. And so the question is, what the home will look like later on. We'll have to wait and find out. Fred?

WHITFIELD: So true, and that is the waiting game for so many people but glad to hear that they are all physically OK in your family. That's good news. Athena Jones, thank you so much.

As we continue to look at images of water rescues taking place in the Houston area. This is the state of affairs there right now, people being rescued. Many people caught off guard that so much water would rise so quickly even though forecasters have said it would be a big rain event.

And now that's the question going to Houston as well as state government about evacuations. We heard from the governor earlier responding to that, saying this is a rain event. And also the mayor earlier saying to put 6 million people on the road for evacuation. Just did not seem reasonable but nonetheless, many people are being rescued because a lot of water is on the ground and a lot more water is expected to rise.

All right, let me bring in my panel right now to discuss a number of things here. CNN political commentator and host of the Ben Ferguson Show, Ben Ferguson, and Ellis Henican, political analyst, best selling author and columnist for the Metro Papers. Good to see you both.

And Ben, aren't you a Texan?

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I am, yes, in Dallas. In fact, my in-laws are in Houston right now, my mother and father-in-law have water, unfortunately coming into their home right now. They've actually -- they gave a dinghy to the local police in their community so that they could help rescue people all afternoon. And my brother- in-law, they've got water surrounding their house but he's been out literally all day long in a kayak helping get people out there.

It's amazing what people would do when they come together. And that's one of the most beautiful parts of the disasters like this, is seeing people that, you know, will do whatever it takes to help people. There are so many elderly there that need help and so many young people, babies and children, that many neighbors have been just walking from door to door down the street, using kayaks and little boats.

I know that Harris County tweeted out earlier, that if you have a boat -- and Harris County for people that don't know that Houston area, that's where the Houston proper. They asked that if you had a boat to please contact them. And many of the police are helping, many of the people are getting in the boats even as their own homes are flooding.

One of their neighbors on the street have a fishing boat, a 150 horse power engine, his own house is flooding and he's out there in this boat helping people that need to be evacuated. They got to one person that was a paraplegic and were able to get him on the boat and get him to safety.

So, it is that in Houston right now and from every indication from the pictures I'm seeing literally from my in-laws, it's getting worse.

WHITFIELD: Wow, it really --

FERGUSON: It's going to be a long couple of days.

WHITFIELD: It is indeed. I mean, our Tom Sater, meteorologist, is saying there is going to be rain until Friday. So the waters, while they have risen, they will rise even more up to 20 inches more, expect it.

And glad to hear, Ben, that all of your family that you've been in touch with is OK, and to hear those stories of neighbor helping neighbor.

We spoke with Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee who talked about being eyewitness to that. We talked to other people, residents who have been trapped in their homes, who talked about seeing neighbors helping one another out. And the governor and emergency management officials also have been saying, they are urging people to continue to do that as long as they remain safe as well.

FERGUSON: You know, it's amazing about this too it's just there's power of -- you know, we hear all the negative of social media and bullying. Days like today are the days when I'm so thankful for social media. Literally, people have been tweeting out and posting on Facebook. This is where we are, we're trapped, we can't drive down the street, our car would be -- you know, literally be under water. Can someone please come get us, and neighbors are connecting with their friends.

[15:55:09] And that's how a lot of these people are getting saved by -- not the police, but by people, just citizens in these boats who are saying, what's the address, OK, we'll go get them. And that is the part that is incredible about the human spirit today in Houston.

This is going to be a long couple of days, and for everybody that are watching right now, I would encourage them to do whatever you can to donate and get involved. Because this is going to be catastrophic for the amount of water they have, what's coming in the days ahead. And they're going to need awful lot of support and help from all of us.

WHITFIELD: So true, lots of people coming together and it's a beautiful thing to see.

And Ellis, you know, the president now, at least by way of the White House, we heard our Athena Jones there talking about the White House and the president just prior to Hurricane Harvey making landfall, he said that he had plans to make his way to Texas, and now we're hearing officially it could be as early as Tuesday.

What's your idea about the importance of a president coming to a disaster area and particularly at this juncture, when it is still an ongoing affair crisis?

ELLIS HENICAN, COLUMNIST, METRO PAPERS: It's a very important symbolic step, as George W. Bush learned in the botched (ph) reaction to Katrina. You got to show that we as a nation, and that we as a government are there for people, and you need to do it in a way that doesn't disrupt the life saving activities that are going on.

Well Ben speaks well and eloquently about that neighbor helping neighbor thing that we see at times like this, let's not forget the crucial role the government plays at the local, state and, yes, the national levels. These are huge jobs when you have two or three feet of water in the sea of a major American city.

It is not enough simply for people to be neighborly, we need huge economic resources, rebuilding, money, loans to people. This is going to go on not just for days and weeks, but in my hometown of New Orleans as we learned, literally goes on for years, and you can't do it without a good reaction from Washington.

FERGUSON: Yes. I also think --


WHITFIELD: -- FEMA administration who said, you know, they will be on the ground there for years to come. You heard from the governor earlier who, you know, in his word he said, you know, he'll be calling on the strong federal partner, and already, there has been a lot -- there have been many federal assets that have been dedicated to this area. The president arriving there possibly on Tuesday. And while the president has -- and the White House has conveyed that they have all been kept abreast earlier today, there were a series of tweets that came from the president, some about this now tropical storm Harvey. But there were also tweets coming from the president about, you know, promoting a book from Sheriff Clarke as well as talking about NAFTA.

And so, you know, Ben, is it difficult to get a sense of how the president is prioritizing things when he has these kinds of messages?

FERGUSON: Yes, I think two things. One, I think the president, if you look at his tweets, he's been clear and very much in contact with the people on the ground, Governor Abbott and others. There's always people that are going to want to detract from that and say he shouldn't tweet out anything else at all during this time where this is happening.

I do think you can do two things at once and it's very clear that I think the president here understands how important the response is here, even tweeting out and saying, I'm going to go down there, but I'm not going to go when it's a distraction from the resources need to save people's lives.

I also think the governor brings a great perspective talking to the White House. A lot of people may not realized this but the governor of Texas is in a wheelchair and when you're handicapped as he is, it changes your perspective on natural disasters like this because I'm sure he's thinking about people that are handicapped and elderly. And they're talking about that with the White House, and I think that's one of the reasons why you've seen this response so far, they've done a really good job with the resources they have.

So, it doesn't bother me -- I would even say this, if there's any time not to go political, it's right now. I think the president and the White House is letting the state lead the way they should, giving every government resource behind them, declaring the state of disaster, talking with the mayors and other officials.

And right now, my thoughts and prayers are with them. I'm not worried about the politics of this. I'm worried about the response to it. And I think Ellis would agree with me, the government plays a very big role right now, but they need all of us cheer leading them on and not dividing on politics.

WHITFIELD: And Ellis, the response from the president is particularly important when you have a national crises, and this would be the first significant national crisis, the first natural disaster for this president in which to respond. It could certainly help or very much harm a president's legacy how they respond.

HENICAN: That's very true. They're very aware of that at the White House.