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Harvey Dumps Nearly Two Feet of Rain; Harvey Rains Pummel Houston, 1,000-Water Rescues; Houston Mayor: Evacuation Order Would Have Caused "Calamity"; Emergency Response Assets Can't Get to Houston; Aired 2-3p ET
Aired August 27, 2017 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDERICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Twelve years ago this month in New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina.
General, I want to play part of a news conference that took place early today with Houston's mayor, Sylvester Turner and he talked about why he decided not to issue an evacuation order. So listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR, SYLVESTER TURNER, HOUSTON, TEXAS: This is unprecedented. This is -- there's a lot of rain. So which neighborhood would you have to evacuate?
Quite frankly, every neighborhood, every community received water and flooding. Every bayou went over its banks. You cannot put in the city of Houston 2.3 million people on the road. That is dangerous.
For Houston, Harris County. Harris County got a lot of rain. A lot of flooding. When you combine Houston and Harris County, you literally cannot put 6.5 million people on the road.
If you think the situation right now is bad, you give an order to evacuate, you are creating a nightmare. Especially when it's not planned. And many of us in this city remember when the evacuation order was ordered before and we learned our lesson from that.
It has to be very well coordinated all the way from Houston to the destination point. You have to make sure that you have proper gas stations, you have to make sure that you have the proper lanes that are flowing in the right direction.
It has to be coordinated. If you do it or attempt to do it and it's not coordinated, not done right, you are literally putting people in harm's way, and you are creating a far worse situation.
In this particular case, the hurricane, we were not in the direct line. Now, it is true, we anticipated a lot of rain. And a lot of rain, but the best places for people to be is in their homes.
Now, we have had a few fatalities. Every person is important, even if it's one. Every person is important. Let me tell you, your issue an evacuation on and you put everybody on the highway, then you really are asking for a major calamity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: That was from earlier today. Houston's mayor, Sylvester Turner.
So, general, is that the case? Darned if you do, darned if you don't, that evacuations aren't always the best-case scenario, particularly when you're talking about flooding of this magnitude when you're dealing with, as he put it, upwards of six million people?
Where do you stand on this?
RUSSELL HONORE, RETIRED LIEUTENANT GENERAL (via telephone): Well, I think -- to reverse what the mayor says, I don't think we can leave two million people in a flood zone, and wait until it floods to go get them.
It'd be calamity and the planning that's required to do the pre-storm evacuation is hard. During Hurricane Katrina, evacuation of -- lost over 100 people. Many elderly sitting on a bus.
From that, they learned and they made some adjustments. They planned work during Ike and it worked during the best part of Gustav.
This time, we'll wait and see. I'm going to defer it to the mayor. He's a solid leader. Him and his team are working hard, but I think what we're going to hear after this storm is, if we get a projection of another Harvey coming that's going to stay around we're going to have to evacuate two million people and the state of Texas and the federal government going to have to figure it out, because the lesson here is going to be, we can't leave people in the flood zone knowing that a storm is coming, and it's going to stay around for two or three days.
That's going to be the postscript to this storm and we'll deal with that.
Right now, I think the energy needs to be on helping organize and getting citizens, Samaritans in there and start looking at the federal troops that could come in and help the National Guard from Fort Hood. There's a lot of vehicles there, high-clearance vehicles, a lot of helicopters there, and I think the federal troops ought to be mobilized at Fort Hood and at Fort Poll. They could get there quickly.
It's not that the National Guard can't do it all by themselves, but the federal troops has logistics and they're going to need fuel, Fred. Because all of those things underground are now contaminated and they're going to need to move fresh gas and they've got a lot of capacity in the course of support command at Fort Hood, as well as medical capacity coming in and help then back up the National Guard, Fred. WHITFIELD: General Russell Honore with me here. I've got another question for you. But for those viewers who are just now joining us, say you're watching CNN.
I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta and you're looking at extraordinary images coming out of the Houston area of thousands of people who are being rescued because of high water, and the water is only getting higher as rain continues to descend (0:05:00.1) on so many parts of south Texas.
Overnight, 20 inches of rain is expected according to our meteorologist Tom Sater to continue to rain because of now tropical storm Harvey. The rain will continue until about Friday. Even 20 more inches just might be coming.
General, I've got one more question for you. When you talked about federal troops need to be part of the response right now. If they are not there, I know you mentioned nearby Fort Hood. But if those troops are not already in that area as part of the federal response, won't it be difficult for even them to get in as we're hearing so many roads are impassable. Emergency apparatus right there in the Houston Harris County area can't even get to many people who need to be rescued and aided to?
HONORE: You're right, Fred, to date. But it's going to get worse tomorrow and it will be worse the next day. Those troops will take a day or two to get there.
But the decisions need to be made now to get them mobilized and get them on the road with the logistics capability and high clearance vehicles that they have, that is not for today. It's for Monday.
WHITFIELD: I got you.
HONORE: That's when they really need them, Fred, because it's going to get worse.
WHITFIELD: Lieutenant General Russell Honore, thank you so much. We'll check back with you.
Again, these images right now coming out of the Houston Harris County area, roads, streets, impassable. Now looking like creeks and rivers and in some cases lakes. You see this guy right here with his boat. You see other people in chest-high water just trying to get to safety.
Rosa Flores is in downtown Houston, which has become a vibrant residential and commercial area.
Rosa, even yesterday, you were showing us the bayous were rising. Giving us fair warning of what was to come, but I don't think anybody despite the forecast really expecting the water to rise so high putting so many people in jeopardy like this?
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, this is of biblical proportions, Fred. Take a look around me. You can see that this is normally a downtown street in Houston. The fourth largest city in this country, and right now, you see raging rivers through these streets.
Yesterday, as you mentioned, we were doing live shots close to the trees that you see over here to my right. Now, we can only show you the tops of those trees. So imagine just how deep this water is and how strong the flow of the water is outward in this city.
Now, one of the other things I want to mention here is, as you take a look at this part of the bayou, this is Buffalo Bayou, emptying out into the Gulf of Mexico. And we've been seeing a lot of high-water vehicles here. You're seeing one right now coming through. We're also seeing buses from the Harris County sheriff's office. There's a jail nearby. So we've seen a lot of these buses coming through as well.
And you see, even these big trucks stop and think about, you know, the depths of this water, because it's a raging river.
Now, one other thing to point out that we've been monitoring, Fred, is the spaghetti warehouse building. It's difficult to see from here, because now, we can't get as close as we were before, but that -- but that building has buckled. It is cracked.
I'm not exactly sure how it happened, but, you know, that's what we're experiencing. Things that are out of the ordinary. Now, in just the last few minutes, as we've been doing this live shot, I see that a family over here is, has walked through the water.
I'm not sure exactly where they're going, but we do know that there are areas in downtown Houston that are being used as shelters. So I'm wondering if that's where they're going.
But, again, Fred, take a look around me. For the people who know Houston, who have been to Houston, been, perhaps, to this spaghetti warehouse. I'm getting tweets about people that have eaten there. Take a look at it now. It is literally in the middle of a raging river.
Unbelievable pictures here, Fred, as we continue to cover this story.
And also right now, we just got a little lull in the rain. We've been getting pummeled in ebbs and flows throughout the day and we're expecting more rain. Fred?
WHITFIELD: Yes. Our meteorologist Tom Sater says expect more rain until Friday.
Rosa, we'll check back with you.
This is a devastating and very dangerous and thus far has proven to be a deadly storm.
CNN confirms two death reports (0:10:00.2) say upwards of five people have been killed in what was Hurricane Harvey now tropical storm Harvey. The city of Texas is trying to send assets to help first responders across Harris County, but at the time, they actually can't get to them because of what you're seeing right here, roads are rivers.
Harris County emergency management director Ed Emmett joining me now on the phone.
Mr. Emmett, just Paint a picture for us how difficult it is for your first responders to get to people.
We're looking at an image right now where part of a road has been washed away, or at least a sinkhole has created a big gap there.
So, what are your folks up against?
ED EMMETT, DIRECTOR, HARRIS COUNTY EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: Actually, that road is in an adjacent county, that's not in Harris County. So that's part of the confusion.
Let me first address. I was listening when the general was making his statements, and they were outrageous.
WHITFIELD: What do you mean?
EMMETT: When we have hurricanes, we know who to evacuate. Because you have a storm surge coming and we have that down to a very fine art.
I was in charge of the evacuation for Hurricane Ike. It went very well.
In this case, we had a rain event. Unless you know where the rain is going to fall, you don't know who to evacuate and, in fact, yesterday the hardest-hit area of today is southeast Harris County.
If we had told those people you have to evacuate, they would have laughed, because they were not in any kind of flood danger.
So to talk about evacuating two million people in advance of a rain event. We've had two major rain events in the last two years. This is now the fourth.
The mayor and I work have worked very closely together. It's a bipartisan effort. Our office of emergency management and the city work together.
So to suggest that we should have evacuated two million people is just an outrageous statement. So now that I've got that off my chest, and we know Harris County, I think far better than the general does.
So what we're facing now is an effort to respond to a tragedy. Somebody used the term biblical proportions. That's right. We've never seen water like this in all of our major watersheds. They're all out of their banks. That's never happened. Nobody could have predicted that was coming. So in this case, what we really need is for everybody to stand shoulder to shoulder and solve the problem and get people out of harm's way. Not just sort of sit back and say, well, you should have done this or you should have done that.
That's what we're doing. We've asked for volunteers, because the assets couldn't come in from the state, which were prepositioned and I have to give the state full credit. They were ready.
But now, we've gone out to the public and said, if you have a boat, if you have a high-water vehicle, we've given a phone number for them to call and they are coming in because this is a case of neighbors helping neighbors and we will get through this.
WHITFIELD: And we're seeing pictures that demonstrate just that. Good Samaritans who are helping, assisting in any way they can. We saw images of people using jet skis. We saw images of boats, of airboats.
And again, a lot of our images are coming from just period south Texas, all the areas that cameras were able to get to from Galveston, Corpus Christi on up to Houston and surrounding counties.
So, what, right now, while you're asking for the public's assistance, give us an idea what the challenges are in trying to get to the many people. Numbers of people that you really cannot, you know, guess? You don't know. How to get to people? How to get to areas where there may be people trapped?
EMMETT: Well, the biggest problem, of course, was this, came in during the night, and, of course, that made it that much more difficult.
Now that we've had daylight, we pretty much know where everybody is.
Frankly, the fact that we now have cell phones in this world has been helpful. Because people are able to call out and say. We've now -- because it's across the whole county, that's made it more difficult.
But every level basically that's pitched in and said, OK, saying we're going to take this area. And you take that area.
We've set up well over a dozen shelters and now it's a question of getting people to high ground or to safety and then running a logistical bus service to get those people into those shelters, and that's actually beginning to go freewill.
WHITFIELD: Ed Emmett, thank you so much. Keep us posted. All the best we're wishing you and all the good Samaritans (0:15:00.1), all the first responders, the absolute best in helping one another. Extraordinary pictures of neighbor helping neighbor.
Thank you so much, Ed Emmett.
I want to also bring in now Representative Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas. Harris County is her district. Congresswoman Jackson Lee, I read earlier, I think it was in the "Houston Chronicle" that you describe the scope of the devastation as quote/unquote enormous.
What have you experienced? Are you in a safe place? Are you trapped at home? What's your experience?
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS (via telephone): Well, everywhere you look, places that have never flooded before have now flooded, and that's the, first of all, I'll say, my expression of concern for my constituents wherever they are, I want them to be safe and to thank the county and city leaders for putting it all out on the line working with the federal government and letting me acknowledge all the people I've been on the line with this morning, Department of Homeland Security, the coast guard, Ellington Field, the mayor, the county government. We've all connected trying to help.
But it is not only enormous, it is devastating. Not in the sense of the spirit of Harris County and Houstonians but that the water is so pervasive.
So I am at the new shelter, not as an evacuee but as a helper. I came in with the fire department which came in the area that's flooded and we discovered a house on fire and thank God, were able to get the fire department in, because of a good Samaritan, but it was a situation where it might have gotten worse if we had not been in the area.
We've come on to the George R. Brown, it is a facility where people are welcome. They're now processing in. We've got up to 300 and this is a new center opened by the mayor and as indicated, others will be opened, run by the Red Cross. We're working with the Red Cross.
But I will say this -- when it's possible, we welcome food, and water. We have some coming from our major corporations, and the message that I have is -- stay in place, but what I found to be very helpful for those that cannot get to shelters, if you are safe, please, check on neighbors or relatives that you can house that don't need to go to shelters.
That's what we really need to have happen. That if you are safe and you can take in a friend or a neighbor, because of the proximity of where you are, it will be very, very helpful because we expect more rain in the coming days.
What I would like people to get a sense of, we have a long couple of hours yesterday of no activity. And this came about 8:00 at night. It did come in the night. 12 inches or so, and right now, we're swimming.
All of the bayous that were down yesterday, because I did a run- through yesterday of all the bayous from Greens to Halls Bayou to Brays Bayou on my side, they are now literally oceans.
So it is a different 24 hours, and we are responding as quickly as we can. So again, to those who can hear my voice, if you can help in place, if you can take a person in, in place. If you can help a person that is in proximity of you, sometimes we're seeing half of the street is flooded and the other half is not. We would greatly ask that our neighbors help each other.
WHITFIELD: Hmm. That's a beautiful -- words of encouragement for people there, because we're seeing some images right now as you speak of what appear to be some neighbors helping their neighbor.
One man clutching a pet while he's also reaching out his arm in assistance to what appears to be an older woman who is now outside of her home after climbing through a window, because of what appear -- I'm guessing what appear to be neighbors helping neighbors right here.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, thank you so much and I know the folks there in that shelter are grateful to see you and receive the help of so many there in Houston.
All right. Sorry, I'm going to have to hear that from my producer one more time.
I think I'm going to Ed Lavandera who is south there in Galveston where there was a lot of rain and a lot of rising water.
What's the situation there? And we also we saw people with boats helping out one another there.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fredricka.
We are -- hard to imagine, but we are standing smack dab in the middle of interstate 45. This shot is straight up into Houston and all the water that you see behind me.
There is very little car traffic, but there is an immense amount of boat traffic on this roadway. (0:20:00.7) People just coming on their own freewill here, bringing -- dumping their boats into water and trying to rescue those people.
We have Kristy Huffman, who her and her daughter were just pulled up off out of their neighborhood. Told me you're on your rooftop a little while ago?
KRISTY HUFFMAN, GALVESTON, TEXAS RESIDENT: We were on our rooftop. We've been waiting for the coast guard helicopter that picked up some of our neighbors.
Some of our neighbors are still back there on the rooftops. We saw the boat come by first and we took the first chance we could get out of there.
LAVANDERA: So you were pulled off your rooftop?
HUFFMAN: Yes into a boat. Yes, that's how high the water is.
LAVANDERA: And you were telling me a while ago, you think there's about 10 feet of water in your neighborhood?
HUFFMAN: It was up to our ears. In some houses, it was over. So, yes. It's high.
LAVANDERA: How terrifying is this? It happened a lot of it overnight. To experience, how are you holding up?
HUFFMAN: My nerves are fried, sir. Absolutely fried. Talking to people makes it feel a little more sane. But -- yes. Fried.
Still have animals back there. This little one I had to get out. So, yes. Very nervous, for all my neighbors and myself.
LAVANDERA: You told me you've been paying attention to the warnings. But you felt comfortable. Why did you feel comfortable?
HUFFMAN: My neighborhood is full of multi generations. They've been here since the beginning of the neighborhood in the '70s, and they've been through Ike and other storms. They were comfortable saying. I trusted them. Not that I'm blaming anybody here, but -- yes. Everybody stayed.
LAVANDERA: You thought if they weren't moving, you felt comfortable?
HUFFMAN: Absolutely. And I didn't want to drive. I didn't want to drive out. Our family, that's four hours away in central Texas. I didn't feel that was safe either. I didn't want to be on the road.
Now, look at me. We're in the middle of I-45.
LAVANDERA: I've never thought I'd be doing an interview here on the middle of major interstate.
The idea that -- I think I get the sense that everyone in your neighborhood felt that you've been paying attention to the warnings. You didn't expect to be flooded much less 10 feet of water in your neighborhood?
HUFFMAN: Right. When we all went to bed last night, the Bayou was high, but not unlikely we've ever seen it before during higher, so we couldn't predict this would happen.
LAVANDERA: How many more people are back there? You said you saw a lot of people still on their roofs?
HUFFMAN: There are several on their roofs and wading through the water. There are many people back there still. The boats keep going. Thank God there's people here -- they're volunteering to help us.
LAVANDERA: How's this beautiful little girl holding up? How are you doing?
HUFFMAN: Oh. You don't want to talk.
LAVANDERA: She was so talkative a second ago.
HUFFMAN: I know.
LAVANDERA: you're going to be great, sweetie.
So your husband's going back to try -- is everything a loss in the home?
HUFFMAN: Yes. Yes. You have no idea how terrifying it is until you're actually there. You hear loud crashes. And you have no idea what it is. It's your refrigerator falling over on your dining room table, it's bobbing in the water right now. It's scary. It's very scary.
LAVANDERA: What do you do now?
HUFFMAN: I have no idea. You tell me. I don't know. I wait for my husband with the dogs and we -- try to get rescued a little bit more and a little bit more every minute. Higher ground, I hope.
LAVANDERA: When you were standing there on your roof, you were watching the --
HUFFMAN: It's OK.
LAVANDERA: I know. Look at all the water.
HUFFMAN: You have a big spider on your feet.
LAVANDERA: Oh, big spider. Well, thank you, sweetie.
Hey, give me a high five on that one. You saved me from that mean spider. I appreciate that.
When you're standing there on your roof and you're watching all those people -- I mean -- that has to be just nerve-racking.
HUFFMAN: The worst part was a few minutes before we were rescued and we were under a tornado warning. I looked outside to see if they were still out there. Because we were not sitting on our rooftop waiting. We, at least had a second story.
But they were all as flat as pancakes on the roof. Probably afraid of the tornado. Scary. Sad. I -- broke me into tears.
LAVANDERA: Yes. Well, thank you for talking to us. You're doing great. You got a sweet girl here. I wish you guys the best and we'll keep monitoring the situation and we'll try to get you dry.
HUFFMAN: Thank you so much.
LAVANDERA: Hang in there, Kristy. Kristy Huffman and her daughter. Fredricka, and then they're also waiting for her husband just went back to have their dogs in the house and there was a guy who had just shown up with a flat bottom boat, jumped in there.
In fact, I talked to the guy just before he drove off this way and 10 minutes later, he came back with the Huffman family.
So that's a pretty good indication. And it's hard for us to show you exactly where she was and where she lived, but it's just behind this tree line. Because there's a bayou that runs through here and that is the body of water in this little area that's really causing much of the damage.
Although there are tributaries in a lot of these creeks and streams that are just completely flowing out of the banks. So it's a combination of not just one but a multiple series of these kinds (0:25:00.5) of waterways that make their way through the city.
As we sit here and talk again, Fredricka, the rain is starting to fall. So it's just another reminder that this rain just keeps falling and falling.
So even though there might be a few brief respites from the rain, you know it's coming right back.
So powerful words and powerful story there from one of the victims here in today's flooding in Houston. Fredricka?
WHITFIELD: Oh, my gosh. We could feel the relief in Kristy's voice at the same time you could feel just how harrowing, frightening, and horrifying it was to be in the house, water rising, as she described, the refrigerator kind of falling over.
You hear that plunk and then it's bobbing and to make it to the rooftop only to be rescued by these great neighbors. Incredible. We wish her the best and hopefully things do look up.
So many people still need to be rescued, however.
Ed Lavandera, thank you so much from Galveston where Ed is.
Let's go now to Rockport, Texas, and a coastal community. Martin Savidge is there, and just looking at the breath of devastation behind you, we heard Nick Valencia report earlier that there are a very few buildings that appear to be inhabitable or even safe to be in.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, they're not. Many, many buildings here. Yesterday, I had to look at some of the town. Today, we looked at more of it.
You just grow more and more shocked at the devastation here. Tornadic-like devastation but it's been caused by a cat four Hurricane Harvey, of course, when it came to shore.
Just take a look at this storefront here. It stretches on and on and on. But you look inside these buildings. It is utter devastation. There is hardly anything at all that is going to be saved from here.
The roof is completely gone. So this entire strip shopping area is wiped out and, of course, these are the businesses. They make up the financial heart of any community. We went through the residential areas. Home after home after home, not just slightly damaged, but in many cases the roofs are gone or significant structural damage.
The good and bright spot in this community is, across the street over here, which this former grocery store is now being used by the first responders, the staging area. The National Guard is here. All the state resources are here.
As you can see, they've got buses lined up at the curb. There's a reason. If you're in this town, city officials say you need to leave. It is just not habitable at this point. No electricity, very limited cell service. No water whatsoever and that includes sewage.
So even if you're home withstood the onslaught, your community did not.
They're essentially saying those buses will take you away if you haven't returned from evacuation, city officials are saying, don't come back. Now is not the time. You'll only make it worse for the first responders here and the primary effort still is search and rescue. It will be for the next 24, 48 hours. They have to go through not only every house, they've got boats, they've got trailers, they have an entire community here that has to be searched.
So far here, one reported death, Fred.
WHITFIELD: Oh, my. OK. So, Martin, when people get in those buses or people who have already been moved out of Rockport, how far are they having to go before they have a place to stay? Because, again, a lot of roads -- you can't get -- in or through the Houston area, and it's difficult to get on 45 as we saw, where Ed Lavandera is.
How far are people actually getting?
SAVIDGE: Well, fortunately here, the rain has stopped. At least for the time being.
And so we noticed that a lot of the flooding, street flooding, and the aerial flooding that we saw has subsided somewhat. It could quickly return.
So that means you could get to Corpus Christi or it means, in this case, the buses can take you to San Antonio and parts like that farther inland.
So that's where most people are going.
There's another problem too and that is because of what is happening in Houston, and the massive problem there, resources that were here have had to be reshuffled to get to Houston.
So you're now started to deal with a circumstance that is so great that you have to spread thin all of those first responders and all of those people who are trying to help all of those people who are in need, and here it's destruction. Houston, of course, is flooding. WHITFIELD: Right. Folks are helping each other out as best they can, but even more help is needed.
All right. Thank you so much. Martin Savidge from Rockport, Texas. Their coastal community there in Texas also hit very hard from Hurricane Harvey. Now tropical storm Harvey.
All right. We're going to take a short break for now and we'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, it came up quick like we didn't have a chance to react, because by the time you knew it, the cars were already under water, like quick. So you couldn't even get out. (0:30:00.4)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Live pictures right now. We are following breaking news out of Texas and the devastating flooding from what is now Tropical Storm Harvey.
Live pictures out of Austin, Texas. Soon we'll be hearing from the governor, Texas Governor Greg Abbott will be taking to the podium there giving an update on rescue and response efforts to what is now Tropical Storm Harvey.
Still dumping a lot of rain in parts of Texas and Texans are watching their livelihood simply wash away in the devastation from this catastrophic flooding. Among them, Ify Echetebu (ph), she took these devastating images of her aunt's home and some of the neighbors.
You see the water is up so high. The first floor of the two-story house of Ify's aunt's house is now flooded. So, Iffy, is joining me right now. Iffy, where are you now and what are you --
IFY ECHETEBU, TEXAS RESIDENT (via telephone): I'm actually upstairs on the second floor because the water downstairs is literally up to my waist, and it is impossible to live down there. So, we had to -- run upstairs and hide out and try to find a solution how to get out of here. We see police cars and everything coming by on boats but they are rescuing the emergency cases first and 911 said do not contact them -- and trying to come up with more.
WHITFIELD: Do they know that you're in there?
ECHETEBU: Yes, they know we're here and we have 11 people in total in the house.
WHITFIELD: Eleven people and all 11 of you right now are on the second floor because the water is so high on the first? ECHETEBU: Yes. It's actually coming up to the fourth step now on the staircase.
WHITFIELD: My gosh. So, are you nervous? You sound so calm on the phone? What are you thinking?
ECHETEBU: It's very terrifying. The severity of the situation is very overwhelming. We predicted this would happen, but we never really actually thought believed it would happen. I haven't seen anything like this since Alison. It's a lot to take in and just understand the totality of everything that's going on.
WHITFIELD: It is a lot to take in. While there were forecasted there would be a lot of rain, I mean, this is something few could anticipate in terms of how fast the water would rise. That it would be at the rooftops of homes and in your case like the second floor, and getting -- ever so close.
[14:35:09] ECHETEBU: Yes, and cars just covered in water. You can't even -- you can barely see the roofs of cars, in driveways here.
WHITFIELD: So now what is your plan? Because you know you need to have one, right? So, do you have a way in which to get to your rooftop? Are you thinking that far ahead or hoping the boats you see rescuing some of your neighbors will soon be able to get to you before the water gets any higher?
ECHETEBU: Yes. Well, fortunately, we do still have electricity which is a plus now. So, we are trying to conserve it as much as we can, and if anything, we will have to stay here another night, and wait to see if we can get rescued the next day, but we are trying to make moves right now to see if we can slowly but surely try and safely wade out of here also.
WHITFIELD: So, when you say you would stay another night --
ECHETEBU: This whole city is under --
WHITFIELD: Sorry about that. When you say another night. I'm trying to envision 11 of you on this second floor and you all, you know, spreading out or sleeping in shifts. Describe for me what you think another night in the house would be like, given that it's going to continue to rain for days more and it's very unpredictable how quickly water can rise?
ECHETEBU: Yes. The thing with the whole, don't, like -- turn around, don't drive. That whole thing, it's hard to imagine it until you experience it, but the water creeps up so quickly and between the hours of 4:00 -- I mean, 4:00 a.m. this morning and now, the water has gained about, a couple feet.
And so -- with it just rising like that, we are nervous to stay here now, but we are sleeping in shifts and taking naps when need be and trying to, like, hold to on as much energy and power as we have, because right now basic supplies are limited to us. We're trying to conserve as much water and make sure we are staying hydrated, eating. Everything is soaking wet. It's really hard to -- really put this all into understanding concepts.
WHITFIELD: It's overwhelming. I can only imagine.
ECHETEBU: Yes, very overwhelming.
WHITFIELD: And I'm not in your predicament and just seeing images. I am empathizing how overwhelming it must be. What are the ages of these 11 people in the house?
ECHETEBU: We do have some teenagers. My aunt's kids, and we -- they are, me and my fiance are here. We're 30. We have a friend is with us. Just trying to make sure he stays safe. Now he's stuck with us. So -- and then we do have our grandfather, and our grandmother here. It's -- there's a lot of people here but we're making the best of it, because we are family so --
ECHETEBU: We know how --
WHITFIELD: And an extraordinary --
ECHETEBU: -- to survive as far as family comes.
WHITFIELD: It's extraordinary how neighbors are treating one another as family.
ECHETEBU: Yes, we were actually trying to face people, but right now the best thing is to fend for yourselves, because with the water rising, we have so many rivers, creeks, bayous that run into each other and we are kind of in the middle of them.
So now we're having to deal with sewage in the water. There's river water. There's bayou water. There's water moccasins, snakes, spiders, crocodiles. Everything in this water. It's really a safety issue. We have really no choice beyond the second floor and stay out of the water.
WHITFIELD: Well, that's very wise. I have family in Houston in the area and Texas and very familiar with those water moccasins, critters, and gators coming from the bayou waters and now the bayou waters have overflowed in a very big way.
So next time you're seeing these boats go by that are rescuing your neighbors, please, remind them where you are so when you all feel comfortable, when you feel it's your turn, you all need to get in those boats and get to safety and we're going to keep tabs with you, and wishing you all well. Thank you so much for your time.
ECHETEBU: Thank you so much.
WHITFIELD: And our prayers are with you and all your neighbors, everyone who is enduring a very frightening moment --
WHITFIELD: -- and these hardships right now there in the Texas area.
ECHETEBU: Truly appreciate it.
WHITFIELD: Ify Echetebu, thank you so much and hugs to you and your family there.
All right. Let's bring in Tom Sater, who is monitoring this now Tropical Storm Harvey. So, it sounds from your last explanation, this is going to be a tropical storm for a while meaning it's also going to continue to dump a lot of rain until Friday.
TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Typically, we would see systems that make landfall like this be what we call downgraded to tropical depression or even the remnants of, but we shouldn't use the word downgraded because this is the second phase.
The first one was the landfall and we talked about the second phase was the flooding. This is something. What I'll show you, the center of the screen is Houston.
[14:40:05] This is a radar loop the last 24 hours. Watch the band slide into Houston and continue to back-filled on the moisture from the gulf even getting fed from the northern gulf coming in off the coast of Louisiana.
Once again, it slid in last night, did not continue its northerly movement. Now just to the southwest, we've got another one making its way in the next five to six hours. Let's hope it doesn't stagnate like the first one.
Let's move on. I want to mention, we have to as forecasters quickly for you. It's not on the scale, of course, of Harvey, but last night in Bradenton, Florida and into Sarasota, 13 inches of rain fell, over 60 homes are flooded.
We now have a system off the coast of Florida that later this afternoon could be named. We may have tropical storm watches and warnings along the Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina coastline. The name, Erma, but that's for tomorrow.
Let's continue to talk about this. In the area of our center, it only moved 60 miles in the last 36 hours. We knew that was going to be a slow-moving system. It's going to hang around for maybe a week.
Even though we've seen tornado warnings, in fact, 99 of them have been issued by the National Hurricane Center in Houston, there will be more. So, we can't let our guards down for that.
But the bigger story and you could see the tornado watch, the bigger story of these feeder bands continuing to move into the area. The only thing I can think of, any storm in recent history, that is something like this, this is the track of Alison in 2001.
It took two weeks, but the first week was in the Houston area. It made landfall as a tropical storm. It was weak. Came in with little or no fanfare. Moved up, circled around, came back through Houston. Over 35 inches of rain. Well, we're seeing that.
Economic loss was $9 billion and 41 lives were lost and that was just a tropical storm. The magnitude of this, state of calamity, we are looking at a one in 1,000 year event unfolding before our eyes.
We talked about the computer models last week and like to see where the storm is moving. It did very well moving inland. Then a bird's nest. Look now. They bring it back offshore as they were hinting the other day. When they get offshore, it's like a refueling dump.
I mean, they're going to be refueled with a warmer water. It should sustain its energy and then it's going to either move to the north and that's what we think will happen. It gets offshore and will make its way back towards Houston again.
That's a big, big problem. That could double the amount of rain that's already fallen in Harris County and so many others that have picked up two, two and a half feet of rain.
WHITFIELD: It's extraordinary in such a short amount of time. Even worse, that more is on the way. Tom Sater, thank you so much. We'll check back with you.
So, this breaking news out of Texas continues. We are awaiting a live update coming from the governor at any moment out of Austin, Texas. We'll bring that to you as it happens. We'll be right back.
WHITFIELD: Welcome back. We want to take you to Austin. Here is Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
GOVERNOR GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: -- FEMA Administrator Brock Long as well as the Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke. We talked in that phone call about more ways in which the state of Texas will be collaborating with FEMA and with the federal government, and that would be part of the material that I covered today.
We had a long briefing I will want to break out in a lot of detail, because, as you know, there's a lot going on. We'll be discussing what is going on in Houston, but also, we'll be covering the ongoing challenges that we're dealing with in other parts of the state.
Let me start with the weather. You all probably know and have seen a lot of briefing about the weather. One thing that we are dealing with here, basically there's a triangle of ongoing rain.
[14:45:07] That stretches one tip the Corpus Christi area up to Travis County over to Chambers County and then back to Corpus Christi. Parts of those regions will continue to receive incredibly heavy rain that will lead to even more flooding and more danger for Texans.
Houston and so many other areas in that region will sustain heavy rainfall. I realized there's a lot of focus on Houston right now. It's important not to forget the challenges that people in the counties outside and around Houston are suffering, because of the immense rainfall that includes in particular Liberty County and Brazoria County.
Texans need to be prepared for more rainfall tonight on occasion very heavy rainfall. We want to emphasize the importance when there is heavy rainfall and flooding the importance of staying off the road.
If you drive into water, you're taking your life into your own hands. Always try to seek the high ground, whether you're on ground nor a building. Get as high as you can and try to avoid going outside if you don't need to if you're dealing -- in a location that has rising water and heavy rain.
This likely is going to be an historic rainfall if not an all-time record and the amount of rain that is sustained in certain regions. Also, I want to emphasize to our fellow Texans there will be locations today and tonight and tomorrow that will continue to have tornado action.
So, Texans need to constantly be watchful and hopefully have the ability to stay tuned to information about tornado warnings and watches. I'd like to break down what agencies in the state of Texas are doing.
First with the National Guard and the state guard combined. We have now activated 3,000 National Guard and state guard service members serving all the way from Houston to Victoria, over to Corpus Christi and parts in between. They've activated 500 vehicles, six shelters and 14 aircraft.
The Texas Department of Transportation has deployed 400 people. They're involved in recovery missions in Corpus Christi and Victoria primarily right now in those areas are involved in removing debris as well as repairing signs.
So, one positive about where we are right now is that Tex DOT and other agencies in the city and local folks in the Corpus Christi region are in the early stages of the rebuilding process.
They are -- the Texas Department of Transportation is also working to restore the ferry service to Port Aransas. There are right now more than 250 highway closures in the state of Texas in that triangle region that I mentioned earlier.
We have electronic message boards that are providing realtime information. If you are seeking information about road closures, you can go to drivetexas.org. That is drivetexas.org to find out if there are road closures.
The report from the Public Utilities Commission is that there are 316,000 outages, which is less than I reported yesterday, but that does not include any update from Houston today.
[14:50:01] They are working as fast as possible to continue to reduce those outages with the decrease of wind and decrease of weather in regions like Corpus Christi, Rockport, Victoria, et cetera. That will enable them to move even more swiftly to reduce those outages.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, TCEQ, is working in particular most acutely on the Corpus Christi water samples to help them get off of boiling water, which they hope will be coming fairly soon, and they are also working swiftly with other communities to help other communities get back to a reliable water source as quickly as possible.
We have in the state of Texas, Texas Task Force One and Two. These are emergency responders that are affiliated with the Texas Division of Emergency Management. And there are 400 of their members engaged, and they provide primarily search and rescue missions as well as other activities, but they're working in multiple places.
Now, including in Houston, in Victoria. Still in the Corpus Christi, Ingleside, Aransas Pass and Rockport areas on search and rescue missions. Along those lines, as far as search and rescue missions are concerned, but also as well as other assistance is concerned, assistance is pouring in from across the country.
Both helicopters as well as other resources have been provided by at least the following states and hopefully I'm leaving none out. Nebraska, Tennessee, Utah, California, Missouri, Ohio, Arizona and New York, and that, of course, is in addition to resources that are being provided by the federal government.
But I want to extend my deep gratitude to our fellow Americans who are pouring in support from other states and providing resources that are needed to help us deal with these challenges.
From Texas Parks and Wildlife there are about 100 game wardens who are working on water rescue as well as other missions, and they are receiving assistance also from Louisiana and Florida.
They are using over 60 vessels and as one example, they performed about 19 water rescue missions around the Bass Drop area yesterday. They are continuing ta trolls in the Rockport area and the Houston area, and in airports -- I'm sorry -- air boats around the Galveston area.
The Texas Department of Public Safety, they now have assigned 1,750 DPS officers to work in this triangle area that I mentioned before in between Corpus Christi, Travis County, over at Chambers County.
They have close to 500 DPS officers currently assigned in the Houston area to help deal with that situation. The report from the Red Cross is, they are serving about 130,000 meals a day and they have heavy activity in the Corpus, Victoria and Houston areas.
There are a lot of people across the state of Texas -- frankly across the country, even outside the country, who are wanting to help, and the best way that you can provide the help that can best assist Texans in need is by providing that help through the Red Cross.
And there's two ways you can contact them. One is, redcross.org, that is redcross.org or call 1-800-red-cross and indicate that you are trying to provide assistance and help for the people in the state of Texas, and the Red Cross will be the best way to do that.
[14:55:00] From our health team, among the long list of things they are doing -- they are sending about 92 ambulances to the Houston, Texas, area, to help them deal with their challenges as well sending a mobile medical unit to Houston, Texas, which when fully implemented is basically a stand-alone hospital facility.
On transportation -- we are still moving hundreds of evacuees to safe locations that includes adding evacuation routes from Brazoria County, 25 buses. There are 60 buses at Tolley Stadium in the Houston area there are staged for evacuation purposes, and they will take assignments from the local authorities for the appropriate location to go to do evacuate people who need to be evacuated.
From our Communications Department, DPS -- a DPS communications trailer has been set up in Rockport for all first responders. As you may know, the ability to communicate electronically is very difficult in that region.
It's essential in order to restore the type of order that we need, that we have the ability tore all first responders to communicate, and that trailer now does exist for that purpose. That covers the entire Rockport area as well as all of Aransas County as well as Ingleside.
They are also setting up a communications operation in Brazoria County as well as in Harris County and working the best they can to restore cellular communications. To give you a breakdown example of some activity in the coastal region, troopers are operating in Oasis County, in Aransas County, in San Patricia County and Rafiro and have assigned in those regions about 250 DPS officers.
They are involved in security operations as well as any type of rescue operations that are needed. They've been in contact with local leaders such as Mayor McCombs in Corpus Christi as well as Oasis County judge and they're working to help out with Port Aransas.
They've set up their original distribution centers, that are set up for food delivery purposes food delivery locations will be set up by tomorrow, and Rockport, Port Aransas, Aransas Pass, Ingleside and Portland, and there will be other areas also.
But I know that people in those regions in particular were looking for that type of help, and that type of help is coming. As the officer who reported to us today from the region says he was talking to someone who approached him and the citizens said that they now know that the cavalry is coming.
Well, in addition to our efforts, we are proud to be joined today by Vice Admiral Karl Schultz. He is with the United States Coast Guard, and I would like him to share a few words, and then I will retake the mike. Say a few more and then take some questions -- Admiral. VICE ADMIRAL KARL SCHULTZ, U.S. COAST GUARD: Yes, sir. Thank you, Governor, and good afternoon. Again, Vice Admiral Carl Schultz from the Coast Guard Atlanta Fury and we are here as part of the Department of Homeland Security team to support the state of Texas and support the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, for this crisis response.
The Coast Guard has been actively and closely engaged with Hurricane Harvey, now Tropical Storm Harvey here for the good part of the week. We first removed our assets from the immediate area so they could survive any initial damages.
And we've been 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 here to support the state, and FEMA.