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Houston deals with historic floods, more rain coming; Official every freeway in Houston area under water; Nation's fourth largest city is facing epic flood; National weather SVC, flooding beyond anything experienced; Twenty to 25 rescued from flooded nursing home; Houston could get 45-50 inches of rain; Harvey halts flights at both Houston airports; Official: Rockport void of functioning infrastructure; Texas getting rescue resources from other states. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired August 27, 2017 - 17:00   ET



ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You're in the CNN newsroom. Thank you for joining us at this hour. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. We continue our breaking news coverage of the catastrophic flood disaster in Texas right now.


CABRERA: The horrors and the heroics of Harvey which slammed the state as a category for hurricane has stalled as a tropical storm, dumping more than 24 inches of rain in 24 hours on Houston, the nation's fourth largest city and much of it now under water.

The worst unfortunately is likely still to come since more rain is expected throughout the week. Texas governor Greg Abbott has activated 3,000 military personnel. Emergency crews are being dispatched by land, water and air.

It is a frantic race in some places to get to residents who are trapped in their homes, some of them trying to make their way to their rooftop.

At least 1,000 people already rescued overnight, and when asked just how many have been saved since this emergency began, one official said it is impossible to know, because they have been happening so fast.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 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.

CABRERA: Authorities confirm at least two people killed in this storm, a major hospital is now evacuating. And commercial flights in and out of Houston's two main airports have been halted.

We have reporters covering every angle of this fast moving story from Houston to Galveston, to the CNN weather center. I want to first start with Ed Lavandera who is on a boat near Dickinson, Texas out between Houston and Galveston.

Ed, you have been talking to some really, really brave people and some showing incredible pictures, what's the latest?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana. Well, this is our first chance to really get into some of these neighborhoods that have been hardest hot by these flood waters to get a sense of how dramatic the scene.

This is a neighborhood called Bayou Chantilly, which is just off of Interstate-45 in the town of Dickinson, Texas. And you can just see how devastating the floodwaters here have been. We are on a both remember the name of Austin Seth who lives in Lake Jackson, Texas has he had come up here earlier in the day.

He has rescued about a dozen people and he was doing one last pass through this neighborhood the. This is a neighborhood throughout most of the last few hours, many people have been coming in here and getting as many people put as possible.

If you can focus in on this home right here in front of you, take a look at the roof, you can see the axe and the hole that was, you know, chopped out of the roof of this home, so that people could escape the floodwaters here.

That is you know, one of the scenes that we've seen here in this neighborhood that is eerily quiet at this point as many volunteers mostly bringing their flat bottom boats have come in here to pull -- to pull hundreds of people out of this particular neighborhood.

And those efforts continue, you might be able to hear here in a second a coast guard helicopter flying over us. And you can see here it here over the horizon working one of the subdivisions next to us but this is just devastating as we go through here.

A lot of this water in some places up to the rooftop of some homes, this particular part of the subdivision, probably in about 5 to 6 feet of water and what is striking is in the number of people that I've spoken to who have been taken out of this neighborhood here throughout the day, Ana, is that they went to bed last night and this area was dry.

They suspected that they were going to be on relatively high ground and would be able to make it through the worst of this storm. And they wake up to this devastating scene and frantically trying to get themselves out of these -- out of these neighborhoods.

So this is you know -- what we keep hearing repeatedly is that even though they knew, and many people here in the city knew that these floodwaters were going to be very devastating, but there are parts of Houston that nobody expected to flood.

Nobody ever could have anticipated ever flooding, and they find themselves under 5, 6, 7, 8, 10 feet of water. So it is really unbelievable to see. And what is also striking, Ana, is we drive along some of these homes,

you can tell that people drove and parked their cars as close to their homes as possible, so that they could use their cars as ladders to get up on top of the rooftops to get to higher and safer ground.

But no matter where you look, up here, you -- buy you an Oldcastle Lane, these homes completely under water. Most of the cars -- some of these -- there are cars underneath a lot of -- how are you doing over there?


LAVANDERA: Do you live there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. We evacuated earlier but now that it's calmed down (Inaudible).

[17:05:00] LAVANDERA: We have already got good news, you guys OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we're good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you need a hand?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I think we'll be all right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, we'll be back by this direction in a second if you need anything, let us know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.

LAVANDERA: So you can see there was a gentleman, if he can make that out, Ana, but he said that they evacuate had a little while earlier and were coming back to try to get a few things as we float by a lot of these homes. And you can you see through the windows you can see...

CABRERA: The speed limit sign right there, I mean that shows just how high the water is.

And I am -- I am so unable to even say anything, I can't get over the images that you are showing us and what these people must be having going through their minds right now for somebody like me to be sitting so far away, to have this kind of reaction.

I can't get over this, I'm curious, Eddie, who are you with, exactly? Are you with the rescuers who are going door to door?

LAVANDERA: You might have heard his voice there it's like a Austin Seth, he's a student in Galveston.

CABRERA: In Texas A&M.

LAVANDERA: Texas A&M, Galveston. He's a -- he's a student. He lives by an hour away in Lake Jackson. He heard the call that they needed folks with small or flat bottom boats they could navigate these kinds of areas. You need -- you need a boat that won't necessarily get stuck on things

that under the water. So these types of boats are perfect for these kinds of rescues. So he drove himself up here. I've met him several hours ago.

And he's pulled about a dozen people out of this neighborhood. He was making one last pass to make sure that there wasn't anybody else left in this particular neighborhood. But this is just one of -- I can't stress this enough, Ana.

Hundreds of people that we've seen here throughout the day who literally driven up Intersatete-45 and used it as a -- as a boat launch, and this is just one of hundreds of boats that are out on the water here in South Houston, and this is just one particular neighborhood where this is unfolding. This is happening all across the city here this afternoon.

CABRERA: We're still seeing so many cars in drive ways there, Ed. Talk about how quickly the water came up.

LAVANDERA: Well, incredibly quickly. You know, I mentioned earlier that people went to bed thinking that this was going to be -- I talk with one resident.

People who park their car very close up to the -- right here, if you can point down, there's a car, as you can see the car just under the water there, so we're -- you might not see anything, but there are cars underneath here.

CABRERA: Yes, we can see that.

LAVANDERA: You can see what people have done to kind of get themselves -- they use these towels as a way to get themselves off of that steep ledge of that roof and on to the rooftop of the car, probably they were rescued earlier.

If you look into some of these windows, you can see furniture and furnishings inside the home but essentially just floating around in the living rooms and the bedrooms of these -- of this community.

So this is a devastating loss, we have not heard of any injuries or deaths that have taken place here in this particular neighborhood.

Still trying to get that information, all of this is you know, incredibly fast moving and still developing that it's hard to kind of get an angle -- handle on all of that but I've spoken with number of people who have been carrying out these -- kind of makes it a rescue missions to pull people out.

And I haven't heard of any -- any serious injuries or anyone particularly injured or lost in these floodwaters. So far for this particular neighborhood that we've been able to report on, that is the good news here. Look back over this way, you can see a ladder.

CABRERA: A ladder. LAVANDERA: That someone had put outside of their drive way, they used

that to get up on top of the roof and on to higher ground. We've seen that a number of times as we've floated through this neighborhood as well.

And you just keep seeing cars even though you know -- you can see a lot of cars that are partially submerged. But I can't tell you that there aren't cars that are underneath the water.

In fact Austin was telling us that he had ran aground of one on his previous trip through here, and got stuck on top of it. So you know, these are...


LAVANDERA: ... this is just all just a devastating loss and again as you mentioned in your question, Ana, just how quickly people woke up in the middle of the night to tornado warnings, I spoke with one woman earlier.

I forgot this poor woman who said, she was on her rooftop and they started hearing -- oh, there's a gentleman there. Sir do you need help? You're good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know of anybody back here that needs help?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just got here.


LAVANDERA: As you hear that, he said -- there was a gentleman who came back trying to salvage some things if he could.

CABRERA: How do people even get back into this neighborhood, Ed? You have to get there by boat.

LAVANDERA: A lot of them by boats.

CABRERA: how did you make it in?

LAVANDERA: We came, literally floated in off a boat off Interstate- 45. You can't even wrap your head around that, an Interstate that is usually packed with car traffic.

[17:10:00] And it's being used as a boat launch this afternoon into these neighborhoods. It's unimaginable.

CABRERA: You're there in Dickinson, Texas, was there any kind of evacuation order that went out?

LAVANDERA: Well, there wasn't any kind of mandatory evacuation order. In fact, officials here had been urging people a lot of people to stay home.

In this particular neighborhood, I've asked several people about those evacuation orders and -- we'll I've heard repeatedly from this particular area, is that people thought they've had neighbors -- people who have lived in this neighborhood, I'm they've been here for generations.

And that they've never been worried about flooding that it's always with stood the tropical storms that this particular area has seen.

So they felt confident even that though this was a monster storm, they felt very confident they would be able to make it through. And they woke up this morning to not just the news, they woke up literally put their feet out of bed into knee high water and it kept rising.

So incredibly dramatic, incredibly stressful for many people at one point thought out the night, one woman we spoke with earlier, talked about how she was on her rooftop hearing the tornado warnings sirens going off.

And she was like, the sense of panic, thinking that -- you know, here I am on top of this rooftop and all of the sudden, there's going to be a tornado dropped down in this area as well.

CABRERA: Oh my gosh.

LAVANDERA: You know, so that is the kind of stress and pain that many of the residents here in this neighborhood have been dealing with today.

CABRERA: And I'm curious, Ed, as you've been just kind of floating around in this area, have you seen emergency personnel out there as well, hovering above in helicopters?

I know that there are some 3,000 people who the governor spoke of who are on stand by with the National Guard who are prepared to respond in this kind of emergency.

And we've heard of teams coming in from different states, these Swift Water Rescue Teams from California to New York, to Virginia who are all making their way there to Texas. But yet, when we're looking around in these images, I don't see any emergency personnel. What are you seeing?

LAVANDERA: Well, you know, it's -- we have got to be really clear, because we're in one isolated area, so it's hard to kind of sometimes give the entire big picture scene of what exactly is going on, beyond our immediate area.

But I can tell you that there have been a number of local authorities who have been kind of navigating and coordinating with a lot of the volunteers who have shown up with their boats, we've seen that.

We've seen several Coast Guard helicopters flying overhead. I've seen some game wardens trying to handle traffic situations out on the roadway as well. So there have been a number of local authorities here on the ground trying to do as much as possible.

CABRERA: Yes. LAVANDERA: But at this point, the demand and the calls for help have

far exceed anything that even all of the authorities combined have been able to keep up with.

So that is why people like Austin Seth and hundreds of other volunteers who have brought their own boats out here to try --- to try to help out, have been needed in this situation.

So there's -- it's just an overwhelming amount of need here at this point for people trying to get out of harm's way and into dryer and safer ground.

CABRERA: And does Austin have enough gas? I mean, I imagine there's such a panic, there's such a rush to get in there and to help as soon as possible.

Then you kind of start thinking about longer term when you seen the amount of water that's there and the forecast calling for perhaps a whole another round that could bring twice as much of water -- twice as much water as already has been dumped. And I mean, it's hard to even imagine what that might look like.

LAVANDERA: Well this is -- this neighborhood is already lost. You know, concern that you also hear from people, Ana, is that you know, this water all has to move somewhere.

So there are people who are downstream in other areas waiting for this -- we just hit a mailbox driving over this pickup truck, sorry, the other neighborhoods that as you mentioned -- that rain will continue to fall, this neighborhood is already lost.

But there are others who might not have completely flooded today, but are anticipating and were very much worried that they could -- they could be next. So everyone really monitoring the radars, wondering just how much more rain is going to fall. And this rain can't end soon enough.

CABRERA: No doubt about it, Ed Lavandera, reporting in Dickinson, Texas in this neighborhood that has been completely inundated with flooding. Unbelievable images, Ed, great reporting.

Thank you for sharing that with us, with our viewers helping us to have a little bit of a sense of the devastation and emergency that that city, that state is under right now.

I want to take everybody to Downtown Houston. This of course is the nation's fourth largest city, almost completely under water as well forcing schools to close all week long.

Our Rosa Flores has been there for us. Rosa, just 24 hours ago, you and I were talking about the rising water appeared to be just creeping up at that time but now it's so high.

[17:15:00] There is literally nowhere for it to go.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right. And those locations we were -- excuse me, you and I were speaking yesterday, Ana, we can't even go there because they are completely submerged in water.

But take a look around and you'll see -- I mean this is a major street intersection in the downtown of Houston, in the fourth largest city of the United States and it is submerged in water. As you look at the distance, you can see that some vehicles are in water.

And from what we understand, all of the people that ended up with submerged vehicles in this area have been rescued. There's another vehicle here to my left. You can see through the trees, again, the water is high, so it's difficult to show you here, and keep at a safe distance.

But that individual was rescued as well, and is safe. And then this building to my left is the Harris County Criminal Courthouse and between five and ten people were rescued from this building earlier because the water started rising inside the building.

I talked to one gentleman who was inside, he was rescued by four first responders who said that he had an injury, separate, not related to this -- to this tropical storm or hurricane.

But he wrapped his leg in a plastic bag. Four first responders lifted him above the water to make sure that he was lifted to safety. And he said that the water rose so quickly that they had to be evacuated.

Evacuated from a courthouse in Downtown Houston, it's just difficult to fathom just how much water is here. Now beyond those vehicles, that you see at the -- in the distance, that's where Buffalo Bayou runs through, Ana.

That's where we were to the left of those -- of those cars, but that's where we were talking to you yesterday. We can't go there any more because the Bayou is now a raging river headed toward the Gulf of Mexico.

Now here's the scary part of all of this, you see all of this rain that's still falling, Houston still getting pummeled. We're getting absence flows of these bunts, now if you just speak about the geography in this area, all of this water has to flow out into the Gulf of Mexico.

We were hearing these amazing heroin stories from a CNN Correspondent Ed Lavandera looking at that community. All of this water has to go in that direction, that's what's so devastating when you think about it.

Because all of those people that live between Houston and the Gulf of Mexico, this is -- that's where this water empties out. And that's why there's so much worry about where this water is going to go. And the timing of it, how long is it going to take, as it's raining, it's not going anywhere. Ana.

CABRERA: And of course, Rosa, you think about the people who are in the most vulnerable positions, and we just got this statement from one of the big hospitals there in Houston.

I quote, our life flight program is currently grounded given the winds that have been relentless. We are prepared but what is needed is specialized vehicles for the high water. They are desperately needed.

That's from the CEO of Texas Medical Center, so no way for some people to even get to that hospital. And I understand that another Texas hospital was forced to evacuate?

FLORES: You're absolutely right. The Ben Taub Hospital was also evacuated because water started rushing into the basement of that hospital.

They started evacuating critical patients first, and then evacuated other patients to areas in this community while they figure out a plan as to what to do with these patients.

And the reason why is because of these waters, you see all of this water piled up behind me and you really wonder how long is it going to take.

This -- this hurricane now turned tropical storm really testing the infrastructure here in Houston. Really testing the drainage and really testing the decisions made here in Houston as we continue to get pummeled by rain. And like you mentioned, Ana, we're expecting more of it.

CABRERA: All right, we're going to get that forecast from Tom Sater in just a moment, Rosa Flores in Houston for us, stay safe. Thank you, my friend.

Now the elderly are among the most vulnerable in this catastrophic flooding. Some in nursing homes can't physically move themselves. Take a look at your screen right now.


CABRERA: This picture is not photoshopped. This was taken in actual nursing home in Galveston County earlier today. The owner sent this picture to her family members begging for help in around noon today.

We've learned helped arrived. The owner and the residents about two dozen people all together were rescued.

[17:20:00] The county commissioner says some were found up to their waist in water and those who see in these pictures who were wheelchair bound say were found up to their necks in water.

In about 10 minutes, I'm going to talk with the owner's daughter about this desperate situation. So stay with us for that.


CABRERA: But let's head over to CNN weather center in Atlanta and CNN Meteorologist Tom Sater.

Tom, wow! What pictures and I'm worried about those folks there, as I know you're looking at more rain in the forecast?

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Believe it or not, Ana, we're not even close to the halfway point. We are watching unfold what will most likely be a one in 1,000 year event. It could be greater than that.

The computer models hinting even last Wednesday. The system will stall -- would stall on us, and without a steering current, it's unfolding before our eyes. Many are wondering, why is it still a tropical storm, hasn't it been on land long enough? Shouldn't this just be called the remnants of Harvey?

Well, when they are over land, they really fire up. This water is fueled but because Harvey has been moving one to two miles per hour, it's feeding off its own rainfall. It's called the brown ocean effect.

It's just feeding on all the rain that it's already dropped on the ground. So it gives its energy and sustains its strength.

We're now watching in the brighter colors of purple and red, the higher, colder loud tops, and heavier rain starting to fan to the east now, that's going to add moisture to the ground and provide possible flooding in Louisiana.

But the feeder bands in the last 24 hours continue just to pummel of course the Houston area. We had rainfall rates just last night at 4 to 6 inches per hour, you know Hobby Airport South of Houston, nine -- well it was 10 inches in an hour and a half.

And we just had another band move through, you'll see it on the last couple of images, as it moves to the area give it another couple hours, and I think you're going to get a little bit of a break, but we're looking at this system to regenerate as it makes its way again offshore.

Now the National Weather Service in Houston has been extremely busy, handling tornado warnings. Right now, nothing, that's great news. There were a few just a little bit ago in Houston with quite a few of them.

We had over 112 tornado warnings, not including six that have been fired up. We still have the watch in effect, and the flood emergency continues until 7:15. But here's what you have got to know, it slides off Monday afternoon back into the gulf, still a tropical storm.

If it stays over water long enough, it could generate a little more strength. But then where does it go? National Hurricane Center got it going to the north, leaving on Friday. If you look at all the computer models which have been in great agreement, they agree. Let's pull it back off.

The center could be close to where landfall was made. That will keep electrical crews from trying to restore electricity as the winds continue to be a little strong. At least tropical storm -- strength and then where does it go? Most models and we concur, most likely it will be Houston which will

double the amount of rainfall that they've already picked up. So not only will the waters continue to rise in eastern Texas, they're going to be slow to go away.

And then we watch the mess start to move toward Louisiana. So the computer models have really been on this system, it's just unfortunate that we're watching this event unfold.

Look for more rainfall to come back into Victoria, back into Corpus Christi, but the heavier amounts continue to stay from Galveston up towards Houston.

And then at 20 to 30 inch range, will leave north of Houston. So our problem spot is now expanding. And that is going to be a big problem, rivers continue to rise, rise, rise.

CABRERA: Oh, my goodness. So Tom Sater, you talked about the tornado watches and warnings still in effect. We heard from, Ed, that he was talking to people who are on their rooftops hearing tornado warning, tornado sirens.


CABRERA: Obviously, people would normally go to lower ground, to the basements, but with the floodwaters, what do people do in a situation like this?

SATER: You know, that's a great -- they tell you not to get into the attic. I mean, the possibility of getting a tornado if you're on top of your roof is slim to say the least.

I mean the rescue workers are doing what they can to get you down, but they're not going to go up in a tornado warning either. So if you can get back down, into at least some cover from fly debris, I mean that's probably the best.

Do not stay in that attic, they do not want you there. Once you think you are in the clear, obviously you want to get someone's attention and get back on top.

But when only, all must be safer to get back down and hunker down closer into some structure, maybe inside a doorway if you can, if it's not flooded. But again, those tornados are few and far between.

Although I know we've had 112 already since the storm made land fall. There will continue to be more. But I think most folks, it will be best for them just to get up and get attention of anyone with a 911 call, with just getting out there and waiving towels, doing what they can to get the attention as they continue to survey the entire area.

But the amount of rainfall that's going to double, it should -- the tornado threat should slide a little bit as that rainfall total doubles will have another threat I think in the next 24 to 48 hours when the next -- if this starts to make a secondary landfall. And that will be more toward the Houston area as well. [17:25:00] CABRERA: Tom Sater for you all. Stay on top of it for as

we know. Thank you very much and don't miss tonight at 7:00 eastern, Texas Governor Greg Abbott will join us live, so stay tuned for that.

Still ahead, we showed you the heart breaking photo just a moment ago, elderly residents at this Texas nursing home stranded and up to their waists or beyond in floodwaters. Details on how this picture went viral and eventually led to their dramatic rescue. Next, the owner's daughter will join us live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CABRERA: We cannot reiterate enough that the life threatening flooding is only expected to worsen in the coming days. The elderly, especially those who cannot move by themselves are among the most vulnerable.


CABRERA: Before the break we showed you this unbelievable picture. This was taken in a nursing home in Galveston County earlier today. The residents there sitting up to their waists or even their chests in floodwaters.

[17:30:00] Now we learned around noon today, they were all rescued. But not before the owner snapped this photo, sent it to her daughter desperate for help.


CABRERA: And the owner's daughter, Kimberly McIntosh is joining us live right now on the phone. Kimberly, I can only imagine what was going through your mind when you saw that picture.

KIMBERLY MCINTOSH, DAUGHTER'S OWNER, FLOODED NURSING HOME: I almost couldn't believe it was real as well. My mother sent it to me.

I was just texting her, thinking everything was fine. I have spoken with her the day before and she said you know, they were told, the shelter in place.

And you know, I don't think anybody thought there would be a problem because hadn't flooded before anything. So when I texted her in the morning to check in, and she responded with those photos, I was totally shocked.

And at that point didn't know what to do, so i asked her what I could do to help her, and she just said, they were waiting on the National Guard, and if we can contact anybody to help them, then we should do it. So -- and then that her phone went dead.

I mean I have no more text. And so we were so upset thinking that you know, they were in imminent danger. So that's only we decided we were calling emergency management, we were, you know, deciding what to do.

And that we decided to go ahead and tweet this photo to try to get as much attention, they would find somebody who lived near them to get there with a boat.

CABRERA: I have to say, when we saw this picture on social media, a lot of us said, is this real because it looks fake. I mean, you just will never imagine there, I thought they're like this.

MCINTOSH: No, I thought it was -- I mean, it was just my mom, but I recognized the popcorn machine in the photo for sure because she uses that.

And I was like, that was -- I mean I couldn't believe it. I was -- I was of the same opinion when I saw it. But I knew she was desperate. Everyone there is her family.


MCINTOSH: I mean she spends more time with them than she does with her kids and grandkids. She loves everyone there. I mean she spent the last night with them there at the house rather than go home just to make sure everybody was safe.

And she has a disaster plan in place, I mean, she had it in place, I spoke with her days before. They told her to shelter in place, that's what they did.

CABRERA: I know a lot of people who are watching this right now are just relieved that everybody there made it out OK, that they were rescued.

But take me behind the scenes and the emotion that you were feeling from hearing what was happening on the other end of the conversation with your mom and walk me through what that emotion was like, what they were doing prior to the rescuers getting there?

MCINTOSH: I mean like I said I -- it was a quick text just check in the in morning, just butt up, just thinking everything, she was going to tell me maybe the power was out or something like that, and then to get those pictures in response, and she's very brief in what she was saying but she needed help.

And at that point, we just had to take it upon ourselves try to do whatever to save them because she said the water was rising. Those -- that was the last think I heard, so my thought at that point was they're all -- I mean, they're going to be dead within hours.

So at that point we tried calling, you know, emergency management. We tried -- we tried everything. We were really grateful, because the Galveston County Emergency Management office took our call and we told them we couldn't call 911, we were in Tampa, we needed them to help that they were in eminent danger.

And they were very good. We were able to call them back and we got through and they gave us updates at that point, so we were very grateful to the National Guard and to the Galveston office Emergency Management for helpins us out.

Because we were totally stressed out trying to make sure they got help and because there were reports on Twitter that they had gotten help, we had not -- we did not confirm that until, you know, hours later.

CABRERA: Now, have you been in touch with your mom since they were rescued?

MCINTOSH: Just my stepfather. He texted me to let us know that he did -- he was in the back of the National Guard truck and they were fine. And I know there were a total of 15 residents, and 11 of them went to area hospitals.

And everybody is OK. So that was our big relief and once we knew that, then we felt 10 times, 100, 1,000 times better. It's a helpless feeling being in Florida and not being able to help when we know the people were -- you know, could have easily died.

CABRERA: And just again to reiterate that, we did speak with the local public information officer there for the Department of Emergency Management who confirmed that all of those residents made it out and made it a hospital in Galveston area.

Kimberly McIntosh, we know the worst is still yet to come for a lot of the folks in that region. And our prayers and thoughts are with you.

We're all wishing you the best, thank you for spending some time with us and for doing what you could to help to get those people help by putting it on social media. That is the bright spot certainly with social media being available. Thank you.

MCINTOSH: Yes. We're very grateful for all of the help that we received and that everyone got out safely.

[17:35:00] CABRERA: No doubt about it. Again, Kimberly, thanks. Now, FEMA says it is gearing up for a year's long effort to help Texas in the wake of the damage from Harvey.

FEMA Administrator, Brock Long says, well the immediate focus is still on rescuing people on the aftermath of this storm, the agency has pledged a long term effort to help the state recover listen.


BROCK LONG, ADMINISTRATOR, FEMA: FEMA's going to be there for years. This disaster recovery -- this disaster is going to be a landmark event and we're already in the stages while we're focused on a response right now in helping Texas you know respond.

We're already pushing forward, recovery housing teams. We're already pushing forward forces to be on the ground to implement national flood insurance program, policies as well and doing the inspections that we need. So we're setting up and gearing up for the next couple years.


CABRERA: We have learned nearly 5,000 people from the federal government are on site in Texas and Louisiana as well right now, including the Coast Guard which has been directing hundreds of search and rescue operations. I want to head right out to our Brian Todd who infact is witnessing a

rescue operation as we speak. Brian, walk us through what you're seeing and what's happening there.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you can see, some dogs have just been rescued here. We are told that some of these boats -- these are private rescuers who went the Omni Hotel, that building over there where people are stranded.

We're told between 60 and 80 people there are stranded. They just pulled some of these people out. Come on over here this is Britney Haynes (ph), she was staying at the Omni Hotel. They just came and got you. What -- what are the conditions like inside that hotel?

BRITNEY HAYNES, FLOOD VICTIM: There's no power. There's the -- it's flooded to the second floor, it took like -- this morning, about probably 6:00 A.M. The hotel lobby started filling up, they started bringing all the kitchen stuff up, brought to the second level, and that was about it.

TODD: Are they trying to get people to upper floors until they get rescued?

HAYNES: Yes, upper floors, and there's no power, there's fumes in there because of the diesel from one of the generators with powered by diesel and so the fumes from the diesel is fuming up. And so it's a lot awful.

TODD: Is there anyone injured, anyone in bad shape?

HAYNES: No one's in bad shape. No one's injured, people are just, come get us.

TODD: What's the sense in there as far as you know as the hotel staff kind of trying calm people down?

HAYNES: Those hotel staff is calming people down. They -- they gave us as much water as they could, they're trying to keep us calm, but there's definitely people there.

TODD: Give me one second, Britney. I'm going to narrate here, these guys -- these guys have come in every 10 or 15 minutes, and then they're going back over to the Omni to pull people out. I was told there's a neighborhood behind the Omni where people might also need some rescuing.

But these are -- again, private rescuers deploying who were just deploying their own boats and they're about to push off again this group here. And they've just told us they have got a lot of work to do to try to pull people out of here. Britney, you told me you're from L.A.?

HAYNES: I'm from L.A.

TODD: So what are your impressions of Houston? HAYNES: I probably won't be back any time soon. But you know

everyone is so nice. That's what -- that's what refreshing like is just people care and like they're coming to help. And they're like, you're going to be OK.

TODD: Now, again with the hotel, have they told you that they're going to try to put you guys somewhere else?

HAYNES: They're going to take us to the other Omni. I guess that has power. So, power and everything, so that's where they're taking us now.

TODD: Again I think -- I think I started asking you this and we just wanted to kind of get the shot of these guys that went out again. The sense inside the hotel, are people panicking or are they -- is the hotel calming people down.

HAYNES: I mean, the hotel staff, they're awesome. They're trying to calm us down. But I mean, it's horrible and they're -- it's just scary. It's like NO one should stay the night there. No one should. Everyone needs to be out of there for sure.

TODD: Britney, good luck in the rest of your trip. Good luck at the new hotel where you can be staying. Thanks for talking to us.

Well, you can see from her explanation here that there are some people that need to be pulled out. We're going to kind of stay here.

We may try to get over there with some of these rescuers in a boat to see what those conditions are in. We asked them earlier, they said they couldn't take us. They have got obviously safe space for some people. So we may just talk to people as they're coming off the boats. Back to you guys.

CABRERA: Well, hard to believe that, a hotel. We know there's usually so tall, they have to be evacuated as well. Brian Todd, great work and do keep us posted on what you're hearing on the ground there from the folks who are affected. We appreciate it.

And worth noting, we just got a note from officials in Galveston County and to Brian and Ed's point. What we're seeing, witnessing these volunteers coming with their own boat helping out with these rescues.

Emergency officials actually put out the call again on social media to ask people if they had boats and were able to come with their boats and with some gas, and try to aid in the rescue operations, they were encouraged to do so.

And so far, we're told 25 to 35 private boat owners in fact showed up to assist officials. That's just in Galveston County.

Some more images and you can see how deep the floodwaters are in Houston and Tom Sater, our meteorologist saying they're not even halfway through this flood event. [17:40:00] Yet much more rain is expected. We're going to stay on top

of this. Up next, the latest on Houston's airports and how flooding is impacting both inbound and outbound flights. Stay with us live in the CNN Newsroom. We're back after this.


CABRERA: All right, let's talk more about the impact of this catastrophic flooding in Southern Texas as we show you images of a Coast Guard boat getting ready to head out in the floodwaters.

We know there are thousands of rescuers who have arrived and are assisting in some of these water rescues.

[17:45:00] And a lot of volunteers on scene as we've seen in Brian Todd, as well as Ed Lavandera. But again, this one in particular, we've learned is a Coast Guard crew rescuing what appears to be a mother and her young son.

Now, the airports in terms of travel, they're not doing any better. Bush Intercontinental is currently at a ground stop off, Hobby Airport is closed until at least Wednesday.

Officials say the run ways there at Hobby are unusable because of the stunning waters and there will be no flights allowed in or out.

Now even if there were flights taking off today, it would probably be impossible just to get to the airport. Texas officials said every single freeway in Houston is underwater at some sections.

Interstate 10 and 45 in Houston are completely flooded. In fact this is a tractor-trailer sitting abandoned almost completely submerged.

And that was from earlier today. The water is still rising. At some places, street signs are completely covered. In some cases, cars are entirely submerged. CNN's Polo Sandoval is in southwest Houston. And Polo, how serious is the situation where you are?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Ana, my colleague Ed Lavandera took you into a neighborhood in Houston. Rosa Flores showed you Downtown Houston.

Let me show you now the highways leading into Houston. At least, I-69 -- I'm actually standing on the access road here. You can see much of it submerged. We have seen people tried to make their way through here.

But turn around head the other direction. Only a large pick up truck and a fire truck have been able to make their way through here.

The issue here is much of the Interstate, at least this one and the city southwest side is open, we are seeing people driving on the highway.

But if you want to get off that highway, you can get -- make out that on-ramp or that off-ramp off of the distance, it leads you directly into what looks like a lake. That is going to be an issue obviously into coming hours especially because of these bayous.

The water that you see behind me appears to be spilling out of one of the bayous in the city's southwest side. So that is making -- getting around quite difficult and that includes first responders.

I want to show you some of the video that we shot earlier today, speaking of some of those Coast Guard rescues I mentioned a little while ago.

There were Coast Guard officials that were rescuing from what appeared to be an individual here in the city southwest side using that helicopter, having to drop that basket and then be able to pluck that individual essentially from a neighborhood and then flying out of the area.

That's something that we've seen before, we've seen quite a bit, and we expect to see even more of in the coming days. Of course that recommendation continues.

Folks, to try to avoid these kinds of spots right here because you can lead to trouble, that video you showed a little while ago of the big raid, that's just down the highway from where we are. So again, that's what we see now, will it get worse? Officials think it will. Ana.

CABRERA: And, Polo, a lot of people have asked, why weren't people evacuated ahead of this. They knew the rain was coming. We've heard from the mayor earlier saying to ask people to evacuate, could have made for an even greater -- even greater nightmare situation as he put it.

So, Polo, thank you for that reporting and for giving us a look at the highways and interstates nearby. Up next, the devastation in Rockport, our Martin Savidge is there, they really took the brunt of the hurricane when it made landfall.

Plus, we'll hear from a Swift Water Rescue Team about how they're going out saving people from these floodwaters. Stay with us, you are live in the CNN Newsroom.


CABRERA: The coastal city of Rockport was battered with a director hit from hurricane Harvey. The people who live there have also had tornado warnings, torrential downpours and unprecedented as well.


CABRERA: Take a look at this drone video shot earlier to say much of Rockport is also covered in water like eastern Houston and other areas, one of two deaths in fact blamed on Harvey so far.

It also happened here when a person died in a house fire at the height of the storm.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CABRERA: Our Martin Savidge has been there on the ground in Rockport surveying the damage, talking to the residents.

I understand, Martin, people are trying to put some of their lives back to together even though the storm hasn't completely subsided there. What are you hearing in terms of what they're preparing for next?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what they're trying to do right now is simply get over the shock of what has happened to their community, Ana.

This is about 10,000 people here if you taken the county at double (Inaudible). But it's the area devastation -- a massive amount of devastation that you see when you come into this town or even approach it.

And it's so hard as a reporter to try to you know, give you any perspective on that. It's just such a huge scale and it's everywhere you look. Just like what you're seeing behind us here, magnify that over block after block.

The big concern right now is still the search and rescue effort, and that is on going, not just here on Rockport but also in neighboring Fulton, and they have many, many homes, they have to go through, not just homes. There's boats. It's a waterfront community.

It's a slow and methodical process and there are still at that. Many other worry they have is natural gas because of the massive amount of damage -- structural damage, you have a lot of broken natural gas pipes.

So they're trying to secure those and cut those off because of course that can lead to any kind of fire or explosions. So they're still dealing with a number of dangers and hazards.

And they still try to account for everyone here. They did not have any reports of anyone missing and as you pointed out, only one person so far has been found -- who was killed. But they continue their efforts to try to locate and make sure it doesn't change anyway, Ana.

CABRERA: Martin, have you learned anymore about that person who died?

SAVIDGE: It was a fire. Apparently, you know, people may say how does a fire start in the middle of a storm with the downpour of rain and high winds, well they don't know exactly yet.

But there are a number of ways down, power lines can do it. It could have been something inside the some, candles or it could have been maybe even natural gas, as we were just talking about.

The first responders that were here at that time, they said all night long, there were these panic calls that were coming in. People who were trapped, hit by walls that have collapse. They will never forget those terrible calls that they couldn't respond to. Ana.

CABRERA: How horrific. Martin Savidge in Rockport, Texas, thank you.

[17:55:00] We have an update on just how many people have been rescued in this Texas flooding disaster. We are now told 1,200 at least have been taken to safety in Galveston County alone.


CABRERA: That's on top of more than a thousand rescues reported over night. This video was posted the Harris County Sheriff you can actually see deputies actually swimming out to rescue somebody here who appears to be up in their neck in water.

And it seems like this are becoming all too common today. Right now, 600 vessels are being used for the rescue efforts and 3,000 National Guard members have been activated. Help is also coming all the way from Virginia, as well as California from New York.

Now this is part of the state's urban search and rescue team in Virginia which has been deployed to Houston.


CABRERA: And Richard Bowers at the Fairfax Fire and Rescue department is joining us. Now, chief, Thanks for spending time with us. Your team is on the way to Houston right now. They specialize in water rescues. What's the plan, exactly, when they get there?

RICHARD BOWERS, CHIEF, FAIRFAX FIRE AND RESCUE DEPARTMENT: Well, they'll get there, when they hit the ground, they'll get a specific mission. They'll setup their base of operation and all the things necessary to get ramped up right away. I'd anticipate unquestioningly that they'll get to work right away with respect to doing search and rescue missions.

CABRERA: So your team being deployed specializes in swift and flat water rescues. What exactly does that involve?

BOWERS: Well, any -- any time the water fills like it is, unfortunately, very, very quickly, in the Texas region, the Houston area right now.

That water fills up very quickly has nowhere to go, and where a street may have been dry one minute, the next minute it has flowing water of several feet that goes very, very quickly.

And the team that we sent along with other teams from around the country are specially trained, equipped and certified to deal with rushing water, swift water, if you will as well as any still water rescues.

Again, someone could be walking along, all of a sudden, no water appears but then water would appear, they may fall into a manhole that gets pushed from the rush of the water.

Anything could happened so the men and women that responded from Virginia takes force one, that's part of the fuming system are well trained, well-trained, well equip, well prepared and they're self- sustaining. They will not be a draw on the resources there in the region.

CABRERA: We heard from FEMA officials that this is storm like the U.S. has not been seen before base on the reports we're hearing out of there. What's your assessment?

BOWERS: It seems very catastrophic and very reminisces of some of the catastrophic unfortunate situations with Katrina, then in Nuance and Louisiana area, the 30 plus inches of rain, I mean that's unfathomable.

It's unquestionably something that is very, very difficult to deal with. On a day-to-day basis, it's challenge enough in the fire rescue business and law enforcement business.

But now add this unfortunate situation, especially at night when have this type of situation where there's no electricity, and it's pitch- black, you have a rushing water, standing water. And we've heard before house fires starting from, you know, wires down, you know, things igniting. It just is a major, major challenge and catastrophic situation.

CABRERA: Real quick, what is the best way for people who might be stranded right now to signal for help?

BOWERS: Well, certainly if they're fortunate to have a phone, have a flare, have a flashlight, certainly their voice, anything of that nature.

And obviously the most important thing is to get to the highest point that they can if it involves water, so if it's top the roof or wherever the case may be.

But hopefully, they have something, a lighter, a anything to get some attention. It's just so important right now. So that we can get to you, who ever, those first responders are right are in that area as well as those coming in. We want to be able to get to you and help you. But try to help us by helping yourself right now.

CABRERA: OK. Chief Richard Bowers from Fairfox County, Virginian Fire and Rescue, thank you so much for spending some time with us, these are live images, by the way, of a rescue happening as we speak.

You're live in the CNN Newsroom. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thank you for begin with us. Big breaking news, parts of Texas hit with life threatening catastrophic flooding, and tropical storm Harvey is not letting up.


CABRERA: We want to show you the frightening reality on the ground right now. Families are wading through waist-high water with small children and animals, at least a thousand people were rescued over night.

That number has been climbing really exponentially throughout the day. Helicopters swirl over head looking for people trapped on their roofs.