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Houston Deals With Historic Floods,; Texas Gov: Houston Flooding May Be Worst Ever Seen; About 3,000 National Guard Members Activated In Texas; Weather Service: Harvey "Beyond Anything Experienced"; Floodwaters Force TV Station To Evacuate; Social Media Helps Show Destruction Left By Harvey; Viral Photo Of Nursing Home Residents In Waist Deep Water; FEMA Official: We'll Be In Texas For Years; 1000+ People Rescued In Texas Overnight; Media Out In Full Force As Harvey Soaks Texas; Social Media Helps Show Destruction Left By Harvey; Aired 8-9p ET

Aired August 27, 2017 - 20:00   ET


ANA CABRERA, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Catastrophic floods in Texas which continue at this hour. Darkness is about to fall across the disaster zone and the sobering message, the worst is yet to come. Residents in and around Houston, the nation's fourth largest city are bracing for more rain tonight and throughout the week. We have been bringing you emotional rescues, people from the very young to the elderly being saved as deadly floodwaters keep rising inside their homes forcing many to their roof.

Floodwaters are swallowing entire neighborhoods, highways, even interstates. Texas Governor Greg Abbot has activated 3,000 military personnel. Emergency crews being dispatched by land, water, and air, when asked how many have been rescued since this emergency began, one official told us, it's impossible to know because they have been happening so fast though we know there were at least 1,000 overnight in Galveston County reports up to 1,200 rescues there so far. Authorities confirm at least two people have been killed in this storm. And moments ago we heard from Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner defending a decision not to order mandatory evacuation.


MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER, HOUSTON: The decision that we made was a smart one, it was in the best interest of Houstonians. It was the right decision in terms of their safety. And always we must put the interest of the city of Houston and Houstonians first. That's exactly what we did. Absolutely no regrets. We did what was the right thing to do. And we are acting according to the plan that we've -- that we've laid out.


CABRERA: We have reporters covering every angle of this fast-moving story from Houston to Dickenson, to the CNN Weather Center. I want to go our Brian Todd who is in Houston where rescues continue. And Brian, I know you have been with volunteers, you have been talking with those who are being rescued. What stories are you hearing and seeing? BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana, we're hearing stories of resilience, of bravery on both the people being rescued and those doing the rescuing. Incredible heroism here and it's all being done in this (INAUDIBLE) area on the corner of Post Oak Lane and Woodway Drive about six miles west of Downtown Houston. I'm going to take you down here with our photo journalist Eddie Gross. You can see the water here is about chest high over here, and it's like that all the way back to the Omni Hotel.

What's been going on here, Ana, is that they have staged boat rescues about we believe 60 to 80 people who were stranded at the Omni hotel. That's the white building there in the distance. Here comes someone on a wave runner who may be getting rescued there. There's another boat coming in here to stage. Here are some boats over here. This has been going on for hours. They've been shuttling back and forth from the Omni hotel. And then we went on one rescue just a short time ago right to the lobby of the Omni hotel where the water was -- basically to people's thighs and they were pulling people out. Here is a little snippet of what we saw a short time ago tonight.


TODD: Take a look at this. This is the entrance to the lobby and you're witnessing a rescue live. We just went over here by boat. They're pulling people out of the Omni hotel. Look at how deep the water is, it's to people's thighs and here's a group of people being pulled on to the boat right now. We can -- here. This is Brian Meadows, one of the rescuers. His partner Seth Roberts is here in the green shirt. They're helping people get on to the boat. Maybe we'll be able to talk to them.

Now, listen guys, we've been at the staging area where they've launched these boats for the last hour and a half and two hours. And there have been several people pulled out and taken to those areas and then shuttled to safety in other hotels. These people here have elected to come. We are told that some people are electing to stay at the Omni hotel. Even though the water as you can see is to people's -- basically passed people's knees, and it's -- we're told that it's rising.

You can see in the lobby there, you can -- I can see a staircase where the water's going up the staircase a little bit where the water is rising. We are getting a bit of a break in the rainfall right now. It has not rained for I'd say at least 45 minutes. And so -- but they continue to pull people out. We're told that between 60 and 80 people were stranded inside here. The hotel staff has kept everyone calm. They said the people can stay for as long as they want. Again, some people have elected to stay and some people have not. Ma'am, hi, can you tell us what your name is please?

MARY-ANN WASHINGTON: Mary-Ann Washington.

TODD: Mary-Ann, describe what the conditions are like in there.

WASHINGTON: It's -- they're bad, they're bad. The whole lobby is flooded and, you know, so, but we're associates. TODD: You work here?


TODD: OK. So, what's the hotel doing to I guess make people comfortable and some people were actually staying, correct?

WASHINGTON: I'm not sure. All I know is they try to make us comfortable. Rescuing us and taking us to the -- out of the hotel.

TODD: All right. Good luck and Seth Roberts is here. Seth -- he is one of the rescuers, Seth, tell me what are some of the logistical problems that you're running into trying to get as many people out here as possible?

SETH ROBERTS: Well, there is water in some places and there is water not water in other places so it makes it a little tricky. We've got a lot of calls committed on Facebook right now. We are trying to get to people and we're just trying to get everybody out of here safely right now so we can get other people that are families and kids and elder folks that need to get out of house. So, we're just doing our best to get everybody safe right now.

TODD: OK. Seth, thanks for talking to us. I know he's got to do his work and climb back into the boat.


TODD: All right. We are back with actually that same rescue team. And this is a gentleman who's joined them. This is Seth Roberts and his partner Brian over here, the guys we were just with in that video. This is T.J. Henderson, he is a kayaker who came by and wanted to help these guys with some of the rescues. T.J., I heard you're trying to guide them (INAUDIBLE) what's going on back here?

T.J. HENDERSON, RESCUING RESIDENTS STRANDED BY FLOODING: In (INAUDIBLE) which is much further away, there's an elderly couple that's stuck down there. We think there's a few other people stuck the elderly and we can't find a way through, but right now, we're working on a solution for that. We think that there may be a way further down 610. So if we can get on 610 and then unload the boat, launch it there and then even if it's gets shallow, I can get to them in the kayak and bring them to the boat and we can get them to safety.

TODD: You cannot get their water at this point. You're going to have to try to go around somewhere?


TODD: And how difficult is that?

HENDERSON: So far, it sounds pretty difficult. The police don't know of an open route, but we're going to work on it. I mean, boats go in water, right? So, you know, if there's water blocking, we should be able to find a way. TODD: And we saw you guys leave with the police a short time to ago. You took them to their house and -- or you couldn't find the house actually. So where do the police go? They were in your boat.

HENDERSON: The police are still out there searching, there's some people stuck in the hotels they're trying to convince them that it's safe to come down so that the staff can leave also. And you know, we're mostly looking for the people actually in their homes.

TODD: T.J., thanks for talking to us. Good to meet you.

HENDERSON: Good to meet you.

TODD: And great work coming out here and helping out. Guys, this is what's been going on here all day. These are local people coming out on their own. It is incredible to watch. Just the spirit of wanting to help out. Doing anything that people can to get to the people stranded and there are still a lot of people stranded back there at Omni hotel. Back from there in a residential area behind the Omni hotel, these guys are pushing out now.

As you heard, T.J. explained, I guess they're going to try to go back over here and you can pan or your left, my right, where there are people watching. So, they're going to probably load these boats back onto these trailers and try to find some way over land. That's a really challenge too, Ana because a lot of these roads are shut off. The highways are shut off. And again, this is -- this is a challenge of trying to get to some of these remote areas where people are just stranded and maybe you can't even get to them by boat or over land. So there's a real challenge that they're can be facing and now it's starting to get dark here and it's starting to rain again.

CABRERA: It's hard to believe just how much water is already there, to think there could be twice as much before this is all over. Brian Todd, thank you so much from Houston and CNN's Ed (INAUDIBLE) has also spent several hours now on a boat in Dickenson, Texas. He was there as a dramatic rescue took place. Watch.



JASON: How are you doing, sir?


JASON: Yes, better.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ana, there is a woman. We were about to leave this neighborhood, there was a woman who had kind of flagged us down, that her and her two elderly parents were stuck inside the home. So I'm going to put the mic down and we're going to help them try to get into the boat so we can get them out of here. So I'm going to put the microphone down while we help them get into the boat. How you doing, sir?

JASON: (INAUDIBLE) on that side right there. Let me see if I can get something for you to -- I don't have anything.


JASON: Yes, sir.

LAVANDERA: Do you want me to give me your hand, sir, and I can try to pull you up. How are your arms feel.


LAVANDERA: Jason, do you want to come up here and help?

JASON: I can help lift you if that's OK. OK, you ready?



LAVANDERA: one, two, three. We got you.


LAVANDERA: You got it?


LAVANDERA: Here, I got you, I got you. Get that foot in there. All right. Not too bad.

JASON: And just sit wherever you feel like. You know, is the most comfortable for you.

LAVANDERA: There. Whenever you feel like moving, just sit right there on the edge, I'll take care of you. Are we picking on one? No?

JASON: No, it's all that rain we had earlier today and I never (INAUDIBLE) out. It's not a problem though.

LAVANDERA: You all right? Long night?



LAVANDERA: All right. Hey Ana, we've got this gentleman's wife and their daughter that's still need to be pulled out of here. So Austin, Seth, who is the volunteer who had been taking us around. I'll tell you what, we were just about to leave and we just happened to hear this woman. So I asked for help, so that's what Austin here -- they have two dogs as well. Come on this way, little fella. So they're trying to...


CABRERA: Again, that moment just a couple of hours ago. CNN's Ed Lavandera is joining us live now from Galveston. Ed, wow, describe what that moment was like.

LAVANDERA: Oh, absolutely surreal. You know, we've been standing here and we are kind of where we started the day. Standing on Interstate 45, which is just staggering to think about when you -- this is I-45 northbound, pretty much I think about halfway between Galveston Island and the City of Houston just over that overpass where you see a lot of the emergency vehicles. All of this area around us just swamped in water.

And that neighborhood that you saw we were shooting in is just behind this tree line over here. And there has been an endless stream of volunteers who have shown up with their own boats to help rescue and pull people out from so many subdivisions. At one point, just down this little waterway here which is essentially the onramp to the interstate here the service -- or to get on the service road, just a stream. It almost like -- you could have thought it was rush hour traffic, just a line of boats making their way back into these neighborhoods.

You know, the sun is setting here. And all of those volunteers essentially coming off the water now. That kind of water is simply too dangerous to do because we were driving through or floating through this neighborhood in one of these flat bottom boats. We were careening over mailboxes and cars that were just below the surface of the water. So, really too dangerous, but we felt incredibly lucky. We had made several passes through that neighborhood, and as you heard there in the video, it was the very last moment, we were on our way out when we heard Pam Jones, the woman there, the daughter of the -- of that elderly couple that we were able to get into the boat with us, kind of plead for help there.

She said that she had been waiting there all day long, trying to get a ride out of there but there are just so many people, an endless stream of people who were trying to get out of these neighborhoods. All of these people, can't stress enough went to bad last night and even though it was raining, their neighborhoods were not flooded by any means. So they woke up to all of this water inside of their homes.

So they were desperately trying to get out of that situation throughout, throughout the day, but the demand and the crush of calls and responses for people asking for help has just been overwhelming. It has been amazing to see just the fleet of volunteers who've showed up here to do what they can. Almost every volunteer you talk to, if you ask them how many people have you pulled off? Everyone seems to pulled off between 10 and 15 on their own.

So, you know, you can do the math from there and kind of figure out just how many hundreds if not thousands of people in our little area alone here, we're on the southeast edge of Harris County, south of the City of Houston, so you can kind of do the math of how many people have been rescued from their homes throughout the day today.

CABRERA: Wow. And these are the times that you really see the humanity shine. Incredible images. What stories you're hearing and showing us. Ed Lavandera, thank you so much in Dickenson, Texas, today. I want to head to the CNN Weather Center now in Atlanta and CNN meteorologist, Tom Sater. Tom, break this down for us, what do the next few hours look like for that area?

TOM SATER, METEOROLOGIST: Well, the next few hours pretty much if you look at the infrared satellite imagery, the brighter colors are the higher cloud tops. It doesn't show the rain at the surface, but it gives you an idea if you go north of Austin, you're into some of the heavier downpours, some of the more severe weather or some thunderstorms and it's also been sliding off towards -- to areas to the east, but for the next couple of hours, we're still going to be looking at rainfall and the threat for a few isolated tornados.

Now, let's talk about what we're seeing here, the spin on our radar, we still have a center to the storm. And as long as there is a center, there's still a small engine. And when this engine makes it's way offshore tomorrow afternoon, it's going to be like spraying some engine starter, engine, you know, starter fluid in your old lawn mower that won't start. So it's going to get a little kick. But right now the center is just ten miles just north of Victoria.

So some light rain moving back into this area, staying just east to the east in suburbs in San Antonio, light rain into Austin. But the concern is still these bands. That for the last couple of days, have been feeding from the south to the north. And if you look closely, we've got a little tornado warning that's in effect. This is just to the west of Houston, and then another one well off to the east near the border of Louisiana, but this feeder ban that is showing up on radar is just about an hour away from Houston, already extending down to the south where we've seen over 25 inches.

So again, just when you think it's going to end, it continues to back build. So there is more rain on the way for this area in Houston and more thunderstorms now. We're starting to see slide into coastal areas of Louisiana. They've also had some tornado warnings there. Not like the 134 warnings out of Houston. But the problem is when it gets back over water. It's a fueling stop. It's going to get a little energized here.

Not that it's not energized enough, it's hard to believe it's still a tropical storm, but it's feeding on the rain, it's already dropped on land. Once it gets offshore, the next 120 hours take it back to a secondary landfall. The models were hinting at this the other day. Remember, we lost all steering appearance and so the system was going to meander for a while but many of the computer models brought it offshore. So we're still in agreement with that. That is good consensus.

But unfortunately it brings it up to Galveston and into Houston, and by Thursday, it starts exits the state. By looking at the computer models and seeing, is there any other possibility of a difference? They're all agreement bringing it offshore, but where they bring it back onshore, some skepticism, but again, most of the models are in the same area. Just moments ago, looking at the next four to five days of total rainfall from the national weather service drops another 27 inches of rainfall in this general area in the Houston region.

So, if you think of the rising waters and the amount of rainfall that has fallen double that. We're not even half way through this event. If it stays more east, it could generate and get a little stronger. I mean, is it possible, yes? Maybe even to hurricane strength, but I doubt it. And then it makes its way back into parts of Louisiana for another land fall. What has fallen already is staggering but what is going to fall extends then the possibility of more federal aid, more resources, more emergency calls which already 56,000 have come to the 911 office at this -- the emergency management office of Houston and then it slides to the north.

So we're going to be strapped with emergency services across Texas. Again, we're looking at what most likely could be a 1 and 1,000 year event and the coverage will continue after this break. #prayfortexas.


CABRERA: Welcome back. The White House announced today the president will visit that storm and flood-ravaged area in Texas on Tuesday. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released the following statement. "We are coordinating logistics with state and local officials, and once details are finalized, we will let you know. We continue to keep all of those affected in our thoughts and prayers." In the meantime, Texas Governor Greg Abbott is (INAUDIBLE) with pride over Texan stepping up to help each other in this time of need. I spoke with him about it last hour.


CABRERA: Seeing those rescues taking place, you must be proud of the citizens of your state right now.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT, (R) TEXAS: Texans are the best. I am so proud of my fellow Texans and the way they are responding. So thankful for our first responders and the terrific work they've been doing. We've been working to aid them by deploying about 3,000 National Guard members as well as providing about 200 or so boats and helicopters for emergency rescues. But it's these first responders who are making life and death decisions, who are helping so many people live and rescue these people and I'm so very proud of them and what they're doing.


CABRERA: Stay with us. Up next, many of the news crews covering the flooding in Houston live in that city. Coming up, the challenges facing news rooms across Texas as they report from a city in crisis. You are live in the CNN Newsroom.


CABRERA: The last 24 hours have been filled with one traumatic episode after another. Even with all of the local and national coverage of Harvey's destruction, we still don't have a full sense of the damage and the turmoil left in it's wake. And I want to bring in CNN senior media correspondent and the host of Reliable Sources, Brian Stelter is with us now. So, Brian, I know you have been in touch with some of the local news reporters and editors on the ground there in Texas, what are they telling you? BRIAN STELTER, RELIABLE SOURCES HOST: Well, most remarkably one of the stations in Houston, KHOU had to evacuate the newsroom. One of the many examples of evacuation today but this played out on live television. You can see some of the pictures here on screen now. As floodwaters came into the first floor of the building, they moved to the second floor. Then it was decided they were going to leave the entire building.

The station was off the air for about eight hours. It's had a lot of help to get back on the air now to inform local residents about what's going on. And that station, it's right on Buffalo Bayou. You've been showing that area with the reporters on the scene, Ana, we've got flood rates of now three inches an hour, new rainfall happening here. So the pictures we're seeing, the periods where there's not as much heavy rain. I think looks can be deceiving right now because these new rain bands are coming in as Tom was describing and it's going to be very hairy overnight. That flash flood emergency was just reissued through 1:15 in the morning.

CABRERA: Yes, Tom Sater, our meteorologist say in that one zone got 10 inches of rain in an hour, so it goes to show how you -- it's hard to prepare for something like that to happen.

STELTER: And of the differences between this and past flood emergencies is the rise of social media that, yes, most local residents are getting information from radio and TV if they have power, but they're able to post on Facebook and Twitter. In some cases posting calls for help, calls for rescues. I have seen hundreds of people using social media today trying to seek help...

CABRERA: Tweeting out addresses of where people are trapped. And in fact, you bring this up, we have that incredible moment of the -- of the people in the nursing home. The picture that has gone viral, and we talked with the daughter of the owner of that nursing home, who described receiving that picture in a text message from her mom, begging for help? Saying she was about to lose power, couldn't get through to emergency officials. And they needed people to come and rescue the residents in this nursing home. Social media proving to be a powerful tool in this.

STELTER: Yes, it's that combination of the web and television in order to reach a mass audience in order to inform both the local population and the country about what's going on. I want to be careful with any comparisons to Hurricane Katrina. God-willing the death toll will not nearly be as high in Texas, but this is a multiday event in Texas and Louisiana, but one interesting pair out of Katrina, there weren't -- there weren't social networks back then, there wasn't Twitter and Facebook.

There were news helicopters and we saw those images belatedly of people being taken off roofs. We're seeing the images much quicker in this emergency and we're seeing them on-screen right now. These incredible images of this helicopter, this bucket being lifted back into the air now and people being rescued off of roofs, perhaps off these highways.

CABRERA: And these are some live pictures we're looking at in fact right now.

STELTER: We are seeing these images very quickly as opposed to a day or two later. That's partly thanks to technology, that TV crews have it's partly thanks to the Facebook and Twitters of the world. You feel like you are there with these folks that are trying to find help. And I think when we look back weeks or months down the road, we're going to see that the social networks played a vital role in helping folks feel a little less alone when they were trapped in their homes overnight, when they were trying to seek rescues. Now look, it's no, it's not as strong as 911. We've heard the coast guard today say don't send your information out on twitter. We still need you to pick up the phone and call 911, but in some cases, people in Texas are using Facebook and Twitter as a supplement to actually calling 911.

CABRERA: Well, and on top of that, in fact, I just pulled out the news release that shows that approximately 25 to 35 private boat owners showed up to assist local officials after emergency officials actually put out the word on social media, they needed more help. They didn't have enough rescue boats at that time when they were getting inundated with calls for help.

STELTER: Yes, the best way to think about social media in an emergency is as a broadcast tool. Like a megaphone. And we've seen sheriffs and law enforcement agencies using these tools as megaphone. In the same way a lot of cell phone towers are still up and running. A lot of folks have power even though their homes are flooded. So they're able to see what the local authorities are sharing with them through the phone alerts, through the wireless networks, that's a big change from past disasters. And I hope one of the outcomes will be a lower death toll than we would otherwise see.

CABRERA: All right Brian Stelter, thanks for joining us.

STELTER: Thanks.

CABRERA: We appreciate it. Some live pictures I want to take you to right now as we continue to monitor the situation on the ground in Houston and the surrounding area. That has been inundated with floodwaters. You see one of the high water rescue vehicles just rolling down the street. One of the streets that doesn't have water on it at this moment. We know there were 93 dump trucks and high water rescue vehicles that were deployed around the Houston area. 35 boats, 22 aircraft, this was according to the mayor of Houston at an earlier press conference. We'll continue to keep you up to date on what's happening right now as tropical storm Harvey continues to wreak havoc.


[20:32:13] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: OK. These are live pictures right now and you can see more rescues happening, taking place. There's the helicopter that's coming in to make a rescue. Let's just watch this for a moment. Again, live right now in Houston.

All right, again these are live pictures in Houston. Somebody who was just rescued by helicopter brought in that basket. Hoisted down to the ground where rescue crews are meeting this individual. Everyone has a story. We know there are a number of people who are still trapped and waiting for help as the floodwaters continue to rise.

A brief break in some of the flooding in some parts of Houston, but we know there's much more rain on the way. And our crews have been there. They're on the ground in southern Texas all day. We've been shooting the video of the search and the rescue efforts and interviewing flood victims, and while just going through one of the flooded neighborhoods our Ed Lavandera became a part of a dramatic rescue effort after he found a family trapped inside their home.

We brought you this moment live here on our air, and everyone, including the family's dog, was taken to safety. Ed was able to do an interview with that family after they were all on board the boat. By the way, the person who was driving that boat was a volunteer who got a call on social media saying we need more help, if you have a boat, please come to this area. His name is Austin Seth. He was the driver. He was on the ground pulling some of these people out of the water and we want to obviously give him some credit tonight as well. But here's Ed talking with this family.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: we were about to leave the neighborhood and we heard your voice.

PAMELA JONES, RESCUED FLOOD VICTIM: Yes, thank God. We've been waiting on the Coast Guard and waiting on somebody else. And the girls have been calling, we -- anyway.

LAVANDERA: How long have you guys been trapped in there?

JONES: All night.

LAVANDERA: All night.

JONES: Mm-hmm.

LAVANDERA: You've been with your parents?


LAVANDERA: How are they holding up?

JONES: I think pretty good. Pretty good. I think pretty good for the circumstances. Everything is floating and it's bad.

LAVANDERA: You guys have been stuck upstairs all day?

JONES: All night. Yes.

LAVANDERA: We've done a couple of passes through this -- down the street here and we didn't even know you were in the house.

JONES: Yes. Well, I heard the boat but I thought the Coast Guard or someone was going to rescue us. But then we found out that my sons were coming on their jet ski and then they had -- they got stopped. So -- outside bridge. Anyway, they got stopped and so I figured --

[20:35:10] LAVANDERA: What was it like in this neighborhood through the night?

JONES: It just creeped up really -- it was shocking. You know, it came in through the garage about an inch and I was shocked.

LAVANDERA: What time was that?

JONES: I think around 1:00 or 2:00, 2:30. It was really (INAUDIBLE) in. Then I think it's like three feet or more inside the house.

LAVANDERA: I've heard from a lot of people here who said that they didn't expect this neighborhood to flood.

JONES: No. It was -- my parents were in a 100-year flood, and I can't remember what year that was. But, no, we didn't think it was going to flood. I live in Prince Wood, we would have went to my house. We knew it wasn't going to flood. And plus they did roadwork.

LAVANDERA: And you've been trying to get people to pull you out all day long?

JONES: Yes. My daughters have been calling. And of course my cell phone.

LAVANDERA: Where are your daughters?

JONES: The big city.

LAVANDERA: The big city? All right. Well, hopefully they're able to watch this and they know you guys are safe.

JONES: Yes. Yes, well, I'm going to call one of them to pick me up.

LAVANDERA: What was it like? It's dark?


LAVANDERA: Outside --

JONES: No. We had lights all the time. Dad's got a generator.

LAVANDERA: You never lost power?

JONES: Never.

LAVANDERA: Unbelievable.

JONES: We had power all night. They had a generator and I guess that's what it was.

LAVANDERA: Right. Were you worried that -- we're getting pretty close to nightfall here. Were you worried that you weren't going to be able to be pulled in time before dark or -- JONES: Yes, we were just starting to because we found out that

they're putting a rescue and then we heard the Coast Guard can take a couple of days. We didn't know.

LAVANDERA: How are you feeling now?

JONES: Happy. Very happy. Very happy, very blessed.

LAVANDERA: Sorry you got stuck on the boat with the CNN crew here.


JONES: No, I'm glad. We're glad. We're very happy.

LAVANDERA: What do you do now? Do you know where you're going to be able to stay tonight or --

JONES: I think we're going to my house in Prince Wood.


JONES: Hopefully.

LAVANDERA: You have someone picking you up when we get back at the island?

JONES: Yes, one of my daughters.

LAVANDERA: Have you heard -- what's it been like in this neighborhood throughout the day? I mean, I just see boats criss-crossing all the time.

JONES: Just boats in, jet skis and -- I don't know of anything else, really. I've been up there helping my parents.

LAVANDERA: It has to be surreal.

JONES: It is.

LAVANDERA: To see your neighborhoods like this.

JONES: It is. It's shocking. It is surreal. Yes.

LAVANDERA: Have you been able to talk to any of your neighbors at all?

JONES: No, I -- no, I was helping my mom and dad.

LAVANDERA: Yes. Yes. So they're going to be OK?

JONES: Yes, I think so. Dad -- yes.

LAVANDERA: Well, they did a great job jumping into the boat, especially your mom.

JONES: That's good. LAVANDERA: She did great.



CABRERA: Good news for that one family. More information now on how you can help the victims of Harvey, just log on to We're back right after this.


[20:41:51] CABRERA: A local football star is stepping up to help the flood victims in the Houston area. J. J. Watt of the Houston Texans has launched a fundraising effort. He announced it on his Twitter feed and he has already raised nearly $200,000. Maybe that's been surpassed since we started this segment because it was going up quickly.

And JJ Watt is joining us now. Thank you so much, JJ, for spending time with us. I know you're not in Houston right now. You and your teammates are stuck in Dallas. How difficult is it to see what's happening in your community?

JJ WATT, RAISING MONEY FOR HOUSTON FLOOD VICTIMS: Yes, thank you for having me. It's very difficult. You know, for guys, especially guys who have young kids and family members back there, it's very tough, but a city as a whole. I mean, we're very embedded in the community. The guys are very embedded in the community and we all care so much about the city of Houston.

And so to see such destruction happening and not be able to do anything about it, you feel kind of helpless. We obviously wish we could get back there, but the least we could do was start a fundraiser up and see if we could raise some money so that once we can start these relief efforts, we can have a jump start.

CABRERA: And what was it that spurred you specifically to take action in that way?

WATT: It's just frustrating. You feel a little bit helpless. You know, we're up here in Dallas, we're unable to get back to Houston to help everybody out. And we obviously have a massive platform. And I think understanding that we have that platform and being able to utilize that platform to raise money is the best way that we can possibly help the situation right now from where we are. So if that's all we can do, then we're going to do that to the best of our ability.

CABRERA: So your goal was $200,000. Where are you at right now?

WATT: The last time I checked, it was at like $195,000, and we just posted it like a couple of hours ago. So it's pretty wild. We have some of the best fans in the world and obviously there's people from all parts of the country pouring in their support for Houston and showing so much love. So I think we're going to well surpass the $200,000 and I'll probably bump up the goal here in a minute and see if we can continue raising money throughout the rest of the week, throughout the rest of the month. However long we can because there's going to be so much money needed to make these efforts successful.

CABRERA: Yes. I know this was a spur of the moment idea. Have you thought out what you're going to do with this money then moving forward? Which organizations you might be working with or is that yet to be determined?

WATT: That's kind of like what we're working on now. You know, with some of this downtime that we have being in Dallas and doing some research on different foundations, obviously things like the Red Cross, and then going out and doing some stuff ourself. I think one thing that we've done in the past when there's been flooding in the Houston is the players have gone out. And we've distributed the food, we've distributed sandbags and things like that. So however we can help and if we can get our hands on personally, that's when we feel like we make the most impact. So however we can help we're going to help.

CABRERA: JJ, do you have friends or family who are stranded right now?

WATT: My girlfriend's back there. She's back there. She's staying with her sister and their two kids. So obviously very concerned about her. And then all of my teammates that have their wives back there. They have their kids back there. So that's what really, you know, kind of hits you in the heart is that some of these guys, I know we have one guy who has a newborn and his wife's back there dealing with a newborn.

To not have your husband there, to not have the dad there is very difficult. So it's very good that we're together. That we can be together and support each other, but obviously we'd like to get back there as quickly as we can.

[20:45:07] CABRERA: What's the best way people can participate if they want to join your fundraiser?

WATT: It's posted on my Twitter and Instagram accounts and Facebook and it's Join in, like I said, it's five cents, it's $5, it's $500, whatever you can support, in any way, shape or form, we appreciate it so much. And I know the people of Houston appreciate it so, so much.

CABRERA: JJ Watt from the Houston Texans, again, thank you for taking time out of your evening to talk with us, to share your message and to raise some funds to help the people in your hometown there. We appreciate it.

WATTS: Everybody in Houston, stay safe.

CABRERA: And we're just getting word, the Web site is jamming up because people are excited to participate in this. So keep on trying to reach beyond that $200,000 goal.

And we're bringing you more images right now. This again in Houston, where we're seeing ongoing water rescues and neighborhoods that are completely flooded from the water. That has already poured from the sky and more rain is in the forecast and the National Weather Service says some parts of Houston could get another two feet of rain. Meaning the worst could be yet to come.

Right now 600 vessels are being used for rescue efforts. 3,000 National Guard members have been activated.

I want to bring in somebody who knows all about disaster response. This is our national security analyst Juliette Kayyem. She is the former assistant security of Homeland Security.

And Juliette, you have overseen natural disasters at Homeland Security. When you watch the scenes coming out of southern Texas today, what is your immediate reaction?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, look, you never judge a disaster in the middle of it. So -- but what I am seeing so far is the mitigation of the worst. And I know that seems weird given the images that you're seeing.

Disasters are called disasters for a reason, and we have to measure success by, you know, whether we can -- whether less harm is done. And so one of the numbers that I am looking at, and we don't know if it's definite yet and I know CNN can't confirm all the numbers, but it's the relatively low fatality rates that we lost five people so far, at least you know, by hurricane-related deaths.

That is a remarkably low number two days into such a catastrophic event. So even though the images are horrific, people are suffering, this is an emergency, that's the kind of number that first responders are looking at.

I think the second thing is of course what we call mutual aid. And we're now -- they're now entering a stage in which people have been working 48, 72 hours. What you're starting to see is other states come forward with their search and rescue teams, National Guard. There's a pretty big mutual aid system to help pace this response.

We have three or four more days right now at nighttime, first responders are going to have to protect themselves, there's going to probably be a call to bring everyone in if they haven't already. You don't to want to harm volunteers and first responders. There's going to be a focus on public safety because of course you don't want looting. You want people to feel safe.

So those are the things that we're looking at. The unfortunate thing about this hurricane or tropical storm now is we're going to be doing this for the next three days, I think, until there's some semblance and that the saturation stops.

CABRERA: Right, it is still raining right now in Houston.


CABRERA: And that rain is supposed to continue. I spoke with the Texas governor, Greg Abbott, last hour and asked him why there was no evacuation order issued for the Houston area.


CABRERA: Let's listen to what he responded with.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: Well, of course, those decisions are made at the local level by law here in Texas, but listen, now is not the time to do any second guessing. Now is the time for all of us to come together and work to save lives. This is a matter of moments. And we need to use every moment we have to rescue innocent lives, to get them to a safe place, and then to begin the rebuilding process.


CABRERA: Juliette, we also heard from the mayor of Houston who was also asked a question by another reporter at his press conference regarding why or why not with the evacuation. And here's what he said. He said, you know, they didn't know exactly where the hurricane was going to go, the logistics of the evacuation could have actually led to more chaos and perhaps created a more dangerous situation because there are six and a half million people in and around the Houston area when you include the county, Harris County, and he said, you know, if people then are outside the city, also they're away from some of the emergency services that the city can provide. So do you agree with this decision for people to stay put?

KAYYEM: So far I do. This is the quintessential debate in disasters is evacuate or stay because each of them has their -- you know, their vulnerabilities and their risks. As I said earlier, you know, one of the numbers we look at is fatalities and why this is horrific is just -- you just, you know, if you pull out the counter factual of course everything looks right.

[20:50:11] If only we had evacuated, well, it's really hard to put six million people between the city and the county on the road. For an evacuation to have been successful would have had to have happened last Wednesday when the data wasn't clear. And disaster management we call it the blinding clarity of hindsight. Everything seems so obvious in hindsight. And we have to be I think respectful of the decisions that were made by the mayor and first responders and others that looking at the data then I will say right now and I'm willing to change my mind, I actually think it was the right decision not to evacuate.

Given what we're seeing that may change, but keeping people in areas where at least they could get assistance where they might not have been able to is very beneficial for the saving of life. That's the number one thing. That's how we're going to judge this.

Look, the economy is going to slip. The buildings are down. We know that. It was a number we are looking at is can we save lives, and so far while every life lost is a tragedy, these are numbers that I think should be heartening in some ways but we, of course, as I said at the beginning, is that three more days of this. So, you know, and we'll have -- and emergency managers will have to pivot in response to the changing climate and the changing situation on the ground.

CABRERA: All right. Juliette Kayyem, as always, we appreciate your insight and expertise, thank you.

We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.


CABRERA: Welcome back as we continue our coverage of Tropical Storm Harvey dumping an enormous amount of water right now over the southern Texas region, especially in the city of Houston. Of course that is the fourth largest city in this country. More than two million people in that city alone.

I want to show you a report from one of our affiliate reporters from KTRK who was out on a boat, again, as rescues continue going into the evening hours.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. And as the sun goes down, of course the need just becomes even more because these people don't have any electricity right now. They are in the dark. When it gets pitch black inside, outside it's going to be pitch black inside. And I don't know what other medical situations that they have, but look, they are flashing the light. I think they probably want us to maybe get one of those people that's up there.

[20:55:05] We could take you guys if you need.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. We have an elderly sick person.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An elderly sick person? Yes --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two handicap --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two sick and disabled and two in wheelchairs right now on the top of that roof. I have no idea how they got them on top of that roof.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. We're going to try to get closer. She wants us to get closer right now. Yes, we're going to get closer. You guys can bring them down to the boat. We're going to have to be careful of the tree and obviously the current is very, very dangerous right now as well. But I don't know how they got those two elderly people that are sick and others in wheelchairs up there to the roof, but they had to do what they could obviously because they need to get out of this apartment complex.

It's getting dark. They need more help. And those rescue helicopters can only do so much. They can only take so many people right now. We hear another rescue helicopter right now just above us. It looks like they probably have some sort of system in place obviously to get to the people that need it the most.

Two elderly sick people, two people in wheelchairs, I'm sure, is a priority to them. You can see right above there, another helicopter right behind that one that just left this apartment complex ready to get some of those that are up there.

We're going to try and get as many people as we can in our rescue boat. That's why we're here. A desperate situation. You can see some people opening up the window in their bedroom and looking at us.

Are you guys OK? All right. They are giving us the OK. They're giving us the thumbs up. Some people can ride this out. Others can't. And that's what we're learning out here. It's difficult. (INAUDIBLE). We have a rescue boat, we have the savior for them. We're able to get them to higher ground. We're able to help them out. But others, you know, some people want to stay, some don't. We're going to try and get as many people on our rescue boat as we can.


CABRERA: Our thanks to our affiliate KTRK for that report.

Now I want to turn to our Brian Todd who is also in Houston. Also among those who are being rescued.

Brian, what are you hearing from the folks you're speaking with?

Brian, can you hear us? Talk to me about what's going on there.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I can hear you, guys. We are at a staging area here -- sorry about that. I was just talking to a police officer because they were trying to rescue an elderly couple that lives kind of a long way right from there. They tried to get to them over water, they could not get to them. And now they are trying to get to them maybe over land and then meet up with some boats in another area to try to get to this elderly couple that's stranded.

This has been a very, very busy staging area here for rescues. And we just had some boats coming in and out. They are going to the Omni Hotel over there where there have been dozens of people there stranded there all day today.

Here is one person here in a stretcher. She's being worked on. We heard that she has back problems and they have a lot of people here tending to her. So basically the bottom line here is a lot of people have come out in private boats and in wave runners, anything to get through this flooded area.

Eddie, we can come down here a little bit. We going to back a trailer over here to us pretty soon. So they have tried to get to residential areas over here. The Omni Hotel over here. We witnessed a rescue from the Omni Hotel where the water is about waist deep now. It's raining again. The water is rising again, Ana. So it's a pretty desperate situation here about six miles west of Houston.

CABRERA: All right. Brian, obviously it's getting dark there. Do we know when it's going to be completely dark and do these rescues just continue to go through the night?

TODD: We have been talking to some private rescuers who say they are committed to staying here all night if they can. It's kind of helped out by the police. The police have asked anyone with a boat or high water vehicle to call them and to help out. So yes, we are getting indications that people -- some of these private rescuers are committed to staying overnight.

We just talked to one who we rode to the Omni Hotel with. He said he's going to be at the Bel Air which is a neighborhood over here not far from here. He's going to be here all night. So, yes, it's incredibly heroic what you're witnessing here tonight with some of these people just coming out on their own in boats.

One thing we can tell you is according to the -- Eddie, let's move this way a little bit to get what this guy back, we're up here. According to the Office of Emergency Management, they got about 56,000 911 calls between 10:00 p.m. last night and 1:00 p.m. today. They usually get about 8,000 in that period -- Ana.

CABRERA: 56,000 911 calls. Brian Todd, in Houston, with those rescues ongoing, thank you.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

CABRERA: Top of the hour, thank you for being with us. The CNN Special Report "DIANA: CHASING A FAIRYTALE" will now air at 10:00 p.m. Eastern one hour from now as we continue to follow the breaking news out of Texas.