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The Catastrophic Aftermath of Harvey in Texas; Roads Turned into Rivers. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired August 28, 2017 - 22:00   ET


[22:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Breaking news we need to tell you. People are still in need of being rescued right now down in Texas. Along the gulf, and what's happening with this hurricane. We are going to, someone is going to join us in just a moment. She's in desperate need of help. Water is rushing into her apartment she's there with a 1- year-old.

Water is rising in east Texas tonight. Thousands trapped. More rain on the way. President Trump promises help from the federal government as he prepares to travel to the flood zone tomorrow.

This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon. Thank you so much for joining us.

The stories that are coming in are harrowing and heartbreaking. This is an absolutely stunning number. Texas already hit with at least 15 trillion gallons of rain, and the storm, its far from over.

The National Weather Service warns, life threatening flooding is continuing. The Coast Guard, getting more than a 1,000 rescue calls every hour. A 1,000 rescue calls every hour. And tonight, we are going to have the stories from some of the people who narrowly escaped the raging floodwaters and, some who are still trapped.

And the forecast, as the storm gathers, strength tonight. Look at that. Still lots of rain. Lots of activity. Our reporters are all over the flood zone. CNN's Tom Sater is tracking the path of the storm in the weather center for us.

So, again, good evening, thanks for joining us. We'll be carrying all these stories of rescue and how people are coping down there. But I want to get right to our Ices brag. Ices, I understand is trapped with her 1-year-old baby and her cousin. The floodwaters are rising. She is a afraid time is running out. She joins us by phone. Ices, are you there? Can you hear me? This is Don Lemon? Isis, are you there?


LEMON: Yes, I can hear you. So, where are you now? And who is with you?

BRAGG: Yes, I am on the eastside of Houston, 5915, I'm across the street from with my 1-year-old baby and my cousin.

LEMON: And give me your address again, 595 what?

BRAGG: Five-nine-one-five, Uvalde Road, apartment 409, Houston, Texas 77049.

LEMON: And so you are there, you said with your 1-year-old and your cousin. And you're worried the water is going to come in right now? You're on the first floor?

BRAGG: Yes, yes. I am on the first floor right now. The water is rising very fast. This drive is in the front of my house and then the back of my house and also on the side of my house too. It's all over. Like really nobody can really leave out the apartment complex.

LEMON: And have you called for help, Ices?

BRAGG: Yes, we have. Everybody have called for help. We tried walking down the street for help. We had some pass us by and left, and roll down the window. We can even see by (Inaudible) passing by, and they couldn't stop.

LEMON: Yes. And I can hear your baby crying in the background. Don't worry about that. We understand that you are in a very traumatic situation right now.

BRAGG: Yes, sir.

LEMON: And so, have you heard anything from authorities? Are they telling you anything?

BRAGG: No. No, sir.

LEMON: Have you been able to contact anyone.

BRAGG: No, sir all calls, the numbers that they gave out is busy. It is like one out of, out of all the numbers really works.

LEMON: Do you have electricity?

BRAGG: Yes, I do.

LEMON: You do. And have your neighbors been evacuated?

BRAGG: No, sir.

LEMON: There are people still in your apartment complex.

BRAGG: Yes, sir, it is still, well, mostly majority of my apartment complex are still in, in their homes.

LEMON: You're in, it's called the Forest Creek apartments, correct?

BRAGG: Yes, it's right across the street from San Jacinto College.

LEMON: And you said, as I understand you talked with producers, and you said that you tried to flag down the campus police or the college police, San Jacinto College is right across the street from you? BRAGG: Yes, we tried to -- yes, we have tried to flag him down. He

told us there is really nothing that we can do. And he see doesn't see any boats nearby to come help us.

LEMON: How quick -- how quickly is the water rising, Ices?

BRAGG: It's really by the second, minutes. It's rising fast.

LEMON: Do you have food or supplies or anything?

BRAGG: Yes, we are running out. So my baby, we have like a little bit more milk.

LEMON: Yes. Listen, if authorities, anybody watching that can help. And you don't mind me putting your address on television, right?

BRAGG: No, sir. No, sir.

LEMON: Five-nine-one-five, Uvalde Road, Apartment 409 in Houston, right?

BRAGG: Yes, sir. Correct.

LEMON: Yes, OK. And how is your cousin. How old is your cousin?

BRAGG: She's 24.

LEMON: She is 24. And you are there, both of you are there with the baby. How is the baby doing?

BRAGG: Yes. She is all right. She really doesn't understand much.


[22:05:00] BRAGG: But I mean, I'm trying to stay strong for her and my cousin because she came through me but I'm really the only person that can swim. So, I'm just trying to help her, before anything will get worse than what it is before.

LEMON: How -- can you go upstairs? Are you on a single level apartment or can you go upstairs to a neighbor's place?

BRAGG: Yes, I can go upstairs to a neighbor's -- to a neighbor's house.

LEMON: Have they invited you up or do you know them?

BRAGG: No. Really everybody is, like, well, we have, I had talked to one lady earlier today. And because her apartment is already flooded out on this area she asked the lady, can she come upstairs. And the lady tell her she had to pay her $300.



LEMON: What are you going to do?

BRAGG: Sir, the only thing I can really do right now is pray. And hope somebody can come rescue me, my cousin and my baby most of all.

LEMON: Well, Ices, let us know if we can help. We hope that authorities can get to you. And we'll try to get you some help. But Ices Bragg trapped in the apartment with her 1-year-old baby and her 24-year-old cousin. How old are you, Ices?

BRAGG: Yes, I'm 21 years old.

LEMON: Twenty one?


LEMON: Yes, good luck. Please keep in touch with us and then we'll check back. All right. Thank you so much.

BRAGG: Thank you.

LEMON: Be safe.

Boy. There you go. What do you do with that? CNN's Ed Lavandera has been out with rescuers all day. And he is in the Galveston area, the Galveston, Texas area for us tonight. And you have been witnessing these amazing rescues. You have heard stories, I'm sure like Ices that we just had on the line, Ed.

You spent the day with the National Guard. Take us there, tell us what you are seeing?

ED LAVANDERA, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Yes, we've been flooded with messages like that from people around the country trying to share addresses of loved ones that they're concerned about. So those types of calls, and those type of information, just flowing all over the place tonight here, Don.

We spent the afternoon with a unit of the National Guard from the Dallas area. They call themselves the wolf pack. And they went through various neighborhoods, trying to assist especially the boaters that were coming into these neighborhoods, and going into these neighborhoods and pulling people out of homes that were flooded out or that they were worried about becoming trapped in their homes here over the course of the next couple of days.

And then moving those people in these big trucks through the flood waters out into shelters. And what really struck me today, Don, as we picked up a group of people from an apartment complex. Hit me very quickly that a lot of these people have essentially been stuck in their homes for the better part of the last three days.

They've seen some images of the flooding across the city. But they haven't really witnessed on a grand scale, or a big picture themselves what exactly has been going on around them. So when we got in the truck and we started making our way through the floodwaters there was a, you know, a gasp, an audible gasp inside the truck as people, you know, one woman, we were standing to, my God, my God, this is so crazy.

It hit me right then and there that they really haven't seen or kind of grasp with their own eyes exactly what has been unfolding in their own city here today. So that was, rather, a breathtaking moment with these people as they were being moved to a shelter.

LEMON: You know, Ed, we saw that stunning video of you and producer Jason Morris, your cameraman, Joel de la Rosa helping an elderly couple escape from their home. Tell us about that.

LAVANDERA: We've been overwhelmed by the response. I never imagined, you know, we've been kind of a little disconnected. And we didn't realize just exactly how people had reacted to that video. We're -- you know, as you've seen in the clip, if you have watched it. We were -- really kind of wrapping up a chance to tour that neighborhood that had been flooded and so devastated.

And on our way out we were with the young man by the name of Austin Seth, who is a college student and just picked up his own boat and decided to go out there and help. I had been watching him throughout the course of the day go out and bring back some people.

And he was kind of wrapping up and he offered to take us out. And it was unbelievable. We had passed that particular house a number of times. And then it was the very last pass. We were on the way out of the neighborhood when we heard Pam Jones kind of cry out for help and asked us to stop.

And what really struck me was, and this kind of speaks to what many people are going through, and then I've heard from other first responders. They're going out to calls. But on their way to certain calls they're being stopped, two, three, four five times from people desperately seeking help. So, the demand is just simply overwhelming.

LEMON: Ed Lavandera. Ed, a heck you're doing a fantastic job down there. Thank you so much. I want to turn to CNN's Brian Todd live for us at Houston Convention Center where thousands of residents have been evacuated. And they are taking refuge there tonight.

[22:10:02] Brian, I've been watching you all day doing a fantastic job as well. What are you seeing on the ground? Tell us what's going on at this particular shelter?

BRIAN TODD, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, Don, we're told now that the number of people in the Houston Convention Center has now surpassed 5,000. That coming from an official in there speaking to us. Roughly 8,000 according to the mayor total have been taking shelter in shelters all over this area.

So that number will certainly grow. We just saw a number of people who were bused here from one of the hard hit neighborhoods stream in here. And, of course, you know, one of the questions that is on everyone's mind is, you know, when they look at large convention center with thousands of people who are taking shelter from a devastating hurricane, is it going to be a repeat of Katrina 12 years ago. Is it going to be a repeat of the super dome situation and the chaos that took place there.

I can tell you, my team and I went in here not long ago and talked to a lot of people. It is not that situation, Don. It is very composed, orderly. It's very organized. There are a lot of people in here who are very stressed, devastated and exhausted. But they are, just, you know they're really acting in a very graceful manner.

And there are a lot of police officers and volunteers helping to kind of shepherd people in the right direction. Give them meals. So far, what we have seen and there's been pretty impressive, Don.

LEMON: So talk to me, Brian, about some of the rescues you witnessed earlier today.

TODD: Just incredible scenes, Don. We went out to an area in the northeastern section of Houston. An area called Lakewood. A poor section of town, a lot of single family homes, these houses had water up to past the window levels. And when we were there with a group of private rescue teams, these are guys who dropped everything, who lived several hours away, brought boats here, and just got into these neighborhood and got to these people on their own, no prompting.

We got, we went with the team led by a gentleman named Seth Roberts whose been basically doing this now for the last 48 hours with no rest. We got to this neighborhood. And there were people waiting on their cars, on the hoods of their cars, we rescued two families like that. One across the street from the other.

And they said they've been there for a couple of nights on the hoods of their cars, with the water by the way, basically at the hood. So, if you can imagine sleeping on the hood or the roof of your car with the rain pouring down like it is here and the water right below you all night long. They said they called 911. They tried to get people to come. They were basically saying where is the cavalry. They were very relieved when our boat got there.

They were thanking us, the news team. And we said, hey, it's not us. It's these guys here who were doing it. And it was incredible to watch.

And I heard Ed Lavandera a short time ago, tell you that when he was going out with his rescue teams that a lot of people would come up and ask them to be rescued, asked to be rescued by them. And they couldn't rescue all of them.

That certainly happened to us several times. When we were in this, we were on this air boat which can go basically where no other water craft can go. It can go everywhere. And we were approached several times by people needing to get on the boat, wanting to get on the boat and we just couldn't take all of them.

It would have been a dangerous situation if we had. So, you know, that, it's just desperation out there, Don. Tens of thousands of people according to a congressman who represent to this area. Tens of thousands more people are in need of rescue tonight, Don. LEMON: Unbelievable. And you're looking at one of those air boats as

you call it or fan boats as well just a moment ago on your screen. Brian Todd, thank you. I appreciate you joining us as well. Brian, stay safe. You continue the good work down there.

All across the flood zone, families are risking everything to escape the rising water. And joining me now is Samin and Fareeha Alam, brother and sister with an incredible survival story. Thank you both so much for joining us. Samin, you had to evacuate. How are you guys doing?

SAMIN ALAM, HURRICANE SURVIVOR: We are doing fine now. Can you hear me well by the way?

LEMON: I can hear you very well.

S. ALAM: Perfect. We are doing fine now. We are back at the place. I never thought I would be come back for a reason. But this is I studied at high school. We're at Seacrunch (Ph) High School right now. This is where I graduated from two years ago.


S. ALAM: Yes, she's a sophomore right now. And we, I mean, we honestly didn't expect to have to evacuate. We thought, like we have a two-storey house. We should be able to at least be able to stay on the second floor. We even didn't think the water would actually get to our first floor.

And then, and then they put out on -- I mean, they told us since Saturday night, they've been calling out our neighborhood just myself specifically as Canyon Gate, Cinco Ranch. They've been calling our neighborhood out for a while since last Saturday before the floods fully started actually.

And they said, hey, you might have to do a voluntary evacuation. So, the whole time they've been telling us voluntary evacuation for the past come of, couple of days, couple of hours and even today, too.

[22:15:00] And then just in a matter of a second, they suddenly changed it to a mandatory evacuation like in a matter of a second. Because me and my dad we had expected that we'd be able to stay upstairs. And then suddenly they just told us no, you have to get out of the house.

LEMON: So you had to get out fast, you had to get out right away without any warning.

S. ALAM: Yes.

LEMON: Right.

S. ALAM: We had to.

LEMON: And how many people were there. Was it your entire family there? F. ALAM: It was our entire family. And then when we got out like the

water just started to seep into our house. So we got out. And all our neighbors were out there we're like evacuating together. And my neighbor, our neighbor Tony, he took a rope, and about like, then it was like 15 people. We tied each other with like ropes. Like we all tied on a rope together and we're walking in a line together. So we didn't like float away. And we got to the main road and when people came and...


LEMON: Hey, Fareeha?

F. ALAM: Yes.

LEMON: Let me show some of that video and then I'll let you talk a little more. It's an incredible video and then I'll let you talk on the other side. Let's watch it. This is yours.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Guys, this is scary. Guys, please take care. Please pray for us. Please.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With all of these people. My God.


LEMON: I mean, that must have been frightening, Fareeha, that was neck-high water you guys had to walk through, right?

F. ALAM: And the thing was that we were tied with ropes, right. And so, if somebody got left behind, like the rope would tie in to the point where you couldn't breathe. Like your circulation was cut off. I was praying the whole time (Inaudible). It was so bad. And I guess I kept thinking like why did this happen to us? Like how could this happen to us?


S. ALAM: And the thing is that...

LEMON: So, Samin and the water started seeping into your house, right?

S. ALAM: Yes, yes. We had made a barricade to be able to keep it as long as it would be able to. But by the time we started leaving our house, the water was about a feet and a half in our backyard like up against our patio door.

The water was already -- to our door in our garage. And our front doors where I made the barricade with bricks. And that was like the last place for the water to start coming through. But I mean, just out of nowhere they told us that we have to we, we have to get out. And once we started walking, when we first started walking it was water to our knees. And then the second we got out to the main road of our neighborhood.

And the thing is that the neighborhood that we live is called Canyon Gate. And so we live in the last street of Canyon Gate. And so the neighborhood it's a straight line like all the way back to the back of the neighborhood.

And it's just kind of like branches like stems. Going out to each side. So from the tip of our house to the front of our neighborhood is exactly one mile. So we had to walk which was our shin deep and then to your knees. And eventually we were neck deep into the water while there's families that are carrying babies.

There's families that are carrying pup of dogs, we have floats where the dogs they're on top and they're getting scared because they've never ever been like, they don't know how to swim themselves. And what we did is held the woman like the women like the children tie rope around their waist so they can all stay together.

And there was actually electric pole that fell and there was nothing connected to it.

F. ALAM: And it was floating.

S. ALAM: And it was floating so what they did is they had the kids put one arm over so they can float. Because the kids definitely like it was not any way they would be able to stand in the water.

And the video that you first saw that was actually me that I took. Well, I was a lot more behind from my parents. Because they had already evacuated. I tell you the fire marshals came up to our door and told us that hey, this is mandatory evacuation, you need to get out of your house right now.

LEMON: So you were eventually rescued by boat, right, where were you finally rescued?

F. ALAM: In front of the neighborhood.

S. ALAM: Well, we had to walk a whole mile from the back of our neighborhood to the front of our neighborhood which took about two hours with everybody -- keeping everybody together and going to the water themselves.

F. ALAM: And while we're on the main road of our neighborhood people, like more people just been adding on.


A. ALAM: More people were just joining with us.

F. ALAM: They're like elderly and we had how to get them. And it was just, it took a long time and it was freezing cold water. And like when we got to like the dry area, like my hands were shaking. And it was look frozen. Like I couldn't feel my fingers.

(CROSSTALK) S. ALAM: And what...

LEMON: What do you guys are going to do now? What do you do now?

S. ALAM: I'm sorry?

LEMON: What do you do next?

S. ALAM: Right now we take shelter. I mean, the thing is every single day they keep telling us on the news, hey, you should slow down but then suddenly out of nowhere they say, hey, this could go on for another couple of days.


LEMON: They're saying at least till Thursday. It's going to continue to rain until Thursday.

S. ALAM: Until Thursday. But then, the thing is that they eventually going to have to -- the reason that it flooded in our neighborhood is because we live right next to the Barker reservoir. And what they did is they had to let some of the water out before, the gate actually broke. So what they did is they let a little bit of water out too.

And they knew that it would be eventually flood our houses. But they just had to do it. So it didn't break all at once and go everywhere. So the thing is that the rain is coming a lot faster than water is leaving.

[22:20:04] LEMON: Yes, yes, yes. Well, listen.

S. ALAM: And that's the thing that is scary. Because we just keep -- we just keep hoping it's going to stop raining. Like the second you would think that it will stop raining it rains even harder than before.

F. ALAM: It rains harder.

LEMON: Well, I got to tell you. We're glad that you're OK. Everybody in your family is fine, right?

S. ALAM: Yes, yes. Luckily. And we, I mean, the thing is that we walk two hours to the front of our neighborhood. I mean, I feel so, like, grateful right now because the area that we're in, the school that we're in like, we have extra clothes, we have extra food, we have extra...


F. ALAM: Water.

S. ALAM: ... like water, anything that they need they have shelter here. I mean, the thing is that, that we, nobody expected this to happen in Houston. Because then we don't go to these kinds of things in Houston.


S. ALAM: And so the fact that this is, more than last year's flood. And then the fact that this is more than 2001 Allison's, the Allison storm. This is what its coming so much of a shock. And nobody is ready for this because it came so quick. I don't know where...


LEMON: Well, Samin and Fareeha, thank you. We are glad that you are OK. Again, we're glad your family is OK. You guys take care.

S. ALAM: You are welcome.

LEMON: And we'll be thinking about you as well down there.

F. ALAM: Thank you.

LEMON: we got to get to the break because we got so many stories that we need to tell. And there is so much to cover with this huge storm that's hitting Texas and Louisiana right now. When we come back, a man who took his own boat out to Katy, Texas to rescue stranded people.

Plus, more rain headed to Texas. More rain headed to Texas and into Louisiana. What could be ahead for this flood zone. We're going to -- our meteorologist is going to join us next. Coming up.


LEMON: All right. I want you to take a look at this live picture. This is our breaking news. I notice this when we were in the block before this, at the beginning of the show. I wasn't sure if it was a live picture enough. But it is. This is Sugarland, Texas. Look at the rain there. Look at this truck. And it is still raining and it's going to get worse.

Forecasters saying that it's going to rain at least until Thursday. We're going to check in with our meteorologist in just a moment.

[22:25:00] But Harvey is regaining strength tonight. Poised to strike Houston a second time. That as thousands of people are still stranded. I want to go to CNN's Tom Sater live for us in the weather center.

Tom, that picture we just saw unbelievable. And, again, the water is going to get higher.


LEMON: Gaining strength. These people are stranded in their homes and the cars. You heard at the beginning of the show. This young lady is stranded in her first floor apartment with her 1-year-old and her, her cousin, her 24-year-old cousin. She is 21 years old. I mean, what is going to happen for the next few days?

SATER: You know, we hear the Coast Guard is getting 1,000 calls an hour. And it's amazing. The computer models, Don, really have handled this beautifully since the beginning to an unfortunate end. But what you see in the colors of purple that's over 10 inches and whites 2 to 3 feet. That's the size of South Carolina.

We're getting a year's worth of rainfall falling in a couple of days. Totals approaching 40 inches. In fact, in Harris County alone, we had 40 locations that are picked up over 30 inches.

Records in Houston go back to 1930. The two wettest days in history now are from Saturday and Sunday. The center is now offshore. That means it's going to intensify. It's not going to get to hurricane status but it's going to act as a vacuum. It's going to pick this moisture up from the gulf and just drop it back into Houston.

We're looking at another 10 to 15 inches isolated amounts, over 17. The severe weather threat slides in the parish of Louisiana where already we have had 200 tornado warnings. The path looks like this. I think we've got 30 hours before a second landfall. The pre-dawn hours the Wednesday morning do not expect a big wind event. It's still a tropical storm but it's intensifying so more rainfall.

Notice the distance between these points here. It's going to pick up speed. But not until after it drops. Another 10, 20, 25 inches. This time it's north of Houston. It's east of Houston. More resources are going to be needed. More rescues in this region. Then it extends to the north.

New Orleans tonight 4 to 6 inches but we could see 6 to 10 inch totals getting in the central Arkansas points to the north, southeast Missouri, western Kentucky.

And it's ironic, Don, that we're doing all these comparisons with hurricane Katrina. And rightfully so, 12 years ago that is tonight hurricane Katrina, reached its monstrous stage of category 5. The rain is coming down in sheets and it's going to intensify in Houston. And areas to the south and to the east for the overnight period. It is going to be a long couple of days. Well, weeks, months.

LEMON: As the you know. As the is the case that storm surge that rain, that water, the flooding it always causes major, major problems and probably the most deaths, Tom. Thank you so much. We really appreciate. You will be checking back with our meteorologist Tom Sater throughout this broadcast throughout the next couple of hours here on CNN.

And joining me now on the phone is Captain Chad Peterek. He owns an air boat company, and travel to the flood zone to help with the rescues. Captain, first of all, thank you so much. Thank you so much for what you -- have been doing.

I understand that you have been rescuing a lot of folks today in Katy, Texas which is just west of Houston. So tell me what you have been seeing throughout day and how many people you think you rescued.

CHAD PETEREK, RESCUER: Thanks for having me, Don. We decided to come up late last night knowing how many people were in need, we were tuned in to the -- to the Cajun Navy. We were told about listening to them, you know, and how many people they needed. We got on line on our phones and through their apps. It was just, it was crazy, the number all calls they were trying to answer. So, me and a good friend of mine, James Charter, (Ph) we loaded up a group of guys that we jumped in the truck and got here about midnight last night.


PETEREK: We started out in the Harlem area off the 99 and the amount of people that were just in that one neighborhood. I mean, we couldn't even get -- probably not even the half of them, you know, with two air boats running.

Today, we moved over to the old Katy road area. And we, you know, they had a lot more help there so we didn't stay as long. But then we came back around the fry road area by the junior high. And I can tell you, we probably are going to try to get back in that area again tomorrow morning. Because there was, there was hundreds of people in there that were needing help. We were bringing out loads of 8, 10 people at a time.

LEMON: Tell also but the need there, captain.

PETEREK: The need more than anything is just more volunteers, if we can get more volunteers out here to help these people. These people are devastated in the areas that they are. And one bit of advice I would have. It was bizarre to me how many houses we would pull up to and actually ask them, you know, if they wanted to leave.

And so many people gave us the thumbs up. And as we continue to go around the houses, some of those people would then stop us because they would notice the water was still rising. And for all of the listeners out there. I know a lot of them don't have electricity. But it's, or TV's.

[22:30:00] But if they see somebody coming to, you know, rescue them, please take advantage of it. You get out of this water.

LEMON: Yes. And what about at night? Tell us about what happens at night there.

PETEREK: Well we started last night. You know, a little after midnight. And you know, the people at night, are much more panicked and terrified that we could see, I mean -- they were opening up. They would be on the second storey, screaming out loud at us. We could hear them over the loud motors of the air boats and trying to get to these people.

You know, you could just, se the panic in their eyes. And going to today, you know, we worked all night last night. And going to today, this morning, just to see the more relaxed look in their eye compared to right before dark this evening.

This evening, you know, all during the day they would ask you, please, please, can you go help us, you know, go help my mom, go help my sister. And then, tonight, getting close to dark that they were just demanding so much of us to go and help them. And we did as much as we could. And believe me there are several, I mean, there's hundreds of people just in this area around Fort bend County that are still in need.

LEMON: Yes. Captain Chad Peterek, one of the good guys. Thank you so much. Rescuing people on air boats, two air boats. He and his friend James Schroeder (Ph) as he said went out. Captain, we appreciate it. Good luck to you, OK?

PETEREK: Thank you, Don. Thanks for having me.

LEMON: Thank you. Thank you very much. Absolutely.

Can we get that live picture of the truck back up. This is live of Corpus Christi, Texas -- Sugarland, Texas. Excuse me, of Sugarland, Texas. Look at that. Still rising. I mean, if that doesn't tell you what's going on there and people who are in their homes. Imagine if you're in your home and the water is rising like that and it's that high, like the young lady we had at the beginning of the show.

And as we understand I believe she has lost power now with her 1-year- old child and her cousin there, home all alone. We're going to see if we can get her back on the phone.

But joining me now is James Lee Witt, he is FEMA director under President Bill Clinton. So, listen, thank you so much for joining us. I'm sure you've been hearing the stories that we, you know, that we've been doing on this broadcast. And that have been told all weekend on this network and others.

FEMA -- the, I want you to talk to me about what you think is the need? How the government is responding? And how long do you think the resources will last for this.

JAMES LEE WITT, FORMER DIRECTOR, FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY: Well, Don, I tell you what. I don't know if you've ever walked the neighborhood of the flood.

LEMON: Yes, I had.

WITT: But I've walked many of them and the smell os just horrendous, particularly when that water goes down it's just awful and facing the reality of you lose everything you worked all your life for. So it's very tough. But, you know, the administrator of FEMA is doing a great job and they're putting all the resources they can and they are there to help to support the state and local governments. And they'll continue doing that.

It's going to be a massive, massive recovery effort. There's no doubt about that. So you got so many infrastructure problems and then you think about all the small businesses and the homes. And it's just going to, it's going to take years. It's not going to happen overnight.

LEMON: Where these two young people on, excuse me, earlier who had to go. They had to walk in this water. And there's their video right now that we have up. In neck-high water they said for a mile or so to get out of their apartment. And so many people have these stories. What's the new normal like for Texas moving forward. How long do you see this going on?

WITT: Well, hopefully not long. Hopefully they can get everyone out of there and get more resources in there to get them out because, you know, those waters are dangerous. You got sewerage leaking into the waters. And it's just, it's nasty water. So it's going to maybe that, you know, over the next few days they can get everybody out of there.

Hopefully because with more rain coming and the water getting higher, you know, it's going to be some challenges. There's no doubt about it.

LEMON: Yes. Listen, and there are things in the water. If you can tell us, I mean, I grew up in Louisiana and Texas, you know, there are some very dangerous things down in that water. Animals, and so on. Talk to us about that.

WITT: Well, you got snakes and I heard earlier that there's an alligator farm that like eight inches going over the high fence. So, you know, there's moccasin, I saw a guy catching catfish in his living room the other night.


WITT: You know, so it's just a, it's just a dangerous situation for people wading through that water.

LEMON: You got waste and chemicals, as well.

WITT: Absolutely. And you know, when that water goes down and you start tearing stuff out of those homes. And you got hazardous materials in those homes. And I'm sure some of that's getting in that water as well.

LEMON: FEMA doing a good job?

WITT: I think FEMA is doing a very good job. Brock Long and the administrator he's experienced, he's a former state director from Alabama. I know him well.

[22:35:03] And I think his leadership will take FEMA to the next level. And you know, the eight years I was there the FEMA crew, employees were very dedicated and we had a great team. And I think Brock will lead them to success.

LEMON: James Lee Witt, thank you so much. We are going to tell people how they can help. Thank you so much. We appreciate it, sir.

WITT: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: For ways that you can help those affected by hurricane Harvey go to

And when we come back, much more on the storm, still pummeling the flood zone tonight. Plus, why President Trump's personal attorney, reached out to the Kremlin during the election. We're going to speak with a friend of the president and see what he has to say about it.


LEMON: Live pictures now of Sugarland Texas. This is our breaking news tonight from the flood zone and we're going to continue to follow the devastation down there from the flood zone in just a moment as Harvey continues to inundate Texas.

With us breaking news on another front that I have to tell you about. We're learning that President Trump's attorney reached out to the Kremlin for assistance in building a Trump Tower in Moscow during the presidential campaign.

I want to bring in now senior congressional reporter, Manu Raju. Manu, good evening. Thank you for joining us. The president's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, discussed this Trump Tower Moscow project with Donald Trump, what can you tell us?

MANU RAJU, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: yes, Don. These developments seem to undercut the president's claims of having no business dealings whatsoever in Russia. In fact, we are learning that the president on three separate occasions discussed this hotel and condominium project in Moscow with his attorney Michael Cohen.

And in January 2016, Cohen wrote an e-mail to one of Vladimir Putin's most trusted aides, Dmitry Peskov to note that the talks between the two over this project had stalled. They tried to restart those talks. Also the man who is trying to broker this Moscow deal is Felix Sater. Sater is a Russian/American businessman and associate of the president.

Now Sater says in a 2015 e-mail obtained by the New York Times today that are, quote, "our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it saying he would get the Putin's team buy in for the project."

[22:40:05] Now Cohen did downplay this matter in a statement to CNN saying in late January 2016 "I abandoned the Moscow proposal because I lost confidence that the perspective licensee would not bring the proposal to fruition."

And Don, he said this e-mail to Peskov didn't go anywhere either. Really trying to downplay this issue even though it seemed to undercut the president's claims, Don.

LEMON: OK. Manu, you have also learned about another effort to set up a meeting between Trump campaign officials and Russians. What do you -- tell us about that.

RAJU: Yes. That's right. Last week, CNN reported about an e-mail from a top Trump aide, Rick Dearborn that showed them relaying a message from an individual from West Virginia who wanted to set up a meeting with the Trump campaign and Vladimir Putin.

Now we have learned now that this West Virginia man is actually a 54- year-old contractor, his name is Rick Clay who informed republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito who wanted to talk to the campaign about Russian contacts last year.

Capito did pass along his information to the campaign. Now Clay did tell me that he told Rick Dearborn that he simply was trying to relay his own message from a friend who works with Christian organizations and who wanted the campaign to talk with the Russians about, quote, "shared Christian values."

Don, I'm told, Dearborn rejected this request said it should go through the State Department. But intelligence officials say this is part of a practice of Russian intelligence agencies trying to build alliances with conservative groups. It's uncertain if that's the case, and if that's what happened here. But that's just one of the things that these investigators are going to look at in the coming weeks ahead, Don.

LEMON: All right. Manu, I appreciate that. So let's talk now. I want to bring in now Christopher Ruddy, he is the CEO of NewsMax and NewsMax TV. He is a friend of President Trumps.

So, Christopher, thank you so much. You heard Manu's reporting there about the president's company looking to build Trump Tower in Moscow well into the presidential campaign and his conversation about with his attorney. What's your reaction to it?

CHRISTOPHER RUDDY, CEO, NEWSMAX: I hate to pop your balloon and pop Manu's balloon.

LEMON: I'm just asking the question. There's no balloon.

RUDDY: It is total B.S. I mean, this actually I like the story. Because it proves that there was no collusion. Because some intermediary who approached the Trump organization, not any one from Trump said I'm going to reach out to the Putin people and get this building built in Moscow. No building was ever built. No deal was ever done.

So when the president says, I never did any deal in Russia. It's true. He is accurate. Somebody approached. So everybody loves the Trump brand. It's a global brand. He does buildings all over the world. And somebody approached him and said, we would like to do a building in Moscow.

Michael Cohen who I have known for years, a very good guy, a very standup guy, said OK, let's engage and see if we can do a building. And this guy said about Putin. It wasn't this guy Sater who was not part of the Trump organization.

At the end of the day no building was ever built. Nothing was ever done. So what's the story here? Why is this a big story? Trump organization, he was a global name. You know that. He's a global celebrity before he became president.

LEMON: But here when you started, Christopher, with all due respect by saying I hate to pop your bubble. But there is no bubble to pop.

RUDDY: Your balloon. LEMON: I hate to pop your balloon. But just by asking a question

about a contact when everyone in the Trump campaign has said and President Trump I had no...


RUDDY: He hasn't, what's the difference?

LEMON: ... contact with Russians. Even Michael Cohen, I don't really have contact with Russians. And then you find e-mails and their e- mails of contacts with Russians and trying -- do you think that...


RUDDY: OK. Let's go through. He never actually said I have no contracts with Russians. No, but I want to answer because you're making an accusation against the president. Look, if you had a legitimate accusation against the president I'd be all ears. I want to hear. I'm a journalist just like you are.

LEMON: I'm just repeating the president's words. That's not an accusation.


RUDDY: He has never said I have behind no contacts. I don't think...

LEMON: Just before the inauguration as he tweeted, "Russia has never tried to use the leverage over me. I have nothing to do with Russia. No deals, no loan, no nothing. And then he...


RUDDY: No contacts is what you said he said but that's not actually what he said. Look, he does global business. You know, the Constitution when the founding fathers did this country they assumed that business people would be running the country not a career government oligarchs that would come in and they're be there for 30 or 40 years.

Donald Trump is a business guy. And everybody is like, well, he's doing business here and doing business. There is nothing wrong with doing business. And he has been pretty open. A lot of this business stuff has been out there, so.

LEMON: Because he hasn't been pretty open. Because no one knows who exactly he has business with. His sons...


RUDDY: It's so through Lexus-Nexus and do search and find.

LEMON: Why can we just -- well, if he released the tax returns everybody would know who he has done business with.

RUDDY: Well, I personally think that he should release the tax returns. But the American public voted on that issue. And it's not -- it's not a requirement in the Constitution. The public knew that he wasn't releasing it. He said that he would release it after the audit was done. And there were suddenly a...


[22:45:02] LEMON: Should it be a requirement in the Constitution?

RUDDY: I don't believe so, no. And I also don't believe that just because the press says he should do something that, look, the founding fathers...


LEMON: The majority of American people say that.

RUDDY: The founding fathers said that...

LEMON: Hold on. Stop. It's not the press. It's the majority of the American people. If you look at the polling...


RUDDY: You guys...

LEMON: .. the majority of the American...

RUDDY: Let's talk about polling.

LEMON: ... that he should release.

RUDDY: Let's talk about polling.

LEMON: I don't want to go back. I don't want to get off this.

RUDDY: You don't want to talk about good polling.

LEMON: No, no, no.

RUDDY: You like to talk a bad polling.

LEMON: No, I don't want to get off topic. And that's the...

RUDDY: What's the off topic?

LEMON: If I continue to talk about polling and that I want to talk about this. Federal investigators looking at the possible financial ties to Russia involving president -- with the president's attorney, Michael Cohen and conversations he had with the president.

So, that's part of the investigation.


RUDDY: He had an international global real estate. People all over the world want his buildings and he doesn't actually build the buildings. It's local partners. So somebody approached him and Russians and said, we can do this building.

LEMON: But he doesn't know what's going on.

RUDDY: But it blows a part, Don. Let's just focus on this for a second. It blows a part this argument that you have that there was collusion with the Russians. Remember that story collusion that was like two months ago that you guys...


LEMON: There is no argument that I have...

RUDDY: So, you're agreeing with me. OK, thank you.

LEMON: No, I'm not arguing.

RUDDY: Don Lemon agrees with me that there's no collusion.

LEMON: That's not -- don't say sit here and do that. What I'm saying is that I'm asking questions and you are saying that I have some, that I have some sort of plan that there was I'm asserting that there was collusion. I'm not.

RUDDY: No, but what you are and the media that there is been this narrative.

LEMON: The media is supposed to ask those questions. That's what we are supposed to do.

RUDDY: No, it's not questions. Look, it's constant bias. It's constant, I'm for press.


LEMON: What is your evidence that I'm bias, how is it constant bias to ask a question?

RUDDY: OK. Let's go back. Q2 of this year at a 100 percent increase in GDP.


LEMON: I don't want to get off topic. I want to go...

RUDDY: Stock market is up. No, you don't like to talk about it.

LEMON: Stock market has been up for months.

RUDDY: Unemployment set the lowest rate.

LEMON: Unemployment has been going down for months even before this president.

RUDDY: His approval ratings are much in line with what Obama had most of his presidency, but we never talk about...


LEMON: That is not true. He had the lowest approval at this point in history than any modern day president.

RUDDY: They're very consistent with what Obama...

LEMON: They're not consistent.

RUDDY: Well, if you look at there's three polls...

LEMON: Chris...

RUDDY: ... forty-two percent...

LEMON: Chris, you run NewsMax which is a news organization. First thing is news. And you are going to sit here and tell me that Obama and Trump have the same approval ratings.

RUDDY: They did for most of their...

LEMON: That is not -- that is not...

RUDDY: Just look at the data.

LEMON: That is not factual.

RUDDY: Because you are listening to your show on CNN all the time.

LEMON: I'm not listening to my show on CNN. I'm listening to people.

RUDDY: I just think...

LEMON: These are facts.

RUDDY: I would say there's not -- it's not fake news. It's selective news. You pick and choose, Don, the stories that you know about the president...


LEMON: No. you pick and choose the stories that you want to be positive. You want positive -- you want...

RUDDY: You don't want, so, when the president...

LEMON: let's not talk over.

RUDDY: You don't want to talk about.

LEMON: You want positive stories about the president.

RUDDY: No. I thought (Inaudible) that we'll have stories on both sides.

LEMON: Well, we do the same thing.


LEMON: It's just you as a conservative news organization.

RUDDY: But you never -- but you never do the good stories. You never do the good stories. You got to do both sides.

LEMON: Of course we do the good stories.

RUDDY: And this is my problem with CNN. I think a lot of the viewers on CNN are very fair-minded and independent unlike some of the other networks. And that's one of the reasons I come on...


LEMON: Wait, someone was talking here, I didn't hear what you say.

RUDDY: Other networks.

LEMON: Start your, start over again. What did you say?

RUDDY: Well, other networks, the viewers have basically decided their political opinion. I think people that tune in to your show, other shows on CNN, they're more independent-minded. They're open-minded.


LEMON: That's why the president hits us, right? Because he things that our viewers can be swayed. He already knows that ones on the other networks have already made up their minds.

RUDDY: I don't know of the one...

LEMON: But go on.

RUDDY: Well, I think the...

LEMON: Strategy, we get it.

RUDDY: No, I don't think...

LEMON: Our viewers are more fair-minded. You said it.

RUDDY: I think the president is disappointed because he is expecting a higher standard from someone like you.

LEMON: A lot of people are disappointed because they expect a higher standard from someone like him who is in the highest office in the land. And who should conduct himself as such.

RUDDY: So we chatted today, early this morning, I chatted with the president. And he had a lot of things to say about you. I won't repeat any of them because I don't want to upset your night.

LEMON: Well, if he...

(CROSSTALK) RUDDY: But all I can say, Don...

LEMON: Do you think that would upset my night if the president said something?

RUDDY: No, but...

LEMON: He said it about me publicly. But the thing -- here's the thing.

RUDDY: I think he was fair...

LEMON: No, no, no. Let me finish this. Let me finish this and I promise I'll let you finish. The thing is, is that the president will say to you and to other people things about me behind my back. I will say it to the camera in front of everyone.


RUDDY: No, no, no.

LEMON: Here's the thing, but he won't come on.

RUDDY: No, no, no.

LEMON: He won't come on this network or he won't do an interview with me because...

RUDDY: No, because I don't know I'm not sure if he'll get a fair shake. Because you, I mean, you would just...


LEMON: The president can't handle himself with a cable news anchor?

RUDDY: Wasn't last week you were saying like he was mentally something.

LEMON: I never said. I said nothing about the president having a mental issue.


LEMON: I did not say that.


LEMON: Go back and look at the tape.

RUDDY: No, I saw some of the quotes. They were really...

LEMON: I said he was...

RUDDY: I know you're upset with the election results.

LEMON: I am not upset with the election results. That's your assumption.

RUDDY: But look, I think this man is really trying for the country.

[22:50:01] LEMON: By the way, I was one of the first people in news that said he had a possibility of winning. Did you know that? That he could possibly win this. I'm not upset with the results. The results are the results.

RUDDY: But early on I think you were...


LEMON: That's a big assumption. And by the way, I have to ask you.

RUDDY: But over time, you...

LEMON: Let me ask you this, I want to ask the president this. I want you to ask the president this. There are lots of people on this network and others who don't look like me who are harder on this president and who say disparaging things about this president. But he doesn't get as upset with them as he does with me. Why is that?

RUDDY: I think he's upset with a lot of other media.

LEMON: No, but he doesn't have and his people.


RUDDY: I think generally he thinks CNN should be more the gold standard on something.

LEMON: He's not running CNN. He's like to be running the country. Why is he concerned about CNN?

RUDDY: Why is so many stories this got -- we just did a cover story at NewsMax magazine about how he is reforming the whole Veterans Administration. Totally he picked an Obama appointee to run the agency.


RUDDY: They totally brought in Mayo, Kaiser Permanente, Johnson...

LEMON: May I ask you about -- can I ask you about...

RUDDY: Do you guys ever report that on CNN?

LEMON: Of course.

RUDDY: Do you never -- no.

LEMON: Do you ever watch CNN, do you ever read

RUDDY: I watch CNN all the time. Yes.

LEMON: OK. CNN is a lot bigger than just what you see on the air. RUDDY: Yes, but you never report good stuff.

LEMON: There's, there's CNN Espanol, there's CNN Turk, there's CNN Mexico, there's all kinds of CNN. You don't get to watch, there's CNN international. You don't know what we report on everything. And there are things that go to If you're interested, go on there and click on it.

But I've got to ask you about Joe Arpaio. Are you OK with that?

RUDDY: Well, I think the president did the right thing on the pardon. An 85-year-old guy, has health issues.


RUDDY: He served the country for 50 years. It seems like a political vendetta at end of the Obama years of this guy, usually if somebody that...


LEMON: You know that was started under the Bush administration, right?

RUDDY: Usually if a guy in a local agency, if he doesn't comply, they fine the agency. They do some sanctioning.


LEMON: Do you know the investigation into Arpaio was started in the Bush administration, don't you?

RUDDY: Yes, but the real federal stuff comes with the end of Obama.


RUDDY: I think the president did that -- I'm not in favor -- I think that Arpaio with the profiling, I'm not so much in favor of that.


RUDDY: I'm pro-immigration. I think the country prospers under immigration. I think we -- I think even illegals in this country we should create a pathway for them for restitution to create citizenship.

LEMON: I got to go.

RUDDY: Good seeing you.

LEMON: I love it when you come. Tell the president to come here and he can voice his concerns with me.

RUDDY: You should tell him.

LEMON: He listens to you. RUDDY: He watches.

LEMON: Tell him to come on.

RUDDY: Ask Melania to come on with him.

LEMON: Come on. Melania can come on. All of them. Thank you.

More storms. We'll be right back.


LEMON: Our breaking news, the city of Houston and neighborhoods for miles around in southeast Texas underwater tonight embracing for Harvey to strike again.

Jamie Baxter joins us now by phone. Stranded in his apartment with neighbors tonight. Jamie, are you there? No, OK. Let's go to Claudia instead. I think we lost Jamie. Claudio Lozano. Claudio, are you there? Claudia was rescued and his family, just their neighborhood, as the neighborhood was going underwater. Claudio, can you hear me?


LEMON: We're having some technical difficulties because of the storm. So thank you for joining us. You made it to the convention center. How did you get there?

LOZANO: We got here by bus. We were at Channelview School. We were there for three or four hours just to wait for a bus to get here. And that's the way we got here.

LEMON: And so that's your family there, right? Tell us how old your kids are.

LOZANO: Yes, sir. This is my family. My two kids and my wife. The main priority, that's why I left my house because it was flooded completely. My car, I couldn't get out. I couldn't drive no more.

[22:54:59] And this morning I woke up, it was already, the street was flooded. I tried to walk around and see how things were going to move. But the water was rising pretty fast. And by the time I knew, the water was already reaching my house.

So, the water raised because they were going to open the flooding doors for to empty them out. And tonight they're going to open another one. So they told us that it was a mandatory evacuation because it was going to get flooded it was going to get worse. We're going to get from two to three feet of water and that was going to go and get inside the water. Get us flooded.

LEMON: Yes. So you're a first time home buyer, right, first time homeowner, right?



LOZANO: Yes, sir. I'm here in the other town too, I've been here for a year and this is my experience right now. Monday solar eclipse. Today we're in the middle of a hurricane with this situation.

LEMON: What are you guys going to do now, Claudio?

LOZANO: We're going to stay here, find shelter. Because we've been hearing the news that it's going to come back and hit us again. And would have had nobody else to go, with nowhere to go. So we're going to stay here and try to protect ourselves, try to protect my kids. And try to -- try to last through this storm.

I don't know if it's going to get worse or not. But we want to be safe. I want my family to be safe. So I guess we're going to stay here until everything is over.

LEMON: Yes. Well, Claudio, we're glad you're OK. Hug your kids and wife for us. And thank you so much for joining us here on CNN. Good luck to you. Best of luck.

LOZANO: All right, thank you, sir.

LEMON: Thank you. Jamie Baxter, we've got Jamie by phone now, again technical issues as the storm, he's stranded in his apartment with neighbors tonight. Jamie, I understand you're trapped in your apartment right now. How are you? What's the situation?

JAMIE BAXTER, STRANDED IN APARTMENT WITH NEIGHBORS: The situation around us at the current moment, probably about two hours or so ago, we tried to head to the store and everything around us is flooded. They keep telling us I guess now that there's a mandatory evacuation around the area. All the roads are closed. There's really no way to get out. And they're telling us that the floodwaters are supposed to rise and like two feet per hour. So we don't know what to expect here over the next coming two hours and for the rest of night and morning.

LEMON: Have you...


BAXTER: Basically just sitting tight.

LEMON: You're just sitting tight. Have you called anyone, authorities? Are they responding to you?

BAXTER: I have had a few people that have reached out due to my Facebook posts and have offered to come out this way with boats and start helping anybody that needs it. I haven't really tried the police because I know that they've been swamped and the Red Cross is swamped with things, as well.

So we don't really know who to call. It seems like, you know, we just kind of we put out the word for some help and we stay here and we just kind of wait and see what happens.

LEMON: Anybody else rescued from your area?

BAXTER: All I know is that they have sent the National Guard out. I know there's been people riding around in boats. We've seen some helicopters earlier today. There's a lot of people in boats heading out. I think there are people telling me that they're coming from New York City and Colorado, a group is coming in from Chicago with their own personal stuff.

Basically, just trying to get the word out to make sure that nobody else has to lose their life or anything in this storm. Because it's getting a lot worse than what anybody really expected to be.

LEMON: Absolutely. Jamie, I want you to stand by because I just want to tell the viewers what was on their screen. Just you were watching there that was live pictures from our affiliate KTRK. And that's people who are being rescued there. It is right there. You see the reporter in the shot. But behind him those are people who are being rescued. Again, live pictures that is just coming in. KTRK as we talk to Jamie Baxter who is in his apartment now trapped in his apartment right now. Do you have power, Jamie?

BAXTER: As of right now, we do. The lights have been fluttering. We don't know if we will for the rest of the night. But as of right now, yes, we do.

LEMON: You got food or supplies?

BAXTER: We had some food and supplies. Have family that are -- the neighbors. So we are holding up. We are fine here. Just bracing for what might be coming in the next few hours overnight.

[23:00:07] LEMON: Jamie Baxter, thank you. If you need us, let us know. Keep in touch. Good luck. Thank you, sir.

BAXTER: All right. Thank you, sir.