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Harvey Pummels Texas, Brings Catastrophic Flooding; Team Rubicon Volunteers Step Up to Help in Houston; Football Player Raising Funds for Flood Victims; People Turn to Social Media for Help During Flood; U.S. Tourists Dare to Head to North Korea Before Ban. Aired 1- 2a ET

Aired August 28, 2017 - 01:00   ET


[01:00:00] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to viewers here in the United States and around the world. We continue following the breaking news this hour here on CNN. The devastating floods playing out in the U.S. state of Texas. I'm George Howell.

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Rosemary Church. Torrential rain is barreling down along the coast bringing catastrophic flooding to parts of the state.

HOWELL: Just consider what the U.S. National Weather Service is saying about this storm. They say it's "beyond anything experienced before." And here's the kicker, they warned the worst may still be yet to come. At this point, more than 300,000 people are without power. Power outages expected to last several days now.

Take a look at the city of Rockport, Texas -- devastation. You can see exactly how strong, powerful this category four storm was when it came into Texas. Destruction where Harvey struck on Friday night. We understand that one person was killed in that town.

CHURCH: And another person was killed in the city of Houston after being swept away by flood waters. Cars could be seen submerged and many roads are simply impassable at this point. Commercial flights in and out of Houston's two main airports have been halted. Meanwhile, frantic search and rescue operations are underway as the deadly flood water continue to rise. Around 3,000 National Guard members have been activated to help with the rescue effort. U.S. President Donald Trump is scheduled to tour the devastation on Tuesday.

HOWELL: All right. So, let's see what's happening in Houston, Texas right now. On the ground with us Meteorologist, Derrick Van Dam, live there in Houston. And Derrick, it is the middle of the night there -- midnight in the state of Texas. And all day, you've been watching these rescues that have been playing out, and they continue through the night.

DERRICK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, absolutely, George. In fact, we joined the Harris County precinct one constables on a search and rescue boat just a few hours ago, when some of the heaviest rain that we have ever experienced was fallen at that moment in time. And let me tell you, that was quite an experience. These brave men and women are going door to door across the Brays Bayou region -- this is south and west of the city center of Houston. The Braeswood Community has flooded considerably, and we went out on this search and rescue mission with them. We have all kinds of obstacles to navigate tonight as these rescues are still on going.

The water is rising quickly because of the recent rain that has come in within just a few hours and the rapid, believe it or not, across some of these streets and roadways was intense. We had to navigate fully submerged SUVs, road signs, trees, fallen trees, lots of debris, and the water up to -- close to some of the awnings of a first one story building. That kind of pains the pitcher of what these people are navigating. They have rescued elderly, children, pets, adults, anything you can imagine. They are going door to door. They're getting tweets from residents pleading for help, pleading for support, and they are doing their best to answer those calls. And when we were on the boat with them, it was unfortunate because we were not able to cross one in the flooded roadways that were rushing so quickly. So, they had to move on to the next rescue because that's all they could with the equipment that they had on hand. George.

HOWELL: Derrick, look, you're our meteorologist, clearly, you know the science of this, you've been explaining that you know that details, the particulars of what's happening there in Houston. But I want to ask you anecdotally, what has stood out to you, just of the people you've met, the places you've seen so far? Any story that stood out to you.

VAN DAM: I'll tell you what, I've been completely amazed by how the community has come together. I saw a man come up with his boat, a small dingy but it had a motor on it and it had the ability to perform search and rescue operations, and he went to one of the chief constables in the precinct one for Harris County and offered his boat for any search and rescue efforts that they needed. So, I think it's just the community coming together and recognizing this disaster and doing what they can for each other, hugging each other and crying one they are rescued because it's a tight-knit community, they all know each other, they're seeing friends and family being rescued, and that's quite an emotional side for them.

HOWELL: Derrick Van Dam, live for us in Houston, Texas. Derrick, thank you for the reporting.

[01:05:06] CHURCH: And there are so many rescues happening, hundreds of people hoping to get help; stranded in their homes in many parts of Houston. The flooding was so bad, workers used boats to get residents to safety, and there were even residents of those communities using their own boats to help other residents, to help those in need.

HOWELL: The American Red Cross estimates that 1,800 people stay in shelters across Texas on Saturday night. A number of rescue teams have been flown in to help with this disaster, and helicopters have been rescuing stranded people around the clock. The mayor of Houston, Texas says that more than a thousand people had been rescued across the metro area so far, though with so much destruction many people are asking why there was a mandatory evacuation order. So, on Sunday, the mayor defended that decision.


SYLVESTER TURNER, MAYOR OF HOUSTON, TEXAS: 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 act according to the plan that we've laid out.


CHURCH: Well, joining us now is Deidra George, she is the Public Information Officer for the Texas Department of Transportation in the Houston District. Thank you so much for talking with us. Let's talk more about this discussion about whether a mandatory evacuation should've been ordered. You're with the Transport Department, so you would know how the transport system would've dealt with more than two million people actually hitting the road and trying to get out. So, is there a feeling that this was the right decision? I mean, you could second guess just because you saw of, either way, couldn't you?

DEIDRA GEORGE, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION HOUSTON DISTRICT (through telephone): Well, I can't speak on the mayor's orders -- decision to decide not to evacuate but what I can say is we experienced a record setting amount of rainfall in our Houston District, and there was not one freeway on our system was not impacted by the rain. So, I think the decision that the mayor made was good decision. But what our message was, was basically to try to talk people to make sure that they were not the roadways when the rain started. Because once it came in, these roadways were going to be impacted, and they were going to be impacted very quickly.

CHURCH: That's the problem, isn't it? So, people then stayed in their homes, they hunkered down these rescue efforts to continue into the night, which is extraordinary. It's nearly 1:00 in the morning, or actually, it's just after midnight there at Central Time. But talk to us now, as we look at these pictures of the roads submerged now, and so many vehicles submerged. What is this going to mean going forward for the transportation system there?

GEORGE: Certainly so, as for now, we have over 332 high water locations on our freeway system. So, what that means is that it is very difficult, if not, impossible to get through. Very -- a lot of freeways on our system, and so what that means is we are trying to tell people to stay inside. Let emergency personnel get to you. Do not attempt to get out, especially now. It's dark outside. The event is not over; don't be (INAUDIBLE), that the rain had stopped, and now is the time to get out -- it's not. The water keeps on rising and high-water locations too as well.

CHURCH: That is very important. We'll get that message out for people to stay put, do not move out of your homes. Of course, any rescue that's needed will do going forward. Deidra George, thank you so much for joining us from the Department of Transportation in the Houston District. Many thanks.

Well, officials say many emergency phone calls are going unanswered as operators try to give preference to life-threatening calls, but they are struggling to keep up.

HOWELL: One reporter was describing the situation earlier when he saw people being airlifted to safety. Take a look at this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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, this could be pitch black inside. And I don't what other medical situation that they have, but look, they're flashing I think they probably want us to maybe get one of those people that are up there. We could take you guys if you need.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An elderly sick person? Yes, bring --


[01:10:13] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two handicapped, two sick and disabled, and two on wheelchairs right now on the top of that roof. I have no idea how they got them on top of that roof.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you come closer?

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 him down to the boat. We're moving them slowly, and obviously very, yes, very difficult, because he said he has a pacemaker on his left-hand side near his heart. So, we're going to have to stir clear of that, obviously. And let me try and get him on the ledge here so we can have him sit down, and then we're going to take him off, but this just shows you how critical these patients are, how critical these people are. They need the help right now.

There's just not enough boats. There are not enough helicopters. There are not enough first responders, obviously, to get every single person as you heard. There are 300 people in this apartment complex, a lot them -- a lot of them need the help here because they are, they're elderly, some of them, obviously, have medical conditions that they need to -- they need to be on dry land.


CHURCH: We were watching and listening to a KTRK local reporter there in Houston, Texas as that rescue operation was playing in. Of course, he spotted those people on the roof. Unbelievable.

HOWELL: Yes, it is incredible. Let's bring now our Meteorologist, Karen Maginnis, on exactly where this storm is going, the people that are being impacted right now, Karen, what can you tell us? KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: All right. We take a look at different computer models. And this one happens to be the European model, but I will tell you the North American model and that's all these computer-generated ideas, the scientific ideas about where this system is headed. If we put this in the motion, we've got it moving towards the south back out over the Gulf of Mexico, picking up that deep tropical motion composite right there. Michael, he is Producer tonight and Meteorologist, and this is where we're looking at yet another bullseye.

A precipitation is going to be heavy again; another round of very heavy rainfall, and then it shifts a little bit further towards the north and towards the east. I want to back up a little bit and just show you this broad view. This is where we've got some of the flood warnings out. This is Harris County, I know this looks kind of blurry, but where you see all these red shaded areas, these red exclamation points, that's where the water had topped the road, topped the bayou, topped the creek, and there are hundreds of these all across Harris County. That's just Harris County.

Now, I talked about this in the past hour, take a look at this video -- it's in black and white, it's obviously a Houston video. Look at this vehicle in the water, the water is rising up the wind shield. There's a man standing behind his vehicle here. This is an SUV. This, not a small vehicle. Then, a dingy comes in a small motorized boat. They load the man into the dingy -- there, you can kind of see that. Now, this has taken place at night. It looks as if this is near I-10 in Katy. Katy is just about 30 minutes' drive to the west of Houston, Texas. It looks to me that that man was safe, but that is going -- that's happening over, and over, and over, not just in Harris County, but in all these other counties surrounding the Houston area.

Pretty much along that interstate, that corridor of I-10, and then further to the south. I'm not saying that those are the only place, certainly, it is not but thousands upon thousands of people. All right, this is the broader view, and there you can see some of these theater band (INAUDIBLE) right at Houston, right smack at Houston. The ground is saturated, it's over saturated. There's more water to be had. How much more water? We could see an additional 10 inches of rain, certainly, that is possible -- we zoom in. They could see a heavier band right along that northern edge the Trinity and Galveston Bay area. A little bit of a break further to the south, but don't be lulled into a fault sense of security. How about some of the rainfall total so far? Well, there you could see almost 27 inches of rain, and we're not finished yet. We go until the end of the work week. Guys, we'll be here in the weather center for you.

HOWELL: OK, Karen.

[01:15:47] CHURCH: Thank you, Karen. We appreciate it. We'll take a short break. But coming up: much more on the catastrophic flooding in Texas; we will speak to one woman who's still stranded with her six children in Houston.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) VINCE CELLINI, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Vince Cellini with your WORLD SPORTS HEADLINES here on CNN. We start with Formula One where the drivers have returned from their summer break to race for the first time since the end of July. Louis Hamilton, it his 200th Formula One start began on with a poll after posting the fastest lap ever recorded, (INAUDIBLE) qualifying Saturday. And once Hamilton gets the lead, he's almost impossible to catch. And with the case on Sunday, Hamilton wire-to-wire the victory, his fifth victory of the season.

Over to the Premier League, and for what was supposed to be a blockbuster matchup between Liverpool and Arsenal. However, a relatively low score on Saturday in the English Premier League led to Sunday, which provided plenty of action. And none more so (INAUDIBLE), where Liverpool headed Arsenal a humiliating fourth loss. Roberto Permino opened the floodgates to the 16th-minute and the Reds never looked back. Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, and Daniel Sturridge, also getting on the score card.

Arsenal's crossed on a rival, Tottenham Hotspur, were hoping for a better result at home to Burnley. And it looked promising for the Hotspur when Dele Alli scored early in the second half to give them the lead, but two minutes in the injury time, Chris Wood was able to equalize for Burnley -- final score one and one. And that is a look at your sports headlines. I'm Vince Cellini.

HOWELL: Throughout the Houston Metropolitan area, hundreds of people will be spending the night away from their own homes, away from their own beds, and they'll be sleeping on cots at the Houston Convention Center.

CHURCH: Now, one of the several places opened by the mayor of Houston as shelters for those escaping the flood waters. Many of the people arriving at the George R. Brown Convention Center are from a public housing complex about a mile north.

HOWELL: So, we've been showing you all these images, you've heard these stories from so many people. The flooding there in south Texas has been catastrophic. The U.S. Weather Service calls it "unprecedented," but the worst may still be yet to come. Another 50 inches of rain -- that's more than 120 centimeters of rain -- could fall in the next few days.

CHURCH: Harvey hit the gulf coast of Texas, Friday, as a major hurricane, at least 2 people have died. Rescue operations have saved thousands of people from their flooded homes, but many are still stranded with flood waters continuing to rise. And thousands of people in Houston are still trapped in the rising flood waters waiting for rescue workers to come and get them.

[01:20:10] HOWELL: Officials and regular citizens have been using their boats to save people and get them to safety. Our Brian Todd used to ride with one of those private rescuers.


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

Now, listen, guys, we've at the staging area they've launched these boats for the last hour and a half to two hours. And there've 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're 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, to past 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 is going up the staircase a little bit with the water rising.

We are getting a bit of a break in the rainfall right now. It has not rained for like, say, at least 45 minutes. And so, but they continue to pull people up. We're told that between 60 and 80 were stranded inside here. The hotel staff has kept everyone calm. They said the people stay for as long as they want. Again, some people have opted to stay, some people have not. Ma'am, hi! Can you tell us what your name is, please?


TODD: Marian, describe what the conditions are like in there?

WASHINGTON: They're bad. They're bad. The whole lobby is flooded and all soaked. But we, associates --

TODD: So, you work here?


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

WASHINGTON: I'm not sure. All I know is they're trying to make us comfortable because rescuers are now going to take out of the hotel.

TODD: Good luck.


CHURCH: Brian Todd there, and many families escaping Harvey have turned to emergency shelters. Here's more on that from Bill Spencer with affiliate KPRC


BILL SPENCER, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, KPRC: I've got some heartwarming pictures to show you. The people that are so glad that they have got shelter, and food, and they are dry right now. Look at this family, they just laid down to go to sleep here -- a mother, and father, and their two children. We have a father over here with his two beautiful daughters right here. People here at (INAUDIBLE) High School are scrolled out all over. Every square inch of the floor that you can find, and that's where they are making their home tonight.

This is all they have to go to, but they seem to be in pretty good spirits. Look at this family over here if you take a walk with me, they've got a place set up for the child, for the baby, all the kids are together, they've made their own makeshift bedding. And a little while ago telling stories, bed time stories, with puppets. I don't know if you could see that family over there but it's kind of heartwarming to see something soft and warm on what has been such a horrible few days here.


HOWELL: On the phone with us right now to talk more about what's happening in Houston is Alan Blinder, he is a Reporter with the New York Times on the ground there in Houston. Alan, thank you so much for being with us. First of all, what part of the city are you in right now and what stood to you so far?

ALAN BLINDER, REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES (through phone): So, I'm along (INAUDIBLE) right now over a major shopping area called Marriott Plaza, and I've spent most of the day at here watching rescue team, rescues by helicopter, I've seen rescuer's tug boat, I've seen rescuers tough line into the flood water to pull people in. And I can't tell you how many people have been rescued just down this (INAUDIBLE).

HOWELL: Rescues are the story right now. There are so many people taking dramatic risks but doing, you know, doing the thing, you know, taking matters into their own hands, talk to us about that. These people who are, you know, in these neighborhoods who have boats available, who just get into those boats and then start pulling off these rescues themselves.

BLINDER: Yes. We've seen a number of people who really brought an armada. They came from other parts of the city who've suffered some time bringing their own boats, showing up, and popping in the water, and riding around looking for people to bring back that come back (INAUDIBLE) by members of the National Guard. They've taken shelters in another place of the city, but it's really been a joint effort, a very improvised effort emergency official that's helped private citizen trying to figure out how to get through what of all the basic until they engulf for the nation's largest city.

[01:25:16] HOWELL: Is there still a sense that they are many other people who are still trapped in their homes, who can't get out? And what's the situation with that water? Do you get a that it's still on the rise?

BLINDER: It's going to keep rising. I mean, the forecast for the next days, calls for more rain. We expect to see much more rain. It is absolutely pouring right now where I am in Houston. And there is a sect that there are more people out there who desperately need assistance. We don't know how many of them, obviously. The city of Houston did not call for an evacuation before the storm, and we don't know how many people have left before the storm. So, it's really a significant question right now about how many people may still need to be rescued in the city.

HOWELL: You know, we've heard some complaints from people who say, you know, if I heard the warning, if I've told directly to get out of town, I would've done that. So, talk to us just a bit more about what you're hearing from this city; the reason that they did not order a mandatory evacuation of people.

BLINDER: The fact is that Hurricane Harvey came up very, very quickly. It reformed as a major tropical system only in the last few days. There wasn't a whole lot of lead time associated with the storm, and its power, and its consequences. I mean, it only became a category four storm not long before landfall. So, there's going to be a lot of debate to follow here at Houston about what should've happened in the run out to the storm, and that will probably take a many, many months to debate in and talk through.

HOWELL: Alan Blinders, a Reporter with the New York Times in Houston, giving us a sense of what he has seen today. Alan, thank you so much for the reporting. We'll keep in touch with you and wish you safety.

BLINDER: Thank you very much.

HOWELL: Just a footnote to share with our viewers. We mentioned just moments ago that we plan to speak with the mother of six, stranded in her home to tell us about what she's dealing with tonight. But you know, Shay Mendoza, she sent us video; I want to show the video. This is a sense of what's happening around her neighborhood. The video she took in front of her home. Now, said we plan to speak but were unable to reach her by phone at this point. It could be that a power is out or it could that she lost power to her phone. Whatever the case, we just want to make, you know, hope Shay is doing OK. We'll continue to try to reach her and hopefully, we can share her story with you.

[01:27:47] CHURCH: Absolutely. And in the meantime, we're going to take a very short break. But still, to come, a group of military veterans is stepping up to help the victims of this storm. We'll speak a member of Team Rubicon about the dangerous condition on the ground. We'll be back in just a moment.


[01:32:07] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Volunteers are helping to rescue Houston residence threatened by historic flooding. The governor announced 1,000 more National Guard members are being called in for help.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Curfews are in effect for several cities around the Houston area, designed to keep people off the streets there. But there is no relief in sight. That's important to keep in mind here. Fifty 50 inches of rain, nearly 130 centimeters are in the forecast for that area in the comes days.

CHURCH: Authorities say the storm has killed two people and that number is expected to rise.

Dallas is planning to open a mega shelter to host 5,000 evacuees. But how people will get there, that is the challenge, of course. Transportation officials say many roads are impassible.

HOWELL: The White House says President Trump will visit Texas on Tuesday.

CHURCH: Well let's go to CNN Meteorologist Derek Van Dam. He's live from Houston, Texas.

So, Derek, of course, you're talking to us there about the rescue operations that are underway. It is just after 12:30 in the morning. They continue through the night. We also wanted to talk to you about the vulnerability of Houston to flooding like this.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, it's incredible. Rosie, we just got a better picture of why the city is so susceptible to flooding. One, this is a low-lying city. There's more than 800 miles of bayous, creeks and rivers that run across the city center. There's also a clay soil at the base here that makes drainage very, very difficult. Since the year 2000, we've seen an increase in pavement. When you see that expansion of almost urban development in a major city like this, the water has nowhere to drain to but out and into the surrounding communities. That is why this city is so vulnerable to flooding. We are getting a first-hand look at how bad is just is in the city.

CHURCH: And, Derek, if you can still hear me, talk to us about the rescue operations that are continuing through the night there.

[01:34:52] VAN DAM: Yes, we just got off of a boat with the Harris County Constables District One, and we did a search and rescue operation with them. And they have so many difficulties ahead of them. They've been very successful since the flooding have started about 18 hours ago. They've successfully rescued about 100 people, really from children to adults to pets. But tonight, they're going to have their work cut out for them, because we've had these string feeder bands of heavy rains come in once again. We've seen more rapid rises in the water, especially across the bayou here. In fact, the Braywood Bayou, the Braywood community has been hit hard in that Southwood section of the Houston. They're going to be going door to door to find anyone in their home -- Rosie?

CHURCH: Very important, indeed.

Derek Van Dam joining us from Houston, Texas. A slight delay there. We do apologize for that.

Derek, thank you.

There are all sorts of groups on the ground in Texas trying to get help to people that need it. One of them is Team Rubicon. It's a group of military veterans who step up to help during emergency rescue efforts.

Dennis Clancey is the deputy director of field operations. He's joining us this hour there in Dallas, Texas.

Dennis, thank you for taking time to be with us.

What are you hearing from your teams there in Houston, people trying to do the work of rescuing people, given the rain has not stop and these waters are still rising in many places?

DENNIS CLANCEY, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF FIELD OPERATIONS, TEAM RUBICON: Yes, the situation is still fluid and we have to make decisions on the go. We're improvising a lot to adapt to what's happening. We want to make sure our own volunteers that are responded don't further strain the response apparatus and we can have a good impact for those survivors that need us there.

HOWELL: So, once your teams rescue people, once they get to them, what can you tell us about where those people are being taken? Are there enough shelters there in the metro area and throughout the state to deal with so many people who need help?

CLANCEY: As this grows, you can see we're continuing to open more and more shelters at a further radius from Houston. And I expect that will continue to happen. As we get people away from those flood waters, we'll continue to push out as we need. The state of Texas is a great state and everybody is standing by to support Houston right now.

HOWELL: Dennis, I agree with you, it is a good state.

Thank you for your time. It is good to see people getting the help they need. We'll keep in touch with you. Thank you.

CLANCEY: Thank you.

CHURCH: The flood is devastating for some of the state's most vulnerable people. Take a look at this heartbreaking image in Texas just south of Houston. Senior citizens at a nursing home, up to their waists in water waiting for help to arrive there.

HOWELL: Just look at that image.

CHURCH: It's heart breaking. It most definitely is.

HOWELL: It really is. Some people there are residence in wheelchairs and on oxygen. Two dozen people were airlifted to safety from that home.

CNN spoke with the daughter of the woman who owns that facility. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, MOTHER OWNS SENIOR CITIZENS HOME: I almost couldn't believe it was real as well. When my mother sent it to me, I was texting her thinking everything was fine. I had spoken with her the day before and she said, you know they were told the shelter in place. I don't think anybody thought there would be a problem because they hadn't flooded before or anything. So, when I texted her in the morning to check in and she responded with those photos, I was totally shocked. And, at that point didn't really know what to do so I asked her what I could do to help her. And she just said they were waiting on the National Guard. And if we could contact anybody to help them, then to do it. So, and then that, her phone went dead. I -- so we were so upset thinking that, you know, they were in imminent danger. That's when we decided we were calling emergency management, we were deciding what to do, and at that point, we decided to go ahead and tweet the photo to try to get as much tension. Maybe find somebody who live near there to get there with a boat.


CHURCH: A local football star is stepping up to help flood victims in the Houston area. JJ Watt, of the Houston Texans, is launching a fundraising effort. He announced it on his Twitter feed. He's already raised nearly $200,000.

JJ Watt joins me now to talk about this.

Thanks so much for being with us.

You're actually not in Houston right now. You and your teammates are stuck in Dallas because of the circumstances there on the ground in Houston. How difficult is it for you to watch what's happening there to your community?


It is. It's very difficult. We have a lot of guys on this team who have families back there, wives and kids, young kids. And obviously, everybody wants to be home with their family and make sure they're safe.

We all want to be back in Houston so we can help in any way possible. It's tough to watch your city go through something like this and be away from it and not be there to help.

[01:40:13] CHURCH: It is. The images horrifying when you see the water and the number of people that have had to be rescued, people being rescued from their rooftops.

You have raised all this money but now you've actually increased your goal. Talk to us about that and what you're hoping to do with this money.

WATT: Yes, we wanted to get out ahead of it. In a situation like there, we know there's going to be a lot of damage incurred, a lot of cost to replace that damage, rebuild peoples' lives. So what we want to do is get out ahead of it, start raising money now. Our fans are unbelievable. People from all over the world have donated. We reached the $200,000 goal in less than two hours. They crashed the Web site, so we're working to get the Web site back up. We raised the goal of we're trying to raise. Basically, we're trying to raise as much as we can so once this storm is over we can again the rebuilding process and get these people back on their feet.

CHURCH: And clearly, if you can raise $200,000 in two hours, you're going to raise a lot of money going forward. But a lot of money will be needed because peoples' homes are going to be destroyed. The water damage is extraordinary throughout Houston and beyond.

CLANCEY: Yes, there's no question about it. We know the NFL has a wide-reaching arm and we're going to try to use that to help raise this money so we can get all the money we need. It's going to take a lot. It's not just a one day or one-week thing. It's going to be a long-term effect. We need to do everything we can to help these people out.

CHURCH: JJ Watt, we thank you so much for joining us, and of course, for your efforts raising so much money for the people in Houston and beyond. Many thanks.

CLANCEY: Thank you.

CHURCH: And to help JJ's cause, follow his foundation on Twitter, @jjwfoundation, and you can donate there.

HOWELL: More on the devastating flooding playing out in Texas ahead, in a moment. We'll take a look at the role social media is playing to help people in this crisis.


[01:46:15] CHURCH: Welcome back everyone. We do want to show you this vide. A TV station in Houston, KHOU, had to be evacuated because of the flooding from Tropical Storm Harvey.

HOWELL: Officials say the anchor was live on TV when water started creeping towards the anchor desk. This happened despite the fact that station has flood gates around the building.

CHURCH: People usually turn to radio television for information during natural disasters like this.

HOWELL: That's right. But out Brian Stelter shows they're also reaching out to their Smartphones to get information and help.


BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, RELIABLE SOURCES: Yes, as the rain continues to fall, this has become a flood emergency in the age of social media. That matters, because local residents are using their phones, using Facebook and Twitter to call for help. We've seen hundreds of cases on Sunday of people trying to tweet to local authorities or post on Facebook to their local lawmakers, listing where they're located, what their phone number is and what their condition is, asking for boats or helicopters to come in and rescue them.

I have not seen this on this scale in the United States before. We've seen other countries where social media has played a vital role in rescue efforts.

If you think back, twelve years ago, the last time a major hurricane made landfall in the United States, Facebook was brand new and Twitter didn't exist at all. Smartphones were not nearly as widespread or commonly used as they are used today. Obviously, cell reception is an issue. Electricity is an issue. But there are some neighborhoods in and near Houston where the cell phones were operating, the power grid was operation, but they were in many feet of standing water. So people were using their phones not just to call 911 but to text 911 as well.

The U.S. Coast Guard put on a message saying, "Please do not send us your information, but please make the phone calls in order to request rescuing."

We've seen other local authorities go ahead and use Twitter and Facebook to communicate with citizens, and in some cases, to go coordinate rescues.

Traditional media plays a vital role as well. It's the combination of social media and TV and radio networks that we've seen trying to inform and help locals in and around Houston and other parts of Texas. This was vital throughout the day on Sunday. And unfortunately, it's going to remain important in the days to come. We've seen people getting alerts on their phone, then trying to tune in by radio, to listen to the TV stations that are simulcast on radio. It's those kinds of connections in emergencies that show the importance of local media in combination with these newer social media tools.


CHURCH: Many thanks to Brian Stelter there.

Meanwhile, President Trump is planning to visit Texas Tuesday. No details on the timing or exact location of his trip was given. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says the administration is communicating with state and local officials.

HOWELL: Sources say the president is expected to stay form Houston. Mr. Trump tweeted, "Historic rainfall in Houston and all over Texas. Floods are unprecedented and more rain coming. Spirit of the people is incredible."

CHURCH: President Trump also returned to his promise to build a wall along the Mexican border Sunday and, again, suggested Mexico will pay for it somehow. He tweeted this, "With Mexico being one of the highest crime nations in the world, we must have the wall. Mexico will pay for it through reimbursement/other."

HOWELL: Mexico's foreign ministry issued a statement insisting it will not pay for a wall or physical barrier under any circumstances. Important to point out a contradiction, though. The president threatened to shut down the government if he doesn't get funding from American taxpayers to pay for that wall.

Other news we're following around the world, North Korean not happy that the U.S. and South Korea have been conducting joint military exercises this week.

[01:50:09] CHURCH: A United Nations representative from North Korea sent a letter to the U.N. Security Council saying, in part, "Waging such provocative and aggressive joint military exercises in the Korean peninsula, which has already turned into a tinder box, is nothing short of hysteric conduct to add fuel to the raging flames."

HOWELL: News of North Korea's protest comes after it fired three more missiles over the weekend. It also arrived days before the U.S. is set to bar most of its citizens from traveling to that country.

CHURCH: Will Ripley is the only Western TV correspondent to go to North Korea since the most recent tensions. He reports some Americans are rushing to beat the ban.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In their letter to the Security Council, North Koreans are trying to make they are watching every move of the United States. They say they have their finger on the trigger, as those joint military drills continue, drills that enrage the regime in Pyongyang. Yet, in the middle of it all of this, there is a group of Americans inside this country, American tourists who pay hundreds, even thousands of dollars to go on private excursions, undeterred by the fiery rhetoric even threats of looming nuclear war.

(voice-over): In a quiet corner of the Beijing airport, check-in time for the day's only flight to Pyongyang. It is the usual crowd, a handful of North Koreans and dozens of foreigners, mainly tourists. Tour companies estimate around 5,000 Western tourists come to North Korea each year, including about 1,000 Americans.

(on camera): What is this here that we're saying?


RIPLEY: Nicholas Burkett (ph) is a U.S. Army veteran from Virginia. He's making this trip much sooner than expected.

BURKETT (ph): Originally, I was planning to read language books first and go a couple years from now but heard it is going to be banned next month, so figured I would get in while I still could.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Beginning September 1, Americans will no longer be able to visit North Korea as tourists. The U.S. State Department announced a travel ban after the death of Otto Warmbier. Authorities sentenced Warmbier to 15 years hard labor for taking a propaganda banner off the wall of his hotel room. Warmbier suffered a brain injury in North Koran custody and died six days after coming home. He was 22.

SIMON COCKRELL, AMERICAN TOURIST: You are fine as a tourist until the break the law. If you break the law that country is cruel and merciless. RIPLEY: Tour operator, Simon Cockrell. made 100 trips North Korea.

One of his American clients, Jeffrey Fowl (ph), was detain in 2014 for leaving behind a Bible. North Korea released him months later.

(on camera): What is your biggest fear about going in?

OLLIE KAREEM, AMERICAN TOURIST: Obviously, if they hold people.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Ollie Kareem, quit his job as a doctor in Washington, D.C., to travel the world. He said he wanted to visit North Korea before it is too late.

(on camera): Have you told your family you're going?

KAREEM: Oh, yes, dude. They know about everything.

RIPLEY: What did they say?

KAREEM: You're crazy.

RIPLEY (voice-over): This is the final group of Americans the tours will bring to North Korea before the travel ban takes effect. Cockrell expects to lose up to 20 percent of his tour business, but he says the American tourists and North Korean locals lose much more.

COCKRELL: For anyone curious, who wants to see what it is like, that opportunity is now gone. And for any North Koreans who have a more well-rounded idea portrayal of Americans, that opportunity is now gone, too.

RIPLEY: North Korea insists it is a safe place for anyone willing to come, even Americans, as long as they respect local laws. Meanwhile, the slow stream of tourists continues, at least for now.

(on camera): North Korea is trying to expand its tourism industry, trying to attract new visitors from place places like Russia, as increasing sanctions continue of choking off the regime's revenue stream as a result of their nuclear and missile, including the attempted launch of three ballistic missiles over the weekend.

Will Ripley, CNN, Pyongyang, North Korea.


CHURCH: Before we go this hour, a quick update on our top story. Tropical Storm Harvey still drenching south Texas. Disastrous flooding has taken over the fourth largest city in the U.S. Hundreds of Houston residents have been less stranded in their own homes.

HOWELL: This, as rescued team scramble to get people to safety, reaching them sometimes by boat, by helicopters. At least two people, we understand, have died because of this storm.

And take a look at this video. You get a sense of exactly what people are dealing with. We showed you the video a moment ago. We lost it. But you have seen so many images of how high the floodwaters have risen.

In situations like this, it is always delicate just to make sure crews get there in time to help the people who are in need.

But there is a great deal of focus on the devastation in Texas. I can say, as a native Texan myself, it is a good feeling to see so many people coming together, really displaying the spirit of Texas. And we want to leave you with one such example.

[01:55:15] CHURCH: It's a moment captured during our coverage. It shows what all of our reporters on the ground have encountered, time and time again, ordinary people stepping up in an extraordinary way.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys are jumping in to help out?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where are you coming from?




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you going to do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Try to save some lives.


CHURCH: "I'm going to try to save lives.

HOWELL: Good stuff.

CHURCH: And to everyone in Texas, we are thinking of you and praying for your safety.

Thanks for your company this hour on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Rosemary Church.

CHURCH: I'm George Howell.

The news continues next hour with our colleagues, Natalie Allen and Cyril Vanier, with the continuing situation in Texas. Stay with us.


[02:00:02] CYRIL VANIER, ANCHOR: Hi, everybody. Thank you for joining us, live from the CNN NEWSROOM, in Atlanta. We continue our cover of the desperate situation in the U.S. state of Texas. I'm Cyril Vanier.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Natalie Allen. Thank you for staying with us.

The tropical storm --