Return to Transcripts main page


Harvey Pummels Texas, Brings Catastrophic Flooding; Houston Floods Strand Family Returning from Costa Rica; Rockport Devastated by Hurricane; U.S. Tourists Dare to Head to North Korea Before Ban; Texans Turn to Social Media for Help During Flood. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired August 28, 2017 - 02:00   ET


CYRIL VANIER, CNN HOST, NEWSROOM: Hi, everybody. Thank you for joining us live from the CNN news room in Atlanta. We continue our coverage of the desperate situation in the US state of Texas. I am Cyril Vanier.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN HOST, NEWSROOM: And I am Natalie Allen. Thank you for staying with us. The tropical storm is slamming the state with catastrophic flooding as torrential rain continues to barrel down all along the Texas coast there.

VANIER: What's happening right now in Southern Texas is just unprecedented. The US National Weather Service says it is beyond anything experienced before and it warns that the worst may still be to come.

And the storm has killed two people. Rescue crews are scrambling to reach people trapped by the floodwaters. Helicopters have been working around the clock rescuing those who are stranded.

The Coast Guard say they will continue rescue efforts throughout the night. Ordinary people have also been helping their neighbors.

ALLEN: Hundreds of flood victims have found shelter at the Houston Convention Center. It's one of several places opened by the city's mayor for those getting away now from the rising of floodwaters right there.

It must be earlier shot because it's empty. US President Donald Trump is also set to visit the state on Tuesday.

VANIER: Now, Meteorologist Derek Van Dam is just southwest of downtown Houston now. He's been covering this for us the last few days throughout the southern Texas area.

Derek, first, I want to tap into your international experience here because you used to work in South Africa. You've traveled a lot to cover lots of various weather stories. Have you ever seen anything of this magnitude, Derek?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Cyril, without a doubt, this was single-handedly the heaviest rain that I've ever experienced in my life. We're talking about a couple of hours ago, not raining at this moment. But when we joined the search and rescue teams, what we experienced there was almost unfathomable. Something about that tropical rain really just hits hard.

The other thing that really has kind of caught me off guard is the pure raw emotion of the people getting rescued. We saw small children crying in the arms of their mothers and fathers after they were brought to dry land.

We saw pets being reunited with their families. It was incredibly gripping. And really, to put it into perspective of the international experience that I've had, it was gripping and emotional for myself and for our team as well, Cyril.

ALLEN: Derek, this is Natalie. It is, what, about 1 am in the morning there, assuming that these rescues will have to take place throughout the night because this might be the second night. There are some people without power or stranded in their homes.

VAN DAM: Well, as we know, Natalie, the rain continues to fall and the floodwaters continue to pour in the city. In fact, there is, for the first time ever, in about an hour's time, a dual release of the reservoirs that are just to the west of Houston.

The Barker and Addicks reservoirs, they're meant to help control the flooding in downtown Houston, but they have reached capacity and engineers are telling us that in order to prevent major catastrophic flooding, worse than what we've already experienced in downtown Houston, they have to release some water across these reservoirs.

What does that mean for the communities around the reservoirs? Well, they're going to pay attention to evacuation orders. Natalie?

ALLEN: All right. Derek Van Dam, thank you very much. We'll see you again. Joining us now on the phone is Deidrea George. She is a public information officer for the Texas Department of Transportation in the Houston District.

Deidrea, we know you're very busy. Thank you for being with us to give us the latest information. How many people do you know are still perhaps needing a rescue in the larger Houston area?

DEIDREA GEORGE, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION IN THE HOUSTON DISTRICT: That I do not know. The Texas Department of Transportation is not in charge of water rescues.

Our message is basically trying to urge motorists to not travel on our freeway system at this time because there are about 335 high-water locations and one freeway in our system that has not been impacted.

VANIER: Deidrea, do you have all the resources you need at this stage, whether it's from state or federal?

GEORGE: So, I would say that we are - the state is working together with our different districts. We are the Houston district. We're working with the Yoakum district, the Bryan district to get everything that we need.

Our basic operations are making sure that we're refueling pump stations, we're assisting law enforcement with traffic control or placing barricades and we're also prepping for recovery once the water recedes. And we hope that we are doing a great job to help the rescue efforts of the different agencies.

[02:05:00] ALLEN: You tell, Deidrea, about more than 300 high-water areas. So, at this point, one would assume there is really no way of knowing when these roads will be passable again there in Houston.

GEORGE: No, not at this time. And the number keeps rising. I believe the last interview I did, we were 15 shy of where we are now and draining again. And so, that's what we also want to urge Houstonians is please don't get a false sense that the event is over. This is a long event. The water is going to keep rising. We're urging them to stay and do not travel unless it is absolutely necessary.

ALLEN: No, there's nowhere to travel to at this point unless you have a boat or a canoe. Deidrea George - Deidrea, thank you very much for talking with us.

VANIER: With us now is Lise Olsen. She's a senior investigative reporter with the Houston Chronicle. She joins us via Skype.

Lise, we've seen so many scenes of just utter tragedy and people who are being saved, people who were being rescued, people who weren't being rescued yet, just tell us what your current reality is like for you and your neighbors.

LISE OLSEN, SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, "THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE": Well, it changes by moment. Basically, we're all in a neighborhood where there's a lot of flooding and there's water on the roads.

And so, minute to minute, you might able to drive through or you might not be able to drive through. And a lot of the day, I spent going out, checking to see how high the water was coming at and walking down to neighbors' house to see if they've gotten out safely because their whole house flooded early this morning.

Another friend of mine left early this morning and on her way after leaving her flooded house. She rescued an elderly man, who was literally being pushed out of his house by flood waters.

So, minute to minute, one house can be safe and one house could be dangerous.

VANIER: But what's your calculus right now? Are you thinking - are you looking at water levels to see - are you considering whether you're going to drive out of your neighborhood? I understand over 250 roads and highways are closed. So, where would you be even going to?

OLSEN: That's a good question. The experts have advised us to stay where we are. I'm not in a major flood plain. So, the big rivers that are to the south of me, the Brazos River and the San Bernard River where people are being ordered to evacuate and are going to find their way through that 280 different spots where the roads are high- water.

Here, right now, we're sticking here because the water has not come up to our house, but it's higher than it was even eight or nine years ago in Hurricane Ike. They're calling it a 500-year flood. So, I don't think anybody really knows what's going to happen minute to minute. So, you just -

VANIER: I was going to ask you, Lise, how long can you hold out? Have you stocked up?

OLSEN: Well, we're fine. If we had to, we could either risk it with our cars or walk out of here with a great deal of difficulty or find someone who has a truck. We just don't happen to have a truck. We're fine. Everyone in Houston is pretty much stocked up for four or five days.

Today, I went to go to check on my neighbor. I saw people with big trucks flowing it through more than a foot and a half of water, and that's not really water that I feel comfortable trying to drive through. Three out of the five deaths in Houston that have been confirmed so far, people who drove through high water.

VANIER: And the authorities have been saying, don't walk, don't drive through the water. You can't see what you're walking on, stepping on, or driving through. So, they're saying that's actually very dangerous.

OLSEN: That's right. I went down to try to check on my neighbor today. I literally saw like 3-inch long fish swimming on top of a highway. It wasn't a highway - the road. It was kind of surprising to be walking on a road and have a fish slam right next to you.

VANIER: Just before we address how you're working right now as a journalist, more about the weather forecast for your specific area, we know that Harvey is going to dump twice as much rain as it already has on Southern Texas. Are you able to assess whether that affects you and your neighborhood specifically?

OLSEN: What's really tricky is I think we're all sort of crowdsourcing using social media and monitoring the forecasts. But, no, we don't know. Today, for example, we had a long break, several hours that the water levels went down, which gave us a little breathing room.

Whereas some of our neighbors, not that far away, just a few miles to the east or the west, had intense rain all day. So, those localized quantities really very. It makes it really hard to figure out what to do.

VANIER: All right. Lise Olsen, senior investigative reporter for "The Houston Chronicle", thank you very much for your time for speaking to us. We'll be thinking of you throughout the next few days as rain continues to fall on Houston and the wider southern Texas area. Thank you. [02:10:05] OLSEN: Thank you, Cyril.

ALLEN: Millions are impacted by this. Karen Maginnis now joins us from the weather center to give us perhaps the bigger picture. Karen, what they're in for this week?

KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Natalie and Cyril, I wish I had some better news. We just got the latest intermediate advisory from the National Hurricane Center. And it is paining an even more dreadful picture.

We were looking at this a few days ago and saying there could 40 or 50 inches of rainfall. It looks as if those forecasts are going to verify.

Now, I'll point this out. Here's where we think Harvey is going to go. It says this is a fairly weak tropical storm, but it's still tapping that deep tropical moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, just to give you some idea. We think it'll go back out over the Gulf, just kind of hug the coast and move off towards the north and northeast.

Well, look what happens. I'll put this into motion. And you can see what the computer models are saying, moves out over the Gulf of Mexico and that's just kind of putting gas in the tank. It is refueling because it's over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. There's Houston underneath that tropical storm symbol and then it moves off towards that Ark-La-Tex region.

Now, beyond about 72 two hours, we'll have to see if that verifies, but here's what the latest information from the Hurricane Center says. Harvey is expected to produce an additional 15 to 25 inches of rainfall on the upper Texas coast.

Isolated storm totals could reach 50 inches. It's a dreadful scenario that we are seeing and they are still staying catastrophic, life- threatening flooding. We've seen that over and over again across all the counties that encompass Houston metropolitan area.

There is a watershed of many, many bayous, many, many creeks, reservoirs and they are almost all out of their banks.

I want to show you this very dramatic video that we looked at just a couple hours ago. This coming out of Katy, Texas. It's about a half- hour drive to the west of Houston. There's a man, his SUV, you do see the roof and you can see the windshield.

The man was standing behind his SUV. A dingy, a small motorized, rubberized vehicle, water vessel came to rescue him. And it looks like that was successful. That's good news. But this is happening over and over and over.

And I wanted to bring out a tweet that I saw earlier tonight from someone who said that they were in Houston. In the Houston area, there were five, six people in their home, two were handicapped, and they needed someone immediately to come and rescue them. Once again, you see that over and over hundreds and hundreds of tweets just like this. It is a dreadful situation, Natalie and Cyril, but it is very heartwarming to know that people in Los Angeles, rescue departments from all over the country are bringing their resources in to help.

ALLEN: Right. And good Samaritans as well. One man was trapped in his car. He seemed confused what to do. And I think it was a reporter that said start swimming, get away from your car and start swimming.

And you know what, Karen, doesn't this remind you somewhat of Katrina and New Orleans afterward when you see these pictures. And so many of the people in New Orleans were sent to Houston to live. So, some people may be reliving this.

MAGINNIS: Yes. I've covered so many tropical systems. This one really is unprecedented. I've never seen anything like it ever.

ALLEN: Karen, thank you. We'll continue to cover the flooding in Houston. It's just surreal, as Karen was expressing.

Journalists covering the story, they've been involved in dramatic rescues as I was just mentioning. We'll get some of those for you ahead here.


[02:18:10] ALLEN: And welcome back to our live coverage. Catastrophic flooding from tropical storm Harvey continues to pummel Southeast Texas. The National Weather Service says more than 24 inches of rain or about 60 centimeters has already fallen and the US Coast Guard warns this could be far from over.


VICE ADMIRAL KARL SCHULTZ, US COAST GUARD, ATLANTIC AREA: This remains an incredibly dangerous and potentially catastrophic weather event - water event.

The rains will continue to come down here for three to four additional days. Flood waters potentially rise. Folks need to pay careful attention to the information coming out of the emergency operations centers, out of their first response, federal/state/local firefighters, police, emergency managers. And we will continue to remain in this fight, working alongside our partners.


VANIER: Harvey hit the Gulf Coast of Texas Friday. At the time, it was a major hurricane. It has been downgraded since then to a tropical storm.

At least two people have been killed since it made landfall. Official and volunteer rescue operations have saved thousands of people from their flooded homes, but many are still stranded with floodwaters continuing to rise.

Now, many journalists are in Southeast Texas, as you would expect, right now covering Harvey and covering the floods. And as they were reporting, oftentimes, they found themselves having to help with evacuations. Here is an example of that from our affiliate KCRK.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here is this gentleman. Hi, Don. How are you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good. We're here to help you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you doing OK? All right. Let's get you on this boat, OK. We're going to try and take you back to safety.

All right. We're going to load up, load him up here. He's, obviously, in need of some help. We're going to try and help him out the best that we can. Gosh, I want to put the microphone down, so I can help out. I just feel bad holding this microphone and there's so much needs. So, you guys can talk, I'm going to put the microphone down and I'm going to help this guy. Hold on.


[02:20:13] ALLEN: Reporters in the right place at the right time. So, our CNN teams have also been on the ground all over Southern Texas, covering search and rescue missions and speaking with residents.

VANIER: While maneuvering through a flooded neighborhood, our Ed Lavandera became part of a dramatic rescue after finding a family trapped inside their home look at this.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We were about to leave this neighborhood. There was a woman who had kind of flagged us down that her and her two elderly parents were still stuck inside the home.

So, I'm going to put the mic down. We're going to help them try to get back into the boat so we can get them out of here. So, I'm going to put the microphone down while we help them get into the boat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm just going to let this play before our eyes. And I'm not going to say much. But if you're just joining us, this is live right now on CNN in Dickinson, Texas, as Ed Lavandera is in a boat with one of the volunteer rescuers helping people out of their home who have been stranded.

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

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

LAVANDERA: You're ready?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, two three.

LAVANDERA: We got you.



LAVANDERA: You got it?


LAVANDERA: OK. I got it. I got it.

Get that foot in there.

Not too bad.

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

LAVANDERA: We were about to leave the neighborhood and we heard your voice.

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

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

JONES: All night.

LAVANDERA: All night.


LAVANDERA: You've been with your parents?


LAVANDERA: How are they holding up?

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

LAVANDERA: You guys have been stuck upstairs all day?

JONES: All night. Yes.

LAVANDERA: We've done a couple of passes through this - down the street here and we didn't even know you were in the house. JONES: Yes. Well, I heard the boat, but I thought the Coast Guard or

someone was going to rescue us. But then we found out that my sons were coming on their jet ski and then they had - they got stopped. So - outside bridge. Anyway, they got stopped, and so I figured -

LAVANDERA: What was it like in this neighborhood through the night?

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

LAVANDERA: What time was that?

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

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

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

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

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

LAVANDERA: Where are your daughters?

JONES: League City.

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

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


ALLEN: Amazingly calm, isn't she?

VANIER: Given what she's been through. Absolutely.

We're going to take a short break. When we come back, more, of course, on the breaking news as the disastrous flooding in Texas and the people (INAUDIBLE).


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We thank God. We thank God. This is all we got. We lost the car, all the clothes - stool, clothes, everything gone, everything gone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where do you go now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't know. We don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you're thankful?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. We're thankful.



[02:27:55] VANIER: Search and rescue efforts in Texas are ongoing. Volunteers as well as professional first responders are helping get residents out of harm's way. The governor announced that 1,000 more National Guard members are being called in to help.

ALLEN: Curfews are in effect for several cities around Houston to keep people off these type of streets. Some people probably want to get out, but there's really nowhere to go. That's the problem.

And the weather forecast is not promising, 50 inches of rain, nearly 130 centimeters are predicted for the coming days.

The storm has killed two people, one from the hurricane and another from flooding. That number, of course, may well rise, but so far just two dead from this catastrophe.

VANIER: And other parts of Texas are pulling together. Dallas is planning to open a mega shelter to host 5,000 evacuees, hoping to have that open by Tuesday, but it will be a challenge getting there from Houston. Transportation officials say many roads at this stage are impassable.

ALLEN: The mayor of Houston says more than 1,000 have been rescued across the area. At least 1,500 have been evacuated to shelter. Still with so much destruction, many are asking why no mandatory evacuation was ordered on Sunday. The mayor defended his decision.


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


VANIER: And meanwhile, the US Federal Emergency Management Agency says it's not leaving the Gulf Coast area anytime soon. The head of FEMA spoke to CNN's Jake Tapper on Sunday.


BROCK LONG, FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: FEMA is going to be there for years. This disaster is going to be a landmark event and we're already in the stages - while we're focused on response right now and helping Texas respond, we're already pushing forward recovery housing teams, we're already recovery housing teams. We're already pushing forward forces to be on the ground to implement National Flood Insurance Program, policies as well, and doing the inspections that we need. So we're setting up and gearing up for the next couple of years.


CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go back to CNN Meteorologist Derek Van Dam, in Houston. He's just south of downtown Houston, Texas.

Derek, over the last few days, you and our weather teams at CNN have been saying this water isn't going anywhere, it's got nowhere to go, all the water that's flooding the streets of Houston. What happens? It's got to go somewhere.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: The water seeks its own level, right, Cyril? You know, we mentioned this about an hour ago. And we're concerned about two reservoirs that have reached their full capacity just to the west of the city. The Attics (ph) and Barric (ph) reservoirs are significant because these prevent the flooding in downtown Houston. But they have reached the capacity to where engineers are telling us at CNN that they need to do a dual release here within the next 30 minutes. And that will prevent more catastrophic flooding in the downtown Houston area. However, the communities close to the reservoirs are going to include -- are going to be impacted by additional flooding.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Derek, because this rain is going nowhere, right? They are in it for the next few days. Even though where you are doesn't look so bad now, but still coming.

VAN DAM: You know, we've got a temporary break in the rain fall, Natalie. But it's not about letting our guard down. We know this storm has stalled. We know the feeder bands are coming in from the gulf. Just look at radar, listen to meteorologist on CNN, and this system is not going anywhere any time soon. And we do expect the rain to pop up at any moment in time, especially where we're at east of the city of Houston as well. Then we focus our attention on Louisiana, because they are getting hit hard with 10 to 20 inches of rain quite easily over the next coming days.

VANIER: So, Derek, by the time this is over, there could be twice as much water as we see now in the Houston area?

VAN DAM: We have seen reports of 30-plus inches in the Houston area. To double that would be mind-boggling, is the best way to describe it. Are we done with the storm? No, by no means. But to double the totals would be significant. I would say we have a long way to go to do that. But the rainfall I experienced earlier today was the most intense deluge of tropical rain I have ever seen in my life. Rain drops were huge. Not sprinkles. We are talking about fat, thick tropical rains that inundate anything in its path.

VANIER: All right. Derek Van Dam, reporting live from Houston, Texas. Thank you very much. Good talking to you. ALLEN: Joining us now is Micah Garb. He was with his wife and two

teenage daughters at Houston Airport for more than 20 hours after trying to get home from a vacation in Costa Rica.

Micah, we hear here that you're finally at least in Dallas. How are you holding up, you and your family?

MICAH GARB, AIRLINE PASSENGER (via telephone): We are a little frayed around the edges. It' it's been a long day and half. But there are people going through serious things with this storm. We're not one of them, so we're OK.

ALLEN: It kind of came as a surprise you were just switching airplanes in Houston, right? When did you realize that you probably weren't going anywhere or something was up?

GARB: The last couple days of our trip, we knew the hurricane was on everyone's mind and we started imagining that we might not even get to leave Costa Rica. But the airlines left Costa Rica and it all looked like the storm would be downgraded and it looked like things were teed up. And then when we landed in Houston, the after-tornado warnings were blowing and the rain is incredible. It was one of the most- fierce storms I've ever seen. And we saw it from the jet way through the big glass windows where we spent the night.

ALLEN: And you couldn't really leave the airport once you realized you couldn't get out because there was nowhere to do that, nowhere to go. Is that right?

GARB: Right. There was no safe ground transportation. I'm sure you've all been tracking. The roads are not happening. So they were on a skeleton crew. No rental cars. No, Lyfts. No shuttles of any kind. We were completely on locked down in the airport, as was everyone else there. We a had a little community.

ALLEN: Thank goodness. Did you have food?

[02:35:10] GARB: Yes. The airport restaurants stepped up and gave people meals. And some of the little snack bars and things were open. I think had it dragged out, had they not evacuated us today, it might have got dodgy, Wednesday, Thursday, which is what we thought we were in for. But sort of later this afternoon, things broke open when they put together the evacuation plan. So that was -- it is good to be out of Houston. And getting if other people who can't get out.

ALLEN: Right.

GARB: We are feeling good to be away from the storm. and at least we're headed for a massive shower tonight then we will make our way home tomorrow.

ALLEN: Tomorrow to Chicago. Right.

And you described the rain that you saw, and it was described to us that this is a one-in-500-year rain event. Could you understand that as far as all of the rain and water that you were seeing accumulate? GARB: Yes. I have lived in the Midwest all my life. This is a part

of the country with a lot of big thunderstorms. But this is remarkable, mostly for the volume of the rain. It was just sheets of rain for 24 hours. Like it was still raining. It just did not stop. It was pretty incredible. It was remarkable for intensity yesterday evening and for the duration, through the whole day.

ALLEN: We wish you safe travels. When you finally get home to Chicago. Twenty hours in Houston Airport. Happy trails from this part, onward.

Thank you for talking with us.

GARB: Oh, it's been a pleasure. Thanks for your coverage. Have a good night.

ALLEN: Thank you.

VANIER: Flooding is especially devastating for some of Texas's most vulnerable people. Take a look at this heartbreaking image from Dickinson, Texas. That's just south of Houston. Senior citizens at a nursing home up to their waists in water waiting for help to arrive. Some residents were in wheelchairs and on oxygen. In the end, about two dozen people were airlifted to safety from that home.

CNN spoke to the daughter of the woman who owns the facility.


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.


ALLEN: I think that is the most surreal photo from inside of this catastrophe.

VANIER: You have to wonder what would happen if they didn't receive help when they did.

ALLEN: Yes, that nice lady pushing for somebody to help those people, who have now been rescued. Officials in Rockport, Texas, say the small coastal town has no

functioning infrastructure after Harvey slammed directly into it Friday when the storm was category 4 hurricane.

At least one person died in a house during the storm in Rockport.

Martin Savidge reports from the devastated town.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here in the small town of Rockport, they are absolutely devastated. It's been over two days since this category 4 storm roared ashore here. And they are still trying to wrap their heads around what happened in this community.

Just look at the level of destruction you see here in the storefront. Magnify that across an entire community. Even then, you can't get a full sense of how many homes, how many businesses, and how much damage has been done. There is debris everywhere. There's no electricity. There is no running water, either clean water to drink or sewage. Then on top of that communications limited. They're limited, trying to bring cell phone service on-line.

Then the search that still goes on. Can you see all of this debris, and that's part of the problem, because it difficult for search answers rescue teams to go door to door. They continue to do that.

Another problem natural gas. Extreme damage has caused gas leaks that has its own problems in this community. So trying to shut that off.

It's no wonder that the city officials are saying that if you're in town, you should probably leave. This is not livable. If you evacuated out of town, don't come back just yet. Because there is nothing really for you to come back to.

Here is the long-term problem. It is going to be a long time before the electricity is turned on. Officials are telling us it may be a matter of weeks. Right now, they are simply concerned about making sure everyone is OK.


[02:40:24] VANIER: Martin Savidge reporting from the devastated down of Rockport. Not a building standing.

ALLEN: Where have the people gone, you wonder.

VANIER: We're going to take a short break. When we come back, we continue our coverage of Tropical Storm Harvey.

Plus, this. A rare report from inside North Korea. Why some U.S. tourist are still trying to visit the country. Stay with us.


ALLEN: Welcome back. U.S. President Donald Trump plans to visit Texas Tuesday to tour the damage from Tropical Storm Harvey. Over the weekend, the president also returned to his promise to build a wall along the Mexican border, and, again, suggested Mexico will pay for it.

VANIER: And 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." In response, Mexico's foreign ministry issued a statement insisting it would not pay for a wall or a physical barrier under any circumstances.

Here is some of the news we are following from around the world. North Korea is not happy the U.S. and South Korea have been conducting joint military exercises this week.

ALLEN: A United Nations representative from North Korea sent a letter to the United National 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 a hysteric conduct to add fuel to the raging flames."

News of North Korea's protest comes after it fired three 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.

[02:45:08] VANIER: CNN's Will Ripley is currently the only Western TV correspondent to go to North Korea. And he has been going there since the most recent tensions. He reports that 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.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ALLEN: Next on our continuing coverage of the deadly storm in Texas. We will tell you how people are using social media to help during this crisis.




[02:52:39] ALLEN: People in Texas relying on any information they can get and they're also relying on technology and social media.

Here is Brian Stelter with more of that.


BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, RELIABLE SOURCES: Hey, there. 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.


[02:55:01] ALLEN: How we all stay connected.

Many flood victims are saying they were shocked at how quickly the storm took over their neighborhoods.

VANIER: Others urged their communities to keep helping each other. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was awake all night on the phone. And every time I dialed 911, it automatically hung up. I'm sure they were over inundated, busy. But I called everyone I could t the best I could. Finally, I said to Facebook, to my friends, and said, I need help, call anybody you can.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was surprised at how fast it rose and everything. I didn't think it would rise that fast. But it is. Welcome to Houston.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need, definitely need a boat.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People have experience with boats.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: OK. How many people are still back there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably hundreds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want everybody to be safe. It is hard for everyone. But ones done on the creek, they, you know, they need help and we all got to pitch together and help everybody he else out.


ALLEN: Once in a 500-year event now affecting Houston.

Thanks for watching this hour. I'm Natalie Allen.

VANIER: I'm Cyril Vanier.

Do stay tuned. "EARLY START" starts now.