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President Trump to visit Texas on Tuesday; Corporate America Donates; Tropical Storm Harvey slams Southeast Texas; Salvation Army in relief efforts; North Koreas fires missiles; Wall Street rebounds on hopes of tax reform. Aired at 4:30-5a ET

Aired August 28, 2017 - 04:30   ET



DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to "Early Start" 3:30 Houston time. President Trump will travel to Texas tomorrow to review the state's efforts to recover from Hurricane Harvey and deal with its aftermath. The final location for the president's visit has not yet been set but he is expected to travel away from the storm zone itself, avoiding the most hard-hit areas.

This is the first big natural disaster hurricane test for President Trump. A test by which presidents have certainly been measured, especially since Hurricane Katrina. CNN's Athena Jones has the latest from the White House.

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning Christine and Dave. President Trump is set to visit Texas on Tuesday as a show of support for the people affected by this massive and still developing weather event. Now, the White House is still working out the details and the logistics with state and local officials and they haven't yet said what city or cities the president could visit.

Sources familiar with his plan say they're leaning on having him visit a city like San Antonio. The goal, they say, is to avoid hard-hit areas. That's in order to make sure that the president's own footprint, the security and infrastructure and technical support needed to protect and transport him, doesn't take away from resources that would otherwise be used for search and rescue and response efforts.

This is, of course, a major test for the president, his first major test dealing with an ongoing natural disaster. Hundreds of thousands -- millions of people really affected here. We have not heard the president speak about the storm, but he has been on twitter tweeting about it periodically over the course of the weekend, focusing on things like the massive rainfall that was predicted. The coordination between agencies, saying that there's been good coordination between agencies at all levels of government, and of course saying that the focus should be on life and safety.

So the president has been eager to show that he is engaged, doing so mainly via twitter. But he also held two video teleconference meetings over the weekend to talk about the storm and it's after effects and the federal response, Christine, Dave. CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Athena Jones at the White

House. Thank you.

Corporate America helping the victims of Tropical Storm Harvey with big contributions. Property damage is forecasted at $40 billion. These are early estimates by the way -- $20 billion in property damage in Houston alone. Big companies are writing checks toward disaster relief groups. Caterpillar, Google, WalMart, Lowe's, with $500,000 from ExxonMobil alone.

Exxon itself is hurting from the storm. Floods and rain forcing it to close its Baytown refinery. That is the second largest refinery in the country. United Airlines is encouraging its customers to give, rewarding members up to three million bonus miles in exchange for donations. United is also matching the first $100,000 raised.

BRIGSS: All right, "Early Start" continues right now with the latest projections for hurricane now Tropical Storm Harvey.


GOV. GREG ABBOT (R), TEXAS: This likely is going to be a historic rainfall, if not an all-time record.


BRIGGS: Fifty inches of rain, some parts of Texas already under water, face a devastating few days of rainfall, months if not years of cleanup ahead for the folks in southeast Texas, in particular Houston. We have live coverage of the damage, the rescues, and what lies in store. Welcome back to a special "Early Start" everybody. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is 33 minutes past the hour this morning. The fourth largest city in the United States is mostly under water and more rain is coming. The National Weather Service calls the flooding unprecedented and quote, beyond anything experienced before. The catastrophic flooding from now Tropical Storm Harvey, stretching government resources in some cases past the breaking point.

BRIGGS: Authorities in and around Houston scrambling to save those trapped by the high waters after 24 inches of rain fell there in 24 hours. Officials say at least two people were killed by the storm and the death toll likely to rise. Houston's mayor warning that some 911 calls are going unanswered as operators give priority to those calls where lives are at stake.

ROMANS: Officials say that so far there have been about 2,000 water rescues. The Houston Independent School District has canceled classes for the week. Dallas has announced plans to open a mega shelter to accommodate 5,000 evacuees. Officials, charities, and hospitals are working to get it open at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center by tomorrow morning.

BRIGGS: This morning, Corpus Christi International Airport is back open. The six others remain closed. The governor of Texas now calling in 1,000 additional members of the National Guard to help flood victims, and across the country several states and the

[04:35:00] U.S. military sending emergency workers and equipment to Texas where the work is just beginning.


BROCK LONG, FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: FEMA is going to be there for years sir. This disaster recovery -- this disaster is going to be a landmark event and we're already in the stages. While we're focused on response right now in helping Texas, you know, respond, we're already pushing forward recovery housing teams. We're already pushing forward forces to be on the ground to implement the National Flood Insurance Program. We're setting up and gearing up for the next couple of years.


BRIGGS: Wow, the long haul. CNN's Derek Van Dam joining us now live from the flood zone in Houston, Texas. Good morning to you Derek. Those rescues which we've seen going throughout the weekend, have they stopped overnight and will they begin we assume once the sun comes up?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well actually, they have not stopped, Dave. In fact, we were part of some of the swift water rescues after the sun set late last night and what we saw was heroic also emotional and also agonizing at the same time. We witnessed plenty, plenty of true personal stories out there, but one that particularly struck home to me was we went out on the search and rescue boat with one of the teams at a staging area and we were actually going to go seek out a woman who was running low on oxygen.

And unfortunately, we had to cross the Brays Bayou in order to reach her and the water was simply too strong. The current was too rapid for our boat to actually cross. So we actually had to move on and go to the next family that was in need. And that was agonizing to see. But some of the more positive things to look at is the actual search and recovery that was successful, that had over 100 rescues that took place and seeing people reunited with their pets, for instance, is amazing.

We saw, unfortunately, children crying when they were being hugged by their parents as they were brought to dry land. What an astounding thing to see. And also the bravery of the men and women who are out there doing these search and rescues.

ROMANS: Yes. And I cannot imagine how stressful it must be to be with an elderly parent or with your young children trying to just get to safety, to get to dry land. So we just really take our hats off to all those people, the professional emergency management people and just regular people on the streets who are helping their neighbors. It's just simply amazing.

I know that the television station, KHOU, was evacuated because they had water streaming into their newsrooms, as well. This is, Derek, really still the beginning of the story. The Office of Emergency Management Houston told us we are still very much in the event. VAN DAM: Rain like they've never seen before here in Houston and it's

really testing the parameters of the city. What it's designed to do. The reservoirs just west of where I'm standing right now, they have been completely tested to the extreme. They actually saw some of the heavier rain bands move through. When we were on the search and rescue mission earlier last night and what we saw was water levels rising rapidly, and also a controlled release of both of these reservoirs simultaneously, something that had never been done before.

Now, you may ask, well, a release of a reservoir, doesn't that make for more flooding? Well, it's a bit contradictory because it actually prevents the most catastrophic flooding from impacting the downtown Houston proper area. But you can imagine that the communities closest to those two reservoirs were impacted by this controlled release.

ROMANS: I know that you have been up all night working for us. Thank you so much. Try to get some sleep because we have another very eventful few days. Derek Van Dam, thank you.

BRIGS: You can see the rain has at least stopped there where Derek is for the time being. Another really hard-hit area is the city of Dickinson, southeast of Houston where Galveston County emergency officials say 20 to 25 people were rescued from the La Vita Bella nursing home. The nursing home owner's daughter says officials told her mother to shelter the residents in place. But after the water rose, she tweeted out this photo as a plea for help which finally came.

ROMANS: Also in Dickinson, CNN's Ed Lavandera who drove up from Galveston Sunday night with producer Jason Morris and photo journalist Joel Dela Rosa. The crew was accompanying a search and rescue mission and as the rescuers were about to leave a flooded neighborhood, they heard a family crying out. Our team helped with the rescue. Ed spoke to them once everyone was out safely.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How long have you guys been trapped in there?


LAVANDERA: All night? You've been with your parents?


[04:40:02] LAVANDERA: How are they holding up?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pretty good. Pretty good. I think pretty good for the circumstances. But, you know, it's bad. Everything is floating and it's bad.


ROMANS: That woman looks just so kind of tired and shocked, right. We know there will be a press conference at 7:15 this morning eastern time in Washington with FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security. We will carry that live, but we'll get kind of a big picture response from the federal government at about 7:15 this morning.

BRIGGS: Now a look at where the storm is headed, how long it just may last. Let's bring in meteorologist Karen Maginnis in the CNN Weather Center and let's start with that. How much more rain do we expect with already 15 to 25 having fallen in some parts, Karen?

KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: An additional 15 to 25. And you may have heard Derek mention before that there are all these comparisons to Tropical Storm Allison. It wasn't even a hurricane when it was inundating Houston back in 2001, but what it did was it did this curly-Q thing exactly like what we're going to see with Harvey.

And back then, they saw about 35 inches of rainfall depending on which location you looked at. So we're going to make some more apples-to- apples comparisons. Like there were 41 fatalities associated with Tropical Storm Allison. But what can we expect as we go into the next several days? Well let's show you what happened back in 2001 and just show you what occurred when we saw some of the rainfall totals in Allison at Houston. They saw just about 16.5 inches of rainfall.

But with Harvey, just over 48 hours, we're seeing just under 25 inches and we've still got about four, possibly five more days to go. So let's go back. I want to show what the European model is telling us. And by that, this is just one of those computer graphics that just kind of describes or outlines what we anticipate Harvey will do. It is anticipated that it will move out into the Gulf of Mexico, maybe pick up a little bit more in the way of speed. Maybe 45, 50 miles an hour associated with Harvey.

And then affect Houston again. Perhaps the center of this moving over Houston and eventually pushing on over into Louisiana so that Beaumont/Port Arthur area, you're not out of the clear just yet. Some of these areas with that second band of precipitation that we're expecting across Houston are really going to send some of these rainfall totals into the record books as if we weren't there already. They're saying all of the roads and interstates have been impacted. It is a heartbreaking situation.

ROMANS: And more rain coming. It's unbelievable how much water and moisture in that area. Thank you so much Karen Maginnis. We'll check in with you again very, very soon.

BRIGGS: Yes, this being really far too slowly. Relief efforts just getting underway. Next, we'll ask a Texas coordinator for the Salvation Army. How the organization is mobilizing to help people who lost everything.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We lost a car, all the clothes, school 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.



BRIGGS: All right, 3:47 in Houston. We're following the devastating flooding and the desperate rescue and outreach efforts happening across southeast Texas. At this hour, aid organizations fanning out in hard hit areas like Rockport. It's a coastal city that took a direct hit from Harvey.

ROMANS: Yes. And those pictures show you there is no operating infrastructure left there. Joining us now on the phone from Rockport is Alvin Miguez, the Texas division disaster coordinator for the Salvation Army. Thank you so much. I know it's been very, very busy for all of you. What are you planning to do here as the sun comes up and the water recedes enough to let you get into some of these areas? What is the Salvation Army bringing in?

ALVIN MIGUEZ, COORDINATOR, SALVATION ARMY: Thank you Christine. Thank you for having us. This is obviously unprecedented. We've been preparing for this day for ages now, working closely with our state and federal partners. We work tirelessly to improve our response efforts. So, at this point we have actually called in units across the southern territory which we will be bringing in probably 50 or 60 units from the south. We also have units on standby from as far as Canada at this point. We recognize that this is going to be a massive effort, and we're prepared to undertake it now.

ROMANS: When you say units, so these are -- are these the mobile feeding and hydration stations? What are you bringing in?

MIGUEZ: Yes. We have mobile kitchens that are capable of producing about 1,500 meals a day. These units are able to go into situations that we don't have the larger shelter set up yet. We have to go in and support the smaller shelter operations. We're able to go into the neighborhoods that have been affected and provide direct services to those areas that have been hit by this devastating storm.

BRIGGS: Alvin, we're seeing just devastating images on our screen of what's happened there in Rockport. Have you ever seen anything like this, and if you could, just describe the devastation you're seeing there in Rockport.

MIGUEZ: Well, I've seen some things that I didn't think would be possible. It's just -- everything you see has been wrecked. And it's -- the geographic area that it covers is a massive area. We've been -- we visited Victoria yesterday, as well. That's another area that has been damaged extensively.

[04:50:02] We started feeding operations there yesterday morning. I just see that this is going to be including now obviously the flooding in Houston, this is going to be something we haven't seen boiled over.

ROMANS: That's the trick here is that, you know, sometimes you have a disaster, you can get in on the back end when there's the cleanup. And you try to help folks. But this is still an ongoing situation, Alvin, isn't it? You've got days more of rain here.

MIGUEZ: Absolutely. And we've been poised now actually for several days trying to get into any area that we possibly can get into. We've been monitoring the situation from our state management team in the city of San Antonio and we also have embedded at the state operations center in Austin. We're able to keep very good situational awareness. We're able to keep very good situation awareness. We're able to move in when we see situations that need our assistance. We have the teams standing by in San Antonio, ready to move in. It's just an -- as soon as the opportunity presents itself, we'll be headed that way.

BRIGGS: What can people do that are watching this morning?

MIGUEZ: Well, we're going to be in this recovery effort for years. We're really going to need people to step up and give us a hand with this. And if people would like to donate, they certainly can as or at 1-800-SAL-ARMY. Of course we also have a text to give which is 51555 (ph).

ROMANS: How has coordination been with local, state, and federal officials in the response to this disaster?

MIGUEZ: So, they've been very, obviously very busy with the search and rescue efforts, which is their focus at this point and understandably so. We want to make sure that people are out of harm way. It's our job to come along beside them, provide them the hydration and feeding and make sure that they're able to do what they need to do first, and then we come in behind them and start working towards getting the folks moved back into their homes, where we can assist them.

BRIGGS: All right. Alvin Miguez, the Salvation Army's emergency disaster coordinator for Texas there in Rockport. We very much appreciate what you're doing. Thank so much for your time with us this morning.

ROMANS: All right, 52 minutes past the hour. We'll continue to follow this story and all those developments. But we have a new escalation from North Korea. Missiles fired in the midst of annual drills between the U.S. and South Korea. CNN is the only western news organization on the ground in Pyongyang. We're live there, next.


BRIGGS: North Korea has sent a letter to the U.N. Security Council protesting this week's joint U.S.-South Korean military drills. Now this comes just a couple of days after the Kim Jong-un regime launched three more missiles in just days before. A U.S. ban on travel to North Korea takes effect. We are very fortunate to have CNN's Will Ripley live for us in Pyongyang, the only western television correspondent in North Korea since this latest escalation and tension. Good morning, Will.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Dave. Just minutes ago we learned of what is potentially and I have to emphasize potentially a major development here in North Korea. South Korea's national intelligence service just briefed lawmakers and they are saying that they have detected signs of activity at North Korea's nuclear test site at Punggye-ri.

Specifically, they say that North Korea has finished preparations in tunnels two and three and is resuming construction work at tunnel four. These are tunnels that would be used for an underground nuclear test like the one that happened just about a year ago right after last year's joint military exercises with the U.S. and South Korea ended.

Now, that timing is significant because we are now in week two of the joint military exercises between South Korea and the U.S. They're happening just miles from where I'm standing here in Pyongyang. In South Korea, we had a meeting with government officials this afternoon. They reiterated that the north is incredibly furious about these ongoing exercises, as they always are.

We saw North Korea attempt to launch three ballistic missiles believed to be scud missiles over the weekend. That's according to South Korean intelligence. Also we saw images of North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un presiding over a special forces operation where commandos were simulating attacks on South Korean islands.

But the message that we got here in Pyongyang from officials is that North Korea is not done with trying to prove to the United States that they are serious when they say that they will not tolerate these regularly scheduled, by the way, perfectly legal, joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea.

And now, now word from South Korea that perhaps preparations are underway here in the north for another nuclear test. Although keep in mind, Dave, we saw preparations back in April of this year. A nuclear test never happened so this is something we have to monitor but right now, that's all we can do, is just watch and wait.

BRIGGS: Tension could be rising yet again. Extraordinary to have you there. Will Ripley, thanks so much, live in Pyongyang.

ROMANS: All right, just about the top of the hour. Let's get a check on CNN "Money Stream" this Monday morning. Global stock markets are lower today. Energy shares are falling. This is because of what's happening in the American gulf coast. The damage to America's oil industry, at least the stall in America's oil industry from the tropical storm Harvey. U.S. Gas futures hit a two-year high overnight, up 7%.

Wall Street, though closing last week with its first weekly gain in three weeks because of tax reform. Economic adviser Gary Cohn telling the "Financial Times" the president begins a public campaign for tax reform this week.

[05:00:00] We're expecting he will be at an event on Wednesday. The promise of tax cuts fueling the markets' rally since the election. Also a speech from the Fed chief, Janet Yellen, boosted socks. She says the U.S. financial system is safer now than it was during the financial crisis.