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Houston Inundated By Water As Harvey Pummels Texas; Rockport, Texas Suffers Major Hurricane Damage; Trump's Response To Harvey; J.J. Watt Launches Fundraising Effort For Houston; North Korea Launches Again. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired August 28, 2017 - 05:30   ET


[05:30:00] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: -- catastrophic flooding from now Tropical Storm Harvey, stretching government resources, in some cases, well past their breaking point.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Authorities in and around Houston now 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 is likely to rise.

Houston's mayor warning that some 911 calls are going unanswered. His operators prioritize calls in areas where lives are at stake.

BRIGGS: 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, hospitals working to get it open at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center by, perhaps, tomorrow morning.

ROMANS: This morning, Corpus Christi International Airport is back open. These six others remain closed.

ROMANS: 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 U.S. military sending emergency workers and equipment to Texas where the work is only beginning.


BROCK LONG, ADMINISTRATOR, FEMA: FEMA's 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 and 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: Next couple of years.

Well, as for right now, we're still right in the event as the Houston Office of Emergency Management told us.

This is still happening and CNN's Rosa Flores is there. She is live from the flood zone in Houston. What are you seeing this morning, Rosa?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, we're still seeing more rain, we're still getting those bands of rain -- very bad news for the Houston metro area -- and we're also hearing stories of the people who have been rescued.

I'll get to that in just a moment, but let me show you around here because this is the area of downtown Houston, the historic district. But take a look -- it is flooded by water right now.

Beyond this intersection that you see behind me, which is Travis and Commerce Streets, there is supposed to be a bayou. There is supposed to be a hill that goes down and you're supposed to see the banks of a bayou. That is not what you see right now. What you see is a raging river flowing towards of Gulf of Mexico.

You see streets signs but there are no streets that you see here. You see ponding. We have seen submerged vehicles.

And, of course, we've heard about the stories of people who are being rescued. Right now, the American Red Cross telling us that there are 2,500 people in a convention center not too far from where I'm at.

I've talked to some of those people. Some of them described their rescue as apocalyptic. Some of them tell me that the water started rising so quickly they got to their attic. They took their children to their attic and they were praying overnight.

Once they saw daybreak they were trying to figure out a way out -- a way to higher ground. They say some of them were rescued by boat, others had to walk through the high waters to get to higher ground, to get to first responders.

Dave, Christine, the stories are incredible as we start hearing what some of these people had to do to get to safety.


BRIGGS: Rosa Flores live for us in Houston.

As always, hats off to the first responders there.

ROMANS: Of course.

BRIGGS: The everyday Texas residents who are out in their boats savings people, and even the Cajun Navy, who's made it way the Houston area and is saving people as we speak.

A flash flood warning in 11 Texas counties this morning now extended to 7:15 a.m. local time, about three hours from now.

Let's bring in meteorologist Karen Maginnis at the CNN Weather Center. Karen, how much is left with Harvey?

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, Harvey has had so many incarnations but, if anything, it's been very predictable. But now we're starting to see some of those computer models shift a little bit.

It is anticipated that Harvey will slowly creep towards the southeast, move out into the Gulf of Mexico, and then start to make its way more towards the north and northeast. So we might see some more of that shift in precipitation more off towards Beaumont, Port Arthur, and into Louisiana.

That's not to exclude Houston. Houston has already seen a staggering amount of rainfall just in two days and this may be the better part of three to five days if there's additional rainfall here. But we may see some of those heavier bands now move a little bit further north towards Galveston Bay, Beaumont, Port Arthur, in towards the Lake Charles region, so you'll have to stay on top of things there as well.

[05:35:00] Well, right around the Buffalo Bayou, which cuts right through the center of Houston, they are currently at 68.79 feet. The record has already been exceeded. It may have a record crest going into Monday afternoon so we haven't even seen the worst of things.

And you heard about the reservoirs. They were built in the forties and they've had these controlled releases. Well, now we're picking up some additional rainfall. Houston has momentarily been in a little bit of a lull, but not for long.

And, Christine and David, I heard earlier on a tweet somebody say the water is swallowing us up. That says it all.

BRIGGS: God, it really does.

ROMANS: It really does.

Karen Maginnis, thank you so much for staying on top of this. We'll talk to you again very, very soon.

An incredible 62 counties are under a disaster declaration. The city of Rockport especially hard hit and emergency officials saying the area is totally void of any functioning infrastructure, with communications hobbled, sewer system issues, no running water.

CNN's Martin Savidge is there.



While the people of Houston struggle with their dilemma, here in the small town of Rockport they are absolutely devastated. It's now been over two days since this category four storm roared ashore here and they're still trying to wrap their heads around what has happened to their community.

Just look at the level of destruction you see here in this storefront. Magnify that across an entire community and even then you probably can't get a full sense of just how many homes, how many businesses, and how much damage has been done. There is debris still everywhere.

There is no electricity. There's no running water, either clean water to drink or sewage. And then, on top of that, communications limited. They're struggling, trying to bring cell phone service online.

And then there is the search that still goes on. You can see all of this debris and that's part of the problem. It makes it difficult for the search and rescue teams to go door-to-door. They continue to do that.

Another problem, natural gas. The extreme damage has caused gas leaks and 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.

And here's 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're simply concerned about making sure everyone's OK -- Dave and Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Thank you so much for that, Martin Savidge.

Corporate America is helping the victims of Tropical Storm Harvey with contributions. Property damage is forecast at $40 billion, $20 billion worth in Houston alone.

Big companies are writing checks toward disaster relief groups -- Caterpillar, Google, Walmart, Lowe's -- $500,00 from ExxonMobil, alone. Exxon, itself, is hurting from the storm, floods and rain forcing it to close its Baytown refinery, the second-largest 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.

BRIGGS: All right. The storm posing a major test for President Trump. He's set to fly to Texas tomorrow, perhaps to San Antonio, but avoid the hardest-hit areas.

How has he done responding to the storm? We'll discuss, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [05:42:43] BRIGGS: The Red Cross says about 2,500 Harvey evacuees are waking up this morning at a convention center in downtown Houston.

President Trump will travel to Texas tomorrow but he will not be in Houston. The president expected to travel away from the storm zone, avoiding the most hard-hit areas, potentially stopping in San Antonio, Texas.

ROMANS: This is the first big hurricane test for the president, a test by which presidents have been measured, especially since Katrina.

Joining us now to discuss the White House response to Harvey, "Washington Examiner" contributors editor Jason Russell. Good morning.

And the president, Jason, has done a lot of tweeting this weekend about this storm with a lot of exclamation points and, you know, almost watching it as it's happening. You can see all of those there.

How do you think his response has been so far?

JASON RUSSELL, CONTRIBUTORS EDITOR, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Yes. I mean, this has been the most public way that he's responding to this storm, so it's the way that most Americans see that Trump is acting on this.

And, you know, part of the issue there is that he has gotten kind of distracted from this national natural disaster by tweeting about things like the wall, NAFTA, and Sheriff David Clarke's book instead of tweeting things like donate here to the American Red Cross, to the Salvation Army, or whomever. Or, you know, tweeting about things that Americans are doing or that he is specifically doing to help coordinate these efforts.

He did have a cabinet level meeting yesterday but still, these tweets are, I think, a distraction.

BRIGGS: Yes, that one interesting. Friday night, pardoning the controversial Joe Arpaio as the storm was hitting. Texas saying Mexico will pay for the wall through reimbursement and other.

Jason, doesn't it undercut his entire message on the hurricane, now tropical storm?

RUSSELL: Yes, I think it does. I mean, he wants to try to portray that he's putting 100 percent of his efforts into this disaster relief effort but it's hard to make that case when you're clearing distracted and tweeting about the wall and tweeting about this book and other things.

So, you know, if he wants to show that he's 100 percent focused on this, I think he does need to tweet more about what Americans can do to help the victims of this hurricane.

ROMANS: Yes, it will be interesting to see how the -- maybe the response evolves throughout the day because we know he will be visiting we think maybe San Antonio, Austin. We're not sure exactly yet. He wanted to make sure that the -- you know, he wasn't in the way.

[05:45:04] BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: So there will be some sort of a photo op.

BRIGGS: Yes, and so far, they are providing all the resources the federal government should. All the state and local officials have been very happy with the federal response.

ROMANS: Yes, and so far, the people we've talked to this morning have said that they're not wanting for anything right now. They're still right in the middle of this event, you know. This will be days at it plays out.

Let me ask you what you think about some of the maybe missed news over the weekend.

That Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State -- also James Mattis, the Secretary of Defense -- both of them making some remarks about American values. I want you to listen to this and we'll talk about it on the other side.


REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I don't believe anyone doubts the American people's values or the commitment of the American government or the government's agencies to advancing those values and defending those values.

CHRIS WALLACE, MODERATOR, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": And the president's values?

TILLERSON: The president speaks for himself, Chris.

JAMES MATTIS, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Hold the line, my fine young soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines. Just hold the line until our country gets back to understanding and respecting each other and showing it, and being friendly to one another.


ROMANS: What do you think is the message from those two cabinet secretaries?

RUSSELL: I think the message from Mattis is, you know, it's clear that Antifa and neo-Nazis and fascists are fringe parts of the country. These are not people that are regular Americans. They're not representative of our country's values as a whole.

You know, generally, we all respect each other. Now, that doesn't mean that everyone's perfect. Certainly, some people -- those ones involved in those protests do need to show more respect for each other and more peaceful ways of showing that respect. BRIGGS: He seemed to be really distancing himself as far as -- Rex Tillerson distancing himself from the president, his values, his views.

But let's get back to the storm response. The president travels to Texas on Tuesday, as we mentioned -- perhaps San Antonio.

How will this president's response be measured? How perilous are these decisions to go or not to go to a natural disaster?

RUSSELL: Yes, it's a very interesting decision. Obviously, he wants to show action. Again, he wants to try to show that he's 100 percent focused on this.

So, you know, the only critique I think you could make is that it might be too soon since the rains are still falling in Texas. How much can he really accomplish other than a photo op by being there?

Now, maybe there is things that will happen because he was there and better able to decide about and perhaps it will give him some perspective on how big this is and how big of an issue this is. And, hopefully, it will refocus him away from some of these other distractions right now.

ROMANS: What -- in the president's budget -- were there cuts to FEMA in the president's budget?

BRIGGS: Three hundred and sixty-one million dollars would have been cut from FEMA if the budget -- the president's budget was passed, yes.

ROMANS: Interesting. All right. So all this stuff is all -- all of it an education process, you know.

BRIGGS: It's a lot of money.

ROMANS: A lot of money.

All right. Thank you so much, Jason. Nice to see you this morning.

RUSSELL: Thank you.

ROMANS: A Monday morning, bright and early, from D.C.

BRIGGS: Thank you.

An NFL star stepping up to help flood victims in the Houston area.

ROMANS: Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report." Good morning, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine. Good morning, Dave.

The Houston Texans' J.J. Watt has already helped to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey and he did it all from a hotel room in Dallas as his team was unable to return home after their game on Saturday.


J.J. WATT, DEFENSIVE END, HOUSTON TEXANS: It's very difficult. It's very difficult not only because we have family and friends back there -- some guys have young kids, some guys have wives and family -- but that's our city.

It's very tough to watch our city get hit by such a bad storm and not be there to help. Not be there to help with the recovery, not be there to help with the process. It's very tough.

So what I do want to do is I want to start a fundraiser. I know that there's going to be a lot we need to do to help rebuild.


WIRE: Now, J.J.'s fund passed the initial goal of $200,000 in just two hours, so he set a new goal, half a million.

Last night he told CNN it's difficult for him and his teammates to be separated from their loved ones.


WATT: My girlfriend's back there. She's back there. She's staying with her sister and their two kids so, obviously, I'm very concerned about her.

And then all my teammates, they have their wives back there, they have their kids back there. So that's what really, you know, kind of hits you in the heart is that some of these guys -- I know one guy who has a newborn and his wife's back there with a newborn. To not have your husband there, to not have the dad there is very difficult.

So, I mean, it's very that we're together. That we can be together and support each other but, obviously, we'd like to get back there as quickly as we can.


WIRE: If you'd like to help J.J. and the people of Houston visit and you can donate there.

The Texans and Cowboys are supposed to play Thursday in Houston. No word yet on if that game will still take place there, guys.

ROMANS: All right, Coy Wire. Thanks so much for that, Coy. Nice to see you this morning.

WIRE: You're welcome.

ROMANS: 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 going to go there next.


[05:54:31] BRIGGS: South Korean intelligence officials say there are seeing signs that North Korea is preparing a new underground nuclear test. This comes just a couple of days after Pyongyang launched three more missiles.

Let's go live to CNN's Will Ripley who is in Pyongyang, the only Western television correspondent in North Korea since this latest escalation. Tell us more about that, Will.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dave, all of this unfolding just within the last couple of hours.

South Korea's National Intelligence Service saying that they have detected activity at the underground tunnels that North Korea uses to conduct these nuclear tests. We find out about the nuclear tests when an earthquake is detected. That's how powerful they are.

[05:55:12] Now, we do need to point that while they do believe a test could happen at any moment with little or no notice, this is something that we've been hearing for months now. You'll remember back in April, it appeared that a test -- that North Korea's sixth nuclear test was imminent at that very same site at Punggye-ri and the test never happened.

North Korea could very well be staging activity for the spy satellites knowing that the U.S. and South Korea are watching, to try to express their anger over the ongoing joint military drills that are happening just miles from where I'm standing here in Pyongyang.

Those annual military exercises in cooperation with the United States and South Korea always infuriate this regime and we've seen them try to show their defiance just over the weekend in multiple ways. They've attempted to launch three short-range ballistic missiles believed to be scud missiles by South Korea. Two of them traveled more than 150 miles, coming down in the waters off Japan but those could, theoretically, hit Seoul or U.S. military bases in South Korea.

And we also saw new images emerging on state media of North Korea's supreme leader Kim Jong Un overseeing a Special Forces operation with commandos simulating an attack on South Korea islands.

I met with North Korea government officials just this afternoon in Pyongyang. They told me that they have their finger on the trigger, as they put it.

They have listened very seriously to warnings from President Trump to rain down fire and fury on this country. That the country's nuclear arsenal is locked and loaded.

And they seem eager to prove that they have their own arsenal ready to go, Dave. We'll have to watch and see what happens.

BRIGGS: Will, I can't help but notice the siren-type sound behind you. Does that signify anything you might know about?

RIPLEY: There is -- this is just bustling traffic by the --


RIPLEY: -- central train station that you hear behind me. You will also often hear on loudspeakers music playing.

This is just a typical Monday evening here in Pyongyang. Life goes on as normal, even with all of this simmering tension.

You can also probably hear people cheering in the background. They are rehearsing for the mass celebrations that happen here in North Korea to honor Kim Jong Un.

BRIGGS: Extraordinary to have you there in Pyongyang live with us, Will Ripley. Thanks so much.

ROMANS: An amazing perspective.

All right, let's get a check on "CNN Money Stream" this Monday morning.

Global stock markets are lower, energy shares are falling. It's because of the damages we're anticipating to America's oil industry from Tropical Storm Harvey or, at least, the stall. U.S. gas futures hit a two-year high overnight, up seven percent.

Wall Street -- stocks closing last week with the first weekly gain in three weeks because of tax reform. The economic advisor Gary Cohn telling the "Financial Times" the president begins a public campaign for tax reform this week with a stop in Missouri. The promise of tax cuts fueling the market's rally since the election.

Also, a speech from Fed chief Janet Yellen also boosting stocks. She says the U.S. financial system is safer today than it was during the financial crisis.

Uber finally has a new CEO, Expedia head Dara Khosrowshahi. That's according to a source close to the company. Uber hasn't had a CEO since June. Founder Travis Kalanick resigning after a serious of scandals at the company.

But Khosrowshahi wasn't rumored to be one in the running, rather. That included a list of maybe H.P. head Meg Whitman, former G.E. CEO Jeff Immelt. Immelt reportedly pulled out Sunday because of problems with Uber's board.

So, big doings there at Uber, finally -- finally, with a new CEO.

BRIGGS: Indeed, a bit of a surprise there.

ROMANS: Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: All right. I'm Dave Briggs. The fourth most populated American city under water. A devastating situation in the Gulf with close to 13 million people under flood conditions.

"NEW DAY" starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to those in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Monday, August 28th, 6:00 here in New York and we do begin with the history of the worst kind.

Unprecedented and catastrophic flooding inundating America's fourth- largest city. Right now, rescuers are still on the clock in the Houston area trying to save hundreds of people stranded in floodwaters. Officials are asking anyone with a boat to please get out there, help rescue the thousands who are stuck in rising waters.

This is, obviously, an emergency but remember, this could get worse. The National Weather Service says Tropical Storm Harvey could dump an additional 15 to 25 inches of rain just this week. The longer that that water stays, the worse the health problems will get.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The Army Corps of Engineers began releasing water from two flood control dams in Houston this morning to prevent an even greater disaster, but many people are questioning why Houston was not evacuated before the storm.

Federal officials will hold a briefing in the next hour to update all of us on their response to this unfolding disaster, as President Trump says he plans to visit the region tomorrow.

So let's begin our coverage with CNN's Alex Marquardt. He's live in the suburbs of Houston. Give us all the latest, Alex.