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Houston Convention Center Over Capacity; Rescues Continue in Houston; Trump to Visit Flood-Ravaged Texas; Report from Corpus Christi; Family of 10 Shares Survival Story. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired August 29, 2017 - 08:30   ET



[08:31:55] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we do have some breaking news.

We continue to cover the dramatic pictures coming of everyday people rescuing those stranded in rising flood waters in Houston. These images are coming to us courtesy of our affiliate KTRK. You can see a flooded boat attempting to help people stranded in their homes.

This -- that's that. These are -- those are those shots. And simultaneously, here's the split screen. Nine thousand people are packed into the shelter this morning at Houston's Convention Center. That is way over capacity. Almost double capacity. So the question is, where will all of these folks go.

Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee represents downtown Houston. Her own home is inaccessible this morning. She joins us now.

Congresswoman, we're sorry that you're not able to get into your home. Tell us what you're seeing there at the shelter if you can hear us.

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: Well, I came to help as soon as the shelter opened early Sunday morning. I'm seeing throngs of survivors coming in, people who have barely the clothes on their back, soaking wet, their belongings in their hand. But they're resilient. They have faith. And they are looking for a future. And they believe that they're going to get help. That's an important message for those who now have nothing. And I think we have a real obligation to commit to them that they will have a future and that the resources will come.

But the number one issue I think right now -- I just got off the phone with leadership team. We have the Coast Guard, the National Guard, the director of the state. We have got to focus on rescue. And I believe there are certain pockets in this community, beltway eight (ph) and Tidwell (ph) and north side that we need to continue to rescue people.

CAMEROTA: Yes, for sure. And we've been watching some of those live rescues.

What level of aid and help and funding are you calling for this morning?

LEE: About $150 billion. The aid need in Sandy was $70 billion. Our funding was about $51 billion (ph). And so I believe that we need to put an aid package together for $150 billion because this not only includes the Houston Harris County area, which is 6 million in its metroplex, but all of our areas, such as Beaumont, that was hit last night, Victoria and Corpus and places in south Texas. We don't know where else Hurricane Harvey will come. And we understand it may turn back to Houston on tomorrow and the next day.

CAMEROTA: Congresswoman, I know it's hard to talk while you're getting those announcements for all of the people who are sheltering there at the Houston Convention Center. I hope you can still hear me.

It's been pointed out --

LEE: I can hear you. I can hear you.

CAMEROTA: OK, very good.

It's being pointed out that a whole bunch of Texas lawmakers voted against sending financial aid to the victims of Superstorm Sandy when they needed it in 2012 and 2013. Why didn't you vote at that time to help Sandy victims?

[08:35:10] LEE: Well, at the time, we helped Sandy victims. The Democrats wanted more money. We didn't get the -- all of the money that we needed. And, frankly, we did vote. I did vote on the maximum money. Unfortunately, it did not pass. I hope going forward we won't have those conflicts (ph).

CAMEROTA: But explain the whole -- just so that I -- just so that we're clear, congresswoman, just so that we're clear, why didn't you vote for HR 152? That was the one in -- that was the Appropriations Act of 2013 that all sorts of Texas lawmakers voted against and you just did not vote. Why did you skip that one?

LEE: As I said, I voted on legislation to help the Sandy Hook victims on many occasions and therefore --

CAMEROTA: Sandy superstorm.

LEE: And Sandy supersetorm (ph) voted on many occasions. As we go forward, I am hoping that we will not have the kind of conflicts and the diminishing of monies that the Texans do need. That's what is important. The Sandy Hook vote took many times and my vote was for the max yum amount of money. I can account for those votes and, therefore, the important idea is to make sure that you voted when the money was needed. I did that. And I expect for the money to be voted on here in a bipartisan.

The speaker, if the president is here in Texas, I hope he comes here with a message of unity.


LEE: That he will not shut the government down. And that he will, in fact, be able to provide that maximum amount of money.

CAMEROTA: Yes, and -- and --

LEE: That's what I think is very important.

CAMEROTA: And the president sounds as though he's promising that. But just so that everybody is clear, we're talking about Superstorm Sandy. That's what we're talking about in 2012 and 2013. And just so that we're clear, since you're saying that you voted along with Democrats to give the maximum amount, why did you skip that vote, the House -- the HR 152?

LEE: Well, let me be very clear. I voted on many votes for Sandy Hook funding. I voted on the main legislation for Sandy Hook funding. And so I think it's important to focus on what was offensively done. And here in Houston and Harris County and the state of Texas, we're going to be on the offensive in introducing an aid package to make sure that we have the funding for what is need.

I am asking all of those who are impacted, all of our departments, first responders, police, firefighters, state operations to provide the medical help that is being so effectively given. St. Joseph's Hospital, all of those resources, we hope to put in an aid package and get the vote going forward.

CAMEROTA: Yes. And we thank you for being with us.

And just one last note. Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey says he is urging all of the New Jersey House members to help Texas, despite whatever happened in 2012 and 2013. He understands having lived through it that Texas really needs help.

Congresswoman Jackson Lee, thank you very much for being here. Obviously we're thinking of you.

LEE: We thank -- we thank -- we thank Governor Christie and for those who may be hearing me, if you are in need of rescue, please put a towel, a sheet, if you can, outside your window so that the rescuers can achieve what is most important, and that is to rescue you.

CAMEROTA: I'm glad you're mentioning that because, believe it or not, some people still do have power and are listening, even while stranded.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, thank you very much.

LEE: Thank you.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: The congresswoman kept saying Sandy Hook. She meant Superstorm Sandy. The funding to give relief to New Jersey and New York and all these other places that were hit by that storm.

But now we're looking at the new reality. These are live pictures from our affiliate in Houston, KTRK. This is life in Texas. And there's this growing feeling that Harvey is over. We're seeing the aftermath. That could not be less true. This is an unprecedented disaster for the state. And it is far from

over. The storm is regathering strength in the gulf. Up to two feet of rain is still expected. We're going to talk to the police chief about the challenges on the ground.

And, remember, there are ways for you to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey. Go to Please, get involved.


[08:43:39] CUOMO: All right, the president is on his way to take off and fly to Texas. He's going to go to Austin and Corpus Christi. Why not Houston? Because he wants the first responders to be able to focus on protecting the people there and rescuing them and not worrying about him. That's the word from the White House.

And the need is great. Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo has a message for survivors of Hurricane Harvey. Hunker down and hold tight. The city's top cop says his force has completed about 2,000 rescue missions since the storm began. You are looking at live pictures from our affiliate KTRK of life in Houston. Rescues are the rule of the day.

We have the chief on the phone right now.

Chief, we know you're very busy. Thank you for joining us.

How are the first responders holding up? We know a lot of your men and women have their own families in crisis, but they're working to help others. How you holding up?

CHIEF ART ACEVEDO, HOUSTON POLICE (via telephone): Well, I can just tell you that we're really proud of these men and women. They have not left. They've been working, hunkering down and sleeping on floors since Friday. And not one of them has decided to go home and call it quits. We're very proud of them.

And, by the way, I heard about the president's not coming here and I just have to say thank you. He made the right decision. And I don't think he needs to visit until after we're in recovery mode. Right now we're in response mode and we're proud of him for not coming here right now.

[08:45:06] CUOMO: Chief, how is that response going? How constant is the flow of need? Are the signal calls being heeded? Are you finding the white sheets and towels that are marking where people still are?

ACEVEDO: We are finding them and -- but the challenge is that we've got reservoirs where the water's not being contained, and the spread of this flooding event is catastrophic. We're up to about 3,600 rescues. Thankfully, we have more boats here and more resources here, finally, because we've been an island as a city. Big cities turn into a series of islands.

And -- but we're still moving. We're still operating. And we're going to not rest until we rescue our last person that needs help. CUOMO: What's your concern about Harvey coming back through? There is

talk that there would be almost as much more rain coming as you've already had.

ACEVEDO: Well, I'm watching live radar here. And I'm not a meteorologist, but yesterday we had kind of a break. It seemed like the storm had a little bit of -- like a part in the middle. But today it looks like it's right around us. And the problem isn't just where the rain started falling on top of us, it's all the water flow that's coming from the rest of the state down to Houston, on its way to the Gulf of Mexico.

So you hit it on the head. We are -- continue to be in a very critical situation, a very dynamic situation. And this is going to go on for weeks and months and -- to complete the recovery.

CUOMO: Chief, we put out your message that you want people to shelter in place, to wait for help. Don't get on the roads. It's too dangerous. Is there anything else you want people to know?

ACEVEDO: I want people to know that we may be in response mode here, but we're also a law enforcement agency. Some of the fools that are trying to burglarize and rob our community, we've already made many arrests. And if they think that they're going to just do whatever they want, they have something else coming at them.

CUOMO: Understood. It would be the worst among us to do something like that at a time like this. Chief, be well. Let us know how we can get the word out to help your efforts. Stay safe and thank you.

ACEVEDO: Thank you all. Bye-bye.

CUOMO: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Chris, we're hearing more and more stories of survival in Texas. One family of ten was trapped for 12 hours in their house. The father in that family is going to be here to tell us what was going through his head and what it was like to get out.


[08:51:45] CAMEROTA: Breaking news. President Trump and the first lady departing the White House moments ago. Here's the video. The president heading to flood ravaged Texas to assess the extent of the damage and rescue operations. The president is heading to Corpus Christi and Austin this afternoon.

Joining us now on the phone is the mayor of Corpus Christi, Joe McComb.

Mr. Mayor, thank you very much for being here.

Tell us the situation on the ground in Corpus Christi.

MAYOR JOE MCCOMB, CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS (voice over): Well, right now, the morning, it's the best looking morning we've seen in a week. We got some sunshine and we got some blue skies. But that hasn't been the case.

But we've got our operations people in full swing. We've got power restored to a substantial part of the community. We lost about half the power during the storm. We got our water treatment plants up and running. We've got our waste water treatment plant up and running. Most of our signalization on our streets so the traffic can be a little better controlled than just having intersections with no stop signs or signal lights. So we're making a great deal of progress in Corpus Christi.

Some of our neighbors, Port Aransas (ph) and Rockport, they really took the brunt of the hurricane. And they -- they don't have power. They don't have waste water services. They don't have water. They -- they let the people in, you know, during the daylight hours just to come and see what the property is and then they've got to leave at night. So they're just -- it's inhabitable, uninhabitable.

CAMEROTA: Yes, yes, yes, we can imagine.

Mr. Mayor, as you're speaking, we're watching President Trump, he's landing in Marine One at Joint Base Andrews to get on Air Force One to come in your direction and come and visit you. What are you expecting from the president? What can he do to help?

MCCOMB: Well, I think he can encourage people down here because we're getting into, you know, days three and four on -- and it's beginning to settle in that this is going to be a long hall in terms of recovery. And we're going need to learn that we've got a new normal. We can't go back to the way it was. That's just not going to happen.

But it would be reassuring for the communities down here that, one, that he's concerned about our safety and our well-being, and he's also concerned about wanting to make sure that the aid and support that is available to us through the federal and state programs is available on a quickly responsive basis as possible.

I think -- we've heard stories of, you know, people trying one, two years after a storm to still be trying to get help. And I think he's just wanting to really emphasize the need to be -- pay attention and be serious about helping the government side in responding when applications are formed for aid and for help and final assistance.

I mean in Corpus Christi in our area down here, we have a lot of people, as in many areas. You know, they live from week to week on their paychecks and, you know, trying to find money to live for three or four or five months until some reimbursement comes really puts a strain on them. And so I think he just wants to emphasize the need to be responsive and be responsive in a -- in a quick manner. So we really appreciate him coming.

[08:55:09] CAMEROTA: Yes, as you're speaking, we're watching the president get off Marine One. It's a rainy day in the Washington, D.C., area.

MCCOMB: Well, that's ironic. He's leaving rain to come down to sunshine, so --

CAMEROTA: Indeed. That is exactly right. And we're happy to hear that you're getting a respite there in Corpus Christi and that there's sunshine.

But when you say that it's time for people there to prepare for their new normal, what does that look like?

MCCOMB: Well, I really don't know. Corpus Christi, relatively speaking, and I don't mean to be misinterpreted, but relatively speaking, compared to Rockport, and Port Aransas, we really escaped the brunt of the storm in terms of this massive damage. But, like I said, Port Aransas and those folks there. But, I mean, it's just going to take some time to get the -- get their houses repaired, get back to their work. I mean there's still some businesses that haven't opened because they don't have power. And so that's an economic impact.

But, you know, the -- we can -- we can endure the inconvenience of a lot of this stuff. Our goal at the city level in Corpus Christi and the emergency management operations was, our number one goal and focus was public safety and human life, protecting life. And at the end of the day, we had a Cat four hurricane come through Corpus Christi and Nueces County and we had zero fatalities and zero major injuries. So we feel like we really set a benchmark for ourself for the future.

The teams, I couldn't say enough good things about the teams in the state, federal and local levels, that put the plan together. And I'm sure they felt like, you know, why do we go to all these practices and these rehearsals and things.


MCCOMB: But when it came game day, I mean they were on and they delivered wonderfully.

CAMEROTA: Well, we are sure happy to hear that. That is a really encouraging story, Mr. Mayor.

And we've just watched the president and first lady board Air Force One headed in your direction.

So, Corpus Christi mayor --

MCCOMB: Well, I better get out there and get ready to welcome.

CAMEROTA: You -- you've got a little bit of time. But, yes, you better get ready. Mayor McComb, thank you very much for being with us.

MCCOMB: Thank you for having me. Appreciate it.

CAMEROTA: A pleasure to talk to you.

All right, so the governor of Texas is activating every National Guard member in the state to help victims of Hurricane Harvey. Lamart Clay and his wife and eight children are among those brought to safety in the past 24 hours. And Lamart Clay joins us on the phone from Katy, Texas.

Mr. Clay, we know you've had a rough go of it with you and your family. I understand there were ten of you. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you have kids in there from seven months old, three years old, 11 years old, 12 years old, 13 years old, 14 years old, a 22-year-old and 25-year-old. All of you were trapped. Tell us about how you got to safety.

LAMART CLAY, SURVIVED HURRICANE HARVEY (via telephone): Hey, good morning.

Those sound like the right ages, but I'm not sure. It's a lot of them.

CAMEROTA: But what was that like, Mr. Clay, when you were in there with all of those kids, some of them your grandkids, I believe. What was it like for those 12 hours that you were trapped?

CLAY: Well, it was -- it was pretty scary at first because the rain started coming down and it started moving up so fast that we couldn't evacuate. And before you know it, the rain started pouring into the house. And in a couple hours we had close to a foot of water. So we called the emergency dispatch, and they said, hey, they'll get somebody out there as soon as they can. The priority was folks with single family homes or one story homes. And so we went upstairs, hunkered down and waited it out. And it was pretty scary.

CAMEROTA: And what were those 12 hours like? I man how were you keeping the kids calm? How were you saying calm?

CLAY: Well, on the inside I was nervous. On the outside, I knew I had to be calm because if I showed weakness or any kind of nervousness, it would make the rest of the house follow me. So, I just knew that Jesus would safe us. I knew that once I prayed, that everything would be all right. And we prayed as a family together. And, ironically, after we prayed, the water outside kept getting higher but in my house it re- seeding. It got to be up to about two feet. But once we prayed, the water in the house went out but it kept going up on the outside.

CAMEROTA: Well, you have a direct line to God.

CLAY: Absolutely.

CAMEROTA: And the power of prayer is strong today obviously in Texas and across the country.

Mr. Lamart Clay, we are so happy that you and all of those kids survived and you sound like you're in good spirits today. We're wishing you the best and thank you so much for sharing your story with us.

CLAY: No, thank you guys for having me.

CAMEROTA: All right, we wish you the best.

[09:00:00] Meanwhile, CNN's breaking news coverage continues right now on "NEWSROOM" with John Berman.