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Thousands Rescued As Death Toll Rises In Houston Area; Texas Senator Ted Cruz Speaks At Houston Convention Center; Harvey Makes New Landfall Drenches TX-LA Border Area. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired August 30, 2017 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:17] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. John Berman here.

Pleas for help from another Texas City. Overnight, the Mayor of Port Arthur said our whole city is under water. Harvey easily the most relentless storm in U.S. history made a new landfall between Beaumont and Port Arthur. So much water so fast, an evacuation center that was supposed to be a refuge was itself inundated with water.

In Houston, the glorious sight of dry skies, but the floodwaters will continue to rise in some sports. Two new mega shelters have opened in Houston sports arenas. Untold numbers of people are still awaiting rescue by first responders, volunteers, anybody with a boat.

Still, it was the first day in so many that forecasters promised improving conditions -- exclamation point -- in the note that they sent out. We expect a live briefing this hour from FEMA and Homeland Security.

We are covering every angle of this, this morning. We want to go first to CNN's Drew Griffin in Beaumont where the weather has not taken a turn for the better.

We actually just lost Drew. The weather so bad right now in Beaumont and Port Arthur that the signal went down. Again, that is where the storm is at its worst right now.

Do we have City Councilman Raymond Scott on the phone with us?

OK. We do have Drew with us.

Drew, let us know how things are going where you are.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We just literally rescued this guy. You can see his car, John. I don't know -- Brian, are you working on that video?

This man just accidentally drove into a ravine that looked like a road. Didn't it?


GRIFFIN: Looked just like a road and his truck just went in. And it's now going down that ravine, and we just pulled him out of the ravine. It happens within seconds.

This is why it's so dangerous right now to be out to be out. It's unbelievable.

Come on, sir. Let's get you up in --


GRIFFIN: -- into the dry.

Literally, he came -- it looked like -- you can show me right there. It looked just like a street, right?


GRIFFIN: But it wasn't a street. It's a ravine that's covered up. His car got jump -- a truck, a white truck, is now banged up against the side of the ravine and -- whew.

How you doing?

SUMRALL: I'm doing great.


GRIFFIN: Oh. Lord have mercy. This is too much of a time for you to be interviewed right now. I just want you to -- are you doing all right? Your heart doing OK?

OK. You're alive, sir. You're alive. Why don't you just go step out of the rain for a second?

John, this literally just happened. Scott and I and Brian Rokus just rescued this fellow. There was no time to call 911. He was floating down this ravine. That's his truck. That's his truck right behind me.

SUMRALL: I want to say something (ph).

GRIFFIN: All right. No profanities, live T.V., OK?


GRIFFIN: All right. I'm just saying.

SUMRALL: Yes. No, hey --

GRIFFIN: It's a known rule (ph).

SUMRALL: I want to thank you, guys, for saving my life. Thank you.

GRIFFIN: Where are you from, buddy?

SUMRALL: Winnie, Texas.

GRIFFIN: Winnie, Texas. SUMRALL: Yes.

GRIFFIN: So you guys have been hit pretty hard in Winnie, Texas.


GRIFFIN: What's your name?

SUMRALL: Jerry Sumrall.

GRIFFIN: Jerry, somebody needs to come and get you. Jerry Sumrall.

SUMRALL: I'm staying at the motel right up here.

GRIFFIN: Oh, lord. OK. Well, just take a breath. Take a breath. Get some water.

I just can't believe that just happened, John. I don't know what to tell you. The guy's truck is floating away.

And this can happen. This is why they don't want you out. They don't want you driving around. You can't tell the difference between a road, a ravine, a creek, a culvert that's just overflowing. This is very, very dangerous situation.

BERMAN: Drew, I'll give you a second to breathe right now, but we can see that truck behind you, that video of the truck behind you. We have some video we're showing right now of you having pulled that man out of the truck.

And the live picture we have is of the truck floating away. Floating away, right now in Beaumont Texas.

GRIFFIN: Yes. That's exactly right.

BERMAN: Which is an extraordinary sight so see. Now, Drew, if you can, again, walk us through the chain of events.

Where was he trying to do drive to? How did the car end up in that? I don't know if that's a stream or bayou or a what.

GRIFFIN: This is not -- yes. Yes, I can tell you. This is not going to be pretty.

Scott, just work with me, all right? We're just going to swing the camera around.

We're in Beaumont, Texas. This is an access road to I-10, OK? This will get you on I-10. It's a river. That's about a foot of water right now.

But look right here. You see where it looks like a street is coming through? That's not a street. That is a drainage ditch that's been overrun.

[09:04:59] So this fellow was over here in the Jack in the Box parking lot, and he thought, oh I'll just drive right through this parking lot on to what looks like a road covered with water. He drove right into maybe 12 to 20 feet of moving water, and that is where he ended up.

He thought that was a road just covered with water. It's not. It's a drainage ditch, and it just took his truck and him. And I got to tell you, you know, you talk about lucky to be alive. I didn't think we could rescue him, and I was on him trying to dial 911, knowing that there was no they were going to get here in time.

Fortunately, we had a rope. The man was able to swim out of that -- out of the front seat of his truck. And he's still alive. But that's how quickly things happen. Just like that.

Please, stay indoors. If you're wet, if you're uncomfortable, if you haven't had anything to eat, even if you think you need a cigarette, it's not that -- you just got to survive this storm for the next hour or so. You just got to survive it, and let this water go down. It's too dangerous out.

BERMAN: Again, Drew, you can't see it, but on the right just moments ago, we were showing video of what happened after you pulled the man from that truck. And it does go to show the dangers of getting in your car at all -- at all -- in this situation when the rains are falling or just after they're falling because what looks like a road could be a drainage ditch with some 12 feet of water.

Drew, bring us up to speed on what the night was like for you in Beaumont which has now -- looks a little bit better than it did a few hours ago but clearly where the storm is still hitting.

GRIFFIN: Yes. The problem is the water keeps rising even, you know, if the wind has stopped, the rain has settled. It's still pretty steady rain. It's not gushing, but the water is still rising.

Port Arthur, Texas, about 20 miles south of here, John, apparently has been inundated with water. The local judge has told the newspaper there that several of the fire trucks that were doing rescues have become incapacitated. They're trying to rescue people with dump trucks down there, holding off the boat rescues until daylight hours.

Also, a shelter -- and I think we have a video of it. A shelter, the civic center shelter, was being flooded. They had to move people up on to risers. The problem with all this, Jefferson County, is all the roads are impassable. I think we have a before and after pictures to show you of I-10.

This is I-10 south of Beaumont heading into Houston, where it just -- you know, it's gone from dry to looks like a lake, a wind-driven lake. So there is no way for those county emergency vehicles literally to get around to save anybody. That's why they're saying, if you're dry, just stay in place if it's not a life-threatening emergency because just getting out becomes life threatening, John.

BERMAN: And there's been so much focus, obviously, Drew, on Houston and the flooding in Houston, some 50 inches of rain in the Houston area since Friday night. But there's been feet of rain in Port Arthur and Beaumont as well where you are, so obviously a wide swath of area in the danger zone.

Drew, before I let you go, can you just give me a sense of how that man is doing? I have to believe it was just -- he was in utter shock.

GRIFFIN: Yes. I would be -- I'm still a little bit in shock too. He's doing OK. We're getting him -- he's on the phone now with somebody. Our producer, Brian Rokus, putting him in touch with somebody that can come and pick him up.

He says he's staying at a hotel just a little bit away. I don't know how far away that hotel is or if he can walk there. He's only got one shoe on, getting out of that car.

So we'll take care of him, John. We'll figure out how to get him back to where he belongs. He seems to be doing all right.

BERMAN: All right. Drew Griffin for us in Beaumont, Texas, guys. Drew, I want to give you and your crew a chance to take a breath. We will come back to you.

But as we see this, that truck just drifting down, I'm being told to listen in but I'm not sure into what. What I'm -- what are we listening to?


GRIFFIN: Whew. How you doing?

SUMRALL: I'm doing great.


GRIFFIN: Oh. Lord have mercy. This is too much of a time for you to be interviewed right now. I just want you to -- are you doing all right? Your heart doing OK?

OK. You're alive, sir. You're alive. Why don't you just go step out of the rain for a second?

John, this literally just happened. Scott and I and Brian Rokus just rescued this fellow. There was no time to call 911. He was floating down this ravine. That's his truck. That's his truck right behind me.

SUMRALL: I want to say something (ph).

GRIFFIN: All right. No profanities, live T.V., OK?


GRIFFIN: All right. I'm just saying.

SUMRALL: Yes. No, hey --

GRIFFIN: It's a known rule (ph).

SUMRALL: I want to thank you, guys, for saving my life. Thank you.

GRIFFIN: Where are you from, buddy?

SUMRALL: Winnie, Texas.

[09:10:01] GRIFFIN: Winnie, Texas.


GRIFFIN: So you guys have been hit pretty hard in Winnie, Texas.


GRIFFIN: What's your name?

SUMRALL: Jerry Sumrall.

GRIFFIN: Jerry, somebody needs to come and get you. Jerry Sumrall.

SUMRALL: I'm staying at the motel right up here.

GRIFFIN: Oh, lord. OK. Well, just take a breath. Take a breath. Get some water.

I just can't believe that just happened, John. I don't know what to tell you.


BERMAN: All right. We just reran the tape there. What that was, it was Drew Griffin talking to Jerry Sumrall.

Drew pulled him out of the water. That man tried to drive his truck. He thought it was a road. It was clearly a stream or bayou with 12 feet of water. The truck started floating away, and then Drew Griffin and his crew, they took a rope and they got the man out of the truck.

Drew told him no profanities. You know what? A profanity or two could be forgiven at this moment right now. He is alive and hopefully, Jerry is finding someone who can come get him. His car is gone, floating down that stream. We'll get back to Drew in just a moment to check in on how he and that man and the whole crew are doing.

In the meantime, you can tell this storm, not over. The impact not even close to be being over. These pictures are from Port Arthur, Texas overnight. This was a shelter. This was supposed to be a shelter, but you can see the place where people went for refuge itself became inundated with water.

Joining me by now by the phone is Port Arthur City Councilman Raymond Scott, Jr.

Councilman, thanks so much for being with us. Before I ask for the status of your city, I have to ask about you. I understand that you had a harrowing night, water rushing into your home. How are you and your family doing?

RAYMOND SCOTT, JR., COUNCILMAN, PORT ARTHUR, TEXAS (via telephone): We're doing fine. We got to dry ground due to the fact that my neighbors had a truck next door. But the water came in pretty fast, and we were able to get into the truck and get to dry ground.

So this was -- it was some type of experience, but, you know, we had -- I hadn't experienced -- my wife and I hadn't experienced before because in previous storms, you wouldn't have left. But thank God and we made it to dry grounds. We just ask that you all, everyone, keep our city and Port Arthur and our surrounding area in prayer because we definitely need that.

BERMAN: So the Mayor, overnight, posted this message on Facebook, saying, you know, the entire city, our whole city is underwater. If you can look outside, give me a sense of the situation right now.

SCOTT (via telephone): Well, it is underwater. It's just that this type of storm moves so slowly that it distributes water constantly all over the city and all surrounding areas. It's just moving very slowly. There's water everywhere.

And we have boats, we have heavy pieces of equipment that we can possibly use to try to help, you know, get our citizens to higher ground and safe and sheltered. So we're trying to use every piece of equipment, and we have boats going all through the city to pick -- to try to pick up, you know, citizens and bring them to safe ground.

BERMAN: Do you have a sense, Councilman, if the need is being met, how many people are stranded right now?

SCOTT (via telephone): I don't have a number on that. You know, there's people stranded all over the city so that number is not a very small number. It's a lot of people that's stranded.

But, again, the people that we got out here are trying to work throughout the whole city, the surrounding areas. We're trying to get to the citizens to, again, like I say, get them to safe ground but, you know, there's a lot of people that were stranded. But we are trying to move them.

BERMAN: Do you have the resources right now you need to reach these people?

SCOTT (via telephone): We have -- the resources that we have, we are using them all. I don't know what the numbers are for how much equipment and stuff we have. I don't have the numbers for that, but there are citizens still there in particular areas that need to be rescued.

BERMAN: Councilman, while I do have you, we understand the nation's largest oil refinery which is in Port Arthur was forced to shut down overnight. Do you have any information on that, how that will impact your city or the concerns that might surround that?

SCOTT (via telephone): Well, yes, we are probably going to get information from that particular refinery on what particular things they'll be doing and how long they're going to be shut down. We'll be receiving that information, I'm pretty, sure to the city from that particular company.

BERMAN: Right.

SCOTT (via telephone): But as of now, we don't know any particular status of that particular company, so.

BERMAN: Well, I understand that you are probably most worried first about your family, second about your constituents, third about the city. You know, oil refineries, I think, are probably fairly low on that list until it affects the safety of the people in your city.

[09:15:00] Councilman Raymond Scott of Port Arthur, we hope help comes your way. We wish you the best, and stay safe in the coming hours.

SCOTT (via telephone): I really appreciate it. And, again, please send your prayers to us, at least. Prayers makes a difference.

BERMAN: All right. Councilman, thank you very much. OK. That's the situation in Beaumont where we saw Drew Griffin save a man's life in Port Arthur where they are still surrounded by water right now.

One place where it is not raining, where the sun is blessedly shining over the last 12 hours starting last night into this morning is in Houston, finally getting a break in the weather, but they're not out of danger yet because the waters are still rising.

Our own Alisyn Camerota by the Buffalo bayou. You've heard so much about and the waters there, Alisyn, not receding. What are you seeing?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": Well, John, you're right. I mean, Houstonians are waking up to some blessed blue skies this morning. That will be a real relief, but they are not out of danger and we have a lot of sort of striking images to show you on that front.

So, here I am next to Buffalo bayou, as you mentioned. This is where these reservoirs, two big reservoirs when they overflow, this is where they are dumped, and this river has swollen to five times its regular size.

And the clip at which these rushing flood waters are running is really striking. I mean, you can -- I don't know if you can see the current. It's really fast. I didn't get how dangerous it was until I came down this morning and saw all of the debris floating down, how fast it's moving.

And then this is a walkway, normally, and I mean, you know, heaven forbid -- I will be safe don't worry. I'm hanging on here but to try to cross this general walkway to try to get out of danger, you would instantly be sort of waist deep in these very rushing waters.

Another striking image to show you is what is looked like yesterday. These are two bridges. I'm about to show you here. This is Interstate 45, the first one and you can see on top of it a tree has been deposited.

There's only one way for that tree to have gotten there and that is that the flood waters brought it there. In other words, just 24 hours ago, the flood waters of this bayou that I'm standing next to were what, 40, 50 feet higher to bring a tree there.

And then, you know, what we keep seeing here, John, are just people's lives sort of floating by us. Here's one stark example. I don't know if you can see that big white box in the distance. That's a refrigerator.

Our cameraman saw that refrigerator float by, doors flung open fully stocked. In other words that refrigerator just came out of someone's home. It was plucked by flood waters, and just thrust down here through the bayou and has come to rest here along with all of these ducks who are swimming in the bayou this morning.

So, there's just so many different juxtapositions. This is an interstate. I'm standing normally in front of the busiest interstate. There's I-10, I-45. This is where they converge. Today it's quiet. So, Houston is not out of the woods.

There are still a lot of people who are stranded and there is still much more flooding that is expected so people here are still bracing for what's coming in the next 24, 48, 72 hours -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Alisyn, thanks so much. You and your crew go get a snack from that refrigerator as most tv crews would do. I want to go to the convention center right now. Senator Ted Cruz is talking.

SENATOR TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: -- headed out by Beaumont, that that was completely under water and had waves. It looked like you were looking at the Gulf of Mexico, and so, this remains a very dangerous storm. I'm here this morning back at the Georgia R. Brown Convention Center which was been set up as a shelter.

It initially was set up to house 5,000 people. The capacity last night, there were about 11,000 people here. We're seeing an outpouring of love and care and support across the region.

We have that we know of, about 32,000 Texans who have sought shelter, many more are staying with friends or staying with families, or renting hotel rooms but those who have sought shelters, it's about 32,000 and there are about 230 shelters across the Houston region and across the state.

And so, we're seeing a really incredible outpouring of love and support and care, and that will be ongoing. It is terrific here seeing all the volunteers to come out and help especially all the young people.

It's really nice to see college students, high school kids, coming out and saying how can I help my community? How can I make a difference for people in need? That has been throughout this devastating storm. The most inspiring part of it all is the response of Texans coming together, helping each other and the unity we are seeing. We will make it through the storm. And on the other side, we will rebuild.

[09:20:05] To those who lost their homes, to those who lost their businesses, that's an enormous trauma. It's very difficult to deal with, but we will rebuild, come together and Texas will come back stronger than ever. Houston will come back stronger than ever because that's the spirit of who we are.

You know, I think it's really sad that there are some politicians that seemed very disparate to get their name in the news and are tossing around all sorts of political insults with people whose lives are in danger.

We have people who are fleeing flood waters and fleeing for their lives and I wish all of us were focused on providing the help and relief to people facing a natural disaster, facing a crisis.

I'm a Houstonian. I have been here this entire week at home, and my focus has been trying to help bring together and coordinate federal and state and local assets to save and preserve lives.

Going back this past weekend on Saturday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and the county judge here at (inaudible) both told me that we lacked sufficient assets for high water rescues, that the calls to 911, the volume was so great that there were not enough boats, helicopters, and high-water trucks to meet the need.

So, I immediately hung up the phone and began calling federal officials, state officials, spoke with the governors, the president, the vice president, numerous cabinet members and within hours we saw enormous resources being marshalled and deployed here on the ground.

The governor deployed over 500 Texas DPS troopers, sent them to Houston to help with search and recovery. The governor called up over 3,000 National Guardsmen to send to Houston. It's now over 13,000 National Guardsmen, who have been called up to help with disaster relief.

The governor sent boats and helicopters. At the federal level, the Coast Guard deployed more for helicopters for high water rescue to help people in need. We also saw --

BERMAN: Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. He's at the Houston Convention Center. He has been briefing reporters there talking about the rescue and relief efforts that are now getting underway.

He also talked a little bit about politics. There's a debate about funding. There will be time for politics soon enough. Today, we are still dealing with the very real life-threatening situation that exists in some places that is moving across the gulf right now.

We want to get to meteorologist, Chad Myers, at the CNN Weather Center. Chad, give us a sense of where things stand. CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Things stand that the storm moved back on shore near Cameron, Louisiana about 5:00 a.m. this morning and it's now moving to the north, but moving 9 miles per hour. Entire time we were doing two or three. Now we are doing nine.

So, Cedar bayou almost 52 inches of rainfall. Beaumont is where the situation is disparate with flash flooding this morning, 26 inches in 24 hours, happened in that little municipality especially Port Arthur. The water is tremendous over the entire city.

So, there's the storm for the rest of the day moving up into Louisiana. Maybe even making some heavy rainfall into parts of Mississippi and Alabama, but the center there still very close to Beaumont and Port Arthur, and eventually making rainfall into Memphis all the way up to the Mississippi River Valley.

Something else we've been talking about, John. I know you've been watching, this is Buffalo bayou thing and we're still going to see some rain, but it's going to be east of the Buffalo bayou and that will not go into the Buffalo bayou proper.

So here is the attics and the barker reservoirs, they were built a long time ago to hold water from going into Houston when Houston had a population of 250,000. Now, over millions. Here is the map itself. I'm going to move you head -- I'm going to toss back to you until we get the camera worked out all right?

BERMAN: We understand you are forgiven given the sheer magnitude and the complicated nature of everything that's happening. We know you will help us understand what is going on when you get that set. All right. Chad, thank you very much.

Let's get back to Houston right now. The Houston police chief says that water rescue calls are down to just 40. Still more to go. Our Miguel Marquez is out in that water -- Miguel.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the skies are blue here, at least seeing some blue skies. Water is receding but some of those rescues are still happening and people can start to look forward to a very long recovery. We'll have all that coming up.



BERMAN: All right. You're looking at live pictures right now. We are waiting to hear from FEMA on the state of the disaster response in Texas. We'll hopefully get some new numbers right now to find out how they feel things are going. Do they think they have turned a corner finally in Texas?

Thousands of people have been rescued. Countless are still stranded. When I say countless, we mean that literally. We just don't know how many people still need to be rescued right now. It is hard to tell. There is still a search as we are now four days into this in Houston.

Our Miguel Marquez is in Spring, Texas just north of Houston on a boat. Miguel, give us a sense of what you're seeing.

MARQUEZ: We're actually stepping off the boat now because it's hard to get boats into the water now. It's receding so quickly. We are in front of 2302 Creek Leaf Road here in Spring. You can look down the road.

It looks like a perfectly normal road except for the four feet of water. This is good right now. The water here was up over the roof line for most of these homes. I'm going to show you what the problem is for most of these boats getting in here now -- debris --