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Interview with Mayor Becky Ames; Houston's Brazos River Reaches Record Water Levels; President Trump Says Talking to North Korea Not the Answer; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired August 30, 2017 - 10:30   ET



[10:33:13] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Want to show you some pictures we're just getting in right now. This is the runoff from the Buffalo Bayou, which you have heard so much about inside Houston. That is well over its banks right now. Obviously, severely flooded.

One thing I do want to point out, you can see the sun is shining right now in Houston, which is a wonderful thing. But the clear vision only reveals the ongoing danger right now. You can see people still out in canoes. A dog on a raft right there. People walking to safety, still being rescued.

We don't know how many people still need to get out of their homes. Hard to tell what will happen with the Buffalo Bayou over the coming hours. There are some tributaries and waterways inside Houston which will not crest until sometime tomorrow. There is still concern about the two reservoirs which feed into the Buffalo Bayou.

So the scene you're seeing right now here in Houston may not get any better for some time, despite the fact that the sun is out. Obviously, a wonderful thing that the sun is out. But still so much -- these are live pictures you're looking at right now.

It's so nice to see those kids heading to safety. And I don't know what it is to see the swan in the inner tube right there. We're glad they have stuff to put their belongings on. Others dragging everything they own or can fit into those plastic containers, deciding what to save, what to get out of your house is such a difficult choice for people and one that often needs to be made very, very quickly. Because you just don't know how quickly the floodwaters will rise. But again, this is Houston now. This is Houston this morning, even after the rain has stopped.

There are other parts of Texas which have been in the crosshairs even more recently, getting 20 inches of rain or so in Beaumont and Port Arthur. The mayor of Beaumont, Becky Ames, joins me now by the phone.

[10:35:07] There's a flash flood warning for your entire area today, Mayor. Give me a sense of what things look like right now.

MAYOR BECKY AMES, BEAUMONT, TEXAS: Yes. Good morning. It is still raining here. And we're not seeing any sunshine yet. But we hope to soon. BERMAN: It will come. We promise, it will come. But not before I

think some more trying hours right now. Give me a sense of the need in your city.

AMES: Well, we have been doing rescues for the last three days as far as high water rescues. This has been going on in Beaumont since Friday. We stood up our emergency operations center last Wednesday. We did stop doing high water rescues that were non-emergency at dark last night because it is so dangerous at night to do so. And so we have resumed this morning those non-emergency rescues.

We have a customer service hotline, our 311 system. And the people that call in there. So our teams are out already this morning to start rescuing the people that may have had issues overnight. We did start announcing yesterday afternoon that if you thought you might want to evacuate or need to evacuate, to go ahead and call us because we would come before dark.


BERMAN: Mayor, we're looking right now at a live -- go ahead.

AMES: However, we do have 911 calls. And of course we would go out to them.

BERMAN: Yes. I know you're getting everyone the help as quickly as you can.

AMES: Yes, we are .

BERMAN: We're looking at live pictures right now. We're looking at live pictures right now. Our correspondent Drew Griffin is in Beaumont. And about an hour ago during his live shot, a man drove his truck into a ravine that was filled with truck. The truck floated off. We can see the truck now almost completely submerged. Drew and his crew were able to get the man out of the truck. Perhaps saving his life.

But I think more than anything it's a lesson to the people and a warning to the people of Beaumont right now, don't try to go out and drive. Stay off the roads. What would be your message right now to the people in Beaumont?

AMES: Exactly that. We have been saying that for the last three days because we did get the most rain in the last 24 hours. But it has been pretty constant, really since Sunday morning. So it's just -- it's bands of rain. So it's moving around. So it's very hard to judge.

Also, I've tried to stress school is out because the schools, of course, are closed. And a lot of the children are playing in those detention ponds and drainage ditches. And there could be snakes in there. We have manhole covers floating around. Children could fall in there. And that's one of the things that we're trying to get out to everyone.

Please, you know, just be safe and use really good judgment.

BERMAN: Mayor --

AMES: It is not always what it appears when the water is this high.

BERMAN: Indeed. No, you can't tell what is under the surface.

Mayor, I do want to ask you quickly before we let you go. One of the more heart wrenching stories of the last five days in Texas has been the story of a mother in Beaumont who died, was swept away by the floodwaters. She was clinging to her 3-year-old daughter. The 3- year-old girl did survive. Can you give us an update on how she's doing this morning?

AMES: I understand that the child is doing well. Unfortunately, our first responders did everything they could and the mother did pass. But our hearts go out -- our hearts and prayers go out to that family. It's been very difficult.

Our first responders have been through a lot the last few days. They are very tired. This has been a storm that seems to never end. And when something like this happens, I think it makes it even worse.

BERMAN: Yes. Indeed. Again, our hearts go out to that family. We are standing with you, Mayor Becky Ames of Beaumont, Texas. Please keep yourself safe and try to get through until the sun starts shining, which could happen in Beaumont in the next 12 hours. Thank you, Mayor.

AMES: That's what we're hoping for. Thank you so much. And we appreciate your support. Bye-bye.

BERMAN: Of course.

All right. The Brazos River in Fort Ben County, Texas, has reached record levels. Residents in the surrounding area have been ordered to evacuate as more flooding could be coming.

We have a live update for you in just minutes.


[10:43:48] BERMAN: Residents around the Brazos River in Houston have been ordered to evacuate, this after water levels surged nearly two feet above the previous record.

I want to go to the Brazos in Richmond, Texas, right now. CNN's Polo Sandoval is there.

And Polo, I think it's so important to note this because other reporters we have seen the water actually recede in some areas. But it's such a dynamic situation with the water sinking in some areas, rising in another. You've seen the water go up over the last several hours.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, when you and I spoke about 24 hours ago, it was still rainy. That's obviously changed. And the water level was at about where that large tree is. That's what marked the water line. 24 hours later, you can see that the Brazos River continues to slowly creep into this mobile home park, on the banks of the Brazos River which continues to get higher and higher, deeper and deeper.

As a result, most of these homes are empty right now. And this is really underscoring the need for people to simply steer clear. There's some folks who have been coming in to try to see firsthand what the situation looks like. For the most part, the people that I have spoken to in the last few days and just a few minutes ago decided to simply pack up and leave. So a majority of the homes here are currently empty right now.

[10:45:03] People here have been through this before. This river reached record levels in May of 2016. This time, though, it is expected to exceed that record, which means some of the homes that may have been spared about a year and a couple of months ago are certainly going to get damage this time.

The good thing here, the flow is fairly -- it is fairly slow. It isn't a sudden increase in the flow. But nonetheless, it is reminding people that sure, the rain is gone, the sun is out, but the threat is far from over -- John.

BERMAN: No. Indeed. All right. Polo Sandoval, important information right there. Appreciate it.

We do have some other news this morning. Tensions rise with North Korea. The Defense Secretary James Mattis is weighing in. We're going to go to the Pentagon for a live report next.


[10:50:14] BERMAN: The president heads to Missouri shortly to talk about tax cuts. But he is phasing escalating tensions abroad, namely with North Korea. The president has a pretty sharp criticism this morning for the situation.

Let's go to the Pentagon right now. Barbara Starr is there with the details -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: John, good morning. Well, the North Koreans taking another step by putting out for the first time now publicly the video, the images of this latest ballistic missile launch by North Korea that flew over northern Japan. That of course a major concern for a key U.S. ally, that this missile flew right over Japanese territory.

The president of the United States tweeting again this morning after all of this. I want to read you what that tweet said. The president saying, "The U.S. has been talking to North Korea and paying them extortion money for 25 years. Talking is not the answer."

"Talking is not the answer" from the president of the United States, raising a lot of questions about what could he possibly mean? Because if you're not talking, you're doing something else. He said just the other day, all options remain on the table.

So a short time ago, here at the Pentagon, reporters asked Secretary of Defense James Mattis if the time was up for diplomatic options because the Pentagon and the State Department have very much been focusing on diplomacy rather than the fire and fury remarks of President Trump.

And we'll bring you that sound later. But what Secretary Mattis told reporters was, and I quote, "No, we are never out of diplomatic solutions. We continue to work together." So the secretary of Defense perhaps very much still on the diplomatic page, while the president is talking about the time is up for talking.

All of this coming as also overnight the U.S. sent a bit of a message, conducting a very long planned ballistic missile defense test at sea. It was long planned, but it sent a message that the U.S. is still working on its systems to be able to shoot down North Korean missiles -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Barbara Starr for us at the Pentagon, thank you very much.

Want to go back to Houston right now if we can. Just getting word that our Brian Todd is out right now with a rescue team.

Brian, focusing on some stranded animals. What can you tell us?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. John, we just pulled a family of three and three dogs out of this house here in this neighborhood just west of Houston. And the family is here with us. These are the rescuers. Mark (INAUDIBLE) is the air boat operator. He has just ventured up there to see if he could find someone else. We're told that there may be someone else in need of being pulled out of their home.

This is Sharon Keithler (ph), Lisa Keithler (ph) and Dennis Keithler (ph). Correct?




TODD: Trying to calm the dogs down.

Dennis, tell us what happened. So this is about, what, waist high water? And this did not happen until like today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About 1:00 this morning. After we had our hurricane party and moved all our stuff back down. We thought it was all over. And we were all blessed that both here and our homes in Galveston were spared. And then at 1:00, I woke everyone up. I said, we have water. And had started coming in. We had a fire drill trying to bring everything back up. And then we got so tired, we went to bed. TODD: And then -- so basically what did you tell your family at that

point? Did you make a plan for them to get out? Or were you just trying to assess it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first plan was to talk ourselves into getting out of the bed upstairs. And where the dogs were with us. And then we made a plan and said, let's find some clothes, put them in a bag. I don't know if we are going to leave or not. But probably it would be a good idea. And so -- and then we finished a few things to bring upstairs. And started watching the helicopters. And we saw our neighbors one by one leaving. And a couple of them called us and said, when you get right out there for (INAUDIBLE) and Lakeside states, we're dry. So --

TODD: You think this is from the Buffalo Bayou and the Addicks reservoir over Port Arthur?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Brays Bayou. It's the smaller one. But yes, all of this is letting out that extra water that obviously they need to do.

TODD: OK. Thanks, Dennis.


TODD: So, John, yes, this is kind of a surprise for these people in this neighborhood. These waters were not as high yesterday and the day before when it was really pouring down rain. They think this some of the residual from the Buffalo Bayou overflowing. So you can tell, you can see some of the scenes over here, that this -- a lot of these neighborhoods are really still heavily flood and not out of the woods yet -- John.

BERMAN: No. An important lesson, Brian. They thought they had seen the worst of it. Then the water started to rise overnight even after the rain had stopped.

[10:55:01] Brian Todd for us in Houston, give our best to that family.

We'll be right back.


BERMAN: All right. The donations are pouring in to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey. JJ Watt's crowdfunding campaign now tops $5 million.

Andy Scholes with the latest from the "Bleacher Report." Hey, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. You know, JJ Watt originally just wanted to help raise $200,000. But his plea for help was heard around the country, more than 50,000 people donating to his Houston fund relief fund through YouCaring. Now topped $5 million as you said. Watt says the new goal is $6 million.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JJ WATT, HOUSTON TEXANS: Over 50,000 people have donated to this thing. It's rising by the minute. Every time you refresh the link, it keeps going up and up and up. So thank you so much to everybody who's donated, to everybody who spread the word. It's incredible. You know, the most difficult times seem to bring out the best in humanity. And that's showing through right now so much.

Please keep sharing. Please keep donating. Whatever you can do, $5, $500, anything helps.


SCHOLES: Watt and the Texas will be on the field for their final preseason game tomorrow night. The game was moved from Houston to Arlington. And every ticket to the game, 25 bucks, all the proceeds are going to go to those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

And the Astros, meanwhile, moving their series with the Rangers this week to Tampa. Houston fans coming to the game with signs showing their support for the city and all the tickets, concessions and parking revenues from this series this week are going to go to the relief efforts. The Astros did lose last night to the Rangers by a final 12-2.

And John, props to the Houston Rockets owner Les Alexander. He originally pledged $4 million to relief efforts, he's now upped that to $10 million.

BERMAN: Andy Scholes, thanks so much.

Andy Scholes, I also just want to say, you know, you are from Houston. Houston's favorite son. And I just want you to know I know your family has been going through a tough time there. I have been thinking about you. So our heart goes out to your relatives down there.

SCHOLES: Appreciate that, John.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks, Andy.

Thank you all so much for joining us. "AT THIS HOUR" picks up our special coverage now.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield, in for Kate Bolduan. This morning, Tropical Storm Harvey makes --