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CNN's Griffin Pulls Driver from Texas Ravine; Mattis Orders State Requests for Forces to be Expedited; Family Takes in 16 Strangers Displaced by Harvey. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired August 30, 2017 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Back with you, John Berman here.
The lifesaving mission in Texas and wherever Harvey heads next is huge and it's just going to grow, that moments ago from federal officials. More than 200 shelters are now housing 30,000 evacuees. Harvey, as you can see, moving finally up and out of the gulf.
The brunt being felt in Port Arthur, Texas, the mayor of that city described it as being entirely underwater. The nation's largest oil refinery is entirely out of commission in that city. The Port Arthur Civic Center opened last night, was supposed to be a refuge for people. You can see here, in itself was flooded.
In Beaumont, Texas, CNN's Drew Griffin, a photographer, start peace check. They had to save a man's life behind them as they were setting up for a live shot. A guy drove his truck into what he thought was a road. It wasn't a road. It was a river, basically, the man and our crew shaken but OK.
Harvey made landfall what should be the last time this morning on the Texas/Louisiana border.
In Houston, they are still trying to measure how many people need to be rescued and how much damage was done. The rain is no longer falling there. And in some areas, we have seen the floodwaters recede.
CNN covering the story from every angle this morning. Let's get first to Drew Griffin in Beaumont, Texas, which you've seen some of the most recent weather, and Drew, where you also had a heck of a morning.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we were just setting up for a live shot, this very live shot location, the rain pouring down. We're trying to warn people about the water on the road and the water in the ravines when we heard a sound and just take a look and listen to what happened next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRIFFIN (on camera): Look at this. Get out, dude.
You got a power cord?
You got a rope?
Give me. Give me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not that long.
GRIFFIN: Hold on. I'm trying to get you a rope.
All right, buddy. Come on. Get up out of that water. Don't fall backwards.
You all right? No, ma'am. We got a car in a ditch. We just pulled a fellow out.
JERRY SUMRALL, WINNIE TEXAS RESIDENT: Lord, have mercy.
GRIFFIN: Are you all right now, buddy?
GRIFFIN: All right. Take your breath. And we're going to pick you up, going to get you off of this bank. OK?
We're going to get you off of this bank.
GRIFFIN: We just literally rescued this guy. You can see his car, John. I don't know -- 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. We just pulled him out of the ravine. It happens within seconds. This is why it's so dangerous right now to be out. It's unbelievable.
Come on, sir. Let's get you up into the dry.
SUMRALL: I want to thank these guys for saving my life. Thank you.
GRIFFIN: Where are you from, buddy?
SUMRALL: Winnie, Texas.
GRIFFIN: Winnie, Texas. So you guys have been hit pretty hard in Winnie, Texas. What's your name?
SUMRALL: Jerry Sumrall.
GRIFFIN: Jerry, somebody needs to come and get you.
SUMRALL: I'm staying at the motel right up here.
GRIFFIN: OK. Just take a breath. Take a breath. Get some water.
(END VIDEO CLIP) GRIFFIN: John, it just - I mean, just happened right before our eyes. We were able to get Jerry Sumrall from Winnie, Texas a ride. A fellow with a pickup truck took him back to his hotel. He is calling the police. We hope to link up with him when he is a little drier and a little calmed down.
But it just happens that quickly. And if no one was here, if nobody was out doing a live shot, that fellow would be -- he would be gone. I can see just the top of his truck from my vantage point right now. He would be trapped in water.
BERMAN: Jerry Sumrall is lucky right now, Drew that you and your team were there.
[10:05:00] The picture of that truck floating down that ravine, that stream, with its windshield wipers still on, but lucky, Jerry Sumrall no longer in it, a remarkable vision.
Thank you to you and your crew, Brian Rokus, Scott Pisczek. And Brian Rokus, for doing what you did there. It's OK that you missed the live shot to save that guy's life. I tell you. What a morning you have had. Drew Griffin thanks so much.
We do want to show you one picture right now. This is Interstate 10, near Winnie, Texas. This is west of Beaumont. On the left is what the highway is supposed to look like, a normal day. On the right, white caps as the water just covering the whole region. This photo was posted online yesterday. It's all over social media. That is not what it is supposed to look like on the right there.
I want to get to Chad Myers right now in our Weather Center to get a sense of what we can expect, Chad, and really what we have seen.
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: What we have seen now almost 52 inches in Houston. Houston is over. It is now moving to the east into Beaumont, Port Arthur. That's where life-threatening flooding is going on right now.
But look at the numbers, 51.88 in Cedar Bayou. And that's over the entire period. What's happening in Beaumont, 26 inches of rain in the last 24 hours, so the center of the circulation has moved just to the east and is doing the same thing to Beaumont and Port Arthur that it did to Houston, so we're kind of shifting the attention to where Drew Griffin is because that is a desperate situation for some folks there. We already saw the video of what he did. And thanks to him because a hero on TV right there.
We'll see the rain showers move across parts of Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama and also still spin across parts of Louisiana. We're still going to see three to five inches of rain in the areas that are already flooded today. And Mobile, you could pick up about eight inches of rain today, especially to the north. Watch for flooding there.
Now we're going to take you to these reservoirs. Been hearing about these things now for a few days. We have the Addicks reservoir and we have the Barker reservoir. The Addicks reservoir has a dam, levee that does this. That stops water from coming in here, going into the Buffalo Bayou and then into Houston.
Barker has a dam here, stops the water from getting into - slows the water from getting into the Buffalo Bayou and getting into Houston. These were made in the '50s, '40s really. And they're still holding back water. But 99 point something percent of the time, they are grassland. There's nothing there except a park because there's not water in it. Although it's a reservoir, it's only a flood retention reservoir.
This is what it looks like right now, 2016, last year. I want you to notice how many houses were out here. Now I want you to see what the engineers were thinking back in the '40s when they built this. There's nothing out there. There are more cows than anything else. So here is where we are now. Look at this. I want you to focus on right here. Look at all of these empty spots. I'm getting a wrap, John, back to you.
BERMAN: All right. Chad Myers for us, getting a look at those reservoirs, a lot of concern over the coming hours there. Chad, thank you so much.
We had to let Chad go quickly because on the phone with us right now is the Marcus McLellan. He's the deputy public information officer for the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office. Jefferson County, home to Port Arthur, Texas right now.
And Marcus, we have been hearing overnight from a number of people alarmed, scared, concerned in Port Arthur. Give us a sense of the situation right now.
MARCUS MCLELLAN (via telephone): Yes. Over the night, as tropical storm Harvey entered Jefferson County, we got significant rainfall. Of course, there was nowhere for it to go. Everything in the ground was saturated. All the runoffs are full. So water started just backing up into any place that it could find. And one of those areas was the Bob Bowers Civic Center in Port Arthur, Texas.
BERMAN: Yes. We saw that evacuation center, the water rising in there, people getting up into the bleachers inside there. We also heard some 20 inches of rain in Port Arthur after all the other rain you have had over the course of the week. Are you able to reach everyone in need right now?
MCLELLAN: Yes. We got tremendous turnout, volunteers coming out with boats, air boats. We're coordinating that through our Emergency Management Office here at the county court house to get those assets out into the rural areas to help get the citizens out of the flooded residents.
BERMAN: Do you have a sense of how many people right now are stranded in Port Arthur?
MCLELLAN: It's going to be into the several hundred. I mean, they had at least close to 150 in the Civic Center. They've got some other areas throughout the night where people were just walking out of their homes and finding other locations to go gather just so that they could stay dry.
[10:10:00] BERMAN: Do you have the resources you need? What's the greatest need inside Port Arthur right now?
MCLELLAN: The greatest need right now is to find another dry shelter to start housing these individuals.
BERMAN: Where are they now? What are you doing with the people who were inside or I guess still are inside in the bleachers inside that shelter?
MCLELLAN: That's being coordinated by the Port Arthur Emergency Management Office in Port Arthur, Texas. They're spearheading that operation seeing too that everybody gets out of the area.
BERMAN: We're just seeing from the city's social media site that Port Arthur is asking for people with boats, come help, a plea for help from Port Arthur. What do you want?
MCLELLAN: Yes. If they have a boat, of course, we want them to reach out and talk to the Port Arthur Emergency Management Office and coordinate their resources with them so they can keep track of everybody. And get them in the areas of most needed first.
BERMAN: Is it still raining in Port Arthur? And do you worry that the floodwaters could still rise there?
MCLELLAN: It's just about done raining. We're still getting some light showers and everything. Hopefully, we're done with the rising water. But we're still getting runoff from the north and northwest from other areas. So we may see our flood gauges go up some more.
BERMAN: And your message right now to the people of Port Arthur who may be listening?
MCLELLAN: If you need assistance, call your 911, your Emergency Management Office. And try to get to a high elevation where you can be seen so that you can be picked up.
BERMAN: All right. Marcus McLellan, the Deputy Public Information Office for Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, thank you so much for being with us, stay safe if you can.
Joining me now, Brigadier General Patrick Hamilton, he's the joint staff director of the National Guard Joint Force Headquarters in Austin, Texas right now. General thanks so much for being with us. We just got off the phone with Port Arthur, seems to be a lot of need down there. What can you tell us about how you may be helping to respond?
BRIG. GEN. PATRICK HAMILTON, DIRECTOR, JOINT STAFF NATIONAL GUARD JOINT FORCE HEADQUARTERS: Yes. Thank you very much.
I got an update this morning. We pre-positioned several high profile vehicles for high water evacuation with the disaster district -- state disaster district in Beaumont/Port Arthur vicinity yesterday. They are on the ground working today, moving through at the direction of the local emergency managers to help get people to safety that need their help.
We also have multiple aircraft that launched this morning that are doing search and rescue. We even have one of our large lift aircraft bringing in boats for Texas Task Force One, who's the state search and rescue entity.
BERMAN: Do you have a sense of the helicopters and the boats you have out are still finding people who need to be rescued?
HAMILTON: Absolutely. I think in that area, just because the weather is starting to clear now, it's just getting to where we can get some of the aircraft in to do those operations.
BERMAN: And that's in Houston, you mean, or in Port Arthur, Beaumont?
HAMILTON: Well, both. I mean, Port Arthur, Beaumont was the immediate need. We are still doing ongoing operations in Houston and have for a couple of days. As that storm transitioned and we brought in additional resources, those are being allocated to the more immediate need in Beaumont and Port Arthur. And we continue to search into those areas.
BERMAN: You guys seem to move where the danger is. That's the nature of your job right now. What's the biggest threat that you see as this move -- this storm has moved on, at least a little.
HAMILTON: Right. These disasters go in phases. The initial part is search and rescue. Understand where the local assets are overwhelmed. Get to those as quickly as we can. And then we start transitioning as the weather clears, the water starts going down, utilities are out.
And we have to start transitioning from search and rescue to providing life support, water distribution, food distribution, continue to evacuation for people who did ride it out but still can't stay in their homes because they don't have utilities and those things. And then move to mass evacuations and may start moving people into shelters. That's a long process.
As you remember, the storm hit down in Corpus Christi. We are in the process. We are in the phase now down there where they are doing points of distribution, large points of distribution operations, handing out commodities to the citizens there and then evacuating the ones who can't stay.
BERMAN: And of course, as you say, right now the mission is still life saving. The majority I would say of the Texas area right now. We have been putting some numbers up on the screen so people could see if the resources at play, 800 active duty soldiers, there's all the national guardsmen. There are a hundred helicopters at play here.
[10:15:02] People always want to know what the numbers are. And they wonder, would more be better, would more numbers, more people, more helicopters make much of a difference now? Do you need additional resources?
HAMILTON: All the federal and state agencies from other states have stepped up amazingly to support Texas. We have requested some additional outside support. We have 14,000 national guardsmen activated for this disaster. The National Guard bureau at the federal level and other states, have positioned folks for our support. And we are flowing them in as they are need.
One of the biggest challenges you have is if you get too much support can be just as bad as not enough. It clogs up our ability to respond and provides additional requirements for support that can take away from our ability to respond. So we are working very closely at the local level. And that's where it's all the most important -- every disaster is local.
And so, we're tied in with those local emergency managers and the state disaster districts. We are bringing in the capabilities that they need and making sure that we don't overwhelm them with something that will then tie them up. But I would tell you that at every level, the amount of support has been overwhelming. We are -- we have plans to bring in what we need when we need it. It's available to us. We will continue to do that.
BERMAN: All right. Brigadier General Patrick Hamilton, thank you so much for being with us. And thank you so much for everything you are doing right now. We really do appreciate it.
HAMILTON: Thank you.
BERMAN: And the response has been enormous from the military to mom and pop really. You know, trapped at a gas station, dozens of people forced to take shelter there with nowhere to go when a woman came to the rescue of complete strangers. This is a lovely story. And we all need it. We'll talk to them next.
[10:21:08] BERMAN: All right. The breaking news this morning, Harvey made landfall yet again dumping more rain, leaving thousands displaced. Thousands of people have evacuated to shelters throughout the Houston area. The Red Cross promises no one will be turned away. The George Brown Convention Center in Houston right now, hosting more than 10,000 evacuees. That's capacity.
Our Rosa Flores, who has been doing phenomenal work inside that convention center, joins us now. Rosa, what are you seeing?
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We actually just got an update from Texas senator Ted Cruz. He had a mini-press conference. He is actually touring the facility right now. And he says that there are hundreds of shelters across the state of Texas. He said that he has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from Texans, helping Texans with money, with donations, with pretty much anything that they have, including boats to rescue people.
As you know, Senator Ted Cruz voted against the Sandy Relief Bill for Hurricane Sandy and so did Texas Senator John Cornyn. And he mentioned that he and Senator John Cornyn are working on a bill to support Harvey victims. And here is why he said he didn't vote for the Sandy Bill. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: That bill included money for fisheries in Alaska. Now the last I checked, Hurricane Sandy didn't go anywhere near Alaska. So the Texas Congressional delegation voted against putting unnecessary spending in what should have been an emergency relief bill. In Texas, we're going to see bipartisan support in Congress across Congress for providing the aid that Texans need.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FLORES: So we follow up with the question, will the Texas bill to help Harvey victims be free of pork? Now Texas Senator Ted Cruz responding, saying that they will focus on emergency response. So, you know, we're going to have to see and read that bill and figure out what all will be in that bill, but of course, a lot of Texans hurting right now hoping that some sort of relief bill is passed through Congress to help people in Texas rebuild.
BERMAN: Yes. No doubt. The people of Houston and surrounding areas, they want help after the storm, much like the people of New Jersey and New York did as well.
Rosa Flores, thank you very, very much. That shelter right there hosting 10,000 - you know big giant shelters, not enough. And regular people are stepping up to help.
A Houston family showing unbelievable hospitality. Nicole Richert and her family taking in 16 strangers who were stranded at a gas station. Nicole Richard joins me by the phone from her crowded house. Nicole, thank you so much for being with us. Thank you for what you are doing. Explain to me what happened. You went to the gas station to get maybe some gas and supplies. You came home with 16 people?
NICOLE RICHERT, TEXAS RESIDENT (via telephone): Not exactly, but kind of, yes. We were actually on our way to the gas station. My aunt called and she said I have a friend of a friend of a friend who is stuck at a Shell station on Galveston County. And I said I'm at that gas station right now. Then we can find her. I just walked around the gas station looking for someone named Judy who I had never met, didn't even know what she looked like. Finally found Judy. And with her she had her husband and her friend and they didn't have anywhere to go. There was no way out of that area. And so I just said, come home with me. And realized standing there that there were a lot -- dozens and dozens of other people who had nowhere to go.
[10:20:00] BERMAN: So you said, all come to my place.
BERMAN: Without a moment's hesitation?
RICHERT: Without a hesitation.
BERMAN: And how many people at the max were there with you? And I say how many people. It wasn't just people. I keep seeing pictures of dogs and pets.
RICHERT: Yes. I think that was part of the big deal is people didn't even want to ask for a place to stay because they had their pets, too. One of the families that we have with us actually has five dogs, six dogs.
BERMAN: I'm sorry, I hope I didn't lose you right there. If I can, Becky and Hailey and Cynthia are there with you. They are now your house guests. Who knows for how much longer, you know, what does it mean, what Nicole has done for you guys?
BECKY: She's done a lot just by offering us her home. It was really crazy. We thought that we could stay at home with everything happening, our first floor flooding, no power. We weren't able to use a rest room either because the water was coming up the pipes. And it was crazy to think we could stay there.
And so, when we finally decided to leave, we had to walk through the water to get out. We were rescued and brought to the gas station. It was such a blessing for her to have offered us her house. We have three grown dogs. Two are short and one is big. Then one of our small ones had babies, three week old puppies. And so, it was difficult to ask for the help. I was so thankful that they still took us in with all my puppies and dogs.
BERMAN: All your puppies and dogs. What have you guys been doing Becky to pass the time?
BECKY: We've been talking and finding out that we know other people that they know. They've been playing with my 4-year-old granddaughter.
BERMAN: Nicole, what has this meant for you? Opening up your house like this, having this full house, as you have, through this crisis, what has it meant for you?
RICHERT: What has it meant for me? I don't really know how to answer that. I mean, I think it's been a pleasure, honestly. We sit around the table at dinner and we have conversations for two and a half hours. We pull together how to make a meal. Honestly, it's really fun. I feel like this is not -- for me, it's not difficult. It's enjoyable.
BERMAN: How long do you think you are going to have this full house?
RICHERT: As long as they need to stay here.
BERMAN: As long as they need to stay here, Nicole Richert, thank you so much for what you are doing. If there's anything we can send you, board games to keep you all occupied, dog food, let us know. But again, thank you for what you are doing, just one of the heroes stepping up in this moment of need in Houston.
RICHERT: Well, sure. I don't even think it deserves thanks. Honestly, it's really a pleasure.
BERMAN: Which just proves how wonderful a person you are. We did just get some brand-new video from Houston right now. We do want to show you.
Children being rescued from the floodwater, you can see the sun is shining there, but the need still very present and the danger all too present. We will bring you the very latest next.