Return to Transcripts main page


Tropical Storm Harvey Continues to Devastates Texas; Neighbors Saving Neighbors in Texas; Interview with Mayor Nic Hunter; Did Record Warm Winter Set Stage for Harvey?; Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired August 30, 2017 - 06:30   ET


[06:00:00] ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There's missiles flying over Japan. There's a political agenda that doesn't come to a halt. The nation and the life of the nation goes forward. So yes, it is the right thing. However, this is a case I think where what he says and how he says it will really, really matter because whatever else he says, he needs to express sympathy for people who are going through the trauma of a lifetime in Texas right next door.

He's also, though, I think, got to sort of be careful not to be too political about it. And this is the political edge of selling the tax plan. This is trying to sort of stir people up and make them feel like something is necessary. This is a time to sort of put pressure, and that's why he's going to Missouri to put pressure on the Democratic senator there. If it's too political, it will start to feel a little bit jarring.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: More proof of why it is the most difficult job in the world.

Errol, Abby, thank you very much.

Let's get back to Alisyn down in Houston. And that's the main test. Will people stay interested, stay involved? You're in the right place at the right time.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Because, Chris, as you know, it's raining again in parts of Houston. Southeastern Texas is being hammered by rain as Harvey makes landfall now a second time. So we have a live report from the ground next.

Also, to learn more about you can help those affected by Harvey, go to They need your help.


[06:35:36] CAMEROTA: OK. Let's give you an update now on Tropical Storm Harvey and where it is. It has made landfall again this morning in Louisiana, right at the state border with Texas. The death toll is rising, though the numbers are very uncertain at this hour. 17,000 Harvey evacuees, though, are in shelters across Texas including the one that I am standing in that's housing about 8300.

CNN's Drew Griffin is live for us in Beaumont, Texas, which his getting pummeled right now by the rain. Drew, tell us what you're seeing?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: The rain has increased overnight. 26 inches fell on Beaumont, Texas, Alisyn, that was yesterday, midnight to midnight. That's a record. It has done nothing but rain since then and I mean really rain. We took just a little bit of video about a half hour ago and the area that we were standing in just yesterday which was dry is now in several inches of water.

This is the problem. The water rising everywhere in the county has made any chance of rescues almost impossible. We're really in a mode where you just have to preserve life, get to a dry spot. This is not about being comfortable, this is not about being fed. This is about surviving Harvey until it finally exits.

Port Arthur, Texas, seems to be a very tough place to be this morning. The shelter there, one of the shelters is being flooded and needs to be evacuated.

And Chris, this is just going to continue until Harvey finally gets the heck out of here -- Chris, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Drew, thank you very much. Obviously we'll check back on your situation there.

So what we've seen, I mean, part of the big story of Harvey here are all the citizens helping each other, neighbors helping neighbors. Even if they themselves are in a bad way, they're still stepping up to save complete strangers' lives.

So we have an update for you on the unprecedented volunteer rescue effort and how it's all being coordinated next.


[06:41:36] CAMEROTA: So the people here at this convention center where I am this morning in Houston are trying to wrap their heads around their new normal. Thousands of people here and beyond will not have a home to return to anymore.

And as heartbreaking as that is, we're also seeing amazing humanity and grace. People have jumped into action to help their neighbors, even sacrificing some of their own safety to do so.

So joining us to talk about all this is Neil Bush. He's board chair of Points of Light. He is the son of former president George H.W. Bush and the favorite son of former first lady Barbara Bush.

Did I get that right?



BUSH: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: I hope your mom is watching this morning. So, look, this is the story. There are so many citizen heroes. I mean, this storm, beyond any that I can remember, have -- even officials have asked neighbors to help neighbors. Get in your boat and go help.

BUSH: Right.

CAMEROTA: But how do you corral and organize something like that?

BUSH: Well, first of all, there's not much organization needed at this point because when a neighbor cries out for help, neighbors naturally do what they can. And it's been remarkable in this city to see the tons of outpouring of support and love for the neighbors to --


CAMEROTA: And why does that make you emotional to see all of this?

BUSH: I'm genetically wired to be a little bit emotional. My mom and dad -- my dad, not my mom so much, and my brothers and I, just tend to get really -- feel very positive about great things being done for others.

CAMEROTA: I agree. It's very touching, all of the humanity.

BUSH: It's amazing.

CAMEROTA: And the heroism we've been seeing.

BUSH: It is.

CAMEROTA: It is really --

BUSH: I have a stepdaughter whose boyfriend jumped in a boat, rescued 20 people, and one of those rescues -- and he's just one of many, one of hundreds or thousands, but in one of those rescues he had a little baby that was turning blue. And they ran with the baby and took it to emergency care.

So there's an amazing outpouring of love and care. And if your neighborhood is under attack, it's easy to walk around the corner and go help your neighborhood. What we're trying to discourage right now, quite honestly, is to have floods and floods of people come down to try to volunteer their services --

CAMEROTA: From other places.

BUSH: From other places.

CAMEROTA: From other states and other places because that would be complicated.

BUSH: We have -- we already have stress on our infrastructure. The hotels and the rooms and accommodations really aren't ready for it. And for a volunteer to be really properly used to good effect you need to have to be well organized and well planned. And so over these next weeks ahead, working with FEMA, working with the Red Cross, working with the local, I'll tell you what, there's been a lot of skepticism about government.

But to see our government, this government, the state government, the local governments react with such efficiency and with such clarity of purpose in mind has been really rewarding. And there's been a lot of attacks, by the way, frankly, on the media. And to see local media people -- well, to see you here, but to see local media people, you know, out in the streets working hard to bring information to people --

CAMEROTA: Look, we're trying to warn people.

BUSH: It's been a great service that's been provided to everyone. So to see everyone coming together, government, non-government, non- profit, profit, and then to see these individuals rise with love in their heart, with a light in their heart to help others has been and is always the great story of disaster.

[06:45:02] CAMEROTA: Look, I don't have to remind you about the catastrophic nature of Katrina.

BUSH: Yes.

CAMEROTA: And the criticism after Katrina leveled in part at your brother.

BUSH: Right.

CAMEROTA: So what do you think the lessons are here for President Trump? And do you think that he has done the right things? You think he's spoken out enough?

BUSH: I really don't know how much honestly presidential leadership really helps. I think having FEMA and the agencies that are really responding, be active and be engaged in a way that's really useful and helpful is the important thing.

I mean, we live in a divided time. Let's face it. We have divisions based on politics and race and, you know, religious differences and economic differences. And the amazing thing to see for me personally is how all of these divides are bridged when it comes to serving others. Service is the one -- is one of the things that unites people in a way that is really powerful.

CAMEROTA: I agree.

BUSH: So Republicans and Democrats and people that hate each other in the social media world come together and help others in a way that is really, really enlightening and hopeful for America.

CAMEROTA: No one asks when they're pulling you into their boat if you're a Democrat or a Republican.

BUSH: Right. CAMEROTA: And we have seen the best of people here on the ground in


Neil Bush, thanks so much.

BUSH: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Thanks for all you're doing and thanks for sharing it with us.

BUSH: Thank you, Alisyn.


BUSH: Appreciate you being here.

CAMEROTA: Let's get back to Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Alisyn. It is good to hear that people are heartened by what's happening on the ground in Houston. But we also have to keep an eye on the concerns of what may happen in Louisiana.

It's tough to imagine that 12 years after Katrina, as we mark that milestone, another storm is pummeling the state. We're going to speak with the mayor of Lake Charles, Louisiana. You're looking at pictures of what they're up against already next.


CUOMO: Hurricane Katrina was 12 years ago. It's hard to imagine, especially given what's happening right now. People in Lake Charles are once again getting pounded by heavy rain and winds, this time from Tropical Storm Harvey.

Joining us on the phone is the mayor of Lake Charles, Nic Hunter.

[06:50:03] Mr. Mayor, can you hear us?


CUOMO: Yes, I can. What is the situation right now, sir?

HUNTER: We're doing OK. I want to tell you, this storm has been so crazy and so meandering, it seems like it will never go away. The previous night before last night was actually worse for us with the rain event. We did have to rescue several hundred people the previous night. But as of now, I can say that within the city of Lake Charles we have not had any serious events last night. We haven't had to perform any rescues like we did the night before. And we're doing OK right now.

CUOMO: You know, in truth, all eyes have been on Texas. Governor Bell Edwards was on the show a couple of days ago and he surprised me when he said, you know, we've had to rescue 500 people as, you know, very matter of fact because of the realities you deal with there all the time. But help us understand, the pictures we're seeing of Lake Charles, people on bikes, up to their knees in water, the place looks completely saturated. Yet that will pass for OK given what you're used to dealing with. What is the need right now?

HUNTER: Well, I'm going to tell you, Chris, the need is going to be after this -- for us, I'm only speaking for Lake Charles.

CUOMO: Right.

HUNTER: The need is going to be after this storm moves because we have a lot of people in flooded homes. We're continuing to need immediate services. But after this storm moves, we've seen it through other hurricanes, the federal assistance to help people get back on their feet. We are a very resilient people down here. We will survive. We will take care of each other down here in Texas and Louisiana, but we do need some help from the federal government for these homeowners and these people that have been displaced. That's going to be our biggest need.

CUOMO: All right. Mr. Mayor, we have seen the resilience of people in the area firsthand. We saw it during Katrina. We're seeing it again now. We will not leave this story once the storm leaves the area. If you need something, please come to us and see us as a resource.

HUNTER: Well, thank you. I appreciate it. Not only are we seeing what government can do but we're seeing what communities can do, what people can do. This is a horrible experience but it is inspiring.

CUOMO: Unprecedented storm, unprecedented response as well. Be well, stay safe, stay in touch.

HUNTER: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Some say rising temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico may have fueled Hurricane Harvey's intensity. The talk about climate change is relevant if it's right. If it's not right, it needs to be discussed.

Our next guest predicted more intense storms. He wrote this in "The Washington Post" back in March. "Water temperatures at the surface of the Gulf of Mexico and near south Florida are on fire. They spurred a historically warm winter from Houston to Miami and could fuel intense thunderstorms in the spring from the south to the plains."

Those words are from Samenow, "Washington Post" reporter, editor, and he joins us right now.

So let's get to the heart of the matter. Shall we? First of all, thank you for joining us on NEW DAY.


CUOMO: Every time climate change comes up, and we are hearing it more with Harvey than I remember in with past storms. Same thing, you can look at the temperature two ways. This is one cycle of warm temperature. It's always storm season. There's no proof, this could have as much to do with the type of development you've had in Houston where they've cemented over so much of what should have been sponge ground as they can to the temperature.

What's your argument?

SAMENOW: Well, I think there's a combination here. If we can look back at the temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico back in the winter when I wrote that story, the water temperature in the Gulf of Mexico never fell below 73 degrees. Texas has the warmest winter in record. Louisiana had their warmest winter on record. Galveston had record highs on a quarter of their days back last winter. And New Orleans also had its warmest February on record.

So there was just abnormal warmth in the Gulf Coast states back in the winter. The warm water persisted in the Gulf of Mexico leading up to Hurricane Harvey. And you need that fuel. You need that warm water in the Gulf of Mexico to power these storms, and we saw that explosive intensification of Harvey as it approached the Texas coast.

So obviously the warm water spurred by climate change played a role here. Now of course there's natural variability. We've had hurricanes hit the Gulf Coast for decades. So I think there's a combination. I think global warming intensified this storm some. But obviously there have always been these storms and there will continue to be these storms moving into the future.

CUOMO: Jason Samenow made the argument that climate change is going to be responsible for more storms. We're now seeing Harvey.

So the difference between temperature change and climate change, this is another point of controversy, where yes, Samenow is right. The temperatures are higher in the gulf. Warm air and moisture is going to generate energy and storms. You're going to see worse storms.

[06:55:07] But it could just be a phase. It doesn't mean that it is the direct result of a permanent change in the climate cycle or because of anything that human beings have done. What's your response?

SAMENOW: Well, I think if you look at all the evidence which is out there, if you look at all the studies in the scientific literature, there is a clear and unambiguous signal that there's an anthropogenic component to this warming and that is likely --

CUOMO: Anthropogenic meaning that human --

SAMENOW: Manmade. Human caused.

CUOMO: Human activated through behavior.

SAMENOW: Absolutely. And we're just going to see that human signal on the climate system continue to grow as long as we increase greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. We're going to see continued warming and there's going to be more potential for these storms to blow up and become even more intense in future decades. CUOMO: Do you believe that you can demonstrate with the data that

what used to be called hundred-year storms happen like every other year now? I remember with Super Storm Sandy, you know, it was that this shouldn't be that bad, but because of a combination of factors and things that have seemed to have changed over time, it was way worse.

We were just talking to the mayor down there in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Yes, they're ridiculously resilient down there, incredible people with what they've learned to deal with as normal. But it seems that they're under water almost every year now.

SAMENOW: Well, the greenhouse gases were adding into the atmosphere, they're like steroids. You'll remember how homerun totals were inflated during the steroid era in baseball. We're seeing the same thing with weather statistics. With more record highs, more extreme precipitation event . And so we should expect to see more of these 500-year, 1,000-year events because we're loading the atmosphere with these greenhouse gases and we are seeing these more intense storms development as a result.

CUOMO: Jason Samenow, it's never one thing. It's multiple things. It's how they developed in Houston. It's how they engineered --

SAMENOW: Absolutely.

CUOMO: In the New Orleans area and the levee system and greenhouse gases are also something that you have to take into account if you want it to be better. Thank you for making the case. We direct people to the article you wrote in "The Washington Post."

Jason Samenow, thank you.

SAMENOW: Thank you very much.

CUOMO: Alisyn, back to you. There's no question that the urgency should dominate our discussion and how people are going to make it through. But this climate change discussion and how these storms are getting worse, that matters as well.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely. And you hear scientists connecting the two.

So this devastating storm Harvey is making landfall again today. We're going to take you live to the places that people -- where people are facing round two of this deadly rain and flooding. We'll be right back.