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Mandatory Evacuations Underway in Richmond, Texas; U.S. Coast Guard Conduct and Rescue Missions; Journalist Evacuates Flooded Port Arthur Hotel; Military Ramps Up Rescue Efforts in Storm-Ravaged Areas in Texas; Houston Mosques Open Doors to Storm Survivors; Aired 10:30- 11a ET

Aired August 31, 2017 - 10:30   ET


[10:30:00] CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: They treat it as a park. But when it fills up, all of a sudden it becomes a lake.

Here is what it looked like when it was built back in the '50s. Not a house to be seen. More cows than people. A little stream right through there. A little creek right through here. And into the Buffalo Bayou. Well, it doesn't look like that anymore. You build up enough then you put houses close enough to the water, it hasn't backed up in 60 years, but this time it did.

So kind of long range forecasting here, what the heck happened? Let's take you right here to the barker reservoir. Going to fly you into the backside. Back here, about 104 feet, the reservoir is good. There's no breaching going on. All these rumors on Twitter are just, nothing.

So back out here, there is a levee. A small levee of about 101 feet high. Back here, there are still neighborhoods that are 70, 90 -- I'm sorry, 97 feet high. The water is going on the backside and over the wrong way because it isn't going this way because there's a levee here.

Now zoom into the neighborhoods. Right here. All of this completely under water. And not the rooftop. But certainly the grass and all the areas, especially the streets. Little farther to the north, our Rosa Flores was here just an hour ago. The streets are flooded, but the homes are still dry. They're trying to keep this at this point in time, take all the cars out of here. This is the mandatory evacuation center area. This is not going to flood much higher because the water is going the other way out Barker's.

So water goes up, water goes down. It just depends on where you are in the bubble, John. And Houston is still obviously way out of the banks. The Buffalo Bayou is not going to go down for a week or two before people can actually get back there and start throwing stuff away. Because that's what you do. You tear out the sheet rock. Throw them away to the dry wall. Put it on the street and hope somebody picks it up.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Two weeks until they can even start to rebuild.

Chad Myers, thanks so much.

MYERS: Welcome.

BERMAN: U.S. Coast Guard starting search and rescue missions in Louisiana right now. Those helicopters taking off from Louisiana into Texas.

CNN's Kaylee Hartung joins us from the airfield there -- Kaylee.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, John. From this airfield, we've already seen five U.S. Coast Guard helicopters take off this morning and head for Port Arthur. We're not far from the state line here in Sulphur, Louisiana. So it's about a 20-minute trip to get over to Port Arthur.

But some good news to share with you, as these guys are responding to calls coming in, only one rescue has been made this morning as they've gone to investigate those calls. Some people have already been rescued. There are reports of so many more boats in the waters as the weather gets better. More people are being able to be reached by those boats.

And there's actually a story of a rescue swimmer knocking on someone's door who was in distress yesterday. When they answered the door, they said we're OK, we're not in distress. The waters have receded here.

It's interesting to see the story evolved. We've got a chopper, the first of the day, about to come back for its first refueling before going out again.

I talked with a rescue swimmer who was in that area yesterday. He explained to me that part of what makes this rescue mission so complex is that it wasn't hard to stay busy yesterday. As they flew over, they could see people on their roofs, calling for help. But they were trying to respond to very specific calls. Everyone was in a bad situation. But they were trying to respond to those in life- threatening situations.

So it's the rescue swimmer who's down on the ground, trying to assess it in the moment and determine who has the greatest need to then hop in that basket and go up in that helicopter. And meanwhile, you've got so many birds in the air, so many resources responding to that. There aren't roads in the air for those helicopters, no aircraft to follow. So the logistics, the coordination and the communication on the ground has been so important in this situation.

But I also spoke with a lieutenant, a pilot here who flew rescue missions earlier in the week in Houston and she really explained the emotional challenges that you face in these situations. So often when the rescue missions are ongoing and other situations, they are going to one site. They've got the information. They've got the time to respond and assess. But in these, you're trying to take in all the information you can and process it as quickly as you can -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Kaylee Hartung for us at that airfield where so many of the aid flights or the rescue flights are taking off from right now.

Kaylee, thanks so much.

Some of those helicopters heading to Port Arthur, Texas. I want to go to Port Arthur right now. Jesse Wright is the editor of the local newspaper. He had to evacuate his home days ago, went to a hotel. Jesse is on the phone with us right now.

And I understand you just evacuated the hotel where you were staying. What's going on, Jesse?

JESSE WRIGHT, EDITOR, PORT ARTHUR NEWS: That's right. Yes, basically, we were sitting in the hotel, most of it lost power. Then last night, all of it lost power. And there's no way to get food and we'll evacuate and go to a shelter. But the problem -- the problem is in Port Arthur, the evacuation process is being headed informally by the Cajun Navy, meaning they're taking you to the high land. Other Good Samaritans will take you to a shelter.

[10:35:02] But I just spoke with somebody up on high land and apparently all the shelters are full. The official line is you meant to call the police department's non-emergency number but nobody picks up. Nobody picks up at 311. And obviously 911 or 911 is no good unless it's an emergency.

And so as a journalist, I'm going to be able to go into these shelters and people I saw what the conditions are, but I would think if someone who is stranded, it's all very confusing. You know, a lot of folks don't have power on their cell phones anymore, a lot of folks, you know, their computers are dead and so on and so forth. So it's just very confusing, it's very disorienting and at times disappointing for the folks who are really hurting here.

BERMAN: Yes. As you're saying, right now, you have to rely on local volunteers. And thank goodness there are these volunteers. I'd say local but it's also this Cajun Navy, people coming over from Louisiana.


BERMAN: Just to have boats to help to get you to higher land right now. Not coordinated at the level perhaps that you would like to see. You say you're on higher land right now. You know, are you alone or are there lots of people you can see right now in your situation? Can you move around?

WRIGHT: Well, I'm here with my girlfriend and the fellow who brought us on the boat. He's down blow in the water. But otherwise, it's just us. There's some EMS passing by. There's some volunteers passing by with boats. But not a lot of really official looking people here if that -- there's a lot of volunteers. You know, right now, looking at Bob Bauer's Civic Center, that was the initial shelter. It's entirely flooded. So it's just speaks to the level of confusion and I would say a little bit disorganization that's present here. BERMAN: What's the water level like there right now? We've been

looking at pictures from the last couple of days in Port Arthur where it doesn't look like there were ever streets. It looks more like a --


BERMAN: You know, lake with rooftops. Do you have a sense the water is going down finally?

WRIGHT: The water is going down slightly. It looked to have receded maybe a foot since last night. In some places it's mid-calf, feet, in some places a few feet deep. It really depends on the terrain below.

One big issue is it of course is not receding fast enough. (INAUDIBLE) has a massive pump for storm water. And there are rumors that it malfunctioned somehow. They ran out of fuel. I haven't been able to reconfirm any of those rumors. I haven't really been hearing that much from city authorities. But the fact remains there's a ton of water on the ground. And for your average sedan or family vehicle, the roads are still impassable. And of course who knows how many personal vehicles were flooded out all together.

BERMAN: No. A lot of people are going to have a lot of difficult situations to come home to. I do want to tell you, we just got word from officials in Port Arthur. They say that all water and sewer services in the city are up and running. That's according to the Port Arthur Police Department.

As of right now, it doesn't speak to what could happen in the coming hours.


BERMAN: You know, Jesse Wright, great to have you with us. I know you've been through a lot going from home to the first floor of a hotel, to the second floor of a hotel, and now simply to higher ground with really no sense of where you're going next. All this as I think you were doing your work to report on the situation for the newspaper there, the "Port Arthur Times."

Thank you so much for being with us, Jesse. Wish you the best of luck. Keep us posted as to what you see.

That was Jesse Wright for us on the ground in Port Arthur.

Now the military is stepping in, in a big way this morning. The rescue efforts going to a much higher level. We'll have a live report, next.


[10:43:04] BERMAN: All right. These are live pictures you're looking at right there. And that's a Coast Guard helicopter being fueled off for yet another rescue mission. These helicopters here taking off from Sulphur in Louisiana just over the border and going all up and down the coast of Texas right now. And there are a lot at work because there is so much work.

The U.S. Military has now deployed more than 6,000 active duty troops to help the hardest hit areas. Two naval vessels on their way to Texas to assist.

Joining me now is CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr and CNN military and diplomatic analyst John Kirby.

Barbara, first to you. Give me a sense of the numbers at play here.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we're talking about, as of this morning, John, 6300 active duty military troops either in the flood zone or nearby working helicopters, rubber boats, power boats, vehicles, high water vehicles trying to get people out, trying to bring aid and assistance in. 6300 active duty there.

Another 1100 about to deploy and that includes about 690 Marines who are on those two amphibious ships. The USS Kearsarge and Oak Hill will both set sail from Norfolk, Virginia, and transit all the way around to Texas. They're going to leave this afternoon. 690 Marines on board, a number of helicopters, large that will be able. They go back and forth trying to help.

They are also about 300 Air Force personnel and nearly 800 Army personnel. All working the flood zone. And they have identified up to 30,000 National Guard troops that could be used for all of this. What they need to do, obviously, is generate a high volume of continuous rescue missions, get people out of there and a high volume of aid missions, get aid in. Food, water, bedding.

[10:45:02] You know, now, in places where the water is receding, the emergency is not over. People are desperate for help. It is that high generation, that high volume of activity the military can generate on a continuous basis that can begin to make a difference here -- John.

BERMAN: Admiral Kirby, what does the military do well in this situation? What do those numbers mean?

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Well, Barbara hit one item is they can sustain themselves and can do it, at least the Naval and Marine forces can do it without impacting the local community. They can be on station and stay there for a while. And I can guarantee you that all our forces there, all the joint forces are planning on being engaged for a lengthy period of time.

The other thing is, they're really good at the flow of logistics. You know, Barb talked about getting supplies in. They absolutely will help with that and nobody can move supplies in and out of a theater better than the military.

The other thing they're really good at is search and rescue. We've already seen that. We have live images on CNN last night of a Navy search and rescue as well. You've got Coast Guard there. So they're very good at that. And lastly, they're very good at commanding control. John, in just the last segment, you talked about the Cajun Navy and

the fact that they're doing some amazing work but it's uncoordinated. And that's OK for right now everybody needs to pitch in and do what they can. But what the military can bring to the effort is a little bit of command and control and organizational ability and sort of lend their own unique skills in terms of helping map out the area and plan for future long-term operations.

Lastly -- I know I said last was lastly, but lastly I say is rebuilding. This is going to be weeks, if not months, if not years effort. And one of the things that the military can do is help the community rebuild when the floodwaters recede and the immediate danger is passed, the military can stay there and help rebuild.

BERMAN: Admiral Kirby, Barbara Starr, lastly to neither of you. You are first in my book. Thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

KIRBY: Thanks.

BERMAN: All right. Places of worship turned into shelters. Houston area mosques welcoming anyone and everyone who needs help after Hurricane Harvey. I'm going to speak to one of the men who is leading that effort, next.


BERMAN: The faith community opening its arms and doors to those displaced by Hurricane Harvey. Some Houston area mosques have been turned into shelter providing a place to stay, food, supplies to hundreds in need.

Joining me now is MJ Khan, the president of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston.

[10:50:03] Mr. Khan, thank you so much for being with us. Give us a sense of what your mosques are doing right now.

MJ KHAN, PRESIDENT, THE ISLAMIC SOCIETY OF GREATER HOUSTON: Thank you for giving me the opportunity. Before even the hurricane was there and we heard that there's a problem evacuating, we knew what we have to do. And what the community knew what we have to do. So we reached out to all the community members, all the mosques and we said that mosques are always open anyway. But we said anybody and everybody who wants to come, and they are welcome and they can stay. And we will treat them as VIP guests.

We have hundreds of people in the mosques now. We could not continue to open all the mosques because some mosques are (INAUDIBLE) and this was a problem. But the community is turning tremendous heart. And I'm amazed how much we see the test of human heart, love and care.

And this is a time and really we have reached out and shelter humanity, serve everybody. Mosques are open for everybody. We are not checking your religion. We're not checking your race. And we are treating everybody as VIP guests. BERMAN: So the people -- the hundreds of people at the height in

these mosques right now, not all Muslims, correct?

KHAN: Of course not, because, you know, anybody who is affected by Harvey, we have to care for them. And it's a matter of faith for us. We are not doing it for any other reason except just like we pray five times a day, we fast once a year, this is an obligation for us to help our fellow human beings and regardless of who they are.

BERMAN: And I have lost track of which day it is, completely, sir. This week has been so long. But Eid is coming up. It either starts today or tomorrow. It's a major Muslim holiday. And what's going to happen in these mosques that are still being used as shelters?

KHAN: Yes. Today is the day of fast. Today is the Eid Day, Friday. And Eid Day is celebrated, you know, everybody comes to the mosque to pray. And (INAUDIBLE), the director, last night that we will not disturb these guests who are staying in the mosque because they lost their home. And community members can come and pray. But if they have pray at the parking lot, they pray in the parking lot. We will not displace or discomfort any of the guests. They are comfort. Deep prayers. You know, we can do outside. We can do it in the sun. We can do in the parking lot.

We don't even have to do it at one place. We can do it somewhere else. But the mosque, right now, is a shelter for the people who are displaced. They are our VIP guests. They're our responsibility. We want to make sure that we care for them just like if some important person that's coming in my house. How will I treat them? This is how we want them to be treated, they are guests. And they should be comfortable. They are elderly, they're women, they're children. So we need to make sure they are as comfortable as can make.

BERMAN: MJ Khan, thank you so much for being with us. Thank you for what you're doing. I love the message you're sending. Holidays can wait. You'll find a way to observe. For the people in need right now in those mosques, those needs will be met.

MJ Khan, thanks so very much.

KHAN: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. The NFL is cancelling tonight's pre-season game between the Cowboys and Texans allowing the Texans' coaches and players to get home to their families. They have lives that have been upended.

Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report." Hey, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. You know, the Texans were actually so happy to be going home, finally. General manager Rick Smith said the players shouted for joy when they heard that tonight's game against the Cowboys had in fact been canceled. And head coach Bill O'Brian said the team couldn't be more excited to now be home and be able to help the city of Houston.


BILL O'BRIEN, HOUSTON TEXANS HEAD COACH: This is unprecedented. This has never happened before, you know, in this city and I think families always the priority. You know, football is important. And we're going to get back to football here pretty soon, there's no doubt about that. But right now families are a priority.


SCHOLES: Now the Texans have been on the road for an entire week. They finally made it back to Houston via bus last night. Their star JJ Watt continues his mission to raise money to help the city of Houston.


ELLEN DEGENERES, HOST, "ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW": Also donating $1 million to JJ's relief effort right now.


SCHOLES: After Ellen and Wal-Mart's donation, Watt's crowdfunding for Harvey relief has now topped a whopping $9 million. Well on his way to his new goal of $10 million.


JJ WATT, HOUSTON TEXAN: I have already begun the process. We're filling the semi-trucks as we speak. Many people have donated their trucks, their time, donated food, water, clothing, generators, things like that.

The goal is this weekend we are going to get those trucks down here by this weekend and hopefully the tentative plan is Sunday. We're going to have -- a bunch of my teammates are going to help me out in a few different locations around town to be determined. And we're going to have out those supplies.


[10:55:09] SCHOLES: Finally the Astros announcing they're going to be returning to Houston to play this weekend. They're going to travel home tonight after their game with the Rangers. They are going to take tomorrow off. They're going to play a doubleheader against the Mets on Saturday.

And according to reports, John, both the Astros and Mets players plan on volunteering on the off day that they are going to have. And Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said them returning to the city of Houston and playing baseball game hopefully is going to give the city a much needed boost.

BERMAN: That is fantastic for all those players and coaches. We wish the best of them and their families.

Andy Scholes, thanks so much for being with us. SCHOLES: All right.

BERMAN: All right. Breaking news, officials expecting more fires, explosions if you want to call them that, in a flooded chemical plant near Houston. Much more of our special coverage, next.