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Water Pump Failure Leaves Beaumont, Texas Without Water; Opening Louisiana Dam to Relieve Press Causes More Flooding in Orange, Texas; Houston Area Schools Struggle to Start on Time Following Floods; White House Briefing Soon. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired August 31, 2017 - 14:30   ET



[14:33:01] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: In the city of Beaumont, Texas, it just went from bad to worse, because -- we'll show you pictures of these long lines forming as people are rushing to seize on limited supplies of bottled water. That is what this line is for. The city's entire population, all 118,000 people, all without running water after the system's water pump failed.

So Ryan Nobles is live in Beaumont.

Ryan, we were talking to a spokeswoman for the hospital, that's a whole other issue for them. What have you been seeing and how do they plan to fix it?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, all of east Texas is in a lot of trouble right now. And we're actually in Orange, Texas, which is a little bit further east than Beaumont, but it's suffering from some of the same problems that they are in Beaumont.

Where we are in Orange it's only just a few miles away from the Louisiana border, and there is a dam in Louisiana, which they have been strategically opening flood gates to release some of the pressure from some of those waterways. But that's led to some of the flooding here. This is flooding that this community has never seen before. People that we talked to that have lived here for 20 years or more have never seen the waters rise this high and this came after that second round of Hurricane Harvey, after it went off the coast and then came back on inland and just cut up through the southeast portion of Texas and on the west side of Louisiana. The flooding started around 1:00 yesterday morning and just kept coming.

And actually, I have Dorsey here, who lives in this neighborhood right behind me, and you told me, you lived here for more than 17 years.

Dorsey, you've never seen anything like this, right?


NOBLES: Tell me what happened. When did you first see the water seeping into the neighborhood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was, like I said, about 2:30, 3:00, night before last. And once it started, it didn't stop.

NOBLES: Were you prepared for it? Did you expect to come at all? Was it a complete surprise?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Complete surprise. Like I said, we've been living here 17 years. It's never, ever been no flooding like this.

[14:35:02] NOBLES: And you've got some kids and your wife. You got them out OK. Tell us that story.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, a boat came through and they just went to higher ground, but I stayed, and I'm here right now, trying to get away.

NOBLES: And we talked to a lot of people that are just concerned about what the next step is because there's a possibility that more flooding could come as they release water from the dam in Louisiana. Are you worried that the flood waters could rise again?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, absolutely. I hope that's just a rumor. I hope it's not for real.

NOBLES: And do you feel that you're getting enough information from the emergency operations folks and the people -- I know the first responders are working very hard, but do you feel like you've learned enough about what the situation is like here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, no, not really, because without the power being on, it's hard to keep up with the news stations and you just hear stuff from people coming by and that's all -- that's it.

NOBLES: Dorsey, we're glad you and your family are safe. Best of luck to you going forward.

Brooke, his story is very similar to a lot of people we've heard from in east Texas. The fog of this disaster is making it very difficult for people to cope. We've heard rumors that there may be an evacuation of this community sometime tonight. It's hard to get firm answers from the emergency operations folks because they are all working 24/7 but when you have a flooding incident like this that people aren't prepared for, it makes the situation even more difficult.

BALDWIN: You're in Orange. I don't think you're even that far from Beaumont, where the issue there is that the lack of water because the systems have failed, the pumps have failed. Do you know what the situation is? Do you have any reporting on the situation in Beaumont for people lacking water?

NOBLES: Right now, the fact is that there is not drinkable water coming out of the faucets for the folks in Beaumont. So there is a -- that's a really humanitarian issue for the people in that community. And the hard part, Brooke, is it's getting resources to Beaumont. We were staying in Lake Charles, Louisiana, about 40 miles east from where we are now. Our intention was to get to Beaumont today and the main thoroughfare leading into Beaumont, Interstate 10, is completely shut down so you have a community that's dealing with rising flood waters, all kinds of damages to their homes but also the lack of power and add on to that, no usable drinking water coming out of the faucets and that is a huge problem. So that's why we say, even though the sun is out now, even though the rain has stopped, the real work of recovering from Hurricane Harvey is really just beginning in many of these communities.

BALDWIN: You are so correct.

Ryan Nobles, thank you so much to you and your crew there in Orange, Texas.

And you saw on your screen, $75 billion. That is the estimate of the damage done by this hurricane and tropical storm.

We're minutes away from the White House press briefing. We'll bring that to you live as soon as we see it.

We're also watching more and more of these live rescues playing out on television. This is a scene in Houston.

More with special coverage when CNN continues.


[14:42:43] BALDWIN: Houston area officials, they're being put to the test like never before. They are hoping that despite all of the water you see here that school will start on September 5. That is next tuesday, five days away. In the meantime, other school districts in the state are opening their doors to displaced students.

Here is the school superintendent for Austin, Texas.


PAUL CRUZ, SUPERINTENDENT, AUSTIN INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT: Our schools are ready to welcome them, are ready to enroll them in schools. We have had our staff members here yesterday and will be here again to enroll our students in our campuses. While we do have enrollment at our shelters, and that is true, and that has been going on, we do know that we have other individuals who have maybe left their homes and are now in Austin and staying with family members. We want them to know also that there is a school close by to enroll their children.


BALDWIN: On the phone with me now, Richard Carranza, the superintendent of the entire Houston Independent School District.

Mr. Carranza, thank you for joining me here on CNN.


BALDWIN: So, before we talk about all these kids and staff and teachers, just quickly on you, sir, how are you? How's your family? How's your home?

CARRANZA: Thank goodness, we were spared the worst of it. We are a little wet but OK.


CARRANZA: Just tired, trying to get our schools back in session.

BALDWIN: All right. So, on that, you know, I've read that you have said this will not be a lost year. What is the damage assessment of your schools in Houston? Because I know a lot of people are wondering how the heck can you start school in five days.

CARRANZA: Yes, so thank you. Just in context, we have 218,000 students, 31,000 employees, and we have about 300 school sites or facilities. Of that, the rain just stopped yesterday, so we've been pretty much 24/7 trying to get to every site and do an assessment. We've been able to assess about 160 of our sites to this point. And what we're finding is that every single one of the sites has been affected to some degree. Some worse than others. We've had some roof damage. We've had some water intrusion in some of our schools. We've also had power outages in the schools. So again, some to a heavier degree than others, but what is clear for us right now is that our target date of September 5th, which is next tuesday, returning to classes, will not take place. We are just announcing right now here locally, the first day of school will be Monday, September 11th. And we are working to get all of our staff back on Thursday, September 8th, and then a workday on the 9th, and then be ready for our students on the 11th.

[14:45:34] BALDWIN: OK. So, you just heard it here, live on CNN, September 11th will be the adjusted date for which all of the Houston, you know, public schools will open up. All right. So, and then of those, you talked about 160 sites and just about every one of them affected at a different level. So will you be bringing kids from other schools to not necessarily their school in their neighborhood? How is that going to work out?

CARRANZA: Yes, so -- yes, so you can imagine it's a massive undertaking. So we have multiple charts with multiple scenarios. We hope to finish the complete assessment of all of our sites by this evening, so then we'll have an idea of just the level of damage to each one of our school sites. And then once that is clear, then we'll be able to determine whether we're going to combine some schools and for how long we think that will be. And which schools will be open. So there's multiple moving parts to this.


BALDWIN: And another -- sorry, Richard, go ahead.

CARRANZA: Yes, I was just going to say that there are three critical elements that we're looking at in order to determine where the schools will be open and how soon will open. One of them is just the greater Houston infrastructure. So, we're not going to put 218,000 kids and 31,000 employees on the roads if they're not clear and safe and passable. So the greater Houston infrastructure is going to have a great effect on what we do. Secondly, is what I just talked about, our facilities and an assessment of which facilities are up and running, and then third, you know, 31,000 employees live in Houston. Many of them have lost homes. Many of them have been very negatively impacted.

BALDWIN: Exactly.

CARRANZA: So we're also reaching out, doing a roll call to figure out how many folks are actually going to be able to start, and the preliminary results that we had told us that September 5th, we were not going to have enough employees and facilities to be able to start.

BALDWIN: That was exactly what I was going to jump in and ask you about, because I'm sure a lot of these teachers and staff you have in Houston, you know, priority number-one is these kids, right, they're students. But they need to take care of their own selves and own homes and futures and figure out how they're going to teach.

I also heard, Richard, that you all, in the wake of all of this, are offering up free meals for the entire school year. Three free meals, is that correct?

CARRANZA: That is absolutely correct.


CARRANZA: So, what we've done is we've worked with the Department of agriculture in washington and also the Texas Department of agriculture, so we've been able to secure the ability this school year to offer three meals, breakfast, lunch, and dinner to every student in the district, that's 218,000 students. Now, we know for a fact, in our school district, almost 80 percent of our students qualify for free and reduced lunch, so we know that the impact on some of our most, you know, economically impacted families is going to be great, so this is one less thing that parents have to worry about or caregivers have to worry about. They've got enough on their plate. We want to make sure that people know that they're going to be fed, students will be fed three meals a day. In addition, we've been able to work with some of our private supporters and with some funding. We are also going to start next week nine community feeding centers, if you will, so we will have nine centers across the city where we will be able to feed communities. So, we're trying to be good neighbors and good residents of Houston and helping our community heal.

BALDWIN: That's incredible. What about, though, the kids, Richard, just when -- those who can return, who will return on the 11th of September, in all of this, I mean, the varying ages, the stress, the, you know, the water, they'll never be able to un-see their parents so upset. Will you be providing programs or services to the kids just to cope?

CARRANZA: Yes, I'm glad you asked about that. At the same time that we're working on our facilities, obviously, and where we're going to have kids, concomitant to that work, we are also being very mindful of the socioemotional learning needs of our students so we have a plan where we will have crisis counselors available to our students because we know that our students and our families have undergone some trauma over the last week and a half, so we're going to have crisis counselors for them.

But in addition to that, Brooke, you know, our very employees that will be providing those services to our students have undergone trauma themselves, so we're working with the counsel of the great city schools, organization of the 60 largest urban school districts in America, and our sister school districts across the nation are identifying counselors and crisis counselors that, if and when the need should arise, they will come to Houston and help support the very people that are supporting our kids and in some cases help us with the crisis counseling for our students. So, we're trying to provide not only a good physical environment for our students to be able to learn and our teachers to be able to teach, but we're trying to tend to those social, emotional needs of our students and staff as well.

[14:50:48] BALDWIN: Richard Carranza, thank you so much for giving us a couple minutes here and just telling everyone you will be adjusting the school starting the 11th of September. You got a lot on our plate but best of luck to you, sir, and the entire Houston area because, listen, education is a huge priority, flood water or not.

Thank you so much.

CARRANZA: Yes, ma'am.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

CARRANZA: Thank you so much.

BALDWIN: You got it.

And just a reminder to all of you, we've got one eye on the White House. We are waiting to be briefed by Sarah Huckabee Sanders momentarily here on all things potentially Harvey and tax reform and a number of other items that will certainly be asked of her.

Also ahead, we're going check in on a woman who actually talked to live during the show yesterday. Remember she was trapped in her attic with her two grandchildren and two sons? She hadn't eaten in something like 24 or 36 hours. Well, she was rescued. A lot of you have tweeted me, asking about her. We'll find out how she is doing coming up.


[14:56:23] BALDWIN: All right, we are mere minutes away from this White House briefing here where we're going to be hearing from Sarah Huckabee Sanders. This is ahead of the president and the first lady heading back down to Texas to tour the flood-ravaged region in weekend on the same day we've seen the vice president cleaning out debris with his own hands with his wife. We'll take that momentarily.

In the meantime, thank you so much for being with me here on this Thursday afternoon. You're watching CNN special live coverage of Hurricane Harvey's catastrophic aftermath.

"Get out or die," that is the warning from one southeast Texas county, telling folks that the loss of life and property is a certainty. Right now, dozens of communities in Texas and Louisiana are under water. Neighborhoods have been turned into seascapes.

I mentioned the vice president a moment ago. Let me show you the video of him touring the storm-ravaged area of Rockport and promising federal help as he was standing with his wife outside this gutted church.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The American people are with you. We are here today, we will be here tomorrow, and we will be here every day until this city and this state and this region rebuild bigger and better than ever before.


BALDWIN: The Coast Guard, meantime, says they have helped save more than 6,000 people, plucking person after person from rooftops just like this one. The sound of helicopters overhead means salvation for people like this, this woman. Look at this. Woman being carried up in the basket, clutching her little baby six days after Harvey made landfall. Rescue after rescue captured live on CNN.

In Houston, crews are going door to door to find flood victims still in areas that had been inaccessible. Houston's police chief says he is praying that the number of dead, which now sits at 39, doesn't climb even more.

Just outside of Houston, new mandatory evacuation orders are in place, some because of the rising flood levels, others to keep people from trying to get back to their devastated neighborhoods before it's safe.

Those who can return home, taking count of the devastation but also taking count of their blessings.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My neighbors came over and gave me a hug, and said they were so sorry, whatever you need, you know. Everybody just, whatever you need. You know, I guess they can imagine going through something like this. You know, and like I told them sheriffs, I said I'm just so glad you saved my brother. I just -- I didn't want to lose my brother.


BALDWIN: Six members of that man's family died after their van was swept away. The youngest, six.

A flooded chemical plant near Houston is creating a volatile situation for people there because this fire broke out, sending 15 sheriffs' deputies to the hospital for inhaling what they called nontoxic irritant. And now authorities expect for fires could spark any moment.

So that is just an idea for you of what's going on in these different locations across the eastern piece of Texas.

Again, we're watching and waiting, the White House, waiting for this briefing to begin.

Let me bring in Maeve Reston.

There is a list of items on the agenda, which, you know, these reporters could ask her about, namely, of course, the fact that the president will be traveling back to Texas this weekend. What will you be listening for?

MAEVE RESTON, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: I think a lot of people really felt that his visit, the president's visit earlier this week was a missed opportunity in the sense that you did not see him doing the kinds of things that we saw the vice president doing today during his visit down there. You know, so many times President Trump has kind of failed --