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Gas Prices Spike in Wake of Harvey; Harvey Evacuee Makes Emotional Return Home; Floodwater Pose Serious Health Risk; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired September 1, 2017 - 10:30   ET



[10:31:38] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. One part of the impact of Harvey AAA says the national average for gas, the prices at the highest levels of the year.

Alison Kosik in Dallas with the latest on that.

Alison, you're seeing lines in Dallas.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: We are still seeing lines. And I am still seeing gas stations with no gas. Case in point, over my left shoulder, that gas station had a line around the corner last night. We were live at that gas station. But now it is dry, it's been dry for three hours. No telling when the next shipment will be.

Here at this gas station, they got a shipment of gas this morning. The reason why you see this line of cars because here is where you can get gas. This line has been here -- they're shorter or longer since 5:00 a.m., some people setting their alarms just so they can their car and get gas.

A lot of this, though, is sort of a perceived shortage because the reality is, there is no actual shortage of gasoline. It's sitting in storage tanks at refineries that are closed, so the product can't get to market.

So what you're seeing is a situation of a distribution issue more than the actual raw product issue. But because of having the supply distribution issue, we are seeing prices move higher as you said. The average price for a gallon of gas sitting at $2.52, that's 17 cents since Harvey hit. We're seeing higher prices in North Carolina up 29 cents in just a week. In Georgia, same thing, up 29 cents a week.

Here is the thing, though. These refineries may take up to weeks to come back online. So you may see these higher prices stick around. The national average, John, could jump from $2.52 to $2.75 in a matter of days. So don't be surprised if you see that -- John.

BERMAN: Alison Kosik, not welcome those price hikes, to be sure. Thank you so much for that.

Let's go back to Houston now. CNN's Rosa Flores is there.

Rosa, you met with a woman who had a chance to make a return -- a difficult return home after the floodwaters receded.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A very emotional return. You can see here the water line probably about 44, 43 inches. Now the owner of this house, we actually met her at the convention center. We stayed in touch. We were here when she returned. And even though she lost everything inside this house, that didn't break her. She was still very strong. She was holding back her tears.

But then she saw Lassie, her dog. She said that she had to leave him behind as the rising waters kept rising. And she had to take higher ground. Take a look.


WILLIE MARIE BURTON, EVACUATED HOME AFTER HARVEY: Feel like crying, but then I'm joyful because I could have been in the water. And it could have got it. So I'm just grateful. I'm just getting back to see what's left. The water is a powerful thing. It toppled over the sofa. And that loveseat. And it just moved all this stuff.

When you see it, the sink came up. And the refrigerator is over. Lord, Lord. Whoa. Let's see what this is. I put this up here. Thank you, Lord. These are pictures from a long time ago. And yes, this thing kept that dry. Didn't get wet. That's good.

[10:35:07] Hi, Lassie. Hi. I know that storm scared you. But I'm glad you made it.


BURTON: I know. This too shall pass. It will. I know that it will. Today is my 66th birthday. What I'm going to do after we go through some of this is I just want to eat seafood. I love seafood. So if I can get some seafood, I'll be happy. And if I get a Martini, I'll be happy. But if not, I'm just glad to be here.


FLORES: Now what an amazing spirit that Willie Marie has. And as you can see, she's already taken a lot of the soaked stuff and belongings out of her house. She's ready to rebuild. She's very resilient just like a lot of the folks here in Houston.

And John, about that seafood and Martini. We're hoping that she can do that today. Yesterday, she was a little too tired, a little too overwhelmed, probably emotionally drained, as you might imagine after everything that she went through. But we'll keep you posted on that seafood and that Martini -- John.

BERMAN: She deserves that Martini, for sure.

Rosa Flores, thanks so much.

Unbelievable, that refrigerator just pushed to its side. You can see what happens when that water rises. And it's not just the amount of water that is the serious concern right now. It is what is in the water that poses a risk. Stay with us.


[10:41:29] BERMAN: All right. The flooding from Harvey obviously swamped homes, destroyed so much property and it still poses a very serious health risk.

CNN's senior medial correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us now live from Houston and Dr. William -- Schaffner, I should say, professor of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University, is with us from Nashville.

And Elizabeth, you know, you spoke with an expert who called this water a toxic stew. What are some of the possible health threats here?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know what, as we recover from this hurricane, John, there's a whole list of them. Let's go through it. First of all contaminated drinking water potentially could be a concern. Also bacteria, viruses, fungi that were in the floodwater. Remember, there were so many people wading through that water.

Infectious disease outbreaks in crowded shelters like the one that I'm in right now. People being so close to one another. Also an increase in disease carrying mosquitoes. I was out last night, I certainly felt the presence of mosquitoes. Also the risk of PTSD for the hardest hit.

Certainly, John, as I walk about the shelter, you can see the looks on some people's faces, you can see the trauma that they've been through -- John.

BERMAN: You know, and Doctor Schaffner, we always hear that it is the health concerns that follow national disasters that you have to be most careful of. What would your advice be to people right now as they're dealing with this contaminated water everywhere?

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, PROFESSOR OF PREVENTIVE MEDICINE. VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: Well, John, obviously stay out of the contamination as much as possible. Make sure that when you're drinking water, it's safe water. Wash your hands thoroughly.

As you start to get back into the house and start doing renovations and stuff, wear a mask so you don't inhale a lot of fumes. And I think, actually, the gathering of people together in those shelters with the possibility of transmission of respiratory viruses and even some diarrhea causing agents are the things that are mostly our concern, along with routine medical care.

There are people who don't have their regular medicines yet. Ladies could deliver babies. Those kinds of things are the major issues on our plate at the present time.

BERMAN: And in fact, we have our eye on a hospital in Beaumont right now where some babies who've been in the NICU are waiting to be evacuated over the next several minutes.

Elizabeth Cohen, you went on the water as it was being tested last night. What exactly are they looking for?

COHEN: You know, we tested for a variety of agents. So first of all, what we're looking for was bacteria. Lots of different kinds but especially fecal bacteria. Secondly, we were looking for chemicals, things like run off from gas stations or dry cleaners or really any kind of industrial source. And then also heavy metals. Things like cadmium, arsenic, lead, those have been in floodwaters before, for example, after Katrina.

BERMAN: And Doctor Schaffner, you know, we've talked to some people who have been able to get back to their homes. And the very first thing that seems to be done is people go in and they rip out all the sheet rock. They rip out all the walls because they're concerned about mold. What exactly should people be worried about there?

SCHAFFNER: I'd like them not to be quite so worried and just a bit careful. Mold is a large concern and actually a small problem. Wear a mask. Wash up after you have been working and be more concerned that you don't injure yourself, strain your back with all that physical activity that you are doing. You don't want to make yourself disabled while you are trying to fix up your house.

[10:45:02] BERMAN: But is mold a virtual guarantee? If these waters did get -- if these homes did get a few feet of water, is it a virtual certainty that they will need to do things like remove the walls or remove the furniture because mold will come?

SCHAFFNER: Sure. Mold is yucky. And you don't want it in your home. It's not a major health threat. We did not see an epidemic of mold disease after Katrina. And I don't think we'll see anything quite like that. Now but be careful of your own health and your own physical abilities as you are working to fix things up.

BERMAN: And Elizabeth Cohen, again, you're out there with the officials now in the front lines of dealing with this water situation. It could take some time for the waters to recede in certain areas. What is the time frame here that they are looking at?

COHEN: You know, they don't have a specific time frame, John. But it is going to take quite a while. And we're here, just even this amount of time after the hurricane still street after street is flooded. And just last night, when I was out, there were families that were wading through it because it was the only way, they said, to get to their homes. So their homes were still habitable, but they had to trek through all this water in order to get it. And they didn't have a boat and they didn't have a vehicle that could get through it. So they sort of reluctantly trekked through this water. And the whole time, I'm thinking, oh my gosh, I hope that nobody has any cuts on their feet.


COHEN: I mean it's just --

BERMAN: Right.

COHEN: It's pretty scary what some people have to do.

BERMAN: And again, it sounds so simple, but wash your hands constantly in clean water after going anywhere near the water that is flooded everywhere.

Elizabeth Cohen, Dr. William Schaffner, thank you so much for this important information.

COHEN: Thanks.

BERMAN: We have video from moments ago. We were just talking about people rushing home to clear out what they can that has been damaged as soon as they can. We'll talk about the challenges people are facing, next.


[10:51:15] BERMAN: All right. The military and all kind of volunteers still conducting search and rescue operations. The most dire unfolding this morning in Beaumont, Texas.

The scope of the devastation really is staggering. We've seen these images of homes destroyed coming in just within the last hour. Even as the water recedes, in some areas in Houston and the adjoining areas.

Joining me now is Lieutenant General -- retired Lieutenant General Russel Honore, the former commander of Joint Task Force Katrina.

General, thanks so much. Biggest need that you see today?

LT. GEN. RUSSEL HONORE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The biggest need, I think, is going to be the search and rescue mission in Beaumont and to establish a command and control system there. The Coast Guard is the lead on search and rescue operation. So hopefully they have taken that and they're using the grid system and having the helicopters work grids because right now they are literally going out looking for people as the command and control in the town and their talk to the ground is limited. So they are really going out looking for people, flagging them down for help.

BERMAN: Now, General, you called the self-congratulations that in some way had been going on in some circles. Not all, by any stretch of the imagination. You said it's been amateur hour in terms of the response right now. But I do want to pose this. Right now we have 47 confirmed deaths. That number will go up. But still it will never come close to Katrina, which is around 1800. Sandy was about 70 deaths in the United States proper.

So the death count here versus just the scope of the devastation and the images here relatively low. One death is too many, but still a lot lower than it could have been. So what went right? HONORE: Well, let me put -- let me put my comments in context. In a

disaster, governments don't have control of what is going on, they are responding. My irritation with that is to see politicians patting each other on the back while we're still in a search and rescue. Because in a disaster, you lose. People are dying. Infrastructure broke.


HONORE: You can't go where you need to go. You don't have food and water where you need it. And to see people congratulating each other politically is just -- it doesn't sit well with me knowing that there are people out there hanging on to trees and politicians are patting each other on the back. That is the context I made that. It's not a -- meant to be an affront to anybody. It's just bad karma to go around while people are hanging on to trees and while we're doing a good job. That doesn't make sense.

And the focus needs to be on making sure we've got the command and control in position and that we are getting ahead of the next disaster. One of them is, we've got these two dams. Those old dams were built in the 1940s. They are rated as a D by the American Association of Civil Engineers.

One of the things coming out of this, as far as a federal response in Katrina, is the levees. This county and this state will be well fit to come up with replacing those dams if you're going to keep them. Otherwise, we've got communities that was stated this morning by the Corps of Engineers that will be underwater for -- in the excess of a month as we slowly release the water off these old dams.

They need to be replaced or taken out because of the threat is like having a giant bomb north of the city, our fourth largest city because those old dams are dangerous and they weren't well built in the first place. So that infrastructure needs to be fixed -- John.

[10:55:16] BERMAN: That's right. And the time to start having these discussions is not after the disaster. You've got to do it before. You've got to get out in front of these situations and assess your well being vis-a-vis, you know, the threats that may emerge.

Lieutenant General Russel Honore, thanks so much for being with us.

HONORE: Exactly. You know, all these levees here is water management. Thank you, sir.

BERMAN: General Honore, always great to have you and your expertise here. If anyone is entitled to provide critique after what you've been through, it is you, sir.

All right. We are watching Beaumont, Texas, very, very carefully right now. Any moment now the first of some 14 babies set to be airlifted, evacuated from a hospital there, forced to close because the drinking water in that city is out. We have a live update, coming up.