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Aftermath of Hurricane Harvey; Helicopter Rescues Continue Around Houston; Military Aiding in Areas Affected by Harvey; Arkansas Man Travels to Texas to Help; U.S. V.P. Pence Visits Texas; Harvey Death Toll at 47 in Texas; Somebody Cares Aid Organization Helps Statewide; Hidden Dangers of the Floodwaters; Irma: Another Powerful Hurricane Building in the Atlantic Aired 12-1a ET

Aired September 1, 2017 - 00:00   ET



[00:00:22] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Thanks very much for watching this edition of "360" live from Houston. We'll be on tomorrow, Friday night as well from 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. Eastern time. CNN's coverage of Hurricane Harvey continues now.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm George Howell, live here in Houston, Texas 11:00 p.m. at this emergency shelter where many people are preparing to spend yet another night away from home. The numbers here on the decline. We will have more about this shelter later in the show.

But first let's give you the very latest on the recovery efforts here in the state of Texas. And still no relief in sight for many here on the Gulf Coast six days in now since Hurricane Harvey made landfall.

And as each day passes, rescuers of all stripes they continue their hard work. They're heading into flooded neighborhoods each day bringing out more and more stranded people to safety.

So many people lucky enough to have been rescued but, of course, there are many who were not lucky. You know, the death toll has risen -- the death toll now at 47 people dead.

There is another concern to tell you about this day -- the price for food, for water, for gasoline and other essentials skyrocketing throughout this region.

In Beaumont, Texas the city is now without fresh water and that's forcing a local hospital to start evacuating all of its patients. Much of this area east of Beaumont still under a mandatory evacuation order.

The loss of power also led to two chemical explosions. That happened at a plant in the town of Crosby, Texas.

And if that's not enough, here's another major headline to tell you. Another hurricane is brewing in the Atlantic Ocean and our meteorologists are continuing to monitor its track. Now as for this storm, the storm that's passed, Harvey, it dumped an estimated 27 trillion gallons -- that's 102 trillion liters of rain on Texas and Louisiana.

At least 100,000 homes are either damaged or destroyed from the storm. Federal officials say some 96,000 people have already been approved for emergency aid.

So a few days ago, when the decision came to evacuate the city of Bay City, Texas -- that's just to the southwest of Houston there was very, very little time to react. School bus drivers, they were quickly called in to drive people to safety.

One of those drivers, Nathan Janak (ph) who is also a coach, he coaches basketball, at a local high school there. And Nathan now joins us live on the line this hour to tell us about his story.

Nathan -- it's good to have you. First of all, your story is everywhere online. The story certainly went viral -- that image that you took with so many people behind you, the emotions raw there. You in the foreground ushering people to safety.

Tell us how you got to that point. Because you evacuated Bay City first in advance of the storm but then you drove back to do this.

NATHAN JANAK, SCHOOL BUS DRIVER (via telephone): Right.

HOWELL: Well, tell us about your story.

JANAK: Yes, sir. We had evacuated on Friday earlier in the week. I was in San Antonio at my sisters house and we got a text message from our athletic secretary who had stayed and helped with the emergency response here in Matagorda County.

And through that for volunteers to come back and grab a bus to help some people that -- who are not able to get out, to be able to evacuate.

And just one of those things where, you know, you saw a need and you didn't hesitate. It was an automatic yes. It was a way that I can help out my community and the people that I live with and worked with.

HOWELL: You know, they say a picture is worth a thousand words. And I'm just curious to know what all was going through your mind. You talked about it a little bit online but just the emotions that you were feeling, the feelings that others were feeling on that bus, not really knowing how all this would play out.

JANAK: Yes. When we left Bay City it was raining really hard and there was a lot of wind. It was a real slow bus ride to the evacuation shelter in Rosenberg.

And the bus was just real quiet. I remember it being really quiet. You can just see that it was just a real serious time. People were unsure of what would happen to our town, what would happen to their homes. It was just very -- it's just one of those moments where we've always seen or heard about but I was actually living it at that moment.

[00:05:03] And I took the picture after we got to the evacuation shelters. You had to wait in line to be able to unload the bus. We had a lot of elderly people on the bus, some handicapped people.

So it took several minutes before we were able to pull up and unload. So we just had a moment there where I looked up at all those people and, you know, the crowd that can help to safety. You know, it really kind of just sunk in there when I had a moment to stop. So I took the picture just for remembering.

And then later on, I posted it to Facebook. I just wanted to share it with some of my friends that I was able to experience such a moving and inspirational moment. I never would have dreamed that it was going to a national level and so many people see it.

But, you know, that's one good thing that comes out of such a catastrophic event that this hurricane where people can see the good that's still out there. And at that moment, when we got to the shelter, there were people that were waiting to help off the elderly and help off the disabled passengers that we were able to drive there. And it was just a real moving moment at that time.

HOWELL: Touch on that just a bit. I read just a bit of what you put on there and, you know, just when you consider before this storm. You know, these are certainly times where emotions are raw when it comes to socioeconomics, race is an issue that is certainly front and center in the country at this point.

But you said something very poignant. You talked about how essentially we are all connected. But just help our viewers understand the point that you made.

JANAK: Yes. I mean we hear about racism and terrorism, the evil in the world all the time. You know, on that day in my community, there was definitely a panic and a fear. We admit during all that chaos that was going on around us, there was peace on bus. And you could really feel it.

HOWELL: Yes, wow.

JANAK: Everybody had (inaudible). It was powerful and inspirational seeing the experience. You know, one lady, you know, she was asking some questions. We didn't have a lot of information at the time. I just told her -- I said, I got your back. I'm going to help you get there.

She said you know what, you are right. We're all in this together. We are going to get there. And she couldn't have been more right. That's really how the entire event kind of unfolded.

There was an issue somewhere -- you can sense someone was kind of anxious or nervous. Someone just kind of (inaudible) -- all right. We're going to get there. It's going to be all fine.

You just don't see that. You don't hear about that a lot. And I was glad that I was able to bring that out and bring that to the world where people can see that again and know that they're still good out there and there's people that can help people.

And you know, it didn't matter. There was old people, there was young people on that bus. There's people of all different races, all different backgrounds and everybody just helps each other and care about each other for that moment.

HOWELL: It's so great to share your story here on our air. You know, we are covering so much of the damage. We're showing people the devastation that this storm left behind.

But at the same time, you know, we are hearing these stories like yours that are truly inspirational. Thank you so much for taking time with us today.

JANAK: Thank you for having me.

HOWELL: Throughout the region, helicopter rescues have been happening for almost a week now. But with each day that passes, more and more people need help.

My colleague, Anderson Cooper, rode along in a Coast Guard chopper and witnessed several rescues. Here's what he saw.


COOPER: All day, the searching continues. Coast Guard pilots Matt Mayer (ph) and Dan Miller (ph) are flying low over the flooded streets of Vidor, Texas. Flight mechanic Eric Veragascos (ph) and rescue swimmer Evan Gallant (ph) look for anyone in need of evacuation.

We have been flying over this area for about 20 or 30 minutes. They just believe they have somebody who has been waving to them. It's a confusing situation though. They can't tell for sure if this is somebody who wants to be rescued or not.

The rescue diver is ready to go down if necessary. But there's -- they're trying to figure out exactly -- it's one of the difficulties that these Coast Guard crews are having is just the lack of communication.

They get information based on 911 calls but a lot of the people that they've been rescuing, they just see. They get a visual on and then they hover over the area. They give them a thumb's up or a thumb's down to get an indication of whether they need to actually be rescued.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ok. Swimmer's going down.

COOPER: The pilots hover about 150 feet above the water as Evan Gallant is lowered to the roof of the house below.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was pointing down saying there was someone in the house. And I think he went downstairs to take a look at the guy's wife. It didn't sound like they're in trouble but he's -- I think he's trying to figure out how to get them on the roof. COOPER: Two people are in the house along with their two dogs.

Medically, they're ok, but want to escape the rising floodwaters.

[00:10:02] A basket is lowered to bring them up one at a time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Basket going down. Survivor is getting in the basket.

COOPER: The basket is now clear of the roof. They are bringing it up slowly and -- they're slowly bringing it up. Again, Eric, the flight mechanic who's in the doorway, he has a visual on this and he is giving the information to Dan Miller and Matt Meyer, the pilot.

They are hovering directly above this obviously. I can't see what's going on.

The basket is now back on the roof. Now a second person is getting in the basket. Eric Veragascos is telling the pilot that a second survivor, in his words, is in the basket. And Eric is also giving a word to the pilot to move a little bit to the right in order to hold position directly above where the basket is.

They still haven't brought back the -- the rescue swimmer. They are asking the second person they brought up to get out of the basket to sit here in order to move the basket, make sure there is enough room. Put the basket on the side.

Now it's a question of getting Eric back up on board the chopper and then taking these two as well as their pets. I've got to say these dogs are incredibly mellow given what they have just been through.

What's the plan now?

EVAN GALLANT, UNITED STATES COAST GUARD: I'm actually not sure of (inaudible) talking to the pilots. When I was down on the roof I was talking to them and they said that in the next hour or so they're going to have some boats come through this -- there's a drop off point not far from here. We might drop them off here so they can get on a boat and maybe go back and come on their property.

COOPER: It was amazing to watch.

GALLANT: I'm sorry.

COOPER: It was amazing to watch.

GALLANT: Yes. It's a whole lot of fun. It's kind surreal once you are doing it.

COOPER: Plans change quickly, however. Another helicopter has picked up four people and dropped them off in a nearby field. The chopper we're in will now pick them up and bring everyone to a shelter.

I think we're going to be landing in that field as well in order to pick up some of the people that they have rescued and then we will take them because we have more fuel. Guys?

More people just boarded. They are wet and they are cold. And they have been trying to ride out the storm but said the water just kept on rising and they think it may rise even more in the coming hours so they wanted to get out.

They now are going to go to a shelter where they get to dry clothes, they get some food and they can rest. They have been through a lot. They're ready to get out of there.

There are now six evacuees and four dogs on board. There is room for more than a dozen people. And if space is an issue, my cameraman and I would get off.

In minutes the chopper reaches the shelter and then evacuees are gone, this coast guard chopper heads out once again searching for anyone in need of help.


HOWELL: Incredible. My colleague Anderson Cooper there, reporting.

Now rescues are certainly the story here in Texas. The Texas National Guard, they've been working nonstop. And to tell us more about those efforts we now have Colonel Steven Metze, live this hour. Colonel Metze is the spokesperson with the Texas National Guard.

It's good to have you with us today to talk about the situation. And you know, you are seeing six days into this storm so many people who are still in need of help. How are you guys keeping up with all of this?

COL. STEVEN METZ, TEXAS NATIONAL GUARD: You mean how are we tracking it? Is that the question?

HOWELL: Yes, yes.

METZ: So we've got reports coming in from all of the units down on the ground. Everyone -- and you know, we are looking at different phases and different parts of the operation right now.

So search and rescue is still by far our number one focus. We did a lot of evacuations today especially out of Beaumont. We're also shifting a little bit toward critical life support.

So points of distribution where organizations provide food, water, and supplies -- we're helping get them there and help them get distributed in an organized way. So all of that is going on and as all of that is happening, we've set up different levels of command to push all that information back under the dual status command that we have running right now.

HOWELL: Do you feel like the infrastructure that's in place right now, is it working or do you feel like there are things that you'll have to tweak or change as again we're learning so much more about the expansive destruction that's out there -- the many people who are in need of help?

[00:14:58] METZE: Well, we have 14,000 National Guards personnel that are activated right now. We've got 10,000 from other states that are coming in. They started coming in today. They'll be here -- all here within the next 48 hours. We've got 6,000 Title X troops.

So when you put all that together, it's really amazing actually how well it is all working under the dual status command. And I think what we're seeing is you've got equipment and you've got personnel pouring in from, you know, helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, boats, high profile vehicles. It's all rolling in and it is all working.

We haven't turned down a single air mission. We've been constantly moving the entire time, constantly doing operations. And we, you know -- I can't say that there won't be any lessons learned or any room for improvement, but it's worked very smoothly so far; same thing with coordination with our civilian counterparts.

You know, if you look back years ago, that coordination was there and now it is. And so across the board, I say I think we are seeing an incredibly high level of coordination and partnerships under this command structure.

HOWELL: So you talk about what's happening now, the resources that are pouring in. And you guys, of course, the job is to be ready at any time. But talk to us about the long-term because, you know, we understand from this storm, it's going to take some time; not weeks, not months, but possibly years, you know, to get Houston, to get the surrounding areas, you know, back to where they once were. How do you guys plan and project for the long-term?

METZE: Well, so -- you know, we said that we are in it for the long haul. We are not slowing down until we are convinced that we have done everything we can to help the citizens of Texas. So nobody is being activated for one or two days or for a week or for two weeks. We are looking at this at the very long-term, however long the governor wants us here and thinks we are needed here.

We are planning for the long-term. We're looking at rotations. We're looking at what we need to do to keep people working. We are 24/7 right now. But that's not something that is unfamiliar to the military, right. 24-7 operations, we have sleep plans, we have rotation plans.

So we are looking at being able to sustain this for the long haul. And we are not going to slow down until we are convinced we have done everything we can.

HOWELL: Colonel Metze, you know, it's good to have you here to share that with our viewers because people are watching this broadcast, people who have been affected -- they are wondering well, what is that long-term planning.

So again -- thank you so much for your time and giving that explanation of the situation as it stands now.

You are watching CNN's continuing coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, live from Houston, Texas.

And still ahead this hour, I will speak with a man who drove from Arkansas to rescue people here in the state of Texas and why he felt so compelled to get here to help out. That story next.

Plus amid the floodwaters, one Texas man's resilience that struck a chord across the country and it's inspired hope. That story ahead.


HOWELL: There are so many people who lost so much here in the state of Texas and along the Gulf Coast. Eric Harding is one of them. A Houston area resident, he lost much of his home to Harvey's floodwaters. He returned to pick up a few toy for his seven children, they were at a friend's home. But then he noticed that his piano wasn't completely under water. So he stopped, he took a moment to record a video of himself playing that piano to reassure his kids that the piano still worked.




HOWELL: A moment of peace there amid disaster. You can say calm within a storm. That video has certainly gone viral.

Harding told CNN's Anderson Cooper what happened next. Listen.


ERIC HARDING, FLOOD VICTIM: To see stuff like this, like I mean 24 hours after that video was made, I probably had 40 people at my house tearing out walls and removing wet insulation and laughing together and just -- it was life.

COOPER: So people helping out.

HARDING: Yes. you know, you had eight houses on our street so they're all -- two of our neighbors were stuck in Dallas. So today there's another -- there's crews over there. They are from our church just ripping it out and making it happen.

And so when they came home, one of them got home actually while I was on the way here. They didn't come home to it flooded and messed. They came home to the light to their church family.


HOWELL: That was Eric Harding talking with my colleague Anderson Cooper about how his neighbors are helping each other out.

Rescues are certainly the story here in the state of Texas. There are a lot of rescues happening and a lot of volunteers are coming in from all parts to help out. Trey Tounzen came all the way from the state of Arkansas to help in Port Arthur. And joins now live by the phone. It's good to have you with us, sir. First of all tell us what compelled you? You know, when you saw the storm coming in, when you understood the risks -- what compelled you to get in your car and make this drive?

TREY TOUNZEN, ARKANSAS VOLUNTEER RESCUER: You know, honestly we just -- just knew how many people needed help. I saw a post on Facebook of a lady asking for help. She said her and her just couple of week old baby was stuck on a roof somewhere. And you know, it just tore me apart.

I mean, here I was sitting on the couch, you know, kind of having just a lazy day and not really doing much. And here it was, people, you know, just not too far from us stuck on the roof and can't get out.

[00:24:54] You know, I have a boat outside ready to go. Called my best friend Wes and said, man, let's see what we can do. He didn't even ask. He just said, ok let's go.

HOWELL: I get it. Just the other day there's a reporter standing beside me with a different station. He was interviewing a father who was crying with his child, holding his child. Had to be three or four years old and I just -- I get it. I understand.

So talk to us about something that stood out to you, you know. When you were in the middle of all of this, what was the moment that really hit you?

TOUNZEN: You know, it was tough at first to even take it in. I mean it didn't even seem right. You know, to be literally driving down the interstate, trying to figure out ok, we don't know what we are doing, but we're going to do something.

And just all of a sudden I mean, I come over a hill or something and it's just water everywhere. That's all you see as far as you can is the water.

You know, we just throw the boat in and go. And it really hits you that, you know, this is going on. And it feels just unreal how bad the situation is. And you think as soon as you're going to pull up to somebody, they're just going to be, you know, crying and weeping and, you know, everything is horrible but they are not, you know.

People are banding together and people that we're taking out of the houses, they are ok, we're good. We're safe now. What do we do? How do we help others? I mean it was just -- you know, it didn't matter who you were, you know. What you look like? What you do. We're here to help and everybody is together, working together as a great team, you know.

And I was telling them earlier today, this little girl that we carried out of her house and put in our boat and we're pulling out and she starts singing "Row, row, row your boat" to us.

You know, it's -- HOWELL: Yes.

TOUNZEN: It's surreal. I mean it really is. You don't really -- it's hard to take in especially in the moment. I mean you are just there just doing whatever you can not even really thinking about it.

And once you -- in the evening, once you kind of settle down for a bit, it kind of hits you. Did that really just happen today, you know? I mean did I really wake up and go through all of this today?


You know, you kind of led in to my other question to you. Just where do you get the energy and the drive to keep going? Because as you point out, you help one person, they get to safety. Then they want to help other people. It just seems to compound.

As so many people get involved, people like yourself they keep going that extra mile. Is it songs like "row, row, row your boat"? Is it the people that you meet that give you that energy and that fire and that drive to just keep pushing?

TOUNZEN: Yes. I mean, you know, I don't know. We've saved a bunch of people but, man, I couldn't tell you how many hugs I got. I mean you know, to feel somebody that, you know, you live hundreds of miles away from that you've never even would have thought about meeting or anything else and, you know, the first thing they do is to squeeze you tight, you know, and tell you thank you.

How many people that, you know, I never would have thought I would meet tell me, you know, we love you. Thank you so much, you know. That's what it's all about, you know what I mean. When these people, you know, show that they feel like they appreciate you. I mean we are just here trying to help you, you know?

HOWELL: Trey Tounzen on the line with us. Trey -- thank you so much for being with us and for sharing your story and certainly an inspiration to a lot of folks.

TOUNZEN: I mean no problem. We're just -- we were just trying to help, you know.

HOWELL: You are doing more than trying. Thank you, sir.

TOUNZEN: Thank you.

HOWELL: Still ahead here on NEWSROOM.

The U.S. Vice President visits the state of Texas. How his response to the storm differed from the President of the United States -- ahead.

Stay with us.




HOWELL (voice-over): As families throughout the state of Texas deal with the loss of loved ones and the loss of homes and property, the U.S. vice president, Mike Pence, was on the ground Thursday. Mr. Pence helped to clean up the debris in a badly damaged neighborhood in hard-hit Rockport, Texas.

He rolled up his sleeves; he did everything to help out, to clear tree branches from a home in the scorching heat. Vice President Pence also displayed empathy, something a White House official told our Jim Acosta that President Trump failed to do. Listen.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The challenges will be great. But we know that the generosity and the prayers and the faith of the people of Texas and the American people will be greater still.

Inspire the nation by your resilience and by your courage. We just came to commend you and to encourage you and to assure you that we will be there.


HOWELL: The vice president also indicated that President Trump will visit Houston come Saturday.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, better known as FEMA for our international viewers, is working around the clock.

Take a look at this. You get a sense of what's happening there. Some of the many people are waiting to talk with an agent to get help for them or to get help for their families. FEMA has approved assistance for nearly 100,000 people and households so far. And the agency has dolled out more than $57 million in aid already.

There are a lot of organizations in play here in Texas to help people.


HOWELL: Somebody Cares is one of those organizations. It's a global network based here in Houston, providing relief to people who have been affected by Hurricane Harvey. And the founder of that organization, Doug Stringer, is on the line with us, live here in Houston.

It's good to have you with us, Doug. First of all, when you think about what people are dealing with, so we are six days in since the storm hit. People still don't know where they will get food or water or where they will sleep, if they haven't found a shelter or friend or family or even a stranger.

How is your organization playing into that? DOUG STRINGER, SOMEBODY CARES: We have been a part of these crises before. Katrina and Rita and around the world, of course, Ike right in our own city. But this is such an unprecedented storm and hurricane, that we had to set up in the Greater Houston area in quadrants and people we have already been working with them to try to get fluid information, real-time assessments and to find out what the greatest needs were that we could begin to meet those needs together.

So we actually staged in Rockport and in Corpus Christi and throughout Houston and East Texas prior to the hurricane, and within hours, we had some of our people from San Antonio and from Virginia down into Rockport staying there, feeding 4,500 hot meals a day to first responders, to Mercy Chefs, churches in those areas have all worked together. We're sending them down 10,000 My Pillows (ph) that have been donated by the Lendel (ph) Foundation, another 30,000 coming to the Houston area to help bring those with mattresses and other resources, water and food.

And in stage two, they will probably need cleaning supplies and all kinds of gunning out material as well.

So it was amazing to see the narrative at this moment in the midst of adversity, so many people coming together, crossing racial, denominational differences and personal and political differences and really it's neighbors helping neighbors.

Otherwise there will be no way we could -- you saw the Cajun Navy. You saw so many. We have come together and not caring who gets the credit. We just want to see people helped and see people get back on their feet as soon as possible.

HOWELL: It's an amazing thing to see for sure.

Tell us about how you guys are managing the fact that there are so many people that need help. Because the way you described it, your organization is pretty well spread out throughout the region.

But have you ever seen something like this?

And are you able to keep up with it?

STRINGER: Well, it is a whole new scenario for us. But in the sense that we have done a lot of tsunamis, Indonesian tsunamis, Japan and the Philippines, of course throughout here, tornadoes. But the uniqueness of the massive flooding has been so difficult to maneuver that people were stuck within their own areas.

The advantage we have is we have long-term relational equity across the country so when things like this happen, we can immediately find out from people on the ground. Those are going through things themselves to how to come and help them right away.

For example, in South Houston, in Friendswood (ph), Dickinson, in Alvin and in Pearland they got dumped on initially. We were able to already have relationships there to find out what the greatest needs were each few hours, know what their needs would be. In fact, just recently, when some of the churches had set up as transitional staging areas and shelters, they had gotten flooded and we had to move people to Pearland High School.

And then we're working with Salvation Army, working with Mercy Chefs and many, many other agencies that are coming together and really crossing their barriers (ph). So we have to work together to see real needs being met in a tangible way.

The same thing in the northeast side of Houston. We began to hear about churches, we said we will be a staging are. We will be a shelter. One church up in the Alboking (ph), with the Tascosita (ph) area, when they were saying they would open up, they opened as a shelter and didn't even realize the pastor himself, his house got flooded.

He had to take actually kayaks to rescue his own family.

This is the kind of thing all over the city, Katy, inner city, in the inner city (INAUDIBLE) all over the Greater Houston area and across the Gulf. Right now we are helping those in Beaumont, as they come back and try to get resources there, those up in Kirbyville and others that had set up as staging areas and shelters.

It's everybody helping each other instead of trying to say, give it to me, we're saying send the resources right to where the need is because we don't have time to waste. We have to get in this emergency crisis moment, get resources to the people who need it right now.

HOWELL: Mr. Stringer, it is a pleasure to have you. Thank you so much for your time and telling us what you guys are doing.

Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, floodwaters force desperate evacuations from a Texas hospital. Did rapid growth in this state contribute to devastating flooding?

It's a question that is being asked and we look into that next.





HOWELL: There are certainly plenty of problems here in Houston, Texas. Neighborhoods evacuated, people who are seeking shelter, a lot that needs to be in place here to help this city recover.

But east of Houston, the entire Texas city of Beaumont has no running water. Both of the water pumps failed because of still rising floodwaters. That prompted evacuations at the city's hospital.

All intensive care and dialysis patients have been airlifted to other hospitals across the state. About 85 patients are still at the hospital and likely will be evacuated when airlifts resume come daybreak.

Floodwaters in Beaumont and Houston and other parts of the state are dangerous for a number of different reasons. Contaminated water can cause deadly diseases. And that's not all. Here's CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen with more.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wherever there is flood waters near homes, near schools, near hospitals, there is a toxic stew of bacteria and chemicals.

Countless people have waded through these floodwaters --


COHEN: -- some for hours.

Now the question is, what's in it?

Alligators, hordes of fire ants and many things you can't see.

What sort of sampling?

We asked Lane Voorhees (ph), a senior scientist at a Houston water testing lab, to investigate.

COHEN: What do you think is in this water?

LANE VOORHEES (PH), SCIENTIST: Based on the sampling we have done during previous storm events and flood events, we are pretty sure there will be various bacteria, which are sewage-related, things like E. coliform, fecal strep.

COHEN (voice-over): And that's not all.

COHEN: So now we are testing for chemicals?

VOORHEES: Yes. This bottle will be for the various heavy metals, the regulated metals that are immediate health hazards.

COHEN: So like arsenic and lead?

VOORHEES: Yes, arsenic, lead, cadmium.

COHEN: This water is everywhere. So that means the contamination is ...

VOORHEES: The potential for contamination is everywhere.

COHEN (voice-over): But what does this mean for the people who are in the water?

We asked Dr. Frank Kazany (ph), (INAUDIBLE) specialist. COHEN: If you are walking through the water, you cannot see what you

are stepping on. It would be very easy to get a cut.

What would you worry about next?

DR. FRANK KAZANY (PH): There is obviously a lot of fecal material and sewage and things like that in this water.

COHEN: What worries you the most about what's in this water?

A lot of people spent a lot of time in it.

KAZANY (PH): And the most concerning thing that you could see would be things like the Vibrio vulnificus, which we hear can cause things like necrotizing fasciitis, the really --


KAZANY (PH): -- exactly.

COHEN (voice-over): The first wave of the disaster, flooding and rescues. The second wave is the health concerns that come in the aftermath.

COHEN: I want to show you what this water looks like. It's a yellowish brownish color. Those test results that will show us exactly what's in that water, exactly what people have been wading through. And when we get those results, we will share them with you -- back to you.


HOWELL: The water is certainly dangerous. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you.

There is another new hazard in the storm zone. A fire at a chemical plant just outside of Houston after a series of explosions earlier on Thursday. Electricity at the plant was knocked out when Hurricane Harvey hit last week.

Backup systems have since failed and there is no power for their refrigerators, which are used to stabilize a chemical known as organic peroxide. When organic peroxide isn't kept cool, it overheats, it explodes and catches fire. The French company Arkima (ph), which owns the plant, has warned there will be no more explosions to come.

Here's the thing. The company won't say what other dangerous chemicals might be stored on that site. They don't have to do so. Here's why. When Texas governor Greg Abbott was attorney general, he blocked public access, blocked public access to information about the inventory at chemical plants.

Three years ago while running for governor, he explained why. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GREG ABBOTT, GOVERNOR OF TEXAS: There is a law in Texas called the Community Right to Know law. And people in the state of Texas have the right to gain information, like whether or not chemicals are stored in their neighborhood.

There is also another law competing with it and that is the Texas Homeland Security Act. And I applied the Texas Homeland Security Act to ensure that information involving certain chemicals is not disclosed to potential terrorists, terrorists like Timothy McVeigh, who used the very fertilizing element who blew up the plant in West to blow up a courthouse in Oklahoma City.


HOWELL: Here's the result of that explosion: 15 police officers were treated for smoke inhalation after the explosion at Arkima (ph). They have all been released.

Still ahead, while the southeastern part of the United States focuses on the destruction that is left behind by Harvey, there is another weather headline to tell you about, a potential new threat that is brewing in the Atlantic Ocean.





HOWELL: Welcome back to our continuing coverage, the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. I'm George Howell live in Houston, Texas.

The tropical depression that used to be Harvey is moving inland, bringing potential floods to more states in the southeastern part of this country. But now another powerful storm is brewing out in the Atlantic.

With a day of this tropical storm, Irma strengthened to a category 3 hurricane with winds of 185 kilometers per power, about 115 miles an hour. It's still too early to know where it will go. But Irma is not likely to weaken any time soon.


DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We can't forget about what is still taking place in Louisiana and Texas. Currently, the water is still running downstream, filling up some of the larger rivers and reservoirs; 25 major flood stages being reported across Southeast Texas and Western Louisiana.

One, where George and I were located, about 24 hours ago together, was the Brazos River in Richmond just outside of Houston. And I want to pay close attention to this because it's already broken record crest levels. But I want you to see, this is a time line, this is actually expected to stay at record level over the next four days and then slowly start to recede. This is incredible because the flood event, even though it is still ongoing right now, is not done across southeast Texas. That's aw major, major thing we want to consider as these floodwaters slowly recede.


VAN DAM: Now let's talk Irma. This storm gaining strength across the Atlantic. Currently 115 mile per hour winds but look at the forecast track going over the next 48-72 hours. Still expected to strengthen to a monster category 4, threatening the Leeward and Windward Islands.

We have the ability to show a difference between computer spreads. One is a European model. One is an American model. The European model shows it going actually through the Florida straits as we head into the day late next week.

But another model shows this thing moving toward the New England coastline. So about a 1,500-mile spread, George, between the two model consensus. At the moment, we hope this thing veers out east across the open Atlantic. But we'll keep a close eye on it definitely -- George.

HOWELL: The last thing we need. Derek Van Dam, thank you so much. We'll stay in touch with you of course.

And thank you for being with us this hour. I'm George Howell, live in Houston, Texas. The news continues right after this break.