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Harvey's Devastating Hit; U.S. Response To Russia; August Jobs Report Out Today. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired September 1, 2017 - 04:30   ET



[04:31:24] RENE MARSH, CNN ANCHOR: A variety of new challenges are emerging in the wake of Harvey. Hospitals being evacuated. Complaints of price gouging and fears of more explosions at a chemical plant. We have all of the latest right now.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Rene Marsh.


It's important to keep in mind, this storm hit one week ago tonight. We're really, Rene, getting a sense of the true damage done, what will it take to recover the region.

One week after Harvey blasted its way ashore, there are new and growing concerns emerging from the storm. Overnight, the death toll climbing again. It now stands at 47.

At the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, more blasts are expected following the first explosion of an organic peroxide container about 24 hours ago. A 1.5-mile evacuation perimeter remains in effect around the plant.

MARSH: Another new worry this morning -- price gouging. Texas officials they've had close to 600 complaints about storm-related scams and gouging. One Houston convenience store reportedly charging $20 a gallon for gas, and $8.50 for a bottle of water.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, thankfully, the Texas legislature in preparation for those kind of storms, several years back, they came up with stiff penalties for people who are guilty of price gouging. What they came up with was a $20,000 fine per occurrence, or if someone 65 years or older is affected, it jumps to an up to $250,000 fine per occurrence.


MARSH: All right. Well, those gouging concerns -- well, they are touching off social media hysteria. You're seeing that hysteria there on your screen. Very long lines of people waiting for gas. Prices shooting up from $2.20 to $4.50 a gallon ahead of Labor Day. Some gas stations even sold out. BRIGGS: As to Houston's Addicks and Barker Reservoirs, they are

operating normally with no breaches and no failures. Officials now say it will take three months to empty them through controlled releases. Buffalo Bayou where that water drains -- check out these images -- his will likely stay flooded for some time, several weeks at the deepest spots.

State and federal environmental officials warning people to take precautions because contaminated sewer water tends to be released during major flood events. They say people in the flood zone must ensure they have access to safe drinking water.

MARSH: And the city of Beaumont, Texas, they are still this morning without running water. And it's going to take time to get the taps running once again. Residents stood in long lines trying to buy bottled water. The failure of the water treatment system is causing other problems on the ground. We'll have more on that a little later.

But overall, first responders have rescued more than 72,000 people since the storm hit. Now, that does not include all the rescues by civilian volunteers.

BRIGGS: The U.S. military has deployed more than 6,000 active duty troops to help respond to efforts, with an additional 1,100 ready to deploy. Harvey dumped an estimated 27 trillion -- trillion gallons of rain on Texas and Louisiana over a six-day period. For some context, if you see how big this area would be if it hit the East Coast, well, look at it -- as far south as Virginia Beach, all the way up to Connecticut, it is a massive geographical area.

[04:35:03] People have a hard time -- when you just say one city, it doesn't do justice to the enormous area and population size we're talking about, Rene.

MARSH: Right, because Houston is so huge in itself. The graphic says it all.

And as if one hurricane isn't enough, well, there's yet another major hurricane and it has its eye focused on the United States.

Let's bring in meteorologist Derek Van Dam.

Hi, Derek.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Rene and Dave.

Major Hurricane Irma with its eye set on the U.S., still seven to ten days out. But what's interesting to note is that it went through an explosive intensification within the past 24 hours. We get hurricane updates from the National Hurricane Center every six hours or so. And during the six-hour period, it jumped from a category one to a category three with winds of 115 miles per hour.

Again, we're still seven to ten days away from this being a formidable threat to the U.S., but there are two things we know for sure -- it will be extremely strong, and it is expected to continue on its general westerly path. It's just, where will it go from there? The model consensus spreading it out in all directions. We're going to hope for the one consensus that shows it veering north and east over the open waters of the Atlantic. But time will tell. You see the difference between the European and American models there, quite a spread.

But let's talk about what's taking place across the southeastern U.S., the leftovers of Harvey still churning across the Ohio and Tennessee River Valley. That's where the flooding's focused today. Look out, Nashville into Bowling Green, as well as Memphis. And we focus our attention on the ongoing floodwaters across Texas and southwestern Louisiana.

Currently, 27 rivers have reached major flood stage including the Brazos River just west of Houston. This is the Richmond area. And I want to point this out, because this is staggering. It has reached record levels, OK.

We're talking 24 hours ago. Still on its way up, and it will remain at record-level territory for the next four days. We are several days if not weeks before this water recedes from that particular region -- Dave, Rene.

BRIGGS: Gosh, Derek. A week after it hit, still 24 hours away. Major rivers cresting.

Thanks so much, man. We appreciate it.

All right. For an update on rescue and recovery operations, let's bring in Lieutenant Craig Cummings of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Good morning, Lieutenant.

LIEUTENANT CRAIG CUMMINGS, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY (via telephone): Hey, good morning, Dave and Rene. It's good to be with you.

BRIGGS: Good to have you on, sir. Thanks for helping out in this effort.

What is the priority when it comes to the safety of those who have been flooded out of their homes and those who have chosen to remain?

CUMMINGS: Our first priority is rescuing those who need to get rescued and saving lives. You know, after that, we're looking at protecting the property of those affected by the storm. We have opened up 12 disaster districts across the affected region to make sure that resources are being brought in to those that are affected and impacted by the storm.

MARSH: So, how does the rescue operation kind of slow? I mean, do you get the sense that you have the bulk of people who actually need to be pulled out of homes at this point?

CUMMINGS: Yes. I think, you know, the rescues have slowed down. We're now in the process -- we've got emergency management professionals that are working for us and with us to bring those needed resources in.

I was listening to the intro. We were talking about the water needed out in Beaumont. So, we're working on that effort to get water to the city of Beaumont and those that need it.

BRIGGS: Yes. That looks like it's the center of concern this morning when you talk about sewage, when you talk about baths and showers and cooking and drinking water. How quickly do you think you can get back the water there?

CUMMINGS: You know, we are working on it. We are fully engaged in this effort. I was speaking to folks yesterday. This is an all- hands-on-decoration so we can get resources to folks. We brought in law enforcement officers, DPS officers from across the state. And this is just a cooperative effort with partner agencies, other government organizations, nonprofit organizations, and private businesses to just bring some relief to those that have been impacted by the storm.

MARSH: The lack of water in Beaumont, that's triggered hospital evacuations, what can you tell us about how people who really need that sort of care, are they getting the care that they need with all of these hospitals having to evacuate themselves?

CUMMINGS: We are working very hard to make sure that the resources that are being requested are being delivered. So, we've got those emergency management professionals that are working around the clock to make sure when those requests come in, that we are getting resources out there in a timely manner, because those that need it, frankly, they need the help right now. That's what our goal is, to get the resources out there as quickly as possible so we can help those that need it.

[04:40:00] MARSH: And what does that look like, when you say the resources, as it relates to people who need medical help? Do you have enough medical staff on site to take care of people who can't number those hospitals, who have been evacuated?

CUMMINGS: Well, we really have to refer to the local officials for the type of resources they have locally. But those resources that are being requested statewide, from state resources, we're bringing in ambulances, buses, things of that like so that we can get them the facilities that can provide the care that they need. So, we're really in the process of making sure that the transport from those affected areas to where residents can receive the care that they need is taking place.

BRIGGS: Just heartbreaking images we're seeing all across the area.

Lieutenant Craig Cummings of the Texas Department of Public Safety -- really appreciate what you're doing there and for getting up early and joining us here on EARLY START. Thank you, sir.

All right. As flooding slams the Texas Gulf Coast, most homes under water don't have the insurance need to rebuild. Most private insurance doesn't cover flood damage. So, homeowners rely on the National Flood Insurance Program.

However, only 20 percent of the homes hit by Harvey are covered. What about the other 80 percent? Those victims will have to apply for federal aid, which is a low-interest loan, or will have to pay out of pocket. Both options can lead to debt.

But even homeowners with flood insurance could still face problems because the federally funded program is $25 billion in debt thanks to a series of storms are major flood damage like Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy. Right now, the program has less than $8 billion for the victims of Harvey. And estimates forecasted to be up to $65 billion, making it one of the costliest storms ever to hit the United States, Rene.

MARSH: And some Houston residents, they are finally getting a chance to return to flooded homes. And they're devastated by what they're finding. We have that part of the story coming up next.


[04:46:13] BRIGGS: In last week, more than 6,000 people and at least 1,000 pets have been rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard. That work goes on. Air crews searching for people stranded by the storm.

CNN's Kaylee Hartung took a flight with a Coast Guard chopper over Texas. She has more from their launch point just across the border in Lake Charles, Louisiana.


KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rescue missions in the air are ongoing for the U.S. Coast Guard and so many other military assets in the area. For a group of coast guard helicopters taking off from an airstrip in Sulphur, Louisiana, not far from the Texas state line, the focus for the past two days has been Port Arthur, Texas.

But on Thursday afternoon, when I loaded up with a five-man crew in a Jayhawk H-60 helicopter, we had just gotten word that a dam was releasing water, and there was an area where waters were quickly rising ten miles north of Beaumont.

We headed there with a call for service saying that 20 people were trapped on a roof. When we got there, we saw those 20 people in a house surrounded by boats. Those people loading up into the boats and getting to safety very quickly.

These trained men aboard there helicopter quick to praise the efforts of the volunteers with their boats, the Cajun Navy, if you will, who have come out in mass numbers. Our crew headed to Orange, Texas, another place where the waters continued to rise on Thursday. There an elderly woman was rescued. She told me, I've lost my car, I've lost my house, but I have my life. I'm thankful for that, and I'm thankful for the U.S. Coast Guard.

Her story one of thousands just like it, and there will be more -- Dave, Rene.


MARSH: All right. Thank you, Kaylee.

And people in Houston are dealing with the harsh reality that they won't be able to go back home for possibly weeks, possibly months. Some of them returned by boat Thursday to salvage what they can and come to grips with everything they're forced to leave behind.

CNN's Alex Marquardt was there as one emotional evacuee went back.


BILL WOLFE, EVACUEE: There's going to be a mailbox here.

ALEXANDER MARQUANDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the first time that Bill Wolfe has been able to get back to his house since being evacuated.

WOLFE: Surreal is probably the understatement of the century here. You know, watching a 30-foot fishing boat drive down your street is unbelievable at the intersection here and -- man, I don't know. This is crazy.

CAPTAIN KENNY EVANS, VOLUNTEER RESCUER: Let's see how high the water is, though.

WOLFE: Yes. We'll see if I can even get in or not.

MARQUARDT: Captain Kenny Evans is taking Wolfe back.

EVANS: One minute, you are stressed about your gutters and the next minute, everything you have is ruined.

MARQUARDT: It was Evans who rescued the Wolfe family, along with their cat and dog, in the middle of the storm on Monday.

WOLFE: Oh, Lord.

MARQUARDT: After navigating the boat to the door, we waded into the living room. Furniture now floating through passed the pictures of his sons.

WOLFE: I'm really proud of them. I'm really proud of them, my wife, my family. And they're tough little kids.

MARQUARDT (on camera): They're holding up?

WOLFE: Yes. Yes. I'm not an emotional guy. I'm pretty calm and this has been too much for me. To be honest, I don't know if I want to be here very long.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): Back in the office, the real loss becomes clear.

WOLFE: I had a 150-year-old family bible in this water.

MARQUARDT: Stacks of photo albums, baby books, and other sentimental items.

(on camera): Is this the worst part, is the personal stuff?

WOLFE: Yes. I mean, this is the stuff that you can't replace, right? I mean, this is -- these are my son's birth announcements, right?

[04:50:03] I mean --

MARQUARDT (voice-over): Upstairs where it is dry, Wolfe throws his sons toys and sheets into garbage backs.

(on camera): So, you think there is a possibility you may never live in this house again?

WOLFE: I don't know. Yes, I mean, it's going to sit here for a month or two in six feet of water. So --

MARQUARDT (voice-over): Up and down this neighborhood today, people taking stock of their belongings and their lives.

Eighty-six-year-old Ed Windler is also back for the first time. With Captain Evans, we found him on Monday in his dark bedroom alone with no power. He needs his medicine. So, Evans heads inside, past countless positions now suspended in the dark flood waters.

(on camera): This was Ed's office, all these papers piled high on his desk. The water in here is so high back there in the kitchen, the fridge is now floating on its side.

(voice-over): On the boat, Windler tries to take it all in.

ED WINDLER, EVACUEE: Just very confusing. Can't get it wrapped up in my mind what's going to be next and what I'm going to need to do.

EVANS: Grab it. Grab it.

MARQUARDT: Windler and Wolfe are just two of the countless people who Captain Evan has helped this week, and his work is far from over.

EVANS: It's not even real. You see this stuff on TV, but this is total devastation in every way, physically, emotionally.

MARQUARDT (on camera): And this here is the tireless Captain Kenny Evans. Just a fantastic embodiment of the spirit of the people of Houston. Everyone who's come out over the past few days to help out.

Now, we should note that along with the heartbreak in this neighborhood, there's also growing frustration and anger. A lot of the water that you're seeing here is coming from the controlled releases of the two nearby reservoirs, Addicks and Barker. And lot of people feel the authorities should have told them much sooner how much water there was going to be so they could have gotten out sooner and saved more. Alex Marquardt, CNN, Houston.


BRIGGS: Criticism indeed. Alex, thank you.

One of the most surreal scenes after the storm was when Aric Harding went back to his flood-ravaged home south of Houston. Most of the stuff destroyed. But one item was not.


MARSH: How about that music?

Harding had gone home to pick up some stuffed animals and toys it to comfort his seven children who were taking shelter at a nearby house. One of his sons who loves to play the piano was worried it was destroyed in the floods. But as you can hear, he found that the piano was in one piece. He began to play. He says someone he doesn't know even offered to buy him a new piano.

BRIGGS: That's good stuff.

MARSH: Yes. I love to see that like one ray of hope there.

BRIGGS: Yes, there's been a lot of hope in this city among all this disaster.

All right. The August jobs report out later today. We'll preview the numbers on CNN "Money Stream", next.


[04:57:28] MARSH: Retaliating against Russia. The U.S. ordering the Kremlin to close the Russian consulate in San Francisco, along with two diplomatic annexes in New York and Washington. That's some response to staff cuts at the U.S. mission in Moscow ordered by the Russian government.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen is in front of the U.S. embassy in Moscow which is reopening consular services today -- Fred.


And there actually have been interesting developments over the past 30 minutes since we last spoke. Remember that these measures were announced in a phone call between Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last night. The Russian foreign minister came out only a couple of minutes ago at a conference where he was meeting some students. He obviously criticized the closure of the Russian embassy in San Francisco and called it a continuation of policies initiated under the Obama administration to try and tie President Trump's hands in his effort to improve relations between Russia and the United States. So, we have that pattern of the Russians of criticizing U.S. policies

but sort of trying to take President Trump out of the criticism. Remember, at some point, there were people who were speculating that maybe the Russians had given up on President Trump. It's certainly from Lavrov's statement, it doesn't appear as though that is the case.

However, the Russians very critical of these new measures. They say they are going to study them, the closure of the consulate in San Francisco and the annexes and possibly retaliate once again. So, it certainly does not look as though the relation between the U.S. and Russia are improving or will improve any time soon -- Rene.

MARSH: Fred Pleitgen, reporting live for us in Moscow -- Fred, thank you.

BRIGGS: All right. Let's get a check on CNN "Money Stream."

Global stocks slightly higher after Wall Street ended August on a high note. The Dow and S&P 500 notching their fifth straight month of gains, while the NASDAQ hit a record high.

Movement on tax reform helping push stocks higher. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin promised a detailed tax plan by the end of September.

Gas also futures hit a two-year high over fears of a Harvey-driven fuel shortage. They're up 28 percent since Friday.

The August jobs report comes out today and economists expect hiring to cool off just a bit. Expect between 180,000 and 190,000 jobs added last month. A solid number but down from July. Meanwhile, the jobless rate should stay at a 16-year low, close to what experts call full employment.