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Houston Mayor on Current Need; Massive Assistance Needed; Texas Woman's Emotional Homecoming; Labor Department Releases August Job Report. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired September 1, 2017 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:00] MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER, HOUSTON, TEXAS (via telephone): Was a major, major landfall event. Just like in Beaumont.

Beaumont happened a week after Hurricane Harvey struck. Beaumont received 26 inches of rain, water, in 24 hours. So for the city of Houston and Harris County, this was a major rainfall event.

What the city of Houston would have liked to have had, more high water rescue equipment, trucks and boats. Those are the sort of asset that we need. And we need more of them ahead of time.

But in anticipating the heavy rainfall, we set up two shelters, just before that heavy rain came, and one -- close to one of the low income communities north of Houston and moved many of those people into those shelters prior to the heavy rainfall coming. So that shelter got up at one point to 2,000 people in their shelter. As of yesterday, there were less than 400 people in that shelter.

The same thing with the George R. Brown. At its max, there were 10,000 people in the convention center. Now that number is now under 8,000. And we are working with those individuals to transition out.

So for the city of Houston -- the city of Houston and Harris County, we're not in the direct path of the hurricane. For us, it was a major rainfall. And so our grid now is -- it -- 33,000 households without power. The water system in the city of Houston never went down. It's fine. It is working. The transit system is now working.

But we are wanting to do, we want to go from door to door to make sure that we haven't missed anyone. We want to focus on that as we move to recovery. And so that's where we are. We're giving special attention to west Houston because they flooded, not from Hurricane Harvey, but because of the release from the reservoir. And that's why you have a lot of people who are very frustrated because their homes were dry from the hurricane -- from the tropical storm, you know, from Hurricane Harvey, but the release from the reservoir.

With respect to the Kingwood area, they are in large part, they are flooding, because water was released from (INAUDIBLE) and came down. So, you know, we're (INAUDIBLE) --

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Sure. But I mean what was the other option? I mean that -- look, that's what they had to do, right? You had to release the floodgates on some of these dams and the reservoirs, I mean, otherwise it would have been catastrophic.

So I'm standing in this area of Wilchester.

TURNER: Oh, that's --

CAMEROTA: That's the situation here. That's -- I mean people understand that, right?

TURNER: Yes. People understand that but they don't necessarily have to like that. No one wants their home flooded.


TURNER: Now, I got that. No one wants their home flooded. The Corps of Engineers, according to what they're saying to me, they're having to balance the amount of water on the west side of the reservoirs versus what they need to release in order to provide additional capacity in case there's another major rainfall that comes in the next week, two weeks, three weeks.


TURNER: They need to build up their capacity.


TURNER: People understand that.

CAMEROTA: Yes. And --

TURNER: But they -- that doesn't mean they have to like it.

CAMEROTA: Understood. And so, Mr. Mayor --

TURNER: But then -- but in terms of -- yes, but in terms -- but in terms --

CAMEROTA: I want to ask you, I mean given -- given all of that and everything -- go ahead.

TURNER: Yes. No, go on. Go on.

CAMEROTA: Given everything that you've learned through this past week, the president, President Trump is coming tomorrow. So will you ask him for more resources? What do you plan to say to him?

TURNER: In fact, the -- even today, the director of FEMA is coming to meet with me today. The head of Homeland Security will be in Houston today. And basically what I'm saying to them is that we must operate with a sense of urgency. We have to have the resources in order to assist people that are transitioning from a crisis state and getting them back in a much more stable situation. And we need the resources now.

In fact, let me back that up. We need the resources yesterday. It is important that we provide people who are homeowners, whose homes have been damaged because of flooding. And in the city of Houston, the number of units is probably more now, more than 40,000 to 50,000 in the city of Houston. And so homeowners are going to want to get back into their homes as quickly as possible and we need the federal assistance right now.

In terms of people, especially low income individuals. And I want to highlight them. Many of them are renters, OK. We need to make sure that we give them the assistance that they need in order to stabilize their lives and get them back on their feet.

Housing is going to be critically important. People can't stay in shelters forever if they don't have other places to go. So we have to provide housing accommodations. And they need to get that information and that assistance like right now because you can only keep people in shelters for so long.

[08:35:09] And now they're asking, mayor, what is the next step? Debris removal. That is a critical component. People are putting their debris out right now and it is going to be massive. Every community in the city of Houston, quite frankly in the whole region, when the sun is out, things dry out, people returning to their homes, they're putting all of that debris out. You can't leave it out there. That will create a public health hazard. So we -- we need --


TURNER: We don't need a reimbursement. We don't need a reimbursement after we have done it. We need the assistance up front. It needs to be advanced and it needs to be massive. And we need an army of FEMA representatives on the ground assisting people in registering and walking them through the system. And we need that yesterday.

CAMEROTA: Mayor, have you made that in treaty to President Trump directly? Have you spoken to the president?

TURNER: I have not spoken to the president. I have spoken to Secretary Carson. I have spoken to Secretary Perry. And I thanked them for calling. I have talked to Senator Cruz and he's been in Houston and at the shelters and has made direct contact with FEMA on my behalf. I've talked to a number of the FEMA representatives. And today I'm going to talk to Director Brock, who's over FEMA, and the head of Homeland Security. I'm talking to him today.

I have not personally talked to the president. What I would say to everyone, I know there's a debt. And I know there are other things that are out there. But for all -- and I'm not just speaking for the city of the Houston. The city of Houston is advancing resources to Beaumont, even as we face our own set of issues. What I would say to everyone is that this should be priority number one for our country. And we have to provide -- and let's put the politics aside. Let's provide the necessary resources now in order for people to rebuild their lives. We should not keep them in a traumatized state any longer than they need to be.

So they need housing. They need assistance. They need debris removal. These are all of the things that local governments need in order to move forward. Our port -- I didn't mention that. The Port of Houston is starting to get back in business. The hopefully they'll be fully operational in probably another week.

But we need all of this assistance because what's happening in the Texas Gulf Coast area doesn't just impact the Texas Gulf Coast. It impacts the entire country. And that's what people have to understand. It may be geographically in our area, but the ramifications and the impact affects the entire country, if not -- i it doesn't have a global impact as well.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Well, we will see if Congress agrees with you and how much they want to open up the purse strings and how much federal relief they will bring to the city of Houston and beyond.

But, Mayor Sylvester Turner, thank you.

TURNER: Then we'll -- can I just -- can I just say one quick thing, Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Yes, quickly. Yes.

TURNER: What I -- what I would say to people is that, put yourselves in our shoes. It may not be you today, but the way these storms are coming, it certainly can be you tomorrow. And you have to ask the question, how would you want to be treated if it happened to you?

CAMEROTA: Mr. Mayor, thank you very much for joining us on NEW DAY.

TURNER: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Up next, we're going to follow one woman as she returns home after Harvey has passed. But it was not the damage that made her break down in tears. You have to see her story, next.


[08:43:18] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: The Labor Department just released the August jobs report. And a strong summer of hiring has slowed down. The economy added about 156,000 jobs in August. A decent number by historical standards, but down from the previous month. The jobless rate rose slightly to 4.4 percent, but that's still near a 16-year low. Wages grew about 2.5 percent, roughly where they're hovered for the last two years. Remember, that's the big problem, good paying jobs.

Important note, today's report does not include any possible job losses due to Hurricane Harvey. The survey was compiled before the storm hit. We're going to probably see Harvey's impact on the job market next month and beyond.

So what does this report mean for President Trump's promise of 25 million jobs? Well, the U.S. has created about 1.2 million jobs during his first seven months. It's a strong number, but not quite enough to reach his sustained goal of 25 million in 10 years, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Chris. Thank you for all of that. So we've just heard from the mayor of Houston about what he says he

needs from the federal government.

Joining us again is CNN contributor General Russel Honore, commander of the joint task force for Hurricane Katrina.

General, thanks so much for standing by with us.

So we just talked to the mayor of Houston, Mayor Turner, and he is really making a treaty (ph) to the feds. He says we need more help. We need an army of FEMA responders down here and we need a lot of federal dollars. That basically, I think, dovetails with your assessment of what they need here.

LT. GEN. RUSSEL L. HONORE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. This is -- the scale of this -- you know, for a week now we've been communicating here on air that I thought the response scale needed to be bigger.

[08:45:00] When you get through the search and rescue phase, the hard work getting into helping people get in and out of their homes, which means that takes personal interface. You can come online and you can apply, you can get a check in the mail, but the party don't start for you in recovery until somebody come to your house.

And the mayor has put his finger on it. Obviously they've had floods here before. And sometimes that can take weeks for a person to come and do the proper inspection.

So he's setting the priority to work and that's what needs to happen. And this is going to be bigger than what FEMA has probably had done in the past anywhere. So they're going to have to up the game. At the same time look to the east because there's another hurricane coming.

CAMEROTA: But it's your assessment that they have not sort of pulled out all the stop the yet. And who -- who would be responsible for that? Is it the governor who you're saying needs to call in more of the cavalry from the federal government?

HONORE: The way this White House is working, they are working on a bottom up. I mean you asked us, and we will deliver. And that's been the mode of operation so far.

My personal opinion is that they needed to lean further forward and push stuff as opposed to -- because the local people are busy saving lives. At the time you're saving lives, you're getting ready for the next phase of the operation. And the federal government has to be good enough. That's why we established these commands after 9/11, Northern Command and Fifth Army and all those so they could come in to (INAUDIBLE).

CAMEROTA: I see. So you think the White House should have been telling the locals what they need and coming in and offering it up?

HONORE: That would be the opinion I would have that -- because the local guys are trying to save lives. What he needs next week needs to be pushed to him. CAMEROTA: Got it.

HONORE: And that's real logistics.

CAMEROTA: Well, the president is coming tomorrow. So we will see what the president has to offer what he comes here and what he can offer from the federal government.

General, thank you very much.

So we've watched a lot of dramatic rescues obviously here this week in Texas. Ant it's not just people who are being saved. It's thousands of pets as well. The Coast Guard says it has rescued more than 1,000 of them over just the last week.

CNN's Rosa Flores tagged along with a woman who went home for the first time since her house flooded and you're about to see what made her break down in tears.

Rosa is live for us in Houston with more.

Rosa, tell us this story.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, this is the home of Willie Marie Burton. She says that the water started rising very quickly at about 3:00 a.m. Sunday morning. And you can see this morning the water level both here on this wall and also on this garage door.

Now, while people rushed to safety, in many cases their pets were left behind. That was the case for her pet Lassy (ph). Now, she inherited this dog from her father. We were here when she returned to her home and also when she reunited with Lassy.


WILLIE MARIE BURTON, HARVEY EVACUEE: I feel like crying, but then I'm joyful because I could have been in the water and it could have got. So I'm just grateful.

I'm just getting back to see what's left.

Water is a powerful thing.

It toppled over the sofa. And that love -- that loveseat. And it just moved all of this stuff.

When you see it, the wall, the sink came up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the refrigerator fell.

BURTON: And the refrigerator's over. Lord, Lord.


Let's see what this is. I put this up here. Thank you, Lord. These are pictures from a long time ago.


BURTON: And they -- yes, this thing kept that dry. It didn't get wet. That's good.

Hi, Lassy. Hi. I know that storm scared you. But I'm glad you made it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's OK. It's OK. It's OK. (INAUDIBLE). You know we always get through this. He always takes care of us.

BURTON: I know. This too shall pass.


BURTON: 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. I'm glad to be here, so --


FLORES: Now, as we take another live look here, you can see that Willie has started moving a lot of the wet and soaked items out of her house, just like a lot of her neighbors are. You can see that this neighbor over here has couches and other things.

[08:50:09] Now, Chris, about that seafood and martini. Now Miss Willie was a little too tired yesterday to go have that martini and that seafood. But, from her family, we're hearing that she might be able to celebrate her birthday today and cheers with that little martini. So we'll keep you posted.

CUOMO: Do so. Rosa, get involved. Make that happen because the simple pleasures can make such a difference in these hard times, especially on a birthday. And we wish her all the best.

Rosa, thank you for bringing us that story. Just a little bit of a slice of the experience that's being lived out down there in so many different ways.

All right, up next, we have a big name doing some really good stuff for those affected by Harvey.


CUOMO: Lord, Lord, do we need "The Good Stuff" in big supply, and we're going to get it today. Texans defensive end star J.J. Watt is a man on a mission. He is raising some serious money for those hit hard by Harvey. And they're going to need it.

[08:55:13] Watt plays for the Houston Texans, obviously. Started his fundraiser on Sunday. The goal was $200,000 for his adopted hometown. In less than a week, listen to the numbers, $13.6 million. And 133,000 people have contributed to the effort. Watt told Anderson Cooper last night that he's in it together with the people of Houston.


J.J. WATT, HOUSTON TEXANS DEFENSE END: And I want Houston to know that I'm with them in the long hall. I'm not just here for the initial fundraiser. I'm here to make sure that we take care of you down the road.

My first phase is what I'm doing is this weekend, my teammates and I, we have semi-trucks rolling in from out of town that we filled up. We have about nine semi-trucks that are going to coming into town and we have those all filled with stock supplies, water, food, clothing, everything. So we're going to give that out this weekend. That's our first step.


CUOMO: Amazing. Amazing that he's saying that this is just the first step. And it is just one more beautiful reminder of something that has come out of the horror, which is confirmation that people will step up and that we're all in it together.

CAMEROTA: Chris, listen, in our days here in Houston, we've met so many generous and kind-hearted people, even who don't have the means of Watt. People just taking care of neighbors.

The people of Houston are going to be fine ultimately, but they have many, many days and weeks ahead of some heartbreak and tears and rebuilding, as we've seen her.

So CNN's coverage of Harvey's destruction will continue on "NEWSROOM" with John Berman after this very quick break.