updated 8/30/2005 3:50:45 PM ET 2005-08-30T19:50:45

Guest: Jon Donley, Michael Brown, Vic Howell, Marty Evans, Mike Womack,  Renae Conley, David Johnson, Rodney Alexander

LISA DANIELS, HOST:  Hurricane Katrina hammers deeper inland.  Its high winds and rains, crippling homes and businesses in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.  Storm surges turning cities and towns into virtual lakes and rescuers going in, have reason to fear for the people who took a chance and stayed to face the storm. 
Hi, everyone, Dan is off tonight and you‘re watching a special edition of the ABRAMS REPORT with continuing coverage of Hurricane Katrina.  I‘m Lisa Daniels and here‘s the very latest. 
Katrina, now a Category 1 hurricane.  Its howling winds turned the Louisiana super dome into a super sieve.  Ripping—stripped the metal from the roof and dripping rain on at least 9,000 refugees, 19 stories below.  Now, officials say the city was spared towering flood that is could have you turned New Orleans into a swirling dangerous stew.  But the storm surge was still high enough to swallow thousands of homes east of the city and parts of the state‘s coasts were badly hit.  In fact, one death has also been reported.  A man crushed by a tree in his trailer. 
In Mississippi, emergency officials saying their top priority right now is to send out search and rescue teams to try and find anybody who tried to wait out this storm at home and need help.  Reports claim there are large numbers of people who are trapped on their roofs waiting for somebody to pick them up. 
And in Alabama, downtown streets in the city of Mobile are flooded.  A major bridge over the Mobile River has been closed.  It was actually hit by a drifting oil drilling platform that was cut loose by Katrina‘s fury. 
Two highway deaths related to Katrina have been reported and close to one hundred thousand homes and businesses without any power. 
MSNBC‘s chief meteorologist Sean McLaughlin as been tracking Katrina has it spreads destruction throughout the gulf. 
And Sean, I know a tornado threat is big concern right now

SEAN MCLAUGHLIN, MSNBC METEOROLOGIST:  Yeah, absolutely, at this hour, especially in these outer rain bands.  And it‘s still packing quite a punch.  Just two hours ago, in Laurel, Mississippi, there were wind gusts in excess of 110 miles-an-hour, just two and a half hours ago. 
Let‘s wipe a way the cloud shield and show you just the radar bands.  And as we advance the loop, you can see that it‘s spinning up moving to the north-northeast at around 18-miles-an-hour, but it‘s these outer rain bands, right in here, and it‘s as far as east as the east coast of Florida.  There‘s one right there.  There‘s another one.  There‘s another one and there‘s another one.  And it‘s these bands, very intense convection, fast moving areas of thunderstorms that are producing tornadoes at this hour.  Get to that more in a second.
Right now, sustained winds, 75-miles-an-hour, gusting to 92, so it‘s a minimal Category 1 hurricane moving to the north at 18-miles-an-hour and the pressure is rising now rapidly in the late afternoon hours.  It is showing signs, Lisa, of starting to shrink in size. 
Here‘s what I‘m talking about, hurricane force winds extend out from the center, now only 60 miles and tropical storm force winds extend out mostly to the southeast quadrant of the storm, only about 205 miles.  Remember at its peak, it was 460 miles across.  So we‘re showing signs that it‘s starting to weaken. 
We expect it to take a turn to the northeast later on tonight, in northern Mississippi, downgraded to a tropical storm, tomorrow to a depression and then ultimate just remnants of Katrina, producing quite a lot of rain, possible flooding in the upper elevation areas for western Tennessee, Kentucky and the up in through Ohio and then some heavy rain showers in the northeast. 
We go back in time, boy, it seems like a long time ago, but early this morning, landfall, 7:10 a.m.  Eastern daylight as a Category 4 hurricane, sustained winds 140-miles-an-hour at the surface.  Buras, it‘s a very small, little town down there in southeast Louisiana and watch that eye wall.  New Orleans really dodged the bullet, unfortunately, the good news for New Orleans meant bad news for Biloxi. 
Watch this eye wall, you don‘t want to be on the right front side of this and look where Biloxi was.  I‘m going to hold my finger right there, boom, right in the heart of the heaviest storm surge, the highest wind gusts, and the heaviest amounts of rain.  That‘s why we will see the worst of the storm surge damage along the Mississippi-Alabama coastline. 
Back to the tornado that, Lisa, you talked about right off the top.  Two watch boxes still in effect at this hour and these individual counties that are filled in are active tornado warnings sue to either tornadoes on the ground or tornado winds over a sustained period of time.  The green areas, all these counties, active flooding, blue areas flooding could occur based on the conditions as far as north as Ohio, due to Katrina.  Most of the gulf coast airports are still closed.  Atlanta, still running behind schedule for arrivals and departures, same thing with Dallas.  We want to keep you updated on that as we go towards the middle part of the week as Labor Day weekend approaches. 
New Orleans still not reporting an official temperature yet.  That‘s significant because it‘s going to be hot and muggy tomorrow for the clean up.  Elsewhere across the country, temperatures are cooler in Atlanta, due to the rain.  That rain will continue tomorrow and the clean up, Lisa, it will be sticky down in the “Big Easy” at 91 degrees.  Same thing all along the gulf coast.
Coming up, we‘ll talk about that massive storm surge, where it occurred and why it‘s the most killer part of the storm.  I‘ll explain coming up. 
DANIELS:  Good demonstration.  Thanks so much, Sean McLaughlin we‘ll check back with you.
Well, New Orleans may have been spared the big bullet before Katrina came to shore today, but the city still hit very hard.  Jon Donley is the editor of Nola.com and MardiGras.com, two New Orleans Web sites.  He waited out Katrina in the middle of what he is describing as bunker built in the news room of the “Times-Picayune,” the city‘s daily paper.  And he joins us now by phone. 
Jon, start off by setting the scene for us.  What‘s the set up like? 
JON DONLEY, NOLA.COM, MATRYGRAS.COM:  Hi, Lisa.  Well, we are—we‘re three levels deep inside the “Times-Picayune” and on the third floor, so we‘re far above any possible flooding.  The outer layer the building has bullet proof glass windows and then there are a couple of interior walls.  The bunker is what we call the area that‘s in the very center of the core of the building, most protected by the winds—from the winds, and it‘s also the only area that now has electricity.  We‘re running on generators and there‘s not much electricity in town at all now.  I get to stay in here with the electricity so I can work on my computer and we have a few other reporters.  Most of the “Times-Picayune” staff and their families are huddled out in the newsrooms surrounding us, which is dark, sweaty, the air conditioner‘s been off since about 6:00 this morning. 
DANIELS:  I can only imagine.  When during the day, Jon, did the worse part of the storm hit New Orleans and what was that like? 
DONLEY:  Where we felt it the hardest was between about 9:00 in the
morning and about 1:00 in the afternoon.  That was the time when our
building was loosing some wind windows, starting to take some water damage,
leaking around the corners, the building itself was shaking and there was
an incredibly annoying whistling going on from some little crack in the
building
DANIELS:  Oh my.  Did you actually make your way outside at all or look out the window if you still have windows, to see what it‘s like down there? 
DONLEY:  All of our windows were shuttered with steel or wood except a big atrium window in the entrance and a lot of the staff would go down to the second floor landing to kind of peer around the escalators to look to see what was going on outside the city.  The only time I actually went outside while the storm was really going on was after we heard about the Super Dome roof being kind of torn up and I actually went out on the third floor roof of the “Times-Picayune” to grab a quick shot, which we found pretty unbelievable. 
DANIELS:  Well, I know you did it for work and I‘m glad that you‘re safe, but probably not the best move to do given the storm of this size, but again, glad you‘re safe.  Jon Donley, thanks so much for all the insights.  Good luck to you.
DONLEY:  Thanks a lot, Lisa.
DANIELS:  Well, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, is organizing a major relief effort for the states hit by Katrina.  Michael Brown is the agency‘s director and Undersecretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response, and he joins us now from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 
I appreciate your talking the time to talk us.  I can‘t imagine how busy you‘re day is.
MICHAEL BROWN, FEMA DIRECTOR:  It‘s been a very hectic day today,
Lisa, we‘ve got a lot going on.  We‘re getting teams ready to move in from
all parts of the country.  So it is.  It‘s a very, very busy day
DANIELS:  Talk to me about saving lives, the top priority here.  Do you have any idea of the number of fatalities that we‘re talking about?
BROWN:  We don‘t yet and right now, we‘re focusing on rescuing people.  Saving lives and protecting property.  So, my primary mission right now is to get the urban search and rescue teams in, get the disaster medical teams in, get them as close I can to ground zero so they can actually start saving people. 
You know, I‘ve heard the stories about people on rooftops and second and third floor stories of their homes.  So our mission, right now, is to help the state and those swift-water rescue folks from the Fish and Wild Life Department, get in there and rescue people. 
DANIELS:  In some of the bigger cities like Mobile and New Orleans, have the search and rescue operations actually begun? 
BROWN:  No.  It‘s interesting because the media forgets that here in Baton Rouge, for example, the winds were howling up until just a couple of hours ago.  As little as two hours ago we still had hurricane-force winds in New Orleans and so you just can‘t get in boats in that kind of water and you certainly can‘t fly helicopters in that kind of weather, so just, latterly, just now, we‘re starting this kind of rescue response efforts.
DANIELS:  And when do you think those choppers are actually going to go out?
BROWN:  Well, I had a Coast Guard helicopter up, just about 30 minutes ago, just kind of checking things out to see how far south from Baton Rouge they could get.  I haven‘t had a report back yet.  So we‘re—you know, we keep pushing the limits, but at the same time, I don‘t want a Coast Guard helicopter to go down.  I want them to be safe when going into those areas.
DANIELS:  Absolutely.  At this early stage, do you have any sense of how Katrina will compare to some of the other hurricanes like Betsy and Camille?
BROWN:  Well we don‘t.  We have to remember that Katrina‘s not through
yet.  I mean, she‘s still, right now, even though she has passed New
Orleans and she‘s in an inland storm.  Even an inland storm like that,
she‘s at a Category 1 on the Saffir-Simpson scale.  She still has about 80-
mile-an-hour winds.  And so we‘re going to see a lot of flooding—flood
damage all the way through the northern parts of Mississippi and Alabama
and through Tennessee and the Ohio Valley, Kentucky and those areas
DANIELS:  Michael, I know that people want to put on a brave face, especially officials, but do you feel confident the people affect by this hurricane are going to get the help that they need in a speedy, orderly fashion? 
BROWN:  There‘s no question.  I mean, FEMA has practiced this over and
over.  Unfortunately, we had a lot of experience last year with four major
hurricanes hitting Florida.  We‘ve already had a couple major hurricanes
this year.  We‘re practiced, we‘re well-oiled, we‘re ready to go
DANIELS:  FEMA director, Michael Brown.  Appreciate your talking to us.  We wish you the very best in this Hurricane Katrina. 
BROWN:  Thank you, Lisa.
DANIELS:  All right.  Well, NBC‘s Ron Blome saw Katrina‘s awesome power firsthand.  He‘s actually in Mobile, Alabama, where thousands of people were evacuated before floodwaters began rising in the city treats. 
Ron, how‘s the downtown area fairing
RON BLOME, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  It faired very well compared to what it could have been.  At one point, they had said, look, it could be 15 or 20-foot storm surge.  It ended up being 12 to, perhaps 14 feet above normal and that means it did come up in downtown in the business district around the convention center, the museums, the federal building, the post office and a lot official government structures, but it really didn‘t get into the home areas here, too much. 
Now, south of Interstate 10, down to the coast, there was flooding in a lot of the areas where people do live, but that was the one area they had mandatory evacuations.  I head you talking about rescue operations, the sheriff‘s office has already been running some of those down on Dolphin Island.  There were a few people that weathered the storm there and they were out this afternoon with boats and some big standup high trucks to get in there and rescue. 
Something else that happened here today, a drilling rig, that was being worked on at the shipyard, broke off and it was blown you north up the Mobile River.  Three tugboats got a hold of it, just as it was making contact with the bridge.  That‘s not a main bridge, but it is the bridge that carries trucks with hazardous cargo that can‘t go through the tunnel.  They were able to secure the rig onto the side, but the state closed the bridge down as a safety precaution, just in case. 
I have always been impressed with the power the winds on the backside a hurricane and that‘s what we‘re seeing right now.  There‘s not a lot rain here, in fact, we haven‘t had rain in perhaps an hour, but still these very strong blustery gusts of 40, gusting up to 50-miles-an-hour are hampering some of the recovery efforts, but we are seeing utility trucks out and some of the beginning of people getting out, fire trucks and such, to make sure they‘re going to have Mobile secured and cleaned up, just as fast as they can. 
DANIELS:  Ron, I‘m sure you‘ve heard the reports of people trying to make their way back and you can understand that they want to assess the damage of their homes.  Then again, you have officials saying do not do it, it is still dangerous, this event is not over.  Talk to me about the entrance, exit rungs—the ramps to I-10.  Those are flooded, I hear.
BLOME:  Some are flooded downtown.  You could go a little further west, but as you go further west you run into the more of the damage from the trees, a lot of limbs come down.  The power is out throughout the Mobile area.  It‘s going to be very dark here once the sun goes down.  And it is very dangerous to drive on these roads in the dark.  Water and wet roads look alike.  You could make a turn and end up in a ditch, drowning the car or drowning yourself and with wires out, it‘s just a bad idea. 
People need to stay home tonight, wait another day
DANIELS:  Absolutely, Ron Blome, thanks for that report and all of your reports throughout the day. 
DANIELS:  Well, it‘s not just the wind and rain, but the massive storm surge.  We‘re talking up to 20 feet in Mississippi which is so incredibly dangerous.  Up next, getting a handle on just how big that storm surge really is. 
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:   Right now we can‘t fly, we can‘t get vehicles in there.  So, as soon as the weather clears, we‘ll start trying to account for people.  And I only hope and pray that we do not have any fatalities for this, but I suspect that is possible. 
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
DANIELS:  And welcome back to this special edition of the ABRAMS REPORT.  Before Katrina hit the Louisiana coast, the fire chief in Houma, Louisiana warned everybody that if they wanted to head for higher ground, they‘d better start moving now.  The highest point in Houma is the fire station and it‘s just 12 feet tall.  MSNBC‘s Michele Hofland is Houma with the latest. 
Michelle, what are the conditions there? 
MICHELLE HOFLAND, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Lisa, first of all, I‘m at the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff‘s Department right now.  I—my phone has only been working periodically because of the hurricanes.  I came down here and they were gracious enough to let me use their phone. 
The conditions right now, for the first time since I arrived here, yesterday, we had some sunshine out, but I‘ll tell you what, there are trees down, power lines down, all throughout the county.  They have reported two deaths here, both natural though.  One was reported at a shelter, the other one on a tugboat.  But there is widespread damage, there‘s also problems with—there‘s no water damage that we know right now. 
What they were really worrying about in these low-lying areas around here, but the big problems were water damage.  We heard there were winds, according to the sheriff‘s department, upwards of 100-miles-an-hour.  There were about half the people in this county evacuated because many said they couldn‘t evacuate because they simply didn‘t have the money or the ability to get out of the county and even if they did, they didn‘t have the money to stay in a hotel.  Fortunately, however, the right people got out because there were a number of tree that is fell over and power lines and demolished a couple homes and trailers.  Those were vacated, those people had evacuated so they were not hurt. 
And also, the hotel that we were staying at—well, we weren‘t there very long—roof ripped off of this brand-new hotel and the awning ripped off, slammed into a car below and ruined it.  They evacuated the third floor early this morning and all those people were downstairs in the lobby, waiting out the storm. 
DANIELS:  NBC‘s Michelle Hofland and that‘s why they tell people get
out of there, because you don‘t know if yours is the house that a tree that
· a tree will fall in. 

Michelle, thanks so much for that report. 
And now we‘re going to turn to MSNBC‘s chief meteorologist, Sean McLaughlin. 
And Sean, we heard all sorts of numbers surrounding the storm surge. 
What did the accurate numbers show us?
MCLAUGHLIN:  Well, it‘s amazing, with a Category 4 hurricane, you have to remember that storm surge is the leading killer of all deaths due to a hurricane.  Storm surge is that wall of water that‘s pushed ahead of the storm due to the hurricane-force winds.  I believe we have an NBC animation that shows the water coming in.  Its storm surge is the height of the water above normal tide.  And with a Category 4 hurricane, we‘re talking storm surge anywhere from 15 to 20 feet high. 
Back here live in the studio, to illustrate how high the storm surge
has been reported from the Mississippi gulf coast.  We borrowed a lift from
the lighting department here, at MSNBC, and believe it or not, Lisa, I‘m
about 17, 18 feet above you all the way down on the studio floor.  You
would represent sea level and I would represent riding the top of the storm
surge.  So it would be that much water on top of your head—would
represent the storm surge that has gone onto the gulf shore of Mississippi
today.  Kristin Dahlgren has been reporting massive flooding from Biloxi
over trough Mobile.  Governor Haley Barbour has reported the same thing, a
20 foot wall of water.  It was a  17-foot storm surge with Hurricane Andrew
DANIELS:  Now, in terms of New Orleans, which is actually below sea level, what was the storm surge there?
MCLAUGHLIN:  Well, take for example, again, we‘re about 16, 17 feet above the surface of the studio.  Go all the way down to where you‘re standing, all the way down to your feet, then go another six feet below.  That‘s on average, how far below sea level New Orleans sits, anywhere from six to 11 feet.  That‘s why they absolutely count on that system of pumps and levees to keep the water out and there has been reported flooding as the water came over the dike on the eastern half of city. 
DANIELS:  And this is really why officials were so worried because the levees are only 15, 16 feet or so, and we were talking originally of 25-foot surges. 
MCLAUGHLIN:  With a Category 5 hurricane, as it was coming on shore, thankfully it weakened, it moved a little bit to the east of New Orleans and they didn‘t get that right, front quadrant where the water would have piled right up the Mississippi and the around back Lake Pontchartrain and then up over the levee.  So, New Orleans really dodged a bullet.  They still have flooding, but worst is the storm surge, 20-foot tall, if not more, which kind of represents this height, all the way down to the studio floor, has been reported on the gulf shores of Mississippi. 
DANIELS:  Doing a demonstration like this really gives you a sense of the stale because these numbers start to lose their meaning we talk about them so much. 
All right.  Sean, get down there very safely now.  I don‘t want to have to catch you.
MCLAUGHLIN:  Yeah.
DANIELS:  All right, Sean, thanks so much.
Now to Louisiana where parts of the state hit by Katrina, like New Orleans, are below sea level, as we were talking about.  Now, add to that picture, levees and you have water essentially filling up a bowl.  Joining me now is CEO of the Louisiana capital area of the American Red Cross, Vic Howell. 
And Vic, are the phone lines still jammed, people calling in? 
VIC HOWELL, AMERICAN RED CROSS:  The phone lines are jammed, people are calling in and unfortunately the phone lines are down in New Orleans, southeast Louisiana, so we really have very little communication down there to know exactly what the situation is. 
DANIELS:  So, do you want people without emergencies not to call to keep those phone lines free for real emergencies?
HOWELL:  Absolutely, Lisa, right now, our lines are very limited and we have to use the capacity that we have to get to those people who are really in need.  So if a situation is not desperate or life-threatening, we really ask people to try to be patient and wait it out and hopefully we‘ll all be able to come together on this. 
DANIELS:  Vic, biggest concern at this hour”
HOWELL:  Biggest concern at this hour, I think, Lisa, is going into a tomorrow that we do not know what‘s going it‘s going to present, in all honesty.  New Orleans and southeast Louisiana have been terribly hit—hard hit by the storm.  We‘re seeing some of the video on national coverage that you all have been carrying and others have been carrying, and that‘s about as much as we know, quite honestly, because the conditions down there have not been such were anybody can get out and really assess the issue.
DANIELS:  Vic, is there a plan in place for the recovery to begin?
HOWELL:  Absolutely.  That‘s what we‘ve been spending time here today doing.  The American Red Cross and the state office of Homeland Security and Wildlife and Fishery, and various resources of the state, are putting themselves together to figure out what‘s the best way to go in there, assess the damage, save those who are caught in the storm and begin to try to help that part of the state recover. 
DANIELS:  Talk about a timeline to me.  How soon will folks affected by Katrina, see some sort of needed supplies like food and medical aid and water?
HOWELL:  We‘ll be bringing those type of things in tomorrow.  We are staged—the American Red Cross, right now, is staged with—we have some 166 of our emergency response vehicles ready to go in there that each can carve 5,000 meals a day.  We have kitchens going in that can serve up to 20,000 meals a day.  And so we‘re prepared right now with—we were staging up our resources in other parts of Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas, waiting until the storm passed through so we knew where the most hardest hit areas were, then we can move in immediately behind the storm and begin to help those in need. 
DANIELS:  Well, it goes without saying that in terms of logistics,
this will be a challenge but we know you‘re up for it.  Vic Howell, thanks
so much.  Best of luck.  Hope your plans goes smoothly
HOWELL:  Thank you Lisa.  And I‘m sure you‘ve heard it said before, but we‘re looking at this as being probably the single largest natural disaster the American Red Cross has ever responded to, so keep us in your prayers.  We appreciate it.
DANIELS:  We absolutely will and so will the country.  Thanks so much, Vic.
And coming up, we‘re going to talk to a congressman from Louisiana and get the latest on the effort to get the power back on across the hardest-hit areas.  We‘ll be right back. 
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
*
DANIELS:  Coming up, Hurricane Katrina moving inland after slamming ashore in Louisiana and Mississippi leaving a dangerous mess in its wake.  We get the very latest on the storm right after a quick look at the day‘s other top stories. 
(NEWSBREAK)
DANIELS:  And we‘re back with a special edition of the ABRAMS REPORT.  More of MSNBC‘s continuing coverage of Hurricane Katrina.  Here‘s the very latest. 
At least five people are dead, hundreds of thousands of people are without power and nobody really knows how many people are waiting to be rescued from devastating floods in Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana.  Now, Katrina has dropped to a Category 1 storm, but was a full Category 4.  We‘re talking 145-mile-per-hour winds when it came ashore near the Louisiana town of Buras Monday morning. 
And now we are joined by Louisiana representative, Rodney Alexander who is, right now, in Quitman, Louisiana. 
And Congressman, key question is when are these search and rescue operations going to begin?  Are you hearing anything from the various agencies that you‘re in contact with? 
REP.  RODNEY ALEXANDER ®, LOUISIANA:  Yes, we are, we were on a
conference call with people, the governor, National Guard and FEMA people,
yesterday and we‘re waiting right now to make sure that it‘s safe to go
back into those areas.  The biggest problem we‘re having now is individuals
who want to go back and check their property and see what kind of damage
has been done.  We asked that they hesitate and not go back into those
areas until it‘s been declared safe to go back
DANIELS:  And just looking at the pictures of New Orleans, even if they try to go back on the roads, they‘re not going to get past those cop cars, I see, and not to mention the fallen trees and downed power lines.  So, it‘s really no use to try to make your way back there.
ALEXANDER:  Well, that‘s true.  In north Louisiana we have several places where we‘re taking care of refugees.  I want to commend the Red Cross, they‘ve done an outstanding job they‘re feeding those that need the help and sleeping (ph) those that need a place to stay.  So we‘re encouraging them to stay and utilize the resources that we have available to them and wait to go back home until we know that it‘s safe. 
DANIELS:  Talk to me about the levees.  Is a breach still a big concern? 
ALEXANDER:  I beg your pardon? 
DANIELS:  Talk to me about the levees.  I‘m wondering, are you still worried they‘re going to collapse?
ALEXANDER:  Well, there‘s always that concern when the rivers are up.  Those levees begin to get soaked with water and at any point, they can break with the pressure, so that‘s always something that one has to be mindful of.
DANIELS:  Countless times we‘ve talked about New Orleans being the shape of a bowl, except the bowl of soup is really water.  How deep is the water?  Are you getting any type of report as to the depth? 
ALEXANDER:  Well, we‘re getting different reports, but I am several miles from New Orleans, I‘m up in the northern part of the state at this time.  New Orleans is in the toe of the boot, Louisiana‘s shaped like a boot, so New Orleans is in the tip of the toe of the boot, so we are about a hundred miles to the west of New Orleans so most of the storm went to the east of north Louisiana.  We‘ve experienced some heavy winds today, but very little moisture has fallen and the main thing we‘re doing is just taking care of the evacuees that moved up. 
DANIELS:  Well, Congressman, we really appreciate your talking to us and spending the time and please tell your constituents that we‘re all praying for them, right now. 
ALEXANDER:  Thank you and we appreciate the concern. 
DANIELS:  All right.  Rodney Alexander, Louisiana representative.  And coming up, with cities underwater, towns leveled, and shelters simply over flowing, we‘ll getting a first-hand report of the clean up and the recovery efforts. 
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  People really need to understand as long as that wind is still coming on shore, that water is going to continue to pile-up and that‘s not good news. 
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
DANIELS:  Coming up, with millions without power in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and even Florida it could be weeks before anybody gets their electricity back.  We‘ll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
DANIELS:  Hurricane Katrina continues to punish the south.  Now, spawning tornadoes as it heads north, leaving behind destruction and hundreds of thousands without any power.  Join me now, Renae Conley, president and CEO of Entergy Louisiana.  They‘re responsible for the power throughout the state expect for in Orland Parish.
Thanks so much, Renae, for spending some time with us. 
RENEA CONLEY, PRESIDENT OF ENTERGY LA:  Hi. 
DANIELS:  Hi.  Give us an approximate number of people without any power in your area right now.  Can you do it? 
CONLEY:  Yeah.  Right now, we have about a million customers without
power between southwest Louisiana and Mississippi
DANIELS:  Is that pretty much what you expected?
CONLEY:  Well, we didn‘t quite know what to expect.  This is really the worse-hit storm we‘ve ever had on the Entergy system.  We had a storm earlier this year, Sunday, that had about 270,000 customers without power and that was the most we‘d ever had out on our system.  So when you‘re looking at almost a million customers, it‘s pretty devastate to the area.
DANIELS:  The scale is so large, it‘s almost hard to fathom.  When do you think the process of getting that electricity back to people will begin? 
CONLEY:  Well, you know, it‘s hard to always assess this—we had a storm continuing to blow through into late this afternoon.  We‘re starting to send out troops to start to scout the areas, especially the areas are outside of New Orleans that we can access and see what kind of damage that we have and start to move in some of the troops.  But getting into New Orleans, a lot of flooding there, it may be a while before we can even get in to assess some areas.
DANIELS:  Yeah and I was going to ask you about those downed power lines.  I suppose until the chopper actually go out there you don‘t have a good sense of how many are actually down.
CONLEY:  Yeah, we‘ll start flying our lines—a lot of the
transmission lines are all—all ready begin to fly tomorrow.  And again,
starting to look at the areas outside of New Orleans that we can get to
safely.  And I always want to emphasize safety, that‘s our No.  1 issue,
make sure our employees and those that are here to help us are safe as we
go about this restoration.  Because it is very dangerous.  You have people
moving into areas that are not familiar with it as they come from other
states to help us
DANIELS:  Absolutely, safety is always the top concern and speaking of employees, people is seem to forget that people like you don‘t have any power.  How are you handling it? 
CONLEY:  That‘s right.  Our power went out this morning and as everyone else we‘re serving and helping each other out.  We all bring in people that had evacuated and welcome them into our homes and try to help each other out as we work through this horrific event that‘s happened here in Louisiana. 
DANIELS:  Well, if there‘s any good side to a hurricane, it‘s only that it‘s remarkable how neighbors help neighbors.  Renae Conley thanks so much, best of luck getting all those power line up.  You‘ve got a monumental job ahead of you. 
CONLEY:  Thank you very much.
All right, and joining me now is the president and CEO of the American Red Cross, Marty Evans.
And Marty, I understand this is the largest mobilization in the history of the Red Cross, as far as the natural disaster is concerned.  Can you convey to us the magnitude of what we‘re talking about here? 
MARTY EVANS, AMERICAN RED CROSS PRESIDENT AND CEO:  Well, we‘re talking about a disaster that will eclipse, a disaster response that will eclipse our response last summer to four hurricanes.  Last summer, we had 425,000 shelter nights, people in shelters.  We served over 16 million meals and so that‘s the kind of proportion we‘re talking about exceeding in the case of this disaster. 
The storm was huge and it has covered an enormous area.  It‘s not done yet, so we know that just from the geography and the population, this is our largest disaster response and as you‘ve heard from the power company, it‘s going to be a long time for some of the people to get their power again and so we expect to be feeding and sheltering people, truly through that period of time and then beyond. 
DANIELS:  It is 5:43 New Orleans time.  At this hour, at this minute, what is your biggest concern? 
EVANS:  Our biggest concern is safety, and I think many, many different people on your show have talked about safety.  We can‘t emphasize enough how important it is for people to be sure that they‘re going into an area knowing what they‘re getting into.  Not to go in until the authorities say it‘s OK to be out on the street and then to be very, very careful. 
The other thing we‘re concerned about is people come back into the
area and they find out that their home is significantly damaged or worse,
they‘re going to need some Red Cross sheltering and we‘ll be prepared to
open as many shelters as necessary not only for those people who can‘t go
to their homes, but to those who can to give them an area of respite, where
· you know, it gets really tough out there when you‘re trying to clean up the mess, it‘s hot, you become dehydrated, you need some meals.  So, we‘ll be prepared for that eventuality, as well.

The other thing that we‘re asking people to do, if they can, contact a loved one outside the area.  We want people to know that they need to be in touch with people who are concerned about them, so if they can make that contact, it will cut down on inquiries to the Red Cross. 
DANIELS:  That‘s great advice and on the that note, for relatives who are listening to this and watching the TV right now, in terms of logistics, how soon will people get some help, for relatives really worried about their loved ones? 
EVANS:  Well, that‘s going to take some time because, you know, Red Cross can only be out once the roads are clear enough to actually drive the roads.  So, the best thing people can do, if they have a concern is to call our help line, our info line, which is 1-866-getinfo, but you know, our hope is that many people will actually make that connection themselves through the use of cell phones, maybe borrow somebody‘s cell phone if possible, or go to a Red Cross shelter.  We have some capabilities in those Red Cross shelters through ham radios and in some cases, through loaner cell phones to make those contacts. 
DANIELS:  All right.  Well, I can‘t even imagine the challenge that your agency is facing, but knowing your history, you will rise to the challenge and we appreciate your speaking to us.  And relatives who are worried about their loved ones should follow your advice.  And if you would like to donate to the Red Cross, you can call 1-800-435-7669 or just go to their Web site, Redcross.com (SIC).   Thanks so much Marty.
EVANS:  It‘s Redcross.org.
DANIELS:  Red—Redcross.org, we‘ve got it.
EVANS:  OK.  Great, thanks so much. 
DANIELS:  Thank you very much.  It was just wrong on my sheet. 
Well, I‘m joined now by Mike Womack, he‘s the deputy director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.
And, give me a sense of where you are in the process of helping people. 
MIKE WOMACK, MISSISSIPPI EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY:  We‘re fortunate, about three hours ago, we started to get reports from our three coastal counties that they were able to start getting out of where they were staying to protect themselves from the storm, and answer the 911 or just the rescue calls that had been coming in.  So, for the last three or four hours, we‘ve got local responders, to the best of their ability, supplemented with National Guard troops that were prestationed down in the coastal counties, plus additional soldiers being brought in from other parts of the state.  They‘re starting the initial search and rescue missions to try to get out there a help the citizens that have been—were trapped in the storm.
DANIELS:  You know, I‘ve got to tell you, watching our correspondents provide us with reports, it was disheartening to see how many people decided to stick this one out and stay at home.  Are you worried that endangers your own employees because they‘re going to have to do these search and rescue operations? 
WOMACK:  Well, absolutely we are, but that‘s part of the joint we‘re not in the business, right now, of questioning why anyone, you know, chose to stay.  Many of these citizens did try to leave, particularly the ones in the eastern part of the gulf coast of Mississippi.  As the storm continued to shift to the east and grew in intensity, they tried to leave and then got caught up in the evacuation in Mobile and then there was a large—there was a wreck that blocked the tunnel. 
DANIELS:  Yeah.
WOMACK:  And some of them just had to turn around and head back home. 
They had no choice.
(CROSSTALK)
DANIELS:  We saw the traffic, sir.  We saw the traffic.  It was unbelievable.  But, do you think part of that re reluctance to go was because there was so much focus on New Orleans that people perhaps in central Mississippi didn‘t real realize they were going to be hit so hard? 
WOMACK:  That may have been part of it, but you also have to remember that we‘ve had a couple of near misses, so to speak, in the past two years.  Dennis just gave us a glancing blow.  Ivan gave us more of a blow, but nothing like what Florida or Alabama got.  And so, I think, you know, everybody says well, I‘m going to roll the dice and take the chance again and unfortunately, this can happen to us.
DANIELS:  Yeah.  Well, Mike Womack, I always say this, but we wish you
the very best.  You know the nation‘s really feeling for everybody in
Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and Louisiana.  We‘re just watching
helplessly.  Thanks so much, Mike
WOMACK:  Thank you
DANIELS:  And coming up.  Katrina may have weakened to a Category 1 hurricane, but she is not done yet.  What‘s still in store for her?  And how about the rest of the hurricane sea season? 
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
DANIELS:  And we‘re continuing our coverage of Hurricane Katrina which ripped into the gulf coast today, battering coastal cities in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.  It‘s the 11th named storm this hurricane season.  And joining me now to talk about what‘s ahead for the rest of the season is David Johnson, director of NOAA‘s National Weather Service. 
And David, I‘ve got to ask you, I almost hesitate to ask you, what we‘re in store for.  It‘s unprecedented to have 11 named storms like this. 
DAVID JOHNSON, NOAA DIRECTOR:  Yes, Lisa.  We first gave the outlook back I 16th of May and said this was going to be an above average season.  And then on 2nd of August, we updated it and said we should be able to expect about 18 to 21 named storms this season, and that‘s a significant season, well above average. 
DANIELS:  Give me a headline as to why this has happened.  I know you can‘t go into all the details, but why? 
JOHNSON:  Well, the environmental effects are just aligned with about a 95 percent confidence level.  You have the sea surface temperatures, nice and warm.  You have enough wind to move the storms off of the source zone, just off Africa towards the United States.  But you don‘t have too much wind, if you have too much wind, it starts to tear them apart.  And then you have a decadal signal that started in about 1995, and since ‘95, we‘ve had above average seasons and we expect it to be that way for another couple of years, so... 
DANIELS:  You know, your hearts just go out to all the people from Pensacola, all the way to even Texas.  For people trying to make decisions on where to live and where to relocate, if it comes to that, do you think it‘s going to be closer to 18 or closer to your higher number there, in the 20s? 
JOHNSON:  I think we‘re in for an above average season and I would bet on about 20 storms—named storm this season with proportionate amount of hurricanes.  And that will pertain for the next several years. 
DANIELS:  I was going to ask you, are the hurricanes going to look like Katrina, which are monsters, in both sizes and force?
JOHNSON:  Well, we expect a significant number of major hurricanes associated with it.  But, if you‘ve noticed, the accuracy on the storm tracks has been pretty good this season, and as well as last season. 
DANIELS:  Yeah, and Max Mayfield from the National Hurricane Center said at least the models were accurate, it‘s just very helpless to watch people and not be able to help them. 
David Johnson thanks so much.  Appreciate your insights. 
JOHNSON:  Well, you‘re welcome Lisa, happy to help. 
DANIELS:  All right, and coming up, one last look at the wrath of Hurricane Katrina. 
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
DANIELS:  And we wrap up this hour with a look back at some of the sights and sounds from Katrina today, and the authorities doing their best to help those in Katrina‘s path. 
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So, have you ridden out other hurricanes? 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, but it wasn‘t nothing like this one. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We heard the noises and the wind.  Kind of like got some trees broke out in the backyard and stuff. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The preservation of life and limb continues to be the first priority.  We‘ve got to get the winds down and we don‘t have vehicles that can travel on roads, that got four feet of water on them. 
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It‘s just home.  I wouldn‘t do it again.  I wouldn‘t stay home.  The feeling I felt, water through the windows. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) You know, they stuff that came off our roof, you know.  I was in the window pane that broke up in there. 
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I ain‘t never been through nothing like this.  I used to live in Pennsylvania, so I‘m not used to nothing like this.  I‘m a little nervous. 
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We‘re asking that you please stay home—stay where you are, stay safe.  There is not much that anybody can do during this time. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  See limbs is all over the place.  All the street are—are loaded with limbs. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It came on Mississippi like a ton of bricks.  It‘s a terrible storm. 
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Take precautions because this is a dangerous storm.  In the meantime, America will pray.  Pray for the health and safety of all our citizens.
(END VIDEOTAPE)
DANIELS:  As are we, that does it for us tonight.  MSNBC‘s coverage of Hurricane Katrina continues next on “Hardball” with Chris Matthews.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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