updated 8/31/2005 5:01:54 PM ET 2005-08-31T21:01:54

Guest: Ian McConnell, Scott Rady, Patrick Rhode, Christie Todd Whitman, Joseph Booth

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  You can call at this time second battle of New Orleans.  It rages tonight as water pours through the levees and Americans with guts rush to the rescue. 

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  And this is a special edition of

HARDBALL. 

Tonight, the governor of Louisiana says the city of New Orleans needs to be evacuated totally.  We have the latest damage report from Hurricane Katrina and also the latest proof of Southern courage.  As the water keeps rising, so does America‘s determination and spirit to help; 80 deaths are reported in Mississippi alone, with that number likely to grow and hundreds of people still stranded on rooftops, waiting to be saved. 

The federal government is mobilizing one of the largest disaster response teams in American history. 

We begin tonight, however, with NBC‘s Carl Quintanilla, who is in New Orleans.

Carl, how is that water there still rising in the streets of New Orleans? 

CARL QUINTANILLA, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  In the downtown area, Chris, it is not.  It‘s—but virtually 80 percent of the city is under water.  You know that the city is already shaped like a bowl. 

So, as water starts to comes in on either side, the people who are stuck in the middle have spent most of the day trying to get out, walking along the highways, toting their luggage, walking miles in some instances to catch buses that may or may not be waiting for them there.  At the same time, we see people trying to exit the city.  We have seen caravans of ambulances, literally 50 at a time, going the other direction, going to some of the most heavily flooded areas, looking for the people with the most severe injuries, bringing them back to staging areas, and if they can, Chris, taking them to the nearest available hospitals, which in many cases is in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 

We‘re in downtown right now, very close to the French Quarter, where the concern tonight is going to be looting.  We have seen instances of it already in plain day.  We were at a Walgreens not too far away where looting was taking place, even as a trumpeter was playing “And the Saints Go Marching In.”  Another instance, we were trying to take pictures of them with our cameras.  They asked us if we wanted to join in. 

There‘s virtually no fear of ramifications tonight.  And although police are patrolling the area with automatic weapons, hoping that is a deterrent, Chris, residents here still are fearful, as in the words of one, saying it is going to get dark tonight very, very quickly. 

MATTHEWS:  Has the police force or the other authorities, the National Guards people, have they explained why they‘re not enforcing the law? 

QUINTANILLA:  They have.  From—one thing about this, as you know, in instances like this, Chris, is, information travels out of town on wire services, but only in pockets. 

So, our point of view has been very narrow.  We can see the helicopters.  We can see them delivering supplies to the Superdome, but it is virtually impossible to know, with no cell service, why they‘re there and what those people standing outside the Superdome are waiting for.  So, our intelligence that we can give from you here is that the situation in downtown is fearful, especially as the sun is about to go down. 

MATTHEWS:  Are they preparing the levees right now surrounding the city? 

QUINTANILLA:  Again, no way to know.  We went across the causeway trying to get a better look at them.  The levees that we saw looked intact. 

But, clearly, if we—if we could show you about a quarter-mile down the street, you would see water in the street, not submerging it like it was earlier today, which is a good sign, which is a hopeful sign.  At one point, we didn‘t think we would be able to leave this block radius right here.  So, the levees, I cannot tell you much about, other than the effect it has had on historic New Orleans. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, Carl Quintanilla.

Let‘s to go now to HARDBALL‘s David Shuster, who is in Biloxi, Mississippi, the city hardest hit. 

David, I saw those pictures of that city.  It looks like a—I don‘t know how the describe it.  Everything, it looks like Nagasaki there, unbelievable sight of this devastation. 

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Yes, Chris, it is overwhelming, and not just for the people here, but also for all the rescue personnel. 

The reason that they‘re saying that it is 80 casualties and could be in the hundreds is because they simply can‘t get to a lot of places.  And there‘s just so much debris, so much debris, that they expect that, when they can finally get in, when they can finally solve the problem with the gas lines, when they can finally get the dogs in to sniff for the bodies, that‘s when they think they will find so many of the people who perished in what clearly, now that the waters have receded, is the catastrophe that everybody feared. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHUSTER (voice-over):  The view from the air underscores just how devastating Katrina was.  Tens of thousands of home and businesses were destroyed.  And here, there were no miracles.  Everything within half-a-mile of the Gulf has been erased. 

EUNICE YOUNGBLOOD, RESIDENT OF BILOXI:  Everything is gone.  We worked so hard.  My husband I, we are married 47 years.  And we worked so hard trying to get it paid for.  And when we thought, you know, we would enjoy it, now it‘s all gone.  Now we don‘t know what we were going to do. 

SHUSTER:  A quarter-mile from the beach, Eric Kordeck returned to his house today. 

ERIC KORDECK,  RESIDENT OF BILOXI:  That was my front steps.  That‘s my bathtub.  And that was my shed right there. 

SHUSTER:  But Kordeck says he is lucky.  Next door, there stood an apartment.  And many of his neighbors ignored the official advice to leave. 

KORDECK:  Supposedly there were some people there and the building started crumbling and they were hanging on to the handrail over there.  And some of the other people up the street tried to help them and actually saved a few people, but there was a couple people that were trying to help other people and actually probably got knocked out and drowned. 

SHUSTER:  Across the county today, and with the help of the National Guard, sheriff‘s deputies fanned out and searched for bodies. 

(on camera):  Just outside Biloxi and along the bay, this is one of the places along the Gulf here that got hit the hardest.  Water here on this very street, 24 feet, which would mean another 18 feet above where I am.  And, as far as you can see, all the way from here, another half-mile down towards the water, nothing but destruction. 

(voice-over):  The survivor stories came a little farther inland. 

CONNIE BRUSHERS,  RESIDENT OF BILOXI:  This was a refriger on the back porch. 

SHUSTER:  Connie Brushers and his family saw the water rising a foot every minute and they swam to a neighbor‘s house that had a taller, sturdier roof. 

BRUSHERS:  My son took the dogs.  We got the dogs up on the roof.  And I got my wife on the roof.  And I took one of them plastic things and I grabbed something to keep us warm, grabbed a cell phone, grabbed cigarettes, because I got too much oxygen in my brain.  And we got up there and we survived. 

SHUSTER:  There is no power or electricity in Biloxi and the damage is so widespread, officials say the cleanup will take months.  But survivors are finding mementos, a lunch box here, some photos there, something that residents say they can build on. 

DAVID WATHERN, RESIDENT OF BILOXI:  This was my front hall way.  You see the chandelier hanging there? 

SHUSTER:  This man, whose home was totally destroyed, makes his living as a musician. 

WATHERN:  I ain‘t worried about my house.  I got my guitar. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHUSTER:  And there is an optimistic spirit here, but those moments are fleeting simply because of the enormity of the catastrophe.  And if there‘s anybody here in Biloxi who has seen it all, it is Anne (ph) and Lee Collins (ph), who have live here, born and raised, lived in Biloxi 58 years. 

Anne, what do you make of what happened here? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, we thought Camille was devastating.  But this outdoes Camille by hundreds of times.  It‘s—this is really devastating.  It‘s a terrible, terrible thing to happen. 

SHUSTER:  Lee, what was it like for you riding out this storm? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, we were—when I first saw it, we thought, well, it is not going to be that bad.  And then, all of sudden, water started coming up.  We have never had water in our part of town.  Never.  And our neighbors down the street, they got three and four feet of mud and water, devastating. 

SHUSTER:  And I understand, Anne, that it has also been pretty grim, with everything that you guys have seen. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, it has.  We have seen dead bodies.  We have seen the old cemetery just torn to pieces, caskets upped-ground and upheaved and head markers that will probably never find their owners.  It‘s really been bad. 

SHUSTER:  Lee, what is the biggest challenge right now for people who are living here and...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Right now, it is just surviving.  You just—you don‘t know what it is like to be without water until you‘re out of it.  One minute, you are knee-deep in mud.  And now you‘re just looking for something to drink.

And, actually, the worst thing is, you want to be able to take a bath, because you have got to clear all this stuff up yourself.  I mean, if you don‘t, nobody else is going to do it.  And you would like to be able to step in a nice cool shower.  Can‘t do it. 

SHUSTER:  Are you fearful at all about the looting?  There‘s a lot of police, but there are still a lot of people running around rummaging through some of the debris. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes, I am.  And I think it is a sin if people do that.  They need to think on terms of, it might be them in other people‘s position.  And I think it would be a terrible thing.  We have seen it happen.  And it is happening now.  But, hopefully, people—I guess people are so afraid that they‘re not going to have things either or survival things. 

And it—I think, in their minds, it is just a test, a thing of survival.  It is not of trying to be a bad person or anything.  People are just scared to death. 

SHUSTER:  I know that a lot of people we have spoken with say that they haven‘t been able to reach their relatives, their loved ones because there‘s no cell phone service for the most part.  You have some family in Georgia.  While don‘t you take this opportunity to let them know that you‘re OK? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Mike Latile (ph), we would love to tell you that we are all fine.  Everyone is safe.  And we hope that you will be able to get through to us pretty soon.  But, right now, we‘re unable to contact you.  And we love you so very much. 

SHUSTER:  Lee, anything?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Take care, son.  We will see you when you get here.  I hope you‘ll get here soon. 

SHUSTER:  Lee and Anne Collins.

Chris, I don‘t think there‘s anything we can say to top what they‘ve just given us. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, I have to ask whether—does insurance cover any of this damage for these folks, the Collinses? 

SHUSTER:  Great question.  Let me ask you.

Chris Matthews wants to know, does insurance cover any of the damage, the destruction that you have had? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s tough.  If it‘s water, it‘s flood damage, unless you have flood insurance, no.  You‘re going to eat it.  We have got FEMA down here and these kinds of things.  But, still, these are bills that you‘re going to have to pay.  So, no.

SHUSTER:  Tell me about your business.  How do—where do you work?  What has the damage been like and when do—do you expect to even go back to work any time? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It‘s up to him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No.  The casinos are gone.  They‘re gone. 

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The Palace, I went down there today.  And it is just gone.  And this is not something that they‘re just going to be able to stick right back up. 

The casinos are water-based.  We cannot put them on land.  And I‘m hoping now that the state of Mississippi will say, hey, look, we need to be able to put them where—where they‘re safer. 

SHUSTER:  Anne and Lee Williams (sic), thank you both very much—

Chris, back to you. 

MATTHEWS:  Great report.  Thank you.  A sad report, but a very important one.  Thank you very much, David Shuster.  And thank you to the Collins family.

Coming up, more pictures of the flooding of New Orleans.  We are going to talk to Douglas Brinkley, who is in the middle of it. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s edition on Hurricane Katrina.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, so what are the law enforcement agencies actually doing tonight to prevent looting?

HARDBALL‘s special edition will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to this special edition of HARDBALL. 

For more than a—for more of the far-reaching devastation of Hurricane Katrina, we go now to NBC‘s Ron Blome, who is in Mobile, Alabama. 

Ron, there‘s been over 100 people killed in Mississippi.  What‘s the situation right now in Alabama? 

RON BLOME, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  No deaths here, no real serious injuries. 

This is a city that got a mud bath and a few hard knocks and lost its electricity.  But that‘s pretty much the bottom line.  They‘re going to be the lucky city when the history of Katrina is written.  There was a serious incident out near the highway bridge that crosses the Mobile River.  A drilling rig broke loose from the shipyards and was pushed up against it.  Three tugboats got behind it and tried to slow it and stop it and secure it.

They‘re keeping that bridge closed until they can do an engineering study on it.  Beyond that, the waters receded out of downtown.  It is covered in a thick, slimy mud.  And they were cleaning that out today down along the coast, Bayou La Batre, Dauphin Island, places like that.  There was devastation to homes.  They were low.  They were hit by the storm surge.  They were still assessing that damage today. 

Mobile also received a lot of residents from the Gulf Coast in New Orleans, who were fleeing. 

One of them joins me, David Cole (ph).

David, you‘re from Gulfport.  Any idea what your house looks like right now? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No idea whatsoever.  I have been trying to get ahold of some friends to find out if they can get anywhere near it to find out for me.  But we haven‘t been able to reach them either. 

BLOME:  Did you have any second thoughts about running away from this storm? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I wanted to go north, but everybody else wanted to go east.  So, we went east. 

BLOME:  What we‘re hearing now is, there could be a lot of deaths in Gulfport, in the Biloxi area, the area you left.  Did you feel that—you have only lived there eight years.  Did you feel a lot of the locals thought, it will never again happen like Camille; we don‘t need to flee? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Where—in my general area, everybody pretty much knew.  And some of the neighbors that are there, they immediately got out, because they were Ivan in Florida. 

BLOME:  Now, you‘re going to try to get back tomorrow.  And you said your job is located along one of those industrial canals that come in. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes. 

BLOME:  Your place of work may or may not be there.  What are you going to do? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If I have to, I will help with cleanup.  It will give me something to do until they can either rebuild where I work or I can find something else. 

BLOME:  Now, life here on the evacuee list is not easy.  Tell me where your room is. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  On the 15th floor. 

BLOME:  And the electricity situation? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No power. 

BLOME:  It‘s a long hike. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Very.  I hiked it about three or four times last night.  And I haven‘t done it today, because, after last night, I was wore out. 

BLOME:  So, you and your sister and your niece have moved into the lobby for a little while. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Until they can get the power back up, yes.

BLOME:  And, again, you‘ll be back there tomorrow to see what‘s left of your life? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.  Hopefully, we will get back tomorrow evening or tomorrow afternoon, one of the two.  It depends on how long it takes for us to drive from here to there. 

BLOME:  But you made the right decision.  You evacuated.

Quite a few people evacuated, of course, and they moved all across the country.  Officials, by the way, are encouraging people not to hurry back in, because they want to try to finish the search-and-recovery operations before they give the go-ahead.  I know some of them have been setting Monday morning as a deadline before they want people to start coming back in. 

That‘s the story from Mobile—Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Ron Blome in Mobile, Alabama.

Living in the Big Easy—that‘s New Orleans—has never been harder.  Author and historian Douglas Brinkley, a familiar face on this program, lives and works in New Orleans.  He‘s been at the University of New Orleans for so many years.  He joins us now by phone.

Douglas, how did you get through the night? 

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, NBC ANALYST:  Well, boy, it was rocking. 

I mean, I boarded up my house and my family and I took to high ground, a post-Camille high-rise along the Mississippi River.  And we did pretty well.  We knew there was going to be a generator.  But just looking, Chris, at the Mississippi River from that building while the eye came over New Orleans, the river turned into whitecaps going backwards, meaning the water was flowing up river from the Gulf.  And there were just waves. 

It was a very eerie and frightening sight.  But that central part, where I was at of New Orleans, the French Quarter, today, it is getting some water.  But a lot of the historic buildings survived in that whole central business district, French Quarter district. 

But on the out—but, today, I drove to Texas, where I‘m talking to -

·         from you now.  But cities like Kenner, Louisiana, are just completely under water.  I don‘t know how people are going to get back to their lives.  It is a horrific scene everywhere around. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me get a damage report from you.  How about my favorite locales?  How about Cafe Du Monde?  How about the Cafe Napoleon, those places in the Quarter?  Have they made it? 

BRINKLEY:  Yes, they made it. 

And I think one of the—I would really like to say thank you to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  I mean, after the great flood of 1927, which brought such devastation to the Mississippi Delta and New Orleans, the Army has constantly worked on the levee system.  And while it‘s not perfect—you have been showing a lot of maps and all—the river did not break, meaning those walls on the Mississippi kept hemmed in.  So Cafe Du Monde, for example, which you mentioned, a great 24-hour beignet place, where they serve beignet.

And Cafe Ole, Tennessee Williams once said you could sit there and meet the whole world coming through, right on the river, yet that—the damage there is very minimal and superficial, because the levee around the crescent, where the Mississippi River curves kind of held out.  The place that is in the worst shape is anywhere along Lake Pontchartrain. 

Even today, there‘s continuing levels of water rising.  And that‘s where you‘re getting most of your more dramatic photos of people anywhere near Lake Pontchartrain.  The Mississippi stayed its course fairly well. 

MATTHEWS:  Quickly, is Tulane University going back to school in September? 

BRINKLEY:  Boy, I don‘t know.  I was supposed to start teaching, Chris.  One of the reasons I didn‘t want to leave today was the first day of classes. 

In fact, in New Orleans over the weekend, all the moms and dads from my university, Tulane, came in.  And they were, many of them, stuck in Marriotts and Sheratons.  Instead of welcoming their kids to school, they‘re trying to get out of town.  My guess is about probably 10 days until electricity gets on in New Orleans and about two weeks until you start getting things like colleges running again. 

MATTHEWS:  All those great colleges down there, UNO and Loyola and of course Tulane.

Good luck in getting school started down there in this amazing catastrophe. 

Thank you, Douglas Brinkley, a great historian.

Up next, where is this devastating storm headed now?  It is heading north.  We will tell you where. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s special edition of Hurricane Katrina. 

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Some of the most heartbreaking stories we have covered from Hurricane Katrina are those of people who survived hurricane Camille back in ‘69 and thought they could weather this big one as well.  We will try to find out why they didn‘t act on evacuation orders from government leaders, also why they didn‘t act from warnings from weather reports. 

Bill Karins is with NBC Weather Plus.

Welcome, Bill.

BILL KARINS, NBC METEOROLOGIST:  Well, thank you, Chris. 

We have been watching this storm for the last 48 to 72 hours.  And I think the biggest reason a lot of those people just didn‘t leave is, we had nothing to compare this storm to.  We had Hurricane Andrew, of course, one of the worst in U.S. history.  But that was half the size, about the same intensity, but half the size of Katrina.  And a lot of people just weren‘t old enough to remember what Camille did. 

You can currently see there‘s a tropical depression here heading through Ohio Valley.  We‘re not too concerned with any flooding rains or anything like that.  The timeline, it is now heading into Ohio.  It should be out up into Canada by the time we head through tomorrow evening.  So, we‘re just about done with the weather effects. 

But now the big story down there is going to be the heat over the next couple days, a lot of people, no fresh water, no electricity, obviously no air conditioning in the region.  It is currently in the low 90s.  That sun is going to be setting here soon in the region.  That heat index—that‘s when we combine the temperatures and also the humidity—it feels like about 97 right now in Biloxi. 

The forecast is even worse tomorrow.  It should be even hotter.  Biloxi not reporting right now, but it will be about 96 tomorrow, in New Orleans, 95.  The heat index in Biloxi should be about 105.  So, we‘re going to talk about a lot of heat for all these people.  You have got all that standing water, the bacteria, all the other nasty stuff that is going to just feast in all these hot conditions.  And that‘s what we are going to be seeing out there, Chris.   

MATTHEWS:  Bill, hurricane fatigue, it is called.  You mentioned it briefly.  Give us a greater understanding, if you can.  Weather reports are as scientific as you can make them.  Why don‘t people respond to them? 

KARINS:  Well, like last year, a lot of times before the hurricanes we had even last summer, we would give you the big warnings.  Remember, with Floyd a bunch of years back, huge storm, Category 4 or 5, we had to evacuate about half the East Coast there of Florida.  A lot of those people came back saying, the storm never even hit here.  Why did we evacuate?

Of course, that storm, that Floyd did hit North Carolina very hard.  And that‘s what happened for a bunch of years.  We did not have these direct landfalls.  And we didn‘t have any impacts like we have had in the last two years.  And we just had nothing to compare Katrina to.  The storm surge was 30 feet.  That‘s the record.  Camille was only 25 feet.  And a lot of people down there say Camille was about half the size of this storm.

That‘s why, originally, last night, we had reports from Mobile saying it was a 10-foot surge.  Oh, it wasn‘t that bad.  That was 75 miles away from the center of the storm, Chris.  And now we are finally seeing the true effects of a 30-foot storm surge, unheard of, never on record here in the U.S.  It will be interesting to see what happens with the next storm, hurricane season still a good two months to go.  I‘m sure at least we will have one more scare throughout this year. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, we‘re learning a lot, Bill, about hurricanes and that right-hand punch they‘ve got coming...

KARINS:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  ... in on the right, like they did on Biloxi.  What a leveling that was. 

Anyway, thank you very much, Bill Karins.

KARINS:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Up next, what‘s being done to punish the looters?  And how is law enforcement going to keep law and order once the sun goes down tonight?  Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi is going to be with us in a moment. 

This is a special edition of HARDBALL on Hurricane Katrina.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to this special edition of HARDBALL on the catastrophic damage left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. 

Tonight, there is no water to drink, no food and no electricity.  So, how safe is the South going to be after dark tonight?  Can the police and National Guardsmen keep order, law and order, and catch the looters if they have to? 

NBC‘s Don Teague is in Metairie, Louisiana, just outside New Orleans. 

Don, are the police and the National Guards people letting people loot, as we saw in front of that Walgreens a couple moments ago? 

DON TEAGUE, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, I haven‘t seen any instances where there was looting going on and there were authorities of any kind standing by watching it. 

I can tell that you, while it is their intention to crack down and not allow any looting—in fact, I know the governor said that they would be ruthless in going after it—you have to pick and choose when you have lives on the line to be saved and where you put your efforts. 

I will give an example.  We were driving through an area earlier today in Kenner and we rolled up on a pawn shop that was on fire.  It had just started.  And it was really starting to go.  An interesting side note, pawn shops are full of gun, so bullets were flying everywhere from the ammunition inside being popped off by this fire.  Well, the—we called the police, called the fire department, said, come out here and put out the fire. 

It took them a while to respond, not because they‘re not interested in putting out a fire but, because they have got so many problems out here, so many people in need.  They did in fact come and start to work on that fire.  But it took a while.  In the meantime, one of the people who was around that area told me that that fire was started by looters who had been in that building just before we arrived and may have set the fire to sort of cover their tracks—Chris.

MATTHEWS:  You said they have to pick their shots.  Are the police having separate rules of engagement for people taking food because they need it or people who have a criminal intent to steal products of real value to sell? 

TEAGUE:  Well, I haven‘t had an opportunity to talk to any officers about that specifically.  I can tell you how I expect my day today.  We were focusing on rescue efforts.  So, although we came across the aftermath of the looting and NBC crews have seen it, it hasn‘t been my focus of the day. 

But I can tell that you, generally, the authorities are going to treat theft—if it is not yours and you‘re taking it from my store or my business, they‘re going to treat it the time same either way.  Clearly, we all have compassion for the fact that the people here are in miserable circumstances. 

Chris, it is miserable here.  The temperature today has been well into the 90s, stifling humidity.  And the reason people can live here is because there‘s air conditioning.  And they‘re not going to have air conditioning here for a long time.  They are not going to have running water here for at least a week, would be a really, really positive guess, if not much longer. 

So, tempers will run short and lives are very hard here right now.  We came across a group of people who—some neighbors had banded together in the one pickup truck they had.  They had gathered five-gallon buckets.  They went down to a canal with who knows what.  But this was not clear water you‘re seeing coming through this canal.  And they were dipping that out in five-gallon buckets to take back to their house because they needed the water in their homes. 

And I said, you are not going to drink that, are you?  And they said, no.  But they needed the water for other things, particularly to flush the toilets and such.  So, you can‘t imagine, if you‘re not here, how miserable it is. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thanks.  I‘m getting the picture.  Thank you very much, Don Teague.

Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Booth commands the Crisis Response and Special Operations Unit for the Louisiana State Police.  He joins us now by phone.

Colonel Booth, we were just watching some rather distressing pictures

·         I don‘t know what kind of person would like seeing these pictures—of people stealing stuff and being chased by police in the moment of this national and regional tragedy here.  How big a problem is this going to get to be tonight? 

LT. COL. JOSEPH BOOTH, LOUISIANA STATE POLICE:  Well, we‘re worried that the problem is going to continue to grow.  So, our response is going to continue to grow also. 

But as your reporter was commenting, our primary emphasis right now is on saving lives and rescuing people.  And there‘s still a lot of that to be done.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, what is the situation with regard to people on rooftops right now?  We have seen some of these dramatic rescues from the rooftops in the various states along the Gulf Coast down there.  Is that still going on now? 

BOOTH:  It is still going on now.  We are still increasing our rescue effort.  We‘re doing it by boat, helicopter, track vehicle.  We‘re using every means we can to get to these people, because they‘ve been stranded and without any support since the storm hit. 

MATTHEWS:  What is it like in these weather conditions to bring a copter down, a chopper down, low enough to be doing what we‘re watching right now, these basket rescues?

BOOTH:  Well, the weather is—I mean, it‘s hot, but the weather is not unfavorable to this effort.  So, initially, it was.  It was very windy and difficult.  But the weather today was suitable for rescue. 

MATTHEWS:  How do you go about doing this?  Do you get a radio call from these people?  Do you spot them visually?  How do you decide on your triage, where to go first to pull people off roofs? 

BOOTH:  Chris, we don‘t have a science there.

I will tell you what we‘re doing.  We‘re getting many, many calls and we‘re dispatching to those calls.  But it is very frequent.  The rescuers are telling me that, before they can get to the dispatched call, the boat is filled up and they have to go back.  And so, we‘re certainly trying to go after people who have special needs, that have medical problem or are sick or injured, and trying to get those first.  But the need is so great, it isn‘t hard to find people who need rescuing. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘re watching dramatic pictures here of courageous guys—they‘re men mostly—holding onto people and pulling them off of rooftops.  Tell me about these guys.  How do they—who are they?  And how do they get trained to do this incredible stuff you only have to do like every 10 or 20 years?   

BOOTH:  Well, you know, luckily, we have the military and the Coast Guard here with us.  And that is a bigger part of their daily mission, something they train up for more often than we do. 

But we certainly have police and other volunteers here trying to help us with that.  And it is something we train; it is something we prepare for.  And, luckily, we don‘t have to do it very often. 

MATTHEWS:  Is this the era of the cell phone, where the families with cell phone that have still got have some power in them, the ones being able to call in their mayday? 

BOOTH:  That‘s exactly right.

In fact, we‘re getting call from other states, even, that are hearing from family members who heard a hard-to-understand call from a family in New Orleans and relaying any information to us.  We‘re getting information from people stuck on their roof, making cell phone calls.  So, yes, that is a big change in our ability to be aware of the need of people to be rescued and go find them. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Colonel, I would rather watch these pictures than watch the looting pictures.  These make me feel very good, the courage of these guys holding on to these people they have never met before, may never meet again.  But, boy, they‘re saving their lives now. 

It‘s great to have you on.

BOOTH:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Colonel Joseph Booth.

Coming up, two heroes, a Coast Guard pilot and a rescue swimmer, who spent today saving people stranded on rooftops in Mississippi. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, the country is pitching in with relief efforts to help those in need.

More on that when HARDBALL‘s special edition on Hurricane Katrina returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to this special edition of HARDBALL. 

The full devastation of Hurricane Katrina looms larger, as you can see, by the hour. 

Joining me now is the deputy director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency—FEMA, it is called—Patrick Rhode.

Thank you, Patrick, for joining us.

PATRICK RHODE, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY: 

Thank you for having me, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Give us a sense of the dimension of what you‘re doing and the role the president is going to play as he comes back to Washington. 

RHODE:  Chris, this is an absolutely massive undertaking of both the federal government and those within our state and local communities.  This is truly something that we don‘t see very often at all, as the pictures that we‘re beginning to see today are really telling us. 

What we‘re basically looking at right now is an incredible undertaking of search-and-rescue, as we‘re trying to find those people who need our services as much as possible.  But, first of all, what we‘re trying to do is to try to rescue as many people as we possibly can right now.  They‘re obviously trapped in some of these locations.  And we‘re finding them as fast as we possibly can. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the president‘s role.  Will he be commanding the operation?  Or how will he be utilizing his powers as president? 

RHODE:  Well, the president is our boss. 

I certainly work on behalf of the FEMA director and certainly Secretary Chertoff of the Department of Homeland Security.  But it was through president‘s efforts, as he saw this Category 5 hurricane approaching, where he made sure that there were emergency declarations declared on behalf of the federal government within Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama to make sure that FEMA was leaning as far forward as it possibly could and also all of our federal partners in all the states.

And what that did was, it encouraged many of the evacuations that we saw.  And it‘s also afforded us to move many of these commodities as close as we possibly can, many of which life-sustaining commodities in the way of water and ice, meals ready to eat, of course, cots and blankets, and, certainly, our urban search-and-rescue teams, our disaster medical assistance teams.  All of that proactiveness allowed us to move as close as we possibly can to the victims. 

Right now, what we‘re trying to do is to just try to find as many of these potentially most impacted areas and those people who need our assistance most right now through a rescue mission. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s run through the triage here.  I guess it is a fair use of the term. 

You have got to deal with the rescue.  How did FEMA handle the deployment of the helicopters and all the other forces that are taking people off of rooftops right now, even as we speak? 

RHODE:  It is a great question, Chris.  It‘s a massive undertaking. 

And FEMA works very closely with all of state partners.  And we work very closely with the Coast Guard.  We work very closely with a lot of the individuals that you see behind me here, who represent the Department of Transportation, which are affording transportation assets, the Department of Energy.  You‘re looking at the Red Cross for sheltering.

But as it relates specifically to the search-and-rescue issues, we are talking about a massive mobilization of first-responders that we are coordinating with on behalf of the states to try to make sure that we are canvassing the areas as much as we possibly can.  That‘s heavy on Coast Guard assets, as we have seen through many of the pictures today. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Right.  They‘re so courageous, these guys. 

RHODE:  We are also looking at the Department of Defense as well. 

They certainly are.  They‘re real heroes. 

MATTHEWS:  They‘re so courageous.  It‘s an amazing sight to watch these guys come down, land on roofs and then be plucked up in those baskets and loading those scared people.  What a sight. 

It‘s so bracing.

RHODE:  They are true heroes.

MATTHEWS:  I have to say.

Let me ask you about New Orleans.  We have got the governor, Governor Blanco, of Louisiana saying that whole city, the entire city of New Orleans has to be evacuated.  How is FEMA going to handle that incredible removal of people from a dangerous area? 

RHODE:  Well, fortunately, through the proactiveness of the President Bush‘s emergency declaration, many people already of course evacuated, as we saw through those pictures. 

Unfortunately, some people, some people, for whatever reason, were not able to get out.  And we certainly are left with some folks that we have got to try to attend to right now.  What we‘re looking at is still a part of our rescue mission, where we‘re trying to bring in assets of helicopters.  We‘re trying to bring in all sorts of assets that can be applied in the way of transportation to try to move some of those most critically perhaps injured people and certainly those special needs folks, so that we can try to make sure that we get them out of the city and get them that life-sustaining, life-sustaining help that they most need. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Are you going to bring in any C-17s in there to take those

people out in bulk?  Or are you going to try to get them out by land?  I

mean, if you‘re going to try to get 10,000 or 20,000 people out of a city -

·         or, in fact, I don‘t know how many are left.  But it‘s tens of thousands. 

How do you move them out by copter? 

(CROSSTALK)

RHODE:  It is really an hour-by-hour situation. 

And when we talk about—when we talk about any more in the way of evacuation, we‘re really talking about trying to take a look of prioritizing those within the special needs community.  And we‘re also watching, of course, just the conditions as we begin to assess them more and more, just as to how immediate the needs are to evacuate folks from certain areas within the city. 

Certainly, there are areas, say, around the Superdome, where perhaps we feel a little bit more secure than certainly other areas of the city.  And so, we‘re constantly making that assessment together with the city. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you know, I heard a great line today, Patrick.  It‘s that Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of the late president, said that you don‘t know—she said that women are like tea bags.  You don‘t know your own strength until you‘re in hot water.  I think that‘s very appropriate today.  We didn‘t know our own strength until we saw these kinds of operations. 

What a great, heroic picture they make for the country. 

Anyway, thank you very much, Patrick Rhode of FEMA.

The Coast Guard has spent the past 24 hours rescuing people, as you can see, who were stranded on rooftop. 

Petty Officer Scott Rady and Lieutenant Ian McConnell conducted search-and-rescue missions in Mississippi today.  And both join us by phone. 

Let me ask you, first of all, Scott, tell me your recollections of today as you will remember them for all time. 

PETTY OFFICER SCOTT RADY, COAST GUARD:  It was one of the scariest things I have probably ever witnessed.  The devastation of the New Orleans and the surrounding areas, it was just something that I could me imagine. 

MATTHEWS:  It looks like Nagasaki or Hiroshima.  I mean, I shouldn‘t say that perhaps on the day that we‘re recognizing the surrender of Japan.  But I have never seen a whole city just erased like a Biloxi today.  What was it like to be there? 

RADY:  It was an incredible experience. 

You have people waving you down from all areas on rooftops, on bridges, on cars, everywhere.  It‘s just, the city is under water.  And then you move farther east and it is just total destruction of houses, and once were houses, now are piles of wood. 

MATTHEWS:  Ian, how many copter, how many helicopter units do we have out there deployed today? 

LT. IAN MCCONNELL, COAST GUARD:  From the Coast Guard air station in Mobile, Alabama, we have 17 aircraft.  And, of them, 14 are helicopters. 

MATTHEWS:  And how many people have you been able to save today? 

MCCONNELL:  I don‘t have the total on that.  But my crew, with Petty Officer Rady, saved 21 today and a little dog.  So, we‘re happy about all of those lives saved. 

Most of those lives were saved from rooftops.  And three of them were from a road where we discovered some people in distress who weren‘t able to travel to any hospitals, because all the roads were blocked by deep water. 

MATTHEWS:  Ian—or, Scott, have you—as you approached those buildings, those buildings where people were on the rooftops, did anybody not want to get on that plane? 

RADY:  No, no, not at all.  Everybody was really—and, in fact, we had to kind of put people in lines and things like that to get on the helicopter.  Most everybody wants—wants a ticket out on the helicopter. 

MATTHEWS:  Did you have any disasters or any problems with people getting off?  Once they were identified by you folks and you got them aboard the helicopter, everything was safe from there on out for them?

RADY:  Sure was.  They were—they thanked us 1,000 times.  And they had the biggest smiles on their faces once they got out of that—the situation that they were in. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Ian. 

Run over this, as we face the next couple days.  What is it going to be like from now on?  Are there still people stuck on those roofs as they go to nightfall tonight in Mississippi, especially? 

MCCONNELL:  OK, sir, I don‘t know about Mississippi. 

But down in New Orleans, actually, in the inner city, there are just thousands of houses that have water up to their roof eaves.  And as we flew around, people would pop out of the roofs, out of openings in the roofs and out of upper floor windows and just wave right rags at us and anything that they could.  Some people had signal mirrors. 

And I‘m afraid that those people will be stuck on the roofs for the entire night without any signaling devices.  And the aircraft operations overnight will probably decrease because of safety issues and start back up in the morning... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  More rescues tomorrow morning, gentlemen.

Thank you very much for this heroic report.  Thank you, Scott Rady. 

And thank you, Lieutenant Ian McConnell.

Coming up, filthy floodwaters.  Sanitation and drinking water is a big problem in the Gulf states, as you can see and imagine.  In a moment, we will talk to the former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman.

We‘ll be right back with her.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with a special edition of HARDBALL covering Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, which is only now becoming clear. 

Christie Todd Whitman is the former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.  She‘s also the former governor of New Jersey.  She is with us from New Jersey right now to give us an idea of the challenge ahead. 

Governor, thank you for joining us. 

I mean, I have never heard such discussion of the environment as an immediate clear and present danger as these conversations about this gumbo soup that is apparently going to envelop the city of New Orleans. 

CHRISTIE TODD WHITMAN ®, FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR:  It is a toxic

mix that we really don‘t even know everything that is in it.  But it is not

·         it is a soup you don‘t want to go anywhere near. 

And when you think—and you saw those pictures of people being rescued off roofs and you think of the number that are still there, just remember that they‘ve been without water now since the storm first hit.  And they have no way.  It‘s fine to say you boil the water.  What do you boil it with when you don‘t have any power?  You can‘t do that.

And so, if they start to try to drink that water, there could be some very serious health consequences.  People need to get out of there. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Are there any diseases that are likely to spread in this kind of a situation that we should worry about? 

WHITMAN:  It is not a question of having a plague-type of response. 

But it is—the gastrointestinal problems can be very severe, because this is probably highly contaminated water.  But you don‘t even know yet.  You have a lot of petrochemical facilities there.  You have chemical facilities.  You have refineries.  We don‘t even know what‘s in the water. 

You‘re going to have dead bodies, animal bodies, human bodies from some of the graveyards that have been undermined.  It‘s—you don‘t know what is in that water.  There will be—there‘s a plane called ASPECT that was by the Environmental Protection Agency with the Department of Defense.  And they‘re going to be flying that over.  That gives you pretty much real-time data on what kind of chemicals might be in the water.  But, until they‘ve been able to really do that, people just need to stay away from the water as much as they can. 

MATTHEWS:  One of the spurs to the modern environmental movement, as you know, was when the Cuyahoga River up in Cleveland caught fire that time. 

WHITMAN:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Are we in danger here of seeing, with all this gasoline floating around here in this highly energy-stuffed state of Louisiana, with all those refineries down there, of having that kind of situation develop in this heat? 

WHITMAN:  Well, you certainly—there‘s a potential there, but you would have to have a concentration.  And the water is spread out over so much that getting that kind of a slick that would give you the ability to have combustion—the bigger problem—and as you saw on some of your videos—is buildings going up in flames and you can‘t reach them. 

The only way you can fight that kind of fire is from boats and bringing in helicopters that can dump water on it.  And right now, you need those helicopters to rescue people who need to be taken out and gotten away from that whole situation. 

MATTHEWS:  Two hundred years from now, Governor, will we be facing the same situation because of the following elements?  People like to live in that area.  They‘ve grown up down there.  They have a strong connection to the soil of that part of the country and to the culture.  They want to live in New Orleans.  They want to live in Biloxi.  They want to live along the Gulf Coast. 

How is anything going to change?  We have an oil industry down there.  We have an tourist industry down there.  And we have a whole Southern culture around the Gulf Coast.  Is this something we are going to have to live with, like they live with it in Bangladesh and other countries? 

I‘m serious.

WHITMAN:  Well, I don‘t think it‘s going to be that bad, but yes.

People want to live in those areas.  You have communities that have been there for hundreds of years.  They—people don‘t want to leave those communities.  And as long as we continue to provide the kind of ability to rebuild, and as long as people can get insurance—and a lot of these people are going to suddenly find they don‘t have the insurance to rebuild there.  But as long as the government is going to be stepping in, then you‘re going to see those communities rebuild.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

WHITMAN:  And this kind of thing can happen again. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, up in New Jersey, my parents were up there back in the ‘70s, Ocean City, New Jersey.  And when they had those floods up there, you didn‘t get covered for flood damage.  You only got covered for storm damage. 

WHITMAN:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  And you had to make your case.  Are these people going to be in that predicament, trying to argue that their damage and their losses were storm-caused? 

WHITMAN:  Well, again, it is going to depend on the kind of insurance they have.  But that could well be the issue. 

You find, after this kind of devastation, that there are just all sorts of problem that weren‘t anticipated.  And people are going to be blindsided by the coverage they did have or they did not have.  Also, you know, the problem they have now with New Orleans is, they have got to stop the breaches in the levees because they can even begin to pump out the water. 

The longer that water stays there, the more undermining it does of the buildings, the more problem you have in the future with mold, because that‘s a very moist climate anyway.  So, it‘s not going to encourage drying out of the walls.  So, a lot of the buildings that are still standing are going to be ones that are going to be uninhabitable. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  It is great to have you on, Governor, Governor Christie Todd Whitman.

WHITMAN:  Good to see you.

MATTHEWS:  Who was a longtime head of the EPA.

Join us again tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. 

Right now, it‘s time for “COUNTDOWN” with Keith.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant,Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

Watch Hardball with Chris Matthews each weeknight at 7 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,