updated 9/12/2005 11:18:02 AM ET 2005-09-12T15:18:02

Guests: Patrick McCrory, John Edwards, Meyera Oberndorf, Phillip Webber

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: “I‘m going to go home and walk my dog and hug my wife and maybe get a good Mexican meal and a stiff margarita and a full night‘s sleep.”  That‘s FEMA Director Michael Brown confessing his removal from the Katrina relief effort, thereby making him the most famous evacuee from Louisiana. 

Let‘s play HARDBALL. 

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Brown out.  FEMA Director Michael Brown, who the president just last week embraced as Brownie, has been unceremoniously pulled back to Washington, relieved of duty in the Katrina relief effort, this a day after Vice President Cheney acted as the president‘s troubleshooter in the disaster zone.  White House aides are not discouraging the connection between these two events. 

Does this mean the administration is getting shipshape for the even bigger challenge of rebuilding?

Plus, Sunday is the fourth anniversary of 9/11.  Are we better

protected now?  More on all of this later,

Right now, we go to New Orleans and HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster. 

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Chris...

MATTHEWS:  David, Michael Brown, who has taken so much heat, is out, big decision. 

SHUSTER:  Well, Chris, the reaction here is kind of mixed.

We spoke to a police captain a short time ago who said off camera that Michael Brown was—quote—“an ass,” and she used other derogatory language to describe him, saying that the response last week was simply not acceptable and said that they have been struggling ever since as a result.

But this police captain, Chris, pointed out that they don‘t have a lot of time to worry about who is running FEMA or who is running the relief here.  They don‘t want to make these comments on camera because she said that they don‘t want to anger FEMA regarding the relief that they are getting from that organization.

But, in any case, in New Orleans, like across the entire region, they are pulling out the bodies.  They are finding more bodies in some neighborhoods than they expected.  They are finding fewer in others, but, in New Orleans, like across the region, as this effort goes from a rescue operation to a recovery one, the fears here are huge. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hey. 

SHUSTER (voice-over):  Across the Gulf region, as the search for bodies continues, morticians organized to help process the dead say expectations are horrifying.  Disaster officials have told a team known as DMORT that as many as 40,000 people may have been killed.  The recovery process is slow and tedious.  Crews are going house to house, but in New Orleans, for example, firefighters know there are tens of thousands of middle- to low-income homes that have not yet been reached. 

VICTOR LACAVA, NEW ORLEANS FIRE DEPARTMENT:  It is heartbreaking.  You know that there‘s a lot of old people still in there that didn‘t heed the warning.  And when that water goes down, we are going to find people that are trapped in there. 

SHUSTER:  The homes that have been searched are marked with orange spray paint.  But the original code involving X‘s and numbers is no longer widely used.  Too many rescue crews didn‘t understand it.  So now the markings have been simplified. 

LT. GREGG MARCANTEL, NEW ORLEANS POLICE DEPARTMENT:  For example, if we have pets, we would put pets times three if there‘s three pets in there.  If we have decedents, if we have folks that have expired, then we will put dead times one, dead times two.  If we have—if we have taken people from that house, we want to be able to send a message back to other rescuers, don‘t spend your energy. 

SHUSTER:  With half the city under water, every task can be confusing. 

WILLY JACKSON, NEW ORLEANS UTILITY WORKER:  Cut the shield right here. 

Pin it against the pole. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes. 

JACKSON:  Up over here.  Just take that (INAUDIBLE)  

SHUSTER:  Willy Jackson is an electrical linesman trying to reestablish power to some of the city‘s water pumps.  He travels with a police escort, and he says the challenge is monumental. 

JACKSON:  It‘s tough on a lot of guys because we know that we have no homes.  We are basically homeless, and we just working. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Do you have a working phone up there where I can call? 

SHUSTER:  The New Orleans Police Department is also trying to rebuild.  NBC rode with an officer who was one of the lucky ones simply because he has a police car. 

TONY MITCHELL, NEW ORLEANS POLICE DEPARTMENT:  The Seventh District is the largest district, and it‘s completely under water.  They lost every—the entire automobile fleet in the Seventh District, totally under water. 

SHUSTER:  The police department, of course, is getting help with officers here from all over the country, and the fire department has 300 firefighters here from New York City alone.  But the volunteers don‘t know these streets or these neighborhoods.  So, every convoy or boat requires a New Orleanian,like firefighter Victor Lacava.  His wife and daughter have taken refuge in San Antonio, Texas, while he stays here working virtually around the clock. 

LACAVA:  It‘s one hour of sleep a night, going out and rescuing people, at our own security.  It‘s been an adventure. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHUSTER:  An adventure, indeed. 

And, Chris, officials says that, for those New Orleanians who are still out there, who have not yet been reached and did not ride out the storm with sufficient water or food, time, they believe, is fast running out—Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, David Shuster, in New Orleans. 

We are joined now by the longtime anchor of “The Nbc Nightly News, Tom Brokaw, who is in New Orleans.

Tom, thanks for joining us.  You are just in there.  What is it like that‘s different than we see on TV?

TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS:  Well, I think what happens, I think that all of the organizations have done a great job of giving us the big picture, Chris, especially NBC News.  Obviously, I am partial there.

But when you get here—and I have been coming to the city for many, many years—it‘s just stunning to be aware of the eerie silence of New Orleans, which was so vibrant.  As I drove in from Baton Rouge along the causeway and then across the Huey Long Bridge, I saw one Domino‘s Pizza open.  I saw one gas station with one pump pumping.

And then last night, went down to the Ninth District, north of the French Quarter, which looks like Bangladesh.  There‘s no other way to describe it, and we were with the 82nd Airborne.  They say that a lot of people were still in their homes and hiding from them in that case.  They know when the water goes down that they are going to have, as David just indicated, a lot of recovery of bodies of people who might have survived the hurricane if they left or might have survived if there had been timely rescue operations. 

Now, this is a deeply, deeply wounded city.  On the other hand, Chris, I spent part of the afternoon at the D-Day Museum, and that is a testimony to what we were able to do in World War II and what Andrew Higgins was able to do here by building the Higgins boat, the landing craft that made victory possible in World War II.  So, we have to look ahead as well. 

MATTHEWS:  How is the museum doing?  How did it fare in the flood? 

BROKAW:  Well, the museum is in good shape.  It‘s an old building.  It has 26-inch walls.  The water did not get in. 

As you remember, the open display space on the first floor is three or four feet above street level.  The harrowing part was for a man by the name of Jake Staples (ph), who stayed in the building.  Looters came in and out of there for three days and terrorized the place. 

Why they would go into the D-Day Museum, I have no idea.  It‘s a shrine, really, to the best of American, and they took computers and a lot of things from the gift shop.  He was able to hide out until Saturday night.  So, it‘s going to survive.  But, financially, like every other institution, every other business, every other home in New Orleans, it‘s going to take a big hit. 

I don‘t think anybody has caught (AUDIO GAP) the magnitude of the rebuilding job or to the complexity of it.  In addition to all of the other failures at the top, Chris, and at the state level, at the city level as well, we have effectively here a kind of boat people refugee problem.  They are scattered across America.  No one knows where their medical records are.  In many cases, families have been separated and are not able to be in touch with each other.

And there was no planning for that whatsoever at any level. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the 82nd Airborne.  What is it like to be an American service person going into a situation that doesn‘t look like America, as you have grown up to know it? 

BROKAW:  Buddy Ferris (ph), who is a captain who jumped into western Iraq at the beginning of the war, led us through the Ninth District last night.

And, if I can, just for our brothers and sisters over at “Nightly News,” tell you that we are going to have a report on it.  When he went back today and took out a woman who had 21 dogs, she wouldn‘t leave until she could get all the dogs out.  And he said to me last night, shaking his head, I never thought that I would see this in an American city. 

He is a graduate of Fairfield University, a proud captain, Ranger Tab, and here he is back in New Orleans, effectively on war duty. 

MATTHEWS:  You covered 9/11, Tom.  And I am sure you have got in your head as you watch this emergency relief effort the sense that you are also watching a real-life drill of what we are capable of doing this four-year anniversary after 9/11.  Do you think you learned something about our capabilities right now to help ourselves in a situation like this? 

BROKAW:  Well, I think what happens, as it happened on 9/11, Chris, and as it happens when there‘s a tornado, when there‘s a calamity of some kind, the most heroic first-responders come from the ground up. 

These are really people who take their own destiny into their own hand.  That happened in 9/11 with the New York Fire Department and the police department, the people down at ground zero.  It certainly happened at the Pentagon.  And, again, it if I can just plug something that is coming up over on the weekend, on Sunday night, on the Discovery Channel, I am part of an effort called “The Flight That Fought Back,” about the folks on Flight 93. 

And it really has to be addressed in the most profound possible way our preparation for these natural calamities that are now being visited on this country with more regularity, as we are concentrated in ever-greater numbers along the coastline and other places.  And what happens if, in fact, it‘s not an airliner the next time, if it is an attack on a subway system or on a train, or they go to the central part of America and make an attack there, are we ready for that? 

I think this has demonstrated that we have got a long way to go, but everybody has a stake in it.  It‘s not just Mr. Brown, who got canned today, but it‘s really the American people willing to make a personal political commitment, making some sacrifices along the way as well and saying, we have got to get this in place, so I am feeling comfortable. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take it from both directions, Tom.  The first thing is, you talk about the need to be ready to deal with a crisis on the ground.  Do you think the character of America has to shift from a somewhat complacent sense of post-World War II America, where things are generally calm, to the fact that guys and women, regular people, have to be ready to act on an airplane, even on an airplane like Flight 93, and take a situation into your own hands as best you can? 

BROKAW:  Yes, I don‘t think there‘s any question that people will do that.  I think any time you go on an airline now, there‘s a hijacking, there will be a passenger response. 

I think the larger issue, Chris, is that to develop both a mind-set and a framework within our private and public sectors for dealing with, for example, these refugees.  I have a daughter who is an emergency room physician, and she is working in Baton Rouge now trying to figure out how they can get up a Web site, so, when a doctor treats somebody who has been evacuated from New Orleans and that person comes back here or goes to another place and goes to another doctor for treatment, that physician can access the Web site and see how he or she has been treated, what medications, what conditions. 

We don‘t have that.  We don‘t have that capability now.  We have got lots of systems that we have to get in place, and not all of it can be from the government on down at the Washington, D.C., level.  Communities have to take responsibility.  The medical industry has to take responsibility.  And the American people, as much as anything, have to say, you know what?  We got to get actively involved in this.  We are going to have to make some sacrifices along the way, not going to have all the pet projects that they would like to have, because this is going to cost a lot of money to put back together. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about the executive end of this.  This is the last question.  We are being told by White House staff people there‘s no problem with us making a connection between the Cheney visit here, where you are right now, yesterday and the decision to pull Michael Brown out of action.  They don‘t mind us thinking at all that there‘s a connection. 

Dick Cheney is a hell of a government man.  He‘s known it from every angle.  Do you have a sense that they are working to fix this thing right now? 

BROKAW:  Oh, I—I think, if nothing else, they have pretty good political antennae in Washington in this administration, and they know that they are in a very deep hole. 

Now, Mr. Brown, who apparently is a very nice guy, according to all of his friends, just simply wasn‘t professionally equipped to deal with an emergency of this magnitude.  Was that his fault?  He was put in that job by Joe Allbaugh and other people in the administration who thought he could do it, because the concentration was on the last war, what happened when we had a terrorist attack. 

You know, we have a tendency in this country in these very sophisticated areas, like communications, or airlines, or FEMA, to put in political appointees, where, around the rest of the world, they put in highly trained professionals who have been at it for a long, long time.  James Witt did a really good job for the Clinton administration.  But that had been his job in Arkansas before he got involved at the federal level.

So, these are some of the other issues that have to—that have to be addressed as well.  And we will see in this administration whether there‘s real accountability now.  And the president has, I think, opened the door to that by acknowledging quickly that big mistakes were made. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think people on the ground, do you sense—can you report that people on the ground in New Orleans are feeling some relief or sense of response now that the president and the vice president have apparently made this decision to yank Michael Brown? 

BROKAW:  I don‘t have a feel for that.  I think what they feel is a sense of security now that the 82nd Airborne is on the street.  You see U.S. Customs agents, NYPD, N.Y. Fire Department, policemen from Los Angeles, from all the various agencies, on the street, dealing with the security issue. 

I wasn‘t here during the worst of that, but it was a pretty terrifying time.  And the first thing that people want to know is, after whether they can get food and water, am I safe?  And they now feel safe.  And, by the way, let me also say that there a lot of people who are staying in place and can stay in place.  And no one is going to come in at gunpoint and jerk them out of there.  They are doing this in a very civil fashion, saying, look, it‘s a better idea if you leave.  But, if you don‘t leave, you have to understand, you are on your own.  We are not going to come back and bail you out.

And people are willing to make a judgment about their own self-interest here and stay in the city.  And some of them have organized their own kind of posses to start rebuilding their neighborhood.  But they are a little worried that FEMA is going to come along and say, no, you can‘t do that.  So, there‘s a lot of confusion here yet.  And we have got a long way to go.  That‘s the big issue.  We have got a long way to go. 

This is America‘s city.  Who hasn‘t come to New Orleans at one time or another?  And we wouldn‘t want to lose it. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much, NBC‘s Tom Brokaw from New Orleans. 

BROKAW:  OK, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Tom will be reporting on the challenges ahead in that city

of New Orleans tonight on “Dateline.‘

When we return, the latest on the removal of the FEMA Director Michael Brown and the man who will replace him. 

And, later, is your hometown doing enough to keep you safe in the event of a natural disaster or a terror attack?  We will talk to two mayors from cities vulnerable right now to Hurricane Ophelia. 

And coming up tonight at 8:00, all six broadcast networks will air a one-hour commercial-free simulcast of “Shelter From the Storm: A Concert For the Gulf Coast.”  The artists performing include U2, Neil Young, Mariah Carey, and the Dixie Chicks, among others.  That‘s tonight at 8:00 p.m.  Eastern on MSNBC and NBC.

We‘ll be right back.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Still ahead, what‘s next for the recovery effort now that FEMA Director Michael Brown is out?  Plus, is your hometown doing enough to keep you safe during a major disaster? 

HARDBALL returns after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Now to the latest on the removal of FEMA Director Michael Brown as manager of the Katrina relief effort and who is going to be taking charge now. 

NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell is with us now from Washington. 

Andrea, all kinds of cover stories.  I hear the real story is, the vice president had this guy booted. 

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT:  Absolutely. 

There is no question, according to prominent Republicans, that there is a cause and effect between sending Dick Cheney, the manager, down to the Gulf zone yesterday and what happened today.  It was very clear.  The White House was hearing from their own people.  And one of the first responses after Brown was booted came from Trent Lott, the former Republican leader, saying that it was overdue, that something had to be done and that he wasn‘t getting the job done. 

MATTHEWS:  Michael Brown...

MITCHELL:  So, it‘s very clear they were hearing from their own people. 

MATTHEWS:  Michael Brown is not the big enchilada, though. 

MITCHELL:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Are they going to have to go higher in this food chain to really impress the American people that this going to be shipshape? 

MITCHELL:  Well, it depends on whether things turn around. 

Now, clearly, they can‘t get as bad as they were during those first few days.  I mean, we have been cataloging it.  You have been cataloging it.  Just, you know, everyone in the media was making it very apparent.  The worst moment, I think, for Michael Brown was when he first went on with Brian Williams on “Nightly News” I think a week ago Wednesday, and had no idea what was going on—it was Wednesday or Thursday—no idea what was going on in the Convention Center, when everybody had been watching it on television, live, for 24 hours. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

MITCHELL:  I mean, that is when reporters and anchor people like Brian and yourself and Tim Russert became just incredulous. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.  He must have watching a horse show or something.

MITCHELL:  And—no, it was...

MATTHEWS:  ... because he was wasn‘t paying attention to the...

MITCHELL:  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  What he used to be doing for a living is running the Arabian horse association. 

Let me ask you, the decision to yank him really does show the muscle, as we have seen for now, five years now, of the vice president.

MITCHELL:  Oh, you bet.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think was—here‘s a tough call.  Was this theater?  They knew they were going to get rid of Michael Brown; they sent the vice president down yesterday to set it up, so that he would be the hatchet man? 

MITCHELL:  Well, there‘s always some theater in this. 

This is a White House that at least used to be very, very good at spin and public relations.  The last 10 days, two weeks have really belied that, but now I think they had to at least set the stage for this and then pull the plug on him and get him out of there.  And they were fortunate that they had a very good replacement on the ground. 

I don‘t know what is going to happen to Michael Chertoff.  This may give him some time to try to regain some credibility.  He has been highly regarded in the Justice Department...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

MITCHELL:  ... and as a federal judge.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, he‘s a great prosecutor. 

MITCHELL:  He‘s a great prosecutor.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s a question, is he a great emergency manager?  That‘s the question. 

MITCHELL:  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you --  you can move ahead here.

MITCHELL:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  You talked about the great replacement we have for Michael Brown, Admiral Allen from the Coast Guard.  Does that portend where this is headed?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It‘s going to be more of a military-led operation? 

(CROSSTALK)

MITCHELL:  Absolutely. 

And your conversation with Tom Brokaw just now made it very clear to me that, on the ground now, there are boots on the ground.  Those are the pros.  This is a military operation.  It should have been.  The governor shouldn‘t have dragged her feet for two days. 

But the federal government, to my mind—and we have been talking about this, you and I, for the last two weeks, that, after 9/11, Homeland Security does have this ability, as does, has always had, the president of the United States, the ability to federalize or nationalize a response to an emergency.  And this should have been done. 

And when you see the catalog of things, the school buses under water, the German response and the Swedish cell phones and the other aide that has just been stalled all over the world, with the State Department not responding and being told by FEMA that they could not accept aid that was offered to set up cell communications in this city that had none, how could this have happened? 

The outrage that you are hearing from the news media, which, as Brian Williams has said on his blog and on the air, is a different tone.  It‘s justified by the fact that people were watching this, and it was, you know, who do you believe, me or your lying eyes?

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

MITCHELL:  It‘s not something that could be tolerated. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, Andrea, when a local school is a disaster because they don‘t have enough money to educate kids or hire teachers or even pay for schools, we federalize.  We bring in federal help.

MITCHELL:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  Could we be reaching a stage in America right now where the American people will not allow their civil defense to remain in the hands of local officials? 

MITCHELL:  Well, that could be the case. 

Now, there has been, as you know, a trend away from federalizing.  This is an era of trying to downsize government.  This is certainly a Republican administration and Republican Congress...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

MITCHELL:  ... that has emphasized that.  But it‘s very clear that the locals weren‘t up to it.  The mayor, for all of his complaints and dramatic criticism of the federal and state governments, made some critical mistakes. 

They didn‘t really do a proper evacuation.  They themselves, you know, people of color, local officials, did not think...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

MITCHELL:  ... about those who did not have the ability to get out.  That is really—I don‘t know if you can call it criminal negligence, but certainly...

MATTHEWS:  Sure.

MITCHELL:  ... nonfeasance or malfeasance in all this.

MATTHEWS:  How about this?  How about this?  Four hundred submerged school buses in New Orleans...

MITCHELL:  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  ... is a testimony to the failure to use what you have, because they could have been used to get those people out of town.  And they were left there to—to fall under the water themselves. 

Anyway, thank you, NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell.  Great report. 

MITCHELL:  You bet.

MATTHEWS:  When we return, we will get the latest on the ground in Mississippi, where the cleanup continues.

And later, in your hometown, is it doing enough to keep you safe in the event of a major emergency?  We are going to keep asking that question.  Tonight, we are going to ask two mayors from cities that could be in the path right now of Hurricane Ophelia, which is once again a hurricane.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL‘s coverage of Hurricane Katrina.

In Mississippi, the cleanup, by the way, is under way right now, and crews are working already to restore power ahead of schedule. 

Let‘s get the latest from Biloxi and NBC‘s Ron Blome. 

Is this good news?  We haven‘t had good news in a while, Ron. 

RON BLOME, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  There‘s some good news here. 

I mean, the electricity is creeping down to the water.  They say they will have the power fully restored by the end of the weekend to those who can get it.  That‘s about two weeks ahead of schedule.  That was because of the outpouring of electric repairmen from the around the country.

But also some grim news today.  They have dropped rescue from their operation.  It‘s now strictly recovery, recovery from the debris, recovery of those bodies still missing, at least 52 still missing in some of the coastal community.  The death toll in Mississippi now stands at 204.

But some better economic news as well.  The casino operator have made a proposal to the state gaming commission.  They have said that we will come back with temporary casinos, within 2,000 yards, perhaps, across the street from the hotels, like the one behind me, set up a temporary casino and have them within operation within nine months.  That would put half of the 17,000 casino and hotel workers back to work, at least for the time being. 

They want to rebuild, but they are not going to rebuild over the water and the charade that Mississippi has carried out in the past to call it riverboat gambling.  Now they want to be on higher ground.  So, you will see a full change in the landscape here.

Also a little international help, at least a show of help, 200 soldiers and marines, Mexican and Belgians, came ashore in a landing craft this morning.  And they‘re joining Navy C.B.s in trying to fix up and restore the public schools of Biloxi and other coastal towns.  That‘s the latest from Biloxi—Chris.

MATTHEWS:  What is the reaction from local folk to the foreign troops and foreign help? 

BLOME:  Oh, I think it was a little bit of a novelty, but they have been glad to see anybody who comes in to help. 

There was a big reception, too, for the 90 or so Indiana State Police, Highway Patrolmen who came in here.  They‘re taking over part of the city from the Biloxi troops, from the Biloxi police officers, who have been just at it nonstop since this began.  So, help from all corners is being welcomed here. 

MATTHEWS:  What reversal of fortune. 

Thank you very much, Ron Blome, in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Up next, what is your hometown going to do to plan for a catastrophic emergency?  Is it doing its job right now in that way?   And, after Katrina, is it doing enough?  We will talk to two mayors along the Eastern Seaboard who might get hit, maybe, by Hurricane Ophelia.  That‘s the one coming up the coast right now.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Tropical Storm Ophelia has once again been upgraded to hurricane status.  But will it threaten the Atlantic Coast? 

Joining us right now is NBC‘ meteorologist Sean McLaughlin. 

Well, Sean, is this going to make landfall? 

SEAN MCLAUGHLIN, NBC METEOROLOGIST:  Well, that‘s the take-away that I want everybody to understand from today‘s update. 

Remember, last night at this time, HARDBALL came on, and it was upgraded to hurricane status and then, this morning, about 5:00 a.m., went down to tropical storm status.  Well, it‘s back up to hurricane, perfectly normal behavior for this type of storm. 

But the take-away is that the computer models projecting landfall are now coming into agreement.  Let me show you what we are talking about.  There it is spinning off the coast of Florida.  Where exactly is it?  About 220 miles south-southeast of Charleston, South Carolina.  If you want to think of it another way, it‘s about 175 miles north-northeast of Daytona Beach, a Category 1 hurricane, which means winds at the surface sustained at 75 miles an hour.

So, it‘s just barely a hurricane.  But there are gusts of 92 miles an hour.  And the central pressure has been steady at 983, but we expect that to rise and fall over the weekend, because we have got a lot of warm ocean waters.  These are buoy temperatures out here, so it measures the sea surface temperatures.  Hurricanes love this kind of water, 83 degrees, 82 degrees.  As it gets closer to the shore, you can see that that‘s going to gain strength.

And then, on this projected path, we expect it to do a little bit of a meandering loop out here and then here‘s the new information.  By about Tuesday, Tuesday afternoon, we are expecting landfall somewhere along the southeastern coastline, anywhere from Georgia up through the Carolinas. 

You notice how, at the end of the path, it‘s a very wide projection.  We will start to dial that down over the weekend, as we continue to watch Ophelia.  Here‘s, again, the take-away.  These computer models, these lines represent where the conditions will take Ophelia, starting to now all come together.  It was just a mess.  It looked like a spider web yesterday. 

Well, now they are all bringing Ophelia towards land by early next week as a Category 1 hurricane.  Why?  Well, we can tie it in with our beautiful weather out here in the mid-Atlantic and the Northeast.  A high pressure ridge is going to build very strong over the weekend, rising our temperatures.  And the stronger this builds, the more likely it‘s going to flip Ophelia around in a little bit of a loop pattern and then heads toward the southeastern shoreline. 

We are going to call it from Jacksonville, Florida, all the way up north of Charleston, South Carolina, of interest that should be very well aware of Ophelia.  Heavy beach erosion throughout the weekend, since it‘s going to sit out there and spin for a couple of days, dangerous surf as far north as Long Island, New York, and strong rip currents as well, all the way up the Eastern shoreline. 

Gulf Coast, tomorrow, recovery forecast, 91 in Pensacola, 92 in Mobile, Biloxi, 91, and 92 New Orleans, but, Chris, high heat and humidity.  So, it feels like temperatures are going to be about 100. 

Let‘s wrap it here by saying, Chris, it‘s the first time ever we have reached 15 named storms this early in the season, the record, 1933, with 21 named storms. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Sean McLaughlin.

We are asking mayors and government officials around the country what they have done to prepare their communities for disaster, whether it be a hurricane, like the one that devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, or terrorist attack. 

I am right now with mayors from three cities.  They‘re on the East Coast right now, where the storm, where the newly upgraded Hurricane Ophelia is causing trouble. 

Let‘s go right now to Phil Webber of Savannah.  I want to talk to him, the mayor down there.  Let‘s go to Phil Webber of Savannah, who is on the phone—Phil. 

PHILLIP WEBBER, CHATHAM COUNTY EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT DIRECTOR:  Hey,

Chris.  Thank you. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We just got a weather report. 

WEBBER:  I‘m not mayor the Savannah.  Mayor Otis Johnson has that job well in hand.  I am the emergency management director down here. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  You are the guy to talk to, then. 

Let me ask you, sir, are you making preparations, have you done so, for arrival of Ophelia? 

WEBBER:  Absolutely. 

We just met with our critical work force down here.  We have done multiple media briefings.  We are trying to get the information out to citizens.  Our critical work force is ready to go.  Evacuation transportation if needed is there.  We will have our emergency operations center activated.  We are taking a lot of proactive steps out here to make sure that we are not behind the curve. 

MATTHEWS:  When was the date of your last full-scale drill? 

WEBBER:  We had one earlier this summer.  We had actually an evacuation drill using not citizens, but using the critical work force out on our major highways that go—that lead us out of town on evacuation routes.  So, it was just after June, at the beginning of hurricane season. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you. 

Let‘s go right now to Meyera Oberndorf.  She‘s the mayor of Charlotte. 

Meyera, Madam Mayor, thanks for joining us right now.  What—you are Virginia Beach.  I‘m sorry. 

MEYERA OBERNDORF, MAYOR OF VIRGINIA BEACH, VIRGINIA:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Tell us about the preparations you have made. 

OBERNDORF:  We do systematically every summer, when we are looking forward to the storms beginning to get active, we depend on our first responders—and they‘re trained constantly—to be in place. 

We start talking to our citizens very, very early in the summer, so that they understand what they need to assemble as far as food, water, you know, any type of emergency medicines and things of that nature.  We take a look at all of our schools, which are used as shelters.  And, in addition to that, we have a CERT program, where we are going into neighborhoods to train the neighbors to look out for each other, especially if there‘s someone elderly.

But, most important, and the biggest job we have, is when we have to say to the people, you need to evacuate, getting them to comply is sometimes a bit of a challenge.  I know that in the—a recent hurricane, on one of the barrier islands, their police chief was asking some of the people to move inland, where they would be safer.  And some were refusing.  And we heard that he had asked them to use an indelible pen to mark their Social Security number on their arms, so, if, God forbid, they were drowned, that they could be identified. 

That might sound a little drastic, but that is only used when we know that someone needs to move out for their safety, health and welfare. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

Let me go right now to the mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina.  And that is Patrick McCrory. 

Mayor McCrory, are you doing things that drastically, as to make people mark themselves up with their Social Security number in case their body is the only thing found? 

PATRICK MCCRORY, MAYOR OF CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA:  Not at this time. 

We are a little more inland, and we have only had one hurricane in the

last 50 years.  And that was in ‘89 with Hugo.  But, during my 10 years as

mayor, we have had the 100-year flood, the 100-year ice storm, the 100-year

you name it, we have had it during these 10 years.  And we have a firm plan in place, very similar to these other mayors and emergency staff workers.

But I do want to be factual.  There are certain simulations that we have just recently done for Homeland Security where, if it gets at a certain level, similar to what‘s happened further south, your command-and-control breaks down.  So, we have simulations at every level, and there is a certain level where you have a great difficulty of time, especially during the first 48 hours. 

MATTHEWS:  Who do you call when you get in trouble? 

MCCRORY:  When we get in trouble, we work through the governor‘s office first.  And then they, along with us, work through the federal government.  There‘s a set procedure on how we work through that.

And a lot of that is done prior to the actual emergency occurring, if you have that opportunity for advanced warning.  Of course, with homeland security issues and possible terrorist attacks, you won‘t have that opportunity.  So, you better have a book in hand to go to.

But, frankly, if it gets to a certain level, you throw out the book, and you do the best you can, especially if you have a lack of command-and-control. 

MATTHEWS:  We will be back with some more tough questions for Phillip Webber, Patrick McCrory and Meyera Oberndorf and—about what they are doing to keep their cities safe when we return.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, tough questions for local officials in America‘s cities in the aftermath of Katrina.  Are they doing enough to keep you safe in the event of a catastrophe? 

HARDBALL returns after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We are back with some local officials talking about what they have learned from Hurricane Katrina.  We are going to start with the federal emergency management director in Savannah, Philip Webber.  He‘s on the phone from Georgia. 

Let me ask you, Phillip, you know, the mayor of New Orleans was on this program before the hell hit, before the levees broke, and he was basically taking credit for moving about 90 percent of people out of town.  That sounds like a good number, until it‘s after the storm, and you realize that the 10 percent that are left, the 50,000, are either drowning or being humiliated, insulted and everything else. 

How do you get everybody out? 

WEBBER:  Yes, I don‘t know that you ever get everybody out of any evacuation zone. 

But what you need to do is continue to work the 2, 3, 4, 5 percent, whatever it is in your local community, that seems to be hard to break through with.  And you need to engage people where they live and find out what works for them.

And if you—we found out in 1999 that we had 95 percent participation in our evacuation for Hurricane Floyd.  But, since then, we have been working on that 5 percent to find out why they didn‘t go.  Was it a decision?  Was it a choice or was it a lack of transportation?  And then try to work on that decision-making process and see what we can do to build plans that are more suited for them. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

Let‘s go to Mayor Oberndorf.  You talked, Madam Mayor, about the difficulty of getting people to leave the beach area.  What is your final goal?  What is your final option? 

OBERNDORF:  Well, let me just tell you that we have a hurricane protection project that has been completed in 2002, where we partnered with the federal government, with building a larger beach for the wave action to wear itself out there, and the hurricane protection project, coupled with a cement promenade that is about 28 feet wide, all the way down for three miles. 

So, we have tried to work with Mother Nature in preparing for the storms.  We do know we have a challenge, frankly, because you either have to go across a bridge or through a tunnel to get in and out of this portion of Hampton Roads.  What we would do is obviously have all the lanes going in one direction if we had to evacuate the entire city.  And that would be out, and moving inland to hopefully much safer places. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

OBERNDORF:  What Katrina has taught us, we will have to look very closely at those who do not have their own transportation and how we prepare for their being able to be evacuated. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

Well, we don‘t have time for Mayor McCrory on that, but we will be touching on all these issues.  We will be back to everybody and keep doing this for a while now, because we have learned a lot from Katrina. 

Thank you, Phillip Webber. 

Thank you, Mayor Oberndorf.

And thank you, Mayor McCrory.

Coming up, what can be done to help the disadvantaged who were victimized by Hurricane Katrina? 

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  All of us here at MSNBC and MSNBC.com are looking to help the many victims of Hurricane Katrina.  Our initiative, called Reconnect, helps folks bridge the widespread communications breakdowns caused by Katrina.  Our crews in the field are helping people get messages out to their loved ones to say they‘re safe. 

Here now are some of those messages. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  My name is Zachary Morris (ph).  I‘m from Angie, Louisiana.  I‘m looking for my mom, my brother, my kids.  I‘m in Little Rock, Arkansas.  And I‘m OK.  You don‘t have to worry. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  OK.  My name is Mable Borso (ph).  I‘m 67 years old and I‘m from New Orleans.  I‘m looking for my two girls, Cynthia (ph) and Cathy Borso (ph).  And I have seven grandbabies. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  My name is Dana Peters (ph).  And we‘re here in Memphis.  And I‘m looking for my uncle, Pete Peters (ph), Kevin Silvan (ph), to let him know that his mom is looking for him, and Gary Noor (ph), which is my brother-in-law. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  And we‘re devoting a special section of our Web site to this effort, trying to reconnect people with their loved ones.  You can find a link on the front page of MSNBC.com. 

So many of the victims of Katrina were poor and disadvantaged.  We know that.  I spoke with former Senator and vice presidential candidate John Edwards, who now leads the Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina. 

And I asked him about the challenges facing the Bush administration as it tries to help the victims of the storm. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) 

JOHN EDWARDS (D), FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The first and foremost thing is to get immediate help to those people who need it. 

I mean, there are a lot of people in desperate—in a desperate place, and they need help, and they need help immediately.  But the second thing that I hope the president and the vice president are both thinking about is, out of this tragedy, there‘s a real opportunity.  And that opportunity is to rebuild a New Orleans that‘s a real shining example of what we can do in this country for poor people, for so many of these African-Americans that we have seen who have struggled and suffered so much. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s talk about the faces of those folks that were standing there at the Convention Center for all those days last week.  What were you thinking, as a person who has been studying poverty?  They were almost all African-American.  In fact, every picture I saw was an African-American.  They were poor people, based upon how they were dressed and a lot of other factors, like why they were there. 

What was your feeling watching that, of those desperate people looking for somebody to come with some water? 

EDWARDS:  First, that everybody in New Orleans was hurt, but that the poorest, the most vulnerable were hurt the most, those people who live in poverty, because they always get hurt the most. 

And if you think about the way they live their lives, I mean, so many of them, these evacuation orders were great, but a lot of these folks have no car.  They had no way to get out of town.  And for them, you know, the little bit that they‘ve been able to accumulate in their life was really important to them.  And so, I‘m sure some of them wanted to stay back and try to save and protect the little bit that they had. 

So, if you think about, Chris, where they are now, I mean, they don‘t have a job.  They don‘t have a home.  Almost certainly, they had no insurance to cover their—to cover their loses.  So, they‘re looking—and they had no assets.  So they got nothing to fall back on.  They have no bank account that will pay for them to go somewhere else and get a new start.

So, they are literally starting from scratch.  And if you think about this, you know, if you are 45 or 50 or 60 years old and you have been barely getting by trying to support your kids, like so many of these families that live in poverty that I have been meeting with for the last six months, I mean, the reality is, they‘re faced with an incredibly—they‘re worried about what they‘re going to do tomorrow and the next day, how they‘re going to feed their kids.

And they‘re in a very hard place, which is why we as a nation need to recognize that we‘re not doing something for them.  We‘re actually doing something for us. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about race in America.  You are a white guy from North Carolina.  You grew up in, like, black and white surroundings, like a lot of people in America.  You know about racial issues.  Do you believe it‘s all poverty or there‘s still a lot of prejudices about hiring, about neighborhoods, about just getting along with each other? 

EDWARDS:  No, it‘s not all poverty. 

I mean, poverty—poverty plays an important role in it.  I mean, you see—I mean, we see it in New Orleans.  We have seen it—I have seen it in my own—you know, I have probably, in 25 states now, met with people who are living in poverty.  And I see a lot of African-American faces in these meetings, these private meetings I have been having with people who live in poverty. 

So, clearly, that‘s an important piece of it, which is why we need to do some work on the income disparity, asset building.  There‘s a whole group of things we need to do to help with that problem.  But that—that won‘t eliminate it, because anybody who is paying attention knows that discrimination still goes on in this country.  It goes on every single day.  A lot of it is subtle.  A lot of it is not as open and blatant as it was when I was growing up in the South, but it is still there and it‘s still very real.  And it impacts African-Americans and their chances for opportunity every day. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  That was former Senator John Edwards. 

Join me again on Monday.  I will be reporting live from New Orleans.

And tonight, at 8:00 Eastern, MSNBC, along with all the broadcast nets, will air a one-hour simulcast of “Shelter From the Storm: A Concert For the Gulf Coast.”

Artists performing include U2, Neil Young, Mariah Carey, and the Dixie Chicks.  That‘s tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on NBC and on MSNBC.

Right now, our coverage of Hurricane Katrina continues on “THE ABRAMS REPORT.”  And, tonight, Dan reports from Baton Rouge.

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

END   

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