updated 9/22/2005 12:03:47 PM ET 2005-09-22T16:03:47

Guests: Peter King, Paul Burka, Mike Miceli

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight, breaking news out of Los Angeles.  As America watches, a JetBlue passenger plane with 145 people aboard makes a remarkable emergency landing.  “The Los Angeles Times” reports it this way:

“A JetBlue flight with 145 passengers made an emergency landing at LAX tonight after a broken front landing gear forced the pilot to abort a transcontinental flight.  The safe landing at 6:20 ended the drama that had viewers riveted to their TVs across America for more than two hours.  The plane”—and look at that video, the plane, as it comes in, obviously, sparks flying off of that landing gear. 

It had turned sideways.  And, as you will see at the end of this remarkable landing—and, look, this guy is going down the center of the runway.  Unbelievable.  The tire has obviously melted under all of that friction.  It comes up, and just absolutely remarkable video. 

Let‘s go right now to longtime NBC correspondent and aviation expert Robert Hager. 

Robert, talk about what a lot of America has seen tonight, as they have been following this JetBlue flight for two hours now. 

ROBERT HAGER, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Joe, this was just a very, very touchy situation, a very unusual kind of landing gear problem, to have the front landing gear extended down with the tires twisted, so that they are actually sideways to the runway as the plane touched down.

And it‘s not a situation that pilots train for, because it‘s very unusual.  So, you had to kind of make it up as you go along.  And I am sure he was on the radio with Airbus, the manufacturer, with his company, discussing just how to do it.

But they came in very gently.  First of all, they flew low over the tower, so the tower could confirm the situation and whether the gear was down and confirm that, indeed, it was down, but sideways.  Then they burned off all this fuel.  That‘s very important, so that you don‘t have that flammable fuel as an extra problem when you are hitting the runway and the fire that you saw there breaks out. 

Then, finally, gently, he brings it in, brings it in as slow as he can.  Even the passengers have now recounted how some of them were moved to the rear of the plane to try to get weight back in the back part of the plane, so that you take the landing, the force of the landing, on your main landing gear, hold that nose up as long as possible, and then it seemed to me like 15, nearly 20 seconds went by from after the main landing gear hit before the plane had slowed sufficiently, and he gently, gently, gently let that front landing gear down.

And then when it hit, boy, it must have buffeted a lot there in the cockpit and in the fuselage of the plane, because the tires, again, are sideways to the runway.  But the important thing was to hold that nose in the forward position along the runway, so the plane didn‘t veer off the runway or flip to the side or a wing drag or something that would tumble the plane over, and you could have had a catastrophic situation. 

As it was, he kept it perfectly under control.  It looks to me like they used the better part of that two-mile runway before he finally comes to a stop.  You see all that flash and the fire, which is simply the tire blowing, but the steel of the support for the landing gear holds. 

He‘s flying along, just skidding along on that steel itself, but he holds it to the center, and, as Captain Al Haynes was talking about, as he commented earlier, just tapping the brakes just so, so that he keeps the nose pointed straight ahead and brings it to that stop.  And, man, we have this wonderful landing, where the passengers come out, I am sure very, very relieved after that terrible situation, and walking down that—not even down emergency chutes, but walking down on the stairway.

(CROSSTALK)

HAGER:  So, thank God, a happy outcome to this really tense event. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Robert, Robert, what was the greatest danger here?  I know a lot of people who were following this had to be concerned when fire started coming up during the landing.  Was there any real danger there that more of the plane may have ignited, or was the greatest danger that the landing gear up front may have collapsed under the weight and pressure and the front of that plane nosedived into the ground? 

HAGER:  Well, I think—the main issue, the worst danger would have been that, somehow or other, that the tires of that, the fact that they are sideways to the runway would make the nose sharply break to one side or the other. 

The fire, probably more flash than real danger, because that‘s simply the tires blowing.  And when that hot air explodes, they really explode with a lot of light.  But I think that probably really wasn‘t a fire-setting, catastrophic kind of threat there.  So, if you discount the fire, if the landing gear had collapsed, he still would have had a good shot at it, I think, because then the nose would have gone down.  He had the plane very slow at that point, so I think it would have skidded along the bottom of the fuselage, at the nose of the plane, and probably been all right. 

(CROSSTALK)

HAGER:  But the biggest danger would have been if somehow the odd configuration of those tires had sent that nose sharply to one side or the other, and then you are in real trouble, because the plane could flip over. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, if the plane turns on its sides, what happens then? 

HAGER:  Oh, my gosh.  Then the wings break open with all that fuel in there.  There‘s a lot of friction around.  You get a fuel fire, even though he dumped most of the fuel.  People take a terrible beating from the impact of that plane going over on its side.  It—that truly would have resulted in a lot of casualties. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Robert, has there been a concern for some time about these Airbuses and the general safety of the planes? 

HAGER:  No, I think Airbus has a comparable safety record to Boeing, and the biggest difference in the Airbus, especially in the early stages of their development, was the fact that they were fly-by-wire. 

They employed less hydraulics, and they used more electronic switches.  And it was a little bit more hands-off for the pilots in flying it.  But, in a situation like this, none of that really comes into play, because with a landing gear problem like this, this was old-fashioned airmanship...

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes. 

HAGER:  ... in bringing the plane in for a safe landing. 

As for the problem, the start the problem, which is a real important thing in the investigation here, to determine why it is that that landing gear came down in that odd position like that, I can‘t imagine that it‘s more of a problem with the Airbus than anyone else.  I mean, this happens so rarely.  So far, in tonight‘s reporting, it‘s come out that it happened twice before that we know of, and there may have been some other incidents.

But I don‘t think that would have be particularly an Airbus kind of issue. 

SCARBOROUGH:  No, I think you are right there.

If you can stay with us, Bob, I want to go to an NBC Universal employee who was on the airplane at the time, Mike Miceli. 

Mike, thank you so much for being with us. 

Obviously, this has got to be a nerve-wracking time for you.  Take us through the landing, this remarkable landing. 

MIKE MICELI, PASSENGER ON PLANE:  It was first-class by the pilot. 

It felt like what he did was kept the nose of the plane up for an extremely long period of time and then glided it down softly, so it was actually a very soft landing from inside.  We could smell that—you know, the rubber burning, which was a little anxious.  It caused a little anxiety.  But it was very smooth, and they were very well prepared, very professional. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Mike, for people like myself who fly a good bit, this is obviously the worst fear, when you take off, and hear that you are going to have an emergency landing.  When did you first find out that something was not right? 

MICELI:  Well, we found out about probably 15 minutes into the flight.  The pilot came on and told us that there was something wrong with the landing gear.  It did not act properly when trying to go back up into the plane.  And he said that they were sending a signal via satellite to the technical people in New York, that they got the signal and said that, yes, it looks like maybe it‘s just a sensor, but they are not sure.

But they thought something might be wrong.  So, then they told us that they were going to fly it down to Long Beach, where they were going to do a real low flyby and have technical people with binoculars look and make sure they could see exactly what was wrong.  And they did verify that the wheels were turned 90 degrees, obviously in a wrong position.

So, then—then they worked on, you know, what the right things were to do on how we were going to land and take care of it.  So, we found out shortly thereafter.  And, actually, we were watching MSNBC on the plane. 

SCARBOROUGH:  How long did they keep the—how long did they keep MSNBC up on the plane as you approached on the landing? 

MICELI:  Probably about an hour, an hour into the flight—about an hour before we landed, it was turned off. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So, you actually got—you actually got to follow your story inside the plane.  And, again, for anybody that‘s never flown JetBlue before, obviously, all the seats have TV monitors. 

Were the people inside the plane very nervous?  Did people remain calm for the most part?  How did the pilot and the crew handle themselves? 

MICELI:  Well, the pilot and crew were first-class.  The pilot was very reassuring, very calm, I think, you know, very honest and forthright, but also exuding confidence that they know how to handle these things, and there are technical people available, you know, that are going to help and it‘s going to work out. 

The flight attendants were very good at keeping people calm.  And, yes, there was definitely a lot of nervous people.  There were a lot of people with nervous tears, a lot of comforting going on, reassuring.  But it was very well ordered.  People were orderly and very controlled, and it was a big relief when we did land safely, a big round of applause and releasing tension. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Mike, could you—we saw a lot of fire underneath.  Did anybody have any idea that that was going on? 

(CROSSTALK)

MICELI:  I‘m sorry.  Say again. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Could you see, as the fire and the sparks were coming off the landing gear, could you see any sparks or any smoke?  Did you know what was going on underneath you? 

MICELI:  No, no.  Could not—could not see.  We could smell the burning rubber. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes. 

MICELI:  But we could not see anything. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right. 

Thank you so much, Mike Miceli, NBC Universal employee.  He was on the plane watching this unfold. 

Bob Hager, also thank you so much for being with us. 

He was on the plane watching it unfold.  Can you believe that?  You take off.  You are flying around.  All of a sudden, your flight makes breaking news across the country, and you are watching it on the plane, at least for the first hour. 

Well, I will tell you what.  We have got to tip our hats to the pilot and the crew, everybody on the plane.  Every one of these plane incidents seem to have their own character.  The crew has its own character.  The people on the plane have their own character.  And so often, the leadership in the cockpit determines whether people remain calm on the plane or whether they get panicky.  And, obviously, that is a great danger. 

Speaking of a great danger, friends, tonight, a monster is brewing south, really almost directly south now of my home in Pensacola, Florida.  That is a monster hurricane, sure to be a killer hurricane.  Hurricane Rita, right now, they are projecting that it is heading just with killer force towards the Texas coastline.  We are going to take you there.  We are going to get the latest updates, the latest warnings.

Friends, I hope you will all pay attention to the warnings this time. 

We are going to go inside that beleaguered city of New Orleans.  Could this mean even more devastation and heartbreak for the Big Easy?  What does it mean for the entire Gulf Coast?  What does it mean for America?  We will get you up to date with the very latest on this breaking story when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  We have already endured killer Katrina.  Now look at Rita.  That is a monster storm and it‘s going to slam into the Gulf Coast and cause massive damage.  We will get you up to the very latest when we return. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You may be looking at the biggest and baddest hurricane in history. 

At this hour, many fear it is destined to make landfall in Galveston, Texas, ripping apart that barrier island.  Thanks for being here tonight. 

I‘m in Washington, D.C., and we have some government leaders standing by.  And I am going to be trying to get answers about not only what went wrong with Katrina, but whether we can reverse that before more lives are lost in Hurricane Rita.  This really is, friends, an issue of life and death. 

Our leaders let us down before on all levels.  We are going to be talking to some of the top leaders in America to see how things are going to be treated differently when this monster goes onshore. 

We—you know, we blew through South Florida.  She blew through South Florida with minimal damage, but now Rita is a Category 5 storm in the Gulf of Mexico.  We have got complete coverage from New Orleans, where, I have got to tell you, current tracking puts that city in danger again over Galveston, where they are bracing for a killer blow.  Just how big is Rita and where will it hit? 

Well, let‘s go to NBC Weather Plus meteorologist Bill Karins.

Bill, you know, we have been looking at this satellite imagery.  This thing looks massive, and it‘s intense.  The red, as we were talking about it here in the studio, it looks so much more intense than all the hurricanes I have followed over the past 30 years.  What is happening right now in the Gulf? 

BILL KARINS, NBC METEOROLOGIST:  Well, Joe, you are accurate. 

This is now the third most intense hurricane we have on record.  The Hurricane Center came out and said that before.  We track the pressure of these storms.  When this storm formed, this pressure was above 1,000 millibars.  All that means is, it was like a weak depression, barely a tropical storm.

It‘s now dropped down to 898.  That‘s because the hurricane hunters fly into the storm.  This is the third lowest ever recorded of any storm since the hurricane hunters have been flying since the early ‘50s.  The storm right now has a lower pressure, more intense storm than Katrina ever was in her lifetime. 

Now, the winds with this storm have yet to pick up past 165.  They could easily do that.  What usually happens, as the pressure drops, it means the core of the storm tightens up and then the winds will pick up.  So, we could see this, with the next outlook coming out here shortly, half-hour, 45 minutes, 175, 180.

And just in case you are wondering, the all-time record is 190-mile-per-hour sustained winds.  So, we could come close to that.  And, as you mentioned, just a monster storm out there, and that storm track, Joe, is still on track somewhere Galveston towards Houston. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Tell me, what is happening right now in the Gulf?  Is it possible this thing may go north?  Is it possible it may go south towards Mexico?  Obviously, it‘s sort of rolling the dice when you are predicting where they are going, but what is happening right now that is pushing it towards Texas, instead of north to New Orleans? 

KARINS:  Well, as of now, there‘s been a strong east wind.  High pressure has been on top. 

And anyone that was located on the Gulf the last couple days, there‘s been a strong east wind.  Well, that‘s the same wind that is helping to push the storm eastward and south of New Orleans. 

Joe was mentioning this about two days ago.  There always seems to be this little northward drift on the path of these storms when it gets out here in the Gulf.  And the last couple computer models that have come in, in about the last six hours or so have been inching this thing a little further towards the north, with some of the worst weather now, Houston, towards the Louisiana border. 

It‘s a little early yet to see, Joe, if this is exactly a trend or not, but we will get that new forecast from the Hurricane Center coming up. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Bill, we are going to be checking with you throughout the hour. 

KARINS:  OK.

SCARBOROUGH:  Bill Karins from NBC‘s Weather Plus, thanks so much for being with us. 

Friends, I just got to tell you something here, OK?  Again, from personal experience, not only over the past 30 years, but over the—really past two years, I can tell you, these hurricanes have devastated the Gulf Coast.  They rip apart towns.  They tear up communities.  They destroy -- they destroy history.  Pensacola, Florida, is not going to be the same for a long time because of what happened with Ivan.  New Orleans, Biloxi, all across Mississippi‘s Gulf Coast, these are communities that will be changed forever. 

Now this may be happening in Texas.  I just can‘t tell you how devastating these storms are.  And, my gosh, for New Orleans, it‘s a nightmare, because even if this thing goes into Houston, the strongest side of the storm, as everybody knows on the Gulf Coast, is the eastern side.  That‘s going to mean—that‘s going to mean some strong winds, a lot of flooding, a lot of bad things happening in New Orleans, Louisiana. 

For the very latest in New Orleans, let‘s go to NBC‘s Michelle Hofland. 

Michelle, you know, we have been talking about the devastation of Katrina.  Now we have got Rita coming in, but they are still finding bodies in the Big Easy, aren‘t they? 

MICHELLE HOFLAND, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Exactly. 

While Rita is churning off the coast of—off the coast right now, what‘s happening is that, for the first time, 500 search teams are now going into these areas they haven‘t been able to get to before because of the flooded waters.  So, they are going into the areas that were first hit by the floodwaters, the ones most devastated. 

They are smashing down doors.  They are getting into these homes that they haven‘t been able to before, and they are looking for people who—there are perhaps some survivors, but they doubt it.  But they are looking for people who died when the floodwaters rolled into these areas.  They expect it will take four to six weeks to go door to door through all of these areas, four to six weeks, Joe. 

Right now, the death toll here in Louisiana stands at 799.  After going into some of these neighborhoods, they really expect that number to climb. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Have they been telling you all that you are going to have to get out, Michelle, if this thing does take a northward tick? 

HOFLAND:  They are telling everyone here in New Orleans that it‘s a mandatory evacuation right now.  In fact, the Louisiana governor has declared a state of emergency already, but the governor—or, excuse me, the mayor said he still is not forcing anyone to leave at gunpoint. 

It‘s still up to the people who are here, but let me tell you, there‘s some concern, because the folks who have been in these homes all this time and have waited it out in the areas, they have no electricity.  They have no way to know that there is a hurricane churning off the coast here right now.  So, what they have done today is, they are going, driving through neighborhoods with bullhorns and announcing that a hurricane is on the way.  Rita is off the coast right now.  You better get out.  You better evacuate.

And this time, Joe, they have a lot of buses waiting to get not only the people who are stragglers that hung around last time, but then all the workers who are here right now, cleaning up the streets and trying to get this place back into place, and also all the volunteers.  All those people have to get out of here, and so that‘s what they are trying to work on right now.

But one more thing.  Just in case, because they learned from last time, they have enough water and military food for half-a-million people right downtown here before this thing hits this time. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  NBC‘s Michelle Hofland in New Orleans, be safe. 

I will tell you what.  She is in a beleaguered city.  And I want you, Matt, if you could—I just—I saw a map of the projections of where this thing was going to hit.  I want to explain to everybody at home what‘s going on.  And there we have it.  Those are the projected tracks.  Usually, what we have found over the past year or two is, usually, there‘s more of a northward tick.  They are just guesses.

And they will tell you they are just guesses based on the weather patterns.  They‘re usually pretty darn good guesses.  But chances are good -- if you see, again, a northward tick, where that goes, and, let‘s say, just to the east of the Texas-Louisiana border, you are going to have massive storm surges racing across the coastline and all across Louisiana.  And, again, it‘s going to cause possible devastation in New Orleans.

And, friends, listen, let me tell you something.  For the past several weeks, I have not been attacking the federal, the state and the local government for my own health, just to hear myself talk.  I have been doing it because lives have been at risk.  And, as I said before, these storms are hitting early in the hurricane season.  We know more of these are coming.  Even after Rita, there are going to be more storms.  We have entered a vicious cycle, and we better have leaders that know what they are doing. 

Unfortunately, our leaders failed us miserably.  People died because of it.  And now, now we are told, again, by our leaders—we were told during Katrina:  Oh, it was a historic storm.  There‘s no way we could have known a Category 4 was going to hit us. 

Well, now guess what?  We have got a Category 5.  There hasn‘t been a Category 5 hurricane hit America at landfall since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.  And then that hurricane, of course, it devastated Miami, but it skipped right out into the Gulf of Mexico and a lot of lives were spared because of it.  This thing, I will tell you what.  It‘s going to slam into shore.  It‘s going to hit Galveston, Houston.  If not there, it‘s going to hit again along—along the border.

And, again, lives are going to be put at risk because of the winds, because of the tornadoes, and because of the massive floodings. 

Friends, I can tell you tonight, the New Orleans levee system, already, already breached, already compromised, just simply will not be able to withstand this killer storm.  I mean, this was the last big storm that hit.  This is when their levee system was intact, before Katrina hit.  God help the people of New Orleans, God help the people of Louisiana if this thing doesn‘t—doesn‘t keep going west at a rapid rate. 

We are going to be talking about flooding in New Orleans and a lot more when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.  We are tracking a killer hurricane, Rita, and also looking back at what went wrong in Katrina and what our government officials need to do to make things right, to keep people safe, to make sure we don‘t repeat the same mistakes again.

That and much more when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  First, Katrina slams into New Orleans with these—I mean, look at the footage of that flooding.  Now a new killer storm out there that could cause the same thing to happen again.  Will New Orleans be ready and will our government be up to the task? 

That coming up, but, first, here‘s the latest news you and your family need to know. 

(NEWS BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  We are tracking Hurricane Rita.  It‘s a Category 5 killer storm in the Gulf of Mexico.  And, right now, forecasters are predicting landfall in Texas, but New Orleans is not in the clear. 

Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  Boy, we have got a lot on our plates tonight.  For the very latest on the city sitting in the crosshairs of this killer storm, let‘s go live to NBC‘s Janet Shamlian. 

And, Janet, I would have to guess, being on a barrier island as a hurricane approached, I would have to guess that, in Galveston, the fear must be palpable down there.  Tell us about it. 

JANET SHAMLIAN, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  It really is, Joe. 

And that‘s why they ordered a mandatory evacuation for Galveston island.  This is an island.  And it‘s very vulnerable, because, unlike Louisiana, there are no coastal marshes or barrier islands to take that first strike.  It‘s right here on Seawall Boulevard. 

What they do have is, in fact, a seawall that runs between 14 and 17 feet, depending on where you are.  That was built after the storm of 1900, that deadly storm which killed more than 6,000 people.  It was before even the storms were named.  But any type of surge over 20 feet, that seawall will be ineffective. 

So, what is Galveston doing?  Well, they called that mandatory evacuation.  They made a big effort to get the disabled and the elderly out.  They emptied out the hospital.  It is not just Galveston, though, Joe.  From Beaumont, all the way south to Corpus Christi and inland to Houston, in 1983, Hurricane Alicia did a lot of damage in Houston, some 50 miles north of here. 

By some estimates, it blew out a million windows.  One witness described it as raining glass.  But, certainly, Galveston is very ill-positioned for this Category 5 storm, Rita, as she approaches, and, as a result, we are seeing very few people here on the island tonight—Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thank you so much, Janet.  Be safe down there—Janet Shamlian reporting from Galveston, Texas, a barrier island. 

And that‘s exactly what these barrier islands—they are barriers.  they‘re supposed to protect mainland across the Gulf Coast from the effect of these killer storms, but people want to have the beachfront views, so they build out there, and then they get crushed when these Category 3, Category 4 storms come. 

I‘ll tell you what.  If a Category 5 storm hits Galveston, Texas, that entire barrier island will be under water.  It‘s going to be terrible news. 

With me now, talking about terrible news, is Congressman Peter King of New York.  He is the new leader of the House Homeland Security Committee. 

Peter, thank you so much for being with us tonight. 

REP. PETER KING ®, NEW YORK:  Great to be here, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, it seems to me, Pete.  And I have been angry, as most Americans have been angry, I would guess you have been angry, at the pathetic response of our government on all levels to Hurricane Katrina. 

I would think that Rita makes your job all that more important.  How can you have a government that worked so effectively during 9/11 respond so poorly to Hurricane Katrina? 

KING:  Joe, I think a lot of it was at the local level.  I am not trying to let the federal government off the hook.  But when the local police—when the local mayor failed to evacuate, when the police went off the job, when the governor didn‘t call in the National Guard more quickly, the federal government wasn‘t equipped to come in.

They should have been, but they weren‘t.  I think if the first-responders had responded the way they were supposed to or the way we expected them to, the situation would not have been as bad.  Also, in fairness, some of them in New Orleans, they were overwhelmed.  I think the main fault, I find, is the mayor for not evacuating people. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, the thing—the thing that I don‘t understand, though, Pete—and I was in Mississippi, Gulf Coast.  I am telling you, these people have been forgotten by the mainstream media.

(CROSSTALK)

KING:  I was there on Sunday, too. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  So, you saw down there. 

KING:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I was down there for a week before I saw a real presence from the National Guard. 

Now, Jeb Bush shuts down Florida 24 hours before a storm hits the shore.  Here, we got kids walking across the—I mean, the remains of Biloxi.  I mean, there was a failure of a Republican governor in Mississippi, a Democratic governor in Louisiana.  It seems, if the locals aren‘t up to the task, shouldn‘t the federal government step in before babies are dying of dehydration on sidewalks in New Orleans? 

KING:  I think it‘s the main lesson we learned. 

I think the president has to be ready to use the military at the earliest possible moment.  And we have to have them ready to go.  I think that was the problem, hesitating in using the military. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What happened?  Why did the president hesitate?  Why was the White House sleeping? 

KING:  It wasn‘t they were sleeping.  I think it was a breakdown in communication between the governor and the president, between the mayor and the governor and the governor and the president. 

And it does take, though, a good—especially with New Orleans being totally cut off, it takes about 48 hours to be able to get convoys in there. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But you got the FEMA director saying on Thursday night that he had no idea that people needed water in the Convention Center.  We heard the other—the thing that bothered me was, you had news reporters that were able to drive up, interview these people with nothing more than a microphone.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  And, at that same time, you literally had—I think I heard three babies died of dehydration and heat strokes, again, in one of the largest cities in America. 

KING:  Yes.  The problem was...

SCARBOROUGH:  Somebody was sleeping, Pete. 

KING:  Yes. 

Again, it takes about 48 hours for the military to get in, because you need bridges to get in.  You need roads.  You need—tons and tons of material. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But you can drop water in. 

I mean, we are buddies.  I am not knocking you. 

(CROSSTALK)

KING:  Listen, I was there.  I‘m not making...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Let me ask you this question. 

KING:  Yes, sure.

SCARBOROUGH:  I will ask you this question. 

If Rudy Giuliani were in charge of the federal response, and he saw on TV that young children were dying of dehydration, and they needed insulin on the ground, here‘s your quick question.  Would Rudy Giuliani have figured out a way to get water on the ground to save those people or not?

KING:  Yes, he would have.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Of course he would have.  Of course he would have.  And

he would have gotten insulin in.  He would have done a lot of things this

White House didn‘t do

(CROSSTALK)

KING:  OK, but not just the White House.

The fact is, even that would have only helped a small number of people.

To take care of the 20,000, the 30,000 and 40,000 that were there, you needed large convoys.  If you just airdropped in water or food, you could have had a mad rush, because you would have had a limited amount supplies for a large number of people. 

I think there was about a 24-to-36-hour gap in getting the military in there.  That was the big problem, because you couldn‘t have parachuted enough insulin in to take care of everybody.  You couldn‘t have parachuted enough medication in to take care of everybody. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You certainly, though, at the Convention Center, you could have dropped enough water to save people. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  And, by the way, let me just say this. 

KING:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I have said it, but I want to say it again, because my mother is probably yelling at me right now at the TV set.

It is a foregone conclusion in my mind that the governor of Louisiana, clueless, the mayor of New Orleans, clueless.  So, I am not letting them of the hook.  You are focusing on the federal response.  I am saying, moving forward, the president, if the president doesn‘t watch TV, if he doesn‘t read newspapers, somebody at the White House needs to do it.  And that is the question.

What do you think you are going to learn as you investigate Katrina on why they weren‘t watching?

(CROSSTALK)

KING:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Why Americans knew more about what was going on in New Orleans than the president of the United States? 

KING:  Well, I think the president knew. 

The problem is that having—being able to deploy the troops.  They should have had the troops more ready to get in at a more rapid pace.  That, to me, was a big mistake.

SCARBOROUGH:  But we had four hurricanes in Florida last year.  Why weren‘t they ready?  I mean, that‘s what I don‘t understand. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Michael Brown—listen, Michael Brown—Michael Brown ran four effective responses last year with Jeb Bush at the head. 

(CROSSTALK)

KING:  Well, that‘s a big difference.  That‘s a big difference. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So, they have been through this drill before.  So, if the locals don‘t work, it‘s very easy.  Send in the National Guard. 

(CROSSTALK)

KING:  Yes, but, in Florida, the locals did work. 

And, certainly, the governor in Florida did a much better job than the governor of Louisiana.  If the governor of Louisiana had done what Jeb Bush had done, if the governor of Louisiana...

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, of course.  Again...

KING:  .. had done what Governor Perry is doing right now in Texas, if the mayor in New Orleans had reacted like Rudy Giuliani did on September 11, if the cops and firemen reacted the way the cops and firemen in New York City did on September 11, then the mistake of the federal government would not have been as great as it turned out to be.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Right.  Here‘s my problem, though.  OK?  Here‘s my problem is, again—and I don‘t want to keep going back to this.

KING:  I‘m not excusing the federal government, by the way.

SCARBOROUGH:  But, you know, it‘s just like the Schiavo case.  I was very upset when the weakest among us was allowed to die.  And it‘s the same thing, whether it‘s Terri Schiavo in Florida or whether it‘s three young African-American babies on the streets of New Orleans, where our federal government doesn‘t step into the breach and do something about it.  The question is, moving forward. 

(CROSSTALK)

KING:  Joe...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Are you going to tell the administration, is your committee going to say, you have got to assume...

KING:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... that the locals are idiots, like the mayor of New Orleans?  You have got to assume that you have got a governor in Louisiana that admits she doesn‘t even know what day it is. 

KING:  Joe, the main lesson I have gotten so far is that the federal government has to assume that the locals are not going to take care of it.  The lesson we have to have learned from New Orleans... 

SCARBOROUGH:  Always assume the worst. 

KING:  Have to assume the worst and be ready to go, absolutely. 

SCARBOROUGH:  The locals are idiots.  They‘re corrupt. 

KING:  Well...

SCARBOROUGH:  Have the National Guard ready to go. 

KING:  And for whatever reasons, they can‘t do it.  And we have to assume that we have to have the military ready to go in at a moment‘s notice.  Absolutely.  That is the main lesson we learned.

We were spoiled by 9/11.  The fact is that New York City cops and firemen, for the first 36 hours, did it on their own.  They handled it, and it worked.  We expected the same in New Orleans and Louisiana.  It didn‘t happen.

By the way, I would say, Haley Barbour of Mississippi did a better job than the governor of Louisiana.  I‘m not trying to excuse everything.  There was a better job than there.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know what?  My dog could have done a better job than the governor of Louisiana. 

KING:  We agree on that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  We do.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  And you have never even met my dog. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  But the thing that, again, I couldn‘t understand about Haley Barbour, we are going over to Mississippi, my wife and I, every day, the first three, four, five days.  I never saw any National Guardsmen in Biloxi.  I saw children wandering around in the ruins of these casinos.  It was such a dangerous—again, Jeb shuts it down. 

KING:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You don‘t get out there because you have got downed power lines.  You have got gas leaks.  You have got all these other things.

And, again, I wonder—and I sound cynical.  I‘m—listen, I am a conservative guy.  I‘m a Republican.  But I wonder, why did we have the National Guard on the ground in Pensacola, Florida, 24 hours after Hurricane Ivan hit last year, and yet Haley Barbour doesn‘t have the National Guard in Biloxi for five, six, seven, eight, nine days?

KING:  Well, listen, I would say, again, the governor of Florida did the job. 

And also, before, you mentioned about African-American babies.  If they had been white babies, African-American, it wouldn‘t have mattered. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, it doesn‘t matter.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  But the thing is—and I‘m not using the race issue.

KING:  Because there are mostly whites in Mississippi.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  I am comparing Terri Schiavo to what happened.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  And, of course, when people talk about race, I have been in Mississippi.  There are poor white people in Mississippi that have suffered. 

KING:  Right, almost all white in Mississippi. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Almost all white. 

KING:  Or certainly largely white.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  Yes. 

But what I am saying, though, is, again, it doesn‘t have to do with race. 

KING:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It has to do, in this case, from what I have seen in Mississippi and Louisiana, has to do with the poorest among us, the weakest among us, the youngest among us, the oldest among us, those people who can help themselves the least. 

KING:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Those people who need the federal government to step in and help.  They were the ones let down on all levels. 

KING:  And that is the lesson we learned.

You and I—you and I basically agree.  I‘m saying that I think the main reason the federal government dropped the ball to the extent they did on Katrina was because they were expecting locals to do more than they did.  The fact is now, they haven‘t.  And I am absolutely convinced that this time around...

SCARBOROUGH:  So, as chairman—we agree.  I don‘t mean to cut you off.  I‘m sorry. 

KING:  Sure.  Go ahead.  No.

SCARBOROUGH:  But you are from New York.

KING:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You‘re a lot tougher guy than I am. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Are you going to hold the president and the administration accountable?  Are they going to send their people before your committee, and you are going to be tough on them; you‘re not going to be a suck-up?  I know you are not going to—you have never been a suck-up to Republican leaders. 

(CROSSTALK)

KING:  We are going to be as tough as we have to be. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But I‘m afraid—you know, you look behind us at this Capitol.  A lot of times, Republicans just sit there. 

KING:  No.

SCARBOROUGH:  They play ball with them. 

KING:  I guarantee you...

SCARBOROUGH:  Lives are on the line, Peter.  These—these White House officials that failed, they need to be slammed.  And we need to know why they took so long to save these people. 

KING:  Federal, state and local, everyone has to account for what they did right away along the timeline. 

And whatever deficiency there was, whether it was done by the White House, whether it was done by the governor, whether it was done by the mayor, has to be accounted for, and the people have to be held responsible.  There have to be answers.  This was a national tragedy.  And we can‘t allow one kid to die in the street.

SCARBOROUGH:  Right. 

KING:  That‘s just wrong.  It really is.

SCARBOROUGH:  And, like you said, it doesn‘t matter if it‘s a white kid or a black kid or an Hispanic kid.

KING:  Absolutely not, no.

SCARBOROUGH:  Which, I tell you, I saw poor—these poor—this is what is so heartbreaking.  Again, this is what it‘s all about, really. 

You have got a 15-month-old little girl that we saw first week we were there, Hispanic father who worked at a casino.  And she is sitting there and her lips are chapped.  She doesn‘t have water, doesn‘t have sunscreen, doesn‘t have a place to live.  And they are just wandering around the streets of Biloxi.

And I‘m—and you are like, this is a Third World country. 

So, anyway, you are going to get—when do these hearings start? 

Because I want to go there and follow these. 

(CROSSTALK)

KING:  Actually, Tom Davis will be starting them next Tuesday. 

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.

KING:  And Mike Brown will be in.  And then the other committees, including mine, are going to be doing follow-up hearings and parallel hearings. 

Now, this is a major issue.  Everyone in the Congress, Republicans and Democrats, realize how significant it is.  Some people on both sides are trying to politicize it, but this is life and death. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Exactly. 

KING:  We can‘t afford to not go forward.

SCARBOROUGH:  It has nothing to do with Republicans, has nothing to do with Democrats. 

KING:  Absolutely not.  Absolutely not. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s about saving lives. 

KING:  And we have got to learn to move quickly.  We can‘t hesitate. 

SCARBOROUGH:  No doubt.  You‘re exactly right.  All right. 

KING:  Joe...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Thank you so much.  Always great to see you. 

Let‘s go—when we come back, I will tell you what we are going to do.  We are going to go back to New Orleans.  We are going to show you some amazing flooding video and footage and talk about what may happen as Hurricane Rita continues to grow in intensity and strength in the Gulf Coast. 

That‘s when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s go now to a man who knows all too well what can happen when a levee breaks, Heath Allen of our affiliate WDSU in New Orleans. 

Heath, I will tell you what, man.  This is a worst-case scenario.  We have got a weakened levee system.  And, as you know, growing up on the Gulf Coast, like me, when the storm goes to the west of you, you get the worst of the impact.  Are these levees going to be able to hold up? 

HEATH ALLEN, WDSU REPORTER:  If we get any storm at all, no. 

I mean, the levees that were here before didn‘t hold up.  If we get a 1, a 2, or even tropical storm conditions, as you heard a minute ago, six inches of rain, those levees aren‘t going to do us any good.  We got one on the Industrial Canal that is like made out of shells.  And we have got another that is already leaking that has got sandbags on it.  It‘s leaking right now.  It‘s already letting water go through.

SCARBOROUGH:  Wait.  Heath, Heath, Heath—I want to interrupt you for a second, Heath. 

ALLEN:  Sure.

SCARBOROUGH:  Did I understand you say that six inches of rain could breach these levees? 

ALLEN:  Now, don‘t confuse it.  It wouldn‘t breach the levee, but it might wash that puppy away. 

I mean, you are looking at shells right now.  They only—all they did was put—fill up the gap to stop the water that was pouring through.  Once it leveled out, it is sitting there to hold water on either side.  If you get wind, if you get rain, you get six inches of rain and, as you say, that counterclockwise wind comes in and starts pushing the Gulf of Mexico in from the east and starts pushing up against those levees, it will wash away.  Certainly, it will wash away.  It‘s not built to withstand anything. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And I will tell you, Heath, we are showing some remarkable video that you have brought to us.  And it‘s of damaged levees, I mean, New Orleans, again, desolate. 

I mean, New Orleans experienced a 100-year storm three weeks ago, but now it may be bracing for its second 100-year storm in a month. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  What happens to the city if this thing does have the type of impact that a lot of people are fearing it‘s going to have tonight? 

ALLEN:  That‘s the good news and the bad news. 

The good news is, you know, you ask people down here, and they will tell you, what else can a storm do to us?  It‘s already been done.  And most of the people are already gone anyway.  So, if a storm comes through now, what you are going to have is a lot of blowing-around missiles, and there‘s not going to be anybody for it to hit, thank God.  I mean, it will run into buildings and that will be that. 

The bottom line is that the worst storm that is going to come is when that thing goes to Houston.  You know what people are saying down here?  They are not really so much worried about a Category 5 storm that is going to hit the Texas coast.  They are worried about how the federal government is going to fail Houston like they failed New Orleans.  They are telling people in Houston, you are on your own.  Don‘t expect any help from the federal government. 

Let me tell you what.  That dude that we had on—you had—you were talking to a few minutes ago, give me a break.  What is he saying, those darned flooded people down there couldn‘t react fast enough?  If the president of the United States can see a Category 5 storm, if the president of the United States can pre-declare a disaster area, why weren‘t the helicopters on the pad with the rotors turning?  Why wasn‘t the food already on pallets?  Why in the world couldn‘t you go ahead and mobilize troops from all over this country and come in when we needed the help? 

That guy, you know, go ahead and hold your hearings.  I want him to come down here and talk with me. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, I will tell you what, Heath, and that is the thing that was so frustrating.  All of us, all of America could see on TV every night what was going on in your hometown, and yet it seemed like everybody was inept.  They were unable to do anything about it. 

I want to show—show everybody the flooding video that you fed to us several nights ago, again, just so people understand that these waters that were rising, this wasn‘t from the storm surge of the hurricane.  This was from the levee system breaking down, which, again, could happen even if a Category 5 hit somewhere in Texas. 

ALLEN:  Well, that‘s true.  You see—and you—you explained it pretty well a second ago, that the winds come counterclockwise.  It will be coming out of the east.  It will be pushing the Gulf, whatever surge there is, right back up into Plaquemines Parish, which is an island now, right back up into St. Bernard Parish, which is 100 percent wiped out right now, and certainly could push water right back up into the city of New Orleans. 

You know, it can happen again, and it won‘t take a Category 5 storm this time.  It won‘t take a Category 5 storm to wash some of these levees away.  Some of them haven‘t even been repaired yet.  Some of them are—still have gouges out of them that are the size of city blocks, for Pete‘s sake. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes. 

ALLEN:  We are not ready for another storm. 

SCARBOROUGH:  No doubt about it.  Heath, great work as always.  We will be back with you tomorrow night to get the very latest. 

And, right now, I want to go to Tucker Carlson.  He‘s, of course, the host of “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON.” 

Tucker, I will tell you what, a lot of breaking news tonight.  But this storm, it just doesn‘t get any worse than this, does it? 

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, “THE SITUATION”:  Joe, you are on fire tonight, I have to say. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You‘re on fire, Tucker.

CARLSON:  I have watched your whole show.  I mean, I have just—it‘s compelling. 

Our show is going to be compelling, too, though.  We are going to have a passenger from that amazing landing today, the JetBlue flight.  And we are also going to set straight people who have been claiming that global warming, in other words, the United States, is responsible for this spate of devastating hurricanes we have seen.  And, of course, we will have the latest on Hurricane Rita. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Tucker—and we are going to be watching.

You know, Tucker, the thing is, we were warned a couple of years ago that these things go in cycles. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And we were told that, from the ‘20s to the ‘50s, had a lot of storms.  And we have been very lucky over the past 30, 40, 50 years.  All I know is, I don‘t know whether it‘s global warming or these cycles, but, whatever it is, man, it is a killer.  It‘s just wiping out... 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Well, we have a man who does know.  We have one of the preeminent hurricane researchers in the world on tonight, a man who has been studying hurricanes for 50 years, who has got the whole picture.  And he is going—he is going to tell us.  Are we responsible for this or not?  You should watch. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I will be watching, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Thanks, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I always do.  Thanks a lot. 

And make sure you tune in to “THE SITUATION.”  I‘m telling you, this show is hot.  He has been on fire this past week, just incredible coverage, bringing you the news you need to know. 

Now, when we come up, come back to you, we are going to be talking about a lot more, not just about New Orleans.  We are going to be talking about a historical storm.  We have seen how this movie ends.  And it‘s not a pretty sight.  Going to be talking about Galveston in 1900 and then in 2005.

That‘s when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You are looking at a killer storm out in the Gulf of Mexico, almost due south of my hometown of Pensacola, Florida.  They are predicting this thing is going to crash into Texas, possibly Louisiana.  We will know more in the next 24 hours.

But before Katrina hit New Orleans, there was the Galveston storm of 1900, a Category 4 monster that killed more than 6,000 people.  That storm is seared into the memory of that city.  And the question on everybody‘s mind tonight is, could it happen again this week?

And with me now to talk about it is Paul Burka.  He‘s the executive editor of “Texas Monthly” magazine.

Paul, we know how this movie ends, don‘t we? 

PAUL BURKA, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, “TEXAS MONTHLY”:  Yes, we do. 

We saw it in 1900.  This is a disaster.  It‘s—I hope everybody is off the island, but you have seen it in Florida, and we saw it in New Orleans and Mississippi.  People stay.  They want to stay.  And Galveston is going to be part of the Gulf of Mexico when this storm arrives. 

SCARBOROUGH:  How wide is the island across?  It‘s a barrier island, which, again, people that don‘t understand, you have got water on both sides of it.  It is literally just a little barrier to the mainland.  How wide is that island? 

BURKA:  It‘s about two to three miles wide, 32 miles long.  And a seawall covers seven of those 32 miles. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, you know, as we can tell these people, in Pensacola, Florida, when you have a Category 4, especially a Category 5 come in, you are going to have a storm surge that is going to cover up the island.  Is—do you think anybody is going to stay on Galveston? 

BURKA:  There‘s always—there are always some.  Yes, I do. 

But the storm surge will cover the island.  And then, as the storm goes inland, and you have got Galveston Bay there, the third largest inland body of water in the country, it‘s going to blow all that water right back out.  So, it‘s—Galveston is going to get hit twice if the eye is in the worst-case scenario spot, which it looks like it could be. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It looks like—I will tell you, it looks like it‘s going to be a historic storm. 

And, Paul, unfortunately, I am afraid we are going to be talking about this one in the years to come. 

Paul Burka, thanks so much for being with us. 

And let me just—I want to tell you all in Galveston right now, I have been there.  I have been through these storms.  I have known people that have decided they are going to be brave and ride it out.  If you stay in Galveston, and it is a Category 5 storm, you will die.  You are going to drown in your attic or you are going to be washed away.  Something is going to happen.  You will not survive this storm.  You make the decision.  You make the call.  It‘s your life. 

Here‘s a live picture of the storm that‘s coming to Galveston right now.  We‘ll be right back in minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  And now here‘s Tucker Carlson and “THE SITUATION.” 

CARLSON:  Thanks, Joe.

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

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