Guests: Max Mayfield, David Vitter, Tom DeLay
JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR: Tonight‘s top headline: The levees come crumbling down while Louisiana and Texas batten down the hatches for Rita. And the National Hurricane Center is saying tonight, people will die.
A killer storm called Rita crashing onshore in hours, with category 3 winds, packing high winds, a nightmarish storm surge and 30 inches of rainfall that could wipe clean communities across Texas and Louisiana by dawn tomorrow morning.
Then, New Orleans levees breached again, and water is crashing back into the Crescent City. We‘re going to be live up and down the Gulf Coast tonight for this special extended edition of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, where we‘re tracking Hurricane Rita.
Thanks for being with us tonight. This is a killer storm. We‘ve got the full resources of NCB News tracking Rita. We‘re going to be updating you throughout the evening.
I want to you take a look at this. A reporter just minutes ago on the Texas coast was trying to do a report, and this storm hasn‘t even made landfall yet. I‘m telling you, people that have been saying over the past couple hours, oh, it‘s only a category 3, well, they have absolutely no idea what they‘re talking about when it comes to hurricanes.
Ivan that hit Pensacola a year ago was a category 3. There were people who were trapped in their attics, drowned, their houses blown away. Killer storm surges 40, 50, in some places 60 feet. Entire chunks of interstate wiped out. Entire communities wiped out. And, again, people driven into the sea. And lives shattered.
In fact, we‘re still rebuilding in Pensacola because of a category 3 storm. This is a killer storm. And I‘ll you what, that‘s why we‘re going to have complete live coverage over the next two hours.
Plus we‘re going to go back to earlier today. Such a tragic story. They were supposed to be heading out of harm‘s way, but a horrible explosion engulfed the bus full of nursing home patients who were evacuating from the storm. We‘re going to have that story.
Plus we‘re going to hear from a survivor. That‘s coming a little bit later.
But minutes ago I talked to Max Mayfield. He‘s the director of the National Hurricane Center. And I asked him just how dangerous Rita is right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAX MAYFIELD, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: It‘s extremely dangerous. And just as with Ivan, capable of causing loss of life if people, you know, have not heeded those evacuation orders.
The biggest danger tonight and tomorrow morning is going to be the storm surge near to the east and where the center crosses the coast.
SCARBOROUGH: Now you‘ve said earlier tonight that people would die in this storm if they stayed behind. Do you still stick by that now that it‘s a cat. 3?
MAYFIELD: Oh, absolutely, Joe. And what‘s going to happen here, if it stays on our track here near the Texas-Louisiana border, everything you see here in red represents about 20 feet of storm surge. And the biggest concern is down here at Cameron, Louisiana, very, very low-lying, probably 16 feet of storm surge there. And that storm surge would go all the way up here through Calcasieu Lake, up into the Lake Charles area. If the track is just little bit to the left here, that storm surge will go up into Sabine Pass, the Ben Lake (ph) in the Port Arthur area.
SCARBOROUGH: And with a storm surge, that‘s what causes when we hear these stories of people in New Orleans and Pensacola last year having to rush up to their attic and trying to escape in there. Sometimes these things come in so quickly there‘s just no way to escape that killer current, is there?
MAYFIELD: And as soon as the center comes on shore and that wind comes out of the south, you know, that is going to continue to pile in. The good news here, at least we‘re hearing in the Cameron Parish here in southwestern Louisiana, nearly everybody has left, which is really good news.
SCARBOROUGH: That is great news. Unfortunately, as you and I both know, there are always a few that stay behind. Max Mayfield, I know it‘s a busy night. Thank you so much for stopping by.
MAYFIELD: Thank you, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Now, I want to you look at this map. We‘re going to show you where the storm is swirling around right now out in the Gulf. You look at that storm, it‘s going right into Port Arthur, Lake Charles.
Again, if you haven‘t been following hurricanes over the past couple weeks or, like I have, over the past, oh, I don‘t know, 25-30 years, you may not know that everything to the east of the eye—and it‘s going to come onshore around Port Arthur—is going to be slammed. In a situation like this, 5, 10, 15 miles can mean the difference between life or death as far as storm surges.
Expect Port Arthur, Lake Charles, Lafayette, Salt Point, all of those areas, low-lying areas on the Texas-Louisiana border and points east, getting absolutely slammed with a storm surge in low-lying areas. Like Max said, anybody that stayed along there is going to die. And according to wire reports that I looked at just five minutes ago, people did stay behind. They will not survive this storm.
Now to the east is Lafayette, Louisiana. It‘s inland a bit, but it‘s sure to get a wallop. And it‘s now in Rita‘s path as she‘s bears down on the coast with winds up to 125 miles an hour.
Let‘s go right now to Lafayette and hear from NBC‘s Carl Quintanilla.
Carl, get us up-to-date with the very latest.
CARL QUINTANILLA, NBC NEWS REPORTER: Well, Joe, you already hit the nail on the head. When you‘re east of the storm, the dirty side of the storm as they call it, you‘re going to get the worst punishing, the most violent winds, the heaviest rain.
It‘s starting to come down pretty seriously now. The past few hours, ever since nightfall, it was coming in pockets. But it‘s pretty consistent at this point. Big, heavy raindrops. Violent winds. We‘re going to be seeing some tornado watches over this area over the next 24 hours.
And for that whole Bayou country, south of Lafayette along the Gulf Coast where it‘s only three or four feet above sea level, that‘s an area that floods on a normal storm. That place is going to get wiped out, to a large degree, when this storm makes landfall.
This whole area, though, it was a voluntary evacuation. The last of the buses have already left this morning. So, those who are still here, basically the message (AUDIO GAP)...
SCARBOROUGH: OK, we lost—yes, we obviously lost—that‘s one of the problems when you put satellite trucks—when you put satellite trucks up in the middle of a hurricane, the wind starts to pick up. Very difficult.
Do we have Carl back, or do we need to move on? OK. We‘ll go back to Carl in just a minute and talk about—again, I‘ve been inside of these storms, rode a couple out last year. And, again, as the winds start to pick up, there are only certain speeds that these satellite trucks can handle.
At this minute, Rita is expected to make landfall somewhere between Beaumont and Port Arthur, Texas, early Saturday morning.
NBC‘s David Shuster is right in Rita‘s bull‘s eye, and he‘s with us from Beaumont, Texas.
David, what‘s happening in Beaumont right now?
DAVID SHUSTER, NBC NEWS REPORTER: Well, Joe, the rain is coming down pretty hard, and the wind gusts are certainly kicking up. And even though we‘re shielded by a six-story parking structure, the winds sometimes can really pick up and hit everything.
Within the last hour, our producer, James Hamilton, found a couple that has decided to ride out the storm simply because they could not afford to leave. Joe, this was the sort of story that we talked about a couple weeks ago in Mississippi. This was a couple that had problems with their SUV. They couldn‘t afford the gas money tonight. So, they are riding out the storm about five blocks from where we are.
It‘s Shauna and Jorge Cabrera (ph) and their dog, Sunshine. They are in a brick house, which they are hopeful will withstand some of the winds that they‘re going to get later tonight. We talked to them. We asked them if they were afraid, and here‘s what they said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I‘m terrified. I‘m scared. I know that—I‘ve (INAUDIBLE), because that‘s where I moved from, from (INAUDIBLE) hurricane, and it‘s a lot—but I know it‘s not nothing compared to hurricanes. But I‘m just—you know, like I said, was praying to the Lord, hoping that we stay OK, because we have nowhere else to go either. We don‘t have no gas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: They had no gas. And so there you have it. It‘s five blocks away. And, Joe, again, I mean, as strong as the winds are picking up where we are, it‘s even worse. If you go about two or three blocks that direction it‘s really picking up. And so, you‘ve got to wonder what‘s going through the minds of people who could not afford to leave.
And again, Joe, the mayor of Beaumont said tonight that there may be as many as 10 to 15 percent of the population here who is trying to ride it out. In Beaumont that‘s about 10,000 people. Then you add those in Port Arthur, and you may be looking at 15,000 people or so in this one county that are trying to ride out the storm tonight.
SCARBOROUGH: David, talk about the makeup over there of the people that are staying behind. Obviously, a lot of times you have people that are foolhardy. They just want to ride out the storm. Actually, what people up and down the Gulf Coast do until one of their friends die in one of these things, sometimes they throw hurricane parties. But are there a lot of people there like in Biloxi that just couldn‘t afford to get out, like the couple you were talking to?
SHUSTER: There are some. And they certainly acknowledge that there are perhaps a few thousand that was in the same situation. They felt that perhaps they were on land in Beaumont that was higher, was not necessarily a flood plain. They didn‘t have the money, so they thought they were going to risk it.
And so that was one of the problems and one of the reasons why you have the fire department, the police, the first responders that are taking refuge in the hospital with all of their gear is they fully expect that tomorrow afternoon they will start getting the calls or they‘re start getting some information about people who are stranded or in some trouble. Maybe their roof blew off. Maybe there‘s flooding, and they‘re surrounded by water. So, they‘re fully expecting to have to do those emergency runs perhaps starting tomorrow.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, thanks so much, NBC‘s David Shuster. As always, greatly appreciated.
You know, I spent a lot of time on the phone today talking to some of the relief agencies we‘ve been working through to get information out to the people in Mississippi and Louisiana impacted by Katrina, and to get information back to see what was happening on the ground. Unfortunately, as we told you last night, there are some people in Mississippi, some people in Louisiana that weren‘t able to evacuate. They‘re still on the ground, staying in parking lots, actually sticking around in parking lots trying to ride this storm out. They‘ve got tents.
But there were mandatory evacuations in Louisiana. And you had FEMA. You had Red Cross. You had other people getting out of there. So again, tonight, some of the people who can afford it the least stuck in parts of Louisiana and Mississippi.
But at the same time in New Orleans we talked last night. I was concerned last night about the possibility of the levees breaking again, because, as we say time and time again, the bigger storm surge is always on the east side of the storm. New Orleans, on the east side of the storm, and even a four, five, six-foot storm surge could mean problems for the levees that broke just three weeks ago.
And they‘ve been spending the past three weeks working around the clock, trying to pump out all of the water. And they had just gotten the Ninth Ward and other areas dry when the levees broke again today.
It‘s a terrible situation for all of those workers that want to clean up those neighborhoods and, more importantly, all of the residents that want to get back and start the process of rebuilding their lives.
With me now to talk about the levees breaking in New Orleans and Louisiana‘s response is Louisiana Senator David Vitter.
David, we were talking about it last night.
SEN. DAVID VITTER ®, LOUISIANA: Sure.
SCARBOROUGH: Of course, we were hoping the levees didn‘t break, but obviously they were terribly compromised by Katrina. Get us up-to-date with the very latest in the Big Easy.
VITTER: Well, there are those serious problems, Joe. I think it‘s really over-topping the levees at the breach on the Industrial Canal. And that‘s reflooding areas of the Ninth Ward. And there may be some of the same sort of activity in St. Bernard.
We‘re all hoping and praying it‘s going to be as localized and controlled as possible so that it only refloods areas, quite frankly, that have already been devastated. Hopefully not causing new additional damage. But we‘ll just have to see.
And, of course, I‘m also very, very focused on southwest Louisiana. As you said, southwest Louisiana, Cameron Parish, Calcasieu, Vermilion, Jeff Davis, those areas are going to be on the messy east side of the storm. They‘re going to get the real brunt of this storm, just like the Mississippi Gulf Coast did in terms of Hurricane Katrina.
And I‘m very, very concerned about those communities. We have some beautiful coastal communities in Cameron Parish, Oak Grove and the town of Cameron, Grand Shanear (ph) that are really going to get a big hit. And then a little north of there in more populous areas, Lake Charles, Sulfur, West Lake. But hopefully a huge majority of folks have evacuated.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, senator, when you‘re in Biloxi and you‘re on the coastline, the Gulf comes in, and you have the beach. But then there‘s an upward slope. It goes up 20-30 feet. Even with an upward slope of 20-30 feet when Katrina came onshore, all of those buildings, all of those homes that had survived Camille, they got wiped out. These areas, though, are so low-lying, if there‘s a 20-30-foot storm surge, they‘re going to be completely engulfed in water, aren‘t they?
VITTER: Yes. Cameron Parish is very low. That‘s the western-most parish on the coast in Louisiana. And then even Calcasieu above it to the north. So, we‘re very concerned about those areas.
I‘m going to be getting out there as quickly as I can after the storm either late tomorrow or Sunday to see exactly what the damage is and help with the federal response.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, senator, thank you so much. And I would love to have you back then to get an update on it and see how the state and federal response is in this storm. Appreciate you being with us again tonight.
VITTER: Sure. Thank you, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, we‘ll be right back in a minute with more on New Orleans, Galveston, and we‘re going to take you across the coast. Rita‘s a killer. We‘ll have more.
SCARBOROUGH: Let‘s go back to NBC‘s Carl Quintanilla. He‘s in Lafayette, Louisiana, tonight.
Carl, it‘s starting to pick up there. Tell us about it.
QUINTANILLA: Yes, I apologize for the breakup. Part of covering hurricanes, Joe, as you know, when you have a satellite truck, they call it rain fade. Just the sheer amount of rain, just the sheets that are coming down get in the way of the television signal, and occasionally we lose each other.
But I‘m not sure how wide a picture you can see, but the stuff that we were getting in pockets earlier tonight, the gusts of wind that would come and go, the sheets of rain that would start and stop, that‘s all pretty much consistent now. It‘s coming down with a pretty steady flow. And that‘s a sure sign that Rita is making its way to the west of us. That means we‘re on the east side of the storm, what they call the dirty side. And in that northeastern corner is where you tend to get the most violent winds, the heaviest rainfall, tornadoes over the next 24 hours.
The biggest concern for folks here in Lafayette and along the southern Louisiana coast is going to be water, though. A lot of the sea level, just about three or four feet above sea level, all that land is marshy, easy to flood.
And if the storm sort of stalls, which is what a lot of meteorologists think is going to happen, if this big high pressure system over the U.S. keeps it from moving any farther north, it could just sit and hover over southern Louisiana and continue to drop rain like this for days. It could be foot upon foot of rain. So that‘s the worst-case scenario that we‘re looking at potentially right now.
A lot of evacuees in this area are already evacuating from Katrina few weeks ago. They have spent the past few weeks at hotels. They‘ve used up all of the hotel rooms, having to go through this not once, but twice.
You know, Joe, when you tend to go through a hurricane, you evacuate. You come back afterwards. You check on the damage at your house. These folks can‘t even do that. And so they‘re wondering why Mother Nature (AUDIO GAP)...
SCARBOROUGH: All right, we lost Carl again. Obviously, the winds are starting to pick up. But let me just underline what Carl had to say.
Certainly a stalled storm system like this—you‘re looking at the latest video coming in from Rita. A stalled storm system over southern Louisiana would, in fact, be the worst-case scenario. Anyone that‘s driven across that area understands how low—and also, as Carl said in his earlier report, just three inches of rainfall causes coastal flooding. You‘ve got to understand if you have a stalled system and you get 30 inches to 60 inches of rainfall, which could happen, it‘s just going to have a devastating impact and could wipe out communities all along the southern Louisiana coast if that happens. Let‘s certainly hope it doesn‘t. But right now the storm is disintegrating in such a way that it‘s very possible.
I want to move west now and bring in Majority Leader Tom DeLay. The House majority leader is on the phone with us from his home in Sugarland, Texas.
Congressman Delay, thank you so much. I know this is a difficult time for you and your constituents. Tell us what the situation is. Is your community prepared for this storm as it crashes onshore?
REP. TOM DELAY ®, TEXAS: Well, I‘ve got to tell you, Joe—it‘s great to be with you. But I‘ve got to tell you, I‘ve never seen better preparation than what has happened in the Houston-Galveston region and, frankly, in Beaumont. The region understood how bad this storm was. They anticipated it. The local officials have been absolutely stellar in getting people out. We did have some problems with our evacuation, but you‘re talking about evacuating two-and-a-half to three million people. And yet it was accomplished.
And now we‘re just hunkered down and waiting to see what‘s going to happen with Rita.
SCARBOROUGH: Tom, obviously the first concern is loss of life. There are people. We‘ve had Max Mayfield and the National Weather Service say people in low-lying areas of Louisiana that stayed will die tonight. It may not be the situation in Texas.
But let‘s talk economics for a second. Obviously, a lot of Americans also are concerned about gas prices. This storm is ripping up a lot of oil properties, isn‘t it?
DELAY: Well, it just shows you how vulnerable we are, because most of the oil and gas and refining is concentrated in the Gulf of Mexico, along from New Orleans all the way down through right here in Texas. Twenty-five percent of the refining capacity is right here in Houston. And most of that has been shut down today, anticipating the storm. So, there are going to be repercussions about this.
But at the same time, we understand it, and we‘re trying to convince the people of the United States that we need to do more about supply and more about refining.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, I want to ask you this, and obviously tonight is the wrong night to bring in politics. But I want to just ask you a general question because I know this has to be very personal with you, because you live in a community and your constituents and your state are impacted by hurricanes when they come in. Are you confident that after the mistakes of Katrina and from what you‘ve seen the past 24 to 48 hours that we‘re not going to see a situation like we saw in Louisiana and Mississippi again?
DELAY: No, I don‘t think so, Joe, because the preparation has been really outstanding. The chain of command, which is the most important part of all of this, is in place. We‘ve been in touch with our local officials. As you know, they‘re the first responders. And then the state is very well-prepared.
The federal government is incredibly prepared for this storm. They‘ve got things pre-positioned, ready to come in after the storm has blown through. And the military, the National Guard and the active military, is ready to come in.
Everything is ready. In comparison with Katrina, it may be different, but right now for Rita everything is ready. Everybody is ready to get into the recovery process.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Well, that‘s great news. Thanks for being with us, Tom, and be safe tonight. Certainly our thoughts and prayers are with you and the people in your district, in Texas and Louisiana, too. Thank you.
DELAY: Well, thank you, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, we‘ve been looking at the latest video that‘s been coming in right now from Texas, from Galveston. I mean, look at that. These are, again, vicious storm surges—or gusts of wind right now approaching close to 100 miles an hour. By the time it crashes onshore, you can certainly expect wind gusts up to 125, possibly 130-140 miles an hour.
And, again, what you‘re looking at right now is an area that‘s not the most intense part of the storm. The most intense part of the storm is actually about 40, 50, 60 miles to the east of Galveston, Texas. Those are areas where we don‘t have cameras. And I can tell you, as a congressman and also as a reporter, I‘ve been in these storm centers, where you get officials, you‘re locked up in a basement, you‘re trying to prep to do whatever you can to help out. But right now is a period, it‘s a blackout period. The only really information you‘re getting are from TV sets. But by now, usually the electricity is gone. Cell phone service goes down. You really are in a blackout, and all you can do is wait for the morning light to go out to see who lived, to see who died, and to just see how widespread the damage is.
When we come back, I‘m going to be talking to the lieutenant governor of Texas about how his state is faring as Rita crashes onshore. We‘re going to be having that and a lot more as this special extended version of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY continues.
SCARBOROUGH: You‘re look at the latest weather map, Hurricane Rita, category 3. It‘s barreling towards the border of Texas and Louisiana. Let‘s keep that map up. This is—again, this is a killer storm, especially for people in the low-lying areas along the Texas-Louisiana border. It is a powerful Category 3. Targeting the area to the right, to the east of it is where the biggest effect is going to be felt. We‘re going to be covering it from all angles in the next hour and a half. And of course MSNBC will take you through the night and the weekend as Rita crashes onshore.
Welcome back to this special edition of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. We‘re tracking the deadly hurricane, again, from all angles. You know, when Rita shifted course, though, the people in Houston may have breathed a sigh of relief, but they‘re not out of the woods yet.
NBC‘s Lester Holt, who, of course, is the co-host of the weekend TODAY SHOW is in Houston tonight, and he joins us now.
Lester, anybody breathing a sigh of relief in Houston yet?
LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, officials are. At the same time as they breathe a sigh of relief, Joe, they keep mentioning to folks, look, this is still going to be a tough storm. There are going to be trees down, there are going to be power lines down.
Needless to say winds picking up here. That‘s the punch line of the evening. But they haven‘t seen anything in a big way, just sprinkling right now. Perhaps the people here ultimately will remember the evacuation of Houston more than this storm itself. We‘ve all seen the pictures over the last two, three days, the massive traffic jams. Those went on for a good part of the day. They finally got Highway 59 and some of the others cleared out today. And some of those who had been stranded without gasoline.
This was not a mandatory evacuation area as a city. There were low lying areas of the city, however, where people were urged to get out. There are people hunkering down here tonight who came here to flee the devastation from Katrina a few weeks ago. Some of them riding out in the hotel behind us. Others at shelters in the area.
But a good part of the population moved northward. And of course when we witnessed that mass exodus over the last few days. So they are not expecting anything near what it appeared two or three days ago, but they do remain ready. They had to evacuate all those folks from the Galveston area. They had to come through this, the fourth largest city.
So it was quite a scene here. But this city has done a magnificent job of preparing for this storm. And as we said, they may remember the evacuation more than the storm itself as we appear to be just getting brushed by the western edge of Hurricane Rita.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, you know, Les, that‘s what I was going to ask you. Obviously early on in the storm I had said that the response in Mississippi, Louisiana after Katrina was a national disgrace. But tonight, listening to you on the ground, you‘re giving local and state officials high marks. Maybe some things were learned by the mistakes and the tragedy of Katrina.
HOLT: Yeah, that‘ll remain to be seen as we get through whatever damage there is in the recovery, but I can tell you, Joe, this morning I was in Galveston, and was going to drive up here, I‘ve been watching the same pictures you had of the highways. And I was braced for a very long trip. I had supplied myself well. Instead I was the only car on the road. I zipped up here. And don‘t tell the state troopers, but there wasn‘t a car in sight.
So this area had been cleared out. And I drove around downtown Houston today. Very few cars on the road. People have either hunkered down or they had gotten out.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Thanks so much. NBC‘s Lester Holt, greatly appreciate you being with us tonight.
Now I want to bring in the lieutenant governor of Texas, David Dewhurst. Lieutenant governor, thank you so much for being with us tonight. What are your greatest fears right now as a very dangerous Rita prepares to crash on the Texas-Louisiana border?
LT. GOV JOE DEWHURST, TEXAS: Well, Joe, a couple things. First of all right now I‘m concerned about what might happen to Port Arthur and to Beaumont. Now, this is a Category 3 storm, but it may have a Category 4 surge. And if it does do that—we don‘t know yet—but if the surges are 20 feet, it‘s going to put all of Port Arthur under water, and a lot of Beaumont under water. And that‘s a real concern.
Then, Joe, if the storm goes north, if it goes straight up along east Texas, I fear that we‘re going to have a lot of rain, and we‘re going to have a lot of flooding. And that‘s going to cause additional problems, not only for the people up in northeast Texas but as the waters come south back past Beaumont and Port Arthur.
You see, there are three parts of this, there‘s the evacuation, and we‘ve just been going through that, and it was tough moving 2.5, 2.7 million people. Now we‘re in the second phase, which is the rescue. And assets have been moved into the Astrodome this afternoon.
We‘ll have helicopters in the area, going behind the storm. And then, of course, the third part of this is the rebuilding. Rebuilding the homes and the businesses. But we focused on the evacuation because you can rebuild businesses and homes, but you have got to spare lives first, and that‘s what we‘ve been focusing on.
SCARBOROUGH: Obviously you talk about the Port Arthur area, you talk about the Beaumont area, these are areas that as you said, like parts of Pensacola last year when Hurricane Ivan hit our hometown, storm surge came on shore, 20 foot storm surge, but in areas later we were told possibly 40, 50 feet. And of course anybody that stayed in some of these areas just didn‘t make it through.
Are you confident that you all were able - and of course you can‘t force people out by game point, but are you confident that most people got out of those low-lying areas and you‘re not going to wake up tomorrow morning and unfortunately find that you have to order body bags to be sent into those cities?
DEWHURST: Joe, we probably went through the most unprecedented evacuation in the history of the United States. We moved 2.5, 2.7 million people from Corpus Christi all the way to Beaumont. Now, in the affected area, as late as this afternoon we had 25 buses, we had DPS, which are state patrol - there helicopters were going over the area. We‘re looking for people. We went door to door in the affected area the night before last, knocking on doors of nursing homes and hospitals to make sure if anybody, Joe, anybody wanted to get out they could.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, lieutenant governor, sounds like you did it right.
DEWHURST: We tried.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, congratulations on moving 2.7 people out in 24, 48, 72 hours. That is a massive task.
We‘re going to stay with you obviously throughout the weekend. I know this is a busy night for you. I‘ll let you get back to work. But I hope you can join us again tomorrow night to talk about the second phase of this operation.
DEWHURST: Thank you, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Thank you.
Now from Texas back over to Louisiana, I want to talk now to a man who managed to capture I think the most compelling video of Katrina as Katrina pounded Louisiana.
Let‘s go back to the battered city of New Orleans and bring in our friend Heath Allen from our affiliate WDSU. And Heath, last night we were talking about when the levees break again, and there were more problems with the levees. Why don‘t you get us up to date on what happened throughout the day with the levee system in New Orleans.
HEATH ALLEN, WDSU CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, we did. We talked about it last night, Joe. The levee system here in New Orleans probably couldn‘t stand much of a storm surge. Well, you know, we got kind of a pooty storm surge to tell you the truth, but the levee system still couldn‘t stand it. On the Industrial Canal where you saw most of the damage the other day going into the Lower Ninth Ward it didn‘t take much. The Industrial Canal, blam, right through that levee one more time and just went right back in.
The storm‘s going to Texas. New Orleans figures a way to flood again. We‘re good at it. We‘re going to do it over and over again. So right back into the Lower Ninth Ward, right back in to Saint Bernard Parish, one more time we fill up.
The problem is one thing I didn‘t even anticipate last night when we were talking about it, but there were some angry people who figured, hey, wait a second, when they worked on the 17th Street Canal, that puppy held. But of course it‘s in kind of an upper class neighborhood. The London Street Canal, it held. It‘s kind of in an upper class neighborhood. Industrial Canal, it just goes straight to hell in a hand basket. And the problem is, you got poor blacks, poor African Americans that live right on the other side of that seawall, and you go a few miles down the road and you have poor whites that live there.
The parish president in Saint Bernard Parish, he‘s not John Wayne, but he calls it plain, he said he thinks it was an economic situation. That the poor people kind of got the shaft one more time. He said when they went and they went over to the 17th Canal they did it right. But when they went over to the Industrial Canal they dropped a couple of tea bags in there and now everybody‘s having to drink them. They‘re not very happy down there right now.
SCARBOROUGH: So what you‘re telling us is there were three levees breached the last time. The two that were in the middle to upper middle class neighborhoods, they held this time because of the repairs. But just by sheer coincidence, the one levee that was in the poor neighborhood, that breached, and once again, that area devastated, which, of course, as you and I both know, is going to delay any possibility of rebuilding those communities from the ground up, right?
ALLEN: And that‘s one of the real concerns now in Saint Bernard Parish because, you know, Hurricane Rita slowed everything down to begin with. They were trying to get some people back in there. They were trying to get some businesses back in there.
Of course this storm comes and they have to kind of suspend everything. Well now on top of that you put the suspension behind three or four feet of water again and now it‘s another week, maybe two weeks, they have to pump down the dog gone parish one more time. And people have to stay out of the homes, out of the areas. They can‘t even get their belongings. Nobody can live there, but they can‘t even get what belongs to them anymore.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, heath, I‘ve said it from the very beginning, I‘m sure you have, too, off camera, but this storm, just like Katrina, is once again showed that when these things hit, it‘s always those Americans who can least afford to be damaged by the storm who seem to take the disproportionate impact. And Heath, I‘m afraid that‘s one of the real tragedies of Katrina. Go ahead.
ALLEN: This was equal opportunity the first time around. I mean, when Katrina went through she kind of got everybody‘s pocketbook the first time around. It‘s the second time around when Rita came through, she kind of picked the poor people‘s pocket this time and went back in to the lower economic areas. You know, the areas outside that, the areas in the higher class neighborhoods, they fared ok. There‘s no water there.
SCARBOROUGH: High and dry. All right Heath, I‘m not surprised, unfortunately.
ALLEN: High and dry.
SCARBOROUGH: Thanks a lot. Appreciate you being with us. We want to show you some more video that‘s coming in. And we‘re getting video streaming in from across the Gulf Coast right now. Here‘s some of the latest video. And when we come back, I‘m going to be talking to Tony Perkins. You know him as the head of the Family Research Council, but this is a guy that‘s also been doing a lot of great work behind the scenes as we‘ve been trying to move relief supplies through Mississippi and Louisiana, we keep hearing his name coming up with a group of other pastors who are making a real difference.
We‘re going to get an update from Louisiana on the condition of the people in that impacted state who are certainly going to feel the brunt of Hurricane Rita as it crashes onshore. A dangerous Category 3 storm with Category 4 storm surges. That‘s when this special extended version of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY continues.
SCARBOROUGH: Tony Perkins is the head of the Family Research Council. He‘s in Baton Rouge tonight. And Tony, obviously you were a representative in the state of Louisiana. You know the state very, very well. Tell us what‘s going on in the affected areas especially along the coast in Louisiana. How bad is it going to be tonight?
TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Well, Joe, as I‘m standing out here I feel like I ought to be working for the Weather Channel. We‘re already getting a lot of it in Baton Rouge, the wind and rain. Just what New Orleans got three weeks ago is hammering the southwest portion of the state in the morning and tonight as it moves onshore.
And what is bad about this, Joe, is that many of the people that left New Orleans were living in shelters, being fed through some of our distribution sites and these churches down in the southwestern portion of the state are now evacuating out, coming to Baton Rouge. In fact I have friends from Lake Charles with us tonight here in Baton Rouge.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, I was talking actually to a guy—a friend named Robin Cox (ph), he‘s running a distribution center out of Mississippi, same exact thing‘s happening where you‘ve got people that were in shelters that were getting a lot of food sent down to them through our organization. Now they‘re evacuating. And it‘s just a terrible situation right now. Talk about what‘s going on on the ground for these affected people.
How difficult is it going to be to not only take care of the refugees from Rita, but to go back and help these refugees from Katrina after two killer storms strike Louisiana within a month.
PERKINS: Well, the good thing, Joe, is that everything was in motion already. With Katrina, we didn‘t really see a strong federal response. We didn‘t see a strong state response until a couple of days into the storm. And I have to say that the National Guard has responded well, combined with the—a really massive outreach from the faith-based community.
We have got a good relief effort going now. Now FEMA is working, and I think the plans that were made in Texas and even here for the southwestern portion of the state have helped tremendously in getting these people out of harm‘s way. And I think we‘ll be able to assimilate them in. But it is going to be very taxing, no doubt. We‘ve moved over 300 18-wheelers full of food and water to the effected portions of this state and to these shelters that have been donated to us from folks all across the country.
And without the effort of the faith-based community churches that have opened their doors to people, this disaster would have been even worse had they not taken these folks in.
SCARBOROUGH: Tony, you talked about how the government is slowly starting to respond. But at the same time—and we‘re looking at video right now out of Beaumont again, more video coming in and we‘ll keep showing it to you all as we get it in, but let‘s face it, let‘s be very blunt here. Make an accurate assessment.
When you look back at Katrina, the response, and probably the first hours of this response, the two things that work, the two things that have worked have been the military and faith-based organizations, isn‘t that right? The government‘s failed us, let‘s face it.
PERKINS: Well, I think, Joe, in thinking about that, and I think there needs to be a thorough post-game analysis of what went right and what went wrong, but if you look at those two entities, they‘re not concerned about politics, they‘re concerned about mission and they‘re concerned about people.
And those two entities performed well. And do I think that politics got involved in both the rescue and the relief effort here in Louisiana. And I hope that when we look back on this, and the government thoroughly looks at what went right, what went wrong in devising a plan for the future that there is integration with nonpolitical (ph) organizations.
There seems to be almost a hostility within some of the federal organizations like FEMA in working with faith-based organization that are on the ground here to help people.
SCARBOROUGH: They‘re going to have to do it. Tony Perkins, thanks so much. I greatly appreciate you being with us tonight. And I just want to expand very briefly on what Tony said. Bottom line, when you have organizations not interested in politics, not interested in who gets the credit, then you don‘t lose lives the way we lost lives after Katrina. Because, let‘s face it, it was the delays based on politics that killed people on the ground.
Breaking news right now out of Galveston, Texas. We have reports, the report just came in that the Galveston post office reportedly—and again, reportedly—is all we can say at this time, but that the Galveston post office is on fire. NBC reporters are going to the scene. We‘re going to continue to monitor that and other developments. Rita‘s crashing onshore right now. We‘re in the zone of confusion.
As I said before, you‘ve got most officials who are now underground safely inside these hurricane centers where they can track the storm. And they‘re not going to know the extent of the damage until they get up early tomorrow morning and go out and see what Rita has done.
We‘re going to be right back in a minute. And again, you‘re looking at the very latest live tracking system of Hurricane Rita. Still moving towards Port Arthur right now. If it continues on its current track, it looks actually like the eye may go over Port Arthur, which will mean that Lake Charles will get the worst of this killer storm.
We‘ll have more when this extended version of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY continues in a minute.
SCARBOROUGH: With Hurricane Rita preparing to crash on shore, let‘s go now live to NBC‘s David Shuster in Beaumont. David, get us up to date with the very latest.
DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well Joe, the winds are starting to pick up a little bit now. We just had a gust, according to the little gauge of about 45 miles per hour. So it‘s starting to pick up. And we‘re still, ironically, perhaps maybe five or six hours before the eye‘s going to come down. But this is what it looks like where we are.
We‘re at Christus hospital, which is a part of Beaumont which is a little above the flood point. So they think this will be fine. And we‘re up against a six story parking garage. So we‘re actually going to be in pretty good shape here. But already, Joe, now about every 10 or 15 minutes or so you can actually see the sky light up with the green - the explosion of the transformers blowing up. And we‘ve seen that repeatedly over the last hour.
So you can only imagine how many people are now without power here in Beaumont. Joe?
SCARBOROUGH: All right. David Shuster thanks for that quick update.
We‘ll be back to you again.
Let‘s go now to Major Arnold Strong, he‘s been in charge of the Rita operation in New Orleans. Major, thank you so much for being with us. Of course Rita‘s not even onshore, but already water flowing over the levees, got to be upsetting for residents, and also for people like you who are doing your best to protect that city.
Get us up to date with what‘s going on with New Orleans and the levee system right now.
MAJ ARNOLD STRONG, NATIONAL GUARD: Joe, I‘ll tell you, we were over in the Orleans Parish and in parts of the Saint Bernard‘s Parish until very recently. We saw some of the preparation for that levee and a temporary levee that went into place. However we redeployed our brigade as part of a quick reaction force at the request of the governor, we are displaced all over southwestern Louisiana right now, particularly getting ready to go into the Lake Charles area with a reinforced brigade task force to prepare for the effects of Rita.
SCARBOROUGH: So what‘s the status? So New Orleans—are things calm right now in New Orleans?
STRONG: Well, it‘s a lot calmer because there are a lot less people, sure but as you can see behind me, the storm is still raging. We anticipate that New Orleans is not going to be as hard hit, obviously. as Lake Charles, however we still have National Guard forces displaced here in New Orleans and also as well in the southwest. There are 16,000 national guardsmen from about 30 different states located in the New Orleans and Louisiana area alone.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Major Arnold Strong. Thanks a lot. I know it‘s going to be a long night. I really pressure stopping by here to talk to us and get us updated.
STRONG: Have a great night.
SCARBOROUGH: As the major said, New Orleans isn‘t the target this time, it‘s southwest Louisiana. We‘ll continue with that story when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.