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CNN BREAKING NEWS
New Orleans Resembles Ghost Town; Some Residents Decide to Weather out Storm; Storm Forces Convention Changes
Aired September 1, 2008 - 02:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everybody. I'm T.J. Holmes at the CNN headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.
Gustav is what we're keeping an eye on here for you all night. We'll stay here live with you, but that is the monster we are keeping an eye on, Gustav.
It's now about 200 miles from New Orleans, still headed in that direction. The center of the storm expected to pass just west of the city.
Now, that might sound like it's going to be a miss, but still, that's not exactly a good thing. We're going to explain why here in just a second.
We've got winds we're looking at of about 115 miles an hour. Gusts, though, of up to 140 miles per hour.
Now, just minutes ago we did get word that it has slowed down somewhat. It's moving at about 16 miles per hour. A few hours ago, moving at about 18 miles per hour. Again, forecasters expect it to slow down even more. We have our Karen Maginnis here to explain for us in just a second what exactly that means.
There is some good news here. And that good news is that New Orleans is about a ghost town right now. That means that people are heeding the warnings and getting out of Dodge.
About two million people, we're told, have evacuated from the Gulf Coast. Fewer than 10,000, we're told, are still believed to be in the New Orleans. That is a good thing, that people got out.
The Louisiana National Guard has set up command centers in the city. They are still looking for holdouts. You know, always got those few who just refuse to leave. They're broadcasting evacuation messages in English, Spanish, as well as Vietnamese.
HOLMES: Want to head down to New Orleans now and to our Chris Lawrence, who has been down there and been up with police, literally all night. He's with them now.
Chris, we want to check in with you. We are told the place looks like a ghost town, and that is a good thing.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you said it, T.J. It's such a change from three years ago.
We're here at the sixth District, just outside the sixth District police station. It's a skeleton crew right now. A lot of the police from the districts all over the city have been taken down to the convention center, and they're bedding (ph) down at the convention center with a lot of the National Guard units. So at each district there's a skeleton crew of about eight to 10 officers. We've seen them going out back and forth on patrols.
John, if you want to pan around, you can see one of the cars. I don't know if you can come around there. There you go. There's another car going off on another patrol.
They have been going back and forth, and we've been talking to them as they've been coming in off their patrols. And just reporting just not a lot of activity. A lot of the officers say they've been out all night and have maybe only even seen one or two people in the entire city.
Again, a huge difference from this time three years ago. It was chaotic, the officers had little to no communication, and a lot of the officer either did not show up to work because they were more worried about their families, trying to secure their families, or they were stranded at the location they were and could not get in.
What happened this time around was, last week, the chief of police gave all the officers some paid time off to get their families to safety well ahead of the hurricane's arrival. So that seems to have made a big difference. He expects about 97 percent of the officers to be on duty tonight and to be working -- T.J.
HOLMES: All right, our Chris Lawrence.
We're not done checking in with you. We appreciate you, know you've been up there all night. And those officers, others working down there as well all night, just making sure people got out.
Chris, we appreciate you. We'll see you again shortly.
Of course, we heard from the Homeland Security secretary, Michael Chertoff. He made his way down to Louisiana yesterday after briefing reporters at Andrews Air Force Base before he left. And he got there and he was answering questions about whether he thinks people are actually taking this hurricane seriously enough.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: So when you look around and you see all of the people here and you see the response, what do you think?
MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I think that the fact that people are taking it seriously is a positive sign that we're getting the message out about what it's like to face a hurricane. That, you know -- and I've got to say, some of these people, I think they -- you know, they see the movies or TV and they think, oh, well, I really need to tie myself to a tree. It's not going to be needed (ph).
LEMON: I've got one more question for you. Do you think that the mandatory evacuation was called fast enough, early enough?
CHERTOFF: It seems to me, again, from what I see -- and I don't like to second-guess these decisions because they're very hard decisions -- but it seems to me that it's worked. I mean, as far as I can tell, I'm not seeing a suggestion that people are really crowded to get out at the last minute. Again, I can't tell you who hasn't left, so I'm a little dark on that.
LEMON: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: You heard him say there, he can't tell you who hasn't left. Well, some have not left, and Sheldon Fox, a reporter with our affiliate WGNO, has found some people who have not left. He is there for us now.
Two o'clock in the morning, are you finding people out and about and even having a good time, if you will?
SHELDON FOX, REPORTER, WGNO: You got it, T.J. We did find that, and we're going to get to that in just a second. But for now, I want to talk about outside, where it is getting closer to gut-check time here in New Orleans.
We are in the Faubourg Marigny, the bywater area, a neighborhood not too far from the French Quarter. Generally on a Sunday or a Saturday or any day of the week you'll see people in New Orleans. It's one of those all-night places, as you know, and it is empty. An absolute ghost town, as you mentioned earlier, except for military police, Humvees with the National Guard, as well, and New Orleans police.
But, as you mentioned just moments ago, there are a few that remain in New Orleans. Ten thousand people they say still remain in the city. And you will find a few of them in the Kajun's Pub.
Follow me. We're going to go inside and talk to a few.
As we make our way into this place, we've been here all night, T.J. Earlier, we had about 50 people in here. Now it's getting a little bit lighter. But nonetheless, you still have a healthy crew doing their thing and enjoying it, doing it New Orleans style, as they say, drinking beer, playing pool, listening to the jukebox, and bringing their dogs even in for a little doggie treat once in a while.
They had some ravioli here earlier, and if you can believe it, this is what goes on in New Orleans just before a hurricane comes. A little bit of Scrabble, some slot machines behind them -- or some video poker, I should say. Here are the doggies. We see them on the ground. Yes, we do -- a nice pit and a bulldog. It's a little bit of a party with the Village (ph) playing in the background at the Kajun's Pub, T.J. And we've got the owner.
Joanne (ph), good to meet you. Talk to us about your bar. It's an interesting place. It's a place that survived Hurricane Katrina and a place that stayed open. That's what I hear.
Is that true?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely.
FOX: Tell us about it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we opened in December of '04, and the very next year Katrina came by. And it was one heck of a storm.
FOX: And they had a foot of water inside the Kajun's Pub, and they weathered that storm, brought people inside, and served drinks all day long. That's how it goes in certain sections of New Orleans, T.J. A very interesting spot, and it's interesting even with a hurricane almost here.
Back to you.
HOLMES: Interesting is one way to put it, but Sheldon, I need you turn around and yell out in that bar, "Hey, people, a Category 3 is on the way!"
HOLMES: If that doesn't work, what are they doing? They don't seem concerned. Are they going to go home? Are they going to try to get out? What are they doing?
FOX: It's a great question. We've been posing it to these people all night long, and everybody seems a little bit unconcerned.
Tell us about that. He's asking. T.J. Holmes from CNN wants to know, why are you here? You know how bad the water was during Katrina, you know how badly this neighborhood flooded, you know how badly the city fared, yet you brought people in any way even after the storm, and as the storm was going on.
You plan to do that here with Gustav just hours away. What's the deal?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, this is my home, this is my city. I live here. This is my business. I'm not going anywhere else.
Another reason, like I said before, these buildings here have been around since 1890. If they can handle it, why can't I?
FOX: There you have it, T.J., from Joanna (ph), who is a tough cookie. She's weathering the storm, and so are her patrons, and they've done it before.
And that's the story from the Kajun's Pub on St. Claude Avenue in New Orleans, Louisiana.
HOLMES: Well, you know, we can call them tough cookies, we can call them resilient, but some people would call them something else and say they need to get their butts out of there.
Sheldon Fox, we appreciate you this morning. Certainly interesting to see people still hanging around and really being nonchalant, almost, about this storm.
Sheldon, we appreciate you bringing that to us this evening.
We're going to head now over to Waveland, Mississippi, with Beverly Davis, the owner of a family grocery store. She is there. She is not leaving. Her family is not leaving. They didn't leave during Katrina either.
Ma'am, thank you for giving us some time and talking to us this evening. A lot of people are kind of shaking their heads and wondering why, after everything that happened and everything we saw in Katrina, why still some people wouldn't leave. Explain to us why you're still there.
BEVERLY DAVIS, OWNS FAMILY GROCERY STORE IN WAVELAND, MISSISSIPPI: Well, I guess they call us diehards. That's what customers call them. They're all day coming in.
But you've just -- you've been through it, you've weathered the storm before. You just have to weather it again.
HOLMES: Is there any part of the coverage you have seen and the warnings being given and some of the things you're hearing from officials talking about this being the storm of the century, and there's nothing you really hear? Like you said, you've been through it before, but there's nothing about this one that feels different, that gives you any more alarm than any of the others?
DAVIS: No, none whatsoever.
HOLMES: Well, I'll be damned. Well, ma'am, what did you go through during Katrina? How badly were you affected?
DAVIS: When Katrina hit, we -- actually, the water was over your head outside, but inside we had 32 inches in this store. You know, and we are -- what used to be the club -- it was a clubhouse of the subdivision that we're in. And we turned it into a store five weeks before Katrina.
And we were kind of like on a hill where the golf course and stuff used to be. And where we didn't -- the water was -- almost like it went around us. And people knew that it was dry, and they were coming in in boats and, you know, waiting and stuff. So I guess I would say 50 percent of the subdivision stayed this time.
HOLMES: Ma'am, has there been any part in the coverage of this storm and seeing it coming where you did give thought and say, maybe I should get out? Or was there never a moment where you thought you would evacuate?
DAVIS: Well, at first I kind of thought, no, we don't need to stay. And then I thought, if we lived through Katrina, we could make it through this.
HOLMES: Well, Beverly Davis, I hope, I really do, and we all hope and pray that that...
DAVIS: Yes. Well...
HOLMES: Go ahead, ma'am.
DAVIS: We have the National Guard who's been out and about too, you know, and they've been doing a real good job trying to get people to evacuate. You know, and the sheriff's department. So...
HOLMES: And have you been warned as well that once that storm hits, and these mandatory evacuations are in place, that you're kind of on your own? You can't really depend on city services, you can't depend on water, you can't depend on police, you can't depend on anything.
DAVIS: Well, we're fully operational here. Once it hits, you know, I have a generator that will power up the whole store. I've been the only one that's open south of the interstate since probably about 3:00 this afternoon, and, you know, the only person with ice, I would think. And we will be open some time tomorrow if it's not too bad, you know.
HOLMES: Well, I'll be -- what's the name of your store down there, Beverly?
DAVIS: Davis Family Grocery.
HOLMES: All right.
Well, folks, if you're in the area, Davis Family Grocery is one that's going to be open for you if you need to get anything, because Beverly is not going anywhere.
Beverly Davis in Waveland, Mississippi.
Ma'am, really we wish you the very best. We hope this one works out for you again as well. But you take care of yourself and be as safe as you possibly can, all right?
DAVIS: All right. Goodnight.
HOLMES: All right.
Well, there you see, some people actually in New Orleans still having drinks at the local bar right now, as we are telling you that this storm is 170 miles from where they sit. Really kind of nonchalant and really almost just enjoying themselves, not even thinking about what's literally right out the window. We are going to continue to check in with our reporters, with our affiliates, with our meteorologists. There's one of our reporters standing by right now. We will continue to check in with them throughout the morning.
And there's our Karen Maginnis. She's in our severe weather center, the hurricane center, as it is this morning. We'll continue to check in with her as well.
Don't go anywhere. We are all over this monster.
HOLMES: 2:20 here in the morning on the East Coast. T.J. Holmes here. We'll be with you throughout the morning, keeping you updated about this hurricane, Hurricane Gustav, a Category 3 now, still churning towards the Gulf Coast.
And there it is. Still expected sometime Monday, early Monday, maybe midday, to land, the eye there, to hit, make landfall. And of course during any breaking news story, as we have learned and as we have seen certainly with weather stories, we depend on our iReporters to check in with us and help us tell these stories.
Christopher Sarpy (ph) is one of them. He's a longtime New Orleans resident. He took his video camera to an intersection on St. Charles Avenue, usually a very busy place, very busy thoroughfare in the city.
Take a look at what he did or did not find there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER SARPY, IREPORTER: Here I am, middle of the streetcar tracks. The lights for some reason are still on. There's no reason for them to be on. You can see Broadway all the way to Clayburn (ph) without a care.
There's nothing on St. Charles anywhere. There's not one person anywhere.
The storm still about to hit tomorrow morning. It's Sunday night. There's nothing. No one, nothing. It's a complete dead town.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: No one, nothing is a very good thing right about now, because that means that people were heeding those warnings and they got out of town. I'm told at least about two million is the estimate, actually got out of that region. That is a good thing. Not too many left behind.
We're going to be checking in, in New Orleans, on its north side in just a few minutes. Have a live reporter standing by there.
Stay here. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
HOLMES: All right. We're going to head back down to New Orleans now. We've had several affiliate reporters standing by. We have our people on the ground there.
But we have Jennifer Van Vrancken. She's a reporter with one of our affiliates, WVUE. She's on Lake Pontchartrain.
And hello to you. And Lake Pontchartrain does not look like Lake Pontchartrain usually looks behind you right now.
JENNIFER VAN VRANCKEN, REPORTER, WVUE: Lake Pontchartrain is a little choppy tonight. You know, it's interesting. This area is normally very calm behind me. There's a seafood restaurant here, people usually sit out, watch the boats come in on a nice, smooth lake.
It's definitely not that tonight. And this is a very early part of what we're going to see from Gustav.
You can see behind me, as I kind of step out of your way, the waves are starting to come in pretty hard. It's choppy now. I estimate the winds to be nearing somewhere between 30 and 40 miles an hour, probably nearing 40 at this point.
We've really felt it pick up over the night. In fact, really just in the last 10 minutes, I'd have to say. I now have to kind of push against the wind. We've had our light blow over several times, so we do start to feel this wind from Gustav coming in.
It's very quiet in this area of the city, and I know a lot of people are wondering, did people evacuate? Well, for two reasons it's almost perfectly silent. All you hear is the sound of the wind tonight in New Orleans, because many, many people did choose or were asked to mandatorily evacuate.
So many are watching from other cities tonight out of harm's way, but there's also been curfews imposed. So everyone who is in the area can't be out here looking at the storm or seeing what the lake looks like. They're required to be inside, and that's to prevent any kind of looting so that people who have left their homes and evacuated can feel safe that their property will be protected.
The only people we've seen here, in fact, are police cars. There's two in my immediate view. So we see very heavy patrols making sure that there are no problems as this storm moves in.
HOLMES: All right. Jennifer, so strange to see that lake churning up the way it is behind you right now. But as you're saying and a lot of other people are saying, and we're getting reports they don't see anybody but police cars. That is a good thing.
Jennifer Van Vrancken, we appreciate you giving us the update. We'll be checking in again with you, I'm sure. And again, stay with us here, folks. We've been talking about how this hurricane could affect certainly the Gulf Coast there, but certainly that weather is going to make its way up and affect other regions of the country.
There you see. So other places expecting heavy rainfall as well, a little north of the Gulf Coast. But would you believe this hurricane also affecting something that's going to be happening as far north as Minnesota?
Yes, the Republican National Convention is what we're talking about. And we're not talking about rain from this hurricane making it up there. We'll explain exactly how this hurricane has really changed things up for the Republican National Convention.
HOLMES: Well, that was a pretty big party that was supposed to get under way today, on Monday, in St. Paul, Minnesota. That's not going to happen. The Republican National Convention was set to be gaveled in. It still will be, but with a much different fanfare than was expected.
The White House certainly announced that President Bush, Vice President Cheney would not be going to that event. Republicans don't want to give the appearance certainly that they're up there having a party, being festive, while people are suffering down on the Gulf Coast.
CNN's Ed Henry now at the convention site in St. Paul with the story for us.
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Bush was fully briefed on Hurricane Gustav and is now heading to Texas for storm preps instead of Minnesota for the Republican National Convention.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I also spoke with Mayor Nagin of New Orleans to make sure that they're getting everything they need from the federal government to prepare for what all anticipate will be a difficult situation.
HENRY: Mr. Bush wants to show compassion for the Gulf Coast, but he's also trying to exercise the political demons of Hurricane Katrina.
BUSH: And Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job.
HENRY: So many devastating images weighing on the president's legacy.
ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think there's some concern among Republicans that the president, who rose so high on 9/11 on a pile of rubble, that the administration sank a bit in the waters of Katrina.
HENRY: In fact, John McCain traveled to New Orleans this spring to say Katrina was handled disgracefully. And after visiting Mississippi this weekend he vowed the federal response will be better this time.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have every expectation that we will not see the mistakes of Katrina repeated.
HENRY: Democrats say that is what lead McCain to scramble to adjust the convention schedule.
SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD, (D-CT.): That the Bush administration let the city drown, basically, three years ago, we wouldn't even be talking about this.
HENRY: But Republicans say it's cynical to suggest Katrina is the only reason the GOP is curtailing the big bash in St. Paul.
ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It's pretty clear that when people are hurting it's not a time to have a party. It's not the time to have a political spectacle. It's time to get a bucket and go help.
HENRY: A message the president is delivering as he tries to show this time he's on top of Hurricane Gustav.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Do not put yourself in harm's way, or make rescue workers take unnecessary risks. And know that the American people stand with you and that we'll face this emergency together.
HENRY: Republican officials are holding open the possibility the president may still come to St. Paul, or speak to delegates by live remote, after the storm passes. Ed Henry, CNN, St. Paul.
HOLMES: Pretty much what we're going to see at the Republican National Convention on Monday -- just business, nothing festive. No political rhetoric, as they say, but some things have to officially be done to actually nominate John McCain and his vice presidential pick, Sarah Palin, of Alaska. So some things, business-wise, they still have to get done. But, again, nothing political, we're told, is going to happen. Then they'll take it on a day-by-day basis from there.
Well, Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate, keeping an eye on things, as well, going on in the Gulf Coast. He was echoing the calls for folks to get out of the hurricane's path.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We want to find our first from folks on the ground what's going to be most helpful. You know, we don't want to solicit a bunch of canned goods that can't get there, or you know, bottles of water, where they already have water. So, we're going ton wait and over the next 48 hours to find out what would be most useful. I think we can get tons of volunteers to travel down there, if it becomes necessary. And so then the question is, you know, what people on the ground think they need and once we determine that, I think we can activate, you know, an e-mail list of a couple million people who want to give back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: So the heat of a political season, nothing political right now about this hurricane on either side.
We're going to go back to our Karen Maginnis, who is standing by, in the Weather Center.
You have a new line there to show us, it appears. What's going on back there?
KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, this is just kind of a different perspective, T.J., this is what one of the computer models is suggesting will be the landfall point. There you can see, New Orleans is up here, here's Lake Pontchartrain. You saw those incredible pictures, from WVUE, our affiliate there in New Orleans, of those waves crashing across Lake Pontchartrain. This is at tropical storm intensity there. Now, this is a Category 3 hurricane. But the hurricane is still way down here in the Gulf of Mexico, within 10 to 12 hours of making landfall.
All right, J.J., let's go ahead and zoom down across this area. I want to show you this is what we anticipate - or one of the computer models is suggesting there will be landfall here. You just kind of follow this line. Here is Iberia, here is St. Mary's Parish, where you see these, those are the county lines. The Vermillion Bay is right here. They are saying in the worst-case scenario, St. Mary's Parish and Iberia Parish, could be completely flooded with a storm surge of 10 to 14 feet, T.J. It's hard to imagine that.
I just want to mention one other thing before we go. Gulf Shores has reported a wind gust of 31 miles an hour. Pensacola 31, New Orleans, just in the past hour 33 mile an hour gusts. And a reporting station offshore, around a 45-mile an hour gust reported there. So, we continue to get all this information as this inches towards the coast. Maybe about midday, south central coast of Louisiana. T.J., back to you.
HOLMES: So, inches, that's the way to put it? You say this thing is kind of slowing down and that also means that it is also picking up intensity. Karen, we appreciate you. We're going to be checking in with you a whole, whole lot, so don't go too far, for us.
Don't you go anywhere, either, our viewers, I'm talking to now. We'll continue to follow this monster storm. And as we've shown you already in the past - really - overnight and this weekend, as well, we've seen people who have refused to leave New Orleans. They don't want to leave their homes. We'll talk to somebody else who is still in New Orleans right now, and we'll have him explain to us why.
HOLMES: Well, continuing to keep an eye on Gustav, this monster storm. Hurricane 3 now 115 mile an hour winds that is making it's way toward the Gulf Coast, you see it there. It's inching as our Karen Maginnis just described for us. It slowed down a bit to under 15 miles and hour, around 15 miles an hour, I should say now. It's making its way toward New Orleans, about 170 miles out, at this point expecting it to hit, the eye, to make landfall around midday on Monday.
We did get word, we watched all weekend, that people were heeding the warnings to get out of town. Told about almost 2 million people actually got out of there. Here was a picture - are these pictures live? You guys? What we're seeing here? It looks like a bunch of police cars, but for the most part, the only thing that is left around New Orleans are just police, still going around, trying to tell everybody to get out, if you haven't gotten out yet. Trying to see if anybody is still left around. We're told about 10,000 people actually, the estimate, still are around the New Orleans area.
One of those 10,000 happens to be Fred Johnson. He is there now. He's on the phone with us.
And Mr. Johnson, I understand you sent your family out of town but you are still there. Why?
FRED JOHNSON, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: Well, we have some work, some of my friends, some of my relatives from out of town who came in for an annual day parade. And we had to postpone the parade, and we figured that we would just stay back and see what the collateral damage is and see from there. We stood through Katrina and worked missions on that. And we were just prepared to do the same.
HOLMES: And tell me again, where exactly are you in the city?
JOHSNSON: I'm in the Gentilly area. To be exact, I'm at - maybe two blocks from Dillard University.
HOLMES: I hear right? You say you had people came into town, some family? So, are you there and riding it out with them?
JOHNSON: Yes, I have -- it's all males. And they were not ready to go back to California, so I figured well, let's just stay here. We had just finished renovating the house that I'm in - from Katrina. We had just moved in - partially moved in. And, of course, we have a generator and water and we have enough stuff in here to carry us over if we had to, a good two weeks.
HOLMES: Sir, I know you have the supplies you need, but of course, there is no supply you have that is going to keep the wind from knocking down the house or keep the water from filling up that house. Why still - and we heard some of the reasoning you have there, and they have their own reasons as well. But when you look at this map that we have up on TV, when you look at the radar, when you hear Mayor Nagin say, get your butt out of town. When you hear this being the storm of the century, when you hear all this stuff, still why - just, you know, go a little north? And just why take the chance of riding this thing out?
JOHNSON: Well, like I said, we're already in here and we understood all of what the mayor said, what the governor, the president, we respected all that. We're not walking the street. We feel that the computer called it; it kept shifting, we kept watching, it kept shifting and if we thought we were in harm's way we were prepared to move or we made the necessary arrangements to do that. And we just didn't want to leave.
HOLMES: You said, if you felt like if you were in harm's way, so there is something about what you're seeing and all the reports and everything that gives you some comfort that you are in a pretty good shape right now?
JOHNSON: I am, you know, I didn't have any fear of it. And I thought that if the house got knocked down we could get out. If the water came up, we could get out. So we had covered pretty much all of our basis.
HOLMES: All right. How many of these have you been through? You talked about Katrina. How many hurricanes have you been through in your life?
JOHNSON: Well, my next birthday I'll be 55 years old, so I've been around a while.
HOLMES: So, you're used to seeing watches and warnings and seeing plenty of hurricanes, at least, come through the Gulf Coast?
JOHNSON: Well, I grew up in New Orleans. I'm born and reared here. And stood in the front door of my house when Hurricane Betsy came. So, you know, I come out of generation of folk that was not necessarily - one didn't have money to evacuate, and had no place to go. So, that's not the case now, but there's something about it I didn't have (INAUDIBLE). Once my family was out I didn't have the fear about it, what it would do and what would happen. I just knew that we could work it out and could get out.
HOLMES: Well, Mr. Johnson, we appreciate you giving us some time here. We absolutely do wish you the very best there and we hope you are right. You have a lot of experience with these things. You've seen them come and go. And you are still there, like you said.
Fred Johnson, again, there in New Orleans riding this thing out like so many others. Sir, thank you so much.
That's the story. We hear different reasons from different people, but certainly resilient and they are not leaving their homes and leaving New Orleans. About 10,000 left, still, but certainly the government officials glad that so many people did get out, about 2 million, we're told.
We'll continue to keep an eye Gustav, right here. We're not going anywhere. We'll also tell you how this is going to affect, possibly, oil rigs. If that's going to affect any - the price of oil, also the price of gas. A lot of people concerned about that. Stay here, we'll be right back.
HOLMES: Well, Gulf Coast oil production fairly much shut down at this point. That sounds bad, but it could be worse, but right now we are actually OK. Well, the Gulf normally accounts for about a quarter of all U.S. oil production. Now, right now, about 96 percent of the drilling has been shut down. You're seeing here where some of that oil production, showing those oil rigs out there in the Gulf.
Now, according to our Ali Velshi, who has been reporting from Grand Isle, that's pretty much the onshore operation for the offshore drilling operation. They can sustain shutting down. The U.S. can tolerate shutting down for a few days and there being no oil production down there. The problem would be if there's a lot of damage done to a lot of these oil rigs. That's what we do not know just yet.
There was, of course, a lot of damage to these oil rigs during Hurricane Katrina. And that's certainly caused a lot of problems. But, again, if it just shuts down for a few days, the U.S. can sustain that and maybe not see such a huge increase in oil prices, and therefore gas prices. But the issue is - you have to keep an eye on, if after this storm, there's a lot of damage to those oil rigs and production is going to be shut down for quite sometime, that's when we are going to have a problem. Right now the average price of a gallon of gasoline is up about 1.5 cents this weekend. So that's something else we will certainly keep and eye on.
We're going to be keeping an eye on something else - hospitals. You remember a lot of people were evacuated during Hurricane Katrina, where a lot of patients are staying behind this time around, but also some still are evacuating. Some patients still being taken out because of this hurricane as well. We'll look into that, when we get back.
HOLMES: Well, as we have been telling you, literally, about 2 million people have gotten out of the Gulf Coast area, gotten out of New Orleans, especially. They have evacuated. But hospitals have had the issue, as well, of having to evacuate hundreds of patients. However, some have had to stay behind. Yes, we still have some critically ill patients who are still in New Orleans. Our Susan Roesgen reports now that some of these patients are some of the youngest and the tiniest.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you smile?
SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tracy Bailey can't bear to tell her son Cameron about the hurricane that's on the way. Four- year-old Cameron had heart surgery just 10 days ago.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He knows that there's a little storm coming but as long as I'm here, he's happy, he's calm. ROESGEN: In 50 years New Orlean's Children's Hospital has locked its doors only once and that was when Hurricane Katrina forced them to. This time the hospital plans to stay open no matter what.
BRIAN LANDRY, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL NEW ORLEANS: It's one of those situations for us if every time when a hurricane came to the community - or the threat of one - we moved all our patients, I think we would find that some of our patients wouldn't survive.
ROESGEN: When the hospital staff knew a storm was coming they were ready. The hospital has food and water and generators to keep the power going for three weeks - and a back up plan just in case.
(ON CAMERA): Now if worse comes to worse and the hospital has to evacuate, here's something it didn't have in Hurricane Katrina, a helicopter landing pad.
(VOICE OVER): But the doctors and nurses here, who volunteered to stay have no intention of evacuating the patients or themselves. There are 80 young children here now, more than half in critical care. (ON CAMERA): You don't want to leave them.
CRYSTAL MAYEAUX, NURSE: No, no we're attached to a lot of the babies here. So it's important to us, too.
ROESGEN (voice over): Claire Trahan's son, Jude, was born prematurely with a heart problem. For the duration of the storm parents are allowed to stay at the hospital with their children and that's a comfort to Claire and her husband.
MICHAEL TRAYHAN, FATHER OF PATIENT: He's been through a lot of stuff and this is just going to be another chapter in the book of his life, you know? So it does give us some strength and some comfort.
ROESGEN: A chapter with an uncertain ending. Susan Roesgen, CNN, New Orleans.
HOLMES: That's a heck of a way to start life, premature, a heart condition, and a hurricane bearing down on your new hometown. We certainly wish all the luck in the world to those little patients at that hospital. We will continue to check in with them.
We will continue to check in, as well, with other folks, who are not leaving for different reasons, still almost 10,000 by estimates. Still in that Gulf Coast region, New Orleans, especially. There is a live look. It looks pretty nice. Looks pretty calm, just like that fun city that we all know, but there is something on the way.
HOLMES: And check out the quad we have here for you. You are seeing two live pictures at the top there of those two affiliate pictures that we're monitoring. Certainly getting help from our affiliates in the area covering this story for us. Our Karen Maginnis, there, in our hurricane center. She's been keeping an eye on this storm for us. And there is the storm, there, to the right. It is turning toward New Orleans. Right now, about 170 miles out, inching closer, as we've told you. It has slowed a bit, but that means it's gaining in intensity but still about a Category 3 storm right now. It is on its way to New Orleans, expected around midday on Monday, to possibly hit just west of that city and affect the Gulf Coast.
We always see during these kind - during a hurricanes - you see reporters out there trying to do their thing. And they try to give you the best idea as possible of how strong these storms are. Take a look at a little video we have here for you of one reporter. And this certainly explains - there you go - it looks pretty simple, he's doing his thing. And you see this oftentimes, but often times with these hurricanes these winds they come and they go, and they gust and you never can know, so check out what happens to the guy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIGAD SHABAN, REPORTER, NEW ORLEANS: Dark clouds coming in. Guys, we're actually getting an extremely strong gust of wind here. We're getting soaked, lots of rain. The wind really picked up. Clouds are coming. Extremely ominous scene. We're going to go ahead and toss it back to you guys in the studio.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely, Bigad, stay safe out there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: Well, there he is. He looks like he might have gotten a call to go cover the hurricane while he was at the grocery store or something. He didn't exactly have his weather gear, if you will. But you do what you have to do sometimes in these storms.
All right, Karen Maginnis has been tracking this thing for us. If you can, update us. You say it is inching. How close is it now? Still about 170 miles out?
MAGINNIS: Just about, yes. And it is winding it's way towards that southeast or south-central coast of Louisiana. We can already pick up the eye on our radar imagery. Let me go ahead and walk over here and put this into motion right now. And then we'll give you and update on what's going on.
Right now, it is still a Category 3 hurricane. That has not changed. Just about 24 hours ago. It has slowed down just slightly. The hurricane hunters are still taking bits of information from the system. There you can see the eyewall and some of the embedded super cells wrapped around that eye and that's where we're going to see the troublesome weather. In addition to the storm surge, in addition to the wind damage, but we are looking at the possibility of tornadoes.
We'll have more coming up right after this break with a continuation of coverage of Hurricane Gustav.