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Hannity

What Happens If Rita Hits New Orleans?

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," September 20, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Just three weeks after Hurricane Katrina broke through the fragile levee system and flooded New Orleans, what could a second major storm do to the city?

Joining us now is the chief of public affairs for the Mississippi Valley division of the Army Corps of Engineers, John Rickey is with us.

John, I know we just heard from our good friend, our meteorologist friend, that this is not going to hit New Orleans. But there's always the possibility, and he'll acknowledge a right turn in this particular storm this could be devastation beyond anybody's wildest, you know, predictions. It could be dire. It could be horrible.

JOHN RICKEY, ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS: Well, I'll tell you, Sean, it certainly is a matter of concern to all of us. The Corps of Engineers is ramping up its response mechanism in preparation for that storm as well. We've got a lot of work going on down in New Orleans on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and the rest of Louisiana.

Those project response teams that we have on standby now are certainly being alerted to fall in on our friends and neighbors in Texas when they need our help down there.

HANNITY: Well, I think the nation probably was not that aware that New Orleans was under sea level to the extent that they are. If this current hurricane, which we just heard may become a Category 5 at landfall, maybe a Category 4 or five, is there any specific problems that our friends in Houston and the Galveston area and the Texas Gulf area may be facing that make this problematic?

RICKEY: Well, certainly the one major hurdle besides the obvious damage that we had to overcome was the communications, being able to communicate with each other. We've learned a lot of lessons from that, being able to respond and work together as a team.

Our relationship with the local folks in New Orleans has been a great benefit of us — to us. We've made pretty remarkable progress on getting the water out of New Orleans.

HANNITY: But are there any specific problems for the path that this hurricane is now on? That's where my area of concern would be right now.

RICKEY: If you're talking about for the New Orleans area, we're certainly concerned if it follows that path for a lot of rainfall, I don't think we're going to have near the storm surge conditions. There's going to be a lot of damage. And folks are going to have to be prepared for that.

With Hurricane Katrina, we had 4 1/2 to five times the amount of debris from Hurricane Andrew. And if this storm that they're talking about now comes into the Gulf Coast area, the Texas Gulf Coast, it's going to create phenomenal damage and we're going to have to be prepared and respond to that at the same time we're working on repairing — recovering from Katrina.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: John, we just heard — it's Alan Colmes. Thank you for being on the show. We just heard Joe Bastardi say it's going to be 250 miles, perhaps, away from New Orleans. But do you take that literally where go through all the preparations anyway, just in case? How closely do you monitor what the meteorologists are saying? How literally do you take what they say?

RICKEY: Well, Alan, we're fortunate we have meteorologists on our staff, as well. We're taking everything serious. We're going to keep folks in there, continuing to do the interim protection repairs to the system down there.

If we are forced to evacuate, if Rita does something squirrelly and heads toward us, we'll maintain a command and control cell down there. But we're going to have to pull the folks out of the way to be able to get them back into the fight.

But right now as of a few hours ago, we think we're going to continue. We'll continue through the night through the next day to continue those interim repairs. And until we get the word if we have to evacuate and get prepared for getting engaged in the fight again, we will. But right now I think we're going to be dealing with a lot of rain, not as much storm surge. And our folks are continuing to push material and those 7,000-pound sandbags in those levees, those breaches, and we've restored some — some protection but not enough.

COLMES: Why do you say interim repairs? Are you going slowly, kind of hedging your bets just in case you get hit again?

Well, no, that's not the issue. You have to understand that this is when you build these levee systems, it's a race against the calendar, not the clock.

And the interim repairs, it's for some viability to the system until we can get in there and do the actual reconstruction of that system. So we're trying to get prepared to get through the rest of this hurricane season. And then prepare to get a more robust system standing back up between now and next June before next hurricane season. But it's — you just don't do this overnight.

HANNITY: All right, John. Thanks for being with us tonight. Appreciate your time tonight.

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