Sec. Chertoff Defends Dire Warnings About Hurricane Ike

This is a rush transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," September 12, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff now calling Hurricane Ike a worst-case scenario.

The secretary joins me right now.

Secretary, thank you for coming. What is the latest?

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Well, the storm is of course heading at -- into the Texas coast. It's going to have a major impact from Galveston, Houston, north all the way over to Beaumont and into western Louisiana. And I think it's going to intensify between now and the midnight hour, at which point, we are going to be at the maximum strength.

CAVUTO: All right. What do you think that maximum strength could be?

CHERTOFF: Well, it may be a -- it may remain a Category 2, but that really understates the danger, because the real problem here is the storm surge. It is a massive storm.

It is hundreds of miles across, and it is pushing a giant amount of water into places like Galveston Bay and Beaumont. And it is that storm surge, that big push of water, that could get to be 15, 18, 20 feet or more in some areas, that poses the threat to human life and to the infrastructure in the area.

CAVUTO: All right, I notice it passes New Orleans. It's not a direct hit, but I keep thinking, Secretary, of those levees. I think they're, what, 16, 17 feet, so it would be compromising them, right?

CHERTOFF: Well, we are actually getting some impact in the area of eastern Louisiana. We have some of the non-federal levees, the local levees, that have been overtopped.

They did close off the gates to the major canals in New Orleans to prevent any problem with the walls of the canals, but most of the effect of the storm has been centered in Texas. But you really feel the impact all along the Gulf Coast.


Secretary, your office and other local authorities, in urging folks who are staying behind and refusing to evacuate that they are in danger -- in fact, I think state officials in Texas said, you are going to die if you stay behind; you are simply going to die.

Is it a fear tactic, or is that a genuine possibility?

CHERTOFF: Well, I think the Weather Center issued the statement that, for those who remain in an area that is below sea level and targeted for flooding, you are facing basically the prospect -- the prospect of death.

The reality is, when a giant wall of water comes into an area below sea level, you're putting yourself at enormous risk. And I think we're -- everybody is trying to be very candid with the public about the risk, so that those who don't heed the advice or instruction to leave are fully aware of the fact that they're playing with their own lives.

CAVUTO: All right.

Now, Governor Rick Perry, with whom we just chatted, Secretary, had said it will be very much like a tsunami, and anyone in its path will not be very fortunate. You don't know how many are staying behind, but is it fair to say those who do, you are looking at something pretty bad?

CHERTOFF: I agree with the governor, I think.

If you think about what it would be like to stand in the way of a tidal wave, that is basically what those who have stayed in coastal areas, against the advice of officials, that is basically what they are facing. And the best they can do at this point is to try to find a safe, high location with food and water, medicine, and a radio.

CAVUTO: All right.

CHERTOFF: And, if they survive that water, then they can hope to be rescued.

CAVUTO: I hope they heed your warning, sir.

Thank you very much.

CHERTOFF: My pleasure.

CAVUTO: Secretary Chertoff. All right.


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