Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Those Not Evacuating

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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: In the meantime, Texas Governor Rick Perry joins me right now.

Governor, I know you're one busy fellow, but one thing that you are getting early compliments for is the fact that, long before this became an issue, you were telling residents in sort of a rolling out kind of a evacuation, get out. And a record, I think, it's in excess four million took you up on that.

What made you sense that this was nothing to fool around with?

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: Well, we have dealt with these storms through the years. And Rita was one of the major evacuations, right on the heels of Katrina. As we were taking people from Louisiana, then we got hit.

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And we learned some real lessons about how you — you structure an evacuation, when you start talking about millions of people. Our roadways are not set up to handle that type of evacuation, so some good lessons learned over the course of the last three years. And you are seeing them now being implemented.

And we have had a relatively successful evacuation. We have seen some courageous work already by our Texas Task Force 1 and our aviation assets going in and taking people out of — special needs patients out of hospital in Port Arthur, Texas, just over the last 18 hours. They have done a fabulous job.

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And, again, I want to — I can't tell you how proud I am of the Texans, as they have listened to their local officials. They have had an orderly evacuation. And people who know they can stay and be safe are in the particular places that they are out of the surge and are staying and battering down the hatches, if you will, and riding the storm out in the appropriate places.

Now, my concern is there will be a few thrill-seekers and folks who are not using a lot of common sense that will stay, and then they're going to put our first-responders and our emergency responders into some very difficult positions of going in and saving them. So...


CAVUTO: Let me ask you, sir, Homeland Security Chief Chertoff, who will be on with us within the half-hour, had said earlier, this is a catastrophic storm.


CAVUTO: What do you know at this point?

PERRY: I think Secretary Chertoff is correct.

This is a storm that has the potential to be catastrophic in its impact, not only to human life for people who stay in the areas where we know this impact is going to occur. But that surge — and people really need to keep in mind, this is not rising water, Neil. This is a 20-foot tsunami effect by the tightening down of the Texas ship channel into a very narrow area, being pushed by one of the most massive storms that has come out of the Gulf of Mexico probably in the last 50 years.

This is a monster of a storm.


CAVUTO: You are right. You are right, Governor. And no matter what you say and what the homeland security chief says, and all the warnings about, folks, if you're staying behind, write a Social Security number on your arm, just in case, and all the scare and proper scare tactics, a lot of folks are staying. We are going to hook up with one very soon. What do you tell them?

PERRY: Well, look, this is a free country.

And I understand that concept. But the vast, vast majority of people are thoughtful. They have moved. They have evacuated. But we have seen this since the beginning of time, individuals who think they are tougher and stronger than Mother Nature. And God be with them. Our prayers will be with them.

But I hope that there is still time for people to really think this through and get out of harm's way, and live another day to enjoy the beautiful Texas coast, when we get it back in good shape again.

CAVUTO: Let me ask you, sir, it was last week that you were not able to make it to the convention because you're dealing with Gustav. And that turned out to be an expensive storm, but not nearly as deadly as some had feared.

And there's always this idea that people look at that and say, hey, you warned me that hell was coming, and it didn't. I'm going to take my chances.

How many are just taking their chances? Do you know?

PERRY: I don't know that.

But here is what I do know. The worst-case scenario for Texas is a huge hurricane that comes up the Houston Ship Channel. And that is exactly what we have on our hands right now.

We have prepared, I think, in a wonderful way. We have worked with the local individuals to do a very good evacuation. My concern now, Neil, is on the recovery side. And — and Secretary Chertoff has given us some very good assurances that not only are we going to be given approval by the Corps of Engineers to turn these contractors loose to get back in, because the recovery side of this is very important, particularly opening roads up, so our emergency vehicles can back get back in, and then for the refining area.

Twenty percent of all the refining capability in America is in that area.

CAVUTO: That's right.

PERRY: We need to get that economy back going.

CAVUTO: What happens, Governor, in situations like this — and you know this better than anyone — is, when these refineries are properly evacuated, they are not refining, obviously. And that is very similar to a damaged facility, because you are not getting much out of that facility.

Now, I was talking to one of the refiner operators earlier, who had said, this could be a case for a week or more. Do you expect there — beyond just surviving this, which is your proper priority, that there could be a huge energy hit from all of this?

PERRY: That is certainly a possibility.

Our concern first is for the citizens of the state and getting the individuals out of harm's way. Then, secondly, it's — again, and this gets back to the recovery side — when you have that much water, particularly coming in a surge, like this is going to come, up in and through those refineries, that is a huge impact on a lot of mechanical devices that are going to get moved around and shoved and pushed and debris off all through there.

So, the cleanup is very, very important, that we get in there, we get that done in a hurry. And, again, this is where our federal partners become very important. So, we are counting on them getting it right.

CAVUTO: All right, Governor, I want to touch on — I know you are a busy man. You have been with very patient with us.

I do want to touch on something you did here that everyone is noticing and maybe taking note of this for future hurricanes, how you rolled out these evacuations, to avoid stresses on your infrastructure and your roads and bridges and highways, very orderly.

And I am wondering now if the message in the future — because what happens is, they say, evacuate, evacuate, and everybody does so at the same time, which was a big problem, as you know, in New Orleans with Katrina, that is it best to, even at the hint of a storm, start rolling out evacuations county by county, town by town?

Obviously, it eased the pressure on your records and highways, but is that a message going forward? The best way to handle this is to do it in waves?

PERRY: Here is what is important.

You have got have an emergency team in place that is coordinated with the local officials and with the emergency management folks spread out all across your state and have practiced and know exactly what you're going to do before these events ever occur.

And Jack Colley and Steve McCraw, who are down at the state operations center, which I will be returning there in just a few minutes, are two of the best in the country. We have had I can't tell you how many practices for an event just like this.

So, it takes professionals who truly have that understanding, with all of this myriad of support operations out there, the volunteers, the first- responders, the federal counterparts, the local elected officials, and knowing exactly what you are going to do.

Texas has perfected that, I would suggest to you. And nobody in the country does it better than we do. But, again, these storms always throw you a curve at the end. And, frankly, I would like to see a curve out of this one and go somewhere else, or at least lose a little bit of its power.

CAVUTO: I hear you. Governor, hang in there. And everyone is thanking you for your efforts. We appreciate it.

PERRY: Thanks. Keep us in your prayers, Neil.

CAVUTO: Indeed, we will, sir.

PERRY: You bet.

CAVUTO: Governor Rick Perry, all right.


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