tv ABC World News With Diane Sawyer ABC September 5, 2011 6:30pm-7:00pm EDT
this is "world news." tonight, the elements attack. torrential floods and tornados are unleashed across the south. while monster fires race out of control across bone-dry texas. labor pain. president obama spends labor day talking about putting americans back to work, but he may have been upstaged by a union leader's a ary rhetoric. while the presidential candidates work to defeat him. fbi warning. just days before the 9/11 anniversary, law enforcement warns small planes could pose a big terrorist threat. dead letter office. the u.s. postal service now dangerously close to default. are we nearing the day of no more mail?
and picture thisis an artist loses everything when her hometown is washed away, but her neighbors draw on her strength and her spirit. good evening. take a look behind me at this ominous picture of downtown atlanta tonight. skies darkening. storm clouds gathering. and tornadoes closing in. this is just part of the dramatic weather picture as this holiday weekend winds down with no rest or relaxation for millions of americans caught in the crosshairs of natural disasters. we'll begin this evening with abc's steve osunsami in atlanta where tornadoes touched down late this afternoon. steve. >> reporter: good evening, jake. it's a good thing this didn't happen when children were in school because it happened in the late afternoon when many of those children would have been bussed home. there were tornado warned in the deep south. six of them. three of them confirmed in the
atlanta area. north of the city in cherokee county, one man who did exactly as he was told. he ran to the deep of his basement. he was injured when a tornado tore through his neighborhood and crumb weed his house on top of him. in peachtree city, at the home of the natural meteorologist, meteorologists were forced to run to cover because a tornado was heading to their office. they transfer thread duties to their office in birminghamp in in chattanooga, tennessee, it wasn't the tornadoes, it was the rain, lots of it. several inches that all came at once and flooded roads. and flooded drivers who got caught. these warnings, these tornado warnings, will continue through the night. there are still flash flood warnings, jake, that will continue through tomorrow. >> all right, steve osunsami in atlanta, thank you. that dangerous w wther is part of the system spawned by lee, that's dumped more than a foot of rain in places. triggered widespread flooding. and killed at least two people. storm first made landfall in
louisiana where we find abc's yunji de nies. >> reporter: floodwaters inundate house after house in the small town south of new orleans. fred's workshop is a soggy mess. >> a lot of us don't make a lot of money. >> reporter: like what? >> all the tools in the box down there, we didn't think it would get that high. >> reporter: his grandchildren are out exploring by boat after a tense weekend. >> we were afraid it was g gna get in our house because it's already in our shed. >> reporter: this high water is lee's legacy in louisiana. flooding that made streets almost impassablimpassable. water, waist high. a boat the best ride home. the storm's high wind spawned dozens of tornadoes. one knocked a tree through this trailer in mobile, alabama. amazingly, the entire family of four survived. with the wind shifting, this water is now starting to go down. lee has been downgraded to a tropical depression, but it is still a powerful system, bringing rain across the south and to the last place that needs
it, the northeast. >> we have a really serious thr three-day window to watch here with this rainfall. >> reporter: in patterson, new jersey, still drying out after hurricane irene, they are dreading that wawar. >> another storm is coming. i feel like we need more water. you know, we really -- i don't know what we're gonna do. >> reporter: lee's march northeast could have a silver lining. the system could bring enough pressure to keep katia, now a powerful category 3 hurricane, out in the atlantic. >> now it's a question of, is she going to be 300 miles off shore or 500 miles off shore? and that's the uncertainty. >> reporter: uncertainty, at a time when it seems that's the only thing predictable about the weather. yunji de nies, abc news, lafitte, louisiana. from floods to fires. in texas, raging wildfires are turning hundreds of homes into ash. and it's claimed at least two lives. front line of the very worst fire stretches 16 miles in the center of the state where tonight we turn to abc's ryan
owens. ryan. >> reporter: one look at the sky behind me and you know this is a fierce firefight. one official called this fire a monster, and so far, it has swallowed up almost 500 homes. the pine trees that give this part of texas its distinct beauty are now the fuel that's destroying it. tens of thousands of acres scorched, hundreds of homes reduced to rubble. >> there's nothing left. >> reporter: this is not the homecoming from war dan hugo had in mind. this is what his dream home his car, his picnic table, look like now. >> i did a year in afghanistan and i just got home and here we are. >> reporter: this is the largest fire in texas and by no means the only one. crews responded to 63 new fires yesterday alone. including one that killed a 20-year-old mother and her
18-month-old daughter. for this drought-stricken state, tropical storm lee was a cruel tease. texas saw almost no rain, only gusty winds that sent flames leaping. >> i wanant to get all this woo and stuff away from the house. >> reporter: this afternoon, the fire was two blocks from this man's home. >> i'm gonna get this wet. 15 to 20 feet around the house. and get out of here. >> that's my baby. >> reporter: sherry sullivan grabbed what she could. her business burned. her house, she's still not sure. >> it's petrifying. it's gut-wrenching. >> reporter: officials are begging residents to heed the massive evacuation orders. governor rick perry flew back from a presidential campaign appearance to hammer the point home. >> you just don't understand how quickly this can get out of hand and put people's lives or their property in jeopardy. >> reporter: this, the biggest of the fires. about 30 miles from downtown
austin. and it is huge. 25,000 acres. and counting. jake. >> ryan owens, stay safe. and there'e'even more weather trouble in upstate new york, still struggling to e recover from hurricane irene, ich hit last week. this twister touched down west of albany last week, traveling along the mohawk river, tearing off roofs, blowing out windows and damaging more than 2 dozen homes. in japan, the worst typhoon to strike that country in seven years. this deadly storm delivered heavy rain, triggering mudslides and killing at least 34 people. with dozens more missing. in a country still reeling from the earthquake and tsunami six months ago. back in this country, there's little to celebrate this labor day for the millions of americans desperately looking for a job. 14 million americans are out of work. the unemployment rate is stuck at a stubbornly high 9.1%.
president obama will unveil a jobs plan thursday he says will include bipartisan ideas from the past. at times the tone at the detroit labor council rally he attended today was anything but coupkum ya. abc's jim sciutto is at the got some straight shooters. teamamers' james hoffak l reblan rhetoric even further, accusing belong. >> reporter: but what the president revealed of a jobs ge projects to help put more than the more than a million unemployed construction workers back on the job. and while those ideas got a warm reception from the cro- projects to help put more than the more than a million unemployed construction workers back on the job. and while those ideas got a warm reception from the crowd -- >> four more years! the more than a million unemployed construction workers back on the job. and while those ideas got a warm reception from the crowd -- >> four more years! >> reporter: away from the podium, we heard deep the more than a million unemployed construction workers back on the job.
and while those ideas got a warm reception from the crowd -- >> four more years! >> reporter: away from the podium, we heard deep ep back on the job. and while those ideas got a warm reception from the crowd -- >> four more years! >> reporter: away from the podium, we heard deep skepticism that washington can get it done. from detroit -- >> these people in washington, that act like they care about the country, they care about themselves. >> reporter: to chicago -- >> that's what they said last time and they didn't create any jobs. >> reporter: to los angeles. >> think the biggest message we can send is jobs. >> reporter: nationally, that distrust of government is deeper than ever. in a new gallup poll, americans for the first time rated the federal government the least favorable institution in the country. just 17% viewing it positively. below even bankers, lawyers, and the oil industry.
part of that pitch will be many of these proposals had bipartisan support in the past, but as we saw today, the rhetoric will be anything but bipartisan. tonight, jake, the white house refusing to comment on those combative, some would say offensive comments by the teamsters' james hoffa. the republblans seeking to defeat the president were in columbia, south carolina today. john karl reports on latest jockeying to give some sugar to the tea party. >> reporter: before rushing back to texas to deal with the wildfires, rick perry brought his front-runner campaign to south carolina. >> i've for gun control. use both hands. >> reporter: perry took a swipe at former front-runner mitt romney, who likes to tout his business credentials. t tre's going to be some that get up and say, "well, i've created jobs." and that's true. there's one in particular who's created jobs all over the world, but while he wasashe governor of
massachusetts, he didn't create very many jobs. >> reporter: in just three weeks, perry has vaulted to the head of the republican race. the first two debates to include kerry. and major economic speeches by both mitt romney and president obama. today's forum, sponsored by conservative kingmaker senator jim demint, went on without perry, giving romney a chance to appeal to tea party activists. >> we didn't raise tax, mr. president. we didn't cut medicare. one president in modern history cut medicare, this president. >> reporter: tea party support has helped fueled perry's rise but he is a former democrat who has a record that includes votes to raise taxes, opposition to building a wall on the mexican border and a stint as the co-chairman of al gore's 1988 presidential campaign. not all conservatives are sold on him yet. how strong a candidate is rick perry? >> i don't know yet. i've never met rick. we've talked on the phone
several times, and i know he's the new one in the race so he's attracted some attention, but it's a long run between now and the final nomination. >> reporter: well, those who have decided to run for president appeared here in south carolina. the still undecided sarah palwr iowa andp ew hampshire. still no word on her plans yet, jake, but she did send a message out to supporters saying she'll be back soon. six days before the 9/1/1 anniversary, the u.s. says it has inflicted another damaging blow against al qaeda. american and pakistani officials today announced the arrest of a top al qaeda operative and two associates in the city of quetta and they say they were planning attacks on american target. because all three were captured and not killed they are potential sources of intelligence. ahead of the 9/11 anniversary, security officials acknowledge at least one key area where not enoughghas been done to keep us safe. the threat is from small planes.
and now the fbi is sending out a warning. abc's john hendren has that story. >> reporter: security experts worry these could become al qaeda's next weapon. an intelligence bulletin from the department of homeland security and the fbi says small planes pose a significant threat to the homeland. there are 228,000 general aviation plans at 4,000 airports across the nation. too many to monitor. small planes like these come and go without all the scrutiny faced by passenger airline jets. as soon as one lifts off here in college park, maryland, it's in view of the capitol, the pentagon and just ten miles from here, the white house. intelligent expert, say al qaeda is no longer determined to pursue only massive 9/11-style attacks. >> they try a lot of smaller attacks, they're just as effective as far as the fear factor. and so they really get more bang for their buck. >> reporter: last year, a man with a grudge against the
federal government flew this plane into an irs office in austin, texas. two died in that crash. federal officials fear the next time might be far more deadly. john hendren, abc news, college park, maryland. while a decade has passed since 9/11, new images from that tragedy are still emerging. just released this week the earliest video yet taken right after united airlines flight 93 from newark to san francisco crashed in shanksville, pennsylvania, taken by a stunned local man. >> it shook the heck out of the house. i don't know -- what else is happening. still ahead on "world news," a dire warning from the postal service tonight. will the mail service shut down? and the woman lifting the spirits of an entire town after the floodwaters washed everything away. [ male announcer ] this is lara. her morning begins with arthritis pain. that's a coffee and two pills.
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some potentially bad news today for every american who relies on the postal service. the agency who traces its roots to 1765, has been in trouble. tonight, postal officials are issuing a dire warning. here's abc's john berman. >> repororr: "neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night," is supposed to keep the poststffice from delivering mail, but all that isn't the problem -- money is. tomorrow, the postmaster general will tell congress that with no
help, the post office could default by the end of this month. the agency is running a $9.2 billion annual deficit -- and doesn't have $5.5. billion it must pay for retiree health benefits by september 30th. without major and fast, congressional action, some suggest the postal office could shut down altogether by this winter. >> what can i do for you stampwise? >> reporter: the crisis so easy to see in towns like star tannery, virginia, with just 400 homes. it cost $86,000 to run the post office last year, it only brought in $30,000. the postal service is suggesting closing this office with 3,700 others -- >> i think the post office provides a val automobile service. >> reporter: as much of an american institution as it is, the fact is with email, and internet business and online shopping, there is less in the
mail every day. which means fewer stamps. which means less revenue. >> our infrastructure was built to handle more demand than we have today. >> reporter: the post office delivered 167 billion pieces of mail last year, down 22% from just five years ago. now, it's important to note the post office is not asking congress for money. it's asking for permission to make big changes in the way it does business. maybe no saturday delivery, major changes to their health benefits and pensions. and perhaps significant layoffs. the labor costs are so high, officials say, right now, jake, things are simply untenable. >> john berman, thank you. still ahead a rare visit to los angeles by one of the biggest creatures on the planet. fore! no matter what small business you are in, managing expenses seems to ...get in the way. not anymore. ink introduces jot.
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for the efficient absorption my body needs. citracal. finally this evening, what would you do if you lost your livelihood in aninstant? we met such a woman after irene washed away her business. remarkrkly, her spirit and strength are lifting the entire town. so we turn to abc's linsey davis in wilmington, vermont. >> reporter: this is wilmington, vermont's, main street. a picturesque new england scene. at least it was, before irene. this is wilmington now. and the woman who drew that pastel, her name is anne coleman.
>> there it goes. >> reporter: what you see floating away in the floodwaters is her roughly $400,000 investment -- her art gallery now in pieces. more than 2 miles downstream. >> you could see the whole, like, roof line going back. >> reporter: but anne's focus now isn't on her own loss. >> have you seen peter? >> reporter: she's traded in a paint brush for a broom. working to help her friends. >> our generator, we were going to use it because we were out of power at home but then we saw a neighbor pulling out of his house -- >> reporter: so she gave him her generator. she's also giving away food from her backyard. >> here's some veggies. to help replace all the food. >> thank you. >> reporter: and emotional support. she's so busy helping her neighbors -- >> a frame from one of my pieces. oh, my god! >> reporter: she and her husband joe barely have enough time to pick up the pieces of their own lives. >> i wish i had flood insurance, but, again, i couldn't afford it. i couldn't even afford health
insurance. it took all my savings to do this.. >> reporter: once a prominent fixture of main street -- >> that's where the gallery was. >> reporter: her gallery is now an empty space. as an artist, anne is used to getting back to the drawing board. now she's trying to recreate her beloved town, so it looks something like the original. linsey davis, abc news. wilmington, vermont. that's hour our show. thank you for watching. don't forget to watch "nightline" later. i'll be back at the white house to report for george and robin on "gma" tomorrow and diane will be back here tomorrow night.