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Storm of a Lifetime; Gadhafi Urges Loyalists to Fight "Rats"; Irene Cancels MLK Memorial Dedication

Aired August 25, 2011 - 19:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, HOST, CNN'S "STATE OF THE UNION": Thanks, Joe. Good evening everyone. I'm Candy Crowley. John King is off.

Tonight Hurricane Irene has the potential to be the storm of a lifetime for millions. A spokesman for the National Hurricane Center put it this way. Irene is everything a hurricane can be and it's on one of those worst-case tracks for the East Coast.

The governors of six states, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut already have declared states of emergency up and down the East Coast. Officials are pleading with people to take this storm seriously.


GOV. BEV PERDUE (D), NORTH CAROLINA: Every citizen in the state who is in harm's way needs to prepare for the worst and pray for the best.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Let me assure you that we are not overreacting. We need to be ready for this.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK: If you live in one of these areas, why don't you to spend a little bit of time today with some precautions.


CROWLEY: -- rains and 115-mile-an-hour winds have been battering the Bahamas. CNN's Jim Spellman is in Nassau. Jim, what has the damage been there?

JIM SPELLMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Candy, finally a little a little bit of calm here (INAUDIBLE) high wind and strong rain, but (INAUDIBLE) here in Nassau (INAUDIBLE) the main tourist areas, no damages (INAUDIBLE) whatsoever. There were a few trees uprooted. (INAUDIBLE) few power lines (INAUDIBLE). (INAUDIBLE) accurate assessment of that. They are so confident that the tourist areas here (INAUDIBLE).

CROWLEY: OK, Jim, I'm sorry. I'm going to have to interrupt you here. We have really bad -- I can't hear you that well. From what I can tell, Jim Spellman is telling us not that much damage at least where he is in Nassau. We will get back to him if we can and try to correct that audio problem. The latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center says Irene will approach the North Carolina coast Saturday. CNN meteorologist Chad Myers is here to fill in more of the details. Chad, you and I have talked for a couple of nights now, and I keep asking you where is the storm going to go and now I think the answer is everywhere.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is. It will be an approach of the North Carolina coast, anywhere from Wilmington, although that's far on the left side, to Cape Hatteras, although that's far on the right side. Somewhere down the middle of that cone will be Morehead City, Atlantic Beach. All day long this storm just ran through the Bahamas and it wasn't very organized. It was a 100-mile-per-hour storm. It just didn't have its act together.

Well, now, on the very last couple of images, Candy, the eye is back. And when the eye comes back, the storm begins to generate itself again. This storm is not going to be the potential category four according to the Hurricane Center that it once was due to today. It just didn't generate anything today. Now, we do have some rain. We had some showers on the Florida coast and we even had some airport, some cancellations out of Miami and Ft. Lauderdale due to those squalls coming onshore.

We are still seeing and that's all we're going to see are those big waves coming onshore in the Atlantic. Yesterday at this time, we talked about waiting for the turn. This is where the storm has been. Here's Irene. I'll just kind of smooth it out for you. But you notice the last few hours, the turn is here. The turn that has been forecast for days is now here.

The turn will continue. And if you follow the track, that's how the American coastline goes, the turn, in fact, will be the worst-case scenario for this storm directly over the outer banks. It won't slow down much over the outer banks, because really the outer banks there is a lot of water there. There's not much there, there, not much land. And then you get past right over Virginia Beach, a direct hit there.

And along the coast, think about all the homes and all the property, the beautiful sea line that's just along the coast and this storm is going to eat it al up. It's going to just travel right along the coast, all the way up the Jersey shore and all the way into New York City as about an 85-mile-per-hour storm. Still, I know, it can go left, it can go right, but the cone is getting smaller now because the storm is getting closer.

And as it gets closer, the error is smaller and smaller, and an 85- mile-per-hour storm right over New York City for this weekend will cause a lot of flooding, will cause damage, will cause power outages that may not be fixed in a week or two. We're going to have to keep watching this, Candy.

CROWLEY: Chad Myers, we will keep watching it with you, thanks so much.

Now what are coastal residents doing to prepare for Irene? Joining us by phone from North Carolina Pamlico County Sheriff Bill Sawyer Jr. Sheriff, thank you for joining us. Can you just first of all describe the scene in the areas around you? Are people starting to leave or is it one of those things we always see? We go to a -- sort of a beach area or a coastal area and people don't seem to be paying much attention?

SHERIFF BILL SAWYER, JR., PAMLICO COUNTY (via phone): No. It is (INAUDIBLE). We're about 26 miles from the outer banks on the west side of Pamlico Sound. People are doing a lot of moving, getting their -- people in the low-lying areas are getting their personal property up out of the way so it doesn't flood. See a lot of that going on today. A few people boarding up windows and stuff like that. So that's what's been going on most of the day.

CROWLEY: We're hearing reports already of long lines of traffic in your state, presumably moving east to west. Should people start moving now where you are? And it sounds like some of them are.

SAWYER: I think so. I talked to a bunch of the older commercial (INAUDIBLE) farmers in the area today, and when they're concerned, it's something to really be concerned about, and a bunch of the older fishermen and farmers in our area are really worried about this one.

CROWLEY: And your -- as I understand it, you will have a voluntary evacuation down there starting tomorrow.

SAWYER: That's right --

CROWLEY: Judging from what you're hearing from fishermen and from others who have seen storms come and go is voluntary enough to get folks out of your region?

SAWYER: I think it is. We have -- most of our tourists -- and we don't have a big tourist population right now. Most of what we have are local people, and we've been through this several times, you know, our coastline gets hit seems like on a pretty regular basis, even though we haven't had one in several years. But I think people know what they're doing, they know what they're up against, and they're prepared.

CROWLEY: And for those who are not evacuating, who will stay in that region, certainly near the coast, if not on it, what do you recommend? What do you tell them to do in order to stay safe?

SAWYER: Well, of course, if they're in low-lying areas, and most of my county is in low-lying areas, you know go to a shelter. Go to a family who doesn't -- family member who doesn't live in a low-lying area. Get away from these low-lying areas. And most of the folks will. You have some that will stay and -- but most folks will get out of the low-lying areas.

CROWLEY: Sheriff Bill Sawyer, you have a busy 24 hours ahead of you I know in Pamlico County, thank you so much for taking the time for us tonight from North Carolina.

SAWYER: All right. You take care and God bless you. CROWLEY: You, too.

Heading further north, the governor of Maryland issued a state of emergency earlier today. Governor Martin O'Malley joins us now from Baltimore. From what you see, Governor, and thank you for joining us, I know it's a busy time. How worried are you about this oncoming storm? I know you must be talking to weather forecasters when it specifically applies to Maryland.

GOV. MARTIN O'MALLEY (D), MARYLAND: Well we've very concerned. I mean we drill and we train for a direct hit from a hurricane and that's our worst-case scenario and we do that every season. We've been fortunate up until now. This is a very slow-moving and a very dangerous and potentially deadly hurricane, so we are taking this very, very seriously. We are forwarding assets. We ordered an evacuation in conjunction with our partners, the mayor of Ocean City (ph).

And so that has already begun. That's a mandatory evacuation. We've -- we are also evacuating some of the bay islands and some of the lower-lying areas as the gentleman in your prior interview said, I mean we're encouraging our coastal residents to find a family member that you can hunker down with for the weekend. If you're in a low- lying area, find somebody you love that's in a higher elevation, because this is potentially a very deadly and dangerous hurricane.

CROWLEY: And obviously you have different advice for Ocean City (ph), Maryland, which is basically get out and get out now, than you do for, say, someone inland in Bethesda. And what -- but this could potentially obviously come into D.C. and into Bethesda which is -- borders as you know full well on Washington, D.C. What are you telling residents that are not immediately on the coastline?

O'MALLEY: Well, what we're telling residents is that they need to be prepared in their own family, in their own home to provide for themselves on their own for 72 hours. The ground is very saturated. The slow-moving storm has a lot of rain and a lot of wind. Trees will be knocked over. Power outages will happen, and people need to be prepared to be on their own for a 72-hour period of time.

The breadth of this storm will range in our state all the way from Frederick on the west to Ocean City, so this is a very large and wide storm that will be cutting a path of destruction, felled trees, felled power lines and the like. So, this is a time when we all need to be stronger together and take -- and also take special responsibility for the most vulnerable among us, whether it's elderly parents or neighbors that we know are vulnerable.

CROWLEY: So basically for three days, Maryland residents, wherever they are, need to be prepared to be on their own without power, perhaps without water.

O'MALLEY: Absolutely.

CROWLEY: OK. O'MALLEY: I mean that's what every family should be prepared to do regardless whether in this case a category two is coming right at Ocean City, the eye of the hurricane, passing over Ocean City, and there will be power outages, and unlike past instances, Candy, where you could call on mutual aid from north and south, I mean, I've been in touch with my colleagues, Beverly Perdue is doing a great job and Governor McDonald (ph) in Virginia and others, but hey, this is going to be a wide storm and it's going to be pulling up all of the assets up and down the East Coast to take care of people in their own states along the track of this hurricane.

CROWLEY: Governor, you have a nuclear plant in Calvert County. What are you doing, special, if anything, to make sure that's protected because as we know now looking at Japan and Fukushima, the problem there was the flooding.

O'MALLEY: Right. Well, fortunately the elevation of that particular plant is fairly high on the bluffs of Calvert Cliffs there. It is always a concern of ours in the recent earthquake. It continued to function and functioned properly without any problems, and the elevation there is pretty high, and very immune from the sort of tidal surge that we'll have in the bay. Having said that, other areas of the bay are not immune, and predicting the tidal surge in the bay is a very, very tricky business.

It's a bit of a shallow bathtub, so as this hurricane comes up and pushes water up the bay, a lot of low-lying areas, especially in Somerset, Dorchester (ph), even Annapolis and potentially in the city of Baltimore are going to be very vulnerable to that tidal surge that comes from this hurricane, along with the winds and the felled power lines and everything else. So this is a very serious and potentially deadly storm.

CROWLEY: Governor Martin O'Malley of Maryland, like all the governors along the coast be prepared to fend for yourself for a while, take care of yourself, your family and anyone in your neighborhood who might need some help. Thank you so much, Governor.

O'MALLEY: Thank you, Candy.

CROWLEY: More on Irene throughout the program tonight, including one governor's warning that the hurricane is not a cry wolf syndrome.

And later Libyan rebels act on a tip on where Gadhafi may be hiding out.


CROWLEY: Officials along the East Coast are going out of their way to persuade people to take this storm seriously. Here's how New Jersey Governor Chris Christie put it this afternoon.


CHRISTIE: I've lived here my whole life, and I understand the cry wolf syndrome that you talked about before, probably participated in it once or twice myself when I wasn't in government. The fact is that this is not one of those circumstances.


CROWLEY: With us now FEMA administrator Craig Fugate. Mr. Fugate, you just heard what Chris Christie had to say about this oncoming storm. A hurricane expert on the Weather Channel just said, and this is a quote that "this storm has the makings of the hurricane of our lifetime for the mid-Atlantic and the northeast". So, I know you have to walk this line between overreaction and under reaction, but is it that serious?

CRAIG FUGATE, FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: Well, I think it's important that people take steps to get ready. I mean this is going to be a hard call. We know North Carolina's going to probably get a landfall with a major hurricane, but along the I-95 corridor, you know, we're getting forecasts of that potential storm surge, heavy rains, and damaging winds could impact a lot of folks, and I think really what we want people to do is take it serious.

Get ready. People still have time. Now the Carolinas you are evacuating, but for a lot of other folks, you still have time to get ready, but you're not going to have much more time. And being prepared is the key part of this to reduce the impacts of these storms particularly for life safety.

CROWLEY: OK, let me get really personal here. When you say get ready, I have a son in New York City. What does he do to get ready?

FUGATE: All right. First thing first go to the New York City Office of Emergency Management Web page or look in the information that does he live in an evacuation zone. Mayor Bloomberg and his team were talking about it this morning. These folks in the evacuation zones need to be ready to evacuate and know where the bus pickup points will be and how to get to the safe locations. If you're not in the evacuation zone be prepared if the power goes out, if we lose water pressure or water goes out and that may be not just for hours, it could be for days.

You may lose communications. You may have difficulty to getting cell service. You want to make sure you've got a battery-powered radio, a lot of batteries for your flashlights and the ability to charge that cell phone if you don't have power whether it's a hand crank or some other way to keep it charged. These are the steps you take to get ready. You can go to or to the local emergency management Web sites to get information.

But you need to find out now, are you in an evacuation zone, and if you are, where to go if the evacuation is required, if you're not what to do if you lose power, lose water. Maybe not be able to get out and get supplies for several days, what you need to have on hand to get through that first couple of days after the storm hits.

CROWLEY: And the communications problem we had an experience in the earthquake the other day when it was just difficult to get a cell out of Washington, D.C., to do any phone calling, whereas the text seemed to work fairly well. Twitter was great. What can be done to alleviate that sort of thing? Or should people just not rely that those cell phones are going to work in the instance of a storm this big hitting so many people.

FUGATE: I think you just need to be prepared, not only could we have congestion on the systems, but with a lot of power outages we could have reduced capacity and that's one of the things that you know use alternatives. And again, as we saw people using social media and texting, they were able to sometimes get through those bottlenecks, but also remember that it may be difficult to call a lot of people, so do you have an out of the area contact that you can kind of use as your rally point or use something like a Facebook posting that if you could do that to let people know you're OK versus trying to call everybody and talk to them individually.

Really want to reserve particularly the phone lines and cell service for the emergency calls, 911 calls, and try to reduce that congestion. But that means ahead of time having a plan on how you're going to let people know you're OK if the cells are out or if they're congested or if you have limited communications such things as, you know, text messaging or updating a social Web page to let people know that.

CROWLEY: When you look at this broad area, Mr. Fugate, that could be affected, first by direct impact and then the things you're talking about, loss of power, loss of water supply, what worries you the most?

FUGATE: Well, I think, again, I'm breaking it down into the phase of what we're going to see first, and that's going to be the impacts along coastal areas, to the evacuations and how many people comply with that. That's going to be key to reducing the loss of life and minimizing the impacts there. But then again, it's going to be how far inland do the winds go, how strong are they, and how much rain we get.

We are very concerned. This area particularly the northeast has had so much rain recently. Even today we've had severe weather and flash flood advisories here in the D.C. metro area, so more storms impacting this area, we're afraid a lot of flooding, a lot of tree damage, a lot of power outages, pretty much anywhere on this I-95 corridor from as far south as the Carolinas all way (INAUDIBLE) up through Boston and on into Maine.

CROWLEY: We have indeed. I can attest to the torrential rains we've seen here today. I thought the hurricane was here. But let me ask you about FEMA itself. You're talking about possible loss of water supply. Is it FEMA's job to arrange for trucks full of fresh water to be parked somewhere outside the storm zone to come in afterwards? What are you doing?

FUGATE: That's some of what we're doing. We've already had equipment and supplies such as bottled water going into North Carolina at Ft. Bragg. We also have resources going into the mid-Atlantic and up into the New England states. One of the things we learned from Hurricane Katrina is the private sector does a lot of this, too, so we work very closely with a lot of the big box retailers so that as they start moving supplies up into these areas, we're working to fill gaps and looking at that. The state and locals do a lot of this, so yes we move the stuff ahead of time. We have generators, shelf staple (ph) meals. A lot of things that we know we're going to need but this is the really key part. If people haven't done steps to get ready, it's going to be very hard to get to everybody in the first days after the storm. We want to focus on the most vulnerable members of the community, the young, the poor, the people that don't have the ability to get supplies and store them. The rest of us need to do our part to be as ready as we can.

CROWLEY: OK and just quickly now give me the name -- give me the Web site address people can go to see what they need to do to get ready for this or any other storm actually.

FUGATE: For this or any other disasters,, get your plan today. On your mobile phones, you can go to and get it on the go.

CROWLEY: Craig Fugate, you've got a busy couple of days ahead of you, good luck.

FUGATE: Thank you.

CROWLEY: And in case you didn't get the message we wanted to share this tweet from Fugate today. "Got a plan, got supplies, prepared to evacuate if ordered? Good, you are in charge, not Irene."

Next up I'll ask the head of one of the East Coast's major power companies what his people are doing to prepare for Irene.

And you're looking live right now at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, where the waves are getting bigger and the beach is empty.


CROWLEY: Literally millions of people from North Carolina to Maine could lose electric power as Hurricane Irene moves up the coast. So what can you do now to get ready, and what are power companies doing to make sure you won't be in the dark for days? With us now Joe Rigby, the president and CEO of Pepco, which has about two million, not always happy customers in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland and New Jersey. As a Marylander, full disclosure here. I'm one of your customers.


CROWLEY: Listen, is there any doubt as you watch this storm coming that this is going to cause large power outages whether it's in Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey or New York?

RIGBY: No, Candy -- well, first, thanks for having me on. But there is really no doubt in our mind and this has been a big story for us really for the last three or four days. We actually began our preparation the early part of the week, and we've been absolutely anticipating that this is going to hit us hard. It's going to hit us to varying degrees, probably less so here where we are, but more as you move toward the east of our service territory going over to Atlantic City. But we're anticipating that with the kind of rain and the sustained winds that we're very likely going to have some serious damage and actually multi-day outages.

CROWLEY: And what do you do to prepare because you don't know which tree is going to fall on what wire or what poles are going to come down or what stations are going to get flooded.

RIGBY: Right.

CROWLEY: So what are those preparations consist of?

RIGBY: Well it really falls into several categories, and actually you having me on here tonight is one of these opportunities for us to communicate the seriousness of this and to remind customers what they can be doing to really take care of themselves if they get into an extended outage. Beyond that, the most important thing for us to do is to maximize the resources that we can bring to bear to get to the areas that are impacted and restore the power as safely and as quickly as we can.

Let me just give you a perspective. Here in the greater Washington area, we now already have close to 1,000 line personnel here on the property ready to address this. And that is significantly more than we've ever really had in the past. I can never recall us having this many personnel two days in advance of an event like this. Now, we're still in the process of trying to secure more resources.

CROWLEY: Now, are these people that you've brought in from other states that aren't going to be affected? I mean these are people hired in.

RIGBY: Right.

CROWLEY: So if you have a situation where there are a number of power companies in charge of various places that may be hit to one degree or another, so are you in competition with one another in terms of, you know, we've got to quick get to Ohio and get our 800 people, otherwise New York will have them?

RIGBY: Well, I would say mostly no. To a little bit, yes. One of the great things about our industry is that we have a long-standing policy of what's called mutual assistance and all of us kind of share a responsibility to try to restore customers as quickly as we can. Over the last several days, our utilities, other utilities in the region have participated in conference calls to secure resources from other parts of the country.

We have resources already on the property from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and we have resources on the way now to assist us from the state of Texas. As you get closer to the event itself, it can get a little bit crowded in terms of trying to get the resources, which is why we've tried to be so proactive in getting our requests in right up front.

CROWLEY: I don't need to tell you that Pepco customers have not always been pleased with Pepco in the past. RIGBY: Right.

CROWLEY: You all have been slammed pretty hard in recent storms.

RIGBY: Right.

CROWLEY: I think that people understand that big storms knock out power.

RIGBY: Right.

CROWLEY: I think what people don't understand is why the heck it takes so long.

RIGBY: We're going to have about -- a period of about 12 hours of sustained winds that in the state of New Jersey could get to 80 miles an hour. We have very strict OSHA regulations where we cannot be sending out our people to begin that restoration process until the winds have subsided to less than 35 miles an hour. So, we're going to go through a period here as we go through the event before we'll even be able to get out and begin the assessment and the restoration process.

So, that's one of the reasons why on the front end of it, it seems like it takes a while. It also actually takes a while to actually do the assessment and get the people out there. Our goal is to get as many people on as fast and as safely as we can. And that's the priority of our restoration. Unfortunately there are situations where you have someone that's down at the end of that particular road that we're going to get to them kind of later in the process, but we totally understand that that's extremely frustrating, but I want you to know that we are maximizing our resources to be able to preclude that from happening to the greatest extent that we can.

CANDY CROWLEY, GUEST HOST: I know you know these figures, but for our listeners before I ask this last question -- there was a study in a 2009 survey that showed that Pepco customers experienced 70 percent more outages than customers of other big city utilities and they lasted longer, almost twice as long.

And so, what I'm wondering is why will this time be different than other times?

RIGBY: Well, I'm going to give you a couple reasons why I think it's going to be different. It's all the hard work we've done in the last 12 months to aggressively trim trees which is the try marry problem when we have when we have a weather event like this. We have been aggressively trimming trees particularly here in the greater Washington area.

So, I think we're going to have less than we otherwise would have. The other issue that's going to drive I think a better performance is that level of resources that I talked to you about a few minutes ago, and the fact that they're here already. We're not waiting for them to arrive. So, you know, we're going to come at this as hard as we can and we're going to work 24 hours a day to get the power back on for our customers.

CROWLEY: Mr. Rigby, no one wishes you better luck than I do in the upcoming days ahead.

RIGBY: Thank you very much, Candy.

CROWLEY: I know they're long days for you. Thanks for joining us.

RIGBY: Thank you.

CROWLEY: Next up, Libya's rebels liberate a Tripoli prison and find a U.S. journalist who disappeared months ago.


CROWLEY: Welcome back.

Here's the latest news you need to know right now:

Activists say one of the best-known cartoonists in the Arab world, Ali Farzat, was badly beaten and his hands specifically targeted and broken by Syrian security forces.

In Tripoli, a U.S. citizen who's been in solitary confinement in Libya since March is out of prison and safe. Matthew VanDyke is one of hundred's of prisoners freed by Libyan rebels.

JPMorgan Chase agreed to pay an $88 million fine, the largest on record, for breaking U.S. sanctions against Iran, Cuba, Sudan, and Liberia.

On the campaign trail today, Michele Bachmann is in the early primary state of South Carolina tonight for a town hall hosted by another Tea Party favorite, Republican Congressman Tim Scott. There you see it in a live picture, Michele Bachmann, of course, one of the leading Republican presidential hopefuls.

Libyan rebels get a tip where Moammar Gadhafi may be hiding out. Are they getting any closer? We'll go live to Tripoli when we come back.


CROWLEY: Tonight, a senior U.S. military official with direct knowledge of the effort tells CNN the U.S. military is looking at options for delivering both humanitarian assistance to Libya and helping with the return of refugees.

Late this afternoon, the U.N. Security Council reached an agreement to release $1.5 billion in frozen Libyan assets to help meet the country's humanitarian needs. All this despite intense fighting around Tripoli, shelling by Gadhafi loyalists destroyed three planes at the city's airport in the past 24 hours, and Gadhafi himself is still sending audio messages full of defiance. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MOAMMAR GADHAFI, LIBYAN LEADER (through translator): Do not leave Tripoli for the rats. Do not leave them. Fight them. Destroy them. You are the overwhelming majority. You have marched in millions. March with the same million, but fight this time. Fill the streets and the fields.


CROWLEY: CNN's senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is in Tripoli with the latest on the hunt for Gadhafi.

Nic, I know you've been out on the streets all day in Tripoli. We hear he's -- at least back here, we hear he's one place and it never seems to pan out. What's behind all these rumors and how can you decipher what seems to be a real tip and then just the general rumors that tend to go with war?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think one way that we try to gauge one of the rumors and what are the real tips is watching what the rebels do. That's an imperfect sense, if you will.

But when we came into town this afternoon, we met a rebel commander. He controlled the west of the city. He told us he'd heard that Gadhafi was holed up in an apartment near his former palace compound. He had sent additional rebel forces to surround it. We went to take a look. It didn't pan out. It didn't seem to exist.

Then the rumor changed that, in fact, Gadhafi was holed up into another neighborhood. We went there. It turned out to be just a family that people thought were loyal to Gadhafi, and then when the rebels went in, there was no one there.

So, it is rebels chasing rumors, almost chasing their tails. And it's very, very difficult to determine what is -- what is fact and what is fiction in these rumors, because so far, most of them really these rumors are nothing more than that. There doesn't seem to be anything really that substantiates them.

And it's perhaps a tale of this country at the moment, poor communication, intense suspicions, fear, the desire by the rebels to actually get Gadhafi, and their need to take control of the country, Candy.

CROWLEY: Sure. And speaking of trying to decipher truth and fiction, we just heard that audio clip from Moammar Gadhafi, at least someone claiming to be him, it sounded like him -- that very defiant saying there's millions of you who support me, take up arms.

And while we are seeing this fighting around Tripoli and the airport and in other places across the country, is there any doubt in anybody's mind there that Gadhafi's days as a ruler are over? Other than his mind? ROBINSON: I don't think anybody doubts that. Nobody -- well, exactly. And he has a very paranoid suspicious mind and he does seem to be cut off from reality, because everyone we're talking to and the expectation here is he's not going to come back. He can't come back. He's been overpowered.

But are there places that he can hold out in? Are there parts of the city? Are there areas of the country? Are there tribes that might stay loyal?

The rebels have still got to go a long way before they get the whole of this country under their control, under their authority. Right now, if you go out on the streets, there are a lot of checkpoints with young men with weapons, they're not well-trained. Who's going to turn them into a police force?

How long is this hunt going to go on? How are the rebel authorities going to -- the National Transitional Council going to run this country in the way that a government would run a country? They have never done this before.

So, their challenges are huge, and the biggest one really is right now is taking control of it all, and they're not there yet -- far from it.

CROWLEY: Nic Robertson in Tripoli for us tonight -- thank you so much for being around.

Tripoli may be primarily in hands of rebels, but Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte is still controlled by loyalists to the former leader. Rebel forces in the eastern part of the country are trying to end that.

And today, they inched closer to the key city of Ras Lanuf -- and that's where we find our Fred Pleitgen.

Fred, what can you tell us about your day to day and what you saw?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there was pretty intense fighting, Candy, around the town of Ras Lanuf. The rebels have actually now managed to take that. It's a very important town, because there's a key strategic oil and gas refinery there, actually the largest oil and gas refinery in Libya. So, it's a very, very important place.

What the rebels are trying to do is get closer and closer to Sirte. They are about, I would say, 10 kilometers outside of Ras Lanuf. They're still quite a ways away from Sirte, but they are fighting battles with Gadhafi forces. There's a lot of exchange of pretty heavy fire going. There are a lot of artillery being used, mortars being used. Also rockets being used on that front line.

So, while it seems as though Tripoli might be coming more and more under the control of the rebels, there is still a very hot war zone that is going on here in the center of the country as the rebels are trying to move on to Sirte.

Now, while they're doing this, they say they are also in negotiations with Moammar Gadhafi's tribe to try and get them to lay their arms down. However, they say, so far, those negotiations don't seem to be going anywhere -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Ras Lanuf, as you know, Fred, is home to major oil and gas refineries. Do you have a sense of how secure those refineries are? Because as we know, certainly from the experience in Iraq, sometimes the forces that are under fire tend to light up those oil places and ruin them for years to come.

PLEITGEN: I can't hear them anymore.

CROWLEY: Yes. Our Fred Pleitgen, we have lost him. It's always amazing to me that we can ever get them in the first place. But thank you very much tonight to Fred Pleitgen.

Despite the intense fighting in parts of Libya, the rebels' political leaders, the National Transition Council, or NTC for short, is preparing to run the country and try to get Libya's economy up and running again. You heard our Nic Robertson talking a bit about that.

Barak Barfi is a research fellow at the New America Foundation. He travelled to Tripoli on Wednesday with some of the rebels and he joins us now live.

And thank you so much for being here.

I have to tell you, I think Nic pretty much laid out for me what the big questions are there. You spent a lot of time with the rebels, and I'm just wondering if you get a sense that they are ready to go from toppling a government to putting one together.

BARAK BARFI, RESEARCH FELLOW, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Well, they're technocrats with not much political skills. They're political dissidents and professors. Few in Libya can name a bunch of these people, let alone explain why they're admired, and not many of them are known in the West. And that's the problem that they're going to have moving forward, that they don't have the political experience and the respect in society that they're going to need to gain the trust of society.

CROWLEY: And when you talk to Libyan citizens like not those in the NTC, but just citizens, do they know the names of the people that are currently on the council? Do they know what the council's trying to do? I mean, how much knowledge is there just on the street?

BARFI: Well, for the past five months, I've been asking Libyans across eastern Libya and today that same question. And basically, what I've learned is everybody knows Mustafa Abdul Jalil, who is the NTC leader. He was a minister of justice under Gadhafi, which means that he's showed up in television broadcasts and in the print media. But after that, it's very difficult for people to say who comes next, who are the other people on the NTC, and that's a big problem.

And even with Mustafa Abdul Jalil, people say, "Oh, he's honest," "Oh, he's a good guy." But they really don't understand -- they really can't explain why they really like this man. CROWLEY: And this is a concern from the West, and I know since you've been there for so long, you can help us with this. Is there any evidence that al Qaeda or any other terrorist groups are making any kind of inroads inside the chaos that is now Libya?

BARFI: Well, Candy, as you know, Islamists are a big, amorphous groups. We have Salifists, we have radical jihadist, and then we have more moderate people like the Muslim Brotherhood and political Islamists. And you have all those types of people here in Libya.

The strongest groups come from the Muslim Brotherhood. They are the most organized. They have the best aid from abroad, and they're going to be a big power that the NTC is going to have to deal with and it's not at all clear that a secular government that is amenable to the United States and the Western powers will emerge in the future, Candy.

CROWLEY: And how hard is it for the NTC to get up and running so long as Gadhafi's at large?

BARFI: Well, basically, the last three weeks have been a godsend to the NTC. It was facing a very difficult morale boost after the assassination of a rebel military leader on July 28th. However, now the question is: can they spread their power and influence here in the West? And it's not at all clear that they have that support in society that they had in the East. And that is something we're going to have to look forward to understand in the future.

CROWLEY: Barak Barfi, a fellow with the New America Foundation -- thank you so much for your expertise tonight. We appreciate it.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" is coming up at the top of the hour -- and as he has every day this week, Anderson has showed up with a preview.


Yes, about 11 minutes from now, we're going to have the breaking news on "360".

We're going to have the latest bulletin, Candy, from the National Weather Service. It's out in just a few minutes. We want to get an update, of course, on Hurricane Irene. It's been a category 3 storm. We'll see if that holds. We'll know, as I said, at the top of the hour.

The Northeast coast, of course, holding its breath, hoping it doesn't get worse. New York, is one of the cities in the crosshairs. This is what happened in 1938. There were a lot of deaths in New York.

We'll speak with an expert who thinks this Irene could be the most dangerous, most expensive storm in recent U.S. history. We'll tell you why.

Also, "360" exclusive tonight on Libya. The woman instrumental in getting those 36 journalists out of the Rixos Hotel in Tripoli, CNN producer Jomana Karadsheh negotiated with the guards. Here's a little of what she told me about how she did it.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN PRODUCER: We all felt that pressure on that last day, on Wednesday that we have to get out of there no matter what. So, I just sat with him. I just sat on the floor and looked at him and I'm like, "We need to get out of here. I miss my family. I need to see my family." And I knew he was going through that, because he hadn't seen his family for days and he was telling me and other journalists about his five children, the youngest of them is 3 years old.

And, of course, the fighting was going on across the city and he had no news of them because there were no phone lines. There's no power.

So, I think that was the turning point, but he got all teary when I was telling him that I missed my family. He said, OK, let's try and get you out of here.


COOPER: It's video of her negotiating with one of the soldiers. Remarkable what she did.

Also, we're just seeing video tonight of the early moments of that firefight to take Gadhafi's compound. We got this from al Arabiya. Take a look.


COOPER: More at the top of the hour, 8:00 p.m. Eastern and again at 10:00 p.m. Eastern -- Candy.

CROWLEY: About 8 1/2 minutes from now. We'll be there, Anderson. Thanks so much.

Coming up, what you need to do now to be ready for Irene.


CROWLEY: How far do you need to go if you were ordered to evacuate due to an event like Hurricane Irene?

Jay Baker is a professor at Florida State University and an expert on hurricane preparedness. He joins us now from Tallahassee.

Professor Baker, thanks for being here.

I think a lot of times people watch on TV and they see someone saying, "No, I'm not evacuating, I'm not leaving my house." Why don't people evacuate when they see the kind of dangerous flags are putting up, say, all along the coast?

PROF. JAY BAKER, FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY: Well, it's true. A fair number of people don't leave. And for the majority of them, it's because they don't think they need to. There are some people who don't leave because they have constraints that keep them from being able to leave. But most people don't leave either because they think the storm's not going to be strong enough to pose a significant threat to them, where they live, or they think their house is built well enough or is in a safe location.

The problem is --

CROWLEY: We are having our own share of troubles here tonight. It has nothing to do with Hurricane Irene. Obviously, we have lost Professor Baker. And we will apologize for that.

Hopefully, we will be able to get him back at some time in the hour.

We want to take you now, this is the presser from the folks putting together the Martin Luther King Memorial celebration on Sunday. This is a news conference.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It will be moved to a date yet to be determined in September or October. We will announce those details as soon as they are available.

For now, we want to make sure that you have this new information as soon as possible. There are so many individuals who worked tirelessly to dedicate the dream, and make this memorial a reality.

We owe a special debt of gratitude of to the King family who are sitting with us here today, the foundation staff, our generous sponsors, especially the General Motors foundation and Chevrolet, the Tommy Hilfiger Foundation and to you, the public.

In the words of Dr. King, "We must accept the finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope." With that in mind, let's remember the spirit of the memorial -- justice, democracy, hope and love. Thank you.

CROWLEY: OK. The first major thing changing here, at least as far as the nation is concerned, as a result of Irene, and that is that the opening, the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was supposed to take place on the Mall this Sunday, has been canceled because of Hurricane Irene. They will have it, they say, the dedication in September or October.

I think I have on the phone with me Roland Martin.

Roland, this must have been an incredibly difficult decision to make, such a special day. It was supposed to coincide with the "I Have a Dream Speech" on the Mall.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR (via telephone): It was a very tough decision. In fact, I talked to Harry Johnson just yesterday, during my morning show, and the plan was to move forward. They actually were going to make the final decision by tomorrow afternoon.

But it was clear that with the Hurricane Irene going from a category one to a two, to a three, that they had to make this call. Literally, Candy, folks are already planning to fly in, people are getting on buses. And so, they had to keep them safe. That's why this call was made.

But, yes, very, very tough, after all the hard work that went into this weekend.

CROWLEY: Well, you know, hopefully there will be some pretty weekends in September and October, and one of them will shine on the dedication of this memorial.

I know you were to be the emcee for this occasion. I think there must be some personal disappointment for you.

MARTIN: Well, absolutely. Look, I'm also (INAUDIBLE) Alpha Phil Alpha. There were 15 Alphas who started this, both gentlemen are now deceased. They really got this thing going, raising the $4 million as the seed money. And so, we had more than 2,000 brothers from around the country.

But what is happening tomorrow, though, the Alpha has already planned a private dedication tomorrow, and that is still going forward. So, we will have some kind of event taking place actually at the site tomorrow. But absolutely, it was a -- again, folks have been literally invested in this project, Candy, for more than 20 years.

Some people have been tithing every month for 20 years to see this actually come about. And so, there's no doubt sadness, but the reality is, we raised $114 million of the $120 million. We got this thing built. And so, that really is the most important thing. And now, Americans forever will be able to come to this memorial in the nation's capitol.

CROWLEY: Pending that dedication, thank you so much, Roland Martin. Folks can go to see it. The memorial is open and it's beautiful.

That's all from us tonight. Go to our Web site, for information on how to prepare in your community for Hurricane Irene.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts now.