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Irene Takes Aim at Maryland; Bloomberg Speaks Out About the Storm; Philadelphia in State of Emergency; Assessing Hurricane Irene Preps

Aired August 27, 2011 - 22:00   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Kyra Phillips right here at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta.


The Philadelphia Airport will shut down in about 30 minutes as Hurricane Irene gets closer. It is scheduled to be out of service until 4:00 p.m. on Sunday.

PHILLIPS: That's just the latest precaution as the huge category 1 storm threatens just about every major city on the eastern seaboard tonight. New York's mass transit stopped moving at noon today.

SAVIDGE: This slow-moving storm is a powerful killer. At least nine people have lost their lives since Irene made landfall this morning, on the outer banks of North Carolina. More than 1 million homes are without power tonight. Flooding is widespread.

PHILLIPS: Now, the winds have died down a little bit, but Irene is expected to remain a hurricane all the way to New England. As you can see, the surf is already pounding the coastline non-stop.

Right now, Ocean City, Maryland, getting hammered. And if there's some good news, well, an admiral with the U.S. Coast Guard says the preliminary survey of damage shows Irene has not been as destructive as had been feared.

SAVIDGE: And we hope that will be the case in many places. CNN correspondents are strategically positioned, all up and down the east coast to give you the very latest information.

PHILLIPS: Chris Lawrence still in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland, for us, where water continues to rise. We talked about the beach erosion as well. Chris, also 40,000 people without electricity there. However, the conditions not as bad as you predicted?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Not exactly. And I think this is really something that Chad touched on in the last hour. You know, sort of the way the winds are blowing. And we got it confirmed from the Maryland governor. He reiterated just a few minutes ago in a press conference saying, the way they're spinning, it looks like the storm surge may not be as bad as expected.

One thing we are seeing with the winds picking up is a lot more debris. A lot of this has been falling just in the last few minutes, blowing off some of the smaller roofs and like that. And if we can pan over a little bit, we can kind of show you and explain a little bit about how our operation works here.

You can see our satellite truck braced up against the side of the building, which protects it as best it can. But when you see break-up on the air and in some of these reports, it's because the winds will gust so hard, it will blow that dish around and knock it off the satellite temporarily. And I think those trees give you an idea of just how much the wind has really been picking up in the last, say, hour to two hours.

What were gusts maybe four to five hours ago are now pretty much sustained winds. And Chad, I think what we've seen here, even though we're still getting that same, you know, peak and valley effect, you know, the valleys are now where the peaks were four to five hours ago.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. And now you have sustained tropical storm force with gusts over 55, where before your gusts were 39. Just gusting to tropical storm. And that's going to continue to increase. You don't get the closest approach to the eye for another about six hours yet. So get ready for a bump in the night.

And now it gets scary. I've covered enough of these, you hear things in the foreground and in the background. You know things are moving around. You don't know if it's a garbage can or a limb, and you can't see them because it's dark. And with 40,000 people without power, clearly no streetlights either, and this is how it starts to get that nighttime scare. It is truly an effect that you don't even understand.

It's like sitting in a movie theater in a dark movie theater, watching a bad movie, and all of a sudden you hear this bump in the night, and you have no idea where it comes from, but you know it actually could hurt you, not just being a movie.

LAWRENCE: Yes, exactly. We have definitely seen more things starting to pull off. A lot more debris starting to get blown around. I was just talking to one of the police officers here about 10, 15 minutes ago and he said, at this point, they really are not doing a whole lot out there, that the storm's getting to the point where they said they pulled in most of the fire department, emergency personnel, and at this point, the few police that are out there, all they're doing, if they see a downed wire or tree is to try to mark it with a flare. But they're not in any position to do much.

We also want to go, at this point, to looking at our situation, to sort of across the bay, on the ocean side of all this, Ocean City, Maryland. My colleague Jeanne Meserve.

And Jeanne, I'm just wondering, are you seeing the increased wind and rain there compared to what we were feeling maybe an hour or two ago?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Chris, I believe you were talking to me. Sorry, we're having a little bit of trouble hearing you over the wind here. It is needless to say, blowing pretty hard around here.

We have gotten some word of some very bad weather about 31 miles north of here. Some tornadic activity in Lewes, Delaware. Here's an early report on the kind of damage it caused.

Sorry, if you're playing that audio tape, I'm not able to hear that tape. The word was that there were an estimated 17 homes destroyed, but that's only an early guesstimate. They won't be able to get a full assessment of the damage caused by the tornado until they have light some time tomorrow.

Meanwhile, we have heard from -- we have heard from state officials here in the State of Maryland that there are about 160 thousand people in this state now without power. Most of them in Anne Arundel, Prince George's and St. Mary's counties. We are without power. Where we are, you might see lights behind us. Just to explain, that is because we have some emergency generation capability at the hotel where we're staying.

Again, we can only give you a very localized picture of what's happening. What's happening here right now is a lot of wind, a little less rain, and a lot of wave action.

Chad Myers, tell us a little bit more about what we're going to be expecting here along the coast in the next couple of hours, please.

MYERS: Jeanne, your maximum wind potential doesn't even get to you for another eight hours. So exactly what you see is what you get, and then ramping up to some more for the next eight hours.

After that, the wind shifts directions, and blows offshore. So whatever was torn up by the hurricane in the first place, blowing inland, then gets picked up and gets blown back at you by the morning.

The same story is happening for Chris Lawrence. Chris Lawrence now seeing parts of buildings come off. Those pieces now become projectiles, especially as winds change direction and blow those things back at you. Now is the time, you need to be out there. You guys need to be behind buildings, not in any type of way in the firing line of the wind, because shingles come off, siding comes off, even little pieces of trees come off. And I've been hit by a number of them, and it's time to get safe.

And it looks like, Jeanne, you are really in the wind right now. So I need you and your crew to be the best judge of where you can be to be safe for the rest of night.

MESERVE: Chad, thanks. Yes, the winds are definitely very strong here, and the sea is very, very high, indeed. That's what they're really worried about here in this oceanfront community. This vacation community.

They have done a lot of work on the beaches here to build up dunes, to create berms, to the try to protect the buildings, but we have seen at least some of the waves overtake some of the dunes in the immediate area where we are. And as we've mentioned before, this is a barrier island. They're also worried about flooding from the other side. And we understand at this point in time, there is some localized flooding in the southern part of the city.

Now back to my colleague, Chris Lawrence.


LAWRENCE: Yes, Jeanne, we're starting to see some of that flooding in the streets here. And of course, obviously, the storm surge is still something that is going to weigh on a lot of people's minds. They're going to keep a close eye on how those winds continue to turn, especially when you consider that high tide here will be about 3:30 in the morning. It's going to be the middle of the night. And so people are obviously, very, very concerned about how much water could be pushed from the ocean into the Chesapeake Bay, and then how much of that is going to get pushed onshore.

I'm going to throw it back now to Kyra and Marty back in Atlanta.

PHILLIPS: All right.

Chris Lawrence, appreciate it. Jeanne Meserve.

Also, Chad, you still there?


PHILLIPS: I want to ask you a question. As we are looking at the situation with Jeanne and with Chris, and then we're looking at the situation in New York, what is your take? You mentioned early on, about 45 minutes ago, North Carolina did not end up the way we thought it was going to end up. It lost energy. What is your take right now on New York City?

MYERS: Well, it is still a very powerful storm. The pressure is 955 millibars. I know that doesn't even mean anything to anyone. You can't even -- it's all relative. That would make it probably one of the top 30 land-falling hurricanes of all time in America.

And you're thinking, well, how could it only have 80-mile-per- hour winds, then, if this pressure is so low, why is it not doing anything? And in fact, we had a conversation with the hurricane center about this. How can there be a 115-mile-per-hour winds at 12,000 feet and barely hurricane winds at the surface? That doesn't usually make sense.

Typically, if it's 120 miles per hour up aloft, it will be 105 at the surface. You reduce it a little bit, but not that much. This storm did not have an eye wall that was circular for long enough to take those winds and to make those winds get down to the ground. So, yes, we have winds coming in, every time there's some rain, and it will be gusty, it will be maybe 60, 70 miles per hour. But the potential still is there for all of this, the size of the storm, 300 miles one way and the other of the eye to push a lot of water into New York City. And I'm still, I'm still convinced that there will be flooding, either Hoboken or back towards Williamsburg, or up the East River as we push water into the sound, Long Island sound, and then also push water into where Lady Liberty is.

All of a sudden, that has to -- they have to come together somehow, and that's the East River. And that's where I think the potential for flooding would be the best.

If you've ever been to the South Street Seaport, and right there where the tall ships are, it's about that far from the river to where you're walking on the walkway. That certainly would be under water. Guys?

PHILLIPS: Got it. All right, Chad, thanks.

SAVIDGE: We're going to bring back Jeanne and Chris. Is that right, guys?

All right, so you two are really in the thick of it right now. And I'm wondering, Chris, explain -- you both are relatively close to one another, but it appears that conditions are very different. Why is that?

LAWRENCE: Can you repeat --

SAVIDGE: And there goes Chris. You can see that the storm is obviously impacting very heavily on them.

Jeanne, can you hear me all right?

MESERVE: Yes, I can hear you, Marty.

SAVIDGE: OK, so the difference between the two of you is, what, geographically?

MESERVE: Well, I have to confess, I'm not exactly sure on the map where Chris is. I believe he's in the Chesapeake Bay. We're on the coastal areas. They're different environments. I was just talking to someone from the state of Maryland Emergency Management who was discussing about how, for instance, the high tides can occur six hours different between parts of the bay and parts of the coast because the tidal action is just so different.

And so when you're talking about when is the surge going to hit the state of Maryland, it becomes an incredibly difficult calculation. It depends very much on exactly where you're located. And I'm afraid Chad would have to give you more specifics on why we're feeling such different things.

Back to you.

PHILLIPS: All right, Chris, are you still with us, Chris? Did we get you back?

LAWRENCE: Yes, Kyra, I can hear you just fine. PHILLIPS: All right. So I don't know if you were able to hear Jeanne, but we're looking at both of your live shots now. You're there in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland. Jeanne is over in Ocean City, Maryland. And it seems like she's getting hit a little harder than you are.

Can you just give us a sense for what it's like right now?

LAWRENCE: Yes. She is on the ocean side. She's about 80 miles or so, about 81 miles from where we are. We're on the Bay Side, so -- the worry here on our side is that all that water from the ocean, all that power and that energy that is coming with it will push that water into the bay and you've got a tremendous number of communities that are set up right along the Chesapeake Bay, and what's going to happen when all that ocean water floods -- and then is pushed in at high tide towards the shore.

So there's still a very real worry of that high tide -- just based on some of Chad's -- hearing -- I think there's at least a sense that perhaps people feel like the worst that was expected to hit here will not come to pass. Kyra?

PHILLIPS: Got it. OK, and sorry, we apologize, Chris Lawrence. We are kind of losing his signal there, as you can tell.

Chad, you know how the conditions are with the wind and the rain. And so we're trying to get the best we can from where he is. But what can you see from your vantage point of what's happening to both of them?

MYERS: Well, the storm came over Virginia Beach and is now back in the ocean. And it's going to make a very close pass here at where Jeanne is. Now, this is still 77 miles from the center of the eye of the hurricane, up to Jeanne. So she's going to have at least 15 miles per hour. She has another six hours or so to deal with what she's got, and it keeps getting worse every hour as the storm gets closer.

Chris being all the way over here on the other side of the eastern shore, so here's Easton. This is the bay bridge that goes over to the other side. And so Chris is actually in the Chesapeake Bay, or along the Chesapeake Bay. I know it's called Chesapeake Beach, but that gives you the impression that's it's on the ocean, but in fact, it's in the bay. And that water that Chris and the residents there are worried about would have to go all the way up the Chesapeake Bay and all the way up to here before the storm surge would happen. And let me tell you what's happening right now the water is --

PHILLIPS: And that bridge is closed, by the way. We got word that that bridge is closed.

SAVIDGE: The bridge did close.


LAWRENCE: Yes, absolutely. There's no back and forth across the Bay Bridge at all. You'd have to go all the way up to Wilmington to go around that.

MYERS: And so what we're -- we're finding out that the water is coming in here to Hampton Roads, to the tide water, but it's not going much farther than here. Up to James to about Williamsburg, and the storm surge here is 5 feet.

Now, the water is not going this far. It would take a long time for the water to go that way. Plus, at this point in time, the wind has changed directions and it's blowing back down here, because of where this storm is.

See, the winds are going this way here, but on the other side, they're coming this way here. So Chris will never have to worry about surge where he is, because the wind is actually blowing the water back down to the tide water here. And that five-foot surge on top of a three-foot tide is now an eight-foot surge from where you're talking about the bottom.

Remember, it's a big tide. New moon tides, about a foot and a half maybe higher than it should be or could be, and this is happening at the exact wrong time. New York City will experience the exact same problem. High tide is a big tide and obviously a five or six-foot surge in the Battery Park, will cause some flooding. Kyra?

PHILLIPS: All right. Chad, thanks.

SAVIDGE: We're going to take a break now. When we come back, we'll check in with more officials to see how their states are bracing.


SAVIDGE: And we continue to track Hurricane Irene and its impact. We want to check in now with the governor of Delaware, Governor Jack Markell. He is on the phone from Wilmington.

And Governor, we understand that there was a tornado that touched down in Lewes. Am I saying it correctly, and what do we know?

GOV. JACK MARKELL, DELAWARE (via-telephone): Well, there was a tornado in Lewes. At least 17 homes damaged. One pretty badly. Thank God. So far no news of any injuries. But it's hitting us pretty hard throughout the state.

PHILLIPS: Can you tell us what type of borders you've put down, governor. And what you're expecting your people to do?

MARKELL: Well, over the last couple of days we've evacuated a lot of people from the coastal area, tens and tens of thousands of people. We've closed most of our bridges. We have put in driving restrictions, so that unless you're out there for emergency purposes or unless you're evacuating to a shelter because of flooding, you should not be on the road. So we're really trying to keep people off the road now.

SAVIDGE: And the information you're getting coming in to you, obviously this tornado is a huge problem, but otherwise, how is this storm measuring up to what you expected?

MARKELL: Well, it's pretty tough, honestly. And I know that I heard that North Carolina wasn't as bad as predicted, but so far, I mean, it's still early for us, and it's already hitting us pretty hard. We're expecting a lot of flooding. We're already seeing a lot of flooding, some impassable roads already. So, fortunately, we've got a very talented and dedicated team of first responders out throughout the state, but it's going to be a challenge, for sure.

SAVIDGE: Have you done anything differently this time around? You know, we've had retired General Russel Honore here talking about all the various states, and how he's seen a lot of innovative ideas go into effect, a lot of precautions being taken. Have you done anything differently?

MARKELL: Well, we've never really had anything quite like this. So we spent a ton of time on the prevention side and getting people out, the mandatory evacuations. That seems to have been very effective. And of course, by tomorrow, we'll be pivoting to the recovery and the rebuild. But, so far, it's really been trying to get people out of harm's way. And we've done a very -- our first responder community has done a very nice job of coming together and working together. That's critically important, because across counties, across different levels of government, people working together.

SAVIDGE: Do you expect that come first light, you'll be able to go out and began assessing what damage has been done, or will you still be on the hanger down low.

MARKELL: I expect shortly after first light, I'll be able to get out and about. And I don't know that other people will be able, too. We'll probably take the, you know, fly, take a helicopter, probably with the national guard, who they've got 1,500 of their people deployed, so I can get out right away and see what the damage and see what we can do to start rebuilding.

PHILLIPS: OK, Delaware Governor Jack Markell, I appreciate you calling in to us out of Wilmington.

MARKELL: Thanks for helping to get the message out. Take care.

PHILLIPS: You bet. All right, when we come back, we're going to go board the U.S. Naval ship, apparently, that as you know, we've been talking about, Norfolk, Virginia, where all the ships were sent out to sea to be protected. Now coming, getting ready to help respond if needed once things have cleared.

SAVIDGE: We'll check in with one of those right after the break.


SAVIDGE: Whenever bad weather threatens, the U.S. Navy sends its ships along the east coast out to sea, because that's the safest and best place for them to ride out the storm. PHILLIPS: That's right. And if, indeed, there's a big impact from the storm, they're the first ones to respond, to help out. We have seen a number of the ships did that in the past, especially Hurricane Katrina.

Larry Shaughnessy, one of our CNN producers is actually aboard the "USS Wasp."

Larry, tell us exactly, it's an amphibious assault ship. Where, exactly, are you located? Where is the ship at this point?

LARRY SHAUGHNESSY, CNN PENTAGON PRODUCER (via-telephone): The ship is just north of Bermuda. At last check, it was about 60 miles north of Bermuda. But any minute now, it's expected to start making a turn from Bermuda and start heading southeast towards the U.S. Coastline.

The idea being that as the storm moves north along the coastline, this ship and other members of what's called The Amphibious Task Force 26, there's five other ships involved, will come up behind the storm, and right along the U.S. Coastline, and as soon as civilian authorities, like the Delaware governor you spoke to a few minutes ago, if they ask for federal help and the federal government says yes, this is one of the U.S. military assets that could provide that aid. They can land helicopters on the ship and fly supplies and people on to shore anywhere they need to.

They have underneath the deck, they have two large landing craft that can carry 160 tons of supplies, material, water, food, medical stuff, and they can take those and take them right into shore. They don't need a dock. They don't need a pier.

SAVIDGE: Larry, we're going to interrupt you right now, because we want to get to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is speaking at the moment.


MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK: Repeatedly telling New Yorkers in low-lying areas to evacuate their homes in advance of Hurricane Irene. And now the edge of the hurricane has finally got upon us and conditions are expected to deteriorate rapidly.

According to the National Weather Service, tropical winds can be expected from this point forward. A tornado watch, just to make life more complex, is also in effect until 5:00 a.m. in the five boroughs and in Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, and Rockland counties. Hopefully that won't happen, but there is the potential.

Combined, I think it's fair to say that these conditions make it unsafe to stay outside. Let me just repeat that. The time for evacuation is over. Everyone should now go inside and be prepared to stay inside until weather conditions improve, which won't likely be until Sunday afternoon. But we will get through this next 24 hours, I assure you. The city has taken exhaustive steps to prepare for whatever comes our way, and the very best first responders are going to work non-stop through the night to make sure that we get this night as safely as possible.

I'm joined by our Fire Commissioner Casano, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, and our officer of Emergency Management Commissioner, Joe Bruno. We have prepared for this. We've worked very hard. We've warned the public, and now we have to deal with what comes from Mother Nature.

Your safety, your own safety, is dependent upon what you do. New Yorkers should now remain indoors and take the following steps. First, move away as far as possible from glass windows. There's a risk that flying debris could break and shatter windows in your home. The risk increases if you live in a high-rise, particularly on the tenth floor or higher. And don't stay on the first floor of your building lobby and stand in a congregated area in glass enclosed lobby.

Make sure windows and doors leading to the outside are closed. If you have a fireplace in your home, please call the damper. Turn off any propane tanks and move to a room with as few windows as possible and ride out the storm there. Let me summarize very briefly in Spanish. Por favor (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)


PHILLIPS: Michael Bloomberg there holding a live news conference, as we look at a live picture out of Times Square. Just adding to the concerns now, a tornado watch until 5:00 a.m. Bottom line, time for evacuations are over. Anybody else that has stayed there is to remain indoors.

OK, we're going to head back to Mayor Michael Bloomberg.


BLOOMBERG: In spite of all the warnings, I don't know, but the fact of the matter is they were there and the NYPD harbor officers had to put their lives on the line to save these people. They responded and searched the waters and miraculous spotted the two boat had been kept afloat for more than half an hour by their life jackets. They were rescued, and I'm happy to say they are OK. When they were brought ashore, the two were given summons. This was clearly one of those reckless acts that have also diverted badly need NYPD resources.

So please excuse -- please exercise good judgment if you're going ahead here. This really is you are putting yourself -- your own lives in danger, you're also putting the lives in danger of the first responders. And I think this shows just how seriously this storm is and at this point people need to stay inside.

This is a different message that we tried to give before. The message before was, please leave those dangerous areas. Come to the shelters or go to visit family and friends. The time for that, I think, has passed. Now the time is to focus on what to do, where you are, given the weather that is with us today.

Now, there's a chance that Con Ed will be forced to shut down parts of the grid if the flooding is severe. And I think everyone should be prepared for that possibility, when they wake up in the morning. To prepare for that, particularly if you live in high-rises where the water is pumped up by pumps that depend upon electricity, it means filling your bathtubs and sinks with water, which you can later use for washing or for flushing toilets.

Put together supplies you will need if the power goes out, such as food, drinking water, medicine, and flashlights. If you don't have a flashlight and decide to use candles, please, please exercise the utmost caution. Candles are a fire hazard and can be knocked over easily. Keep an eye on them and don't leave them unattended.

And remember to charge your phones and any other mobile devices that you may need. If the power goes out, call 311 or text 311 at 311692, which is, incidentally, 311NYC. And that will help us identify the areas that are without power. 311 is where you should go. 911 should be used only for emergencies. If it's not an emergency, please, do not tie up the 911 services. The 911 services are for most important, life-threatening emergencies. Once again, for updates throughout the storm, you can visit or follow at NYC Mayors Office or @NotifyNYC on Twitter.

Now, New York is the greatest city in the world and we will weather this storm. I don't think it matters if you're in a shelter tonight or in your home or staying with friends or family, we are altogether in this. And I did want to thank all of the volunteers who came out tonight to help their fellow New Yorkers, particularly the volunteers who are staffing the evacuation centers. And I'm especially grateful to our fire, police, first responders and other city employees who have given their all.

And a big thanks to the taxi drivers, delivery drivers, bus companies, and others who answered our call and helped transport some of our most vulnerable neighbors to safety.

As we've seen so many times before, this emergency is really bringing out the best in New Yorkers. So have a safe night, look out for one another, and we will update you again tomorrow morning. The bottom line is the storm is now finally hitting New York City. The winds will increase, the rain will increase, and the tidal surge will increase particularly in the morning.

Tomorrow morning, when you wake up, whatever the conditions are, please, stay inside. Too many things blow around, whether it's tree limbs coming down or porch furniture being blown away. It's just not safe to be outside. It's cute to say, I was outside during the storm, but you're much better off staying inside and looking out.

We will talk to you again tomorrow morning. We'll update you at that point in time. But I think what's really important here is that we understand nature is a lot stronger than the rest of us.

We'll be happy to take a question or two. Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Mayor, why wasn't Rikers Island evacuated? BLOOMBERG: There's no reason to evacuate Rikers Island. It is higher than the zone "A" areas and it's perfectly safe.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Specific fire dangers, concerns?

BLOOMBERG: Well, candles, for example, present a great danger. People light candles. The winds are open, the wind blows the curtain, the curtain catch on fire. That's what we worry about more than anything. That and the fact that in certain areas, we're not sure if there's enough tidal surge and the bridges are closed that we can get fire equipment to you. That's one of the reasons to evacuate all of the rockaway.

Yes, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was wondering if the city is sure that everyone has been evacuated from the subway and there aren't any --

BLOOMBERG: We're not 100 percent sure. We've done the best job we can. Keep in mind, it's the MTA that does all that along with the NYPD. They've done everything they possibly can. Can I promise you there isn't somebody hiding someplace in there, you know. But the bottom line is you shouldn't be living in the subways. We do everything we can to find those people and give them the support services that they deserve. But we don't think there's anybody in there.

Yes, miss?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you heard of any reports of either cab drivers or store owners that have, hiding merchandise like bread right now, gouging people for prices?

BLOOMBERG: You know, I'm sure there's one or two people, but basically New Yorkers don't do that kind of thing, and I can't guarantee you that everybody doesn't, but that's not the New York way and that's not what I expect to find if I went out there.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The kayakers, did the harbor officers actually have to go into the water for a rescue?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. They pulled them on to the boat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sorry. I'm sorry if someone asked about this. Is there any call for hotels not to have their air-conditioning on and not use their elevators? There was some report that some hotels --

BLOOMBERG: You know, there are hotels, there are reports about everything. The last I -- there's no reason why hotels shouldn't keep their air-conditioning going and their elevators running. The problem with elevators is we're worried that if the power goes out, people will find themselves stuck in an elevator.

The fire department has to respond. They go from floor to floor, opening each door until they find where they are and get them out. During that time, they're not available for more important things, life-threatening things. So what we're trying to do is to get nature, and other places as to where there's a chance of flooding stopping the functioning of the elevators, to close down their elevators.

I know it's inconvenient. People have to take the stairs. Some people can't and they'll just have to stay where they are. But the alternative is worse.

Anything else?


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Mayor Michael Bloomberg with what it sounds like the final briefing, Marty, before tomorrow morning, when Hurricane Irene is supposed to make its way in there in a more powerful way.

And my guess is when we talk with General Honore after the break, he probably wouldn't have handled those two kayakers as diplomatically as the mayor's forces did.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: Probably not. We'll find out right after this break.


SAVIDGE: It is a hurricane we are covering, but tornados are the immediate concern.

Chad Myers in the CNN hurricane headquarters with the latest.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Marty, every time one of these larger cells comes onshore and starts to slow down because of the drag that ground actually makes, the trees and it's friction, these storms can actually begin to spin.

And now I have four separate tornado warnings, one for Wilmington, Delaware. One near King of Prussia, one just south of Trenton, and another one now just about, I guess, the pylons in the middle there of Jersey.

Every time a storm comes by you, right now, all of North Carolina, all of New Jersey, all the way up, basically, to Newark and Delaware, and also Newark, New Jersey, some of the storms could rotate. If you feel the storm getting around you that has a little bit more intensity, I need you to stay away from windows, because tornadoes can be spawned. They are short-lived, but they can be spawned at any time at this point in time with this hurricane, as it spins onshore.

SAVIDGE: Did you say that it was a Philadelphia warning?

MYERS: Philadelphia warning, yes, sir.

SAVIDGE: OK. Well, we want to check in with Sarah Hoye who is in Philadelphia right now for the latest on conditions there.

Sarah, how are they?

SARAH HOYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Martin, Kyra, Irene is here. Within the last hour, the rain has been coming down fast and furious. Those winds have picked up and it is starting to get nasty.

We are currently standing in front of one of three emergency shelters here in Philadelphia. And as you can see right over my shoulder, that rain is coming down. The mayor earlier today heeded a warning. He also put out a state of emergency order, excuse me, and wants people inside and out of flood areas.

We spoke earlier and I had told you that Philadelphia is in between two rivers. This city will flood. The mayor and other emergency personnel want people out of the way. They want you in your house or at these emergency shelters.

Right now, this is not time to play around. You also heard the mayor of New York saying the same thing. Hunker down, get away from those windows, heed the warnings. Irene is here.

SAVIDGE: Sarah Hoye in Philadelphia, thanks very much.

And we want to point out the airport there, Philadelphia International Airport closed about ten minutes ago. It won't reopen until 4:00 tomorrow.

PHILLIPS: So who's going to need help? What type of response will there be, as we start to see things unfold tomorrow morning.

Retired General Russel Honore, having some communication here with folks at North Com there. As we know, the governors have to say the word, right, in order to get the military support, if needed.

LT. GEN. RUSSEL HONORE (RET.): For major deployments. But let's not confuse it at the local level. If the mayor of D.C. says he needs search and rescue, that will go through the fire services and through the police. They'll call the military if they need them. All those liaisons are already set up throughout the eastern seaboard. So the federal troops, if they have the capability to help to do search and rescue, or are authorized already by the secretary of defense to do that.

PHILLIPS: So then let me ask you then. If I'm getting word here that troops and equipment are ready to support all along the coast, that's the quote that I'm getting right here. What are we talking about? What kind of equipment? What types of troops?

HONORE: First line of response is the National Guard. That has -- each state has air, ground troops to open roads, ground troops to go and do rescues with high-clearance vehicles, as well as a deployment of a brand-new helicopter that the National Guard has called La Cota.

First time it's been used in a major disaster of this significance. So each National Guard has the capability, but there will be places where federal troops like those helicopters coming in on the Whitney and that battle group that's out there, if they get a call for search and rescue and the Coast Guard all water rescue, the first goes to the coast guard.

If there's a federal helicopter closer that can get that mission down, there'll be a mission to do that. So that is worked out and all a big improvement since Katrina, where people have a clear understanding that the priority is to save life.

SAVIDGE: We just saw that news conference by Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York. What do you think? Does it sound like that city is really prepared?

HONORE: I think the mayor's on it. I hope his people are nearly as read up on what you should do as the mayor is. He's certainly got the message. He's got the culture of preparedness and the concept of resiliency down. How does he diffuse this to his citizens after this incident, to continue to remind him that they always have to be ready to be their own first responder, take care of themselves, take care of their neighbors, and take care of their friends.

PHILLIPS: Let me ask you a really direct question, though. If, indeed, let's say worst-case scenario, that that sea wall pops, that we actually see water coming into that city, I mean, he's talking about how prepared he is.

HONORE: Total different story. In that scenario, Mother Nature will probably, for a period of time, overmatch the capacity to deal with it and then more assistance would have to go in and help them if that sea wall breaks. Let's say if Wall Street feet get wet, change scenario.


HONORE: Game changer.

SAVIDGE: Well, hopefully that won't happen, but these are the lessons we all learned as a result of Katrina. You've got to be prepared for the absolute worst.

PHILLIPS: And you were saying, because of Katrina, that New York has also been very innovative, is the word that you told me. And tell me what you mean by that. Are you talking about how they immediately went in and evacuated people from the hospitals? How they turned the electricity off?

HONORE: Well, one of the things they've done is a great public/private collaboration. I've gone up twice in the last year and worked with Con Ed. They bring in the local government and first responders. They work as a team. And I don't know of another place in America where you have that level of collaboration as they have in New York because the risk is so high.

When you have that many million people packed in a compact area that is along the water, along with the other threats that they face.

SAVIDGE: All right. Lieutenant General Honore, thanks very much for your insights. Always, always appreciate it.

PHILLIPS: All right. When we come back, we're going to head out to Long Island, where the storm is headed now.

Chad Myers is going to give us the latest track.


SAVIDGE: On its current track, Hurricane Irene will hit New York's Long Island tomorrow.

Our Susan Candiotti is in the town of Long Beach. She joins us now with the latest on conditions there.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Marty. The winds have picked up just a bit. Of course, they evenly flow, but right now we're in the middle of it. I've got my trusty wind meter with me here and we recorded a gust of 30 miles per hour. It's not huge, but certainly, it's the highest that we've gauged since we've been standing out here this night.

I want to give you a little look-see. This is the main street here, one of the main streets very close to the boardwalk. And I wanted to show you a setup here. Obviously, very little traffic out there. But you can see that if you look up a bit, we have a lot of power lines up here that certainly could be damaged, could fall over.

You never know, if the winds get high enough. And certainly, we see some of the street lights over here that we've noticed swaying as well, and beyond those not doing too much action right now, but beyond that is a coastal evacuation route.

And that is because where we are located now is really most parts of Long Beach are actually below sea level, 2 to 3 feet. The highest point, if you look right down this point right here is the boardwalk. And that is only 15 feet above sea level. That's the highest point in the city. Already, we're getting some signs, if you look down at the street here, of some, a bit of flooding. Of course, when it rains a little bit, you've got this. This isn't much, but certainly, this is what they're talking about. They expect to us get much worse before the day goes on.

Here's what the setup looks like. You might be curious to know. You see the larger satellite dish off to the left there. That is a CNN satellite truck. And we are backed up right up against the hotel where we are staying here. A lot of other news media as well, to give it as much protection as we can, as the evening goes on, because we'll be out here all night to see how things go. Right now it isn't bad. Again, very little traffic. So apparently people are heeding that evacuation order, or if they haven't left in this low-lying area, they're staying close to home.

Marty, back to you.

SAVIDGE: All right, Susan, thanks very much. We will keep talking to you throughout the evening.

PHILLIPS: When we come back, we're going to take you live to Atlantic City, New Jersey.


PHILLIPS: All right. Let's get straight to our Jason Carroll live in Atlantic City, New Jersey. We haven't talked to him for about an hour now.

Jason, how have conditions changed and what's the status there?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, actually, feeling a little bit better, Kyra. We're getting a bit of a lull here, a bit of a break, because we've just been hammered here in Atlantic City, experiencing tropical storm force winds up here, gauging up to 50 miles per hour.

At one point, we were out there, actually, out there on the beach with the area where we were standing, Kyra, has now been overtaken by the sea. We're out here on the boardwalk here in Atlantic City.

As you know, all of the casinos have been shut down. The city is under a mandatory evacuation, and most people out here heeding that warning, but not everyone. The governor of the state basically spoke about a number of seniors who they've had some difficulty in getting to actually leave the city. Well, we caught up with a group of 92 seniors who are holed up at their apartment building just a few blocks from here. Listen to why they are choosing to stay.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We come from hearty stock. We ain't moving.

CARROLL: You're not moving?


CARROLL: Clearly, that is the case.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's it. This is the best reality show you're going to get.

CARROLL: But in all seriousness, are any of you concerned about the storm?

I'm sorry, ma'am, what? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Only our children. My son says he's going to have me committed. But he lives in Georgia, so what does he know?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're not frivolous about this. We take this very seriously. But the alternative is a nightmare.

CARROLL: The alternative being, being in a shelter for you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not only being in a shelter, not knowing where we will be. Not knowing where we will be. Our health does not permit most of the opportunities have been offered to us. And I think that's serious. We haven't heard anything from the top level that takes that into account.


CARROLL: And obviously, you heard their concerns there. They don't want to be taken to a shelter that's far away from their homes, but emergency officials clearly have concerns about those seniors who are staying here in the area.

The overwhelming majority of the people here in the city, Kyra, have chosen to leave, taking that warning very seriously. And in fact, just about a little more than an hour ago, as you know, we had an opportunity to speak to the city's mayor. Here's what he had to say about the city's mandatory evacuation.


MAYOR LORENZO LANGFORD, ATLANTIC CITY, NEW JERSEY: We've made three sweeps and the most recent sweep probably was the last one. We encourage people as best we could. We admonished them to leave while they could. Once this water starts to rise and emergency vehicles are not able to reach a potential problem, basically, they're going to be on their own. So we just hope that as many people heeded the warning as should have.


CARROLL: All right, the worst of the storm expected to hit us some time tomorrow morning, starting at about 4:00 a.m. Of course, we will be out here in a spot that we deem to be safe. Once again, the city feels as though they are prepared for what Irene has to bring.


PHILLIPS: And Jason, of course we're taking this in an extreme serious matter, but leave it to you to find the feistiest senior citizens in this entire scenario, and telling you that they're not going to go.

CARROLL: Yes. 92 of them, if you can believe it. And -- but there is a serious component to this. I mean, one of the seniors told me that some of them have bad backs. Some of them have medical issues. They're worried about being put on cots. They're worried about being taken an hour more than -- an hour away from their homes. I did impress upon them that the concern is for their life, for their safety, and having emergency officials having to come back and get them if it turns into a real emergency situation. But it's hard to tell a 60, you know, 70-year-old woman who has lived through just about everything what she can do and when she can do it.

Yes. Isn't that the truth?

PHILLIPS: Jason Carroll, in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Appreciate it. We'll be checking in with you, obviously, throughout the morning.

SAVIDGE: We'll take a break and be back with more after this.