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Hurricane Irene Coverage: As Many as 65 Million People Expected to be Impacted; Interview With Hoboken, New Jersey Mayor Dawn Zimmer; Interview With Stamford, Connecticut Mayor Michael Pavia; Interview With National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read

Aired August 27, 2011 - 13:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: We're in a new hour right now, 1:00 Eastern time. Hello, again, everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta.

Hurricane Irene is ashore, particularly on the North Carolina coast, and as many as 65 million people all along the Eastern Seaboard are going to be impacted in some way, shape or form by Irene. And many people are already trying to find shelter where they can.

Take a look at the size of this storm. Eight states from North Carolina to Massachusetts are under states of emergency. And right now, this first hurricane of the season that is impacting so much of the East Coast is pummeling North Carolina. It barreled ashore on the Outer Banks of North Carolina just after dawn this morning, about five miles northeast of Cape Lookout.

It is now down to a Category 1 hurricane with maximum winds of 85 miles per hour, still very significant. Make no mistake, it is a very powerful storm and it is still very dangerous. There have been two storm-related deaths in North Carolina reported so far, and we're seeing a lot of fierce winds and drenching rains there. Parts of the region haven't seen a storm like this in decades. We're talking about along the Eastern Seaboard.

CNN has crews up and down the East Coast. Take a look right there at the reinforcements we have dotting the map along the East Coast there. You'll be hearing from many of them this afternoon.

So right now, President Barack Obama is at FEMA headquarters in Washington. And that's where all the disaster and relief efforts are being coordinated. Officials say they're expecting everything from flooding to power outages and possibly tornadoes along the Eastern Seaboard.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These will not be on the ground very long. They won't be the (INAUDIBLE) tornadoes we saw this spring. But they can still be very devastating. That's why we're asking people that are outside the evacuation zones during the storm to stay inside, stay away from exterior walls and windows, interior areas, just like you would prepare for tornadoes. JANET NAPOLITANO, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Irene remains a large and dangerous storm. People need to take it seriously. People need to be prepared. As we have suggested during the week, think of this in three phases -- preparation, response and recovery. Some of our states are now moving into the response mode, but other states, as you are further north along the Atlantic seacoast, are still in preparation mode.


WHITFIELD: All right, let's get to North Carolina, Kill Devil Hills. You can see right there, there's Reynolds Wolf being --


WHITFIELD: -- smacked around quite a bit by some pretty significant winds. Tell us more, Reynolds.

WOLF: I'll tell you, it really has been intensifying. The wind has just been insane.

Jules (ph), over here. Check out the sign. It says, "Please do not remove deck furniture." They got one thing (ph) of deck furniture here. I'm glad the hotel (INAUDIBLE) and moved the rest because if they hadn't, I'm telling you, Irene would probably do it for them.

The wind has been the most intense thing we've noticed over the last couple of hours. Pretty interesting that we haven't had a whole lot of rain here. Sure, there's been some water that's been picked up off the coast due to the wind and brought on shore, but it's really just the sand and it is the wind we've been experiencing.

Something else we've been experiencing across the Outer Banks has been something that's been caused by the wind, power outages, widespread power outages. In fact, at this point, hundreds of thousands of people, in fact, possibly upwards of 300,000 people without power across the Tar Heel state.

I would expect that's going to get worse as time goes on because this is not just going to stay here. At this pulls northward, we're going to be affected by the back half of this system. And that's going to knock down a few more power lines, a few more trees and with that (INAUDIBLE) power outages.

Power's not the only problem though. Drinking water is now an issue, too. There's already been a boiled water alert for parts of the communities right along the Outer Banks. That may also move to other parts of the state and other parts of the region.

Another issue that we have to help keep people safe, in the community of Duck, North Carolina, they have a mandatory curfew that will last until Monday.

In terms of people getting out and about, there haven't been (INAUDIBLE) for a few people, like us and the fellows (ph) we have right behind us that walked past us -- there haven't been a whole lot of people out and about. That's the good news. They want people to remain inside, Fredricka, if at all possible.

(INAUDIBLE) there have been a few things (ph) moving. Irene is certainly moving. In fact, she's not nailed to the ground (ph). She's going to be moving way up the coast, right to New York, right to my friend, Poppy Harlow. Poppy's got the very latest. Let's send it over to her.

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: Reynolds, you've got the wind, I've got the rain. This is the heaviest rain we've had in New York City yet. But folks, if you're in New York and watching, expect a lot more for a long time.

We are at the southernmost tip of New York, in Battery Park City. This is part of Zone A that is being evacuated. If you look behind me once this car moves, you're going to see a lot of taxis waiting here. They've been filled with people throughout the day. You've got massive, massive apartment buildings here with mandatory evacuations, 370,000 people in New York City, mandatory evacuation for them, the first-ever this city has seen.

I myself live a few blocks from here. I had to evacuate at about 4:00 o'clock this morning. So this is no joke.

Just a little while ago, we had a chance to talk to the Manhattan borough president. He's really in charge of this whole area, right under Mike Bloomberg, the mayor. I want you to take a listen to what he said, especially to those people that are not heeding the warning to evacuate.

Take a listen.


SCOTT STRINGER, PRESIDENT, MANHATTAN BOROUGH: You should take this very seriously. You should heed the recommendation, which is if you live in a vulnerable zone, in this case, Battery Park City in lower Manhattan, now's the time to pack up your belongings and hit the road because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And we are working all day today to make sure that people understand that this is a very serious situation.

No need to panic. No need to get unglued. But if you follow simple recommendations, we will get through this.


HARLOW: Now, the biggest change right now since we've been reporting since 5:00 AM this morning, Fredricka, is that all of New York City public transit is now completely shut down. The MTA, the subway, which carries 5 million New Yorkers a day -- it is shut down for the foreseeable future, until this storm passes and they can take care of any flooding. The buses -- they carry 2.7 million New Yorkers a day -- those are all shut down. People are relying now on Yellow Cabs and they're relying on their feet to walk wherever they're going to go.

I will tell you that it's been interesting to hear from people here that say, We think this is hype, we think it's overblown, we don't think that we need to evacuate. We will see what the recommendation is from the mayor's office.

You've got to get out. When I talked to the mayor's office last, they said that there could be a storm surge anywhere between 6 and 12 feet. We're a block here from the water. You can imagine what that water from New York harbor coming in would be like, all three sides of where I am standing now are completely surrounded in water. And people tend to forget, if you're not from here, you're not from New York, Manhattan is an island. We are particularly vulnerable. People in low-lying areas need to move out, Fred.

WHITFIELD: So Poppy, I wonder, too, for a lot of the cabbies who are lined up behind you, you know, to take people out -- Mayor Bloomberg also mentioned all the bridges are going to be closed at some point, too.

So are a lot of the cabbies concerned that they're only going to take you perhaps to upper Manhattan, as opposed to taking you out of the borough completely because they may not be able to make their way back in?

HARLOW: So we're not there yet, Fredricka. What will happen is the major bridges and tunnels into New York City will close if the winds hits 60 miles an hour. We're not feeling the wind yet, but if this storm stays a Category 1, obviously, that wind could be well above 60 miles an hour. So that will happen.

People need to move inland. They can go right now -- they can cross the bridges into New Jersey, et cetera, or they can move into -- I'm staying in midtown Manhattan, for example, near Central Park. That is still considered a safe area. You're on much higher ground and you're away from the water.

But yes, those bridges, those tunnels will close if winds exceed -- one thing I want to mention -- this is very important. When it comes to power, electricity, if there is significant enough flooding in lower Manhattan, we're told by Con Edison, the power company that provides the power here, that they may have to cut off power completely to lower Manhattan.

They're having a press conference shortly. We're going to be listening in, monitoring that. We'll bring you the latest. But what that means is that elevators in big buildings like this shut down. The building behind me, they're preemptively cutting their elevator service off at 5:00 PM. So people that live on the 25th, 30th floor, they're not going to have an elevator to get down.

So that is another reason why people need to evacuate, Fredricka, is the loss of power.

WHITFIELD: All right. That's right. All right, Poppy Harlow, thanks so much, in lower Manhattan. Appreciate that.

All right, so it may seem very unusual, and it is, but it isn't the first time a hurricane has actually taken aim at New York City. It's just been quite a few decades. Take a look at these pictures from the great New England hurricane of 1938. It was a Category 3 storm. At least 682 people were killed and the damage estimated at $4.7 billion in today's dollars, that is.

And six years after that took place, another hurricane lashed New York, and 390 people died in that one. Most of them were out at sea. Early warnings and evacuations spared hundreds of lives on shore.

So as you heard Poppy Harlow just report, about an hour ago, New York City began shutting down its public transit system. And it is bracing for this direct hit. The city's mayor says airports are also closed to incoming flights. New York's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, says he simply doesn't want people to take any chances.


MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK CITY: You can't prepare for the best case, you have to prepare for the worst case. And that's why yesterday, we issued a mandatory evacuation order for the more than 370,000 New Yorkers residing in the low-lying areas, called zone A areas, and in the rest of the Rockaways, which is classified as zone B. The difference with zone B and zone A -- zone B is higher, but the Rockaways are a special case because if the bridges get closed, there's no ways off the island and it would be very difficult for us to provide emergency services.


WHITFIELD: All right, so just a little bit more on those bridges. If the wind hits 60 miles an hour, the city says it will start closing bridges, including a couple of the big ones, the George Washington and the Triborough bridge. Tolls in and out of New York have already been suspended to ease the flow of cars out of the city, as people need to evacuate based on those warnings, particularly in that zone A-type area.

So the Statue of Liberty -- that, too, of course, will be closed today as a precaution in the wake of Hurricane Irene. The city wants to assess the storm's impact before opening it up again to visitors, when that happens. So likely, it will be closed at least through Monday.

Our Jacqui Jeras is in the CNN Hurricane Headquarters. She is tracking Irene's path, still hovering around North Carolina, but all those cities and states northward are still putting their preparations in place because we're talking about the most populous portion of the entire nation.

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. And they need to hurry up and do it because there's not a lot of time left. And since you've been talking so much on New York City, let's go ahead and focus in on that for a minute and some of those criteria that you were talking about if the bridges have to close down at 60 miles per hour, how is that water going to be and where's the storm going to be tracking.

Right now, I do want to tell you that the news today for New York City does look a lot better than it did yesterday. Now, that said, this is still a major storm and we're going to have major impacts for it. We do think the storm will be east of New York City, and that's going to put us on what we call the "good side" of the storm. Means much of our winds are going to be offshore and that our impact is going to be a little bit less.

We're expecting those winds to be near that 60-mile-an-hour threshold, I'm thinking somewhere between 50 and 65-mile-per-hour, with possibly some gusts greater than that. Timing-wise, you can already see in here, we've got the showers, we've got the thundershowers. This is just the start. And the tropical storm-force winds, they think, are going to be arriving by this evening, with the peak of this storm early tomorrow morning, probably starting before dawn and continuing into the early afternoon before things start to subside a little bit by tomorrow.

Let's show you were that storm is now. In the latest statistics, in case you're just checking in, this is a Category 1 storm now, winds 85 miles per hour. For this to be a hurricane, it has to have 74-mile- per-hour maximum sustained winds. So we're in the middle of that category. There's been some weakening for a couple of different reasons. We've had some dry air which has been entraining into that storm. We've had a little bit of wind shear on the southwest side of the storm. And some additional weakening can be expected.

Now, that said, it is still forecast to be a Category 1 as it makes its way upshore. Normally, you don't think -- Category 1, how bad is it going to be? But part of the reason why this one is going to be worse than your typical Category 1 is because of its size. When you get a storm this big -- this thing stretches out more than 800 miles across, when you look at just the cloud field of it. When it's that big, the storm surge gets to be greater.

We're looking at the latest forecast for New York City and up into Long Island, probably somewhere between three and six feet. That's the most recent projection that we're expecting with that water. But it depends on how high it goes on whether or not it coincides with high tide. Right now, it's looking like it's going to be close to that.

It will be moving through parts of the Northeast and New England, let's say, by the afternoon here. On Sunday and by Monday, the whole thing is going to be out of that.

Now, in addition to the water from the surge and those wind impacts that I was talking about, the rainfall. This is going to be a bigger story than anything else for the large majority of the people that are being impacted by the storm, not necessarily the number one life- threatening thing for those of you on the coast, but look at this in the interior. We're talking about 6 to 10 inches of rainfall, easy. Isolated amounts will be up to 15.

So if you live in a low-lying area, if you live along a river or small creek that tends to go out of its banks on a regular basis, we are going to see those begin to rise once again and a lot of flash flooding. We've already had reports down here into the Outer Banks, as much as 10 to 15 inches. And that's just happened in the last 24 hours. So we think that this forecast is going to verify (ph), and that will be a major threat.

So Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York, on up into Boston, all are going to be dealing with these concerns. This is a long-impact storm, Fredricka. And unfortunately, a lot of times these hurricanes will accelerate a lot as they move through the Northeast. This one isn't going to pick up that much forward speed, and that's why the rainfall is going to be so heavy.

And see, you know, New York City, as we were talking about them -- they're going to feel this storm for a good 24-plus hours. That's not, you know, the hurricane conditions. But they're going to feel it for at least that long.

WHITFIELD: Oh, yes. And you know, the folks along the North Carolina coast are feeling it in a very big way, particularly the very low- lying area of Elizabeth Beach -- Elizabeth City, rather, North Carolina. Let's take a look right now. Our affiliate there, News 14 Carolina, is covering that area right now. Look at the live pictures they're getting of the wind and the rain right now. Let's listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're starting to see a lot of flooding. And that's really the main concern that we're dealing with here in Elizabeth City. They're worried about storm surge about 3 to 5 feet aboveground. Now, there was a mandatory evacuation issued yesterday for all those residents living in about -- in the low-lying areas. We hope that people living by creeks, rivers took precaution and evacuated yesterday because it would just simply be unsafe to be out riding around in these conditions right now.

Believe it or not, a lot of people from the Outer Banks escaped inland here to Elizabeth City. Hotels are booked throughout the weekend with people who escaped the storm from there. They'll try to ride it out here, along with us. Reporting from Elizabeth City, Julie Fertig (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have crews spread out across the state, as we have shown. One of the areas hardest hit was the Carteret County and the Crystal Coast. Right now, the county manager --

WHITFIELD: All right, we continue to bring you some affiliate coverage along the Eastern Seaboard so you can get a better idea of exactly what people are experiencing in some of these areas, particularly in North Carolina, where they're already feeling and still feeling the brunt of Hurricane Irene.

More of our continuing coverage of Hurricane Irene after this.


WHITFIELD: We want to continue our look of (ph) Hurricane Irene. Sometimes it's difficult to get some perspective about what the wind and the waves might be doing. Take a look at this image right here. You see that sailboat being kind of bounced around quite a bit there. This is Morehead Beach -- Morehead City, North Carolina. Well, earlier this morning, all eyes were on this particular area as the outer bands of the hurricane were moving in. You can see the wind, the rain. And then, presto, out of nowhere, you no longer see that sailboat, presumably it being taken over and overcome by the wind and the waves there, Morehead city, North Carolina.

Once again, Hurricane Irene still kind of hovering along the North Carolina coast. It's making its way north. And when it does, it's also going to be impacting the nation's capital, Washington, D.C., already starting to come to a grinding halt in anticipation of Hurricane Irene -- pictures right now, kind of ominous look there of the Washington Monument on that Washington Mall, not far from the monument there.

There was to be a pretty sizable dedication of the Martin Luther King memorial to take place this weekend. Well, all that now on hold as a result of Hurricane Irene. People are also throughout the city being relocated, specifically from Walter Reed medical hospital to the Naval hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. That's where a number of Army injured -- a number of military injured have been for a long time, at Walter Reed, now being relocated, all in anticipation of this state of emergency now declared by the mayor of the city.

Athena Jones is also live in Washington, D.C.

And, Athena, the relocation of a number of those veterans -- that was to take place anyway just from some restructuring of how the war injured are being treated. But they just accelerated it quite a bit because of Hurricane Irene, right?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. They've been planning to close down Walter Reed. This is the last transfer -- the last set of patients to be transferred. They were planning on doing it tomorrow. But instead, they moved it up by a day. This all took place this morning between about 7:00 and 9:00 AM They transferred 18 patients in 18 ambulances from Walter Reed to the Navy Medical Center in Bethesda.

As I said, this closing of the hospital has been long planned. They just wanted to shift the transfer up to get ahead of the storm, several different kinds of inpatient-type people, people who may have been critically injured. I believe there were four critically injured, nine wounded warriors among the people who were transported.

And as you mentioned, of course, this postponement now of this big deal ceremony that was to take place tomorrow, the dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr., memorial. This is a memorial that was more than 25 years in the making, and there were thousands of people expected to descend on the Mall, at the memorial site down there by the Tidal Basin, for this dedication. That's going to have to be postponed.

But people here in the city are preparing as well as they can for the storm. The city's been handing out sandbags. Yesterday, they distributed 7,000 sandbags and ran out by about 5:00 o'clock. And so they've been distributing more of those sandbags today. And I talked earlier with the D.C. Fire and EMS chief about what people should do to prepare for the storm. Let's listen to what he had to say, Fred.


CHIEF KENNETH ELLERBE, D.C. FIRE & EMERGENCY MEDICAL SVCS.: The message for them is make sure they have D cell batteries, have flashlights, have water, have enough food to get them through the weekend, and sometimes get enough cash just in the event that they do need money because if power goes out, the ATM machines may not be working.


JONES: And that point about getting cash was a good one, the kind of thing people may not be thinking about. Last point is that Pepco and other electricity companies have been warning people that you may lose power for some period of time. I got a flyer under my door last night saying that it could take, you know, as much as 24 hours just for crews to go out and assess the damage and who needs to be reconnected. So people are being asked to stock up on food, as the chief mentioned, batteries, and sit tight, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And don't forget that manual can opener because if you don't have power, you can't use your electric can opener to get to that canned food. That's something people always forget.

JONES: Exactly.

WHITFIELD: Remember it this time! All right, Athena Jones, thanks so much, from the nation's capital.

We're going to have much more of our continuing coverage of Hurricane Irene as it makes its way up the northeastern coast right after this.


WHITFIELD: All right, right now, much of the Eastern Seaboard is now bracing for Hurricane Irene. Pictures right now from our affiliate WAVY out of Norfolk. Let's listen in to what they're saying about the damage that's been caused already.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you're getting to the point now, Art, where the water is reaching up to your headlights. That's a mixture of salt water, and that's very bad for the vehicle. Also, it's just downright unsafe for you. You're going to have to figure out when you're going to pull over and just, you know, try to stay safe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, eventually, what my plan is, Tom, is I'm going to try to work my way back to my friend, Jim Hilligath (ph), in town. He called us and alerted us to this in the first place. A lot of thanks to him for that. But that's probably -- if I can make it back there, that's where I'm going to probably try to seek shelter for tonight. So Jim, if you're listening to this, I hope you're expecting me. (LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to find a very wet Art Kahn (ph) on your front door.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly! Art, thanks so much. We appreciate you joining us. We're going to talk to Art a little bit later. We're going to --

WHITFIELD: So our affiliate coverage there from WAVY. They're based out of Norfolk. It's unclear whether that damage was from a North Carolina coastal community or if, indeed, Hurricane Irene is already causing some damage there on the Virginia coastline.

So meantime, so many states under a state of emergency, including New Jersey. And the city of Hoboken, as well -- that's a place that's not accustomed to this kind of storm. Authorities do hope that residents heed the warning and get out of town. Evacuation orders in New Jersey, in New York, in Connecticut.

We're going to get to that whole tri-state area, but let's zero in Hoboken, New Jersey, right now. Mayor Dawn Zimmer is on the line with us to give us the latest. So ordered some evacuations.

And were people paying attention? Were they respecting that order?

MAYOR DAWN ZIMMER, HOBOKEN, NJ (via telephone): Some people are respecting that order. Some people are heeding that warning. But people are most concerned about right now -- we are very focused on our seniors and making sure that they understand that it's very important that they go to the shelters. Those that are on -- what we have -- the situation we have is that a number of seniors who are on oxygen, and they don't understand that, you know, the electricity can go out and that if the electricity goes out, we won't be able to get to them and help them and save them.

So we are on -- we're focused on saving lives right now in Hoboken. We've got teams of people going out again. I mean, we've already gone and knocked on these people's doors. But we're -- you know, I'm going around. We're, you know, bringing in the police. We just want to make sure that they're safe. And we're providing, you know, transportation for them to our shelters where we have those back-up generators.

But especially in the housing authority area, where I am right now, we always -- we have severe flooding here all the time. So it's very likely that the back-up generators for these buildings are going to flood. We're just not (INAUDIBLE) We're doing everything we can to prevent that, but if the flood waters get to those back-up generators, and you know, we've got a lot of seniors down here who are on oxygen, we won't be able to save them. So we're trying to save them right now in these critical hours.

WHITFIELD: So you and others are knocking on doors. What are people saying when they answer the door? Are they taking this seriously, or do they feel rather kind of complacent about it all?

ZIMMER: Well, they're scared. I mean, they're scared. And so we're trying to reassure them that, you know, this is -- I know it's an inconvenience to go to a shelter, but this is the safest place for them. And it's better to have a little bit of inconvenience than to risk your life.

And that's the message that I'm trying to take to them as urgently as I can and trying to persuade them, you know, It's going to be OK. We're going to provide you direct transportation to those shelters. We're going to take care of you at the shelters. We're going to bring you back when, you know, everything is back to normal, you know, when we get the electricity back.

But we're just trying to make sure to keep -- you know, keep our residents safe and keep our seniors safe. And that's what we're very focused on right now.

WHITFIELD: All right, Hoboken mayor Dawn Zimmer. I know you've got your work cut out for you. Thanks so much. We'll check back with you throughout the day and maybe perhaps even tomorrow to see how things have been faring.

All right, more now on that whole --

ZIMMER: Thanks so much.

WHITFIELD: Thanks so much.

More on that whole tri-state area, New Jersey, Connecticut and then soon New York. Connecticut -- it too, is in Irene's path. The state's governor there is urging residents to take this storm very seriously, just like the Hoboken mayor is. Well, he says -- talking about the government now -- says that people should feel the impact not just for days but for weeks.

Well, joining us right now by phone from Stamford, Connecticut, the city's mayor, Michael Pavia.

So, Mr. Mayor, how are you getting the word out there, and what are people saying? How are people reacting?

MAYOR MICHAEL PAVIA, STAMFORD, CT (via telephone): We are, Fredricka, using every means possible to get the word out. We have, as you know, in the city of Stamford, some low-lying areas, a number of areas along floodplains of our rivers. And those are the areas that we're focusing on right now.

We will have police details riding up and down the streets. We have our electronic message boards out at key intersections. We are using Twitter. We're using our Web site. We're using every conceivable method to get the word out that high winds, tremendous amounts of water, and coinciding with high tides are about to beset us.

And we need to alert everyone in primarily low-lying areas and flood- prone areas that they should get out. If they don't get out, they could be -- find themselves isolated. And that's the biggest risk that they have right now.

WHITFIELD: For the most part, people in that area have their own vehicles. They may not be relying on mass transit, just like, you know, your neighbors in New York City might be. But for those who perhaps don't have vehicles, can't get to higher ground, can't get to the shelters, what kind of assistance, if any, you know, is your city able to offer?

PAVIA: We have situations like that right now that we're about to implement. Stamford Fire and Rescue, our fire companies will be removing people from elderly housing, particularly those that are lying within the floodplain of our rivers here. We're going to be taking them away so that the worst-case scenario doesn't happen, and that is that they actually get flooded and we have to rescue them during that flood event.

So we're taking that precaution. And anyone else that needs assistance getting in -- sorry -- getting out of their homes or getting out of certain areas where they were, we're happy to do that. We will provide that evacuation.

WHITFIELD: I lived in your lovely state back when Hurricane Hugo was threatening the coastal area there. And I remember people were very die-hard about wanting to stay in their coastal communities there in Connecticut. Is it different this time around?

PAVIA: Connecticut -- provincial Connecticut, as they call it. No, that's one of the things we face. In fact, when we were talking about ordering mandatory evacuation versus just strongly advising evacuation, we came to the conclusion within a few minutes that many people don't want to leave their homes, and that's something that I don't know how we get through to. But it is a problem.

If, in fact, there's going to be a flood and we ask people to leave their homes, or there's going to be a serious event that occurs, we cannot guarantee that they're going to do it voluntarily.

WHITFIELD: Mayor Michael Pavia, thanks so much. We know you have your work cut out for you, as well, there in the Northeast. Thanks so much for your time. All the best.

All right, the director of the National Hurricane Center is joining us live next here on CNN as we continue to watch the path of Hurricane Irene.


WHITFIELD: All right, more of our continuing coverage of Hurricane Irene right now. Take a look at these images right here. We're looking at a pier that has been battered for more than 24 hours now, Atlantic Beach. If you recall seeing some of the earlier images yesterday, perhaps you could see that pylon way in the rear. That pier extended to about that point. Well, it's been battered quite a bit from Hurricane Irene, getting chopped off a little bit there. That's how fierce the wind and the waves and the rain is thus far. Let's find out exactly where Hurricane Irene is. We know that it's been battering the North Carolina coast and perhaps now even the Virginia coast, as well.

Bill Read is the director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida. Give us a better perspective about where it is and where it's causing the most damage right now.

BILL READ, DIR., NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Yes, Fredricka. It's centered here, just coming out -- the center is just coming northeastward out of Pamlico Sound in eastern North Carolina. And you can see by the color bands of rain moving around it that all of eastern North Carolina is being impacted.

The highest winds will be in the area's center there, certainly gusts to hurricane-force and widespread sustained tropical storm-force. We've had a lot of reports of tidal flooding from the storm surge all through the area around the sounds and on the immediate coast.

And of course, now it's moving northward across northeast North Carolina, and the impacts will shift northward into the Tidewater area of Virginia, Norfolk, Hampton Road (ph) and then the Eastern Shore and up the Delmarva.

WHITFIELD: OK, in about 15 seconds or less because we're about to hear from the president of the United States from the White House, is this storm doing about what was predicted?

READ: Yes, ma'am, it has. We've had reports of over 17 inches of rain near New Bern in North Carolina. The big rain, the surge has been what we've expected. And it's on track for the rest of the Northeast.

WHITFIELD: All right, Bill Read, director of the National Hurricane Center, thanks so much. So once again, that hurricane is battering both the North Carolina coast, as well as Virginia.

And now to the White House and these taped images and sound from the president of the United States. He actually was at FEMA headquarters. Let's listen in.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- beginning tomorrow morning at 7:00 o'clock and run 24 hours as long as we need to. Our FEMA liaison, Rich Quigland (ph), here and FTO (ph) Craig Gilbert (ph) are here, embedded with us, and they have been a super help for the last week.

Our electric utilities are bringing in extra crews from the west and out of Canada to help them. Our two largest utilities have actually doubled their number of crews, using these private contractors from the U.S. and Canada. Weather Service is saying that every river in the state will probably flood over the next two days, so we're preparing for that. Our swift-water rescue teams are pre-deployed. They'll be in place by noon tomorrow. And the National Guard is also standing by, ready to support us (INAUDIBLE) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Any additional items that you need or any additional support from FEMA that is still -- you're still waiting on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, there isn't. (INAUDIBLE) field office here in the state from previous declarations that you gave us from spring flooding, everything we can ask for and we've needed has been right there. It's been a great relationship.

OBAMA: Terrific. Well, before we leave the regional reports, let me just mention the folks from Maryland had asked about the pre-landfall declaration, and just I want to confirm that that has been approved. So when Governor O'Malley shows up, you're going to be able to tell him that that's gotten done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he'll be here momentarily. Thank you very much for your support.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) Mr. President (INAUDIBLE) the states that have been impacted. And as you heard, North Carolina's getting ready to respond. Virginia's getting the heavy rain. The rest of them are either getting very close to the response (INAUDIBLE) storm hits or they're still in the preparation phase. Again, we'll follow this storm literally up the I-95 corridor. But again, your team here at FEMA -- we're in support of the governors. And the secretary has been in contact with the governors (INAUDIBLE) As they told you, we didn't start today. We've been doing this now since early in the week, and that builds that relationship, so as we start the response, we're not starting new. We're not just meeting each other. We've been working these issues as a team.

OBAMA: I just want to say to the team, to Janet and Craig, but everybody seated around the table, each conversation I've had with state and local officials, they've confirmed to me that the relationship with FEMA has been outstanding. The interagency communication at the federal level has been outstanding.

They recognize this is going to be a tough slog getting through this thing, but they are very appreciative of, you know, the outstanding work that all of you have done and the preparation that's been taking place. So -- and I have not yet heard from any of the regions, as we just listened to, anybody who's suggesting that we haven't done everything we can on this front. And that's a testament to the good work you guys have done.

That's on the preparation stage. Obviously, we're going to have to make sure on the response and recovery phase that we are just as effective and on top of it. But fortunately, because, I think, of the strong relationship that has been formed now, they don't seem to be hesitant about asking for stuff, and we're turning it around pretty quick here at (INAUDIBLE) I appreciate it.

It's going to be a long 72 hours. And obviously, a lot of families are going to be affected. What we heard -- the biggest concern I'm having right now has to do with flooding and power. Sounds like that's going to be an enormous strain on a lot of states. And that may take days, even longer in some cases, depending on what the path of the storm is, I think. So we're really going to have to stay on top of the recovery (INAUDIBLE) response and recovery (INAUDIBLE) of this thing. So Janet, anything you want to add?

NAPOLITANO: No, Mr. President. I think you've nailed it. We are just at really the end of the beginning, and now we're going into phase 2.

OBAMA: Anything else (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, sir, Mr. President. Again, just on behalf of the team, I just appreciate you came over and just thanked the folks working in those rooms. (INAUDIBLE) the unseen faces. I get to represent them. The secretary represents them. The fact (INAUDIBLE) I just appreciate that. That goes a long way. We got a long ways to go, and they know it. And they're going to be here working to support you and the citizens (INAUDIBLE)

OBAMA: Thank you very much, everybody.

WHITFIELD: All right, it's just the beginning, but just a look there at the coordination between the executive branch of government, the federal emergency response and even state governments as they prepare and respond to all that's taking place up and down the Eastern Seaboard as Hurricane Irene continues to threaten the East Coast. We'll have much more of our continuing coverage of Hurricane Irene after this.


WHITFIELD: All right, Hurricane Irene is battering both the North Carolina coast and Virginia coast right now.

Let's zero in on Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, where we find our John Zarrella.

John, how's it looking right now?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know what, Fredricka? The wind is not as bad. The rain is not as bad. It's still coming down and it's still blowing, but not as bad as it was a couple of hours ago.

And you recall where I was standing just an hour ago, an hour-and-a- half ago, the water was up above my knees. So it has receded dramatically. And where it came from was right out there. That's the Bogue Sound. And the wind, when it changed directions, instead of the water coming up, the storm surge from the Atlantic Ocean, which it did overnight, the water started to come up from the Bogue Sound.

Now, you walk this way a little bit, Mike Miller (ph), my cameraman -- all these houses -- you can see this house back over here. That garage on that second house over there was about a third of the way under water just a couple of hours ago. Take a look at this. This is the debris that blew up all the way from the sound. This is somebody's dock, Fredricka, a piece of someone's dock out there in the sound. Another piece of debris. And look out here. All of this -- we've got to watch for nails, and there's plenty of those. All of this debris blew all the way up here from the sound and across the road. That's how high the water was here a couple of hours ago.

But you can see also how quickly the water can recede and go down, which is fortunate. But you know, it's important to point out for all of the viewers, your viewers along the middle Atlantic coast and the New England coast, if you live near the water, this is something that you may not see but you might see in the next 24 hours or so. And we've been going through these conditions here since yesterday afternoon, so we're closing in on about 24 hours that we've had these kinds of conditions here, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Things tend to get out of place with these hurricanes. And even there, you know, just looking at the map -- because we were talking to Mr. Read of the National Hurricane Center and he was saying that, you know, still -- the North Carolina coast is still getting kind of the tail end of this hurricane. You're not quite out of the woods yet.

ZARRELLA: No, not at all. And the tidal flooding, as he mentioned in that interview with you, that's what we saw here, was this tidal flooding that came in from the Bogue Sound. And no, by no means are you out of the woods here in the Carolinas, and certainly it's not the time for people to be out assessing the damage on their homes or their property.

In fact, most everybody here has evacuated, you know, this little neighborhood here. There's a couple of folks we did see standing in their windows earlier. But for the most part, everybody in this area did what they were told to do, mandatory evacuation here on this island. Curfew in place on this island. And most of them heeded the warnings and they did get out -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Yes, still a dangerous storm, still a potentially deadly storm. In fact, John Zarrella there at Atlantic Beach, we're getting information from officials -- from state officials in North Carolina confirming now that three people, in fact, have died from this storm. And again, storm not over yet. So that very sobering information coming from North Carolina state officials.

John Zarrella, we're going to check back with you. Thanks so much.

Of course, we have correspondents all up and down the East Coast. And we're getting a lost images, too, from many of you, iReporters who are sending in pictures and stories as they have been preparing for Irene, as they're now witnessing Irene do its thing along the East Coast.

Josh Levs has been going through all of this new material.

What do you have for us, Josh? JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fred, it's true, we're getting sobering news from North Carolina. At the same time, we're also hearing from some people in North Carolina that say, You know what? Not as bad as they feared.

Take a look at this video that we've just gotten from iReport. This one's coming to us from Nashville, North Carolina, that we're going to play to you, from a computer. And this is from Dan Fields, who says that he saw some flooding, but that overall, it's been relatively mild, what he saw.

He said a lot of tree limbs are down and debris and that where he is, in his area -- and not over yet. We're going to repeat that. It is not over yet. We certainly don't want anyone who is still in the path of Irene to think, oh, it's not a big deal.

But for his experience, and for this particular area, they said it did not strike them as badly as they had feared -- that one coming to us right now, brand-new iReport.

And the reason we're getting that is what's on my screen behind me. We have a system set up today called "Open Story." And it's on the main page of And the way it's working is we are taking your iReports as they come in and you are helping us tell the story. And these iReports are literally following the path of Irene, bringing us photos and videos from inside.

Let's look at some of the photos that have come up. This one, I tried to show you last hour, let's take a look here, really striking. This is a boat parked outside a hospital in Baltimore. This is from Dagmawi Tilahun, who wanted us to know that the officials there are taking this threat very, very seriously. They have a boat ready outside the hospital.

We got a lot more images coming to you from iReport. We also have a lot coming to you from social media. I'm on Facebook and Twitter. We're following everything you send us. And Fred, I'll have more images for you next hour.

WHITFIELD: Oh, Good. We look forward to that. Thanks so much, Josh.

LEVS: You got it.

WHITFIELD: And our Jacqui Jeras is going to be along to give us an idea exactly where Hurricane Irene is now and what it's expected to do over the next 24 hours or so. We'll be right back with much more of our continuing coverage of Hurricane Irene.


WHITFIELD: All right, Hurricane Irene continues to make its way up the coast of North America. Jacqui Jeras now in the hurricane headquarters. This is impacting a whole lot of people, not if you just live along the Eastern Seaboard, but this is going to impact people really across the country. JERAS: Yes, this goes well inland. It's a very large storm. In fact, the cloud field is about 850 miles wide right now. And as you take a look at this image, you can just see how huge and how massive this thing is. And as it makes its way out of the Pamlico Sound and heading on up north towards Elizabeth City, and then eventually up towards Virginia Beach, it's a Category 1 storm right now, maximum winds 85 miles per hour, kind of in the mid-range of Category 1 storms.

And it has weakened just a little since, you know, earlier this morning, but we're expecting very little additional weakening, so we need to be prepared for that Cat 1 as it moves through the mid- Atlantic today and then heads into the Northeast as we head in tomorrow.

Let's talk a little bit more about this impact, OK? This is a computer model that we get from the government. And what this does is it assesses wind damage. So this doesn't include the damage from things like storm surge or those rough waves coming in or anything like that, or the flooding that we're expecting, which there will be a lot of. This is just primarily wind. And we're expecting that anywhere between 35 to 40 million people are going to be impacted with 50-plus-mile-per-hour winds.

So most of the damage then is going to be occurring on when we call the "bad side" of the storm or the dirty side of the storm. As the storm travels up to the north, the winds accelerate in the right front quadrant. And on the back side of it, the winds are a little bit weaker. So you can see as the path goes through, much of that damage up towards the coast. SO that was up towards Norfolk.

One thing to point out here as you head up towards the mid-Atlantic, towards Washington, D.C. -- look at that. They're not even in the low range of $100,000 in terms of damage. However, we do still expect to see some tree damage there and some power outages.

Take a look up towards Philadelphia, again, the worst of it over here into Jersey. As we head on up towards New York City, that's where we're going to see some of the worst of it over here into Long Island, over towards the Hamptons, into Montauk, New York City itself looking around less than $100,000. But as much as a million dollars worth of damage as you head up into parts of Massachusetts and into Rhode Island.

So this is a massive storm, total economic losses potentially $1.1 billion. That's a whole lot of damage for a whole lot of people.

WHITFIELD: It sure is, and it'll have a ripple effect in so many different ways. We're going to get back into that a little bit later on.

Thanks so much, Jacqui Jeras. Appreciate that.

Our live coverage of Hurricane Irene continues in just two minutes.