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CNN BREAKING NEWS
Hurricane Irene Coverage: North Carolina and Virginia Hit Hard; President Obama Visits FEMA; Long Island Waits for Irene; Waiting for Irene in Philadelphia; New Jersey Prepares for Irene; iReporters Share Storm Stories; Irene Roars Up the East Coast
Aired August 27, 2011 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Fredericka Whitfield at the CNN Center in Atlanta with our continuing coverage of Hurricane Irene.
And North Carolina and Virginia are being pounded right now by the Category 1 storm. And millions of people further up the Eastern Seaboard are already taking precautions as the storm heads their way.
Irene made landfall this morning in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Take a look at how big it is. Some calculate that this is about equivalent to the side of Europe. So far we know of four storm- related deaths as a result of Irene. Nearly a million people in North Carolina and Virginia are without power. Irene is expected to arrive in New York City sometime tomorrow morning. The big concern there, flooding from this storm surge.
President Barack Obama visited FEMA headquarters just a short time ago, earlier today, and he said the government is ready to deal with whatever happens. The president has already declared state of emergencies in nine states, they are North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire, these states now can get federal aid to help them recover from any hurricane damage.
All right, let's head now, let's concentrate on the Mid-Atlantic area, Ocean City, Maryland, where they are seeing the first signs of the storm right now.
Let's bring in our Jeanne Meserve. It is windy. It is rainy. Let us know what else is happening there right now.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, you can tell it's not much of a beach day here in Ocean City. This is one angry, hungry ocean, out here. And it has been eating up the sand. Sometimes these waves are coming right up to where we're standing and threatening the dunes, which were built to try to protect all this valuable real estate here. Fortunately these buildings are pretty much empty right now. There were about 200,000 people in this town.
Hold on, we got to move up the shore a little bit, we got some waves coming right up to our feet. Excuse us as we dance around this. There were about 200,000 people in this city. They were almost all evacuated, the mayor estimates that as of last night, there were about 300 residents here. Today it may be down to about 200. We spoke to him this morning and he had a message for the people who had decided to stay here.
WHITFIELD: All right, the governor making a very clear message that people in those low-lying areas along the coast of Maryland need to heed those mandatory evacuation orders. For the large part, most people did do that, but always a few stragglers there. Of course, our signal being affected by Hurricane Irene. That is already pounding Maryland there.
Our Chad Myers is in the Hurricane Headquarters here keeping tabs on the path.
So this is really remarkable, because this storm, while it's still touching a good part of North Carolina, it's also in Virginia, now Maryland; we saw one of our correspondents in New Jersey, as well, that is feeling it. This is just how massive and big and wide Irene is.
CHAD MYERS, CNN AMS METEOROLOGIST: The pressure of this hurricane is low enough to get Category 3 winds. The eye never got organized enough after it left the Bahamas to become that Category 3 hurricane. So instead of a very compact powerful wind field in the middle, it became a large lumbering wind field from now Connecticut all the way down even into South Carolina.
I have just checked, and you can go on to my Twitter feed if you like, ChadMyersCNN. And you can find the tidal gauges. And I have found now that the tide surge into Virginia Beach is already four feet. There really wasn't a low tide because the wind has just pushed water into the Chesapeake Bay.
Now I do not expect that to get all the way up to the Potomac or all the way up to Baltimore, because by the time that would happen, the storm will be far enough away, the winds will push it offshore. I have also found that the waves, and this is how far we are away, 300 miles, the wind has already pushed eight inches of extra water to the Battery Park. We are already up to three-quarters of a foot in Battery Park. And this storm is nowhere near Battery Park.
So in hours and hours of all this water coming in, and as the storm gets closer and closer that water will begin to surge into Battery Park, up to Battery Park City. And that's why that area has to be out of there. The same thing may happen here along Long Island, and also even up into Connecticut. As the water from this bubble of water, all being sucked in here, gets pushed up into the Northeast. And that's maybe the biggest threat right now.
Let me take you to a couple of localized radars here. We'll get right on down to North Carolina, because you'll be able to see here, I think, the eye. It is right here across the eastern-oh, there you go, south of Elizabeth City, our crew right there on Nags Head, they are really getting the outer eyewall right now. They're getting just pounded by this storm, winds at still 80 miles an hour. And then the enormity of the rainfall pattern into Virginia, and also into parts of Maryland, will cause flooding. There's already significant flooding into parts of North Carolina.
The big story of the stay will be that it continues up the coast and eventually, probably three hours from now, maybe a little bit less, is going to get back into the Gulf Stream. Right now it's not over the ocean. It is kind of over the sound and the sound still has water in it. For the most part, although, I was looking at a couple of Tweets from Brian Stelter (ph), out of "The New York Times." He has been over on the other side taking a look at the sound, there's no water in it, there's no water in the sound at all. The water has been pushed all the way back up into Elizabeth City and into all of these towns that are on the other side of the sound, because that wind has pushed for so very long.
Right now, north-northeast, at 12 miles per hour, it is still an 85-mile-hour Category 1 hurricane. That is still the forecast, it has not changed. And still making landfall here, very, very close to the western edge of Long Island. It is too late to be evacuating Long Island. And you really don't even have to anyway. But if you are told to evacuate, that means you are in a Zone A or a Zone B. You need to get out because that's how far the water will come up.
The same story is going on in parts of Connecticut and Rhode Island. The water will be coming up. You talked to that person with that wedding in Newport. And I'm not so worried about Newport, but I'm worried. But I'm worried about up the Narragansett, as you get a funnel, you take that water and you funnel it into a smaller and smaller place, that water will get higher and higher as you get up toward Providence, Rhode Island. That is where the water surge is actually going to be the worst.
WHITFIELD: And this is why you were saying earlier, this is going to be that hurricane, that storm that's going to be remembered for the flooding.
MYERS: Yes, a lot of water going a lot of places. And a huge storm that is pushing water for hours and hours and hours, into places that don't want more water, and one of them New York City.
WHITFIELD: Chad Myers, thanks so much. We'll check back with you.
Of course we're watching Hurricane Irene making her destructive run. Residents across the Northeast Region have evacuated in a whole lot of areas.
Michelle Katafisz is a resident of Bristol, Rhode Island, and she joins us on the phone right now. So Michelle, I don't know if you heard Chad there talking about Rhode Island and the flood potential, etc cetera, but what are your concerns?
MICHELLE KATAFISZ, RESIDENT, BRISTOL, RHODE ISLAND: Yes, it sounds like everything we're hearing around here, we're just going to get lots of rain for quite some time. I think I have heard 18 hours. And our thing is we're going to be getting the new moon and the high tide around the same time.
And so a lot of people, my door, I come outside and I'm looking right at our harbor and so we're very worried about just a storm surge coming in with lots of water. The businesses and homes are right here on the water front, so a lot of flooding. I have never seen the stores and businesses board up the windows like they are with this hurricane coming in. So everyone's taking the precautions, moving things to higher ground, the cars, the belongings on the first floor of their home. And just getting ready for what might come.
WHITFIELD: So what have you done at your home? Those very things?
KATAFISZ: Yes, getting the car -- mandatory evacuations for 10:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. So, by early morning or tonight I already have plans for my car to be up to higher ground. I made sure that the pet is up at higher ground, the dog. Making sure things are out of basement level for storage as much as I can.
And, yes, just making sure you have all those belongings that you need to have with you, your computer, your cell phone chargers, freezing lots of ice in the fridge and the freezers, and just doing what you can and preparing for the worst.
WHITFIELD: Have you sandbagged as well?
KATAFISZ: I have not sandbagged. Like I said, the most I'm really seeing with people around here is, they are boarding up the shop windows and the hotel windows. I have been here for seven years but I know people who have been here for close to 20 and they have not seen that before. I think everyone is watching it come up the East Coast is almost like watching a sporting event, and seeing which direction it's going. How strong it's staying, and what's going to happen.
WHITFIELD: All right. Michelle Katafisz, thanks so much, all the best. You continue to stay in your home, but like you said, you put all kinds of preparations in place in order to best secure the property that you have. Thanks so much, Michelle. Good luck to you.
On the Eastern Seaboard, all kinds of precautions being taken, but right now Hurricane Irene is still barreling down on North Carolina and Virginia, but people even further north are already starting to feel those outer bands. We're going to check in with all of our correspondents along the East Coast right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have five fire trucks here; 35 residents, I'm told by neighbors, from across the street, they said when that tree snapped, the Newport News police and the fire department arrived on scene very quickly. And when we arrived here, that's what we saw. We saw everyone working really diligently trying to search for that little boy. Now, unfortunately, that boy is no longer with us, Tom and Alvida (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Getting a look at this house for the first time, it is quite amazing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Live coverage from our affiliate WAVY there in Newport News, reporting that sad news. That a child, a nine-year-old boy was crushed to death when a huge tree came down on his apartment, tragedy striking as a result of Hurricane Irene.
Hurricane Irene still barreling down not just on Virginia, but North ,Carolina as well and already reports besides the trees being down, but there's a lot of flooding taking place. One of the biggest impacts we have seen so far, though, is power outages, the latest numbers we have, roughly 1 million customers are without power in North Carolina and Virginia as a result of Irene.
So the Outer Banks of North Carolina all still getting battered right now by hurricane force winds and waves and storm surges. We're finding our David Mattingly there right now. He's at Kill Devil Hills.
Oh, good, you've moved to some cover now, because it's pretty dangerous out there in those elements.
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fredricka, unlike the last hour, we started to feel some of the most violent winds we have felt from this storm so far. And keep in mind, we have been feeling the effects of this hurricane now for a solid 24 hours. We're just now feeling the worst of these winds as it is coming up this way in and departing, heading to points north.
But as those rough winds were coming through, it actually tore away a portion of the exterior wall of our hotel. We can show you some of the debris. Our photographer John, looking over the balcony now, the debris, the siding, the insulation, now littering the dunes and the grounds here at this hotel.
That's just giving you an idea of how abruptly things can change in a hurricane. You can stand in a spot, you can get used to the hard winds that are coming through, but then all of a sudden it ramps up so quickly. And then something starts to break and fall apart, flying through the air. That's when things really get dangerous out here. So needless to say, we moved upstairs to this balcony where we do have some shelter from the wind that's going on.
But again, Fredricka, at this point, we have the toughest wind, we're seeing some of the most pounding surf that we have seen from this hurricane so far. And it's all heading that way to the northeast, where we now find Gary Tuchman up on Long Island. (AUDIO GAP) Hope you are able to take a good look at what is going on here, because it is coming your way.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, David, we have seen it, we know it's coming. This is the beautiful city of Newport, Rhode Island, the smallest state in the country. A small state that's going to soon have the problems, that you see where David is.
You know, in this state, in this city, people know the ocean, it's called the Ocean State. And the ocean is both its blessing and its curse. They are used to nor'easters, but they're not used to hurricanes. But they are boarding up and taking it seriously.
This store right here appropriately named Tropical Gangsters, it's a women's clothing store. I thought the guy just made it up today. It's been here for 32 years. But that's the name of the store, but people are putting boards on their windows because they have dealt with the nor'easters.
But the last time they dealt with a hurricane, and they are going to get hurricane force winds here or very high tropical storms force winds, but the last time they had a hurricane here in Rhode Island, was 20 years ago last week, that was Hurricane Bob.
But they still talk about the Hurricane of 1938 that killed more than 600 people on Long Island and southern New England, injured 1,700 people, destroyed tens of thousands of houses. When you talk to the old-timers here, they still talk about it like it was yesterday.
This city is a remarkable place. And I'll tell you why. It was founded in the 17th century. There are beautiful mansions. Most of you have probably heard about some of the largest homes in America are here in Newport. Many of the homes are 100, 200 years old. So there's many concerns what the strong winds, and what the rains could do to the architecture here.
They call this Newport, the sailing capital of the world. Some might argue that in other sailing areas, but this is the place where our CNN founder and patriarch Ted Turner won the America's cup back in 1977.
So water is their life. And they're going to soon get a lot of water because the rain is supposed to start and around midday tomorrow is supposed to be the peak for the beautiful city of Newport, Rhode Island. Fredricka, back to you.
WHITFIELD: All right. I know people are bracing there. Thanks so much, Gary Tuchman, appreciate that.
And of course Hurricane Irene is impacting travel in so many different ways, air travel, train travel, rail, road travel, you name it. We're going to break it all down after this.
WHITFIELD: All right, travel along the Eastern Seaboard is a nightmare right now, with so many modes of mass transit, particularly, being cancelled. Alexandra Steele manning the travel desk, or travel wall, as we should say. It's difficult getting from point A to point B right now.
ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Oh, Fredricka, absolutely. So about 7,000 flights are cancelled: That includes you, you're standing there, you're phone's still working, you are trying to rebook, you are calling your carrier, and you hear this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of our representatives are assisting other callers. Rather than wait on hold, we can call you back when it's your turn in more than three hours. You will not lose your place in line if you choose to use this service.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEELE: All right. So, heard, three hour wait on line. I heard reports of four and five hours.
So, well, what do you do? Well, the problem is right now that we don't know when things will kind of get up and run again, Monday or Tuesday. Also, Twitter, Twitter.com/Delta, right now 40,000 followers on there trying to negotiate there. Certainly it has been difficult on so many fronts. Three-hour wait time to say the least. So the planes, we know, 7,000 cancellations as of yet.
Trains in the Northeast, Amtrak not running in the Northeast tomorrow at all. Cruise ships, at least 20 cruise ships from the New York Harbor to the Mid-Atlantic had to tweak their itineraries and change their plans. Mass transit, we know, of course, what's happened in New York, no trains, no planes, no busses, no nothing-also in Philadelphia, and also throughout much of New Jersey.
And also in terms of the roads, the taxis in Lower Manhattan; they deploy more taxis. Of course there has been that evacuation in Lower Manhattan for the first time ever. So they are deploying more cabs there. There is an evacuation fee, kind of a lower price. And they also kind of reworked some of the responsibilities, and some of the things you can and cannot do. Yes, now you can bring your animals on the cab. And also they're asking people to kind of group up to take a cab. Those are things you can't usually do in cabs in New York City.
All right. Take a look at this iReport, John Kennedy. John, thank you so much for sending this in.
This is in Annapolis, Maryland, and look at all these cars just heading out of town. And just trying to get out of there; so, roads certainly clogged. Heard also from the governor of Connecticut who's thinking about now taking and getting everyone and making a mandatory ban on highway travel tomorrow morning. So they'll wait to see if that happens. But he says by sunset tonight he wants everyone off the roads.
Those are just a few of the things in travel, a lot more ahead and we'll get to all that.
WHITFIELD: Well, that's a lot, Alexandra Steele, thanks so much.
WHITFIELD: We'll have much more of our coverage of Hurricane Irene after this.
WHITFIELD: All right, more of our continuing coverage of Hurricane Irene. Right now, it continues to pound the East Coast, North Carolina and Virginia are bearing the brunt of it right now, drenching rains and winds of up to 85 miles an hour. And at least four people have died since the storm came ashore just before dawn this morning. Nearly a million people are without power. And millions more are taking cover.
This is an enormous storm. Just take a look at the satellite photo right here. And imagine this. Officials say this is about the size of Europe. Irene, is now a Category 1 hurricane. And make no mistake, it still is very powerful and dangerous. Irene is expected to arrive in New York City sometime tomorrow morning The big concern, flooding from the storm surge, aside from the kind of damage that you're seeing right there in Virginia Beach.
So a couple of hours ago, President Barack Obama stopped by the headquarters, of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. And he is already declaring states of emergency in nine states and says the government is ready to handle whatever comes. But, he adds, it's going to be touch and go for many throughout the weekend, and into next week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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. It sounds like it's really going to be enormous strain on a lot of states. And that may take days, even longer in some cases, depending on what the track of the storm is. So we're really going to have to stay on top of the recovery, the response and recovery phase of this thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: A state of emergency for Maryland was just recently declared. President Obama signed the order just a couple of hours ago. And the first signs of Irene's approach are already being felt there in Maryland. Our Chris Lawrence is there. He's joining us from Chesapeake Beach.
So, Chris, there, too is seems like the conditions are deteriorating quite a bit.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fred. I mean, it has really changed a lot here just in the last few hours. When we got here, I'd say about 11:00 o'clock this morning, all of this where I'm standing on right now was sand, very quickly over the last several hours, the water has been rising and rising and rising.
As you take a look out there, you can see like some of the waves getting a lot stronger in this part of Maryland. There are a lot of homes in this county that are built up on the cliff and there is a very, very real concern right now about what will happen when that storm surge comes in.
Not so much that the power of the wind would flatten the home, but that it could erode enough of the soil on those cliffs, and seeing some of those folks literally sliding down into Chesapeake Bay. A few minutes ago, I spoke with the mayor of Chesapeake Beach and told me his real fear is going to be at 4:00 in the morning.
WHITFIELD: All right. And most people in that general vicinity have evacuated, you're not far from like the Bay Bridge, has that even been closed down as a result of these kind of high winds?
LAWRENCE: As far as I know, right now, from what we are able to see, most of the roads here are still open. Now that could change come tonight because obviously the wind and the rain here is getting a lot stronger.
The real fear, though, is that high tide is expected to be at about 4:00 in the morning. So you've got the main trunk (ph) of the storm, the most powerful energy of the storm coming through in Maryland between the area at about 2:00 to 4:00 in the morning and at the same time you're going to have high tide right behind that. That's the big deal here.
How much is that storm surge is going to be? Because you've got a lot of homes right here literally just a few yards off of the beach. And, again, this area has so many homes up on a cliff. So if that soil erodes, that really does pose a danger in some of those homes sliding off into the bay.
WHITFIELD: Oh, my goodness. All right. Chris Lawrence, thanks so much, from Chesapeake Beach, Maryland.
And further north, they're already starting to brace for what could be a direct hit from Irene. I'm talking about New York City, right after this.
WHITFIELD: All right. Irene has people in New York City hunkering down. The public transit system in fact has already been shut down. Subways, commuter trains and busses all have been suspended. Mandatory evacuations also have been issued for 370,000 New Yorkers.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg held a news conference in the last hour and he said that the message is that some people may be running out of time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK CITY: All of the forecasts are basically the same. The storm is headed in this direction, slightly east, slightly west, slightly stronger, slightly weaker. But this is a storm where if you're in the wrong place at the wrong time, it can be fatal. There will be very high winds, no matter whether they're categorized as a tropical storm, or a category 1, 2, 3, 37 hurricane, whatever it is, there's a lot of blowing debris, tree limbs come down and water gets into places that can cause electrical shorts. It is dangerous out there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Our Mary Snow is in Manhattan. So, Mary, the mayor also said that, you know, it just might be too late if you are relying on mass transit. So what are people to do?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, you know, Fredricka, one thing, there is plenty of cabs, they have been waiting around and they've been waiting at evacuation zones to take people away. But it is so quiet and Manhattan is such a different way.
Just take a look at the New York Harbor here. We're in Lower Manhattan. This is an area that could have a potential seeing several feet of water depending on what happens with this storm. Ordinarily, the New York Harbor here would be filled with boats on a Saturday afternoon and you can see how quiet it is and that is just the scene wherever you go in this city with the city's subways as you just mentioned and busses shutting down at noontime. Penn Station which sees crowds of people every day, just very quiet.
And, you know, there are some people who are not obeying that mandatory evacuation order, saying they are going to stay put here in Lower Manhattan. They say they have been through storms, they're going to sit tight. Others though are taking the mayor's advice, including this couple we spoke with earlier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the mayor announced that we had to evacuate, we - we kind of knew that we were already going to evacuate, so we were prepared. And then we went to whole foods, we got a bunch of food and we just got a hotel, so it's just a day and a half. I don't think it's going to be that bad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SNOW: Some others also thinking that it's not going to be that bad and then they're staying here throughout the storm.
One other worry for New York is the potential of power outages. And at some point, there's going to be a decision on whether or not there's going to be some power shutdown. But even in tall buildings down here, when the elevators are shutting off at 5:00, that is when that mandatory evacuation order is taking place.
Now for a look at what the scene is like in Long Beach, Long Island. Let's go to my colleague Susan Candiotti. Susan, how's it looking out there?
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Mary. Well, we're getting probably the same squalls that you are in - in the city. We're out in Barrier Island, that's where Long Beach is located. Home to a lot of people out here who also are under a mandatory evacuation order that kicks in - oh, let's see - in about 20 minutes from now, people have been ordered to get out if they live in low lying areas, both on the south shore of this Barrier Island.
And on the North side, of course, there's water on either side and the main land north of all of that, and once that storm, Irene starts circulating water, there is expected to be flooding, no doubt about it, on both sides of this Barrier Island.
Take a look at the surf now, of course, it's been pounding all day. We've been getting squalls off and on as well. You see all the sand that is here, they've been building that in - building it up, rather, bringing it in with bulldozers to help create a berm to help reinforce and provide some more protection as best they can to keep the surf from coming in here.
But we're on top of a boardwalk and you can see kind of a set-up shop there. A lot of reporters are up here because this is such a low-lying area, we're talking just two to three feet above sea level, so not very much space to play with here. But people have been going up and down the boardwalk throughout the day, families looking around as well as reporters because they want to take a look at what's going on. They want to take a look at the storm, but the question is were they leaving?
Who better to ask than the city manager of Long Beach? Are you happy with the way people been responding to the mandatory evacuation order? Do you have a sense of it?
CHARLES THEOFAN, CITY MANAGER, LONG BEACH, NEW YORK: Yes, I am. We see that a good portion of our population has left, and that is very gratifying, that will obviously make our job easier, you know, that many less people that might have medical emergencies or whatnot, which will be very hard to deal with in the hours that come.
CANDIOTTI: Now, you're not closing off the bridges that join this Barrier Island to the mainland, but Mr. Theofan, will people be able to get off the island, come on to the island? What are the restrictions?
THEOFAN: Well, every - you will always be able to leave the island, but after 5:00, the Nassau County Police are only going to let people come back here if they have a legitimate reason, and if they're first responders or whatnot and they're going to have to have a pretty valid reason to want to come back.
CANDIOTTI: And in terms of your biggest concern once Irene passes, the flooding, what are you expecting here?
THEOFAN: Well, the flooding will occur during the storm and the real problem is that we're hoping that the water doesn't get trapped in the bay, which might mean prolonged flooding in our canals area and the bay front area, that's our greatest concern. And the other thing is that, you know, with prediction of winds that could exceed 70 miles an hour, that means many trees falling and that means loss of power and if that loss of power is widespread throughout the island, that might mean a very long time before power is restored. That's a big problem.
CANDIOTTI: That could be, so that is why they have hoped people that people made their preparations, have flashlights, have batteries, perhaps have power generators and carefully use them.
In any case, Fredricka, that's it from here. We'll be joining you and everyone else throughout the evening here from Long Beach. Back to you.
WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks so much, Susan Candiotti.
And before it gets to New York, Hurricane Irene has got to pass by Philadelphia where there people are bracing for flooding. We'll have a live report from Philly right after this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) right here.
In our experience covering hurricanes, so far it's been fairly mild, may not look that way at this point, but there are expected to be just widespread power outages, again, SMECO reporting 5,600. Some minor debris in the roadways. Terrible conditions.
We hydroplaned several times on the way down here on Route 4. I'm going to send it back to you for now.
WHITFIELD: All right. Live coverage from our affiliate in the Washington, Maryland and Virginia area, WUSA, and they're reporting on the Maryland Coast right there.
So quite a list to try to be prepared as a hurricane approaches. Have water, have batteries, have flashlights, and perhaps fill up your gas tanks, if you can. That is if you can find gas.
An iReporter out of Philadelphia found a gas station with no gas last night well ahead of Hurricane Irene. Mike Maxin has never experienced a hurricane before, and after taking this picture, he now knows that you've got to prepare.
All right. Plenty of anxiety for those who live on the northern reaches of the East Coast. They're watching Irene's slow approach after the preparations are made, there's nothing to do but kind of wait and worry.
Our Sarah Hoye is in Philadelphia. She's joining us live there, where a lot of people, Sarah, are bracing for, expecting a lot of flooding in the Philadelphia area.
SARAH HOYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Fred, you got that right. It is raining and it's been raining about since noon, I would say. Coming down nice and consistently here. And people are doing their final preparations. Also, because of Hurricane Irene in the path coming toward the city of brotherly love, Septa, which oversees the trains, subways, trolleys, busses, they have shut down service starting tonight at 12:30 for the first time ever, in the history of the city. So they really want people to get where they need to go, hunker down and ride this out - Fred.
WHITFIELD: And so, Sarah, you know, it would seem like a lot of folks would seem like Philadelphia might be OK. That it wouldn't have to worry about, you know, storm surges or significant hurricane force winds or rain, why is it people there are anticipating that they might just get a good bit of what Irene has been dumping on other coastal cities?
HOYE: Well, the worst is expected to hit Philly between about 3:00 A.M. and 9:00 A.M. tomorrow and the thing about Philadelphia is you're sitting in between two major rivers which are expected to reach crest level and flood.
So on one side of the city, you have the Schuylkill, and on the other side you have the Delaware River, right? So if water comes in and pushes in, it is going to crest and come on out and flood these low-lying areas, Philadelphia also it sits - parts of the city sits on a 100-year flood plain. So the mayor and other officials yesterday could not urge people enough, if you live in low-lying areas, this will flood.
So they want people out. They want them protected. The city has also opened up three shelters in flood-prone areas, those opened tonight at about 6:00 P.M., so the Red Cross workers are on their way to those shelters now and they - they expect this thing to come.
WHITFIELD: All right. Extraordinary. Sarah Hoye, thanks so much. So, again, mass transit now impacting the City of Philadelphia as well. This is very much unprecedented for a lot of these northeastern cities that rely on that mass transit.
All right, we're going to be going to New Jersey as well, where mandatory evacuations are under way and Governor Chris Christie makes a final appeal to people to heed those warnings and get out.
WHITFIELD: All right. More mandatory evacuation issued in the northeast today ahead of Irene's approach. The Governor of New Jersey says more than one million people have left Jersey Shore.
Hoboken, New Jersey Mayor Dawn Zimmer is calling for mandatory evacuations all ground floor units in her city. She wants people to get to higher ground. And storm preps are in full swing. Residents in Coastal New Jersey are boarding up windows in homes and businesses. They're also moving outdoor furniture to a safe place.
On Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, people were stocking up on plywood to protect fragile windows and doors. There's also pulling their boats out of the water if they can and moving them inland. And they you just heard Philadelphia already taking some precautions as well. They're experiencing or likely to experience some pretty significant flooding potentially from Irene. Chad Myers is in our Hurricane Headquarter Center.
MYERS: Fred, I don't think we have addressed this yet and I'm about to get to Pennsylvania, parts of New Jersey and New York, because this is a very important point. When the winds are going to get to their highest point and you'll know when the trees start to rock. You really need to be very careful about trees that are going to fall down.
I didn't notice until 45 seconds before I came on today, because I want to make sure I got the right number. Philadelphia has already picked up 13 inches of rainfall in August, so every bit of ground around Philly, all up to Redding, up to Delaware water gap and including New York City, all of that ground is completely saturated. So if another 10 inches of rain - another 10 inches of rain comes down there's going to be absolutely no chance for that to go anywhere except run off.
But then the winds are going to be 50 or 60-mile-per-hour and trees are going to fall down. We've already had, we saw that one fatality already in Virginia Beach, due to the wind bringing down the tree on saturated ground. And look at the - look at the spread, it's already raining in Connecticut and it's still raining in North Carolina, Fred.
WHITFIELD: It's incredible. And this is a monster of a storm. I mean the reach is tremendous, that in North Carolina people are experiencing rain and in New Jersey, people are experiencing rain, all from this one system.
MYERS: And also, we're washing a lot of beach away, all the way now from about Sandy Hook -
MYERS: -- down to Atlantic City, Cape May, Ocean City and of course all of North Carolina.
WHITFIELD: OK. Chad, thanks so much.
Well, speaking of Atlantic City, let's go to our Jason Carroll. That's where he is. And let's take a look at the effects already on the beach there - Jason.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I know you were just talking - guys, you were just talking about beach erosion. We've been using this storage shed as sort of a landmark for us to test how far the water has come. When we were here earlier this morning, the water was far away, and we've seen the waves actually now starting to come up to where you see that storage shed there. So that gives you an indication of just how strong the surf has picked up over just in the past few hours. We've seen bands of rain continuing to come through. Lots of concern about the boardwalk. Those who know this area well say by tonight they're expecting the water from the ocean to be right up there where you see the resorts and casino. Obviously, Fredricka, you know that all the casinos here in Atlantic City are closed. The city under a mandatory evacuation, a lot of people heeding that warning. Thanks to New Jersey governor who sent out a strong message yesterday saying this is going to be a strong storm and to seek higher ground - Fredericka.
WHITFIELD: All right. Oh - and let's listen right - right here to the governor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: And get out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Yes. He was quite stern. He was, you know, cutting it short, that people need to get out, pay attention to these warnings, take it very seriously, Irene is a monster.
CARROLL: Absolutely, Fredricka. I mean, this is what we've been hearing about this particular storm. And one of the frustrating things for officials here in New Jersey is that you still have some of chose stragglers who don't want to heed those warnings.
In fact, in between live shots, just a few blocks from here, we saw some of them, we spoke to an elderly man and another woman who for their own reasons did not want to leave their homes, wanted to stay put. So that's some of the frustrating things emergency officials have to deal with as the storm heads our way.
WHITFIELD: All right. Jason Carroll, thanks so much.
We heard from the New Jersey governor earlier when he said there were about 600 elderly people in Atlantic City in high-rises that are so far refusing to get out and he's hoping that they can implore those people to take advantage of the busses that are being provided, public transportation to get them to safer ground.
Meantime, we're also going to share with you iReports. New pictures and information coming from people all up and down the Eastern Coast. We'll be right back.
WHITFIELD: All right. We've been receiving pictures all day long from many of you at home up and down the East Coast.
And Josh Levs is monitoring all of these iReports, new materials coming in. What are we seeing?
JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They come racing in, Fred. Right behind me is the open story, which shows that we keep getting iReports all day long from people in the path. Here's one new video we've gotten, take a look.
While you take a look at this, I'll tell you what it is. This is from one of our own, actually. Ashley Corum, our wonderful producer here at CNN, has sent an iReport. She's out with our Reynolds Wolf and she got this in Kill Devil Hills. And she talks about what it was like. She said it's incredibly intense to be out there. The sand is blowing in her face. It was quite painful, she said.
Before I go here, again, on the top of the hour, but folks, I want to show you something here, let's zoom in on this picture on my screen. A lot of you will remember it. It was just last weekend at this time, I was just talking to you about the MLK Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.
Well, take a look. We have received this iReport here that shows some people today, even in those conditions underneath those umbrellas, Fred, going out to see the memorial that would have had its dedication this weekend, and now will be put off.
Go ahead and send your iReports, stories, video, whatever you got as long as you can do it so safely at CNN.com and you got my Facebook and Twitter right there.
Fred, over to you -
WHITFIELD: All right.
LEVS: -- and to Wolf.
WHITFIELD: Thanks so much, Josh, our comprehensive coverage of Hurricane Irene continues.
I'm Fredricka Whitfield. "THE SITUATION ROOM" continues right now with Wolf Blitzer.