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As Hurricane Irene Arrives In New York, 70,000 People Without Power; Hurricane Irene Impacting Northeast U.S.; Long Island Braces For Irene; New Jersey Braces For Irene; Manhattan Braces For Irene; Tracking Hurricane Irene; Hospitals Evacuated In New York

Aired August 28, 2011 - 06:00   ET


T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good morning to you all and welcome to this CNN SUNDAY MORNING. A special edition here. Suzanne Malveaux joining me. T.J. Holmes here with you.

We have special coverage for you this morning of this Hurricane Irene, which is getting closer and closer and closer to New York City. Anderson Cooper is actually live for us from Greenwich Village there. John King on Long Beach for us this morning as well.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: And already what a morning it's already been. Very well foreshadowing the day that's in store for New York and north. It's just an incredibly massive hurricane, rain-making Hurricane Irene, continuing her trek up the eastern seaboard.

Take a look at this. Still a category one storm, 75 mile-an-hour winds. Just take a look at these pictures, though. The eye could be moving over Atlantic City, New Jersey, right about now. We are keeping a close eye on that. The current track has Irene moving towards, of course, New York City. All eyes on New York.

HOLMES: Yes. Yes, they've seen some flooding there in some areas already. A number of power outages. At least 400,000 reported in the city already.

The storm's leading edge, again, it's a little ways out. Maybe still about 100 miles out. But, still, the leading edge of the storm has already made its way to the metro area, starting to have an impact.

And the other impact? Mass transit. Can you imagine New York City without subways? Well, that is what's happening right now. Shut down at noon yesterday and will be shut, it appears, at least through the morning commute tomorrow.

Now, this has been a deadly storm. At least 10 people dead in three states. That could go up. The mayor of New York is telling New Yorkers, again, we know you're a tough bunch, we know you've been through a lot, we know you think you can make it through anything, but take this one seriously.


MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK CITY: And I think it's fair to say 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.


HOLMES: As we mentioned, we are -- we have our people all over the place this morning, including our Anderson Cooper who is in New York for us.

Anderson, just a little ways away. It's starting to affect the city a little bit, but still a little ways to go before it gets to you.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's really, at this point, just kind of the driving rain and it's not, you know, even the sideways rain. It's basically coming more or less straight down.

You know, the city streets are pretty empty at this point. We were actually just driving around the city, around midtown and also lower Manhattan. No one really is out. It's, obviously, very early.

But there are actually some businesses still open. There's a deli right over here by West 3rd Street that is still open for business, if you can believe it. A lot of shops, though, have started putting -- have put tape in their windows.

We can just cross over the street here. There's no traffic coming, obviously. But, look, there's actually taxis still available. There's a taxi right there that's available. The taxi and limousine commission put extra cabs on the streets yesterday, on Saturday. So there were tons of cabs, T.J., even after the subways had shut down. That was all part of a plan to just help people evacuate, help people be able to move to other parts of the city.

You can see this is a business here that's taped up their windows. So a lot of the local businesses are taking this very seriously. It was very hard to find any place to eat out last night. Only a few places were open.

Obviously, one of the big concerns is, with all the construction that's always going on in New York City, construction sites like this one, this one looks pretty locked down. This is actually pretty long -- along the way in terms of construction. They've done most of the exterior work. So that's not a big -- as big a concern for this one. But for construction sites where you may have a lot of material laying around or supplies laying around, that could become airborne.

So that's one of the things we're going to be watching, obviously, as these winds pick up because, at this point, T.J., we're really not seeing the heavy winds. It's just this kind of an inconvenient rain. Obviously we anticipate that changing a lot within the next couple hours.

MALVEAUX: Anderson, it's Suzanne. I'm just wondering, anybody visit that deli or are the streets basically closed? Anybody actually go to that deli? COOPER: Yes. There was a couple of people who have gone to the deli. You know, I mean New Yorkers are, obviously, a hardy bunch and I have no doubt as people begin to wake up, there's going to be a lot of people who are curious and want to step outside. Obviously we always caution people, you know, please stay indoors. The mayor is cautioning people, please stay indoors as much as you can. There's no point in really coming out. It's going to get really -- we think it's going to get pretty miserable here.

You know the other concern, Suzanne, is, what happens when -- if it's a category one storm, even a strong tropical storm, what happens as this wind, you know, moves through these canyons of skyscrapers and buildings. Obviously the wind speed picks up. So even if you get a sustained wind, say, of 60 miles an hour as it whips through these canyons that are created by the buildings, it's actually -- you know, the winds are obviously a lot stronger. You can get hurricane force winds even if it's not a hurricane.

So a lot remains to be seen about how -- what impact this is going to have on the city. We're just going to have to cover it every step of the way. But a couple businesses open. And they're not doing a brisk business, obviously, but a few people going for last-minute supplies.

HOLMES: All right, Anderson there for us in New York. We're going to be checking in with you often throughout this morning. Thank you.

We also are going to head a little away from there. John King, we're told as well. I believe I have his location right as Long Island I believe is where our John King is.

John, good morning to you once again. Again, Anderson just called it there kind of an inconvenient rain and wind event so far, but it's not going to stay like that.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's not going to stay like that. And I can tell Anderson to brace, because just in the last 20 minutes or so here in Long Beach, which is not that far away, about a 45 minute drive without the traffic. A lot of New Yorkers are going to say, I'll never make that in 45 minutes. But without the traffic, not that far away. We're on the barrier island out on Long Island.

And, T.J., I just want to show you something. Just an hour ago, just an hour go, this is street flooding. Pretty modest right now. But an hour ago the water was way in here. Now you see it up to the curb right here, coming out several more feet. That's on the ground level.

The beach, the boardwalk, is about 50 yards that way. You can see water now starting to flow in. Which tells you what? That the water is now high enough that it is coming in from the boardwalk, coming into street flooding. And, remember, we're right now just getting heavy rains. The storm is still several hours away. However, high tide is about an hour and a half away. So already now we're beginning to see some significant street flooding.

And if you look across the other way, not sure how far you can see, you see sandbags going in. Any steps down. Any driveways down. That's what you see in these coastal communities, people trying to keep the water from getting into the low -- to the low-lying areas here. And so you're beginning to see the middle of the street. That was dry just a couple hours ago.

And it's harder to see up above us, the big concern here of power outages. The power lines here are beginning to blow. Now they strung loosely on purpose just for this reason so that they have enough slack in the winds. But as you look down this street, transformers up at the top of these poles, some of the poles starting to shake. And, again, the storm -- the brunt of the storm still several hours away. Three or four hours away from where we are at Long Beach. But the rains are intensifying. The winds are intensifying.

And Anderson Cooper is in Greenwich Village. Anderson, if we are getting this now -- beginning to get this now on Long Island, I hate to deliver the news to the people of New York City, they might -- you might think it's a nuisance rain at the moment, but this is coming your way.

HOLMES: All right.

MALVEAUX: John, that neighborhood that you're in -- can you still hear me? That neighborhood that you're in, what kind of neighborhood is it? I understand we lost -- we don't have John anymore.

I want to go to Jason Carroll.

Jason, can you hear us? I believe you're in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, I can hear you. And just let me update you.

Things are feeling much better now in terms of weather conditions than the last time I spoke to you an hour ago. The winds have died down just a bit. The rain has died down just a bit. So certainly some good news for Atlantic City.

Just about an hour from now, we will be at high tide. That is what emergency officials are going to be worrying about, how much that -- the surf and the water from the ocean surge comes up to the boardwalk. You can see right now that we've got the dune that's there to protect the boardwalk. There was some concern a little earlier, Suzanne, that the water would reach over the sand dune. That has not happened.

And one emergency official seems to suggest that -- he says that we're not out of the woods yet in Atlantic City, but perhaps Atlantic City has weathered the worst of this storm. You can see the casinos are boarded up. They started doing that in anticipation for the storm. Boarded up, closed casinos here. All 11 casinos have been closed due to the mandatory evacuation that the city is under. Some 92,000 people without power in Atlantic City.

The next watch they're going to be looking for is, once again, high tide. That's going to be just about an hour from now.

I'm going to throw it back to Anderson in New York. Anderson.

COOPER: Jason, thanks very much.

Obviously a lot of preparations have gone into this in New York. Snowplows have actually been put on a lot of vehicles in the city. That was -- is in order to move any debris just as a precautionary measure. Any debris that may be blown about. That's one of the major concerns in addition to the storm surge and potential flooding.

Ali Velshi is standing by for us down at Pier 17 on the west side of Manhattan on the Hudson River.

Ali, what's the situation there?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: All right, Anderson, I'm getting about the same amount of rain as you are, where you are in Manhattan. What I don't have is those wind tunnels because I'm right here on the East River. There's Brooklyn right behind me. Obviously John King is way out on Long Island over there. This is Pier 17, which a lot of people will know as the South Street Seaport.

I've been watching the East River since I got here. And within the last half an hour or so, it's probably gone up about six inches or so. We're three hours, two and a half hours from high tide, so it would go up anyway. But we're not getting anything of that storage surge.

I will tell you, we're probably about two feet from the riverbank at this point on the East River. This is of major concern because New York has the largest electrical system on the continent. And about 90,000 miles of cable are underground. So this is what the problem is going to be.

We already know, as you said, probably close to 75,000 or 80,000 people in the New York area, that area serviced by Consolidated Edison, Con Ed, are without power. There are about 36,000 miles of overhead power cables. You've seen some trees down in Manhattan. We saw a number of them down over power -- over cars and things like that.

Here you got the Brooklyn Bridge behind me. Normally you'd see a lot more activity on the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge. No activity whatsoever. In fact, we're largely the only people out right now. Our emergency crews and some other reporters, some other crews.

We did see a few people walking around, coming out to check out the scene, see what's going on because, around here, we don't have those wind tunnels that you have, Anderson, so it's just really pretty rainy. In fact, I'm going to show you the trees on the promenade here. Not a lot of wind going on just yet. We've had some gusts. It was windier earlier. And, of course, we're expecting that to pick up.

But at the moment, the river is not -- it hasn't crested. It's not where it is likely going to be. And at the moment, we're pretty dry. But this is the area that is in a flood zone danger. And if this river starts to come up and if there's a storm surge, this whole area is likely to get flooded.


COOPER: And, Ali, there are plans that if winds go above 60 miles an hour, for a number of these bridges to stop allowing traffic to go on them.

VELSHI: That's exactly right. They are very cautious about that. We're not anywhere close to that right now. But you've got the Manhattan Bridge, you've got the Brooklyn Bridge. You've got bridges up on this side of the East River and then you've got bridges on the other side, on the Hudson River, and those are going to close.

I will tell you, having been driving around the area for a little while, there isn't much traffic here anyway. So people do seem to be heeding those warnings. While there's still some people walking around, people are heeding the warnings that if you don't need to be out in a car, you shouldn't be. In fact, Manhattan, as you know, Anderson, looks a bit like a movie set tonight. I've never seen it this empty. So most people are staying inside.

The issue here is, if you're too low to the ground, you'll get flooded. If you're too high up, those winds get multiplied. With those high towers, if you're 20 feet or 30 -- 20 stories or 30 stories into the air, you've got problems with windows and things flying around. And if you're in the middle, you're likely to lose power. So you're probably going to lose either way, but most people are going to stay safe indoors in Manhattan. That's at least what we're seeing right now.

COOPER: Yes, well that's certainly -- the hope is not to have a lot of people coming out and looking around.

VELSHI: Right.

COOPER: Because, again, it's really the concern about debris flying around. You know, the flooding parts in the area where Ali is, you know, there's a number of low-level areas that have -- there were mandatory evacuations for. Although, frankly, a lot of people, I think, didn't necessarily heed those warnings, decided to just stay put.


COOPER: But in the rest of Manhattan, where there's perhaps not as great a potential for flooding, hopefully not as great a potential for having blackouts. I think there's going to be a lot of just curiosity. People, you know, curiosity getting the best of people and going out walking around. And, obviously, the city is really trying to discourage those people because, again, with flying debris, you just never really know.

I'm about a mile and a half north of where Ali is, north and a little bit more to the west. About two miles north of Battery Park City. That is obviously a big concern. One of the low-lying areas down there that has a great potential for flooding. We're going to have all -- we have all our correspondents fanned out all throughout the region. We're going to have a lot more coming up. We'll take a quick break. Our storm coverage continues in a moment.


COOPER: New York City waiting in anticipation for the worst of Irene yet to come -- still to come in the hours ahead. We're coming to you from Greenwich Village, about one block south of Washington Square Park. The park is just over there. Obviously the park has been closed down. There's a lot of trees in there. We're going to go check out the situation of the park in the coming hours.

I wanted, though, just to get a general sense of where this storm is, how strong it is. Let's go to Jacqui Jeras now at the CNN weather Center.

Jacqui, overall, where is the storm, how strong is it and when is it likely to hit New York?

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's some 20 odd miles north of Atlantic City. We actually had a second landfall, believe it or not, Anderson, Little Egg Inlet (ph). And we're going to zoom in here and show you the area that we're talking about a little bit more closely.

There we go. Well, there's the center of the storm. It's made a second landfall. It's off the shore. So I'm talking about New York City. Maybe another hundred miles away. And it's moving pretty quickly now. And the center of the storm very well may make its way I'm thinking over Brooklyn at this time.

So, here's the center of the storm. If it continues on a north, northeast path. So that's going to actually put you guys on what we call the good side of the storm. So your winds are going to be coming in now from the east. And we're going to watch them as this thing heads closer to you. They're going to come in and switch from a westerly direction. So do expect some of those changes down the line.

The strongest winds are just a couple of hours away. We've had near hurricane force winds already at LaGuardia and JFK getting in the upper 60 mile per hour range. So, some of those damaging winds are going to be coming in.

And take a look at this. We've got some new, stronger development closer towards Long Beach. This is all pushing on up to the north. So you're going to watch those winds pick up maybe 30 minutes or so from now.

The other thing we're dealing with are those winds pushing up the harbor. We've already been seeing some storm surge reports pushing four feet. So that water is slowly and steadily rising as well.

Take a look at this Google Earth. And as we take a look at New York City and more of what you can expect with all these buildings as those wind increases, they're going to push through and accelerate and channel in between all those buildings. So we are expecting to see debris flying, we're going to see power lines down. In fact, over in Weehawken, New Jersey, we just got a report of some power lines that came down. Two people were injured because of this. So you guys, if you're not inside, you really need to be inside at this time.

Also just got a wind gust at Central Park around 60 miles per hour. The water is starting to come up. We're going to see that rise over towards Battery Park and that whole area could get flooded in, even though this is what we would call a weak hurricane or a strong tropical storm. That storm surge is going to be higher than you normally would see. So we do expect another landfall then over Long Island. This thing is going to be heading on up towards Boston say by the middle of the afternoon. And, Anderson, expect your conditions to start to calm down a little bit before sunset tonight.

COOPER: Jacqui, in terms of Long Beach, we've seen some flooding down there. What's the latest that you have on that?

JERAS: Well, the rain's coming down really heavy. That's one thing that we're dealing with. So we're expecting, you know, upwards of six to 12 inches of rainfall. And so we're going to see that. And then in terms of tide coming in on Long Beach, three to six feet is going to be a good possibility in that area.

COOPER: All right. Now, when's the latest advisory going to be? When's the next advisory in this story, because I'm trying to get a sense of just -- I mean is it still a category one at this point?

JERAS: It's still a category one, 75 mile per hour maximum sustained winds. So I know you know a hurricane is at 74. There's very little difference between a strong tropical storm or a weak hurricane. So something to keep in mind. So just, you know, expect this to be a weak category one as it moves into your area.

Also, in terms of, you know, the wind, I don't think that's going to be your biggest issue. I think it's the water and the flooding. So when we look back and we think about Irene and its impact in time, I think it will be definitely no more as a floodmaker.

COOPER: You've also got to think -- you said that it's actually getting faster. Do you know the speed of the storm at this point?

JERAS: Yes, it's moving about 17 miles per hour. It's been nudging up a little bit. Typically as storms, you know, as a hurricane moves through the northeast and New England, it will accelerate very, very quickly. In fact, sometimes we could see those things ripping at like 40 plus miles per hour. Unfortunately, that's not the case this time around. It will pick up a little bit in forward speed, but probably not a whole heck of a lot. That's why the rainfall totals are going to be so high.

COOPER: So New Yorkers are looking basically at rain for all of Sunday, up into through Sunday night or how late?

JERAS: Yes, absolutely, through Sunday night. We're not going to be done with this until Monday. COOPER: And a lot of, you know, a lot of storm drains are, you know, clogged. There's going to be a lot of leaks in a lot of apartments. My apartment already has a leak in it this morning that I had to deal with before coming here. So with winds and with rain all day long, it's going to get very, very messy indeed. It's going to be very unpleasant.


COOPER: I want to check in with our -- Jacqui, we're going to check in with you throughout this morning. I want to check in with our Elizabeth Cohen, who is to the east of my location, up closer in the 30s in the -- about 33rd Street, 32nd Street by New York University Langone Medical Center.

Elizabeth, did they evacuate that area? Because I think that's in the zone "a" as they're calling it, in a low-lying area right by the water.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, NYU is indeed in zone "a." And, Anderson, there were five hospitals in New York City who were told Friday, you're in zone "a," you need to get your patients out of here. But CNN has learned that NYU is the only hospital that had to leave some patients behind. They had about five or six patients who were so sick that moving them might have killed them. And CNN got exclusive access to go into NYU and to see the kinds of things that they are doing to keep those six patients and all the staff that has to care for them safe. So let's take a listen to what the administrator told me when I went to go see him late last night.


COHEN: So these patients are pretty frail.

KEVIN HANNIFAN, NYU LANGONE HOSPITAL ADMINISTRATOR: Absolutely. Very frail. That's why we made the decision.

COHEN: Was it a tough decision to make, because keeping them here has its risks, too.

HANNIFAN: It was very tough, but I think the clinicians made the right decision.


COHEN: Now, they have a staff of a couple of hundred people, including engineers, trying to keep that place safe. So, let's take a look at some of the things that they're doing.


COHEN: The NYU Langone Medical Center brought in 20,000 of these bags of sand. And the reason why is just on the other side of these doors.

Come here. Let me show you what I mean. Just across the street from the hospital is the East River. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COHEN: So as you can see, that hospital is so close, it's just about 100 yards away from the river, Anderson. And I'm told that about 15 nurses and two doctors volunteered to stay at the hospital to take care of these six -- five or six sick people. And I asked the administrator, was it a tough sell? Did you have to convince these guys and gals to stay? And he said, absolutely not. They wanted to stay. They wanted to say and help take care of these people.


COOPER: Yes, it's an excellent hospital. I've been there myself.

Elizabeth, we'll check in with you as conditions continue to deteriorate. We're going to take a quick break. And our coverage continues in a moment. We'll be right back.


COOPER: You're looking at Kill Devil Hills. Obviously a very different scene now. A much calmer scene than it was a short time ago and, obviously, much nicer than it is here in very rainy New York City. Dawn is breaking and the rains have come. Obviously it's been raining really throughout the night.

It's not a huge torrential rain or anything, it's just a -- it's a steady -- kind of a typical kind of rain you might see in New York. But we anticipate just in the coming hours, obviously, it is going to get much worse as this storm begins to approach. I'm going to check in with Jacqui Jeras in just a moment for an update on the storm.

But first, you know, there were a number of evacuation areas in New York that the mayor announced. And yesterday he made it -- the city was trying to make it as easy as possible for people to evacuate. One of the problems, of course, with the subway system shutting down around noon yesterday, noon on Saturday, it made it difficult for folks to get around the city.

The Taxi And Limousine Commission actually sent in more a large number of taxis. More than they would usually have on a Saturday. It was actually very easy to get a taxi yesterday. And the idea behind that was just to make it as easy as possible for people to move. A lot of people staying with friends farther up in Manhattan if they were living downtown or in any of the areas around the water, trying to evacuate to areas that are at higher ground, not in the flood zones.

We're coming to you from -- basically about one block south of Washington Square Park. This is an area which is prone to flooding only if it was a cat three storm. So they're not anticipating large flooding here. Although, you know, on different streets kind of have different levels and also a lot of -- some storm drains are clogged or filled, so you get localized flooding. But the main flooding in Manhattan is anticipated to be in these low-lying areas. Battery Park City, which is about two miles south of where I am. Ali Velshi is over at the South Street Seaport. I'd say that's about a mile, mile and a half south and to the east of our location.

Here it's pretty empty right now. But Michael -- the mayor telling people who have not evacuated from those low-lying areas, at this point it is too late. Don't try to do it now. Just stay where you are. Here's some of what he said yesterday.


MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY: Your safety, your own safety is dependent on 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 10th floor or higher. Don't stay on the first floor of your building lobby and stand in a congregated area in a glass enclosed lobby. Make sure windows and doors leading to the outside are closed. If you have a fireplace in your home, please close the damper, turn off propane tanks and move to a room with as few windows as possible and ride out the storm there.


COOPER: Our Ali Velshi is standing by in South Street Seaport.

Ali, what's the situation there?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Anderson, it's interesting in just the last 20 minutes or so as the sun has come up, the situation looks very different. When I was talking to you about 20 minutes ago I could point across and show you where Brooklyn is, now you can barely see it. This is just across the East River. I'm at the lower part of Manhattan, Pier 17, you can still see over there, pretty clearly. South Street Seaport, what you can see over here is the level of the water continues to rise, probably another few inches in the last 20 minutes. We only have a couple of feet left here before this starts to spill over. That's one of the concerns.

We're in one of those low-lying areas in Manhattan. We have the bridges behind us, Anderson. No traffic going on them right now. The winds are not high enough for them to have closed the bridges but the fact is there aren't a lot of people driving around right now. We are seeing some localized flooding in Lower Manhattan. The issue of course, is that this is a honeycomb city. Underneath the city are subways which have been closed up, and the power lines. Unlike many cities, New York has its power lines, most of them, at least, underneath the ground which protects us in most cases from winter storms, from big storms when trees fall and take out power lines. In cases like this it becomes a bit of a problem. There are some discussions about what to do about that and how quickly that will affect people.

We have now in our latest count just in the New York metro area, just New York, the boroughs of New York and Westchester County, we have close to 70,000 people now without power. That will start to change as it starts to flood and as it starts to get worse. As you mentioned, a couple of problems, here. Like your apartment, in some cases there are leaks. In some cases there are things flying around that people have to be concerned about. On higher levels when you get to 20 stories or 30 stories, the wind levels will be much higher.

The wind is not terrifically strong around here right now. See the trees over here, Anderson? You're in a part of Manhattan which most people are in. You're in areas where there are lots of buildings. That will effect the wind, it will make it feel stronger. Out here, right by the East River, the wind is not the problem, but as Jacqui was saying just a little while ago, the issue will be high tide shows up in less than an hour and a half from now. That will already bring the level of the river up and if that storm surge brings anything in, a whole big area of Manhattan, in southern Manhattan, is going to flood.

Now what they are doing is they have evacuated most people from those areas. Some people have decided to stay. They figure they know what to do to keep safe. It doesn't seem at this point like a massive wind storm around here. As you can see, just a lot of rain. We're starting to see puddling and pooling around Lower Manhattan. No flooding yet, though. Anderson.

COOPER: Ali, there's still power in the area you're in, right?

VELSHI: Sure. Turn it around, you'll see the streetlights on here along the promenade. You can see the buildings of Manhattan, Lower Manhattan, over there. A couple are completely shut down. There are not lights in them, but it is Sunday morning. You wouldn't expect to see lights in them, but I can see lights all over the place. There's still power where we are. There might be localized outages in certain places. And we do know about that but around here, we still have power.

COOPER: It is possible, though, that even in advance of any flooding Con Edison, which is the power company in New York, they may actually shut down power to some areas they anticipate flooding in, is that correct?

VELSHI: That's right. They're trying to get ahead of this thing. Obviously, with flooding, particularly in underground areas come the possibility of shorts, there are dangers as the water starts to hit those transformers and those substations and things like that. So there is talk that they will do that. They have already turned off some steam lines. A big part of Manhattan operates both from a heating and air conditioning perspective, with-pardon me-with energy created by steam lines. They've already shut some of that down, which is why there are some 70,000 people without power already. That's not necessarily storm damage, that is preemptive work by Con Edison. But at some point, the big danger here, the big issue here is when this river-

I'm sorry, if I looked-if I had longer arms, I'd be able to go down and touch. You can see now, it's less than two feet from the bank. When that starts to come over on this side, when New York Harbor starts to flood and if stuff comes up on the Hudson Riverside of things, that's when you'll start to see power problems. That will move into land. Remember, this is a lot of reclaimed land here. Where I'm standing wasn't part of the Manhattan; it was part of the East River. This is a tidal estuary, this is salt water over here. So that is part of the issue here. If there's a storm surge that comes in on the ocean, this is basically part of the ocean right here, Anderson.

COOPER: Ali, we'll continue to check in with you. Obviously, that is going to be a main point for any potential flooding. Ali said he's already seen the water rising, a lot just in the time he's been there. We're going to take a quick break. We have correspondents all throughout the East Coast of the United States. We'll be checking in with them and give you the latest on the track of the storm. Be right back.


COOPER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of Hurricane Irene, coming to you about one block south of Washington Square Park, in the Village, in New York. We have correspondents all throughout the East Coast of the United States. Our Don Lemon is in Philadelphia.

Don, what is it like there?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: It's pretty windy here, Anderson. It comes and it goes. We're sort of on the backside of this storm here in Philadelphia, we've been watching the local reports, listening to the radio. They think they were sort of spared. The trouble will be flooding now. That will be in the outside areas, in Delaware County, outside of really the Philadelphia area. There's some flooding here in Philadelphia as well, along the Schuylkill River, along by the Delaware River as well. In a place called Darby and Darby Township.

I want to show you the problem. We're in the middle of center city. This is like you being down in the Village. That's the iconic city hall right here. Right on 12th street and Market. I'm standing right now in the middle of Market Street and there are very few cars out here. That is because they told people to hunker down.

But, Anderson, this is the issue. We've been watching these people coming through, and their umbrellas, trying to use their umbrellas. They've been projectiles going up and down the street; some limbs here that have been breaking and just sort of flying down the street. That's what they're worried about and that's why the mayor has asked people to stay home. And they are kind of watching out for us, the know that we're down here. It's safe for me to walk across the street here. I'm not really jay walking because there's nobody out here.

I want to show you, there's a little bit of flooding that happened earlier, not that much. And what they are using it sot secure some of the buildings around here. Everybody has these sandbags along the door, especially, these glass doors, like in our hotel here. They put plastic up just in case it would have gotten worse. They believe here, again, Anderson they were spared the brunt of it. Still, the backside of that storm has to come through. The winds will probably pick up a little bit more and we'll see more of the storm surge and what happened. They'll try to deal with what's going to go on after the eye has passed over and the winds come along the backside..

COOPER: A lot of cleanup, no doubt. That flooding, you never know exactly where it's going to flood. Even in areas that aren't necessarily low-lying, you get storm drains that get clogged up, and entire streets and communities end up getting flooded.

Don, we'll continue to check in with you.

Athena Jones is standing by for us in Alexandria, Virginia.

What's the situation there, Athena?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, Alexandria seems to have missed the worst of it. There's no flooding to speak of, which is a big deal around here. It's a flood-prone area. If you look around oftentimes you will find this part of town underwater. We spoke with the city. They count themselves fortunate. We have people out of power, there's been some wind and some rain, but no fatalities.

In the State of Virginia, however, there's nearly a million people without power, three fatalities, all from fallen trees. We also spoke with Maryland's Emergency Department and there's one fatality there because of a fallen tree. But right here in Alexandria, and in D.C., it looks as though we have missed, really, the brunt of it in terms of flooding.

Lots of power outages, lines down, electricity companies warning people to not go out and pick up those lines themselves, of course. Crews have been working overnight. We expect those numbers in terms of outages to change, to go up and down a little bit, as they get some repairs done. Also as other people wake up and discover that they don't have power.

One thing to mention down in Chesapeake Bay, down here south of us, Calvert Cliffs, there's a nuclear plant there, the Constellation Nuclear Energy Nuclear Group. One of their reactors is offline. It automatically went offline last night after a piece of aluminum siding from one of the buildings blew off in the heavy wind and ran into the reactor. They put it offline while they assess the damage, and go through their unusual emergency operations. They say this is an usual event, it is the lowest level emergency status you can have. Their other reactor is fine, and stable. The company says there's no threat to the area or to employees. We'll keep watching around here and seeing if there is more reports of damage or requests for assistance, Anderson.

COOPER: Athena, appreciate that.

I do want to quickly show you one of the problems, even in an area that is not necessarily prone to flooding. Look at this, this is a storm drain. It's apparently already clogged up. So now water has piled up about six inches in front of that. And in a lot of the storm drains, all around New York, they were trying yesterday, cleanup crews were trying to empty them out, clear them out of debris. But you can see, a lot of debris already kind of covering up this morning storm drain. This could cause a problem as the rain increases and it simply gets overwhelmed. This whole area could end up being flooded. I want to listen in to our affiliate WCBS here in New York. Let's listen in to what they are covering right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've done a pretty good job. I've been Tweeting throughout the past 18 hours we've been here, a lot of people from Balsegert (ph), Spring Lake, Demar (ph), have been Tweeting @ChrisRagge (ph) asking me to actually check up on their property. Because they know that I'm right in the area, and I can do a quick drive by to see.

I can assure everyone who has beachfront homes here, there has not been an encroachment to the level where any homes have been flooded on Ocean Avenue or further inland. So, at this point you're OK. There are a number of trees down. At some point we'll take a drive on some of the back roads; at least a block or two inland so you can see.

To be very honest with you, it is a little bit dangerous. You might think this is dangerous. But right now, from a wind standpoint, we're at a bit of a low. It is actually not too bad. The vehicle is not being rocked back and forth as violently as it was earlier. On the interior, because the trees, there's so much movement with the trees and there are so many downed trees, it's just safer to be out here in the open air and not have to worrying about any trees coming down on you. Where as when we are kid of on the interior, that is a little bit of a concern.

These pictures, again, to look at it, I just can't -- I don't know if the picture are even conveying enough just how high -- these are 20 and 30-foot waves that are crashing against this pier. I say that probably on a conservative estimate. That is a massive, massive pier ahead. So, as we just kind of continue to sit here, I'm almost mesmerized looking at this.

Again, Mary and Rob, feel free to chime in, if you've got anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, Chris, as you know, as you are showing us that picture by far illustrates the point that our meteorologists are making about the storm surge, the best we've seen so far.

Mary, I can't help but think of Virginia Beach yesterday at this time. That looks exactly like the picture we were showing in Virginia Beach.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The strength of the storm has not weakened. It is really still, we're looking at 80 miles per hour, so that strength of that hurricane-and it is still a hurricane. It has not been downgraded to a tropical storm. So, now we are seeing it through New Jersey. It is taking a direct path to the New York City area. We'll take a look at some other areas as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks to Chris Ragge (ph) and crew. Stay safe. We'll bet talking to you again soon. We're going to bring it back closer to this area and talk to Wendy Gillette who has been standing by in Hoboken all morning long.

I can just tell by listening, it's coming down pretty hard where you are.

WENDY GILLETTE, REPORTER: Yes, Rob, it has been coming down really hard for the last three hours or so. The Hudson River just keeps rising. We're on Hudson Street. Take a look at the river. You can see over the railing right here it's only probably about a foot, I would say, from coming over. There that is such a substantial difference from when we got here, about three or four hours ago.

If you could take a look, right here. Felix, why don't you show that wooden pole. This wooden pole here in the water is almost submerged at this point. That's a good benchmark when we come to live shots in the future, to see how much it's coming up further than that. It's definitely risen here three feet probably. So, the worries of Hoboken Mayor Don Zimmer, that the Hudson River would start to flood this side of town, are very realistic at this point with several more hours of rain coming through.

Now, most people have heeded those warnings to stay away from the river and actually to get out of town. There's a mandatory evacuation for basement apartments, voluntary evacuation for everyone else. We saw a few people, a few hours ago, come down here to see what the hurricane was like. Let's hear from them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were talking with Katie McGee who's familiar, Wendy, with the area where you're standing. Katie, what were you saying about this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where she's standing on the walkway there's a decent amount of space between where the river is and the bottom of that. To see the water come up like that and especially the rocks behind her, as you are seeing the water start to rise. That will be a real problem. The biggest part of flooding in Hoboken is usually the southwest corner. And when you are going to see the water from the river, and then the water from the southwest meet. Mayor Zimmer has been worried about the flooding. I think we'll have a serious issue.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Evacuation order for the first floor in Hoboken; a number of people getting out, but many people not complying and staying. We'll look at where the direct path is with the hurricane. As you take a look at some live pictures from Plain View, on Long Island.

You see those whipping winds? It is really coming down.

COOPER: Our coverage continues in just a moment. We'll be right back.


COOPER: I want to show you a live shot from Columbus Circle, in New York City. We've definitely seen the rains just starting to pick up just in the last few minutes. We noticed it down here also near Washington Square Park where we are. Let's check in with Jacqui Jeras in the CNN Weather Center.

Jacqui, it does seem like we've seen an uptick here in New York, just in the rains in the last few minutes here in New York.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN AMS METEOROLOGIST: Anderson, I think you're seeing the worst of it right now. That has to do with the structure of this storm. It appears to be weakening a little bit, and the eye wall is starting to open up a little bit. The eye wall is starting to move into New York City as we speak. That's why you've seen the uptick in the rainfall. I'm going to show you, here, the radar picture. And I think the center of the storm, now, getting closer toward sandy hook. It's down here into New Jersey.

So, your winds are coming in from the east. This will be the highest time you'll see the surge. It will be pushing up the harbor and into this region. That center is going to be approaching you. Now, even though the center is still miles away, probably a couple dozen miles away, this is what we're seeing over New York City. That's where the intense rainfall is, that is where the strongest of winds will be. You have to have the thunderstorms to help those winds stay a little bit stronger. So, I think you guys are going to see some calmer conditions, maybe calmer, condition anyway, within the next two hours. The height of the storm now is hitting New York City, a little bit earlier than we expected. You can expect to see wind gusts around 50, 60 mile per hour range at times in these heavier bursts. The rain's going to come down heavy in the next couple hours as well. That water is starting to pile up.

Check out this gauge I have for you. This is from NOAA, the tidal gauges and this is for Battery Park here. Notice the red line that we see here, this is where we are right now. That's at about 8 feet. This is where normal high tide is, which is around 5 feet. We're about 3 feet above where we normally would be. You can see that water is rising. It is continuing to rise. It's going to peek out, coinciding with high tide in the next hour or two and we'll start to see it make that turn farther on down.

So, the worst of the storm certainly bearing down. We do think the highest surge is going to be over here, in this area, over towards the bay, near the Rarick River (ph), and then up here in the Long Island Sound, we're going to see some higher surge as well. These numbers, this is the latest of what we call slosh model that NOAA runs for us. It is showing 3.9 feet. We've been getting reports as high as 4 feet plus in that area. That's a little bit on the conservative side. Things are really bearing down.

Let's take a look at some of the wind gauges here and show you what we're getting. It looks like that's not working. It's definitely not 7 miles an hour right now. There we go, you can see 39 offshore. We can expect to see the winds continue to pick up along with these heavy rains. This is pushing towards Jersey right now, moving over the Hudson River. There you can see, this is Manhattan Island. This is pushing off towards the west. This whole thing is moving in this direction right now. That center of the storm still way down here. So it still has a ways to go for you, but because of the way the storm has structured out, you're going to be seeing the heavier winds pushing in over towards Jersey and another couple hours to go for New York City in terms of the worst of the conditions, Anderson.

COOPER: Jacqui, just so I'm clear, you're thinking this rain that we're seeing now is the worst it's going to get in New York City?

JERAS: I think this is the heaviest rain that you're going to be seeing coinciding with the strongest of winds, yes.

COOPER: Wow. Because it's not -- this isn't so bad.

JERAS: It's not so bad, actually. It's closer towards Jersey where that biggest shift is. You are going to see more wind gusts, you are going to see that water continue to pile up for the next couple of hours. I think overall we'll be experiencing the worst of those conditions now.

COOPER: All right. I mean, the good news is, that it is-I mean, it is an annoying rain but it's not even a sideways rain. It's not a rain that hurts as you're standing in it. Obviously the concern is still flooding, because just the amount of time it's going to be raining.

Do you have any idea how long the rain will last, Jacqui?

JERAS: I think you'll have rain certainly for the next 12 hours on and off. You will get a little break, like I said, because of the structure of the storm. I think you can expect rain at least through 6:00, 7:00 tonight.

Anderson, I don't think you can see the picture. We have a double box up right now, which is next to you and this is coming from over in New Jersey. And you can really see the water is beginning to rise there, the rain is also coming down very heavy. You can see that it is kind of really getting close to the top level at that area. We are seeing those effects just off to your west across the river in New Jersey.

COOPER: Yes, certainly coastal areas going to see flooding and going to be affected, most New Yorkers who are not living necessarily right along the water. It's going to be an inconvenience and 12 hours of rain. I think it will be for a lot of New Yorkers, a feeling of it's not as bad as they thought it was going to be.

There's been a-obviously, a heavy police presence on the street. We have seen multiple police cars, flashing lights, just going around patrolling. The police aren't taking any chances, heavy a presence on the street as they have all throughout the weekend.

Mary Snow is standing by.

Mary, where are you right now?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are on Riverside Drive around 92nd Street. We've been driving around looking for damage, very empty. The only cars out there are police cars. We've seen some flooding, not major flooding. One thing we did find here, this downed tree along Riverside Drive right on top of a car here. It doesn't look like the car was too badly damaged.

We haven't seen many downed trees, but you were talking about the winds. We really haven't felt any strong winds. We've been on the Westside of Manhattan so far. We did find flooding, at one point, on the Westside Drive, a pocket of the Westside Drive was closed. Not terrible flooding so far.

COOPER: I'm kind of surprised, Mary, I have to say. For all the talk of what the potential could be, obviously you could never really predict this, it seems from what Jacqui is saying this may be the worst of the rain. If that is in fact the case, then that is certainly good news for a lot of folks in New York City.

SNOW: Yes, I'm very surprised, too. We were out last night down at Battery Park. Really did not feel any strong winds. Because we were told that we were going to start feeling something strong winds around 9:00 and we did not. The rain has been steady. As you were talking about just a few minutes ago, it is coming down straight. It's not coming down on a slant. It's not the rain you might expect in a hurricane. It is pretty surprising.

COOPER: Mary, appreciate it. We'll continue our coverage. We'll be right back after a short break.


COOPER: A very different scene in Asbury Park, New Jersey, right now. Let's check in with our affiliate, WCBS.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I again, I want you to take just one more look at the ocean. These waves are scary. Jimmy, I'm with Jimmy Quatamire (ph), our photographer, Don Collins, who was actually behind him holding him back. Because of the wind, I want you to-Jimmy pan over to the ocean. I mean you see those very big waves. In about five minutes, I'm not sure what time it is, but in about a few minutes that water is going to be on the boardwalk and the mess out here is probably a lot of work to clean up; a lot of plywood on businesses, in town, businesses have boarded up.