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Hurricane Irma Battering the Caribbean Islands; Barbuda Islands Almost Wiped Out After Irma Leaves; Mandatory Evacuations Order for Irma's Path; Facebook Sold Ads to Russian Troll. Aired 10- 11p ET

Aired September 6, 2017 - 22:00   ET


[22:00:00] DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: Look at your screen, a monster hurricane, her name is Irma, slamming through the Caribbean right now taking aim at Florida. Thousands and thousands of people fleeing before it is too late.

This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon. Thank you for joining us.

The core of this category 5 storm north of Puerto Rico with maximum winds of 185 miles an hour. That, as mandatory evacuations begin in Florida.

This is one of the strongest hurricanes ever in the Atlantic. To get an idea of its power, just listen to the sound as Irma hit the Caribbean island of St. Martin. Powerful. And on Barbuda, the prime minister says the island is literally rubble. My goodness. Look at those pictures.

Up to 37 million people at risk tonight. Thirty seven million people at risk. And that's just the beginning. There are now three hurricanes in the Atlantic. Irma, Jose, and Katia.

Our reporters are live tonight throughout the region, all across the region we've got this covered. CNN's Tom Sater is in the weather center for us and that's where we're going to begin tonight with Tom Sater. Tom, this is a monster of a hurricane plowing to the Caribbean right now. What's the latest on this?

TOM SATER, METEOROLOGIST, CNN: You said it perfectly, Don. I mean, we're running out of adjectives and superlatives to describe it. When a meteorologist runs out of those it's time to pack up and head out, because we have seen now 32 straight hours plus that this system has been churning with winds at 180 miles an hour or greater.

I mean, we haven't had systems like this. This is definitely the strongest to ever impact the Leeward Islands and last night we were concerned about Barbuda. In fact, around 1 in the morning, in fact, barely habitable, as you mentioned the prime minister said. St. Martin the French foreign minister said that the four tallest billings on the island are completely destroyed, as well as most of the buildings either or completely.

We haven't heard from Anguilla yet. British Virgin Islands took a direct hit as well. If there's any good news to the last couple of hours is we're not looking at a major landfall in the near future. So we've got maybe another 24 hours without one and it's pulling away from Puerto Rico.

Good news. About 70 miles away now. It's been undergoing kind of an eye wall replacement cycle reorganizing itself. So, again, as it starts to strengthen again, we're going to watch the system make its way toward Cuba then northward. They have moved jus about 60 to 70 miles from where it was this time last night. Anyone in the cone of uncertainty, still the options are open. We should know more in about 24 to 48 hours.

LEMON: And also, Tom, Irma may not be the only problem ahead. There are other systems that we're looking at. And we mentioned Jose and Katia. Katia is actually in the Gulf of Mexico right now.

SATER: Yes. That one popped out just a cluster storms this morning. It was called a tropical storm. And by this evening it was named a hurricane as well as Jose. Now we knew Jose was going to be a hurricane.

But it is interesting, Don, there is a cold front sweeping down through the southeastern U.S. It's too bad that cold front wasn't moving through on Friday because that would push Irma out into the ocean. But I think this cold front is going to push Katia down toward Vera Cruz, Mexico. So for those of you in Texas, Louisiana, do not fret, that one is not moving anywhere.

But I am a little concerned about Jose. Yes, it is a hurricane as well. And we know it's following Irma but for the most part it's going to come pretty close. You're going to see the pattern of rainfall for Irma and then you see a little spike. It comes close to those islands again and maybe as a major hurricane. But it's going to be nice to see that one move into the open waters.

LEMON: All right. Tom Sater in the weather center. Tom, we'll take back with you. Thank you so much for that. I want to get down to CNN's Leyla Santiago. She is live for us in San Juan. So, Leyla, I've been watching you report all day. We spoke last night. The weather in Puerto Rico has really deteriorated as the hours tick by. What are you seeing right now?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, we are still seeing rain and heavy wind gusts coming in. But really a lot of the people on this island are breathing a sigh of relief because this is not what was initially expected from people here on this island, given that this was preliminarily expected to be catastrophic event here.

So that is what a lot of people are saying on social media, calls that I have made to others that are in their own homes. And yet, government officials, emergency management officials are saying don't let your guard down now. Because even if this, this rain and this wind that is what we saw earlier is the worst of it, we still have a lot of problems coming as a result of it.

Let's start with power. More than 900,000 households right now without power. And Don, they have already -- authorities here have already said this will be a matter of days, it could be days possibly months before the power is back and restored for the folks that lost it tonight.

[22:05:05] And then there is the flooding. That is certainly going to be an issue. Already on the eastern part of the island rescue crews have had to go in to save dozens of people from flooding in homes as well as cars. So flooding and power are big issues. And of course, tomorrow damage assessment begins. The FEMA director here already saying that they will begin damage assessment as soon as possible. Don?

LEMON: Leyla Santiago, thank you for your reporting. We'll check back with you as well. Joining me now by phone from St. Martin is Loren Ann Mayo. She lives in Florida and is on vacation on the island. Thank you so much. You're there with a group of people, five people, I believe. So tell us what it was like, what it was like when Irma hit.

LOREN ANN MAYO, FLORIDA RESIDENT: Well, we woke up about 3 in the morning after a little cat nap and the winds were howling, the rain started beating on the door to our balcony and it got progressively worse. We really couldn't see anything until about, I want to say 5.30 or 6 this morning and then there was the most eerie blue light we've ever seen. It's the rains that's smashing in these sliding glass doors.

And we're on the sixth floor so we didn't have wave waters come up. But the way that everything drains in the room, it was coming from the door, sending debris in here and basically flooded our room. We had a couple of instances of water on the ground in both bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen, living room and the balcony was a swimming pool. So it's been a terrifying experience but we all came out of it OK and we're just glad everyone is safe.

LEMON: You were capturing the video during the hurricane. Let's take a look at it.


MAYO: There's the door and there's the chair, I'm standing on the other side of the chair. My shoes are soaked. Notice we're moving sideways.




LEMON: My goodness, it's coming down like a fire hose.

MAYO: Yes. Everything was shaking. It was pretty scary, we were just hoping that the doors didn't crack and you know nothing blew inside and started flying at us.

So, once we realized that the door was safe and the rain was just really, really coming down, we hid out in one of the bathrooms and kind of barricaded ourselves behind three doors. And so we hid in there with candles and kind of waited it out until, you know, the eye of the storm was passing over us.

LEMON: I got to ask you something. So, I've been trying to get in touch with someone who is on St. Martin and I'm wondering how you're able because I can't get in touch with them. Their phones are not working. How are you able to get out? Are you on a cell phone or you're on a landline?

MAYO: I'm actually on a cell phone. So we did lose power last night. We lost water and we still don't have water right now. The cell phone just started working so we've been able to contact our family and friends back home and obviously post all of the videos.

LEMON: Are you, Loren, are you on the French side or the Dutch side of the island? Are you near the airport?

MAYO: Right now we're on the Dutch side. So we have a view of the airport. We're about I would say 15 minutes around the corner. Our location is in a marina area, so it's a little cove. And I think that's why, even though this part of the island looks really damaged to us, parts of the island, you know, were more devastated by the wind and the rain and everything blowing around.

LEMON: Were you able to get out or are you just staying close to the hotel?

MAYO: We got out today once the storm had pretty much passed.

LEMON: What does it look like?

MAYO: It's horrible. It's awful. This island was beautiful. It was tropical paradise. We came here, you know, with the intention of hosting the retreat and we brought 12 other people with us. Half of them made it on the plane and half of us are still stranded at the hotel.

But it's awful. I mean, roofs have blown off, there's cars that are damaged and flipped over, windshields, you know, the back windshield windshields have been ripped off, bumpers ripped off. Everything it's just an absolute disaster area.

LEMON: And you're used to hurricanes because you're from Florida, right? South Florida.

MAYO: yes. I'm on the west coast a little bit of south of Tampa. About 10 minutes from deep and my family lives in Bradenton on a bayou.

[22:10:00] LEMON: How does this compare?

MAYO: So they've been evacuated. Yes, we've been evacuated before but we've never seen anything like this. This was insane. There's a feet of balcony that flew off above us, where other groups were staying before they caught the flight out before the storm. And it's hanging on by a thread. We tied it to our balcony so that it doesn't move but it's just --

it's really scary because it came down at one point when the rain was blowing so hard and we were pretty nervous it was going to blow right through our doors into our unit. I'm not sure what we would have done had that happened.

LEMON: All right. Loren, you be safe. I appreciate it. Thank you for joining us here on CNN.

MAYO: You're welcome. Thank you.

LEMON: Unbelievable. Miguel Marquez is in Miami tonight for us and he joins us now live. Miguel, you heard she says she's from Florida, never seen anything like it. Dade County has issued a mandatory evacuation order for coastal cities. Set the scene for us there. Gas, water shortages? What's happening?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Yes, you can express the concern that Floridians have tonight by the shortage of both gas and water. Water throughout Florida, at least South Florida. We went by Wal-Mart, Publix supermarket, Target, Walgreen's. They are all out of water. They are getting more in.

Wal-Mart telling us that they're delivering some 1300 trailer trucks just filled with water alone, pulling it from as far away as Nevada. Gas as well, they're filling up everything, their cars, gas cans. Getting ready for the storm. We've been at this place most of the day. They have delivered tens of thousands of gallons throughout the day.

Look at the line here. Still, you know, it's almost 10.30 at night. Now there's still a giant line here. It's gotten better. It was two hours at the longest today. It's gotten much better. And if you come around this way. This is U.S. 1, this is the main route from the Keys in Monroe County that's already under an evacuation order.

Traffic has been pretty steady all day but certainly given the concern that people have, the uncertainty about the storm and the strength of this storm, traffic going this way is going to get much worse in the hours and days ahead. Four shelters already open in Miami-Dade, they started taking people in tonight. That is that the numbers there are likely to grow. Don?

LEMON: Miguel, I know you're used to covering these things. But it's on the way so be safe. We'll check back with you as well.

Joining me now on the phone now is Roman Gastesi. He is the administrator of Monroe County, Florida which includes the Keys. Roman, thank you. We know that you're very busy right now but we appreciate you joining us.

The Florida Governor Rick Scott estimates 25,000 people have already been evacuated from the Florida Keys. There are Mandatory evacuations. Do you expect that everyone will be able to get out in time?

ROMAN GASTESI, COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR, MONROE COUNTY: We do. We actually do. And thank you for having me tonight. You know, we look at the images and the videos of what the affected islands are going through and the thought that we might be going through that in a few days is an outright scary and concerning.

So, you know, as you mentioned, we have one road in and one road out. So, Keys residents are very connected to the weather and know when to take things serious. They've been taking this very serious for the last three days. You know, I just drove down from our emergency operations center in marathon to Key West, which is about a 50-mile drive and there is nobody in the Keys.

I mean, there is a very little amount of people in the Keys. I drove around Key West because I knew I was going to be on your show, to give you a good update report, probably 90 percent of the businesses and bars and restaurants are closed. There's still a few stragglers. But I think the folks are taking this serious and I'm glad to be able report that.

LEMON: I'm glad you said that. Because that roadway, that one roadway in and out can get pretty clogged so it's good that you don't see many people out there. But what are you expecting in terms of damage, Roman? Can you even assess right now?

GASTESI: Well, you know, again, I'm looking at the images that you're showing on TV and it's outright scary. I lived in South Dade during hurricane Andrew and this is much more powerful and bigger than Andrew. And you know the damage that we had there.

So the thought that an Andrew like and even possibly more would come through the Keys is outright scary. I just hope that if it does come to the Keys it crosses somewhere that is not very populated and doesn't have much to it. As you know the Keys are 120 miles long and we have 42 bridges, and many islands. So it really depends on what happens. It's just outright scary.

LEMON: So let me ask you, the national -- the Florida National Guard coordinating with North Carolina National Guard to utilize air assets to assist with ongoing evacuations in the Keys, can you tell us about that?

GASTESI: Well, yes, that's what we need to do and they were here today. They're in our OEC, which our operations center. We're coordinating center and depending on where the storm hits, we will move accordingly.

[22:14:58] Right now in Key West and if it's going to be a direct hit in Key West, will be moving up to marathon or key largo or possibly even homestead and the main land depending on where it's going to hit. So we have to be flexible, we have to be adjustable. If the bridges go out, we will utilize basically an air bridge system.

And we practice that, we talk about that all the time. Hopefully we won't have to implement that. but again, 42 bridges, all it takes is one to go out to stop all of the traffic and it could be weeks or months before that bridge gets repaired.

LEMON: My goodness. GASTESI: But we're in pretty good shape.

LEMON: Well, you stay safe, Roman. And again, we know you're busy. Thank you very much. We'll check back with you either later on this evening or tomorrow here on CNN. But, you guys had your hands full, please stay safe. And we will come back.


GASTESI: Thank you.

LEMON: yes, absolutely. We're just getting started here on CNN. We're going to be covering this throughout the duration. And when we come back, much more on this deadly category 5 hurricane heading for the U.S. And the two others just behind it -- well, the one behind in the Atlantic.

Officials from major agencies tracking and preparing for the storm and they will join us next.


LEMON: We're back now with our breaking news. Hurricane Irma a powerful category 5 storm killing at least three people as it leaves a trail of destruction across the Caribbean.

But I want you to take a look at this incredible video. It's shot from a plane inside the eye of the storm. Look at that. Massive. Everything seems calm, right? Blue sky and peeks of sun visible above the eye. So unbelievable there.

[22:20:05] So let's -- on the phone now, joining me now is Greg Carbin, he's the chief of the forecast operations branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric administration. Joining us now, by the way, again. Greg, this storm battering the Caribbean, where is hurricane Irma right now?

GREG CARBIN, WARNING COORDINATION METEOROLOGIST, NOAA: Yes. Good evening, Don. Hurricane Irma is just north of the island of Puerto Rico this evening as we've seen on satellite and radar images, a stunning image of catastrophic hurricane now moving away from the island of Puerto Rico.

LEMON: And heading where next?

CARBIN: Well, basically remaining over the warm water, and that's crucial. That will probably allow the hurricane to maintain intensity over the warm waters as it moves to just to the north of the island of Hispaniola. There are hurricane warnings up there. And it looks like it will remain out over the water, the most destructive portion of the eye probably offshore of Hispaniola.

LEMON: Ok. So can you walk us through the possibilities of where it hits the continental U.S.?

CARBIN: Well we've seen relatively consistent information coming out from the National Hurricane Center and also the computer models, both the large scale global models and higher resolution models that handle hurricanes in a very high resolution that the system will continue to move towards the Straits of Florida, basically near the Keys of Florida by Saturday night before making a turn to the north, and probably impacting a portion of southern Florida.

Whether it goes west of the peninsula or to the east, the current track is just to the east of Miami, a very dangerous track moving up the east coast of Florida an eventually up into portions of the Carolinas by late into the weekend.

LEMON: When do you expect landfall again?

CARBIN: Well, landfall is a little tricky as how you define. The eye may remain offshore just east of Miami, not necessarily making landfall. But the track is just grazing the coast of southeast Florida. And it's not certain whether landfall will occur in Florida or whether it occurs further up the cost into South Carolina or Georgia. So still a lot of uncertainty as we get out about three days. But all interests along the east coast need to keep an eye on this, it's a very dangerous storm.

LEMON: Thank you very much, Greg Carbin, rear admiral. We appreciate that. Greg Carbin, chief forecaster -- excuse me -- for NOAA. I appreciate that.

The powerful storm was going to slam Florida in the coming days as you heard him say. So I want to check in now with Rear Admiral Peter Brown, the commander of the seventh Coast Guard district in Miami and he joins us by phone as well.

Admiral, thank you so much for joining us. What is the Coast Guard doing right now to prepare for this hurricane?

PETER BROWN, COMMANDER, UNITED STATES COAST GUARD'S 7TH DISTRICT: Well, thank you, Don, for the opportunity to explain what the United States Coast Guard is doing. And I would add that in addition to being responsible for Florida, I'm also responsible for Coast Guard operations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands where we're dealing with the onset of the storm.

We have several hundred people in Puerto Rico right now who are hunkered down as all others are. And we are working to be able to respond as soon as the sun comes up tomorrow. Because we have a number of helicopters that remained in Puerto Rico that will be able to provide live saving search and rescue where it's needed and also damage assessment from the air.

LEMON: So, my question...


BROWN: These are -- go ahead.

LEMON: How are you protecting that fleet, that rescue fleet right now? BROWN: Well, our helicopters are in a reinforced concrete hangar at

our air station on the northwest corner of Puerto Rico which was only brushed by the tropical storm force winds, thankfully, during the storm. Our cutter fleet, our ships that are based in San Juan sailed out of the way of the storm to the south. And as soon as the seas lay down and allow us to return, we'll be moving back quickly toward Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to bring lifesaving aid to wherever it may be needed.

LEMON: What are you hearing from your folks in the field?

BROWN: I got a report from our sector commander in San Juan earlier this evening reporting that they were experiencing tropical storm force winds. There was a power outage at our base in old San Juan. I heard your reporter earlier describing the wide spread power outages numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

So that's consistent with what we've experienced there. But no major damage reports. And I believe that when daybreak occurs tomorrow that we'll be able to get the helicopters out of the hangar, provide those initial damage assessments and provide life-saving search and rescues where it's needed.

LEMON: What's your number when concern for the storm -- the storm of this magnitude?

BROWN: Well, for the storm at this magnitude it's the combination of the catastrophic winds. We've heard 185 miles per hour and possibly in the 140s or 150s when it makes landfall in Florida.

[22:25:00] That combined, when it arrives in the continental United States with the storm surge, which inundates coastal regions, that combination produces catastrophic and life-threatening damage. That's our biggest concern.

So along with the civil authorities such as Monroe County who you had on earlier, and the governor of the state we're very concerned that people heed the evacuation orders, move away from the coastal zone and get out of the way of the storm because there is no stopping the kind of damage that it can do.

LEMON: Rear Admiral Peter Brown of the Coast Guard, thank you, sir. I appreciate that. Joining me now on the phone is Marlon Carr of ABS TV and radio in Antigua and Barbuda. You flew to Barbuda I understand today with the prime minister to survey the damage and talk to the residents. Tell me about that.

MARLON CARR, AUDIOVISUAL SPECIALIST, ABS: Well, we lost contact with Barbuda just about the time when the eye passed over Barbuda. So we decided that we had to fly over to get to assess what happened over there. So we went over, and when we got there we saw catastrophic -- the catastrophic effect of hurricane Irma.

Ninety percent of the homes there were totally destroyed. Most of people, the population there are homeless. It's going to take a long time for things to get back to normal in Barbuda. LEMON: My goodness. You grew up in this area. And you describe some

of the people as tying themselves to parts of their homes because they -- did they understand how powerful this storm was?

CARR: Well, we've had strong storms here before, so a lot of them thought that they could ride it out in the house, because they thought their house was strong enough. But it was really, really strong winds. And when it was too late, you know, some people had to go into their cupboard, some had to go in the bathroom to shelter.

But what I noticed is most of the people there did that. Because the eye passed over Barbuda, that saved them. Because when the eye passed, it got calm enough for them to get out of there, you know, makeshift shelter and run to something more secure.

LEMON: Can you -- can help -- can you get supplies in off the island? Water?

CARR: Tomorrow most likely is when we're going to send over the supplies because the sea was pretty rough today still because of the storm. So tomorrow we'll be sending over boats and helicopters and stuff like that to carry supplies over to assist.

LEMON: And emotionally for the people there, I mean, it has to be devastating to see people tying themselves to their home and then having to run to safety after the eye passes over.

CARR: Yes. Yes. We're a Christian nation so a lot of the people when you talk to them, they talk about their faith. They're saying thanks to God for saving their lives because that was the only thing that could explain what happened. Because for the amount of destruction that happened there, only one life was lost so far that we know of.

And that in and of itself is a miracle. If you saw those footage, you would understand some of the houses look like a grenade went off and all the -- you know, it was just total destruction there.

LEMON: We're looking at it now. And as we understood the prime minister, and when you guys flew over, you said 90 percent of destruction.

CARR: Yes.

LEMON: It's going to be -- it's going to take a long time to rebuild. Do you think you can do it?

CARR: Well, we are resilient people so yes, we can do it. We're thinking about evacuating some of the population to Antigua because we have Jose on its way now and it might pass closer, might pass over us. So we want to prepare for that. We might evacuate some people to the main land and get them safely to ride out Jose.

LEMON: Marlon Carr, thank you very much. We wish you the best of luck.

CARR: No problem. LEMON: Thank you. When we come back, mandatory evacuation orders in

place throughout much of Florida but some are staying behind. Two storm chasers who are hunkering down in south Florida join me next. I'm going to ask if they'll stick to their plans to stay through the storm. That's next. Look at the eye.


[22:30:00] LEMON: We're covering the breaking news of hurricane Irma, one of the strongest storms ever recorded in the Atlantic. Packing sustained winds of 180 miles per hour. This is what it looked like as it barreled into St. Martin with winds so powerful the storm sounded like a freight train. That's what may hit Florida in the coming days.

On the phone with me again tonight is Mike Theiss, he's a hurricane chaser who is in Key Largo, Florida for us. Mike, good evening to you again. You chase many storms but have you ever seen a monster like Irma?

MIKE THEISS, STORM CHASER: No, I haven't. And in fact since the last time we spoke not a whole lot has changed still an extremely dangerous category 5 and it's still heading right for south Florida. It's very sad to see all of these images coming out of the Caribbean and these islands but this is what a category 5 will do. This is a truly historic hurricane.

LEMON: So we spoke to someone in the Keys and checking things out there saying that he didn't see much activity and it looked like people were heeding the warnings. What are you seeing in Key Largo?

[22:35:01] THEISS: Absolutely same thing. People are boarded up and a lot of people have left already and I believe a lot of the residents, tomorrow will be the day that they get out and just get out of here. It's highly recommended. This thing comes across the island at this force, it's going to be a complete catastrophe and you just do not want to be here for something like that.

LEMON: Are you, Mike, who are you with? Are you by yourself?

THEISS: I'm going to team up with Reed Timmer and between the two of us we have a plan with different instruments that we're going to place along the Florida Keys that will take wind measurement and barometric pressure. And we want to collect data. If it's coming this way, we say very much we'll collect data with it and you know, just to show everybody what's going on down here.

Now there is 42 bridges and that's the big concern. We will get into a safe building but getting out of here might be a long time. This is my home. I grew up here and I know it very well and I just feel that staying is what I should be doing.

LEMON: OK. So that was my next question. Even if it takes a direct hit. Because you know, the Keys are not protected, Mike. And so even if it goes right across the Keys, you're going to stay there?

THEISS: You know what, if it's a category 5 at this strength I can still leave. I will make that decision tomorrow. But chances are I will try to stay here. I do look for good I know a few locations I could stay there, completely solid concrete structures with stairwells and reinforced rebar. We can go up if we have to several floors with the storm surge.

And I feel confident there are some places we can ride it out if it is this strength. But I'll tell you, Don, you know, I've never seen anything like this and I have never chased one of this calibers. So we are entering the world of unknown.

LEMON: Yes. Well, stay safe. We'll check back with you, Mike. And speaking of that I want to bring in your partner now, Reed Timmer, he's a storm chaser and an extreme meteorologist at AccuWeather and he joins us now via Skype. Hey, Reed, I understand you're at a gas station. Are the pumps shut down or are they pumping gas?

REED TIMMER, EXTREME METEOROLOGIST, ACCUWEATHER: Yes. This gas station here is completely shut down. It's just on the north side of Miami Boulevard. And where's another gas station on i-95 that I stopped at to fill up with gas that was absolute chaos. They had police directing traffic there, people going in and out, lines extending out at the gas station, several cars long extending out of every single stall.

So, gas is definitely a scarce commodity out here especially in south Florida. Even days ahead of hurricane Irma which is a good that people are taking it seriously. There's a long stream of traffic heading north on i-95, as well, a major evacuation of people leaving south Florida ahead of hurricane Irma and that's very important. Because it's a very, very powerful storm category 5, the strongest ever seen in the Atlantic. And 185-mile per hour winds. You definitely do not want to mess around. Those are deadly even if you're in some of the sturdiest of structures.

LEMON: Yes. And listen, we just talked to your partner, Mike, and he is on Key Largo, and he is saying he's going to, he thinks he's going to stay but then he's going to wait to assess the situation. You do not recommend that for the average person. Because there's a mandatory evacuation. And even if they're warned something this powerful, you need to get out of its path.

TIMMER: Yes. It's very important to get out of the way of this thing. It is a very deadly storm. The wind as well, in addition to that also the storm surge. It's about as deadly as it can get in terms of hurricanes.

I said that as similar we were heading down toward Harvey as it was intensifying in the last second and this one is much stronger than Harvey especially and the wind speed that it's producing. It won't be moving quite as fast or quite as slow as Harvey but it will be turning to take that northward turn, the timing of it pivotal. That will determine just the extent of the impact in Florida.

But if it turns north and moves up to the spine of the peninsula or along the very eastern shore, there will be a devastating storm surge all along the north side of the eye as it moves toward. We've very prepared though. We got gas tanks, we got 25 gallons of gas just on this vehicle alone.

Mike has much more gas down there. We also have supplies to survive a week or two if we get trapped anywhere. So we are prepared to follow this. Don, I have my instrument probe as well in the back of the vehicle here that will be recording the pressure fall and the wind speed and direction data inside the hurricane.

We deployed that in Harvey on top of a bridge and measured the wind speed in excess of 125 an hour and pressure of 140 millibars. And we expect this one if it does take as direct hit on Florida those wind speeds will be much higher than that.

LEMON: Then you guys are committed. Reed, we'll see you tomorrow. Thank you, sir. Be safe.

TIMMER: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Thank you. When we come back, Irma heading for Florida only days after Harvey wreaked havoc on Houston. Is the federal government ready for yet another monster storm?


LEMON: Here's our breaking news tonight, monster hurricane Irma barreling through the Caribbean and taking aim at Florida. I want you to take a look at this. This incredible satellite imagery from NASA, the eye of the hurricane.

Joining me now on the phone is Miguel Ascarrunz, he is director of Emergency Management for Broward County, Florida. Mr. Ascarrunz, thank you so much for joining us. Broward County has issued some mandatory evacuations. The latest in terms of preparations?

MIGUEL ASCARRUNZ, DIRECTOR, BROWARD COUNTY EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT DIVISION: Thanks, Don. Good to be with you this evening. Right now we're currently under a local state of emergency and so we're operating out of the county's emergency operations center.

Today we've been focused on preparing for evacuations and mass care sheltering issues. What we wanted to do was to allow our residents and the public to begin voluntary evacuations so they could begin getting out of town and alleviate some of the traffic moving up the coast.

So we did ask them though to stay within the county. So staying with family or friends was probably the best bet within the county. We do have two evacuation zones with a total of about 150,000 populations.

Tomorrow we've issued a mandatory evacuation for that area along our Barrier islands and low lying areas of the county. So we're focused on ensuring the public is safe and safely evacuates out of the evacuation zones within our county. And also setting up shelter operations, we're going to have 14 shelters open by noon tomorrow and the mandatory evacuation begins at noon tomorrow, on Thursday.

[22:44:59] LEMON: So what about the elderly and people who need medical treatment? What's the plan to take care of them if the storm hits hard?

ASCARRUNZ: Yes, we, the State of Florida, have special needs registry. In Broward County we maintain that registry right now. We have about 2,000 people that we're doing a call down, ensuring that they're able to make it to one of our special medical needs shelters which will also be open tomorrow, on Thursday, to get them out of harm's way and ensure their safety.

We also have vulnerable population registry in Broward County. We work in collaboration with our 31 municipalities to ensure they know their vulnerable population that may decide to not evacuate, they may be in a high-rise building and maybe, may have a disability, a frailty or other health issues and for those reasons they may not be able to evacuate.

So we want those cities to know where those individuals live and post- landfall they can go and check up on these individuals. I might also mention that today we -- the past two days we've been focused on a phase regional evacuation within south Florida starting with Monroe County down south and then this evening Miami-Dade initiated their evacuations and Broward County again, we'll be initiating our mandatory evacuations tomorrow on Thursday.

LEMON: OK. Miguel Ascarrunz, the director of Emergency Management for Broward County. Thank you. We appreciate your time. Good luck to you.

The U.N. says up to 37 million people could be affected by hurricane Irma. And joining me now, CNN contributor lieutenant general Russel Honore, who was commander of the joint task force Katrina. General, always a pleasure to have you. We appreciate your expertise on this program and on CNN. This storm is a monster maintaining speed and power. What more should emergency officials be doing to prepare right now?

RUSSEL HONORE, CONTRIBUTOR, CNN: Continue to repeat the message, Don. The more they encourage people to evacuate. One of the downsides of Florida being so well-organized at this point in time, and the governor has been on message, the mayors and county officials, people sometimes get a complacency that the state is prepared and they can take more risks.

One of the downsides of kind of the culture in Florida is people, when you talk to them on the street is, well, I can take a category 3 storm. If it's higher than a 3 I'll leave. If not, I'll stay. Every message that's coming out from the government is clearly stating it's time for people to leave. Then they should adhere to that.

The other piece that we can be cognizant of and you're just talking about, Florida has taken some extreme measures to help their people be prepared. It's the only state with a generator law, that requires certain gas stations along the evacuation route to have generator in case they lose power.

The program that you've previously talking about with the elderly and disabled. That is a funded program in Florida. As a matter of fact I was down about 18 months ago or two years ago. There was a retired marine colonel that's advocacy for people with disability and they make sure in every county they have them organized so they're prepared to evacuate them.

But we must not take comfort in the preparedness of the state. Because this is, again, Don, if this thing come in a category 4, 5, into Miami, if it was a game we would lose the first quarter. By design, the wind, the water, we're going to lose the first part of this. People will lose their lives, infrastructure will be broken.

So people need to adhere to that and evacuate now base on what the local officials should tell there. Because regardless of how prepared the state and the government is, it's the damage that will come from this storm and people's lives could be on the line and they need to adhere to the instructions given to them about evacuations.

LEMON: General Russel Honore, we appreciate your expertise. We'll see you son here on CNN. We've got much more to come on the monster storm.

And when we come right back, Facebook says they sold ads to a Russian troll farm during the last year's election. We're going to tell you what this could mean for the investigation into the Russian election interference.


LEMON: Facebook told Congress today that it sold political ads during the 2016 presidential election to a so-called Russian troll farm that was looking to target American voters.

Let's discuss now CNN's chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto is here. CNN political analyst, April Ryan here as well, and Bob Cusack editor in chief of the Hill. Thank you all for joining us this evening. Jim, today Facebook told congressional investigators that it sold a political ads to that Russian troll farm or inauthentic accounts. What more can you tell us about this?

JIM SCIUTTO, CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Listen, Don, this is pretty interesting on a number of levels. We have, first the basic details. Three thousand ads, $100,000 over the timespan from June 2016 before the election right up until May of this year.

Those numbers are not particularly big in a billion dollar campaign. But you know how social media works. Facebook, 3,000 ads can have many times the number of impressions, perhaps up to a million of eyeballs that actually saw these ads. So that's key to note too.

The fact that it continued up to May of this year, months after Russian interference in the election including the intelligence community not just calling out Russian interference hacking DNC e- mails, et cetera, but they found evidence of Russia using troll farms to spread fake news around election time. So it had been known for some time for Facebook to take months to discover that is interesting.

The final thing is this. They didn't say all of these ads were targeted at particular districts but some of them were. And I spoke with two members of the House, one at the House and one of the Senate intelligence communities today who said that at a minimum, that will raise questions about when these ads were targeted. Was there held in the U.S. to help them target those ads. To this point there hasn't been hard evidence of that but it raises those questions again.

LEMON: What are the legal ramifications here?

SCIUTTO: I mean, Facebook didn't do anything illegal here. It's perfectly legal to sell those ads. And they're doing their part now for by doing the forensics to trace where these ads came from. So, no legal ramifications for Facebook.

I mean, certainly in the investigation of Russian interference, it raises questions like I just brought up, was there help on the U.S. end as Russia, Russian troll farms were buying these ads, targeting particular voters in particular districts. That's a fair question for investigators going forward.

Also a question as to why it took so long to track these down and why these troll farms were able to buy these ads up until May of this year.

LEMON: Interesting. April, this all coming on the eve that Donald Trump, Jr.'s closed door interview with the Senate judiciary committee is happening, Russia is in center again.

APRIL RYAN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: Yes, Russia is front and center. Two things, Don, you have to remember when Donald Trump, Jr. goes before this committee tomorrow there are questions about his credibility. You know, there's been a lot of omission or you know, what I recall. So that's one.

[22:54:57] But going back to this report about Facebook this just confirmed and flushes out even more so. What we heard during the Obama administration when we're saying that Russia had made attempts at trying to influence the election. Even though these ads or these news stories, fake news stories did not talk about Hillary Clinton per se, it dealt with certain issues for certain groups of people particularly in the rust belt, race, the LGBT community and gun says, so -- or guns.

So it's very interesting how all of these pieces are in the air and starting to, I guess land. The puzzle pieces are starting to shape. The borders are starting to shape. So, tomorrow will be very interesting to see what happens and what is said by Donald Trump, Jr. as well.

LEMON: Bob, I want you to take a look at this picture of the president and Chuck Schumer. Today the president backed a deal by democrats to attach hurricane relief money to a shorter term bump in the debt ceiling as well as keeping the government open. When that idea was floated to speaker Paul Ryan a few hours earlier this is what he said. Listen to this.


PAUL RYAN, UNITED STATES SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think that's a ridiculous and disgraceful that they want to play politics with the debt ceiling at this moment when we have fellow citizens in need respond to these hurricanes so that we do not strand them.


LEMON: And all the sudden things change. And Dana Bash is reporting by the way, that republicans were shell shocked at the deal Trump made. What is behind this deal, Bob?

BOB CUSACK, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE HILL: A couple things, Don. I mean, I think, I mean, it's tough day for Paul Ryan. The White House just released its schedule for tomorrow and Ryan and Trump were having dinner and maybe to get on the same page because they were not on the same page clearly today.

I think part of it is Trump being Trump, is that he gave a lot of people to Ryan and McConnell to get health care done. It didn't happen. So this way he decided I'm going to go my own route and work with democrats. This is -- this is a very different approach that we've seen from Donald Trump. I don't think you can see a lot of bipartisanship coming out. But, you know, republicans had they tried to pass the relief bill with a long-term debt limit bill democrat would have been force to support it. So this really shocked them.

LEMON: April, what does this mean for democrats?

RYAN: Well, democrats are taking advantage of I guess the angst that's going on right now within the Republican Party. Democrats have somewhat of a win. It's strange bed fellows at this moment. Democrats are going to try to, I guess use this for the moment. But we don't know what's going to happen because this president is very unpredictable.

It all depends on who's in his ear, what he feels and if he's mad at someone for the day and I can't wait to find out about what is said at this dinner tomorrow evening with Paul Ryan and the president after all that's happened when it comes to C.R.

LEMON: April, Jim, and Bob, thank you. I appreciate it.

SCIUTTO: Thank you.

LEMON: When we come back, at least three dead as hurricane Irma slams the Caribbean. The monstrous storm now taking aim at Florida. We're going to bring you live reports from the ground next.