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Florida Braces For Hurricane Irma, Miami Could Take Direct Hit: Jose Strengthens To Category 3; Donald Trump Jr. Questioned By Senate . Aired 9-10p ET

Aired September 7, 2017 - 21:00   ET



[21:00:27] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Breaking news, tops the hour, it is all about Irma, heading directly at Miami, possibly even as a category five hurricane.

Now the storm already a strong category five, showing signs in the latest update of growing stronger and the death toll in the islands along the path so far, that death toll is rising. It now stands at 10, at least 10 that we know about.

We've just learned of four deaths in the U.S. Virgin Islands, four deaths as well on St. Martin, another on Anguilla, and one on Barbuda, where as you can see the destruction is wide-spread and in many places nearly complete according to prime minute. Turks and Caicos getting hit hard right now.

And as we said at the top, there's at least one new sign as Tom Sater reported earlier that Hurricane Irma is getting stronger, which is where we start this hour with Tom in the weather center. So let's talk about what is the latest, Tom?

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, about the -- I'd say 12 hours ago or so, we saw a 5 mile per hour drop in the sustained winds, from 180 to 175, but you can't tell the difference, it's still a category five and we are well in to 60 hours now.

At the 8:00 p.m. hour, we saw a drop in the pressure. Not much but that tells you that it's trying to get a little stronger. It takes the winds a little time to catch up, Anderson, to that pressure drop, so it's still a well old machine it's firing on all cylinders.

And of course, when we talk about this we've got to talk about the watch that was issued today, if no one knows this. This is brand new hurricane watch. This means business. This will change to a warning which means conditions are imminent for a category three, four, or five storm that is approaching.

But when we talk about the track, and this is important, yesterday, we saw a shift, 60 to70 miles more toward the east. Today we saw the model shifted back westward about another 15 to 20. So when we get in closer, what does it mean? Let's talk about the models. First, the spaghetti plot, these are different. Now there are several models. Well, actually this right into the storm surge which we'll get to in a minute because this is a big thing. When you have that watch, and you have that model shifting off the coast, this is what a good, you know, 5 to 10 foot storm surge it's going to look like. It's wave after wave of this water crashing in to the coast line and it could extend, not just in the canals and the streams and creeks, but well inland possible over a mile, got to keep it in mind.

Now the models that we're talking about, the spaghetti plots they are still kind of hugging the east coast. Now this is one way of looking at the computer models. And of course, we want agreement and that's what we've had for a week now.

The European model still places it, making its way in toward Key Largo and up Biscayne Bay, but this is different today, Anderson. This is the U.S. model.

Yesterday at this time, the center of this model was east and off shore. Much like Hurricane Matthew was just last year. So it skirted up the coast line. This is significant, because this puts the wind radius at its worst over Miami and the heavily populated areas.

The wind radius, in yellow is tropical storm force winds and red is hurricane force, but white over Miami, catastrophic, that's what these models are hinting at. Both the European, which in cases 50 computer models and the U.S., the GFS was, in cases, is 21. So you got over 70 models both agreeing today. If we can, we'd like to see it move out, this, again, like Matthew, which still caused major damage, Flagler Beach had a major damage, A1A flooding up in Jacksonville, historic flooding in the Carolinas.

This is the best case scenario, unfortunately, it doesn't look like that really it's going to be the case, Anderson. So, again, the worst case scenario is what we're looking at right here and now.

COOPER: And just before we get to Jose, do you have a sense of the timeline of this in terms of -- for people who are in Miami, when they are going to start to feel, you know, increased winds and rain?

SATER: Right.

COOPER: And then, when they are really, you know, when they are going to feel them the most?

SATER: Well, when we look at the storm surge, it's always a great way to at least get an idea of when we are expecting those waves to shove the water in toward the coast line. And right now, for Miami, it's 5- 10 feet. But if you get in closer, we can kind get more of a timeline, as far as Friday night should be off the coast to Cuba. We're expecting on Saturday that turn northward. So by Sunday morning, the morning has put it right off the keys, just right off that Sunday early morning 6:00 to 8:00 a.m. in the morning. And then making landfall in the day on Sunday, making its way northward on Monday. Now remember, it can still stay off the coast line, but when it comes to some of the surge events here. Notice, this is hard to read here but it's from the National Hurricane Center. North Miami Beach, OK, then you've got North Bay village and Miami to the south. Everything in blue is 1-3 feet of water. That's well into the canals. If you drop southward, you get more of the storm surge near the center as it approaches. In this bright orange, this is 6 to 9 feet. That's why I was showing you that water level coming up. I mean, this does major damage. Most people think, oh it's just the beaches, it's the dunes, it is not. It's well inland and still in yellow, you've got significant 3 to 6 foot storm surge moving that direction even further in, Anderson.

[21:05:16] COOPER: Yes, all right. And then Jose behind. Tom Sater, thanks. We will check back with Tom throughout this hour as well as with Ed Rappaport of the National Hurricane Center shortly new information comes in.

Right now as you heard Turks and Caicos getting the worst of it, Heather Beaton, her husband, their 11-month old son, the rest of her family members went down there for her brother's wedding, needless to say, this more than they bargain for. Heather and I spoke just before air time.


COOPER: Heather, so you're stranded in a hotel in Turks and Caicos, where in the hotel are you right now and are you safe?

HEATHER BEATON, STRANDED WITH FAMILY IN TURKS AND CAICOS (via telephone): Yes, we are safe, we are actually in -- they had several buildings on the property and we are actually located on the third floor in the Caribbean building.

COOPER: I know you have your 11-month old child with you, how is he doing?

BEATON: He is doing very good. Obviously, he doesn't know exactly what's going on. We've been trying to be positive with games and we actually have him asleep right now in a crib in the bathroom, where we think is the safest place for him to be and away from harm's way.

COOPER: What it's been like trying to get off the island?

BEATON: It's been a little bit challenging. We started preparing several days before, knowing that it could potentially hit this area. We reached out to Delta, multiple times via Twitter, Facebook, phone calling and we were unsuccessful. So, felt a little abandoned by the airline, not really knowing what they were going to do. Still showing our airline -- our flight that was scheduled for Friday, was still on time. And then, we did get added to an earlier flight, which was an existing flight for Thursday. Still showing was on time and unfortunately the hotel, the resort here, has done a really good job with updating us and they actually informed us that the airport was closing Wednesday at 6:00 p.m. local time here. So we did not get any information from Delta and so we were unsuccessful in getting out and we actually at the time, don't even know when we will be able to leave. We haven't been updated from Delta with any information.

COOPER: I mean, I got to say that's got to be infuriating to have the airline saying, oh this flight is happening, you are good to go Thursday, your are good to go Friday, but not informing that the airport is shutting down.

BEATON: Correct. We actually got notified through the hotel that they were going to be hosting a meeting for all of us still remaining which they've said is about 600 of us on property. And did a phenomenal job with preparing us for -- and updating us with information. And they were actually the ones that told us that the airport was going to be shutting down. So, we had no information from the airline whatsoever.

COOPER: What do you plan to do during the night? I spoke to the governor of Turks and Caicos who said the worst of it is going to be essentially for the next several hours.

BEATON: Yes, we did hear the hurricane sirens already go off, the windows are vibrating, the power has gone off and on, but I believe we are on generator right now, so, it is quite scary. We have put -- the hotel and resort has given us a lot of information on how to prepare. We've put mattresses up against our windows. Pillows, blankets and made sure water wouldn't come in. We secured all the doors with blashes (ph). We've done a lot of anything that we possibly could to kind of make everything secure. So I don't know if we're going to have a really good sleep tonight. But we've done everything we can. We filled the bath tub up with water in case we run out of water. But the resort has done a good job of giving us ample food and water, but we've also done anything we can since we know it's a very serious hurricane.

COOPER: I mean, the good news is the hotel itself is staying open so obviously you are able to stay there?

BEATON: Yes, correct. Actually the hotel has been fantastic. They have done are really good job. They actually still were serving food to all of us until 5:30 this evening, which is just before -- and the hurricane from what we've been told was still 40 miles away from us, and they still been serving food and providing linens and water. So, they've really done, they've really stepped up to the plate, highly excellent service for them.

COOPER: Well, Heather. I wish you and your family the best and everyone there. We'll continue to check in with you in the days ahead, thank you.

BEATON: Yes, thank you so much.


COOPER: Well, making sure everyone who needs to get out of the Miami area does in fact make it out quickly is only one of the many responsibilities tonight for Miami-Dade County mayor, Carlos Gimenez. He joins us now by phone. Mayor, evacuations on the way all over Miami-Dade Country right now, do you feel like people they are taking this seriously are you satisfied with what you're seeing?

MAYOR CARLOS GIMENEZ, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FL (via telephone): I'm satisfied with what I'm seeing, but again, there are always going to be some people that will not heed the warnings, and so, you know, that's all we can do. We can warn people. But I am satisfied with the preparations. I think people are taking the storm very seriously. It is a very serious storm and a very serious situation for us. So, you know, we're getting everybody prepared. We've given 600,000 people evacuation orders yesterday and today, and hopefully they'll heed them.

[21:10:20] COOPER: How easy it for people to evacuate? Obviously there's, you know, a lot of cancel flights to the airport but somebody is trying to drive out or get a bus out, what's the traffic like moving north? I know there are only a few direct routes north.

GIMENEZ: Well, when we say evacuate we really don't mean that you're going to be evacuating Miami-Dade County, you're going to be evacuating in to a friend's house, a co-workers house, family, and then some -- we have probably more than we have experienced in the past, people actually leaving Miami-Dade County. We -- Police Department in conjunction with Florida highway patrol is keeping the I-95 and the Florida Turnpike which are really the two main ways north out of our county open as much as possible.

And so, right now, we're not -- we don't hear or experiencing any problems people leaving but tomorrow is a different story. I think tomorrow as more people try to leave the area, not only here in south bay and Dade County, but throughout the state, I think that may become problematic. That's why we are telling our residents that if you are leaving, you better leave today. If you want to leave tomorrow, I think it's better for you to just stay in place, find a place, find a (INAUDIBLE) shelter to ride out of the storm. We don't want you to be stuck in the middle of the highway during a major hurricane.

COOPER: Yes, Mayor Gimenez, appreciate it. Thanks very much. Good luck to you and everyone else there.

Just ahead, we'll go live to the Florida Keys where not everyone is following evacuation orders and the question is why not, we'll talk to Bill Weir who is there.

And later, the Russian probe and yet another stunner, Donald Trump Jr., talking today to Senate investigators and giving yet another version of his meeting at Trump Tower with all those Russians.


[21:14:59] COOPER: We're getting a lot of different perspective on just how powerful Hurricane Irma is. I spoke with Air Force Reserved Flight Meteorologist Major Jeremy Dehart, who flew in to the storm.


COOPER: Major you flew in to hurricane last night. You still have planes up now right now, what's going on with the storm, is it maintaining its strength?

MAJOR JEREMY DEHART, AIR FORCE RESERVE FLIGHT METEOROLOGIST: It is, actually, and it's kind of unprecedented that it is maintaining the strength at such a strong storm. Irma has been a category five for almost three days now, and it's the strongest category, or strongest storm to come out of the Atlantic on record in the Atlantic Ocean. So, pretty amazing that it's been able to maintained strength for this long.

COOPER: What about the organization, I mean, any signs that it may be slowing down at all?

DEHART: The forecast track has been pretty spot on the last couple of days of National Hurricane Center had a pretty continuous speed or with motion, and it held that. It looks like it will begin to slow as it approaches Southern Florida before it makes that turn. But that's being forecasted by the National Hurricane Center through their products as well.

COOPER: What was your flight like?

DEHART: Pretty intense. I mean, category five storms are rare. Some of us could go our entire careers in this line of work without seeing one and flying through one. So, just immediately, as you start flying through the storm, you recognize the power of it, and you know you are flying through can be relatively smooth until you get to the eye wall area, and that's what you start to get josteled (ph) around, you are completely obscure with cloud cover and rain, and then what's unique about this major hurricane is, as soon as you hit that eye wall, and punch through that it just opens up in to the clear blue sky and calm winds, so pretty incredible.

COOPER: You talked about you could feel the power of the storm as you were flying through it. How do you feel that in an aircraft?

DEHART: Well, one example is there's something that we call slip. And so, when you are flying through the storm, you know, you are trying fly in at a straight line, and but, you know, you are getting blown from the side so much, so, we have a slip. So we were at about 35 degrees slip. Which means to maintain a constant heading, we had to fly 35 degrees pointed the other direction. So that's just one example of how extremely strong the storm is.

COOPER: Major, I appreciate all the work you and everybody is doing right now, so, thank you so much for talking to us.

DEHART: OK. Thank you.


COOPER: The governor of Florida said no uncertain terms, earlier today if you are in the Florida Keys get out now. Not everybody is heeding that advice. Bill Weir is in Key Largo, he joins us now. I understand you're on a boat and you met someone who is not going to leave, and actually riding out of the storm. BILL WEIR, CNN HOST, "WONDER LIST WITH BILL WEIR": Not only not going to leave the keys, Anderson, not going leave his boat, of all the places to ride out of this potential category five hurricane. Imagine being on the 50 feet sailboat called the Salt Shaker which is, you know, sort of rings to the Jimmy Buffett (ph) by down here. But this will be the storm shelter for a guy by the name of Rich Cunningham. Good to meet you captain.


WEIR: Well, I have to ask you on behalf of America, are you crazy? Have you seen what's out there?

CUNNINGHAM: We've seen what's out there. We just feel confident that it's going to do what it's projected to do, we've seen the latest models and we feel they're going to be far enough east of us so that we can withstand that kind of hit. We're looking at a back end wind pushing our boats out, instead of a front with the waves and the surge, and we feel we've done our work here. They're not just tied up boats. These are --

WEIR: It's not just ropes and an anchor. It's 185 mile an hour winds.

CUNNINGHAM: Well, these boats are built to ride them out.

WEIR: You were trying -- you were explaining at this point, you got to make the calculation, do I risk the gas lines running out of gas, on the Turnpike, all of these are calculations when from afar, it seems like just get out of there?

CUNNINGHAM: Right. We feel like this is the smart play. We're going to stay here. We're going to ride it out. We've got a lot of friends and neighbors. There's at least 12 to 14 other boat owners here --

WEIR: Yes.

CUNNINGHAM: -- that are full-time live boarders that are here protecting their property and their way of life. And I'm here to lend a hand with them and they're here to do the same with me.

WEIR: Well, I understand this is known as pretty good hurricane hole, you're sort of protected from the surge, to the waves in this harbor may not be, but if things get really dicey, do you have somewhere to go?

CUNNINGHAM: Yes, I mean, yes, the final hour, it's crunch time, the bail out plan would be if it is that tight and the storm is route on top of us, we have the building here itself, the Marina, and we are more than welcome to hang and chill out here.

[21:19:58] WEIR: That's made of wood, Rich. That's your plan B?

CUNNINGHAM: This is what's -- on the highest ground in (INAUDIBLE).

WEIR: OK, yes. CUNNINGHAM: Prior to that, I mean, if it's looking just -- with the early bail out, we could just shoot -- head south, head to key west if the storm is going to starting (ph) this way.

WEIR: Right.

CUNNINGHAM: Not really too much of a game plan, although we'd be heading that direction.

WEIR: Yes.

CUNNINGHAM: And just getting --

WEIR: Now you are a New Jersey guy, right?


WEIR: -- dream of yours.


CUNNINGHAM: -- New Jersey guy.

WEIR: OK, but talking to some of the old salts, the (INAUDIBLE) who've been living down here forever, --


WEIR: They talked about when Andrew went through, these boats were fine.

CUNNINGHAM: Absolutely --

WEIR: So, it seems to me the mentality is based on it is such a crap shoot, why leave if it probably miss me. Is that a fair rationalization?

CUNNINGHAM: I don't know. I mean, at this point we're not looking and it's going to miss us. I honestly, we're going to get a good kick on the storm. We just feel it's the smart play. We don't want to hit the road and there's no fuel. The truck broke down. Anything could happen out there on the road. You're not calling AAA up on 95 south, you know, heading northbound on 95 and getting rescued during this hurricane.

WEIR: But you realize that -- I mean, as far as we talked to the coast guard, we talked to the Sheriff's Department, they say, you are on your own.

CUNNINGHAM: Absolutely you are on your own. These are just things that I've heard down here --

WEIR: Yes.

CUNNINGHAM: -- from locals. They were saying that, oh, there's guaranteed going to be gas stations opened up the New Jersey Turnpike or the Florida Turnpike, and --

WEIR: And you don't believe that?

CUNNINGHAM: Well, it's not. But I don't believe it, I was told by other locals down here that they say, take that that with a grain of salt, you are on your own out there. I totally believe that. If I'm going to be on my own, I'd rather be on my own here on my boat.

WEIR: On you boat.


WEIR: OK. Well, I certainly hope I don't have to come back here and do a tragic follow-up. Best of luck to you --

CUNNINGHAM: All right.

WEIR: -- and your wife and your two weiner dogs.

CUNNINGHAM: Yes, all right.

WEIR: A retreat is not in the vocabulary in the (INAUDIBLE) Republic, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, we wish them all the best. Bill Weir, thanks very much.

Coming up next, new forecast data on what the keys could be facing and what is lying ahead all the way up to Florida peninsula.


[21:24:53] COOPER: Well, a continuing question for millions of people life and death questions from many, where exactly in Florida will Hurricane Irma hit and after that, what about Hurricane Jose? Each hour brings new data, sometimes greater certainty. Back now with Tom Sater and joining us from Miami, the National Hurricane Center Acting Director, Ed Rappaport.

Ed first of all, I just want to go back to something, I think you said in the last hour, did you say it's very possible that the entire statute of Florida could see hurricane winds, has that ever happened before?

ED RAPPAPORT, ACTING DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: I don't have the statistics in front of me, but we do have a previous track that is similar to what we are forecasting for Irma that was back in 1960, which was Hurricane Donna, caused massive destruction up the peninsula, very similar, not quite as intense, it's category four, we're expecting Irma to be four, maybe category five when it comes ashore.

COOPER: Ed, what do you make of the guy in our last segment who, you know, was in the keys says he's going to ride this out on his boat?

RAPPAPORT: I was surprised and very disappointed to hear that. If the hurricane comes ashore, as we're expecting, not far from where they are, at the intensity that we are seeing, his chances and the chances of the other dozen people he mentioned to survive are low. You do not want to be in a boat with 150 plus mile an hour winds and a 5 to 10 foot storm surge in 20 foot waves. He talk about, well, if it's bad we'll leave, we have an hour. We're talking about tropical storm force winds for almost 36 hours and hurricane force winds for 10 hours, there's no way that you can go anywhere once they start. So, if I can't convince them to leave, I want everybody else who is listening who has not left yet, to evacuate now.

COOPER: Let me just repeat that. Again, you're talking about hurricane force winds for 10 hours.

RAPPAPORT: Yes, we can do the math, the storm is going to be moving at about 10 miles per hour, and it's going to be about 100 miles across in terms of hurricane force winds. That gives you 10 hours of hurricane force winds over the largest extent. And within that, you're going to get the winds as high as category three, four, and maybe five.

COOPER: Wow. Tom, what's your biggest concern at this point about Irma?

SATER: Besides the guy that Bill Weir just interviewed, yes. You know, that's a great question, Anderson, because, you know, what's different about the storm, with Harvey. Harvey after landfall, we knew after that devastation, it was all about rainfall. We knew that we could watch the historic rain drop and we can watch the rivers rise, with this one, I think really it's the unknown. It's the unknown as it makes its way south to north across the entire state of Florida, what we're going to see, while one home may be saved and another demolished, how they're going to get aid down through the major arteries to the south that are going to need it, or who may need it. I mean, I think the unknown. This is going to be something for the books. So, besides that, do you mind if I ask Ed a question, Anderson?

COOPER: Sure. Yes.

SATER: Ed, we've been throwing this around in the severe weather center here at CNN all day long, when Andrew made land fall 25 years ago, it came in from the west and slammed in to the coast which is on a perpendicular angle. That storm surge was 17 feet. We're kind of wondering why -- what is the thinking behind Irma coming up from the south on its spin and maybe, is it the curvature of the southern coast of Florida, but why only 5-10 feet right now?

RAPPAPORT: Well, we have to, pardon me, you have to remember that we are using a different threshold back then. We were using storm surge with a different boundary, now we're talking about above ground level had, we started using that a few years ago. So, we can't really compare the two. So, 5 to 10 feet above ground levels that's going to be at the shore line, plus the waves on top. There's another difference of course between Andrew and the storm and that is as you said, Andrew affected really one county very significantly, but this will affect perhaps all the Florida peninsula. So those who were in Broward County, for example, just to the north of Miami-Dade who went through Andrew, they didn't have even more than tropical storm force winds. In this case, they can have category two, three, or even four.

COOPER: And Ed, when the eye -- for those who are in the area where the eye passes over, how much, do you know, you know, general things are calmer when the eye is passing over. How long will people experience the eye for?

RAPPAPORT: Depending again, on if they are through the middle of it then we're talking about a 30 mile wide eye and it's moving at 10 miles an hour. It could be, in relatively, calm for three hours. The problem is -- immediately after you hit the back side eye wall and the winds go from nothing to a 150 miles an hours in just a few minutes. So, again, this is not something that you can just put off and say, well, we will ride it out here, you can't do. You have to be in a well fortified structure or out of the way from (INAUDIBLE).

COOPER: Yes, Ed, back in the 90s. I was caught on vacation in St. Barts in a three-day hurricane and when the eye came I thought the whole thing was over and like an idiot I was talking about, you know, trying to make it to the airport and get out, and then I realized actually now this is just eye.

RAPPAPORT: There's a history of that too. And in fact, in South Florida, Miami 1926, a hurricane that was even bigger as strong as it came ashore, and the people went outside, went down to the water during the eye came over, and then the winds came in and the storm surge came in and we lost many people because they weren't aware of that backside.

[21:30:05] COOPER: Yes, good thing to keep in mind. Ed Rappaport, thank you, Tom Sater, as well.

It is one thing to see video of a category five hurricane, quite another to actually stand up in that kind of wind or when try to. Randi Kaye got no idea of just want that is like in a safe way, she joins us now. Tell us about it. So explain what you did, Randi.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we've seen you out there covering hurricanes, and battling those massive winds, hanging on to a pole or maybe part of a building just to get through those winds, well, I did it as you said in a much safer way, I went to Virginia Tech University where they have a wind tunnel, and they can crank those winds spends up to 190 miles an hour. We didn't go that high, but it was pretty tough to take, here's a look.


KAYE: I'm all attached to these cables and I'm in a harness for safety. And we are going see here, I'm going to see personally what it's like to battle those winds, experience a tropical storm force winds, we're going start to crank those winds up now, then we are going try and reach category one, category two, maybe even a category three. We'll see, at some point though the winds are going to get so high, that you're not going to be able to hear me speak, because I will not be able to speak.

So my producer Nick Johnson and William Devenport, who heads up this wind tunnel facility. We'll start to give you a little bit more of the narration of what I'm going through.

I'm just going to hang on and see how long I can keep talking to you. Your mouth gets pretty dry. I can feel my jeans are already flapping a little bit at the bottom. I'm just going to sit back and hold on. The wind can be so strong against your chest, that at some point it's going to feel like you can't breathe. I feel like right now like my -- the wind is going up my jeans, it's getting a lot stronger.

The next thing we'll hit will be a category one. That will be about 80 miles per hour. I'm just going to sort of put my head down in to it. It's real loud in here too. So, I'm going to stop talking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So William, obviously, Randi is in some pretty strong winds now. What category she at?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She just hit category one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, just to be clear, the wind speed that she is experiencing right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, we're just passing through 80 miles an hour.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, somebody is actually there on the ground feeling these kind of winds, what is going on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are holding on for dear life. The force on Randi right now is up to 150 pounds and it's very hard to stand up if in that kind of -- with that kind of pressure on you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So she wasn't actually wearing a harness?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, she would not be able to stay still unless she were to lie down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I see you have a tablet here that still monitoring, what kind of -- where is she at now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's at 115 miles an hour. She's reached category three.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A category three?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, force on her body is about 220 pounds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So can anyone at this point stand?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to be in a very low crouch and you got to be very strong.


COOPER: Randi, what did it feel like?

KAYE: Well, Anderson we got up in the end before it was over to 123 miles per hour, and it was really hard, you saw me probably shake my head there at the end, that was any signal to the guys to bring the wind speed down. But my cheeks were flapping the skin on my neck was vibrating and my -- the skin on my arms was flapping in the wind. And as I mentioned in that, it's really hard to breathe. So luckily I was in those the chains that they were holding me with. And I was able to just sort of lean into it because that took the weight off your chest. It felt like there was, you know, a brick on your chest or you were up against a brick wall, it's very hard to breathe out --


KAYE: And as I also mentioned it was really loud in there. I had ear plugs in. And it got really cold. It got in the low 50s once that wind kicked up. So, it was pretty tough and I'll tell you those speeds as you know, they're no joke, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, and that's not even up to cat four, cat five. Randi, thanks for doing that. Appreciate it.

More ahead, including the head of Emergency Management for the Bahamas and what they are doing to save lives. Also new detail on the Russia probe, what investigators want to know about Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lobbyist, he answered questions on that today in front of staff members, details ahead.


[21:37:28] COOPER: We are going to have more on Hurricane Irma coming up. But we're going to turn to politics for a few minutes. We got a lot of news tonight in the multiple Russian investigations. First, sources tell CNN Donald Trump Jr. told Senate Judiciary staffs today that he could not remember details about the White House's response, revelations about his meetings with Russians at Trump Tower last summer. That meeting was pitch as a way to get Russian dirty on Hillary Clinton. Those same sources also say that Trump Jr. insisted that he never told his father about the meeting. I talked to Senator Richard Blumenthal about all of that testimony.

But first, exclusive, CNN reporting about the special council's investigation. CNN sources say that Robert Mueller is also interested in the White House's response to the Trump Tower meeting especially how that misleading Air Force One statement was actually put together. CNN's Pamela Brown joins me now with that.

So what are you learning about this move by the special council?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we've learned that Special Council Robert Mueller has reached out to the White House seeking interviews with some White House staffers who were aboard Air Force One with an initial statement about Don Jr.'s Trump Tower meeting was crafted earlier to summarize your recall on that statement, omitted the key fact that Don Jr. was promised incriminating information about Hillary Clinton. And that was the purpose why he took the meeting.

Now our sources say that President Trump was involved in the crafting of the statement, as well as other aides and now Mueller wants to know -- he went to talk to these aides, he wants to see what they knew and when. And this really is the latest indication, Anderson, that Mueller's investigators are interested in the response to the Trump Tower meeting. Mueller wants to know how the statement aboard Air Force One was put together, whether information was intentionally left out and who was involved.

COOPER: Do we know if Mueller has asked to interview the president himself or is that something they would even ask?

BROWN: Well, our sources are saying, that at this stage he has not put in a request to interview the president. Of course, that would significant. But our source is caution that could happen, typically in investigations with lower level people -- lower level staffers, and sort of build your way up. And we're told this is an investigation that could last months or even years Anderson.

COOPER: What more do we know about this meeting today that Donald Trump Jr. had with the Senate Judiciary Committee staff?

BROWN: So, he met with Capitol Hill staffers, Judiciary Committee behind close doors for five hours today. And we learned from sources that he told them he didn't recall the involvement, the extent of the involvement the White House had with the initial misleading statement that I just referred to. This is the same statement that his own father helped craft aboard Air Force One and the statement that was released in his name.

[21:39:59] Now he also maintained that he didn't tell his father about meeting with the Russian attorney before or after what happened, and he also said in his opening statement that he agreed to take this meeting because he was interested in any information that would raise questions about Hillary Clinton's fitness to be president and he claims if any incriminating information was handed over, that he would have consulted council.

Now, some Democratic senators said after this that his answers raise more questions than answers and they are pushing for an open public hearing with him. We'll have to see if that happens, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, it's interesting he say he doesn't remember any White House involvement or the level of White House involvement -- it's was just a short time ago. Pamela, thanks for that.


COOPER: Senator Richard Blumenthal is a member of the Judiciary Committee. I spoke with him shortly before air time.


COOPER: Senator Blumenthal was Donald Trump Jr. forthcoming today?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: The interview today left as many questions unanswered as it did answered. In fact, it raised more questions than it answered. There were huge, gaping holes of information that we need to fill and we are determined to fill it by having him come back, under oath in public at least I will urge that it be done by subpoena if necessary. And also other witnesses who may have knowledge about various areas where he was perhaps less forthcoming than we would want.

COOPER: It seems like one of the things that he claimed not to remember was involvement by the White House in the crafting of that initial statement about the meeting. Is that correct?

BLUMENTHAL: The Air Force One statement is very, very important about that June 9th meeting, and the CNN reporting today about Mueller asking questions of White House staff is highly significant.

And as in other areas of his testimony today, he left as many questions as he did answers and we will need to pursue those answers by subpoena if necessary. Relating not only to testimony, but also other documents that may help us get answers.

COOPER: Do you think he opened himself up to any legal exposure? Because, I mean, your colleague Senator Coons put out a memo after the hearing that detailed the penalties of perjury.

BLUMENTHAL: The question of possible perjury and violation of statute that prohibit material false statements to a Congressional committee and other government officials is very relevant here. I'm not prejudging and not talking about specifics of his testimony. But it's certainly something that we will have in my mind as we go through the transcript.

COOPER: In his prepared statement, Donald Trump Jr. said that he wanted to take this meeting to learn about the "fitness, character or qualifications of Hillary Clinton" and then he quote, "believed that he should at least hear them out," which is really is a completely other version of the story as to why he took the meeting. As you know, the White House initially said and he initially said that it was about adoptions.

BLUMENTHAL: The accounts or explanation of this June 9th meeting have changed and evolved over time. But the plain fact is, that the principal e-mail, leading to the meeting, led Donald Trump Jr. to think he would receive incriminating evidence. In other words, dirt about Hillary Clinton, to which he responded love it.

Now, that's the lead to the meeting. And we still are unclear about who said what to whom, and what followed the meeting, equally important, whether there were additional meetings or other e-mails and that's why additional testimony is necessary by him and by others, everyone at that meeting, and also others in the Trump campaign.

COOPER: I mean, the other thing that I've always been confused about this meeting is that, in the e-mail that was sent to Donald Trump Jr., it complains that the Russian government is backing his father campaign, there's no sense of surprise from Donald Trump Jr. on that or even a, wait a minute what are you talking about, this is new information to me. Is it, I guess, I mean, can you say if that was -- I assume that was raised today, the question of course is did he tell his father what he had learned from this meeting that the Russian government was backing his campaign? Because it's hard to imagine that he would not have said that to his father.

BLUMENTHAL: That's a central question, Anderson, and it remains in my view, unanswered. That's why we will need to hear from Donald Trump and it should be in public and under oath and the American people can judge his credibility in that forum as can all of us. And also, people in the White House who now, Bob Mueller, the special council is also investigating or at least interviewing in a separate investigation. It is separate from ours. But we are making efforts to avoid any conflict with him.

[21:45:06] COOPER: Senator Richard Blumenthal, thank you very much.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.


COOPER: Well, when we come back, the latest on the Hurricane Irma, potentially on the way to a direct hit on Miami, how the Bahamas are preparing for the worst, next.


COOPER: We are keeping close watch on Hurricane Irma path tonight. The latest forecast in the southern islands and Bahamas will be hit tonight. The good news is that many of those more southern islands have low populations t o begin with and have already been evacuated. But still the danger has not passed. Just before air I spoke to captain Stephen Russell, the Emergency Management Agency Director in the Bahamas.


COOPER: Captain Russell, Irma is racing toward the Bahamas, as we speak, do you feel your country is prepared for the storm?

CAPT. STEPHEN RUSSELL, BAHAMAS NAT'L EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY (via telephone): Yes, we are prepared as best as we can be under the circumstances for category five storm approaching. We are monitoring the power of the storm for the past three or four days in particular, based on the projected (INAUDIBLE) to evacuated some people from some islands.

COOPER: And I know the prime minister had said this is the largest storm evacuation in the country's history. Do you have a sense right now of how many people are in shelters, in Nassau, and elsewhere?

RUSSELL: I mean, there's point in time we probably as much as 170 persons in that are shelters. All the others were able to link up with family members or loved ones there in the province. So that is a good sign itself.

COOPER: And I understand the International Airport in Nassau are shutting down tonight. What's your advice at this point for anyone in the Bahamas, right now?

RUSSELL: Like we've done in the past, urging all person, the Bahamas, whether visitors, residents who are in the Bahamas at this time to find a way to safeguard themselves from the (INAUDIBLE). Find a safe place, a safe shelter. If you are living in a low-lying area, try to find yourself to some area that is clear that you can be safe. If you're not comfortable of the integrity of your home and sense of how (INAUDIBLE) it is, find a suitable location to move to, move from along the coast and get into interior lands as best you can. These are I advise (INAUDIBLE) inside Bahamas are these plan.

[21:50:31] COOPER: What sort of storm surge are you anticipating, do you know?

RUSSELL: We're category five storm. We're anticipating surge ranging from 20 to 25 feet in certain areas as the storm passes, example greater Nagua, which is going to (INAUDIBLE) storm over the next two hours to start with. They can expect surge up to 20 feet of water based on the strength of the storm. But water would not settle in greater Nagua. It eventually runs off. The destructive force of a 25-foot surge that is our greatest concern. It can really cause catastrophic results.

COOPER: And in terms of supplies, and gasoline, access to gas, water, food, for people in the aftermath, how are you situated?

RUSSELL: Again, like I said, as long as New Providence, the capital, is well, we can supply like we normally do. We have a series of freight boats that transport supplies to island on a weekly basis. We have a series of shipping companies by Florida that bring supplies to New Providence. But -- again, that all -- supply Florida we'll have less (INAUDIBLE) impacted as well. But we have the (INAUDIBLE) food in the country somewhere. To served those islands that will be impacted as a result of the storm.

COOPER: Captain Russell, we wish you the best in the hours ahead. Thank you very much.

RUSSELL: OK. Thank you, too.


COOPER: Well, the last thing we want to think about is yet another hurricane but that is, of course, what people are dealing with, category three Hurricane Jose making its way behind Irma. This wouldn't be the first time the major hurricanes hit the United States one after another. We'll take a look at that next.


[21:55:57] COOPER: As Florida braces for what's looking like could be a direct hit from Hurricane Irma, it is the last thing anyone, of course, wants to think about but Hurricane Jose is right behind it. Two massive storms close together would be devastating, but not, however, unprecedented.

Right now, Irma's a cat five. It's been 25 years since a cat five hurricane hit the U.S. Randi Kaye has more.


KAYE (voice-over): September 2nd, 1935, the great Labor Day hurricane hits the Florida Keys. Packing sustained winds of 185 miles per hour, the tightly-wound storm brings with it a storm surge nearly 20 feet above sea level. The hurricane kills more than 400 people and leaves a path of destruction 40 miles wide.

Another powerful cat five storm hits Mississippi decades later, August, 1969. Hurricane Camille has 190 mile per hour sustained winds. The highest winds ever recorded for a hurricane making landfall in the U.S. It demolishes Waveland, Mississippi, and chews through nearly all of coastal Mississippi. All told, Camille kills 259 people.

August 1992, another category five storm. Hurricane Andrew barrels into South Florida. Andrew is the last cat five to hit the United States. It's been 25 years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's destroyed. We were there during the hurricane. The children are terrified, having nightmares. The whole house, the roof was caving in.

KAYE (voice-over): After its intense winds caused catastrophic damage in Southern Florida, including the destruction of about 127,000 homes, Hurricane Andrew moves on to Louisiana. Andrew takes the lives of 26 people.

Years pass before Florida is in the bull's-eye again and it stays there.

In 2004, the sunshine state is walloped by three back-to-back storms.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's devastating, you know, it's just -- you know, you never expect this at all.

KAYE (voice-over): The first is Hurricane Ccharlie in August 2004. It makes a last-minute curve to the right, sparing Tampa, and smacking Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda leveling both communities. Before it's over, the category four storm kills 15 and causes $15 billion in damage.

Before residents even have time to catch their breath, a few weeks later, Hurricane Francis slams into Florida's east coast as a category two storm. Six people in the U.S. are killed.

Then only three weeks later, Hurricane Jeanne.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Worse than the first time, a double whammy.

KAYE (voice-over): Jeanne makes landfall near Stuart, Florida, at virtually the same spot that Francis had come ashore.

In August 2005, a powerful category three Hurricane named Katrina slams into the gulf coast, paralyzing Southern Louisiana and parts of Mississippi. The massive storm floods communities and destroys entire neighborhoods. Katrina causes more than $100 billion in damage and kills more than 1,800 people.

Just weeks later, Louisiana is hit again, along with Texas, as Hurricane Rita, a category three storm, makes landfall. After witnessing Katrina, millions flee to escape Rita. One of the largest evacuations in history. Still, the storm devastates coastal communities with a 15-foot storm surge wiping out some areas.

Now with Irma roaring through the Atlantic and Hurricane following Jose behind it, millions are left wondering if they could be next. Randi Kaye, CNN, Miami.


COOPER: A lot to watch for. Our hurricane coverage continues throughout the night, of course. Time now to hand things over to Don Lemon in "CNN Tonight".

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Our breaking news, tracking a killer storm. Monster Hurricane Irma heading for a direct hit on Florida.

This is "CNN Tonight". I'm Don Lemon. -