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Florida Bracing For Direct Hit From Monster Hurricane. Aired 11-11:30p ET

Aired September 7, 2017 - 23:00   ET


[23:00:00] This is CNN breaking news.

DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT NEWS SHOW HOST: Of course our big breaking news tonight. Bracing Miami for a direct hit from the monster hurricane Irma and we are expecting a new forecast at any moment. We will check in with our meteorologist Tom Sater in just a moment. Let's get right to the ground, Miami, where it's expected it could take a direct hit. Miguel Marquez is there for us live. Miguel thanks for joining us. I'm sure you're seeing the long lines at gas stations and what else are you seeing?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is absolutely surreal to be out here tonight. The current path of the hurricane takes it right over exactly where we're standing now. It's surreal here in Miami. This is a gas line. Typical Miami fashion. Music. These two have run out of gas so they're pushing up to the very front of the line, pushing it along as they can. The gas station itself is incredibly well run. They have police officers in front directing people in and I have bad news for people looking for gas at this particular place on U.S. One. There's about 10 cars further down the line here at the very end there's a police officer. That is the end of the gas for this station. They got about 10,000 gallons today. The governor of Florida taking extraordinary measures saying he is going to have police escorts for tanker trucks so they can get to gas stations for employees of gas stations so they can stay and work as long as they can and then they'll escort them out of the hurricane zone as long as they keep working and pumping that gas.

We've seen people filling up everything from their cars and their gas tanks, rocking their car to get as much gas in, bringing gas cans, as many as they can, filling those up. People walking away with gas cans that were literally spilling over with gasoline. Every single drop is absolutely precious. People clearly heeding the warning but many, many in south Florida wondering whether they should leave or hunker down for the storm. The latest warnings we've had throughout the day showing the track right through south Florida is starting to change a lot of minds.

LEMON: Miguel thank you very much for that. We're about to get a brand new forecast right now. New forecast just in for hurricane Irma as the monster storm rampages through the Caribbean. Miami bracing for a direct hit. Straight to Tom Sater in the weather center, Tom, what do you know? What is it saying?

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLIGIST: It took a few more minutes. Typically the National Hurricane Center it's been ahead of schedule getting this information, but this is just in and there is a lot to absorb here. So follow with me on this. Notice this winds, they're down to 165 miles per hour. However, it's still a category 5 and we still have gusts to 200 miles per hour. What's happening to the eye right now? It's going through an eye wall replacement cycle which means the strongest winds in the eye start to fan out and create a secondary band behind it. It will wobble after a while. Can't sustain this kind of strength. After a while that tightens up and gains its strength again. But it's not going to weaken completely down to a category three right away. When this happens the hurricane winds start to fan out. So we're most likely going to have wind damage in parts of Dominican Republican, Espanola and parts of Haiti.

This is what has just changed. The national hurricane center has now increased the hurricane or changed the hurricane watch to a hurricane warning for south Florida, from Jupiter inlet southward, we're going to find the color start to fill in and get to the warnings. Notice it's for all of south Miami or south Florida that is all the way up northward past west palm. Now let us talk about what this means, because the winds are approaching and the models are a little different. This is one model. We call it the rpm and it looks like it wants to slide it up towards the east coast of Florida. It's in the cone of uncertainty when it comes to the national hurricane center's track. We still have a category 4 before land fall.

Now earlier the track was more east and came out and slammed into the Carolinas more like this. So we're starting to see more of a northern and curvature off towards the northwest movement. Doesn't mean much for Florida right now because you're still going to see the entire state most likely have a land fall. Keep in mind we still have a cone of uncertainty here. As we move on now and get in a little bit closer, let me show you the difference of these two models we've been talking about and see if they've updated as well. We've got the European model and then on top of that is the U.S. Model, Don.

[23:05:00] As we run this through and what you're going to see here is maybe slight differences. The dark green circle here that is the European and it's kind of hard to see the American. They both take it in Sunday morning southern coast of Florida with the worst possible outcome is that north right quadrant and this is where the storm surge, this is where it all comes in. This is where the strongest winds are. Let's continue it northward now and move it through. And you're going to see both models are almost completely over land. The U.S. model has justified itself more on the coast. If we have this occur on the U.S. Model, right in here, that will continue to feed off the warm waters on the coast and create a line of destruction along the entire east coast line. But if we continue to look at the European, we will have no doubt about it hurricane force winds extending outward about 100 miles. Tropical storm force winds from coast to coast and if we take it further even another step, let's see where it goes. It does seem to want to follow the national hurricane's forecast which is bearing up through the entire state through now into Georgia, parts of northern Alabama and central Tennessee. That is an extremely interesting noteworthy event that we're seeing we have a warning in place for southern Florida. If we can break it down little by little we can take each model. Last

Thursday the European model was still right here. It's amazing for this long period of time it's been consistent with the environment. Here again is the U.S. Model. Yesterday it was off the shoreline to the east. It was well off and if you recall, Don, we had the whole system shift eastward yesterday and it's shifting back. Could it still happen again tomorrow? It could. But we're seeing more commonality between these two systems and with a brunt force look at these two models, there's no backing out. The window is shut to miss the U.S. completely and that is very concerning.

LEMON: I got to ask you, Tom and when you said a warning now, we all in the studio said goodness. But this adds just another level to it. We can't explain how serious this is.

SATER: No. It's a little sooner than I expected. Typically you got to watch in place an additional 24 hours or so. A warning means it's imminent. It's going to happen. I mean my greatest fear and Anderson asked me this earlier. My greatest fear is the unknown. Harvey move into Texas we knew it would have landfall with destruction and then we knew was going to be a rain event. Yes, historical. With this we don't know what we're going to find come Monday night into Tuesday. This is why it is so critical.

LEMON: Hurricane warning now. This is national hurricane center has issued a hurricane warning for south Florida, the warning extends from Jupiter in had let southward around the Florida peninsula and including the Florida Keys and Florida bay. Tell us about that, give us those areas.

SATER: Well ok. It's pretty much filling in the same location as the watch. And if I can get back into our models, we'll get a better look at what this is doing. Forgive me if we can figure this out. If you're hearing me in the weather center, could you back this up into the beginning just a little bit for us? Take me a minute just to filter through our graphics.

LEMON: We got a long time. Don't pressure yourself. When you talk about a warning, I'm wondering how this compares to Andrew?

SATER: We can do that. I don't have the graphics. But we can explain that, Don. Andrew 25 years ago came in from the east and slammed into the southern part of Florida. Devastating homestead Florida. 65 fatalities. $26 billion worth of damage. It was a much smaller storm. You could fit two Andrews inside of Irma here. It's what we called an annular hurricane, but they're like cannon balls as they move through. It reconfigured how we build homes. No longer using staples on your shingles. You have to use four nails. It change building codes not only in Florida but in entire U.S. When you have a storm of this size and magnitude that continues to make its way through the waters with very little interaction with land, the concern is we're going to have a major hurricane. There is some hope that maybe the high terrain of Cuba that has these mountains up to 6,000 feet could break it down. You've got to consider the eye is this engine, the water is the fuel and you have to cut off the fuel line. The only way to really do that is to get the center over land. [23:10:07] Sometimes you can have a weakening by the other bands just

making its way across Cuba or some of the dry air getting pulled into the system, but now we find ourselves, not just in the Bahamas, in red, here is your warning. It will be interesting to see if they fill this entire area of pink in. What I have noticed here, from Jupiter inlet northward we're seeing pink. So they're starting to increase the watch area. Over time as the storm system approaches, we'll find most likely Key West. They may leave this pink as a watch. It really depends on where land fall is. They're not looking at a major storm surge once it makes landfall. So they'll have a little bit of a storm surge, even from the north. It will be interesting to see what pink turns red and how much farther to the north you're going to see the pink, those are the watches and over time they'll become red and become warnings and we'll see this continue through the Carolina coast. It depends on the path.

This is significant tonight. This says this is going to happen. We just don't know mile by mile exactly where land fall will be. We could see a few more fluctuations as we've talked about in these models. Yesterday a shift 60 to 70 miles and another 20 to 25 mile shift backward today, who's to say it couldn't shift again tomorrow? But the window of opportunity is closing in on anything significant to change the scenario. That is the major impact.

LEMON: Tom Sater, I need you to standby, you may have to jump in, in this next interview because I mean this entirely changes things. Again, there is a hurricane warning being issued for southern Florida. I want to bring in the mayor of Miami Beach. Mayor Philipp Levine, he joins us by phone, Mayor we have been speaking with you. It's now a warning. And you've been calling this a nuclear hurricane. What do you make of this new warning?

MAYOR PHILIP LEVINE, MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA: This is a nuclear hurricane. It's been absolutely devastating. So in Miami Beach I can tell you that it's getting less and less -- more desolate. You don't see cars on the road. Ocean drive was pretty much empty. People are listening to our warnings. We started a few days ago. Now of course it's a mandatory evacuation and I think you feel it in the energy of the people. They understand this is serious. You cannot be on Miami Beach. We've emptied our hotels and the residents have moved most of them to shelters or to find refuge in friends and families' homes off the barrier island.

LEMON: We're seeing these hours long lines for fuel in Miami and we just saw Miguel Marquez out there. He is say there's about 10 cars out and there's a police officer. That is it. They're going to run out of gas. Gas trucks have been escorted by police. So will there be time for people to head north? There may be no fuel for them if they don't do it now?

LEVINE: That is why we have the shelters all across Miami Dade County and buses that will take people from Miami Beach over to the shelters. Trolleys that will take them to the bus stops. So we're doing the best we can do to put them into shelters because clearly the shelters are the place to be. Our objective is to get them off the barrier island. We're highly concerned about the storm surge and we think the best place to be would be in the non-evacuation areas.

LEMON: I hate to ask you question if you are prepared, is Miami ready for a storm like this, and is anyone ready for this?

LEVINE: Is anyone ever ready? We have protocols, great management team. We've been communicating with our residents and visitors. Put in pumps, raised roads, put in portable generators. But the bottom line is it's hard to fortify a coastal city that is so low lying against the hurricane, let alone a major historic powerful hurricane like Irma seems be.

LEMON: If you were just listening to our meteorologist Tom Sater when I said how is this compared to Andrews and he said you could put two Andres inside of this. I mean this is a giant monster storm that is why I said, can you be prepared for a storm this size? Irma's expected to make land fall around Sunday. You're in countdown mode right now. Is there anything else that needs to be done you can think of?

LEVINE: At this point we have done everything we think we can do but of course the number one thing is getting anyone on Miami Beach to leave Miami Beach and go to one of our shelters in Miami Dade County and as I've said before, viewers that are listening right now, bring your pet. We have shelters that allow pets. The name of the game is protecting lives. Not so much about property, it's all about lives. Getting people off Miami Beach.

[23:15:10] LEMON: Mayor I want you to standby as I bring, don't go anywhere because I want to bring Tom Sater back since this new forecast and we have this new warning, can you walk the mayor and our viewers through the timing of this thing.

SATER: Well let's go back to the two models then. Let's look at the European and the U.S. because really I think this is one of the big reasons why we're seeing this watch become a warning. They've been incredible as far as getting on the same page. Last Thursday we showed these two models and there was a 1200 mile separation. The U.S. was all the way up in the northeast off the coast of New Jersey but the European is exactly where it is right now. So as we walk through this, this is Saturday, 6:00 in the morning. Europeans pretty close to the northern edge of Cuba. So that would tell you that possibly there could be interaction here. We don't know if it comes by and skirts over. You got 10, 15, 20 miles difference here north and south and that is a big difference around the warmest waters around or getting over land and seeing this thing get the fuel line choked a little bit. If we go from Saturday 6:00 in the morning, we'll stop it here. There's a slight variation between the two. This is the European. This is the American but they're pretty close together. And once again keep in mind the storm surge that is the area where you got to have the winds wrapping it around and coming in. This is what we saw of course with Harvey and you had the bands of heavy rain sliding in. You'll see possible tornado watches, over 200 tornado warnings that moved through again. But it's the storm surge that is a big concern.

Now let's go a little farther. That is Sunday morning at 8:00 a.m. We'll slide a little further north. The European and the bright pink slides directly across the entire state without sliding really to one coast or another. The strongest winds and we're now at 165 miles an hour. Those are only in the eye wall. So don't think everyone is going to have 175 mile-per-hour winds. But you're talking about having an EF 3 tornado and we know the damage it does in any communities anywhere in the U.S. Such as Oklahoma and the southern plains. That is like the winds of an EF 3 tornado for hour after hour after hour, 8/10 hours and we know the damage. The U.S. Model is half on the coast near Daytona Beach up towards Jacksonville, half on the coast, and half off the coast. That could still be considered enough over water to continue that engine going. But it's going to take several hours to happen. This is still a massive hurricane. Don't expect it to drop down to a tropical depression. But then you're still getting the bands of the water and of course the storm surge then into Jacksonville. Last year when Matthew stayed off the coastline, thank goodness it did because the difference off the coast was where the catastrophic damage is and inland we had had light to moderate. But on the coast and everybody's in catastrophic damage. Jacksonville flooded greatly and that model was off shore.

LEMON: Which model Tom has been more accurate? Has it been the U.S. model or European model?

SATER: The European handled Harvey tremendously to an unfortunate end. And as mentioned last Thursday the European was here. It has not wavered most of the week. There's been some variations and that is typical, even if you're forecasting a rainfall in your backyard seven days out. You expect some variation. But it's been amazing how the European's been there. The U.S. model had gradually trended towards this. They use different mathematics and algorithms. By looking at these two, there are over 70 models that encompass these two. 50 for the European, 21 for the U.S. The European has better resolution. It takes longer to run the model. I think it's an eight hours or so. We run the U.S. a couple more times because there's only 21 in the ensemble. But you can't ask for a closer agreement. And this is like this days away, Don. It's really stunning and if I can get on a soap box here. This is why the administration and no one in Washington should cut the funding for Noah. Then you don't improve it and you go backwards without the resources and don't cut FEMA either. This is crazy what's going on with this and my fear is the unknown across the entire state and as it makes its way northward we'll be watching flooding. Parts of the southeast and Tennessee valley.

[23:20:10] LEMON: Right up to where some of the folks are going, even in Atlanta. Now becoming concerned. Tom I need you to standby, Mayor, thank you for joining us I don't think this changes anything. But your message is folks, get out, get out while you can. The mayor of Miami Beach, Philip Levine thank you, I appreciate it, best of luck to you.

LEVINE: Thank you Don.

LEMON: I want to bring in CNN's Brian Todd. And Tom Sater is going to stay with us so Brian, you are down in Palm Beach tonight. This expanded hurricane warning just being issued tonight for bigger parts of southern Florida. What are you seeing there? BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What we're seeing is a lot of people

walking round very concerned. Officials telling us that they are especially concerned about the elderly population. Palm Beach County has a high concentration of retirees, elderly people. Mandatory evacuations are going to start in Palm Beach in earnest at 10:00 a.m. Eastern time tomorrow. We're standing on West Palm Beach right now, just across the intercostal water way. This is the intercostal, it's about five feet below where I'm standing. We're told we're going to be able to expect five to 10 feet of storm surge when the storm hits in earnest. Lot of time we talk about storm surge and not about what it really means. That means five to 10 feet above normal levels. Plus wave activity on top of that. So they are concerned here.

Mandatory evacuations are going to take place across the water way at Palm Beach tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. because that is a lower lying area, a barrier island. It's going to be a voluntary evacuation at 10:00 a.m. In some areas it could be mandatory. Officials here telling us that they want to make sure they get them into solid shelters, that they are very well taken care of and in a safe place. One official told me if elderly people have to be moved to shelters, they have to bring their primary care givers with them because they don't have enough personnel to take care of their needs. So you can imagine that is beginning to worry tonight, Don. We're looking at possible storm surge that is going to inundate where I'm standing and Palm Beach, the barrier island to my left. Mandatory evacuations starting at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow. And a real concern about the safety of the very prominent elderly population of this county.

LEMON: Thank you very much Brian Todd, I want to give a breaking news to our viewers. There is a national hurricane center has issued a hurricane warning for southern Florida from Jupiter inlet southward including the Florida keys, lake Okeechobee and Florida bay. They expected a warning with a category 5 hurricane. But they did not expect -- he did not expect it this soon. By the mayor of Lake Okeechobee joining us in just moments, when we come back. A new hurricane warning issued for southern Florida as Miami braces for a direct hit from hurricane Irma after this monster storm smashes its way across the Caribbean.


[23:26:31] LEMON: This is our breaking news tonight, a new hurricane warning issued for south Florida. Miami bracing for a direct hit right now as monster hurricane Irma slams through the Caribbean, joining me is Ed Rappaport he is a deputy Director of the national hurricane center. Thank you for taking the time out. That top of the hour we got the latest model on the storm's path. Walk us through the scenario, what it looks like and now this warning.

ED RAPPAPORT, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURICANE CENTER: At this time the center of the hurricane is located about 600 miles -- less than 600 miles now off the Florida peninsula. It's still at category 5. That is the highest on our scale and we expect there will be little change in strength as the hurricane moves towards Florida. And moves potentially right up the peninsula. At this point we're looking for it to be at category 4 or 5 and unfortunately that is the reality of it tonight.

LEMON: Mr. Rappaport everyone has been surprised. Many meteorologists have been that Irma has been able to sustain her strength that long. How is that happening? What's going on?

RAPPAPORT: For one this is right at the peak of hurricane season and the reason for that is right at the time when the waters are the warmest and that provides the fuel, the moist air, and the heat the hurricane needs to progresses. It's also true in this particular case we have very little wind shear. That is a change in the wind speed or direction up in the atmosphere which tends to tear storms apart and what we see here is a very round looking cloud shield and that is an indication that we don't have much sheer. If it was this would be pushed off the side. The combination of both the atmospheric and oceanic conditions has led to this very intense hurricane now approaching Florida.

LEMON: It looks like, Mr. Rappaport, that regardless if you look at the U.S. Model, European model, whatever, Florida's going to take a big hit regardless of which path it takes.

RAPPAPORT: that is right. Let's set aside the models for now. The official forecast has this forecast path and while there could be a little shift one way or another, the chances for Florida not being hit are diminishing rather quickly.

LEMON: And tell us about the storm. We had Craig on just a short time ago. He said let's be honest most people die from drowning and so the storm surge and flooding is a big concern. Talk to us about that.

RAPPAPORT: That is right. Historically most of the lives lost in the hurricanes are due to the storm surge hazard and in this case we have a storm surge warning in effect for the Florida keys. This is the first year the national weather service has issued such a warning and that means there's an increasing chance for life threatening storm surge. In this case we're talking a five to 10 foot rise above ground level at the coast, spreading inland until it reaches the particular elevation over land and on top of that at the coast there will be damaging waves pushing inland as well.

LEMON: I think and when you look at the storm, it's obviously bigger than the state of Florida and the entire state of Florida will affected by this and beyond Florida.

RAPPAPORT: That is right. What you saw there was a little misleading in terms of the size, but here we can take a look at the size, a lot of colors here but it all ends up to, this is the size of the tropical storm force winds and this is a size of the hurricane force winds. They extend out about 70 miles. From one side to the other that is almost 150 miles of hurricane force winds and expect that pattern to gradually move its way up towards Florida, even if does not come right over Florida by the size of this we're going to have a long period of tropical storm force winds, maybe a day or so and perhaps as much as 10 hours of hurricane force winds where the center comes ashore. LEMON: Ed Rappaport, thank you so much. I appreciate you time. We'll

see you soon here on CNN. I want to bring in now the Mayor Dowling Watford of Okeechobee Florida. He joins me by phone. Mayor they just added a hurricane warning. You are in that warning. How are you advising the residents in your city to prepare tonight?

MAYOR DOWLING WATFORD, OKEECHOBEE, FLORIDA: We've been preparing. We've known this was coming. We had been preparing for several days. We actually started meeting on Wednesday with our City and county staff at the emergency management center. So we've been preparing, our citizens are taking this very seriously. We've known this major storm is coming and I think especially with the situation in Texas with Harvey everyone has a heightened awareness of the storm and shortly preparing for it. Our citizens have put up their shutters and our businesses have put up their shutters. So we're probably as prepared as we have ever been for a storm. The path of the storm is somewhat worrisome, particularly with our location on the north shore of the Lake Okeechobee.

LEMON: Listen. Speaking of a lake, how much of a threat is flooding in your city because of the lake?

WATFORD: We're very fortunate we're on the north edge of the lake. Flooding from the lake, we never had a problem since the 1928 hurricane, which is what precipitated the construction of the Herbert Hoover dike. So we haven't been faced with flooding from the lake in the recent history. So this is something a little new for us. The path of the storm is a little bit worrisome and we've had conversations. We're on the conference calls with the core of engineer and war management district. We're a little more fortunate on the north edge of the lake than our southern neighbors, we have a little buffer between the lake and the dike and so that helps us a little distant.

The lake is not as close to the dike on the north as it is on the south. And the amount of rain we've been predicted in the national hurricane center has told us we're going to get is not really a problem but the wind and wind action on the lake is a concern to us. We've been assured by the core of engineer that the dike is structurally sound. Our only concern is if we get water coming over the dike. As long as the dike is not breached, that should not cause a catastrophic flooding, I would think, in our area. But we will be briefed again. We have twice daily briefings at the emergency management center and that area we're concerned about and trying to stay in touch with the core of engineer.

LEMON: Mayor Dowling thank you so much. Dowling Watford of Okeechobee, we appreciate your time.

WATFORD: Thank you, sir.

LEMON: I want to bring in now David Halstead the former Director of Florida's divisions of emergency management. Good evening to you, we're so happy to have you here and have your expertise. What should people do who want to leave but their concerned about running out of gas out there on the roads? DAVID HALSTEAD, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Certainly that is a concern. There

are a number of apps available and I think you've heard the governor talk about them to let you know about the availability of gas and remember too that for years we've preached evacuate 10s of miles, rather than hundreds. In the case of hurricane Irma that in fact may be the wrong thing to encourage, because this is such a large catastrophic-looking storm. But again we've had had an awful lot of good news in south Florida since hurricane Andrew and one of the best things is the Miami Dade building code which was enacted after hurricane Andrew. So new homes and homes that went under any type of reconstruction were built to a higher standard. So it will be interesting to see in the aftermath of the storm how the building code stood up.

[23:35:28] LEMON: We've got these extended warnings now. The storm is huge. The entire storm as we had Ed Rappaport explain. Bigger than Texas. It will encompass most of the state of Florida. Is there a place in Florida tonight where you think is safe?

HALSTEAD: I tell you for my family I would tell them to move inland. Certainly a building that has met the higher hurricane standards. That is probably the only way that I would encourage my family members to stay within the state of Florida. Now again there are large number of buildings that meet that criteria, again, thanks to the changes that have been made since hurricane Andrew. Also want to say we spent $50 million between state and federal money on schools retrofitting them for generators and making them reach the higher building code limits to so that folks could feel safer and have the comfort of power and in many cases the need for power for those that need oxygen and other medical support as they stay in the shelters. So again a lot has been done since Andrew. We're seeing the evacuation orders being obeyed by the residents. We saw the keys move about 31,000 people out. That is the good news. The bad news is there's about 80,000 that live in the keys. So there's still lot of people down there. But hoping that Miami Dade, at least from what we've seen today are certainly obeying those evacuation orders and the other counties will hopefully follow suit.

LEMON: I want to thank David Halstead, I appreciate you joining us here and giving good advice to all our viewers and all the folks in Florida and beyond. And racing for their lives. Incredible story of the delta airlines pilot who outrun hurricane Irma with a plane full of people desperate to escape the storms. Two of those passengers tell me their story.


[23:41:09] LEMON: As hurricane Irma moves towards Florida, listen to this story. It is a race against Mother Nature. STODDARD: a monster storm approach Puerto Rico yesterday, a delta airlines jet made a daring round trip flight from New York to San Juan. The return flight leaving Puerto Rico's capital as Irma's winds were roaring into the airport. All the action monitored in real time on a flight tracking app and twitter. The jet left New York at 8:00 a.m., arriving in San Juan at noon. In less than an hour, Dealt flight 302 with a 173 passengers aboard is back in the air. Radar tracking the jet after it took off. It was the last flight out of San Juan. Showing it flying between the outer band and Irma's western edge. Look at that. Unbelievable. Finally out racing the hurricane and flying safely to New York. Guess who was on that plane? Karen and Jeff Hongslo were on board and they join me now. It sounds pretty dramatic. I imagine it was. I don't know if you saw the imagery of it flying between the bands. You guys were literally racing against the hurricane. So tell me about how you found out and the evacuation and all that.

JEFF HONGSLO, PASSENGER ON LAST FLIGHT OUT OF PUERTO RICO BEFORE IRMA: Well, as far as seeing the radar, we didn't see anything like that, thankfully until after we landed in New York City. So having that -- could you repeat the question. The evacuation.

LEMON: I just want to know how you guys found out and what made you rush out to the airport, because this was the last flight out.

J. HONGSLO: We actually moved our flight to the 1:00 time slot. We had no thought it would actually happen. So we spent the morning looking at the departure flight at the hotel trying to figure out why every flight was canceled except for ours and ours was going out an hour after the airport was supposed to be closed. So we got conformation and we scrambled to get out of the hotel as quick as we could. This is interesting and why I appreciate what the people of Puerto Rico did for us. We couldn't get a cab from the hotel. So the general manager within one minute was able to get somebody that could drive us to the airport.


J. HONGSLO: And actually the person stayed at the airport also until we actually were able to call and verify the flight was going to go out.

K. HONGSLO: So getting to the airport was a miracle in itself. Much less the flight. Yeah, it was quite an experience.

LEMON: So what was it like when you got on the plane and the door closed behind you? Could you feel the winds? Was it as dramatic as it sounds?

K. HONGSLO: Surprisingly not as dramatic as it appears from the outside. It was a little bumpy on the way up, which I think we kind of expected knowing the winds were picking up at the time. But once we got straight, I mean we were going up into the clouds but it was pretty smooth.

J. HONGSLO: It was kind of bumpy but I've been on bumpier ones. The crew did an excellent job. You know how it seems forever to get people situated in their seats and they did a good job getting people situated so we could get going because my anxiety was it was a race against the weather and the timing. I knew if we didn't get out in the next couple minutes we weren't going to get out at all.

[23:45:02] LEMON: How were people reacting around you? I know when it's bumpy and people applaud. How are people reacting around you? J. HONGSLO: I think initially there was that anxiety of let's get

going, let's get going. But I think -- Karen was going to tell you when we landed everybody just burst into applause. That is the first time on a flight people were that ecstatic?

K. HONGSLO: We were also relieved just to leave Puerto Rico. Most of us were thinking about that, the fact that we were getting out. We had no idea that the flight was as close to the hurricane as it actually was. Thankfully because I think we all would have had a rougher time on that flight had we known?

LEMON: Usually when you're above the clouds you can see the storms rolling in. Could you see the weather from up there?

K. HONGSLO: Oh, yeah. We could still see the outer bands of the hurricane had started going across the island when we took off. I took video going out as we were flying out and I could still see the waves in the ocean through that sheer cloud and I took video all the way up watching Irma get further and further away.

LEMON: Listen, Jason is an aviation writer and researcher monitored your flight with the flight tracking app with live updates on twitter and it was trending so high it became its own moment on twitter. Were you aware so many people were tracking your flight?

J. HONGSLO: We had no idea until we actually landed at JFK and we were at our baggage claim and wanted to talk to different people and up until then I thought we took off like normal. I thought we'd be taking off heading west to skirt around it. So I had no idea until we landed and very happy I didn't know it.

K. HONGSLO: Until we saw the news we didn't know this had all gone on. We are little more scared now than we were when it was actually going on.

LEMON: Those darn news people. Thank you Karen. Thank you Jeff.

J. HONGSLO: No kidding.

K. HONGSLO: You're so welcome. Thank you.

LEMON: THANK YOU for joining us. When we come back. More on our breaking news. New hurricane warnings issued for south Florida. Miami bracing for a direct hit from the monster hurricane Irma. We are going to get the latest from CNN Weather Center when we come

right back.


[23:51:25] LEMON: Here's our breaking news at this hour. New hurricane warnings issued for south Florida. Miami bracing for direct hit from hurricane Irma. Let's check in meteorologist Tom Sater in the CNN Weather Center. Tom, what's the latest on Irma?

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLIGIST: We saw a drop on winds about 10 miles per hour. It could gain its strength back and most likely will. It's still a category 5 storm. And it's making its way on the track projected for the last several days. The interesting thing to note here, we were talking about earlier, that the hurricane watch has been now lifted to a warning, which means this is imminent. Interesting Don, it took a while for the computer to gather the information. I was wondering why Key West is still pink under a hurricane watch. It's now red. All the way around dell well Beach. And the hurricane watch slides from Pierce to Sarasota, Bradenton. It makes sense, it's earlier than expected. But let's get the word out. If you get away from the coastlines and get inside, you're going to be able to ride the system out. We want everyone to get away from the storm surge. Get in a sturdy building. Call authorities if you need to be move. They will help you, you got two days before this makes landfall, Don.

LEMON: Tom Sater, thanks very much. Much more to come on hurricane Irma. New warnings for South Florida as Miami braces for a direct hit. We'll talk to some people that have done battle with this monster storm.


LEMON: Here's our breaking news. New hurricane warnings for south Florida as Miami braces for a direct hit. Hurricane Irma has killed at least ten people on its rampage in the Caribbean causing catastrophic damage to some of the islands. Joining us Anderson Edgell, he is a producer for ABS TV Antigua. And he flew to Barbuda by helicopter. You did that earlier. Anderson we're looking at brand-new video, we will put it up now that you shot in Barbuda. And the scenes are really horrific, destroyed homes. Telephone poles knocked down. Furniture and appliances on the streets, complete and utter devastation. Tell us about your trip.

[23:55:28] ANDERSON EDGELL, ABS TV ANTIGUA PRODUCER: Absolutely. Those images, as you said, were shot earlier. A few hours before 5:00 p.m., 4:00 p.m. Local time. We can see at least 60 percent of Barbuda's are homeless right now. We look at 90 percent of the infrastructure has been completely decimated. We have a lot of folks on Barbuda, just trying to leave, especially now that we're hearing that there's a possible threat from hurricane Jose, coming in just about Saturday or so. It should be closest to our islands. I saw folks at the lone terminal building at the airport, just hanging around, and hoping, by chance, they may be able to escape on a helicopter, or some of the emergency teams have been coming in throughout the day. And even at the sea port, there were folks waiting to hop on ferries to head over to the mainland in Antigua. Antigua being the more heavily populated of the islands. And Barbuda has a population of just about 1,800 people. Folks are just waiting and hoping that they will be able to get off Barbuda and to escape a possible threat from hurricane Jose.

LEMON: Let me ask you this, Anderson, what I didn't see in your video -- I know it was shot earlier. I didn't see largescale search and rescue operations. Can you tell us about those efforts?

EDGELL: I'm not aware that search and rescue operations are going on right now, because I think everyone had been accounted for, we had one death on Barbuda. A Toddler, really, lost his life while trying to escape the damages being caused by the winds during the hurricane with his mother. We're very sad about that. But there aren't really search and rescue operations on -- being undertaken right now because everyone, really, is accounted for. So, right now, we're just trying to get the populations together. There is, as I said earlier, and a voluntary evacuation order in place on Barbuda.

LEMON: Anderson Edgell, thank you so much. I appreciate your time. When we come back, much more on our breaking news. New hurricane warnings issued for South Florida as Miami braces for a direct hit.


This is CNN Breaking news.