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Florida Bracing for hit as Hurricane Irma Devastates Caribbean; Interview with State Senator Gary Farmer Junior; Florida Hospitals Evacuate Patients Ahead of Storm; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired September 7, 2017 - 10:30   ET



[10:30:52] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Hurricane Irma remains an extremely dangerous category 5 storm. The Dominican Republic and the Haiti right now are bracing for the worst after this storm just tore through and devastated the island of Barbuda yesterday.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go back to the CNN Weather Center right now. Chad Myers is there to give us a sense of the latest information -- Chad.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I'm still seeing, guys, that slight wobble to the right. And it's a wobble in the eye that certainly a computer model can't predict. It's just too broad of a model, compared to the mesoscale or almost microscale of this little wobble.

Let me take you right to it. There's the eye of the storm. We'll zoom you right in. I just want you to notice the last couple of frames, how it just tries to turn to the right just a little bit.

Does it turn back to the left? Likely. But is that enough to maybe miss one city or maybe hit another? We'll have to see. This is still now, obviously, a developing story, still 72 hours away from landfall, a category 4 landfall somewhere around south Florida and then running up the East Coast to Florida, and into South Carolina, North Carolina, maybe even Georgia.

That's the middle of the cone but notice where we are here. We still have not and cannot rule out the West Coast to Florida. But it's much more likely -- look at the distance here, compared to here. Much more likely to miss to the right than to the left or more likely be right up through the middle somewhere, probably had a 60 percent chance of the middle of that cone being valid.

Here is the model. I want to take you to a couple of models here. Because the United Kingdom model has been way over here in Key West. The Euro model, European model, has been right along the Miami shoreline. And then the American model has been out here. So why? Why does that happen? It's because of the way the models are designed. It's the continents, it's also the levels of the atmosphere that these models can breakthrough or look through or try to model itself.

Obviously the number of layers of the atmosphere is infinite. I mean, you can't put an infinite number into a computer and run it because it will never stop. You just get infinity. It just keeps going and going and going. So we break the models down to as simple as we can to get them to run in time to give us a decent forecast.

And there's the European model right over Key Biscayne, right over Ft. Lauderdale, all the way up to West Palm and it's still 130, 140 miles per hour.

Now the American model. Not simple, but just different. And it goes to the east of Miami. Tens of billions of dollars in damage different in just 30 or 40 miles. I'm saying why are they so different? Well, they're not really so different when you talk about 72 hours. That's a pretty good forecast being only 40 miles one way or the other. But how does it make a difference for Miami?

Let me show you this. If we're going to get 145-mile-per-hour wind gusts in Miami, and you talk about Miami being a very tall city, there are some buildings that are over 700 feet tall. At 174 at the surface is about 174 in the middle, and then way above that, 189 miles per hour at the top. And in fact, that's such a significant difference with the power in the force of the wind that it's not just a straight line.

So earlier today they took a little drop sun which is the same as kind of a weather balloon, but it goes the wrong way. They drop it out of the plane. If found 140-mile-per-hour -- 145-mile-per-hour wind at the surface. But 600 feet up, they found 206. So if you're in a high rise in Miami and this thing does come toward you, you need to get out.

HARLOW: So, Chad, we just heard -- I mean, that's just remarkable, by the way, to hear those wind speeds. We just heard the governor of Florida, Rick Scott, talk about Andrew and the devastation Andrew brought on Florida, and he said, look, this thing turned in the last 45 minutes. That's why both coasts have to be ready to evacuate.

When do you think you will be able to tell us, tell our viewers, tell people in Florida, all right, there's a 90 percent certainty this is going right up to Miami? I mean, is there a time when we're going to know that?

MYERS: There's not. And that's why you have to leave now. That's why you have to leave early because all the models are doing this, this, this, this. And then, right there is the turn.

[10:35:03] Now if the turn is here, that's Grand Bahama. That's Nassau. That's significant damage here. If the turn is here just a little bit late, then we've moved this thing 50 miles or 100 miles one way or the other. And still, at this hour, the hurricane center will tell you their average air is still 150 miles one way or the other. So I mean, think about what 150 does either side of that line.

Such a significant difference. But that's why you have to get out now if you're told to. That's why the evacuation notices are out there for some people. The rule of thumb is, you know, hide from the wind, run from the water. You know, we've heard this over and over and over throughout meteorological terms, but you almost need to run from 150. You know, I mean, if this is truly story, where do you hide from 150?

That's why the Andrew. Andrew came slamming into the U.S. coast at 150. And the people that died in Homestead and Coral Gables, they tried to hide. And it was tough. They All those houses were knocked down. Now the building codes are different, but there are still some older building codes, houses still standing of course.

BERMAN: You cannot bet one way or the other here. Listen to the officials in Florida.


BERMAN: Do not wait. Get out if you are told to.

Chad Myers, an important warning from you, really appreciate it there.

MYERS: You're welcome.

BERMAN: Six million people in south Florida right now bracing for the possibility of that direct hit Chad just explained. Residents trying to stock up on food, fuel, water. Broward County, which includes Ft. Lauderdale, is opening more than a dozen shelters today, obviously a few days before they're expecting the storm to hit.

HARLOW: Some parts of the county under mandatory evacuation that is beginning in just an hour and a half by noon Eastern today.

The Florida state senator, Gary Farmer Jr., will join us on the phone right now. He's a Democrat representing the 31st District. That includes, of course, Broward.

Thank you for being with us especially at such a busy time for your community. When you look at a map, so much of Ft. Lauderdale, for example, et cetera, Broward County is just, you know, three feet or less above ground. It's a huge risk for these storm surges, sir, that we keep hearing, you know, upwards of 20 feet. What are you telling your residents?

GARY FARMER JUNIOR (D), FLORIDA STATE SENATOR (via phone): Well, thank you. Thank you for having me on. And I just echo what your meteorologist, Chad, was trying to say. We need the residents to heed the warnings, and that's a message we've been delivering.

I happen to live in an evacuation zone. All of the areas (INAUDIBLE) are in mandatory evacuation zones. We have already left. We are on our way north, stopping in Orlando. In fact (INAUDIBLE), and we may head probably north to Tallahassee. But you're exactly right. These storms can be unpredictable. We don't know where that storm is going to occur. And the downside of guessing wrong and deciding today which we've been to evacuate can be devastating and can be life threatening and life fatal. And so, please, please, everyone, heed these warnings, take this very seriously.

BERMAN: Senator, you were born and raised in Florida. You know what can happen in Florida. We keep hearing that Irma is bigger, faster, more powerful than Hurricane Andrew. And the reason officials are saying that is because it means something to Floridians. So when you hear that, what does it mean to you?

FARMER: Well, it's scary because I did live through Hurricane Andrew and that was a devastating storm. And you bet it's exactly right, this is bigger, stronger, faster than Andrew was. You know, and I worry a little bit that Floridians have developed a little bit of a sense of complacency. We've been fortunate in that until Wilma recently, which really didn't affect too much of Florida directly, we hadn't had a storm in 10 years. And so a lot of concern out there for some folks having gone 10 years without a major storm that they've gotten a little complacent.

And so that's why we are urging people to take this very seriously. And I think we've seen in the last 24 to 36 hours an increased sense of urgency with residents. People are stocking up, I have been stocking up since Monday or Tuesday on gas, on water, et cetera. We need more supplies down here. I know the governor is working with some of the companies to get more supplies, more fuel, more water to south Florida.

But we just want to urge people to take it very seriously. So don't gamble because that gamble could cost you your life.

HARLOW: Very quickly, what about the people that cannot afford to evacuate? They can't afford a hotel room overnight? They don't have family to stay with? They can't afford the gas. What help is there for them?

FARMER: Yes. Additional shelters are being opened up all in Broward County and all around south Florida.

[10:40:03] There are evacuation guides that are in place or evacuation routes. But if you cannot evacuate, take shelter in designated shelters. Maybe schools are being opened as shelters. But the key is you've got to get hunkered down. If you can't leave, find your location. And while you're doing that, make sure you've got supplies and medicines. The governor issued an order allowing for additional refills of prescriptive medication even if your prescription is expired.

Gather up enough water or food for at least three days. And importantly, you know, if you own your home or you rent your home, make sure you take pictures. Take pictures of your belongings. Record what you've got because, you know, insurance companies sometimes are not too cooperative when claims are made later on. There are going to be a lot of claims after the storm so folks need to take those type of precautions as well.

It's unfortunate you've got to think about that when you're trying to preserve life and safety but, you know, your possessions, you know, are important and we urge people to take some video or take some picture so you've got a record of what you have.

BERMAN: All right. Senator Gary Farmer from Florida, from Broward County. Listen, thank you so much for being with us. Please stay safe in the days ahead.

FARMER: Thank you very much.

HARLOW: Also --

FARMER: Thanks for your coverage.

HARLOW: All right. Also this political development just in to us. We are waiting for House minority leader Nancy Pelosi to hold her weekly press conference. But a Democratic aide just told us that she spoke with the president this morning on the phone and she asked him to tweet essentially what he just tweeted within the last hour about Dreamers.

You'll recall the president wrote, "For all those DACA that are concerned about your status during the six-month period, you have nothing to worry about. No action." She apparently, according to an aide, did not tell him exactly what to tweet, just a general message.

Why does it matter? Because in the last 24 hours, the president seems to have really done a lot the Democrats have wanted.

BERMAN: Yes. Again, with a deal on the Harvey funding and the deadline for the three-month pause on that, we'll note the exact wording of that, not all Democrats love right now, because it isn't true that nothing will happen to these DACA recipients in the next six months if they do not renew their status, they could be in serious trouble. They could lose their protection over the next two years. So people have to be very careful about that. But again the fact that he responded directly to Nancy Pelosi I'm sure noticed in the House speaker's office.

HARLOW: You know, and of course, you know, it's Nancy and Chuck right now.

BERMAN: Chuck and Nancy. Don's best friends.

HARLOW: All right. So, of course, we are -- our top story is Hurricane Irma. We are all over this. A major concern for Florida right now is the hospitals. Right? What happens to all of these patients down there? We're going to speak to someone who's running some of the big hospitals down there, next.


[10:46:58] BERMAN: All right. As we speak, some Florida hospitals are evacuating patients, preparing to close their doors ahead of Hurricane Irma. Some are also coordinating air and ambulance transport for patients who are considered high risk.

Joining us now Wayne Bracken, the chief operating officer of Baptist Health South Florida, this is a non-for-profit hospital chain, serving the greater Miami area all the way down into Florida Keys, which as we speak evacuations under way.

How is it going, sir?

WAYNE BRACKEN, COO, BAPTIST HEALTH SOUTH FLORIDA: Well, the evacuation process is going very smoothly. We have two hospitals in the Florida Keys. One is about 100 miles south of Miami, in Marathon, Fisherman's Hospital. We actually shut that down as of 7:00 a.m. this morning. Spent the last couple of days transferring patients out up to Miami or discharging them if appropriate.

We moved the staff out this morning. Some of them went up to Mariners Hospital in Key Largo, which is our other facility there, which is still currently open. The last in-patients were discharged out of there last night. And we expect that we'll close down about 7:00 p.m. and evacuate the final group of employees, physicians and nurses out of there.

HARLOW: What about the people that are in such delicate condition? You know, babies in the NICU, for example, and very elderly people in such a state that they just can't be transported. What happens?

BRACKEN: Well, these two hospitals are -- and these are critical access hospitals, meaning they are small, more primary care oriented. So the patients that were more critical and delicate, as you are mentioning, had previously been moved out and typically would have been taken out by helicopter or stable enough by ground transport.

So, at this stage, all of those patients have been moved, and unless we have a patient come into the emergency department at Mariners in Key Largo in the next six or seven hours, then the hospital will remain empty. Patient comes in like that at this stage of the game, in all likelihood, we'll helicopter them out to one of our hospitals in Miami.

BERMAN: You know, one of the concerns from Governor Rick Scott is that this one is so big.


BERMAN: That there's really no completely safe place to be in Florida. The hurricane winds could be felt from east to west and well up the peninsula. Are you concerned that you're moving people to places that will still be in the hurricane zone and what do you do about those hospitals?

BRACKEN: Well, all of our hospital assets are located in south Florida. So we spend a lot of time on emergency preparedness. We've spent many years since Hurricane Andrew in fact hardening these facilities, making sure that we have our generator power, we have all of the medical supplies, food, everything that we need.

We can be self-sustaining for a good solid week, probably two weeks if necessary, before help arrives. So I think we're in good shape. The staff is planning to be here for the duration. And we have our B teams coming in to relieve them.

[10:50:10] So we drill all yearlong for incidents like this for years. The governor is right, this is a monster storm, unlike anything we have seen since Andrew, but the degree that you can be prepared for it, I think we are in good shape. HARLOW: Wayne Bracken, thank you for joining us and for what you and

your entire teams are doing. We know they're going to be working throughout the day and night around the clock. We appreciate it. Good luck to you guys.

All right. In just moments, the National Hurricane Center will give us the latest update on Hurricane Irma, its path, its intensity, what it means for the southeast. Stay with us.


[10:53:41] BERMAN: All right. Seattle Seahawks star Michael Bennett speaking out after he says police held a gun to his head he says for no reason.

HARLOW: Andy Scholes has more on this morning's "Bleacher Report." This is getting a lot of attention.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he sure is, guys. And Bennett says, you know, he was attending the Mayweather-McGregor fight on his day off and afterwards he was returning to his hotel in Las Vegas when a crowd heard loud noises that sounded like gunshots, and Bennett says, you know, like everyone else, he tried to run for cover but he was targeted by police.

Now TMZ obtained video of Bennett being detained. In a letter posted on his Twitter, Bennett says police, quote, "pointed their guns at me and singled me out for doing nothing more than simply being a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Now police described a different version of events. They say that Bennett's actions appeared suspicious and that when more security video emerges, the officers will be exonerated. Now Bennett was detained for 10 minutes before being released. And yesterday he spoke about the terrifying experience.


MICHAEL BENNETT, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: I'm just lucky to be here to be able to speak about it. Any moment, I could have made the wrong decision of whether move or felt like I was resisting or doing something wrong and you guys will be -- the Seahawks would be wearing a patch with the number 72 on it. I try to tell my daughters every single day that they matter.


SCHOLES: Now Bennett has retained a prominent attorney and is considering a federal civil rights lawsuit.

[10:55:05] Through NFL pre-season Bennett has sat during the national anthem to protest social injustice and said he will continue to do so.

Today a lot of people are expected to head north and evacuate out of Florida. The speedways in Alabama and Georgia, they're opening their gates to anyone who needs a place to stay. No matter if you have a camper or just a tent, you can stay on the speedway ground to Talladega or Atlanta. Both speedways are equipped to handle thousands of campers.

Meanwhile both the Miami Dolphins and Florida Panthers have offered up their stadiums as staging sites for emergency equipments.

Guys, of course, the Dolphins and the Bucks have already had their game that was scheduled for Sunday move to week 11 because of the storm.

BERMAN: All right, Andy. Andy Scholes, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

HARLOW: All right. Let's go D.C. right now. Let's listen in to Nancy Pelosi. She's speaking live right after it was revealed that she asked Donald Trump to tweet what he did this morning about DACA.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA, MINORITY LEADER: We don't want to call it climate change, but we can call it earth, wind and fire. How about that? Does that work for you? Earth, wind and fire. It's how we mitigate against some things that have become predictable and more intense as we go forward.

North Korea, my concern about North Korea is mainly it has been for years. I went to Pyongyang in North Korea, as many of you know, one of the few members of Congress who has been to North Korea. And when we were there, we were telling them about many things, POWs, MIAs, and all that, the starvation of their people but also about their testing of missiles at the time.

And they said, you know what? We want to sell them. You want to buy them? We'll sell them to you. So this idea of North Korea as a proliferator is one that they talked about 15 years ago. And that's what I'm concerned about. I think that what the president of North Korea is doing is about to turn. But I think it's also -- I think it's also about a road shut. You can sell not only the technology, the scientific know-how. You can send scientists, the missile, the delivery system.

I don't think he would proliferate the nuclear aspects of it. That's a deterrent for him. But what all of the resources that are available to him were not indigenous. They came -- some of them came from some other places. So this is a very dangerous situation in many ways, including the North Korea could be a proliferator.

Again, our hearts go out to the families of everyone affected by these storms and as we are preparing to pass a bill for Harvey, as you know, we had a meeting at the White House yesterday. Preparation for the meeting, we met with our members and decided that we were not going to be agreeable to an 18-month lifting of the debt ceiling. It was just -- just destroyed any negotiating leverage that we would have.

And we talked about it. We talked to our colleagues about it, some of the leadership colleagues about it. And then, yesterday morning, the Republicans put out that they were going to insist on the 18 months, so we put out the three-month proposal that we had. It was a lively debate. And I told my caucus before we went, this is

what our proposal is. It was a lively debate. We had not intended to be talking about CR, but of course that came up and frankly strengthened our hand for three months because we made it clear we would not do any longer debt ceiling than we had of the continuing resolution. Is this more on the subject than you want to know? Stop me if it is. OK?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: We want to know more.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: We want to know more.



PELOSI: The technicality of CR, and the debt ceiling and rest of that. I'm an appropriator, that's why I let Intelligence and Appropriations, so you see that's my focus. But the -- but as the conversation went forward, if we are not going to take any more time -- agreed any more time than what the CR is, then we have a six-month CR, hope the Defense Department can't live with that. So the fact that they brought up the CR really strengthened our hand in the three- month for the lifting the debt ceiling.

The impression was given to us that something we know, that we voted to lift the debt ceiling many times, but many of us. But we were kind of lectured on the importance of lifting the debt ceiling to the markets. And we know that. We know that. We have been lifting the debt ceiling. But if you have -- you know, in Wall Street, it's Wall Street. Here is the currency of the realm. It's the votes. You have the votes. No discussion. We don't have the votes. Three months. So that's how we got to that.