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Hurricane Irma Batters Caribbean Islands; Trump Blindsides Republican Congressional Leaders; Florida Evacuating To North; Gasoline And Water Shortages; Florida Residents Advised to Seek Shelter. Aired 12-1a ET
Aired September 7, 2017 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[00:00:30] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everybody. I'm John Vause. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles
Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful storms ever recorded in the Atlantic is striking the Caribbean with winds close to 300 kilometers per hour.
The sound of the roar of the wind and those wind gusts are lashing Puerto Rico as the center of the storm moves across the island's northern coast. The governor says already there's significant damage.
Earlier the monster storm roared into St. Maarten killing two people. Another was seriously injured while another person was also seriously hurt in Saint Bart's.
Barbuda was devastated by Irma's winds blowing in at well above the threshold of a Category 5 storm killing a child and wiping out the island's telecommunications system.
Here's how the prime minister described the scene.
GASTON BROWNE, PRIME MINISTER OF ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA: It was heart- wrenching, absolutely devastating. I have never seen any such destruction compared on a per capita (ph) basis compared to what I saw in Barbuda this afternoon.
95 percent of the properties in Barbuda were damaged. The infrastructure was damaged -- all of the institutions, the lone hospital, the schools. It is absolutely heart-wrenching.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: And these images are from hurricane hunters flying through the eye of the storm. The surrounding clouds look relatively calm but the plane was clearly shaking as it flew through the eye wall.
Hurricane Irma is far from over. It's projected to hit the northern coast of Haiti and the Dominican Republic next. U.N. estimates it could affect up to 37 million people.
One of those people that have been affected by all of this joins us now on line from St. Maarten -- Lauren Anne Mayer (ph). So Lauren -- you were visiting the island. You're from Florida.
This isn't the vacation you were expecting. What's it been like there as Irma came through?
LAUREN ANNE MAYER, AMERICAN TOURIST: It has not been the vacation any of us were expecting. We came into town last Friday for a fitness retreat and brought (inaudible) some guests to St. Maarten.
We had a couple days of sunshine, warm weather and, you know, beach weather for our workouts and yoga activities. But we were evacuated pretty much Monday night, Tuesday morning from our villa. And we could not find flights out for most of our group.
We had about six or seven members of our group who were able to get the last set of flights, and five of us have been hunkering down at the Simpson Bay Resort and Marina. It's actually starting to lightning outside, but we had no idea what we were in for.
I mean we heard it on the news. We heard it from our families, and being from Florida, I've never experienced anything like this. And a couple of members of our group have actually been, you know, born in Florida or have lived there recently, and we -- nothing like this.
We were prepared as far as food and water and things like that, but for the amount of rain beating on our balcony doors and the winds and just everything in general -- the flooding that came into our hotel room, we just had no idea really what to expect. And it was a terrifying adventure that we've been on.
So we're all safe right now. We're really happy about that. But we just walk around -- sorry.
VAUSE: So can you just -- so you mean -- I didn't mean to interrupt. I was just curious if you could just talk about the rain and the wind at the peak of the storm. Just how powerful was it? You said the rain and the water kept coming into the hotel room where you guys were taking shelter?
MAYER: Right. So we have a front door that faced basically the first half of the hurricane and then the eye passed over us and the second half came through the back.
So we were -- the water -- we're on the sixth floor of this hotel. So it wasn't the waves that came up or anything like that. It was actually the rain water.
[00:05:00] There was just so much rain, and we have three sets of sliding balcony doors but it rained so hard that it slipped through the cracks in the framework of the glass doors and we had probably three or four inches on the floor of our entire two-bedroom room that we're staying in -- so.
VAUSE: When that was happening, Lauren -- so when that was happening Lauren, what were you thinking at the time when all this water kept coming through these glass doors? MAYER: We -- well, we stood at the doors for a minute. We filmed
some of the rain as you probably saw on my Facebook page. And it wasn't until we really realized we were probably in danger and the glass might actually break even though we were told that the entire building is completely hurricane-proof, that we backed off into the bathrooms, and that's where we hid for most of the storm.
But the first half before the eye passed over us was just -- I mean it was like someone was physically just shaking every door as hard as humanly possible. It was rattling. There was noise. There was howling. There was just rain coming from every direction.
And there was an eerie -- and once it got light enough outside that we could actually see what was happening, I mean there were these creepy blue lights where we could see the rain coming through. And I've never seen anything like it. All of us were --
VAUSE: Again, my apologies for interrupting, but you said you've had a chance to look outside and to have a look at some of the damage. What do you see?
MAYER: We did. We walked around today. Well, there's another half of the hotel that's across this little side street, and the windows all broke and fell out. The roofs were ripped off. There's sailboats that are completely underwater except for the very top of the sail.
You know, there's just -- it's devastating just the amount of damage that's been done to this island. I mean there's trees all over the place. Just anything you can imagine was just kind of destroyed and blown to smithereens. And it's really, really sad.
VAUSE: From what you've been able to see, how many buildings have been left intact or undamaged if you like?
MAYER: Are undamaged or damaged?
VAUSE: Yes. No -- how many would be left standing or undamaged after the storm.
MAYER: I mean there are still -- the concrete buildings held up, so our hotel held up pretty well. Howard did go out and we're one of the few rooms that actually has lights on. We don't have running water or anything like that, but we actually have some lights.
The buildings around us, like the pharmacy is still up. The supermarkets are up, but anything -- I mea there's a bunch of little beach restaurants that were kind of just destroyed and Tiki huts that flew off.
And there's things that are completely underwater. There are cars that are turned upside down. The shuttle buses from the hotel are kind of smooshed (ph) into each other.
MAYER: This hurricane ripped off bumpers. It ripped off windshields. Bricks were falling on cars from somewhere up above, and it's a mess.
VAUSE: Very quickly, last question. How long do you think it will be before you can actually leave the island and start heading home? And how will you cope between now and then?
MAYER: Well, we all had flights out today. Those were canceled and rebooked for tomorrow. They were canceled and rebooked for Friday and Saturday. And now we're all supposed to call the airlines and figure out when we can actually get out of here.
But the airport's shut down right now. There are no flights going out, none coming in.
And we did see some blue lights circling around. So we think there has been some initiative to try and repair parts of it, you know, to be able and fly in and out.
But we -- at this point we have absolutely no idea. We're told that there's another hurricane coming following Irma and actually one more in the gulf that's appeared. So we have no idea.
We have some students with us who are back in school in Austin. We have -- a guest who's from the U.K. and obviously no one can get back to their jobs or do anything. So we're all pretty much stranded until that airport opens.
I mean if any rescue missions come here to help repair and get out the water to people who don't have a home right now. I mean that's pretty much everyone in our lobby.
There are people who had their roofs blown off at this hotel and they're all just kind of banding together down there, just families with babies trying to do the best they can.
I mean while we're here we'd love to help out with any kind of emergency. We have no idea when we'll start.
[00:10:00] VAUSE: I think the most important thing right now, Lauren is obviously to try and stay safe and, you know, hopefully it won't be too long before you can start heading home.
But thank you so much for being with us and telling us about what has been an incredible ordeal and we're just very glad that you're safe right now.
Ok. Let's go to meteorologist Pedram Javaheri. He's tracking Irma. Pedram -- we've just had an incredible first hand account of what this storm was actually like. Where is it heading now? And is it -- I think what -- is it getting stronger at the moment?
PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. You know, it's so sobering or disturbing to think about the storm because not only has it not weakened, John, looking at this going on 40 hours as a Category 5; 40 hours in the Category 5; 36 hours sitting at nearly 300 kilometers per hour. Now, I've talked about how if there was a hypothetical Category 6, it is so far above the threshold required to be a Category 5, this would reach that 6 threshold. And it certainly has kept its momentum, its speed.
And what is really most disturbing about it is the track or the path it's taking is actually going over some of these smaller islands, these flatter islands -- the ones that essentially are consisting of sandy beaches, any sort of, you know, limestone hills and dunes are the best elevation they have.
And with this storm system taking that track and really not directly impacting places that are mountainous such as say, Puerto Rico or we think down at Hispaniola -- no direct impact expected into Cuba, still yet to be seen if direct impact would be expected.
But we know Turks and Caicos ahead of it now. The Bahamas beyond that in the path of the storm system over the next couple of days. Very much the same as far as some of these islands that we've seen are already impacted -- Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla and, of course, work your way towards St. Maarten as well.
And this is the most disturbing thing because the storm doesn't have anything in its path to weaken it. The ocean temperatures, plenty -- you need to be around 28 degrees Celsius to fuel the storm system. Well, it's sitting somewhere around 30, 31 degrees, in some areas 32 degrees Celsius. Well above that threshold.
You look above the storm to see if the winds are going in different directions if there are the vertical wind shear that could potentially shred the storm apart. It's not there. And we're again going on record territory of how long this has been able to maintain this remarkable strength.
So I want to show you what we're looking at right now on radar imagery out of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Still not out of the woods across this region because tremendous rainfall could still come down on the back side of this storm system. You see one band right there about push right through San Juan, so significant still a realistic possibility even as it falls away from Puerto Rico.
Notice the hurricane warnings that have been issued across the northern portion of the island of Hispaniola. This storm is slated to take a track that would take it directly into the Turks and Caicos inside the next 24 hours. Beyond that, some 700 islands of the archipelago that makes up the Bahamas in the path of this.
And storm surge of four and a half to six meters -- John. When you think about these numbers, the elevation -- the best they can do here is about one and a half to two meters. So this sort of numbers would essentially carry away the houses they're fortunate enough to stand several occasions (inaudible) and also into the Bahamas.
You travel around these parts in some of these islands, the communities, the homes will not be able to able withstand even a two- meter storm surge. So we're talking getting essentially two or three times higher than that.
And then if you look at the track beyond this, if it continues to take the track that takes it over islands that are essentially as flat as the beaches that you visit potentially across this region, we know that will not weaken the storm much.
And notice there is significant guidance now turning this to the right but also wanting to bring it a little farther towards the east. That would put eastern Florida, the most densely populated corner of the state, in the path of it.
There's still some model variations. When you get towards a three to four-day period, John, historically speaking there's about 150 to 250 mile variance or error of where the storm to go. And the state of Florida is not even that wide.
So potentially this storm by approach of there, say on Saturday until Sunday could shift in any which corner of the state. But we think in the next day or two, we'll get a much better understanding of where in the state that will impact that. We'll narrow down as well.
VAUSE: Ok. Pedram -- thank you for that.
Joining us now from Boston, Massachusetts CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem; and in Houston, Texas Rafael Lemaitre, he's the former director of public affairs for FEMA.
Juliette -- long before this storm gets to Florida, right now Puerto Rico is feeling the brunt of Irma. What's the biggest danger for the people in Puerto Rico? What's your advice for them right now as this wind and this rain continues to hit the island?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: So basically that it's not over yet because, you know, so far Puerto Rico has not gotten a direct hit. But as the correspondents have been saying, the next wave comes, which is of course storm surge, flooding, and then sort of the deterioration in some ways of critical infrastructure.
So all of these islands, whether they're directly hit or not are going to sort of face this second wave almost immediately of the flooding and concerns that then go to public health concerns and then of course public safety concern if infrastructure is down.
So it's going to be a very long haul. I will say there's some silver linings that we're hearing. We're not hearing a lot of fatality rates.
[00:15:02] That's something that we do measure success by. We don't know what the final numbers will be like, but at least the numbers we're hearing so far, not catastrophic when you actually think about what these islands have been facing.
Part of that is because of some of the planning. Part of that is because people were able to at least evacuate at higher levels. So that's what I'm looking at as it heads toward Florida and then of course what Florida is going to do in terms of its own evacuation planning.
VAUSE: We'll get to Florida in a moment. But Rafael -- I just want to talk about Puerto Rico and some of the other islands right now, particularly Puerto Rico. What capacity do they have to get out there for this recovery effort, if you like, once the worst is over?
RAFAEL LEMAITRE, FORMER FEMA PUBLIC AFFAIRS DIRECTOR: Well, the good news is that FEMA treats these territories and those islands as if they were states. So the good news is we've had federal officials there that have pre-deployed.
FEMA, I know, has been in touch with state and local officials to make sure that they're getting preparedness information out to local officials. They've also pre-positioned supplies, food, water, tarps -- those kinds of materials should they be requested by the governor and the officials there.
But Juliette is absolutely right. They're still not out of the woods. They need -- remember that actually a lot of fatalities continue to occur after landfall -- downed power lines, flooding. So it's important that people there stay vigilant.
VAUSE: Ok. And this then gets us to the issue of what happens in the next couple of days when Irma sort of heads towards Florida, maybe makes landfall, which is likely, which would be the second major hurricane to hit the mainland U.S. in two weeks.
This is raising a lot of concerns about the capacity of FEMA to deal with two major disasters like this. You know, FEMA boss. he admitted that they're strained but they're not being stretched. How do you see it -- Juliette? Are they able to cope with these emergencies back-to- back?
KAYYEM: I think so. I mean first of all, FEMA is divided into different regions, so there's not like one FEMA that's deployed, and Texas is a different region than Florida. So they're four and six. So there's a new region that has to deal with this. Not to say that people aren't tired, that the agency itself isn't overstretched.
But one of the benefits of having divided their assets, their people, deploying materials that may be need -- that those have been done separately. So that's good news.
The second thing of course is each of these events is actually a local event. It's going to be driven by local decision making, about what Floridians should do. I urge people in Florida listen to your local emergency managers and local press about what to do rather than, you know, people on the national level or saying everyone should evacuate. That's just not the way it works.
Just one final thing on FEMA, though. What we don't know is these storms after storms, right? So we've had Texas, Florida we've got two more out in the Atlantic. And you know, I think it's safe to say that at some stage it does -- these storms are going to stretch even the federal government's capacity if they just keep coming as they are right now. VAUSE: And with that in mind, Rafael, the conservative right like
Rush Limbaugh -- he is actually based in Florida. He was on his radio show earlier this week. He told his listeners not to take this storm too seriously or listen to the advice from the government. He said it was all a conspiracy to promote climate change. And also went on to say it was all a money-making scam. This is part of what he said on Tuesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST: There is symbiotic relationship between retailers and local media, and it's related to money. The media benefits with the panic, with increased eyeballs, and the retailers benefit from the panic with increased sales. And the TV companies benefit because there getting advertising dollars from the businesses that are seeing all this attention from customers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: So, Rafael -- a lot of people listen to Rush Limbaugh. They hang on his every word. What impact could something like this have in a disaster like this?
LEMAITRE: Those are dangerous messages, clear and simple. We can't muddy the waters ahead of storms. Everyone needs to be speaking with a clear voice. Governor Rick Scott who is a Republican, has been very clear to residents of Florida that they need to take this storm seriously. If anything, these storms are a huge drain on the disaster relief fund and on taxpayers.
Frankly, it's these private organizations that come in first after there are these disasters in many areas to provide food and water and these kinds of services. So it's really not helpful to have that kind of mixed message going out to people. We really need people to listen to science-based information about what they should do ahead of these storms.
VAUSE: Yes. Good advice. Rafael -- thank you very much for being with us. Also Juliette -- we appreciate your advice and your insight as this disaster passes and heads to the U.S. mainland. Appreciate it.
We'll take a short break. When we come back, President Trump seems to be taking an ax to his relationship with Republican leaders in Congress. We'll have more on his surprising embrace of a Democratic plan, in a moment.
[00:20:05] We're also still keeping a close eye on all the developments from Hurricane Irma. Stay with us.
VAUSE: We're tracking Hurricane Irma, a powerful Category 5 storm with winds about 300 kilometers per hour. It's one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes in recorded history killing at least three people so far, leaving a trail of destruction across the Caribbean. Irma's exact paths still uncertain. Forecasters though suggest it will sideswipe the northern coast of Haiti and the Dominican Republic next. It could hit southern Florida in the coming days.
We'll get you to politics now. Republican officials say President Trump blindsided congressional leaders by siding with Democrats on a major deal to keep the government running.
This photo pretty much says it all, taken through the oval office window -- that's the President getting very close and friendly with Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer.
Mr. Trump often refers to him as "Crying Chuck", but not now. No tears after he and House Leader Nancy Pelosi cut a deal to extend the debt ceiling by three months. They'll also get government funding in exchange for $8 billion of relief for Hurricane Harvey.
For more, we're now joined by CNN's senior political analyst Ron Brownstein and CNN legal analyst Michael Zeldin. Good to see you both.
So Ron -- first to you, this deal. This was a true bizarro world moment. The Republican president taking the first offer that was put on the table by Democrats and then he went on to talk it up. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mitch and Paul and everybody, Kevin -- and we walked out, and everybody was happy. Not too happy because you can never be too happy. But they were happy enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Ok. Mitch being Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell; Paul being Speaker Paul Ryan.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: They condemned the idea like 20 minutes before he walked into the room.
VAUSE: Certainly. There are a lot of things right now, but they're not happy.
BROWNSTEIN: No. You know, look, it is hard to know exactly whether this is strategy or caprice. Because on the one hand, even as this is happening, the administration and congressional Republicans are negotiating a tax bill that completely excludes Democrats.
They are still maneuvering literally today to try to revive before the end of September a repeal of Obamacare that completely excludes Democrat. And then the President with no advance notice really to anyone, including his own staff, decides that he is going to make a deal with Democrats on extending the debt ceiling and funding the government into December and getting the disaster relief funding for Texas. Now, when you put all those three things together, do you have a strategy or do have just kind of an erratic kind of caprice?
VAUSE: A bunch of tactics all thrown together.
BROWNSTEIN: Right. Exactly.
VAUSE: Some people have said that the President just wanted a win.
[00:25:00] BROWNSTEIN: Yes. I think he wanted to avoid a loss. I mean there's no win here. I mean, you know, what the President has done, so people understand, is he has agreed to the Democratic desire, to extend the debt limit, which we have to raise in the U.S. because we run an annual deficit only until December.
Republicans wanted to have one vote at the end of September, sweeten it with the disaster relief for Texas, and then have that extend all the way through the 2018 election.
What the President agreed to was extending it only until December which means that Republicans are going to have to cast another vote. And historically it has been very hard for Republicans to get the vote to raise the debt limit because many of their conservative members won't vote for it without a large spending cut.
So what the President in effect did was give Democrats more leverage in a second vote, not really now, but in the second vote in December.
VAUSE: It's what some have described as a nightmare moment for traditional Republicans who supported Donald Trump. Another nightmare moment could be coming on Thursday.
Michael -- to you, this is when the President's son Don, Jr., actually answers questions by Senate investigators on that meeting he held last year at Trump Tower with a Kremlin-linked lawyer. Something the Democrats are very much looking forward to. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: He is his father's son, and there may have been conversations between him and his father about the reasons for firing Jim Comey, about other actions that were taken, comments about the investigation.
There is potentially a trove of very valuable evidence that he could provide in the questions whether he will cooperate. He will fully cooperate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: So, Michael -- what are the consequences for Don, Jr. if he does not cooperate?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, if he is not truthful, there are dire consequences for him. Cooperation is one thing. Truth- telling is quite another thing. And Donald Trump Jr. has yet to tell a coherent story that starts at the beginning and ends at the end about his meeting in June with those Russian government representatives. And I think that for him individually presents the greatest legal challenge for him.
With respect to the other aspects of the investigation the question of whether he knew anything about Kushner's digital operations and these revelations today that Facebook now admits that there was Russian spending to influence votes, what role did Donald, Jr. have, if any, in that.
Also what conversations did he have with his father about the June meeting? His father has said that he didn't know anything about it. But that's sort of counterintuitive to the way the President seems to be micromanaging things these days and during the campaign.
So there's a lot of risk to Donald Trump Jr., most of which revolve around coherence and truth-telling.
VAUSE: Very quickly, how precarious from a legal point of view is this moment for Donald Trump Jr.?
ZELDIN: I think it's a tipping point moment for him. While he's not in the grand jury with Mueller, which will be ultimately the last straw for him it does create a record of his story. And he can't really tell the investigators on the Hill one thing, then again change his mind and tell Mueller another thing.
So he's got to come up with a story that he's going to stick to, and that will be believed by Mueller because that's ultimately the person who is going to determine his legal fate.
VAUSE: And, Ron -- to you, this really for the President, this investigation is one that just doesn't go away. It just keeps getting closer and closer and closer to the family.
And all the time from what we understand from a lot of reporting out there it is driving the President really -- you know, it is angering him to such an extent, it is such a distraction.
BROWNSTEIN: Yes. And look, we saw that in the Comey firing and in everything we've learned about the Comey firing, the letter that he, you know, composed over the weekend, the rambling letter with all of this sense of grievance.
BROWNSTEIN: That is kind of bottled up. And yes, so this is clearly hanging over him. He's frustrated on a lot of different fronts.
And you know, the decision today as you talked about to work with -- basically give Schumer and Pelosi what they wanted reflected his frustration that McConnell and Ryan could not give him what he wanted, which is a repeal of Obamacare.
So there's a lot of ways in which you can see the kind of frustration building. VAUSE: He says he's going to work with Chuck and Nancy on the issue
of DACA, the program for undocumented immigrants who were --
BROWNSTEIN: Yes. We'll see. We'll see on that.
I mean look, you know, the President, I think what he thought he was doing by rescinding DACA was increasing pressure on Democrats to accept other elements of his hard line enforcement agenda as the price of providing some legal protection, in fact, the DACA recipients.
In fact, I think he's going to be increasing more pressure on Republicans who are facing the reality that two-thirds of the country wants some kind of legal protection for these kids and the business community overwhelmingly is supportive of that and they are not under risk of seeing it all go away.
[00:30:07] VAUSE: Very quickly to Michael, we've got about 30 seconds here. There are 15 states that are now suing over this attempt to cancel DACA. What are their chances of winning this lawsuit?
ZELDIN: Well it's an interesting situation that they have because in some sense they're taking the position that Trump took in the Muslim ban, which is to say the president has the authority to act in the immigration field. That this resending of DACA because it was unconstitutionally dominated by Obama - is just not going to be availing.
He's got the issue that he criticized Mexicans as drug traffickers and rapists in the campaign. And now he's exercising a prerogative that's going to be detrimental to most Mexicans in California and Texas. So he's got a lot of legal issues that mirror what he had in the Muslim bans and those didn't turn out too well for him.
VAUSE: Ok Michael, thank you so much for being with us. Also, Ron appreciate all of that. Ok, very quick break right no. Much more on Hurricane Irma in just a moment we'll take a closer look at the destruction it's already caused.
VAUSE: Puerto Rico is being slapped by Hurricane Irma right now. A million people there are without power. U.S territory avoided direct hit but the record breaking storm is still kicking out the dangerous waves, knocking trees and we're getting our first look at the destruction in Barbuda. The Prime Minister says the Caribbean Island is barely habitual -- 95 percent of buildings are damaged or destroyed. NASA released this new satellite image, taking you inside the eye of the storm. The top sustained winds 300 kilometers an hour.
And this video's from St. Martin where you can hear those powerful winds howling. And on the Northern part of the island, cars flooded, boats tossed like small toys. The French interior Minister says some of the strongest buildings on the island, including the police station and government offices have been destroyed.
Water is a major concern for Puerto Rico as well. The eye hurricane Irma is passing just north of the island. CNN's Leyla Santiago is in the capital, San Juan.
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT, PUERTO RICO: John, heavy rain and winds expected to continue through out the night here in Puerto Rico, while many are sort of taking this sigh of relief because they believe it's not as bad as it could have been or was expected to be government and emergency management officials are not saying that. They are saying to not let your guard down even if this is the worst of it. There will still be big problems that come as a result. Take for example power. More than 900,000 households on this island right now without power and authorities have already said it could take weeks possibly months before that power is back.
Flooding will also be an issue. The governor said this morning that will be a big priority after this storm passes, and already on the eastern part of the island, rescue teams have had to rescue more than 30 people from homes, as well as cars that were impacted by those floods. And also the other thing is damage assessment. That will be a big priority. The FEMA director has already said that will begin as early as possible tomorrow. John?
VAUSE: Leyla Santiago there with the very latest from Puerto Rico.
Let's go now to meteorologist Pedram Jahaveri for another check on where Irma is and where you know - basically whose next in the firing line I guess.
CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we've got a lot of people ahead of this. You know, and John just looking at some of the latest information coming in as far as the hurricane. (Hunter) is the recons air craft that flies into this storm every several hours, and it get's observations - drops data equipment into the storm.
And get's observations of it's strength, it's magnitude and we're seeing it has dropped in pressure with the storm system, which would correlate with an increase in wind speed.
So, again you look at a storm that has been sitting there for going on two days as a category five and everything indicates that this storm can strengthen inside the next day or so, or potentially retain it's strength, which has already bad as it is.
So here's the perspective right now with winds just shy of 300 kilometers per hour sustained winds. Over the open water for the immediate future. Certainly going to get a lot of activity around San Juan, around the northern portions of the island Hispaniola.
But ahead of us here what we're watching carefully are the Casco Islands - 40 low line Coral islands that are home to about 35,000 people, but we know about a million people every year visit these islands and of course a lot more than 35,000 on this island at this hour, because of the population increasing during the warmer months in the summer season.
But I want to show you something. As this storm is flatted to go over the Casco's over the next 24 hours - we're supposed to get a little bit of a wobble with this. That's the first sign we've seen with this storm potentially using a little bit of theme.
Now, I always use the analogy of taking a top and spinning it on a table, and if you can spend it perfectly, it'll spin very steady - very flat. But if there's any sort of imperfection on that table - if it catches it, it starts wobbling.
That's essentially what the Casco are doing to this storm as it moves through it, at the expense of utter devastation of course when you think about six, seven meter storm surge in an area that does not have that much elevation to work with in the vast majority of the island.
So we do have Hurricane warnings scattered about this region and there's also hurricane watches for the Bahamas. 700 Islands making up - the Bahamas are compellable - about a half a million people live there and of course millions more visit every year. So, a lot more people on the island at this hour as well.
Here was the perspective of this, a right trace still expected sometime Saturday into Sunday - that's where the cone really begins to widen up, and a lot of people really focus too much on the center of a cone - that is not exactly where the storm may habit.
Because certainly on the Western perfidy of it - it can go on the eastern perfidy - you notice there is more green to work with on the eastern side on the forecast guidance. So, that's why we think Eastern Florida, the most densely populated corner of the state could be next in line for an impact, guys.
VAUSE: Ok (Petra) thank you. You'll have a busy night. Well, coming up here the (rush) of (OK) parts of Florida, ahead of Hurricane Irma, already straining local supplies of water, and gasoline.
VAUSE: Irma is expected to be on Miami's doorstep in just three days. Water and gasoline are already in short supplies - thousands from the Florida Key's flee north. And their govern is warning of the dangers that Irma is bringing.
RICK SCOTT, GOVERNER, FLORIDA: This is serious and we cannot take the chances. This is life threatening. This is not a storm you can sit and wait through. I cannot stress this enough - get prepared. Know your evacuation plan, listen to the local officials. This storm has the potential to (inaudible) and you have to take this seriously.
VAUSE: And so many try to get ahead of this storm, Miguel Marquez is at one of the busy gas stations along the evacuation route in Miami.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT, MIAMI: Well evacuations are underway and you can measure the concern that people in Florida have over this storm by the amount of gas and water that is out there. Water across the area in short supply - all those stores of every sort.
Whether it's pharmacies or super markets, or Walmart's or Targets - those big box stores - they all say they are getting more in. Gasoline also in short supply this is just one station here that has had two very big tanker trucks fill up in a single day - about 25,000 leaders all together of gasoline. They almost ran out at one point.
Lines here about 2 hours through out much of the day and then growing shorter as the nights come on - you can see the line though still. Many, many cars still waiting for gasoline, taking about an hour now to get through this line.
This us U.S-1, this is the main road that goes from South Florida to the North. It's been a steady of traffic this way for much of the day, as the hours move on though it is sure that the traffic going north will get heavier. Miguel Marquez, CNN Miami.
VAUSE: Here is a first hand look at just how powerful this storm is. These images are from the British Virgin Islands. Kennedy Vander, a shot before the moment before the wind exploded and the - exploded the doors and windows I should say - they said seven people including his two young children took shelter in a small bathroom as the storm hit.
For nearly two hours, Vander held the door shut with his body still feeling the force of the wind. He said it felt like it lasted 14 years. When he was finally able to go outside, he found many buildings destroyed and the surrounding area devastated.
And this was a scene of the U.S Virgin Islands as the eye wall of Hurricane Irma passed over. Keep watching CNN, from Los Angeles , I'm John Vause - please follow us on Twitter at CNN news room L.A. - local highlights from the show - so now stay tuned for what's forward. I will be back for another hour of news from all around the world, and the very latest on IRMA. You're watching CNN.
KATE RILEY, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome I'm Kate Riley at CNN center. We're going to start with the U.S open, where we saw an interesting twist in the story of this tournament on Wednesday night. It was the great Roger Federer out on court - the Swiss legend, up against Juan Martin Del Potro. He's been sick in the earlier rounds and the Argentine actually beat Federer in the final back in 2009.
In this game and going the distance - very little between these two on the night, but Del Petro was straight out of the blocks, and Federer had to play catch up and quickly. The world number three came back to get the second, and it looked like we were going to go the distance here but don't underestimate Del Petro's strength - showing us the speed of his forehand is Federer had to duck out of the way and then we would see a shot that perhaps might pause the twist going forward. We see the ball going wide and while his face say's it all really,
shear disappoint now - in the fourth (indecisive) Del Petro's serving it's match point, and he does it with a forehand (well) in this epic battle ends, 7-5, 3-6, 6-7 4-6, so once again that elusive Federer and Del collision in New York has denied, but the Spaniard remains the top of world rankings, however earlier in the day, two time champion Rafael Nadal was breaking his spot in the semi-finals - earlier and on Wednesday Rafael facing the youngest quarter finalist since (Sandy Mary) and that was actually back in 2001.
The 19 year old Russian Audrey Rublev was Rafael's opponent this time out. This is an absolute pinning by the Majorcan who wins in three very comfortable sets. The world number 53, Rublev outclassed by his idol Rafael reaches the semi's - wow. What a day of Tennis in New York then. This is how the Semi's are looking out on the men side - South Africans Kevin Anniston will face (inaudible) and we have just seen the world number one Nadal, he's going to face Del Petro from his sick bed to the semis.
And on this women's side of things - we will be seeing an all American line up in the Semi's for the first time at the U.S (inaudible) for 36 years, Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens got there on Tuesday.
A day later, and it was Coco Vandewghe (inaudible) for the last in the tournament. Vandeweghe seated twenty in near court facing role number one - carrying up to Chicago on the Czech republic. But she knew she had to reach the final to hold on to that ranking.
KATE RILEY: Is one we've covered extensively on recent months here on CNN (sport) one of them is Michael Bennett who plays for the Seattle Seahawks and on Wednesday Bennett alleged - Police in Las Vegas outstandingly singled him out, threatening him with a gun and attained him out threatening him with a gun and attained him after he attended a recent Floyd Mayweather Cullen Mcgregor fight. (And at least) posted to his twitter account and the 31 Bennett said he was back to his hotel after the fight when he heard what sounded like gun shots. As he and others ran around him, ran for cover he added police officers pointed guns at him for doing nothing more than simply being a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time. An emotional Bennett addressed reporters and had this to say.
MICHAEL BENNETT, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: This is an emotional moment for me. I know a lot of people are like oh, did you (have this) on yourself. I didn't ask for this moment, it just happened to be me. And I'm just lucky to be here to be able to speak about it. At any moment I could have made the wrong decision on weather move, or feel like I was resident or doing something wrong. And you guys would be wearing - the Seahawks would be wearing the patch with number 72 on it. I tried to tell my daughters every single day that they matter and that you know.
RILEY: By then also on Wednesday the Los Vegas police department saying they've launched an investigation into the incident. They also shed details of officers responding to a quote shots fired call on the night. And question and denied any racial bias against Bennett.
UNIDENTIFIED PARTCIPANT: As they move toward the night club, and individual later indentified as Bennett was seen crouched down behind a gaming machine as the officers approached. Once Bennett was in the officers view, he quickly ran out of the South doors, jumped over a wall on the Flamingo road east of Los Vegas Boulevard into traffic. Due to Bennett's actions and the information had at the time, they believed Bennett may have been involved in the shooting, and they gave chase. Listen, many of the folks today have called this of bias base policing. Police Officers focus solely on the race of an individual that they are going to stop. I can tell you as I stand here today I see no evidence of that. I see evidence that race played any role in this incident.
RILEY: All right then, coming up on the show he's the most talked about team in (world football) and now (inaudible) is seen speaking. In his own words - the real reason he fought the French Riviera for the bright lights and the big city (build) of Paris.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello thanks for joining us. I'm John Vause.