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Irma Now Category Four; Florida Keys Bracing for Hit; Airports Packed as Residents Flee Irma; Miami Beach Evacuated Before Hurricane. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired September 8, 2017 - 09:00   ET



[09:00:24] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. 9:00 a.m. Eastern. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Berman in Miami Beach.

I'm actually standing in what is part of the mandatory evacuation zone. Hundreds of thousands of people told to leave their homes in south Florida and get to safer ground. Do it now or, frankly, sooner. One state official says leave now because when you dial 911, you will not get an answer.

Irma is now a category four hurricane, but do not believe for a second that that means a diminished threat. Winds are over 150 miles per hour with a slight shift to the west which could actually mean the entire Florida peninsula is in the direct path and Miami could be in even greater danger. We'll tell you why in just a moment.

The airports are jammed. We saw a line at the Miami Airport last night that had no end and the road seriously clogged up right now.

HARLOW: And Florida's governor, Rick Scott, is set to speak in just a few moments about what they are calling at this point potentially a once in a generation storm.

And right now, the Bahamas and central Cuba are bracing. This as Irma makes her way west. We know at least 18 people are now confirmed dead in the Caribbean from this storm. The Red Cross estimates that over a million people have already been impacted. Of course, we are on top of this story. It is all you will hear from us pretty much for the next -- well, we'll see how long this takes to ride out.

Let's start with Chad Myers. He is our meteorologist in the CNN Severe Weather Center in Atlanta.

So, Chad, importantly I think John mentioned this shift a bit to the west --


HARLOW: Which would put the entire tip of Florida right at the heart of this.

MYERS: Absolutely. You know, we talked about the European model and the American model, the GFS and the ECMWF, the two models that we look at. And the European model has been west of the GFS the entire forecast. And now the GFS is agreeing with the European model, American agreeing with the European saying, yes, it will be west. It will not be up the east coast or slightly off the coast. It will be right over The Keys, right into the Everglades.

There's the storm right now, 150 miles per hour, getting into very warm water.

Here is the difference between the European in blue and the American in red. For a while, the American was way over here, 60, 80 miles away. Not so anymore. They are paralleling each other right up the center of Florida.

And now I'm going to push the button and I'm going to show you what the Hurricane Center cone looks like. Walah (ph), right through the middle. Exactly what they've been saying all along. The European model was right again this time. One hundred and fifty miles per hour, just to the south of Marathon, Florida. I think that's really where the eye comes onshore, but I'll get to that in a second.

Here are the winds. Saturday morning, Miami only seeing about 30 miles per hour. Moving you ahead to the afternoon, winds are going to gust to around 50. Same story along The Keys. Winds are going to be gusting to 60 to 70 miles per hour.

Figure out where you are on this map because I can't talk about every place. But Fort Pierce starting to get winds around 50. You see Naples already with hurricane-force gusts by Sunday morning.

And then the big -- this white area. That's all 100 miles per hour or more. And mainly that's the Everglades. So there's something good to be said there. But the storm isn't diminishing because the Everglades is really not land, it's just warm water.

So the storm continues to grow. And then about from Fort Pierce to Fort Meyers, all of that, 100 miles per hour wind gusts during the day Sunday and into Sunday night. By Monday morning, diminishing a little bit. But notice this onshore flow pushing the water into Jacksonville, like Matthew did. Also into Savannah and Charleston, could be seeing some flooding because of that. And then the wind eventually 40, 60, maybe 70 gets to Atlanta, Georgia. That's our forecast.

This is our surge. Probably five to 10 feet. There could be some spots of 15. That would certainly flood a lot of Miami Beach area and all the way through Cutler Ridge and the like, Homestead, as you push water into Biscayne Bay.

Not a lot of heavy rainfall for flooding. Six inches. You know, this isn't 50 like we saw when it comes to what we saw in Matthew.

Looks like I have a couple extra seconds here. I want to take you to what I believe to be the honest truth of where this storm is going to be over the next couple days.

Here's where we are right now, back in here. It comes up and then makes a turn, something like that.

But let me get you a whole lot closer. Let me give you right down in here, into (INAUDIBLE) key. This is Marathon. This is Marathon. This is Key Colony Beach. There is the airport right through there. I believe this is where the European model is taking it right through Marathon proper, Duck Key really going to get hammered with this idea.

Up here farther to the north, this would be American Sportsman. This would be Robby's (ph) Marina down there. This is where the American model is coming on shore, 15-foot storm surge with waves on top.

[09:05:09] Then we get into the Everglades, push water into Naples and also Lehigh Acres. Then all of a sudden we, right up here into Orlando. That's the next stop. And the winds are probably still going to be 105 or 110 with gusts in Orlando. So get ready for that. Lots of people there.

HARLOW: So, Chad, the main paper down in Miami, "The Miami Herald," has a piece this morning getting a lot of attention, talking about the, quote/unquote dirty side of Irma and that that could hit Miami proper. What does that mean?

MYERS: The dirty side of a hurricane is when you add in the forward motion with the wind that's already spinning. So let's just talk about number four right here. This is how the wind is spinning. And it's spinning at 150. Let's call it a guts of 150. Hopefully 120. But you can hope in one hand and, you know.

But if you move this storm forward by 20 miles per hour, then you have to add 150 plus 20 because of the forward motion. All of a sudden you have 170. If you're on the clean side of the eye, this side, you have 150 minus 20. So all of a sudden your wind on this side is 130. One hundred and thirty -- a gust of 130 is a lot different than a gust of 170, because that gust of 170 is ugly.

Back to you, Poppy.

BERMAN: Chad Myers for us in the Weather Center. Thanks.

So, of course, we're here in Miami Beach in the dirty end probably of what Irma will deliver. The entire Florida Keys right now under a mandatory evacuation order. CNN's Bill Weir in Key Largo right now, where remarkably, Bill, people have stayed.

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: People have stayed. Tens of thousands. You know, about 75,000 people call The Keys home. A conservative estimate, a half to two-thirds have, you know, sort of honored that order and gotten out of here. But some are hunkering down. Although, as you see the size of this thing, especially compared to the epic storm of Andrew, Irma's so much bigger. I'm hearing from even the brave hurricane partiers we were with last night here at Snappers (ph) in Key Largo that they're getting out of here as well. The one guy who knows this sort of thing very well, Don Anderson (ph), an Iowa boy who came south, what, 43 years --


WEIR: That makes you a conck (ph) I think.

ANDERSON: I guess so.

WEIR: Yes. Yes.

Now you were here for Wilma?


WEIR: You stayed it out.

ANDERSON: I didn't stick for Andrew, though.

WEIR: You didn't stick for Andrew.


WEIR: But what is it about this storm that has you leaving town?

ANDERSON: It's big, huge.

WEIR: Yes.

ANDERSON: And I was thinking about staying, but when I heard about 10- foot surges, even though we've got five miles of reef out here to break it down --

WEIR: Yes.

ANDERSON: That's not going to be fun.

WEIR: So what would you say to guys -- I was with some captains last night who were going to ride this out on 50-foot sailboats.

ANDERSON: God bless them. That's all I can say. I hope they're here when I come back.

WEIR: Yes.

ANDERSON: You know.

WEIR: But you -- you know, in The Keys there's this -- there's this dichotomy of where we have to be very alarmist and get people out. So you have to take it seriously. But then some would say it's too much hype. How do you discern what is true?

ANDERSON: Well, there's some hype to it, yes, but that's just to make sure that you're protected.

WEIR: Yes.

ANDERSON: I mean I can understand it. They have to set -- it's like -- that's another story. I was going to say something else. But it's like, if you don't heed the warning, you could die.

WEIR: Yes. You could die.

ANDERSON: Yes. So it's got to be -- they've got to tell you the worst that could happen. That's what they're doing.

WEIR: Right. Right.

ANDERSON: So that's -- that's my theory.

WEIR: And Key West and --

ANDERSON: Oh, Key West, that's -- if that thing goes over, Key West is screwed (ph). (INAUDIBLE), you know.

WEIR: Right. Right. But this is a, you know, famous for being a low- key, laid back, laugh -- laugh -- a devil may care attitude. But this is a different kind of situation.

ANDERSON: Oh, yes, of course, of course, but this is serious stuff. This is serious stuff.

WEIR: Yes.

ANDERSON: This is your life. You know, what's it worth?

WEIR: There you go.

ANDERSON: I can always party later, you know.

WEIR: We're going to put that on a bumper sticker.

Don, thank you so much.

ANDERSON: Thank you.

WEIR: So, there you go, Key West residents, Florida Keys residents, if you don't want to take our word for it, take it from one of our own, you could die.


HARLOW: Yes. Look, I like his bumper sticker, you can party later. Now it's time to get out there despite the fierce independence that you got from a lot of the folks there in Key Largo.

Bill Weir, thank you so much for reporting for us.

So right now you've got the airports across Florida packed with people trying to escape, run from Irma's path. Time, though, is running out for a lot of these folks because the airlines are pretty close to shutting their operations ahead of this monster storm.

Let's go to Rosa Flores. She's in Miami Airport with the latest.

So, what are the people saying and what are the airlines saying? ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Poppy, there's a lot of

frustration, there's a lot of stress. Who likes long lines at the airport? No one.

And take a look. This is the customer service line at American Airlines. A lot of these folks got news that their flight was canceled and so they had to head here. A lot of frustration. I've even talked to a man that was in tears because he was going to lost -- he was going to miss his son's wedding.

[09:10:00] But not Kevin. I think he is the best traveler in the world. He's from Germany. He actually spent the night on a cot here at Miami International Airport.

How are you still smiling, Kevin?

KEVIN BROKBLAS, STRANDED AT AIRPORT: I mean, there's not a lot of things we can do. And the vacation is already over, so, we planned to go home anyways today. So, yes, that's it. That's life.

FLORES: You're in good -- you're in good spirits.


FLORES: So tell me what the airport has told you, because you're from Germany, so it's not like you can go home at this point. So what's the direction from the airport?

BROKBLAS: Well, the airport didn't tell us anything. It was -- we asked some police officers to give us any information because there was no one officially from the airport. And they -- the first they told us was that we have to leave the airport and get -- evacuated to a shelter. And then now they said it's not possible anymore because all the shelters are full and that we have to stay here.

FLORES: Now, we understand that the airport is not a shelter. Have they told you what happens if you're stuck here through the storm?

BROKBLAS: No. They told us at the beginning -- they also told us it's not a shelter, we can't stay. But now, because we can't go anywhere, we have to get to a different building or to another terminal, to Terminal E. And we can't stay upstairs because there are too many windows, too many glasses which can break, and that's why they want all the people in one area on the airport, even though it's not a shelter.

FLORES: And give us a sense of how many people spent the night here.

BROKBLAS: The night where we are there were approximately 60 to 70 people, I would say.

FLORES: That's a lot of people definitely trying to get out of Miami International.

BROKBLAS: Yes. Yes. FLORES: So, John, as you heard, Kevin and about 60, 70 other people spent the night here at Miami International Airport trying to get out. But, you know, the news that we've heard of thousands of flights being canceled around the country, it all trickles down to Miami because of this storm. And people are still trying to figure out how to get out.

BERMAN: You know, Rosa Flores, we flew in last night on a nearly empty plane. When we arrived, the airport was just so packed and the lines, honestly, never seemed to end. So we wish all the people there the best of luck and hope they have the patience to last through the day.

Rosa Flores, thanks so much.

Joining me now is David Halstead, former director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

David, great to have you with us.

One reason the airports are so packed is because people need to get out. Hundreds of thousands of people have been told to evacuate from this area, frankly, where we're standing right now. This is Miami Beach. No more than three feet or so above sea level. If we're talking about a 10-foot storm surge, what does that mean for the area we're in right now?

DAVID HALSTEAD, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: For the area we're in right now, that means if you're not on the second floor of the building across the street, you're in trouble. You're underwater. The storm surge, flooding, that's the real killer in hurricanes. We go back to the '04 season here in Florida. We had about 117 people die in those four storms. The vast majority either died drowning or post storm. So it's very important. The safety message has to get out about flooding and especially storm surge.

BERMAN: And we've seen people actually out here running. A few. Most people are gone from Miami Beach, but there have been some people out here this morning. These people just need to get out. This is all going to be covered in water right here.

HALSTEAD: This is going to be covered in water. They've got to get out. For the most part, I'll say Miami-Dade I think has done a good job getting the message out. People are moving out. But there's always going to be people that stay back. And that's what's dangerous for the first responders. Then they're responsible for going in and getting them post storm. But what condition are they going to find them in?

BERMAN: Well, and, again, when they're saying here during the storm, they've been told, if you call 911, no one will answer. You are on your own. Have a plan if you're going to stay, and that plan better be -- be in being in higher ground in this area we're in right now.

After Andrew, building codes were changed in south Florida. We are told constantly the buildings here are a lot stronger than they used to be. One thing I think people should know, though, is not every building was built after Andrew. Some 70 percent or so of the buildings that still exist here were pre-Andrew. HALSTEAD: A lot of the buildings were pre-Andrew. But I will tell you, the south Florida folks got it right. They changed the building codes and made them stronger so that when new homes were built, they were going to be built to the new hurricane code. And when you retrofitted your home, there was the possibility of bringing it up to that standard also.

Remember, we had 48,000 homes here in Florida that were retrofitted by money after '04 and '05 seasons. So it's important to realize that while we're better prepared, a category four storm is nothing to stay home about. Leave, get to safety if you're told to evacuate.

BERMAN: And, again, there's really no more mystery about whether this storm will hit Florida. It is going to hit Florida with powerful hurricane force winds. Right now the path has it going up right up the spine, right up the center of Florida, right over Lake Okeechobee, which is a huge water source. Now they've drained that lake and they've drained a lot of the canals beneath it. But how concerned are you that that could be vulnerable right now to perhaps overflowing?

[09:14:56] HALSTEAD: I will tell you, I think it's certainly a potential. It's not on top of the list. I think that the Keys is not being fully evacuated as was told on our previous report. That's what concerns you, 40,000 to 50,000 people may have stayed behind. Now if we get a direct impact with the eye of that storm and 10-foot surge, that covers the Keys. Anyone who stays has the potential for drowning.

BERMAN: And one of the things I heard you talk about, your most concern about here is what you call hurricane amnesia. It's been a long time. Hurricane Wilma was 2005, Andrew was 13 years before that.

HALSTEAD: That's true. While we have people moving and ebbing and flowing, I've got to say that I think especially CNN has done a great job of visually putting that picture on the map and then Florida and people are simply heeding it, saying, listen, that's too big.

I maybe have ridden out smaller storms in the past. Maybe I rode out Andrew but this storm is something that if I'm in the Keys or low- lying areas or manufactured homes I've got to get out of here.

BERMAN: Quickly. You know, we have 20 seconds left. What is your advice to people right now? It's 9:15 on Friday. How much longer do they have to make a decision?

HALSTEAD: It's right now. It's either go or don't go. You've got probably until about noontime. You've got to get out of here. But remember that's for folks in those low-lying areas, beach side, manufactured homes. Anywhere where local government is telling you to evacuate.

BERMAN: All right. David HALSTEAD, we are going to lean on you over the next few hours and next few days. Thanks so much for your support and your advice here -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Such helpful information. Thank you, guys. Also want to update you on a powerful earthquake that hit Mexico early this morning. We know at this point, it killed at least 29 people. It's also triggered a series of tidal waves. The power of the quake so intense, it collapsed buildings and damaged several homes severely.

The magnitude 8.1 quake centered just off the country's southern coast. Mexico's president calls it the strongest earthquake in 100 years there. Tremors felt hundreds of miles away from the epicenter.

All right. We are waiting for Governor Rick Scott of Florida to give us the latest update set to begin any minute. Stay with CNN. We are all on top of all that. We'll be right back.



BERMAN: All right. We have live pictures right now from Palm Beach. We are waiting to hear from Florida Governor Rick Scott. He will brief the public on the very latest on storm preparation perhaps announcing some new mandatory evacuations.

He's in West Palm Beach. North of here the storm is going to impact an area far greater than just Miami. It's going to impact both coasts all the way up the peninsula. One reason every public school in Florida is closed today so people can get ready.

If there's one thing people of Florida should look at right now it is the path of Irma until this point. The devastation that it has left behind. We have new video from the Caribbean island of Barbuda showing the major destruction there.

Residents say that they saw animals, 40-foot containers flying through the air as the storm passed through. At least one person died, a young child, it would be shocking if that number doesn't go up.

Now that island is bracing for another hurricane, Hurricane Jose. That is churning in the Atlantic and could hit the island as soon as Saturday.

You know, Poppy, yesterday, we were speaking to Red Cross officials who were suggesting that they might just need to completely evacuate Barbuda altogether. There's no point in staying there right now because there is nowhere you can stay.

HARLOW: How does it feel down there, John? I mean, you've been to Miami on a normal day. You're there now. Does it feel desolate?

BERMAN: Miami Beach on a normal day is 100 times busier, more active and vibrant than this. It feels fairly cleaned out but it isn't empty. It really isn't empty. We've seen people out here jogging. There are homeless people.

We've still seen out here, although, I did see some part officials drive by on their ATVs and what they are doing is talking to some of the people here who are homeless trying to figure out how to get them where they need to go. But it's a very different feeling than normal.

HARLOW: Yes. Heed the warning, right? Everyone needs to get out. We're going to speak in in just a little bit with the mayor of South Miami, Florida where they also have a mandatory evacuation.

And right now, it's a race against the clock for people trying to get out of there. People all along Florida's coasts scrambling to get out. Evacuations under way, as you heard from John all along Miami Beach.

But to get out, if you're driving, you need the gas to get out and that's been tough for a lot folks as well.

Let's go to CNN's Brynn Gingras. She is in Merit Island, Florida. You were getting pelted with rain yesterday, Brynn, what are you seeing today?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Pelted today too. That's slowing down the sandbagging efforts, protection of home efforts because a mandatory evacuation in effect, Poppy, at 3:00 today here on the island and the barrier islands.

Right now, you can see, these are people filling cars one by one with sandbags, ten per car. Same thing as yesterday, but as you can imagine, people are quickly trying to get whatever they can to help protect their homes.

I want to talk to this gentleman. He is so nice to talk to us because he is actually a Merit Island resident and you've lived here a long time like many people and you're sticking this out. Tell me why.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I evacuated Matthew because I feel like this is going to be a Category 2 or 3 by the time it hits us. I've got a pretty strong home so I'm pretty confident that it will survive.

GINGRAS: Taking your chances despite the warnings from the federal state county level?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it got above a 3 then I would definitely get out of here, but I think my home could survive it 2 or 3.

GINGRAS: So you have a Plan B?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I may last minute if it's going to be a 4 or 5, I might do that. But if it stays below that I'm sticking it out.

GINGRAS: Does it worry you that if you do get trapped, you know, people can't get to you. Emergency officials can't get to you because you're not alone. I heard a ton of people here saying they're sticking this out. They've lived through Hurricane Andrew and they're going to stick it out. Does it worry you that this could be the one?

[09:25:09] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It does slightly, but again, I'm pretty confident that I'm watching all the weather and news and keeping track with the storm. If it's looks like it's going to be a 3 or below by the time it gets to Merit Island -- I'm worried about tornados but taking the chance.

GINGRAS: All right. Well, good luck to you, sir. Thanks so much for talking to us.

And again, Poppy, that's what I've been hearing a lot of times from people who live on this island. They're just so used to hurricanes. They -- some lived through Andrew and say it wasn't that bad. So, they're OK with sticking it out against all the warnings that we've ban hearing from federal, state and local officials.

Quickly, I just want to show you this line. This is how long the cars have been lined up since 5:00 this morning waiting for just these 10 sand bags. You can imagine also really losing a lot of fuel in the meantime.

Yesterday, people were waiting 5-plus hours just to get sandbags. Good news, Poppy, there's no shortage of fuel here on the island but again evacuation orders in effect beginning at 3:00 -- Poppy.

HARLOW: It's very good news no fuel shortage but scary to hear from that man. I mean, he's betting that this thing is going to get good as it possibly can and he talks about evacuating last minute. There becomes a point where you can't and you're stuck, as you rightly said, Brynn. Thank you for the reporting there.

All right. We are waiting to hear from Florida's governor, Rick Scott, who has been speaking to people just like Brynn just spoke with saying please, heed this warning and leave if you're in a mandatory evacuation zone. We are going to get the latest on Hurricane Irma from him in just moments. Stay with us.