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Hurricane Irma Closes in on Florida; Florida Braces for Direct Hit; Florida Governor Press Conference. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired September 8, 2017 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:54] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Welcome back. John Berman here in Miami Beach.

We're waiting to hear from Florida Governor Rick Scott. He will brief the public very shortly to give us the latest update on the storm. Here in Miami Beach, under mandatory evacuation orders. Thousands of people gone. Those who remain we've seen walking around with cases of water. It's time to either get out or get ready.

Let's find out where the storm is right now. CNN's Chad Myers at the Weather Center.

Chad, two questions for you.


BERMAN: Where is the storm right now and when will we start to feel it here?

MYERS: The storm is just south of Crooked Island in the Turks and Caicos and you will begin to feel I believe the first 50 miles per hour gusts about 2:00 tomorrow afternoon in Miami. A little bit sooner than that for The Keys because it's closer to the center. The Keys are closer to the center of where the wind will be.

Max wind right now 150. But don't -- don't -- please don't say that that's not 185, so I'm not leaving. It is a major hurricane, category four. If you are in Florida and if you are in the cone, you are going to be hit by something. It's that simple. This storm is so wide, there is no middle of the cone. The entire cone is -- let us -- no question about it, will get hurricane force winds from Cutler Ridge, Cutler Bay, all the way down here to Miami and The Keys, from Key West all the way up to Key Largo.

Now, believe the center, according to the GFS model, the American model, and the European model, will be very close to Islamorada. Worldwide Sportsman on the north side. Robby's (ph) Marina, farther down probably Key Colony Beach and Marathon. That's the landfall of the eye. Now the eye wall a little bit farther out than that. That's that spot right there.

And then on up into Lake Okeechobee with winds of 120. Watch out for that. I know the governor and the Army Corps are lowering that level, but that still is something we have to watch. And here comes the wind. Here comes the wind, John. We'll go hour by

hour. From Saturday 6:00 a.m., only seeing a 30 miles per hour wind here. And then by 3:00, already to 50. That's Miami Beach. You're pouring water into Biscayne Bay at this point. Just pushing it come this cone. And you can see, everything that's pink is a wind gust of 75 or greater. All the way from Palm Beach, all the way to Naples. The entire east coast to west coast of Florida will have a hurricane force wind gust or greater. That's about 16 million before it finally dies off somewhere in Georgia.

One hundred mile per hour wind gusts here, right in the center, right over Lake Okeechobee. That is because the center of the eye, John, is going to go over the Everglades. That's not land. That's just going to keep this storm going. That's just warm water, just like an ocean. Then finally pushing all the way back up into north Georgia and even in the Carolinas.

So here's the map we talked about yesterday. The European model in blue. The American model in red. Yesterday, they didn't agree. Well, today, they do. Right over The Keys, just to the east of Naples, west of Miami. Now this also means that Miami is going to be on the right side of the eye. That's always the highest wind side. And then up right through Orlando.

Now look at the cone. Where does it Hurricane Center have the cone? Right over the models, as you'd expect.


BERMAN: Yes, Florida, is a can't miss right now for Hurricane Irma and it is not the kind of can't miss that you ever root for.

Chad Myers, an important forecast. I hope people are listening.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: It's pretty terrifying looking at how close those two model the, John, this morning. I mean right up through the center of where you are.

Let's get some perspective now with Philip Stoddard. He's the mayor of South Miami, Florida, where they have had a mandatory evacuation underway.

Mayor, thank you for being with me.

Just your reaction to what we just heard from our meteorologist Chad Myers. I mean those two models now both take this storm right up through Miami.

MAYOR PHILIP STODDARD, SOUTH MIAMI, FLORIDA (via telephone): Well, no reaction here. We're ahead of it. I man he's got it exactly right. And that's what we're looking at. We're going to be on the dirty side of the storm, which gives you not only the strongest winds from the cyclone itself, but you've also got the motion of the storm to add on to that. So wind damage is going to be significant. The storm is (INAUDIBLE)

and it's going to push water up Biscayne Bay from the south to the north. That's got a significant potential for storm surge the likes of which we've never seen in Miami. Normally you worrying about water just piling up on Miami Beach, but we're also now concerned about it getting pushed up the bay and up drainages, into the canals and spreading out into the neighborhoods from there. And that's the reason for the mandatory evacuation order.

[09:35:25] So what I've done here is to take the Hurricane Center's map and lay the street grid over it very carefully so people can see exactly where their houses are once the flood potential -- because a lot of folks in the low-lying areas probably would not get out if they had not seen that they're sitting, in fact, in the path of storm surge that's going to be between three and six feet. Many people are -- who are in lower surge project areas are making the decision so stay put. They figure two or three feet of water in their house is not the end of the world. But everybody is -- has to make that decision.

One of the problems we've got here, this is not a good time to get on the road. We're trying to leave the roads open for people who absolutely have to get out. For instance, The Keys. But the governor's staff was very clear that they do not want to get people trying long distance evacuations and clogging up the highways, because that leaves people vulnerable where they're going to get hit.

HARLOW: One of the things that concerns me, mayor, is that, you know, there's so much talk right now about how the building codes in south Florida changed after Hurricane Andrew, but as John rightly pointed out at the beginning of the show, you've got 70 percent of the structures that were built before '92, before Hurricane Andrew. So for people sitting at home thinking, oh, well, everything is up to date, et cetera, it's stronger, we won't get demolished like we did in Andrew, that is certainly not necessarily true for a lot of these homes.

STODDARD: Well, I would -- I would tell people, get up in your attic, if you haven't done so already, and look at how many straps you've got on each truss holding it down. If you don't have two -- if you don't have two straps on each truss, you better find a safer place.

HARLOW: Mayor, in terms of how many people are evacuating, you just said it's not a good time to get on the road for some of the folks. But I think that's going to confuse people that are hearing these mandatory evacuation orders.

STODDARD: Well, when I say the road, I mean the highway. I mean the highways have been -- the highways have been jammed getting out of Miami for the past three days. The airports, likewise. They're probably going to close today. Some of the flights were being canceled after noontime. Some people are -- a neighbor who's going to get out about 12:30, but I think they'll close pretty much after that.

So what they're suggesting is you don't try to make a long distance sprint for it. Besides the storm's going to be following you up the center of the state. So you really have to -- have to be very -- know exactly where you're going. What they're recommending instead is that people go into secure storm shelters here as close to home as possible.

HARLOW: OK. Mayor Philip Stoddard, we wish you and all of your citizens the best. Thank you very much for joining us.

In just hours, the Senate is set to vote on the bill to help begin that funding for Harvey relief effort. And now all the living former presidents are teaming up to appeal to the American people to help the victim of Harvey. Just look at this.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Hurricane Harvey brought terrible destruction, but it also brought out the best in humanity.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: As former presidents, we wanted to help our fellow Americans begin to recover.

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Our friends in Texas, including President Bush 41 and 43, are doing just that.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: People are hurting down here. But as one Texan put it, we've got more love in Texas than water.




[09:42:44] BERMAN: All right, Florida Governor Rick Scott briefing the public right now. Let's listen.

GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: While they have assured me that the structural integrity of the dike will not be compromised, last night to keep Floridians safe, I ordered evacuations in the city surrounding the southern half of Lake Okeechobee from Lake Port to Canal Point in Henry, Palm Beach and Glades County. This decision was made due to our sole focus on life safety as Hurricane Irma approaches Florida.

You can find more information on these evacuations at

Right now the National Hurricane Center is reporting that Hurricane Irma remains a dangerous and life threatening category four storm of winds of 155 miles per hour. A storm surge warning is in effect from Jupiter Inlet southward around the Florida peninsula to Bonita (ph) Beach and the Florida Keys. A storm surge watch is in effect for north of Jupiter Inlet to Sebastian Inlet, north of Bonita Beach to Venice. The storm surge is forecast to be three to ten feet. Think about that, three to ten feet in many areas, which is life-threatening.

A hurricane warning is in effect for Jupiter Inlet southward, around the Florida peninsula to Bonita Beach. The Florida Keys, Lake Okeechobee and Florida Bay. A hurricane watch is in effect for north of Jupiter Inlet, Sebastian Inlet, north of Bonita Bach to Anna Maria Island.

Rainfall is forecast to be eight to 12 inches with isolated areas receiving up to 20 inches of rain.

Based on what we now know, the majority of Florida will have major hurricane impacts with deadly storm surge and life threat winds. And we can expect this along the entire east coast and the entire west coast. The Florida Keys should be prepared to start feeling the effects of this storm tomorrow morning.

Evacuations. I've offered school buses to aid in evacuations statewide. Multiple counties have accepted these buses and I encourage any counties with a need for buses to evacuate residents to request buses right now. We can -- we will quickly run out of good weather to evacuate.

If you're told to evacuate, leave, get out quickly. The roads will fill up quickly, so you need to go.

[09:45:06] I'm a dad and I'm a grandfather. I love my family. I can't imagine life without them. Do not put yourself or your family's life at risk. If you've been ordered to evacuate and are still home, please go. Today is the day to do the right thing for your family and get inland to safety. Today is the day to do the right thing for your family and get inland for safety.

This storm is wider than our entire state. It is expected to cause major and life threatening impacts from coast to coast. Remember Hurricane Andrew. It was one of the worst storms in the history of Florida. Irma is more devastating on its current path.

Irma has already caused multiple fatalities in the Caribbean. This storm is powerful and deadly. We are being very aggressive in our preparation for this storm and every Floridian should take this seriously and be aggressive to protect their family. Possessions can be replaced. Your family cannot be replaced.

I know it's hard to evacuate. I know it's going to be uncomfortable. I think about my mom and how hard it would have been on her to be completely broke with kids and have to evacuate. But you've got to do it. You have to keep your family safe.

To private business owners, please be compassionate with your employees as they prepare for this storm and evacuate. I was a business owner when Hurricane Andrew devastated the state 25 years ago. The single most important thing right now is the safety of your employees and their families.

For the remainder of the state waiting on evacuation orders, listen to your local officials. They will tell you if and when your area needs to be evacuated. We can expect additional evacuations as this storm continues to get closer to our state and move up the state.

If you're in the panhandle, you will also experience severe weather. Please, be prepared for this. I cannot stress this enough, do not ignore evacuation orders. Remember, we can rebuild your home, we can't rebuild your life. All Floridians should be prepared to evacuate soon.

Traffic. I know many of you are stuck in traffic. I'm sure it's very frustrating, but please be patient. Evacuations are not convenient, but they're meant to absolutely keep you safe. I'm glad so many are driving to a safe place. In fact, we've increased the number of troopers on Florida roadways to help move traffic to keep people moving down the road. We have 1,700 troopers working 12-hour shifts right now. These dedicated officers are 100 percent focused on safety and aren't taking the day off. Also, all administrative duties have been suspended, which means all sworn FHP troopers are on Florida's roads helping families evacuate and brings supplies into areas of need.

We've also increased the number of road rangers who are patrolling Florida's roadways 24/7 to assist motorists. Around the state we have 13 traffic management centers where hundreds of DOT workers are monitoring traffic cameras 24/7 to insure traffic flows continue and evacuations proceed without interruption. We also have a dedicated DOT team at the state emergency operations center in Tallahassee working around the clock watching road cameras and keeping traffic flowing. All this is to help you to get to safety as you evacuate.

Regarding contraflow. We still need southbound lanes to get needed gas and supplies down to shelters and families that need -- the southern parts -- that are in -- needed in the southern part of the state. Contraflow also inhibits our ability to get emergency vehicles to people that need them. Right now, to ease congestion, we have activated the use of shoulders on I-75 from Wildwood to the Georgia line. Please drive safely and listen to law enforcement. They're working to keep you and your family safe.

Real-time traffic information and evacuation routes are available at We're seeing bottlenecks at major highway junctions, which brings up an important point. You do not need to evacuate out of the state or hundreds of miles away to be safe. You do not -- if you do not need to be on the road, please do not travel. Find shelters in your county. You can visit to find out where shelters are in your area.

We are coordinating with Google's emergency response team to prepare to close roads in Google Maps in real-time in the event that Hurricane Irma forces a closure of any roads in the aftermath of this storm. At my direction, all tolls have been waved across Florida roadways. This should help families evacuate quickly and safely. Visit Florida's Welcome Centers have transitioned to emergency information centers to help direct evacuees with the most up-to-date information. Visit Florida's Welcome Center staff are all Red Cross certified and stand ready to assist at shelters and other areas as need. These are at all our borders of the state.

If you are concerned that you do not have a way to evacuate due to traffic, please call the Florida emergency information line, 1-800- 342-3557. For whatever reason, if you can't evacuate, call that number, 1-800-342-3557, which is a dedicated emergency management hotline. We will do everything we can to help get you out. [09:50:42] Fuel. One of the top priorities remains fuel availability.

I was alerted yesterday by the vice president that the federal government has waved additional rules and regulations to allow more fuel to get to Florida roads. We know there are problems with supply at gas stations and are working around the clock to get fuel to you.

I have directed state law enforcement to provide escort services to gas trucks to get through traffic so they can get to the stations faster. These law enforcement escorts have continued throughout the night. We'll keep -- and we're going to keep this going as long as possible. I'm sure you've seen them across the state.

For gas stations in evacuation zones, we need you to stay open as long as you can so people can get gas and get out. We will arrange police escorts for your employees so they can get out safely. We need your gas stations to stay open as long as you can so we can get more people gas so they can evacuate.

My staff is reaching out to gas stations in The Keys to provide contact and help coordinate law enforcement escorts for staff and takers. We absolutely know fuel is important and we are absolutely devoting every state resource to addressing this.

Three tanker ships delivered fuel to Port Tampa yesterday for resupply efforts. Each delivering 1.2 million gallons of fuel. State law enforcement continues to escort fuel supply trucks from Port of Tampa and Port Everglades directly to gas stations in your community. As of 6:00 p.m. last night, 8.4 million gallons of fuel was shipped into Port Everglades and more than 5 million gallons of fuel was shipped into Port Tampa Bay. While we are making progress, unfortunately, you are going to see lines and, unfortunately, you're going to see outages. I know this is frustrating and we will not stop working on this.

If you are in an evacuation zone in south Florida, you need to leave. Port Everglades will be closing tonight for safety and gas will no longer be being resupplied into much of south Florida until after the storm. If you are concerned that you do not have a way to evacuate because of fuel issues, use that same number, 1-800-342-3557. We will do everything we can to get you out. But you have to call now if you are in an evacuation zone. We cannot save you in the middle of the storm.

If you know you're going to a shelter in your county, please take only the amount of gas you need. You don't need to fill up your whole tank if you're going to stay in the county.

The Gas Buddy app is a great resource to find open stations with fuel.

All ports still remain open today and operating to bring fuel and supplies in.

National Guard. Seven thousand members, all available members of our National Guard, are now activated. Every member has been activated in advance of this storm that we can activate. On law enforcement. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation

Commission is preparing search and rescue teams for potential deployment and has more than 200 officers standing by for the first wave of response based on potential storm impacts. My staff and I have been reaching out to law enforcement across the state to make sure they have the resources to keep people safe.

Utility providers. They are actively pre-positioning resources throughout the state and in neighboring states. We know from previous storms how incredibly important it is to get power restored as quickly as we can.

Florida Power and Light has evacuated its emergency plan and has thousands of workers preparing to respond to Irma. They are one of the largest providers in the state. They're also working with out of state utilities and electrical contracting companies to secure additional resources. They have opened more than 20 staging sites throughout the state where restoration crews, trucks and equipment are stationed. I'm having calls with the utilities every day to try to make sure we brought all the resources and they're prepared.

Shelters. Last night I directed the closure of all public schools, state colleges, state universities and state offices for their normal activities effective today through Monday to ensure we have every space available for sheltering and staging. Right now, Floridians must have access to every possible safe place to shelter. Over 17,000 people have signed up to volunteer, exceeding our goal. That is great, but we can always use more volunteers. I want to thank everyone who's opened their heart to help those in Irma's path. We cannot thank you enough. But we can always use more. Floridians can go to to sign up for volunteer opportunities.

[09:55:14] There is absolutely no reason for anyone not to evacuate if you're ordered to do so. Shelters are available. And you should follow the directions of local officials to go to a shelter that fits your needs. You can visit to find a shelter in your county or neighboring counties.

If you need a hotel, go to Expedia is working on hotel occupancy in real-time. Airbnb has activated its disaster response program. If you're an evacuee in need of a place to stay or an Airbnb host looking to open your home to an evacuee, go to

The Florida Restaurant Lodging Association has encouraged all hotels to waive pet policies, offer shelter and be compassionate with cancellations.

We are running out of time. The storm is almost here. If you are in an evacuation zone, you need to go now. This is a catastrophic storm that our state has never seen. We cannot rebuild your home. We cannot -- we cannot -- we cannot rebuilt -- we can rebuild your home, we cannot rebuild your life.

Protecting life is our absolute top priority. Our number one priority is protecting everyone's life. Everyone's life is important. No resource or expense will be spared to protect families.

Floridians are strong. We're resilient. In times like this, we ban together and help each other. We will keep working around the clock doing everything we can to help you prepare. And after the storm passes, we'll be here to lift each other up and recover. We will make it through this together. Florida is an amazing melting pot of loving people and I'm proud of this incredible state.


I'll be glad to answer any questions anybody has.

Yes, ma'am.


SCOTT: Yes, we're opening up more shelters and we're asking for more volunteers. We will continue to open shelters to take care of people. We are working with all of our -- from a state level and at the county level to make sure we have at the local -- as close to your -- where you're going to evacuate a shelter. And if we need to, we will -- we'll get buses. We'll do everything we can to get you moved if there's not a shelter really close to you as they fill up. But we're -- we're going to have enough shelters. That's one of the reasons I shut down all the schools. We'll use those for shelters. But we always can use more volunteers, too. But I know everybody's focused on the shelters.

QUESTION: What is it you're asking volunteers to do (inaudible)?

SCOTT: The prime -- right -- well, in the beginning, it's going to be the shelters, to help out at the shelters. But then after it hits, we're going to be -- there will be a lot of food and supply distribution. There will be -- and there will be a lot of other things to do. There's going to be a lot of debris clean up and things like that. But in the beginning, we've got to shelter people. We've got to get -- we've -- if you're in an evacuation zone, you need to evacuate and you need to go to, you know, go someplace else. Go to a hotel, friends or get to a shelter. We will have shelters for you.

QUESTION: Governor, the south end of the lake is the most venerable, especially the (INAUDIBLE) area. In your discussions with the corps, what has the corps said specifically about those vulnerable areas and what would happen if there were to be a breach in that -- in that region?

SCOTT: So -- so the -- I've been -- I have been in constant contact with the corps. And they are -- they believe that the dike will not -- we will not have issues with the dike itself. Where -- what's happened is, is as the wind has picked up, now that it's going to hit category four, we can see some water coming over the top as the -- it will slosh over the top, which will impact the areas that we evacuated. So that's why I made the decision yesterday to evacuate those areas just absolutely to make sure.

But right now they -- we believe that there will be in maybe three areas where we're doing some rehab, that there will be some water that flows over the top. But they don't believe that the dike is at risk.

[10:00:01] QUESTION: Will the people in the south area, the communities that have been evacuated, will they be forced to stay away from their homes longer out of concern that the dike may -- may breach in the -- the week or two after this