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FEMA: Irma Expected to Begin Slaming Florida Tomorrow; Irma now "Extremely Dangerous" Category 4 Storm; Airports Packed as Residents Rush to Flee Irma; House Votes on Hurricane Aid, Debt Ceiling Hike; Interview with Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired September 8, 2017 - 10:00   ET



QUESTION: Will be people in areas - the communities that have been evacuated, will they be forced to stay away from their homes longer, out of concern that the dike may breach in the week or two after this storm?

GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: So, the way -- we are going to get people back to their homes as quickly as we can as long as it is safe. I mean, the most important thing is, as everybody's life and safety. So what happens is, there's a constant -- the corps will be constantly reviewing the dike to make sure it is safe. And they've done that. I got a brief this morning about their inspections.

As the water would rise in the lake, they will even do more inspections. But, at this point, we are there expecting a Category 4 to hit. We are expecting 10-12 inches of rain, possibly 20 inches of rain. This is what they believe. They don't believe we will have anything other than water spilling over the top.

QUESTION: Is there any (INAUDIBLE) right now? There has been in the past in that area.

SCOTT: I have to -- the corps is going to have a briefing at, I think 11:00 a.m. And they will be able to answer that.

Anybody else?

Evacuate. Keep everybody safe. Bye, bye.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: OK. All right, Florida Governor Rick Scott there, just finishing up a news conference. He is up in West Palm Beach with a message to really all of south Florida. 6 million people, if not more up the peninsula. The message is you are running out of time.

Hurricane Irma is going to hit Florida as a Category 4 storm. Maybe right up the center of the peninsula which means that people on both coasts are in the direct impact zone. He's expecting a storm surge upwards of 10 feet. They are very concerned about that. Again, on both coasts, the area where I'm standing right now will be flooded, badly, all the way up to the buildings. You can see behind me, we won't be able to be here as of tomorrow. The wind gusts right now, north of 150 miles an hour. Yes, Irma is now a Category 4 storm. But don't think for a minute that means it is not dangerous. It is extremely dangerous, extremely deadly. Mandatory evacuations have been ordered now for hundreds of thousands of people in Florida and the governor there pleading with folks in this state to heed those warnings. Get inland. Get to safer ground and do it now. Do it today, because by tomorrow morning, it will be too late.

He reiterated some of the points he has made before. There are no tolls on any of the roads in Florida right now. If you have to drive on the shoulder to get where you are going that's OK too. Just get to safety if you can. And the governor has provided all kinds of numbers you can call if you need help to get where you need to go. Again, Hurricane Irma, on the way to Florida right now. The first impact should be felt here where I am on Miami Beach even around 2:00 tomorrow. Even after all the devastation it has caused up until this point. Poppy?

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And if you are one of the people looking for those emergency numbers, if you may have missed it from the mayor - from the governor, rather, excuse me. As John just said, here it is again, 1-800-345-3557. That is if you need help evacuating, if you can't get fuel.

The governor saying we will everything we can to get you out. Also saying, all Floridians should prepare to evacuate. So even if you're not in an evacuation zone now, get ready, get your family ready, get your car packed, in case you have to go.

Right now, the Bahamas and central Cuba are bracing for Irma. It is making its way west. Many are calling this potentially a once in a generation storm. That's how big it is. At least 18 people are confirmed dead in the Caribbean because of Irma. The Red Cross estimates over a million people have already been impacted.

We are covering this hurricane from all angles. Let's begin this hour with Chad Myers in the CNN's severe Weather Center in Atlanta. So, these two models, Chad, what do they tell us this morning?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: They now agree. And yesterday that was an important point because The GFS, the American model was up the east coast, kind of skimming along the east coast, doing almost a Matthew kind of thing, when the European model was right up the middle of the state during damage to both coasts. And now, the American and the European have agreed on the European version of what's going on.

And why is the storm losing strength this morning? Well it's not, truly. It's going through what we know as an eyewall replacement cycle, and not to go too far into meteorology, for a while yesterday, we had an eyewall about 26 miles across. Then another eyewall built on the outside of that, concentric rings. That cuts off the power to the inside ring. That inside ring dies. Then the outside ring takes over. That's where we are now, 50 miles across.

[10:05:03] Now eventually, that 50 miles across will get smaller and the speed will go up. Think Winter Olympics. You got the lady on her one skate. She has her arms out and she's spinning slowly. She brings her arms in and she spins very quickly. That's what this storm is now doing. It has its arms out. Later on today, it will bring its arms in and so therefore, it will likely regain some strength or at least maintain some strength.

Cat 4, Cat 4, Cat 4, making landfall in the Florida Keys, probably somewhere between Robbie's Marina on the north side and Islamorada and on the south side, somewhere around Key Colony Beach and Marathon Airport, so to the right of there will be the major storm surge. So that is Key Largo maybe up to Ocean Reef. But also, pouring water into Key Biscayne as well.

Here is the wind model for the rest of the week. Here is Saturday, 6:00 a.m. just getting breezy, just the blow across. You will see some white caps on the ocean. But here it comes, John said this. By 3:00 tomorrow, you get winds around 50. Now the wind is starting to push the water onshore.

There's also a bubble of water heading into the keys that I'm very concerned with. Some of these keys are eight, 10 feet tall. The water may go completely over them if it can't get through the cuts in time. And then we see the wind in Naples to about 60 or 70 miles per hour.

Notice the center of the eye is over the everglades. That's not land. That's very warm water. The storm even gets bigger as it makes landfall. That doesn't usually happen, but because it's the everglades and not really dry land, that's why we get 100-mile-per-hour gusts all the way across the state.

They move all the way up into Orlando as well, Ocala, Leesburg and the like. Something else, water blowing onshore here making coastal flooding, water blowing onshore here making coastal flooding on the other side. The entire state going to be affected with hurricane force winds and even 70-mile-per-hour wind gusts here possible in Atlanta, certainly all along the coast, Jacksonville, all the way up to Charleston, maybe Myrtle could see some coastal flooding, because of it, just the bubble of water be looking at.

The storm surge itself is 10, maybe 12 feet. That could wash over some of the areas, especially around John Pennenkamp State Park. Just to your south, John, that's where that will be. That's the surge we are worried about. But the surge also gets to where you are because the water blows in with the wind so much in Key Biscayne. So Miami and Cutler Bay and all the way down toward Homestead, those elevations under 10 feet need to leave because of that surge and waves, 20 feet on top of that.

BERMAN: All right. Chad Myers for us. Again, where I'm standing right now, about three feet above sea level, if the storm surge is 10 feet, that means the water is here, which is why there's a mandatory evacuation from where I am right now.

The Florida governor said everyone in Florida, 20 million people, should be prepared just in case to move if they need to. The very first place for mandatory evacuation orders were issued with the Florida Keys. That is where we find CNN's Bill Weir in Key Largo. Bill, some of the people you were talking to last night said they were going to stick it out. Now they are having second thoughts.

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's interesting how last night's liquid courage tends to fade in the sober light of day and the size of that monster storm, which is a couple 100 miles right over there. And as you talked about it -- as Chad talked about, a storm surge here on Key Largo would put the waves well over my head, well over the mangroves you see there. Well over Snappers Beach Bar where we are here, one of the iconic places where people come to relax.

We're getting a little sun shower, just a tiny infinitesimal taste of what's to come. But the last Greyhound Bus left Key West about an hour and a half ago heading north. They tell me, the municipal 301 bus line will keep running as long as the roads are clear and the winds will allow there. So there's no real excuse for those who want to leave, not be able to get out of here.

Here comes the rain as well. But these are the keys. This is the Conch Republic. These are fiercely independent, stubborn folks. And that means, there will be thousands riding out the storms, some on their boats, some hunkered in the strongest structures they can find.

We are going to head down now to the prison. The big jail of Monroe County, one of the strongest structures, where there are about 400 prisoners, sheriffs, deputies, a bunch of animals are there. So the decision to get out is now. As you heard from the governor, Poppy, we're going to see how many people heed that call.

HARLOW: We will. Bill Weir, thank you for your team and your entire team for being there reporting in what is a mandatory evacuation zone. We appreciate you bringing us the story.

Right now, there's a rush to get out. You heard Bill say the last Greyhound Bus had left where he is in Key Largo, many people in Miami trying to get out at the airport there.

Let's go to our Rosa Flores who joins us now. The line you showed us last time at customer service was unbelievable. Now, you are with another family dealing with this.

[10:10:02] ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know it's not just those lines, Poppy. There are people who are wandering this airport, trying to figure out what to do. They have little cards that have a phone number for them.

This is Leila and her fiance, Ignacio. They are from Argentina. They have never gone through a storm. And this is actually her wedding dress. She came to Miami to purchase his tuxedo and your wedding dress. Tell me about what you are hearing. Is American Airlines giving you hope that there will be a way out of Miami?

LEILA TRAVERSON, VISITING MIAMI FROM ARGENTINA: No, they didn't give us any answer. They say they can do nothing. Since yesterday, we are trying to change our flight. We want to leave Miami, anywhere. We don't have an answer from American. I don't understand why they didn't put more planes to take all the people out of here. It has to be their priority to take the people out from Miami.

FLORES: You said you have never gone through a storm. How difficult is it for you to grapple with the fact that a storm is coming this way?

TRAVERSON: We are terrified. We don't know what to do. We are now staying in the Design District in front of the bay. We don't know what to do. We don't have hurricanes or earthquakes in Argentina. So we are terrified. We don't know where to go, what to do, what to expect.

FLORES: Thank you so much for sharing your story, we really appreciate it.

And John, we are trying to get answers from the airport. We're trying to figure out where they are going to send this couple and other foreigners who are stuck at the airport. Some of them slept here overnight. And we are hoping to get those answers and get those to you as soon as we can. John?

BERMAN: Yes. Those answers are important to a whole lot of people right now. Rosa Flores, thank you so much.

Joining me right now is Republican member of Congress Ileana Ros- Lehtinen of Florida, of Miami. Representative, thank you for being with us --

REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R), FLORIDA: And Miami Beach, my boarded up part of the district.

BERMAN: You love this city more than any human loves any city. So my question to you, Representative, is, what's your message to the, you know, some 100,000 people of Miami Beach, you know, the 2 million people of Miami-Dade, the 20 million people of Florida.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Get ready, it's coming, there's nothing we can do about it. Don't think you can ride this out. Miami Beach is boarded up. I mean, it's a major economic loss, but the loss of life is what's all important. I represent the whole coastline from Miami Beach to south Dade and it is terrible, the number of people who are still in these areas who won't leave.

BERMAN: It's terrible, you're saying, because a lot of people haven't left right now. Some of the things we hear from people, you know, I was here for Andrew. I was here for Wilma. This is different. This is bigger.

ROS-LEHTINEN: I was here for all of those. But this one is a whopper. And I totally understand. You don't want to leave your home. This is everything that you have. So I understand that. But in places like Miami Beach, you just got to leave. You maybe - you think you can ride it out and those limit out in the west, but here, this is ground zero.

Look at where it is. That beach is right there. Turn to our right, and there it is. And it's going to flood. I mean, we get rainy day flooding, climate change, it's real. All of this, you know, whether you agree that it's human, manufactured or not, look, it is happening and we have to be careful. We have to be ready. The shelters are open. If you haven't evacuated, do so now.

BERMAN: Let me ask you a specific question. After the tsunami in Japan, the Fukushima Power Plant was flooded, had all those issues. You were concerned about the nuclear power plant Turkey Point here. You went and walked around that. I've got a lot of people asked me, what is going on with that plant in this storm, Category 4 storm, huge storm surge. What do you think?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, we've heard from the governor, he says -- and we've heard from, of course, the industry officials, they say they are ready. They can with stand any impact from Irma. And you know, trust but verify.

Let's see what happens. We've got to make sure that we have more oversight because the health of our citizens is paramount. There's nothing more important than saving human lives. But they say they are ready. They are ready for the worst. And we are going to be fine with that nuclear plant.

BERMAN: Where are you going? Just so you know, as we said, no one loves Miami Beach as much as you do. You're not going to be on Miami Beach for the storm.

ROS-LEHTINEN: No, no, no. I'm here for CNN, John, and I'm here for you. But I'm going to ride it out. Same place we always have been. We've got a home in the southern part of our area, around south Miami. We're going to be fine.

BERMAN: Inland?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Inland, inland and you never know because what happens during Andrew, Miami Beach was evacuated and they went to Kendall in the west and that's where Andrew went. But the predictions are better. The science is more precise. I think we know what's going to wallop us anywhere it goes.

[10:15:00] BERMAN: I think that's a really important point. The storm surge predictions that exist now did not exist for Andrew. And the storm surge predictions for this storm are horrific, a 10-foot storm surge where we're standing right now, that could flood, you know blocks and blocks and blocks west that way.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Absolutely. The science is better. It's more precise. We can forecast it. But Miami is ready. I mean, we have had days to prepare and we saw through CNN what happened in Houston. People are really ready. And those who don't want to leave their houses they won't leave their houses anyway. But, everything is functioning fine. This is so much better, the response than it was during Andrew. In Andrew, everything fell apart. Katrina, another mess, but this one, with Irma, we are ready. It's going to be a bad storm but we are as ready as a community can be.

BERMAN: All right. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen -

ROS-LEHTINEN: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: Look, this city, this state, it needs your warnings. It will also need your spirit in the next few days --

ROS-LEHTINEN: I am strong.

BERMAN: So thank you. Thank you in advance of everything I know you'll be doing the next few days.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Appreciate it. Thank you, John.

BERMAN: Great to have you here.

All right, we are keeping a close eye, obviously, on what Hurricane Irma is doing. We have a live shot right now of downtown Miami. This is where some people are headed. It looks nice right now. But this is going to be very ugly. Really, in just a few hours, less than 24 hours, that is why the governor of Florida says get out now. Time is running out.

CNN on the evacuation route right now, we have some pictures on I-95, just north of Fort Lauderdale, on the move right now. We are watching this for you. Stay with us.


[10:21:05] BERMAN: All right. Across Florida, gas shortages, jammed highways as residents try to flee, evacuating Irma's path.

I want to go to CNN's Ed Lavandera. He is on the road right now driving north through Palm Beach County. Ed, give us a sense of what you are seeing.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Well, kind of an interesting sight here along Interstate-95. We have driven up from downtown Miami through Dade County, through Broward County and the Fort Lauderdale area. Now, we are in Palm Beach County. And as you look out here in our roving vehicle out on the Interstate-95, you can see how wide open the road is, for the most part.

Now, probably a lot of people wondering why aren't there more people evacuating? When we drove in yesterday, we saw the traffic along this stretches of road rather packed. And I think the roads get much more congested once you get into the northern parts of the state around Orlando and obviously, north of Orlando as well.

You have to remember, here in southern Florida, there aren't that many northern routes to take, northbound routes to take to get out of the hurricane zone down here. So that is something people need to take into consideration. That these are - there's only a handful of ways to get out of these areas, the roads that take you north, compounded by the fact that the hurricane is going to be shooting straight up, south to north through this very corridor here. So that is why the urgency to evacuate is on really now.

If this is any indication, you know, you kind of look around here on the roads here this morning, John, and you see how wide open the traffic is here on Interstate-95. That's good news. People want to make pretty good time and still want to evacuate. This is what they are going to be seeing here along Interstate-95 this morning.

But it's also kind of a sign that either a lot of people left -- started taking advantage of this and left yesterday or that there's still a good number of people and I have seen a good number of people still who have decided to ride the storm out in Miami proper itself. So this is the scene we are seeing here along this morning. One -- interesting note to pass along here, toll road charges here in the state of Florida have been suspended, obviously, very costly to drive north. Those toll road charges have been suspended. John?

BERMAN: All right. Ed Lavandera, if we can keep this picture up for a moment as that saying, you know, maybe this thus mean most people have left. Let's hope that it means that a lot of people have left. But as Ed knows, and I've recognized here too, over last night and this morning, there still are a lot of people here.

But look, the roads, there's plenty of room. There is plenty of room and there is still time, not much time. But if you leave now, you can get where you need to go to evacuate. And as you can see, I hope people are watching right now, that there is not bad traffic. Now is a great time to get to safety. Ed Lavandera, thank you so much for showing us that picture, a very important thing to see right now. Poppy?

HARLOW: All right. We do have some breaking news out of Washington. Lest you forget hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc on the state of Texas just a week or so ago. Right now, on the House floor, you got lawmakers voting on an initial relief package, aid package of just under $8 billion for the victims of hurricane Harvey.

This, of course, is tied to continuing resolution on raising the debt ceiling for three months. This, of course, is sort of the grand agreement that the president came to amid the chagrin of Republicans with Democrats. This is what the president agreed to with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi and tied to about $8 billion, an initial relief funding for Harvey. They are voting on it right now. We'll keep a very close eye on this for you. It means a lot, of course, to the folks in Texas there.

Meantime, the Red Cross says Irma has already affected more than a million people. It poses a serious threat to millions more still in its path.

Let's bring in Roberto Baltodano from the American Red Cross. Robert, it is so nice to have you. Thank you for being here and for what all you and your team are doing across the state of Florida right now as we await Irma.

[10:25:04] The Florida governor, Rick Scott, we just heard from him and he said all Floridians should prepare to evacuate. That's a huge message. Do you have the resources you need? The shelters you need for them to do that? ROBERTO BALTODANO, AMERICAN RED CROSS, SOUTH FLORIDA REGION: We do. We do and we are proud of our volunteers and thankful to our donors who allow us to do that. We have the ability to provide shelter to up to 120,000 people up the sea board. And we have hundreds and hundreds of volunteers who are operating from all corners of the country to help the volunteers from south Florida. And so we are extremely thankful to them.

HARLOW: One of the things that you know that I think is very important, it surprised me when I read it, is that people that are going to the shelters need to actually come prepared, meaning they need to bring, what, three days' worth of food and water, supplies for their pets, et cetera. So that won't be there for them?

BALTODANO: That's right. I'm glad you gave me the opportunity to set the expectations of what an evacuation shelter is. An evacuation center is a safe place where you and your family can come, where you're going to meet Red Cross volunteers who are compassionate and caring, and are going to help you whether -- the storm safely.

You need to bring your emergency kit. Throughout the year, we'd speak about get a kit. Bring your water, one gallon per person, per pet, per day. Bring your food, non-perishable food, a can opener, medicine for seven days, some clothing, bedding, if you can bring a sleeping bag, those items that you need again to be comfortable for a minimum of three days, maximum of seven. I heard Ed that speaks about encouraging people to hit the road. That same kit, you need to put in your car if you are going to get on the road. You have to assume that you're not going to be able to get to some point and you'll have to shelter in an emergency on the road. And therefore, you need to have that kit with you on the road as well.

HARLOW: And unfortunately, there are two more hurricanes brewing in the Atlantic right now. You've got Jose and Katia. And should they turn towards Florida, are you ready for that on top of whatever Irma brings?

BALTODANO: We have 150 years of history providing help and humanity. And so, we are a global network. And so, we are one Red Cross. We help each other out. If there is a need to activate additional resources, we have the ability and the capacity to expand accordingly. So yes, we are ready to help.

HARLOW: All right. Roberto Baltodano, I know you and your team won't be getting much sleep for the next 72 hours. We wish you the best. Thank you for all that you do. And of course, to everyone who wants to help and donate to Red Cross.

Right now, Miami in the eye and the center of what could be the eye passing over, I should say, bracing for Irma as it barrels towards Florida. Meteorologist Chad Myers is live in our Weather Center with more. Chad?

MYERS: Poppy, as it gets closer, we know that all of Florida will be impacted, not just the east coast or the west coast or the center. It's just that big. It's wider than the state is. And so, as it drives up the middle, we'll see both coasts get affected. We have the Cuban radar up here, Guantanamo Bay. I'll tell you what it's doing, what it means. And what's the forecast coming up in a few minutes.