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Florida Bracing for Direct Hit from Monster Hurricane Irma; Interview with Mayor Philip Levine; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired September 8, 2017 - 10:30   ET



[10:32:35] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. John Berman here back in Miami Beach. This is a city of about 100,000 people. Everyone has been ordered to evacuate. This is the mandatory evacuation zone.

The big concern is a storm surge of 10 feet sea level. Here's about 3 feet. They expect this area to flood and flood badly. Again people have been told to leave.

I am joined now by a family that has chosen to stay. Scott Abraham is here with his son, Alexander, age 4.

Scott, why are you staying?

SCOTT ABRAHAM, MIAMI BEACH RESIDENT: So I have been here for about 15 years and we've been through so many different storms. And we've been told so many times to evacuate but this is -- I feel like the same kind of situation. I don't think it's going to hit us directly. If it does, I think we're pretty safe. We've got food. We've got supplies. We've got everything that we need. And we live on the 11th floor. So I think we're OK to stay here.

BERMAN: Let me tell you what the experts say and what your governor says. Your governor says that the entire southern part of Florida is in the direct path of this storm.


BERMAN: He says if you're in the mandatory evacuation zones, please listen, and you are running out of time. And most importantly he says this storm isn't like the ones before. This storm is so much bigger than Andrew was. So much different than Wilma was, which cut across the state. This is going up the entire state.

Is there anything the governor could say -- is there anything, frankly, that I could say to change your mind?

ABRAHAM: Well, I would definitely consider going out but I think that we're running out of choices. I think the airlines are pretty much full. And to get on the road now is probably too late. But I think we're pretty much --

BERMAN: We did show pictures, Ed Lavandera up in Palm Beach County, the road is totally empty going north right now. There is still plenty of room. And the governor was saying before and the mayor is saying before that there are shelters in the area. We could put you in touch with them, getting on a plane probably too late at this point, but getting to a shelter, we can help you do that if it is something you would reconsider.

ABRAHAM: I guess I would reconsider if I talk to my wife and see what she wants to do. And if that's the case, then we'll do it. Otherwise, we are ready to rock 'n' roll with the storm.

BERMAN: If you do stay, which again I hope we can convince you otherwise. If you do stay, what exactly is your plan?

ABRAHAM: The plan is just to be at home. We're on the 11th floor like I said. We have lights. We have water. We have food. And I think we'll ride it out. We have new storm windows and I think we should be OK.

[10:35:02] BERMAN: Miami Beach, in all likelihood will be cut off from the rest of the city. You're going to get a storm surge here of 11 feet. Ten feet, it's going to go all the way to the waterway, the bridges maybe washed out. You may not be reachable for several days.

ABRAHAM: I don't know what we may need in the next few days. I think we are pretty much got everything under control.

BERMAN: Can I talk to Alexander for a second?

Alexander, how you doing?


BERMAN: You scared at all about Hurricane Irma?


BERMAN: Why not?

ALEXANDER: Because I'm not afraid.

BERMAN: Alexander, you are one brave guy. I hope you can convince your father to change his mind over the next several minutes.

Again, you know, Scott Abraham, thanks so much for being with us. You rode out Hurricane Andrew, you said?

ABRAHAM: No. No, I was here -- I came right after Hurricane Andrew.

BERMAN: OK. Go talk to people.


BERMAN: Who lived through Hurricane Andrew and say they never want to see anything like that again. Go talk to your wife. Again, and Scott has a baby, too, a 1-year-old, Sara, as well. Maybe she can change your mind. We will help you if you need to -- if you choose to stay, please be very, very careful. ABRAHAM: Will do. Thank you very much.

BERMAN: All right, Scott. Thanks so much.

Poppy, as you can see, again, you know, we keep on playing the governor. Every news conference he has. We keep on talking to city officials. Why? Because we want to get the message out that this storm is different and hopefully people will hear that message -- Poppy.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Berman, you're a good salesman. I think you got him to consider to talk to his wife about it and I think maybe they will go to a shelter. I hope we see them do that. That's for sure. They got two little kids.

We do have some breaking news I want to get to right out of Washington, D.C. Right now so we just told you about this Continuing Resolution on the debt ceiling. Matters particularly to the victims of Harvey in Texas because it has just passed overwhelmingly in the House, 316 to 90. Again it passed overwhelmingly in the House, 316 to 90 votes.

This will extend the debt ceiling limit, if you will, for three months, until December 15th. It also is tied to $7.85 billion in federal aid for the victims of Hurricane Harvey.

Meantime, let's go straight to the Severe Weather Center. That's where we find Chad Myers.

Chad, you just heard that family with two kids say, we've been warned so many times to evacuate. You know, we've never needed to. We're going to hunker down, we have storm windows. They live on the 11th floor. And we're talking about sustained winds of over 100 miles an hour.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Right. And they say that they have been there 15 years. When is the last time a storm like this has hit? Hmm.


MYERS: Not 15 years ago, not 14 years ago, not 13 years ago. So here's the deal, and I live on the 10th floor here in Atlanta, Georgia. And if you have winds on the surface of 145 miles per hour and you get up 30 stories, all of a sudden, you're 174. Now I don't know how big his building is, but even if there are floors above him with windows that are breaking, because there are some buildings in Miami that are 700 feet tall.

If you go up even higher than that, all of a sudden you're at 189 just relative to where you are in the hurricane. And then you realize when you -- when the storm finally does go away that, unfortunately, all the streets are flooded, you can't get out. You don't have power, you don't have air-conditioning, and now you're stuck there and no one can come get you. John, keep talking. Keep selling that guy to get out of there because

I wouldn't want to be anywhere above the second or third floor when it comes to that, as the winds go up. Plus, the elevators don't work. And if you do want to go down and come back up, that's 11 stories. And, you know, for me, an old guy, that's a lot.

Back out here to the hurricane. We have a category 4 hurricane going to make landfall in the Florida Keys. That's pretty much a done deal. All the models now are assuming somewhere between Islamorada and north to almost, let's say, Key Largo.

I'll zoom in a little bit to show you exactly where it is. But 150 miles per hour. Even though it's -- right now, it's kind of disintegrating out there with an eyewall replacement cycle, the water there is still very, very warm.

And then it gets to Atlanta and the winds there could even be around 75. So by tomorrow morning, we're still not blowing hard yet. But by tomorrow afternoon, the Keys are blowing 50. Miami is blowing 45. And then you watch this white part. That's the eye. That's the 100- mile-per-hour or greater wind gust around the eye of the storm. The eyewall on the right side of the eyewall anywhere from Key Largo down to Tavernier. That's where the heaviest wind damage will be. The storm surge will be as well.

Now you put the center of the hurricane in the everglades and you think, oh, it's over land. It's going to die. There's no land there. That's still water, very warm water. So the storm actually expands when it hits the everglades. Winds where John is at 100 miles per hour at least, 120 possible. But both sides of the peninsula, both sides of Florida are getting the pink wind and that's well over 75. Everybody gets a hurricane wind when you have a hurricane this big -- Poppy.

[10:40:05] HARLOW: Indeed. Chad Myers, thank you so much for staying on top of all of it for us.

On the phone with us now, he's the director of the Miami-Dade Police Department, Juan Perez.

Thank you so much, sir, for being with us. Let me just get your take on emergency response, OK? Because A lot of people that are going to ride out the storm are saying, you know, we don't think it's going to be as bad as they're predicting. If it is and they call 911 in the middle of the storm, the governor says you guys aren't going to be there, right?

JUAN PEREZ, DIRECTOR, MIAMI-DADE POLICE DEPARTMENT: Well, after a certain point -- you know, we are mobilized and you know, an alpha bravo shifts, minimal 12-hour shifts and much, much more obviously during this storm. But after a certain point, it becomes a risk for our first responders to be out there and utility workers and so forth. So we will have to hunker down as well. So there will be a point where 911, we are not going to be able to get to you at the time that you make the call. And then as soon as the storm winds decrease, we can go out safely again, we'll try and get to you. HARLOW: So we just heard from a father, who spoke to John down there

in Miami with his 4-year-old son. He also has a 1-year-old daughter. He and his family live on an apartment building, in an apartment building on the 11th floor. And they are going to stay. They are not heeding the warning of these mandatory evacuations. What is your message to families like that?

PEREZ: That's unfortunate. You know I -- you know, I not only lived through Andrew, I worked it and I saw the catastrophe that occurred firsthand. I think a lot of folks, unfortunately, are taking that stance and, you know, they looked at the size of the storm when it was 185 miles per hour and, you know, they were mesmerized. Now it dropped 30, 35 miles per hour so it's at 150. And for some, you know, odd reason, they feel that that is much better and it's not.

You know -- you know, we're talking cat 4, but it's a high. And it's a few miles away from being a category 5 again. And Andrew came at that speed and it was catastrophic back then and this will be catastrophic for us now. So they should heed the warnings, seek shelter. There's plenty of shelters available and quite -- only a small number of people are taking advantage of those shelters up to this point. Hopefully today we get a lot of folks into the shelters.

And if they are not going to go to a shelter, go somewhere safe. A friend's house, family, relatives that, you know, have shutters and the appropriate measures have been taken and the necessary supplies to carry over for at least three days while the storm hits.

HARLOW: Officer Perez, what do you need right now? Because the governor spoke about how Florida could always use more volunteers in a situation like this. What does your department, especially Miami- Dade, need right now?

PEREZ: Well, right now we don't need anything at this point. But post-storm is when we'll be making those assessments and communicating with the state EOC run by the governor. And he's already contacted us. He's been down here a few times. We have the communications of what the capabilities are of the state to come assist us. Unfortunately, with hurricanes, we have a few down here, and with hurricanes you don't know what they bring.

So we're prepared, right, and we're ready. And that's what everybody asks, if we're ready or we're prepared. But prepared for what, we don't know. So we're ready to deal with the unexpected. So we expect the unexpected. We don't know if this is going to be -- once it hits, if it becomes a surge situation only or if it's a combination of a lot of rain, a lot of wind and, you know, a lot of the structural damage.

So it's a wait and see game, unfortunately. That's the buildup of the anxiety. Because once we shelter up, as law enforcement and our firefighters shelter up, we don't know what's going to be outside when we open those doors and we hit the streets again or what the catastrophe is going to be before us.

So once we make the initial assessment early on after the storm, then we'll be able to make those requests whether it's going to be volunteers, more law enforcement, more firefighters or utility trucks.

HARLOW: Expect the unexpected. Well put.

Director Perez, thank you so much for joining us and good luck.

PEREZ: Thank you.

HARLOW: Leave now -- of course leave now while you have a chance because when you call 911, you will not get an answer. That is one official's warning to the people of south Florida. You just heard it reiterated by the director of the Miami-Dade Police Department there.

We will speak with the mayor of Miami Beach about how the city is preparing next.


[10:48:40] BERMAN: All right. John Berman back in Miami Beach. This is the mandatory evacuation zone. Some 100,000 residents have been told to leave. A lot of people asking why we're here. Well, we're not going to be here tomorrow when the storm hits. Why? We couldn't be. Where I'm standing right now will be covered with water.

And joining me is the mayor of Miami Beach, Philip Levine.

Mayor, thank you so much for being with us. And on that point specifically, because I want people to get this message, we're expecting a 10-foot storm surge. Where is that relative to our height right now and how much will that cover?

MAYOR PHILIP LEVINE, MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA: John, we're a barrier island, mind you. So you have the ocean to our east and then to our west, you have Biscayne Bay. We could expect a significant storm surge. A storm surge that would begin from the ocean and go right across to the bay. We hope not but we have to be prepared. And we are prepared, but as you can imagine there is no pump that can handle the storm surge. There are no generators that can push out that water with those pumps.

But the most important message here is, it's for residents and visitors to get out. Leave Miami Beach, go to the mainland, go to some of our shelters, there's many of them, and there's availability.

BERMAN: We did just talk to a man who says he's riding it out on Miami Beach with his two young kids. I tried to give it so go and he seemed to be wavering a little bit. He says he lives on the 11th floor of an apartment building. Good enough?

LEVINE: No. Not good enough at all. Because even if he thinks his windows are hurricane proof, this storm is massive, it's powerful. I call it a nuclear hurricane because what we've seen is the devastation it's caused throughout the Caribbean.

[10:50:07] We're hoping that that doesn't happen here but we must be prepared. So he should be getting off the island and going to the mainland to our shelters. And if you have a pet, we have shelters that allow you to keep your

pet. So there's no reason to stay. We don't want heroes, we want safe people.

BERMAN: And again right now, we were taking a look at the roads, the roads were pretty clear. There still is time today, if you're watching. There still is time to get out today. Tomorrow it might be too late.

Look, I have seen pictures of you walking in Miami Beach on a sunny day when it's flooding.

LEVINE: Right.

BERMAN: You get what is now called sunny day floods during high tide.


BERMAN: This is low lying. The storm surge has got to be one of the biggest areas of concern.

LEVINE: No question about it. You know, there's always a misconception. We've been able to raise our rows, put in pumps, so sunny day flooding, which is of course sea level rise, we're able to work and rectify. But there's no ability to handle or stop water from flooding from a hurricane, let alone a massive, historical hurricane like Irma.

BERMAN: What happens to the people who do stay? I was trying to explain to that man, maybe he rides it out in the 11th floor the day of the storm but is Miami Beach going to be cut off?

LEVINE: Absolutely. What's going to happen is this. First of all, let me just say, we have buses, we have trolleys coming to pick people up. We will take you to the shelters. If you don't want to get there on your own, we'll take you. But what will end up happening is, that storm approaches and it starts to hit, our first responders will be bunkered down. Some of them with me in the shelter on Miami Beach which is our operation center. And a lot will be in the mainland coming back here when it's safe for them to get here.

So in other words, there will not be services for these people. They have to understand that. That's why I recommend, I urge, I demand that they please leave Miami Beach.

BERMAN: And again, and after the storm, the bridges, who knows what status the bridges will be under. What will be -- what will be the response after the storm?

LEVINE: Well, after the storm, we have an entire protocol in place. The number one thing we need to do is clear the roads. We must clear the roads. Clearing the roads allows our first responders to go and survey the city and do what they need to do and of course at that point be able to talk to people that may possibly be in need of help.

And then from there, we make an assessment. And of course, when it's safe, we start allowing residents to come back in as well as vendors and contractors.

BERMAN: That is all after the storm. During the storm, there's really nothing you can do.

LEVINE: Absolutely not.

BERMAN: And the message is, get out, get out now.

Mayor Philip Levine, it's great to have you here with us.

LEVINE: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: I hope people hear this message. You've been on CNN a lot lately but the reason is we want you to get that message out.

LEVINE: We want to keep you alive and keep you safe.

BERMAN: Thank you, Mayor. We really appreciate it.

LEVINE: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. Poppy, we are hoping people hear that message. Let's go back to you in New York.

HARLOW: Look, he said we demand that they get out and hopefully they heed that warning and the demand from the mayor there who knows best.

John, thank you.

We are moments away from an update from the National Hurricane Center on the latest path and intensity of Irma. Take a look at this because this is a live picture coming up of Miami Beach. Looks perfectly sunny, beautiful right now. But do not let it confuse you. Things are about to get ugly. And we are keeping an eye on it. John is there live. We've got team coverage all day long and all night long.

We do have some other breaking news that I want to update you on. At least 29 people are now dead after this powerful 8.1 earthquake shook the coast of Mexico near the border with Guatemala. The quake, which Mexico's president is calling the strongest in 100 years, destroyed several buildings. Look at it there, rescue workers on the scene of a collapsed hotel say there may be four people at least trapped inside still.

This quake was so big that it rattled parts of Mexico City, which is 600 miles away from the epicenter of the earthquake. Highways off the coast of Mexico and Central America also in the wake of this.

We'll keep an eye on this and of course be tracking Hurricane Irma as she barrels toward Florida. Stay with us. We'll be right back.


[10:58:24] HARLOW: Hurricane Irma headed right for Florida right now. You've got college football teams across the state cancelling their games. Coy Wire is in Clemson, South Carolina, which could be in the path of

the storm, depending on which way Irma goes.

So what is going on with that game?

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Poppy. It's Auburn versus Clemson. One of the biggest matchups this weekend. The Clemson is about four hours from Charleston and the coast. So far, this game is scheduled to go on as planned. It's 7:00 p.m. Eastern, starts Saturday night, so they should get this one in before Irma related weather could get here.

Clemson says they are monitoring the storm's path and they're saying that state troopers that usually work the games to handle traffic and such may not be on hand.

As you mentioned, though, there are some college games that have already been canceled completely. The University of Florida not playing North Colorado tomorrow. The Gators' athletic director saying in a statement, quote, "It's become obvious that playing a football game is not the right thing to do," unquote. South Florida's game with UConn canceled as is Florida State versus Louisiana Monroe.

Now I talked to a player here moments ago, Poppy, and he told me that there are quite a few players from Florida and the coast of South Carolina whose families have left their hometowns to be out of harm's way. Some, Poppy, have come here to Clemson to be with their sons and are prepared to stay in this area as long as they must.

HARLOW: All right. We're thinking about all their families down there in Florida, for sure.

Coy Wire, thank you so much.

And thank you for joining us. I'm Poppy Harlow. And John, to you, you will be there all weekend working through this storm, moving away from the evacuation zone.

BERMAN: That's right. We'll be in places hopefully where we can stay safe. Two pictures I want you to remember today, the cone over the entire state. It will hit Florida, maybe all of it. And number two, the road still clear right now. Ed Lavandera out on clear roads, still plenty of time to evacuate but do it now.

I'm John Berman in Miami Beach. "AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BOLDUAN" starts now.