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Hurricane Irma Slams Caribbean; New Hurricane Warnings Issued for South Florida. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired September 8, 2017 - 00:00   ET



[00:00:14] DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Our breaking news at this hour, new hurricane warnings issued for south Florida as millions flee and Miami braces for a direct hit.

Let's go right to CNN's Karen Maginnis in the CNN Weather Center. Karen -- hello to you.

The National Hurricane Center has issued a hurricane warning for southern Florida. Where is it now? And where is it heading?

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is still a very powerful Category 5 hurricane. And for a lot of folks who are considering riding this out, it's not a good idea. You've seen that here over and over again as to what is happening with the fuel. You're going to stretch the highways, the medical services, what you are able to get food-wise and any kind of supplies.

But right now, it is just kind of splitting the difference between Cuba and the Caicos islands. Right now the winds associated with this are 165 miles per hour with gusts of up to 200 miles an hour.

What is happening now is there's what's called an eye wall replacement cycle. And typically we see that just kind of collapse a little bit but that outer wall becomes more defined. So, that's why we may see it weaken just slightly before it gains that intensity back again.

So this is just one of those little perturbations. And by that I mean we could see it just kind of zigzag a little bit across the region. But generally, overall, it's moving towards the west-northwest and it's a mover.

It's not like Harvey that's just going to spin around and linger and even be quasi-stationary. This is a fast-moving system.

That is the big problem because that wall of water, that storm surge -- at least now for south Florida could be between five to ten feet. But prepare for the possibility that you could see something even more than that because across the Bahamas, we're looking at 15 to 20 feet.

You have to remember, there's a lot going on here. There's still plenty of water. It's very warm. There's nothing that's going to shear this hurricane. It is massive. It's going to take a lot to interrupt what's happening. As we see it make its way, march toward the west-northwest and perhaps, at least according to both of the computer models, just kind of move right down the spine of Florida.

So it is going to affect south Florida. As it does, the computer models are saying kind of different things. Here's a spaghetti plot. They're in pretty good agreement although it does look like later on in this time frame one brings it a little bit further towards the north and south Florida. The other just kind of brings it down across northern sections of Cuba.

So there's a little bit of a difference there maybe as much as 60 miles, maybe 100 miles difference and that's about it. But you have to remember, very warm water temperatures here in the mid to upper 80s. And then it starts to make that turn towards the north.

When that happens, whatever is in that right front quadrant, that's where you're going to see the most powerful winds. You're going to see the strongest surge. You're going to see the potential for tornadoes. There's not a lot of times that we mention that. But that was one of the things associated with Harvey, as well.

And then we start to move it more so into south Georgia, less so into the Carolinas. But don't focus on the track just yet because there's still a lot going on here, a lot of changes as I mentioned that perturbation or these little changes that take place but overall that movement is just in one direction.

By Saturday 8:00 p.m. it is lined just off the coast of Florida -- Saturday p.m. This is a broad system. It encompasses over 300 miles. Essentially you could lay this over top of Florida and have the entire state be impacted by Irma.

There, you can see by Sunday, it moves inland, maybe over Lake Okeechobee at 115 miles per hour. So as it interacts with land, it's going to lose some of its components. It's going to lose some of its energy but not a lot. Not a lot.

Not so much that you're going to overcome the idea that food is going to be available; that electricity is going to be available; that there is going to be gas available -- all of those things. Just remember, if you are not exiting Florida or thinking about exiting Florida, by tomorrow it just may be too late.

All right. Here is one of our models. This is the European model. Here, we have Key West. That's kind of the bull's eye for the European model -- taking it in right across the Everglades region just about towards just to the west of the center of Florida.

What happens with the North American model? All right. Here we go -- there's Key Largo. So it's a little bit further towards the east. But either way, if you put them on top of each other, they are both impacting south Florida.

[00:04:59] And in a big way, perhaps as a category 4, perhaps as a category 5 and pummeling areas that will make it very difficult for a lot of people to survive. So Don -- there are so many issues here. We'll get another update from the National Hurricane Center coming up in about two hours. But this is just a strong, strong advisory for folks to get out while they can.

LEMON: Already devastating and that's good advice. Get out while you can. Thank you -- Karen Maginnis. We'll check back with you.

Miguel Marquez, live for us in Miami. Let's bring him in now.

We have seen these incredibly long lines. We've seen police escorts for refueling tanks. And we've seen you out speaking to people. What's the very latest? Where are you?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is midnight in Miami. And things are getting a bit desperate here.

We were at one gas station for many hours today. They went through about 10,000 gallons of gas. That ended about 20 minutes ago. We went looking for another gas station. We must have driven 10 miles on the U.S. 1 -- saw over a dozen gas stations that were shut.

This one just got another load of gasoline from a tanker truck just dropped it off. You can see the line of cars here -- not very long here at midnight.

But here's what's happening now. Because people are coming up from the south looking for gas, there's sort of a second line that's starting over on this side creating a little tension at times among people here who are wanting to get gas.

The governor here in Florida, taking some extraordinary steps, having police escorts for tanker trucks to get them to gas stations like this and even police escorts for employees so they can continue to work as long as they can. And then once it's time to get out, they and their families can be escorted out by police. That's how significant and how needed gas is in this part of the state.

That latest storm track, basically, goes almost directly over where we are right now so people really heeding those warnings, very concerned.

We're getting down to crunch time though. They are making that hard decision. Are they going to stay here and tough it out? Or are they going to get the hell out -- Don.

LEMON: Absolutely. So listen -- let's talk about Miami. All right? The city -- massive construction cranes over Miami right now, Miguel.

What kind of risk does that pose during a major hurricane like this?

MARQUEZ: There's a lot of construction across Miami and tons of very high buildings. You have about two dozen construction cranes -- those giant cranes. We've seen them fall in lesser storms certainly.

What they do with these cranes is they take massive anchors and anchor them to the building all the way up. They add more on for this. They then take all the gear off of that hoist, that T up on top and they allow it to swing freely. So it's basically a giant weather vane.

This is rot of the best engineering, the best thing they can do. They think that they will be fine. But this is untested. If you get 140- mile, 150-mile winds through here, all bets are off.

Whether it's hurricane-proof windows or walls or high-rise apartments or cranes, you know -- look, many of these are construction sites that could come down on. But there are some right in neighborhoods, downtown Miami, in very populated areas or places that have lots of business so they could do destruction coming down.

But if it gets that bad, perhaps the damage from the hurricane itself will be worse -- Don.

LEMON: Miguel Marquez in Miami. Miguel -- thank you.

Our Brian Todd is in Palm Beach for us. Brian -- hello to you.

There's a large senior population there. How are folks preparing?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. A lot of anxiety here -- Don, and a lot of worry about how they're going to move some of these elderly people around, if they're going to move some of them around.

They're trying to communicate with as many of these caregivers as possible here in Palm Beach County because there is a high concentration of retirees, a high concentration of elderly people with special needs.

One official told me that they're trying to get as many elderly people with special needs into shelters here. They have about 15 shelters for people here in Palm Beach County. They're trying to get as many of them into those shelters as possible.

But they're telling that if they come, they have to bring their caregivers with them because they don't have the personnel to care for them with their special needs once they're in the shelters. That's one huge logistical challenge.

Another one is communicating to all of those people -- very clearly, to try to get them from one place to another. They really had to start this, days ago. And they had been doing it because it does take a little longer to move some of these people. And so that is a big concern tonight.

Storm surge is another one here. We're told five to ten feet of storm surge probably here in Palm Beach County. They're starting a mandatory evacuation in about ten hours, 10:00 a.m. Eastern. That's for Palm Beach to my left here across the intercoastal waterway.

That's a lower-lying area, a beach head area plus it's a barrier island. So those people are going to have to get out by 10:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.

[00:10:08] Where we're standing in West Palm Beach, it's going to be a voluntary evacuation in some areas, possibly a mandatory in certain areas. But either way, Don, this place is going to be hit with five to ten feet of storm surge.

That means where we're standing could be inundated because we're standing about five feet above the water here on the intercoastal waterway. It will get worse in Palm Beach across the water here -- Don.

So again, they're telling people, you know, you've got to heed these evacuation orders. If you stay, you know, you've got to make sure you're in a fortified place. Of course, if you leave, a lot of people are saying you don't necessarily have to leave the county. Don't try to get so far away or get out of state and, you know, just run yourself to ground essentially.

Just get to a shelter. You can shelter in your own county. And make sure you get to one of those certified shelters. So again, it's a very fluid evacuation scenario, a real concern here for the elderly -- Don.

LEMON: Brian Todd in West Palm Beach. Brian -- thank you so much. Appreciate that.

I want to bring in now David Velez. David is on the phone and he is St. Thomas resident who was caught in the devastation of Hurricane Irma. David -- thank you for joining us.

You've lived in St. Thomas for five years as I understand. But you went over to the resort on the island for safety. So tell me what you went through.

DAVID VELEZ, ST. THOMAS RESIDENT (via telephone): Yes. We decided to go over to the resort kind of last minute because we thought it would be a better spot. And you know, luckily for us, the room we were in was safe. But the rest of the resort was completely devastated, as well as the island.

Roofs were ripped off. Cars were lit on fire. Spoke to a number of guests who had to relocate in the middle of the storm because they were in the room and they see one roof come off. Then they go into the bathroom and they were huddling in the bathtub. It's been pretty bad over here.

LEMON: Oh wow. Did a lot of locals go to the resort for shelter?

VELEZ: Yes. A number of locals came here because it's a sturdy concrete building and, you know, like I said they thought it would be great. But the winds of this storm is unbelievable, unbelievable.

LEMON: Yes. Have you or others at the resort been in touch with family or friends on the island?

VELEZ: Luckily for us, we're one of the few places that do have electricity in some parts. One of our generators stayed up of the three. And so I've had electricity and Internet so I've been able to reach out to families.

And anyone gone out and kind of seen out there, I've tagged them in Facebook posts to let their families know they were safe because the majority of the island doesn't have anything, or didn't have anything up until about an hour ago.

LEMON: So talk to me more. Describe -- we're looking at some of the pictures here, David. But can you describe the damage you're seeing?

VELEZ: It looks like a bomb went off. I mean everywhere. I did a little adventuring. And it's not, you know -- there's no particular part of the island that got away. It's individual cases. If this family was safe or this house was safe because it's just total, total devastation down here, you know.

Trees -- trees ripped from the roots that were, you know, thick, thick trees; power lines down everywhere; windows, busted out; cars flipped. It's really bad.

LEMON: Do you know if your house made it?

VELEZ: I don't. I haven't made it up there yet. I'm going to try to make it tomorrow. They're clearing roads. But I have no idea if the house made it.

LEMON: Yes. Have you gone through hurricanes before?

VELEZ: No. This was my first. And man, this was not fun.

LEMON: What do you say to folks?

VELEZ: Just take it very, very, very seriously. This wind is incredible. I mean the things it can do. You know, I've seen car windows busted out just by the impact of wind. It's really, really dangerous.

LEMON: We're glad you're ok. David Velez -- thank you so much.

VELEZ: Thank you, guys.

LEMON: I want to speak now to Abigail Blake. Abigail is on the phone. Her husband is missing in Greenbanks, Tortola. Abigail -- since we have spoken to you, have you heard anything?

ABIGAIL BLAKE, HUSBAND MISSING IN TORTOLA (via telephone): No, I have not. I haven't heard from my husband since about 8:00 yesterday morning.

LEMON: Goodness. So you spoke to him, 8:00 yesterday morning. So, tell us, give us the situation. He's in Tortola. Explain to our viewers what happened.

BLAKE: He's in Tortola. He lives and works there. I spend most of my time in the States. He was in a bathroom, concrete bathroom -- lots of mattresses for protection. And he has his cell phone and some hurricane provisions -- you know, water, food, that kind of thing.

And then we hung up and the storm hit and I haven't been able to reach him since. There's no electricity. The cell towers are down. The phones are out. So it's really been impossible to reach people.

[00:15:01] Facebook has basically been the only place to get information. We have a BVI group set up and, you know, there's been desperate appeals for information about your loved ones and many of us are still waiting to hear.

LEMON: And you haven't heard anything -- none of your neighbors, no one on Facebook, right?

BLAKE: No. Not in that area. It's -- the area where he is, is very remote. It's kind of down a dirt road, down a mountain. Not a whole lot of neighbors. I know that someone else has heard from at least one of the neighbors. They were all right.

But, you know, it's just one of those things where one house is fine and the next one is destroyed. And I think my husband should be safe. He was in a bit of a bunker.

So, just, you know -- I believe he's going to be fine. And I should hear from him soon. It's not unusual in these situations to not hear from people for a while. I've been in several hurricanes down in the Virgin Islands. And you know, it takes a while to get services back up and running.

And the roads are impassable. Nobody can get there. And they can't get out. So it's a bit of a waiting game.

LEMON: I'm experiencing a similar situation with someone in St. Maarten who was near the airport. Some of the neighbors have reported seeing her but no one has -- she hasn't made a phone call and there're no services. People are having to -- they have to swim out of the neighborhood, it was so bad.

What do you tell people in the area because maybe someone will see your husband? Maybe someone will get word to him. What do you want to say?

BLAKE: Basically, I would just like to know that he's all right. I've got on Facebook basically -- thank God for Facebook, you know, I've got all the feelers out. And I hope to hear something soon.

It's a particular worry because, you know, there's so many people in desperate straits in the Virgin Islands. There's houses with no roofs, no walls, no doors. People don't have shelter. And there's another hurricane coming for them Saturday or Sunday. I'm not sure that everybody is even aware that that's coming, given the lack of information. Resources are extremely limited. And there's no infrastructure in place. I don't think the U.K. government grasps the scale of the disaster in the time they should have. I know that help is on the way. But it's not there yet.

LEMON: You said you've gone through hurricanes before. But not -- nothing like this one.

BLAKE: No. Nothing on the scale of this. This was, you know, the British Virgin Islands as did Anguilla and Barbuda, they took a direct hit. The eye went straight over them.

And this is the strongest one. You know, 185 miles an hour, Category 5 when it hit Virgin Islands.

LEMON: When hurricanes hit, where do people on the islands usually -- typically go for safety? Do they hunker down in their homes like you say in concrete shelters with mattresses? Do they go somewhere? Is there a shelter? Where do they typically go for safety?

BLAKE: It depends. There are some shelters set up. The government, the Red Cross, I believe runs the shelters. Some people go to there.

It depends on your house. The housing codes there are actually very good and quite stringent. And the houses are very well built which gives you an idea of the strength of this storm because so many reinforced concrete houses were damaged or destroyed.

So, usually you board up, put your shutters on and you're ok. You -- some windows might blow out. Roofs are often lost but nothing on the scale of this.

LEMON: Ok. Abigail -- thank you. I'm going to put Anthony's picture back up for our viewers. Anthony Blake, he's on Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. She just hasn't heard from him. She has very high hopes that he is ok. She thinks he's ok.

But if you see him, if you're a neighbor, if you know him, any sign of him, make sure you get in touch. Check out Facebook, Abigail's page on Facebook or you can reach us on social media here.

Abigail, again -- thank you so much. I appreciate it. Good luck.

BLAKE: Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you.

When we come back, much more on our breaking news. New hurricane warnings tonight in south Florida, as Miami braces for a direct hit this weekend.


LEMON: Our breaking news -- new hurricane warnings in south Florida tonight. That, as Miami braces for a direct hit this weekend.

I want you to take a look at this. New satellite imagery. It's showing Irma barreling towards Florida. This hurricane has killed at least ten people on its rampage through the Caribbean and caused catastrophic damage.

Joining me now on the phone is Ronald Jackson. He's the executive director of the Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency. Hello to you again, sir.

The reports out of the Caribbean paint a picture of complete and total devastation. What have you been hearing from your people? RONALD JACKSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CARIBBEAN DISASTER AND EMERGENCY

MANAGEMENT AGENCY: It's the same thing. The same picture we're getting. We're now hearing and seeing some images of extensive flooding in the north of Haiti. We're hoping to hear more details on that from the -- from the protection office which does the emergency coordination there.

They were able to make some early evacuations prior to the impact, the image they're showing extensive flooding of some of the communities in -- at the moment Turks and Caicos, getting their battering from the hurricane. And of course, the Bahama chain of islands in the path.

We've managed to maintain some satellite communications with the offices in Turks and Caicos. And we will await the all-clear to reestablish that communication at some point to get a sense of the impact after the passage of the storm.

[00:25:03] We are hearing now a little more detail on what went on in the British Virgin Islands. And it's a picture that is similar representing what we've seen in the wake of Irma in the other territories in the northern Leeward so, expecting building damage, utilities, private businesses. No power, pretty much, across the entire island.

And the only positive is that the hospital in Tortola is in good stead and is operational. They have checked the workers there. They would have gone to (inaudible) would need some support there. But the facility itself is up and should be able to function with, you know, power, backup power supply, et cetera.

So, that's what we're getting. Our teams arrived in Antigua to provide some support. We're working with the U.K. Guardship sharing responsibilities in the first few days between Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands. We have rapid needs assistance (ph) teams that are moving in to those two islands tomorrow as well as aviation support teams and a contingent of forces drawn from among the Caribbeans who will assist with the early risk efforts.

LEMON: Thank you very much -- Ronald. I appreciate it. Best of luck to you.

JACKSON: Thank you.

LEMON: I want to go back now to Connie Waddell on the phone in St. Thomas. She made it through the hurricane -- Hurricane Irma and is now bracing for Hurricane Jose.

We appreciate you joining us -- Connie. We spoke to your neighbor, Laura earlier this evening. You were right in the thick of it, too. How did you survive?

CONNIE WADDELL, ST. THOMAS RESIDENT: You know, it's almost like a movie, now when it's all over. But Laura and her family were bunkered downstairs. I chose to stay here. I'm above where they were at. I chose to stay here. I have a dear friend who was staying with me. And I think at the end of the day it was the best decision because if I had gone downstairs the -- I have a metal hurricane door that blew open when all the devastation was flying through the air. And we were able to wrap a long extension cord around the handle and just pulled the cord because the force was so intense that it was like ready to suck you out.

But, you know, we made it through. It's a major disaster. And we really need help here. And it's really sad.

LEMON: You said you made it through. You were amazed that you made it through the night.

WADDELL: Yes. When you wake up the next day and you see all this he devastation, you're only hearing, you know, of other parts of the island because we have no electricity. No Internet. You know, phones are not being charged. We have to go to our vehicles to, you know, charge our phones.

You know, we still have all power lines in our driveway, on the road. You know, it's everybody for its own right now basically.

LEMON: You survived Irma. Now, Jose is on its way. What are you going to do?

WADDELL: Well, my -- I have a place I can go to that a good friend down the hill, he had to rebuild three times through last 30 years.

So, he rebuilt a house. He's out in L.A. So he has a generator, everything. His house was not hit. So, hopefully, this one, next one comes through, Jose, it won't be as bad.

My neighbors are trying to fly out on Saturday to Chicago. And we're just not sure if they're going to be able to get out or not due to this next storm coming in.

So we're just hoping and praying that, you know, we're safe. We have two small babies here, hunkered down. That was the main thing, that they're safe.

LEMON: Well, Connie --

[00:29:55] WADDELL: But we just really need -- you know, we really need some help. We've had no one here, no first responders, no one. We had just like people that live here are going up and down the roads and trying to help each other with machetes, you know, power lines are everywhere --

And you have to be so careful, you know, with those. So hopefully if they can come and move our power lines we can at least maybe get out and see how far the road will take us.

LEMON: But you can't go anywhere. You're just stuck and then another storm barring barreling down. I mean, my goodness.

CONNIE: That's correct. LEMON: Yes.

CONNIE: We were able to get one shutter off on my neighbor then the landlord came by and took one off just so we could breathe, because during the storm the pressure built up so much, you know, I don't -- I did not see the tornado, I just saw debris lying everywhere, but I heard that we had several tornados, you know, with -- during the storm.

So the pressure and I, you know, I'm just very blessed that I had a friend with me because I really don't think I would be here today if -- with that hurricane (INAUDIBLE) open.

LEMON: Wow. Goodness. Well, Connie, we're glad that you're safe. We hope that you get the help that you need and hopefully by coming on and telling everyone that you need help and you'll get some. And be safe, OK? Thank you so much.

CONNIE: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Thank you.

CONNIE: Thank you so much.

LEMON: I want to go to --

CONNIE: Bye-bye.


LEMON: Absolutely. I want to go now to Josephine Gumbs-Connor. A lawyer from Anguilla so Josephine, what can you tell us about the situation on Anguilla?



GUMBS-CONNOR: -- thank you for raising the profile and getting to the outside world of what's happening to various islands. In Anguilla, I think people are sleeping very, very uneasily this evening given that the level of damage, I guess, like so many of the other islands that you're hearing about is really catastrophic.

In our case, Anguilla's 40 -- 36 square miles, we're like 16 miles by e miles and we have about 13,000 residents. We take great pride, I think, in our construction and we -- generally every year our people are very sensitize, always in preparation especially during the month of, during the month of the hurricane season.

So we, I think, felt that we did all that we could do. I don't think there's any household in Anguilla that did not take this storm seriously.

But at the end of the day, the national Hurricane Center did indicate that we were looking at 185 miles per hour wind sustained with gusting over to 225 miles and I can tell you, the next morning when we got up, it really reflected exactly that.

It was just simply a very harrowing experience on this, on this occasion. And Anguillans have been tested. We had hurricane Luis back in 1995 and it really caused some devastation in Anguilla.

But this was the first occasion, I think, when that intensity of the storm, it was the first time that in, you know, our family in particular really moved to a bathroom. And, you know, helped the need to stay there.

You -- we're in a fully concrete home including the roof and I can tell you, you could feel the shaking, you could hear the noises outside of the window. Particularly when it got up to the gusting aspect.

You'll literally wondered whether you would come out on the other side and come out alive. It was that kind of terrifying experience. And that -- and that's coming from people who are seasoned, who experienced hurricane as so many of the Caribbean Island people have experienced.

LEMON: Yes. Can you believe, Josephine, there are still people who are -- who -- the storm hasn't risen yet and they're saying they're going to ride this thing out?

GUMBS-CONNOR: You know, I -- because we're island people and we -- the concept of evacuating an island has not been born. I think that what -- one thing this hurricane Irma had taught us is that we have to do a serious reevaluation of how agencies are going to have to address the very serious storms in the future.

I have been critical and I think arguably so (00:05:00) because in Anguilla in particular we are an overseas territory. The British Government is responsible and they're agencies of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the agency for the Developmental Aid, they are responsible for management, disaster management.

And I think that they have to be serious attention to how they are going to evaluate their processes in the future. I think they need to take a page out of the book of a friendly neighbor Saint Martin, where President Macron ensured that in advance of the storm he had positioned military personnel so that as soon as a storm has start you are able to respond respectively to the needs of the people.

Unfortunately, that has not happened in Anguilla. And so it -- the agencies are playing catch up to a very catastrophic situation and I, and I hope that this really now is the testing period for what happens in the future.

But there is an uneasiness done because as you know, we are bracing ourselves for what might be a category three hurricane in the form of hurricane Jose.

LEMON: It's coming right behind.

GUMBS-CONNOR: When you look at Anguilla and you see the vast amount of debris, we are looking at very troubled projectile in what will be the next storm.

LEMON: Goodness.

GUMBS-CONNOR: And that is sad aspect because even if you have prepared yourself, what do you -- how does your property respond to, you know, flying galvanize, flying -- and everything is blown, everything is blown.

LEMON: Yes. And everything is a weapon and it can be dangerous especially with those winds. Josephine, we hope that they hear you and we hope that you get some help as well. And we appreciate you joining us. Please stay safe. Thank you so much.

GUMBS-CONNOR: Thank you for raising the profile on it. Thank you so much.


LEMON: Absolutely. For ways that you can help those affected by hurricane Irma go to And when we come back, more on our breaking news. New hurricane warnings issued for South Florida. Miami bracing for a direct hit of this monster hurricane Irma.



LEMON: Our breaking news, new hurricane warnings for South Florida tonight as Miami braces for a direct hit from monster hurricane Irma. Joining me now by phone is Miguel Ascarrunz, he's the director of emergency management for Broward County.


LEMON: Mr. Ascarrunz, thank you so much for joining us. According to hurricane Irma's latest path, the center of the storm could go right over your county, are you ready?

ASCARRUNZ: Yes, we're taking as many measures that we can to ensure the public is safe. As you heard as of 11:00 PM this evening, Broward County and all South Florida, for that matter, is on a hurricane warning which is 36 hours out of the arrival possible strong force of wind.

So right now, our emergency operation center is fully activated with over 300 personnel from government to external agencies such as the American Red Cross or department of health, our power -- Florida Power and Light to deal with power outages.

And we even have a FEMA representative who is now on site in the event we need to reach out for the federal government for federal resources. But we are still under a mandatory evacuation order for all bar -- low line areas basically from US 1 east in Broward County.

And so we people to complete their operation no later than Friday evening. So right now we've opened up 14 shelters for them to come to. And also one (INAUDIBLE) family shelter.

Although I just -- it was just reported that our (INAUDIBLE) shelter is now, is now full. So we may need to come up with some additional innovated measures to deal with that issue.

Our homeless population or any people who have experienced homelessness, we're directing them to seek shelter or to call our homeless help line.

As far as our airport, Broward Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is expected to -- the last flight is expected to be at 7:45 this evening, Friday. Our --

LEMON: So you've already said it, because some of the main airport in Miami is saying they're not giving a hard timeline but you're saying 7:00 PM tomorrow?

ASCARRUNZ: That's our estimate, yes.


ASCARRUNZ: Time for flight --

LEMON: How are you on gas down there because we -- the long lines and some people are running out, are you doing OK?

ASCARRUNZ: It's been hit-and-missed. From what I understand the demand isn't keeping up with the supply because the tanker trucks just are getting for the gas stations to refill them up.

And Broward County at Port Everglades, we do store a lot of our fuel for the South Florida and the north of Florida. So the fuel is there.

The governor has also insisted, Governor Scott, we now have escorts provided by state law enforcement and local law enforcement that are providing escort to those tanker trucks.

LEMON: But at some point those tanker trucks have to get off the road and so you're going to have to shut those down as well.


LEMON: Miguel Ascarrunz, Broward County Emergency Management Director, thank you, sir, appreciate it.

ASCARRUNZ: Thank you, Don.



LEMON: When we come back, much more on our breaking news. New hurricane warnings for South Florida, tonight Miami bracing for that direct hit from this big hurricane.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: Miami bracing tonight for direct hit. I want to bring in now Maurice Pons, deputy director of the City of Miami Building Department.


LEMON: And he joins us on the phone. Maurice, I'm so glad that you could join us this evening as hurricane Irma threatens to slam Miami there's a major hazard over the city skyline.

And I spoke to my reporter about this. You have at least two dozen enormous construction cranes, how dangerous could this be? What are you doing?

MAURICE PONS DEPUTY DIRECTOR, CITY OF MIAMI BUILDING DEPARTMENT: Good evening, Don, how are you doing? Maurice Pons. Our concern is being the dice of the strength of the storm.

Tower cranes are on a -- on an average designed for 145-mile an hour wind but the hurricane is -- has winds an excessive 175 and gust to over 200 that the -- these tower cranes have never been in this type of hurricane or scenario before.

(00:50:00) So our concern is that the tower cranes adjacent to other high rise towers that the residents -- one, most of the high rise towers being built right now are in evacuation zones.

But for those residents who would want to stay in those buildings they should seek shelter in lower parts of the building.

LEMON: So many people say that to move the cranes. Why is that not an option?

PONS: The -- it's not an -- the option is the -- and the problem is when you have a building that are 400 or 600 feet high in the, in the air, it takes about 7 to 9 days to bring down one of these tower cranes if a crew that specializes in setting up and lowering these tower cranes is available. There's no time to be able to bring down one of these tower cranes.

LEMON: So, what do they do? Just spin around in the wind?

PONS: They spin, they spin around like a wind bine and they're basically unpowered and they go in circles just like a wind bine.


PONS: But during hurricane Wilma and Katrina that we had here in South Florida they did very well. There was no tower crane that collapse. But the issue we made a statement about this because of the strength of hurricane Irma.

LEMON: Yes. Well, Maurice Pons, thank you very much. And the deputy director of the City of Miami Building Department, we appreciate your time. Good luck to you down there.


LEMON: When we come back --

PONS: Thank you very much.

LEMON: -- the latest on our breaking news, Miami bracing for a direct hit from this hurricane. We're going to have the latest from the weather center.



LEMON: Here's our breaking news tonight. New hurricane warnings issued for South Florida. Millions flee and Miami braces for a direct hit.

Karen Maginis is in the CNN Weather Center. She's got the very latest updated path. And it shows us Irma expected directly to hit Miami. Break this down for us.

KAREN MAGINIS: Yes, Don. Lot of new information coming in. We will receive another update. We have received it regarding the European model, we need to adjust it, we need to add it to our graphic system, but the information is in there.

So we'll have a clearer, clear-er idea as to what happens because we consider the European model kind of the gold standard but we do compare it with the North American model.

Right now, still a category five, still kind of splitting the difference between the Turks and Caicos and Cuba. It is expected to -- that upper right quadrant is expected to affect the Bahamas, Crooked Island, Cat Island, Eleuthera, Great Abaco.

We're looking at those areas that could see devastating wind, devastating storm surge. Some (INAUDIBLE) models are saying maybe 50 feet or more.

But at these coastal areas, Don, we're looking at five to ten feet, but we'll have another update from Hurricane Center coming up at 2:00 Eastern.

LEMON: 2:00 Easter. OK. So -- but do we know if -- you say around Saturday or so it's going to be, it's going to be -- I know we got to go, Karen, but around Saturday, so we can expect it to start to get to -- closer to the shore and make sudden impact possibly?

MAGINIS: Yes, Don. And I know that we're under time (INAUDIBLE) but Saturday night, Sunday morning is a critical time for landfall. People need to get out now, don't wait.

LEMON: Karen Maginis, thank you very much. That's it for us tonight. Thanks for watching us. See you right back here. Tomorrow, our live coverage continuous next with Isa Soares and she's in Miami, and Isha Sesay in Los Angeles. Goodnight. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. I'm Isha Sesay in Los Angeles.