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Hurricane Expected to Hit Florida Saturday; Cuba Bracing for Hurricane; Interview with Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired September 8, 2017 - 07:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[07:00:58] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. We are following breaking news here in Miami. Unfortunately, Hurricane Irma is heading right for us at this hour.

The storm is scarring every place she touches in the Caribbean. So far, we've seen each chain of islands get hurt. Cuba is next in the storm's path.

We have the best proof and predictions for you this morning about what is most likely. South Florida right now is under a hurricane warning. It looks like it's going to be a Category 4. That's 155 miles an hour of winds that you can get. They can be sustained. You can get gusts that are even greater.

The models are calling for a hit somewhere in South Florida sometime Sunday. You've got to be vague, because things change. As it gets closer, changes less. So this could be the last beautiful and tranquil morning that you see from South Florida.

Now to every man and woman, every official and first responder all have the same message. If you have been told to evacuate, do it now. And those who aren't going to evacuate, those who must shelter in place, have a plan.

What does that a mean? Supplies for 72 hours. Anticipate that you could have no power for three days. That's how long it may take to get it restored, to get help to you.

Take a look at the map. You can see where evacuations are under way in Florida. And just because your county may not have an evacuation order in place right now, that doesn't mean it's going to stay that way. So please check, keep watching CNN, keep going to the site, go to your local news sites and take a look at the maps and do what you need to do.

Lots of people are already getting out of Dodge. We'll show you pictures of the roadways. It's chaotic. It's difficult, but it may be the difference in being safe and not being safe. Obviously, they're all heading north. Florida's governor shutting down offices. Schools are shut down, colleges. Even some hospitals have been closed. Miami is a storm-savvy place. There's no question about that. Much

of the construction is newer and built to storm specs, but 150-mile- an-hour winds are no joke. Twenty feet or more of storm surge is no joke. It can easily overwhelm the best defenses, Alisyn. And that is the message. If you can get out, do it.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, so Chris, ten people have already been killed by Hurricane Irma. And that number is expected to rise as it hits more populated areas.

The storm is hammering Turks and Caicos. Here are some video taken overnight. The wind, as you can see, the torrential rain, has caused widespread destruction. Now the Bahamas and Cuba are bracing for the worst. They are next in line to be hit by Irma.

The Red Cross says the storm has already battered 1.2 million people, but 26 million more are in its path.

And as if that is not bad enough, there's another hurricane on Irma's heels. So we are now keeping a close watch on Hurricane Jose.

CNN is using all of our global resources. We begin with CNN meteorologist Chad Myers. Give us the latest projections at this hour, Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It's going to hit the Florida Keys first, and then it goes up into the Everglades. That's where it hits the United States. Right now it's still in very warm water, 155 miles per hour, I know it says Cat 4 behind me here. Cat 5 is 157. OK, split hairs there for me. This is still a very dangerous storm. Can't take your eyes off it. This is not a Cat 1. This is Cat 4. This serious.

This is a 20-foot storm surge and wind gusts along the Keys still at about 145 miles per hour as it makes landfall and then moves up into the Everglades and right through the spine of Florida. Right through central Florida, and even by the time it gets to Orlando, it may still have winds of around 105.

There's your landfall through the Keys. Miami going to get an onshore flow, going to fill up Biscayne Bay with a storm surge, a big storm surge.

Let me go to the European model, because we talked about European and American all day yesterday. The European has been outperforming on this particular storm. Now the American did great on the 2015 snowstorm. So you still have to give it some props. But here is the European model, Saturday at 6 a.m., wind gusts and Miami -- we'll focus on Miami now, and then I will look at the rest of the state in a little bit.

[07:05:07] Miami by Saturday 3 p.m., you're going to see wind gusts of 50. By 8 p.m., you're already to the hurricane. And here comes the eye of the hurricane down there through the Keys.

Hurricane gusts in Miami, 75 miles per hour or more. Some story for Naples and Ft. Myers.

Now we run the storm to 2 p.m. Miami, you're absolutely at 100 miles per hour or more. So are the Everglades, but no one really lives there. You know, Everglade City, but still, the Keys getting out of it. But you saw a wind gust to 145 somewhere around Key Colony Beach, maybe Robby's Marina, Worldwide Sportsman. If you live there, you know exactly what I'm talking about. I go there every single year.

There's the wind through the central part of Lake Okeechobee. Watch the flooding possible here. We talked about the governor yesterday lowering the level of that lake. But with the wind gusts over 100, who knows what's going to go on there?

And then finally, here we are Monday, 2 a.m. in the morning, a little after midnight. The entire state covered by hurricane-force gusts. Not one person will probably not see a hurricane-force gust across parts of Florida.

And then it gets into Georgia and South Carolina. There will be significant onshore flow. There will be flooding in Charleston. There will be flooding in Savannah. There will be flooding in Jacksonville, just like we saw with Matthew.

Guys, back to you.

CUOMO: Boy, Chad, I'll tell you, and I have so much respect for what you do. But I've never wanted you to be more wrong than I do right now. But I know the models are telling you what they're telling you.

And you make a good point that we heard from the first responders yesterday. There's so much water down here, and the water can get weaponized. So even if your lower the level of that lake, the winds can scoop it up and create surge in places that aren't even anywhere near the beach front.

So Hurricane Irma, as you saw, the path is coming. It's heading to Florida, and it's bearing down right now on Cuba. It's going right for that island.

CNN is there. Patrick Oppmann live in Cuba with the latest.

It is good to hear that your family will be safe, but there's so many there who are going to be exposed. And we know you're going to be out there to tell their stories. How is it right now, my friend?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Chris, as an avid fisherman, you will appreciate this. Look at all of these young, entrepreneurial young men. We saw them go out maybe about an hour ago. And I said isn't it too rough? It's picking up.

And they said, "That's what we're afraid of. We fish here. We live off of what we catch. And we know this morning it's going to be the last morning that we'll be -- in quite some time that we'll be able to catch some fish."

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) They've got some fish. They didn't do badly, Chris. They didn't do

badly. They've got a tub full of fish here. That's a lot of fish for only a little bit.

People here are very worried. They've evacuated all the tourists from this area. They've gone into the low-lying areas right where we are and told people, "You need to leave."

So people are preparing however they will, whether it's catching fish, going to shelters, getting their furniture off the ground, floors up into the top of their homes. They're getting ready here. Cubans know hurricanes so well; they know how to prepare. But this is a hurricane that few people have ever seen. It is so powerful. It is so big. It's going to have an impact here and in Florida.

CUOMO: Well, Patrick, you know, that's the difference between fishing for sport and fishing for survival. There is a theory that even when fish know when something is coming, and they eat more to prepare. So hopefully, they're getting some bounty that will hold them through the tough spell to come. Patrick, be safe, my brother.

All right. All of South Florida and the Florida Keys have to be ready. They're under a hurricane warning; there are mandatory evacuations issued. There was a mass exodus. It's still going on. And it's creating a nightmare. You know, major roadways, gridlock. But that's what it takes to get out.

CNN is there. Bill Weir live in Key Largo. The closest key to the mainland, and I know it's like a world away down there. They have their own mind and their own mind and their own feelings about how to deal with this. But this may be something the likes of which they've never seen.

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly, Chris. You know, if you live in L.A., you learn to deal with traffic. Or Arizona, it's the -- and if you live in the Keys, you know about water and sky and hurricanes, hits and misses.

We're hearing both sides of the extreme. An 84-year-old former assistant police chief from Key West, lived here his whole life. Hard conk, as they're called. Never evacuated. He says Irma is the one where he's leaving.

Meanwhile, I hung out last night with the boat captains here in Key Largo who not only are not going to leave, they're going to try to ride out this storm on their boats, which defies all logic. But that gets into the psychology of the people who sort of come down here for the rum punches and Jimmy Buffett songs and have a problem with authority here and there.

The last Greyhound bus leaves from Key West Airport headed north at 8:30 this morning. So if you're watching this down there and looking for a way to get out, they're going to run the municipal bus service, the 301 line that a lot of the service workers are used to taking to and from work from the Keys back up to Dade County. Those buses will be running as long as the roads are passable. But we'll be chasing these stories all day of "should I stay or should

I go" in one of the most vulnerable and interesting neighborhoods in America, Chris.

CUOMO: Well, look, you know, your job is to be there. Everybody else, their job is to get out if they can. Stay safe. We'll check back soon, my friend.

Joining us on the phone now is Jeb Bush. He was the governor of Florida from '99 to 2007. He had a tenure that was rife with disasters, and he had to handle them as the leader of the state.

Governor, thank you for joining us.

JEB BUSH (R), FORMER GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA (via phone): You bet, Chris.

CUOMO: What do you make? You're as storm savvy as any leader in the business. When you see what the predictions are for Irma, and you lived through the realities of Matthew or, obviously, 1992 with Andrew here, how does it size up to you?

BUSH: It's a devastating storm. I think a lot of people, while we're preparing, we focus on the line that you show, the track of the storm. I think that's really not relevant. The fact is we'll have hurricane- force winds all across the state.

I am proud of how the local and state officials have prepared for this. We've always learned from the lessons of the past, and we've had a lot of hurricanes. And I think Governor Scott, Mayor Gimenez, the local municipal mayors have done a really good job keeping people informed and are preparing for what is going to be a devastating storm.

CUOMO: The first responders we were with yesterday, they are an impressive bunch. They go all over the country to help with disasters. But even they were saying, the reality is once she comes, there's nothing that can be done for those who remain behind.

What are some of the realities that the leadership here is going to have to face on the ground?

BUSH: Well, there's a lot -- there will be the isolated examples of people trying to win the Darwin Award, you know, acting really stupid and making bad choices and decisions.

But I think the great majority of people know exactly what they need to do. After the storm passes, there's a tendency to want to get out and check and check to see your property and see what's going on. And most deaths occur, actually, after the storm rather than during the storm.

So again, people need to heed the advice of local officials, not go out before the waters have receded, and make sure today that they're fortifying their homes, and if they're not going to evacuate, that they shelter in place, in a place that's safe. CUOMO: Now, what have you seen as the challenges for leadership in

the aftermath of something like this? You know, you have the benefit of perspective, which is a blessing and a curse, because you had to live through horrible situations to get it. But what are those challenges?

BUSH: There are so many things that you don't think about. For example, are all the generators in place for maintaining the water systems of every municipality that's going to be hit by this? Can we get chlorine into -- to make sure the water supply is safe when there's no -- when there's no power?

How do you deal with all of these issues that -- how quickly can you get the ports open to get gasoline barged into the -- into the state, since we don't have any refining capacity? How do you make sure people don't hoard after the storm when there's going to be real shortages of lots of different things? All of these things we've learned through trial and error.

And I know that Governor Scott understands this. He's got a really good team around him. And the local folks are doing extraordinarily well, as well.

But it just -- there's just literally hundreds of things that have to be dealt with post-storm. And then you've got the long-term recovery issues, where we rely on Washington more. And President Trump has done a good job keeping -- showing his concern for -- for the victims of Harvey, and I'm sure he'll do the same.

The key, though, is to make sure Washington is here for the long haul, for the long-term recovery of our state.

CUOMO: Understood. And we'll stay on that, no question about it. I'm glad you brought up the national level of this.

What is your quick take on what seems like a shift in strategy from the White House, specifically the president himself, working with Democrats, trying to get things done. Do you think it's a good sign?

BUSH: You know, if it's based on -- it's based on trying to create a better bipartisan kind of culture in Washington, all power to him.

If it's -- if it's a short-term thing just to kind of, you know, have a win, I'm not sure that's going to be a long-term positive benefit.

The key right now is to make sure that the fiscal solvency of the country remains in place and that there's money available for these -- the recovery for these devastating storms that have hit Texas and Florida.

CUOMO: Look, I hear your suspicion. We'll take it for what it is right now, and we'll -- we'll test it as it goes forward.

Governor, thank you for being with us. God willing, you'll be safe, you'll make it through, and we'll rely on you on the other side to get some perspective on the recovery efforts, which hopefully, will be quick and effective. Be safe.

[07:15:16] BUSH: Stay safe, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. You, as well. Thank you, sir -- Alisyn.


Our next guest has seen Irma's power from inside the storm. Paul Flaherty is one of the hurricane hunters from NOAA. That's the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This is video of one of the flights earlier this week when Paul and his crew were near the eye. And Paul Flaherty joins us now.

Paul, man, I understand that we are catching you at 45,000 feet above Irma. What are the conditions?

PAUL FLAHERTY, HURRICANE HUNTER, NOAA (via phone): Good morning.

Yes, I'm up here about 45,000 feet just south of Cuba, right around Guantanamo Bay. We just finished going around the outside of the storm. I'm on the jet today, so I'm on the high-flying plane, collecting data for the steering currents to go into the model so we can really narrow down this forecast, the track forecast.

So we have a plane in the storm and one just outside. And what we're seeing is this is a very healthy, very strong storm. I think we all expected to see that today. We're always hoping that we'll see some weakening. It is, you know, slightly weaker. But we were hoping for a little more. But it looks like this is going to continue to be the monster that we've sort of been fearing for the last few days.

CAMEROTA: OK. That's really, really good information, I mean, directly from the source. Because you are up there looking at it. And you're on this Gulfstream jet that I understand you call the Gonzo because of what you have to do of flying into the storm. For those of us who are sometimes nervous flyers, it's unthinkable, frankly, what you do.

Can you just explain to us what the conditions are like inside the cockpit when you fly around or into the -- the hurricane?

FLAHERTY: It's -- yes, it would not be good for someone who's not a good flier. It's pretty choppy. We do take some big bumps, especially on the P-3, the G-4 especially, where we're, you know, here on Gonzo. We were flying right on the very edge of the storm, near 25,000 feet. We are in constant chop.

It is kind of like taking a beating a little bit. It wears you down. After you know -- I think anybody who flies knows an eight-hour flight will make you real tired on the other end. And if you're getting bounced around for that whole time, it -- it can wear you down quite a bit.

CAMEROTA: And so just to tell people what you're doing and the purpose of this, Paul, is that you get all the raw information, and then you feed that to NOAA. They help feed that, I guess, to the models. That's what goes in the models that we see tracking the direction of Irma. It's because of the information, the raw data that you've gotten that then our own Chad Myers and meteorologists and forecasters like that rely on to tell people where to go, how to evacuate, when to get out.

So I mean, in other words, millions of people are relying on the raw data that you're getting right now. So how do you, with any sort of accuracy, how are you able to predict what the storm is going to do?

FLAHERTY: Well, you know, and part of that is why we pick ourselves up every day and head on back out here. If you -- as you can imagine, everyone -- we should be, but almost everyone is preparing for the storm in all of Florida , the peninsula. We don't really get that opportunity. We're flying in -- sometimes from other places, St. Croix or Barbados. And when we go home, we need to sleep so we can get back up and fly again.

So it's knowing the good parts of the job. What we're able to do is what keeps us going. And the -- you know, hurricanes happen to form in an area where we don't have the ability to collect a lot of the data different models that run things differently, they -- if they ran the same way, they would all be the same. And they don't always agree with what is actually happening over the oceans.

And without us coming out here and flying and actually making all these different models agree with at least the initial data that we're collecting, once they can agree with it and we can do that over a couple of model runs, that's when we really see the model track start to come together, and then we see these small adjustments like we saw today where we had a little nudge to the west, and that was very likely due to our flight last night.

CAMEROTA: Wow. Well, Paul, God bless you for the work that you do that allow, again, millions of people to know what to do on the ground. So best of luck out there. Hang on and, obviously, we'll be watching all the data that you collect. Thanks so much for taking time to join us.

FLAHERTY: Thank you for having me on. Appreciate it.

CAMEROTA: Chris, what a job these guys have. I mean, bouncing around the sky so that the rest of us can know where this hurricane is headed.

[07:20:00] CUOMO: And so calm. They are a rare breed, Alisyn. No question about it.

In fact, this whole place down here in South Florida is a culture unto itself. They are storm savvy; they are tough. That can work two different ways. Right now you've got hundreds of thousands of people that are going to have to get out of Florida before Irma hits.

They basically have a 24-hour window now.

There are major challenges for those who are told to leave their home. FEMA is expected to tell us about the state of play and preparation for Irma in just minutes. We're going to bring you that news conference. The information they have is going to be very important.

Please stay with CNN.


CAMEROTA: You're about to look live at FEMA headquarters there. You can see they are getting ready. In just minutes, the agency's administrator Brock Long and the health secretary Tom Price will talk about how Florida should be preparing for Hurricane Irma. They'll give us updates on everything they're seeing in terms of the track of the storm, where it's headed, how strong it is and what they want Floridians and everyone in the surrounding area to be doing.

We'll bring you to that briefing, Chris, as soon as it happens.

[07:25:05] CUOMO: Information and action, information and action. You know, that's the coordinated spirit that we need down here right now. And we have someone who is in a position of leadership. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen joins me right now, Republican from Florida.

Obviously, first, as you taught me, brazo.

REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R), FLORIDA: And you're in my district.

CUOMO: I know.

ROS-LEHTINEN: It's evacuated but this is my area; and we're as ready as we can be, Chris.

CUOMO: Now, what is the message? People are storm savvy. They say, "I've been here before. I've heard the media, and they say it's going to be bad and then it misses us, and I can't get back into my home. I can't do what I need. I want to be near my home and my family."

What do you say?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, I say the time is now. I mean, this is no more, "Hey, it could miss us. Hey, it could turn east. It could turn west." Either way it is so huge, so enormous that the impact of this mother of a storm -- (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE), as we say in my district -- is going to impact everybody.

And that's why the roads are so clogged up. People are heading out. And I understand people don't want to leave their homes.

I had the opportunity to visit shelters yesterday. Miami-Dade is as ready as we can be.

CUOMO: So then you have confidence of that?

ROS-LEHTINEN: We've got everything working right.

CUOMO: So in what you've seen -- we'll wait on the FEMA presser, obviously, and see what they're saying about the state of preparedness. But from the state level, the municipalities, the shelter -- because you know, there's talk, "I can't get gas. The fares are too high. I can't get the flights." You know, so there have been criticisms and complaints, but how do you feel about the level of readiness?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Way more confident than I was in Hurricane Andrew 25 years ago. We went through that. I'm still living in the same house. And that was devastating, not only in the impact, but it was devastating in the slow response of our state and federal officials. They said, "Where's the cavalry? Bring them."

Well, now that's not happening anymore. It's a seamless process. So whether we're going to all be great after the storm of this magnitude, of course we can't predict that.

But how much can you plan? We have done it. We've got everything functioning, and people are talking to one another. The first responders are ready. It's a shame what's happening in the Keys, an area I used to represent. Chris, people just did not evacuate from the -- from the Keys. And the -- all the first responders have said, "We are not going to be there to save you if people did not leave."

CUOMO: Well, you know, they can't -- God love them. They have a willingness that is just almost unnatural or supernatural, their desire to go out and help. But they say they can't go during the storm. It's too dangerous. What do we know about how many didn't go?

ROS-LEHTINEN: A lot did not go. But here in Miami beach, it's also mandatory evacuation. And we see everything boarded up. That's very good. But there's a reluctance. People don't want to leave their homes, and I understand that.

But if you can, it is not too late. The shelters are open. Four more -- eight more are opening today. And I went to a pet friendly one yesterday. Even -- even if you have a dog or a cat, whatever you have, a parakeet, they'll take them. So Miami-Dade is as ready as you can be, but this is a monster of a hurricane.

CUOMO: All right. So "we will see," the most loaded words that we have in these kind of situations.

Let's go to what we already know, what we're seeing on the federal level. They're going to vote on the money for Harvey. Do you think that that's going to get done?

ROS-LEHTINEN: It is going to get done. There's bipartisan support. The Senate -- I was there for the first tranche of it. But then the Senate, of course, added debt limit hike and other measures. It's going to pass in the House. I wrote an e-mail to all of my colleagues in the Republican Caucus, because some of them are getting a little bit skittish.

CUOMO: Well, what about the fiscal hawks who say three months, there are not enough controls on the debt limits.

ROS-LEHTINEN: I understand that. CUOMO: You need more fiscal restraint, that you're tying it to things that they don't think should be tied to it. What do you make of those criticisms?

ROS-LEHTINEN: If you want to be a purist, then you have no place in Congress. You've got to be able to negotiate. You've got to be able to make compromises. It's not a perfect bill. But it's a great hurricane relief effort.

CUOMO: Why add anything to it? Why attach anything to it?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Because that's the way business -- because that's the way the business of government works. It's not -- it's not what...

CUOMO: Is that an excuse or an explanation?

ROS-LEHTINEN: No, it's both. It is the reason of how things get done. In order to get people on board, you start to do that. You start to negotiate. I don't think it's a pretty process, but it is what it is.

As long as hurricane funding for FEMA, for SBA, for HUD gets reinstated, that will be great. And I hope that our GOP comes through, and then we'll be begging -- and banging on their door, because Hurricane Irma is going to not just wallop Florida; it's going to follow up that Eastern Seaboard.

CUOMO: It's going to be...

ROS-LEHTINEN: We're going to need a lot of help.

CUOMO: It's going to be substantial, no matter where it comes ashore. The president has said he will be there, the federal government will be there. He seems to be reaching across the aisle.

We know that DACA and immigration matters to you. I will come back to you on those issues when they manifest themselves in actual policy.

ROS-LEHTINEN: I will be glad to do it.

CUOMO: I will test where you are on it.

Again, be safe. Thank you..

ROS-LEHTINEN: Let's see if you can test where the president is on any given day on DACA. Let me know.

CUOMO: That's what we do every day --