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Hurricane Irma Moves Towards Florida; Mandatory Evacuations Issued for Parts of Florida; Coast Guard Prepares for Rescue Operations in Florida after Hurricane Irma Passes.; Interviews with Mayor Philip Levine of Miami Beach, and Former Florida Governor and Senator Bob Graham Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired September 8, 2017 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Friday, September 8th. It's 8:00 here in Miami. CNN is on scene bracing for hurricane Irma. Just a few minutes ago hearing the FEMA administrator saying the question isn't if Florida's going to be hit anymore, but how badly. That's the reality. What are they thinking right now? A category four storm. And this storm is a monster. It's the size of Texas. It's hurt and scarred every place it's hit in the Caribbean. It is a deadly storm. The central Bahamas, the north coast of Cuba, they're next. And then comes where we are, the sunshine state.

South Florida is under a hurricane warning. Irma closes in, expectations, winds of 150 miles an hour, gusts even stronger, OK. Storm surge, 10, 20 feet in places. All of those components can have devastating effects. Everybody knows that. So what you're looking at now where we are, this may be one of the last tranquil mornings in south Florida for some time to come.

We have a former emergency official who is telling us that people in south Florida have about a 24-hour window now. OK, so from right now you're got a day, either get out, get somewhere safe, deal with the traffic and madness. It's better than the alternative. And if you have to shelter in place, please have a plan and have supplies that can get you through 72 hours.

Where are you? What does it mean? Take a look at the map. Mandatory and voluntary evacuation orders are in effect in Florida. And here's a caveat. Maybe where you are right now doesn't have an evacuation order but that could change. You've got go to check the sites. Stay aware. Keep watching the news. Lots of people are trying to get out. Look, it's going to be hard to get out. That's the reality. Look at the roadways, and they are jam-packed with people heading north. The airport is jam-packed with people trying to get out.

But here's the reality. The governor is shutting down for the storm, at least in terms of offices. Awareness will be there. They are as prepared as they can be. That's what they tell us. But schools, colleges, even some hospitals are going to be forced to close. The destructive capabilities of 100 miles an hour winds is no joke. And this is spongy territory with the Everglades. The ability to absorb water is also going to be limited, Alisyn. So no matter what it is, if the storm comes and hit, it's going to be bad.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: For sure, Chris. And obviously there is a human toll already. Ten people have been killed by hurricane Irma. That could rise as it hits more populated areas. So this monster storm has pummeled Turks and Caicos. You're looking at some video from what happened there overnight. You can see wind, torrential rain. It did cause widespread destruction. There are also some reports of looting in the hard-hit island of St. Martin.

Irma is about to hit the Bahamas and Cuba. The Red Cross says the storm has already battered 1.2 million and it has 26 million more people in its path. And as if this is not concerning enough, there's another storm that's picking up steam called hurricane Jose. We'll watch that. All of this is happening while Mexico was just hit by the worst earthquake in 100 years. It was an 8.1 magnitude tremor and at least 16 people are dead there.

So CNN is using all of our global resources to bring you up to the minute coverage of all of these stories starting with hurricane Irma. Let's bring in meteorologist Chad Myers. What are you seeing now, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I see the storm down to 150. Last hour it was 155. A category five starts above 157, so that's why there's a number four right there. It's a category four, but this is not a category one. This is still a major hurricane at 150.

Let's break this hurricane down, what's going on with Turks and Caicos. If you live to the north of the eye, you are in what's called the dirty side of the eye. If you live to the south of the eye, you are in a better spot. Why? Because this story is going 150. It's also moving forward at 16. You have to add those two numbers together if you're on the north or the east side of this eye. You subtract those two numbers if you're on the south side.

Now, guess where it's going? Right here. Who's on the dirty side of the eye? Miami. You absolutely are on the worst side as it moves over the Florida Keys.

Now let's break down where we go for the rest of the year. We're going to see hurricane warnings all the way up the coast, no question about that. We will see storm surges between I think 10 and 15 feet across the Keys, maybe even more in Key Biscayne. There goes the storm. We argued yesterday about how much the euro and GRS were apart. Today they are within 15 miles of each other. This is your final key. This is your final draft of what's going up here right through the center part of the screen. Does it go left or right? Sure, maybe a little bit, but not very much now because all of the models are agreeing.

[08:00:02] We move you ahead to Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon. We're finally seeing winds about 50 miles per hour in Miami, then 75. Coral Gables, same story. Cape Coral, same story. Fort Myers, you are now in the hurricane. The white part there, that is the center of the hurricane, just came across probably the island Murano. I'll get to that in a second. And then right through the center part of the state everywhere that you see white you're going to get wind gusts of 100 miles per hour. Orlando, the villages, Leesburg, all the way up even up toward Jacksonville, an onshore flow pushing water here, making flooding across the east coast in places that didn't even get an eye. They'll be flooding in Charleston, Savannah, Jacksonville, just like what happened in Matthew.

Let me break this down for you just a little bit better. Here's what's going on now with the two models being very close. I can use two fingers because they're so close. That's literally what is happening, what landfall is expected. But let me get you a little bit closer because I know this area so well. The European model right here taking somewhere, I would say right around Marathon airport, Key Colony beach, right through here with the GFS. That's Worldwide Sportsman. You're talking 20 miles distance from here.

And then into the Everglades. And don't think that's going to slow things down because the Everglades really don't have much land. It's all water anyway. We're going to fill up this bay. Cutler Ridge, Cutler Bay, we're going to see significant flooding there.

Then we get you to Miami. And I've drawn everything here in blue that's six feet above sea level or less. So we're going to see at least the surge. Look at downtown Miami, completely wet. Right where you are, Chris, is going to have storm surge six to 10 feet. And that will take out power. Even in the high ride buildings, you're going to be surrounded by water. Why would you want to be there? It's time to get out because they told you to get out.

CUOMO: All right, Chad, water can be weaponized. That's what you've been telling us. That's what we hear from the officials down here, standing water can be used to flood areas. It can knock out power. But let me get Chad back for a second, because this dirty side of the storm thing, I want to hear more about that, because that's one of the acute concerns here with Miami. What does that mean, dirty side? And why is it worse?

MYERS: It's worse because have you to add the forward speed of the storm with the wind speed around the eye. So everyone's going to see a dirty side from Macon, Gainesville, all the way down to Orlando. If you're on this side of the eye, you add that 16 miles per hour moving forward with the 70 miles per hour that's already going here, so right here, your wind speed would be 86. Back here it your wind speed would be 64, big difference.

CUOMO: All right, I get it. So you got that centripetal force, that counterclockwise movement of the wind is also working for a combination effect. Easy to understand but that's going to be tough to deal with. Chad, thank you very much, appreciate it.

So what do we know right now? Rain is already being felt in parts of Florida, but that's nothing. And people are trying to get out. We got CNN's Brynn Gingras live in Merit Long Island along Florida's -- Merit Island. Merit Long Island, she wishes. Merit Island along Florida's east coast. The rain is coming down there. What is the situation like on the ground there Brynn? BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're right, I do wish, Chris. We

are in the middle of a downpour right now on this island, and it's no doubt slowing down efforts for people to evacuate, mandatory evacuations at 3:00 today. It's also slowing down efforts here. You can see all of these inmates who are usually sandbagging and loading cars, they're just hiding under a tent at this point because it is raining so hard.

But if we pan over, you can see this long line of cars waiting to get 10 sand bags each in one of their cars. We had people lining up at 5:00 this morning. Yesterday, there were people who waited five hours-plus just to get those sandbags, so certainly preparations are under way for Irma. People are protecting their homes, but I've got to tell you, Chris. I've asked a lot of people who live on these island, who live on the barrier islands. Many of them like we've heard throughout this show today, they're going to stay. They're going to wait it out because they're using history as their barometer basically saying that I haven't been affected before and I don't think it's going to happen again. Bad news there. Chris?

CUOMO: Well, Brynn, you have to be there. Those who do not should leave. Thanks for the update. We'll check back with you. Let us know what we need to know.

We are live in Miami. It is gorgeous here. But the beauty literally belies the beast that is on its way. Hurricane Irma is going to hit us right in the face where we are. This weekend, getting out, you only got about 24 hour window from right now because places are shutting down in advance of this monster storm. We have CNN's Rosa Flores live at the Miami international airport right now. What is it like there now?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The way to describe this is stressful and frustrating. A lot of people here have canceled flights. Look at this board. There are 31 canceled flight, 24 of them are from American.

[08:10:06] When you think about 24 canceled flights you're thinking tons of people at the airport right now. Why do you not see them? American tells us a lot of these have been canceled since Wednesday, and so that's why what you're seeing here some of the folks waking up this morning, figuring out that their flight has been canceled, and coming back trying to get some customer service, trying to get on another flight. I've talked to some of these folks. Some say that they're going to end up going home, some of them, because the flights have been canceled.

Now, American telling us they added 16 flights, Delta added 15 flights to try to accommodate people leaving. Operations shut down tomorrow. There are no flights Saturday and Sunday as people try to evacuate. Now, Chris, the big question for the people that can't get on these flight is they have to go home now and then figure out, OK, do I drive? What do I do? How do I get out of the eye of this storm? Chris?

CAMEROTA: I'm sorry. I will take it here. But it makes perfect sense because Irma is expected to hit Florida in less than 48 hours. So joining us now by phone is Read Admiral Peter Brown. He's commander the Seventh Coast Guard district. Admiral Brown, tell where we find you at this hour and how you're preparing.

REAR ADMIRAL PETER BROWN, U.S. COAST GUARD: Good morning, Alisyn. Thanks for the opportunity to explain what the Coast Guard is doing to prepare for the storm in Florida, South Carolina, and Georgia, and also how we're responding to the storm in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This is all part of the Seventh Coast Guard district's area of responsibility.

With regard to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, the storm passed to their north on Wednesday doing significant damage in St. Thomas and St. John and the Virgin Islands and affecting Puerto Rico primarily with wind and rain. And we've been very fortunate there that we've been able to reopen the ports of San Juan and several other significant ports in Puerto Rico and reestablish ferry service within Puerto Rico and its neighboring islands which will allow first responders and critical commodities to get to where they're needed most, which will be the islands of St. Thomas, St. John and part of Puerto Rico.

So yesterday we had Coast Guard helicopters in the air, boats in the water working with the Army Corps of Engineers and others to restore what we call the maritime transportation system, the kind of economic life blood of those islands. And so they're coming back up very quickly and we're very fortunate there.

In Florida specifically, all of our captains of the port have worked closely with maritime industry to allow the ports to remain open as long as possible to get critical fuel supplies and other commodities in. And then we're going to be securing and closing those ports so we don't have damage to our ships shipping in port facilities in Key West, in Miami, and Fort Lauderdale, and also on the west coast of Florida in Tampa. And everywhere we are moving Coast Guard assets to operate as long as we can and then to safely shelter those assets and Coast Guard people from the devastating effects of storm surge and then position to respond as quickly as we can afterwards.

CAMEROTA: Right, because obviously you have to keep your people safe. They're the first responders, so they have to be safe in order to go out and rescue people if needed.

And I want to ask you about those chopper rescues because we see them. They're so breathtaking, frankly, when we watch them. You all execute those with real Herculean heroism. So what are you expecting in Miami? Do you expect to have to go out and do some of these chopper rescues even though there are all sorts of mandatory evacuations there right now?

BROWN: Our sincere hope is that people do pay close attention to the evacuation guidance given by the governors, the local mayors and other officials, and get out of the way, basically to run from the water, the storm surge. And then we recognize that we are going to need to perform lifesaving search and rescue in the hours and days immediately after the storm passage, and so we're moving our aircraft out of harm's way for the moment.

But all around the Coast Guard, resources are being martialed to be able to respond quickly just as soon as the storm passes and as soon as those search and rescue needs become apparent. You think back to Harvey, Coast Guard helicopter crews, other aviators, boat crews saved or assisted over 11,000 people. I don't know what the numerical demand for the rescues will be after this storm, but we know it will exist, and we'll be ready.

CAMEROTA: You all are doing God's work. We thank you for your service on this and for taking the time to talk to us. Rear Admiral Peter Brown, thank you very much. Best of luck in the hours ahead.

BROWN: Thank you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Chris, they're just getting ready. You heard them, they have to protect the equipment first for the storm to pass, and then they have to be ready to get up and get out there and rescue people.

CUOMO: All right, so you have the preparation, right? And then you have the storm itself. And during that, it's a dead space.

[08:15:02] You just can't get out. You can't fulfill any needs. Everybody's just got to take cover. And then you have the main battle, which is immediately after the storm, and search and rescue is the rule of the game there.

And here's the good news. They have an amazing team down here of first responders. They go all over the country during catastrophes. The bad news is they are preparing for something the likes of which they may have never seen.

So, we were very fortunate and got you an inside look at these elite first responders. Here's how they are getting ready to save the rest of us.


CUOMO (voice-over): Hurricane Irma may make history in all the worst ways.

(on camera): If you said you have to see a storm of that size like a bowling ball. And to finish the metaphor, what does that make Florida?

JOSEPH ZAHRALBAN, FIRE CHIEF: That makes us the bowling alley.

CUOMO: So, it's all about the pins are going to get knocked down?


CUOMO (voice-over): Only three category five hurricanes have hit the United States since the 1800s, the most recent one a painful memory to generations of Floridians, Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

ZAHRALBAN: I was completely in awe of the devastation that occurred and what a hurricane is truly capable of doing.

CUOMO: And now, history is feared to repeat itself, with a storm that may not be as strong, but almost twice the size, Hurricane Irma.

ZAHRALBAN: The challenge that's headed our way quite honestly is unprecedented.

CUOMO: The first responders here, more than 500 strong, highly trained men and women are prepared for whatever Irma brings.

ZAHRALBAN: We are designed to be a self-sufficient team, meaning we can be deposited into an area whose infrastructure has been completely disseminated and being able to function and perform those search-and- rescue activities.

CUOMO: But the reality is for all their tools and skill, once the storm hits, you'll have to ride it out alone.

ZAHRALBAN: We are completely committed to laying it all on the line to go out there and rescue anybody who needs to be rescued. However, during a storm, there's nothing we can do for you. You're going to have to wait until afterwards to get rescued.

CUOMO: Some of the teams just came back from Texas, working 20-hour days doing search and rescue in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Despite going from one disaster to another, they say they are motivated to protect their home front.

SCOTT DEAN, ASSISTANT FIRE CHIEF: Harvey obviously took a lot out of us. But now you're talking about home front. So, we have that second wind and we're going to keep going until we get through this storm and this devastation.

CUOMO (on camera): How do you balance duty to the citizens with where your heart is which has to be home and what's going on with my kids, what's going on with my family? When you have to leave them, what do you say to them?

DEAN: It's obviously the most difficult part. Give me a minute. You tell them you love them and hope you make it back.

CUOMO: You're going to be there, and we'll be here to help any way we can.

DEAN: Thank you.

CUOMO: Thank you for what you do. Without you, we got nobody.


CUOMO: Angels on earth. I mean, that's what we call them because it's just true. Scotty Dean, we thought about whether or not we wanted to put that in the piece and I get why these tough men and women don't want to be seen as vulnerable but it's a really part of the truth. You know, Scott Dean and the men and women like him, they are all about everyone else. And for us, Alisyn, when we're in h harm's way, that's what we signed

up for but we know our families are OK. My wife, my kids, they're home and all right. They don't get those guarantees, these first responders when they're protecting their home turf in Florida. But they do it anyway.


CUOMO: And our hearts go out to them. They are the best among us.

CAMEROTA: Chris, I'm so glad you highlighted folks like that, because we don't always think about the emotional toll it takes on the responders. But it does, obviously they've been from back-to-back storms and exhausted and left behind a situation that is dangerous. And so, I think it's really important to show what they are doing and the sacrifice that they're making. So, God bless him for the work he's doing for all of us.

CUOMO: No, no question about it.

All right, Alisyn, so, look, his is the last window of opportunity here. It's not hype. It's just the realty. Thousands are heeding evacuation orders. They say it's better than in the past. The people are listening. They're getting out. Others are headed to shelters.

We're going to get the latest from the mayor of Miami Beach. That is a particular vulnerable area. What does he say the state of preparedness is, next.


[08:23:42] CUOMO: Look, we wish it weren't the case but you're not going to hear an if anymore when it comes to the reality of Hurricane Irma and Florida. It is headed literally right where we're standing right now, the southern part of the state is under a hurricane warning. They believe it's going to be a category 4 storm.

What does that mean? You're going to see winds 150 miles an hour, maybe gusts of more, significant storm surge. You're going to see power outages. It's going to be bad.

So, what the state of readiness? What do you need to know? What do they have to ready for?

We've got the mayor of Miami Beach, Philip Levine. And we have former Florida governor and U.S. senator, Bob Graham.

Gentlemen, thank you for being with us. Both of you be safe. God bless.

So, let's start with a little perspective. You remember Andrew, '92. That was the last category 5 to hit the country, one of three I think since the 1800s. What was the lesson of Andrew?

MAYOR PHILIP LEVINE (D), MIAMI BEACH: Well, Chris, what it comes down to is evacuation, making people understand that this is a very serious storm. You know, I called a nuclear storm for a reason because the devastation we've already seen in the Caribbean. So, the biggest challenge, they had it with Andrew is convincing people to leave the evacuation areas. That's what we've been working on very aggressively.

CUOMO: Better this time?

LEVINE: Absolutely, no question. We have better communication this time.

[08:25:00] We have social media, email, and, of course, all types of media coverage.

CUOMO: But people are still staying in the keys. You still have people here who say they're storm savvy. What about them?

LEVINE: Well, we are trying to convince them. We're telling them, this is not a joke. We don't want heroes. This is about safety.

There's many shelters available. We have buses now, trolleys, working with our homeless people, our seniors, as well as folks in special needs. We're covering every base as much as we can.

CUOMO: Senator, Governor, you know leadership in situations like this. People will say Andrew was a four. This is a four. We'll be OK. What do you say?

BOB GRAHAM, FORMER FLORIDA SENATOR: The difference between four and five is not that great. They're both going to be devastating.

In answer to your previous yes question, we need stronger building codes. We had strong building codes in south Florida in '92. They're much stronger today.

Second is that this requires people who really are professionals. Unfortunately, FEMA had been a political dumping ground before 1992. The man who was the head of FEMA wanted to be the ambassador to Belgium. He didn't get that job so they gave him FEMA and he acted like he wanted to be in Brussels.

CUOMO: And now?

GRAHAM: Now, it's made up of people whose career is in dealing with emergencies.

CUOMO: So, you feel that in terms of readiness, you're hearing what you need to hear from the federal government, you're getting what you need on the state level, and, of course, this is all about the local at the end of the day because they know best. You feel we're in the right place?

GRAHAM: I think we're in the right place and I think Mayor Levine and all the people and state and specially here in the place of first impact in South Florida have done a fabulous job of getting us aware of the severity and encouraging people to do the right things to prepare. CUOMO: Right. Now, Mayor, we know each other and, you know, I'm not

in the hype business, neither are you. This does not feel good. What we're seeing here in terms of the path. We were both praying that it was going to shift.

It was certainly going to be somebody's problem. But it looks like it's going to be yours.

Where is your level of concern?

LEVINE: Highly, highly concerned, Chris. About five or six days ago, before the mandatory evacuation came out, I was already urging aggressively our residents and visitors to leave. We put out a letter to everyone single hotel guest, saying, please leave Miami Beach.

Never thought I would say those words, Chris, but we're saying them five days ago. Now, we're aggressively stressing them as much as possible.

Hey, the bottom line is that, you know, we're hoping for the best. We're expecting the worst and we've done all the preplanning and preparation possible. We've got a great city team here. They're all in place. They're working today. They've been working not stop, but eventually, as you know, as the storm approaches, our first responders, they're all going to go and get ready to be bunkered down.

CUOMO: The emergency is actually after, right? I mean, we're all talking about what's going to happen and when it's going to happen, but you don't reveal the challenge until after the storm.


GRAHAM: And that's when the real professionalism kicks in, of how effectively you can handle the immediate issues of safety and then the longer term issues of rehabilitation.

CUOMO: Well, one thing that we know right now is you've got a held of a team of first responders down here. You send them all over the country to help with other catastrophes. A big group of them were just at Harvey. Now, they're here. We're going to volunteer to be with them after the storm. At least you have that going for you.

But, you know, you're going to need everything you got and then some.

So, Senator, Governor, I never know which title is more deferential, but it's good to have your perspective.

And, Mayor, I wish you the best.

LEVINE: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: We're here to get out any information you need.

LEVINE: Thank you.

CUOMO: Alisyn, look, it's just the reality. We have seen objectively, fairly, unique preparation here. There is unique coordination. I've seen it go right. I've seen it go wrong. But it's never enough. They're going to be behind the curve once this thing hits, if it's anything like what they expect.

CAMEROTA: But I mean, it is good they have gotten such a jump on it so many days in advance all week because we are now seeing that it's going to be that 48 hours away. So, we're keeping an eye on Hurricane Irma, but we're keeping an eye on some other stories, too.

And Democrats have new questions today after Don Trump Jr. testified about that infamous meeting with a Russian lawyer. One of the members of an Intel Committee joins us with what she wants to know, next.