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Hurricane Irma Is About To Hit Florida. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired September 9, 2017 - 21:00   ET


[21:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: In Fort Myers, Florida. You're looking also at a scene on the right side of your screen there in Fort Lauderdale and, of course, the radar track of that storm expected to grow back into a category four storm. I think a little bit longer to do because it's taken slightly different track. Tom Sater in the Weather Center, we're going to explain that in a moment.

We have correspondents all across Florida, all across the region to cover every angle possible of what is going to be happening over the next 12 to 24 hours. And yes, this storm is going to be an intense storm for the next 24 hours probably hitting the Florida Keys early this morning and then all day into the night tomorrow. It's going to be long and difficult day for the people of Florida, Southern Florida and points beyond. We'll going to be following the storm not just tomorrow but also in the days ahead as it move into other states as well.

Let's check in with Tom right now just for the latest tracking of it. Tom?

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, not just be across the Florida peninsula, they're going to make their way toward Atlanta and the surrounding areas, Alabama you were just talking, Anderson, about what it's going to look like when it gets to other states. So I thought I go right in to show the 21 models that make up the U.S. model, the GFS.

Once it makes its way through Southern Georgia and moving into Northern Alabama, I want to let everybody make sure that they know this. That they don't know the country well enough, they're watching on the West Coast, it never been to the southeast.

This area is Pine Country, Hardy Pine, really tall massive trees that have extremely weak root systems, and it get heavy rain on those roots, and it get a stiff wind. We're going to have tens of thousands of trees down, so power outages will not just be across the Florida Peninsula, they're going to make their up toward Atlanta and the surrounding areas, Alabama, Birmingham as well, maybe in the South Central Tennessee with winds around 50 or even stronger gust.

But look what happens afterwards, what does this remind you off? Kind of like Harvey after it went into Texas, and that was a problem. We lost the steering currents. However, there's a big difference with this one. It's not going to flood out like Texas did and parts of Louisiana, because by the time it gets here, it's going to be pretty much dried out. It does not have the water source.

Now, what we're watching is still a drop low. Well, we were at 125, so now that we're getting up to 125, which means, this eye wall replacement cycle is taking place. We'll probably see the pressure drop a little bit more. It will become a category four when it's up just a little bit more.

But we're still looking at this westerly component which has as a little concern, I mean, there's no best scenario here. I mean, we're going to get smacked with this. But as long as it continues ahead west and not north, it's going to be harder and harder to pinpoint where landfall will be. So again, we lean on the models. We look at the differences of hurricanes.

Now, remember, you've all seen this picture, Hurricane Andrew, 25 years ago. Notice, she could fit two Andrews inside Irma. This is what we call an annular hurricane. They're smaller, compact, the highest titer of the wind radius, of damage that went across Homestead, Florida wasn't that kind of damage, 20-30 miles out.

When you look at the track, and take a look at this. This went down to a category five but it was a year later, when it first made landfall and devastated the southern portion of the Florida Peninsula. It went in the record books as a four. It took almost a year of research and looking at the wind damage to actually put it in the record books as a five.

My point is this, there's not a big difference. I mean a four is massive, a five as well, you're not going to be able to tell that much. I mean, there's going to get hit, we're going to hit, $26.5 billion were the damaged and 65 fatalities on that extreme southern portion, of course, to the Florida Peninsula.

Other category four and five hurricanes since 1970, all right, Hugo, 140 mile per hour winds in '89. Then, you have of course, Andrew, we just talked about, a 165 mile per hour winds. And we just had last month, few weeks ago, Harvey.

But take a look at Charlie. This moved into Punta Gorda. Everyone remembers that and they continue to talk about it. It came very close to Tampa throwing a storm surge we've never seen in the Tampa Bay and that still a concern with this westerly movement. But when Charlie moved into Punta Gorda, the winds out from the center will only went out 20 miles. Irma's maximum winds go out 70 and most likely will get back to 100 as it strengthens. So big, big difference there on the wins.

Here is the eye. Here is our secondary band. We're watching that secondary band start to close up so it will start to shrink and tighten, and that type spin, that tight spin we see with our top centrifugal force will create the strength. Bands continue to move in with a tropical storm force winds. We'd all see if we have any tornado warnings right now, we do not, but we are getting some dust out of the South Marathon 4340 course in Key West.

Forecast winds, now I know everybody is probably still making some plans, Orlando Northward. You have planned your work and you're working your plan. If there is anything maybe that you haven't thought of, for the thousands of you that own swimming pools, go outside and just take your swimming pool furniture, your lawn chairs or table and thrown them into the because that, it's going to smash any window or your neighbor's window.

If your kids have a trampoline unhook that trampoline from its cage in its frame, that thing can take off for some great distance.

[21:05:00] So just little things to think about, that's why in the Caribbean, they cut back the palm trees. They take down the coconuts because of her flying projectiles.

Her path remains the same but, Anderson, again as we have said, all week until the storm takes its northerly movement were pretty much with our hands tied relying on the models. At some point, it will. But again, it's just now getting off the coast of Cuba, and not just 90 miles of warm water. If it curves up toward Forth Myers, we're talking about 125-150 miles of warm water to work with. So there's more time and more space, Anderson?

COOPER: Yes. Tom State, again, we'll check in with you very frequently over the next several hours.

I want you to meet Bill South. He is with the National Weather Service. He is in their Key West Office. Bill, I appreciate you joining us. You probably could have evacuated. You have chosen to say there, to get the information as it's coming in to hunker down.

First of all, what kind of a structure are you in? What kind of winds can it withstand? And what is your greatest concern for the Keys right now?

BILL SOUTH, METEOROLOGIST, NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE: Well, our structure is located on 1315 White Street Key in West. It's elevated to a level of 15 feet above wing sea level. So with the current storm surge projections, it would be on high. It would be dry. It's rated to withstand maximum sustain winds of 165 mile an hour category five hurricane.

And we also have an internal storm bunker that rated to withstand 220 mile an hour winds with about 400 pounds steel door that we would lock ourselves into that bunker if the worst case scenario happens. So I feel very secure here.

COOPER: And just for the Keys itself, the worst case scenario, I mean, there's a lot of different best scenarios, that bridge is so vital connecting the Keys to the mainland one way in-one way out, there is but that bridge is so vital enacting the keys to the mainland. One way-one way out, is that bridge under threat from the storm?

SOUTH: I would say, yes, it is. Right now, we got hurricane force wind gusts occurring, over spreading the Florida Keys now. This storm kind of reminds me of Hurricane Donna in 1960, which made landfall in the upper keys. And it did take out the Tea Table relief bridge which pretty much separated most of the lower and middle Keys from the mainland.

Yes., that's a big concern taking out the bridges. The damaging wind gusts, we could see storm surge values of 5 to 10 feet above mean sea level which would put probably about 60, 70 percent of Key West underwater. The storm surge is a big concern, had seeing some isolated tornadoes and some outer rain bands.

The past through here, none were confirmed but we did issued three tornado warnings already for the lower keys. And conditions are really only going to get worse because it's such a large, large hurricane that even if it does move a little more west before it takes its northward turn, we're so close to it now. It's only 105 miles southeast of Key West.

That we're going to feel impacts from this hurricane all night tonight and most likely throughout the day Sunday. Maybe the hazards as weather starts to abate Sunday night.

COOPER: I know one of the things you are and your colleagues are able to do and one of the reasons you are sticking it out there is that, you're able to relay a data and information about the storm bands, about the storm, two first responders, two search and rescue teams in order to help them avoid certain areas at Key times as they are trying to respond to anybody.

And we appreciate what you're doing, we'll continue to check in with you, Bill. Stay safe there and keep collecting all of that information and getting to those who need it because a lot of people are relying on that.

Let's get it back to John Berman standing by in Miami. John, again, you know, it's been so deceptive throughout the day here in Fort Myers, I'm sure in Miami as well. At times for hours, there be sun shining often behind the clouds. There were times I have to put on, you know, sunscreen because it was so hot and there's so much sunshine.

There was no indication at least in Fort Myers really throughout the day to day, of this monster storm that is barreling this way.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And we're starting to get the indication of it right now here, Anderson. I think you can see I'm a bit of a soggy wet mess, where the sort of canary in the coal mine here in Miami with the rest of Florida will really start to feel as this night goes on. Let me tell you what's it's been like.

We've got band. The band is coming in for this hurricane, a torrential rain. Rain that lasted in some cases for 20, 30 minutes, then it goes away, it's a way right now. We have had wind gusts more than 40 miles an hour around the Miami area, some of the measure higher than 50 miles an hour. I think you can see that boat behind and starting to rock pretty good. The water here hasn't really started to rise too much.

[21:10:01] The concern about a storm surge somewhere around 3 and 6 feet. If it reaches that six-foot level, it would certainly be way past my knees where I'm standing right now and that would be a problem for parts of downtown Miami. I'm not even talking about Miami Beach, which is out there, which is even lower lying than the rest of downtown Miami that is a serious concern.

We are starting see lightning strikes fairly regularly. Just saw some North of here, where I am right now. That will be an even greater occurrence as the night goes on. I will tell you what we have not seen in sometime and that's people out here, which is actually a good side.

As we've been standing here for the last 78 hours or so, there been a lot of people. There were earlier a lot of people walking by, people checking on their boats here. That stop, that's a good sign. I don't know why anyone would want to be out on a night like tonight when it has been raining as hard as it is with the wind blowing.

Not a good night to be out. The authorities are here saying in Miami, if you have stayed here, stay in your homes tonight, out of Miami Beach. In fact, there's a curfew if you're out of the street right now and Miami Beach, you'll have to get arrested, Anderson.

COOPER: John Berman, appreciate, we're checking with you shortly.

Ed Lavandera, we talked to him in the last hours, the broadcast using a vehicle heading toward Marco Island. So I believe he's already gotten their Edward so personal. Where are you in and witnessing a conversation with the police chief here, on the island, who says that normally, about full time residents that live here on this island, about 16,000 people or so. He doesn't know exactly how many people have evacuated, but he does believe that there are a number of people despite all of the warnings that have gone out throughout the day.

In fact, police going door-to-door and with PA announcements from their vehicles, urging people to evacuate. He knows that there are still a number of people on the island here. He says are expecting perhaps as much as a 10-foot storm surge here on the island. They say they have about 81st responders in all who will be hunkering down here -- ready to respond.

And they have jet skis, inflatable boats, other water craft will be ready to be deployed if (inaudible) will be needed after the storm passes through. So they also -- he also did say that it is too late now to evacuate, that if you're still here -- Anderson?

COOPER: Ed Lavandera, thanks very much. Losing your shot there, understand what give them the circumstances. We're going to take a short break, our coverage continues from Florida and what is beyond.


[21:16:53] COOPER: Hey, welcome back. We're coming to you live from Fort Myers, a band has just past through, nothing really severe at all, just a little bit of rain, a little bit of rain continuing. I want you to meet Chief John Caufield with the Fort Myers. He is the chief of the Fire Department here.

We'd talk to you earlier. I'm just wondering that now, that the day is over, how do you assess what happened today and your biggest concerns in the morning?

JOHN CAUFIELD, CHIEF, FORT MYERS FIRE DEPARTMENT: Well, our biggest concern is, you know, when the weather's going to start. But, frankly, it's keep our firefighters and police officers and the public works officials safe, and then trying to figure out what we can do about the people that haven't chosen to evacuate.

COOPER: It really was today, I mean, you know, as we discussed earlier, a lot of people woke up, realize the storm is now come here, in a greater way than they had anticipated, and decided to try to seek shelter. But, you know, with buses ending at 3:00 o'clock, there's probably still a lot of people going to wake up from a morning, and want to try to get shelters.

CAUFIELD: Yes, that's true. And, you know, that the disappointing part is, we still got room at some of the shelters. I mean, they're pretty full but there still room and I really wish people heated the warning before the storm hits.

You know, probably at the point where it's almost, you know, it's really risky to try to go there now.

So we're advising people if they're going to stay in their homes, find a safe spot, get in the center of the house, of the structure. There's going to be some like last minute emergency shelters if we can kind of figure out where those populations. We'll open up just to be safe in a commercial building.

COOPER: Assuming, I mean, are you assuming that this going to lose power in this area? And if you are, how long was something like that likely to last?

CAUFIELD: Well, there really isn't but, you know, I'm figuring that the heavy storm surge, rain, winds and all of that, that they're going to prevent first responders from going out doing rescues or assessment, may last as much as much 24 hours. So, you know, people are going to be on their own and their time of emergency, you know, we can't put our responders in that situation.

So yes, power at some point willing to be cut or drop on it's own, which creates a whole other set of hazards so, you know.

COOPER: There's always a concern. Storms like this is -- and they face this in Harvey in Texas, do you keep the grid on? Do you keep the power on if there's a lot of water on the ground that obviously brings with concerns of electrocution and things like that? Or do you try to shut off the power?

CAUFIELD: Well, that's the million dollar question of course, but that's exactly why we emergency operation centers, so. We have a city one that I'm staffing as a commander. And then, we're interacting with our partners with the county and the state. So we put our heads together to figure out what's best for each situation, and I will do that here.

COOPER: If there is extensive flooding, obviously, this is an area where a lot of people have boats. I've talk to a number of people who are staying home, who have boats that they tied up to their properties in the event that there is flooding and they fell they need to try to get out.

CAUFIELD: Yes. And that's an issue certainly in a waterfront area, but there is folks that are choosing to ride the storm up on their boats. And I can't express strongly enough how bad of an idea that is. But, you know, I can't force people to do something they don't want to do, so we're giving our professional advice trying to nudge him to do the right thing. There still is time but that window is closing quickly.

COOPER: If we have opportunity, we'll talk to you again.

[21:20:00] CAUFIELD: Great to see you.

COOPER: Thank you very much.

CAUFIELD: Thank you very much.

COOPER: Yes. Randi Kaye has been following the situation of people trying to get to shelters and waiting to get into a shelter. There's a very big shelter that at as I was driving to Fort Myers this morning and I know as Randi was driving here as well from Miami.

Both of us saw all these shelter, it's actually a hockey arena, huge arena on the side of the highway. Randi was able to pull off and spent some time talking to people. There were thousands of people lined up for hours and hours to get to the shelter. Randi is standing by in Tampa.

I mean, the scene outside, can you just describe, I know we're going to go to your piece, but were you surprised to see so many people waiting to get into that shelter so early in the morning?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Anderson. I mean, you saw the same scene that we did as we're heading up 75 north. We had to pull over. We had to find out what was going on.

And when we got there, they were people wrapped around the parking lot. Thousands of people from families bringing their children, their infants, their dogs, their grandparents, you name it. They were all trying to get inside because they too notice that the track of the storm changes while we were on the road. It's why they decided that you know what, maybe they shouldn't ride out the storm at home so they decided to go to this Germain Arena, which is normally a hockey arena hoping that this massive place will protect them from Hurricane Irma.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KAYE (voice-over): Germain Arena, the last best hope for many seeking shelter from Irma. This massive arena , just outside Fort Myers, open Saturday morning. But getting inside hasn't been easy.

What's the challenge here in getting inside?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Waiting, waiting, you know, four, five, six hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About four hours, it's been a long wait.

KAYE: How do you feel about spending the night in here with a bunch of strangers?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it better than being at hope, getting flooded.

KAYE: Many here brought their dogs, and whatever belongings they could grab. They weren't sure what to expect once inside, but the general belief is, it's safer than their own home. There's air- conditioning, water and off. Also the National Guard and Florida Highway Patrol are here to keep it secure.

Are you worried at all about the conditions inside?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh no. I'm a camper from way back. I can do just fine.

KAYE: This couple just moved to Florida from Seattle two months ago.

Do you feel like you waited too long to decide?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, totally. I want to leave on Monday. It's like it's the biggest hurricane ever just leave and then, you're not stuck.

KAYE: The line goes on, and on, and on, really as far as the eye can see. Some of these people have been waiting in this line for four, five, six hours. It first opened at 10:00 a.m. this morning and many of them told me that the reason they came here was they saw the way that that storm shifted and that track shifted, and they said they've got to get out of their homes.

Where you planning to evacuate?


COOPER: It's a last minute decision?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. It was definitely a last minute decision, yes. I'm in Donn Beach (ph) , so then when the evacuation like I was just on the edge of the mandatory evacuation, and I decided I had to come anyway. So this is (inaudible).

KAYE: I've been here 30 years and I renowned other hurricanes, so yes. But when they when they increase the boundary for the mandatory evacuation then, you will have to leave, this was all especially tough for the elderly and disabled. Some sat down whole others held their place in line.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And so we migrated ahead weight they catch up. We migrated ahead and they catch up so a lot of teamwork.

KAYE: Yes, you're making friends with some good Samaritans it sounds like.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes. It's rough tough.





COOPER: And, Randi, I mean, thanks goodness, the weather outside there was right, was all right. I mean, I know it rained a little bit, but it was, you know, that been torrential rain with strong winds. It would have been exponentially more miserable for people waiting outside, because that's a way for hours and hours.

KAYE: Absolutely. That's would had made a lot worse. And we spoke with one of the Florida Highway Patrol Lieutenant, Lieutenant Greg Bueno, and he told us that they were trying to hustle people in as quickly as they could because they were worried about the weather. By the time, we were there this afternoon, mid-afternoon. It had about a thousand people inside already but they said they did have room for thousands so that was really good news for all of those people waiting in line.

He also said there would be security in there. The Highway Patrol would be in there, the National Guard would be in there. There is air conditioning, food, clean water. He was hoping that this would be a good experience for everyone.

And as you saw, Anderson, what I really was pleased to see was that, there were so many good Samaritans in that line who were holding spots for the elderly, holding spots for those who were disabled, to try and help them get through this experience. So it was just really nice to see that there wasn't really any tension because everybody working together to get through Irma.

COOPER: Yes. You know and, obviously, look, a lot of people obviously have cars here, but there's a lot of who don't have cars, and don't have access to easy transportation, don't have friends who have vehicles who can drop them off their and they've had to rely in shuttle buses by the local government here.

[21:25:07] Those stop a day at 3:00 o'clock, so even tomorrow morning though, there may be time for them in space in that shelter or in others, the opportunity for them to actually get there can be very difficult. I talk to law enforcement about that earlier today, so they said, look, you can call 211 which is the emergency number to request transportation to some these shelters. But again, that line was very busy today. The mayor himself told me he tried to call it five times just to check on it, wasn't able to get through any of those times. I encourage people to keep trying up. But again, as resources are limited and his law enforcement and first responders need to try to do other things as well in advance of this storm, helping people get that shelter may be a little bit lower down on the list.

So it's going to be a difficult decision tomorrow for those who wake up scared and realizing, you know what, I really need to try to get to a shelter. We're going to take a short in our coverage continues.


[21:30:34] COOPER: Well, I think it was about a week and half ago or so in the Houston, Texas, I was able to joined by Lieutenant General Russell Honore who first led military efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, did such an amazing job there. Unfortunately, and I say that because I enjoy talking to him, but it's always a tough story when he is around and on-site. He joins us tonight from Orlando.

Lieutenant General, in terms of what you are seeing, you know, we just saw Randi Kaye with that long line on that shelter. Obviously, you know, those people thankfully we're able to get in. It seems well- organized inside but it was difficult for them obviously waiting outside for so long. And a lot of, you know, there seems to be a struggle here in some municipalities to open up shelters today and to provide access to people to get them to those shelters that they don't have vehicles of their own. I'm wondering what you make so far what you've seen the response as we await this massive, massive storm.

LT. GEN. RUSSEL HONORE, 33RD COMMANDING GENERAL, U.S. FIRST ARMY: Yes, this is the collateral damage of what this storm has done, Anderson. It's disrupted communications from the perspective that yesterday we had -- well, we working on a plan whereas focus on Miami and Miami, and points south that prepare the storm has a vote.

Now, it change directions and is causing people to have to scramble who thought they were in pretty good shape as far as in the predictions.

What we've got to remember is to call a (inaudible) of uncertainty for a reason, because that hurricane can switch back and forth go into direction. The good news is, we've got good communications, everybody is still talking, and everybody is connected. But my fear is that, we could be right back if the storm come the way it's coming into Tampa if it cuts a grid out in part of Miami, Fort Myers and Tampa, and the estimates are up to 3 million people without power, that that into itself on a plain driving is a disaster.

So, subsequently what we've got to start thinking about is what can we do, what is the plan, and the contingency plans to start and how we're going to evacuate people, because we cannot sustain that larger population. The way our cities are built, the way we live and the way we go back and forth because it's going to be major reconstruction that's going to have to be done. So you're talking about a dewatering plan.

I mean, in Tampa you've got the Hillsboro Bay and you got the Tampa Bay come together and go into the gulf. That's a major concern when you're talking about wanting to capture our own land and the key infrastructure surrounded by water and the grids out. So, but I think the leaderships and people are talking, the military is maneuvering on this storm. I think everybody is going to do everything they can.

But remember, in the first quarter of this fight, we're going to lose. Mother Nature is going to win, is going to break stuff, is going to kill people, and is going to be look real ugly. And we're going to lose the first quarter. Our score on this would be how we're doing the second quarter in the search and rescue, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, well, a lot to be on guard for Russell Honore. General, thank you, we'll talk you later. And no doubt tomorrow a lot as well in our coverage.

Let's check in with Tom Sater, we have been searching with Tom just to get a sense of where the storm is, the track of it really that's, you know, that's the bottom line for everybody who's watching where it is, how strong it is, when it's going to make landfall and where. Tom, brings up-to-date.

SATER: Well, it's interesting. We've been talking out, Anderson, about this Iowa -- going through and Iowa replacement cycle, when it happens, it loses some strength and we saw the winds dropped down to 120. But when it does this process, it just means it is undergoing some reorganizations and it's going to get stronger. When it happens and it start to get the strength now at 125, under that process, the hurricane force winds extend outward farther than they typically are.

In Marathon Florida, now, one of our producers is picking up a wind gust at 71 mph. That's just three miles per hour away from hurricane strength. So, most likely it will become a category four. I think there's no doubt in our minds. But again, in such a massive storm. I want to talk about a couple of things. Coming up at 11:00 p.m., Eastern Time, we'll get a new track.

[21:35:00] It's interesting to note that we have not lost the westerly component and its movement. Surely by now, we thought that we would see more of a northerly movement because without that northerly movement, we cannot pinpoint exactly where landfall is going to be.

This is a computer model that shows the spin of the storm. And want to point a couple things out because coming up the top of the hour, we're get in closer with Google Earth to look at Marco Island, to look at Naples and Tampa because of the real estate in this area. But everyone who is going to encounter the eye such as this area right here in Fort Myers, it's not landfall till half the eyes overland.

Keep in mind as this makes its way northward, on each side of that eye is where the winds is going to be most intense. I know we always talk about that north right, that front right quadrant. However, as this eye progresses northward, maybe Tampa all the way up, you are going to encounter intense winds coming in from the east to the west for hours, for hours. You will hear things smashing against your home and I don't want to frighten anybody just let you know this is going to happen. You're going to hear the hissing of the wind coming in through cracks of the home. You may lose power and that's going to go on for pretty long time for couple of hours. But then you're going to have this eerie calmness.

Do not let yourself think that the storm has moved out. You're in the eye. The winds become calm. If you're going to look outside, you may see a bunch of birds they get caught in the eyes because they are trying to keep themselves away from these winds. They'll fly for hundreds of miles, trying to rest when they can inside the eye.

But do not let your guard down, because not only did you get hit by east to west wind, now you've got the southern end of the eye just as intense but the winds are in the other direction coming west to east. So all the telephone poles that are in the trees that are bending in one direction several hours later are going to push in the other direction. So again, it can only take so much, and that's what's good to give. So that the eye that's going to make its way from south to north across the entire peninsula.

We do expect the eye to start to collapse. It's not going to be over water or cutting off the fuel line of the system. It's not like Harvey when it was able to fee off its own rainfall. Harvey moves so slow that it actually didn't need to be over water. It was actually feeding off on rain that it dropped on the ground.

Now, it will continue to be strong over the Everglades. It's called the Brown Ocean Effect. It doesn't need to be over water, but it's sucking up that warm water from the Everglades. But once it gets into southern Georgia, Anderson, it'll start to lose its punch and rain itself out by the time it gets into Tennessee. But we're watching this eye and it's critical right now to see what happens come 11:00 o'clock with a new track because of surprise we're not seeing more of an northerly component yet, hard to pinpoint exactly where landfall will be. But obviously we know conditions are deteriorating quickly.

COOPER: You know, Tom, it's interesting, a lot of people here you see, you know, don't get fooled by the eye when it seems calm. That's just the eye. Just a quick story, before I was ever started covering hurricane as reporter, I was in a hurricane in the Caribbean that sat around St. Barts.

I remember, starting for several days. When the eye came, I was so freaked out frankly and just so wanting to get out of the room that I was trapped in the building. I ran out and was trying to get my friends to go to the airport to see if we can get a flight out. Smarter people than me inform me this is the eye, dummy. Get back in the house, it's, you know, it's about a hit again and they were right. So, people may laugh about that idea of, you know, you think that you get fooled by the eye.

SATER: Right, right.

COOPER: I can tell you, I'm not very intelligent but I was certainly fooled by the eye then, not to make that mistake again. Tom, we'll continue to check in with you and also look in particularly if that 11:00 o'clock advisory, that's going to give important information that will give you obviously the latest information on that.

Another quick break and our coverage continues.



[21:43:04] COOPER: Rain starting to fall pretty steadily here in the Fort Myers, not particularly strong but just -- probably the steadiest rain that we have seen all day. Obviously, a harbinger of what is to come.

You know, time and time again authorities are telling people, you know, in a storm like this don't go outside. Don't go to the oceanfront to try to pictures. To look at the storm surge is one of the reasons, you know, reporters spend time out here so you can watch it on television. You don't have to go out for yourself and do that.

I just want to show you a video of the kind of proves the point of those authorities, it's a surveillance camera, observation camera of a person taking pictures of the storm surge at the southernmost point and you saw what happened to that person. I don't know if we can show it again. They're taking a picture to get a sense the waves get knocked over. That person did get up and walk away. So thankfully seems like they were OK.

But just a sign of -- just how quickly stuff can happen, you know, it can be a sunny day here and all of a sudden a torrential rain start. And we are likely to see more and more moments like that, unfortunately, in the next 12 to 24 hours.

I would go back to John Berman who is in Miami for us.

John, what kind of winds are you seeing there? Because when we started broadcasting around 8:00 you already getting a very, very strong gust of winds there.

BERMAN: Yes, consistently been like that most the evening, Anderson. I should make clear. I have no interest in being that guy in that video you just showed. Not even for you and not even for T.V. But the wind gust, you know, 40 miles an hour. I would say fairly regularly gusting higher than 50 in some locations in Miami. I think you can tell it's pretty strong right now.

Some of the strongest we've seen so much that, you know, I have to lean in a little bit. You can see behind me, you know, that boat which we're looking at all night is rocking, a lot more than we see. And the tide is coming up as well. And the water, we can see it being pushed up against the docks and against the boats.

[21:45:02] Look, this is Miami, which for much of the week was a major concern. It was fear that Miami would take a direct hit from the eye of Hurricane Irma. I say a direct hit eye because Miami still going to get hit from Hurricane Irma, pretty hard. We're expecting it -- the strongest wind to come in tomorrow starting at 6:00 a.m., much stronger than we're seeing right now.

Gusty could be 30, 40 miles an hour what we're seeing right now, which is why the authorities here are saying, do not take this lightly. Don't think just because the eye may not pass over Miami like was fear for so much of the week that this is going to be easy-going, it won't be.

There are still expecting a storm surge around 6 feet, which would bring it up over where I am standing right now. They are still expecting wind gust to be strong more than 100 miles an hour in some points, which is why there is a curfew out of Miami Beach. They don't want people out, which is why there been mandatory evacuation, and which was why the authorities are saying if you made plans in Miami Beach, keep them and don't go home until they tell you it's safe, Anderson, which could be from some time based on the winds we're feeling right, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, good advice there. John, we'll continue check in with you. Miguel Marquez is in Punta Gorda who which obviously devastated back in 2004 with Hurricane Charlie.

Miguel, talk about the scene there. What are you seeing?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I could tell you that Irma has arrived. The first rain that we are seeing from Irma has just started falling in the last few minutes. The wind is starting to kick up, but it's not much more than a breeze basically, with the gust every now. And again, it actually feels fairly nice.

The rain is gently falling at the moment but clearly it is going to get worse and worse. We have not seen this. We saw a beautiful sunset here tonight and we could see the dark clouds to the south, but finally it is staring to come this way. It is interesting to watch those maps. And see the storm seemed to be coming directly at us and they turn very sharply south.

People in Punta Gorda are watching this hurricane very closely because, as you mentioned, Charlie devastated this community, 13 years ago. The path that Irma is currently on, it's just through the west of this community, and that puts them just off the right hand side and upper right-hand side of the eye walls.

So people or very concerned. They are calling for a very big storm surge here 10 to 15 feet. Basically a giant wave of water that comes in the ocean and washes in -- washes everything out with it in relatively short order. That's what they've had to evacuate about 60 percent of the county here.

They only have enough highlands here for three shelters. All of them jam-packed and others and they have five of the shelters and county north of here that residents here could use. If you need shelter go there, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, difficulty, of course, is getting there -- are there -- is there any public transportation tomorrow that you know of, to get to their shelter for people who don't have access to (inaudible)? MARQUEZ: There is. Yes, there's no public transportation I know of, but there are vehicles available. There's emergency vehicles and others that can help transport people in a sort of a one-off basis to places if necessary, so they can make that, but it's not a huge -- it's not huge, you know, Miami day like, situations much smaller population so there's somewhat easier to deal with those situations.

So they do have some ability for that. If people are in dire necessity and they show up to a shelter that is full, they will take them in any event, if they have their cars is out of gas, they're elderly, if they're disabled somehow, they will be able to get them in, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, that's some good news. Miguel Marquez, thanks very much.

And again, that gentle rain on the go is experiencing, I think that's the same thing that we are experiencing here. And it is pretty gentle, I mean, at the height of hurricane, you know, the wind -- the rain coming in horizontally. And some of the hurricane I've been and it feels like in intense (ph) at times as moving so fast. It's hitting me so hard.

We're going to take a short break and coverage continues.


[21:52:09] COOPER: And welcome back to our continue coverage of Hurricane Irma, so much to be watching in the next 12 to 24 hours.

Alex Marquardt is in Sarasota for us. Alex, I haven't talk to you in a while, what's the scene there. What are you seeing around you?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson people here in Sarasota are keenly aware of the fact that they are right in Hurricane Irma's path. Look around here. This is the main Street in downtown Sarasota, one the most popular beach towns in America and it is absolutely ghost towns.

We have seen a handful of vehicles driving outside, handful of people but by and large, there are very few people out and about. Now, there are businesses up and down Main Street. Here are all essentially close, as we've seen all across Florida. They have been boarded up. Some of them choosing not to board up and then others nailing and screwing siding like this into the shop, so that once the debris starts flying, they do not get damaged.

They are expecting 6 to 10 foot storm surge is out on the coast. Anything over 60 feet could result in severe flooding. They have closed off those barrier islands. There's a mandatory evacuation order. And we are told that people are heeding this order, they are heading to the shelters. There are some 10 shelter.


MARQUARDT: There are some -- excuse me, Anderson -- some 10 shelters open in Sarasota County. Three of them are at full capacity. There 14,000 people in those shelters.

We spoke with the city executive, the City Manager Tom Barwin earlier in the day. He said that he is at peace with their preparations that they have done everything they can, but that he is mentally and physically preparing himself for what will lie in the wake of Irma. Take a listen.


TOM BARWIN, CITY MANAGER OF SARASOTA, FLORIDA CITY: Well, I think those of us to drive around and are preparing to respond to the emergency, I wondering what our town, our community, our state will look like, come Tuesday morning. How many branches will be down? How many wires will be down, or cars being moved with the water, we have boats that are coming off with their (inaudible) and coming to shore.

We'll taking about it, we're preparing for it. We hope we don't see it. But, I know, we've got a lot of dedicated public employees who are ready to respond no matter what Irma throws at us. We just hope for the best.


MARQUARDT: Hoping and praying is really all they can do tonight. The message they are telling people out here is wherever you plan for right out the storm, you should be there right now, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, good advice. Alex, I appreciate that. Thanks very much.

Dan Summers is joining us from the authorities here in Collier County. Dan, if you could just explained the situation with the shelters in Collier County, how many people if you know or are already in shelters are there's still room in some filters.

DAN SUMMERS, DIRECTOR, COLLIER COUNTY BUREAU OF EMERGENCY: There is still room, Anderson, in the couple of our shelters right now. The flow to the shelters has really come down to a trickle.

[21:55:02] And that's something we have expected throughout the day.

So we have about 17,000 people in shelters, about 300 and special needs shelter and we do have some space at several locations. A lot of these shelters came open, a sort of ad hoc, very quickly. The community, our Carter County district schools went above and beyond to open additional locations. And then, obviously, the -- a lot of people got there right at the same time as our staff did but the community came together, the district schools, the county government employees, some other response agencies and everybody is pretty settled in pretty well tonight.

COOPER: Yes. Obviously, you know, a lot of people woke up and they didn't expect the storm to be hitting along the West Coast in the way that it's going too and change their mind about riding out the storm decided to seek shelters. You know the government put out an appeal for as many as of thousand volunteered nurses particular to help out in special needs shelters. Do you know if you have enough personnel, particularly in those special need shelters to help all those people who need assistance?

SUMMERS: Well we're doing pretty well. We have them in and settled. We have spent a lot of time in our shelter, making sure that we had all types of equipment and resources available to them. We're using a lot of our Carter County EMS paramedics, some of our local fire paramedics, nurses, volunteers, and the state of Florida has been bringing some skilled nursing groups from out-of-state.

So we're doing pretty well. Obviously we've got another day or two ahead of us. We'll be working to try to rotate those personnel through. But our special needs shelter is a very robust, although we weren't expecting the census that we have that we're working to accommodate that.

COOPER: And if, you know, but for those who wake up in the morning in your county and decide, you know what, I don't like the way the storm surges going to be. It's worst than I thought its going to be and decide to try to go to shelter. Hey, how did they find out what shelters are still open and are still able to receive people? And do you have any advice for people who don't have access to vehicle in terms of how they could possibly get to shelters because I know a lot of others do the public transportation has stopped for variety of reasons, late this afternoon?

SUMMERS: Well, we do have a telephone hotline to a number that people can call and we are looking at some alternative resources and we may have some periods tomorrow where we can do some bus pickups. We'll certainly work with the community fund, some additional resources. We really think that the bulk of the folks that wanted to be in the shelter are squared away there tonight.

So we'll continue to look at resources. We have the entire emergency operations center up with a lot of options and a lot of resources. So we'll do our very best to support those needs.

COOPER: Dan Summers, I appreciate all your efforts. Thanks very much. Stay safe.

SUMMERS: Thank you.

COOPER: We're going to take a short break as our coverage from Fort Myers and all across Florida tonight continues.