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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.