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Florida Prepares for Hurricane Irma; Evacuation Orders in Effect in Parts of Florida; Evacuation Centers Fill Up in Florida; Storm Chasers Make Their Way towards Hurricane Irma. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired September 9, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: -- that's new ground in terms of where this storm is expected to hit hardest. They worry about the Keys. They still do. They worried about here. They still do. Even if you're not in the direct path, even if it's not about the eye, a direct hit is not the only type of bad hit.

So here this morning while we have nothing, this is nothing compared to what's supposed to be here, it was easily overwhelming when their gusts of wind came in up to about 90 miles an hour, which is no joke, but nothing compared to what we'll see, just gusts, not sustained winds with gusts far in excess to that which is what is expected over the docks, messing with the boats, into the parking lots, affecting the cars. The rain came, affected the driving. So it takes a little bit to do a lot.

Chad Myers, most of what I'm saying I've been learning from you. I'm still waiting on picture out of Cuba. Our Patrick Oppmann is holed up right now in a closet with his crew because it's been so bad. But what are you seeing and what does it add to your expectations?

CHAD MYERS: The eye now of Irma has moved offshore of Cuba. Our Patrick Oppmann right there, so he's finally going to get away from that purple band. And why is it purple and not red anymore? Because that's the next level of coldness on the satellite. The storms are getting stronger around the eye, and the eye will begin to get deeper in pressure, lower in pressure, and the storm will continue to strengthen as it is right now.

Hurricane hunter aircraft is in the plane trying to get there. The hurricane hunters will probably be another hour before they actually locate the center and tell us what the new pressure is.

Fort Myers, your wind gusts will be 136. Now, this isn't all at the same time. This is storm total. As it comes across Key West our winds are going to be 129. You get up to Orlando, 123. Now, I remember what Charlie, Gene, Frances did across parts of central Florida because my parents lost the roof twice that year. And this is going to take off roofs again, not just shingles. This will be a devastating storm for central Florida, Tampa, Fort Myers, Naples, all the way down to Key West.

Here is the latest European model. Now, the new one is out 24 hours, so we're still waiting for the rest of the run to happen. That's the model that models the atmosphere. But what I just watched at the 24- hour model run, the eye, the center of the eye is west of Key West just by a little bit, by three miles, just over Sunset Key. That will put Summerland, that will put Big Pine Key, that will put Shark Key in the eye wall, likely 140-mile-per-hour winds. And of course Key West because I just said that. Fort Myers, Naples, 100 mile-per-hour winds at least for you, just told you, 125 possible.

And then were people are evacuating to, Atlanta, Athens, and Macon, winds there will be 75 miles per hour. It's the surge again for you, in Miami, for Chris, four to six, for you, Anderson, I'm afraid almost 10 to 15 feet above normal dry ground. Don't worry about the tides back and forth, above normal dry ground. If your house is less than that above sea level, you need to go because not only will it be or could it be 15 feet, there could be 20-foot waves on top of that. Time to go. Anderson, you too.

CUOMO: All right, Chad, thank you very much. And I want to explain what you've been telling me what storm surge actually is. People think of it in terms of linear feet. Oh, so it's going to be six to 10 feet, so the water instead of there will be about where I am. No. It's going to be six to 10 feet higher than what you see right now, which means this entire area would be under water. It would be submerged.

On top of it the waves, Dave, look at that. Right now it's just light chop. I mean, most people fish in this. This is nothing compared to what's coming. So on top of this extra 10 feet you'll get waves, you know, 10 times in excess of this. This is like two feet of waves. You could get 10, 12, 15 feet of waves if the wind is hitting it right. That's where you get this problem of now you've gone from a situation where you could easily handle it to you are overwhelmed by it.

And that's why the emergency managers and the politicians and our leaders are saying if you're not supposed to be here, leave. And if you have left and you saw that the storm track has shifted, don't come back because this is still plenty of bad news coming this area's way.

Kyung Lah is across the bay there, there, that's Miami Beach. OK, beautiful place to be. Too many people have stayed too long. Kyung, when you saw the first band and the gusting it is the same for you as it is for us, about 90 miles an hour is where it's peaking so far, how did everything change when that happened?

[14:05:00] KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think people started to understand that perhaps they needed to clear off the streets. There are still a few stragglers, but if you are aware what Collins Avenue, a commercial district in south beach looks like, it looks like zombie apocalypse now. There are a couple cars here, but really there's no one out here. Normally this is packed with shoppers.

We're seeing a couple of cars here. And we should tell them there's actually a curfew now in place for 8:00 p.m. tonight to try to get some of these last-minute stragglers off the streets.

But look at this place. Everything's boarded up. The concern here is not just the storm surge, which is expected to be five to 10 feet, but also some of the wind. Look further down the street, every single business has boards up. They're very concerned about flying glass, about any debris. The population of Miami Beach has grown about 35 percent since hurricane Andrew.

And then take a look down this way. No one here either. So the concern from Miami Beach police and why they've issued a curfew this evening is that's when they are expecting more wind, the storm surge. The concern, overwhelming concern here beyond just some of the heavier winds we're now starting to experience is that storm surge. They want to make sure that people are off the streets so they don't get caught in any sort of flooding and drown. Anderson?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. That's obviously the concern as well here. We're going to talk to the chief of the fire department here in just a second.

But first, I want to check back in with Drew Griffin who's not too far from outside Fort Myers. He's outside a shelter that can accommodate, I think he said previously about 8,000 people, but we'll double check that. And last we checked with him he estimated as many as 2,500 still outside waiting to get in. Drew, what's it like there now? And how many people actually can get into that shelter?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They say 8,000. They think everybody here is going to get in.

Anderson, I want to answer a question you had for me last hour. This is what last minute decision looks like. These people woke up this morning, many of them telling me they looked at the new forecast and realized they too had to get out. Many of the barrier islands had already evacuated on Thursday and Friday. A lot of Lee County and Collier County shelters were full.

But I'm just going to walk down this line as quickly as I can so you get a sense of how many people are still here, still trying to get into this shelter. And now we have wind blowing and the potential for some rain bands to come in. And many of these people have been waiting, Anderson, as you're looking at this line, waiting in this line for up to five hours just to get in to a shelter that they think they will be able to ride out the storm.

And I'm going to tell George, our photographer, to just get to the front of this area here, George. Take a pause. And we're going to swing around and show you the rest of this line right here. So it goes all the way down that building, all the way out into the parking lot. And that, Anderson, is a smaller line than it was a couple of hours ago.

But many of these people, they woke up, they thought they were in a good spot. Then the additional surge warnings came out, and they thought we've got to get out. The county had to scramble to open up a shelter big enough to handle it. That's where we are right now, Anderson.

COOPER: Wow. And they're still trying to open up more shelters here. The bus service -- the shuttle service that they had set up to try to get people to shelters when people call into 211, which is the emergency number to try to get transportation, that bus service according to the mayor is going to stop around 3:00 for safety reasons. So, you know, the clock is ticking on trying to get to one of these shelters if you don't have transportation out of your own.

I do want to talk to the chief of the fire department here in Fort Myers, John Caulfield. Thanks so much, chief, for being with us. What is your biggest concern right now and your biggest message?

CHIEF JOHN CAULFIELD, FORT MYERS, FLORIDA, FIRE DEPARTMENT: Well, we have two concerns. One is public safety and one is first responder safety. And that's it. So our folks are out driving throughout the neighborhoods warning people to evacuate. Get to a center. And then we're trying to really be mindful our firefighters and police officers, public works -- workers safety.

COOPER: And they're still working on opening up more shelters because obviously as the track of the storm changed earlier today, a lot of the people outside at the Germain Center where Drew Griffin just was, they were people who woke up, saw the new track and said, uh-oh, we're not going to be able to ride this out.

CAULFIELD: Yes, I do suspect we're going to have greater demand. We have been throughout the past couple days trying to anticipate this kind of need. And we're hoping people heed the message.

COOPER: We've seen police cars going around with loud speakers saying it's an evacuation zone. This area's now a new evacuation zone. This is zone B, basically down this direction, also across the river. So it's an expanding evacuation zone.

CAULFIELD: It is. We've been working at planning this for the past four days. And we had plotted out different evacuation zones, and we're just waiting to implement the plan we've been working on for these days. But you're right, the zone has increased in size, and police, fire, and public works officials are out there driving up and down the streets, loud speakers as you mentioned, warning people to evacuate to get to safety.

[14:10:11] COOPER: So obviously as a lot of people know by now, at the height of a storm you can't have your firefighters going out risking themselves. It's just too dangerous given the high winds, particularly in this area that's expected. Once you're able to start going out again, what's the number one thing? Is it responding to people who've called to 911 or is it just clearing roads, something as basic as that, just so you're able to respond?

CAULFIELD: It's a combination of both. But throughout the storm event while our folks won't be actively responding, we'll still be able to gauge which communities are impacted the most. And we'll start focusing our recovery efforts on them, and then critical infrastructures, hospitals and so forth, main arteries inside and outside of the city. But we want to get the city up and moving again so we can get out into these neighborhoods and really find out where the problems are. COOPER: There's also been call for the governor for volunteer nurses

to go to the shelters, especially special needs shelters. So, I mean, you can't underestimate how strapped resources are going to be over the next several days.

CAULFIELD: That's right. We're double and triple shifting our firefighters, and police officers doing the same thing. So we had warned them and discussed this. You need to take care of your families and then it's time to get to work for the public safety. But ensure your own family safety first.

COOPER: That's the thing because so many times -- we were just over in Harvey and I talked to firefighters there who they didn't even have time to check on their own homes or see what condition their own homes were in. They knew their families were OK but didn't know about their houses while they were out responding.

CAULFIELD: We've been very clear on that message. We started planning effort on Tuesday morning and that was number one message to our folks is prepare your families, prepare your homes, take care of your pets. And then when it's time to come to work, come to work. But take care of your family first.

COOPER: If people now are at a house that's not above 15 feet, I mean, you're talking about a storm surge and then there could be waves on top of that, should they try to get to a shelter? Should they try to get out at this point?

CAULFIELD: I think there's still time for them to do that. I can't anticipate exactly when the shelters will be completely filled up, nor when the safety of their evacuation effort is impacted. So, you know, we're telling people post haste, it's time to go.

COOPER: Clock is ticking. Chief, thank you so much.

CAULFIELD: My pleasure.

COOPER: Appreciate it. Be careful.

We have got a lot more ahead. Obviously correspondents all throughout the region. We're going to take a short break here from Fort Myers. Our coverage continues in just a moment.


[14:16:47] CUOMO: All right, welcome back to CNN's continuing coverage of hurricane Irma. What's impressive about what's happening now here in Miami here on the water is that this is nothing. We've seen steady winds around 40 miles an hour. We've seen gusts up to about 90 miles an hour. That is nothing compared to what is expected to be here.

And just this, little touch of storm surge, some winds but nothing of the hurricane variety overwhelming the dock, going into the parking lot, getting cars that are parked too close, rain that makes it impossible to drive. So the window of opportunity to do the right thing and do the right

choice for safety that the experts have been telling you about, that is closing because at this time tomorrow the storm surge is expected to be this high with waves on top that could be five, 10 feet. You won't be able to be here, you won't be able to move in this area.

So the storm chasers are a fundamental part of this situation. They go up and tell us what's going on with the hurricane and what we can then expect down here. Ben McMillan is one of them. He joins us on the phone right now. Ben, can you hear me?

BEN MCMILLAN, STORM CHASER: Yes, sir. Yes, sir, I'm here.

CUOMO: Do you hear ben? Grif, do they hear ben? My IFB went out.

MCMILLAN: Yes. We're outside Fort Myers. Can you hear me?

CUOMO: Do you hear Ben McMillan?

MCMILLAN: Yes, sir, I'm here.

CUOMO: What? All right, right now we're not getting communications right now. We're trying to get to Ben McMillan. We'll get ourselves together. Let's take a break. When we come back -- by the way, this is proof. It takes very little, very little to disrupt what is normal. Our coms are down. We'll take a break. Stay with CNN.


[14:23:11] CUOMO: All right, thank you. It is amazing how little it takes to make a big difference. The wind picks up, the coms go out, your ability to communicate is gone. Then what do you do? What do you do if the cell towers go down? Another variable that makes the officials and the experts say if you're in an area where you have to move, do it now before the storm is here.

Now, how do we know so much about these storms? A big way, storm chasers, people who go out there, who measure things, whether they're in planes way up in the sky right into the eye of the storm, or who follow them on the ground. Ben McMillan is one of those chasers. He's with us now. Ben, can you hear me?

MCMILLAN: Yes, good afternoon guys, we're just outside Fort Myers, Florida, as we reposition for this hurricane.

CUOMO: All right, great. Thank you, and thank you for your patience. You know, it always amazes me how you can hear me when you're up by the eye of the storm or in the middle and so close to a tornado and yet I can lose communications here with barely a breeze hitting us in the back. So with this storm of Irma, what do you think matters for people to know who are in its path in Florida right now?

MCMILLAN: The biggest thing, guys, is the shift of the track. There's kind of a false sense of security for the cities along the western coast of Florida, and we felt that the eastern coast was the most at risk for significant damage. However, the shift of the track is just an indicator of how quickly these situations can change. And officials are rushing to kind of find places for people to go and reevaluate evacuation procedures on the western part of the coast now. And we hope they've done that and people are getting to a place of safety because these hurricanes, they don't follow a plan. They don't have to do a certain thing. They're going to have their own way as they work their way through the ocean and on to the shore. They're very unpredictable. That's why as storm chasers, we're constantly shifting our position and try to adapt to the changing environment.

[14:25:05] CUOMO: What is the significance of location within a storm? The idea that if the eye isn't going to pass over us, we're OK, there's not much to worry about. What do you say as a caution, especially with this particular storm given its unusual width?

MCMILLAN: The eye is a smaller area in the hurricane, but a lot of folks don't understand the hurricane wind field stretches out much further than the eye. In this situation we have a hurricane wind field of 75 miles at least in width, and we're looking at the entire western Florida coast that will most likely experience these hurricane winds in areas from Naples to Fort Myers, Fort Charlotte, Sarasota, Tampa and points north all going to be if this forecast holds in these hurricane winds. That's a very large population area. Tampa itself is about 3 million people just in that metropolitan area. So all the folks along the western seaboard need to be taking this storm very seriously.

CUOMO: Ben McMillan, thank you very much. Stay safe and let us know what we need to tell the audience. I'll check in with you soon.

Anderson, the good news is you're in the right place to tell people what they need to know about Irma when she comes to Florida. The bad news is you're directly in the path, as Ben was just describing.

COOPER: Yes, actually, as we were driving here on west on I-75, the only gas station we were able to find was open that there were no lines really there because there were really no vehicles heading in this direction, wisely. And you could get gas, but you can only get about $25 worth. There was another storm chaser actually getting gas. And you never really want to be heading in the same direction that a storm chaser is heading. Nevertheless here we are.

But for the people in Fort Myers, as we've been talking throughout the day, Chris, the alarm bells are ringing. People know the clock is ticking. There's only about another half an hour that the shuttle service is going to be in operation to even get people to shelters. So after that is done at 3:00 p.m. then it's really up to people to get themselves to shelters.

And then of course as the weather starts to deteriorate, I mean, right now it's fine, but as it starts to deteriorate, it's going to be too late. And that's what city managers and the mayor, the fire chief, everybody we've been talking to is saying. Look, try to get to a shelter now if you can in Fort Myers.

And as we saw outside the Germain Arena with our Drew Griffin, there were thousands of people still waiting. And thank goodness they were able to wait in weather that was OK. Imagine if it was pouring rain, if the winds were already picking up what it would be like for them standing in those lines for hours and hours and hours.

Let's check in with Chad Myers at the Weather Center. Chad, can you give us a sense just in terms of the timeline for, you know, when people on the west coast of Florida or in the Keys, when they're going to get those tropical winds, when they're going to really start to get hurricane force winds? Just what do the next 24 hours look like?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Every time, Anderson, a squall goes by, an outer band, the winds are going to pick up. And every hour a squall goes by that pickup is going to be greater than the hour before. So I think the tropical storm force winds are already hitting Marathon, Big Pine, all the way down to Key West. That's already a given. I've already seen a gust of 60 at the Marathon airport.

The storm is off now the coast of Cuba. It's gaining strength. We will eventually begin to see hurricane force winds tomorrow afternoon in Miami. These are the -- this is the map now of the brand new European model. And I'll get to the track in a second. These are the max winds that we're going to see over the entire storm. Not just one minute, one hour or whatever, the entire storm. Your max wind in Key West is going to be 138. Naples 132. Fort Myers 136. Orlando, because the storm has shifted even more toward Tampa, now you're not over 100, you're 94. Not that you can tell the difference, but it's better. And 116 for Tampa, losing shingles, losing roofing boards, an awful lot of damage in Tampa that they weren't expecting because the models, as they try to simplify the atmosphere earlier this week had it like this, and then like this, and then like this. We're waiting for the turn. It never happened. And now we're over Key West, just to the west possibly of you and then making landfall south of Sarasota.

Landfall is going to be a long process because the eye wall will be on Florida's coast for a long time tomorrow afternoon, doing significant damage from Fort Myers all the way through Venice and all the way into Tampa Bay. This is the model as it's going to be moving on up to the north. There's your latest track. This now -- oh, get rid of this. This now is what the European model has been working better than the American model, at least for this storm, is doing.

[14:30:02] You leave Cuba, you go eight miles west of Key West, which puts Key West on the bad side of the eye, floods all of Big Pine, all the way through Shark Key and the like, the naval air station there, moves just to the west of Ponta Gorda and makes landfall south of Tampa, Florida. That is the latest track of the European model.

I said it before, I said it at 8:00 a.m., I said it at noon -- Irma doesn't know that there's an American model or European model. It's going to do what it wants to do. You have to pay attention. If this goes into Tampa Bay, that's a completely different animal. Anderson.

COOPER: And what time is the next update in terms of the track? Is it 5:00 p.m.? Because one obviously at 11:00 we got new numbers on storm surge, which were frankly alarming for areas along the west all the way up into Tampa. MYERS: Yes. At this point the Hurricane Center can put out a new

track any time that it wants to. It's up to them. If they see a wobble or wiggle and it makes a difference, they can change everything in a discussion, in an e-mail, honestly. Right now the next forecast change will be 5:00 p.m.

COOPER: We'll be watching obviously for that. Chad, as always, thank you so much.

Chris and I are continuing our coverage, and all our correspondents all throughout the region and our crews will be right back after a short message. We'll be right back.


[14:35:41] COOPER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of hurricane Irma. I'm in Fort Myers where the evacuation zone has expanded. That happened a couple hours ago. The area downtown evacuation zone B, there's now mandatory evacuation. Police have been going around with loud speakers trying to tell people to get to shelters. We've been checking in with our Drew Griffin at Germain Arena, which is a very large capacity arena, about 8,000 people can shelter inside. Let's go back there now. Drew, when last time we talked, that line was just incredibly long. Is it moving any faster?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's not moving any faster. The line is getting smaller because, you know, it's crunch time now. You've either done this or you haven't done this, which is leave your home, Anderson. And so we're seeing fewer and fewer people coming in here. But George, if you want to pan over, here are some new arrivals who have come. You guys just coming? What made you decide to come?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We had nowhere else to go.

GRIFFIN: Nowhere else to go. Did you look at storm surge?


GRIFFIN: Just come here to ride it out?


GRIFFIN: OK. You got enough food?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, or maybe, just in case.

GRIFFIN: Well, they're about to get in the back of the line. That line, Anderson, has been as long as five hours for folks to be in. I imagine these people just arriving now will probably need another two or three hours to wait because the line itself is getting smaller, although as you can see behind me it's still taking a long time to process.

The Florida highway patrol officer in charge out here, the public information officer, Lieutenant Greg Beuno (ph), says everybody's going to get in. They have capacity for 8,000. And they have enough space for all the people that are out here. That's where we are right now. Patience running thin. Sky is getting a little darker. And they just want to get everybody inside, Anderson.

COOPER: And I guess the question, Drew, and maybe it's for our next time we come back to you, is how much more room will they have once everybody who's on the line now is inside, because there's still people who may want to come out there and may not be sure if there is space. And as we've said, the shuttle buses to the extent that they've been bringing people out, those shut down probably in about 20 minutes, they're supposed to stop at 3:00 p.m. here in Fort Myers. So it's going to be up to people to get themselves to a shelter like that. So we'll check in with you to try to find out how much more space they actually have, because there is still some time.

Winds are picking up, Chris, here just a little bit. This is the first kind of indication of some winds we've been getting in Fort Myers over the last couple hours. It's actually been sunny and actually kind of a very humid, very, very hot. But again, it's just a whisper of the winds to come, Chris.

CUOMO: You know, Anderson, I was checking the NOAA scans while I was listening to the interview. You have squalls headed your way that will be like what you saw with us. They light up in colors if people want to go to the site to see themselves. So your situation will change momentarily. I know you guys are all geared up. There's no better pro than you.

Now, here we're seeing subtle changes. These are boat owners. Some of them are media and producers and stuff, but they're coming out to retie their boats. Why would they keep them in the water? Well, it's all about opportunity. A lot of people have nowhere else to put their boat, so they tie up the best they can, and property is least of their concern. It's all about people, it's all about human life and making the best choice for your own safety.

Now, the government is going to help you make some of those choices. They have their mandatory evacuation calls and now they're putting curfews in effect. We just got word Miami Beach, which is just across the bay, right, that's Miami Beach. Dave, I'll step out of your way so they can see it. There is a curfew in effect now for tonight, tomorrow, and maybe even into Monday, 8:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m., OK, 8:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. What does that mean? You know what a curfew is. But in this context it means that your window of opportunity to get to safety is also changing.

And you have the bigger window to take in effect when is hurricane Irma coming? That window is also closing. We know now that it is less than 24 hours from now certainly in the Keys, also true here, and then the times start to shift as you move up the state. You should look for that as well.

Brian Todd is in West Palm Beach. That is an island that's just off the main coast of Florida. One of those barrier types of islands, makes it more vulnerable.

[14:40:02] Brian, not hearing about a curfew there yet, but you have been seeing the police going door-to-door to talk to people who are supposed to evacuate. How is it now?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, I think a lot of people have listened to the police because there aren't a lot of people out. But you talked about a curfew. They're going to start enforcing a curfew in just a few minutes, at about 3:00 eastern time the curfew goes into effect. They do not want to see these cars coming across the bridge that we've seen earlier today. They do not want to see these cars on Flagler Avenue that we've seen and people out walking that we've seen.

The wind has started to kick up here in the last few minutes causing some white caps over here on the inter-coastal waterway. Storm surge is going to be a critical concern here. It could be up to four feet, maybe higher. And with the high tide and weight activity on top of it, that's going to be a concern, Chris.

We got messages from the Palm Beach County officials just like the Miami Beach fire chief issued, telling people in this county just because the storm is tracking, the eye of the storm is tracking a little bit west of here, do not get complacent. Do not go back to your homes too early. Stay away. The wind is, again, just now starting to kick up.

OK, here's another concern that we'll be monitoring, as will local officials. This is a construction site. Now, a lot of the stuff is moored down. You've got cement bags over there. You've got plywood, other things that are moored down, but a lot is also loose. And check out this crane here. It goes way up into the sky, 14-plus stories. This building is 14 stories high. The crane extends higher than that. The crane is secured by a metal brace there, a little over half way up.

But if there are 90 to 100-mile-an-hour winds here, this crane could be vulnerable. I can assure you we are not going to be this close to this crane when the brunt of the storm hits tomorrow. We're going to be monitoring this crane from a distance and some of other things too. There's another crane right behind it.

Again, whether they with the crane is vulnerable or not is going to depend on the wind. We're told to expect 90 to 100-mile-an-hour winds here tomorrow. The top of the crane will be allowed to swing like a weathervane. That will cut down some of the resistance. But if the crane falls, look at these buildings here that are vulnerable. You have a church over here. You've got an apartment complex over here and a small college over here to my left.

So these buildings all potentially vulnerable to one of those catastrophes involving cranes. As we know you see so often down there in Miami, Chris, I heard you talking to an expert about these construction sites and all of that and just how vulnerable they are. It's the flying debris and the wind high up that could catch a crane and topple it. That's going to be a big concern here.

CUOMO: Right. Now, people should not freak out if they see the cranes spinning. As he was explaining to us, that's part of their construction. That's part of their really their protection mechanism against high winds is that they will move kind of like a prop, like a propeller on a helicopter does. But how much can they take? I don't know. We saw during super storm Sandy a crane go down. That is a frightening proposition. This is a high-rise city, and the expert was telling us there's just so many buildings under construction, that means there's so many cranes up there. So that's something to keep an eye on.

All right, so that's where Brian and I are here down in south Florida. As the governor told us, as the storm track has shifted and reality has become more imminent with hurricane Irma, as it's gone from an if to a when and a how, the whole state is effected from all the way down here in the southern tip to all the way up north in Gainesville. And that's where we have Kaylee Hartung. Now, as the path continues to shift, what have you seen in a shift in preparations and priorities and the attitude of people up there, Kaylee?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, increasing concern for people in this area. There are more than a dozen shelters open in Alachua County. And to really understand the concern it's best to come here with Anthony Clarizio. He's the director here from the University of Florida Health, keeping this shelter open for those elderly and special needs patients who need help. There's now a mandatory evacuation in effect for people in low lying areas and in mobile homes. Anthony, how have you seen that concern shift in recent hours as the storm projection has moved west?

ANTHONY CLARIZIO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ELDER CARE OF ALACHUA COUNTY: Yes. So yesterday the shelter opened up and within the first few hours we probably had a couple dozen people. So it kind of leveled off throughout the day yesterday. And then this morning when everybody woke up and saw that the storm had shifted more to the west, it's just been registration all day, vans have been pulling up all day long, and they have been registering people. So we're at about 107 people now. So really they've registered over 80 people just in the last 12 to 15 hours.

HARTUNG: This site typically a recreation facility for elderly folks. What challenges come with sheltering people with the needs that you have here for a yet-to-be determined amount of time?

CLARIZIO: So these are classrooms. Classrooms have been converted to what looks like dorms. So there's portable beds, portable cots, bathrooms, showers. So it's really taking a daycare facility where people come and go throughout the day and saying now you're going to live here.

[14:45:04] So it's everything from one shower, bathrooms, water, food, we're really relying a lot on the community. I really have to say that this has been an amazing experience in watching the community come together. Really people from the city, the county, the health department, UF Health have really come together in this time of crisis to make sure these individuals with special needs are actually being taken care of.

HARTUNG: Thank you so much, Anthony. I want to bring in two evacuees here, Betty and Jean, who have both lived in this area for most of their lives. Jean, has a storm ever made you feel the way Irma is making you feel now?

JEAN HALPERN, EVACUEE: No, it hasn't. This one is scary.

HARTUNG: Have you ever left your home for a storm before?


HARTUNG: Betty, how long are you prepared to stay here?

BETTY SODDERS, EVACUEE: As long as it takes to be safe to go home.

HARTUNG: You two didn't know each other before today. What kind of conversations have you two had to comfort each other through this experience when you're finding yourself in large classrooms with rows and rows of cots next to each other? I can imagine an experience you've never had before.

HALPERN: Not really.


SODDERS: Well, we just sort of made friends and talked about common things, you know, just kind of getting acquainted with each other, and sort of being more prepared and less afraid because we have a lot of people here for support.

HARTUNG: A lot of people here looking out for the both of you. Our thoughts are with you both. Thank you so much. Chris?

CUOMO: All right, Kaylee, look, that's an important interview. There are a lot of elderly, many have been removed if they are infirm and they need help. But others are among this population that is insistent on staying put. And, Kaylee, it is good to get that perspective in here.

And one quick point about where we are -- not a big deal yet, but I have to tell you, the influence of just a little bit of wind and storm surge, we've been watching plywood, parts of this dock just fly off all morning and getting dragged into the water. And this is nothing. That's why the urgency is so real. It doesn't need to be a direct hit to be a bad hit.

And also, I know that there's something repetitive to this coverage about it doesn't take much to do a lot, but I still see a lot of people here and we're in a mandatory evacuation zone. Palm Beach, that barrier island off the shore here, there's still people there, supposed to be evacuated. West Palm Beach, on the mainland where Brian Todd was, mandatory evacuation. People still there. You get the point.

We know there are a lot of Floridians watching. We want you to heed the warnings. We want you to make the right choice for your safety. Lord willing you will all get to say, boy, did you have it wrong. I stayed and I was fine. I welcome, I welcome that possibility. We all do because nobody wants to be right about something being catastrophic. But we do have to prepare. That's what we hear from the federal government all the way on down.

So we're going to take a break. We're between bands of rain right now. That's a window of opportunity for you to make the safety moves that you need to. Please, stay with CNN.


[14:52:49] COOPER: And welcome back to our continuing coverage of hurricane Irma. I'm in Fort Myers, Florida. Starting to get a little bit more wind here. Again, just nothing compared to what is to come. But even just that little bit of wind, the little bit of gusts that we're getting, already the water is a lot -- we're starting to see a little bit of white caps on some parts of the water here along the river. Again, they're expecting it could be as much as 10 to 15 feet of storm surge here. So anybody in any low lying area here that expanded the evacuation zone.

I want to go over to Bill Weir who is over in Key Largo for latest preparations there. Bill?

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, yes, same situation here between the bands we'll even get a little bit, it seems like it's clearing up. Gusts will come and go. But it's interesting, of course everybody is focused on human life in this storm. And then their pets and whatnot, but I know there are countless Floridians thinking about their boat, right?

So let me give you a sense of what a marina is like here at the top of the Keys. This is a big cruiser here called Living the Dream. We actually met the captain. He is riding out the storm here not aboard this boat but in a storm building nearby to keep an eye on things.

But it's interesting to see people come out and make adjustments according to the wind. Right now they're moored off of this concrete dock here because that's the way the wind is going. They say they're going to have to shift it once it comes around. Get a load of this one here, this boat called the Thither and Yon is owned by a woman named Carol. They call her the queen of this marina. She was telling me this boat was the only one to survive Andrew. It came over the bridge after that devastating hurricane in 1992. And this was the only one standing. She saw that as a sign. And now I suppose she's testing the fates once again.

On the other side of the harbor a couple boats have come off their moorings and banging against the posts. You can see the lofting sail that is blown loose over there. But this is nothing yet. The stress test on these lines will certainly come as Irma gets closer and closer.

[14:55:00] But we're also going to keep tabs on the folks who were staying here. It's an interesting logic they're using that they didn't have anywhere to go. They have no place they'd rather be than next to their home in many cases, they're floating home here. Some of them have pets with them, spouses. And we did a Facebook Live with some people. Sometimes more concerned for the pets from those watching than the people who choose to stay here. But it is the calm before the storm right now. And so far all these yachts are staying shipshape, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, certainly a lot of boats to watch here also in Centennial Park and all around Florida. We're going to take a short break. Our coverage continues from here in Fort Myers, Key Largo where Bill Weir is, and all areas all over Florida.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

COOPER: And welcome back. I'm Anderson Cooper live in Fort Myers, Florida, on the west coast of southern Florida. John Berman is standing by in Miami Beach.