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Live Special Coverage of Hurricane Irma. Aired 4:00-5:00p ET

Aired September 9, 2017 - 16:00   ET


[16:00:00] ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: That may seem very settle but that is what we have been waiting for. We have been waiting for that shift in which it is going to start to make that trek toward the state of Florida. And we are starting to at least get a little bit of a glimpse of that.

Again, it's not a sharp turn, at least as of this point but we are starting to see that change over. Now, one of the main concerns with this storm is still going to be incredibly strong winds. At landfall point, for a lot of these areas, these are your maximum wind gusts you are going to be dealing, 138 miles per hour in Key West, 136 in Fort Myers, even Tampa going to be looking at 116 miles per hour at its strongest point for the storm.

The track still does take it along the west coast but it is likely going to take its first landfall over, if you will, in the U.S. over the Florida key. Exactly where, that is still yet to be determine. We have to wait to find out how quickly the storm makes that short turn to the north to really be able to tell exactly where this storm is going to go. It seem like to go along places like Naples, Fort Myers, into Tampa and then eventually, it will move all inward and then push towards the states like Georgia, Alabama and into Tennessee.

One of the key things that we expect for the storm is it will re- intensify back to a category four storm. The main reason for that, take a look at how warm the water is in this region, upper 80s, that is the perfect fuel for a storm like this to be able to intensify, and that's what we expect it to do before it makes landfall.

Now, we have been hearing a lot of this. People want to know, what is the timing for a lot of these cities in Florida? So let's look at Tampa, for example. Tropical storm winds will have already arrived in some of these areas by tomorrow afternoon. Hurricane force winds will likely already be in Tampa by tomorrow evening. Rainfall could be looking at six to eight inches of rain and the storm surge around five to eight feet.

Now we move to Naples. It is a little bit farther south of Tampa. Tropical storm winds will arrive early tomorrow morning. Hurricane force winds could arrive say just shortly after sunrise on Sunday. Then we talk about rainfall. This is where we could look at really heavy amounts of rain. We are talking near a foot of rain and some of the areas just outside of Naples could pick up say as much as 15 inches of rain. Storm surge is also going to be a big factor, ten to 15 feet for this region. Here is a look at the radar going forward to show not just the

direction but also where those heavy rain bands are going to be. Again, on Sunday we expect it early morning to cross over the keys then continue its track up the west coast. We are talking Naples, Fort Myers, into Tampa then pushing up towards Jacksonville and into the state of Georgia. It's still going to take incredibly strong winds into places like South Carolina and Georgia, which is why those states also have tropical storm watches even though we expect the storm to actually weaken a bit before it makes it into those areas, it's not going to weaken entirely. They are still going to get some impacts. Miami is also starting to see some of those impacts as we speak and hurricane force winds dive will be arriving as early as tomorrow morning.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Allison Chinchar, thank you so much.

Indeed, Miami is starting to feel some of those impact as Alison is saying. The storm starting to make that turn towards Florida. So what we are seeing here now with this higher winds and the rain starting to come, it's on. I mean, this is what we can expect to see for some time.

And by the way, this is nothing compared to what it will be as the storm moves ever closer, moves past Miami and up the west coast of Florida.

Let's go to Drew Griffin right now. He is up in Fort Myers in one of the shelters where people have just been coming in by droves through to get to safety once they heard that Fort Myers was really in the bull's eye -- Drew.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And the big news here is the line is gone. They said everybody would fit, everybody is fitting. That entire line, John, that strung all the way around this building and into the parking lot, two and three times, has now diminished. These are people who were inside. They are coming back out with their arm bands, getting their stuff. They are taking care of a big situation with the dogs.

The dog situation out here is not good. You have all these dogs in this area and they are trying to figure out the owners and the dogs, how they fit into a shelter with several, several thousands of people.

But just as the rain really started to fall here heavy, they had a big push to get everybody finally inside. And so this shelter which can hold 8,000 still has room for more, has everybody now inside. Really good news we have been watching this all day, John, wondering how they were going to get people in. They finally did it. This shelter is now ready to brace for hurricane Irma -- John.

BERMAN: So there is room for more in that shelter, Drew. As we know Fort Myers maybe got a little bit of a later start with people heading to shelters and getting to safety because it wasn't as clear until overnight that the impact was going to be felt so strongly there.

Do you get the sense that most people who are going to move have done so already? Are there people still heading to the shelter and how much more time do they have?

[16:05:12] GRIFFIN: Really the time has passed. There is capacity for people who want to come in last minute who may have second thoughts, but you have to get here on your own. The bus service, the emergency bus service which was taking evacuees to shelters stopped at 3:00.

What happened in Fort Myers was interesting. There was evacuations going on of the barrier islands, of the level or zone A flood zones or surge zones, but this morning is when officials in Kolier and Lee County extended that zone to zone B. And that had a lot more people looking more carefully of where they were, where this hurricane is, and what the path could be. And that's when a lot of people made the decision to finally, listen, I'm going to go to a shelter.

It created a big log jam. It was sort of a last minute decision, but a decision that really required -- it required the information that people did not get until this morning. So that's where that decision came from and that's what created a lot of consternation. But, you know, the county, the state, the police here, they have done a great job. They stood up, kept everybody calm. Really minor problems, a lot of inconvenience but everybody right now is inside at this huge shelter -- John.

BERMAN: And that's great news. Drew Griffin in Fort Myers.

People inside that shelter now where there is still room. So if you are listening, there is still time to get there and there will be space for you.

Drew Griffin, thank you so much. Fantastic and important work at that shelter all morning and afternoon long.

Let's go over to Anderson now who is also in Fort Myers -- Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, AC 360: Yes, John. A little bit of rain starting, really, the first rain we have started to see here over the last several hours. But again it's really not much, just enough to kind of get the people who were walking around, get them scurrying for cover. But again, just a small taste of what is to come.

I should point out just in terms of people here in the Fort Myers here in getting to shelter, the buses stopped running to shelters at 3:00. The city said they did that to allow the bus drivers to help take care of their own families to get home and deal with what they need to get to.

So if somebody think of still going to a shelter, though there may some room, the difficult for some is how to get there. Of course, police say they will try to help if you call 211, but again, that number has been inundated with calls all throughout the day.

I want to check in with Miguel Marquez who is in Punta Gorda, Florida.

Miguel, I understand you have been looking to shelter situation there. How is it? MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is filled to capacity. They

have three shelters here in Charlotte County where Punta Gorda is. All three are filled to capacity. Two are for anyone, the third was a special needs shelter. So what they are doing now, says the public information officer for the county, they have established five shelters in Sarasota County, about a 20, 25 minute drive from here, where residents of Charlotte County can go to shelter. They are all pack.

I want to show you a little bit about this one. This is an elementary school here in Port Charlotte in Charlotte County. I would like to talk to this gentleman. Owen Jones, is it?


MARQUEZ: How are you, sir?

JONES: Not too bad.

MARQUEZ: What brings you here? When did you come here and why?

JONES: I came here this morning about 7:30, 8:00.

MARQUEZ: And who did you come with?

JONES: Well, I came here -- my family are here. My wife is here and my sons and his family are here.

MARQUEZ: And the check-in process was fine? You are comfortable? You believe you'll be fine here?

JONES: Yes. Yes. I'll be fine here.

MARQUEZ: How are your family doing? Are they OK.

JONES: They're OK. They're very OK here. They're here for the hurricane.

MARQUEZ: The hurricane is on everyone's mind here. When you go to service stations now to try to get gas in this area, you know those zombie movies that they have, it is literally like the zombie apocalypse. They see a car, two pulled up in a gas station. Everybody stops and pulls up. There is no gas. Everyone is talking amongst themselves sort of nervously. It is very, very bizarre scene right here in this part of Florida right now. There is no gas to be had. Almost every store is shut. Everybody is either in shelters or figuring out what gas they have to get out of this area and into another area.

The reason they have so few shelters in this particular county is most of it is low lands. They expect it to flood. And they just can't afford to put shelters in places and said they would end up having to evacuate anyway so they are sending them up to Sarasota -- Anderson.

COOPER: Miguel, as a fan of zombie films, thankfully zombies do not drive. But maybe they might evolve to that one day. But thankfully, as of now they don't know how to use a car.

Miguel, thanks for that. We are going to continue checking with you in Punta Gorda. Of course, everyone knows, hurricane is all too well as Charlie hit back in 2004, really devastated that town.

I want to go to Rene Marsh who is in Washington with the administrator of FEMA, Brock Long -- Rene.

[16:10:21] RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Anderson. I know that administrator Long just got out of a meeting with the power companies. And you say you have a reality check for people in the state of Florida and it doesn't look good as it relates to power. Tell me what you are expecting.

BROCK LONG, FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: Yes, Rene. Because of the trajectory from south to north and the fact they are forecasting it to be a, you know, category four hurricane, the maximum radius winds and the hurricane force winds that extend to the northeast side of the eye are going to pass right through the state based on this forecast which is, you know, going to take a lot of the power infrastructure out. And so we could see millions of people without power in Florida for multiple days, in some areas maybe weeks. And so I think it's very important to set the expectations of citizens. This is why we ask and plead for people to be ready for multiple days. And of course, this is coming into reality.

MARSH: And when you say millions, I mean, what are you talking here? Six million? Seven million people without power?

LONG: You know, it's hard to speculate, but some of the estimates could be five million people without power based on the south to north trajectory. And it's not just Florida. It's going to move into Georgia as well. Georgia as well over the next five days.

MARSH: I mean, when you compare that to Harvey, Harvey was what 300,000 people.

LONG: Right. So completely different storm. Harvey was a stalled rain event that stalled out loses (INAUDIBLE). Sat over Texas for five days, dropped copious amounts of rain. This is going to be a storm surge and an inland event that is going to wreak havoc on the power system. And so, what we are trying to do now is pre-planned. You know, we are working with our private sector partners in the energy sectors. They are, you know, prepositioning, pulling out all stops. They are going to be activating mutual aid from all over the country to be able to come in, as soon as we can get the roadways open, and we will work with our state partners Governor Scott and Florida division emergency management to try to get in and restore, you know, power as quickly as we can. But people have to understand that we can't just make the lights flip back on. And it takes a concerted efforts from the local governments all the way up.

MARSH: So what I'm hearing you say is we are talking about an upwards of, you know, five million, six million possibly people without power for weeks at a time. Talk about the health aspects. I mean, there are a lot of elderly people in the state of Florida and we are talking about no power. I mean, what will be the situation for those people?

LONG: So my job as the coordinator of FEMA is basically to coordinate a unified effort across the federal government. That's what you see behind us. So part of the effort here we have HHS in the room. We have what is called emergency support function aid that is directly working with Governor Scott and his team to identify any health and medical issues that are there. We have already been prepositioning teams to go in and trying to support their needs to meet those demands.

So you are exactly right. We also have an office of disability coordination that works with functional access needs and trying to meet the needs and provide a standard of care for all citizens that they deserve.

MARSH: I want to talk about the storm overall. What are you seeing now? I mean, I spoke to you earlier this morning. Now, we are hours later the storm is closer to the United States. Give me a big picture -- bird's eye view of the operation here and what your biggest concern is right now?

LONG: Well, you know, right now, unfortunately, people in the keys, you know, anybody that stayed behind, the time to evacuate is basically running out. A lot of people in southwest Florida and southern Florida, you know, should be making their final preparations and getting into the shelters or getting to a safe location that with stand the winds, out of a storm surge area into a facility that can handle the forecasted winds for that area. And the bottom line as it starts to approach (ph), we start to, you know, estimate and understand where our resources are going to be needed to support Governor Scott's response and recovery mission. And we will standby to be able to support as information comes in.

MARSH: So are you shifting resources in real time right now, I mean, as this storm now continues to inch towards the west?

LONG: Most of the commodities -- life sustaining commodities like food and water have already been staged, pre-staged. Now, we are also working with like disaster medical teams and power crews to be able to pre-stage them. But the problem with this is, is that you can't move everything in and expose it to the storm or to the system. So there's going to be a time lag there. We have to wait for the system to get out. We have to be able to build not only pathways, you know, through the infrastructure to get back in. But then we also are working with our DOD partners to establish airlift, pathways as well for commodities and troops to get in as well, particularly to the south Florida area.

[16:15:09] MARSH: Administrator Brock, thank you so much.

I'm going to send it back to you, Anderson.

COOPER: Rene, to hear about that number of people potentially without power for days and days, if not weeks and again as you importantly pointed out, a lot of elderly residents in Florida, really going to be affecting them. That's something we will obviously be tracking a lot. A lot of folks are going to be in need throughout the state. And I think that's important to remember.

You know, as many people today have seen the storm shift to the west coast here or on Fort Myers, below in Naples, even up to Tampa where storm surge may be five to eight feet, according to the latest modeling at 11:00 this morning. This is a statewide event and, in fact, a multi-state event. We are obviously going to continue to be covering for quite some time.

We are going to take a short break and will be back in a moment.


[16:20:08] COOPER: And welcome back to our live continuing coverage of hurricane Irma. Looking at a live picture there from Hollywood, Florida where you see some of the palm trees swaying. Some just again, very small sense of what is to come in the hours, in the night and the day ahead. Remember, this is not something that's just going to be passing by in an hour or two. This is going to be a multi-hour event. Really from early morning all the way through tomorrow. We, of course, have correspondents all throughout the region.

I want to go to Kyung Lah who is standing by in Miami Beach.

Given the weather today, Kyung, and the fact that this has become more of a of a west - that the storm has moved further, or at least the eye has moved further to the west, I'm wondering, are you seeing a lot of people just kind of walking around today around Miami Beach? Are people kind of tired of being inside given the fact that, you know, the rains haven't been that bad? Obviously, the winds haven't been that bad?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's actually astonishing. We are seeing people still walk around. We are in the middle of one of the stronger bands that we felt all day. And again, as you mentioned, Anderson, just a prelude of what we anticipate we will see later tonight and in to tomorrow. But people are still walking around. That is a huge concern. As you see, some of these winds with these palm trees around and some of these hotels and businesses are blocked off from the wind and the water.

What we heard from the fire department is that they are concerned because that eye is shifting west. That people will become overconfident that they will stay out. That people who may have gone to Miami, further inland, are going to come back to the beach because we are right near the ocean.

The storm surge is still in effect. And the Miami Beach police department trying to underscore what is happening here, put out a curfew. And they underscore that by saying from 8:00 p.m. tonight until 7:00 a.m. tomorrow if you are out here in Miami Beach, you are subject to arrest. And the reason why is the storm surge is still in effect. This is an area that floods. They are concerned that if people are walking around, that when the surge comes in, that they could simply drown and that they won't have anyone here to rescue them. So that fear of over confidence that people may start to wonder out, as you say, Anderson, that is a very big concern here -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. But, you know, as I said earlier, I mean, I know people who evacuated Miami in order -- and ended up in Tampa and are now throughout the day have been wondering well, should I go back to Miami given that it looks like the eye of the storm is going to be much more here to the west. And again, there is the kind of decisions that people across the state are having to make, whether to stay, whether to go, whether to go to a shelter, whether to just kind of stay at home or go to a friend's house that may be at a higher elevation.

A lot to consider, even in the hours ahead. But as authorities have been saying to Kyung in Miami Beach and also of course here, the window is closing to take action one way or the other.

We are going to take a short break and our coverage continues.


[16:27:49] BERMAN: All right. John Berman here in Miami where the rain is still falling, a little bit of a let up in the winds there in Miami. But we have been feeling the strength of these bands for some time. I took my rain jacket off in solidarity here with my next guest who is without a jacket here.

Dan Owens, an architect who lives right on the edge of the mandatory evacuation zone.

And Dan, you chose to stay. Why?

DAN OWENS, MIAMI RESIDENT: For a lot of reasons but my house is eight feet above sea level. And it is a secure house. It is built to the Day County building coach which are really (INAUDIBLE) and have been greatly developed since hurricane Andrew. And I have a lot of friends who are staying. And I'm staying to help them out immediately after the storm. And there was no need to go. A lot of people do have to evacuate but three million people can't get on the road.

BERMAN: What is your sense? As this storm, the forecasted now drifted west. It doesn't seem as if Miami will get a direct hit from the eye anymore. Although, it still seems we are going to feel hurricane force winds and a serious storm surge. You were saying your friends, what is your sense of the community here if people are still being as careful as they need to be or if maybe you are lighting up a little bit.

OWENS: Not at all. All of my friends, I have talked to them today. They are in secure houses. They are together. They are in good humor but they are taking this seriously. I have never seen the community take a storm as seriously as this one and it is good to see.

BERMAN: I think you have to given -- especially the storm surge which here could be (INAUDIBLE) which where we are standing right now. On the west coast you are talking 10 to 15 feet. And for a while they were forecasting very strong winds in Miami. And what tare their concerns there? You are also an architect, I should note, is these cranes, this giant construction cranes, 20 to 25, a sign of the progress here in Miami but also a source of concern because they can withstand high winds but the highest winds.

OWENS: That's right. So that is a concern. And we are going to see what happens. They are not really built for category five storms. They are meant to spin in the wind. And a lot of them are, as they go up there attached to buildings. So they are not just going (INAUDIBLE) at the city.

BERMAN: I think it is an important note there, designed to twist like weather vanes. We have seen what a twist already take. It's disconcerting when you see that boom move but people know it's supposed to move. Correct?

[16:30:00] OWENS: It's supposed to move. They are going to spin and hopefully they are going to be fine.

BERMAN: Now, as a Floridian, what do you think Floridians will take from this experience? Because it has been a heck of a week in the run up to this. And the storm has been pretty, you know, it's taken a turn, the west coast was very much in a cone, but I think there's more danger over there than (INAUDIBLE) anticipated.

OWENS: Right. You know, I actually have a lot of friends who evacuated to Naples and Tampa, and now they are there. And I think - but what I'm taking from it is the spirit of Miami and how great everybody is, the good spirits and wanting to help each other out. My neighbors have been great. And that is a sign of - and we are a diverse community. And everybody really has each other's backs and it's a wonderful thing to be a part of and feel. And it's a nice break from our daily American politics.

BERMAN: Well, look. You are going to need the spirit, the positive spirit you have right now after tomorrow to have-to-help people recover and rebuild. Just give me a sense of your plans for to hopefully after you are talking to me here you are going to go home and stay home. What are your plans?

OWENS: I'm going right home. I'm going to eat a lot of ice cream before the power goes out and watch reruns of "Parks and Reck" and just hang out.

BERMAN: We have a lot of friends now rushing over to do the duty with you of cleaning your house out of all the ice cream before it melt.

Dan, it was great to have you here. We wish you the best of luck going forward. Please stay safe.

OWENS: I will, thank you.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks so much.

As we have been saying we are starting to feel some of the bands here raining, a little bit here. It's going to be raining much harder within a few hours. The wind gusts have been coming through. I think I'm going to Allison Chinchar right now in the CNN weather center to get a sense right now of the very latest from hurricane Irma -- Allison. CHINCHAR: That's right. So at the top of the hour, we got our latest

update. And the biggest thing we noticed that had changed was the direction of the storm as a whole, the forward movement. Now going from due west to slightly north which means this could be the final straw before we really see this thing take that sharp turn to the north which we have been expecting.

Now, right now, winds are still 125 miles per hour, about five miles per hour off from being a category four. And we do expect it to go re-intensify off to category four strength before it crosses over the Florida Keys and makes its way up to western coast of the border peninsula.

But a lot of people keep wanting to know why is it going to make such a sharp turn to the north? Why not just keep going out over the open gulf and head to the west. Because in theory that's the track it's been tacking for much of its life. But there's a few things that you need to understand. Now, spherically, that is what has been going on.

What has been steering in the last few days is the high pressure just south of Bermuda. That's what guiding it to the west. But once it gets far enough west it's going to interact with this high pressure system just off the coast of Texas. That's going to block it from going too far into the gulf. It's going to slide up the peninsula and then this high pressure over the main portion of the U.S. is going to push out of the way, allowing that storm, at this point a remnant low to really be able to push pretty far inland into portions of even Kentucky or Tennessee. So that's where most of the steering with the storm is going to come into play.

In terms of the biggest impacts out of the storm, winds are certainly going to be one of the top ones. This information coming to us from the national weather service. This is going to be the peak wind gusts, the highest as it expected to get. We are talking 135 around Key West, 134 in Fort Myers, 132 in Tampa. These are new numbers coming into us. The highest number that we saw was in excess of 145 miles per hour, potentially along the western edge of Florida.

Storm surge also going to be a big threat as well. Around Miami we're looking at 4 to 6 feet. Areas of Key West, five to ten feet. Naples and down south to that inlet there, the push was in 10 to 15 feet. So that's certainly going to be the highest point.

But even as you go further north, places like Tampa could be looking at five to eight feet. So you have to understand what this means in terms of real scale things, OK.

So take for example, a home. You think about one story or two-story home. When we talk about storm surge that's five to ten feet, not only does it cover most human beings that are at least five feet tall, but now you are talking at the 10 feet point you have entirely covered the first story of a building. In some cases on south west border, we have been talking 15 feet. That starts to creep into the second story of a home. But the other thing you have to keep in mind too are the waves that will be mixed in. This is where you start to get really big (INAUDIBLE). And the other thing to note, guys, it's not just the water. It's

everything that the water has taken out. So you have not only got very strong currents from those waves that could be knocking things around and adding higher onto those crests, but you also got the debris, the debris that will be in here. Not just on the surface but that could mixed down lower. So if you're in a car, if you are walking around trying to get places in the storm surge, those things can hit you and you may not even be able to see them or you are driving on the road and something ends up knocking into your car. So this again one of the many reasons why you should not be out when this storm surge hits its peak because it can be incredibly dangerous and deadly.

[16:35:12] BERMAN: Alison Chinchar thanks so much.

Hopefully people are in much higher ground and evacuated well before that storm surge is an issue. Allison just reported that storm has begun to make the turn towards Florida. That means if you are in the Florida Keys, if you have stayed, watch out. Southern Florida, get ready.

CNN's live special coverage of hurricane Irma continues after this quick break.


[16:39:46] COOPER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of hurricane Irma. It's been a long day. I've been out here for about five hours and a little sleep.

There's so many things to consider for law enforcement for emergency personnel when dealing and preparing for a hurricane, particularly of this size. And we have talked a lot about, you know, people who have medical needs, people -- even prescription drugs their access to that if the power goes out, if businesses are shut down.

There's a lot to think about. And obviously, we are seeing a lot of people bringing their pets to shelters, which is a big evolution since hurricane Katrina, when that was such an issue. People not being evacuating and being able to bring their pets.

We wanted to also look into the zoos here in Florida, what they do with animals in a hurricane like this.

Ron Magill is with zoo Miami. He joins us now.

How are you dealing with something like this? No matter where the storm goes, what do you do with all the animals?

[16:40:46] RON MAGILL, ZOO MIAMI (on the phone): Well, the first thing, we don't evacuate them from the zoo. A lot of people think we do that. But the bottom line is this. Storms can change direction at the last section and you are evacuating right into the path of the storm. Also, a lot of people, you know, they think they evacuate their dogs, their cats, their horses, these are animals that are used to be transported. These are wild animals in the zoo. And often, when you tried to evacuate an animal like that, moving it from its natural place, the stress can be so overwhelming, it can be more dangerous to the animal than the storm itself.

So what we do is, listen, you know, I have been at the zoo now for 38 years. We experienced hurricane Andrew which totally levelled the zoo in north eye of the hurricane came right through Miami and leveled it.

COOPER: We have some pictures of that we're going to show.

MAGILL: Yes, yes.

COOPER: We have pictures of hurricane Andrew.

MAGILL: Right. You know, we had animals like (INAUDIBLE) we put in the bathroom. We had the flamingos in the bathrooms. We used the public restroom bankers for a lot of those animals. And it was very successful method. But since that hurricane levelled the entire zoo and we rebuilt it, we rebuilt it understanding hurricanes are part of our lives. So now we have these wonderful buildings within the zoo that we now move these animals into. They don't have to use the public restrooms anymore.

And most of the animals actually stay in their exhibits, Anderson, because things like lions and then, you know, gorillas, and tigers, elephants, they are held in areas that are strong enough to withstand the strength of the animal itself. They are also strong enough to stand these hurricane, having to survive things like hurricane Andrew and Katrina well. We know that they are a good place to bunker the animals down in. The small animals, small birds, small mammals, we put them in small tack, small enclosures and move those into the buildings.

COOPER: So it's really key to just reduce stress on them as much as possible.

MAGILL: Absolutely. Because people don't realize, you know. We would evacuate if we were in a flood zone. Now, you know, with floods and a storm surge you cannot keep an animal there because it has nowhere to go if you drown. But our zoo, zoo Miami, is not in that type of location. That is not a risk. We have to protect them from wind and flying debris. And with the structures we have in our house, it is just like people in hurricane. You don't really evacuate because of win, you evacuate basically because of storm surge and flooding.

COOPER: Ron Magill, I appreciate all your efforts. And we will want to check in with you at the end of this just to make sure everything ends up alright with the animals. Thanks so much Ron.

We are going to take another short break and our coverage continues.


[16:47:37] COOPER: You are looking at live pictures of Flagler Beach, which is near Daytona Beach, just to give you a sense this storm is out there, it is coming, it is coming fast. But it has been calm in a lot of parts of Florida today, here in Fort Myers other than occasional bands of rains over the last hour or so. It's been sunny outside. Folks have been walking around. But they know based on the new tracking we got this morning that this storm has moved west of Fort Myers, Tampa, Naples and point south on the west. All are in the line of sight of this. We're watching to see if there's any movement in this storm because that could have a big difference.

I want to bring in our reporter, Randi Kaye.

You have been driving around. And you know, one of the things in Fort Myers is a lot of people just thought they were going to ride it out. But now that it shifted west all of a sudden, they were going to shelters. You and I both drove by a shelter. You were able to stop at it. There were so many people outside there.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You couldn't help but notice it also. We were going up 75 north and there was this massive crowd of people, as you saw. So we quickly jumped off and it turns it was germane arena, which is a hockey place, a hockey stadium. And thousands of people were lined up. Some had been there since earl in the morning. It opened 10:00 and they were there just, you know, trying to seek shelter because they saw the storm shift. As you said, the truck ship. So they were there with, you know, their dogs, and their children, one guy belongings. I saw people carrying suit can. One guy had a yoga mat to sleep on. There were people in wheel chairs. There was one guy who had a prosthetic leg. They were, you know, there was a lot of elderly that are waiting and others for holding their place in line. It was really a difficult scene, but they were all just hoping to seek shelter there instead of their homes. We talked to a few of them, and here's a sampling of what we heard.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It changed the itinerary every time we looked at the map.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. We have been like --.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trying to figure out --.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should we go to Atlanta? No, we go to (INAUDIBLE). No, we will stay at my cousin's house? We go to another shelter. So we stay in our house and now we are (INAUDIBLE).

KAYE: No. Do you feel like you waited too long to decide.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Totally. I wanted to leave on Monday. If it's the biggest hurricane ever, just leave and you're not stuck. Gas was great on Monday.

KAYE: How long have you been waiting in line?

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

KAYE: Is this your only hope for shelter with Irma? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, yes. With the animals? Yes, it is. Yes.

Unfortunately, things are close in the past.

KAYE: Yes, at the end here. How do you feel about that?

[16:50:03] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it is alright. I came with my elderly neighbor who is 87 and couldn't walk well. So he went to the front of the line. And I hoped to somehow find him in there.


COOPER: And thankfully the weather was OK. I mean, it was hot obviously and miserable. But it wasn't pouring rain for these people who are waiting for hours.

KAYE: No. And it was actually a little cool and overcast, because the storm is coming. But their main worry was will they all get inside. A lot of them were just seated and wondering and there was the National Guard there. And so we asked them. We interviewed Lieutenant Greg Bueno (ph) from the Florida highway patrol, actually. And he told us that it holds about 8,000 people. By the time we were there, there were about a thousand inside so it had plenty of room which is great news. Because the line wrapped all -- as you saw wrapped all the way around the parking lot, so. And he also said that they have security inside. The National Guard will be there. They have food, water, air conditioning. So hopefully, it will be a good place for all of these folks to ride it out.

COOPER: Yes. And last we heard from Drew Griffin who is there, that there is still room. The problem of course is getting there for people because the public shuttles those shut down hours ago.

KAYE: Right. And so, we also looked at the parking lot which is pretty full as well. So the question is though, you know, these people have been waiting in line, four, five six hours. And some of them told us. And you start of wonder why didn't they leave tow, you know, before that because if you can drive maybe four or five or six hours, maybe you can get away from it. But it was a tough situation to see. So I just hope they get inside and they are all safe.

COOPER: Yes. There's so many, you know, considerations when you are thinking about evacuating your pets, your medicine, your loved ones, gasoline. Just the fear of being on the highway. Getting stuck in traffic. Things like that.

Randi, thanks for that. We will have more on that tonight in our coverage.

We are going to take another short break and be right back.


[16:55:46] BERMAN: All right. John Berman in Miami right now.

The rain let up a little bit. The wind still gusting fairly strong. The word for our meteorologist, the storm has started to make that northward turn which means the keys, very much on target right now. And then the west coast of Florida, the major concern, thousands of people told to evacuate and in some cases they just made the decision to go this morning.

Our Miguel Marquez is in Port Charlotte on the west coast.

And Miguel, I understand that the shelter you're at right now, filled to capacity.

MARQUEZ: It is filled to capacity. All of the shelters. Now, there are only three in Charlotte County are filled to capacity. And I should point out this is just north of Punta Gorda which is also in Charlotte County. Punta Gorda took a direct hit by Charlie 13 years ago. And was absolutely levelled by it. And the path that this hurricane, that Irma is on right now is very, very similar to it.

So this is Kings' Way elementary school. Give you a sense of -- there is about 900 people in here now. A lot of people hanging out because right now it's a bit literally the calm before the storm. It's not so terrible. As you can see how they have literally packed people in. They have parked up on the grass here at the elementary school. They are turning people away, but there are five other shelters in Sarasota County that they can bring people into or they are directing them to for the use, for residents from Charlotte County.

So I want to bring in Trish Sturgis who is the manager here at Kings' Way.

How have you managed today? How many people have you had and what sort of waves did they come in?

TRISH STURGIS, MANAGER, KING'S WAY: We started real early this morning. We had people coming in yesterday. They continue to come in real fast and furious this morning. We actually had to take a lull for a little bit. Count of where were, how many spaces we had still remaining and then reopen numerous more. We are now at 943.

MARQUEZ: This is an elementary school. You moved into the cafeteria. And then did you have to open more space in the school? How did you do it?

STURGIS: Yes, we started in the cafeteria with the open area in there. We then opened to back corridors that had safe passage. And then eventually we had to open the full upper level.

MARQUEZ: There's absolutely zero gas out there. If someone shows up at your door, and is utterly desperate, what do you do?

STURGIS: Half an hour ago we had a couple out of Naples. They were headed north. They ran out of gas. They came off the highway looking for a place. We have them in, set up for the night here. Obviously we can't turn someone like that away.

MARQUEZ: Charlie hit here. You guys are familiar with the power of this storm. This one, the path changed in the last 48 hours. It looks like a direct -- what's going through your mind as you are preparing for this storm and the responsibility of all of these souls in here?

STURGIS: For me it's just keeping a real positive atmosphere in there. They are going to be scared. The ones who have been here through Andrew and they talk all of the different storms and their experiences. So as long as we can keep it happy and positive, then I'm doing what I need to do.

MARQUEZ: All right. Keeping it happy in Port Charlotte. Thank you very much. Good luck. Really I appreciate it.

They - tonight, it is going to get worse. Tomorrow it's going to be even worse when that wind is howling. She gets a round of applause. Then we will see how happy things are. But for now, people are up and they are ready for the storm -- John.

BERMAN: Miguel Marquez for us in Port Charlotte.

The people in those shelters doing such an important work. The governor of Florida Rick Scott saying they need nurses, they need volunteers to help out in the shelters. So many people in Florida already answered the call.

And Miguel, again, thank you.

We have an important forecast update, seconds away. CNN's special live coverage continues now.

COOPER: John, thanks very. I'm Anderson Cooper in the west of Florida, the west coast of Fort Myers where people woke up today with a very different anticipation of the days ahead as the storm moved to the west.

But as John Berman just mentioned we have a very important update. The latest, the 5:00 update of the track of this storm. And as soon as that comes through we are going to go to our Allison Chinchar who is standing by.

John, obviously, a lot of people in Florida are watching this very closely because as we have been saying, you know, as we saw with hurricane Charlie back in 2004, it was moving up this river and a slight -- I think it was a four degree shift made it hit the town of Punta Gorda, not the areas that people had anticipated.

Let's go to Allison Chinchar with the latest on this storm.

Allison, what have you learned from the 5:00 update?