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Florida Braces for Direct Hit from Cat 5 Irma. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired September 9, 2017 - 01:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, everyone. This is CNN's continuing coverage of Hurricane Irma. I'm Michael Holmes in Orlando.

ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And I'm Isa Soares, coming live to you from Miami, where Hurricane Irma is already being felt.

HOLMES: And we will be with Isa very shortly. Meanwhile, a short time ago, Hurricane Irma did make landfall on Cuba's north coast. And now the storm is about 24 hours from striking the Florida Keys.

Now within the past few hours, it cranked back to a category 5 storm. Sustained winds of 160 miles an hour. It is not expected to weaken before hitting Florida early on Sunday. A very, very unusual event to hit land at cat 5 on the U.S. mainland.

Now the window to evacuate, meanwhile, quickly closing for the countless drivers who did heed the call to get out; there is only one way out and that is north. But it's slow going. Bumper-to-bumper traffic stretching to the horizon.

Now flying out of Miami is no longer an option. The last commercial flight to leave the international airport was several hours ago. Airports in Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach will all halt operations Saturday.

Now Irma is one of the largest of landing storms ever recorded. And those who stay behind are taking a massive risk with their own lives. Emergency shelters already filling up with those who cannot or will not leave.

As of right now, the storm has left at least 24 people dead across the Caribbean. The totality of destruction, in some places mind-boggling, as in these images you're looking at from the island of Barbuda.

All right. Let's go now to Isa Soares in Miami for the latest from there, where the storm is starting to have an effect -- Isa.

SOARES: Thanks very much, Michael. The storm just 24 hours or so before Hurricane Irma makes its approach

here. Inland, we're starting to feel the effects. Not just in the mood here in Miami but also in the weather.

Let's start on the weather front. As you can see, in the last 40 minutes or so, it started to rain. Now it's slight. About 10-15 minutes ago, it was really chucking it down. So we've got that. We've had lightning in the last half an hour.

And you can't see it. But to my right, the sea, you just have to take my word for it, has become much stormier, much more tempestuous. This, Michael, is a sign of things to come.

And the mood here has changed as much as the weather. It's gone from one of preparedness to one of urgency and jittery. And that is why officials are urging people to really think about it, seeking shelter.

Let's have more on the latest on where this weather is shifting the pattern we've been seeing with Hurricane Irma. Let's go now to Karen Maginnis -- Karen.


As we take a look at the radar, we're already seeing some of the bands. The deep tropical moisture just at the periphery of Irma as it starts to make its way all the way from Miami down to the Florida Keys.

What's interesting about this is here is one band. A little bit of a break here before the next band, which is much broader. You'll see lots of lightning. You'll see the wind pick up. You will see this over the next 24 hours.

Only it gets steadily worse. You'll see band after band. And then the bands are closer together. Right now, Irma is about 300 miles to the east-southeast of Miami. What also has been very interesting is it just kind of jogs around this region.

It did make landfall along this north central coast of Cuba. And now it looks like it may start to make that turn more towards the north. And the computer models have shifted as well.

But I want to complete what is the current position of Irma, with 160- mile-per-hour winds, a category 5 hurricane. Even though it has interacted with these various islands across the Bahamas and the Caribbean and now Cuba, once its eyewall made its way on shore there, it's going to bounce back out over these very warm waters and continue on its trek towards South Florida.

Now the computer models initially earlier in the week were saying, well, Miami is the place that the computer models are kind of agreeing on. Then they started to shift. That European model shifted just a little bit. All right. Saturday around 3:00 pm, Key Largo, Key West --

[01:05:00] MAGINNIS: -- Miami, towards Naples. You're looking at increasing hurricane force winds. And then we start to see that pick up more for Fort Myers and West Palm Beach. Hurricane force winds from the Atlantic coast of Florida all the way to the Gulf Coast, because, at its widest, it's 130 miles wide.

Just the eye of this hurricane is about 120 miles in diameter with winds at category 5 force. Michael, back to you.

HOLMES: All right, Karen Maginnis, thank you so much for that. We'll get back to you a little later in the program.

Meanwhile, joining me now from Nassau in the Bahamas is journalist Stefano Pozzebon.

Stefano, bring us up to date on what you're seeing there. Tell us what it's like.

STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST: Yes, Michael, we are in Nassau. We have no experience of burden of the first of Irma because of the geography of Irma's path has been spared winds of a category 4 hurricane.

But what we are experiencing is the winds of a tropical storm. Nassau is in the northernmost part of the Bahamian archipelago. This is where people that have been evacuating from the southernmost part of the destinations were brought in the past few days.

We've been able to speak with a few of them yesterday. And the main feeling for them is the uncertainty, the uncertainty that they don't know what actually happened in the southernmost part of the Bahamas, those that were struck by Irma at its full force as a category 4 hurricane yesterday.

These people that have been evacuated successfully in the past few days are staying here in Nassau and they look forward to going back to their houses and not really knowing what they're going to find there, Michael.

Because the image we have seen from the eastern islands in the Caribbean, such as St. Martin's and Barbuda, are really (INAUDIBLE) and many of the people we have spoken with is this going to be the same for me when I go back to those islands in the south of the Bahamas -- Michael.

HOLMES: Stefano, we've got to talk a little bit more about Barbuda in a moment and how badly hit that was.

But where you are now, what about infrastructure?

What about readiness?

What's the sense there about being able to deal with this?

POZZEBON: What we have experienced, Michael, is that the Bahamians are very much used to these type of events. They were definitely prepared. That is the experience, the impression that we have got since we came here a couple of days ago.

Most of the people were ready, who shelter in their houses, trying to make themselves as safe as possible and stocking up on food, water, especially on petrol because we know that, in cases like hurricanes, a petrol outage is a possibility.

But we think we have experienced that the Bahamians were ready for that. And we have spoken with an official from the emergency management agency just late last night. And they told us that they were still assessing the damage throughout the archipelago. But there were no casualty reports in the Bahamas -- Michael.

All right, Stefano Pozzebon, thank you so much there in Nassau.

Let's talk a little bit more. Stefano mentioned about Barbuda. It was badly hit. Barely habitable, we're told ,after Irma really crushed the island. It was a category 5 hurricane when it hit there on Wednesday. At least one person died. And now residents are preparing for a second hurricane in four days. Our Leyla Santiago with more on that.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Once a Caribbean getaway, surrounded by turquoise water, now demolished, left desolate, unrecognizable, by Hurricane Irma. This is the shocking view as we fly on to the island of Barbuda.

Jerome Teague says hurricanes are a way of life here but not this one.

JEROME TEAGUE: This is the worst one ever seen.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): And this could get worse, as the hurricane- ravaged island braces for Hurricane Jose. Those who braved Irma now arriving in Antigua, evacuated to escape a second major hit.

Elvis Burton is determined to protect the place he's called home for 12 years -- at least what's left of it. He evacuated but returned to find a home no longer livable, savaged by nature.

ELVIS BURTON: It's my home. I have to try and save it.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Even more are determined to save lives, get people out of Barbuda, save the people who seem to have lost it all. It's hard to imagine that an island now rubble, an island home to nearly 2,000 residents, could get any worse than it already is. But the prime minister --


SANTIAGO (voice-over): -- has said 95 percent of the buildings are damaged and it will be quite the rebuilding effort. More than $100 million to get this the way it once was.

SANTIAGO: Barbuda looks like a war zone?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like a war zone. Everything is blown up.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): This is the wrath of Irma, now on the move. Irma has shown her strength, the reason so many fear what is headed to Florida -- Leyla Santiago, CNN, Barbuda.


HOLMES: And you can just see there, devastation beyond belief in Barbuda and St. Martin.

Isa, let's take it back to you there in Miami. Of course, now the storm headed to where you are in Florida. And this is a state of 20 million people and, you know, and millions have been told basically, get out.

SOARES: Being told to get out and what we're seeing is what looks like a mass exodus. The National Weather Service, this is what they tweeted at 5 o'clock, if we can bring the tweet up. This is what they said.

"This is as real as it gets. Nowhere in the Florida Keys will be safe. You will have time. You still have time to evacuate."

That was at 5 o'clock, Michael. People, officials now saying, look, if you're leaving it this late, you shouldn't be leaving. You should be going and seeking shelter. The more than 30 or so shelters that have set up in place in Miami.

Of course, officials keep on saying and just telling people very clearly, we can rebuild your houses. We cannot rebuild your lives. And really trying to drive home that message for people to take this very, very seriously.

And now I want to show you some images that we have got from the U.S. Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters. They basically -- what they do is they fly above and around hurricanes to take atmospheric readings. And that gives you a bird's-eye view of what you're looking at of Hurricane Irma, the tremendous size of Hurricane Irma, not just in its breadth but also in its length.

Let's bring in our Derek Van Dam, he's joining us now from Miami Beach.

Derek, we've been talking so much about the storm surge. As I'm talking to you, I'm starting to see lightning; I'm sure you're seeing it, too. Talk to us about the significance of that storm surge.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, I know you're close to where I'm located as well, Isa.

But the storm surge here, what we would anticipate, 5-10 feet, that is inundation. That's not above normal tide levels. We're talking about inundation over in Miami-Dade, of course, right in the South Beach area.

And that's really a major, major concern. It's really only about 100 meters to my left here where the beach begins. It's incredible just how quickly downhill the weather conditions actually turned just about 15 to 20 minutes ago. I know you felt the same thing I did, a first rain band from Irma that made its way to the shoreline.

And the temperature literally dropped 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit in a matter of 60 seconds. It's almost as if the water vapor in the air was completely taken away. It just changed on an instant.

So if we're feeling the winds pick up to 35 miles per hour, roughly 50 kilometers per hour, back quickly with some of the outer, outer bands of this storm, you can imagine really what's to come.

Now what's new in the past hour or so is the National Weather Service has extended the hurricane warnings of the west coast of the Florida Panhandle -- excuse me; the Florida Peninsula and the East Coast of the Florida Peninsula.

So it's basically to Brevard County on the east coast and it's basically just to the north of Tampa on the west coast. So, really, none of the state will be spared from hurricane force conditions.

We've been talking about the sheer size of Irma. We know it covers nearly 70,000 square miles. And the entire state of Florida alone, Isa, is 65,000 square miles. So you don't need to be a mathematician to figure out what that means.

SOARES: No, you don't need to be a mathematician. You just need to look at the size of it, at the scale of it and compare it to previous hurricanes to really get a sense of how big it is and how seriously we all should be taking it.

But let me ask you this, Derek. We've been looking at really Miami and it's peppered with these high-rise buildings, very modern buildings.

When you're talking about the storm surge, how safe are some of these buildings?

We heard officials basically saying, you should be getting out. You should be seeking shelter, regardless of whether you think your building is safe or not. Put that in perspective for us.


VAN DAM: Well, a lot of these high-rise buildings, Isa, are built with some of the parking garages as the first few levels. And then it's really where the apartments and the businesses are located on the higher levels of the building.

So in terms of storm surge, of course, the high-rises may be spared from the worst of the flooding because it would flood, let's say, the parking garages below.

But the wind would be a factor here that we would be concerned about. There is a phenomenon known as the canyon effect that occurs within these buildings. So when the wind literally gets squeezed between two objects, like two high-rise buildings, it accelerates and becomes stronger.

So it's very easy to see wind gusts in between these buildings spike above 100 miles per hour, even if just outside of the densely clustered area of high-rises it's only 80 miles per hour, for instance.

Plus, Isa, when you go up in elevation, that's where you find stronger winds. So I believe it's somewhere between 20 to 30 percent stronger each 10 floors you rise. That just kind of puts it in perspective. You may even feel, in a 40-story building, the building actually starting to sway because of these category 3, 4, 5 type winds.

SOARES: Yes, so very important for people to be heeding the warning and the advice coming from authorities. Derek Van Dam, thanks very much. We'll be touching base with you throughout the hour.

And, Michael, that is why we have seen police here in Miami going door to door, just really loudspeakers telling people, please evacuate. Please leave. Seek shelter. Perhaps it may be too late now to get in your car and to drive, given those long lines that we've seen the motorways bumper-to-bumper.

One person basically saying a journey that would have taken something like two hours is taking as long as nine hours -- Michael.

HOLMES: Yes, sitting in that traffic, going absolutely nowhere. And, Isa, it's extraordinary, seeing the numbers that were up on the screen there: 5.6 million Floridians have been told to get out. They're under some sort of evacuation order. That is more than a quarter of the population, 5.5 million people being told to leave.

Absolutely amazing. We'll check in with you a little bit later as well.

Meanwhile, we're going take a short break. When we come back here on the program, despite every dire warning, as Isa has been saying, some of those Florida residents they want to wait out the storm. We're going to hear why they're refusing to leave. Stay with us. We'll be right back.






UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You do what you have to do. You do what you have to do and we'll do the best that we can and if things don't work out, we did the best.



HOLMES: And welcome back, everyone, to Orlando, Florida, where we continue our breaking news coverage of Hurricane Irma.

I can tell you, here in Orlando, the main part of the storm isn't meant to hit until Sunday afternoon local time, probably around 2:00 pm or so. But people are out partying. It's a lively Friday night, Saturday morning now. People are out. You can hear the music behind. There is crowds of people out on the street.

But that storm is on its way. And, of course, it's already brought havoc to the Caribbean. I want to show you a scene on the British Virgin Island of Anegada. The storm killed at least four people in the islands and more violent weather is on the way.

Let's not forget, Hurricane Jose is now a category 4 storm and is set to reach that area over the weekend.

Well, John Hynes joins me now on the phone. He lives in Key West, Florida, and is one of those waiting out the storm.

John, I've got to say, we talked before the break about 5.6 million Floridians have been advised to leave under some sort of order. You are not going.


JOHN HYNES, KEY WEST RESIDENT: Well, first of all, we love it here. We live here. We're also in a category 5 rated concrete condo. We're on the top floor. We're hunkered down. We have plenty of food, cash, water and we're well armed. So we're ready to go.

HOLMES: What are you expecting?

I mean everybody -- and you've seen the pictures. You've seen the radar, the satellite photographs. This thing is huge. I mean, you think about what happened with Hurricane Andrew and do the size comparison.

Aren't you a little bit worried?

HYNES: No, sir. Like I said, we're in a category 5 building. And all the people are telling us that we should leave are in the hotel next door to us. They're still here, too, as are the police, firefighters, the EMS, all that.

We know it's going to get loud. It's going to get bumpy and we'll hunker down. And it will last a day, day and a half. And then we'll go out and rebuild and help those that need help.

HOLMES: I think the officials were saying there is no safe place to be on the Florida Keys. That doesn't raise an eye with you.

You're feeling safe?

HYNES: I feel safe in a concrete building that is rated category 5. We're fine. We're good.

HOLMES: What about storm surge?

Everybody talks about storm surge.

How are you placed for that?

HYNES: I'm on the fourth floor of a four-story condo complex. Storm surge is not an issue for us. I mean, it's an issue for the island, obviously. But for us, we're safe.


So what do you do the day after?

What happens?

You look out the door and look at the damage?

Do you have any neighbors who are there as well, who are sticking it out?

HYNES: We have several neighbors. The entire two floors of the hotel next to us are full, as are the ones across the street. In our condo complex, half the people on the fourth floor are here. And when it's done, it's over with, we go out and assess the damage and we go help our neighbors and we rebuild our little island (INAUDIBLE).

HOLMES: What sort of emotions are you going through?

You sound -- I've got to say, John, you sound pretty cool about this.

HYNES: Well, I've been through more than most. Things like this don't scare me.

HOLMES: John, tell me why?


HYNES: Well, I've -- last year was a bad year for me. I went through losing my mom, my dad, my little brother. They're all out there. I spread their ashes out here in the Atlantic Ocean. So they're all out there. I'm here. I've got the love of my life beside me and there is no reason to run.

I'm people have said, well, what if the bridges go out?

Well, I got to tell you, I'd rather be on this side of the bridge going out at home, safe and secure, than on the other side, along with millions of people trying to get back and not knowing when they can get back.

HOLMES: So emotion is playing a role in your decision then, because of the losses from last year and that feeling that family is still around you, even those you have lost. HYNES: Yes, family is still around. Plus, like I said, it's just a lot easier. There is no way I'd want to be in that traffic with millions of people going north to Miami and Fort Lauderdale. I want to be evacuated (INAUDIBLE).

It's where can you go?

You can't get out of the way of this thing. We're in a concrete building.

HOLMES: All right, John, good luck. I understand. Good luck, John. I admire your bravery and our good wishes with you.

John Hynes there in the Florida Keys, going to ride it out.

Thanks for being with us.

All right. Let's take it back to Miami now, which is in the path of this storm.

A brave man there perhaps or foolhardy?

We don't know.

SOARES: Exactly.

I mean, it's such a personal decision, isn't it, Michael?

People deciding whether to stay, hunkering down and staying or to leave. And authorities are just reminding people, in fact, that if you are staying and then you need help, do not call 9-1-1 because people will not be able to turn up and help you. So worth bearing that in mind when making that decision.

Let's get Kyle Boos (ph) pretty good , who joins me now, on the phone from Davie in Florida.

You're also, Kyle, deciding to stay put. Tell us why.


Thank you for having me today. I've lived in Florida most of my adult life here. We've been through Hurricane Andrew. We've been through Katrina. We've been through Wilma. And we thought it was safe for our family to stay here and to stay put.

We've got a generator. We've got shutters. And we're 13 miles inland. So we think we're relatively safe right now. But everybody is concerned.

SOARES: OK. Paint us a picture for our viewers right around the world.

Who is inside your house?

How preparations have been -- you talked about having shutters and being slightly further inland. But give us a sense of the inside, how that preparedness, how prepared you are for this.

BOOS (PH): It all started about Tuesday morning of when I went to work and then I came home. And everyone started getting real paranoid.

And on Wednesday is when I went into work and I left a little bit early. And every gas station had maybe 50 or 60 cars in it. Then the Publix, the supermarkets, all started to run out of food and water. Everybody started preparing real early.

So what we've done here is we've got ice. We've got water. We've got food. So we've got a game plan. Once the power does go out -- and that's the worst part about the storms, when the power goes out is you lose your air conditioning. You lose hot water. And you lose a lot of the food that you would normally eat on a normal, everyday basis.

So we've got our whole family. My brother is here from Arizona. We had a contingency plan to go up to Clearwater Beach tomorrow or the next day. But they're under an evacuation. So that got canceled. So right now we didn't know where to go. So we thought the safest place would be to stay home.

SOARES: Did you consider not going to a shelter?

BOOS (PH): We think that there is a shelter right down to street from our house. But with our home being so far inland, we thought it would be best for us to stay here as a family.

SOARES: Kyle, thank you very much, joining us there on the phone. We wish you, of course, the best of luck for yourself and your family.

And we'll have much more on Hurricane Irma. It's already being felt here in Miami. We've seen lightning. We've seen the water picking up, much more stormier than before. And, of course, the heavens have opened.

We'll have Karen Maginnis really bring you the path of Hurricane Irma after a very short break. You are watching CNN and we are, of course, the world's news leader.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

HOLMES: Welcome back, everyone. We're about 24 hours away from witnessing one of the largest and most powerful Atlantic storms ever recorded to make landfall in the United States. It is forecast to hit the Florida Keys early on Sunday.

Now within the past few hours, Hurricane Irma cranked back up to a category 5 storm with sustained winds of 160 miles an hour. The eye made landfall on Cuba's north coast late Friday, ferocious intensity there.

Irma's so large, it is expected to cover Florida with destructive winds and heavy rain. This storm has a footprint bigger than the state of Florida itself. State and federal officials warn there is no safe place to stay, highways clogged with cars and trucks, heading north while they can.

It is slow going, though, for most people. As of right now, the storm has left at least 24 people dead across the Caribbean. The totality of destruction in some places is really mind-boggling. Let's go now to Isa Soares in Miami.

Isa, you must be getting ready for it to hit there soon.

SOARES: Yes, very much so. You can see, Mike, we're already feeling it. Within 24 hours or so before it actually makes landfall here, we're already starting to see a change, not just in the weather but also in the mood here in Miami.

The heavens have opened. The winds have begun to pick up. Our SUV was actually shaking at one point. We've also -- see, to the right of me, it's the ocean. You can't see it. But it's much choppier. The waters are stormier and much more tempestuous. And that's really, Michael, a sign of things to come.

Hence why authorities have been telling people, police going door to door, telling people, please evacuate. Seek shelter. That is the most important thing. An official basically saying, stop looking which way the storm is going.

Is it going east?

Is it going west?

It doesn't matter. At this point, you should be hunkering down if you are staying or you should be seeking shelter. Leaving at this moment --


SOARES: -- may be too late because, as you clearly pointed out, the highways, the motorways are clogged up. Something that would have taken two hours is now taking eight hours. So this is just the beginning of things to come.

Let's put more meat on this. Karen Maginnis is our meteorologist. She joins us now.

And, Karen, we're already starting to feel the power of Irma and this, of course, is just the beginning, isn't it?

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is. And it's interesting that you mentioned that because I've watched the observations across all of South Florida. And the wind has steadily increased from out of the northeast.

Those are those outer bands, lots of deep tropical moisture. And this is a hurricane that is still roughly 300 miles away but already has produced these bands with lots of lightning, where the wind starts to pick up. You get a little bit of a lull before that next pretty amazing-looking line of storms begins to crash into this southern portion of Florida.

I want to show you one of the webcams that we have out of West Palm Beach. This is West Palm Beach. And if you take a look at the streets here, you'll see they're virtually empty.

I am actually very happy to see that because that tells me either people are hunkered down, going to ride out the storm, or they have transitioned to another part of the state or they moved someplace else across the state. That is good news.

I also took a look at the Tampa tower camera. And you can see it shaking around.

What are the winds?

They're between 25 maybe close to gusts of that, 40 miles per hour. All right. Here is our European model. It has changed. It's been sneaking and creeping over, more or less from the east coast of Florida, sneaking over towards the west coast of Florida. But it's only moved just a little bit.

But it's enough to make a difference. But don't concentrate on where this is eye is going to be because nowhere in Florida are you going to go unscathed. Everybody in Florida is going to see the rain. Everybody in Florida is going to see the wind. It just depends on how much.

Here is that American model. Moves across the Florida Keys and is in agreement with the European model. We've talked a lot about those models because they give us some idea, just kind of a trend, as to what is going to happen.

I want to show you what happens after it makes landfall. This will be late in the day on Sunday that you can take a look at these winds. They are going to pick up phenomenally.

Once it makes landfall, then all of South Florida -- and the governor said mandatory evacuation for over 5.5 million people where. You see this white shaded area, hurricane force winds.

Can your home take that?

Can your condominium?

Remember, the higher up you go, those winds are going to be stronger. So into western sections of Florida, the wind maybe the equivalent of category 1 or 2. It moves farther to the north. And because it's interacting with land, it's going to lose a little bit of its speed. But it's not going lose the rainfall. And the rainfall with the storm surge, that is going to be key issues.

It's not going meander like Harvey did. Irma is going to plow across the Florida peninsula -- Michael.

HOLMES: Karen, I wanted to ask you, it was a year or so ago I was here covering Hurricane Matthew, which was nowhere near the size of this, obviously. But back in 2012, I covered Hurricane Sandy.

And one of the things that struck me with that storm surge, we literally saw houses that had been picked up by the storm surge and put intact in the middle of roads, which just showed the strength of that storm surge.

How bad it is likely to be, particularly on those barrier islands, those coastal areas, those houses that are along there?

MAGINNIS: That is interesting that you bring up Sandy. And this particular system, because it is so huge, and this is essentially comparison with Andrew back in 1992, this being Irma and just how massive. It's twice as big as Andrew was.

But for a storm this big and some of those barrier islands, you may see some new cuts in some of these islands, so do cuts on land. When I say that, that's because there is such a force of water that it will actually carve out and just kind of make its own divide, make its own pathway.

That's what we did see with Sandy on some of Long Island and some of the other barrier islands. So that is a genuine likelihood.

We know some of the older construction in Florida, well, it's not up to the standards that they set after Hurricane Andrew. So there is a lot of old construction in some of these areas, 1950s styles home. In some ways they're pretty tough. But up against Irma, I'm not so sure about that -- Michael.



HOLMES: Just some extraordinary scenes with Hurricane Sandy. And this so much bigger. This is going to be amazing to see how it develops.

Great to see you. We'll check in with you later. Karen Maginnis there.

I want to bring in Mary Kislinger (ph) now, who is on the line. She's the manager of the Miami Beach Botanical Garden. She has left the city for Jacksonville, Florida.

I want to get to the garden because it's such a fascinating story. But first of all, tell me about your evacuation.

Why you decided to leave, how was the journey? MARY KISLINGER (PH), MIAMI BEACH BOTANICAL GARDEN: OK, well, I had originally intended to stay. I reside on Miami Beach. And, of course, we were all watching that cone of uncertainty of where the hurricane is going to land. And we saw what it did in the Caribbean.

And you were just looking at these images, thinking it's difficult for me to leave my home. I don't want to displace myself. But this is going to be a big storm. And it's going to come in, right in at Miami.

So we would watch. We would wait, we would watch. We would hope that it would sort of veer to the right or go out to sea. And at one point, it just became apparent that this was our window of opportunity to move north, to go north.

So we drove north. And I arrived in Jacksonville today, a couple of hours ago, actually.

HOLMES: Yes. And I bet it was a slow drive. It certainly appears that a lot of people have been stuck in that traffic for many hours. We've heard of drives that were meant to take two hours taking eight or nine hours and the like.

But good for you for getting out. I wanted to ask you about the botanical gardens, though, because I was reading up on it. It's a fascinating place. A great thing that you have done there.

But as I understand it, it's pretty much right on the beach.

What are you thinking you might come back to?

KISLINGER (PH): It is right on the beach. There is really at this point, we just have to wait and see. It's an outdoor space. It's two and a half acres with about 100 species of palms.

The palms should take the winds pretty well. That's what they were grown for. They're native plants. Part of the garden is a native garden. So a lot of the plants were meant to live in this climate.

So we're hoping that the garden will sustain the storm. There are some very large trees there, the Champion seagrave (ph) tree and there's a ficus tree and there's many large, large plants that we hope will survive. But some of the smaller ones are going to get washed away.

So it's going to be --


HOLMES: It's been here before, right?

It has been destroyed before a storm, hasn't it?

KISLINGER (PH): It has been destroyed. In 1926 there was a massive hurricane that really decimated Miami Beach. And the garden clubbers went around with little seedlings in Dixie cups to refoliate Miami Beach.

And that's essentially the roots of Miami Botanical Garden today, was those residents, just walking around with little seeds, little cups with seeds in them, to refoliate the beach. And so that's going to happen again. It's going to be a replanting, I'm sure.

HOLMES: And how do you feel about that?

You've put your heart and soul into this place. A lot of people have. And we talk a lot about homes, obviously, and lives are paramount. But you must have an emotional attachment to the garden.

KISLINGER (PH): Yes, of course. And it was difficult to actually leave Miami Beach and feel like I wasn't abandoning my garden, my state, my home. But I have to let the storm pass through, as they say. And it will be interesting to see what I go back to.

HOLMES: Yes. Mary Kislinger (ph), thank you so much. Appreciate your time. Good for you for getting out. And good luck with the gardens. Hopefully, you've got something to work with when you go back. I really appreciate it. Thank you.

Well, for those unable to escape Irma's path, stocking up on supplies obviously the best alternative. We've certainly done that as well. And that was the case for many people in the Bahamas. We're going have more from Nassau when we come back. Stay with us.





SOARES: You are watching CNN and our continuing coverage of Hurricane Irma and its path. You are looking at satellite imagery right now of where it is. It's, just as you can see, over Cuba and touching Bahamas there. I mean, we're feeling some of that wind and some of that rain, to put it into perspective for you.

To imagine what is being felt in Cuba, I'm joined now on the phone, on the line by Basil Dean. He is the deputy director there in the Bahamas Meteorology, Department of Meteorology.

Thank you very much for joining us. Give us a sense of what is happening where you are.

BASIL DEAN, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, BAHAMAS DEPARTMENT OF METEOROLOGY: Isa, right now, we're having some light rains here in the capital, in Nassau and the Bahamas and a little bit of fresh breeze. And we don't expect much more than we are experiencing right now, even though we're under a hurricane warning, new problems is pretty much well to the east of the center of circulation.

And hence we anticipate conditions will be pretty much the same with occasional rain showers (INAUDIBLE) here and there. However, we have discontinued warnings for the Southeast Bahamas, including the Turks and Caicos Islands.

And as we move forward over the next several days, heading into the weekend, we expect tropical storm force winds for the most part for the remainder of the islands and the Bahamas.

But as far as the core of those hurricane force winds, I think Ragged (ph) Island would have been the last island in the Bahamas that would have experienced the hurricane force winds.

SOARES: Basil, while speaking to a good friend of mine, who is a marine biologist in Nassau, she is basically saying she hasn't seen rain. She is seeing winds, very strong winds. She is there with several of her colleagues and family. And she said it hasn't been as bad as many people expected.

But we've also heard from your prime minister, who has been saying that you've done mass evacuations. Talk to us a bit of the preparations that you have seen, given the hurricane 5 -- hurricane is expected -- it's being felt, let's say, not just in Bahamas but also in Cuba.

DEAN: Well, that's all relative. The Bahamas --


DEAN: -- stretches from about 50 miles just off the coast of Florida to just about 30-something miles off the coast of Cuba. And that's a pretty good stretch when you talk in terms of geography.

However, in the Southeast Bahamas, including the Turks and Caicos Islands, there's been a major effect however, in particularly the Turks and Caicos Islands. The island of Snug Corner (ph), Crooked Island, Acklins would have experienced hurricane force winds.

And also the island of Ragged Island with (INAUDIBLE) pass exactly over Ragged Island. So the Bahamas is a pretty large area, geographically, meaning there are certain parts of the Bahamas that can be under hurricane force winds and others not.

And that is exactly what has happened. Right now, the tropical storm force winds continue throughout most of the islands. But as far as the hurricane force winds are concerned, they're now moving across the -- just the north coast of Cuba, preparing to make that trend towards the north and west.

SOARES: Basil Dean, joining us there on the line. Basil, appreciate you taking the time to speak with us here on CNN. Of course, we'll be thinking of yourself and everyone in the Bahamas.

And you are watching CNN and our continuing coverage of Hurricane Irma. We are in Miami where we've got roughly 24 hours of so before it is felt. But I can tell you this, what we're seeing now, the rains, The waters being much choppier and lightning, this is just the beginning. We'll have much more after a very short break. (MUSIC PLAYING)




HOLMES: Welcome back, everyone. While Florida braces for Irma, authorities in Mexico are grappling with their own hurricane.

Hurricane Katia made landfall in Mexico as a category 1 storm a few hours ago. Strong winds, heavy rains, also the threat of storm surges there and as well flash floods and mudslides.

Meanwhile, rescue crews trying to reach survivors trapped under rubble after a magnitude 8.1 earthquake left at least 61 people dead. That quake was the most powerful to hit the country in a century, causing extensive damage to some of Mexico's poorest areas, many of which were close to the epicenter.

Mexico City about a thousand kilometers away, suffered some damage as well. We'll continue to follow that story for you as well.

Meanwhile, do stay with CNN, as we continue to cover Hurricane Irma for you. Isa Soares is with us again.

And, Isa, that rain seems to be really battering you now.

SOARES: Very much so, Michael. We expect it to make landfall in 24 hours or so. But already it is being felt, not just the wind but also the rain. And the sea to my right has become pretty ferocious.

We'll have much more after a very short break. Do stay right here with CNN.