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Florida Braces for Direct Hit from Cat 5 Irma. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired September 9, 2017 - 04:00   ET



MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: We are, of course, bringing you all angles of the impact of this devastating storm. So let's get started with the very latest.

South Florida just hours away from taking a direct hit from Hurricane Irma, which is back to a category 5 and no expectation it's going to weaken. We already know what to expect. Irma will arrive in the Florida Keys early on Sunday, looking much like this.

The storm slamming into the British Virgin Islands with howling winds and punishing rain. People in Florida who think they can ride out the storm on their boats should see these pictures from Antigua.

These are large pleasure craft flipped upside down like toys, simply no match for a storm of this size and ferocity, incredible images there. This video also from the Virgin Islands is another good indicator of what's in store for Florida, structures built to withstand a category 5 storm will probably still be there the next day.

But everything else likely gone or destroyed or badly damaged. Let's take you now to Miami where Isa Soares is keeping an eye on developments there -- Isa.

ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR: It's getting very windy; it's picking up those winds. We've only got 24 hours or so to go until Hurricane Irma really makes landfall. But the winds have started to pick up. We're seeing lightning in the last few hours. It's been raining quite significantly and these winds are, without a doubt, beginning to pack a punch.

But of course this is just the beginning. And that is why officials have been telling people, going out, door to door, police telling them, please leave; please evacuate. The mood has changed, has shifted somewhat in the last 24 hours or so from one of preparedness, one slightly more caution and jitteriness (sic) here.

The streets out in Miami, you know it's like a ghost town in many ways, Michael, because of those concerns, people trying to heed that advice.

Now if what officials have been telling in the last several hours is if you're not sure whether you're staying or going, you're looking at the path of the hurricane and you're still undecisive (sic), well, you should be making a decision, should have at least made a decision by this morning.

Leaving it much later, officials are saying, becomes very difficult and very problematic. So either seek one of the 43 or so shelters in Miami-Dade that are really here, operational for you, seven of which are now very packed. But they have got capacity for a million people or so.

So there is plenty of space. If you are thinking of traveling north, perhaps a warning, it may be getting slightly too late because of the long lines we have been seeing in the I-95 and the main motorway, being bumper-to-bumper in those motorways. It is not going as quickly as people anticipate.

Remember, this is in many ways a mass exodus that we're seeing here in Florida. So worth bearing that in mind.

But on the ground we are starting to feel the first effects, the initial impact of Hurricane Irma. This, of course, is just the beginning. Let's find out how Hurricane Irma, how its path and where it is going and its strength. Karen Maginnis has been monitoring that for us over the last several hours and she is joining me now.

Karen, what's the --


KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: All right. Looks like we lost our signal from Isa. But she was asking about the latest regarding the hurricane.

Here are a couple of developments through the Florida Keys and they were some of the first areas to have mandatory evacuation. They are already seeing tropical storm force wind gusts. We have had some gusts around 55 miles per hour.

The hurricane is still 275 miles away. All right. So it made landfall along the north central coast of Cuba. It will start to make a turn more toward the west-northwest before going northwest. Sometime, looks like Sunday, early in the morning, it will move across the Florida Keys.

Then briefly move out into the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico, very briefly; it is not moving way out in the Gulf but just offshore and perhaps making a second landfall in the vicinity of Naples, Florida, and then just hugging some of the western counties of Florida before making its way into South Georgia.

Now South Georgia and into South Carolina, they have prepared and they have shut down some of the schools and some of the offices in preparation for the potential for what remains from Irma.

Now let's also talk about what's happened in Dade County. We had one strong band of --

[04:05:00] MAGINNIS: -- storms move through. Now we have another one. Still probably another 45 minutes to an hour before we see this first little outlying band move across South Dade County.

Already about 10,000 people without power in Dade County. This was from an outer band. We are not even looking at the hurricane across the peninsula of Florida.

So here it is, through the Florida strait, as we look at the future radar; Sunday morning across the Florida Keys, perhaps is a category 5, maybe it'll a category 4. It is still a major hurricane.

Then moving on in, in the vicinity of Naples, Florida, this is quite different from the early computer models. We are seeing a landfall right around Miami. You have to shift according to the weather conditions, according to more information that you have to put in. Take a look at some of the rainfall totals for next 48 hours.

This is not even a five-day event, this is just looking at the next 48 hours. Naples, Florida, just under 10 inches of rainfall. Fort Myers, 8 inches; Fort Pierce, about 4 inches; Sarasota, Florida, 6 inches.

So you can see the western edge is now really kind of the critical path for the system. This is the European model. There we go through the Florida Keys. There we go in the vicinity of Fort Myers. Here is the split right down the Florida peninsula, still the impact from hurricane force winds on the eastern side. So don't feel like you have been duped by this because you'll still feel the impact from the category 5 hurricane, maybe category 4.

Then we take a look once again. Draw a line right down the middle. Here is the eye through the Florida Keys. Here is Naples. This is the Tampa Bay and Sarasota area, so more to the western edge.

If you have folks or family or friends who live there, see where they are because there have been about 5.5 million people across Florida that the governor says, you have to get out. You have to because this is a monster system.

It is not like Andrew back in 1992. You could have two Andrews that would be the size of what Irma looks like. So the power outages will continue. We will see lots of storm surge here along this western edge.

Isa and Michael, storm surge could be 10 to 15 feet. So we're looking at underwater situations and not just along the coast but even inland.

Back to you, Isa.

SOARES: Thanks very much, Karen. Really it's staggering when you put it into perspective, 10 to 15 feet. Really just makes you think of just your options and what you should be doing.

The National Weather Service said at 5 o'clock local, about 10 or so hours ago, they said this is as real as it gets. Nowhere in the Florida Keys will be safe and goes on to say you still have time to evacuate.

But some people have decided not to. Some people decided to stay put. One person is Andy Guerra-Mondragon. He is joining me now on the phone from Miami Beach.

And, Andy, tell us why you've decided to stay put.

ANDY GUERRA-MONDRAGON, MIAMI BEACH RESIDENT: Good morning, Isa. Good morning to your viewers. I decided to stay put because moving would be even worse. This pinning the tail on this donkey hasn't been easy. And I have been through many storms; Andrew. And I am prepared.

I'm on the ninth floor. So I'm away from the storm surge. And hopefully my high-impact windows and sliding doors will be OK.

SOARES: Andy, when you say moving would be worse, what do you mean by that?

GUERRA-MONDRAGON: Well, I remember people getting stranded up in the highways without gas, food, water. And I didn't want to be one of those. So I prepared for years, knowing that another Andrew could come in. And I just sold my house last week, which was totally prepared, completely survival mode.

And I took some of that to my new apartment in Miami Beach in South Beach. And I have remnants of that like a --


GUERRA-MONDRAGON: -- big battery with a lot of amps and other items of necessity, even a shortwave radio, citizen band radio, if I'm stranded.

But looks like the storm is going to be heading a little west and we will be spared the brunt of it. Although this is a monster storm; I don't think anybody is going to really escape it. I'm starting to see the winds pick up and there is a lightning show you would not believe, looking south. It's quite ominous.

SOARES: Yes, and I can see the lightning to my right. I've been seeing lightning for the past three hours or so, Andy. It sounds to me that you sound very prepared for this but, like you said, this is a monstrous storm.

At any point, Andy, did you think twice, should I seek shelter and, if so, when did you make that call?

GUERRA-MONDRAGON: Well, that's a good question. I have been -- yesterday, I biked around this ghost town in South Beach and Miami Beach. It is really a ghost town. It is a bikers' paradise right now.

During that bike ride, I saw and asked about shelters. And I actually went through, went in front of one. And it is on ground level, only six blocks from the ocean. That doesn't seem very smart to me. But that's the fact. So I'm on the ninth floor. And I would rather stay dry and -- instead

of being down there facing 10 feet of water. It's not fun. I don't think that's a good idea. But, anyway, some people don't have anything and that shelter might be their lifesaver.

SOARES: Yes, very much so. Andy Guerra-Mondragon, I appreciate you taking the time to speak to us. Of course, wish you the best of luck.


SOARES: Do keep us posted on how you are doing in the hours ahead, Andy. I appreciate your time.


SOARES: Let's go back to Michael in Orlando.

And, Michael, as Andy was saying, it is his decision. He is prepared. He has seen what Andrew can do. But he says on the ninth floor and he's ready, it's his decision. And of course it is what authorities have been saying. If you decide to stay, be prepared but also be aware that we may not be able to come to you, should you need our help.

HOLMES: It's a big risk, isn't it. But a lot of people we have been speaking to in the last few hours, they are determined to stay and they're comfortable with that decision. We have to see how it plays out.

Isa, thanks so much, there in Miami.

Want to go now to Nassau in the Bahamas. Journalist Stefano Pozzebon is there.

Stefano, I've been talking to you for the last few hours as well. Nassau is not a place that is a stranger to hurricanes.

How are they dealing with what is happening?

How are they dealing with Irma?

STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST: Yes, Michael, what we have experienced is, especially in the last few hours, is definitely a sense of relief really because Nassau in particular and the northernmost part of the Bahamian archipelago has been spared by the worst and the burden of the brunt of Irma.

But also a sense of pride. We have been speaking with officials from the Bahamian emergency management agency who had organized any evacuation (INAUDIBLE) was the largest evacuations that have ever come through in the history, in their history, six islands of the archipelago being almost completely evacuated.

And they said they were ready to face a category 4 hurricane such as Irma as we were expecting right here in Nassau. That didn't happen and is not happening. We experience strong winds because a tropical storm still has significant winds.

But the population here really had a sense of coming together and facing this challenge in the most successful way. And there was definitely some sense of pride of how prepared they were -- Michael.

HOLMES: All right, Stefano. Many thanks to you, Stefano Pozzebon there in Nassau.

Now Irma left the island of Barbuda barely habitable, incredible numbers here. About 95 percent of the buildings were severely damaged when the hurricane hit as a category 5 on Wednesday.

At least one person died but when you see the scale of the damage, that seems incredible as well. That is drone video there shot by CNN, shows almost every house ripped open --


HOLMES: -- or completely destroyed. Barbuda is not safe yet. Hurricane Jose is expected to hit there on Saturday as a category 4 storm.

Now earlier I spoke with Michael Joseph. He is the president of the Red Cross in Antigua and Barbuda. He joined me from the capital, St. John. And I began by asking him about the most immediate needs there.


MICHAEL JOSEPH, RED CROSS: As it stands right now, we've gotten the immediate need covered, primarily because we did evacuate the entire island of Barbuda. So there's been this outpouring of support from the locals in Antigua and Barbuda.

We've been having food coming in left, right and center. We've had clothing, we've had baby supplies, toiletries. So the immediate needs are being attended to. I think most importantly what the Barbudans need right now is Barbuda as they know it.

And that shelter, that getting back their livelihood, going back to what they know because as it stands now, they're pretty much in Antigua and Barbuda not doing anything that they would normally do in Barbuda.

HOLMES: Tell me a little bit more. Try to give -- we see the pictures but try to give me a sense of what is left there in Barbuda.

What is there in terms of infrastructure, in terms of businesses?

JOSEPH: There is nothing left in Barbuda. It's not 95 percent damage, you know; I think the better word is 95 percent destroyed. There's no damage, I mean, damage is when you can repair something, this is desolation. We're talking about building everything back from basic. It's almost Barbuda being pushed back into primitive days.

You've got to run the entire electric grid, you've got to replant plumbing lines so you can get water. You've got to rebuild schools, churches, homes. You have got to give fishermen boats. The entire country we'll going to have to build again.

So everything that would have been accomplished over the many, many years until 2017, it's all back to square one with Barbuda.

HOLMES: It just defies belief when you put it that way. Tell us a bit about the spirit of people there, the willingness to rebuild it, the determination.

Are you already detecting that?

JOSEPH: Yes, I mean, definitely, Barbudans are very proud people. This is what they know, their heritage. This is something they'll fight for. So to wake up one day and have to come to the realization that you're going to have to move everybody from the country and you're going to have to go into another country and pretty much just be there with a new life.

So Barbudans themselves, they're ready. They're waiting, trying to figure out how they're going to rebuild and when. As a matter of fact, some of them, even 95 percent of the buildings that are destroyed, many of them still want to live in whatever is left. That's just how much pride they have and the love they have in Barbuda.

HOLMES: It's a remarkable spirit. I have to mention, though, Hurricane Jose.

I mean, after dealing with something like this, the devastation, what is it like to know that another one is on the way?

JOSEPH: I think that's why the government made the decision to evacuate an entire island. We consider what happened after Hurricane Irma to be a very, very fortunate and miraculous event, the fact that you have 95 percent of an entire country destroyed and only had one fatal death.

So the government wasn't going to (INAUDIBLE) ordered everybody evacuated so we can ensure safety and security because there isn't absolutely any for another category 4 hurricane.


HOLMES: And that was Michael Joseph there, speaking to me earlier. He is the president of the Red Cross in Antigua and Barbuda, just describing the devastation that Irma caused there.

All right, we're going to take a short break. When we come back, those remaining in Miami are starting to feel Hurricane Irma, as the monster storm heads toward Florida. After the break, we will be back with Isa Soares in Miami.



[04:20:00] (SPORTS)


HOLMES: Welcome back, everyone.

South Florida just hours away from taking a direct hit from Hurricane Irma, which is back to a category 5. And there's no real expectation it will weaken. We already have a pretty good idea of what to expect. I'll show you pictures from Antigua.

Look at those boats there. Big boats flipped upside down like toys. No match for a storm like this. And this video from the British Virgin Islands shows what hour after hour of category 5 wind will do. Just have a look at that.

The aftermath, a surreal landscape, with hillside structures gone. Really just reduced to splinters.

Let's go back now to Isa Soares in Miami, where the winds have been picking up. The rain has been falling and, no doubt, a lot of anticipation of what might be to come.

SOARES: Very much so, Michael. We are looking less than 24 hours before Hurricane Irma makes landfall here. Of course the mood has changed somewhat in the last six to seven hours, not just the mood but also the weather.

In the last four to five hours since we have been here, the winds have begun to pick up. We have a battering of rain in the last three hours, quite torrential rains, too. And next to me, you won't be able to see it, you'll just have to take my --


SOARES: -- word for it, the sea has gone somewhat much more stormy and much more agitated and more tempestuous. And we are seeing the thunder to my right. That is just the beginning of what will be Hurricane Irma.

Also in terms of the mood here in Miami, it has gone from one of preparedness to one of agitation, more jitters, more urgency. That's because officials have been, police have told people, if you haven't made up your mind, where you're going to go, if you're dithering, this is not the time to be unsure.

Police have been going door-to-door here in Miami, telling people to evacuate. More than 5.6 million people have been ordered to evacuate. Florida, we do not know how many have been heeding that warning.

But I can tell you, looking out here at Miami, it is like a bit of a ghost town. Majority of people are not here. Whether majority have gone to shelters, more than the 40-plus shelters around, well, that is the hope for many officials. Police then basically saying, if you are not hunkering down and not going to these shelters, you need to be making a decision and making a decision fast. Let's get more; Derek Van Dam joins us now from Miami Beach.

Derek, we know what it is like where you are but I believe you are by Miami Beach. And this time roughly on a Saturday morning, I can imagine it would be packed with people, drinking and partying. It is quite a different scene tonight, I imagine.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Speaking of ghost towns, Isa, this is classic. Literally there are no people out and it is 4:00 in the morning on the South Beach. It would normally be incredibly be busy this time of morning because people would be getting out of bars and restaurants, a very lively area on a Saturday morning typically.

Not today. They've heeded the warnings -- and good thing they did as well. By the way, 5.6 million people ordered to evacuate, that could potentially, depending on how the numbers actually play out, be the largest United States evacuation in history. That is ahead of Hurricane Rita back in 2005. That would be astounding to see those numbers actually come to fruition.

Let's talk about what we've experienced here. Within the past three hours, we've had some of the first outer bands of Hurricane Irma make the way into the Miami-Dade County region. The temperature dropped 10 to 15 degrees almost instantly. The wind picked up, gusting over 35 miles per hour with some of these little bands that came through.

That is just a taste of what's to come. We know that the storm track has moved ever so slightly to the west. That has big ramifications for where the center of the storm will go. That is where we find the strongest winds, the category 5 winds, 155 miles per hour plus.

It looks now to be Naples, perhaps into Clearwater, just south of the Tampa region. That is why the National Weather Service has just recently upgraded from hurricane watch to hurricane warning as far north as Tampa. And also storm surge warnings in effect across the region as well.

So what we are expecting on the west coast of the Florida peninsula, 8-12 feet inundation. That is not above sea level, that's full inundation on the east coast, where I'm standing now, still anticipate 5-10 feet.

Time will tell if we actually get that. But one thing is for sure, there is a lot of forward momentum with Hurricane Irma. It has had a significant amount of time to push up the Atlantic Ocean. We expect the storm surge and heavy rainfall and the potential for flooding to be the major threat where I'm standing right now in less than 24 hours -- Isa.

SOARES: Thank you very much, Derek Van Dam.

We will have much more on Hurricane Irma after a very short break. Do stay right here with CNN.





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

SOARES: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of Hurricane Irma. I'm Isa Soares in Miami, Florida, where it is 4 o'clock, 4:31 in the morning.

HOLMES: It is getting to be a bit like that, Isa.

I'm Michael Holmes in Orlando. It is also 4:31 here. We will update you now on Irma's progress. The monster storm -- and that's what it is really -- it's on a collision course with this state, Florida. It is set to hit within the next day. We have some images from NASA showing the eye of the storm and its scale. It is huge.

And it has strengthened back into a category 5 storm and has already devastated parts of the Caribbean. I want to show you the scene in Cuba where Irma struck with sustained winds of 160 miles an hour. That is just less than 260 kilometers an hour.

Earlier, islands such as Barbuda were guttered by the storm. Irma is already responsible for at least 24 deaths in the Caribbean. And there is another major storm on its way. Hurricane Jose is now set to strike the region over the weekend. Let's go back to Isa in Miami again -- Isa.

SOARES: Thanks very much, Michael.

Yes, the winds have started to pick up and we have already seen rain the last two hours or so. Let's get the latest. Karen Maginnis is joining us from the World Weather Center.

Karen, I know you have a new update, new developments for our U.S. viewers in the East Coast.

MAGINNIS: Yes. Isa, what we have seen, this very dramatic, at least in my estimation, is just how much Irma has slowed down. Over the past 12 hours, it was moving along rather rapidly, about 18 miles an hour. But our last update from the National Hurricane Center has it moving at 12 miles an hour.

Now it has been interacting with land. So you may expect to see these different kinds of changes to take place.

Here is a different view. This is a water vapor imagery. This is Cuba, the north coast of Cuba. There's the eye of Irma that has made landfall there. Reports are coming out of Cuba that said the winds were so high, it broke their anemometer, the gauge that measures the wind speed.

Also that the wave heights were between 16 and 24 feet. This is a category 5 hurricane. Now as we track it going into the next 24 hours, there it is, still more hugging right along the Cuba --


MAGINNIS: -- coast and then it looks like it makes landfall right around the Florida Keys. Already in the Florida Keys, we have seen some wind gusts as high as 55 miles an hour. This is before the hurricane even gets there.

And we are looking at perhaps it making a second landfall in the vicinity of Naples, Florida, by early Saturday afternoon.

Here is a different perspective. This is the northern coast of Cuba. There it is, as a category 5. Then it goes to the Florida strait, very warm water temperatures. That's what it needs. But it has interacting with different land masses, nothing huge, but it has interacted with the Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas and made landfall in Cuba.

So now its trek has shifted just a little bit further toward the west. Now it looks like these western counties of Florida, so saturated with many lovely communities and these coastal areas, that the storm surge here could be phenomenal, 8 to 12 feet, 10 to 15 feet certainly possible.

One other thing we don't typically mention until it starts happening is that upper right quadrant, that is where we start to see the tornadic active. With a system as large as this, you might expect it has a lot of deep tropical moisture.

Let's move over and just show you what we can expect as far as Irma is concerned and some of the wind and the rainfall amounts. Here is the wind that we are expecting. You can see the in white shaded area wind gusts from the Florida Keys all the way over to Collier County and to the north with hurricane force winds.

And then as we go into the early morning hours on Monday, we are looking at areas around Sarasota, expecting tropical storm, possibly up to category 1 hurricane force winds.

Even into Georgia and into South Carolina, where they have already made preparations for schools and businesses, it looks like even this is going to be impacting those areas going into the start of the workweek.

And the mandatory evacuations in Florida, Michael, we saw about 5.5 million people under mandatory evacuations there.

HOLMES: That's a staggering number, isn't it, Karen, 5.6 million people told to leave their homes in a state of 20 million, a quarter of the population, just amazing.

We will check in with you in a bit, Karen Maginnis, thanks so much.

I want to bring in Mateus Cameron (ph) now. He is the managing director for the Miami Biltmore hotel where he's going to be riding out the storm. You did decide to leave your own home -- I think it's in Key Biscayne

-- and go to the hotel. Tell me how the day has unfolded for you.

MATEUS CAMERON (PH), MIAMI BILTMORE: Good morning, Michael. So far, so good. We have seen the winds pick up. We have had some heavy showers come through. But it is still relatively calm here at the moment.

HOLMES: Now you have the hotel there.

How many people are there and what sort of preparations have you had to make?

I mean, you've had to make preparations on a rather grand scale.

CAMERON (PH): We sure did. We have about 420 guests and 120 staff members onsite and some 60-plus pets. We've had the good fortune of time. So we have been at this since Monday evening and Tuesday. We got into full gear, making sure we have all the supplies, following our emergency plans and getting ready for this event.

HOLMES: And how do you do that?

I mean, the logistics obviously are difficult but you seem like you are organized and planned ahead.

But how do you plan the safety aspect of that?

You literally have hundreds of people in the hotel.

CAMERON (PH): Well, we give them instructions as they check in and guidance in terms of what we would want them to do and not to do at the peak of this event. We have our team members, many of them that have been with us for years, so this is not the very first time for many of them. So there's a certain experience that helps us.

And, again, you provide backups to backups. We have portable generators. We have a large generator for the entire property. We have diesel pumps. We have a number of systems place that should allow us to provide a very safe and somewhat comfortable environment while we --


CAMERON (PH): -- are all going through this.

HOLMES: I can imagine there's an element of camaraderie when you have all these people together.

What is the mood like?

Any nervousness there?

CAMERON (PH): Absolutely. There are -- everybody handles this kind of stress differently. It is safe to say that it puts a great amount of stress on everybody. But, yes, we have a very cohesive team and a great ownership here on site. So we are concerned.

We are taking this very, very seriously but we are going through this calm and collected and we'll provide, again, a safe environment for our guests and our team members.

HOLMES: You know, you mentioned the pets. I have to ask you, what is the most unusual one there?

At the hotel I'm in, in Orlando, I shared an elevator with a Guinea pig today.

What is your most unusual?


CAMERON (PH): No, I don't think we can compare to that. I think we are pretty straight forward. Mostly dogs and full of cats.

HOLMES: Well, OK. So you can't beat the guinea pig.

CAMERON (PH): No, not yet.

HOLMES: You'll need some room refresher after that guest leaves, I can tell you.

Great to talk with you, Mateus Cameron (ph). Thanks so much, with the Biltmore there, appreciate it. Thanks.

All right. We are going to take a short break here and we'll be back with more full coverage of Hurricane Irma. Do stick around.




HOLMES: Welcome back, everyone.

Cuba is already seeing damage, as Hurricane Irma rips through with high winds and there has been flooding as well. Our Patrick Oppmann is following the storm near the Cuban coast. He joins us now.

You certainly had some rough --


HOLMES: -- times a few hours ago.

How are things now, Patrick?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Much worse, Michael. That was just one gust and actually the Cuban coastline has now come to us. The house and town where we have been reporting from is now underwater probably a good 3-4 feet of water, about halfway up the first floor of the house we're on. Luckily, there is another floor on top of us. So we should be OK


But it is tragic. You look down the street. We walked down yesterday the main street of this town and there are waves are rolling down it. You just wonder if people were able to get out in time here.

This is a category 5 storm that is barreling down on Cuba right now, the most devastating category storm there is or hurricane there is. And it will have catastrophic damage for Cuba. It is not done with us yet. It is rolling up the coast here, Michael. And for the people whose path it is in, you just have to pray for them.

HOLMES: How prepared were people, Patrick?

Everybody knew this was coming.

What sorts of preparations were done?

What preparations could be done, given the circumstances?

OPPMANN: You know, the government was moving resources in. We saw trucks going by with loudspeakers, telling people to evacuate throughout the day. People were aware of the storm. Some people told me they just were not afraid. They did not want to leave their houses.

We are in a cement house. We picked this house to stay here because of that. It will not blow down. There are hundreds of other homes in the town. Thousands of other homes along this area of Cuba, the coastline, that are built out of wood and old. And I saw houses that looked like they would fall apart in a light rain.

This is not a light rain. This is the most serious hurricane to hit this island in many years. We have no words about injuries or deaths. But you can only imagine for the people that are going through the long night that we just experienced, what a horrible experience that was and the morning they will wake up to is not much better.

HOLMES: And it is not done yet. Daylight will reveal some of the extent of what has occurred. Patrick Oppmann, thanks so much, for us there in Cuba for us. You will bring us those reports I'm sure in the hours ahead.

Meanwhile, Florida is staring down Hurricane Irma, now back, as Patrick said, as a category 5 strength. Those who cannot leave or chose not to are starting to pour into emergency shelters. We'll talk to the city manager of North Miami next. We'll be right back.




(MUSIC PLAYING) HOLMES: Welcome back, everyone, to our continuing coverage of Hurricane Irma. I'm Michael Holmes in Orlando, Florida.

As the category 5 storm moves toward the Florida Keys, we are getting a closer look at the island of Barbuda in the Eastern Caribbean. It was one of Irma's first casualties. Hardly any structure there escaped being damaged or indeed totally destroyed.

The inside of the homes, have a look at that, did not fare any better. Ruined appliances and broken windows, water damage everywhere. Homeowners will be lucky to find anything to salvage.

SOARES: Let's get more now on how authorities are preparing for Hurricane Irma. With me now is the city manager of North Miami, Florida, Larry M. Spring Jr.

Larry, thank you very much for joining us, a very good morning to you. Talk us through, Larry, some of the preparations leading up to the arrival of Hurricane Irma.

LARRY M. SPRING JR., MIAMI CITY MANAGER: Good morning, Isa. The city, since probably last Saturday, has been working through the emergency management plan and ensuring that we've secured all of the city buildings and we have been communicating with our citizens and making sure they are prepared to weather the storm and be self- sustaining for 72 hours following the storm.

In the last days, actually, yesterday, we went to our Alpha Bravo status in our EOC and we assisted the county in getting some evacuated citizens within our area into two shelters late yesterday. So we are just really preparing ourselves and getting extra water stocks and food preps and getting ready to bear down for the storm.

SOARES: And, Larry, you know, we have been told that up to 5.6 million people have been ordered to evacuate in Florida, the majority of people heeding.

Have they heeded that warning, that advice?

SPRING: Well, actually I believe so. We are seeing in the two shelters that are normally in our city, we are seeing numbers that we typically would not see. In fact, last night, I actually had to arrive with some additional staff from our city to help staff one of the shelters. They said they were looking at numbers that were already up to 1,000 in one of the shelters.

SOARES: And, Larry, there have been several people speaking to who are deciding to stay put.

For those still undecided, what do you say to them at this hour?

SPRING: Well, we have kind of had that conversation internally. And we've said if you have been asked to evacuate, we are trying to get you to go. But if you don't go, we cannot force you to leave. But understand that once the storm gets here, our police department

and our public works and our staff will not be able to provide any type of assistance until after the storm has passed and we don't even know how quickly thereafter because roads may be blocked and trees will be down. And we'll be trying to --


SPRING: -- clear the roads for emergency vehicles, FP&L and all the other resources to get the city back up and running. So...

SOARES: Larry M. Spring Jr., I appreciate you taking the time to speak with us. I wish you the best of luck and to everyone in North Miami, who are working to keep all of us safe. Thank you very much.

And, Michael, like Larry was saying, there is only so much you can say to people who want to stay put. You give them the advice and you tell them you may not come to their rescue if they need to. But of course, it is a personal decision and a risk for some people who've decided to stay put.

HOLMES: Exactly. You know, they will find out one way or another; if they have not been through a hurricane before, it will be quite a ride, that is for sure, especially with Irma. Isa, thanks so much.

Florida and especially around where we are here in Orlando, a real hot spot for amusement parks when it is not being hit by hurricanes. Many people desperate to get out of the state right now. But there are still a few tourists trying to get in. Affiliate WISN spoke to one family that is going to Disney World no matter what.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're definitely a little nervous. We have never been through something like this before. But we know people down in the area. And they've been through -- they went through Matthew last year. They said it was a lot of strong winds and it wasn't too bad.

Sunday and maybe Monday are the days we lose. But it is going to be a nine- or 10-day vacation. So we did not have the option to push it back, unfortunately.


HOLMES: Now many Disney attractions, by the way, before you rush down here to Orlando, will be closed because of Irma starting today, Saturday. The company says its hotels will stay open through the weekend and it hopes to resume normal operations by Tuesday.

And that is it for this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. Thanks for your company. I'm Michael Holmes in Orlando.

SOARES: And I'm Isa Soares in Miami. Our continuing coverage of Hurricane Irma continues with "NEW DAY" -- next.