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Hurricane Irma Batters Florida; Aired 8-9p ET

Aired September 10, 2017 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Obviously, though, that is -- does not mean people in any way are out of the woods. It just means the storm is sort of spreading out a little bit.

Tom wasn't sure exactly the direction this was going to go. Could go back over the water, try to reform a little bit.

Ryan Young is in Clearwater again, just west of us here in the bay area.

Ryan, you've been getting a lot of winds and a lot of that sideways rain.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, definitely a lot of wind and the sideways rain. We're trying to kind of stand under an awning at this point to kind of give us some cover but you can just feel the wind and the power that it has. I mean, when it first started we were below 20 miles per hour and now the gusts have been pretty strong. We've seen some signs get ripped off of the billboards. We've actually seen some loose trash cans going down the street.

This sideway wind is very powerful, and in fact depending on where I stand, you can see how it increases based upon whether or not I have anything blocking me as the wind comes this direction. So this is the real concern at this point because you have above land power lines and of course those can snap at any moment.

We've heard some transformers exploding just like you guys have at your site. And so many people were trying to make that critical decision about whether or not they were going to leave their homes, and I could understand this.

Look, even in my own family, people did not want to leave their homes, in south Florida. This is the place where they have either grown up or they've spent their entire lives so they wanted to hunker down. In fact just since our last live shot I got a call from my parents who I haven't been able to reach in Miami, and they were able to get through the storm on the Miami side so that's a sigh of relief.

That's what people are dealing with in terms of not wanting to leave these areas that they've spent a lifetime in. When we went to some of the neighborhoods trailer park home, people were talking about the idea no matter what, they did not want to leave their homes.

COOPER: And I think for so many people, where you are in Clearwater here in Tampa, St. Petersburg, all along the west coast, there was such a shock yesterday when they woke up to find that the storm had moved west, a lot of people here in the west coast was thinking this was going to be mostly an eastern storm, an east coast phenomenon that they were going to get the hardest hit.

But when that storm moved the game changed for them, and a lot of people who had planned to just stick it out, ride out the storm yesterday started trying to get to shelters and even today starting to try to get to shelters.

There's an awful lot of people who thought they were going to ride it out. They either are now in shelters thankfully or they have driven out of this area and authorities said look, you don't even have to go -- you don't have to go to another state, you just need to get to a place that has a higher elevation as we've been talking about and Clearwater and Tampa and St. Petersburg, that's 700 miles of coastline around Tampa Bay.

I mean, just think about that. Just the exposure, the number of houses that are built so close to the water, along those 700 miles of Tampa Bay. That is the huge concern with storm surge tonight.

Do you have a sense of what the shelter situation is in Clearwater? How many they were able to set up? Did a lot of people end up going to shelters?

YOUNG: Well, you know what? That is a great question. And we -- as we bounced around today we dealt with more of the homes and so we didn't get into the shelters. In fact we talked to some of the emergency managers and they said, look, they were dealing with downed trees, they hadn't had any major calls.

We didn't make it to the shelters on this side. We did experience some of them in Tampa and saw some of them filling up with people actually from Miami. So if you can imagine that people were coming up from the south, from the Keys, coming down to this area and then all of a sudden they are back within this wall of the storm.

They thought they were escaping it but only put themselves back in it. So a lot of people were questioning whether or not they should have moved from the south in this direction. And, you know, at this point, the only reason why I am standing in this direction is because I'm trying to keep the wind out of my face but the gusts, they keep getting stronger and stronger and that conversation about whether people should shelter or stay at home, that has been a big ongoing conversation.

So far we haven't heard of any major incidents in this area, not only St. Pete but in the Clearwater area as well.

COOPER: Yes. Ryan, just hang on a minute because I want to stay with you but I do want to just give you a heads up. I'm going to be going to Tom Sater soon just to get a sense of where the storm is. But also I'm going to be asking Tom and I just want to give him a little preparation if he's able to do it to kind of zero in on the Clearwater area, on the Tampa area, and this whole area just to give a sense of where things are right now, just to kind of give the bird's eye view of what Ryan is experiencing.

Ryan, what area of Clearwater are you in right now?

YOUNG: We're Clearwater on one of the main roads here, we moved before and I want to make sure I say the right name here. One of the things -- hold on, sir. Tell me once again, where are we exactly? I want to make sure. Say it again? Come forward for me.

This is actually the owner where we are right now. So I know this is an evacuation zone. Tell us where we are again?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're in Ulmerton Road.

YOUNG: Ulmerton Road.


YOUNG: And so have you ever experienced a storm like this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, first time. First time.

YOUNG: First time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're all nervous.

YOUNG: A little nervous?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, a lot nervous.


YOUNG: How are you holding up? I know you let most of your employees go home but this is a concrete building so you felt pretty safe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. That's true.

YOUNG: What's the next step in terms of what you're doing? Did you do anything to your home or --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I live in a condominium, Daytona Beach, so I'm pretty much safe there.

YOUNG: You're safe there.


YOUNG: Give me an idea of what it's like because I know you have some emergency services people here. What worries you about this storm? Because I know you talked to a lot of people in the area.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, the way it looks is a lot better than what we thought it would be, from cat 5 to cat 2. Now I'm just keeping fingers crossed. Hopefully we'll be in better shape.

YOUNG: Thank you so much for walking over. Thank you. So there you go, Anderson. And right on the spot right there. We've

been moving around all day long so we've been between Tampa, St. Pete and now Clearwater to experience this one.


YOUNG: And there you heard the owner of the hotel that we're at, who is kind of explaining the idea that they didn't think this was coming and now that it's here, they're definitely sort of waiting to see what happens. In fact some people thought it was going to be flooding. They have the sandbags ready to go. Luckily so far, even though we are in an evacuation zone, we haven't had the need for any sandbags, haven't dealt with any water, but the winds, that is something that has a one-two punch that you just can't get ready for because it just comes with a left and a right.

COOPER: Yes. I want to bring in Tom Sater.

Tom, if you could just give us obviously overview of where the storm is but also if you could just kind of what people in Clearwater and Tampa are experiencing now and what they should -- what is going to -- how it compares to what they should expect in the hours ahead.

TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, obviously if you look at the infrared satellite imagery the bright red colors are the colder higher cloud tops. And notice that on the -- on northwestern flank there, Tampa, St. Pete, I mean, that's what you're looking at, that bright red, so that's a band of thunderstorm activity that's developed. And that's why the St. Petersburg Emergency Services are saying, hey, we're not going to go out right now. We're going to hunker down.

So a little bit of a surge in that northwestern quadrant. But last time I was with you, Anderson, I mean, some things have changed. And maybe we demand more of ourselves but in the last hit with you, I was like where is this thing going? It's starting to play some games with us. Now we've been following this since the 31st of August, and the model's handled it pretty well getting it down to Cuba.

And we've already said once it moves north then we'll be able to know where landfall is. That's why we're been playing this game of east coast-west coast. Well, it wants to play some more. I'll explain. First of all, new numbers have come in, the systems dropped a little bit more to 105 sustained winds, gusts are still at 130 and those hurricane force winds still extend outward a good 80 miles so again there is still some force to be reckoned with here.

But again, when you look at the radar, and here is the problem, I talked about the eye is closing up, we're seeing more of a rain shaft now, and now there is still a center that you can mark and track, but we're now seeing, in fact this is what was confusing in the last hit I was with you because we're still watching the National Hurricane force forecast track which wants to take it toward Tampa. We've been watching that kind of northern, northwesterly track.

The center, however, Anderson, is deviating now to the east. That's a little bit of a concern now. It takes maybe more of the threshold of high winds away from Tampa, but slides it toward Orlando, Lake County, Orange County, so again we're a little stumped with this. It is moving due north and at 14, so we've got a good speed here.

Now what Brian Todd was talking about earlier, and I want to show you the east coast. This is what's interesting. You've seen the video, transformers blowing. South of Sebastian, north of West Palm, the St. Lucie nuclear power plant had a wind gust of 99 miles an hour. That's quite some distance from the center.

That is that onshore flow that continues to be quite strong in the feeder bands as we watched them come in from the Atlantic and sweep around, so again, they're the same bands that plowed into the south, and were feeding of course all that rainfall up in Biscayne Bay and parts of Miami and making their way northward.

It's been raining some time up in Jacksonville and we talked about that. It's been raining there from yesterday. They've got a few inches on the ground, not the heavier amounts to the south. But with this eye now starting to deviate to the east it's going to be one of those games again that we've been playing with for the last couple of days so we're going to have to wait for the new track that will be issued a little bit later.

We're still going to watch the heavy bands of rain now moving into Melbourne, up and toward Orlando. There will still be tornado watches but -- and warnings. This is the problem, though, Anderson. Where does it go and how can we effectively let everyone know what kind of wind gusts they're going to have? Still a category 2, moving northward, deviating east on the back edge. We're still getting that of course that surge coming in, wrap-arounding the system.

[20:10:04] But even the computer models have not handled this movement to the east right now. These models still want to carry it north- northwestward. So that's what's confusing about this entire deal.

COOPER: So let me -- Tom, let me ask you. Tom, let me ask you. You say these new numbers are going to be coming out a little bit later. What does a little bit later mean?

SATER: What's that? I'm sorry, Anderson, you say that again?

COOPER: You said these new numbers, this new track is going to come out a little bit later.

SATER: Right.

COOPER: Do you have a sense of when exactly that may come? Because obviously a lot of people here would like to know exactly when. Do you know?

SATER: Well, we'll probably get a track around 11:00 p.m. Eastern Time. We'd like to get more before that but until then we're just going to have to continue to watch the updated numbers and see how the system is moving. North at 14 is a pretty good clip. For a long time it was, like, you know, 6, 7 miles per hour but it's been sustaining pretty good speed. COOPER: Right.

SATER: You know, this is day 19 of hurricane forecasting. We've had two hurricanes now, Anderson, that have made landfall in the U.S., as a category 4. It's the first time in our history to have two category 4s make landfall in one year. First time. And that's not June and November. These two landfalls have been within 16 days.

So there's a lot going on, there's a lot of people suffering but the goodwill of people has been coming out and we can't stop now. We're going to need it in Florida because with the power outages and the damage is still to come it will unfold.

COOPER: Yes. You know, Tom -- Tom, in a minute I'm going to go to Drew Griffin in Ft. Myers. I don't know if you have access to that location, but can you give me a sense of just from your vantage point, from the radar vantage point, what it's looking like in Ft. Myers and what it's going to look like in the hours ahead? I mean, has the worst passed for Ft. Myers?

SATER: Yes. We're about 20, 25 miles now northeast, so that's some good news as it continues to kick up. They're still going to be on the back edge and we are looking at that surge coming in from around the west. So that's the concern but if it continues to deviate eastward those winds will lighten up somewhat. I think the forecast from the National Hurricane Center on those storm surge prediction and the inundation is still spot on but again the winds on the south side, Anderson, are going to blow maybe 75 to 85, possibly a gust at 90, but they're not going to be what we're still seeing on that north and northeastern front where we're seeing some of the brighter colors here.

Again, that is our concern, and always has been, that front right quadrant, significantly less back behind it on the southern end and toward the southeast.

COOPER: And just so I'm clear, Tom, because I obviously can't see the image that you're showing our viewers that northeast quadrant, that front right quadrant, which is, you know, always the most of concern, you're saying that's moving eastward a little bit, possibly more toward Orlando than it is moving toward Tampa, is that correct?

SATER: Yes. That's correct, Anderson. The entire center of the storm, even though we've lost the eye, the center, instead of making its way north-northwestward toward Tampa, we believe now it's deviating to the east toward Lake County closer toward Orlando.

It doesn't mean that Tampa is out of the dangerous wind gusts because the system is so broad and they extend outward, but it is going to throw a little bit of a wrench in the wheel for the next several hours, maybe even into tomorrow morning. So that's our concern and that's what we're trying to grapple with right now.

COOPER: And that also means -- I mean, there's still of course the issue of storm surge for Tampa no matter which way this storm goes, correct? Because all this water has been going out now -- SATER: Yes.

COOPER: -- for the last 10 hours or so. It's got to come back in.

SATER: Yes. Absolutely. But if you get the center farther away from Tampa, even though it's a broad storm with that eye closer to the coast, you would have a much stronger force of winds wrapping around that eye, shoving that water up into the bay. If we can slide it to the east and break down its strength somewhat that force wrapping around the eye of the storm isn't as great but you're still going to have a surge no matter what and it's still completely dangerous.

So it's almost splitting hairs at this point. It's just trying to get a handle on where this thing is going.


SATER: And how much longer it will contain this strength -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Tom, thank you. I appreciate that detail.

I want to go to Drew Griffin now who's in Ft. Myers.

So, Drew, I don't know if you were able to hear Tom just giving a sense of where you're at in relation to the rest of the storm, what lies ahead. How are things -- what are you seeing?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It matches perfectly. We're getting the strong gusts and this storm is playing games with us. We are literally wrapping ourselves around the building to different vantage points as the storm comes through.

Now the wind is kind of coming almost from the south-southwest, Anderson. It is less in volume but still we're getting darn strong gusts. I would say that at times they are still nearing hurricane strength, but significantly less than they were.

The other thing that has happened here is Lee County, which is the county I'm in. They just issued a downgraded storm surge alert, Anderson. There's still going to be a storm surge but they have downgraded the areas, the zones where they believe that storm surge will be greatest so all of this is good news, matches what Tom is saying about the collapse or the disappearance of this strong eye and the movement towards the east.

[20:15:09] Some bad news -- well, some sort of bad news. That big shelter that we had been reporting on for two days now apparently experienced some roof damage. It's been hard to get information out of there, but there are leaks in the Germane Center Arena.

The sheriff's office had a Facebook post that said look, the roof has some leaks. It's structurally sound. There is nothing to worry about but they are having to deal with not only being all crammed in an arena but apparently there is some water coming through the roof.

I think the worst of the rain is over here, so that will help, and as soon as we can get over to that arena, it might not be until tomorrow morning. We'll check it out, but structurally sound. Those people need to know there was some roof damage and there is a leak apparently in the Germane Center Arena.

Anderson, as the wind howls again, I will toss it back to you.

COOPER: All right, Drew, thanks very much. Uncertainty, that is really I guess the buzzword right now. You just heard from Tom Sater in his words the storm is playing tricks right now, possibly moving more in the area -- northeastern area in direction toward Orlando, less to Tampa.

Nobody is out of the woods. We're going to talk to reporters who are on the east coast of course. We're going to take a short break. We'll be right back.


[20:20:06] COOPER: Hey. welcome back to our continuing coverage of Hurricane Irma. We have reporters all throughout Florida as the storm is -- well, in the words of Tom Sater, playing tricks right now.

There's going to be a new update at the 11:00 hour and we frankly just want to get that information as quickly as possible because it's not clear exactly what this storm is doing or exactly where it's going to go. It is going a little bit more to the east according to Tom Sater which would make it more toward Orlando -- direction of Orlando than in the direction of Tampa.

No place, though, certainly out of the woods, a storm surge still obviously the big concern here in Tampa, in Clearwater, where Ryan Young has been reporting, but I want to go to Brian Todd who is in West Palm Beach where, you know, Brian, I think a lot of people felt like the east coast given that this was predominantly a west coast storm would at this point, you know, be seen a lot reduced winds and rain but you're still getting hit.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're getting hit very hard, Anderson. Just moments ago we saw another transformer blow to my left, to your right. A large kind of blue concussive blast that reflected on the sky. Strange thing to watch. And you hear a little -- you know, kind of an explosion, so these are things that we have to keep our eye on because we're right in the middle of a neighborhood where three of these transformers have now blown up.

So, you know, again, now that the night sky has descended upon us and we're in darkness with the power out, this is our own light that we set up, reflecting on me but the power is out, and it's getting to be pitch black around here, with the debris still flying and I don't know if you saw that, but there was another blue kind of concussive blast just over my left shoulder. You might have been able to see that briefly, so again, looks like more transformers are exploding here in Palm Beach.

You know, you talked about the strange nature of the storm and not being able to predict where it's going. That's been the case here for now more than eight hours because we've been in intense hurricane force winds for eight hours as we've been in kind what have they call the dirty side of the storm, with the -- you know, the regrouping of the energy pushing it in a circular way and pushing it straight into Palm Beach.

The actual wind gusts here have turned circular in recent hours so that's been another kind of dangerous aspect here with debris flying and some of it is not -- you know, these are not light objects that are flying around.

So, Anderson, it's -- they are certainly not out of danger here in Palm Beach and they might have expected it to be by now but they are certainly not. We are told that again, tornadic activity is a threat here. It's been a threat all day. It's actually been a threat here since last night. We've had water spouts in the intercoastal waterway just feet away from where I'm standing and, you know, tornadoes kind of developing and then fizzling out to the north, to the west and to the south of us.

So this area I think they're just taking a hit here that they may not have expected, at least they didn't expect it to be sustained for this long, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. We're going to check back. We've got a contact with Rosa Flores who is downtown Miami, where -- I mean, some of the images from Miami earlier today just extraordinary. Seeing the amount of water on the streets over on Brickell -- on Brickell, just amazing.

Rosa, what is it like now compared to what obviously you were seeing earlier?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a few hours ago we couldn't come and be live at this position because the wind tunnels were so strong. There was so much debris flying in the air that we couldn't be here. We actually had to be live a few blocks down, but take a look. There is still flooding. There is still ponding here.

I'm probably about one or two streets from the ocean. There was a three and a half foot surge that came in, that brushed into Brickell which is the heart of the financial district. There are more banks and international banks in a few blocks than you can count. And take a look behind me, you can still see that there is still flooding, there's been a few brave souls that have been attempting to get through this water but walking and in their vehicles and it is not recommended by first responders and city officials.

Now there is some power, if you take a look around me. There is some power, some buildings with power but we have seen FP & L personnel coming into some of these buildings to try to restore power because we do know that hundreds of thousands of people in Miami-Dade are without power tonight.

So, Anderson, still, Miami didn't get the brunt of Irma, but it's still created a lot of chaos. We saw wind tunnels here in downtown, a broken crane, flooding, surge, and you can still see some of that flooding now -- Anderson. COOPER: And just on the streets, how easy or difficult is it for you,

for crews and for -- and most importantly for first responders to get around? Just how much debris is there in the streets?

[20:25:11] FLORES: You know there's a lot of debris. There are big trees that cross several streets. The one that's actually behind us is completely blocked to my left. There are also drains that are completely clogged because of all of the debris that has been flying around and that these wind tunnels have been creating.

And now as I mentioned before, one of the other big concerns are those cranes. There are more than 20 cranes that dot the skyline of Miami, at least two of them have already snapped. We monitored multiple during our coverage today and you could see them swing, you could see them sway. That's another big concern as first responders start coming out and assessing some of the damage and trying to -- and as they try to get to these streets into people's homes to try to restore power and also to try to figure out if everyone is safe.

We've seen a few crews tonight, Anderson, but we do know that there is a curfew starting at 7:00 p.m. tonight through 7:00 a.m., but of course, first responders are waived from that curfew, as they try to assess some of the damage -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, thanks so much for that, Rosa. We'll continue to check in with you.

I want to go to Miguel Marquez who's in Punta Gorda. Miguel has been showing us that the water being sucked out basically by the counterclockwise movement of the storm, that phenomenon which is so strange, so extraordinary to see.

I know you're in a different location now. Where are you and what's it like?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We moved to a different location because, one, it was very dark down there, and two, we weren't sure when the storm surge was going to come in once the eye wall hit. We're at the worst of it right now in Punta Gorda. The EOC, the Emergency Operations Center officials saying that they are expecting about 110-mile-hour winds about this time in Punta Gorda until we get to the eye and things change course.

The lights -- I don't know if you could even see, if I walk over this way, it is completely dark here. There's one building down the street that clearly has a generator on, but all the water you see standing in front of us right now is just the rain water, what we're expecting still is that surge. They're saying five to eight feet. They may have as much as three feet of standing water in some parts of town.

It is not clear it's going to be that bad. For all of the concern about this storm and while it is terrible to be in it right now and people are taking great precaution, it does not appear at this point to be hitting to the degree they thought it might. The winds have pretty much leveled off, they filled maybe 60, 70 miles per hour. It is not clear they're going to get to that 100, 110-mile-per-hour winds that the Emergency Operations folks were expecting -- Anderson.

COOPER: Which is certainly good news but still 110 miles, 100 miles an hour winds, you know, 90, 80-mile-an-hour winds can do a lot of damage and again that storm surge, that really seems to be the biggest concern at this point.

MARQUEZ: Oh, yes.

COOPER: So for you to move around, are you seeing -- is there debris in the streets or are things pretty clear?

MARQUEZ: There is not a lot of debris in the streets. The one thing about being in Punta Gorda is that there is -- it was hit so hard during Charlie and just of course as I said we weren't getting a lot of big wind. We get one of the biggest gusts that we've had in some time. This is probably up in there in the 70-mile-an-hour range. Because Charlie swept through here and nearly wiped this place off the map, there are a lot of sort of empty lots and you can see where buildings used to stand in town.

They have rebuilt quite a bit. They've hardened a lot of buildings. The buildings they have built are in much better shape. So it's sort of a city reborn, but you don't have the large number of trees and other things. We were in a park, in a newest park which had been built in the last 10 years or so and many of those trees have been uprooted and fallen over but you could see sort of the younger root balls of those trees. They were not fully established and that seems to be the biggest problem -- Anderson.

COOPER: Miguel Marquez, thanks very much. Be careful, again, we're going to continue to check in with you in the hours ahead.

You know, the headline right now is this storm, as Tom Sater said, is playing games. Unclear exactly the status of it, exactly the direction that it is moving. I mean, Tom is saying it's moving north- northeast in a more easterly direction, which would certainly be some better news for areas like Tampa, which had been expecting to be on the worst side of this storm.

Obviously storm surge like in Punta Gorda here in Tampa, that is a big issue but again the uncertainty is frankly frightening at this point. We'd obviously like to have a better handle on exactly the formation of this storm and exactly the movement of this storm. And as Tom said it is moving at a pretty good clip. I think he said it was in the 12 to 14-mile-an-hour range.

[20:30:04] You know, yesterday it was about 8 miles an hour, 6 to 8 miles an hour, very slow moving. The fact that it's moving quicker is also certainly good news, but that uncertainty, that is the headline right now, and the concern.

We're going to take another break. More ahead.


COOPER: And welcome back to our continuing coverage of Hurricane Irma live here in Tampa, where the headline that we heard from Tom Sater just a short time ago is just that this storm is, in his words, playing tricks with us, unclear it seems to be moving a little bit more to the east than had been expected, not going to get an official update until about the 11:00 hour.

Of course we're going to bring that to you live. What's so disconcerting I think for people who are watching this from inside their homes is just, you know, in this darkness it's very hard to tell what is happening outside.

You can see even figuring out which way the wind is blowing or the rain is coming from it just keeps swirling around. You can see in that light there, thankfully there's still electricity in the area, but you can just see right now it seems to be falling down but as the wind pushes around oftentimes it's just swirling, and I know Ryan Young who is standing by just due west of me in Clearwater.

Ryan, you've been experiencing the same thing. I think you're over by near the airport and it seems like you've been getting hit just in all directions.

YOUNG: Yes. We're just south of the airport. In fact I can see the end of the runway just over there. I wish I could look back that way, I can't. Honestly when we were standing here before it was really just the sideways, east to west, the wind was moving.

Now it is swirling all around us and of course it is dark in most places so what you're really seeing here is just the wind whipping us around. My photographer is actually standing next to a concrete post, that's why he's able to stand straight up to get this shot but sometimes you stand with a wide base and the wind whips through you and then the other times it's like comes back around and circulates around you.

[20:35:06] We've been talking to folks who are the first responders who are here at the hotel where we're staying and they talked about the idea that this does not translate very well on television. When they walk outside and they see the force of the wind, how quickly things are moving, and the debris that's flying by us, they get a different sense of how powerful things are.

So I don't know how that's translating across the television screen but I can tell you it is hard to turn your body in the direction of the wind at any point because not only are you getting hit with the needles of rain but it's that wind gust that sometimes will lift you off your feet, that's why you have the wide base.

The good news, though, is the power is still on and we have seen transformers blowing but not -- the power has not gone out for most of the (INAUDIBLE). Some street lights dangling. If you can hear this wind really giving me a run for my money but the whole idea, though, is we haven't seen any major damage so far and making those phone calls around there have been no reports of major damage but with this wind consistently blowing like this, you know, roof tiles, furniture that's in people's yards that is loose those can become projectiles. So you really have to watch out during these hours especially because

you don't know what could be coming at you if it's in the dark -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, and as you said, the fact that you have power just as in Tampa here, there's still power, that's certainly a blessing for the people here, 3 million people without power right now in Florida, according to officials, and you talk about those transformers.

We've just seen the third one here light up as well, that eerie blue light which is so kind of surreal in the midst of this darkness.

As you were going around, you know, are you seeing anybody outside -- you were talking to somebody a little bit earlier, most people obviously, though, are still staying inside, are still hunkered down.

YOUNG: Look, this is the good news here. When it was 20-mile-per- hour wind gust we saw some people who were kind of driving around, looking, trying to see what we were up to. When the wind gusts got around 40, 45 miles per hour, we saw everyone sort of disappear.

At this point, if you don't have a reason to be on the road, there's no reason to be out here because again you could just see just how strong the wind gusts are in this area. In fact we've been watching a few signs in the distance over here, whether or not they'll be completely ripped off and there's a billboard above my head that's been popping.

And we've heard that noise of the billboard popping back and forth so it's got a little give in it, but you just don't know when it's going to give in, as you can see how the wind gusts keep giving enough of a push.

It almost feels like you're on the motorcycle just going as fast as you can with the jacket blowing but it doesn't stop and you add the rain. It's just amazing with the power that it has at this point, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. And it's so interesting, how, you know, the bands of this storm, you know, kind of push you back for a little bit and then they'll dissipate and you kind of feel like oh, you know, it's going to be calm for a while and then another one just comes along and the wind just keeps switching the direction that it's coming from as you say.

You know, at times almost horizontal, not as much certainly as we saw, you know, in Naples, Florida, earlier when Chris and Ed Lavandera were on the air. That -- you know, just those sheets of water.

Brynn Gingras, though, she is in Orlando. And remember, our Tom Sater saying that storm as confusing as it is moving a little bit more to the east, perhaps more in the direction of Orlando. Certainly what might be good news for people in Tampa is bad news potentially for people in Orlando.

Brynn, I'm wondering, first of all, just what are conditions there like and obviously for anybody here in Orlando, you know, about the movement of this storm there's got to be more concern.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Anderson. I mean, yes, we're in the middle of the state, not by a coast but that doesn't make us immune. We are getting smacked with wind gusts right now and just tons of rain at this point. And listen, officials here tell me they don't expect the worst of this storm, or at least the worst to begin until midnight.

So we're several hours away from that but we're already seeing a lot happening here in Orlando. We have been hearing, you know, what Ryan was saying as far as the transformers blowing, that blue light lighting up the sky further behind us, emergency vehicles are rushing that direction and then sometimes we're actually hearing this sound like a car crash, if you can believe it, and these guys are running, which is insane to me.

But we hear like the sound of like a car crash and what that is, if you can see these sort of globes that are the glass globes that are around the street lamps, those are coming crashing down onto the street so that is just a big globe of glass, just crashing, and we've heard it several times tonight, especially when I left, where it's really wind tunnels through downtown Orlando.

Now I was going to say I haven't seen many people out but of course I just saw those people running.

[20:40:03] And it's terrifying because there are moments when we're getting this major wind gusts and right over here to my right is actually a construction site, and as someone described to me, just one loose nail in a major wind gust, that could be like a bullet. I mean, it is very dangerous to be anywhere near this area at this point.

We're also at this point seeing emergency vehicles actually going toward that transformer blast that we saw, as well as power and lights. We think that they are still responding to things. But we know the wind gusts here are about 65 miles per hour or over they're going to stop. So Tom may know better than me, but right now it seems like they're pretty up there.

COOPER: Yes. Brynn, appreciate that. Be careful.

We're going to take a short break. Our coverage continues, not only here from the west but also from the east, and points in between as this storm seems to be moving somewhat eastward. We'll get more updates from our meteorologist from the Weather Center ahead.


COOPER: We're looking at live picture from Clearwater, Florida, just some of the deteriorating conditions there. The worse is yet to come both in Clearwater which is just west of where we are here in Tampa and obviously a lot ahead in the hours.

I'm with the chief of police, Brian Dugan, here in Tampa.

Just in terms of what you're seeing obviously this is -- it's bad but it's going to be getting worse ahead.

INTERIM CHIEF BRIAN DUGAN, TAMPA, FLORIDA POLICE: It's definitely bad out here. And unfortunately the worst is yet to come.

COOPER: You've made the decision -- and I know you're saying it's a tough decision for you -- to pull officers off the streets.

DUGAN: At about 4:45 this afternoon, I made the decision. I was out on the streets with my people and I made the decision to call them off the street and I can tell you, it's probably the hardest decision I made in 28 years of law enforcement. You know, it's against the grain of the cops to cut and run, and we're staging now and we're going to hope that the storm passes and we're going to be ready to protect people and serve like we always do.

We have some contingency plans in place if needed. But right now we pulled everybody off the street.

COOPER: In terms of power, I mean, obviously there's lights along this river walk in south, but there are power outages here.

DUGAN: Yes. I've seen firsthand out in our neighborhoods we're having some power outages and you know, it's sporadic, occasionally you may see a transformer blow it appears.

COOPER: Yes. We've seen about three it looks like so far.

[20:45:02] DUGAN: Yes. I saw one. You know, there's definitely some issues out here. And, you know, we're ready to go and we'll just see how long this goes for.

COOPER: Are you concerned most about storm surge?

DUGAN: I'm worried about the storm surge with the wind, some structural damage. I'm also worried about the stupidity of people and what they're going to do out there.

COOPER: You mean criminality or just kind of people going out to check out the storm?

DUGAN: Well, you know, that we have people that want to go out there and see it, which is stupid, because not only you're putting yourselves in danger and the first responders' lives in danger, and then any criminal element that may be out there. And I can tell you we're ready to respond to anybody who thinks they're going to take advantage of another person.

COOPER: Your message right now to people in Tampa is what?

DUGAN: Well, stay inside, stay safe, be compassionate, look out for each other, and if you need us when the storm passes we're going to be there for you.

COOPER: Well, Chief, I wish you the best to you and all your officers. Thank you very much.

I want to go to Sara Sidner who is on the east in Daytona Beach.

Again, according to Tom Sater, the storm moving a little bit to the east, but again kind of confusing situation.

Sara, how is it where you are?



COOPER: Whoa, did you see that?

SIDNER: And there are sustained winds now that are a heck of a lot stronger. Anderson, are you OK? I can't see you. It sounds like something happened there.

COOPER: Yes. I'm sorry --

SIDNER: Here we --

COOPER: Yes -- no. Yes, sorry, Sara, it was just one of those again probably the fourth transformer, this one was clearly closer because I don't know if we caught it on camera at all but it really just lit up the sky and that kind of that eerie white blue light which is so distinctive, which anybody who's covered hurricanes has seen repeatedly. You don't really hear a sound of an explosion but it's just that light. So I'm sorry to interrupt, Sara. Go ahead.

SIDNER: No. You had me worried there for a minute, Anderson. I'm glad you're OK. And that's going to keep happening because these winds are no joke, when it comes to power lines trees fall into them, transformers blow.

What is important to tell you, though, is that there are 16,000 and that's from one company alone, the most workmen they have ever sent out to do the work after the hurricane hits, after these winds die down. 16,000 people from Florida Power and Light alone many of them staying in this hotel including those who trim those trees and get to these power lines which is extremely dangerous for the population.

I'm going to move out of the way and you can see down A-1a here in Daytona Beach. That is the main drag through Daytona Beach. To your right is the beach you cannot see it now. It has gotten quite dark but the surf is ferocious. There is a ton of wind and these aren't just gusts. It is sustained at this point that we're seeing.

And you know, it hasn't been this bad for much of the time. Everyone else is getting hit. Now Daytona Beach is definitely feeling it. But I do want to mention to you how far away we are and have been from the eye. We're about 225 miles from any semblance of an eye that is left for this hurricane that is now at a category 2, and yet it is so powerful, and so big that all the way on the other coast here on the east coast way up on the coast we are still feeling these intense winds.

I also want to mention to you that there are about 500 or so people in Daytona Beach that have been in shelters and they are safe right now in shelters. We have heard of no injuries and no deaths here in this county so far.

This is a very -- a county that a lot of people have moved into, it has become very popular here to move this area. It is inexpensive when it comes to living and a lot of folks just like to hang out on the beach. We do know of people who said they are staying put, the same gentleman we talked to you back during Hurricane Matthew when I talked to you, Anderson.

He said he is staying put. He has boarded up, so has everyone up and down the beach, but a lot of people did stay here but there were quite a few that left because it was very, very, very quiet until all of these folks, these contractors came in from -- to work for Florida Power and Light. There is a sea of truck, and we're talking all different kinds of trucks to fix those power lines that are sitting right outside the Daytona speedway where they hope the Daytona 500 is held.

And I'm talking a ton of trucks. We're talking about what could be, though, weeks, weeks until some people get power, if this storm hits especially Tampa Bay hard, and so they said look, sometimes it will be days but it could be weeks -- Anderson.

COOPER: Sara, appreciate that.

Sara was saying no reports of fatalities in that area, that is certainly -- that is certainly great news. We do have information now that the official death toll so far from the entirety of this storm, not just here in Florida, but in the Caribbean obviously and all the points that it has hit all those islands, Barbuda, the other places that we have seen, St. Martin, St. Bart's, 26 now is the official death toll.

There was reporting earlier two officers lost their lives in some sort of traffic accident or collision earlier here in Florida. We're try and get obviously more information about that.

[20:50:06] We're going to take a short break. And our coverage continues here as another kind of gust of wind and band of the storm is hitting in the Tampa area and hitting in the Clearwater area. We'll be right back.


COOPER: And welcome back to -- welcome back to Tampa here. We were talking about kind of an increase just in the last minute or so or two of that wind and the rain. You really get a sense of just look out on the water. You can kind of see light bouncing off the water.

Jay, just zoom in on there. You get a sense of how fast this wind is moving and just the sheets of rain, which are basically just skimming across the top of the water and moving down river, it's the Hillsborough River, which has been way lower.

I mean, it's probably eight feet or maybe even 10 feet lower than it was this morning when we started broadcasting. I think it was around 10:00 a.m. that we started. The water has gone down a lot. But again, Jay, if you just pushed that water over there, you really just see these sheets of rain skimming across the top of the water. It's kind of a surreal image in the midst of the darkness to be able to see that.

Because in the dark it can be so deceptive. You don't really get a sense of -- you know, unless you're in an area where you're just getting knocked over by wind in an area like this, some of the buildings are blocking some of the wind. But that rain is just coming in sheets. Coming and swirling around in all direction. But again that image on the water is one you probably can't see on the camera, but you really see it all throughout the air.

I mean, just swirling around, all around you in the air, almost like a vortex in the wind, made of rain. It's kind of a stunning sight. There's obviously a beauty to it if you didn't know how potentially dangerous and deadly it is. And this is obviously already a deadly said. As we said the death toll now has raised to 26. That is the death toll that we know of for the islands, for St. Martin, where lives were lost, Barbuda as well.

So many of those islands have just been decimated. We're getting reports out of St. John, also St. Martin, St. Bart, as I said.

I want to go to Ryan Young who is in Clearwater nearby here, just west of here, and part of the bay area, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Tampa.

Ryan, I know you've been getting a lot of wind, you've been getting a lot of rain and again in this darkness, it is so dangerous out there for people. It is just such a surreal feeling to be in the dark and not know kind of what is coming at you.

YOUNG: That's an excellent point. You talked about the idea of being in a vortex. And to give you an idea, Anderson, we're under a large concrete overhang. And I sent out the cameraman behind that vortex to make sure that the camera is protected and safe because sometimes it acts like a sail and picks them off of his feet. There's actually a tie-down that I can see. Just in case the wind gets gusting too big where I can reach out trying to grab him, and we get pushed over too far.

But just to show you how this has been changing. The wind is now pushing almost in a different direction than the last time we have seen you. The wind gusts here have been steady. They've been without mercy to us as we've been standing here.

[20:55:05] You think about the critical structures in terms of buildings and rooms because that's what happens when you think about the shingles, and you think about projectiles that are flying through the air. That's what makes something like this very dangerous. I could argue that I should probably have goggles on at this point with how fast the rain is coming in.

We started out in your location this morning. And we didn't experience any of this kind of rain as we move through the area. We went to St. Pete and stood in some watery area as the water was drawn out by the hurricane. And now we're seeing this big push of water in our direction. The streets that were near, they haven't flooded but the ponding is something serious so you can understand that if the water -- someone was driving through it, that could be a big issue.

The good news here, we haven't seen -- the last car that we saw on the road was the Florida Highway Patrol officer and that was more than an hour ago. You know, those guys do such a great job out there on the roads. But at this point the roads have been cleared. It has just been steady, pounding of rain and water. And here we go again, Anderson. It just picks like this. And pushes.

The good news, though, as we looked at the rooftop where we are, we haven't seen anything blow up the roof here. Across the street we have seen some roof tiles kind of rip off and sheer. Some people have gone and put tape up against the windows. That's probably not going to do much if something comes through at that window. Other folks have used boards and plywood to protect their windows, or shutters, which obviously is the best thing to do.

But right now, it is just a straight pounding of wind, water and rain. And it's -- like you said before, pretty amazing to stand here.

COOPER: Yes. And as it gets later and later, and the worst of the storm to come, just the continuation, the sustained winds, and just the continuation, the constant rain, you know, all throughout the day we've betting bands of the storm, will there be, you know, a light rain or an intense rain, some winds, and then it would die down, people would come out and walk around, take their dogs out for a walk.

They would want to get a look at what was happening with the Hillsborough River, at the phenomenon, with the water going down, but now it is just -- it is relentless. It is sustained. Minute after minute, it seems to be getting worse, obviously.

We're going to check in with Tom Sater a little bit coming up for the latest on the storm as we await that 11:00 update because we're really trying to get a sense -- I mean, there's so much uncertainty right now about the overall direction of the storm. The overall strength of the storm as that eye has been dissipating. A lot to learn in the hours ahead.

Let's take another short break and our coverage continues of Hurricane Irma.


COOPER: You know, in each of these cities and towns that we have correspondents, the situation can kind of change minute by minute so we're really just trying to kind of hopscotch around both on the west coast and on the east coast and even now into Orlando, which as we've been hearing from Tom Sater may be getting a little bit more of the storm than they had anticipated.

But I want to go back to Alex Marquardt who is south of here, about 50 miles south, in Sarasota. And just looking around, every now and then you kind of hear something snap or a gate shut and you just kind of look around because obviously in this darkness you want to be very careful of any object that could become a projectile.

Alex, how are things down in Sarasota?

ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We're entering the most dangerous period for Sarasota right now, Anderson. In the next hour we're expecting the winds to start peaking. Those winds are going to peak for around four hours from 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time to 2:00 a.m. Eastern Time.

We have seen a steady deterioration of the conditions out here.