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Monster Storm with Cat 4 Winds Barrels into South Florida; Storm Surge from Irma Floods Downtown Miami. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired September 10, 2017 - 13:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Anderson Cooper in Tampa.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: This is Chris Cuomo in Naples, Florida.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Berman in Miami.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell reporting from Orlando.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Brian Todd in West Palm Beach.

COOPER: And I'm Anderson Cooper here in Tampa. Our coverage continues as it has been for that last -- literally all weekend long.

The situation in Tampa is -- we're watching and waiting. There are -- some of the outer bands of the storm have brought some light rains compared to what is to come. And people here know that. The story, the pictures that we have been watching out of Miami on Brickell Boulevard, water just pouring down the street. That's where we find our John Berman right now.

John, I mean, you know, again, the people in Tampa who, you know, luckily still have electricity are able to watch some of those images that you've been bringing coming out of Florida -- out of Miami. It's extraordinary what they have seen. And they know that is coming here, and more -- and likely even worse.

BERMAN: Yes, I hope they're watching and getting the warning that they should be inside, that they should heed the warnings, the calls to evacuate from the officials there in Tampa.

Anderson, I'm holding in my hand parts of a plastic light that just snapped off a little bit down the way there and flew at me. I thought it was glass, and thankfully it's not. It's just plastic. But you can see the debris is a real concern here. Not to mention the storm surge. You saw the pictures from Brickell Boulevard. You know, feet of water now during that -- down that main drag in downtown Miami. Behind me you can see the water lapping up over that dock, covering

several docks here. The water has gone up several feet here right by the bay where I am standing at this point. We've also had serious issues not just with flooding downtown but also a crane, a partial collapse of a crane on Biscayne Boulevard.

Rosa Flores has been watching it all in downtown Miami -- Rosa.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. Here the headlines are cracking cranes, flooding, ponding, surge, and wind tunnels. That's what we're seeing.

Now take a look around me. This is a street now turned a pond. For people who are aware of where this area is, this is the Publix Grocery Store. I'm about three to four blocks from the ocean. And what we're seeing at this hour is the storm surge. Storm surge coming onto land, and then additional ponding because of the raining that's coming down and the streets not draining.

Now the other issue that we're seeing in this area, of course, are the cracked cranes. Those cranes we were told were supposed to stain winds of up to 145 miles an hour. City officials said there was no time to remove them because they needed at least two weeks to move them. Now we've seen the dangers, the failure of those cranes that of course are very close to high rises where people live.

Huge concern, of course, because city officials asked those people to evacuate for that very reason. One of the other things that we're seeing here, people trying to walk through these streets, drive through these streets at this hour while Irma is here. That's what we're seeing and that's what we're experiencing.

I'm going to try to walk over here to see if we can take a look. This is closer to the ocean. And what we've seen is this water that keeps on ponding. Again, the storm surge coming onto Brickell. This is the financial district in Miami. Water on streets that are not supposed to be on this street of course. Ponding that is happening. And as more rain comes down, as debris comes down, these drains are being plugged and the water does not drain off.

Now, Miami, it needs to be drained on a normal day. So, John, when we are seeing surge, when we are seeing rain, when we are seeing debris- clogged drains, a very serious issue, a very serious concern of course here in Miami as we continue to get pounded by rain and as the surge continues to come onto land -- John.

BERMAN: Yes, and the bad news there, Rosa, is Chad Myers told us not long ago we can expect five more hours of it here in Miami. And that's even before it comes up the west coast where it could be even worse.

Every time I feel I'm suffering here in Miami as the wind comes down where I'm standing right now, I just think of Kyung Lah who is out there on Miami Beach, which is an island, you know, just off where I'm standing right here who's getting it even worse than we are. Let's go to Kyung Lah out there if she can still hear me -- Kyung. [13:05:06] LAH: John, it's the pelting rain and wind as conditions

deteriorate out here at Miami Beach. It looks very bad. It feels very bad. But one thing we do want to tell you is that we just spoke with the mayor of Miami Beach. And he says that his city is in remarkably good shape especially considering how much rain and the beating of winds that they're getting here. What they've seen are downed power lines, debris, some overnight rescues before they had to call it.

The city has been responding very, very well. He's very pleased. They have not had a massive amount of flooding here. The storm surge has been remarkably forgiving. We are seeing some water come in on the beach. But generally, there hasn't been any major flooding here. So the mayor says the curfew will go back into effect tonight for anyone who is -- who remains here in Miami Beach.

And something else that we do want to point out, even though clearly you can't get around in this weather, the mayor says that the bridge between Miami and Miami Beach, those connectors, those roads are being cut off. People are not being allowed in or out, out of an abundance of safety -- John, Anderson.

COOPER: Kyung, thanks very much.

I just want to give you a sense of Tampa. We're on the river walk here, and we have been watching -- and I want Chad Myers to see this, because we're about to talk to him because Chad has been talking about this phenomenon. We have been watching the Hillsborough River. The water moving out, moving out into -- being sucked into Hillsborough Bay then on into Tampa Bay. You can see the sandy embankment across the river.

The water has lowered while we have been standing here over the last several hours. And of course that water, once the storm surge starts to come in, all that water is going to come back. It's going to come back hard. And the flooding, the potential flooding here in Tampa is a major concern.

I just talked to the mayor a short time ago. A year ago he had warned of the effects of a cat 3 storm directly hitting Tampa, something they haven't seen since 1921. He warned about the potential 15 feet of water in downtown Tampa by city hall.

Again that is going to be happening. Whatever water comes in, it's going to be happening during -- in the darkness, in the nighttime hours.

And Chad Myers, the Weather Center, that storm surge that we can expect here in Tampa and the people in Naples can expect, and in Ft. Myers, it's going to be happening most likely in the darkness and often -- and correct me if I'm wrong here -- hours after some of the biggest -- the strongest hurricane force winds have come through.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: No question about it. The surge will happen when you think the storm is over because we're on the wrong side of what we always think about hurricane landfall. We're on the west side of an island or a peninsula, whatever, we're typically talking about an east coast landfall and the surge comes in with the eye. The eye is going to go by, suck out all the water, and then the wind is going to get calm. And then the wind is going to blow back here at 120 miles an hour. And when it blows back, it's going to blow back all of that water that's now just piling up offshore.

It's called a very shallow area, kind of a shoal out there. But it's a lot of sand. You could go on a boat for 40 miles before you actually find any depth out here. All kind of sand. That shallowness will push that water quickly back up into Tampa as the storm goes by. And yes, you're thinking oh, this is finally over. But if you are by the water in Tampa, it is not over.

Now let's go back to what the mayor said. A direct hit by a cat 3, what does that look like? A direct hit by a cat 3 comes in off the Gulf of Mexico and slams into Pinellas County or something like that so that the spin of the storm pushes all the water into Tampa. That is not what we're seeing here. This is not a direct hit. This is not a 15-foot surge. Our storm is coming in this direction. So we're going to push all the water out, then we're going to push it back in. But only 5 to 8 feet.

And I think that's still a very good number. And the mayor was correct, if the storm was slightly off shore, then all of a sudden we could get more pushback and get a bigger number than 5 to 8, but right now I think that's still a fairly good number.

Now down here in Naples and Ft. Myers, 5 to 8 is not the right number. You guys especially from Cape Coral, Punta Gourda southward, you're 10. And if you get south into the everglades or close to it, you're 15. You need to get out of the way of the storm.

Marco Island, I know there are people hanging out on that island. I don't get it. You need to be off there before it's too late. I know there's a long bridge. And at some point in time that window is going to stop. You're not going to be able to get off the island at all.

[13:10:04] But, you know, , the entire island is going to be covered up in water. There's just not going to be any roadway that's not wet with saltwater.

And then if you're in a high rise, all your equipment downstairs is going to wet. Everything electrical, everything HVAC, everything that you need to really be comfortable is going to be wrecked. And then you're still going to be on island and you may not be able to get off. So that's all west coast. Because that's where the next focus is. Rights now the east coast is still getting pounded.

And that's where all of our reporters are seeing the surge into Miami, into Fort Lauderdale, all the way up the coast, anywhere along the intercoastal waterway, that's what's getting water now. If it's not -- it's two to three feet, I think everybody can handle it. When it gets, and some spots will get 6 feet, then all of a sudden there's water in everything -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Chad, we want to start checking in with those reporters on the east coast of Florida.

Brian Todd is standing by in West Palm Beach.

Brian, how are things there?

TODD: Anderson, we're getting pounded with some of the early stages of hurricane force winds here. We're now in the window in the next several hours where we're going to really get the most intense storm surge that this area is probably going to see.

The storm surge is just allowing the water in the intercoastal waterway to pound up against that walkway there. And the mayor of West Palm Beach -- I just talked to her on the phone, Jeri Muoio, she told me she's really concerned about flooding because the storm surge is going to come up a couple of feet at least. It's going to probably inundate this area with water. She's worried about this drive, Flagler Drive, getting flooded.

There is some water over here. And the wind intensity has really picked up in the last, like, 15 minutes. These palm trees behind me are starting to get compromised. There's one over here that's leaning badly and palm fronds and coconuts are becoming projectiles. They're starting to fly all over the place here.

Just below it you see these street signs wobbling. And even these sturdy stanchions behind me that have the streetlights on them, they are starting to wobble a little bit. So that's a real concern.

I also just spoke to a local fire chief who said that basically we're in the window now where people call 911 and they're not going to be able to come out and get them. It's just too dangerous for the first responders. That chief also told me, he said there's a big concern about the construction cranes like the one in Miami that snapped or at least cracked, there's one over here.

The chief assured me that these are secured, that the tops of them are pulling with the wind. So they're supposed to do that. They're supposed to go around like a weather vane. They are pulling with the wind. He said they're in good shape. And he wants to reassure people of that.

And you wanted to clarify something on our air, I think some -- one of the experts said that -- we have said that people hadn't evacuated these buildings next to the cranes. Well, some people did evacuate. They were under a voluntary evacuation notice. Some of them got out, some of them did not.

But the people who did not, who live in these apartment buildings, have told us they are concerned that this crane may hit their apartment buildings. But one of the assistant fire chiefs has told me right now confident. They're going to stay in place -- Anderson.

COOPER: Brian, appreciate that.

And, you know, places like Tampa and really in a lot of cities in Florida, they've seen such a real estate boom over the last couple of years. There are cranes everywhere. I mean even here in Tampa right over by the Hillsborough River, we have two cranes over here. And they weren't expecting as big a storm as this is going to be hitting Tampa. Assumed those have been secured as best they can. Obviously something a lot of people who live around here, who have stayed around here are going to continue to watch.

Because there are a lot of people who have stayed in some of these buildings. There are some high rise buildings here. They're off -- you know, they're above 15 feet or so, above 20 feet. They feel pretty confident. And we've talked to a lot of people. There are a lot of people who were walking around right now because, as one of the outer bands of the storm has passed by, the rain has really stopped, it's pretty calm.

People are trying to walk their dogs, stretch their legs because they've been hunkered down in their homes. But again they know what it coming. So does Chris Cuomo who is down in Naples.

Chris, you know, Chad was on just a second ago talking about the potential storm surge, and Naples really is facing that potential of 10 to 15 feet of storm surge.

CUOMO: And that freaky phenomenon of the water getting sucked out by that -- you know, that counterclockwise force where on the east coast, the east part of the storm, the water's getting dumped back in. And the energy's coming from the west side, you know, the left side of the storm. We saw that here. The water level has gone out.

And Anderson, while I have you, that Project Phoenix, about what could happen in Tampa Bay, that is some really startling stuff about the vulnerabilities of where you are and the development of water level and how the infrastructure is sold.


CUOMO: A lot of those principles apply here. Everything has changed here, my friend. The difference in those 200 miles between the two of us right now, this is all headed your way, of course, but it's really different here right now.


[13:15:02] CUOMO: We're in that snap, crackle and pop phase, you know, where the trees are starting to come down, the transformers are doing their thing. And you get in that eerie sequence of noises where you're trying to figure out what it is that's getting softened up so you can calculate where to be and what's going to happen.

I've been watching a couple of trees just went down away from us and you're facing this way, and you're, like, get hit by a little of whatever is flying around on this side. So we're getting into that phase but Naples hasn't seen anything yet in terms of what the major risks are from where we are and even more significantly where you are.

COOPER: Yes. Yes, the Project Phoenix report which Chris had referenced just for our viewers who aren't familiar with it, that was a report done kind of to predict the effects I believe it was of a cat 5 storm hitting Tampa. But, again, even a cat 3 storm is not something anybody who lives here in Tampa, who grew up here in Tampa, has ever seen before. 1921 was the last time a major storm like that hit directly in Tampa.

Chris, as you know, Hurricane Charlie back in 2004 was expected to come here. It turned in the last minute and really decimated Punta Gourda.

There are a lot of concerns here, and the mayor has voiced them time and time again about the effects of flooding, about the effects of storm surge. Even with there are heavy rains in Tampa, in St. Petersburg, in this area around Tampa Bay, they have problems with flooding. And over the years the level of Tampa Bay has just naturally increased. So as those higher winds come in, there's more water in Tampa Bay now than in previous decades, to come inland in part of that storm surge.

So there's certainly a lot of concern and it's justifiable concern. I mean, we don't want to, you know, make things sound worse than they're going to be, but this is not a storm than anybody here in Tampa, unless they have lived somewhere else where a cat-3 has hit, has seen and nobody has seen what it might do to this city, to Clear Water, to Hillsborough.

You've got to keep in mind there are some 700 miles of coastline around Tampa Bay. It's an extraordinarily beautiful area, and a lot of homes are built-up very, very close to the water. Not very raised up, not very high elevation off the water. So there's a lot of concern about what's going to happen even with the mayor's house in Davis Island, which is just south of here by Hillsborough River, by Hillsborough Bay. He said that his home might be destroyed. I mean, if there is a significant storm surge, his home might be swamped.

We're going to take a short break, and our coverage continues.


[13:22:01] BERMAN: All right, John Berman in Miami right now. Standing in the middle of Hurricane Irma, which has been striking Florida now for it feels like days. It's really been since last night when we felt the force of this storm starting to come onshore.

The eye wall passed over the Florida Keys at about 9:00 this morning, and it's just been pounding the entire southern part of the peninsula now for hours. And our Chad Myers says we can expect these tropical storm force winds here, really hurricane force winds in Miami for several more hours. And the impact is being felt in very, very specific and dangerous ways now.

Number one, there was a crane collapse in downtown Miami on Biscayne Boulevard 300. A crane collapsed, the boon fell down there. There have been pictures of that. We do not know how safe that area is. Authorities have warned people not to go anywhere near it. And then there is the storm surge. Brickell Avenue, a lot of people know Brickell Avenue right now

covered in water. They had predicted 3 to 6 feet of storm surge. Our Chad Myers says the number is at 5 1/2. That 5 1/2 has been enough to flood part of the downtown area right now. That part of the downtown area we should note was part of the mandatory evacuation zone. So this is exactly what they feared might happen, exactly what they predicted might happen.

All right, right now what I want to do is I want to go down to the Florida Keys. Our Bill Weir has been in the Keys for days right now.

Bill, we have not heard from you in a couple of hours. I was concerned. I just asked our producer to check on you. Give me a sense of what's happening in Key Largo, Bill.

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I appreciate the concern, John. And yes, we've been screened down to find a safer spot. We were getting a little worried about where we were. We were getting off (INAUDIBLE) decided to try to leave the high speed (INAUDIBLE) because we found a little better bunker on the center of this (INAUDIBLE).

I guess the west side of Key Largo. This is the top of the Keys, the upper Keys. What we're really worried about -- and meanwhile, the winds here have sustained 60, 70 miles an hour. We're seeing 80 or 90 mile an hour gusts. (INAUDIBLE) so quickly last night. What we're really worried about are the lower keys. You can go down there because it is (INAUDIBLE). We're having audio --

BERMAN: All right, Bill Weir in Key Largo. I confess, Bill, I was having a hard time making out exactly what you're saying. But I take it as good news that you're saying anything at all right now. I'm pleased to hear your voice down in Key Largo where you've been riding out this storm.

The eye wall did pass the Florida Keys, you know, about 70 miles from where Bill is right now, key largo, one of the northern most keys. That eye wall passed much further south than that.

[13:25:06] Our thanks to Bill for being there for us.

Now to Rosa Flores who is in downtown Miami seeing this storm surge first-hand.

Rosa, what are you seeing?

FLORES: You know, John, both the storm surge is ponding is what we're seeing here in Brickell, which is the financial district. Just to give you a lay of the land, I'm right next to the Publix Grocery Store for those people who are familiar. The street -- completely ponded and as you mentioned, we're seeing a double punch.

First of all, the ocean coming onto land, probably about three to four streets from the ocean. The ocean is to my left. We're seeing that come onto land, and then of course the ponding. Ponding on these streets because a lot of the debris that's been flying around is now blocking those drains. Now I'm going to pan the camera over here so you can see what it looks

like closer to the ocean. This is in the direction of the ocean. We're seeing a lot of that water come in. Before we moved to this location, there was a building whose first floor was already taking in that water, the surge. That lower floor where usually, you know, it's usually a dock where they park some vehicles where they're taking on water. Why? Because the ocean comes onto land in these types of conditions.

We're also seeing wind gusts. We're seeing wind tunnels because this is the downtown area, because there are high rises here.

Now we've also seen people who did not evacuate, even though people were told to evacuate in this area. Some of them walking around, others driving around. One of them speeding down the water that was right next to our live position. Not recommended according to first responders.

Now, John, there is a drainage system that is designed to drain water out here. At this hour being tested both by surge and ponding water -- John.

BERMAN: That's right, not to mention all the debris that is clogging those drains right now.

Rosa, great advice. Don't try to drive through the flooded streets. It is the worst thing you can do. You simply cannot tell how deep the water is.

Again, you know, if you haven't evacuated, if you've chosen to stay at home, stay inside. Especially in the Miami area right now, ride out this storm. And if you have evacuated, don't try to get home. Not yet. Still too dangerous. The first responders won't even go out right now because the winds are too strong at this point.

Hurricane Irma battering southern Florida right now. Miami getting the worse of it as we stand here but the storm moving up the west coast. Very soon Naples next in the target.

Stay with CNN's special live coverage of Hurricane Irma. We'll be right back.


[13:32:30] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, we are dealing with an unfortunate reality here in Naples, Florida. That's the West Coast, the particularly vulnerable coast, places like this already very low to the water, already spongy, can't take much floodwaters, storm surge. And that's exactly what we're going to get.

The water has been sucking out. That's how a hurricane works. As those winds move counterclockwise, it gives on one side, it takes away on the other. So all this water is going to come back and then some. That's the concern here.

It has picked up remarkably in the last hour. We're getting gusts here reported 70 miles an hour and in excess.

And we're in what they call, when you chase storms, the snap, crackle and pop phase here in Naples. You're starting to hear sounds of things fail, branches, trees, transformers. And you start looking around to figure out where they're coming from so you know where the danger is.

A lot of trees are down here. There's a lot of debris. But we're worried about a higher level of damage, so let's get to Chad Myers right now.

Chad, the simple question is, what happened? We were expecting this some hours from now. And all of a sudden, it's pretty close to what we're seeing in Miami in the main. I mean, it has gotten much worse here, much snottier in --


CUOMO: -- in very quick time.

MYERS: And expected to almost double from there. I mean, that's what this major hurricane means to you, Chris. You just had a wind gust of 71. Wind gusts there may be 120.

Now, the force of 120 is more than double the force of 70. I know the numbers aren't double, but it's a force that has multiplied by itself. It is wind speed squared, and so you really have to expect what's going on there.

The water near Chris now 4-1/2 feet below where it should be, and it's going to come rushing back as soon as that eye gets by. There goes the eye right through Sarasota and Tampa, and then maybe even up toward St. Mark's, that -- I was there for the flood for Ivan.

Here comes the storm, though, coming on shore right now in your Everglades city. Again, a second landfall. The first one was Cudjoe Key in the Lower Keys, just to the east of Key West.

There is the spin of the storm right now, pushing the water away from Naples, pushing the water away from Tampa, but that will end as soon as the eye goes by. Now, Tampa, you still have about eight hours or so before that eye goes by.

[13:35:03] But this is now the high-risk forecast radar. Significant rain and stormy weather, winds to 90. You just had a 91-mile-per-hour gust in Miami, the main Miami airport. And so that's still going to happen for the next few hours.

Move you ahead three hours, the storm spins and Naples is in the eye. So Chris Cuomo will see wind at 120 going from east to west. We'll wait a while. It will go to zero. And then it'll come from the other direction at about 180 miles an hour.

So what's blowing one way will then get knocked around and get picked up and blow in the other way as debris. And that's going to be Sarasota. For Venice, for Tampa, same story, you all get inside the eye.

So the wind goes, does its damage. The wind stops and then comes back around. Even though there's not much wind here, there's still going to be damaging wind speeds, at least 90 miles per hour, on the backside of that.

Chris, you have a question.

CUOMO: Yes. The storm surge, Chad, thank you for explaining that exchange of energy and that phenomenon of pulling the water out.


CUOMO: But do me a favor, try to quantify what that return will look like in terms of how far it could go from where it usually is in shore. Are we talking a hundred feet in, a couple of blocks in? You know, like how far in will people have to look at standing water, and how long can it be around?

MYERS: It's all about the topography of where you live. If you're on a very sharp angle to the water, it may only come back one or two blocks. But there's no real mountains there. There's nothing elevated there. It is going to spread inland for city blocks and maybe miles before it finally stops.

As the storm goes by, the winds change direction. And this is what the weather service, the National Hurricane Center, has been so concerned about. In fact, they gave us a personal phone call and said we want you to stress this.

This is it! Yes, things will get knocked down by the wind, but those surge will kill people. And they wanted everyone to know that. This is the real deal.

Ten to 15 feet on top of what should be mean sea level, which means, for Chris, that could be 19 feet higher than it is now because it's already four feet down because the wind is blowing the wrong way.

Anderson, this is a major event for Marco, for Sanibel, for Punta Gorda, where we were years ago, all the way through Naples, Fort Myers and the like. Big time water hitting places that have never been wet before.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You know, and, Chad, I keep thinking about that there's the storm surge, which is the rise of the water. But then depending on the force of the winds, there are -- there can be waves on top of that, correct?

MYERS: Absolutely. The waves will come in from the ocean off the Gulf of Mexico at about 90 miles per hour. Now, we know that the wind in Naples may be 128, but that would be from the east.

The backside of the eye never recovered from hitting Cuba. And I guess, we're going to, you know, thank some stars for America, but we're going to have to help Cuba because they got hit by a 160-mile- per-hour Cat 5 that took the stuffing out of this storm. That's why we're not talking 160, we're talking 125. Big difference

in power, big difference in damage. The northern part of the Cuban Keys were really destroyed from this storm, taking the energy from Irma, putting it onto Cuba proper, and taking that energy damage away from America.

It finally moves on up to Albany and Macon and the like. And we will have hurricane wind gusts even here in Atlanta. I know that seems ridiculous because everybody left and went to Atlanta or Charlotte or Williamsburg, someplace like that up to the north. And the winds will be strong here and also in Birmingham, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. All right. Chad, appreciate that. It's really nice to get that level of detail because that is what people all throughout this region are looking for now, trying to absorb every detail, every data point they can to help them make decisions.

I want to go to Miguel Marquez who is in Punta Gorda. He was there yesterday as well for us.

Obviously, Punta Gorda -- you know, it's so interesting to be in Tampa and talk about Punta Gorda because, Miguel, back in 2004, when Hurricane Charlie was coming up, it was supposed to hit Tampa. Then it went -- it changed about, I think it was, four degrees, ended up turning and hitting Punta Gorda and really decimating that town.

What are the concerns there now? And just what is the environment like right now there?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. What we are seeing right now, you will be seeing very shortly. The winds here are about 40 miles per hour. They are sustained. They are gusting up into the 50s. We're seeing some of the worst weather we've seen so far.

It is shelter in place for Charlotte County. And you guys were just -- they were just talking about sort of the wind effect on the bays and on the water here. I want to show you this.

Two boats. You think they're floating. They're not. Move in there and you can see these are actually in mud now.

[13:40:00] This is the Peace River and the bay right next to Punta Gorda. If you come over to the right here, you can see how much of the bay is actually exposed. And all of that is just low-lying water on mud, essentially, and that is flowing across the mud. And all that water is going out.

So what goes out must come back in eventually. And they are expecting things a little bit better here. They're expecting the winds to top out at about 110 miles an hour in Punta Gorda with gusts up to 135. So a little better than we were yesterday.

They're also expecting the storm surge to be a little bit lower, five to eight feet. But they're saying there could be three feet of water, that's about up to here, three feet of water across certain parts of Charlotte County. This is the bay. And you get a very good sense of just how powerful

this storm is and where it's blowing. Look how much of the floor of the river, of the Peace River here, has been exposed by the wind blowing this storm out.

Once that eye wall passes here and it starts blowing up the other way, then they'll have that storm surge here and things will get even worse. But right now, very sustained winds here. And it's only going to get worse.

We're about 40 miles an hour at the moment. It will get up to 90 to 110 miles an hour, gusting up to 135 in this area. So we are now banding down and hunkering down for the duration, Anderson.

COOPER: Miguel, we're going to check in with you. Be careful out there. And again, for people a little bit north of where Miguel is in Punta Gorda and where Chris Cuomo is here in Tampa and elsewhere.

A lot of that storm surge may be coming in the darkness, late at night, which makes it all the more scary. You don't get a sense of what's coming. It's hard to see what's coming and especially with those hurricane force winds whipping at that time of night.

We're going to take a short break. And our special coverage of Hurricane Irma continues in a moment.


[13:46:15] COOPER: Our coverage of Hurricane Irma continues. I'm here in Tampa. Chris Cuomo is in Naples.

Chris, obviously, the weather system that you are getting, as you were saying, it may be moving up here to Tampa shortly. It's pretty slow moving at this point, but folks in Tampa really have not seen the kind of weather that you're getting right now. And obviously, have not seen anything close to what people in Miami have been experiencing so far, Chris.

CUOMO: Well, and as Chad explained, things have changed. I mean, we've just been getting so much rain for so long, and then it intensified about an hour ago. Literally, the weather equipment failed.

The jacket I had on, it was just -- all it was was extra weight. It was no longer holding out any moisture. So looking for a little bit of an upgrade, trying to get one of the producers to be generous and make a swap. No takers yet.

But what we've seen here is that the gusts are now getting close door to what they're seeing in Miami. And the concern is that there's a lot worse to come here with Irma and what will happen when things have been made vulnerable.

We're losing some trees but others are being pushed to their break point. Different parts of structures are being tested and weakened. So what will happen when this storm surge that Chad's talking about, when that comes back?

And when these much more powerful winds -- you heard him say, Anderson, he believes that the effect of the force of the winds that we're going to get in a few hours will be twice of what we're getting now. That's the big concern.

COOPER: Yes. I want to go to Miami where Peter Zalewski -- he's a business owner -- is there.

Peter, I'm wondering, a, how are things for you in terms of what you and what have you been seeing in your area in Miami.

PETER ZALEWSKI, REAL ESTATE CONSULTANT, CRANESPOTTERS.COM (via telephone): Well, Anderson, what I can tell you is, rights now, in the streets -- I am in downtown Miami. I'm probably about a good thousand feet, maybe 2,000 feet, directly from Biscayne Bay.

Biscayne Bay is about ready to breach some of the sea walls that are in around here. On the actual street level, it's probably about two- foot deep or so. It's well past the grill of a regular, traditional automobile.

And in terms of winds, you know, it's probably 70 to 80s plus, and then you're getting bursts. You can see it in the windows when the windows start to be pushed in. And a lot of the trees are bending and they have been bending for quite some time.

COOPER: The location you're in, is it a new construction? Because, you know, it's one of the things we've been talking about is, in the wake of Andrew, building codes were really upgraded, particularly for any new construction in south Florida.

ZALEWSKI (via telephone): Yes. It is a brand new building. It was constructed in 2013. Came online, a developer had the foresight to go forward and actually build it.

So it's almost as if you're starting on the second floor. So the first floor is where the parking garage is and where you enter the building. For the most part, for visitors, you're going to be on that second floor.

So think of what you'll see in the Keys or think about what you'll see in certain parts which will be a lot, effectively that ground floor is basically just dedicated towards parking. And you know -- and when the water recedes then, you can sort of clean up and go back to normal.

So they did take those advantages or those steps. And they -- also, too, they put in place some pretty strong, stringent glass panes. And so far, they seem to be holding up. But, you know, I'm not sure if it'll continue, but I have some confidence. And I'm here.

COOPER: And in terms of supplies, I mean, you know, people have been told to have about three days' worth. I assume you have stocked up?

ZALEWSKI (via telephone): Well, you know, and fortunately enough, I went vegetarian so I have a lot of beans and rice laying around. So I tended to cook up some of that, throw some spice in there. And I'm not worried. The only thing I'm worried about is probably gaining weight.


COOPER: Well, if that's your only concern, then you're in very good shape.

[13:49:55] Obviously, here in Tampa, which has not seen this level of storm in nearly 100 years -- 1921 was the storm which really decimated this area. And, obviously, back then, the city was not anywhere close to the development that we have seen now. But there's real concern about the buildings, their ability to deal with the level of flooding that may occur here.

Peter, I appreciate talking to you in Miami. Certainly wish you the best in the days ahead.

Our coverage continues from points all across southern Florida, from the West Coast to the East Coast. We're going to take a short break and we'll be right back.


[13:55:00] CUOMO: We return to our coverage of Hurricane Irma. I'm Chris Cuomo. I'm in Naples, Florida. That's on the western coast, on one of the areas of particular vulnerability that became a big concern when the storm path shifted.

We also have Anderson Cooper, who is up closer to Tampa Bay. That area, it has never seen a storm of the magnitude that might come that way.

John Berman in Miami. They've been getting hit consistently for hours.

And we have CNN people everywhere that the storm has been, is now, and will go.

One of the big concerns about the West Coast here is about the energy exchange of Irma. She is a huge storm. And the way that the storm works in basic fashion is the winds are moving counterclockwise -- and I want to bring in Randi Kaye.

Because as the storm gives storm surge on one side, it's sucking energy from the other side, so we're seeing the water move away in places like Naples and Tampa Bay. But that water's going to come back. And when it comes back, it's going to multiply and it's going to have power behind it. And that's where the fear of storm surge comes in.

Randi, what are you seeing up there?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, hi. Hello to you. We are on Bayshore Boulevard here in Tampa where the rain is coming down. But let me just pan off me here and take a look out there.

That is the situation. That's where a lot of folks have been playing in the mud because the water has receded. You could probably hear the police behind me. They've been trying to keep people out of there all day here as the storm starts to make its way in.

But you're looking at 700 miles of beautiful shoreline here in Tampa. And now, with the -- such a low tide and the water is being pulled out to sea before the storm actually hits, people have sort of been going out there in the mud and taking selfies and lots of pictures of themselves, including these two folks that I'm joined by here.

This is Brian and Felix. You were out there. What made you go out there today?

BRIAN, TAMPA RESIDENT: Well, I mean, this is kind of a once in a lifetime event. The last time a hurricane of this size came through Tampa, I wasn't even born yet. I don't even I was a twinkle in somebody's eye at that point.

KAYE: What was it like out there?

BRIAN: Well, it's muddy, kind of smells like the bay. But otherwise, everything is really calm.

KAYE: Yes. Were you nervous out there?

FELIX, TAMPA RESIDENT: No, I really wasn't. It's just the wind. Some picked up and then we kind of had to get out of there because the rain was starting to sting a little bit.

KAYE: Yes. Felix, how old are you?


KAYE: So are you concerned about the hurricane? You certainly have never lived through a hurricane this size.

FELIX: No, I've never lived through a hurricane this size. But, I mean, honestly, with my mom, I'm not too concerned about it.

KAYE: She's a good protector, huh?

FELIX: Yes, she is.

KAYE: And what about your dog here? Here's a dog. You have your dog, Simba?

FELIX: That's not my dog.

KAYE: Oh, it's not your dog. OK.

BRIAN: He's my dog.


KAYE: He's your dog?


KAYE: OK. So Simba is riding it out with you. You guys are all going to be OK, you think, where you are?

BRIAN: Yes. Well, we're in -- we're at much higher ground. We're technically in flood zone in between C and D, so we're not under evacuation orders. But we decided to come down and have a look at things.

KAYE: All right. Well, thank you, guys, for joining us.

So that's the situation here, a lot of mud. And water has definitely moved out here along the boulevard here in Tampa.

Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Randi, it's so interesting that you're down by the bay. I just want to show you the Hillsborough River where we are along the river walk. And again, we have been watching now over the last couple hours.

As, you know, you talk about the water in Tampa Bay being sucked out, Hillsborough River is draining into the Hillsborough Bay which then goes -- is connected obviously to Tampa Bay.

And you can -- for the last several hours, we've watched this water go down. And, you know, I've been pointing out that sandy bank across the river. You couldn't see that when we first got here.

And again, importantly, as Chad Myers has been talking about, you know, all this water is going to be coming back in here, coming back in fast, probably in the late-night hours, even after some of the worst winds may have gone through.

I want to go to Alex Marquardt who is about 50 miles south of me in Sarasota.

Alex, excuse me, how are things there?

ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the wind and the rains have started up as you can see, but this -- it pales in comparison to what we're going to expect in the next few hours.

We're told by local officials that the winds around 5:00 or 6:00 p.m., so about three hours from now, will go up to 75 to 95 miles an hour, with gusts of up to 115 miles an hour. So the message from local officials right now is shelter in place.

They have been heeding the instructions. People here, residents of Sarasota, have been heeding the instructions of local officials to either stay in place, hunker down at their homes if they feel comfortable, or to get to shelters. There are 10 shelters in Sarasota County. Some 16,000 people have

gone to find shelter. We are here at one of them now. This is Brookside Middle School.

And unlike some of the other shelters that we've seen -- you saw Drew Griffin at that arena down in Fort Myers -- this is a school. So people are sheltering in classrooms that is being run by the Red Cross. There are classrooms that are full of families, classrooms for elderly.

[13:59:57] There are even 350 dogs and cats here at Brookside who have gotten their own rooms. That is one of the main reasons that a lot of the families have come here.

We have just met the Brady (ph) family, Steve (ph) and Laura (ph) with their daughter, Payton (ph). Their pups, Stella (ph) and Monty (ph), right?