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Hurricane Irma closing in on Florida; Irma expected to strengthen again before hitting Florida; Florida Keys feeling hurricane wind gusts; 6.5 million people ordered to evacuate Southern Florida; Florida's western coast in the expected path of Hurricane Irma. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired September 10, 2017 - 00:00   ET


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Hello and welcome to our viewers in the United States and indeed all around the world. I am Michael Holmes coming to you live from Orlando, Florida.

ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: And I'm Isa Soares coming to you live from Miami where the clock has just struck midnight. Thank you very much for joining us.

HOLMES: And hurricane-force wind gusts are now striking the Florida Keys as Hurricane Irma moves north towards the state.

The storm, a Category 3 at the moment, but it is expected to regain strength as it crosses open water, which is a very warm water between Cuba and Florida. That warm water will feed a storm like this.

Its path has shifted slightly west. That puts Florida's Gulf Coast on high alert. Many people from Naples up to Tampa are now seeking shelter from the storm surge that is expected to follow and could be disastrous, especially for a city like Tampa.

And fleets of utility trucks have been mobilized to deal with power outages, which now affect almost 200,000 customers.

All right. Let's get right to CNN meteorologist Karen Maginnis. Karen, tell us about where Irma is now, where it's headed. I know that its latest track is extremely worrying to Tampa, Naples, and places like that along that west coast.

KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is for a variety of reasons. We have talked about that upper right quadrant that is so crucial. That is an area that is going to pull that water in off of the open waters.

It's also an area that is very dynamic, meaning they could see the potential for tornadoes. And, in fact, we've had numerous reports of funnel clouds, tornadoes that have been reported, and, as I mentioned, it's very dynamic.

But as we start to see some of these bands move on and across South Florida, they've been gusty now. And they've produced some brief heavy rainfall. About 200,000 people without power with the system now. (INAUDIBLE) it has just done pulled away from the coast of Cuba. But let's go ahead and show you some other information and it becomes quite compelling.

This has been one fickle hurricane, without a doubt. If you remember, about a week or so ago, we were talking about maybe landfall right around Miami. And then those computer models were kind of dividing it between the east coast and the west coast.

Here are some of the current wind gusts, 36 mile per hour wind being reported in Miami. You go further to the north, on the west side Punta Gorda reporting 23-mile-per-hour sustained winds with gusts around 32.

So, what can we expect? There was a shift from our last update from the National Hurricane Center. If you remember, we were looking at something that perhaps would affect the Everglades and just kind of ride along the coast. But now there are indications that this is going to pull away from the coast just a little bit more. You can see kind of this in the cone.

So, maybe 15 miles offshore for a while. That is, until it starts to jut out here, right around the Fort Myers, maybe the Sarasota area, but this is going to be inundating these coastal regions with perhaps 10 to 15 feet of water, which is hard to wrap your mind around, but they are in the worst-possible position.

If it looks like Irma is just kind of hugging the coast, they are going to be on the side that is, as I've mentioned, the most dynamic. As it makes its way toward the bend area in Florida, perhaps being downgraded maybe to a Category 1.

But until then we're very strong Category 3. The water temperatures across this region are approaching 90 degrees. That's the kind of energy that hurricanes like this feed off of.

You may remember, as it was interacting with the Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas, that we saw it just kind of gradually lose a little bit of its energy, but, no, not now.

Now, we're pulling out towards the Gulf. And in this purple-shaded area, from just south of Fort Myers, all the way to the Everglades, that's what we're seeing for the potential for storm surge of 10 to 15 feet.

I want to mention a couple of specific things for you. First of all, they tweeted out, Broward County Sheriff department saying now that the wind is gusting over 45 miles an hour, they are pulling their deputies off the road. They're beginning to do that already because it affects how they are going to be able to do their job.

Also, from the FEMA administrator - he spoke with CNN's Rene Marsh - he said that there could be 3 million people that are without power as the storm affects this region. Asked a little bit more, could it possibly be more than that? And he said, yes, it would be hard to speculate, there could be as many as 5 million people without power.

[00:05:01] Now, imagine that. When we were talking about why you probably need to leave, because it was Category 5 hurricane, maybe Category 4 that is going to be making landfall. Now, we've got a Category 3.

There's not a lot of gas to talk about. Maybe there would be damage to the place where you are seeking some security, your home. Perhaps you're near the coast, so you have the storm surge to worry about.

Maybe you could see the potential for 10, 12 inches of rainfall, maybe some isolated heavier amounts, maybe you're in the quadrant where there is tornadic activity, and certainly there is a tornado watch out for Fort Lauderdale towards Miami and into the Florida Keys over through the Everglades. So, the impacts are tremendous.

You don't have to have a Category 5 hurricane for this to really deeply impact your life. And, as the FEMA administrator said, that could be 5 million or 6 million people without power. It could be a couple of days. It could be a couple weeks. But, either way, the infrastructure that has to be repaired from all of this is going to be so substantial.

Take a look at this. We've got a wave or band of - some of the outer bands moving right across the Fort Myers, Florida.

I want to point this out. Wow, this is in that dynamic area I was telling you about. Some of these cells right here have the potential to produce some tornadoes.

So, we're looking at perhaps hurricane-force winds all along that western edge of Florida from Marco Island to Naples to Cape Coral, Florida and in towards Bradenton, Sarasota, Tampa.

You have to remember this bay area. That water can really pile up quite a bit. So, we'll be here. We've got live updates from the weather center every half hour.

Back to you, Isa.

SOARES: Thank you very much. It doesn't matter which way you slice it, does it, Karen. East or west coast, it is a huge, huge hurricane and we need to treat it with respect.

Let's get more. Derek Van Dam is in Miami Beach. And, Derek, as we were just hearing there from Karen Maginnis, you have so many elements to think about, not only the storm surge, but also the power of these winds.

HOLMES: All right. I think we've lost Isa there for the moment. We'll get her back. Derek, can you hear me? Finish that thought. What do you make of what Isa was saying? Derek, can you hear me? Michael Holmes in Orlando here.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Michael, yes. All right. Hi, Michael. I can hear you now. I understand we lost Isa. Listen, we are in Miami Beach and we've got to talk about the threats that we are facing right now. It's unbelievable. Tornado watch, flash flood watch, storm surge warning, and a mandatory curfew in this area alone.

This is the real deal. You look around on our horizon, just in the past hour, we've had flashes of blue lights. In fact, it's just fallen right now, as I spoke. Transformers being blown. Obvious electrical problems taking place here in the Miami Beach region.

There's already over 106,000 people being reported without power or power that's been flickering on and off already. Are the threats here real? Of course, we've seen the westward shift of the track. But that doesn't mean that Miami-Dade and Broward is in the clear.

The storm still has several, several hours to go before it really ramps up to it's most intense point. We've had the opportunity to talk to the Miami Beach mayor earlier today, Phil Levine.

And he was talking about how the fire and police personnel here are on high alerts and they're still responding to calls and service request. But the moment that - there is another blue-light flashing transformer in the background.

At the moment that the winds sustain 40 miles per hour, he's going to start pulling emergency personnel off the road. And anyone who decided to not take the evacuation order seriously and stay put, they are on their own tonight.

So, they will not respond to those calls. You can imagine just how dangerous that could be as the night and the storm progresses. We are very close to the shoreline, about one block over. We do expect about 3 to 5 feet of coastal storm surge and inundation right along the Miami-Dade coastal area, specifically in Miami Beach. So, lots of threats and lots of concerns here.

The fire department has four stations based in Miami Beach specifically, but they have evacuated three. They've left one in place because they believe that it's actually going to be above the flood plain, once the coastal storm surge actually comes in.

But that just shows you the limited personnel that will be on place tonight and into the day tomorrow when the storm becomes its strongest and the eye wall of Irma approaches Southern Florida Peninsula. Michael?

[00:10:08] HOLMES: All right. Derek, thanks very much. Derek Van Dam there on duty for us.

Now, CNN contributor Lt. Gen. Russel Honore joins us now here in Orlando. He commanded the military response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Great to have you and your expertise here. You handled a lot of logistics when it came to Hurricane Katrina. What have we learned then that will be put into action now?

RUSSEL HONORE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, one thing, a lot of prepositioning is happening. FEMA is (INAUDIBLE) establish logistics basis. We have storage centers.

But the hard part will be search and rescue. The harder part would be sustaining communities. So, maybe sometime entire cities with the grid being down.

And there is old saying in the army, amateurs study tactics, where we're trying to figure out where the storm is blowing. There's got to be some people studying logistics because this will be hard.

HOLMES: And the after -

HONORE: To resupply people and keep them fed and to determine when you're going to start evacuating people because you can't sustain them on a grid that's broken, that's underwater with no electricity.

HOLMES: And so, the aftermath logistically is almost as important as the planning ahead in many ways because of what could be left when the storm has gone through.

HONORE: We are in the first quarter.


HONORE: We're going to lose. The second quarter we're going to do search and rescue. The next quarter, we start the recovery. Taking people out of shelter, where do you take them?

If there's no electricity and no water at their home and their home is surrounded by water, you've got to evacuate them. You can't maintain people in a shelter that's surrounded by water.

And that scenario could play out in this particular storm, the way it's going, particularly towards Tampa, with the Hillsborough and Tampa Bay, will take a lot of water in. And it could flush a part of downtown Tampa, which has a hospital right there on the water.

So, there's some significant - the other thing up the Florida coast there is a major power plant that provides power for that entire area around that part of north of Tampa and St. Peter area.

So, power - the grid goes down by itself without a storm is a disaster. And logistics, the military - we maneuvered the entire East Coast military from here to Washington DC, just up to Virginia.

The fleet north had to go out to sea, which left families back and they had to be evacuated. MacDill Air Force Base, you know it's all there. I won't have to mention that. Much of that has been -

MICHAEL: All the planes have been flown north and aircraft being - because that's susceptible to flooding.

HONORE: And those headquarters are running out mission around the world. So, it's been a major logistics operation to move stuff and people and families separately.

MICHAEL: Is that what worries you a lot now? We've been talking a lot during the program about storm surge and that water. And Tampa is a big city. Millions of people could be affected by this storm surge. Does that worry you more than the wind in many ways?

HONORE: It does because the wind will do its damage, but the surge will come in and basically paralyze because it takes the grid out.

Whereas the wind will also take - when you get north of Tampa, take the distribution poles out for the power system. And if you have to replace distribution poles and sub poles through those marshes, it can take weeks.

And that's why you heard earlier the FEMA director talking about the enormity of that task. But there are a lot people - I was in Shreveport, Louisiana in the day on highway 20 and there were trucks headed to Florida, coming into the region.

So, they're mobilizing. But this is going to be a major logistics operations and that will be the biggest test of our chain of command, working - civilian and military working together, is to pull that logistics together because the storm is cutting through our logistics. Our biggest FEMA warehouse is in Atlanta. The storm may go to Atlanta, could turn the lights out there if we get a worst-case scenario.

HOLMES: Very quickly, general. You've got a lot of people who did stay in place. What would be your advice to them?

HONORE: If you're along the coast and you stayed in place, write your name on your arm, so we know who you are. In the meantime, use that Red Cross Safe & Well Program. And when the communications start to degrade, text. Don't try to call because you would not be able to get through as the cell towers come down and let people know you're safe and well and where you are, so we know where to come find you.

HOLMES: Gen. Russell Honore, always a pleasure. Thank you so much. A man who knows natural disasters well, having dealt with Hurricane Katrina.

All right. We're going to take a short break here on the program. When we come back, some Caribbean islands finally seeing all of Irma's destruction. We're going to take a look at the devastating damage when we come back.

Also, millions of children at risk from Hurricane Irma after the break. What's being done to try to help? We'll be right back.


[00:19:07] HOLMES: And welcome back, everyone. I'm Michael Holmes, coming to you live from Orlando in Florida.

SOARES: And I'm Isa Soares coming to you live from Miami. You are watching CNN's continuing coverage of Hurricane Irma.

HOLMES: And we are getting a better idea now, the devastation after Hurricane Irma roared through the Caribbean islands. In Cuba, for starters, it ripped down power lines, tore off roofs, knocked down trees. One tourist town near the coast had waves of water rolling through it.

Many people were especially vulnerable because they live in one story homes, not always well built.

And here's a sky view of the storm's damage in Tortola. Entire neighborhood blocks are covered in debris, cars destroyed after the monster storm ripped the island apart.

[00:20:01] For some insight now on how children are impacted by a disaster like Irma, Jeanne-Aimee De Marrais joins me now by phone from Houston in Texas. She is the senior director for US emergencies for Save the Children organization.

And thanks so much for being with us. Tell us about the specific challenges that come when dealing with children in a situation like this.


Save the Children knows that children are always the most vulnerable in an emergency. Many of them cannot get themselves out of harm's way. They really are dependent on the adults around them to keep them safe.

So, for the children tonight in Florida who are in the evacuation centers or some of whose family did not evacuate, tonight is going to be a very, very scary long night for them.

HOLMES: So, what is being done? What would organizations like yours are mobilizing, what do you do?

DE MARRAIS: Sure. So, Save the Children has a team that I will lead to go in immediately after the hurricane to work in the evacuation shelters to provide protection programs, to provide infant and toddler materials and supplies to keep children safe.

And then we will work with the committees longer-term to help rebuild schools, childcare programs, libraries, after-school programs. These are the things families count on and it's critically important to help kids get back to normal after a devastating event like this hurricane.

HOLMES: It's interesting. Everyone knows that routine is important for kids, particularly little ones. I imagine with something like a hurricane and depending what the family situation was in terms of having to get out or what they go through, I imagine there's trauma aspects to this as well.

DE MARRAIS: Absolutely. So, actually, I'm leading right now our Hurricane Harvey response in Houston. So, we're working in a very large shelter for this hurricane, doing the same program.

So, we're here in the early, early hours right after the storm to support children's needs and to help reduce some of the fear and trauma that they're going through.

So, again, we setup safe play areas for children in the mega shelter. It's exactly what we're going to be doing in Florida also in the coming hours and days, so that children have protection around them, children can have a sense of normalcy. In the middle of all the craziness of a large evacuation shelter that may have 3,000 or 4,000 people in it, we set up a safe haven for children.

HOLMES: Tell us about that. When you talk about safe haven and protection for children, what are the specific risks you're talking about?

HOLMES: Sure. So, sometimes, in evacuation shelters, when you have 3,000 or 4,000 people inside of them, sometimes there are very dangerous people who are also there, sleeping on cots next to children.

We know this from years of experience working in the shelters. So, sometimes, these shelters that they're using are not designed to house families. They're not really designed to house people. They're just providing protection from the violence of the storm that's going on around them.

So, when you put that many people inside one of these buildings, there can be many high-risk dark corners or unguarded bathrooms sometimes or just very difficult situations.

When we first arrived in Houston after Hurricane Harvey two weeks ago, we walked into the shelter and there were no supplies to support infants and toddlers. There were no pop-up cribs and no special hygiene materials.

There was a one-week old baby there being washed in the sink that hundreds of people were using inside of the shelter, which is a health risk for that baby.

So, Save the Children provides the hygiene support materials as well as simple things like pop-up cribs, so that toddlers don't wander off while the parents are sleeping right there and perhaps end up getting harmed by a stranger.

HOLMES: Jeanne-Aimee De Marrais, thank you so much with Save the Children. Appreciate the work that you're doing.

And I'm going to have more from Orlando in a few minutes, but now let's go back to Isa Soares in Miami.

SOARES: Thanks very much, Michael. If you're just joining us, we have heard in the last two hours or so, there is a new path. There's been a shift somewhat from Hurricane Irma going slightly northwest by 15 miles or so. That's how much it shifted.

It is going slowly, moving slowly, but now we have a rough idea where the eye of the storm will be hit, and that is really in the Tampa area, but also in the City of Naples. And that's where we find our Ed Lavandera. [00:25:12] Ed, you and I were talking in the last hour. You said the majority of people have been heeding those warnings and they left before we saw that shift in the hurricane.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. We have been here since early this morning in the City of Naples and in various parts of Collier County, which is the county in the southwestern most part of this state.

And we have seen essentially empty streets, many closed, maybe a handful of businesses that remained open throughout the day today, a couple of gas stations and one or two restaurants kind of catering to those stubborn few, who decided that they were going to stick around here and wait out the storm. So, it was quite a sign.

In fact, we were also about 30 miles south of where we are here on a barrier island called Marco Island, very popular tourist destination, full of high-rise condominiums and multimillion dollar homes.

We caught up with the police chief there just as he was making his final rounds of the evening before going into the bunker where the emergency management officials would be monitoring the storm. He told me that, for the most part, he believed that most people had left that island as well.

And the concern here, Isa, is the 10 to 15-foot storm surge that is expected to come with Hurricane Irma as it approaches this part of southwest Florida. It's not exactly clear yet if the eye of the storm will pass over Naples.

But at the very least, we will be on that wider edge of the eye of the storm and that will - is generally the most intense area of a hurricane.

So, this area, regardless of where the eye essentially makes landfall, essentially bracing for the worst of this storm, whatever that might be at this point.

But the good news from emergency management officials, they believe that many people listen to those warnings early, got out of town and now they don't exactly how many people have stayed behind, but they believe that they're in much better shape given those evacuation orders and how people followed that along.

And now, they say they're just waiting for the storm to make its arrival.

SOARES: And as we heard from Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, in the last five hours or so, he basically said, didn't he, Ed, that this was their last chance to make a good decision.

Ed Lavandera there for us in Naples. We'll touch base with you next hour or so. Ed, thank you very much.

And also, we heard from the governor, there are something like 385 shelters across the path of Hurricane Irma. And he's really calling and calling on people to seek those shelters. Do not to be brave. Do not be a hero. Go to those shelters, seek higher ground. That is the most important thing to be doing as we wait full Hurricane Irma.

Our continuing coverage continues after a very short break.


[00:32:09] HOLMES: Hello, everyone. Thanks for being with us. I'm Michael Holmes live in Orlando, Florida.

SOARES: And I'm Isa Soares coming to you live from Miami. You are watching CNN's continuing coverage of Hurricane Irma.

HOLMES: Well, the day Florida has been dreading is finally here. Hurricane Irma, now a dangerous Category 3, is already lashing the Florida Keys with hurricane-force gusts and it is expected to strengthen in the coming hours as it draws ever closer to the US mainland.

Irma shifted slightly west during the day sending many people on Florida's Gulf Coast to emergency shelters. Almost 200,000 customers now without power. It could be many hundreds of thousands more in the days ahead. The governor pleading with everyone to evacuate while they still can.


RICK SCOTT, GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA: If you have been ordered to evacuate, you need to leave now. This is your last chance to make a good decision. Evacuations are in place in areas across the state. More than 6.5 million Floridians have been ordered to evacuate.

Do not put yourself or your family's life at risk. Now is the time to do the right thing for your family.


HOLMES: All right. Let's just get that number, 6.5 million people in Florida have been told to evacuate. It's a staggering number, isn't it? And tens of millions are currently under a hurricane watch.

CNN meteorologist Karen Maginnis is joining us now. Karen, tell us about this new track, the latest information we've got in the last hour or two and where it's headed.

MAGINNIS: One thing you can say about Irma - you can say about every hurricane - is they are fickle. If you remember about a week ago, we were looking at Miami. Miami seemed to be the focus of where the computer models, the European and North American model, was kind of aiming at.

Then, as we went along, it kept shifting just a bit. There are a lot of dynamics that take place with hurricanes, as you well know. And now, an interesting dynamic has occurred, but I'll give you the latest information right here. The eye has really gone through an eyewall replacement cycle. It is looking tighter and more concentric, now that it has pulled away from the coast of Cuba.

And by the way, you can only imagine what happened when this was a Category 4, made landfall as a 5, became a Category 4. What kind of damage must be seen there.

But now, it looks like the Florida Keys are going to be battered for hours. It's still about 90 miles away. So, here we have this great vulnerability and it is looking very impressive on the satellite imagery.

So, I dare say that, by the next advisory, we may see this creep back up again to a stronger hurricane.

[00:35:03] All right. There's a lot to be said. Numerous power outages reported across the Florida Keys, specifically Key West. But take a look at this. This doesn't look all at that impressive, the storm surge.

But let's zoom in across this region. Here are the Florida Keys, essentially the Everglades. And then, we go up towards Marco Island and Naples, Florida.

If we can zoom in and show you Marco Island, Marco Island is beautiful. It is gorgeous. It is a sumptuous community, but there all these little inlets in here. And if we're looking at a storm surge of, let's say, conservatively, 8 to 12 feet, could be 15 feet, we're looking at all of this beauty going under water.

And look at all these little inlets, all of that will be flooded. There is a very fragile ecosystem across this region as well.

Let's go further to the north towards Naples and Cape Coral. And you can see all the different little inlets across this region as well. And still, we go to our graphic here and give us an indication that Sanibel Island, Captiva, many, many visitors there, essentially can expect to be under water with that 8 to 12 feet, possibly 15-foot storm surge.

They're going to be repeatedly battered. They're going to be in the worst possible zone of this hurricane over the next 24 hours. Where do we expect landfall?

Let's go up a little bit further. If we zoom in across Cape Coral, here we go. We're looking at the region right around Punta Gorda. And where you would see this red-shaded area, that's what we're looking at significant storm surge.

You go back in a little bit and maybe the storm surge is only a foot, maybe 3 feet. But if that storm surge is in your home, that's a major devastation. Let's zoom out a little bit more, go up the coast just a little bit further.

Here's Tampa. Here's St. Pete. Here is that water way, and if you add an additional 10 to 12 to possibly 15 feet of water across this region.

Now this juts out a little bit. And because now the computer models are suggesting that this has already moved towards the northwest just slightly, so we're looking at being battered by that upper right quadrant. That's where we see the potential for very high winds. You're looking at the potential for tornadoes.

Already, I saw Fisher Island, a 57-mile-an-hour wind gust. At Key Biscayne, there is already a 65-mile-an-hour wind gust. So, even though, if you shifted from the east coast of Florida to the west coast of Florida and thought, oh, you're safe there, we now know the west coast is very vulnerable. Very vulnerable.

But still this east coast is being battered as well, maybe tropical storm force winds, but still this hurricane is 90 miles away from the Florida Keys.

So, there's still this great impact. When do we anticipate landfall? That was what I was trying to get to. It looks like it may just hug right around the coast. It could possibly not make landfall until about midnight, tomorrow night, possibly around Naples, could be Sarasota, probably Sarasota or perhaps further north. We'll just have to keep looking at it.

Michael, back to you.

HOLMES: Yes. Karen Maginnis, thanks so much. And last hour, we spoke of the mayors of both Naples and Tampa, both very worried about this latest track and what it could mean for storm surge in their towns and cities along that west coast of the peninsula in Florida.

We've got more of our breaking coverage of Hurricane Irma coming up as the storm closes in on Florida. Miami Beach continues to feel some of the outer band. We'll talk to the city manager when we come back.


[00:42:03] SOARES: Very warm welcome back. You are watching CNN's continuing coverage of hurricane Irma. I'm Isa Soares coming to you live from Miami.

Now, South Florida is already starting to feel the impact of Hurricane Irma. The changes in the weather pattern throughout the day have been quite drastic. Our reporters, our correspondents throughout South Florida have been seeing and feeling it firsthand. Take a look at this.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: CNN is everywhere the storm is expected to be. We are here in downtown Miami. We're still about half an hour or so from high tide and we see that the water is already well over the docks.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Starting this evening, they anticipate that the storm surge - I'm about 5 feet tall. Two of me. That's the height of two of me could - we can see a wall of water come across. And that is something that they are very concerned about.

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a sign of what you're in for, maybe even stronger and maybe very soon. One of those outer bands from Hurricane Irma hitting Miami right now.

LAH: The eye is shifting west, but people would become over confident that they'll stay out, that people who may have gone to Miami further inland are going to come back to the beach because we're right near the ocean. The storm surge is still in effect.

WEIR: Hurricane Irma has taken that turn to the north, northwest, which means the winds and rains we're feeling now will continue until tomorrow and maybe double, and that's just here.

CUOMO: We're watching the storm track move above our heads, but right now, just like that, it's totally closed out. The rain is coming horizontal and vertical, if you can tell, John, and this is still nothing.

LAH: With the track changing, with the forecast showing that it's heading all west, they do not want people to become overconfident and think that they can come back to Miami beach.

WEIR: As the night goes on and the winds pick up and the rains pick up, very dangerous to be moving about. And officials that we've spoken to, say, look, if you made the decision to stay, hunker down, be careful, be safe, make good decisions.

HOLMES: Please stay safe and stay with CNN.


SOARES: And as you just saw there from our correspondents, it is so deceptive. The weather can change so quickly. So, it is important not to be complacent as Kyung Lah was pointing out that.

We know Miami Beach area is under curfew from 8:00 PM to 7 AM.

On the phone with us is Jimmy Morales. He is the city manager for Miami Beach.

Jimmy, thank you very much for taking the time to speak to us this morning.


SOARES: Are people abiding by that curfew?

MORALES: Yes. Most people are. There's always a couple stragglers, but people are abiding. We're making sure that the beaches are clear, the streets are very clear. There is only going to be one or two people that come out. But by and large, people are respectful. And I think they are smart enough to realize you want to stay out of the elements right now.

[00:45:09] SOARES: What is the biggest challenge now for you, Jimmy, would you say?

MORALES: Well, you were talking about the complacency issue. I think the biggest challenge when you're expecting potentially a Category 4 storm and instead you're going to be getting mostly a strong tropical storm with some hurricane gust is that people think it's OK to go back out, it's OK to come back to the city after you have evacuated, to come back too early.

There are still a lot of threats out there. There's still storm surge. There is still power outages, potential flooding, tornadoes that get spun off by these storms.

So, we are really still messaging the people, maybe the worst has avoided us. But there are still dangers out there, still hunker down and let's just wait for it to pass before we come back out and try to resume a more normal life.

SOARES: Absolutely. There are so many elements at play. And, like you clearly pointed out, the curfew is in place to really protect everyone. And it is important they abide by those rules and heed those that advise. Jimmy, when you look - let's look ahead if we can after the Hurricane Irma hit. What is the game plan? What is the strategy from your perspective?

MORALES: Well, the first thing we do - we have strike units of police, fire and public works that come in to try to clear roadways depending on the level of damage and debris. Clear roadways, our main arteries, so that folks can move around; make sure that our key facilities, fire stations, hospitals, police stations, are accessible. And then, once we do that, then begin to access the damage to public facilities and homes in that process.

So, obviously, we're a tourist economy out here. So, the other thing we want to do is try to help that hospitality industry get back up as quickly as possible. Those are important jobs in the community (INAUDIBLE) the city, to the county and the state.

So, it's try to get back to normal as quickly possible. Hopefully, there won't be any recovery or rescue issues, but we'll, obviously, have to assess that as well and hope there'll just be mostly clean up and then resuming, trying to get the economy going back quickly, kids back in school as soon as the schools are clear.

One of the critical elements after a hurricane is our building department will send out a slew of inspectors to make sure that all buildings still have retained structural integrity, particularly construction sites.

The school system will do the same, so that before our kids go back into schools or before people resume construction projects that everything is safe. So, there is a lot of work to be done even when we have a near-miss hurricane potentially. Still a lot of work to be done before we can give the all clear, that it's time to go back to the status quo. SOARES: And on your earlier point about complacency, Jimmy, for those people still dithering, still undecided of what to do, especially now as we've seen the hurricane has shifted somewhat, what do you say to them?

MORALES: Well, I think at this point it's too late to evacuate. We are going to be getting probably the strongest of our tropical storm winds arriving in the next couple of hours and they'll be here until you know much of tomorrow.

I think, at this point, hunker down, stay at home or wherever you are. Alert to the communications and notices that are being put out there.

Again, even though we're not going to be getting Cat 1, 2, or 3 forces, we're going to have strong winds. We're going to have downed power lines. We're going to have flooding, all of which provide their own dangers.

And so, again, I would say, folks, please stay where you are until you get the all clear from us and allow us to go out and do some assessment because anything can be a danger - downed power line, significant water, all those things can pose dangers, structures that have been compromised by the winds and water.

So, no matter how safe someone thinks now they should feel, until they get an all clear, they really need to stay where they are and just protect themselves and their families.

SOARES: Absolutely. There could be so much debris as well. All those elements worth bearing in mind. Jimmy Morales, I appreciate you taking the time to speak to us.

Jimmy, wish you all the best of luck. Do keep us posted and come back to us in the hours ahead to see how you're doing. The city manager for Miami Beach. Thanks, Jimmy.

And as Jimmy was saying, there are so many elements to think about, not just the loss of really of power, but also the rain, the wind.

We are covering the story from all angles. You're watching CNN's continuing coverage of Hurricane Irma.


[00:53:50] HOLMES: And welcome back to Orlando, Florida as we continue our coverage of Hurricane Irma. Miguel Marquez joins us now from Punta Gorda on Florida's west coast.

Bring us up-to-date on what's happening there. I know there's been - a lot of people have gotten out of dodge, but what's the situation?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The winds are growing stronger. The rain is coming down harder. It's just increasing every moment, just inexorably toward when the main brunt of that storm will get here. And this is an area that is very, very sensitive to these hurricanes. About 13 years ago, Hurricane Charlie came through here, much smaller storm, and it almost leveled this town. The path that Irma is on right now takes it along a similar route to Charlie, just west of Punta Gorda and Charlotte County, on the dirty side of the storm essentially where all that water and the wind will come in, creating a storm surge through here.

That's basically a giant wave that will wash through much of this county and then wash back out. That's what they are largely concerned with. It's a very low-lying county.

They only have the ability to build three shelters here because so much of it is low lying. All those shelters are jam-packed now. They can't take any more people. So, they have arranged with a county just north of here, Sarasota County, to take its residents there. So, there are four shelters still open in Sarasota County for people from here.

[00:55:18] If people are desperate though and they show up without gas, I would tell you that gas stations here, there is no - there is no gas left in the county. We went by several dozen gas stations, looked online, talk to people, there was just no gas to be had.

You pulled at one of these gas stations, and within minutes, people think maybe there's gas there and several people gather very quickly and then there's a nice discussion amongst everybody about where you can find gas, but there's just no gas to be had.

So, in the event that somebody comes to a shelter and has no gas, they're elderly or disabled, they will take them in on an emergent basis, but we are at the very beginning of a very long 24 hours for this city.

All the hatches are battened down. Now, it's just a matter of waiting out the storm and seeing how we do. Back to you.

HOLMES: Yes, hunker down. Miguel, thanks so much. Miguel Marquez there in Punta Gorda.

And that is all we have time for this hour. I'm Michael Holmes live in Orlando, Florida.

SOARES: And I'm Isa Soares coming to you live from Miami. We'll have much more after a very short break. Do you stay safe and do say right here with CNN.


HOLMES: Hello. And welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm Michael Holmes live in Orlando, Florida where there is a little wind, a little rain, but the main brunt of this storm won't hit here, Orlando, for another -