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Hurricane Irma Back Up to Category 4; More than 6 million in Florida Ordered to Evacuate. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired September 10, 2017 - 02:00   ET



[02:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN "Breaking News."

ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and a very warm welcome to CNN's "Breaking News" coverage of Hurricane Irma. I'm Isa Soares in Miami, where the clock has just struck 2:00 in the morning.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Michael Holmes in Orlando, Florida. We are bringing you all the angles of the impact of this devastating storm. So let's begin.

Gale force winds now striking South Florida as Hurricane Irma edges closer to the U.S. mainland. The storm, a category three, but it is expected to regain strength as it crosses warm, open water between Cuba and Florida.

Its path has shifted slightly west putting Florida's gulf coast on high alert. Many people from Naples up to Tampa now seeking shelter from the storm surge that is expected to follow. And that is a big concern for many people in that area.

Fleets of utility trucks are being mobilized to deal with power outages, which already affect almost 200,000 customers. And it could be millions before this storm is done.

Let's get the latest on the storm's strength and its position.

Meteorologist Karen Maginnis joining us from Atlanta with that.

What have you been seeing, Karen?

KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I was just getting the latest information. National Hurricane Center just updated the data. It's not good news because now it's back up to category four.

We were looking at this and had a tightly wound eye as it just kind of bounced off that coast of Cuba, and is now already hurricane force winds are being felt all across the Florida keys from top to bottom.

We have seen some wind gusts at 75 miles an hour. Some reports are that all of the keys do not have power. We have reports of 200,000 plus people across the Florida Peninsula are without power and you can imagine that that number is going to go up. It's still moving slowly. That's not a good thing either, because the slower it moves over the warm waters, we're still looking at it perhaps gaining even more intensity. So right now, associated Irma, 130 miles an hour winds. Category four hurricane.

All right. I was giving you the illustration of how this compares with Hurricane Dona, where on this data it made landfall in Florida as a category four hurricane. And here is the path that Irma took bouncing around along that coast of Cuba.

We can only imagine what kind of damage that must have been because it was for the better part of a day as a category three. But then here is Hurricane Donna. Move across Turks and Caicos, came close to Cuba, moved across the Florida Keys.

Does this sound familiar? Well, that's just what Irma is doing.

However, here is the cone. Let's take a look at this.

This is its potential. That's a pretty wide mark. It's a kind of hit. But if we were to split the difference here, go right up through the center, are we making land fall at Bradenton, Tampa, St. Pete, Sarasota.

Right now it looks like Sarasoto, but this system has had so many iterations, it's had so many incarnations that it would be very hard to predict right now.

Every city, all along this west coast of Florida is vulnerable.

Here is our spaghetti models. We show you this all the time. They are in agreement that it's moving north. They are in agreement, it's moving slightly northwest. But any wiggle room, even if it's 5 miles, 10 miles off the west coast of Florida, that's a huge impact.

But what I will tell you, when I saw this, it floored me. We're still seeing this outer band. There has been an eye wall recycling here. Essentially, it's gotten strong, but it made that little wobble more towards the north, northwest.

So if you know anyone in the Florida Keys, chances are you are not going to be communicating with them because the storm surge here is supposed to be 5 to 10 feet. You go up towards the coast, towards Fort Myers, the beautiful Marco Island and you are looking at 10 foot storm surge, maybe 12 foot storm surge.

[02:05:00] You could see about 10 inches of rain fall. 20 inches of rain fall. That's kind of an outlier. But in this zone, that upper right quadrant, this is where we're looking at the potential for tornadic activity, because it is so dynamic. It is -- this is the strongest portion of the hurricane typically. And you see these really strong outer bands where there is lots of lightening, there's twists in the atmosphere, there's lots of low level moisture. We've got all the dynamics for really quite a disaster.

Either tornadic activity, flooding rain, storm surge, wind damage. There are so many hazards associated with Hurricane Irma. Category four Hurricane Irma, the latest from the National Hurricane Center and we'll have another update at the bottom of the hour, but this is an incredible system. It's almost beyond words right now.



HOLMES: Yes. And as you said, you know, you predicted it to be up to a four again once it got over that warm water. Indeed, it is a concern for everyone along that west coast of Florida.

Karen Maginnis, thanks so much.

Isa Soares in Miami, back to you.

SOARES: Thanks very much, Michael. And as we were just hearing, you know, from Karen just about that storm surge. We're starting to see already the winds picking up here in Miami. The rain has definitely become much more intense.

Let's go to Ed Lavandera, who joins us now from Naples.

Ed, as we heard there from Karen, she was really making it very clear the storm surge is going to be a huge concern, up to 12 feet in parts of where you are.

Have the majority of people that you have spoken to and officials you have spoken to, have they been heeding the warning since we have seen that shift from Irma?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: From everything that we have seen throughout the day today, Isa, is that many people here in the Collier County, which is the area, where Naples and a couple other barrier island, an area with a population of a little more than 300,000 people.

Every indication we got today was that the vast majority seemed to have evacuated this area. We've spoken with the mayor here in Naples. The police chief down on Marco Island is now a barrier island with about 16,000 people that live there full-time.

It's a very popular vacation destination. High-rise condominiums. Multi-million dollar homes.

Every indication we got there as we were there late this evening is that many of the people had evacuated. So that is the good news. At least from the first responder's standpoint, where they don't have to worry as much about people being trapped in their homes.

That is not to say that there aren't -- that everyone is gone. The are still definitely people who have chosen to ride the storm out here in this corner of Southwest Florida, anticipating the worst.

On Marco Island, the police chief told us that there are 80 first responders, police and fire, who will be riding out the storm there on that island, positioned in various locations on the island in case anybody needs help and they can reach them after the worst of the storm has gone by.

But it is unsettling to listen to these weather forecasts. And you hear the story, the reports of the hurricane re-intensifying, reaching category four levels especially as we sit here tonight in the overnight hours.

And the rain has been, you know, somewhat steady, but hardly a dent of what it is going to be like here in the coming hours. And the wind has been very manageable as well. So it is definitely a harbinger of what is to come here especially in this corner of southwest Florida.


SOARES: Yes. You're spot on, Ed. It has been so unpredictable, hasn't it? It makes it impossible almost for authorities to be a step ahead, let's say, of Hurricane Irma. You spoke to the mayor. You are telling me you spoke to the mayor.

What was his biggest concern, his biggest challenge, let's say, ed?

LAVANDERA: It's going to be that storm surge. The mayor -- you know, the last storm that people here remember have -- and generally people in these types of places in the United States tend to compare their previous experiences to what to expect to this time around.

And here in this corner of Southwest Florida, it is Hurricane Wilma, which came ashore here back in 2005 and brought some of the strongest winds and storm surge that they had seen. And even the mayor have said that he wasn't quite sure if it was in this particular case fair to compare Hurricane Wilma to Hurricane Irma.

That there is definitely a sense among the first responders here that this was going to be different in every possible way.

SOARES: Thanks very much. Ed Lavandera, please stay safe. We'll keep touch with you and we'll speak to you in the next hour or so.

Ed Lavandera, joining us there from Naples in Florida.

[02:10:07] And, Michael, you know, as Ed was saying there, it's so hard to keep on top of this storm. It's so unpredictable as we have seen. And we heard in about three hours ago or so from Tom Sater, who is basically saying, you know, it is a category three, but he said he'll put money on the fact that it shifted and it has intensified. And that of course is a huge concern for many people here in Florida.


HOLMES: Yes, indeed. Millions of them as it continues up there, western side of Florida.

You're right, Tom, and also Karen did predict once it got over that warm water to be back up to a four. It is indeed.

Our meteorologist Derek Van Dam joins us now from Miami Beach.

I mean, it's interesting moving to that western side of people on the eastern side of Florida. They must be a bit relieved. But the storm is so huge, nobody is left without being impacted, right?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, absolutely, Michael. And you can't let your guard down here. That's what the police, fire chiefs and the city mayor actually told us earlier today when we were speaking to them. They are all still on high alert, having a lot of optimistic, but also realistic expectations of how the storm is going to play out along the Miami Beach region.

There are several threats that are ongoing right now, just naming a few. Tornadoes. We have flash flood watches in effect. We have storm surge warnings, 3 to 5 feet. Inundation expected with this storm approaching. And not to mention, the mandatory curfew that is taking place right now.

In fact, police personnel had told us at CNN that if they find anyone on the streets, they are subject to arrest. So you could see we're about one block away from the coast to the ocean, and there the lights just flickered actually and you see how desolate it is.

Granted it's 2:20 in the morning, but normally on any given Saturday morning, this area would be bustling with vehicles and pedestrians. You can see some of the buildings that have been completely boarded up.

We have had rain bands coming through, periodically and bringing wind gust well over tropical storm force. So as we were told by the fire and police chiefs, that once the winds sustained over 40 miles an hour, they're going to remove their emergency personnel from the streets and if you did not heed those evacuation warnings, you are ultimately on your own.

We've had over 100,000 people in Miami Date County alone without electricity already from Irma, and we have seen that here just overlooking the general skyline of Miami and Miami Beach.

We have had transformers blow in the background. We have seen trees and some of the branches falling off on these palm trees. Some of the various trees across the distance.

So winds here definitely picking up. Heavy rain fall. Many threats to come. We know that the conditions are just going to deteriorate as the night progresses. We expect the worst of the weather, coming first light about 6:30 in the morning.


HOLMES: Yes, I know that you're right. The worst is yet to come.

I'm curious when you look at the track of the storm. I mean, you're a meteorologist. When you look at it heading up just sort of west of places like Naples, and in particular Tampa, which is vulnerable to this kind of storm, the storm surge risk for a place like Tampa in particular, which has so many houses on the water, close to the water, even the hospital could be under threat.

What do you think when you look at the risk of storm surge with the eye just stays just to the west of Tampa?

VAN DAM: Well, I think that there is something important for our viewers who are watching past from Tampa or from Naples, Michael, because, remember, the eyewall is still approaching the Florida Peninsula.

So winds on the northern side of a hurricane are coming out of a north-easterly direction. So that's actually blowing water away from the coastline.

So people might say, you know, there's storm surge warnings here, but the ocean actually seems to be flattening or receding almost in a bit. But it's when that eyewall actually passes or goes through that region, where we see the change in the wind direction and we see the push of the Gulf of Mexico waters right along the coastline. That's when we expect the worst storm surge actually occur.

So after the eyewall passes to Naples into Sarasota and into ultimately Tampa, those areas are very, very low, very successful to see water and storm surge.

So we again are expecting 8 to 12 feet. That is the official forecast. Very concerning, and probably going to catch a lot of people off guard.

HOLMES: I bet. Derek, thanks so much.

Derek Van Dam, we'll check in with you a little bit later.

And also a little bit later, we're going to check in on Tampa and see what's happening here.

Meanwhile, keep it right here on CNN for the latest on Hurricane Irma.

Fort Myers, Florida just hours away from feeling the full force of this monstrous storm. We will take you there -- next.


[02:18:57] SOARES: Welcome back to CNN's breaking news coverage of Hurricane Irma. I'm Isa Soares coming to you live from Miami.

If you have just been joining us in the last ten minutes or so, we have heard that Hurricane Irma has been upgraded to category four. This is something our meteorologists have been telling us in the past four hours or so that would be expected.

So it has gone from three, as it reach that warm water, it's now going to category four. That is obviously a huge concern. But it is to be expected as Karen Maginnis have said in the last ten minutes or so.

Meanwhile, more than six million Caribbeans have really been ordered to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Irma. And Punta Gorda in the west coast really is one of the areas that could see the biggest attack really from Hurricane Irma.

Miguel Marquez has the very latest for you.

Let's go to John Reed.

[02:20:00] John, I'm sure -- I'm not sure if you can hear me, if you are with me. But John Reed is a city fire marshal. His call is on the phone from Tampa, Florida.

John, a very good morning to you. As we just -- as you just heard me saying we've got hurricane now upgraded to category four.

What does that do to your plans that you had in place? Does that change anything at all?

JOHN REED, TAMPA FIRE MARSHAL (via telephone): Hello, Isa. No, actually it does not. We were preparing and are prepared for that magnitude and all of our staff and resources.

Unfortunately, you know, you don't want that type of event to hit your area. But it is that type of event that we do plan for. And that's exactly what it looks like is going to be coming to our area.

SOARES: When you look at the plans that you've had outline, John, what is your biggest concern?

I have been hearing so much in the last two hours about complacency, compliancy and about the surge, water surge.

What is the biggest worry? Are those two things still number for you?

REED: Yes, actually, they are, and as are many of the facets of the storm. But the storm surge is of particular concern for us here in our area.

The way the geography and the land lies, that it creates a huge issue for us as that storm begins to approach. And that's something that we're monitoring very closely as we move forward here.

And give a sense, give our viewers a sense of what you have in place in terms of yourself and your team and your workers, your employers for the hours ahead?

Well, we are fully staffed. Not only in our emergency operation center, but we brought in all our resources that will once the storm passes begin that damage assessment and moving out into the area to clear those critical links and begin to restore the operations that are essential for us to provide those life safety measures.

So we are completely geared up. The staff has prepared. They are very skilled. We know that we have a huge event that's going to hit our area and we are ready and we'll take on that event when it comes.

SOARES: And what is the best advice you can give viewers watching now? I mean, there will be some in shelters, and some as we have been hearing in the last couple of days staying at home. They are hunkering down and they are just waiting. They are going to ride out the storm.

What is the best advice you can give them, John?

REED: Well, at this point, there is very little time left to make that decision. The governor was very clear about making the choice and leaving when it was appropriate.

Our shelters do have some availability left and we encourage those residents that if they need to seek shelter, that they do so.

The Red Cross is one of our very close partners and we want to make sure that everybody has a safe haven to ride out the storm. So there is still time. The shelters are still open and we encourage anyone that needs to take refuge to please do so. Don't hesitate. Time is very limited now as we look forward in time and that storm approaches us.

SOARES: Absolutely. But in terms of practical advice, for those people who are going to ride out the storm, what advice can you give them, John?

REED: Riding out the storm is very difficult. If those just take all necessary precautions that we have all been advising, make sure that you prepared the best you can and you have prepared your home the best possible way you can to make sure that you minimize the potential events that are going to be part of that storm as it makes its way through.

SOARES: John Reed joining me on the phone there from Tampa, Florida. He is the city's fire marshal.

John, I appreciate you taking the time. Best of luck to yourself and all your workers and employees. We really appreciate all the hours that everyone is putting in and putting themselves in harm's way. Thanks very much, John. Do keep in touch with us.

And, Michael, as you know, as we just heard there from John, the city fire marshal from Tampa saying, look, it's getting very close, very tight for you to be making that decision whether do you go, do you stay. If you are going to stay, be prepared for the worst.


HOLMES: Yes. A lot of concern in Tampa as the city that it's recognized, actually they have done studies. It is one of the more vulnerable cities in the country and indeed around the world to flooding from something like this.

A lot of houses right near the water and not much in the way of coastal defences either. So this whole storm surge issue is very concerning to a city like Tampa in Florida.

[02:25:00] Now John Hines joins us now on the phone. He lives in Key West in Florida. He has been waiting out the storm there.

We spoke, John, yesterday. You were confident. You were -- you know, you were going to wait it out. You were in a good house. You are above the ground, four storeys up. You are in the thick of it right now. Tell us what it's been like.

JOHN HINES, KEY WEST RESIDENT (via telephone): It's gone from crappy to worse. The shutters -- storm shutters sound like a herd of cattle running into a garage door and it just had to stop.

All the interior doors rattle now. It sounds like somebody has knocked on the front door and it's tumultuous. The winds are picking up and it's only going to get worse as it gets closer. I know it's like -- I think it moved up to a category four, so we're getting ready to get close to it.

HOLMES: Yeas. It is. That's a category four as our meteorologists were predicting once it got over that warmer water. It has picked up strength.

I'm trying to get a sense. I mean, the noise must be extraordinary. Is it worse that you have expected it would be. You have been through storms before. Is this -- describe to us the sensation of it?

HINES: Well, for me, I mean, I'm used to it, but it's still a little unnerving. It's hard to sleep. I can't sleep. The door rattle scared the Jesus out of me.

And I tried -- after we spoke last time, I went down the hallway to try to see what was going on, look around the corner and see from the parking lot, if it was flooding or not. And it's all fun and games until, you know, a coconut comes flying by your melon at 100 miles an hour. So I came back inside.

But there is not much flooding. I know it's a little bit of flooding. It's from the rain, not the storm surge yet, but it's -- business is definitely picking up. You can definitely feel more rattling and a lot more noise.

HOLMES: Yes. You're literally in the middle of the worst of it. Yes, I'm sure it is. I'm sure it is.

You still comfortable, though, with your decision to stay?

HINES: Absolutely.


HINES: I'm in a solid, concrete building. I couldn't be in a safer building. A lot of first responders are next door in a concrete building also. I was over there today having breakfast and talking to them. And, you know, like I said, I'd much rather be here when this happens than having to fight ten million people traveling out of Florida, trying to get evacuated from there.

And if a bridge goes down, I'd rather be on this side of the bridge than the other side.

HOLMES: Yes, exactly. You mentioned that you are not the only one there. You've got first responders who have stayed put, but also neighbors.

Are you guys talking? What are you saying?

HINES: Right now we're not talking because getting out the hallways are slippery and a little dangerous, because we've got some serious winds coming through the hallway.

I saw a few of them a while ago when I went out. But you have to be really careful. I mean, it's -- in this hallway, the wind really seems to streamline and gets really, really strong. But we were just talking about -- everybody is hunkered down, everybody is fine, safe.

I got a couple people on the second floor that have a leak in, leaking into their condo. But besides that, everybody is ready. And, you know, we live on an island. We're used to this. This is what we do.

HOLMES: Well, good luck, John. Great to talk to you again. Second day in a row, riding it out there. We'll talk again, I'm sure. Stay safe.

And we will be back with the latest forecast on Hurricane Irma after a quick break.


[02:32:07] SOARES: Welcome back. You are watching CNN's "Breaking News" coverage and continuous coverage of Hurricane Irma. I'm Isa Soares live for you in Miami.

HOLMES: And I'm Michael Holmes coming to you from Orlando, Florida. We are bringing you all the angles of the impact of this devastating storm.

Now the day Florida has been dreading finally here now. Hurricane Irma now upgraded to a dangerous category four, already hitting the Florida Keys with hurricane force gusts and it is likely to strengthen further in the coming hours as it draws closer to the U.S. mainland.

Irma shifted slightly west on Saturday, not necessarily a good thing either. That sent many people on Florida's Gulf Coast to emergency shelters. And we just received this video a short time ago.

You will be looking at images from Miami. Flooded streets in the downtown area, around the cities metro rail. At last check, there are now more than 288,000 customers without power in the state of Florida. There is concern that that could run into the millions eventually.

Let's get an update now on the storm's strength and its position.

Meteorologist Karen Maginnis joining us from Atlanta with that.

I know there has been a lot for you to talk about, Karen. Bring us up-to-date.

MAGINNIS: Yes. And you just said what I was going to mention is 288,000. And it hasn't even made land fall in the United States. It's still 70 miles away to the south, southeast of Key West Florida.

Just to mention that Key West. They just reported a wind gust of 83 miles per hour. They're 70 miles away from the center of the hurricane. Grassy Key, a 74 mile an hour gust. In Miami, Miami just reported a 68 mile an hour wind gust.

So as we go Sunday, right now, we are looking at some moderate to widespread power outages. And then we go through Sunday afternoon. Now we still may not have land fall by Sunday afternoon. We may or may not. We'll get to that in just a second.

And then it looks like the power outages primarily from that corridor from Orlando, Florida to Gainesville, towards Jacksonville, Florida, then up the coast towards Savannah, Georgia.

So that's the scenario as it plays out now. But take a look at this.

This has looked so impressive on the satellite imagery over the last few hours because this eyewall looks like it is really becoming much more concentric. When that happens, we know that it is strengthening.

And you can see some of the orange and yellow bands around I would say about two-thirds of the eyewall. We're seeing some of the stronger winds associated with that. And it is still 70 miles from Key West.

So what are we anticipating now? A category four. So it did increase in speed. From this latest information from the National Hurricane Center compared to its last advisory at 10:00 p.m., it increased in intensity, 10 miles an hour.

[02:35:00]Ordinarily, I would say it is just a number. You should worry about the wind. You should worry about the storm surge. But this time, it's really getting a lot stronger. And there is this tornado watch for South Florida -- Brevard County, Palm Beach County, Dade County, extending over towards Collier. We are looking at the potential for tornadic activity.

We have seen numerous of tornado warnings that have been issued. But look at some of the stronger bands right around Fort Pierce, along that I-95 corridor towards West Palm. We have seen some wind gusts that really are up near hurricane force so they're strong tropical storm wind gusts.

So what about that storm surge? Look at this. Even on the eastern side. So if you were second guessing yourself, why did I leave the east coast if it is affecting the west coast? Because you have this onshore flow could expect the storm surge 6 to 8 feet, 10 to 12 feet. Some of these areas on the west coast, we are looking 10 to 12 feet. Maybe 10 as much as 20 inches of rain fall is possible.

Wind and land fall could be tomorrow night about midnight. Where? Maybe Sarasota, maybe Tampa, maybe Forth Myers? Our computer models are diverging on that right now.



HOLMES: Yes, it's going to be interesting, isn't it. And 15 feet, I mean, it's just -- that's hard to get your head around, what that's going to be.

Karen, thank you. We'll check in with you a little later.

Karen Maginnis there.

Now I want to go to Ed Lavandera. He's back with us from Naples in Southwest Florida.

You know, I was talking last hour, might have been the hour before with the mayor there and the big fear there in Naples and also Tampa, for that matter, it is the storm surge.

LAVANDERA: There is no question the storm surge here along this corner of Southwest, Florida. Forecasters predicting a 10 to 15 foot storm surge. And when you talk to city officials around here in Naples, it is something that they have never seen before.

We were about -- this is the location. We're at about I would say about a half mile from the beach. If you go straight down this road right here, you hit the beautiful beaches here of Naples and that is going to be one of the areas, that is one of the -- after this storm rolls through the Florida Keys, this will be one of the next areas of land fall here in Southwest Florida to feel the impact of Hurricane Irma. So this a very key point here in the trajectory in the path of this hurricane.

Now, what is interesting is depending on where it makes land fall, it could come through here in Naples, but if it does stay just offshore, that will put Naples on the eastern edge, the right edge of that hurricane eyewall and that traditionally is some of the strongest and the fiercest winds in hurricane.

So the significance of that is crucial here for Naples. And as you move up the coast here -- Fort Myers, Sarasota, all the way up into Tampa. So that's why these communities along with this western coast of the Gulf Coast are watching this trajectory very closely.

There is a little island about 30 minute drive south of where we are called Marco Island. Very popular tourist destination. Only has about 16,000 people that live on the island full-time. For the most part is evacuated.

Late tonight, we caught up with the police chief. He was about to make his final rounds of the island there before he told his officers to shelter and get ready for the arrival of this storm.

And I asked him if for anyone still on that island who is getting cold feet, who wants to leave, I asked him is it too late? This is what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) AL SCHETTINO, MARCO ISLAND POLICE CHIEF: It's too late. It's called. When we say it's right now, we're at shelter in place. What you would do, when we ask people to do if they're in a home is to vertical evacuation. That means if they have a second story, they go to high above the water line as they possibly can.

If they're in a single family home or one story home, we ask that they get to a neighbor's house that has a second story where they could get high or above the water line.


LAVANDERA: The police chief also told us he's worried about what's coming, but they are as prepared as best they can. They have 80 first responders, police and fire fighters, that will be staying on that island through the duration of the storm, ready to respond at any calls that come in after the storm passes, if anyone needs rescuing or emergency help in those crucial hours after the storm passes.


HOLMES: Yes. Ed, you are going to be right in the thick of it a few hours from now. Appreciate your reporting. Thanks.

Ed Lavandera there in Naples, Florida.

And we are now getting a better idea of the devastation after Hurricane Irma roared through Cuba.

[02:40:00] Intense winds ripped down power lines, tore off roofs and knockdown trees. The full extent of the damage still not clear.

On Saturday morning, officials recorded winds nearing 200 kilometers an hour. One tourist town near the coast had waves rolling through it. Along the streets, many people were especially vulnerable because they live in one story homes. Not necessarily well built either.

Coming up here on the program, heavy rains and powerful winds lashing the Florida coast as Hurricane Irma draws ever closer. We will have the latest from miami when we come back.


HOLMES: And welcome back to our continuing coverage of Hurricane Irma as it heads towards the mainland USA.

Let's bring in our meteorologist Derek Van Dam. He's standing by in Miami Beach.

I guess people in Miami would have been a little relieved when it moved further west, but this is such a massive storm. Nobody is going to miss out on it, are they?

VAN DAM: No, absolutely not, Michael.

The stretch of tropical force winds extends 400 miles. That's from one side of the storm to the other side of the storm. It's unbelievable. I mean, much wider than the entire width of the peninsula of Florida. So nowhere will be spared tropical storm force winds.

Hurricane force winds, though, on the other hand, well, maybe we could breathe a little sigh of relief. Some communities on the extreme eastern side of Southern Florida.

Nonetheless, I'm in Miami Beach right now, and we are about a block away from the water in a safe elevated position. We are still expecting storm surge here of 3 to 5 feet.

In fact, when we talk about the threats to this immediate location, it's quite unbelievable to actually imagine what is going on here. This is as real as it gets.

[02:45:00] Tornadoes, flash flooding, storm surge warning, mandatory evacuations and mandatory curfew as well.

In fact, the police here have warned us that anyone on the streets is susceptible to getting arrested if they are actually out walking about, because of the dangers that are posed by this massive hurricane that is approaching the southern portions of Florida.

We have seen a lot of social media tweets from official accounts, from the National Weather Service. If you're going to the Florida Keys, storm surge inundation has already begun for some of those locations -- Key Largo into Key West.

The seas will continue to rise as the strongest part of the storm approaches that region. And winds, they are easily gusting over hurricane force. So we'll start to see some of the destruction there as well.

Talking to the fire chiefs and the city mayor of Miami Beach, they are on high alert. Yes, they have some optimistic kind of tones to their voices now that the track has shifted ever so slightly to the west, but they are on high alert because they understand that things can change at a moment's notice.

And when we just look at the weather conditions here, if you haven't felt it yet, Michael, where you are in Orlando, you will feel the stinging rain once those wind gusts in some of those outer bends reach you because it feels like a million little pinpricks hitting the side of your face, especially when some of the stronger winds coming through gusting over 40 miles per hour. It is headed your way and this continues to deteriorate.


HOLMES: Yes. Exactly. This time tomorrow Orlando will be feeling the effects that you are feeling right now.

I was in Florida covering Matthew last year, and I know well that sort of sideways rain, and it really does sting you as it hits you. The winds are terrifying. I'm wondering what you make of the perils of storm surge, particularly for places like Naples, Florida. But also Tampa, Florida, which is particularly susceptible because of the housing that's close to the water. There is not a lot of coastal defences there.

What do you make of the risks there?

VAN DAM: Well, think about urban development that's happened along the gulf coast there or any of the cities. Houston was also an example of that a couple of weeks ago with Hurricane Harvey that came through.

The mass, urban sprawl that's happened there. Well, it's also happened in Tampa. It's also happened in Sarasota. It's also happened in Naples. Population goes up. That puts more people in danger. Everyone wants to live closer to the coast.

What does that mean? Storm surge becomes a real issue, and that's why the national weather service has now issued a storm surge warnings, which is a new product to them. They have all these high resolution modelling systems that can look at specific neighborhoods telling you who will actually be inundated and by how much water. And the latest forecast trends for Tampa Bay. Not looking good, Michael, 8 to 12 feet. That's inundation. That's not above sea level.

HOLMES: Yes, exactly.

Derek, thanks so much. Good to have you out there reporting for us.

Derek Van Dam there.

OK. Let's take it over to Miami now. Isa Soares on duty there.

SOARES: Thanks very much, Michael.

I want to bring in Detective Artemis Colome who is a detective from Miami Dade police.

Detective, thank you very much for joining us this morning.

I'm sure you have seen as we have been reporting in the last hour or so Hurricane Irma has strengthened to category four.

What does this mean for you and for the operations that you have put in place?

ARTEMIS COLOME, MIAMI-DADE POLICE DEPARTMENT, FLORIDA: Good morning, Isa. Thank you for having us.

Obviously, the window of opportunity is closing already. We have -- we still have -- the shelters are still open. So we are asking anybody that, you know, may be in an area or an evacuation zone that if they still think that they can make it out of there, we're telling them to go as soon as possible.

You know, our shelters are not going to turn them away. And in regards to the arrest, I know some police departments have said that they are going to be arresting people if they are out there now.

We are going to be educating them, when you know, if we do find anybody out there, we will just going to let them know that, you know, again, the window is closing. They need to seek shelter immediately. The storm is getting, getting closer. So again, we're really -- that's the main focus right now.

SOARES: And let me break that further if I may, detective. You are talking about the curfew, of course, that's in place for certain places.

But let me ask you this, you said the window of opportunity is closing.

Do you believe people should still -- can still make it to the shelters, or are you at the point as some are suggesting that really it's too tight and it's too close to call. You should just stay put and hunker down?

COLOME: Oh, absolutely. It's extremely close. That why I mentioned that.

Now if you are one of these people that may still be out there or doesn't know what to do and your last option is to go to a shelter, then by all means. However, it is very close -- the storm. The winds are getting a lot stronger.

[02:50:00] We are still responding to calls, still. We still haven't ceased the response to calls. However, we're only going to emergency calls, life-threatening calls. So it's obviously getting really close to that point.

SOARES: Give us a sense of what you've been hearing in the last hour or so. A sense of the urgency, the jitters that you've been getting.

COLOME: Pretty much everybody's -- we're getting a good response. We haven't had any of our officers -- a lot of our offices have not been responding to calls. We haven't got a big volume of calls, which is great. That means people are at home. People are hunkered down. People are in shelters.

So, again, the main focus, we know that some people may still be out there. Some people may still need assistance. So, again, the shelters are still open. They are not going to be turned away.

And if we do find anybody out there, we are going to let them know, you know, please, this is the time. You don't have much time left. The storm is very near. So our main focus right now is just the safety of those people who may still be out there, undecided, or not knowing what to do, or maybe in a situation that they need a place to go.

SOARES: Detective Artemis Colome, we appreciate you taking the time and thank you for your work and for everyone or the police department in Miami-Dade, all they are doing for us here, thank you very much, sir. Do keep us posted. We'll have much more on our coverage, our breaking news coverage of Hurricane Irma after a very short break. Do stay right here with CNN.


[02:55:40] SOARES: Thanks for staying with us for our continuing coverage of Hurricane Irma. I'm Isa Soares in Miami.

As you can see, this is pretty much a ghost town. But the wind we are already starting to feel the wind and as well as the rain. And all you can hear, really, is this wind blowing, quite ferociously here. And it is outstanding to say that really, Hurricane Irma hasn't even got any close to where we are.


HOLMES: Yes, I can say here in Orlando, Isa, it's actually, remarkably calm. There's a little bit of wind blowing around that comes in gusts, but it's not strong at all and light rain. 24 hours from now, it will be a very different story.

Do stay with us for our continuing coverage of Hurricane Irma. We'll be right back.


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