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Latest on Irma's Strength and Position; Naples Storm Surge Predictions; Florida Keys Feel Hurricane Winds; Miami Beach Curfew; Storm Chaser Talks about Irma. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired September 10, 2017 - 03:00   ET



[03:00:04] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome to our continuing coverage of Hurricane Irma. I'm Michael Holmes in Orlando, Florida.

ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Isa Soares in Miami.

HOLMES: All right, and we're going to bring you up to date now on all angles of the impact of this devastating storm.

Gale-force winds now striking south Florida as Hurricane Irma edges ever closer to the U.S. mainland. The storm, a dangerous category four now, and is expected to continue gaining strength as it crosses warm water between Cuba and Florida.

Its projected path has shifted west, putting Florida's Gulf Coast on high alert. And as you can see in the video there, parts of Miami are now starting to flood. Have a look at that video there near the transport center.

Almost 300,000 customers are now without power. That's a figure that will likely become millions in the days ahead.

Pleasure boats along the waterfronts taking a real beating. And the storm surge that follows could be catastrophic.

All told, 6.5 million people in a state of 20 million have been told to get out, evacuate. More than 70,000 are now in emergency shelters throughout the state.

All right, let's get the latest on the storm's strength and its position. Meteorologist Karen Maginnis has been following all of that, joining us now from Atlanta.

Plenty to talk about, Karen.

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is. We have just under 300,000 people reportedly without power. Looks like the Florida Keys, no power, because they've been seeing tropical storm force and hurricane force winds for the past four or five hours at least.

All right, one of the things, as I was standing here waiting to go on the air that I noticed is -- it looks like a cluster of thunderstorms. This part of the outer band kind of making its way towards Cape Canaveral, Kennedy Space Center. I'll be interested to see some of the observations coming out of that area as well.

And very interesting as Irma was hugging that northern coast of Cuba as a category five, then four, really must have been terribly battered. But now we're less than 70 miles south/southeast from Key West, Florida. We've had some wind gusts right around Miami of 68 mile an hour winds. Fisher Island I believe had close to 60-mile-an- hour wind gusts. So tropical storm force winds.

So, did you second guess yourself as to whether you should have left the east coast of Florida where there were mandatory evacuations? You probably were once those -- the track started changing. And it's still very frustrating to look at what's happening over the next 24 hours.

So here it is. The eye is becoming very -- it's warbling (ph) a little bit. It's one of those little perturbations. You've probably heard me, that's kind of my key word when it doesn't follow that exact track. When it just makes a beeline for something. It just kind of wiggles a little bit because it's slowed down a lot, too. So it's got a lot of thinking going on as it kind of navigates very warm waters here off the coast of Florida.

It looks like the Florida Keys, already seeing storm surge. They're not very high there. So it could be inundated with a lot of storm water as those waters rise, eight to 10 feet possible.

This is an RPM. This doesn't really show where the eye is going to be, but it just kind of shows you the wind field here. And where you see that purple, 60 miles an hour. Where you see -- there's no color, that's in excess of 100-mile-per-hour winds.

And then we look at Tuesday and they're saying they've shut down some of the public schools already for the beginning of the week in many sections of Georgia because, frankly, there's still a lot of uncertainty as to what will happen with category four Hurricane Irma. There is still this tornado watch out for the most dynamic part of the hurricane right now. This is very typical. And there's almost this east/west component where some of these stronger bands are coming on shore.

But what we were looking at earlier, and I'm going to zoom in on this, there you can see already in Key West we've seen winds in excess of hurricane force, 83 miles per hour reported at Key West. Still a little less than 70 miles away and already hurricane force winds. Already starting to see the storm surge. And you've probably got another six or eight hours before it even gets to Key West.

So if you're already feeling the effects that strongly there, just think what happens when the eye, as a category four, maybe a category five by the time it makes its way there, if you can only imagine how that impact is going to be. But from Melbourne to Fort Pierce, all the way down to Fort Lauderdale, tropical storm force winds. Power outages reported here. [03:05:18] Tampa, Sarasota. Sarasota, you're looking at more than

likely, the computer models are saying, maybe landfall in Sarasota, but not until tomorrow night.


SOARES: Karen, it's just incredible just to think that, you know, what we are feeling is nothing yet of what is to come. It hadn't even arrived here. This is just the beginning, isn't it, and already what we can see here, what I can hear, is just howling winds. The rain has been so -- I mean it's so unpredictable in many ways. It's just been quite intense when it comes to the rain.

But if you look around me, where we are, this is a ghost town. I've seen police up and down this main road here, making sure that people are abiding by the curfew that's been set in place from 8:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. And the reason they're doing this? Well, this for your safety really. You shouldn't be out. It's very dangerous.

Yes, it's shifted somewhat, as Karen was saying. Nevertheless, it is very dangerous because of the debris and because of the storm surge. Hence why police are taking those measures and telling people to stick and bide by their calls.

Let's go now to Ed Lavandera. He is in Naples, Florida. That's one of the areas that Karen Maginnis was pointing out there, that's going to see a huge storm surge up to as much as 15 feet.

And I suspect, Ed, that is one of the biggest concerns for authorities there.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no question. Obviously the intensity of the winds is also a big concern and what kind of structural damage that might cause here. But for the most part, people that we have spoken to say that a lot of the buildings here in this corner of southwest Florida have been built rather well in recent years and they feel confident that it can withstand the winds.

The mayor of Naples, Florida, which is where we're at, south of Fort Myers, describes this city of about -- almost 20,000 people as a ghost town. Many people started evacuating days ago, even before it was clear that Hurricane Irma was going to make more of a direct impact on the western gulf coast on Florida. And so many people packed up and headed out of town.

You really saw the effects of that here throughout the day after we arrived this morning. There were empty streets, businesses closed down. Clearly everyone had -- or most everyone appears to have left this area.

The mayor says that they are ready for this storm. We spoke with a police chief down in a little island called Marco Island, south of where we are, which will be one of the first areas that really starts feeling the intense impacts of this hurricane, after the hurricane passes through Key West. At Marco Island, the police chief there says he's worried about the storm that's coming, but that they are prepared. They've done everything they can to get their -- their force ready to deal with whatever might come.

So a great deal of anxiety here looming here in these overnight hours as this region prepares for the arrival of this storm.


SOARES: And as we heard from the governor of Florida, he was basically saying there's more than 300 or shelters -- 365 shelters along that route. How have those -- I know you said that some of those shelters were already in place, but did you see an increase in shelters as we saw the hurricane shift somewhat?

LAVANDERA: Well, we were told that some 27 shelters or almost 30 shelters opened up here in Collier County, which is the area that we're in. The last update we had had earlier this evening was that there were three of them that were -- that still had availability in them and that they had the potential of filling up quickly.

I still think we have some time in the early morning as we come here to sunrise, sometime between, you know, now and noon here on the east coast of the United States that, you know, you might have some last minute people making adjustments to what they see and the news of the storm that they wake up to. So I think you might have a little bit of a window of opportunity to make some adjustments, not evacuating the area, as the police chief -- as the police chief we've talked to said, it is too late to evacuate this area. You have to figure out how to protect yourself while you're here in this -- in this area now. So -- but I think in the morning hours you might have some last-minute opportunities to adjust any kind of security plans that you might have.

SOARES: Ed Lavandera, thanks very much. We'll touch base with you in an hour or so and do keep safe.

I want to bring a guest from Key West actually on the phone. He's a resident in Key West. His name is Jason Jonas (ph). And he joins me on the line.

[03:10:06] And, Jason, we've been talking -- a very good morning to you, first of all -- been talking about how many people really -- the amount of people, I should say, who have lost power in that area. Do you have power or what's the situation like?

JASON JONAS, KEY WEST RESIDENT (via telephone): Well, good morning.

Unfortunately, we do not have power right now. We lost that about 11:00.

Conditions on the ground right now, it is, as you can imagine, pretty windy, pretty rainy. We have about a -- I don't know, standing water up to the sidewalk right about now and it looks like it's going to be deteriorate over the next couple hours.

SOARES: And I'm guessing from what you're saying, you're at home? You're staying put? JONAS: Well, actually, I'm at a brand-new town home in Old Town, in

the heart of downtown. It's pretty much built like a bunker, concrete, steel, rated 225 mile per hour winds. This is pretty much one of the safest spots on the island. And that's pretty much the only reason why I ever considered staying here because I knew that I had a pretty good chance of, you know, making it through this thing.

SOARES: But as you've been hearing no doubt, Hurricane Irma has now intensified and strengthened to hurricane -- to category four. And as you know, as well, shifted west -- northwest in the last -- in the last ten, 15 hours or so. Do you still believe, Jason, that you've made the right call here?

JONAS: Well, there really is no right call. I mean I would have to go to South Carolina to escape this thing. And that just really wasn't a viable option for some people down here. So, you know, we made the best with what we have. We're 30-plus feet above sea level in a place that's built to withstand 225-mile-an-hour winds. I mean that's, you know, a better chance than being exposed out on the highway and traffic trying to make it to Georgia, in my opinion.

SOARES: Yes, absolutely. You plan for the worst and you hope for the best, don't you?

Jason, I appreciate you taking the time to speak to us. Do keep us posted and let us know when you get electricity up and running and power up and running. We wish you all the best.

Just one example there of someone in Key West who, you know, we're just starting to see the effects, really, of Hurricane Irma, who has now gone from a category three to a category four. And, of course, it still hasn't packed the punch, but we're already beginning to feel its impact.

You are watching CNN. Please stay with us and please stay safe.


[03:16:55] SOARES: It's 3:16 in the morning here in Miami and you are watching CNN's continuing coverage of Hurricane Irma. I'm Isa Soares.

This is a ghost town here in Miami and the hurricane hasn't even arrived yet. What we're feeling is really the initial, the outer bands of Hurricane Irma. The wind, you can hear it. It's howling. The rain is starting to pick up with quite a bit of intensity. And it has -- it's just so unpredictable. As you can see right now, it's intensifying. And this is just the beginning as we have been hearing from our meteorologists, it hasn't arrived. It's still some -- a bit far away from where we are. But this is the beginning of things to come.

And it has shifted. It has intensified to a category four and it has shifted to northwest, away here from Miami. But, nevertheless, this is what it is doing right now.

Let's get more from my colleague Derek Van Dam, who is in Miami Beach. And, Derek, I know the curfew is in place. It's been in place from

8:00 p.m. to 7:00 in the morning. From what you have seen, have people been abiding by that?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Oh, without a doubt, Isa. You said it was a ghost town where you are. It is literally a ghost town here as well. People really heeded the evacuations. In fact, the mandatory curfew, according to the police, if you are found outside on these streets, you are susceptible to being arrested. Who would want to be out here right now with the exception of a weatherman, right?

Listen, we've got a lot of threats to talk about here in Miami Beach, specifically the tornado threat that is an ongoing concern for much of southern Florida as Irma approaches closer and closer. The thing about tornados, as these outer bands come moving in, they can spin up a tornado very quickly. They're often not the most powerful tornadoes, but they can cause destruction as well.

So tornado watches still underway. Flash flood watches still underway. Storm surge warnings still underway for this area as well in Miami- Dade. We've had transformers blowing in the distance. We've had the skyline just lit up with blue as some of the heavier rain bands came through. And the wind knocked over some of the trees and some of the palm trees.

So transformers have been going down. Electricity has been flickering. According to the latest officials, 156,000 people in Miami-Dade alone without electricity right now.

There are four fire stations located within Miami Beach. They have evacuated three of them. That means there's only one that's left that could supply any kind of rescue operations across this area. And the fire officials here say that they will stop any kind of rescue attempts or service calls that they receive the second the winds sustain more than 40 miles per hour. And I would imagine that would happen any time because the storm continues to move closer and closer.


SOARES: Yes, and, Derek, you know we've been talking so much in the last 24 hours or so, in particular in the last six hours on the question of complacency given the fact that we have seen Irma shift somewhat northwest. Storm surge, regardless of where you are, is still a huge problem, isn't it?

[03:20:18] VAN DAM: Oh, without a doubt. Think about the momentum behind Irma and how long it's been traveling over the open ocean. It's built up an incredible amount of water. So anything from the Athletic will push into Miami-Dade. We're still expecting three to five feet of inundation along the extreme coastal areas. But as you go to the west coast, that's where the real storm surge sets in.

And, remember, storm surge happens once the eye wall passes to the north. Remember, that needs to take place because, at the moment, from Naples to Sarasota and to Tampa Bay, the winds are offshore, bringing the ocean and the water source away from the coast line. But once that eye travels through that region late in the day tomorrow, or late in the day on Sunday, you know the winds are going to change and that's going to bring the waters right back along the coast.


SOARES: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. Derek Van Dam there for us. Do keep us posted, Derek, on what you're hearing -- seeing there and the conditions on the ground in Miami Beach. Thanks very much, Derek.

And, Michael, it doesn't matter which way you slice this, isn't it, this is a huge hurricane. It hasn't yet made landfall, but its impact is already being felt. And we should all respect it and be prepared really for the very worst. And then, after that, really just hope for the best.

HOLMES: Yes, exactly, Isa. Yes, thanks very much.

I want to bring in storm chaser James Reynolds, who's been following this. He's on the phone from the city of Naples.

James, always good to get your thoughts.

Naples is one of a couple of places that has had a history with hurricanes and is worried also about storm surge. What are you seeing there and what do you predict?

JAMES REYNOLDS, STORM CHASER (via telephone): Yes, it's a very concerning situation here in Naples, Michael, especially regarding the storm surge, which you just mentioned. The forecast from the National Hurricane Center are talking 10 to 15 feet of surge in the coastal areas of this very low-lying area. And as a storm chaser here on the ground waiting for the arrival of the hurricane, it's a huge concern for me. There's a lot of property and developments along the water front in this area. So it's something I'm going to be watching very closely and making sure that I'm well away from and kept safe from.

HOLMES: Yes, I mean, you follow storms. I mean this is what you do. What do you make of this one, the ferocity, the size and the track at the moment?

REYNOLDS: Well, we have a -- we have a saying that I'm particularly wary of these old storms which have been churning across the ocean for, you know, almost over a week now. You know the history of this storm is devastating. It has killed a lot of people and it is still going strong.

And, yes, and, frankly, I'm very anxious about it and nervous and it's going to be a very high impact devastating event for Florida. And it hasn't happened in quite a long time. The last major hurricane to hit Florida was in 2005. There's a lot of people here who will not have experienced anything like this before and it could take a lot of people by surprise, Michael.

HOLMES: Give us a sense, James, of the -- of the atmosphere there in the time you've been there. I mean what are people saying? What does it feel like on the streets? REYNOLDS: Well, I have to say, people have been very calm and things

have been very orderly. It's a nice surprise. We actually managed to fill up the petro tank on the car pretty easily and we did still see, you know, through the water on the shelves of a lot of the shops here. So that was great to see people just calmly and orderly going about their preparations, boarding up businesses and houses. So it's certainly been very calm. I haven't seen any panicking or anything like that, which has been great to see, people taking it seriously.

HOLMES: Now, you are a storm chaser. Where do you plan to ride this one out?

REYNOLDS: Well, we've scoped out a shopping mall complex with a solid concrete multi-level car park. So that should keep us safe from the storm surge. The elevation and the concrete will keep us safe from the wind. So that's my plan right now.

HOLMES: All right, James Reynolds, a storm chaser there in Naples, Florida, which is in the path of Hurricane Irma. Appreciate it, James. We'll check in with you a little bit later as well.

Meanwhile, another city that is in the aim of Hurricane Irma is Tampa, on Florida's west coast. It is facing a major storm surge threat from this hurricane. Now, I spoke earlier with the city's mayor, Bob Buckhorn, about what it is doing to prepare.


MAYOR BOB BUCKHORN, TAMPA, FLORIDA: We've been lucky because we haven't taken a direct hit in over 90 years. So we really have been blessed, but we also recognize that our day was going to come. And it looks like our day has come.

[03:25:03] Fortunately, we've got a whole city that has trained for this. Now we're in the execution phase and we've got a lot of people that are counting on us to get up and do our jobs tomorrow.

HOLMES: Yes, there's been a -- there's been a lot of sort of talk, speculation, but also reporting that Tampa in particular is vulnerable to this sort of storm, to a hurricane, and to the storm surge. So many houses close to water, of course. And the proximity to the lower levels. What about the storm surge? That must be your big concern, I imagine.

BUCKHORN: Is it indeed. It is the issue that we worry about the most is what we fear the most. I mean we're going to get through the winds. We'll get through the rain. Depending on what this level of surge is. But, more importantly, the surge will occur tomorrow at the same time we have a high tide. So that compounds the problem.

So for our low-lying areas, which happen to be very close to downtown, those areas that tend to whole a lot of water in rain storms anyway because they are low-lying, my house, for example, we've exacted. I'm in flood citizen level a. Those are the areas that I fear for the most and potentially would experience that surge moving in early on Monday morning. HOLMES: And tell us a little bit about that. I mean we -- everybody

hopes that, you know, Irma is a little bit kinder to Tampa than other places because of that vulnerability. Tell us, what is the worst-case scenario. What if the storm does the worst thing and you do get that surge, how big will it be? How much of the city could be impacted?

BUCKHORN: Well, certainly all of downtown would be impacted all of the areas along the waterfront, which tend to be our more affluent areas, would be impacted. It would be pretty devastating. There would be a lot of trees town. There would be a lot of standing water. There would be power disruptions. It would take a number of days to get the power hooked up, if not weeks. So I think you would see Tampa in a predicament, not that we wouldn't emerge from it, but it would be a tough, tough couple of weeks, I think.


HOLMES: And that was the Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn speaking to me earlier about the potential impact of Hurricane Irma on his city and in particular the storm surge. The city, as we were saying, vulnerable to that sort of -- that sort of impact from a hurricane, the surge.

Do stay with us. The latest on Hurricane Irma now battering south Florida coming up after a short break.


[03:31:08] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN "Breaking News."

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

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Michael Holmes in Orlando, Florida. Time to update you now on Irma's progress.

Hurricane Irma yet to make landfall in the U.S., but conditions across South Florida rapidly deteriorating already. The storm back up to a dangerous category 4. It was category 3 for a while. It is expected to keep gaining strength as it crosses warm open water between Cuba and Florida.

The projected tasks have shifted slightly west, putting Florida's Gulf Coast on high alert. And we'll show you now some video that gives you an idea of the area of downtown Miami that is starting to flood as the outer rain bands move in.

All told 6.5 million people have been told to evacuate the state of 20 million. More than 70,000 people are now in emergency shelters throughout the state.

And you can expect to see a lot more images like this of downed trees across Florida. Almost 300,000 customers without power at the moment. That is a figure that will likely go into the millions in the days ahead.

SOARES: And although of course the hurricane has shifted, has strengthened to category 4, it has shifted northwest, really Miami is not out of the woods yet as authorities keep reminding us.


Well, the rain is quite intense. There are storm surge. The concern of a storm surge, but also debris that might come from those stronger winds once we do start to feel them. Bearing in mind that it hasn't even made landfall yet. This is just the outer part of Irma.

Let's get the very latest from Karen Maginnis. She has been breaking it all down for us, making sense of it for us. She is following the track, the path of Hurricane Irma.

And, Karen, where is Irma right now?

KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is less than 70 miles from Key West, Florida. But over the hours, we have seen the steady increase of winds from tropical storm force. Making winds of 58, 63 miles an hour. Then 74-mile-an-hour gusts, then 83-mile-an-hour gusts.

I've been looking at it. I haven't seen a recent update on that. But it's still just less than 70 miles away.

Another thing that really got my attention while I was waiting to go on the air is to look at some of these outer bands and some of that moisture that reaches up really far to the north across central, even northern sections of Florida.

But there was another thing as our meteorology group was huddled together, looking at these images. Boy, really steadying. What that eye is doing? What these outer bands are doing? What the core of the hurricane-force winds are doing as it pulled away from the coast of Cuba. And really increased.

We saw that very dynamically on a satellite imagery. Now has supporting winds of 130 miles an hour, but it's undergoing an eye replacement cycle.

You've probably heard that a lot over the last few days. That means the inner wall starts to collapse in on itself, and there are indications now that we are seeing that eye wall replacement cycle, because it's not a really concentric look to the eye, to this hurricane. And it kind of almost see like two blobs together. That's not a very sophisticated way of saying that. But it lets us know that this hurricane is evolving. Coming under the influence of other factors.

[03:35:00] Mainly, it's interacting with land. Although that land is up very sturdy. It's the Keys. And they're looking at quite the storm surge across this region. The highest point in the Florida Keys or around Key West is about 18 feet. The storm surge is going to be between 5 to 10 feet.

We could see 10 to 15 inches of rainfall. There are a lot of things that will happen across the Keys. None of them are going to be good.

This is the RPM. This doesn't really forecast where Irma is going to make landfall. It shows you the overall wind field. And there you can see it. It goes past Naples. It goes past Fort Myers. It goes past Tampa, St. Pete. Heads up towards the bend area. Nobody is going to escape Irma's path. No one.

A lot of people have been second guessing what's going -- why you move from the east coast of Florida to the west coast of Florida. Did you go far enough to the north? The impact has been great. It has been broad and wide.

And here we can see -- some of the outer bands here really looking very impressive. Still have that tornado watch out for South Florida. And even over here in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, you're looking at storm surge still here.

You're looking at strong winds. I just took a look at the Dade County power outages, Florida light -- power and light, and they are saying about 170,000 people without power there or at least customers are.

That's just one county and it's going to continue because we're watching these very, very strong convective lines moving from the outer bands of Irma and it looks like for this West Coast all the way from Naples, Fort Myers, Captiva, Santa Belle, Marco Island, Sarasota, Cape Coral, Bradenton, all of those area, the storm surge is going to be a huge impact and it's not just the amount of rain you're going to see, it's that wall of water that's going to come up and you probably are going to be -- not probably, it looks like you are going to be in the worst possible position in relationship to Hurricane Irma.


HOLMES: Yes, scary stuff for a lot of people, up and down that west coast of Florida.

Appreciate it, Karen.

As always, Karen Maginnis there in Atlanta.

Our Ed Lavandera is back with us now from Naples in Southwest Florida, which is a place that has been battered by hurricanes before.

A lot of damage done in the past and a place where the storm surge is a major fear.



Hurricane Wilma back in 2005, that is the storm that many people who live here in this corner of Southwest Florida measure all storms by. And even talking to the mayor today asked him like, you know -- I asked him, what do you expect, what do you anticipate, what do you fear the most here as the worst of Hurricane Irma will make its way on shore.

And he says, you know, as the storm surge, 10 to 15 foot storm surge, obviously being on the right edge of that eyewall could also create some of the fiercest winds and obviously that is of great concern. But even the mayor here, who was here in 2005 during Hurricane Wilma isn't sure that you can really compare what that experience was to what this experience is going to be here over the course of the next 24 hours. But that's the way it is here.

You know, people along these coastlines kind of measure their experiences by previous storms. So people here bracing for the worst.

The good news here, Michael, is that many people heeded those warnings. They took off. Not only did they take off here in the last 24 hours. According to the mayor here of Naples, they took off earlier. They had seen for days that Hurricane Irma was making its way up here to the Florida coastline. They didn't care if it was the east side or the west side. The mayor here says that many people took off much earlier.

We also spoke with the police chief on Marco Island. A popular tourist destination. About 16,000 people call the island home full time. That's about a 30 minute drive south of where we are. I asked the police chief there.

There were a number of people who refuse to evacuate, who decided to ride out the storm perhaps in some of these high rise condominiums. I asked the chief, is it too late to leave? This is what he had to say.


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: We heard from a couple of people here today, too, Michael, as well that when the storm track on this hurricane had it going more toward the Miami side, the east side of the Florida Peninsula, a lot of people moved over here to Naples to escape it.

And now that they're over here, they find that they're now more in a direct line with the storm. And they actually, some of the people that did leave today headed back to Miami.

So a lot of anxiety about what is coming. And everyone trying to get themselves to the best, safest place possible.


HOLMES: Yes, indeed. Ed, thanks so much for all of your reporting.

Ed Lavandera there in Naples, Florida. We can take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue our coverage of Hurricane Irma. We will go live to Miami Beach for the latest on this devastating storm. Stay with us. We'll be right back.


SOARES: It is 3:40 a.m. in the morning here in Miami. You are watching CNN's "Breaking News" coverage of Hurricane Irma.

I'm Isa Soares in Miami and this is pretty much a ghost town.

It's all I can hear -- the wind, feel the rain and the wind is starting to really intensify. This, of course, as Irma has intensified as well and strengthened, gone from a category 3 to a category 4 as was predicted by our meteorologist Karen Maginnis as well as Tom Sater.

But worth bearing in mind that this -- that really Irma hasn't made landfall yet. This is just the outer parts of the Hurricane Irma that we are feeling the impact of.

Let's go now to Derek Van Dam, who's at Miami Beach.

And, Derek, explain to our viewers, those who have been thinking especially here on the east coast, we've got over the worst. Now that it has shifted somewhat northwest, we should put our feet up and go back to our homes.

Should they be complacent at this moment?

[03:45:00] DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: No. And in fact, please, that's the common theme here from the fire and police personnel. Do not attempt to come back to the evacuated zones in Miami-Dade County, including Miami Beach. That's the worst thing you could do right now, because this storm isn't over.

We have seen time and time again as meteorologists and locals who live here. You just talk to anyone on the streets. They know how fickle hurricanes can be.

You think they're going to track to the northwest and then they jog east. We talk about that wobble effect that happens with eyewalls all the time. We know the strongest winds. We know the most intense part of the storm centered right over the middle part of the storm. And if that wobbles left or right, that has major ramifications for locations just as this.

Just when you think it's clear in Miami-Dade, things could turn for to the worst quite quickly. In fact, we see these rain bands come through time and time again.

Isa and I have experienced them all night. The weather changes dramatically. Very quickly. Wind gust will go from a gentle breeze to a 60-mile-per-hour gust in a matter of seconds.

The rain has picked up. We're in one of the heavier rain bands now, maybe slightly lighter at this very second, but we're definitely testing the extremes of our waterproof jackets today and just thinking about what's to come and what's already taking place, it's mind boggling.

There is a tornado threat; there is a storm surge threat and there is flash flooding threats. Not to mention the mandatory evacuations and the enforced curfew that's taking place here in Miami Beach as we speak.

Right now the center of Irma is about 60 miles to the southwest of Key West. And Key West looks almost like it is going to get a direct hit from the eye wall.

So our thoughts are really with those people in the coming hours, because we have already seen reports of a rising tidal surge there. And that's what we would expect.

Remember, along the west coast, the gulf coast of Florida, the peninsula of Florida, that's where we expect this eyewall to run parallel with the coastline and this is going to have major ramifications.

Think about the winds in the north side of that storm. Coming off shore at first, pushing the ocean away. But then the eyewall moves north -- Sarasota into Fort Myers, Tampa Bay and then the winds change directions, push all of the ocean water up and that's when the storm surge really starts to settle in.

Official forecast there 8 to 12 feet. Inundation, 3 to 5 feet here in South Central sections of the Miami-Dade coastline.

Isa, it's brutal out here. I know you are feeling it as well. It stings when this rain and the rain bands come through, doesn't it?

SOARES: It does sting, but it has like you said it's so fickle, isn't it. The storm is so unpredictable. One minute you think that it's over and in fact it just slaps and punches you in the face in both directions of this.

Derek Van Dam, thank you very much. We'll touch back with you in the next hour or so. But like Derek was saying, do not be complacent here in Miami or Miami-Dade area. Really county, just be safe.

Listen, heed the advice that you're getting from authorities because it hasn't even arrived yet. It hasn't even made landfall although it has shifted, that you are not safe. Wait for the green light from authorities before you return to your homes.

And do stay right here with CNN. We have got you covered on Hurricane Irma. We'll be right back.


[03:52:25] HOLMES: Welcome back, everyone.

We are following Hurricane Irma as it slowly heads towards Florida. It has now gained the strength of a category 4 storm once again. It was down to 3 and back up to 4 now.

Earlier I spoke with CNN contributor Lieutenant General Russell Honore. He command the military response to Hurricane Katrina back in 2005.


HOLMES: You handled a lot of logistics when it came to Hurricane Katrina. What have we learned then that will be put into action now?

Lt. GEN. RUSSELL HONORE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, one thing, a lot of the propositioning is happening. FEMA has (INAUDIBLE), established logistics basis and we have storage centers, but the hard part will be search and rescue. The harder part will be sustaining communities. So maybe sometime entire cities with the grid b Lieutenant General Russell Onere Hurricane Irma yet to make landfall in the U.S., but conditions across South Florida rapidly deteriorating already. The storm back up to a dangerous category 4. It was category 3 for a while. It is expected to keep gaining strength as it crosses warm open water between Cuba and Florida. eing down.

And there is old saying in the army, you know, amateurs study tactics, but we're trying to figure out what the storm is doing. But there's got to be some people studying logistics because this will be hard.

Re-supply people and keep them fed and then determine when are you going to start evacuating people because you can't sustain them on a grid that's broken, that's under water 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're 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 to recovery. If there is no water or electricity at their home and their home is surrounded by water, you've got to evacuate them. You can't maintain a shelter surrounded by water.

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

So the other thing up the Florida coast there is a major power plant that provides power for that entire area up and around that part of north of Tampa and St. Pete 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, D.C. just up to Virginia. The fleet through north had to go out to sea and they had to be evacuated. Dill Air Force base. You know, it's all there. We won't have to mention that. A lot of that has been --

HOLMES: The planes have been flown north, because that's susceptible to flooding.

[03:55:00] HONORE: And those airport, they are running on missions around the world. So it has been a major logistics operation to move stuff and people and families separately.


HOLMES: CNN contributor Lieutenant General Russell Honore there speaking with me a short time ago.

Our coverage of hurricane Irma continues right after the break.

I'm Michael Holmes in Orlando.

SOARES: And I'm Isa Soares in Miami, where the heavens have now definitely opened. We leave you with some of the memorable moments for our coverage of Hurricane Irma in the last few hours.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just a sign of just how quickly stuff can happen. But the person did get up and walk away. So thankfully seems like they were OK.

SOARES: Do you feel like you waited too long to decide?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, totally. I wonder are we going to leave on Monday.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's like it is the biggest hurricane ever, just leave and then you're not stuck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My life depends on electricity. I have an O2 concentrator that has to run 24/7.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's as real as it gets. We're here. We're prepared. You hide from wind and you run from water, but we're safe and ready to go.