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Chasing Hurricane Irma; Hurricane Irma Slams Florida. Aired 4- 4:30a ET

Aired September 11, 2017 - 04:00   ET



[04:00:00] AARON JAYJACK, STROM CHASER: You don't have as much surge that was pushed up on the shore and so I know here in Fort Meyers I waited in the parking garage for a while, I never actually saw any surge come up here in the downtown Fort Meyers That was quite a bullet being dodged there. I'm waiting things out for daylight to see what kind of damage happened. I see plenty of tree damage in downtown. But buildings here are pretty well built. I expect maybe if I get away from the downtown where there's smaller buildings I might see a little bit more damage.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORREPONDENT: We're all waiting for the sun to come up to see exactly what will be the legacy of Irma for this part of the state. Storm chaser thanks for being with us. Stay safe, as you head out starting a little later this morning.

JAYJACK: No problem, guys. The talk to you later.

BLACKWELL: All right. Thanks so much. Dave and Christine back to you in New York.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, EARLY START SHOW CO-HOST: All right Victor thank you so much. Looks very calm back there in Tampa, literally the eye of the storm.

DAVE BRIGGS, EARLY START SHOW CO-HOST: Maybe not so much rain but certainly wind to come as "Early Start" continues right now.

This is CNN Breaking News.

ROMANS: Hurricane Irma shows no mercy on Florida. Communities from coast to coast now without power as strong winds tear across the state. Coastal areas now fear dangerous storm surges. Good morning everyone. Welcome to "Early start" this morning. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I am David Brigs. It is Monday September 11. Victor Black will co-anchoring our coverage this morning and he will joins us in just a moment.

Potentially deadly winds whipping through Florida from coast to coast. The relentless pounding from hurricane Irma ripping down power lines leaving a trail of debris behind her. Take a look at this transformer blowing in Miami. Scenes like this playing out all over the state. Right now, nearly 4 million people without power this morning. Utility companies tells us that number likely to increase as the storms travels north.

ROMANS: In Naples, water levels are rising at an alarming rate. Nine feet in a three hour span overnight. Even though Irma a category 1, forecasts saying be prepared for a potentially life threating storm surge. There appears to be a significant water main break in the system that means no drinking water, no water to flush toilets.

BRIGGS: Broward County Sheriff's department reports two tornadoes touching down in Palm Bay, mobile homes destroyed. But thus far no injuries reported. Irma's ferocious winds collapsing at least two construction cranes in Miami. One swinging precariously over downtown, another one dangling over the City's Edgewood neighborhood.

ROMANS: So far CNN has confirmed one storm related death. A driver killed in a single car accident in Orange County. First responders already executing rescues across Florida. North Miami Beach police department tweeting it had to pull out an armored personnel carrier to pull a mother and 4 month old infant from their flooded home. They were safely transported to the shelter.

BRIGGS: The hurricane tearing through the Tampa area. About 28,000 people taking refuge in 45 shelters throughout Hillsborough County. That is where Victor Blackwell back in Tampa. Victor?

BLACKWELL: David and Christine, good morning to you. We are in an extended moment of calm here. But we know it is not over for Tampa. I'm in downtown Tampa alongside the Hillsborough River here. The really rough front edge of the eye wall here has passed. That happened about 1:00 a.m. Eastern time, so, we're about three hours into this moment but we know the back half is coming of this storm. The winds have picked up. There have been gusts of wind, so we know that the storm is not done.

We know this also is a moment where some people will venture outside and try to drive around or look around Hillsborough County officials the mayor of Tampa, has said do not come out. There is mandatory curfew here, no one should be out driving, no should be on foot, we also know there are 28,000 people who spent the night in shelters across the county and the major reason, there are two reasons.

[04:05:09] First, because there was a mandatory evacuation of mobile homes across this County. The concern here that those rough wind that is came through would rip those apart and be a threat to the people living there. Also, the low-lying areas around Tampa bay, around the river here, on the island would cause major flooding and that storm surge would make it almost impossible for people to get out of the way of the water in time. Now, in the discussion of storm surge, what we're seeing here, several feet, maybe 5 or 6, not the 15 feet that was expected or feared when hurricane Irma was still a category 4 and 3 and potentially was heading up the west coast.

The mayor here said this City was about to be punched in the face if that was going to happen. That did not happen but we still don't know exactly how bad the damage is. We'll get more when the sun comes up this morning. David and Christine, we're start to go get the drizzle, the rest of the storm is coming.

ROMANS: All right. Victor stay safe. Thank you. I want to go via skype to Miami bring in Jim Guidone, the national spokesperson for the American Red Cross. You have thousands of volunteers on the ground there running and managing these shelters and for all of these people who have been displaced by the storm. Give us a sense how well this has gone. This must have been of the biggest evacuations that we have seen in this country, ever.

JIM GUIDONE, AMERICAN RED CROSS: It's been enormous but overall gone very well. Red Cross has been here for over a week. To give you an idea just Saturday night alone, 127,000 people spent time -- spent the night in our evacuation shelters we coordinated with the communities. Over 450 shelters being operated. It's been a massive undertaking but so far, it's gone very well.

BRIGGS: Most of the cities in the direct path of Irma, still about two hours away from curfews being lifted. What's the primary concern once the sun begins to come up around that time, 6:00 eastern time? What is first?

GUIDONE: The primary concern is people might take it for granted they can begin to immediately go out. They need to listen to the local authorities and make sure given the green light before making their way back to the homes and communities so see exactly what damage is done and what the needs will be. The Red Cross is going to be here to continue to support them. The evacuation shelters will begin now the transition, those shelters into longer term facilities, bringing cots, blankets food, first aid in. This is going to be the beginning of yet another long-term support process.

ROMANS: Right on the heels of hurricane Harvey. You had a little more warning for this one. For about a week you've been prepositioning supplies and personnel. Talk to us about the challenges about one right after of the other, major Metropolitan area disasters?

GUIDONE: I think speaks to coordination and cooperation. No one agency, whether it's charity or government is fully equipped to handle a disaster of the magnitude, but working closely with the local state and federal government and coordinating the efforts, you can handle it. That is exactly what happened in Florida.

BRIGGS: Jim being the national spokesperson of the American Red Cross, you're certainly aware of a strange backlash, if you will, against the Red Cross on social media. USA Today referencing that as headline as Hurricane needs well, some suggest steering clear of the Red Cross. What do you say to those people that are concerned this morning that their donations to the Red Cross won't go directly to the people that need the money most?

GUIDONE: Well, first of all, 91 percent of every dollar that is donated to the Red Cross goes to disaster services. I've been a volunteer for 12 years, this is my tenth major storm and I can tell you that spending time in the shelters yesterday and the day before with people that were seeking support and shelter with their pets in many cases, there's nothing more rewarding than seeing the Red Cross doing its work across the country and especially here in Florida.

BRIGGS: I know my family has all made donations to the American Red Cross. Jim, thanks so much for doing what you're doing. We appreciate it.

GUIDONE: You're welcome.

BRIGGS: What is to be expected from Irma today? Who will feel it the worst. Let's bring in our meteorologist Karen Maginnis, she is at the CNN Weather Center in Atlanta. Karen we saw Sara Sidner in these wicked winds having to anchor herself down with the concrete wall and then we see this calm where Victor Blackwell is in Tampa. Where are those wicked winds are right now and where are they headed next? Is Jacksonville going to see something similar?

[04:10:11] KAREN MAGINNIS, WEATHER CENTER, CNN: Jacksonville, that is kind of the -- it hasn't gotten as much attention because we have been so focused on where it made landfall, which was about just over 12 hours ago, right around Marco island. We talked about the storm surge in Tampa, but really, this northeastern quadrant where we knew -- where I mentioned is the most dynamic portion of the hurricane. And in fact that is what we're seeing now. There's a tornado watch in effect. Seeing these tornado warnings pop up. There had been damage reports that have come in. But what is interesting now, we're seeing a different dynamic. The southern edge of hurricane Irma had eroded away and lots of dryer air moving in. Across this western edge you can kind of see on this water vapor imagery. Here's the last frame.

Sara Sidner is not out of danger yet. We've got essentially lots of moisture which is aimed at Georgia, and into South Carolina and they are seeing storm surges there. Two, three and four feet. May port Florida, Daytona Beach. In Daytona they're saying get to higher ground because the water is rising there, not just from the rainfall but because we're seeing that wall of water push on shore along the central northeaster northern coast. Even into South Carolina, the concerned in Mt. Pleasant, and George Town, all of those area, very vulnerable. One other thing has been the power outages. It's staggering. We're reporting 4 million people don't be surprised if that number goes up exponentially down in Broward and Miami Dade County, 70 and 77 percent of the Florida power and light customers are without power. Collier County that is Naples 95 percent of the people in that County are without power. Irma has spared virtually no one in the state of Florida and she is not finished yet. Dave? Christine?

ROMANS: All right Karen Maginnis, thank you so much for that this morning. No matter where you are in Florida, dangerous winds whipping up from coast to coast. Millions now in the dark. We're going to go to Florida with more coverage of hurricane Irma.


04:16:54] BLACKWELL: Welcome back to CNN's continuing live coverage of hurricane Irma. I'm Victor Blackwell in downtown Tampa. The back half of Irma continues to move north and hits this point. If you have been watching, you know Sara Sidner out on the east coast of Florida on Daytona Beach has been holding on to a cement wall as the winds had been rough there, let check in again with Sarah. Sarah, what is it like now?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We want to make clear this is not a place for people to come out. We did see some folks trying to come out here who were staying at our same hotel but it does blow you around. We're out here because it's our job and we want people to see and satisfy their curiosity if you will. This is an incredibly powerful band that is coming through. These are hurricane force winds. We're on the fifth floor so that intensifies it just a bit. I'm going to get down low so you can hear me better but we are sitting in an area where we are blocked here by the wind and this helps to block the wind as well, but it is so incredibly strong, hard to stand up in. I do want to mention that we've been seeing transformers blowing at throughout that evening just like you saw in many other places as the eye wall was coming through.

Now we're getting these winds. I have to tell you that the folks here in this County and in Broward County about 60 miles to the south of here where Cape Canal, NASA program, they weren't expecting these types of high winds. Talking about gusts of 70 to 80 miles. What we are learning is in Broward County there were two tornadoes confirmed to a touched down. Nobody injured is the great news. People have to stay in their homes, and even after, even after the storm, they have to stay inside until Florida power as light in some of these other utilities can come out and make sure the power is safe and that there aren't lines for example in the water that electrify the water. People die during almost every storm from being electrocuted not knowing that for example that a puddle might be electrified. We know in is an unprecedented event and with that you are seeing an unprecedented reaction from for example the utilities. Florida power light telling us they have 16,000 people getting to work starting tomorrow, Dave.

BRIGGS: Sara Sidner you are hard-core. Thank you for doing what you're doing showing us the potential damage this storm still possesses. Nearly 200 miles south west of Tampa, Irma turned to overnight, appears calm but more certainly on the way as well. Let's go live and get the latest from CNN's Stephanie Elam. What are you seeing there?

[04:20:00] STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave. I can tell you I just checked in this with the police department in Tampa and they did confirm they do have Tampa police and fire rescue out here responding to calls now. They're saying the most they're seeing most of what they're seeing is downed tree limbs which may have taken out a fence here or there, but still the threat of power lines so much like my dear friend Sara Sidner just said you've got to stay off the roads while they're assessing this. If you look behind me, you can see in the distance there some Technicolor where you with see first responders are out. We're seeing a little bit more of this. I saw an ambulance go by as well. But for the most part here Tampa is so much better than we thought it was going to be at this time going into the storm here.

A lot of concern whether or not there was going to be such a lashing of wind and rain that the power was going to be out for days or weeks, we never lost power. As far as the officials are concerned, this is so far better than expected. The winds are beginning to pick up but still it has stayed relatively calm and dry. It's not difficult to talk or walk around like it was earlier to do. But still, as far as Tampa is concerned, they want to have people stay off the streets. Still dangerous and you never know if a downed power line to end your life. Stay inside. Looking much better than they expected.

ROMANS: All right. Thank you so much for that. Again, still very dangerous out there. Power now out for more than 4 million people in Florida. One of the cities hardest hit by Irma was Miami, howling winds and two cranes crashing down. We're live in Miami next.


[04:26:23] BRIGGS: Welcome back everybody to our breaking news coverage of hurricane Irma. Yes, we've seen downgraded to a category 1 but that still means winds from 74 all the way up to 95 miles an hour as it climbs across Florida. Violent winds and torrential rains and more than 4 million customers without power in the state of Florida. Irma leaving a trail of destruction across the southern part of the state. 100 miles an hour gusts causing major damage at Miami international airport which does remain closed this morning. Officials hope to resume a limited flight schedule on Tuesday. Now schools in Miami Dade County also closed until further notice.

ROMANS: Take a look at this dramatic video showing just how powerful the winds were in Miami blowing the roof right off this two story building. CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam, he is Miami. Derek, this is a very dangerous part of the storm where people try to figure out what kind of damage there's been but it's dangerous.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN'S METEOROLOGIST: Yes, authorities keep telling us to tell you at home that you need to stay put this morning. Heed the calls for the curfew that is mandatory if you're in Miami Beach and decided not to leave, because you do not want to be checking things out and cup across downed power lines. 91 miles per hour wind gusts in Miami Beach, we were in the thick of it this morning. It was brutal. And the damage that we are seeing is consistent with that of a category 1 hurricane. That is a strong category 1 up to 94 miles per hour. This is what we have seen all across Miami Beach, trees that have toppled into telephone wire, electrical pole the and of course we continue to show footage and talk about the transformers that were lighting up the horizon with clue shades, violet shades of light. It was quite incredible to see that sight. Once they get taken down they quickly start to burst. Without electricity, about three quarters of Miami Dade without power as we speak. Think about it, alarms don't work, everything is dark. They're susceptible to looting to the Miami Dade police just tweeted that they had 28 arrests overnight from looting across the County. That is because there's simply no electricity, nobody in the area because they've listened to evacuation orders. Check the power of this toppled tree. It caused a water main break here as well. One of the other concerns going about, you can imagine if you had a live wire fall into this water that would be very dangerous to step in. Those are the hazards here among many. The cleanup is under way this morning on Monday morning. Christine, they really had full force here, hurricane 1 -- category 1 status but it could have been a lot worse. ROMANS: All right Derek Van Dam, from Miami, thank you.

As Irma batters Florida with wind and rain, how much will the damage cost? Well it's early, but the estimates here is a price tag of $172 billion making it one the costliest storms ever. That is not just property damage. Florida is the fourth largest economy in the U.S. bolstered by huge industries like, tourism alone generated $90 billion last year and it could take a hit in the storm damages infrastructure and airports. In fact several key airports are off line. Most of the state's major theme parks are currently closed. Very rare to have Disney world closed but it is one of those few days when Disney it's closed. It's not just tourism. It also hurt Florida's the housing market. A large driver to its economy. Americans have been moving to Florida in droves and significant property damage could trigger a slowdown.

BRIGGS: We'll continue to hear about the national flood insurance