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Chasing Hurricane Irma; Hurricane Irma Slams Florida. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired September 11, 2017 - 04:30   ET



[04:30:00] CHRISTINE ROMANS, EARLY START SHOW CO-HOST: ...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.

DAVE BRIGGS, EARLY START SHOW CO-HOST: We'll continue to hear about the national flood insurance program which is a disaster, $25 billion in debt. "Early Start" start continues right now. Who will see those wicked winds? Sara Sidner in Daytona Beach next.

This is CNN breaking news.

We are on the Breaking News, coverage is millions in Florida waking up with no power this morning after one of the most ferocious hurricanes in years, and Irma is still turning north, threat of storm surges lurking in the south where the storm left plenty of devastation behind. Welcome back to "Early Start" everybody. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It is 31 minutes pass the hour, Victor Blackwell is co-anchoring our coverage this morning, he is in Tampa, and he will joins us in just a moment. Right now torrential rains, devastating winds whipping through Florida from coast to coast.

BRIGGS: Relentless pounding from hurricane Irma, ripping down power lines leaving a trail of destruction behind her. Take a look at this transformer blowing in Miami. It seems like that playing out all over the state. More than 4 million electric customers without power and that number likely to go higher as the storm travels north.

ROMANS: In Naples water levels rising at an alarming rate. Nine feet in a three-hour span. Even though Irma is now category one, forecasts are warning everyone in the path to be prepared for potentially life threatening storm surge. In the City of Venice the utilities department have shut down the water plant there. It appears to be a significant main break in the system that means no drinking water or water to flush toilets.

BRIGGS: Brevard County sheriff's department reporting two tornadoes actually touched down. Mobile homes destroyed and thus far no injuries reported. Ferocious winds collapsing at least two construction cranes in Miami, one swinging precariously over downtown another dangling over the city's Edge Wood 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. Rescues and evacuation under way along the intercostal waterway right now in Daytona Beach. North Miami Beach police department tweeting this. It had deployed an armored personnel carrier to pull a mother and baby in their flooded home, they were safely transported to a shelter.

BRIGGS: Yes, we spoke with Major Richard Ran about that. He did unfortunately say looting remains a big problem there in South Florida. But severe punishment is on the way.

ROMANS: Hurricane tearing through the Tampa area over night. About 28,000 people taking refuge 45 shelters throughout Hillsborough County, all resident now being told to stay where you are. Let's go live to Tampa, let's bring in CNN Victor Blackwell, Victor?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORREPONDENT: Christine, David, good morning to you. A bit of a change in the weather here. We had the calm of the eye. Just a soft breeze, no real precipitation. We're start to go get what was an intermittent mist now to being pretty steady and we're expecting there will be more showers coming, but the worth is over for this portion of Florida. The front really brutal eye wall passed through here early this morning about 1:00 a.m. Bringing with it the strongest gusts we've seen in this part of the state. But 75 miles per hour wind gusts which would make that in the category of 1 on the scale. So that has passed through. But we know more is coming. There are about 28,000 people as we know, who are in shelters across Hillsborough County, most of them there because of mandatory evacuations.

The City of Tampa evacuated low-lying areas close to the bay, close to Hillsborough River, because they expected that storm surge to flood the area and make it impossible to get out of the way of the water in time. Also people who live in mobile homes across the County were forced to leave through the mandatory evacuations. With the winds whipping threw, those could be torn apart really quickly and put a lot of people's lives in danger. There is a mandatory curfew across the city. The mayor Bob Buckhorn saying the police would be very aggressive about making sure people stay off the roads while they assess the damage across this area. We know that what was expected to be a really strong storm surge, if the storm passed to the west, has not come to fruition as it passed to the east, but still they're looking to determine what has really been the legacy of Irma for Tampa. But a half million of the roughly 4 million people across Florida who have lost power are here in this part of the state. Let's go to Karen Maginnis. Maybe I spoke too soon, am I right that the worst is over for Tampa? What are they looking at for the next few hours?

[04:35:24] KAREN MAGINNIS, WEATHER CENTER, CNN: Well the next few hours I think are critical because there's high tide that is taking place right now. That is a two to three feet between the high and low tide. Still, the wind is coming in from the west and I think that north westerly component that sent a little bit of a surge. Now it's coming in from the west across the Tampa bay area. That increases the storm surge but we have seen tremendous storm surge along this northeastern coast of Florida. As a matter of fact, that hasn't been given a lot of attention. I've been talking about it quite a bit.

Now we have seen water going over the sea walls from Jacksonville down to Daytona Beach. I mention Daytona Beach, because one of the lasting memories that we will probably have from this is Sara Sidner who's been pelted in the face and there you can see it right now. Sara is really braved Irma if its worst form there. There are saying there are high water rescues taking place around Daytona Beach now and India Atlantic Beach area also has reported very heavy rainfall. Some of these locations, we could see isolated amounts there of 20 inches but Indy Atlantic some of the water and homes were up to waist deep.

This is a couple of hours ago. Also right around Lakeland we had reports there were some water in homes up to about 19 inches. Daytona, you could see another potentially heavy damage before it really starts to taper off. That is the news for Sara. But I want to mention the power outages. We know about Miami airport having been impacted by the heavy rainfall. They are closed. September 11. May open for limited service on Tuesday, but that is still an unknown. You can see this east coast of Florida, which if you were second- guessing yourself and saying why did I go from the east coast to the west coast, because they were impacted as well. All the way from Brevard into Dade County, 70 to 77 percent of the Florida power and light customers are without power. And then you jump over here towards Naples, Florida, Collier County, 95 percent of the Florida power and light customers there are without power. Not out of the woods for Georgia, South Carolina and into Alabama coming up.

ROMANS: Really important information there. Talking about some of those coastal areas expecting four to six-foot storm surge. Look at the satellite imagery of what the water's going to look like, just ugly. All right Karen thank you so much for that.

BRIGGS: Charleston floods easily. That could be a trouble spot ahead. No matter where you are in Florida, dangerous winds whipping up from coast to coast. Millions are in the dark. Live coverage in Florida with more of hurricane Irma next.


[04:42:35] BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell continuing CNN's live coverage of hurricane Irma in downtown Tampa. Starting to get a bit of moisture. Steady just a moment ago. I want to go to Stephanie Elam who is also in Tampa. Stephanie there is of course this curfew here in Tampa that was enacted yesterday during the evening hours. Are you seeing people defying that curfew? Are they out on foot? Driving around? What are you seeing where you are?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I did see one car. Here's the thing. The first responders are out here now. You see the police cars out here now. See them in every direction now. Every direction I've looked I've seen them out here. They are out responding to calls that are coming in, as it fire rescue as well. And they are not playing around. The mayor made it very clear yesterday, do not come out here. While it is not really raining on my side of Tampa where I am right now, Victor, they are still very much concerned about downed power lines. Fences, trees, blocking roadways. The smallest of puddle could be completely energized. That could be devastating. It could end your life. It is not worth being out here unless you need to be, you don't need to be unless you are a first responder or perhaps the news. We can tell you to stay out home. But we are seeing more of that activity. I can tell you where I am Victor, the winds are starting to kick up more but not really seeing the rain that we thought we'd be seeing as Irma started moving north of us here in Tampa. All in all, the sentiment here is that turned out to be better than expect the for Tampa, a City that is really vulnerable because there is so much water here, but so far looking better than expected, Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right. Thank you so much Stephanie Elam, also in Tampa Florida. We know that we just got information from authorities along the intercostal waterway, on the east coast of Florida there are evacuations and rescue operations happening right now. We'll get you more about those as soon as we get it. Let's stay on the east coast and go to Daytona Beach with Sara Sidner. You said that it has gotten worse and it's as bad as it has been. Each time you said that how is it now? Is it even worse?

[04:45:04] SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Actually, it's believe it or not, calmer than it was earlier. But then those gusts. It is the gusts that get you. The sustained winds aren't terrible but it's the gusts that seem to just push us over. I'm here with my photographer Jeff King and producer Stephanie Becker. She is literally holding on to the light and has things barricaded up against the lite. Jeff King is standing literally two feet from our hotel room. We're out on a balcony on the fifth floor. This gives you an idea just how gusty it is up here. It is far more gusty than down on the ground. This is why they close bridges. This is why they don't want vehicles going over high areas, because when you get up elevated -- we're not that far from the ground, the wind speed really changes significantly. You can feel it. You can hear it. And a lot of people are curious. If people are constantly saying why do they put reporters out and these crews out? We're safe. All I have to do is get down here and the wind subsides quite a bit. But it gives people a sense of what's going on. It satisfies their curiosity. We've seen folks coming out. The storm is incredibly powerful still. It gives you some idea of just how powerful Irma has been smacking the west coast and then the east coast yet again. This is up from Miami quite a ways, about 220 mile or so from Tampa. And we are really seeing the winds pick up here. We do know that the Florida power and light situation, we've got workers here that are planning on leaving as soon as this wind dies down during the daylight. Back to you guys.

ROMANS: All right. Thank you so much for that Sara Sidner, Daytona Beach.

BRIGGS: Stay safe my friend.

ROMANS: City of Miami and nearby areas dealt a harsh blow by Irma. Cranes toppled, roofs ripped off buildings. We'll talk to the mayor of Fort Lauderdale next.


[04:51:44] ROMANS: All right. Welcome back to the breaks news coverage of hurricane Irma as it tears across Florida. Irma leaving a trail of destruction in South Florida, 100 mile an hour wind gust, causing major water damages. Miami International Airport, that airport will remain closed today. The officials tell us they hope to resume a limited flight schedule on Tuesday.

BRIGGS: Schools in Miami Dade County are closed until further notice. Here's some dramatic video showing just how powerful the winds were in Miami blowing the roof right off this two story building. Let's go to CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam live in Miami. Certainly calm there this morning but still an hour left before those curfews are lifted. What are you seeing there?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN'S METEOROLOGIST: We had 91 miles per hour wind gusts this morning and saw the full force the Mother Nature. This is an example of what she did. Category 1 hurricane winds. This is pretty consistent with that. Look how it up rooted this massive tree. What's more astounding than this if my camera man backs up, you've got to check this out. It pulled up this six-inch slab of concrete as well. Water main break here. Just a multitude of issues associated with the cleanup efforts going forward with hurricane Irma's aftermath. Talk about electricity, 75 percent of Miami Dade County without power right now. That is unbelievable three quarters of the county, 850,000 people. It's all because of trees that have done damage to electricity wires like this. You can above me, this tree is being supported by one of the electrical wirings. Transformers in the sky, many of them just really brightening the horizontal with purples and blues as the storm reached its height and peak early this morning. The bridges that connect the Metro Miami region to the Miami Beach area actually closed right now, because they want to make sure they're structurally sound to be open and want to prevent people coming back after evacuating. We've got lots to talk about here but in the meantime I want to send it back to Victor in Tampa. What do you see Victor?

BLACKWELL: All right Derek, we're getting a little bit of rain. I want to bring in the mayor of Fort Lauderdale, Jack Seiler. Good morning, to you. I wonder if you now have a pretty good idea of what the damage or the effect of Irma there for your city. What are you seeing overnight?

MAYOR JACK SEILER, FORT LAUDERDALE: Well, we did a pretty substantial assessment last night by the biggest problem was the storm moved out and it was just getting dark. So we really haven't completed our full assessment but I'll tell you what I heard from Miami Beach, very similar in Fort Lauderdale. I counted over 100 trees that were down blocking roads, blocking sidewalks, and blocking driveways. A lot of trees down. Some structural damage, most significant one was a roof over on the Beach that looks like it had gotten peeled off, and also we had a crane go down like Miami Dade did. We had a crane collapse. I was very surprised at the amount of damage from a storm that we all thought had sort of moved west of us.

[04:55:17] BLACKWELL: Yes. That westerly move really didn't leave Miami or the east coast out of the woods. Let me ask you also about reports of looting there across the city. We had reports of arrests.

SEILER: Yes. We were very clear from the start that we were not going to tolerate looting. We were not going to tolerate people trying to take advantage of those disadvantaged by the storm. And we were very fortunate to get out there timely and we made several arrests. Two nights ago and then made some more arrests yesterday. In fact I was out last night with our emergency operations people and our police and firefighters and also made a few more arrests last night. So, the message is very clear. This is not -- the crime of opportunity you're going to jump in there and loot and make a further victim of somebody that is been victimized by hurricane Irma and we are not going to tolerate it and strictly enforce it. 99.9 percent of the residents have really been remarkable throughout this whole event. And a few, very small percentage, something like this happens, and that, of course, becomes the news.

BLACKWELL: Let's bring in Dave and Christine. You've got questions for the mayor?

BRIGGS: Yes. Mr. Mayor, Dave Briggs here in New York, couple million people there in Florida without power. The question on the minds of those people, how long should they expect to be without power? How long will it take to get restored? Have you guys heard?

SEILER: We've started those conversations. As I said, what happened when the winds finally got below 45 miles an hour, it was getting dark, so we weren't able to get a full assessment and we'll be doing that this morning starting in about 15 minutes, half hour. But, they've not going to be able to really get to us on a schedule for probably another 24 hours. They told us yesterday probably about 36- hour window. There are some high priorities, water treatment, and sewer treatment. They are going to get to us on the public infrastructure and facilities that provide water to so many but the individual homeowners will probably get a better idea of that later today. But just like you're hearing in Miami Dade County, hundreds of thousands of homes have lost power. I actually lost power at my house. It's been a very, very significant power outage.

ROMANS: Mr. Mayor, just quickly. Christine Romans here in New York. Remind people who might be tuning in right now about how dangerous it still is to be out there walking through the streets and poking around. The most dangerous parts of storms tend to be afterwards.

SEILER: Absolutely. In fact we still have the curfew in place. We're going to go until 10:00 a.m. this morning. But last night I was out with the professionals, out on the street with the people that are supposed to be there. We watched a car drive into a tree that had fallen down into the road. Actually drove into the tree because they didn't see it in the darkness. We're telling people stay off the roads. Stay off the streets. Let us complete our assessment, clear the roads of water, powerlines, trees, and then you can get out there and determine what happened your individual property or your neighborhood.

BRIGGS: Mr. Mayor, it looks, by all appearances that the state of Florida that government officials first responders were all very well prepared. It's probably too early to assess, but, looking back on it, did you do everything you hoped ahead of storm?

SEILER: Well, yeah. Absolutely. A lot of credit goes to you all. I mean that sincerely because this storm was so big and so bad and so broad for such a long period of time, we were made aware of its immense nature by the media. In addition we made our neighbors and residents all aware of it, but the media was on top of this. So we had time to prepare. Our neighbors had time to prepare, the communities did. So for the first time I think we were not surprised by anything that this storm did or could have done. I think a lot of us in south Florida feel like it could have done more and we were very fortunate to only get the brunt of what we did get, not the full brunt of it.

ROMANS: All right Mayor Jack Seiler of Fort Lauderdale, thank you sir, a lot of credit goes to the scientist, right?