Return to Transcripts main page


Hurricane Irma Slams Florida With Heavy Rain And Winds. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired September 11, 2017 - 05:00   ET



MAYOR JACK SEILER, FORT LAUDERDALE (via telephone): 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.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Mayor Jack Seiler, Fort Lauderdale, thank you, sir. A lot of credit goes to the scientists, right, who predicted this storm and watched this storm? Victor Blackwell, thank you for your great reporting, all of our teams in Florida. Thanks for that. "NEW DAY" picks it up right now.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Special coverage of Hurricane Irma, be very clear, it is not over. Hurricane Irma still battling the state of Florida. Right now, some 24 hours plus after first making landfall. This is an unprecedented beating.

Even though the hurricane has been downgraded to a Category 1 it is still a hurricane and it is doing massive damage everywhere it goes. CNN is everywhere in the path of this storm and we can show you where Hurricane Irma has been and what she has done.

So, it is a category 1 but at latest count, at least 4 million Floridians are without power. The governor saying not only without power but he doesn't know when it will be restored. Will it be days? Weeks? Longer? The need will be great here.

That's why the president of the United States already signed a disaster declaration. That doesn't nearly recognize the existence of the storm. It frees up assets. So, we'll be bringing you coverage from here in Naples Florida and Alison, of course, is up in New York.

There are so many people to talk to, so much information to get out. Six million people had to be evacuated. At latest count, there were at least 75,000 people in shelters across the state.

How many sheltered in place? How many are out there? As you can see, everything is dark here. Power is out where we are. We're using just minimal battery power. When the light of day comes on to these areas of Florida hit hardest you're going to see things you may have never seen before.

So, the storm is still very much in effect. Let's go to Sara Sidner in Daytona Beach, Florida. They are getting hit right now. Sara, I know your communications aren't great in that kind of weather. If you can hear me tell us what your situation is.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So this is actually the gusts have actually come down, believe it or not, after the past couple hours. The worst of it was about 4:20 when we could barely stand. Now we are still getting some of those gusts, but not nearly as strong, believe it or not, Chris.

Now, we are just about 200 yards from Daytona Beach. The water being whipped up very high. In fact, so high we're on the fifth floor of a hotel that is hurricane rated. I am standing just so people know, so they know I'm safe, next to a concrete wall.

So, if I get down here, I have shelter. It's much, much easier to stand. But I will tell you that I am getting pitted by salt water, which means that the water from the ocean, 200 yards away, and five stories below me is being whipped up this high and smacking us in the face.

I am standing here with my crew, Jeff King and Stephanie Becker, who are literally bracing themselves to hold up the light and camera and trying not to shift around much but you'll see it shift a bit because these winds are incredible, Chris. Incredible.

And folks here thought the storm had pretty much passed them by. Even emergency management officials in this county and the county that is about 60 miles from us where Cape Canaveral is thought that the storm was pretty much on its way out, then suddenly started turning towards this area and it's still at Cat 1.

We know on the fifth floor here, Chris, that we are at about 70 to almost 80 miles an hour gusts at points. But it is calming down a little bit compared to what it was just an hour ago -- Chris.

CUOMO: Calm, a relative assessment when you're in a hurricane of course. Be safe. Very frightening added by the fact that there's so little light. To go through a hurricane in the dark must be so frightening.

That's why one of the reasons our hearts and minds are with all those who sheltered in place, many with children and family, very tough to go through.

Sara, give us some perspective. Are many of the areas that are getting hit now and still have to worry about this storm, have been hit recently? Hurricane Matthew did damage in Gainesville, Jacksonville and areas surrounding the region of the state that you're in.

SIDNER: Absolutely. It was impact here. I was actually standing on the ground floor during that storm here at the very same hotel. And I can tell you that the winds then felt like nothing compared to what we have been feeling today.

I mean, comparatively, yes, there was damage. Yes, the sea wall came up and over into the boardwalk which everyone loves the Daytona Beach boardwalk for spring break. That was damaged. There was damage to the business owners, I'll tell you something else.

The hotel we're staying at spent about $3 million in renovations to deal with some of the aftermath of that hurricane and they are now being hit again. We noticed that water is coming up.

[05:05:07] Everyone is concerned about storm surge, but right now I'm looking at the boardwalk itself and I do see quite a bit of water that has come up and been pushed up that is not necessarily storm surge but pushed up from the strong winds. Can I mention one other thing to you, Chris?

I know everyone is worried about power there especially in Miami where so many people are out of power. Florida Power and Light has a lot of their workers here alongside us, and we've been talking to them and they've been asking us hour after hour when it the storm passing? How long will it be?

They are ready and willing to get out as soon as the storm passes by and they can drive the roads. They are heading, many of them to Miami. This is an unprecedented event ant there is an unprecedented response from the power companies.

Florida Power and Light telling us that this is an historic day for them because they have deployed at least 16,000 workers. More than they ever have in the history of the company, 16,000 workers, to try and restore power to more people than have ever lost power before -- Chris.

CUOMO: That is a very key component because they need to get back out there, but they need the storm to abate before they can. That's just the workers from this state. Unprecedented. But they'll be coming from surrounding states as well.

We're told the cooperation is very good. They're trying to put together teams, many teams of who's going to clear the debris so that the power guys can get in, and how do they deal with getting rid of water where they need it to work on transformers and lines.

So, we're going to watch that especially once the sun comes up because in places like where we are there is no power so we can see nothing. Just one random street light, one kiosk that matter to stay lit.

All right. o, let's deal with the priorities. Sara, stay safe. Shelter yourself and the team. Let us know when to check back with you.

Right now, let's get to Chad Myers. Chad, you know, as you were coaching us through, all afternoon yesterday, this storm is unprecedented in one way because of its breadth. It never ends. It's still blowing here. It's still blowing in Miami.

The rain is still coming and all these different parts of the state. Please, take us through the radar and explain why there's so many who are probably never went to sleep in Florida saying it doesn't end.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It doesn't end. The storm was so big, north to south and east to west that it feels like that it's just never ending. The east coast is still taking a pounding even though the center of the eye is now 90 miles to the west of the coast, 90 miles west of the east coast of Florida.

And Sara still seeing bands from Daytona Beach and Jacksonville, you're flooding this morning. Watch out for the St. John's River, all the way up into parts of South Carolina that onshore flow is still tremendous.

There you go. North of Tampa, not that far from Wakizashi (ph) that's where the center of the eye is. So, (inaudible), Orlando, the villages, still seeing that Claremont, Lake City, still seeing the worst of this.

What you saw right there from Sara is what they are seeing everywhere across Northern Florida. That's the wind translating down. I know this thing doesn't have an eye, but it still has a pressure.

Still has a low pressure, lower than any snowstorm you would ever see in the northeast, so think about what the snowstorm winds can be like. We have those winds down here in Florida still.

Those winds are going to move up into Georgia, parts of Alabama and South Carolina later on this morning because the low is not that far north of Orlando and it's not far south of the Georgia-Florida border.

We're still going to see winds of 70, 75 miles per hour, and if that number of power company lights, people without power goes up, I wouldn't be surprised at all. There's going to be a triage, if they can get your power line up and put up another 4,000 people at the same time, you will be the priority.

If your tree in the backyard took your power line down and only going to get one person back on line, you're the last person to get fixed. Naples had a gust of 142. Marco Island, 130. Significant flooding there as the surge took over Marco Island. Other gusts somewhere around 122 to 120.

We do know that the Florida Keys got hit first and the hardest. Big Pine Key, Cajole Key really got hit hard, but look at the rainfall amounts, Chris, Melbourne, Florida picked up 14 inches of rain.

So, talking about the flooding there in Palm Bay, in Melbourne, Indialantic Beach. That's all because of fresh water rain and salt water surge adding together -- Chris.

CUOMO: Yes. After we were done with you, last night, nobody's going to sleep during this thing. First of all, it's frightening. It just is. The howling of the wind and things falling down. I wanted to go out and look around and really it was just blowing too much to walk around.

Also, people who were out in these elements, it's not just water. For Sara getting hit with salt spray, that's the worst. We know that. But just the pressure and the water, our eyes were burning too much to sleep last night even this morning it's hard. [05:10:07] And I don't know if you saw it, Chad, but what you were worried about with the storm surge, it came true here in Naples. We didn't have to worry about it flooding us here about three quarters of a mile from the water but those homes inundated with water.

So many people we were talking to last night don't know yet. They heard my whole areas is flooded. So, the light of day is going to be a horrible wake-up call for so many people. So, this is very far from over. Chad, stick around. We're going to have so many questions for you throughout the morning. Thank you so much for your excellent guidance to this point.

Let's check in with the current state of Irma. You're going to hear a lot of past tense. It is incorrect. It is very much still ongoing with this storm. A Category 1 hurricane is more than anyone should ever want to face.

Kaylee Hartung in Gainesville, again, another place that was already hit within the last year or so by Hurricane Matthew. They are getting hit right now. Kaylee, what's the situation?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, just as you say that, we hear a siren go off on the University of Florida campus. Compared to what Sara was describing in Daytona, the living fields is easy here in Gainesville, but the fact is we have not yet felt the worst of it here.

As what remains of that eye wall moves up through Marianne County just south of here. They are expecting the worst conditions Gainesville will see in the next hour or two. The heaviest rains and strongest winds, hurricane force winds that means winds greater than 74 miles an hour.

The rain has been down pouring overnight. I can hear those strong gusts of wind sitting in the hotel room overnight. As you mention hard to sleep when you don't know exactly what's going on around you in the darkness of night.

But truthfully, we haven't seen much more destruction than some tree debris around this area. I'm shielded here on one side by the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, University of Florida's football stadium. It's not hard to see the wind coming from every other direction.

Power outages were such a concern for so many people in Florida in the led up to the storm specifically here in Gainesville. So much so I met elderly folks and special needs folks who voluntarily went to shelters in this area as early as Friday with the concern for the power outages in this area.

We're told more than 30,000 are without power in the Gainesville area and regional utility company in this area, of course, not responding to calls for service at this moment in anticipation of these winds that we expect in the next hour or two.

On the University of Florida campus, a campus of more than 50,000 students, I'm told the concern for so many here is what their families are experiencing in other parts of the state -- Chris.

CUOMO: Kaylee, it is not over. Stay safe. Be very careful. Only scientists are impressed by the downgrading of a hurricane. If you're standing even in 50-mile-an-hour sustained wind, you're going to know it.

If you get hit with something, you're going to really know it so please be safe. We'll check back with you.

So, as you look around the state, we'll be showing you maps all morning of where Hurricane Irma is right now and what she is doing.

Orlando, we have Brynn Gingras there. That's another place, Brynn, where they thought they would be OK and yet the blow is there. Power outages are affecting them and it's going to be bad for days, maybe even weeks to come. What's it like right now?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Chris. We are getting some major wind gusts. I was listening to Sara's live shot. She's got that rain coming from the water. We don't have the rain issue but the wind gusts are very strong.

I've talked to emergency officials just before I came on the air and right now the National Guard is trying to rescue people from an apartment building, 24 apartments because they all flooded.

So, you can imagine those guys trying to go to work right now with this intense wind coming at them. That's the issue. We have rain overnight. It caused flooding in this area and now we're dealing with the winds from this storm.

That's the entire reason why the city of Orlando especially and this county, Orange County, has put in a mandatory curfew until tonight because they don't want people, even though they're in Orlando and evacuated this to this area to escape the coast.

They don't want them to let their guard down just because we are in the center of the state. They don't want them to go home thinking it's OK when you got these serious wind gusts coming at you that can cause a lot of damage.

Certainly, we have seen a lot of things flying around overnight. One of the things I keep referencing again are those bulbs that are around the lamps. They come crashing down any time, really a major wind gust. It sounds like a mini car crash happening all around us. So, wind, the major issue right now, and I don't see it letting up any time soon -- Alyson.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: I think you're right, Brynn. Hang on there and obviously we'll check back with you. Thank for that reporting.

So, joining us now on the phone is Carlos Aviles. He is the fire chief in St. Augustine, Florida, which is about 45 miles south of Jacksonville. Chief, thank you for joining us. Tell us what the situation is in St. Augustine at this hour. [05:15:05] CARLOS AVILES, FIRE CHIEF, ST. AUGUSTINE, FLORIDA (via telephone): Good morning. Thanks for having me. I tell you, crews have been really swamped and busy all night. This area was devastated by Hurricane Matthew only 11 months ago, and sadly, we're repeating this right now as we speak.

We have hundreds of residents still displaced as a result of Matthew or that are still in the rebuilding process, but overnight last night we saw significant flooding on our barrier islands and historic downtown core.

I can tell you that we performed dozens of rescues already in the wee morning hours. We had a structural collapse. Waiting on confirmation of what we believed was a tornado touched down last night around midnight and several structure fires.

So, we 100 percent have our hands full, but we maintained our posture up. We believed we were going to be impacted from this storm. Early, the tract shifted west, but we maintained our posture here for readiness. So, we had all the resources that we need, but we have a long road ahead of us that appears they are moving forward.

CAMEROTA: It sure sounds like it. I mean, the idea that you already had to go out and do rescues and seeing car crashes and fires and all of that. I mean, based on what Chad Myers is telling us, our meteorologist, it sounds like it's just now coming to your neck of the woods. What is your -- how many people do you think are trapped? What's your plan for rescues over the next few hours?

AVILES: We're just going to continue to get to them as we can. I mean, what I would tell folks is if you have evacuated this area, you need to stay place in shelter where you are. If you evacuated, we had a mandatory evacuation of large zones A and B, if you left town as a result of those evacuations you need to stay where you are. It may be a while before we open up certain parts of town. We haven't even begun doing damage assessments yet, but the list is growing as we speak.

CAMEROTA: Chief, we're looking at the radar on the right side of our screen. Below me as we talking to see it is coming to you right now. This is -- what are the conditions like around you? How windy is it? Is it raining?

AVILES: No. It's very windy and rainy. We have about four to five feet of water on the streets right now. So, lots of downed trees. It's becoming challenging our responders to get out to some of these areas.

So, we are doing everything that we can. We're just asking folks to be patient and remain sheltered in place. Hopefully nobody decides to try to come out in this when the sun comes up.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely. We're happy to help you to get that word out. Everyone stay inside. Shelter in place. Chief Aviles, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us. Best of luck down there today. AVILES: Appreciate it. See you on the other side.

CAMEROTA: Yes, absolutely.

Chris, wow, what a weekend you've had. Everyone has watching your reporting all weekend. Chris, it was so gripping to watch how the storm came in and all the conditions around you. We couldn't turn away. It was just incredible, the reporting that you and all of our colleagues have been doing from down there.

CUOMO: Team was an all the right places and everybody did what they need to do. The problem is the job was as necessary as it was and is. I can't tell you how many first responders. Loosely set up networks during these types of disasters for information and communication.

First responders really only know what they're telling them until they can get outside. Here in Naples, it's locals who cleared the streets. We haven't seen emergency services vehicles yet. That's not a criticism. It's about safety.

So, the light of day is going to create a whole new wave of need, of concern, of desperation. That's why we're staying away from fatality numbers. It's too early to tell. Even real injuries, property damage, where is it worse? We don't know and it's still ongoing.

So, for example, let's take a break now. When we come back, at least Miami was spared. Do you remember that part of the story that the track was shifting they'll be OK? No, they weren't OK. They got pounded for hour after hour, the flooding, devastation, damage. We're going to show you when we come back just what Hurricane Irma has done and may still do. Stay with us.



CUOMO: Hurricane Irma still punishing Florida, a Category 1 hurricane making its way north and starting now to shift across the state. This was never anticipated to be as widespread as persistent, and now, as devastating as Hurricane Irma is proving to be.

Let's take Miami, for example. Here in Naples we had major, major wind gusts, the biggest they've seen in the state so far, but the duration of pounding and water and flooding and damage that Miami has seen and is still seeing took everyone by surprise.

Rosa Flores has braved that storm with the rest of the CNN team in place and you're going to tell us a story of a city that is absolutely affected in every way by a hurricane.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Chris, the heavy winds here in downtown Miami snapped cranes. They uprooted trees like the one that you see behind me. We saw three and a half feet of storm surge that turned one of the streets in the financial district into a raging river.

Like you mentioned, Miami did not see the destruction of the eye of the storm, but that doesn't mean that the city was spared.


[05:25:05] FLORES (voice-over): Hurricane Irma walloping the sunshine state from coast to coast making landfall in Florida as a Category 4. The 400-mile wide storm leaving the low-lying Florida Keys under water.

Powerful 130 miles per hour winds whipping through Southwest Florida Sunday, downing powerlines and leaving a trail of debris behind. More than 4 million customers without power across the state.

Irma pummeling Marco Island as a Category 3 hurricane registering some of the strongest winds in the state. These two photos in Marco Island taken just 15 minutes apart showing docks completely submerged by the increasing storm surge.

In nearby Naples, 140-miles-per-hour wind gusts tossing aluminum siding for mobile homes throughout the neighborhood. Irma's powerful wind gusts peeling the roof clean off this apartment building in Miami.

The dramatic moment caught on camera. Roaring winds and heavy rain in the downtown area turning streets into rivers. A major concern in downtown Miami, construction cranes weighing several tons threatening everything below.

At least two cranes in downtown Miami snapping under the pressure of Irma's howling winds. In North Miami Beach, police rescuing this 4- month old baby and his mother from a flooded home.

And a Fort Lauderdale resident watches in horror as a backyard tree is uprooted right before their eyes. Several tornadoes reported as Hurricane Irma began its assault on Florida. Water spouts just like this one popping up threatening to wreak havoc.

Florida's governor imploring Floridians the day before to heed local evacuation orders. Over 6 million ordered to evacuate. The mass exodus becoming one of the largest evacuations in U.S. history.

GOVERNOR RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: If you have been ordered to evacuate, you need to leave now.

FLORES: More than 160,000 hunkering down in shelters across the state and 35 people were forced to evacuate Sunday evening in Riviera Beach after the roof collapsed on this apartment complex.

But amid the chaos, a miracle in Coral Springs, this baby girl delivered at home. First responders carrying the little one to safety.


FLORES: Now in Miami-Dade County, 28 people were arrested overnight for looting. This city is trying to get back to normalcy. As the run rises, we will see assessment crews assessing damage, removing trees like the one I see behind me, Chris, to try to get back to work, to get this financial district back working.

We do know, however, that a lot of the shelter that were used in this area were schools, so the superintendent of Miami Dade telling us that the schools are closed until further notice -- Chris.

CUOMO: Yes. Rosa, not even close to life beginning to get back to normal. Thank you for the reporting and showing just one set of aspects of what this storm has done. You're going to keep seeing new pictures for days to come.

In fact, the storm is still, still impacting this state in ways that we're not able to measure. Look at this county. Look what's happening with the surf. Storm surge is going to be a big story.

You're going to see devastation from this storm and continue to see it as the storm continues to move. So, we're going to show you pictures throughout the morning. The you heard Rosa talk about one of the rescues they already had to do in Miami.

Remember, the first responders didn't want to go out in those conditions. It's very dangerous. That was in North Miami Beach. That's where we have Major Richard Rand, part of the first responder force that's going to have to get out there.

Major, thank you so much. We know you're very busy especially today once you get some light on the situation. But, even though you've had to make rescues already and that's dramatic. Thank God you were able to save that mom and child, your work really hasn't even begun yet, has it?

MAJOR RICHARD RAND, HURRICANE INCIDENT COMMANDER FOR NORTH MIAMI BEACH POLICE DEPARTMENT: Good morning. That's the truth. The worst part of this storm even though it has passed us is ahead of us because we have lots of reports of live wires down, a lot of standing waters, some areas two or three feet of water.

One of our worst nightmares people waking up this morning wanting to go get outside, wanting to get out of their house and stepping in a water that has a live power line in it. We're facing some big obstacle the we have to overcome this morning.

CUOMO: You know, we were talking to people here in Naples last night after all the drama that went through, they were so desperate to get back to their homes. People who decided to take shelters in some of the hotels and stronger structures here in downtown Naples.

But in the dark, with all that debris and all the power lines that are down, you just can't do it. It's unsafe. Even still we haven't had the, you know, the clearing crews go out yet.