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Hurricane Irma Slams Florida with Heavy Rain And Winds; Irma Turns Downtown Miami Streets Into Rivers; Irma Breaks Record For Storm Surge in Jacksonville, Florida. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired September 11, 2017 - 06:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[05:59:26] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Chris Cuomo here in Naples, Florida. And Hurricane Irma is still very much in full effect, a Category 1 hurricane, 75-mile-an-hour sustained winds, gusts far above that, battering the northern parts of Florida.

We have a picture coming in now from Daytona Beach, where you're just seeing the drama of the wind and the storm surge affecting the shoreline there. Four million people without power. We're told six million were forced to evacuate. Over 150,000 remain in shelters.

And with the light of day -- because, again, 4 million people out of power; we're among them, here in Naples -- we'll start to see the devastation. But this is not about the past. It's about the present.

Let's get to Sara Sidner in Daytona Beach where those storm winds and storm surge are hitting right now -- Sara.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. There's another band coming through, very strong winds, although they have died down a bit, Chris. I do want to give you an update. Right now we are hearing this from authorities, breaking news, that authorities have decided, the police department has decided to go out, because of this unprecedented rescue that needed to happen. There was flooding inside of an apartment building where people were. They say that they are rescuing about 25 people. That's been going on in the past half an hour.

We just talked to the police chief, who told us that they decided to go ahead and bear these winds, because they felt that these lives were in danger. There were so many people that were in potential danger from the flooding that they went out, even though the winds are gusting above 40 miles per hour, which is usually the amount of speed that will stop first responders from going out.

So police out rescuing folks as we speak. We understand now that folks are OK. But we are going to get more information from the police as soon as they're done. They were literally in the middle of it when we called them and said they'd call us back, but they believe 20 to 25 people need to be rescued from flood waters here.

That gives you some indication that, yes, some people did stay. But most of the folks here on Daytona Beach, including officials, had no idea -- hold on. Another gust coming through. Had no idea that the storm would come through like this, that the actual eye of the storm would come and pass over Daytona Beach. They thought that this would stay on the west coast after it hit in the areas of Sanibel Island, for example. When it hit Naples, where you are, Chris, braving similar kinds of winds. And they just didn't realize that it would make a turn.

And Irma has been very tricky. It made a turn, unbeknownst to the folks here in Daytona Beach in Volusia County and in the county that is adjacent to us. That county, which has Cape Canaveral in it, Brevard County. We talked about emergency management there, and they told us that two tornadoes have touched down in Brevard County this evening, overnight and into the morning. And that there were 40 tornado warnings during all of this.

So all they're getting, this major wind. And within these cells, there are tornadoes. So a lot of fear, obviously, whipped up to try and make sure that people are OK. Luckily, so far when it comes to Brevard County and those tornadoes, they know not yet of any damage, although it's still dark and they have to assess. And they don't have any injuries.

We are going to get an update from police about the rescue that they just did here on Daytona Beach, even in these dangerous conditions -- Chris.

CUOMO: And imagine, to have to go through a hurricane, especially in the dark. They're not going to know what they're dealing with for hours still yet to come. And Hurricane Irma isn't going anywhere. You're expected to get hours more of this.

So stay hunkered down with the team. Keep letting us know when to come to you, Sara, when you have information and some perspective from your vantage point there.

Let's bring in Chad Myers, because Chad, you've been telling the story of duration. You know, they've been getting hit there for a while in Daytona. It's still not completely over even in Miami.

How does this storm generate so much suck over such a broad range?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Because it had such a low pressure to start with. We were down in the 930s. Go look at your barometer that's hanging on the wall that you never look at; 2770. That needle is all the way over as far as it can go, maybe pegged on your barometer.

So what we're seeing, the most dangerous part of the storm right now, is from about Savannah, Charleston, all the way down to Daytona where our Sara is. There's surge coming here. Now, there's still some surge on the backside because of the way the storm is spinning right there in the middle. But that's not what we're worried about. This is a slight surge. Probably two to three feet into Tampa, because the storm didn't move over Tampa. It moved east of there.

Because it moved east of there, the surge is on the east coast now. Jacksonville, the St. John's River at Main Street Bridge has now broken the all-time surge record that was set by Hurricane Dora in 1964. And the water is still pouring into this area. There's Daytona. Just one band after another. And Sara is not going to get out of these bands for hours.

But farther to the north, this is the area now that is seeing significant flooding. Fernandina Beach, you're 17 feet above where you should be, and you're at low tide. Another six feet to go on top of that at high tide. That happens at noon today.

So Jacksonville, St. Augustine, if you are in the Intercostal Waterway, if you are along any of the beaches here, or even in New Brunswick, St. Simon's Island, your water goes up until noon today. That's high tide. And some spots will be 13 feet above mean sea level, the low sea level. Thirteen feet above that. Because we're seeing some pretty high tides today. About six feet normal high tide. And then you add seven or eight feet on top of that. This is going to be a -- truly a problem today.

[06:05:27] If you are -- if you're near the water anywhere in this area, let me just circle this. If you are here, I want you to -- well, maybe not here but you get the idea. If you are on the water there, I want you to go outside and see where the water is, because it is coming up so fast. And it will come up even faster as high tide comes through. After 7 a.m., the water's going to go up. We're at low tide now. It's going to go up. And you could be in trouble.

If you can see the water and you think about it, it's going to go up six feet more were than that. I need you to get out of there, because you don't want first responders having to go get you. Because we're already hearing about these high-water rescues, because people did not expect, Chris, that the water was going to go up this fast, it is.

CUOMO: Yes. Well, look, I mean, that's why we need you. You've got to keep us on top of the situation. For a lot of people, this is the only source of information, if they're lucky enough to have power, cell power that's still good at this point in this storm.

Chad, thank you very much.

Let's get to one of these present-tense impressions, people who are dealing with it right now. Kaylee Hartung, she is up in Gainesville, is it? Is that where she is? Up on the northern part of on Florida.

Kaylee, what's going on there?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, as I went on the air with you about an hour ago, a siren went off at the University of Florida football stadium. Campus police were just on the scene to shut it down, telling us it was just a fire alarm. Nothing to actually be alarmed back. Perhaps just a shorted circuit. But it was such an eerie feeling, to hear that siren sound off when we know we are entering the window of time when the weather here is expected to be at its worst.

Within the next hour, we're expecting the heaviest rains here, the strongest winds, perhaps even hurricane-force winds. But until this point, we have not felt anything that can compare to the dramatics we've seen, just from Sara Sidner there in Daytona Beach. Maybe some gusts of wind. Nothing that has made it difficult for me to stand up here and talk to you.

We've seen some tree debris here. This is a city who really prides themselves in beautiful trees that they have around town, whether it be a large oak tree, like the one back behind me there, or the palm trees that line these streets. Local officials tell me there have been reports of downed trees all over the place. The best number to support that fact being that about 30 percent of people in the Gainesville area are now without power.

Chris, the question here, what will the next hour bring? We'll be standing by.

CUOMO: This storm comes, and she does not want to leave. It's enough to knock out power. It's going to change people's lives there. Let's hope that's the worst part of it that they have to deal with. Kaylee, please keep us in the loop.

So in Gainesville, you have Alachua County. And the sheriff's office there, we have Art Forgey.

Art, can you hear us?

ART FORGEY, SHERIFF'S OFFICE, ALACHUA COUNTY, FLORIDA (via phone): Yes, sir. Yes, sir, I can hear you.

CUOMO: What do you know about the situation on the ground? We were just hearing from Kaylee Hartung. She's given us a look, you know, from one place there, but how bad are you dealing with power outage? You know, what are you hearing from the people where you are?

FORGEY: Countywide, we have over 50,000 without power. And we are expecting the worst to come through within about the next 20 minutes. So we're braced. We're ready. And, you know, we're ready to get out of it and get over with it and get to recovery then.

CUOMO: In terms of what you've had to do so far, are you getting emergency calls? Are you able to get out?

FORGEY: Yes. We have been shuttered for about two hours due to the high winds. We know we have widespread tree damage and a lot of wires down. So we will start tackling that with the road crews. We have chainsaw crews out with heavy equipment that we use with your SWAT teams that we'll clear roads with to get them back open quickly.

CUOMO: God willing, you're going to be -- you're going to be wrong in terms of your worst concerns. But what are they right now? In terms of before she rolls through in earnest, what are you worried about?

Like your reporter touched on earlier, we are a tree city here. We pride ourselves on the big trees that we have. At day break, the worst fear is trees on houses and things we will discover when we get some light. FORGEY: You know, like your reporter touched on earlier, it's --

we're tree city here, so we pride ourselves on the big oak trees that we have, and the big trees that we have. And as day breaks, the worst fear is trees on houses, that will -- trees that we don't know about yet that we're going to discover as we get the light.

CUOMO: Do you have what you need to deal with that kind of situation? Are you going to have a need for volunteers? And if so, please let us know -- let us know so we can help you with that. But are you expecting that? Do you have the manpower?

FORGEY: Yes. We have plenty of manpower at this time, and we also have the National Guard embedded here with us. So we anticipate that we will quickly be able to handle those situations as we locate them.

[06:10:10] CUOMO: All right. Sheriff, thank you very much. Let us know how we can help. Let us know what the needs are and the need for information. And please be safe.

FORGEY: Thank you. We appreciate it.

CUOMO: All right. Alisyn, another important component is you heard the sheriff say that the National Guard is sheltering in place with those sheriffs right now. A lot of National Guardsmen are already in place, pre-positioned. That's going to make a critical difference, because they don't have to work their way into areas. They'll start there.

CAMEROTA: Oh, for sure. That's what General Honore was telling us. He was very impressed about how Florida had been preparing for Irma in the days ahead of its landing. Thank you, Chris.

We're joined now on the phone by NOAA tropical weather program meteorologist Bill South. He stayed in Key West through the weekend, and he hunkered down in the NOAA bunker.

Bill, great to have you with us. Tell us what it was like in the bunker this weekend.

BILL SOUTH, NOAA TROPICAL WEATHER PROGRAM METEOROLOGIST (via phone): It was -- it was busy, believe it or not. I had a lot of interest in the media with interviews. I felt safe, there's no doubt about it. It was really raucous outside. You could hear the wind blowing and the trees shaking, all that stuff. But I'll tell you what. I did feel safe. I felt secure. I just tried to do my best to get information to the people to -- if they stayed behind to shelter in their interior rooms, you know, even in bathrooms, and the bathtub was covered in a mattress.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh. And of course that's why you stayed, to try to continue to get information out. I understand that your storm bunker was built to withstand 220-mile-per-hour winds, which is why, obviously, you were much safer than anybody who just stayed in their house.

So what it -- what's it like in the Keys this morning? I know the sun isn't up yet. Do you have any sense of what the conditions are in terms of the storm surge, in terms of electricity, in terms of the bridges being washed out, communications, et cetera.

SOUTH: We were on a conference call with Monroe County last night, which is the county that the Florida Keys are in. There's no water service or very little water pressure, lower and middle Keys. Florida Keys, aqueduct authorities believe there's a few leaks in the main water pipe that brings the water down from the mainland. And they're going to have to get on that this morning to get us water.

There's no electricity throughout the Keys. No cell service, at least in the lower and middle Keys. There might be some cell service in the upper Keys.

U.S. 1, the only road that comes in and out of the Florida Keys, there's three choke points that are three places that are completely inaccessible. Mile marker 75 is partially washed out. There's a large pole blocking the road at mile marker 35. And mile marker 29 is partially washed out.

The main impact with that is the island of Big Pine Key lies between mile marker 35 and mile marker 29. So we don't have any idea what the damage is like there until we can get the road open and get there. Today we have -- we're going to have some aerial flights over to assess the damage. So we'll have a better idea once we get these flights in here and be able to aerially (ph) assess the damage.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, Bill, I mean, it does not sound good. If anybody stayed behind who's not an expert like you stayed behind in the Keys, I mean, it sounds like they're marooned. You know, no cell service. No electricity. No water. And really, no way to now get out if there are all of these blockages on the roads.

So how does this -- just give us -- because you're an expert, give us your perspective on how Irma compares to all of the other storms that you've seen in the Keys?

SOUTH: Personally, for me, it's the worst storm I've ever seen. Historically, it's probably in the top three or four for the Keys since 1851.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh. I mean, that really gives us helpful perspective.

Well, Bill, we know you have your work cut out for you. Thank you very much. And we'll check back with you as it gets lighter to see just what the Keys look like. Thank you so much for being with us on NEW DAY.

SOUTH: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: So Chris, I mean, that just gives us a great sense of, if people stayed behind, just how cut off, really, from all civilization they are at this hour.

SOUTH: Listen, I spent a lot of time talking to Bill South. And his perspective from down here in the Keys was invaluable. And knowing what was coming was helpful. But dealing with it is a very different task.

Look at Miami. When we come back after the break, they thought they were going to be spared. Take a look at the pictures, and you tell me if that looks like they were spared. We'll bring you the latest from there next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:18:53] CUOMO: Hurricane Irma still in full effect, still battering Florida as a Category 1 hurricane, 75-mile-an-hour sustained winds. Gusts far above that. We're getting reports of the damage as it moves through the states. And the numbers just keep popping.

Now the number of people without power in Florida is 5.7 million. Imagine what a big percentage of this state that is and how long it may last. We're also getting reports from Jacksonville. The storm surge there, which is the big concern with this storm, especially in this state, now at an all-time record. And they're not done with Irma. They're just in the middle of the exposure to the front part of that storm. They're saying that they broke their record from 1964 set by Hurricane Dora. So these are the wrong kinds of records. You know, this is not the kind of history we want to make ever, let alone with this storm, Hurricane Irma.

So let's get to Rosa Flores in Miami. Again, another shock effect. That city was supposed to be spared. And not only did it get hit, but it seemed like it would never end, and the damage reflects that duration -- Rosa.

[06:20:05] ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Chris, Miami was pummeled for hours. And at this hour, about 800,000 people are without power in Miami-Dade.

The tree damage you see behind me and debris are a common sight all over the city. Two cranes snapped.

But as you mentioned, the eye did not barrel down Miami. But it's safe to say that Irma barreled through Florida without mercy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FLORES (voice-over): Hurricane Irma walling the Sunshine State 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-mile-per-hour winds whipping through southwest Florida Sunday, downing power lines 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 registering some of the strongest winds in the state.

These two photos from Marco Island taken just 15 minutes apart, showing docks completely submerged by the increasing storm surge. In nearby Naples, the 140-mile-per-hour wind gusts tossing aluminum siding from mobile homes throughout the neighborhood.

Irma's powerful wind gusts peeling the roof clean off of this apartment building in Miami. The dramatic moment caught on camera.

The roaring winds and heavy rain in the downtown area turning streets into rivers. Of 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 its mother from a flooded home. And a Fort Lauderdale resident watches in horror as his backyard tree is uprooted right before their eyes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Holy (EXPLETIVE DELETED)!

FLORES: Several tornados 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 six million ordered to evacuate, the max exodus, becoming one of the largest evacuations in U.S. history.

GOV. 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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FLORES: Miami-Dade is under a curfew until 7 a.m. Eastern. Twenty- eight people were arrested overnight for looting. And schools are closed until further notice.

But, Chris, in the middle of all of this, a little glimmer of normalcy. We've learned that, while the airport is closed today, limited operations resume tomorrow -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Rosa. We're hoping to be equally shocked by the recovery as we are by what Hurricane Irma is doing in unexpected fashion all over the state.

Right now we have the city manager of Naples, Bill Moss. Look, we spoke to you before. You said you had a plan. But we didn't expect what happened yesterday. Making history in the wrong kind of way with the gusts we got and then that surge. We saw some of the pictures. We still don't know what's out there in terms of flooded homes. What are you worried about, Bill?

BILL MOSS, CITY MANAGER OF NAPLES: Well, that storm initially was as fierce as I had ever expected. But the miracle was that the backside of the storm just seemed to peter out for us. And that was very, very helpful. We could have had much more damage as a result of that.

So the negative side, we have almost all streets in the city are blocked because of tree branches and fallen trees. Some of the streets are flooded because of the tidal surge, the storm surge. And then it will take a while for those to recede.

But on the other hand, we have very little structural damage that we've been able to see so far in the dark. Very little damage to businesses. I think there will be some flooding of structures in the low-lying areas. But I don't think that will be very severe.

So all in all, I think we're going to be back to business very quickly. We're going to mobilize this morning, start clearing the streets. It may take all day and maybe into tomorrow before we can get our people safe and back -- back to their homes. But the power is going to be the big issue. Electricity might be out for a day. It might be out for weeks.

CUOMO: Yes, I mean, it went out fairly early on yesterday here. That's why it's so dark, by the way. The only lights we have are battery-powered lights here. I don't even know where that voice was coming from.

But the only time you see lights here is their headlights. What they reveal is not good. People shouldn't be out driving. Hopefully, they're mostly media. And then those homes, those flooded homes. What's your concern there? I saw drone footage, did not look good.

[06:25:12] MOSS: Well, again, we're not going to be able to know until we get started. But there will be some flooding. Most of our homes are elevated because of the FEMA flood elevation codes. So I think most of them will be protected, but there will be some damage. So again, we're just going to have to wait and see, assess as we go along today.

CUOMO: You're going to try and turn a negative into a positive and take that gust you've got here that set some kind of record and use it as kind of an emblem of what this city can endure.

MOSS: Oh, it will be positive. Like I said, by the end of the day, we'll have our main thoroughfares open. We'll have most of our neighborhood open. If not, we'll have them ready for tomorrow. If people want to come back, they'll have to do it -- they'll have to be very safe, and it won't be convenient. It won't be comfortable. The weather will be hot. There will be no air-conditioning. But at least they'll have a chance to get back to their homes.

CUOMO: Well, we'll get out there with the first responders today. We'll get information out. And you let us know what we need to do to tell the people here, especially until the power gets back on. We're basically going, you know, person to person, telling them what's going on.

But Bill, I'm glad to see that you're safe, and I hope it's a quick recovery.

MOSS: Thank you. Have a great day.

CUOMO: Absolutely.

Bill Moss is the city manager. Go ahead. I know you've got a lot to do.

They are really busy here, trying to get now Bill -- Bill, I know, you've got to get to work. Walk this way. That's a wall. You can't go that way, Bill. So we know that they have a whole plan in effect. Bill came here yesterday, and he said we've prepared. We've been doing this for 40 years.

Bill Moss, Alisyn, has been doing this for 40 years. He sees still arms every year, as he has never seen anything like what they deal with here in Naples yesterday.

CAMEROTA: That's what we keep hearing. From all of our guests, it's amazing how sustained Irma has been. You know, from obviously, the Keys and before that, the Caribbean, but from the Keys all the way up now to north Florida and Daytona Beach. Here, these are live pictures. It is still hitting Daytona Beach as we speak. So it has passed, obviously, the Keys, Miami, Naples where you are.

But look at this. I mean, this is a city. But it looks -- I mean, obviously, you can see the waves blowing through it. It's just incredible that millions of people right now are still in the dark in Florida. We've gotten new updates about just how many millions of people have lost electricity so we have a live report for you in just moments.