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Hurricane Irma Slams Florida With Heavy Rains And Winds; Irma Leaves 5.8 Million Without Power In Florida; Vice President Pence To Depart For Shanksville, PA. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired September 11, 2017 - 07:30   ET


[07:31:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So now that the sun is coming up, we're getting our first look at what some of these towns look like after Irma has rolled through.

Look at this. This is Jacksonville, OK? There is record flooding in Jacksonville and you can see that a car with its brake lights on is submerged up to its windows.

There is a flash flood emergency in downtown Jacksonville, and this was taken moments ago. It's hard to know if anyone is in that car or what emergency responders are doing there. But that is the scene we're seeing in town after town after town throughout Florida.

This storm went from the furthest point south up -- all the way up the state.

And CNN's Sara Sidner is live in Daytona Beach where she has been battling the elements, though the forecast said it wasn't supposed to hit there with the ferocity that it did.

Sara, what's the latest at this hour?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're just trying to wipe off the lens there for you. When these rain events happen and the squalls come through it tends to make it very difficult for you to see. I hope you can see the picture.

It is still very cloudy and there's still plenty of wind. The rain has subsided, which is a nice change after hours and hours of heavy rain and wind gusts. The wind gusts are still coming but it's calmed down significantly.

We were here about 4:00 -- 4:20 and the wind was at its peak. It was -- I couldn't stand up. I had to literally hold onto this or fall over.

Same with my photographer, same with my producer who is here holding up lights, literally leaning over like this because the winds were so, so strong.

I want to give you a look at what things look like now on Daytona Beach and at the water itself because it is an unprecedented look at just how churned up the ocean is here.

Usually, this is a fairly calm beach. It's not a big surfers' beach. There usually aren't big waves.

But as far as the eye can see you're seeing these large waves that are being pushed on shore by these winds, and this has been going on for hours now -- hours and hours. But this is the first time that you could really see it. As we could just see little glimpses of it, now we're really seeing it.

Now, we're going to toss it back to you, Alisyn, but angry seas here and we know that 20 to 25 people have been rescued because of flooding.

CAMEROTA: Oh my gosh.

SIDNER: Alisyn --

CAMEROTA: OK, Sara. Obviously, those numbers will only go up. Thank you very much for that glimpse at Daytona.

But obviously, millions of Floridians are waking up to the widespread damage from Hurricane Irma. Of course, it made landfall at the furthest southern point -- that's the Keys -- and then continued north tearing through the entire state.

So let's get the latest on the federal response and President Trump's plans.

We have Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke.


CAMEROTA: Secretary Duke, thank you so much for being here. So tell us what the response will be today from Washington and the White House.

DUKE: Good morning, Alisyn.

Before we start with that I want to remind everyone that today is 9/11, the sixteenth anniversary of losing 3,000 Americans to terrorism. And just as our first responders at the federal, state, and local level are helping with the hurricanes today, they were there then and we lost some of our beloved citizens.

In terms of the federal response to the hurricane, we do have flying weather in southern Florida this morning so we will be out doing search and rescue and supporting Gov. Scott as he begins to assess the damages in the state of Florida.

CAMEROTA: And what -- I know that yesterday, President Trump said that he planned to go to Florida. Do you know when and what he hopes to do there?

DUKE: Well, it's important that we, first, focus on search and rescue which we'll be doing today with some air and land assets.

I think we'll send administration officials down later in the week when it is safer and the focus is off the search and rescue. It's important that every asset be on search and rescue right now, especially in the southern parts of Florida and the Keys.

[07:35:17] CAMEROTA: Do you have a sense of how enormous that search and rescue effort is going to be? Do you have a sense of how many people are trapped in bad situations?

DUKE: We do not. Today will be our first time to get a glimpse of it. We do have flying weather and as the sun rises we'll be able to take a look at the Keys, especially, where we have the most area of concern.

CAMEROTA: And so what will the federal response look like? In other words, are you sending more troops, have you already sent troops there for search and rescue? What -- give us a sense of the scope.

DUKE: Sure. We did our tasking from Gov. Scott, so he will ask us -- he will tell us what the state of Florida needs to support.

But we have prepositioned assets in terms of planes, boats, people, meals, water, tarps -- whatever's needed -- and additional supplies for the shelters. We have about 200,000 people in shelters right now so we are prepositioned to provide whatever support that Gov. Scott needs.

CAMEROTA: OK. So, 200,000 people in shelters. We understand from the latest numbers that something like 5.7 million people are without power.

What's your biggest concern at this hour?

DUKE: As I said, search and rescue is number one, and then restoring power. We have also heard that about five million people or a little over are without power. Some of those were planned shutdowns to avoid damage so we're hoping that we'll see some power restoration quickly.

CAMEROTA: And very quickly, because we started with 9/11 and it is just hard to believe that it's 16 years later. Sometimes it feels like a lifetime ago.

DUKE: Yes.

CAMEROTA: Sometimes it feels like just a few years ago.

Can you just share your memories from that day and how you're feeling today?

DUKE: The memories from that day was the sadness. But then, also out of the sadness came the United States coming together in a sense of community and pride that is just something we should treasure.

And I see with Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma we're seeing the same thing. People -- not only the first responders but just citizens, and charities, and communities coming together and the love and compassion that really is one of the founding principles of our country. And I think we should hold onto that as we continue to face terrorism and natural disasters in our country.

CAMEROTA: You're so right. I mean, that really is the silver lining that we see during catastrophe, is just the humanity that comes out.

Secretary Duke, thank you very much for being with us today.

DUKE: Thank you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Let's get to John Berman who, of course, was weathering the storm.

John, I was worried about you yesterday. I thought you were going to be blown backwards into the drink. I can't believe that you were able to stay your ground during the worst of the storm.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I had to spend much of yesterday evening convincing the people who say they love me that I wasn't close to serious peril right there, Alisyn. Thanks so much.

Miami waking up this morning to mud, to debris, and many, many questions. How bad is it and when will things get back to normal?

We'll speak to two area mayors, next.


[07:42:04] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: We've seen some of the worst of Hurricane Irma here in Naples, Florida along the western coast, but that storm is still very much in full effect further up north. It is a category one hurricane, 75 mile an hour sustained winds. That is a big deal.

In Jacksonville, they've reported more storm surge than they've ever had before, breaking a record that was set way back in 1964 by Hurricane Dora.

So the situation still very real on the beach in Jacksonville, Daytona Beach, places that weren't even supposed to get hit by this storm, and that's a very meaningful reminder about us.

We're going to take you into the places where this storm has happened. You should know that already they have seen 5.8 million people now losing power.

We're joined by Alisyn Camerota in New York, Anderson Cooper is in Tampa, John Berman is down in Miami.

John, the story has been about flooding and duration of exposure to this storm.

BERMAN: That's right, and this morning people really are waking up, Chris, and wondering how bad was it and when will things get back to normal.

Joining me now, two mayors from the area. The mayor of Miami Beach, Philip Levine, joins me right now. And on the phone is Josh Levy of Hollywood, Florida.

Let's start with the nuts and bolts, mayors. You know, first of all, give me any damage assessment in Miami Beach.

PHILIP LEVINE, MAYOR, MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA: Well, Miami Beach and Miami, I would say we didn't dodge a bullet, we dodge a cannon.

So right now in Miami Beach we have trees down, we have electrical cables that are down, we have a couple of gas leaks. Our entire -- we have fire, rescue. We have our public works. We have crews in there right now clearing out all the roads to make it safe for our residents to return to the barrier island.

BERMAN: And to be clear, you don't want anyone back until tomorrow.

LEVINE: We -- now John, we need their patience. They couldn't -- if they came back now they wouldn't be able to drive and it wouldn't be safe for their families. We want to be able to clear it out. We need their patience until tomorrow, as fast as possible.

BERMAN: And no one on the streets at all. A curfew is still in effect for tonight.

LEVINE: A curfew's in effect.

BERMAN: All right.

Mayor Levy, how about to you in Hollywood, Florida? We spoke on the phone yesterday in the heat of the storm. The wind was blowing at 90 miles an hour where I was, where you were.

How are things this morning in Hollywood?

JOSH LEVY, MAYOR, HOLLYWOOD, FLORIDA (via telephone): Similar to Miami Beach, we're under a circumstance where we're still under a curfew and that public safety and public works crews and our contractors need to come in there and start clearing roadways.

We have -- we're a city of 150,000 people, lots of roadways, 30 square miles. Almost every power light -- traffic signal is out so just a variety of hazards out there.

We're working at full speed to create the opportunity for people to get to work but it's going to take a little bit of time. We still have to assess the damage ourselves in order to better direct the public.

BERMAN: Mayor Levy, what message do you want to deliver to the people of Hollywood right now? What do they need to know as they sort of walk through this debris or maybe just look at the debris, hopefully not walk through it just yet?

[07:45:04] LEVY: All right. Well, this whole storm has been an exercise in patience, both leading up to the storm and then sitting the storm out. And now, for the recovery, I'd like people to continue to be patient. It's going to be stressful for a lot of families to be without power,

not being able to keep food, you know, cold. So bear with us. We're working with the power utilities to estimate when we can restore power.

There's a conference call of mayors with Florida Power and Light at 1:30 p.m. and we'll update you after that.

BERMAN: So, Mayor Levine, you, before this storm hit, called it a nuclear storm. You were warning people -- pleading with people to take it very seriously.

Miami, Miami Beach did not get hit by the eyewall.

Are you concerned at all that next time when a storm heads towards Miami like this they won't believe you and they'll say look, it was bad but we rode it out? It wasn't as bad as, you know, Levine said it was going to be.

LEVINE: No, I don't think so at all, John. You know, we were prepared before the storm. We are prepared now, after the storm.

And when you were there in Miami Beach and you see the power of those winds -- we got some cat one winds and, of course, major tropical storm-- and you see the trees that are down, people understand.

They saw what happened in Houston. No one wants to live through that.

I think people in Miami Beach came together, prepared. They needed to leave. We -- as I said before, we didn't dodge a bullet, we dodged a cannon.

BERMAN: And to be clear, the storm surge, you were telling me, was as high or higher than anything you've ever seen.

LEVINE: Absolutely. I think we were about a foot and a half over king tide. The waters were coming over some of the seawalls.

Thank God -- and the areas that we actually were spending about $500 million we raised roads, we put in pumps, we had generators there. They all kicked in. We were able to keep the water back so that was a very positive eventuality of this disaster.

Now, of course, areas of Miami Beach where we have not improved yet, we saw there was some slight flooding. But overall, when it came to flooding, when it came to storm surge, Miami Beach weathered this fantastic.

BERMAN: That's fantastic news.

Mayor Levy up in Hollywood, you know, people are wondering about the airports. They're wondering about the airport here in Miami closed today. Not sure if it will open tomorrow.

You have the Fort Lauderdale airport by where you are. Any word yet on operations there? LEVY: No. We have an 8:30 a.m. conference call for emergency managers of Broward County. We'll get an update on the airport at that time.

But the same -- you know, with the municipalities. At the airport we want to make sure that the facilities for the aircraft and for the passengers are safe before they get people to come in, certainly not before --not before, you know, the curfew is lifted and things get a sense back to order.

But real quick about the flooding that Mayor Levine mentioned. You know, for us in Hollywood, we have not yet undertaken such a large project like what Miami Beach has done to be the leader in mitigation for sea level rise and tidal flooding issues.

This storm in Hollywood hit right at high tide, around -- after 1:00 p.m. And, so, we had pretty severe tidal surge flooding into our residential areas, into homes, into business areas, and then running over the beach, so we've got a lot of cleanup to do.

BERMAN: All right. Mayor Josh Levy up in Hollywood, great to hear your voice.

You know, Philip Levine, mayor of Miami Beach, great to see you. After everything we discussed leading up to and what you went through yesterday it's nice to see you in person here, so thanks very much.

LEVINE: Thank you for your great coverage.

BERMAN: Oh, appreciate it.

Chris, back to you in Naples.

CUOMO: All right.

Irma has been bad, worse than expected in places, better in others.

But on this day, especially, we should remember no matter how bad it gets we have made it through much, much, much worse. This today, obviously, 9/11 and at 8:46 we're going to stop for a moment of silence.

What we're seeing right now is the vice president getting ready to board Air Force Two. He's on his way to Shanksville, Pennsylvania. You will remember the role that the brave people played on the plane over Shanksville. So, the vice president is doing his duty of helping people remember or, as we say, never forget.

We're going to take a break now.

When we come back we will take you through what Hurricane Irma is doing right now. It's still not over for the people of Florida and beyond.


[07:53:15] ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN "AC 360": And welcome back to our continuing coverage of Hurricane Irma.

Here in Tampa, people are waking up as light has come. Some 650,000 people or businesses lost -- homes or businesses lost power at the height of this storm last night but they are waking up to a much better reality than I think many went to bed fearing.

This city, you know, a year ago -- the official from Miami saying that city dodged it -- not a bullet, but a cannon. The same could probably be said here of Tampa.

The storm surge anywhere from one to three feet. Officials are still trying to assess the level of flooding in parts of Tampa which has problems with flooding even in heavy rains, so flooding is not anything really new here. The extent of it at this point is not known.

Clearly, those people without power -- you know, it's going to be difficult days ahead for them until that power is restored. But a lot of parts of Tampa -- of this area here by Riverwalk able to have power.

We see some potential spots of flooding over there where the water by the Hillsborough River has been rising.

But I want to go to Marco Island, which is south of Naples. Robin Sharpe Brown rode out the storm on Robin (sic) Island. She joins us now.

Robin, first of all, how are you doing? How is the neighborhood around you? How is your house?

ROBIN SHARPE BROWN, RODE OUT HURRICANE IRMA ON MARCO ISLAND, FLORIDA (via telephone): Good morning. My daughter and I are doing fine.

We actually live in a different area on the island where we're above sea level but we were afraid with the winds coming in so we moved to my mother's condo down by the river, which had just been redone with new windows and hurricane shutters. So we came down here.

And the buildings -- a building has had some very bad structural damage.

[07:55:03] The surge here wants as bad as it was on other parts of the island but the waves were definitely horrific.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, there's been so much concern about Marco Island. I mean, I know a lot of officials were very concerned about everybody who was riding out the storm there.

Talk about that wind because, you know, I can't imagine what that was like for you when you're in your home. Did you -- did you lose power?

And, you know, we saw -- we had our cameras up -- Chris Cuomo in Naples, which is north of Marco Island. I mean, that wind was just incredible -- 140 mile an hour gusts at times. BROWN: Yes, it was awful. We went to an interior room and sat it out but we could hear glass shattering everywhere. And after today, going downstairs and looking around, I mean, it wasn't just glass.

It was concrete moving boulders over, like walls gone and lanais blown out. It was a debacle. It's like a war zone here.

And I don't know how our home is. My husband's a police officer on the island so he was -- he's been bunkered up at the Marriott and he's trying to get out today though to find out how out how our home is.

But yes, the winds were awful and they went on forever it seemed like. We finally got into the eye of the storm and had a release, and then I was dreading the second wall. And luckily, not the same -- well, maybe the angle that we were at on the river, we didn't get the winds as bad from the second wall.

COOPER: You know, Robin, we talk so much about the first responders and the difficult job that they have, particularly, you know, when power is out at the height of the storm whether they can make rescues or not.

You know, to talk to you, we get the other side of that story which is the families that they -- that they leave behind who are left, you know, whether -- while your husband is out there working and, you know, in position, you're there to deal with the situation.

What's it like now? I mean, I assume you're -- are you without power now?

BROWN: Yes, we're without power and water. I did speak to him this morning and he said the first thing they're trying to get on right now is the water and then they'll work on the power. I guess the crews are in place to do that right now.

I don't know how many people they had to rescue, in all honesty. I know there was at least a couple of families.

One family we heard about was in their house and they lost their roof and they had to be rescued. But I think they were able to get out during the eye of the -- eye of the storm and get to safety, so -- but I'm sorry, I don't know about any other responses that they did.

COOPER: Well listen, Robin, we're just glad that you're doing OK and obviously, we're going to continue checking with you. Anything we can do, please let us know.

Robin, I really appreciate your time and please give our best to your husband and thank him for all that he is doing and all the first responders. And really, all throughout the state of Florida. The response has been extraordinary.

We've been talking to law enforcement and fire officials all night long who were up just around the clock assessing damage and that is what they're doing. We're seeing a lot of police cars in Tampa now.

Our coverage continues of Hurricane Irma.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CUOMO: Hurricane Irma still in full effect, still hitting parts of Florida. A category one hurricane now, sustained winds of 75 miles an hour. Gusts are higher in places.

Jacksonville, Orlando, Daytona Beach -- places that were supposed to see nothing or very little getting hit and hit hard.

Jacksonville reporting that it's had more storm surge than ever -- a historic mark -- since 1964, Hurricane Dora. That is the wrong kind of history.

Five point eight million people, at least, without power in Florida and we don't know for how long. Over six million evacuated. Over 150,000 still in shelters.

So this story still very, very far from over and yet, as bad as Irma gets, today of all days is a day to remember that we have gotten through much, much, much worse together.

Of course, today is 9/11 and the president is going to be stopping to have a moment of silence at 8:46 when that first plane struck one of the twin towers. So it is a day to never forget and give us some perspective on what we can get through together.

We have John Berman in Miami, Anderson Cooper in Tampa Bay, and Alisyn, of course, in New York.

So, John, the story for you of the storm was that Miami was one of the places that was supposed to get a pass, not in the least and not for the longest time.

BERMAN: Yes, Chris. I really can't believe the breadth of this storm. It's hard to wrap your head around the fact that it affected all of Florida.

It's like election night when you hear from every county and every city in Florida because each and every one of them matters.