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Damage in Florida Keys; Business Owner Talks Destruction; Naples Estimates Destruction; Gas Shortage in Florida; Paradise To Nightmare; Recovery in Florida. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired September 12, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: -- starts right now.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we'll take it from here. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for being with me.

We're going to continue on special coverage of Irma's aftermath. Crisis in Florida two days now after Hurricane Irma made landfall.

We are finally seeing exactly how badly this storm decimated the Florida Keys. FEMA officials telling CNN, at least a quarter of the homes there are in ruins. Another 65 percent severely damaged. And the 10,000 or so people who chose to ride it out and stay behind in the islands may now have to be evacuated because they have no power, no fuel, no clean water. And that's just the Florida Keys.

The bigger picture here, more than 6 million people are without power in the southeast. Five million in the state of Florida alone. So far at least seven deaths are being blamed on Irma in the United States.

Meantime, in the Caribbean, where Irma hit as a category five hurricane, at least 36 deaths are being blamed on the storm. And we're going to take you to the Caribbean in just a second.

But seeing the damage here that ravaged The Keys, FEMA says an estimated 25 percent of the homes there, as we mentioned, are gone. And there' are so many more with just major structural damage.

Meantime, a select group of anxious islanders are starting to return home. Bill Weir has been surveying the aftermath from The Keys.

Bill, how is it today?

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Greetings from Lower Matecumbe Key. We're about mile marker 72, 73 here on the overseas highway.

Look at how calm the Atlantic is today. If only it stayed that way all the time, eh? But the cost of living in paradise is the destruction of storms like Irma that we're just beginning to absorb now as we work our way south as traffic sort of trickles open now.

This used to be a very popular restaurant in this area called Mr. Lobster. It's gone. It has been completely wiped away. Not so much by wind, although that did -- there are signs of wind damage on the roofs here, but by that storm surge as that 10, 15-foot wave came and took that restaurant, a lot of it made of big shipping containers, and floated them across Antigua Harbor here, and crashing into that boat, as you can see there.

The devastation not as bad as we've seen in some other, you know, less sturdily constructed areas. But, thankfully, lots of proof of life here. As we motored in, we saw people on boats, people on their balconies drying out their things. You hear the sound of generators cranking. A lot of activity on the highway. Big earth movers clearing the sand.

But little hints here and there of just how powerful this storm was. Lobster traps from the Atlantic side thrown into neighborhoods on this side.

We are working our way, slowly but surely, down to the lower keys where the eyewall of that storm came ashore. And that is where the most concern is, is for human life there. There is no way to confirm who may have perished and who maybe, just like the rest of us, just doesn't have cell service. Even our satellite phones are really spotty. And so it is so primitive down here. No power. No running water. Everybody on the hunt for precious drops of gasoline. Ice is a luxury down here that will bring people to the edge of tears with joy as they find some.

But I'm hearing a lot of resolve, very little self-pity from these hearty folks down here in the Konk (ph) Republic. As we were motoring out of Key Largo, the owner of the Caribbean Club, which was one of the sets for the movie "Key Largo" with Bogart and Bacall said, hey, CNN, you tell America this is just stuff. We can rebuild it. We're coming back. And that's kind of attitude it's going to take to clean up what is the most devastating weather here in a generation.

We're going to keep moving down the keys and report in what we find all along the way.

Until then, I'm Bill Weir.

BALDWIN: Bill Weir, we'll take it back. Some of the best reporting certainly I've seen in the last couple of days. He was stuck, got on a boat. We'll continuing following him and his crew and their progress surveying the damage.

One homeowner who returned home to the keys founded his office in shambles, destroyed by Hurricane Irma. He is David Goodhue, editor of He's on the phone with me now from Key Largo.

David, you know, I was checking out your website just before we came on and the headline was "devastation in the Florida Keys." How bad?

DAVID GOODHUE, EDITOR, KEYSREPORTER.COM: It's bad. I mean from the upper keys, this looks a lot like it did in Wilma in 2005. I know it's -- I'm hearing past the 7 Mile Bridge. I've heard descriptions as unrecognizable. And it's bad up here. A lot of the debris, a lot of -- in certain low-lying areas are just completely destroyed.

[14:05:14] As you said, my office is completely destroyed. It's -- it's going to be a while. I remember even after Wilma, which did not directly hit us, and it was a category two storm with -- but it was a big surge storm, it took at least a year to -- for this whole island chain to recover.

BALDWIN: My goodness.

Did you ride it out down there, or did you leave?

GOODHUE: I actually -- we're a part of "The Miami Herald," so I work from "The Miami Herald's" office in Durrell.

BALDWIN: I got it.

GOODHUE: A colleague of mine worked in Marathon and we have yet to hear from him. The last time I heard from him was Saturday.

BALDWIN: I was just talking to someone on TV yesterday whose cousin and uncle were in Marathon and decided to ride it out in a boat. But we got the update that they were OK. I think it's just been so difficult. There's been such a lack of information because people haven't been able to, you know, get down there and find them.

You know, we're hearing, David, reports of, you know, it could be weeks for you guys in The Keys just getting basic services, water, sewage, power fully restored. How are you getting by?

GOODHUE: Well, I actually -- not to -- I live in Miami-Dade, so I'm coming down. And we have power, actually. We -- we went back to our house yesterday. There wasn't a tree standing in our neighborhood, but our house is OK.

BALDWIN: But your office, I mean.

GOODHUE: Our office -- right now, I don't know what we're going to do. I think I'm going to be working from home a lot or at "The Herald" building. I'm going to have to keep coming down and kind of work remotely.

We had -- we have a small office in the upper keys, so, I mean, we will be able to make other arrangements once things get some semblance of order.

BALDWIN: How -- it sounds like, are you driving south? I mean because it's my understanding that the --

GOODHUE: I've been driving all -- I've been driving all day.

BALDWIN: Got it.

GOODHUE: Like typically I come down here every day anyway. It takes me about an hour. But it's, you know, no traffic to drive here from South Miami-Dade. It's usually just a nice quick ride. But as -- and you just had Bill on. The further south you get, I mean they're only allowing us by traffic to get to about mile marker 72 or 74 in Lower Matecumbe Key, the eerie it gets. Right here, like I said, it looks like a hurricane hit. But when you go down there, it's devastation. BALDWIN: Yes. Yes. That's the word that the governor used in his news

conference yesterday.

How are the bridges? Because it's my understanding that a lot of these bridges were, you know, damaged, or even those that weren't, they had to wait for the government to go in and assess, you know, the stability before anyone could drive past. How has your drive been so far?

GOODHUE: So far it's been good. And I've heard a lot of -- a lot of the reports that I'm hearing anyway, a lot of the reports that there were damages to bridges. A lot of those weren't -- turned out not to be true. Like there's the Snake Creek Drawbridge here in (INAUDIBLE) and there were reports while the storm was going on that it buckled and bent, but that was just not true.

Yes, so far -- I mean everywhere I've been able to drive, and, like I said, they have not -- they're not letting anyone drive past mile marker 74. Everywhere I've been able to drive, everything seems sound. I mean there's stuff all over the place. And when you're in the Matecumbe Key, upper and lower, you're starting to see more and more downed power lines.

BALDWIN: David Goodhue, I'm going to let you go. Keep on driving southward. My best to you. And we'll stay in touch.

Thank you very much.

GOODHUE: OK, thank you much.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

GOODHUE: Thanks.

BALDWIN: Let's go to Florida now and Naples. The mayor there already has an initial dollar figure for the damage done by Irma, in the neighborhood of $100 million. And that is just, you know, damage to the city of Naples alone.

Ed Lavandera is live for us there.

You just talked to the mayor, Ed, what did he say?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, he's getting ready for a long. grueling process of rebuilding this city, as well as every other mayor in the state of Florida. And you can look out here onto the streets. When we arrived here on Saturday, these streets were deserted. A ghost town. No one driving around. Everything slowly starting to come back to life. Power crews back out trying to get the traffic lights back up. These are the kinds of things they're dealing with as well. You can just look at the power lines tipped over, if not some of them cracked in half. That's the kind of clean-up that is going to take several weeks to really finish up here.

And as you mentioned, that initial damage assessment just here in the city of Naples, a small city compared to the rest of the metropolitan areas in south Florida, $100 million. Kind of staggering figure already. The mayor expected that number to continue to go up. We spoke with him a little while ago. Let's listen to a little bit more of our conversation with him.


MAYOR BILL BARNETT, NAPLES, FLORIDA: This process is going to be a long process, but the initial is the toughest, you know, right now, getting the initial estimates, what -- and then making the priority list.


[14:10:09] LAVANDERA: So there's 210,000 customers, people who need power here in Collier County, where Naples is. That's just one county. And 186,000 of those people are still waiting to get their -- the power turned back on. And the mayor said that he's been told that it sounds like it could take as long as another ten days to get everyone in this city back online in terms of power. So a daunting task here in the days ahead for sure.


BALDWIN: It's just excruciating each and every day just without these, you know, key things we so take for granted.

Ed Lavandera and crew, thank you for all the zigzagging of Florida you've done over the past couple of days. Appreciate you.

Meantime, in Tampa, it is not over yet. Officials there warn people who live there, especially near rivers, expect flooding in the days to come. The gas shortage turning into a massive problem. Florida racing to refill drained gas stations so millions of evacuees can go home.

Dianne Gallagher is outside of a gas station in Brandon, Florida, this is just south of Tampa.

And, I mean, the deal is people want to come home, they want to come home, they want to fill up their gas tanks, which makes the demand go up, up, up.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. And there isn't much of a supply right now, Brooke. Believe it or not, the reason why we are here in Brandon, and we found what amounts to liquid gold here. They have 87 grade gas here. This is really hard to find right now. We came from word of mouth because we were running out of fuel.

We've been traveling all day, reporting on destruction from Irma. We were running out of fuel. We needed to find some. Someone at our hotel we were staying at said there's some down in Brandon. We drove 20 miles hoping to find it.

Just across the street from here is what we're really seeing, which is those bags over the nozzles. They don't have fuel yet. And that's because of the way that Florida gets their fuel. They get it through the port system. Those were closed down. Our Ryan Young is actually out with the Coast Guard right now trying to work on getting people back online.

But it is a supply and demand situation. People who were evacuating came through this area at first because they thought it was going to be safe before the hurricane turned a little bit. They ate up all the gas in this area.

We came from Jacksonville over to Tampa. We saw a little gas in the east and then it just dried up heading here. So they're going and trying to replenish it.

The good news, Brooke, is that situations like this, where you see one grade at a time, people are starting to figure out. So a lot of people, I've talked to them who have come here thought it was closed. They thought they didn't have any. It says 87 grade on here. That's a big deal because right now a lot of things they can find are simply diesel.

We have seen tanker trucks heading south, trying to refill the gas supply through down toward Miami and further along the west coast. But it's a problem for people here right now because a lot of other things are opening up. Things like -- you know, things -- restaurants and people's places of work. They're going to try to come back online.

The other issue is that a lot of people don't have power. So even if some of these stations have fuel, they don't have the power to run the gas pumps, Brooke, so you'll still see them with the cellophane wrapped all around those tanks there like this. That doesn't mean they don't necessarily have fuel, but they can't run them if they don't have power.

Here in Hillsborough County, just about 40 percent of the businesses and homes are without electricity at this point. So we're running into a fuel issue. And even if you have fuel, if you don't have power, you can't supply it.

BALDWIN: The pressure's on for the companies to, you know, get it together and service all the people who will be coming home.

Dianne Gallagher, thank you so much. We'll check back in with you at those gas stations.

Coming up, don't forget about us. That's the message from Irma survivors in the Caribbean who were hit hard by the category five hurricane that the storm, carving a path of destruction through the small resort islands. CNN has crews on the ground, getting a firsthand look at the damage as they pick up the pieces. We'll take you to the Caribbean alive, ahead.

And as we wait for the White House briefing, which is mere moments away.

Check out those lines, wrapping around city blocks in New York City for Hillary Clinton and her book signing. Live pictures there in Manhattan. The former presidential candidate opening up about Russian interference in the election and Ivanka Trump's role in the White House. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We'll be right back.


[14:18:52] BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Hurricane survivors are facing severe food and water shortages in parts of the Caribbean. Irma's wrath turning into paradise lost from paradise for some people. An American woman, a nurse, describes a, quote, desperate situation in St. Thomas. For example she says her home blew apart, her words, when Irma came through. Now she and her two kids are huddled in the shell of their former home. She worries, what happens if people totally run out of food and water?

So, let's ask. Polo Sandoval is live in Tortola (ph) in the British Virgin Islands. He's on the phone with me.

And, so, Polo, as we look at these pictures here, what is the situation there with food and water?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, Brooke, to answer your question, when some of those key provisions run out, then you are left with no choice but to leave your home. And that's what we were met with the moment that we touched down here on what is the largest island of the British Virgin Islands. You area -- see family after family basically waiting for package to nearby Puerto Rico, or possibly even the United States. We've seen many of them British ex- pats that are trying to make it out of here because not only of food and water shortages, but these power outages as well. This entire island is still in the dark. They've been so already about five or six days since Irma pummeled the region.

[14:20:13] And let me tell you, just to try to paint the scene here, Brooke, it's very difficult to explain what I'm looking at right now. But basically it's supposed to be these rolling, lush green hills. But instead these trees have been strips of any leaves. And the best way I can describe it is winter in the Caribbean. You have seen these green hills are now totally brown. Many of these trees have been knocked out. And many homes are without roofs. The need is definitely great on this island.

However, after speaking to some of these locals, speaking to some of these families, they have hope of rebuilding, of getting themselves back up. But the reality is, it's going to take a very long time. And for some of those that are desperate for any kind of revision, the only answer is to simply leave.

This one young woman who I spoke to at the airport, her name is Eliana Bodez (ph). She's originally from the Dominican Republic but calls this island home. She and her little boy, Godfrey (ph), who's only two months old, have been waiting for days to be able to get passage out of here. And today is the day. Today Eliana and many others just like her in her situation will be hopefully making it to Puerto Rico, which will finally mean a shower, a meal, and shelter until they can come back to this place that they call home, Brooke. BALDWIN: We know aid is on the way. The U.K. sending in aid to the

BVIs and then beyond. French President Macron is scheduled to be in the French Caribbean as well this afternoon.

Polo Sandoval, we'll leave it. We'll check back in with you in Tortola. Thank you.

And just such a normally beautiful place, devastation.

Coming up, stunning images on the ground where the eye of the storm came ashore on the Florida Keys. People there who decided to ride it out now describing what that terrifying night was really like.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I stayed in the bathroom, me and my girlfriend, Donna (ph), we stayed in the bathroom and the hallways. It was -- for two days it was hell. You didn't know if you were going to make it or not.



[14:26:44] BALDWIN: A lot of the focus right now is down in the Florida Keys. And we're getting more and more pictures of the devastation left behind, specifically in the lower keys. Reporter Brian Entin from our affiliate out of Miami, WSVN, got this firsthand look at one of the worst hit areas, it's Cudjoe Key, where Irma came ashore.


BRIAN ENTIN, WSVN REPORTER (voice-over): This is a glimpse of what Cudjoe in the Florida Keys looks like. Many of the homes are partially destroyed. The sides and the roofs ripped off. Neighbors coming home to find the devastation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When Katrina hit Louisiana and stuff like that, and you feel sorry for people and you think, what are they going through? But when it hits, it's like it hits home. It's totally different, you know? And it's not just us, it's everybody.

ENTIN: House after house in the neighborhood damaged by Hurricane Irma's eyewall. Neighbors Shawn (ph) and Dawn (ph) rode out the storm.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I stayed in the bathroom, me and my girlfriend Donna (ph). We stayed in the bathroom in the hallways. It was -- for two days it was hell. You didn't know if you were going to make it or not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the bigger gusts came by, you could feel it like jumping. The, you know, the floor jumping a little bit. And I got a piece of the sheetrock from the ceiling came through.

ENTIN: The destruction in the Cudjoe area is the worst, but there is widespread damage from Key Largo to Key West. And U.S. 1, the only road in and out, is in bad shape in many different spots.

ENTIN (on camera): This is a mobile home park on Big Pine Key. You take a look around and you see everything is pretty much totally destroyed. These mobile homes were ripped apart. We're hoping that no one was here during the storm. And it's unclear whether or not search and rescue crews have made it here yet.

ENTIN (voice-over): Communication continues to be a major problem. No cell phone service and no electricity. People who rode out the storm aren't able to tell their families and friends that they're OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just that we're alive and we made it and we miss you and love you very much. And thanks for all the prayers that came from home.


BALDWIN: Gosh, your heart just goes out for people like that, you know, riding out the storm from your bathroom. Lt. General Russel Honore, a CNN contributor and former commander of Joint Task Force Katrina, lead relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, back with us today.

My goodness, General Honore, let's talk about -- you know, you look at the pictures of the destruction, especially in those lower keys. Talk to me about why it is such a race to get the power restored, and who is most at risk?

LT. GEN. RUSSEL HONORE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the risk -- most of the risk is the venerable population, the elderly and people who have respiratory issues and young children that are subject to the harsh conditions that they're living in with the weather.

And, Brooke, you know, the power is number two on my list. The first thing you've got to have is food and water and medicine and evacuation. And the aircraft carrier coming in and the fact that helicopters can get in there, we can take care of food and water.

The next thing is power. You must have power. Without power you can't sustain that community with the quality of life that people can stay there and start the recovery.

The next is fuel. You have to have fuel so people can start cleaning up and leave if they wish. And good thing Florida has a generator law that requires those gas stations on the evacuation route to have generators in case the community power grid is out.

[14:30:05] The next is POD, getting the PODs in. Those are points of distribution run by the National Guard and FEMA. Those are very efficient for distributing MREs and --