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Governor Scott: "Devastation" in Florida Keys; White House Won't Link Storms to Climate Change; U.N. Adopts New North Korea Sanctions; Broncos Beat Chargers in Final Seconds. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired September 12, 2017 - 05:00   ET


[05:00:00] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: But it is just remarkable for someone like me who's covered the Fed and covered, you know, central banks for so many years, it's just something unheard of in any other administration.

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, it's remarkable, and it's remarkable the role she has continued to play throughout in this informal and then formal advisory role. And that includes points of contact with key officials, including the chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, many foreign leaders.

This has been another central story. This is a family drama, the Trump presidency. So, it's no wonder it's part of the scandal. It's no wonder that it's also part of stories like this about monetary policy.

ROMANS: It's so interesting too we don't know who's going to be running the Fed. Janet Yellen, a lot of people thought that she was out, that Gary Cohn. But apparently, Gary Cohn may have lost the loyalty pledge to the president post-Charlottesville. Now, that's a role that is sort of in question. Interesting.

Julian, thank you.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Some eyebrow raising remarks from Hillary Clinton to ask you about in just a bit as well.

EARLY START continues right now with the devastation left in Irma's path.


BRIGGS: This morning, a first look at the stunning devastation Hurricane Irma left in the Florida keys and beyond. So bad, the Keys and some areas can't even be reached to fully examine this damage. We have coverage from the Keys, Cuba, also in Atlanta, and Charleston, South Carolina, a devastated region this morning.

ROMANS: And after the second record breaking hurricane in weeks, climate change back in focus. The White House will not draw a connection between global warming and the outbreak of wild weather and says now is not the time to talk about such things.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans. BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs, Tuesday, September 12th, 5:00 a.m. in the East.

You got about 60 percent of the state of Florida without power, the Governor Rick Scott saying it could be weeks for some of them. We begin with the effects of Hurricane Irma. Downgraded to a tropical depression moving to the north and the devastation it left behind becoming painfully clear. Rescue team struggling to reach the Florida Keys, west of Key Largo where up to 10,000 people who chose to ride out the storm may still require evacuation.

ROMANS: For now, accessing the Lower Keys by boat is too dangerous because of the debris in the water. U.S. 1, which connects the Keys to the mainland is under water, and blocked by a large pole. Crews are trying to clear.

You're looking at the Key West there, the old town section of Key West. Later this morning, Monroe County officials will allow some residents and business owners back into that area.

BRIGGS: The aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln now stationed off Florida's East Coast. Its helicopters flying over the keys to assess the conditions there.

ROMANS: You know, reaching the Keys right now is difficult and dangerous. The lights are off, there's no gas, there's debris in the roadways and in the waterways. The scope of the damage breathtaking and heartbreaking.

Our Bill Weir managed to reach Plantation Key. He has more this morning.


BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, good morning.

As that sky turned from stormy black to paradise blue here in the Florida Keys, all that anxiety and fear the storm turned into shock and utter heartbreak as people began to survey what Irma has wrought. This is a community in Plantation Key. This is mile marker 87, about 60 miles away from the eye of Irma, but it's hard to tell that it was anymore gentle up here.

This home used to be right on the coast of the Atlantic, about 500 yards away. Now, it's utter wreckage. It includes, you know, children's books, picture books, look at this. Bingo wheel. People lived here year-round. This wasn't a transient or snowbird community. There were secretaries and boat captains. I met a former fireman who walked around just sort of shell-shocked. As he said, my couch over there and my sink is over there.

But aside from all the stuff lost to Irma, there is the human life and that's what most people are concerned about these days. And it's almost impossible to confirm who was lost and who was saved, because communication is down. The cell towers are down. There's no power, no running water down here. The road is impassable in many places as they try to inspect all of the 43 bridges that connect this necklace of islands all going down to Key West there.

And another symbol, we've seen it in Katrina. They're doing the same -- the poor folks in Houston, and look at the date, 9/11/17, at 2:30, they searched this home for bodies and the symbols confirm that none were found.

We're really interested to see how the folks down in the Lower Keys have fared. I've been getting text messages from strangers, people on Instagram, Twitter, saying please check on my family. If this is bad, we can only imagine what it's like where the storm was the fiercest -- Dave, Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Bill Weir, thank you so much.

BRIGGS: Thanks.

OK. The biggest threat this week will be river flooding in northern Florida. City of Jacksonville reeling from a record storm surge and devastating floods.

[05:05:02] The same threat facing other coastal communities like Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina, where a flash flood emergency was declared overnight. So far, Irma being blamed for five deaths, one each in Florida and South Carolina. Three in Georgia, including two from falling trees.

ROMANS: About 8 million customers still out power in the Southeast. The lights are off, folks. The majority of those people are in the customers in Florida and Georgia.

Joining us live via Skype right now is Chris Cohilas, commission chairman of the Dougherty County, Georgia. He represents Albany, Georgia, an area that's been hard hit by severe storms and tornadoes this year.

Thank you for giving us the time this morning on this tropical depression moving right up into your neighborhood, bringing all of this rain. What are you expecting and seeing?

CHRIS COHILAS, COMMISSION CHAIRMAN, DOUGHERTY COUNTY: Well, right now, what we're doing is being very cautiously optimistic and watching water levels. We're projected to see about a 200 percent rise in the Flint River, which was the source of 1994 and '98 floods. We're watching it. We're expected to be about 1.7 feet below flood level on Friday.

So, we're obviously staying in touch with the partners at the state and federal level, making sure that we are informing all of our citizens as we watch rain come into the Atlanta area.

BRIGGS: Chris, what's your priority once the sun sums up here in just over an hour?

COHILAS: The first thing we're going to be doing are damage assessments. Overall, we did very well yesterday in comparison to what the original projections were for Dougherty County. So, we're very thankful for that.

But we'll begin damage assessments on the ground also. Our emergency management agency in collaboration with our other local partners, we're working to make sure that we get power up to as many folks as we can.

ROMANS: The problem with, you know, recovery, when you have -- with Florida at least, gas shortages, but where you are all these people without power, it's real hard to get moving forward when you don't have power, what kind of assessments are you guys making when you're going to have the lights back on?

COHILAS: We expected that will happen pretty quickly. We have a lot of agreements with state partners and other big, large stakeholders across the state so we can get those folks on the ground very quickly. The state's been very good to us in that regard. We have a lot of these collaborative agreements.

BRIGGS: One of the developing problems is certainly in the state of Florida, 54 hospitals are now on backup generators, 36 of those were closed as of Monday night. Are hospitals there in Georgia open? Or have they been without power as well?

COHILAS: In our community, we were very fortunate that we did not have that problem. I can't speak for some of the other counties. I do know that Camden County had approximately 25 homes that were flooded. And I don't know if it affected their capabilities in that regard.

ROMANS: Let me ask you this question, Mr. Cohilas, about what you're telling people in your community. What we -- what we know from covering these storms is often injuries, even fatalities happen after the storm has passed. When people get out and poking around there, you know, power lines down or dangerous conditions they are driving cars into, what are you telling people in your community? What -- do you have a warning for them this morning about taking caution?

COHILAS: We do. And our folks are well-educated because this is our third presidentially declared disaster this year. We're telling our folks to be very careful on the ground. There's a lot of small debris and some large debris that's out there.

We released our citizens at about 9:00 last night to begin about their regular lives and traveling. We're telling them to be very, very careful. We have not completed the damage assessments. There are a lot of roads that still have significant debris on them. And we also have a lot of trees that are disabled and still some power lines down. So, we're telling people to proceed with extreme caution.

ROMANS: All right. Patience, patience, patience.

Chris Cohilas, thank you so much for joining us this morning from Georgia.

COHILAS: Thank you.

BRIGGS: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. The Dow soaring more than 250 points as fears over North Korea and Irma fade. The S&P 500 hit a record high. That's because Irma avoided the worst case scenario. Insured losses are going to be big, but less than the worst case scenario, so insurance company stock drove the overall market higher, more on that later.

But first, Florida racing to refill its gas stations to help millions of residents drive home. More than 60 percent of stations in Miami and Gainesville are out of gas. The same is true for half of those in Jacksonville, Tampa, West Palm Beach. Many residents bought gas before fleeing the storm. That sparked a shortage.

Another factor here is Harvey. That storm closed many key oil refineries, disrupting America's gas supply.

[05:10:00] But Florida has few refineries, so fixing its gas shortage will depend instead on ports. The state relies on oil shipments to meet fuel demand. Most major ports are still closed. Significant damage could delay future shipments.

We can tell you, though, Florida did avoid a worst case scenario. For example, the largest port in Tampa Bay only suffered minimal damage. The U.S. Coast Guard expects that port to reopen today.

BRIGGS: All right. The U.N. Security Council adopting new sanctions against North Korea after the U.S. back down on some demands. CNN, the only Western TV organizations in North Korea. Will Ripley live in Pyongyang with reaction, next.


BRIGGS: The issue of climate change front and center in the wake of Hurricane Irma, the White House making it clear it's not ready to link the spike in major storms to global warming.

[05:15:02] Listen to homeland security adviser Tom Bossert.


TOM BOSSERT, HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: Causality is something outside my ability to analyze right now. There's a cyclical nature of a lot of these hurricane seasons, and I thank the scientists for their forecast on this particular one. They were dead on that this would be a stronger and more powerful season with slightly more than average large storms making landfall in the United States. So, we'll have to do a larger trend analysis at a later date.


BRIGGS: After Harvey pummeled Texas and right before Irma unleashed its fury on the Caribbean and Florida, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said now is not the time to talk about climate change, claiming its, quote, insensitive to storm victims.

ROMANS: The White House is also fending off questions stemming from Steve Bannon's interview with "60 Minutes" on Sunday night. President Trump's former chief strategist called the firing of FBI Director James Comey, quote, the worst mistake in modern political history.

Press Secretary Sara Sanders disagrees.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think Steve likes to speak in kind of the most extreme measures. I'm not sure that I agree with that.


ROMANS: Sanders says Comey gave, quote, false testimony and leak privileged information to journalists.

BRIGGS: New sanctions against North Korea adopted unanimously by the U.N. Security Council one week after the rogue regime carried out its sixth and largest nuclear test. The United States originally circulated a proposal calling for a full ban on oil exports to North Korea, as well as an asset freeze on Kim Jong-un. The final resolution doesn't go quite that far, though.

Let's go live to Pyongyang and bring in CNN's Will Ripley, the only Western TV journalist reporting from inside North Korea.

Will, good morning. Any reaction to this latest round of sanctions?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave, North Koreans are predictably infuriated. They're threatening to retaliate against the United States. They used words like pain and suffering, unbearable consequences, and then, of course, they're believed to be really ready at any moment to launch another intercontinental ballistic missile. South Korea thought it was going to happen a couple of days ago. It hasn't happened yet. And so, there are a lot of different things that we can see in terms of a physical response for North Korea.

But here in Pyongyang, they must be at least taking note of the fact that this sanctions resolution is far less severe than what the United States proposed at the end of last week. It's kind of like a Trump contract negotiations. He put in this -- all of these things that he wanted. He wanted a complete oil embargo, the Trump administration. They wanted Kim Jong-un's name black listed, added to a travel ban and asset freeze. They wanted to shut down North Korea's national carrier, their airline, Air Koryo.

All of those things were dropped from the bill that was eventually passed. It had the fingerprints of China and Russia all over it, because they refused, frankly, to take steps that they feel would be destabilizing for this country and obviously cutting off all oil was a step that they were unwilling to take.

But what is happening, yet another item in North Korean export add to the list of things that North Korea can't sell. So, now, they can't sell textiles. It's going to be harder for them to smuggle coal on ships. There's a cap on how much oil they can buy in the country and there are restrictions on certain other kinds of petroleum products and, of course, they already can't sell their coal. They can't sell iron. They can't sell lead. They can't sell seafood.

And yet, somehow, because they managed to get around the sanctions, their economy grew by almost 4 percent last year, according to South Korean central bank estimates.

So, Dave, yet another round of sanctions, yet another statement of anger from the North Koreans, but moving forward, what we really need to see is if there's going actually to be any tangible effects. Because I can tell you on the ground here in Pyongyang, we just haven't seen it yet from these sanctions or even the sanctions that were passed previously.

BRIGGS: Yes, the escalation continues on both sides.

Will Ripley, live for us in Pyongyang -- thanks, Will.

ROMANS: All right. Eighteen minutes past the hour.

Monday night football doubleheader. The Vikings hosting the Saints, and the Chargers traveling to Denver to take on the Broncos.

Andy Scholes with highlights in this morning's "Bleacher Report", that's next.


[05:23:19] BRIGGS: All right. Historic moment in the broadcast booth as Beth Mowins becomes the first female play-by-play announcer to call a Monday night football game.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Hi, Andy.


You know, calling Monday night football one of the most prestigious gigs in the entire business. And Beth Mowins breaking through the glass ceiling, becoming the first woman to ever do it during last night's Chargers/Broncos game.


ANNOUNCER: Looking deep, man to man, in the end zone, touchdown Los Angeles.


SCHOLES: Now, Mowins has done play by play for college football games since 2005 and she also does preseason games for the Oakland Raiders. She got a good one for her first time primetime NFL game. Chargers made a furious comeback against the Broncos, but the game tying field goal in the final second was blocked. Broncos escaped with 24-21 win.

And the other game last night, Adrian Peterson making his return to Minnesota as a member of the Saints and things get a little heated between Peterson and coach John Payton on the side line. Peterson said after the game, he was telling Payton to run the ball up the middle. Now, Peterson finished with 18 yards rushing as the Vikings would win this game easily, 29-19.

All right. Here's a question, will the Cleveland Indians ever lose again? The Indians shutting out the Tigers 11-0 last night for their 19th straight win. They're now just two wins behind the '35 Cubs for the all time best streak of baseball history.

In 2002, the Oakland A's won 20 in a row. That run was immortalized in the movie and bestselling book, "Moneyball." The Indians matched that mark tonight as they once again host the Tigers.

[05:25:01] All right. Finally, due to Hurricane Irma, the Yankees and Rays series moving to Citi Field in New York. Before the game, there was a moment of silence to remember those who lost their lives on 9/11.

As for the game, the Yankees, the road team, they went on to win this one by final 5-1. And, guys, every ticket in the house last night at Citi Field, just 25 bucks if you're a Yankees fan, that's a pretty amazing deal because you could sit behind the dugout for 25 bucks, whereas if they're playing in the Met, their game at Yankee Stadium, that seat costs quite a bit more.

BRIGGS: You can add a zero to that ticket.

SCHOLES: Yes, and more.

BRIGGS: They probably loved playing in that ball park too, because Citi Field is gorgeous. It was a wonderful ball park.

Andy Scholes, it was a great Monday night. Interesting side line reporter in that Monday night game.

SCHOLES: In the late game, yes.

BRIGGS: Reach out in the booth.

SCHOLES: The number one trend on Twitter if you want to look it up.

BRIGGS: Yes, not so much on the sidelines. Check it out on Twitter.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks, Andy.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: The Florida Keys battered by Hurricane Irma, we are getting our very first look at some of these areas today, inaccessible for now. And the problems are not limited to Florida. All this is moving north. More next.