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Residents Return to Destruction; Power out Across Florida; Dominion Energy sending Workers to Florida; Nursing Home Deaths; House GOP News Conference; Miami-Dade Offers School for Florida Keys. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired September 13, 2017 - 10:00   ET



[10:00:19] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Top of the hour. I'm Poppy Harlow. Our John Berman is standing by in the Florida Keys. He is in Big Pine Key. We will get there in just a moment.

First, though, the headlines for you this morning.

Much more heat than light today for more than 5 million homes and businesses across Florida, still without power in the wake of Irma. In the places Irma hit hardest, power could be out for at least another week and a half. You've got temperatures topping 90 degrees and thick humidity. Drinking water is still low in supply in some of those southern-most Florida keys.

Some good news, though, fuel, we hear is arriving once again in the Port of Tampa. But, of course, those gas pumps need power to operate.

At least 55 deaths, though, are now being blamed on Irma. More than half of those in the Caribbean. So far 12 deaths in Florida, potentially rising.

John Berman in the thick of it still covering the aftermath of Irma. He is in Big Pine Key today.

John, what are you seeing and what was it like just getting there and speaking to people there who rode out the storm?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I've got to tell you, what we're seeing this morning, Poppy, is destruction. This is Big Pine Key, which is one of the hardest hit areas we've seen.

When we flew in by helicopter, most of the structures we saw, that was in the lower keys, we saw them standing, but a lot of damage. Here on Big Pine Key, we've seen houses flat-out destroyed. You can see the house behind me here, the storm surge, it came through the garage. It came through the back of that garage. You can see the ocean out there, and it pushed the entire contents of the garage up here through here. You can see, you know, a vacuum cleaner, what's left of a vacuum cleaner there, books, a carpet. You know, whoever lived here, and the person hasn't come home, was

obviously a scuba diver. We see all kinds of tanks and scuba equipment here. And a motorcycle, a bike, that's somehow only leaning on its side, but otherwise intact. But, otherwise, a man's life here washed up here in this eight feet of storm surge and sand.

Also around this morning, what we have seen is people getting ready to help. We saw a line of about 23 utility trucks on Highway 1 here, Route 1, the main thoroughfare through The Keys. Those people are here to help as soon as they can.

We've seen military convoys going both north and south. The initial deployment of the military was for search and rescue. They went door to door, to each and every one of these houses to make sure there was no one trapped inside, no one who needed to be rescued. Now what people need is supplies, more food and water. They have enough right now, but they're going to run out soon.

And what they desperately want is communication. They want to reach their friends and family in the outside world. Let them know that they are OK. The hearty people who chose to ride out the storm here, against the advice of officials, now want to get the message out that they've made it. They are ready to rebuild and recover, despite, Poppy, all the wreckage and the devastation you can see around me.


HARLOW: What has surprised you most, John, as you've covered this for a week now, and especially when you made it down to the lower keys?

BERMAN: You know, we did not know what we were going to see when we got here because communication has been so sparse in the days after Irma made a direct hit on Cudjoe Key, just south of where I am right now.

When we first got here, I thought I would see more buildings flattened. I was surprised by the number of structures that were still standing. And, you know, you were with me yesterday when we were speaking to the Monroe County commissioner who said, evacuate?

HARLOW: Right.

BERMAN: You know, we're not going to evacuate. That's ridiculous. You know, we made it through. I see why he said that because there are some islands here where their buildings are still intact. There are other places, like where I am in Big Pine Key that took it much, much worse. I mean this row of houses that I'm on right here, I was told by one of the locals here that maybe only three are habitable right now. It's going to take a lot to get this back up and running.

And that may be -- Big Pine Key also had tornadoes. There were tornados that ripped through here. You can see the path in some cases.

HARLOW: Right.

BERMAN: We saw a bunch of gas -- you know, gas meters at a gas station just totally knocked over. So we saw that.

And, you know, I guess one other thing that surprised me, Poppy, is that the people who we have seen that chose to ride it out are walking around with smiles on their faces. It might just be that they're happy that they made it and maybe they're happy to see an outsider. They're happy to see folks like CNN down here now to get the story out.


HARLOW: Yes. Their spirit is pretty incredible, as we've seen all week long.

John, we'll get back to you in just a moment.

We do want to get an update on these power outages because if you're living in Florida and you're one of the, you know, more than 5 million homes without power, you want answers now.

Let's go to CNN's Dianne Gallagher. She's in Tampa in a roving vehicle.

What are you seeing?

[10:05:00] DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: To be honest, Poppy, at this point it's mostly downed trees and dark houses. Now, we were in this particular neighborhood in north Tampa last night and the whole street was completely dark. People had their doors open. A couple houses had power. They were running electrical extension cords to their neighbor's houses trying to help them out.

The good news is, is that because these crews are working 24 hours a day, 16-hour shifts, and they're from all over the country, west coast, northwest, Midwest, they're starting to get the power on. Again, though, we still have a lot of people, millions without power in Florida.

I want to talk to somebody here. His name is Don Herbert. We stopped and spoke to him a couple of minutes. So I'm going to get out and talk to Don right now about what he has been going through.

In the meantime, I want -- some of the people out here, again, are getting power this morning.

But this is Don with me right now. This is his dog, Dolly.

And, Don, before we do anything else, you rode out the storm here in north Tampa. You've got a riverside home.

Hello, beautiful.

You have a riverside home.


GALLAGHER: OK. You have a riverside home. Tell me, do you have power now? HERBERT: Yes, we have power now.

GALLAGHER: When did it -- is it off and on or --

HERBERT: It went -- came back on about 5:00 yesterday. Then it went off about 2:00 in the morning. And then I watched the streetlights came back on at like 5:00. So we have good power now lately.

GALLAGHER: Excellent. But you were telling me, even though you rode out Irma, you've got your power now, you're starting to clean up, you are going to do something a lot of people might think is a little insane right now, because your son is getting married this weekend, right?


GALLAGHER: What are you doing?

HERBERT: We're going to West Palm Beach. We're going to rent a car, go to -- drive to West Palm Beach because their flight got canceled. And then he's going to get married on a boat on Saturday. And we're going fishing Thursday, tomorrow. And after Friday, and the wedding, we're flying to Dominiqua (ph) for -- I don't know, there's like 24 of us going diving.

GALLAGHER: All right. So Irma may have hit the Caribbean, Poppy, the Caribbean. He is still dealing with all of this, Don is right now in his home in north Tampa. A lot of people still don't have power. But Don's not going to let that stop him from celebrating his son's wedding on a boat in West Palm Beach and then heading down to the Caribbean.

HARLOW: Right. I mean, would you? That sounds like heaven, especially after what they've been through for the past week.

Please give him our best and his little pup, as well.

Dianne Gallagher, thank you for reporting. You've been doing a great job all week.

John, back to you.

BERMAN: Yes, heaven sounds like a hot shower and some cold water down here on the Florida Keys, Poppy. There's so much need here. The power out. And by the looks of it, it's going to be some time before the power comes back on here. Five million customers in the southeast still without power.

But help is on the way from virtually everywhere. On with me right now is Ed Baine of Dominion Energy in Virginia.

And, Mr. Baine, you sent, what, like 750 people down here to help. Are they here yet? What are they doing?

ED BAINE, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, DISTRIBUTION POWER DELIVERY GROUP, DOMINION ENERGY: That's right, John. We have over 750 people that have been sent to help with the restoration effort. And they're all across Florida. We have people in Tampa, in Orlando, and some of our own folks who will be processed today will be going on to Daytona.

BERMAN: Have they reported back to you what they are seeing, how much need there is or how difficult the job will be?

BAINE: The reports are similar to what we've seen in other restoration efforts. But I would tell you the damage assessment is still early. You know, this is one of the biggest storms we've seen in U.S. history. I don't ever recall a hurricane coming up the peninsula in Florida. So I know there's a lot of damage there, and our folks are there to help.

BERMAN: In my experience, after Superstorm Sandy, when it took, you know, weeks to get power up in some parts of the northeast, some of the biggest heroes were the utility crews from all over the country that came to help. They were cheered as they rode through the streets and did the job they were doing. Is this something that your folks are excited to do, that they want to do? What is the feeling that you all get from helping out at a time like this?

BAINE: John, our folks are very excited. They want to answer the bell for all customers, whether they're here in Virginia or in Florida. So when they get an opportunity to go help to restore power for customers, it's very exciting and plenty of people want to go.

BERMAN: Good. Well, send more, because I think we need them down here.

Ed Baine, Dominion Energy up in Virginia, thank you for your help. Thank you for your efforts. I know the people down here are very grateful for the support.

BAINE: Thank you.

HARLOW: All right, we do have some breaking news right now. At least five people are dead this morning at a nursing home in Florida. Hollywood, Florida, to be specific. That is just north of Miami.

Our affiliate WPLG is reporting that the air-conditioning at that nursing home has been out since Sunday when Irma struck. About 100 residents of the nursing home have been removed within the past hour.

[10:10:10] Our Miguel Marquez is on his way to Hollywood.

This is tragic, Miguel. I mean, no air-conditioning, in this heat, for senior citizens in this nursing home. What else can you tell us?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, we don't know the answer to all that. We don't know if they didn't have air- conditioning, if they didn't have electricity, if they didn't have air-conditioning for some time and didn't move patients. What the mayor of Broward County is saying is that five elderly patients have died, 120 have been moved to a neighboring hospital.

The city, Broward County, is just about to do a press conference, if conference. I can tell you, it is chaos out in front of this center right now. This is the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills. We are setting up now. We should know more in a bit.

Somebody from the hospital itself, somebody from the city and the police department are all going to be here to discuss what actually happened in this location. It is very unclear, though, how it is that the electricity being out for a certain number of days with elderly patients would have caused this, with given that, one, literally, they are across the street from a hospital and, two, if they didn't have electricity at all, clearly, perhaps actions should have been taken earlier.

But, hopefully, we'll get a few answers from officials here momentarily.

HARLOW: Miguel, thank you for the reporting. When you do, we will come right back to you. This is tragic. Thank you for the update.

Let me take you to Washington, D.C. House Speaker Paul Ryan right now speaking about Hurricane Irma. Let's listen.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: All across this county. And I think it's just important that we take a little pause and see and recognize that so that we can nurture, preserve, and extend that. And teach it to our kids. We're compassionate people. And we rise up to help each other.

Now, we're going to continue to support Florida, Texas, and the other states affected by these natural disasters. And, obviously, we've got a ways to go to understand the full extent of this. And we're waiting to hear from OMB as to what needs will be needed as time goes on.

This week -- I want to echo what the majority leader said. This week the House is going to vote on all of the appropriation bills. This week the House is going to vote on all of the appropriation bills before the fiscal year deadline. To people who don't pay attention to this process, that sounds like a normal, no big deal thing. It hasn't been done in a long time.

So the house of Representatives is doing its work. The House of Representatives is doing its job. And the House of Representatives is bringing all of these appropriation bills on budget, on time, and that is an historic achievement. And I want to thank the Appropriations Committee for doing this, for making that done.

We are fully funding the president's request to build the wall along our southern border. We're beefing up our enforcement against illegal immigration. It's a huge victory for so many different conservative priorities. The legislation includes strong protections for life. It rolls back regulations and eliminates dozens of government programs that are outdates and dysfunctional. This bill secures our national defense. It protects our citizens here at home. It gives our service members a much-desired and much-earned pay raise.

When I became speaker, I made a commitment to regular order, to working with both sides of the aisle, to spend taxpayers the right way and to go through regular order. And that's exactly what we are doing. Each one of these bills, one through subcommittee, one through full committee, is now on the floor and went through hundreds of amendments.

I want to thank Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen and his entire committee for their fantastic work on this. Next up, we need the Senate and the Senate Democrats to work with us to get these appropriations bills passed and put them on the president's desk.

Anybody got any questions?


Oh, hang on. Camera guy knocked that.

Wait. Is that -- oh, come on, now you're taking all these pictures. Dude, you hit our thing.

All right. All right. I think I got it. It's -- it's OK.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) conference this morning that a consensus tax framework would be out the week of September 25th.

RYAN: Right.

QUESTION: That's consensus among the big six. Is there a consensus among the Republican conference (ph)?

RYAN: Yes, so what Chairman Brady (ph) announced to our members this morning is that on the week of the 25th, September 25th, there's going to be an online that is released which reflects the consensus of the tax-writing committees, Ways and Means and Finance, and the administration. And so what Chairman Brady laid out is the ongoing process for comprehensive tax reform and tax cuts for middle class families this year. And that starts with the outline that will be released the 25th. And then the tax-writing committees are going to take feedback and input and then they're going to go produce their bills in the weeks ahead.

And so this is the beginning of the process. It's the beginning of a very important process to achieve for the first time in a generation overhauling our tax system and giving middle class families a much- deserved break.

[10:15:04] And so this is really the consensus of the tax writers themselves so that we're working on the same page. The whole point of all of this is the House, the Senate, and the White House are starting from the same page and the same outline and then the tax writers are going to take it from there on the details.

QUESTION: Will there be Democratic votes needed in the House side? And where -- where are you --

RYAN: Well, I would love to have the Democrats supporting and working with us in a constructive way on tax reform, but we're going to do it no matter what.


QUESTION: Democrats have been pretty clear that when it comes to DACA, any type of funding for wall will not be part of the deal. (INAUDIBLE) was it your sense going into this that funding for a wall (INAUDIBLE) --

RYAN: Look, we're not going to sit here and negotiate to the media. But let me just be really, really clear. DACA is a symptom of a bigger problem, which is, we do not have control of our borders. So while we deal with DACA, which is something that the president has asked us to deal with in Congress, we also have to deal with the problem in the first place, securing our borders, enforcing our laws, so that we don't have another DACA problem ten years down the road. It's just that clear. That's so common sense and so reasonable.

And that is basically what the president has asked us to do. And so we're going to start engaging in these conversations with all of our members, all across the capital, because that's what the president has asked us to do, is, Congress, get on top of this issue. And by getting on top of this issue, that means not just a narrow fix for the moment, but it's actually fixing some of the underlying problem that created this problem in the first place.

Kacey (ph).

QUESTION: Mr. Speaker, you (INAUDIBLE) your career on tax reform, policy issues. The president is now sitting down, cut a deal last week with Democrats, having them over for dinner to talk about this. Are you still confident, do you trust that this president is going to push for conservative tax reform?

RYAN: Yes, I am.



QUESTION: About this outline that's going to be out the end of the month, right now the government is scheduled to take in about $43 trillion over the next ten years. Will this outline answer whether that will be the same amount --

RYAN: I'm not going to get into the baseline issues. That's something up for the budget resolutions and the budget committees. What the committees are working on are the outlines of what a new tax system needs to look like. And what that outline reflects is the consensus of the tax writers and the administration, which is the basic template that then the tax-writing committees will work on in filling out those details.

Thank you, everybody.

HARLOW: All right, a few headlines there from House Speaker Paul Ryan. Asked if he would be willing to give up some -- give up the hope among some conservatives for wall funding in exchange for DACA legislation, he said, I'm not going to negotiate this in front of the media. But this, of course, comes on the heels of the White House Legislative

Director Mark Short (ph) this week, just yesterday, saying he wouldn't prejudge if funding for the president's promised border wall would be included in legislation to protect DACA recipients. So his response there.

And then interestingly, asked at the end of the press conference whether or not he believes the president, after sort of making deals with Democrats, like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, is being true to conservative wishes and will push for conservatives, Paul Ryan answered that by saying, yes.

A few big headlines from the House speaker there. More, quickly, after the break.


[10:22:32] BERMAN: John Berman here in Big Pine Key. This is mile 30 of the Florida Keys. One of the hardest hit areas. You can see buildings all around me simply destroyed. You know, this storm surge pushing up through this garage. There's no electricity. There's no air conditioning. There's no water. There's no communications. That's all got to get back.

And then they've got to get back to things like regular life, which means, for kids, school. It seems like an awfully long way away.

But joining me right now is Alberto Carvalho. He's the superintendent of the Miami-Dade County Schools.

And the reason you're with us, sir, is because when your schools open, and they're not open yet, you're actually offering room, classes, for some 13,000 students from The Keys. Explain that to me.


Look, nothing spells out normalcy in a community like kids returning back to school. And considering the hardship that families and kids are going through right now in the Florida Keys, knowing that their school system will take quite a while to ramp up, we decided to offer our accommodations, our school facilities. We do have the capacity and the ability to collaborate, not only with the commission of education, with our governor of the state of Florida, but also the superintendent of Monroe County School District, to accommodate all 13,000 kids, particularly in the southern-most part of Miami-Dade County.

We're a school system of a half a million students, 355,000 of them are pre-k through grades 12. And we have the capacity to house every single one of Monroe's kids. We're ready, willing, and able to do so.

BERMAN: So you have the capacity to house them. By that I assume you mean you have the capacity to teach them. But where will they live while they're going to school?

CARVALHO: So, it is our understanding right now that a vast majority of The Key's residents, particularly intact families evacuated to the Miami-Dade area. Also, a significant percentage of Miami-Dade's, of Monroe county's parents, whose kids go to schools in The Keys, actually work in Miami-Dade. So they are somewhere right now in the Miami-Dade area. The Miami-Dade community certainly has housing and hotels in other venues. We are offering our schools for kids to be educated. That is the very least we can do to attempt to normalize what is already a very difficult situation.

[10:25:00] BERMAN: And one more question. I've been down to The Keys for 24 hours. I haven't received news. But before I left, Miami-Dade yet had not yet announced when you are reopening your schools. When is that?

CARVALHO: We just announced yesterday that our tentative day to reopen Miami-Dade County Public Schools is Monday. There is a significant factor we continue to monitor, and that is the fact that two-thirds of our schools are still without power. We're working with state officials, as well as Florida Power and Light, to restore power as soon as possible. When we reach a 90 percent plus of schools with power, we'll be able to reopen our schools.

We are in the process, also, of launching an effort to feed kids, even though school is out. Seventy-five percent of Miami's kids live below the poverty level. We're working with our school board and our cafeteria workers to make centers for feeding available to kids in our community.

So, again, that tentative date to restart our school system is Monday, September 18th.

BERMAN: Another example of pretty much everyone doing everything they can to help out. Miami-Dade opening up the schools to some 13,000 students here from the Florida Keys.

Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of Miami-Dade County Schools, thanks so much for being with us. I appreciate it.

HARLOW: All right, we do have an update on that breaking news we brought you just moments ago, that five people, at least five senior citizens are dead this morning at a nursing home in Hollywood, Florida. That's just north of Miami. You've got 115 residents from the nursing home have been evacuated within the past hour.

Our Miguel Marquez is on the ground there.

Miguel, we were just on the phone with you. I understand they had or are having this press conference. And looking at some of these initial notes, the police chief there says a criminal investigation is underway.

MARQUEZ: A criminal investigation into this facility that is right across the street from a hospital. They say that this all started around 4:00 a.m. when they started to get calls from the facility itself. Police came out to check it out. They found that it was very hot. We're talking about two different facilities in Hollywood, Florida,

the Rehabilitation Center and the Larken (ph) Community Hospital. They are both right next to each other, just here, these facilities.

Just across the street is Memorial Hospital. Memorial Hospital spokesperson was out here to say that they don't have any relationship with this particular facility.

Five people have perished. Another 115 have been moved. What is not clear, if that is the entirety of it. They say that several others are now in critical condition, but it's not clear if that is over the 120 number that they've given us so far or if that's included in that. There is great uncertainty and chaos right now.

That criminal investigation now open. They are going through the building. They have sealed the building. Everybody is out of it. The city of Hollywood now going to all 42 of the elderly facilities or critical care facilities in the area to make sure that everything is fine.

The hospital itself has given out a number, Memorial Hospital, where many of the people in this facility have been moved to. Not all of them, but many of them have been moved. They've given out the number for family members, if they're trying to track down their elderly relative, of 954-265-1074, 954-265-1074. They can call that and then the hospital, Memorial, can tell them whether or not their loved one is there.


HARLOW: OK, Miguel, thank you for all of that. And we will tweet that number out from the show account and my account right after this in case, you know, your parents, perhaps, or your grandparents are in this nursing home, and you're trying to get some information. It's tragic.

Miguel, we appreciate the update. Please bring us more as you have it.

So next we're going to take you back to the Caribbean, because as Irma ripped through as a category five hurricane heading towards Florida, it devastated the Caribbean. We're getting new pictures, a clearer picture this morning of her wrath. A live report ahead. Stay with us.