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Major Cat 4 Hurricane Florence Takes Aim at Carolina Coast; One Million-Plus Ordered to Evacuate from Coastal Areas; Trump Approves Disaster Declarations for the Carolinas; America Remembers 9/11. Aired 9-930a ET

Aired September 11, 2018 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:10] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York on this Tuesday morning, where at this moment 17 years ago, the most horrific and deadly terror attack ever perpetrated on the United States was just beginning, and the world would never be the same.

Right now at Ground Zero, family members have once again gathered to read aloud the names of each of the nearly 3,000 men and women and children killed when hijackers flew commercial airplanes into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, and the heroes on Flight 93 downed their plane believed to be headed for the capital into that field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

President Trump is making his way to Shanksville right now. We will bring you his comments live from there next hour.

Now also this morning we are watching a natural disaster in the making. Hurricane Florence now a category four storm with the Carolina coast directly in its sights. Hurricane watches are already in effect from South Charleston to the Virginia line. Mandatory evacuations underway or soon to be on coastlines and barrier islands that are home to more than a million people.

Much more on that just ahead. But let's begin this hour on the southern tip of Manhattan. My friend, my colleague, Miguel Marquez, joins me there.

And Miguel, you and I have been there year after year after year marking this solemn day. Another moment of silence is about to be observed.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It is -- it is hard to talk about this still, and to see here, and to be where we are, when we are a distance from where those names are being read. They've been reading them out, all 2,983 names from both September 11th, 2001 and the six individuals who were killed on February 26th, 1993 in the first attack. They will observe a second moment of silence shortly to commemorate the moment that United Flight 175 slammed into the South Tower.

This is history and this is memory. These are the family members and the survivors reading off the names of those who died that day. There were so many others after September 11th, the first responders who spent hours, days, weeks and months at that site cleaning it up and trying to effect rescues and then helping clean up the sight that succumbed to illness over the years as well.

So the history and the memory of this just seared into the life of New York and into the country. There will actually be six moments of silence. They already had one for the moment that the first plane hit the North Tower. We will see the second one shortly. There will be a third for when fights -- American Flight 77 struck the Pentagon at 9:59. There will be a fourth for when the South Tower collapsed at 10:03. And here comes the next one, the next moment of silence.

And then they continue to read the names until that next moment of silence. Hours will go by before all the names are read. Certainly this is a very somber day for the police here. 23 New York police officers died, 37 Port Authority Police Department officers died. and 343 firefighters with the New York Fire Department died that day -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Miguel, I think what we hear in your voice is what every American and so many around the world are feeling this morning, and that is even as each year passes, the pain is still so real for everyone. We think about where we were that moment and we grieve for the people that lost those most dear to them on that day.

[09:05:09] A man will join me in just a little bit who lost his wife who was pregnant with their child in 9/11. We will talk about how he honored her legacy today.

Miguel, thank you for being there.

Also today, marking 9/11 the Vice President Mike Pence will join the Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. They will both be speaking at the Pentagon, they will honor the 184 people who were murdered that day at the Pentagon on 9/11. Each name will be read there as well. A wreath again will be laid at the memorial as it is every year there.

There will also be a moment of silence to mark the impact of American Airlines Flight 77. So ahead of that, let's go to the Pentagon. My colleague Ryan Browne joins us this morning.

Ryan, what will we see today?

RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: Well, Poppy, earlier this morning at sunrise, the military draped an American flag over the spot where Flight 77 struck the western side of the Pentagon that morning. Now that's in reference to when the firefighters and first responders did something similar in the immediate aftermath of the attack. And you see the flag draped there.

Now we'll be hearing from Secretary Mattis, we'll be hearing from the vice chairman, the Joint Chiefs, General Paul Silva, and Vice President Mike Pence. They will be talking about some of the after- effects of that attack. You know, the United States Military, 125 military and civilian personnel were killed in that attack, in addition to the 59 men, women and children, passengers aboard Flight 77.

But the U.S. Military of course being called into action very soon after, and we see 17 years of military engagements all over the world pursuing some of the -- those responsible for those attacks. And that will be addressed as well by Secretary Mattis and Vice President Pence.

HARLOW: OK. Ryan Browne, we'll be watching for that ceremony, honoring those again 184 lives that were taken on 9/11 at the Pentagon. Thank you, Ryan, for being there.

Also want to turn to the breaking news this morning as we continue throughout this show of course to honor 9/11 and the memory of all of those. We're watching this breaking news and all of these mandatory evacuations because of Hurricane Florence. It is now a category four storm and could strengthen very soon to a category five storm. We're talking about in just the next few hours.

This as we're getting a clear picture of where it will strike and when it will strike. One million Americans have been ordered to evacuate from all of these coastal areas leading up to Florence, making landfall. Here is another look at why that is the look at Florence from the International Space Station. Look at the intensity of that eyeball.

Let's get to our meteorologist Chad Myers who is on top of all of this for us. This is an extremely dangerous storm. What can we expect?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. I think the word is what we're going to talk about in four days as catastrophic. We just don't know where that catastrophe yet will be. If you joined us at 6:00 this morning, that number for wind speed was 140. The eye wall fell apart on us because we had eye wall replacement cycle. Now we're down to 130. And we know that because there is a hurricane hunter aircraft in there looking at it, flying through it.

Brave men and women on that airplane flying through it finding 120 miles per hour winds here. There's the plane. Here's the direction. It goes back and forth crossing the eye many, many times, looking for the highest wind speed. And right now we're at 130. But we're going to 140. And we're going to 150.

Now you said cat five. That's 156. Do we ever get there? I don't know. I can't tell the difference between 150, 156, but the surge makes a slight difference with the higher wind speeds the more bubble of water we're going to get under this thing. So from 130 landfall somewhere between north of Charleston, maybe Myrtle, all the way up to the Cape. That's the widest part of the cone at this point in time.

It could turn left. It could turn right. We are expecting it to eventually turn left. All of the models actually have a left ward bias after it gets on shore and then really stopping. But here you go. Hurricane watches (INAUDIBLE), all the way down to Charleston. I think surges are going to be 20 feet. Officially there are six to 12. But there's going to be somebody with water over those outer bank islands at 20 feet. So hopefully your building is on stilts that are 15 to 20 feet high. Otherwise there's going to be some buildings that don't exist on Friday and Saturday that exist right now.

There is the European model taking it closer to Wilmington. The American model taking it closer to Hatteras. We don't know just yet. Still many days away -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Wow. OK. Chad, I'm so glad you and our entire team of meteorologists on top of this. We have reporters up and down the coast. We will keep everyone informed minute by minute.

Chad, thank you.

So the mayor of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is pleading, in her words, pleading with people to evacuate right now.

[09:10:03] My colleague Nick Valencia is there and joins me along the coast.

I mean, of course the blue skies behind you are completely deceptive about what is ahead. What else did she tell you?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are. And we expected to start seeing the effects of Hurricane Florence Thursday afternoon into Thursday evening as Chad Myers was talking about but the mayor is borderline panicked, Poppy. She was telling me this morning that she is very concerned about the process of evacuations. If you're familiar with Myrtle Beach you know that there's no Interstate here and they're not connected to an interstate either. So with all the people that they're asking to get out of town ahead of this storm, she thinks it's going to be a very, very slow process.

Patience is going to be emphasized here during that process. She's also extremely concerned about the summer rains that have saturated this ground here and made a potential for flooding. Not usually an issue that happens here in Myrtle Beach, he says, but with the heavy rains that they had this summer, she's especially concerned about that, as well as the wind surge. Those gusts of winds that could rip off roofs of these homes here.

And also quite concerning is the first conversation, Poppy, I had this morning with a local resident was with a woman who said she has two homes here, she has a business. I asked her if she was going to evacuate. She said why would I evacuate? That's exactly what officials don't want you to do. They are taking this extremely seriously, in fact we understand the local major is having an emergency management meeting at this hour right now, they're to get preparations and planning in place ahead of this but they are already comparing it to past hurricanes that have come through this are back in 1984, Hurricane Hazel, more recent than that in 1989, Hurricane Hugo, both of those very devastating storms. Hurricane Florence being compared to both of those -- Poppy.

HARLOW: And you had 21 people there in Myrtle Beach alone, you know, dying as a result of Hugo and the storm surge. Everyone needs to be heeding these warnings.

Nic, thank you very much. And head for me, in just a little bit, Brenda Bethune who is the mayor

of Myrtle Beach will join me on the show. We'll talk a lot more about the warnings.

Still to come we are all over this hurricane, the latest on Hurricane Florence as these evacuations continue up and down the Eastern Sea Board. Millions of Americans in the direct path, the director of the National Hurricane Center will be with me.

Also a new CNN poll shows a sharp drop in the president's approval rating, especially among those key independent voters. It portends potentially ominous signs for the Republican Party just 56 plus days before the midterm.


[09:15:00] HARLOW: All right, so this morning, Hurricane Florence is on track to be one of the strongest hurricanes to hit the Carolinas in decades. Look at the path of the storm right now, it is a cat four, packing winds of 130 miles an hour. We have learned that it could strengthen to a category five in just hours.

Landfall is expected on Thursday night all along the Carolina coast. Tropical force winds though could be felt as soon as tomorrow afternoon. At this point, a million -- over a million Americans are under mandatory evacuation orders in the Carolinas.

The President has approved disaster declarations overnight for North and South Carolina. FEMA officials are urging all residents to heed every single warning. So let me go now to Ken Graham; the director of the National Hurricane Center, the -- one of the most important people that we can hear from at a time like this.

Ken, thank you very much for being with us. So they're saying potentially a cat five in just a matter of hours. I mean, is it expected to potentially stay that strong until it reaches land?

KEN GRAHAM, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Well, we have the hurricane hunters out in the storm right now looking at the latest information. But the big point I want to make, there has been a lot of focus on, you know, the 130 miles an hour or 140 miles an hour.

This is a key point. These fluctuations are a natural part of how a hurricane behaves in these situations. So I think -- I think for the viewers, it's really important to stress whether with a four or the five, what separates those is just a mile an hour. Either way, the impacts are going to be catastrophic when it comes to the storm surge and the rainfall and also the wind stretching well on land.

HARLOW: When you talk about what the biggest concern is. I mean, you look, this is being compared to other storms like Hugo for example where the storm surge was such an issue for the Carolinas. You had 21 people, you know, die as a result across country. That -- this storm surge, is that the biggest concern right now along the Carolina coast?

GRAHAM: Yes, several concerns that we have, we really look at the storm surge as one. Fifty percent of fatalities in these tropical systems is the storm surge. And we have a storm surge watch for a good portion of the coast from South Carolina up to that North Carolina if it's in your border. But it's interesting when we really dive in and look at the data, this is where we really see where every nook and cranny has failed.

I mean, it's not just a coastal thing when you talk about the bury your islands. The water just keeps filtering in, keeps pushing in. You look at the Pamlico River and the sound, the water comes in, the Neuse Rivers -- look how where the water comes in and it piles up in some of these areas approaching Greenville.

And you look at New Bern and some of those, you know, 12 foot. I mean, you think about looking up the ceiling and thinking about 12- foot of storm surges, it's incredibly --

HARLOW: Yes --

GRAHAM: Catastrophic, and of course the rain, I mean, that's the other story here, it's not just an in-land threat. We're forecasting 15 to 20 inches of rain, at some places, it could get 30. So this could be a catastrophic event, not only the storm surge, but also with the rainfall forecast.

HARLOW: And I know, you know, one of the issues was at least how slow moving this thing was, and the amount of rainfall on top of land there in the Carolinas, that as the mayor of Myrtle Beach just said it's already saturated.

GRAHAM: That's a big problem because you're already saturated, which means any additional rain will compound those issues. The other point to make here, it's not just the coast, think about these rainfall values throughout Virginia, North Carolina, even Maryland, Delaware could see these big rainfall totals.

And the other big point --

HARLOW: Yes --

GRAHAM: These forecasts, we're talking at the end of the week into this weekend, some of these areas could actually shift back and forth. So if you're watching and you think you're at the edge of this, pay attention because little changes in that forecast --

HARLOW: Right --

GRAHAM: Could shift this whole area in either direction, that's a huge point to make.

[09:20:00] HARLOW: You know, Ken, when we're watching some of these storms come in a few days ahead of landfall, you know, sometimes down in the Caribbean and we see them where they could turn and completely miss land. I mean, when we look at the model -- and you have here, it doesn't look like any turn is an option to not, you know, not be catastrophic at least somewhere. Is that right? GRAHAM: Yes, we really -- you know, people have been talking about

the models and you look -- what we do is we look at dozens of them. And really the focus has been when you look at dozens of models, the focus really has been on this same area. And it looks like --

HARLOW: Yes --

GRAHAM: That's going to be the case. And I think at this point, we've got a plan on that, but this is the -- this is part of it. Not just being such a strong hurricane, but how scary it is to slow down like that. The issues are going to compound well into the weekend.

HARLOW: Yes --

GRAHAM: And by the way, this is Sunday. We're still talking a depression --

HARLOW: Wow --

GRAHAM: And causing the winds, and you talk about the saturated, so even on Sunday, we'll start seeing these trees fall, major power outages, it's just going to be a big impact.

HARLOW: OK, Ken, thank you very much for all you and your team are doing to keep everyone posted, we appreciate it.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

HARLOW: Ahead for us, we are honoring the lives lost on 9/11. Yes, it has been 17 years since this country was attacked on that September morning, September 11th. Among the nearly 3,000 people murdered that day, a mother and her unborn child who were on flight 93, her widower will join me next to honor her life and her memory.


HARLOW: All right, you are looking at the ways that this country is remembering 9/11, 17 years ago this morning, and honoring the nearly 3,000 lives lost. On the lower left of your screens you see the names being read off at Ground Zero in New York City.

In the middle, you see the Pentagon ceremony where wreaths will be laid, and on the right-lower portion of your screen, that is where the heroes on United flight 93 downed that plane that was headed towards the capital.

The president will speak there in moments. My next guest lost his wife and their unborn child on that flight, on United 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Jack Grandcolas joins me now, good morning Jack.


HARLOW: Lauren was 38, and she was three months pregnant with your child, and I just want to give you the floor to honor her. Tell us about her.

GRANDCOLAS: Oh, well, you know, we were, you know, average couple that met in college and got married six years later in San Francisco, and ten years later, we were expecting to have a family. She was energetic, the best friend you could want.

HARLOW: Yes --

GRANDCOLAS: And to those who were friends with her, they knew that. And it's a shame that she's not here today to be friends with others.

HARLOW: Let's show her, we have these like beautiful pictures that you sent us of her. You know, there is one of you, and I think her best friend kissing her, your wedding day, that photo, her dancing in that black dress, looking like she's having a complete ball. I mean, what were these memories like with her?

GRANDCOLAS: Well, she was fun, she would always get everyone to get up and dance. It wasn't a party unless she danced. And life to her was a dance. She embraced it, she was curious, she loved life, she loved new life, babies in particular. And she was always there for everyone.

And that's why I think the picture of myself and her best friend giving her a kiss just amplified the love that she got from everyone.

HARLOW: Yes, look at that smile too --


HARLOW: I mean, you say she loved babies, and again, the two of you were expecting what would have been your first child? You were expecting, she was three months pregnant. And I know you've said, you know, even now 17 years later, you walk down the street and you see a teenager with their parent, you see a 16-year-old or a 17-year-old and you can't help but think, what -- you know, what would our child have been like?

GRANDCOLAS: Yes, I think that has come clear to me. You know, I learned that mourning the passing of someone you know is difficult enough, but mourning the passing of someone who might have been was something I wasn't expecting. And -- but it's -- I am -- you know, I try to live in the memory of both --

HARLOW: Yes --

GRANDCOLAS: And be inspired by both of them to honor them each day, not just on this day, but every day --

HARLOW: Yes --

GRANDCOLAS: By living life moving forward.

HARLOW: There's also something bigger than any one person that you hope comes from today in a day when frankly, this country is so divided. You said you hope today can bring some sort of unity. GRANDCOLAS: Well, it's a day of remembrance, and it's nice that

everyone remembers the thousands that were lost that day and the families like myself. But I also hope that the country would remember how we came together and --

HARLOW: Yes --

GRANDCOLAS: I was buoyed by it and I know other family members were buoyed by it, and it wasn't just the country that came together, it was the whole world. We had sympathy and compassion from around the world and it poured in from everywhere, for me and for many of the other family members.

So it was that kind of unity that really buoyed us through the darkest hours, made us proud, helped us walk on and in our particular case to honor the courage that the 40 on flight 93 showed by winning the first fight against terrorism actually.

HARLOW: Yes, showing the world what this country is made of, right? I do think it's important to note that through all of this pain that you have lived, and that Lauren's family has --