Return to Transcripts main page


Hurricane Florence Pummels Carolinas With Wind, Rain; Disrespecting The Dead; Hurricane Force Winds Slamming NC Coast. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired September 13, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:15] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And good evening from Wilmington, North Carolina.

The effects of Hurricane Florence are just being felt here, and throughout the Carolina coast. It's expected to get far worse as we go tonight and obviously into tomorrow. The reason is water, being described as a category 2 storm with a category 4 storm surge, as much as 12 feet of additional water.

And because Florence is moving so slowly, the rainfall, well, it could be catastrophic in some areas. The ground here was already soaked. The rivers in coastal areas have already started flooding in some places. Now, whatever this storm becomes, tonight is really only the beginning.

We've got correspondents throughout the area. I want to first go to Dianne Gallagher in New Bern, North Carolina, where the water has been rising.

Dianne, what are you seeing?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, it's continuing to rise here. I'm in downtown New Bern right now, in the middle of a street here.

Now, just for frame of reference, I'm a little more than 5'10". It's some up over my knees now, this water. We're again in the middle of a road here. I'm going to see if my photographer can pan out. You can see that we still do have power here in New Bern. You can see the lights reflecting off of the water.

A lot of people here in Craven County do not, though. In fact, it's one of the top counties at this point in North Carolina to lose power. We've been experiencing some of these larger gusts of wind in the past half hour or so. In fact, we got into our vehicle to move it to a safer location.

And it was a little difficult for my producer, Jay, to drive. We started seeing debris for the first time in the air. For the most part, it's been things in the water.

Now, this isn't necessarily the ocean that I'm wading around that's come through New Bern. This is the Neuse River. And in Craven County, they have this perfect storm, if you will, of a flooding scenario. And that's because you got the Pamlico sound, they have the intercoastal waterways, they have the Neuse River and they're right up on the Atlantic Ocean. And all of that kind of comes together.

So, as Florence was coming closer to the coastline and those outer bands were reaching here in North Carolina, we could see the water rising. We had to leave our initial spot this morning at a public park, Anderson, because it just wasn't safe for us. We were going to be trapped there.

But I watched the water rise from right at my ankles to coming up to over my hips to where we had to leave. There were white caps and a current. I can't go there anymore because it isn't safe. But just down the corner here, this street, you can see the current of the river coming through this city.

Now, look, we're watching businesses right now. I'm going to be stepping up on a curb right here, but they have their boarded up windows, New Bern strong here. We're see thing across the entire city right now.

Unfortunately, we've been able to see some of that flooding go inside of these businesses in downtown right now. There's an old structure here, it's a bar, it's been here since 1810. Some people, because unfortunately we've seen a lot of them, even though officials have asked people not to be here and there is a curfew, people were out here taking pictures. They're like, look, we get a lot of flooding, but this is a little extreme, especially for New Bern, especially since hurricane Florence hasn't hit the area yet.

Now, Anderson, as far as emergency services are concerned, their emergency manager Stanley Kite tells me that we have 700 people stationed around Craven County, making sure that after the storm comes, we can do rescues. There's a dive team from Indiana here, we've spoken with the National Guard. They're ready. They know what they're doing in New Bern, but they need the people who live here to cooperate with them.

COOPER: Yes. Diane Gallagher, and, again, that water could be on the ground for a long time. And there's more to come.

I want to go to Brian Todd in Hampstead, North Carolina. We'll check in with Dianne a little bit later on.

Brian, what are you seeing there in Hampstead?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we're really getting pounded with wind and rain here, and it's getting more dangerous as we progress into the evening. I'm on Old Landing Road, but behind me, this is the intercoastal waterway. Look how the water is pushing on this road.

This road does end just a little bit over that way, but this is not even high tide yet. High tide is not for a couple more hours, maybe a few more hours. And look at the water just pushing in from the intercoastal waterway, right onto this roadway. And we're told it's going to get a lot worse in the hours ahead. I'm going to walk over here and show you another crucial part of this

whole thing in the inland flooding that we have to watch out for. This is the marshland that often protects these areas. It can absorb storm surge. It can absorb rain.

But this isn't the kind of rain and storm surge this area can absorb, and these marshlands are getting inundated. Their homes and businesses just behind a tree line right here, and we're just, you know, we're very concerned at this hour that with high tide not even approaching yet, and you see what the water is doing on this road, once high tide gets here and inundates this area, pushes inland, the water is really not going to have anywhere to go after that.

[20:05:13] Because as our meteorologists have been saying, once the high tide comes in, with all the rain that they're starting to get now, and all the storm surge, even when high tide recedes, it just can't go anywhere. So, these areas are getting inundated, on the way in to this point, we passed an assisted living facility with a lot of cars in it. I called and asked about that place, because we all have memories, of course, of what happened in Florida last year after Hurricane Irma and the elderly people that died in that facility.

I said, you know, are you going to evacuate that place? Are these people in any danger? One of the officials said that facility is built to withstand a category 4, they're confident they're far enough inland that they will be safe. But that's something we're going to be keeping an eye on it, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, Brian, you talk about high tide, you know, with the amount of time this storm is probably going to sit in this state, it's going to go through several tide cycles. So, you're going to be seeing all of the effects s of that over several case.

Brian, we'll check in with you. We just got a new update from the National Hurricane Center. I want to get the latest on that from our CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray. She's putting it all together for us. She joins us now with the latest.

So, Jennifer, what does this storm look like? Because I got to tell you, some people come up to me already and said, you know, what's going on with this? We saw some bands of rain and wind here in Wilmington, and then, you know, now we've taken off our raincoats because it's not raining, it's not that windy. What are you seeing?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, that's normal with hurricanes. You have the rain bands come, and then you won't have anything for a while, and then the next one will come. And once the center of the storm gets closer and closer to you, then it will be a little more sustained.

But I assure you, that you will get another round before it's said and done and a lot more of it, because the storm is going to sit and basically camp out here for the next 24 to 36 hours. The latest advisory at 8:00, winds of 100 miles per hour, still a category 2, gusts of 120. In fact, we have a gust near 100 miles per hour near Cape Lookout. So, we're already getting very, very strong winds, strong gusts, and it's only moving at five miles per hour.

And I want to just tack onto what Brian Todd was saying about the high tide cycles, because with this rain and wind and everything pushing west, he's right. We're going to have another high tide cycle along this coastline around midnight, give or take, a little bit of where you are. And once the tide starts to come back down, it's not going to come down, because the water and the wind continues to push in.

So, basically each high tide cycle that we go through, the water is going to build upon itself, because this water is constantly being pushed in. So, we're going to continue to have the rain. We're going to continue to have the flooding, the storm surge, all of that will last for the next 24 to 36 hours, Anderson.

COOPER: And just -- I mean, the size of this storm, you know, it went to a category 2 when folks woke up this morning. But it really doubled in size. It's been just -- it's been fascinating, kind of terrifying to watch how big this storm was and is.

GRAY: You're right. And it is. It doubled in size. This storm is massive. I know we focus so much on the number, the category 2 and category 3. People woke up this morning and said oh, it's just a category 2.

Not the case at all with this storm, because 75 percent of people die in hurricanes because of the surge and the flooding. And with this storm, yes, it's category 2, but the storm surge and the flooding is going to be that of a category 4.

The storm has incredible momentum, and it's been carrying that with it for days now. And it doesn't just go away because the winds decrease a couple miles per hour. That's staying within the storm.

That's going to push all of that water inland. We're still going to get the storm surge of a category 4. And if you say your home can withstand the winds of a category 2, that's not the takeaway from the storm. The takeaway is that your home could have 11 feet of water inside of it. And so, it's not going to stay on the foundation in a lot of cases.

And well inland, even if you've evacuated, we are still going to see the water overfill the banks because it's going to get clogged up into those river systems with that constant push of water for a day and a half.

COOPER: You know, Jennifer, I think what you said is just so important. I want to re-emphasize it, because there are people who are watching right now who see, you know, the storm looks like it's defused or breaking up from what it was, the eye is not as well- organized as it once was. But as you say, it is water that kills the majority of people in hurricanes.

[20:10:03] It is not the wind as much as people focus on the wind.

GRAY: No, 8 percent of people die from the wind, 75 percent of people die from the water, the surge, the flooding. Let me show on the floor what we're talking about when we talk about

storm surge, because people focus so much on the wind and the wind is not what's important here with this storm. This storm is very unique.

The storm surge is going to come on in, two feet, it's going to get close to your friend, by the time the storm surge gets to four feet, it will inch closer to your home, maybe gets inside your home. By the time it gets to 11 feet, that first floor is completely flooded and you may not have anywhere to go. And we're not just talking about coastal communities, we're talking about inland locations, as well, because that surge is going to go up into those rivers well inland. And it could possibly inundate those communities.

We talked about this for several tide cycles, this is going to last. This is not a typical storm. This storm is going to stay here for a very, very long time. It's very unusual for a storm to just sit here like this, Anderson.

COOPER: And, of course, as soon as I said it stopped raining, it started raining again. I'm an idiot.

GRAY: There you go.

COOPER: In the next few hours, just quickly, what can we expect?

GRAY: Well, let's go back to the wall and show you in the next couple of hours, we're going to continue to see the rain. We're going to continue to see the wind. The storm is going to continue to push that water. So the next couple of hours, just continue to see that water push inland, push to the west. The rain is going to continue to come down and like you said, it's going to come and sometimes it won't be there.

But the closer that storm gets to shore, that's when we'll see the relentless rain along with the wind. So, I think by mid-morning tomorrow, tomorrow afternoon, that eye is going to be very, very close with it only moving five miles per hour. It's going to be well into tomorrow before it gets close enough.

But with winds already at 100-mile-per-hour gusts at Cape Lookout, people are already feeling the effects big time.

COOPER: All right. Jennifer, I appreciate it.

State and local officials very busy tonight. We're joined now by two, Woody White, who chairs the board of county commissioners here in New Hanover County, and Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo.

Thanks so much both for being with us.

Mr. Mayor, I -- what is your message to people tonight who are watching this here in Wilmington or elsewhere, North Carolina, and think, well, maybe this isn't so bad. You know, it seems slow and we haven't seen a lot of wind or rain?

MAYOR BILL SAFFO (D), WILMINGTON, NC: It's slow-moving storm. It's going to move 100 miles in 24 hours before we get to the eyewall. It's going to dump up to 24 to 40 inches of rainfall.

COOPER: Up to 40 inches.

SAFFO: Up to 40 inches in isolated areas, be vigilant.

This is a very big storm, and it's going to take a while for it to get through this area. But when it finally gets through, we'll assess the damages. But we're definitely going to have damage from this storm.

COOPER: And, Woody, just in terms of shelters, I know, and a lot of people have left, but there were five shelters here in Wilmington. How is that situation?

WOODY WHITE, CHAIRMAN, NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC: It's great. We've staffed over -- we've sheltered over 480 people here locally, 250 inland in Wake Country, and the staff there, the sheriff's deputies and the county personnel are just doing an incredible job. And, you know, it really speaks to how we implement the best practices and the preparation we do over the years. But also the experiences that we have down here, Anderson, and going through these events so often.

We're prepared, we're good at what we do. And it's an incredible thing, because the community comes together before, during, and after the storm.

COOPER: You really -- you opened up, in fact, you increased capacity at some of the shelters because you were getting so many people last night.

WHITE: Yes, we did. We're fully staffed -- the capacity, we have capacity at four others. But at this point, it's really time to hunker down. Nobody needs to be out there. Wherever you are, stay safe. The first responders are ready to deploy the moment the storm passes.

COOPER: Just in terms of what Wilmington looks like with 20, 30, 40 inches of rain in some areas, I mean, this area here, do you expect it to be water --

SAFFO: We expect it to be over that board walk, and we also expect the Cape Fear River to crest sometime on Tuesday. So, we're going to have a tremendous amount of water coming down.

COOPER: Not until Tuesday, you think that's when it's going to reach --

SAFFO: That's what the anticipated crest time is for this river right now. So, we're going to have a lot of flooding and water coming down this river for days.

COOPER: The record for this river was back in Floyd in 1999. You expect it may go higher than that?

SAFFO: That's what they're expecting.

COOPER: I think more than 23 feet, which is just incredible. SAFFO: And we're looking at possibly 25. So it's definitely going to

be -- it's going to break that record.


In terms of other storms that you've experienced and that the city has experienced, how does this compare?

WHITE: You know, they're all different, Anderson. They all have unique personalities and Mother Nature seems to know how to throw different curveballs, whether it's wind or storm surge or whatever.

[20:10:07] But this one is bad in all three. So while it looks like maybe it's better than we thought, we still are prepared for the worst. Matthew was bad just a couple years ago, we still haven't fully recovered from it. But we always recover from these things. And that's what people need to realize. This storm comes and goes, and when it leaves, we all unify and we work together to rebuild this community.

COOPER: It's also such a slow-moving storm. A lot of people have been through hurricanes, but not through one so slow. You could outwalk this storm when it makes landfall. Just sitting in your home for two or three days, people get antsy. They want to get out.

SAFFO: Exactly. I don't know anybody that's seen such a slow-moving storm and this will be on top of us for literally two full days.

COOPER: Just in terms of prepositioning, you talked about this. You feel like things are prepositioned for first responders, other supplies afterwards.

SAFFO: Absolutely. They have about 100 miles here, Duke Power has got a tremendous amount of resources coming to the area after the storm passes to get power back on. That's one of the main things we got to have especially this time of year down here in the south. We have to have that power so people can get to start working and repairing their homes.

COOPER: I know you've been working hard and you have a lot ahead of you.

Any final message you want for people here?

WHITE: We have prepositioned food and water for up to 60,000 people for four days to feed them. The second thing I'd like to say, Anderson, are e-mails and phone calls are pouring in to help after the storm. Folks in North Carolina can dial 211 to get connected with the United Way.

And outside the state of North Carolina, I think your network has the phone number to call. We want your help, we need your help and we really appreciate all of the Americans and the North Carolinians coming together to help us after this is over.

COOPER: I appreciate both of your efforts. We'll be talking in the days ahead. Thank you very much. You got a lot of work ahead of you. Thanks very much.

Our coverage continues right after a short break. A lot more about what's going on here in North Carolina. Also I'll speak with the town manager of Carolina Beach.

Also ahead, President Trump talking about the death toll in Puerto Rico, denying that 3,000 Puerto Ricans died in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Keeping them honest, next.


[20:21:44] COOPER: Hey, welcome back. We're live from Wilmington.

Hurricane Florence is moving very, very slowly, carrying enough rain and storm surge to potentially cause catastrophic damage. I want to get the latest now from our Ed Lavandera, who is to the north of us in Jacksonville, in North Carolina.

Ed, how are things?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Anderson. Well, we have been on the north side, the topside of this storm. We're really so far throughout the course of this day at least, the brunt of the storm and the heavy winds and rain that have been packed into this storm, and lashing out against the coastline. This is where the brunt of that we have seen throughout the day.

We have driven from Morehead City to south of Jacksonville where we are. For the most part, everything seemed to be holding up rather well, but it is still extremely early. We have spoken with emergency officials in these areas and what they're most concerned about is that flooding situation that will come with this storm surge. For now, the winds have been coming out of the north down to the south, so that has essentially pushed the water for the most part out of the cities and the communities for the most part.

But we know that's going to change in the hours ahead. And that's when the scenes around here could dramatically change, as well. So, that is the -- what emergency officials and first responders are preparing for and expecting here throughout the next few hours, as the storm slowly creeps towards the coastline, those winds start to shift, and that's when things here can dramatically change.

I mentioned, is that those low-lying areas that officials here are the most concerned about. We've seen in the areas that we have driven through, Anderson, for the most part, areas where the power is still on in many places. That's a good sign. The longer that can stay up and fun functioning, the better for people who have chosen not to evacuate.

But emergency officials tell us for the most part from Jacksonville north to Morehead City, along the coastline, they feel like the majority of the people have evacuated from these areas. There's still a good number of people who have chosen to stay back. We're in between one of these bands of heavy rains and winds. But they're starting to get smaller and smaller, the times that they -- the amount of time it goes between these bands. So, clearly a sign that the center of the storm approaching and getting much closer, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, Ed, thank you very much. Stay safe, you and you crew.

I want to go back to Brian Todd in Hampstead, North Carolina.

What's going on there, Brian?

TODD: Well, Anderson, it is getting a little worse. The rain is certainly picking up and the wind is starting to whip around. You know, as you know for being in these for so many years, when you get rained on sideways, you know it's getting serious, and it is. You can see this band hitting me right now, you can see that.

Again, the storm surge where we are, is getting to be a problem. This is the intercoastal waterway, just creeping up this road. More so each minute. As we get to high tide, close to midnight, this is going to be worse. So I'm really getting hit with a band right here.

You know, it's coming off the marshes too, Anderson. When the storm surge overwhelms the marshes like they are to my right, that's a bad sign, because this water in a couple of hours is going to have no place to go.

[20:25:04] I just checked in with the local emergency management people again about this assisted living facility that's not far from here down this road. They have 174 elderly people in there, but they say it's built to withstand a category 4 hurricane. They are confident they can ride it out. But as you know from last year and that horrible experience after Hurricane Irma with those elderly people dying in that assisted living facility, that's something you keep an eye on in this kind of weather.

Obviously, the conditions then were much different. It was a heat situation. This is driving wind and rain and flooding, but it can be just as devastating.

We were also at a nuclear power plant earlier today, the Brunswick nuclear power plant, which has the exact same design as Fukushima nuclear power plant which was overwhelmed with meltdowns 7 1/2 years ago. And they were -- we were talking to them about their preparations for this. They said they were putting metal flood barriers around that facility down in south port, which is just a little bit south of Wilmington, but they feel they're far enough inland, they're four miles inland and they're not right on the Cape Fear River, they're a couple of miles from the Cape Fear River, so they're not close enough to water for that facility to be compromised by flooding and they've taken another modifications, Anderson.

But these are two facilities we're watching tonight. Based on past experiences with the assisted living facilities and on the side of the coin with nuclear power facility, those are the areas that can be compromised to devastating effects -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Brian, appreciate that.

Again, with water on the ground, a lot of this water is going to be on the ground for days and days. You heard the mayor in Wilmington just a second ago saying that the river, the Cape Fear River, they don't expect it to crest until Tuesday. That gives you the length of time that folks are going to have to be very aware of water on the ground and concerned about moving around if they are able to even move around very far.

You know, we've been getting the up-to-date forecasts, and that's all made possible because of hunter pilots who are helping to track the storm, flying into the storms, putting sensors into the storm.

Flight Director Jack Parrish is aboard a high altitude Gulfstream jet which drops these sensor probes to measure winds and other conditions that are steering the storm. The data then goes into the forecast models that really make it all possible.

I spoke to Jack Parrish in just a little bit earlier before we went on air.


COOPER: Where are you in relation to the hurricane right now and what are you seeing?

JACK PARRISH, FLIGHT DIRECTOR, NOAA HURRICANE HUNTERS: Anderson, I'm on NOAA 49, a high altitude jet. We've been dropping weather packages around the storm. We are coming over the Florida coast right now to return to our base in Lakeland. NOOA Hurricane Hunters have been profiling both north and south of the storm, trying to get the steering currents on where this thing is going.

COOPER: So, I know you've been doing this for more than three decades. How does this storm compare to others you have seen?

PARRISH: Well, this one reminds me a great deal of way back in 1985, Hurricane Gloria. Perfect storm in the Bahamas, it went up to long island. The winds spread from New York City over to Cape Cod. This one is doing something similar.

The winds are spreading way out. There's a strong pressure gradient between Long Island and Cape Hatteras. And so, very strong winds all the way up the east coast on this ridiculous storm.

COOPER: And those sensors that you drop in, can you explain what kind of data it gives us?

PARRISH: Yes, Anderson. And NOAA jet drops these cylindrical packages that weigh about a pound, they give you pressure, temperature humidity, wind speed, that you giving four times per second, we're recording that data in real-time and we make sure all the data is good. Send it out in a message and it goes right into those computer models that are telling us how quickly Florence will go ashore and how strong it will be when it goes ashore.

COOPER: Jack, we appreciate all the work that you and your crew are doing. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

PARRISH: Anderson, the pleasure talking to you again. You take care of yourself, sir.


COOPER: Well, more than 1100 search and rescue personnel, 300 ambulances are in position for storm response we're told. The Army Corps of Engineers says 105 generators are in position, 15 more on the way. Those are -- we're not talking about small generators, those are big enough to power hospitals and schools, facilities where people are seeking shelter, trying to be as ready as possible for what is ahead is obviously on everyone's mind.

Joining me right now is Michael Cramer, town manager of Carolina Beach, North Carolina.

Michael, what is your biggest concern at this hour from what you're seeing?


MICHAEL CRAMER, TOWN MANAGER, CAROLINA BEACH: Well presently, now that the storm has actually reduced in speed, our main concern is the storm surge and the rain. We're talking about 20 to 40 inches of rain, and 9 to 13-foot storm surge. To put that in perspective, most of our housing on the coast is elevated. And that would mean that even with an elevated structure, you'd have water on the first floor, the first habitable floor.

COOPER: So for anybody who has stayed behind, who thinks just because they're in a structure that's elevated, they need to be on their guard, because they could very easily have water in their first floor.

CRAMER: Very much so. And that's why our council earlier in the week went and issued a mandatory evacuation for 8:00 last night, and then a curfew for 8:00 last night, trying to encourage people to leave, because this will be a devastating event for rain and storm surge. And people aren't used to that here. We do get storms, and our storms are usually in the one and two category type storms, or at least they have been recently. But this one is a little bit different with that storm surge and the amount of rain.

COOPER: Yes. And the length of time also that it's going to be sitting there. Michael Cramer, appreciate it. We'll check in with you again.

When we come back, two tweets from President Trump about Hurricane victims in Puerto Rico that have people questioning not only the President's command of the facts, but also his basic decency. We're joined by the mayor of San Juan. Keeping them honest when we continue, live from the Carolina coast.


COOPER: We're obviously tracking Hurricane Florence very closely. We're keeping an eye on it, we're going to come back to it. But this next story, we need to tell you about it, it would be stunning frankly at any time, at this moment, though, it's hard to even kind of find the words. Because even as millions of people here are living what could be a devastating, potentially for some a deadly Hurricane, President Trump spoke out again today about Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, tweeting -- I should point out from the comforts of the executive mansion, he had this to say to anyone who watch the parent die or buried a husband or maybe even a child. And I'm quoting here, "3,000 people" the President tweet, "did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the island after the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by, it didn't go up by much. Then a long time later they started to report really large numbers like 3,000".

The President went on to say, "This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising billions to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them on to the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico."

Well his words were not an accident. They are, in fact, a lie. And the starkest version yet of a cruel series of self-congratulatory statements and tweets in which a tragedy for millions becomes by the way the President's way of thinking a triumph of one. A triumph of one, because you might remembers the other day he called his administration's response to Hurricane Maria "an unsung success." Don't tell that to Meriam Rodriguez, because her husband Natalio (ph) was on a ventilator, when they lost power, he lost air, he died. Meriam was not the only one who watched a loved one die unnecessarily

[20:35:27] Yet to the President, it's just though her husband Natalio Rodriguez never even existed at all. Same for the thousands of other families. American families who lost loved ones. American families who today had to listen to their President lie about how their loved one died. It is unthinkable really. Or at least it should be. The death toll, 2,975 was arrived at by a study commissioned by Puerto Rico's governor. It was done by the non-partisan school of Public Health at George Washington University. They worked on for months, and follows an earlier survey from a team at Harvard which estimated nearly 4,700 excess deaths in Hurricane Maria's aftermath.

The George Washington study, which the university by the way backed up and reaffirmed today, found that people died from unsafe drinking water, heat, lack of power to run ventilators and kidney machines, lack of access to basic medical care, treatable conditions. Horrible ways to die. Horror that is invisible it seems to at least the President of the United States. And even some of his staunch supporters are not behind him on this.

The question is, what does he see that even they don't? Well we got one answer late today from White House spokesman Hogan Gidley, a statement trying to explain what the President tweeted, I want to read it you, it read, as the President said every death from Hurricane Maria is a horror. Before, during and after the two massive Hurricanes, the President directed the entire administration to provide unprecedented support to Puerto Rico. President Trump was responding to the liberal media and the San Juan mayor who sadly have tried to exploit the devastation by pushing out a constant stream of misinformation and false accusations. Now, keeping them honest, that statement is trying to make the incomprehensible somehow understandable. As if it were somehow normal for Presidents to say this sort of thing. It is not. The statement ignores the very words that it purports to defend. The President did not tweet that every death is a horror. He made a mockery of what people saw with their own eyes, what local funeral directors, medical examiners, reporters on the scene, researchers and first responders all saw. Firsthand.

Americans died from Hurricane Maria and the inadequate response to it. We may not know all their names, but I can tell you their families do. What we know for a certain is that the President of United States has disrespected the dead of Puerto Rico today and disrespected the living who will live the rest of their lives with the pain of loss and the pain of knowing that their President, in his heart, does not see their loss for what it truly, truly, truly is.

San Juan's mayor, Carmen Yulin Cruz joins me now. Mayor Cruz, I can't imagine somebody who has lost a loved one in Puerto Rico, hearing the President of the United States saying that nearly 3,000 Puerto Ricans did not die in the wake of the storm because of the storm. What you hearing -- what went through your mind when you saw what the President tweeted?

CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, MAYOR, SAN JUAN: Well, Anderson, to politicize the death count in the wake of Hurricane Florence is despicable. This is a new low even for President Trump. Now it is to be expected, the President has this ability to make everything about him, and to try and belittle and diminish and call fake news or fake facts, anything that does not agree with the standard his trying to put on this. People in Puerto Rico are irate. They're furious. And mostly they're appalled, they can't even understand firs of all why -- or the President of the United States, facts don't seem to matter. And truth doesn't seem to matter.

You know, he talks about the Democrats being the ones that did this to him, and includes myself. It's almost as if he suffers from the world is against me complex or conspiracy phobia. You know, no one has to make the President look bad when it comes to Puerto Rico. He did that by himself when he neglected to do what he had to do. And my fear now is that rather than focusing himself on North Carolina and South Carolina, that he continues this tirade of self-accolades. And that he continues to think he's doing everything right, and people will die in those two states because of that.

COOPER: You know, I mean, if anything, first of all, the 2,975, that's probably a conservative estimate. If anything, the government has, you know, stuck to an artificially low death toll of 64 people for really this past year.

[20:40:11] And it's only -- and in fact, may -- according to the researchers from Harvard, they said that the government made it difficult for them to even get access to mortality statistics and made their survey all the more difficult. The government of Puerto Rico did support this GW study, and the governor has made this the official death toll. But it's -- you know, the idea that this is a number that just has come out of the blue, I mean, this is a legitimate scientific study, and there have been other surveys and other reporting that back it up.

CRUZ: Not only that, Anderson, there's one data point that the President wants to call FEMA a group of bunch of liars. He cannot deny, FEMA received in the past month 2,471 applications for funeral assistance. So at least they have to acknowledge 2,471 deaths. Now, to add insult to injury, in this unsung success fantasy book that the President is trying to write, FEMA only approved 75 of those applications for funeral assistance. From the 2,471 that people applied for. That he doesn't want to believe the 2,975 from George Washington University, and he doesn't want to believe the more than 3,000 from Harvard University, he should at least understand that the fact that his own government processed 2,471 requests for funeral assistance from FEMA, and approved only 75. That number should at least burn in his soul.

Somebody should really -- some of his advisers, somebody from the White House should try to save the President from himself, because he continues to dig himself into a hole. And, again, in a day where all the attention should have been to Florence, he continues to try to be undignified by tweeting and bullying the people of Puerto Rico. Well, we will not stand for it.


CRUZ: The President has been delusional. He continues to be harassing the people of Puerto Rico. And enough is enough.

COOPER: Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

I want to introduce you to Carmen Cruz, no relation to the mayor. Her mother died in Puerto Rico, waiting for an operation at a hospital that ended up losing power.

Carmen, thank you for being with us. I'm so sorry for your loss. I can't imagine what it's like to be a person who lost in this case your mom in the wake of the storm. To then be told by the President of the United States that your mom didn't die as a result of the storm. What went through your mind?

CARMEN CRUZ, PUERTO RICO RESIDENT: I'm disgusted. It's so disgusting, because that's my mom. And prior to that I lost my aunt, too. So it's very hurtful for -- to me to read that, and it's just appalling, it's disgusting. I cannot believe somebody with that power can easily talk like that. And what does he gain on that? That's just more disrespect on his own that people are not going to have anything on him. I can't stand him. He's just -- I'm just without words, because you don't do that. Basically, you're telling me that we're not human or part of anything. And -- but I see --

COOPER: If you could --

C. CRUZ: I see in North Carolina -- I'm sorry.

COOPER: No, no, go ahead.

C. CRUZ: I see what's going on in North Carolina and I appreciate that, you know, they're ahead and they're there and they're waiting to help others. Why couldn't that happen in Puerto Rico? That right there tells me a lot.

COOPER: If you could just tell us a little bit about your mom and I know it's hard, but just so people understand what happens -- what happens -- what happened to so many people in the wake of this storm, how she lost her life.

C. CRUZ: Well, she was -- had to go to the hospital because she gained water in her lungs. So when she went to the hospital, she stood there at the day that she died, she was supposed to get the operation, but there was no power. The power had gone. The generator broke. So and meanwhile while they were waiting for it to get fixed, she had three heart attacks at the same time because of the water she regain inside her body, it couldn't take it. So her body just gave up, and she passed away. And she didn't have -- because there's no resources for her at all.

COOPER: Tell me your mom's name and just tell me a little bit about her, in case the President is watching just so he knows your mom's name and knows about the life she lived, not just how she lost her life.

[20:45:08] C. CRUZ: Oh, sure. She was beautiful. She was awesome. Her name was Isabelle Rivera Gonzalez. She was married to my dad for 33 years, and they moved to Puerto Rico. She was energetic, she loved to dance, she loved to hear music, she loved to cook, always there for us. She dropped everything for a dime. And, you know, what she had 10 to 15 more years in her life, because she comes from a strong Puerto Rican family. Her brother right now is 93, and her mother and dad lived past 100.

So she had more to life than I can even imagine, that's how strong and beautiful she was. And she love to loved to hear music. She'd always tell me, come on Tina (ph), let's go, let's go dance. Let's go and listen to music and I would sit there was just see her to dance, she was just beautiful. And she would go with her -- her brothers would be there, too, and they would just dance and mingle.

And you know, have a little cocktail. But it was always, always about to have fun, and she loved dominos. You could give it up to her. She could beat you in dominos any time. She was awesome at it, yes.

COOPER: Well Carmen --

C. CRUZ: Always with her brothers every weekend.

COOPER: -- I'm so sorry. I'm sorry for your loss. And I'm so sorry we're talking about these circumstances. I appreciate you telling us about your mom a little bit and letting people know about her and her life. Thank you, Carmen.

C. CRUZ: Thank you. I appreciate it, Anderson. Thank you so much. COOPER: Well up next, despite mandatory evacuation orders, there are people obviously who are choosing to stay and ride out the storm. I'm going to speak with a couple who are staying through the night on their boat, which is docked in the Marina actually behind me. We'll talk to them in a moment.


COOPER: Well as Hurricane Florence is beginning to hit, the message from North Carolina's governor is this, you put your life at risk by staying. Not everyone of course hearing the warning. Joining me now are Dee and Burton Bridges. They are riding the hurricane out in their boat in the Marina behind us.

Thanks so much for being with us. You live on your boat. What made you decide to stay?

BURTON BRIDGES, WILMINGTON RESIDENT: Our boat, we live on it, and it's our -- we decided to manage our risk by coming here to Wilmington. And --

COOPER: You feel like these are pretty saying -- but Marina is a safe place to be?

B. BRIDGES: This is a famous hurricane hold Marina. So it's famous for lesser winds and more mitigated tide surges back at this point.

COOPER: If there had been other Marinas I know Wilmington in the past where boats have ended up on the street and stuff, but you feel like this one is a newer one and its safe?

DEE BRIDGES, WILMINGTON RESIDENT: Oh absolutely. It's a cat 4 rated Marina. The holding is great, and the protection from the debris and stuff from the river has been all engineered and taking care of so, absolutely we --

[20:50:11] Have you ever ridden through a storm on your boat so far? I know it's relatively recently you've been living on your boat.

D. BRIDGES: Matthew -- we did Matthew on a sailboat up river in (INAUDIBLE)/

COOPER: How was that?

D. BRIDGES: Exciting and very -- yes scary.

COOPER: Do you have experience with -- yes.

D. BRIDGES: They're all exciting, they're all scary. And they're all taking a risk. You know, you take a risk when you live on a boat.

COOPER: Because they're talking on this river of possibly setting a record and the river cresting they're saying now on Tuesday, is that -- is that what you hear?

B. BRIDGES: It much -- yes, it would be much later, right now it's actually very low. And -- but once the storm passes over Wilmington and goes further west of us, then we'll start getting the surge back in, and that does concern us, but, you know, there's a point where we know we'll have to leave when it becomes unsafe at that point. But by then the winds will die down. So it's sort of a wait and see.

COOPER: So if the boat -- I mean, pardon my ignorance on this, I fantasized about living on a boat and I don't know much about them. If -- I mean if the water gets really choppy, and I know this is out of the wind in this Marina, I mean how do you secure the boat. How secure is it?

B. BRIDGES: Well as much it's not going to be very choppy, there's not enough room for waves to build add on the river. And plus it's dug into the land here sort of on the side of the river not in the middle of it.


B. BRIDGES: And -- really the wind is more about how much the boat pulls on the lines. But it's just storm surge and how much the tide and the river comes up its going to (INAUDIBLE) worry about.

COOPER: Have you had friends or family? I know I think you have kids who are -- have graduated that aren't on the boat with you. Has anyone said to you should leave?

D. BRIDGES: Absolutely. They are blowing up our phone asking us to leave.

COOPER: You're going to get some more calls after this.

D. BRIDGES: Well, we've been given the hospitality of our boat friends. The community in itself is a tight knit community. And you wouldn't believe the outpouring that they've offered up. I mean --

COOPER: Well you're also near the hotels, so you can come in here if worse comes to worse.

D. BRIDGES: Oh yes, yes we could. Yes, we have a bug out plan. But that's part of being prepared and living on a boat. You have one every day. Not just because there's a hurricane, it's every day.

COOPER: We'll Dee and Burton, I appreciate talking to you and we'll keep checking on you, we'll keep our eye on you, and we'll see you soon I hope.



D. BRIDGES: Thank you.

COOPER: All right, take care.

I want to check in with our Chris Cuomo who is in north Myrtle Beach. Chris, how are things where you -- are you been on the beach all day? How's the conditions right now?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Breezy and beautiful. That's what it is much and the deceptiveness of that is what the danger is. As we look at the radar Anderson, we're seeing Florence is starting to rotate, starting to make her way to the coast. 85 miles east-southeast of right off of exactly where you are in Wilmington. And we're going to start to see bands. I was listening to you earlier which raining and stop, we know that's the way it goes. The question is, how long, how much soaking, how much damage will this storm do?

We were just looking on and off at a beautiful waxing crescent moon that's popping in and out of the clouds. Once it begins, it's going to last a long time, wave after wave. We'll be talking to local officials here who are in charge of policing the people who stayed behind. There's a significant number of people here in North Myrtle Beach South Carolina. What happens if there's flooding for days or longer? We'll take you through it.

COOPER: All right Chris, we'll see you shortly.

Up next, we'll also get the latest from another city getting drenched by Florence. Details ahead, we'll be right back.


[20:56:59] COOPER: Well Hurricane Florence is spreading heavy rains, strong winds, obviously along the Carolina coast tonight. And its really just beginning as we keep saying, this is only the outer bands, the damage, the potential damage only just beginning. I want to check in with our Martin Savidge just a few miles north of here in Wrightsville beach, North Carolina. Martin, how are things?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well the conditions continue to fluctuate. And I'm sure you've seen the same thing Anderson. There are periods actually this evening where the weather has been almost benign and then it starts to close in like it is now. So you get the heavy rains beginning to come down. Were in a slightly shielded area when it comes to the wind. But of course the real event here is going to be the flooding, and part of that's going to be as a result of storm surge, and we're on the intercoastal. That's always a worry.

The other part of that is going to be the runoff, that's a more delayed kind of reaction. And then you have to worry about the wind immediately on the coastal frontage here. And that's another problem. They got a lot of these buildings are older buildings. They have not necessarily seen really hard hitting storms in some while. So it means that they were build in a different code, a different era. So they're going to watching for that as well.

Power's been a problem, we already know, tens of thousands without power. Primarily in the coastal areas. But this is going to be a statewide event. And if (INAUDIBLE) time is going to be the real factor here. But this storm what's interesting about it is, of course time and time again, just when you think you got it all figured out. It seems to throw something else at you. And it's been that way for forecasters. We noted the fact that it was thinking it was going to go north. Then it starts too drift south, with having the steering problems, its having now, looks like it may have stalled.

Well the only real thing that's been consistent is the amount of rain they've talked about. And that will continue to be the driving story here and especially inland all the way to the western edge of North Carolina and beyond into states like Georgia. So the storm as you say is not a sprint, it's a marathon.

COOPER: And also Justin -- Martin, I mean the size of this thing doubling in size really kind of, you know, overnight. I guess it was, when I woke up this morning, they said it had doubled in size, even though it had gone down to a cat 2.

SAVIDGE: Right, and, you know. Science has an impact on the storm. One in the sense that it's not going to react as quickly as smaller storms will to say it runs over the Gulf Stream. Which would give it -- more energy. But a storm like this it's already on its trajectory, it's already on its path. It's a big hulking, moving -- slow moving monster. And it's going to wreak havoc, but over a long period of time.

COOPER: Yes. Well, Martin, appreciate you being there, we'll check in with you.

Quick reminder, don't miss a "Full Circle", a daily interactive newscast on Facebook. We did one earlier, tonight at 6:25 p.m. eastern as we do it every weekday night, it's at Join us tomorrow night at 6:25 p.m. for that show.

Our hurricane coverage continues obviously right now. I want to hand it over to Chris Cuomo. "CUOMO PRIME TIME" starts now. Chris?

[21:00:00] CUOMO: You were wondering where the rain is my brother. Now you know. It's right on Anderson's head. Hurricane Florence is starting to come around with another band of weather for the coast of the Carolinas. Let's put up the radar there, Anderson is going to standby. We have correspondent all up and down the path of the storm --