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At Least 5 Dead as Florence Keeps Battering the Carolinas; Destruction Dramatic Rescues as Florence Slams Carolinas. Aired on 8- 9p ET

Aired September 14, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:04] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone. I'm Anderson Cooper in Wilmington, North Carolina, where for the last 24 hours, the story has been rain, rain and more rain. In fact, we've seen the heaviest band of rain just in the last ten minutes or so, hitting this area down by the Cape Fear River.

There are five people have died so far in this storm. Five people, five lives lost, hundreds of people have had to be rescued from their homes, some in here in Wilmington. Others in New Bern and elsewhere.

There have been rescues going on last night, throughout today and no doubt will continue tonight. We're going to be talking to some rescuers in the next hour, as well as some people who have been rescued and the stories they tell are harrowing, of water coming into their homes, of sending their children up into the attic for what they thought was to save their lives then finally being rescued when all hope seemed to be lost.

So, there's a lot to tell you about what is happening on the ground here. The storm is now a tropical storm, but if you think that means it is over for people here, this rain tells you what the real story is. There's still concern about storm surge in areas, still concern about how much rain is going to continue to come down throughout the night into tomorrow. There are a lot of different areas that are just getting pummeled and pounded and have been all day long.

I drove around Wilmington earlier just to kind of get a sense of how the city is. There is the electricity is out. As you know, probably North Carolina, there's more than 300,000 people at this point without electricity. South Carolina has tens of thousands of people without electricity. We don't he exact numbers yet, but those numbers are only likely to increase and all throughout Wilmington, there are huge, enormous, old beautiful trees that are on the ground. It is very difficult to get anywhere.

Driving around, roads are blocked by downed trees. They haven't had time obviously to even deal with those trees. They're most concerned, obviously, the biggest priority is anybody in an emergency situation and as we said, we're going to talk to the fire chief, we're going to talk to the mayor, and to really give you a sense of what has been happening in North Carolina over the last 24 hours.

Because this storm is unlike really any that I've covered before, we've certainly seen bigger storms in terms of the wind speed, the category of storms, but just for a rain event, for water event, this is just a slow moving slug of a storm that is just seems to be stuck and it's just pounding this state, South Carolina as well.

I want to go over to Chris Cuomo who is in North Myrtle Beach in South Carolina.

Chris, how are things there?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the witching hour, Anderson. This is what they've been worried about. Everything is conspiring together with this storm right now.

These are the highest winds we've seen in the middle of this tropical system. This is the thickest band of rain we've had. The tide is coming in and the ocean behind me. All the energy that this storm has been storing up is now being released as the wind has shifted.

It's coming from the ocean on shore this is what they were worried about and we'll see how all these hours of pounding rain you pointed to will now saturate the situation, make it easy for flooding. Six hundred fifty thousand people are without power. We had intermittent power, now it's out all up and down t block. We saw some spots picking back up. We're working off our generators and our batteries here to bring you the programming.

But this is it. The water has already moved up. It's coming now. Once it getting up to the top of the beach, there's not protection for these homes. And then once it enters past these homes, there's a mild basin effect. It's not like Houston that filled up with Harvey the way it did, but it's flat to depress here so the water will be able to pool and it will stay.

COOPER: And in terms of what you've seen all day, is this as bad as you've seen?

CUOMO: Yes. This is it. This is the most of everything together that we've seen. We've been waiting for this storm. And when we heard that it was no longer a hurricane and that the eye was gone, again, some of these indications give you illusions or even delusions about mitigating the impact, but this is about time. Water over time.

And now, wind, water and energy being released in the surge and we'll see what happens.

COOPER: Yes. Chris, we're going to check back in with you, appreciate what you and your crew are doing out there.

I want to go to Brian Todd who's next to the Cape Fear River here in Wilmington, which we have all been watching closely as it starts to rise.

[20:05:07] Brian, what are you seeing?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the Cape Fear River aptly named at this hour. Officials here very concerned about the cresting levels, the high tide records, all the records that this river is now setting. I just spoke to our CNN weather center and they told me that just a couple of hours ago at high tide, this river has just broken all the records. It was 8.28 feet at high tide. That is breaking all the records.

And upstream in the northeastern section of the Cape Fear River, it's going to go to 20 feet above its normal levels. Now the river has a different contour there. There a lot of -- it's shallower in some of those areas. Tributaries are flowing out, so it's different.

But when you think of 20 feet above your normal flood stage, your normal high levels for this river, you know they're in danger from here in Wilmington all the way upstream as far as this river is going to go. I'm standing here on Water Street here in downtown Wilmington and I'm standing in some water that the storm surge has pushed the river just into this area. The river is just beyond those pylons right there.

And you can't see it now, but when we could see it a few minutes ago, white caps all over the place. It was whipping hard and the current was furious, Anderson, so officials here, weather forecasters keeping a very close eye on this part of the Cape Fear River.

When we talk about that flood stage set record levels, that was a record level for this part of the river where the Cape Fear River meets the Atlantic Ocean, which is right where we are, where Wilmington is. That's where it's breaking all the records now and, Anderson, it could break several records by several feet upstream and you've got tributaries up there. You've got a lot of people living up there in low lying areas. It is a very dangerous situation and the rain is of course relentless right now.

COOPER: Yes, and they were talking yesterday, the river may not crest until Tuesday according to the mayor. We'll check with him to see p the he thinks that will hold.

Brian, thanks.

I want to go to Miguel Marquez who's in Carolina Beach.

Miguel, how is it there?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Windy and rainy. Not stopping. Florence is just packing a punch that will not stop. Twenty-four hours ago, we were dealing with wind and rain. Twenty-four hours later, we are still dealing with wind and rain.

I know that when my colleague Derek Van Dam had a very heavy night of wind and rain last night. Much of today was it was rainy, this was a storm surge, but now this wind is just back in a way that we haven't seen almost since we've been going on in the last 24 hours or so. I just spoke to the city manager. He says amazingly, they have a lot of trees down, a lot of small damage around town, roofs blown off buildings, some walls down. But incredibly, they've had no serious incidents in the town of Carolina Beach, despite the weather they are dealing with. They have about 600 people they estimate of the 6,200 who live here

who decided to ride out this storm and they will be checking on them in the days ahead. It is not clear when they will be able to open the town back up. There is one bridge in, one bridge out. It's not clear when they'll be able to open that up.

It will be difficult for emergency services to get out and get to people if they get into trouble tonight. The winds are just intense. The rain is intense.

We're kind of hiding behind a wall here. But the water and the rain coming down now is just very, very heavy. There's also a tide that comes in around midnight. We saw a strong surge today. About a half hour, 45 minutes, there was water up to my waist in one part of town. We expect that may happen again tonight.

But this wind blowing so hard out to sea, it may help that situation, but it is not clear. This storm has just thrown a lot of unknowns at us and at the officials who are trying to get through it -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Miguel, thanks. I'd tell you and your crew to go get dry, but it's pretty much impossible to get dry these days with this kind of rain. It is just relentless.

I want to go to our meteorologist Allison Chinchar to talk about where the storm is. What the big picture.

Allison, what's the latest?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Right. So, the latest we take a look, the storm is still moving incredibly slow and that's the focus here because that's going to be the reason why flooding will be such a big concern going forward. Right now, west movement at only 3 miles per hour. Those sustained winds are 70 miles per hour and still some of those incredibly heavy rain bands coming down on the radar.

You also still have the tornado watch that's in effect for several hours for a lot of these same communities, so some of these areas that are getting downpours are also still under that threat for tornados.

[20:10:03] Right now, you've got areas like Moorhead up towards New Bern and even Jacksonville, you've got this very heavy band of rain here, Anderson, and unfortunately, it's going to train. Meaning you're going to see that heavy rain over and over again in these same spots for at least the next several hours.

COOPER: So, you're talking about the next several hours. Will tomorrow, will it still be raining?

CHINCHAR: Yes. It's likely going to continue to rain because the track itself of this storm doesn't move all that much really, especially in the next 24 hours. But even really in the next 48, it's still expected to be close to South Carolina. Now, the center of circulation just crossed into South Carolina, but we don't start to see it re-exit again until we get to Sunday afternoon. Because of that, areas of North Carolina and South Carolina are expected to have that incredibly heavy rainfall staying in those locations for the next 48 hours.

But also the storm surge. One thing you're going to start to notice a big difference, Anderson, is the direction. So, right now, the majority of that heavy storm m surge is in portions of North Carolina, but as the storm moves inland, it's going to take that storm surge and now start to push it into places like Myrtle Beach and elsewhere along the northeast coast of South Carolina. We still expect some of these areas to pick up an additional six to nine feet of storm surge compared to what we already have.

COOPER: Wow. That's incredible. Again, this still remains a very dangerous situation for people on the ground. Appreciate that. We'll check in with you.

We've been watching rescues taking place all across the region last night, today, thousands of emergency responders, many of volunteers, risking their own safety to help others. Right now, I want to tell you this story of one such every day hero, the one you see here, Amber Hersel is her name. You see her in this photo carrying a7-ar-old girl to safety. It's been seen by millions. This photo went viral all over the world.

Amber has two kids of her own. She's a volunteer with the civilian crisis response team which is based in Indiana which is where she lives. She joins us now from the town of Stantonsburg, North Carolina, which is inland.

Amber, thanks for being with us. The photos that we're seeing are just incredible. Can you just walk us through what happened during that rescue? I know it was a family of five and their dog. Is that right?

AMBER HERSEL, CIVILIAN CRISIS RESPONSE TEAM VOLUNTEER: I mean, yes, yes and it is nice to be here and talking to you, Anderson. We basically got a call around 4:00 a.m. from the local fire department. They are receiving calls from different families that were stranded and the waters were starting to rise and they just couldn't get to them.

So, our team moved in, as quickly as we could and safely. We towed our boats behind us and once we got to where we couldn't any farther, we took in the boats and started looking for houses where these people have made calls. And the little girl you see I the picture, Kiana (ph), she and her family were waiting for us. It was her and her two siblings, their parents and their pet dog. Everyone was fine. A little shaken up and ready to get out of the waters, but everything turned out really well.

COOPER: Now, you're from Indiana. What made you decide to come here?

HERSEL: Well, the organization we're with, CCRT, disaster services team, it's just kind of what we do. We pay attention to the news and if we see there's going to be a disaster hitting anywhere, we try to call the smaller towns that don't get as many resources and have that much available and see if there's anything we can do to help them out in these times of need. COOPER: What's it like, this storm compared to others that you've


HERSEL: Well, honestly, I'm pretty new to this. This is my first year. So I've dealt with flooding, but this would be my first hurricane. So a little intimidating, but I've really enjoyed you know, getting to help where I can.

COOPER: What goes through your mind when you know, when you're involved on something like this, when you see a family in need, when you're able to help out? What's it like?

HERSEL: Well, honestly, at first when you see the weather, you're like what in the world did I get myself into? But then as you see the families that you're helping, you just know it's all worth it. I mean, if this was my family, I would hope there would be someone that would help me, too. It's worth all the risks to get them to safety.

COOPER: How long do you plan on staying here?

HERSEL: Well, we have a group of about 20 and we're going to rotate shifts in and out so we'll stay here as long as they need us.

COOPER: And have you, how many -- I know you said this is your first hurricane. How many operations have you been involved with since you got here?

[20:15:04] AMBER: We have four different operations in the past 30 hours that I've been here. So we've been pretty busy.

COOPER: Yes. Well, Amber, I appreciate the work you're doing and all the volunteers you work with. It's just the best of -- it's the best of us that you come all this way to do this and help others. Thank you so much. We really appreciate it.

The girl in the photo we'll speak to, a busy local fire chief about the rescues still going on. Later, the other big story, Paul Manafort flipping what his plea deal today means to the president now surrounded by convicted felons.



MARQUEZ: The wind is whipping stronger than it has in the last 24 hours. It is unbelievable. This storm, Florence, will not quit.

[20:20:02] They call this a category 1. It's the strongest category 1 winds that I've certainly seen.

Most of New Hanover County is now out of electricity. No electricity service to almost the entire county. Our cell phones have gone down, all communications. We're now using a satellite phone and some other technology to get this live shot out. It is absolute pandemonium here.


COOPER: That was Miguel Marquez a short time before we went on air.

Conditions have gotten no better. Hurricane Florence, a tropical storm as you know. No one's idea of typical, though, not on the track it took to get here, not the enormous size, not how slow it's moving. You heard 3 miles an hour. It's incredible.

That linger means feet of rain in places, not just inches, feet, and hundreds of people needing rescue from last night and today, probably tonight. We saw the iconic photo before the break of volunteer Amber Hersel who drove here from Indiana carrying a young girl to safety, earlier.

Shortly before air time. I spoke with that girl's mom, Annazette Riley-Cromartie.


COOPER: Annazette, you were home with your three kids, with your husband, with your dog. I know you thought the house was going to be safe because it's a brick house. When did you realize that the situation was getting out of control?

ANNAZETTE RILEY-CROMARTIE, RESCUED FROM FLORENCE (via telephone): About like 11:30, 12:00 when the water came into the house, came in slowly, but then just steady kept rising. And then my husband, he pushed the mattress upstairs into the attic and we were in there for a little bit and the winds starting getting really bad so we just made a decision to come down out of the attic and put the kids on the top bunk bed for them to at least try to get some sleep. And hope that the water didn't rise anymore.

And then while we were still waiting, my husband heard people yelling for help. And we tried to go outside and but then the water was above his chest and he had to come back inside and it was like you can't help anyone because you can hear people yelling and you can't do anything. It is the worst feeling in the world to hear people yelling for help and you can't do anything.

COOPER: So you could hear your neighbors screaming and yelling for help?

RILEY-CROMARTIE: Yes. I was worried about my husband. I hear these people yelling and tried to do something. He tried to walk around in the water, but the water got too high and my husband is 6'2", and like for him, water got up to like almost above his chest. He said I have to come back. And then like we made sure the kids walked in and we tried to get, we called 911 and they was like, well, we can just wait and we didn't get anyone to come and get us until about 9:00.

COOPER: So, I understand, it was a volunteer who came and rescued you, is that right?

RILEY-CROMARTIE: Yes, there were some guys with Indianapolis and some boats and just basically going back and forth, bringing people like across, like I don't know how far it was them for us to get to land where the Fire Department was waiting with the truck. And we were just like basically just waiting for people to just come on to the boat.

COOPER: When you saw them come, I mean, I can't imagine what that must have been the greatest feeling in the world.

RILEY-CROMARTIE: It was. It felt like I was alive all over again. Like I just I felt so safe. And we made sure the kids got out first and made sure the kids left and then we stayed back and then they came back and got us and it was like the longest time like not knowing, OK, I know they're safer, not really knowing until you actually got to see your kids again. It's --

COOPER: I know we're showing photos o of the rescue. What do you want to say to those volunteers who rescued you and your family?

RILEY-CROMARTIE: I just want to say thank you and God bless you. It takes a special person to like leave their own home an family and come all this way to help us and, you know, like we get talked about like well, why did you guys stay?

We thought it would be OK. It downgraded. We lived in a brick house. We thought it would be fine. And I'm just thankful that there were people there were to help us.

COOPER: Well, Annazette, I'm so glad that your family is okay.

[20:25:01] As you know, there have been hundreds of rescues and sever people have lost their lives already. You're very lucky and I'm so glad that you're safe tonight. And I wish you and your family the best. Thanks for talking to us.



COOPER: Annazette's family as you've been seeing was far from the only one needing rescue. Crews have been very busy. They still are. Take a look at this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We decided to go out last night just for to go carry out and see where we were going to today and ended up getting several calls last night. Hundreds of calls for service last night. We boarded like, say, about 35 to 40 people out from water anywhere between two feet to 40 feet. We rescued couple of people that were posting on Facebook, their addresses and stuff. The elderly people, blind people, medically problem people, everybody. Anybody and everybody that need, we were there.


COOPER: We want to get the latest on what's been going on. Wilmington's fire chief, Buddy Martinette, is kind enough to join us and the mayor, Bill Saffo, as well.

Mayor, how are things going?

MAYOR BILL SAFFO (D), WILMINGTON, NC: Well, we've got a lot of downed power, a lot of downed power lines and trees. A lot of the roads are impassable.

COOPER: Some beautiful old huge trees are down.

SAFFO: It's a crying shame. A lot of these beautiful old oak trees are gone. So it's going to take us some time to get these roads cleared and get people passable -- get the roads passable.

COOPER: The big concern when we talked some 24 hours ago is about water on the ground, the potential for -- what are you seeing just in terms of water?

SAFFO: We haven't seen the flooding yet that we anticipated. Although some isolated areas, we have flooding. What we're seeing right now is just a lot of trees that are downed. A lot of power lines that are down. It's dangerous out there. Some of these things have live wires on them.

I'm asking the citizens that have evacuated from this area to give us some time to be able to clean up these roadways because I know a lot of people want to get back to Wilmington after the storm passes but we need some time to get the crews in here and start cleaning up the roadways because they're literally impassable.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, we were even trying to get to the Waffle House over at monkey junction and it took forever. It's just hard to get anywhere.

Chief, what have you been seeing just in terms of -- I know you've been involved in rescues at a tree fall at a house here?

CHIEF BUDDY MARTINETTE, WILMINGTON FIRE DEPT.: Yes, well, got a busy couple of days. Actually remarked earlier, I don't know if it was with this news organization or not, but we have a 15 mile an hour sustained wind protocol that we pulled through back and we never got chance to do it. They were out --

COOPER: You had to be out this whole time.

MARTINETTE: We were out the whole time. The firefighters were out. They were either getting trees off of houses, getting people out of houses, getting people to safety or doing rescues like we saw earlier today.

COOPER: I believe it was earlier today in Wilmington, a tree fell in a house, you actually had to try to get somebody out who was pinned down.

MARTINETTE: Unfortunately, we did. Had a tragic event with a family where a tree fell and the firefighters worked really hard. They rescued. They were able to rescue one of the victims in there. Unfortunately, a mother and a young child perished.

COOPER: Those were the first known 4talities in this storm. Five people so far have died. What are you anticipating tonight? I mean, are you still out there, still expecting more?

MARTINETTE: You know, the trucks are running up and down the road right now. And I've got to say that you're in the city of Wilmington, but I can't not say that the rescue effort is a combined effort with New Hanover County fire services and New Hanover Hospital, which runs our EMS-based service, because the three of them compromised about 160 fire and medic professionals that are on duty tonight and will be for the next several days until we get more through the recovery period.

COOPER: You were talking -- you know, encouraging people not to try to come back. It's not just how difficult the roads are. I mean, this storm, the water is just going to be continuing. This thing is not over, even though it's a tropical storm. It's going to be miserable for a while.

SAFFO: It is. We've talked about it the other night. That the river is going to crest 25 feet on Tuesday. So, we're going to be dealing with a flood event into next week. So, we've got a tremendous amount of rainfall that's occurred with the storm. Obviously, it's still here we have just an enormous amount of rain that is also in with the system that come through tonight.

COOPER: Yes, Chief, your message to residents as well.

MARTINEETTE: Please -- if you're here, stay home. If you're not here, stay away. As the mayor said, we really -- there's a process we go through to do damage assessment. There's process to work with Duke Power where we prioritize the service to get the lines back on. The trees have to be removed from the streets. There's no electricity, there's no reason to come back.

So, please give us a few days. That's what we need to get back on our feet and we will. We'll get back on our feet and we'll be open for business again.

COOPER: I hope to come back when you are.

Thank you so much, Chief. Thanks for all your doing, all your fighters.

MARTINETTE: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Thank you, Mayor. Appreciate it.

SAFFO: Appreciate it.

COOPER: I want to check in with CNN's Dianne Gallagher who is in New Bern where we've been seeing a lot of those rescues. She had a close call with flooding earlier tonight. She was on a National Guard vehicle when it began taking out water. She had to be saved by three volunteers who were with her now.

Dianne, what is the situation?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Obviously at this point, Anderson, we are safe but I just want to give you an idea. That vehicle there you see behind us is very similar to the one that we were in. Essentially we're on a rescue mission with three members of the North Carolina National Guard and another swift water rescue, a member here in New Bern, when we got to a very deep area. It appeared the road had washed out.

And our car -- our vehicle tended to slip it seems like. It began taking water on the inside part in there, flipping over a little bit. I cannot give enough kudos and compliments to the way the North Carolina National Guard handled the situation, getting everybody out. To Sergeant McKenny (PH) and his crew who are still waiting with that vehicle now. They were rescued. They went back to wait so they could get it out of here.

The people who rescued us, though, Anderson, teenagers from New Bern who have been coming around here and basically rescuing, I think you guys said 50 plus people here. And so Robert showed up in his boat while we were trying to get out the back of that vehicle.

Robert, you guys have been doing this all day, though, right? It's not just the National Guard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been doing this all day.

GALLAGHER: Talk to me. What have you guys seen? What's been going on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've seen a lot of people with a lot of water in their houses. There have been pets stranded. And anyone that needs help that looks like we can help, we try to go help. That's what we've been doing up here. I drove from Morehead -- two (INAUDIBLE) my boat and then I came all the way up here when I found out about this. And we put my boat in.

First rescue we did was actually an unofficial rescue. Don't tell the police department but there's just people in there stranded outside their house. And they were all up on the porch because the highest part of the house. And we actually walked in, got them. Carried them out. It was two very elderly people. And we put them in the back of my truck and in my boat, and we took them to their father's house where it's high and dry.

GALLAGHER: And you guys have doing. And you guys work with the police department kind of. So it is in tandem, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we went and volunteered. So at first like you said, like Robert said, we were, you know, just going around, where Tanner lives, and, you know, we ended up finding the four people. And then we ended up going to the volunteer police department. And then, you know, after everything is said and done, we ended up going to Washington Post Road and that's where we found you all. So you know.

GALLAGHER: We're very grateful you guys did find us.

Tanner, this is something that you said that you guys are happy you're able to do this, though, during the storm, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, ma'am. I just like to help other people. My mom is kind of upset that I'm out here but this is how I was raised. This is what I want to do. One day I'm hoping I can probably do this for a living.

GALLAGHER: But you guys -- I mean, you're talking 50 plus rescues between you all today. You guys have not had to really do this before, have you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, ma'am. We just -- he called me, said he was on the way. If I wanted to help out, I said, sure. This is where we're at.

GALLAGHER: I thank Tanner and Jacob and Robert so much, and their other friends who were with them. And of course Sergeant McKenny (PH) and the rest of the North Carolina National Guard who again are still with that vehicle, trying to wade -- see if they can get some rescue there, pull it out.

We were on our way to rescue three individuals at that time, Anderson. But it does go show just how dangerous these first responders' jobs are. After hurricanes when they're trying to go and get people out and evacuate. Obviously they are getting help from volunteers like these guys here. The Cajun Navy, those volunteers from Maryland that we were with earlier today in the boats. But I think sometimes we forget because most of them are successful just how dangerous this can be for them.

COOPER: Yes. I'm so glad you talked to them because it really just -- it gives you -- you know, it's just yet another example of how often the best comes out even in the worst of times. And we see in what they're doing, with the chief and the mayor and everybody here is doing to try to pitch in, make a difference and they are making a big difference.

We're going to have much more ahead on the storm here in the Carolinas. Obviously want to tell you about what's going on in North Carolina and South Carolina.

Also major news of course out of Washington today. The president's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, is now cooperating in the Mueller investigation. We'll tell you the latest on that and what if anything it may mean for the president or others who Mueller may turn on.


[20:38:24] COOPER: We're going to have more to come tonight on what was Hurricane Florence, is now a slow moving tropical storm, just dumping rain on North Carolina, South Carolina. There's another major story developing tonight in Washington of course. The president's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has pleaded

guilty to one count of conspiracy against the United States and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice. Now as part of the plea agreement Manafort has agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department including the Mueller investigation.

The White House released a statement saying this had nothing to do with the president. Court documents show that Manafort's plea deal includes cooperation, quote, "any and all matters deemed relevant."

Maggie Haberman and Jeffrey Toobin are in New York for us tonight. They join me now.

Jeff, is there anything that Manafort can hold back from Mueller and his team now? Is there anything -- I mean, does he have to say -- talk about everything he knows?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, anything he holds back, he does at his peril because the prosecutors now have the power to tell the judge, give him credit, give him a lower sentence for cooperation, or not to tell the judge to give him credit. So, you know, he is required to tell everything he knows on any subject of interest to the prosecutors. But if he doesn't, he is in a world of trouble. Even with this cooperation.

COOPER: Maggie, I mean, it's possible Manafort doesn't have any information regarding the president and Russia. But the White House certainly would like to downplay his involvement in the campaign. Just to be clear, he was the campaign chairman. He was part of the president's inner circle, he was in the room for the meeting at Trump Tower that Don Jr. had with the Russians.

[20:40:05] There aren't many people who were as significant in the campaign as he was, correct?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Correct. And he was actually moved into a position of power to replace Corey Lewandowski when Corey Lewandowski was fired in connection with the Trump family. So it's not as if he was never around. John Dowd, the president's former lead personal lawyer, sent out an e-mail to other members of the extended Trump legal universe saying Manafort knows -- has nothing about the president or the campaign.

That's a little hard to argue. But it is true that we don't know what this means in terms of what Paul Manafort is going to be asked to talk about. The president's lawyers have continued to insist that there's nothing there and there might not be. Manafort's relationship with Trump personally during campaign was not good. President Trump did not particularly like Paul Manafort. There was no chemistry there. I don't know exactly the window of what he saw into that the president was involved with but he certainly knows all kinds of other things, about the campaign's meetings, about the campaign's finances, about how things were set up.

And then there is a whole other universe, remember, Anderson, that he could provide information about. That includes Tony Podesta who he did work with in the Ukraine. That includes people like Greg Craig, the former White House counsel under a Democratic presidency. There is a lot that he could be providing and I think it's a mistake to try to guess too far what it could be.

COOPER: Jeff, I mean, Manafort, he's already been convicted, as we know, and is facing decades in prison. What does it tell you that Mueller was willing to offer Manafort a deal at this stage of the game? Was it simply to avoid going through the hassle of a trial?

TOOBIN: Well --

COOPER: Or was it to get more information?

TOOBIN: I think Mueller had all the cards here because he was convicted in Virginia, looking at a very long sentence. He was likely to be convicted in Washington in the trial starting next week. And he had really no options. Mueller gave him a cap of 10 years on a sentence. And frankly, he wasn't probably going to get more than that anyway. And he has the opportunity now, Mueller has the opportunity to have an inside view of the campaign at a very critical time when collusion, which is after all Mueller's main jurisdiction, that is the time that it may or may not have been taking place.

So Mueller gave up very little in return for this cooperation and he is certainly going to get an inside view. And he has tremendous leverage on Manafort to get him to tell the truth because if he doesn't tell the judge to give him a lower sentence the judge will not give him a lower sentence.

COOPER: Well, Jeff, I mean, this maybe a dumb question but in order to get an agreement like this, does Mueller already know what Manafort knows? I mean, has Manafort already -- has there been a proffer, has Manafort already had the opportunity to kind of put all the goods on the table about what he would be able to talk about if he got a plea agreement?

TOOBIN: Yes. In fact that was disclosed in court today that there have been proffer sessions and no prosecutor that I am aware of would ever give a deal to someone who hadn't given a proffer. So Mueller obviously felt that whatever Manafort told him was worth a cooperation agreement. So he already knows, probably not every detail but in broad outlines, everything Manafort is going to tell him.

Now, you know, it's important to point out, we don't know that there is anything incriminating about the president that Manafort is going to tell him.

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: And all Mueller can insist on is the truth. He can't insist on, you know, incriminating evidence that's not there. So if he tells the truth and it's not incriminating, that will get him a letter to the judge as well. I mean, the prosecutors are supposed to care only about the truth. Not about what may advance their cases.

COOPER: Jeff Toobin, Maggie Haberman, appreciate it. Thanks very much.

We have much more ahead from here in Wilmington and throughout the Carolinas. I'm going to speak with an older woman from New Bern who's been involved in rescues of more than a dozen families going out on a truck and then her own SUV. More on that ahead.


[20:48:28] COOPER: As we've been reporting, New Bern, North Carolina, getting hit hard. Rescuers saved hundreds of people from rising waters by the middle of this morning, then the situation got even worse as the storm surge got up to 10 feet. Now over the past two days my next guest has been helping rescue people. New Bern Alderwoman Jameesha Harris who set out in her SUV at one point.

Alderwoman Harris, thanks so much for being with us. Talk about what you have seen because I understand you've helped rescue some 13 families in the past few days, taking them to shelters and family members' houses. What's that been like?

JAMEESHA HARRIS, NEW BERN ALDERWOMAN: Yes. It has been literally like I've been saying catastrophic and amazing at same time to see the community come together but basically we've been urging the individuals to get out of this area because we know that they're prone to severe flooding and at some point when the water and the rain started to get really bad, I just told my husband and my friend Buddy Bangle (PH) that we have to go out and knock on these doors and so we got a group of people, Chip Hughes (PH), we got so many people to come knocking on these doors to get these individuals to the shelter before it started to get really worse than what it was.

COOPER: I understand you've been getting messages on your Facebook page as well from people who needed help. Are there people who still need to be rescued?

HARRIS: Yes. I just got an update from my city manager Mark Stevens that there is still about 125 people that are still needing to be rescued, and I'm looking at the weather right now, it's really dark outside and, you know, they're trying to get to them as we speak.

[20:50:16] COOPER: I believe the last operation you were involved with helping -- was the seven-month-old. Walk us through what happened with that.

HARRIS: So that was earlier this morning. Someone inboxed me and stated there was an individual, there was a family that was over in Trent Court and the water was coming up to their steps literally into their house, and I asked for the address, we got there, knocked on the door. At first they were reluctant, they didn't want to come because they didn't want to go to the shelter but then I was able to get in contact with their daughter who is out of town but she had -- we had access to be able to get into her house and they finally got out. It was the boyfriend, the mother and the 7-month-old child that we were able to get out and get to safety because if they would have stayed there, they literally would be under water.

COOPER: Have you been through storms like this before?

HARRIS: No. Mr. Cooper, I'm from Albany, New York. I'm used to snowstorms. I've only been in North Carolina eight years and this is my first severe hurricane that I've ever in my life experienced.

COOPER: What is your message to the residents where you are now?

HARRIS: To stay inside, we are under curfew, we are working on restoring all the power right now. We do have at least 7,000 people with power. We know you're frustrated, we know that this is -- this is catastrophic and it is going to take a lot for us to come back together and get back to where we were, but we are ready for whatever is going to be here in the next couple of weeks to get everybody together and just pull our community together, just stay safe, stay off the roads.

And if there is people that are still needing help that couldn't call 911, or you're not being -- you're not able to reach them, please just continue to inbox me at JameeshaHarris because I am fielding these calls and these rescues directly to the EOC or the county and the city right now.

COOPER: Alderwoman Harris, I appreciate what you're doing, I appreciate you talking to us. Thank you very much. I know you have a lot of long day as head of you.

Coming up, we're going to look at how the Cajun Navy is helping people survive Florence. I'll talk to one of the volunteers in a moment.


[20:56:55] COOPER: Well, we've been reporting on the rescue efforts here in the Carolinas. We've been showing you, there are volunteers, so many volunteers helping people survive Florence, some have traveled hundreds of miles to be here, some part of the Cajun Navy.

Here's some of them earlier today rescuing a man in New Bern with their signature Louisiana fishing boats that's great for shallow water rescues. The Cajun Navy has different groups with the same mission and was formed after Hurricane Katrina, in the midst of Hurricane Katrina that hit Louisiana in 2005. Reactivated during Harvey in Houston last year. They're back at work here in the Carolinas.

Todd Terrell is the founder of the United Cajun Navy. He joins me now.

Thanks so much for being here. You've come all the way from Baton Rouge. You worked in Katrina, you worked in Harvey. You know storms. What's this storm like?

TODD TERRELL, FOUNDER, UNITED CAJUN NAVY: This is storm is a lot different. It's changed. It's kind of evolved. It's hung around. It's not going anywhere. You know, we never would have thought it would have lasted this long.

COOPER: What it's like -- tell me about the kind of rescue operations you've been involved with, your folks have been involved with. I mean, you've been really busy.

TERRELL: Yes, the last few years, we have. You know, in the last few years, we used a lot of air boats, especially in Houston a lot of air boats, and over here the air boats are really not a thing to use. It's really, really swift water. You know, it's a lot of wind and air boats just are not conducive to rescuing over here. So it's a whole different storm.

COOPER: And you've seen dozens -- you've had dozens of rescues while you've been here.

TERRELL: My guys have made some pretty good rescues this morning. And most of them actually believe it or not were last night and early this morning.

COOPER: And in terms of the -- just the conditions you're operating in, what is it -- what is it like and how does it compare to other things?

TERRELL: Well, this year a lot of the rescues we made were at night and it was swift water. It was fast water. It came up real fast. And a lot of the rescues that the guys made were actually in cars. Other people tried to get out and escape and the water came up so fast and it kind of -- it hung them up and they had to get out of the car.

COOPER: When you came from Baton Rouge, I mean, you don't bring boats or you don't bring cars. You got in here. How do you operate?

TERRELL: Well, we brought our own boats in here.

COOPER: You did?

TERRELL: Yes, sir. We brought our own boats in here and we just operate. We just come in and we get the lay of the land and we look around and we check the conditions, we come in a day or two ahead and that's what we do.

COOPER: Wow. And what brings you -- I mean, what makes you do this? Because I mean there's a lot of folks who, you know, would like to do something but don't get up and do something like you did.

TERRELL: I mean, you look at it. I mean, these conditions are terrible. You know what I mean? We've done this before, you know, and a lot of people don't know how to handle it. And I mean, unfortunately a lot of us have dealt with this so we just -- we help our neighbor. That is what we do.

COOPER: You've dealt with loss in Katrina so you know what it's like to live through a storm like this.

TERRELL: Right. I know what it's like to live through a storm personally. Yes. And it's harrowing. I mean, this isn't a really big storm right now but it's pretty angry.

COOPER: Yes. And do you work with local officials? I mean, how -- is there coordination involved? TERRELL: Yes, we work with the local officials. That's the first

thing we do. We come in and we get with the emergency operators and the sheriff and the firemen and the -- that's what we do first. We make sure that they know who we are. We tell them what our resources are, in that way we don't duplicate anything.

COOPER: Right. Because that's the key. You don't want to have -- you want to be where you are need and you want resources to be spread as wide as possible.

TERRELL: That's correct. We want to help as many people as we can.

COOPER: Yes. How long do you think you'll stay?

TERRELL: I don't know. We're looking at in the morning. In fact just in the last couple of minutes we've been here, it looks like the water has come up a little bit. I think we're going to be here another three or four days. You know, I think tomorrow we're going to wake up with a lot of trees down. That's what we (INAUDIBLE) over here. We struggled to make it over here just a couple of miles.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, I think that's the surprising thing because when you're around here you don't see a lot of vegetation down but in -- I mean, in Wilmington there is trees, huge trees down everywhere.

TERRELL: A lot of them. A lot of trees down. And this wind has been blowing for two or three days now so I think it's going to be a lot of them down in the morning when we wake up.

COOPER: You reminded me actually when I drove in New Orleans a couple of days after the storm hit up in the Garden District, so many trees down it was just hard getting around. In Wilmington very hard to get around.

TERRELL: Yes. It's very hard to get around. In fact it took us -- I didn't think we're going to make it here, and we didn't go for a couple of miles. So I think there is going to be a real struggle in the morning for people to get around.


TERRELL: We're probably going to be moving trees instead of moving -- bringing our boats.

COOPER: Yes. Well, I mean, it's an honor to talk to you. I so appreciate what you're doing. And it's such a -- a storm like this sometimes brings out the worst in people and this brings out the best in people and you represent that. So I really appreciate it.

TERRELL: That's right. Thanks a lot.

COOPER: Thanks so much. Appreciate it. And to all of the folks you're working with.

A quick reminder, don't miss FULL CIRCLE, our Facebook -- our Facebook show on every day at 6:25 p.m. Eastern Time, every weekday night and I think that's about all the time we have.