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Michael Kills At Least 6, Leaves Florida Cities In Ruins; Reality No-Show; Despite Hurricane Devastation, President Trump Hosts Cursing, Ranting Kanye West In Oval Office. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired October 11, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:07] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

Michael may no longer be a hurricane, but it remains a serious and potentially deadly threat. And more than 24 hours after it tore through the Florida Panhandle, we still don't have a complete picture of the damage that inflicted, because some of the areas remain cutoff.

What we have been able to see, it's awful. Entire neighborhoods have been obliterated. Street after street filled with rubble, thousands of trees and power lines down, cell service out, rescues under way even as we speak.

Four people have lost their lives in Florida, one in Georgia and one in North Carolina where rivers have been overflowing from all the rain.

Now, authorities there and in Virginia warning of life-threatening flash flooding. Nearly half a million North Carolinians are now without power as a result of a storm, which has knocked out power to more than a million people in six states so far.

Our Brooke Baldwin spent a day in one of the hardest hit areas. She joins us now.

Just walk us through, Brooke, what you have been seeing.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sure. So we were one of the very first crews to get on the ground and see what's rested to as ground zero, Mexico Beach with our own eyes. You know, roads as you were pointing out because of the powerful 150-mile-an-hour winds, roads are impassable. Power lines were down. Trees were down so we were able to secure a helicopter really early this morning.

I started here in Destin. As we flew along what is known as Florida's gorgeous Emerald Coast, we started watching the coastline deteriorate from Destin, Panama City Beach and on into Mexico Beach. And as we landed, in looking at it all first hand, you can tell quickly that it's virtually gone.


BALDWIN (voice-over): From the air, it's clear, much of Mexico Beach is gone. From the ground, we see up-close the devastation to the seaside city, home after home on this stretch of beach destroyed, while most of the 1,200 residents evacuated, a small number stayed behind. We don't know yet how many survived from a near direct hit from Michael.

Scott Boutwell (ph) didn't make it out in time. The bridge is closed and he was stuck.

(on camera): How does it make you feel to look around at everything just leveled?

SCOTT BOUTWELL, RESIDENT: Well, the thing is, you know, this is a small little town. You know, this is our little town. So, every restaurant is gone. Every store is gone. All my neighbors, everybody's home's gone.

So when you think about it, you know, all of their lives are gone. So how do you -- what do you do?

BALDWIN (voice-over): Scott says he lost most of his possessions, but he will stay and rebuild.

BOUTWELL: I thought I had. All of this stuff going in here, it's hard to talk about it.

BALDWIN: All over the area, we heard this high pitching beeping. They are fire alarms, buried in the rubble, warnings that perhaps came too late.

Again and again, I heard from survivors here who told me they're simply grateful to be alive. These three friends were searching for one of their homes. It was hard for them to even recognize the street.

(on camera): Wow, no -- there are just no -- there are no words.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, there's not. There's so many memories here.

BALDWIN (voice-over): This woman named Sherry says she didn't have time to grab anything but some clothes and her jewelry box.

(on camera): And to see this.


BALDWIN: It feels like what in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't describe it. It's just terrible. I just can't describe the feeling and I know I'm not the only one here that feels the same when they've lost everything.

BALDWIN (voice-over): Mexico Beach is virtually cut off from the rest of the state. Though emergency crews are working throughout the area, roads are still blocked. Power is out. And cell service is non- existent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Halle, it's mama. I'm okay. I'm okay. It was a lot more than and a lot rougher than we thought. How are you guys? BALDWIN: Our satellite phone was the only way for these women to

contact their loved ones.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love you, too. Bye.

BALDWIN (on camera): Oh, your daughter.



BALDWIN: The best part of the day, Anderson, connecting these people, there is no cell service on Mexico Beach. The loved ones, they see the picture up on the screen. They have been wondering if their moms, dads, sisters, brothers, cousins were alive. We were able to show them that at least those who had chosen to ride it out are.

[20:05:06] I talked to fire and rescue, six facilities in the wake of this hurricane. But it's still so early. They told me that number will rise, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Brooke Baldwin, appreciate it. Thanks very much.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio has been surveying the damage in Panama City. He joins us from there by phone.

Senator Rubio, thanks for being with us. Can you just describe what you have seen?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA (via telephone): Well, I haven't seen Mexico Beach other than the I don't have head. I'm here at the FEMA emergency center in Panama City and Bay County, and very substantial damage.

This is as bad as it gets in terms of power lines, property damage. The Mexico Beach thing may turn out to be a horrifying tragedy in terms of both the property loss. But I think the loss of life eventually. I was just talking to the police chief here a few minutes ago, and he was describing how up to the last minute, they were begging people to leave. I'm talking about at least a couple residents who were very elderly and a family with children, eight or nine, ten children that remained behind.

You know, communications are down up here. So, it's still hard to sort of account for everybody and you know, I don't want to speculate too much yet. But when that storm surge comes in, it doesn't just take the roof off the home, it takes anything that was in it.

So, it's a tough situation here, really truly catastrophic as a storm in general. Panama City and other places, but the Mexico Beach thing is hard to describe, I'm not sure I've seen anything like it or a precedent for it.

COOPER: Yes. And obviously, with communications, you know, down, it's so difficult for families who haven't gone word of their loved ones. From what you have seen so far from what you're learning in the operations center, just -- in terms of the immediate needs, obviously search and rescue operations are under way in a number of areas. Is the state equipped to handle the needs that people are facing right now?

RUBIO: So, the state, Florida does this as well as anybody, because of the experience. Unfortunately it comes in handy in situations. But I would say the most immediate, it will be there to provide assistance that needs backup.

Here's sort soft short term, in the short term the most important need to have is to get communications up. You know, Verizon is the lead provider in this area. It still is not working. AT&T which phone I'm on now is working a little bit.

But that's a big deal, that the general public does not have access to each other or to information. And then even the sort of first responder radio system, it's finally coming on line, (AUDIO GAP) damage, so communication is critical. I think starting tomorrow, the shelters where people have been and other places start to run out of food and the conditions there deteriorate, you know, their waste water system is down too.

Then you're going to have sort of have some longer-term planning for people and housing people and those are the sorts of things that come upon you very quickly. But this all starts with getting communication going.

Power is going to take a while. I'm telling you, there is not a system that needs to be restored. It needs to be rebuilt in some parts. It's -- living in Florida, I've lived through a bunch of these, this is not a couple lines down. This is total annihilation of the system and it's going to take them a while to get going.

COOPER: Are there places in the state that you know about that first responders have yet to be able to get to just in terms of, you know, access?

RUBIO: Well, again, communications is impeding some of that. I think Mexico Beach is an example of a place we don't have any communication. We know crews, search and rescue crews have been there and are going house by house, but part of it is, there is some of the landmarks that you would rely on in the past are not there.

So I don't know there are any areas completely cut off. But I am sure unfortunately some people that might be in need that we won't know about, because they have no way to call. I mean, they have no phone, they have no internet, they have no way to call 911 or getting anybody to come to them. That is the challenge really that I'm most concerned about, is the inability to communicate with people who might be in need after the fact.

And that's why getting and without power, by the way, even if we were able to restore communications tomorrow, there are people that won't be able to charge a phone as an example and be able to communicate that way. So I think that will be my bigger concern is being able to survey all

this area. It's going to take a bit. And, so, you have great people doing everything they can. But we got some real challenges in the early part of this.

COOPER: And obviously, people without power are not going to be here tonight. But what is your message to the people of Florida tonight who do have power as they start to try and put things back together or figure out what the next step is?

RUBIO: Well, first thing I always tell them is that these things are very disruptive, even if you didn't have property damage. I mean, it takes weeks for kids to get back to school and everything else. I want them to know the best people in the world in disaster response are on the case.

(AUDIO GAP) you are forced to live through a hurricane, Florida and the people that work here that do this, at the local level, at state level are the best in the world at what they do.

[20:10:11] All that said, it is going to be weeks before people have power. I hope the people are staying in a hotel room somewhere, if you're evacuating. You do not come back to Bay County. You give up that hotel room, it's not going to be there when you go back and to try (AUDIO GAP).

I know you want to see the condition of your home, but you're going to have no power. You know, nobody will be able to come help you if you get in trouble in the short term. There are some real challenges I had. I have a little patience and faith that this is going to get better every day. But these first couple of days are always hard, and this is as bad as it gets. I mean, it truly this is bad (AUDIO GAP) possibly be for this area of the state.

COOPER: Senator Rubio, I'm sorry we are speaking to you under these circumstances, but I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you and good luck.

RUBIO: Thank you for covering (AUDIO GAP)

COOPER: As difficult as it must be for any elected official to see this kind of destruction in the lives of constituents, it's even tougher when those constituents are also your neighbors.

Linda Albrecht is a Mexico Beach councilwoman. She watched Brooke Baldwin's reporting. She joins us now by phone.

Councilwoman, I mean, you know this community. I can't imagine just seeing the images that we are seeing it and knowing it as well as you do. What are you hearing? What -- you know, have you been able to talk to people? How are things right now in terms of search and rescue and the like?

LINDA ALBRECHT, MEXICO BEACH, FLORIDA COUNCILWOMAN (via telephone): Well, thank you for keeping this on the news and letting people know what a frightful event that Mexico Beach residents are going through. I am not there. I evacuated as they asked mandatory evacuations. So I'm about six hours away.

But I have been in touch via texting and as Senator Rubio said communication other than texting is very bad. Cell phones don't work. Power is out. So, just from word of mouth and texting.

We -- clean up is slow. We have a lot of volunteers that have organized and they are cleaning up the streets. The roads going in and out of Mexico Beach have been filled with debris and the big equipment has not been able to get in as of this point that I'm aware of.

Our city employees who were able to get in because they lived in Mexico Beach are close by, they are running out of food and water. So supplies are being airlifted either tonight or tomorrow morning, so then they can continue on with their jobs. We also have EOC, our interim administrator, Tanya Castro, will be representing Mexico Beach at the Bay County EOC because we, they have supplies put there. But Mexico Beach represented all of the time and so she's just stepping in and saying I'm going to go there and fight for what we need.

COOPER: That's the emergency operations center for people who don't know.

A personal question, if I may. Do you even know how your home is tonight?

ALBRECHT: Not officially. I have been asking and asking. I live on the east side of town on 98th and I'm watching your film right now and I recognize, I think it's hard when you look at these homes, because they're in such disarray, it's hard to say yes, I recognize this.

But up until just now, I have never found a video on the east side of town on 98. I live right on 98. I did hear -- so I don't know officially but I did hear from somebody second-hand that I live on a house on (INAUDIBLE) and I was told that just about an hour ago, that my house is not on stilts. It's gone.

I don't know that officially and you know how rumors go around. I mean, we've heard various rules ors in the last 48 hours.


ALBRECHT: So, I'm grasping to the hope and I'm praying that a miracle happened. But it could be very realistic.

COOPER: Oh, Councilwoman, I'm so sorry for all you are going through and your community and I know everyone is thinking about it and praying.

ALBRECHT: But I just --

COOPER: Go ahead.

ALBRECHT: Could I say one thing?

COOPER: Sure. ALBRECHT: I'm asking that the residents not return to Mexico Beach

yet. They are not ready to have people return. The roads are full and the more people that return, they're just going to get in the way and I know this weekend and I mentioned another program that this weekend will be a nice weather and many of them will think, gee, let's drive down there and see how our house is.

[20:15:04] But until we notify you, please don't come down and get in the way of the clean-up crew.

COOPER: Yes, an important message.

Councilwoman Linda Albrecht, I wish you the best. Thank you.

ALBRECHT: Thank you very much, Anderson.

COOPER: Just a short ways away from Mexico Beach is St. George Island. It took a one-two pound punch from the wind and the storm surge.

A local resident Mandy Jackson's security captured some of the worst of it. You can see tree branches washing by, shingles, siding, pieces of front porches, timbers -- the wreckage of a lot of lives floating in the front yard.

Mandy's friend Krista Miller rode out the storm nearby in Apalachicola. She's made her way to the island, joins us now by phone from Mandy's house.

Krista, thanks for being with us. Can you describe the damage that's been done to your friend Mandy's house?

KRISTA MILLER, RODE OUT STORM (via telephone): It's completely gutted and start over from ground up. The walls, I had my mother stand against the wall. She's a shorty, about 5'2," but she -- the water would have been well over her head had she been in the house at the time.


So it was both, though, I know we are looking at the house now -- so it was both the wind and the water the flooding?

MILLER: Oh, yes, of course. Yes. The wind the flooding went the highest it's ever been on the island. My house is almost exactly halfway from the bay to the gulf and I had water at least over a foot up in my house.

And I've never dreamed water would get that high. No resident that lives there ever seen water get that high before. Our family has been there for hundreds of years.

COOPER: In terms of the rest of the area around where you are, I assume the damage is just as bad?

MILLER: It is. Most of the houses that are on this side have left anything on the ground level. It's completely washed like it's never there.

COOPER: I heard that you described the storm as feeling like a freight train coming from all directions?

MILLER: Yes. That's exactly how it felt. We were in Apalachicola, in 111-year-old home and has three stories and we were able to stay in the second floor. We could see across to the bay and watch the storm as it came in. It just felt like a monster coming down on top of you the whole time.

You know, my dad kept saying, it will be over in a couple more hours, we're about in the worst of it now. It seemed he repeated that three times, it was never going to stop.

COOPER: People say it was a fast-moving storm. It doesn't feel like that when you're in it.

MILLER: Yes. Not when you're in it.

COOPER: Yes. Well, Krista Miller, I appreciate the time you talking to us. I'm sorry for all you are going through and all your neighbors. We wish you the best.

MILLER: Thanks, Anderson. We appreciate it. As soon as we rebuild this area, if everybody should come, yes, we love tourism so much that -- obviously, the councilwoman said now is not the time. But as soon as we get things back up and running, the best way that people can help is to contribute to our local small economy. We greatly appreciate that and we do appreciate everyone that comes to visit.

COOPER: All right. Well, you take care, we'll be in touch. Thank you.

MILLER: OK, thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Coming up next, people waiting to hear from loved ones who were in places like Mexico Beach. You saw folks talking to Brooke Baldwin's sat phone. One woman heard from her brother there. We'll talk to her, later how all the devastation, people are already planning how they're going to rebuild. We'll have that and much more as our live coverage continues.


[20:22:57] COOPER: Well, it's hard to believe the images coming in from hurricane Michael's aftermath and destruction still unfolding as we speak in the Carolinas and the Virginia, there are also people have yet to hear from their loved ones who are in the storm's path, as we heard from Senator Marco Rubio, communication is spotty at best, and in some places, it's nonexistent. Travel in and out of the region is difficult, sometimes dangerous.

Lisa Baldwin last heard from her brother Danny Wiggins (ph) in Mexico Beach just as the storm was coming ashore. She joins us now.

Appreciate you being wit us, Lisa. Tell us about the last contact you had with your brother yesterday.


Yesterday around 2:00 or 1:30, excuse me, he texted that they were OK and that it was hitting right then and then we lost contact after that, that's the last I heard from him.

COOPER: And has his girlfriend, I understand his girlfriend was with him at the time. Has anyone heard from her?

BALDWIN: No, not as of yet. Just hoping it's because he's probably out there helping people, if I know him, he's a great guy and maybe still because of no cell service I'm hoping.

COOPER: Yes. Well, our Brooke Baldwin was out there, gave her sat phone to somebody. So, there are people that don't have access to communication. I understand the family friend is currently looking for him, trying to get into the Mexico Beach area.

Have they had success getting there?

BALDWIN: Well, I heard from his daughter not too long ago, he is going back in for Danny again, it's -- a man Chris Haughton (ph), and he works with Danny, or Danny works with him. They have the Strike Zone fishing charter that they run, Danny's pretty much emptied out the Mexican Beach ocean if you will. He's a good fisherman.

COOPER: Can you just tell us the area just in case somebody is hearing this and gets to the area, they can ask around?

BALDWIN: Oh, yes, thank you so much. Tracy lived in Beacon Hill, which is at Kaelyn Lane. I think that's about four miles of Mexico Beach, really close there, still to Mexico Beach.

[20:25:05] COOPER: And your brother lives in that area with her?

BALDWIN: Yes, they had decided to stay back and just ride it out. He had boarded up her windows and you know he was confident that he could survive and you know? So I am, too, I got a lot of hope yet.

COOPER: Lisa, I appreciate you being with us.

If you could just stay with us for a moment, I want to go to Miguel Marquez who's in Mexico Beach. He has been helping get the word out about people there who came through the storm and want their loved ones elsewhere to know it.

Miguel, explain where you are and what you have been seeing.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is downtown Mexico Beach. We're just down from the pain pier of Mexico Beach. Where there are a lot of survivors who are starting to gather there.

We asked about Mr. Wiggins (ph). Nobody either knew him or knew where he was or how he was doing. There was a firefighter, actually, this is highway -- this is 98. This is the main road through town, huge chunks of it are now missing.

There's a firefighter that comes up and he's very, very helpful, knows everybody and everything about town, and you can tell her the next time he comes by, we will ask about Mr. Wiggins, if he's heard anything.

If you will, there's a couple of other names. There's a bunch of people over there. I want to read off a few other names.

Robin Retzloff (ph), she wants her family in Michigan to know she is okay.

Dawn Vickers (ph), she wants her family, Dawn, her daughter, her grandson the three dogs, they are all okay. Her family is in Vernon, Florida.

Robert Brock (ph), his family is also in Florida. He wants them to know that he is okay.

Dave Siebert (ph) wants his mother in Mobile, Alabama, to know he is okay.

And Arnett Cofield (ph), and her mother, 92-year-old mother, turned 92 last month, she is -- they are okay. They will get out on an ambulance soon.

I heard the council person speaking about the amount of assistance and help they have. They have search and rescue in here right now about 165 search and rescuers who are trying to go house-to-house. They have stopped for the evening. I don't think they can work through the evening because conditions are just too dangerous, and it's very, very difficult to communicate out of here, us getting this live shot out is done with a shoestring and bubble gum.

This what you are looking at behind me, 36 hours ago, those were beautiful homes and businesses and literally, they have been scrubbed, washed, buzz-sawed down to the foundation. That is sadly the situation where much of Mexico Beach right now.

We drove in from 368 today and drove all the way up 98 and through some of the neighborhoods. There is not a neighborhood. There is not a house. There is not a hotel. There is not any one property in this town that is unaffected.

Some of it is 100 percent gone. Much of it is damaged, you know, at least 50, 60 percent and maybe a small amount has just very minimal damage. We did meet a gentleman earlier, who we lent him our phone.

He got on with his daughter and begged her. Do not come here. There is nothing happening here. Everything is gone.

He went on to list the hardware store is gone, the neighbor's house is gone. The neighbor across the street is gone. The neighbor down the street is gone.

Everything is absolutely gone. Do not come here. He is staying here, though, his house has some damage. He thinks he can patch it up and be okay -- Anderson.

COOPER: Miguel, we see a vehicle passing you by, do you have a sense of how many, you know, emergency personnel are on the ground? I know you said they stopped for the night, obviously, it's very difficult to get around. Do you have any sense of how many emergency personnel are there or search and rescue teams? Because obviously time is of the essence? .

MARQUEZ: We know that --

COOPER: Go ahead.

MARQUEZ: We know search and rescue is here from both Florida and Louisiana. There are 165 of them. They are on 24-hour shifts. It is very difficult for them to work at night.

But can you see, this is the first big sort of presence of law enforcement that we've seen coming through. There must be a good dozen maybe 18 cars now coming through, actually you can see they're bringing in even more vehicles so they can get back and search in different ways. I mean, it is absolutely eerie to see these vehicles come through here.

They do have one bulldozer that's been working to clear this road throughout the day. But parts of it are completely impassable. The strength of the water completely washed away; 98, large chunks of it gone right in the middle of town. So you have to kind of snake through the back yards and through some of the other neighborhoods here to get around to the other side of 98. But, clearly, they are pulling in a lot more individuals now. These look like, these are probably county and Florida-based search and rescuers, who are going to get up and start working here and getting into these neighborhoods and seeing who's here. It's just there is so much confusion. People cannot find their love ones. And people can't get word out they are all right. And that's -- we'll just going to stay here and see what we can do. Anderson?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well Miguel Marquez, you know, we were talking about Lisa Baldwin she is looking for her brother Danny Wiggins, obviously and anybody you can ask about him. And frankly, you read the names of the people who made it through for their loved ones who are elsewhere and can't get in touch. I can't imagine anything. Certainly, I've done in the last several days is as important as what you have just done for those families.

So, you know, we'll keep coming back to you. If you could, could you read them again just in case? I just want to make sure any family members out there --

MARQUEZ: I will.

COOPER: -- is able to hear. If you can just read them through again, I'd appreciate it.

MARQUEZ: Robin Retzloff, from -- her family is in Michigan, she wants them to know she's OK. Robin Retzloff. Dawn Vickers and her family here, they're all OK including the three dogs, perfectly fine. Robert Brock, he is OK. His family is in Florida. David Siebert, his mother is in Mobile, Alabama, she left. She evacuated. And he stayed here. Now, he is regretting it, but he wants her to know he is OK.

Annette Cofield and her 92-year-old mother. They made it through the -- they barely made it through she said. The house is -- all the windows are gone. Mother is in a wheelchair, but they are probably getting out in an ambulance if they are not already gone by now. But they are all OK. Anderson.

COOPER: And obviously, any family members or friends of those people who are out there and heard that police call other members and family and let them know. And Miguel, just quickly, where are people tonight? I mean if somebody's home has been destroyed, where are they staying?

MARQUEZ: Some of them are staying in their homes, no matter how bad they are. I mean fortunately, it's not too hot and miserable a night here. A lot of the people that we met, there is an area just up the road here, where a lot of the emergency personnel are gathering. We couldn't do our live shots there, because there was too much interference with the satellite signal. But a lot them are staying there.

There are convenience stores that were everything, all the potato chips. All the juices, everything, has blown into the streets. And to be honest, people are scavenging for food, picking of some of that and using that for now stay alive. One of the kids I met today said that was the first thing he'd eaten in about two days. Anderson.

MARQUEZ: Miguel Marquez, let's hope you can get help there quickly. I appreciate you being there, thank you.

We saw -- we first saw this video last night a middle school gym in Panama City with the roof peeled off from the hurricane. We're going to hear from the principal of that school next.


[20:36:12] COOPER: Well, we've seen a lot of scenes of devastation today. And one that we first saw last night on this program is still jarring. It's a middle school gym in Panama City with the roof peeled off. Damaged so severe that a storm chaser was able to fly a drone right through the gym, it's Jinks Middle School, its principal Rick Smith and he joins me now.

Principal, thanks so much for being with us. You were on our show on Facebook "Full Circle "earlier. I appreciate you coming back. Can you just talk about the damage that your school sustained when you saw that drone image? What went through your mind?

RICK SMITH, PRINICIPAL, JINKS MIDDLE SCHOOL: Well, it was heart wrenching. Because I narrowed it for our kids in our community. That gym is a hub of activity. It's where we have our basketball and volleyball games. We have great community support. And it's also the place where our students, those eight graders where they graduated and move on to high school.

So it's a central hub for the school in addition to the students that in the morning before classes begin, that's where they go. So it's very concerning. And what was heart wrenching is because I know it's a part of our kids every day in their school year, for them to see that type of devastation, it's heart breaking.

COOPER: I understand that your staff has been going door-to-door checking on students. What are you hearing back from them?

SMITH: Well, we're hearing some good things so far. That -- we have a great staff there at Jinks Middle School. And I've had a chance to talk to some of them on the phone that happen to live near some kids, that they have taken it upon themselves to take time out of their day- to-day and go knock on the doors and check on them. They've seen them as they've been going from various neighborhoods and the kids are -- are seem to be very positive. They seem to be looking forward to eventually being able to run, come back to school. And we're going to be excited to see them.

But so far so good. It seems like in terms of loss of life or injury for our kids, it doesn't necessarily seem to have happened in that way. But we know that they have a lot of property damage, so that their lives will be disrupted in the weeks and months ahead.

COOPER: I know there was damage to the cafeteria. How did the rest of the school fair? And what sorts of resources, you know, have you lined up or do you need lined up for students when school, you know, does open again?

SMITH: Well, we do have -- our gym is demolished and the cafeteria as you said, the roof of it about half is peeled off. Our classrooms we believe are going to be fine. They have hurricane shutters that are on those. And those were locked in place. We took time at the beginning of the week to get the school ready for the storm. What we don't really know is in terms of how the roof faired and if there is any structural damage that we just haven't been able to see.

So I know that our school district is working very closely with emergency management services to assess the schools, to make sure that they are safe. I know that our superintendent Bill Husfelt is safety and security is his number one priority. So I feel very confidence that before we have any students or even staff members go into those facilities, we're going to have a very high level of confidence that those places are safe for them to go.

COOPER: Well, Principal Smith. I know there is a lot of work ahead of you. I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us. And I wish you and your students and faculty the best.

SMITH: Well, thank you very much. We appreciate you sharing our story.

COOPER: Well, coming up is the devastation of Hurricane Michael came into sharper focus today the death count rose, the President decided it would be a good time to sit in the Oval Office surrounded by cameras for meeting with Kanye West. To say that it was surreal and poorly timed doesn't begin to cover it. We'll keeping them honest, next.


[20:43:27] COOPER: It's taken us all day to start to come to terms with the scope with the destruction from Hurricane Michael, and there will be dark days to come for so many people who've lost everything. Americans who were suffering tonight, who were missing their loved ones, or not sure of the fate of their loved ones. And up until this point on the program, we focused on them, that's where the attention we think should be.

It was yesterday, it was today and people be in need for a long time to come. While hundreds of thousands of Americans are suffering right now tonight the President of the United States decided earlier today to take time to yuck it up with Kanye West one of his celebrity fans. Now, we'll get to the surreal substance if we can even call it that of what happened in the Oval Office in a moment.

But, first a reminder that at least six people have died as a result of Hurricane Michael, including a child in Georgia. Other children who wrought out the storm were afraid they would die as well. CNN's Dianne Gallagher spoke with a 12-year-old boy in Panama City this afternoon.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just saw like three trees landing on all three of my neighbors yards and everything, that it's -- and that really got me scared and everything.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on-camera): Chris you're only 12-years-old, did ask were you afraid that you were going to die?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, because I have like my life to live for my future and my dream job, I want to be a construction builder.


COOPER: Well, that was just after 1:00 this afternoon. And nearly the precise time the President was wrecking (ph) with Kanye West. In fact, we're going to show exactly what was going on in the White House, in the Oval Office, it will be on one-half of your screen. Starts with Kanye West talking about his make America great again hat. On the other half will be with cameras had captured on the devastation up to that point.


[20:45:09] KANYE WEST, CELEBRITY: This hat it gives me power in a way. You know, my dad and my mom separated. So I didn't have a lot of male energy in my home. And also, I'm married to a family that, you know, it's not a lot of male energy going on. It's beautiful, though, but there are times where you know there's something about you know I love Hillary, I love everyone, right. But the campaign, I'm with her just didn't make me feel like they didn't see my guy all the time. Like a guy that can play catch with his son. There was something about when I put this hat on, it made me feel like superman, so I had the balls, because I have enough balls to put on this hat. I mean this thing made me a billionaire.

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I was connected with a neuropsychologist that works with athletes in the NBA and the NFL, and he looked at my brain, equal on three parts. I'm going to go ahead, drop some bombs for you, 98 percentile IQ test. I have a 75 percentile of all human beings, whether was counting, eight numbers backwards off to the things, I'm going to work on that one.

The other one, 98% (INAUDIBLE). We can empower the pharmaceuticals and make more money. That's one thing, I've never stepped into a situation where I didn't make people more money. So this one right here is the iPlane 1. It's a hydrogen powered airplane and this is what our President should be flying in. Would I need Saturday Night Live to improve on or I need the liberals to improve on, if he don't look good, we don't look good. This is our President.


WEST: He has to be the freshest the fliest, the fliest planes, our best export is entertainment ideas. But when we make everything in China and not America, then we're cheating on our country and we're putting people in position to have to do illegal things to ends up in the cheapest factory ever, the prison system.


COOPER: That was in the Oval Office of the White House. Kanye West talked about a lot of things, in addition to what you've heard, he talked about stop and frisk, tax breaks, attention deficit disorder, the 13th Amendment, crime in Chicago, art programs, it went on and on.

Now this isn't about the worthiness of those topics, this isn't even really about Kanye West. This is about the President sitting there listening, nodding, laughing, calling Kanye West a smart cookie. Saying Kanye West can speak for him any time, putting on this show less than 24 hours after the worst hurricane to ever hit the Florida panhandle made landfall.

Now why did the President spend this time today of all days with Kanye West? Because Kanye West is a fan of his. Now the President may lack empathy for many, many Americans, but he always has time for his fans, anyone who says something nice about him or screams "lock her up" for him. Just last night he was one at his rally in Pennsylvania on the same day of the worst hurricane to make landfall in the continental United States in more than 25 years.

Earlier in the day the President was asked if he thought it was appropriate to go on a campaign trip given the gravity of the storm.


TRUMP: Well, I hear they have thousands of people lined up. And so we are in a little of a quagmire. I don't want to disappoint people. They've got this -- some people were saying they got there last night. I believe it starts at about 7:00, going to Pennsylvania. So we'll probably go, because what are you going to do, tell thousands of people that have been waiting there all night that we're not coming?


COOPER: They've been waiting there all night. So had the hundreds of thousands of people in Florida and at that point Georgia who had lost power. They too spend a long night waiting. They'll spend a long night tonight waiting and probably for many nights to come. Now maybe you it's no big deal for the President to go on a campaign rally in the same day of natural disaster, fine. And maybe you think there's no hypocrisy that Mr. Trump tweeted these two weeks after Hurricane Sandy, "yesterday Obama campaign with Jay-Z and Springsteen while Hurricane Sandy victims across New York and New Jersey are still decimated by Sandy. Wrong.

That happens all the time. There is and it's been said many times a tweet from Donald Trump for everything. For this, this President, what used to be wrong is now right, simply because it's him doing it. Do as he says, not as he does. What you're seeing isn't happening. And he always seems to be able find a crowd of people to go along with it and cheer him on in any important storm.

It's a widely held belief if the President George W. Bush never recovered from his response to Hurricane Katrina. He flew over the scenes of damage and Air Force One initially too little, too late, too far remove. This President's track record in hurricane response so far, includes throwing paper towels at Puerto Ricans, denying that thousands of Puerto Ricans-Americans died in the aftermath of Maria, died from lack of power and access to medicine and doctors.

[20:50:06] Died earlier in greater numbers than they ordinarily would have. The President doesn't recognize those deaths. Those human beings as victims of the storm. So last night he was at campaign rallies, other Americans sat in the dark without power, or mourning the loss of their loved ones, their homes, the loss of the lives that they once knew. In the light of today, we started to see how bad it was. We heard that 12-year-old boy talk about how he was afraid he was going to die.

The President watches a lot of television. But the President didn't hear that boy's voice. He certainly didn't hear it live because around that time, he was listening to a big named celebrity in the Oval Office, the President was busy basking in the warm glow he no doubt feels when the cameras are rolling, when he is center stage, and a famous person is praising him to his face.

Joining me now is Van Jones, host of the "VAN JONES SHOW" here on CNN and former special adviser to President Obama, and David Gergen, former adviser to four presidents.

Van, is Kanye West cursing the Oval Office, wearing a make American great again hat, banging the desk, the right messenger for any cause on a day much less a day when millions of Americans are reeling from a devastating hurricane. And you can be really beyond that, I just don't understand what the President of the United States and the people around him would be thinking that this was a wise thing to do today.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, there is a right way and a wrong way for celebrities, people who have big platforms to engage the White House. Frankly, Kim Kardashian his wife is actually a good example of it, it involves preparation. Focus on particular acts and then frankly no cameras in the Oval Office. You can actually have a conversation.

This is a situation where none of those rules were followed. He obviously was not as prepared as he could have been. People tried to prepare him, but he wasn't as prepared, no focus and then camera, so it became a big show. I think we have to accept that what we saw with someone who's not in a healthy place from a mental point of view, from emotional point of view. And I think we got it, you know, back off of the kind of treating him like a Pinata, it is mental health awareness week.

I was very, very concerned by what I saw. I don't think the White House showed good judgment in having him there with the cameras. And I think that he -- he's not -- he's somebody who's not in a healthy place emotionally, psychologically, and the White House should not put people like that in front of the camera.

COOPER: Yes, I mean David, again, I don't think this is about Kanye West. I mean just under what circumstances would anyone in the White House think this is good for the President to be doing today?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I agree with what you and Van have both said. Listen. And I have no trouble with presidents calling in celebrities to the White House, and enjoying each other's company, you know, this has started way back with Warren Harding in 1920, calling in Al Jolson. And it goes also way up to Richard Nixon calling in Elvis Presley, and with cameras, by the way. He very much wanted the cameras there. You know -- so that is part of the presidential tradition.

But I think what you put your finger on is the judgment that goes into doing it in the face of this horrific storm with so much suffering in the country. It would have been so much better to postpone Kanye West for four or five days, have a conversation did the President can't go to the people who are suffering so much, have a serious conversation in the White House for God sake, about the relationship of storms, the climate change, and when we're going to do something serious about that. As opposed to having this frivolity.

And that is what is I think so disturbing. I don't know anything about Kanye West's mental condition. I don't know -- what I did pick up on was something I hadn't thought about. He kept saying about this hat and putting his hat on -- this hat on, made him feel like a man. And I kept wondering, is that what's going on with some of the men in this country and their relationship with Trump. Does being for Trump make them feel more masculine? I just don't know the answer to that. But boy, there was sure an overtone in that session. COOPER: Van, I mean it's also interesting, you know, again, there's a tweet for everything. But to hear Donald Trump going after President Obama, you know, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, with Springsteen and Jay-Z. You know, it -- it's one thing I guess when you're a citizen, it's easy to attack the President for that, and when you're President, he clearly sees it differently, because it's him doing it.

JONES: Yes, well, I mean, you know, the hypocrisy knows no bounds in that regard. I do want to say, I was disturbed by the sort of, you know, the father figure masculinity kind of thing that he was talking about, but to give him some credit, to give Kanye some credit, his intention in going in there stated in some of the things he talked about, were, you know, laudable and praise worthy, talking about, you know, jobs in Chicago, that's a good thing. He talked about prison reform, that's a good thing. He talked about -- he talked about some good stuff.

The problem is, he was all over the place and wasn't prepared to make the case to the American people given the opportunity. And I think it was predictable that he brought in the cameras that you might have an outcome like that.

[20:55:08] And so I think -- so look, I think that we need to have a conversation about why so many men -- men are still over indexing for Trump over women. We need to have that conversation. My big heart break comes watching everybody then pile on to Kanye and go after him with going after him, when I think we've got to take a look at the fact that I -- you know, he said himself that he's been diagnosed is either bipolar or having -- you know, so many sleeping problems that he's not always able to think properly. That should color the way that we relate to him.

I think the Trump White House needs to be put on trial for this spectacle. But I hope that people will be kinder to Kanye, he did have some positive tensions, he did not carry them out well today.

COOPER: Yes. If somebody has an issue, they want to address the President. You know, more power to them. I just don't understand from the White House standpoint and why the President would go through with it. You know, he said he was in a quagmire about having the rally last night. And I understand him not wanting -- you know, a lot of people he said have been waiting for a long time. Again, this was, you know, one or two people in the Oval Office, it could have been postponed.

I got to take a break. David, thank you. Van Jones as well. I want to check in also with Chris see what he's working for "CUOMO PRIME TIME". Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: You know, important points made there in that segment, I do think people have to look at what happened today as an example of something, and I don't think its easy pickens to attack Kanye. We'll be making that case tonight.

We're also going to be taking a look at the latest on Khashoggi (ph). The story makes less sense the more we learn about -- COOPER: Yes.

CUOMO: -- the circumstances under which this man disappeared. And we're going to look at the pluses and minuses of the apparent strategy by the White House on this. We're also going to be looking at the aftermath and keep people connected to what happened in all those states because of Hurricane Michael and the challenges that lie ahead.

COOPER: All right, Chris, we'll see you about four minutes -- or three minutes from now. We'll be right back, more news ahead.


COOPER: Before we go, I want to very quickly go back to what our reporter Miguel Marquez has been doing in the ground of Mexico beach. You saw helping, trying to reconnect people who came through the storm who are doing OK there, with loved ones who around the country who can't get in touch them, who don't know that they're alive. Don't know that they're OK.

So I just want to quickly read the names again. These are people who Miguel Marquez has come across, they're doing fine, and they want their loved ones around the country to know. Robin Retzloff, her family is in Michigan. Dawn Vickers and her family, they're OK, including their three dogs. Robert Brock, he is OK. His family is in Florida. David Seibert, his mom is in Mobile, Alabama. She left -- she evacuated, he stayed there. He's regretting it, but he's doing OK.

[21:00:10] Annette Cofield and her 92-year-old mom, they --