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Hurricane Irene Coverage: Hurricane Irene Makes Landfall in North Carolina; New Jersey Governor Chris Christie Delivers Remarks on Hurricane Irene; Nine-Year-Old Dies in Virginia After Tree Falls Through Apartment; Cities Along East Coast Evacuated Ahead of Hurricane; Hurricane Hunter Flying Into Irene to Collect Data

Aired August 27, 2011 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to the NEWSROOM, where the news unfolds live this Saturday, August 27th. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We continue to watch Hurricane Irene and all that it is doing and wreaking havoc along the East Coast. Right now, live coverage from our affiliate out of Norfolk, Virginia, WAVY -- wavy, as it's referred to. Let's listen in. They're talking about a report of a child that might be trapped. Let's listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the scene earlier today, two people and their cat rescued after their boat was anchored and they got caught in some vicious water trying to escape Hurricane Irene. But we understand they are OK.

We also have many road closings. Of course, the HRBT is closed along with the midtown tunnel and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. You look at the pictures and you can see why. This is a view from our V- Dot traffic cam, our traffic jam cam, and it shows virtually nobody on the road because conditions are getting progressively worse.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We talked to Melody Woodrow just a few minutes ago in Hampton. Melody had to move, and that was mainly because the James -- she was stand on the James River -- the conditions got so much worse there that we had to move Melody from that location. We're going to be talking to Melody from another location coming up a little later in our newscast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Another central part of concern, Virginia Beach, including the Sand Bridge area and the ocean front. We'll go to 10 on your side's David Culver who's in Virginia Beach now. How is it looking where you are, David?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's starting to come down harder than ever at this point. In fact, the past two hours we had a little bit of a break, I can tell you we're still without power here at the ocean front. We're about 16th street.

I want to show you something very telling, though. That is the Virginia Beach fishing pier. If you look at the very end, you can see the waves, which are massive waves coming up towards the shore, and they are just coming in one by one. And they are continuing to grow, continuing to intensify.

The one thing that has really not changed in the past three or four hours has been how far up these waves have encroached closer to the boardwalk. They have actually in face receded just a little bit, so some good news there.

If you look, though, along the boardwalk, you will see, as we wipe our lens, you'll see some of that sand that already started washing up. It washed up along the boardwalk. It washed up along the bike path, which, by the way, is starting to flood again as well. Earlier this morning it had flooded, it receded, and again it's back up.

So we are continuing to monitor the conditions here. I want to again reiterate to folks who think they can come drive out here and take a look at it -- officers are continuing to patrol the boardwalk. They're stopping folks as they drive up, telling them to go back. So do not think you can come up here and park and get a view of this. It is, again, starting to intensify.

Also want to reiterate all the parking garages in the resort city are completely full. For now, back to you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, we want to reiterate about people driving up to watch. So you mean to say there are still people out in parts of the oceanfront that are still looking at this thing with the worst yet to come?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right, Tom. There are a lot of folks still out here. In fact, if we can pan over here, you may be able to see it. There are three people who are actually, as we speak, venturing into the water. I don't know if you can see it. It may be a little bit far -- a tough angle to get to. There we go. We'll maneuver, so bear with us. We're just maneuvering here.

There you go. You see three folks who are actually in the water. And there are several squad cars coming by, Virginia Beach police. As they come by, they will get on their megaphone and tell these folks to get out of the water. What they are doing is absolutely very dangerous at this point and relatively, you know, folks would say insane.

So this is something that police are trying to get them to stop doing, stop coming to the oceanfront and thinking that this is something they can play around with.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. This is live. This is not like something we were looking at from a couple of hours ago. These guys are in the water right now, big wave coming by as we speak. This is definitely not smart. So hopefully somebody will come through and say something to them. We see three right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three right now. And they just ran out there. You know what, as of now, these are the only three out here. We see occasionally people walking up to the boardwalk, and it looks like they're walking now back towards the boardwalk. And occasionally we'll see folks walk up to the boardwalk to get a picture, try to get themselves in the moment.

WHITFIELD: All right, live pictures from Virginia Beach there.

Now let's go to New Jersey where Governor Chris Christie is talking.

Let's listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: -- part of the team is our FEMA coordinating officer Bill Vogel. Bill has been already instrumental in helping us move through this part of the process and having him here representing FEMA as a Toms River native is particularly helpful to us. Bill, thank you very much, for being here and being part of the team.

Secondly, this morning I conducted a series of conference calls with mayors and local officials in Atlantic, Monmouth, Ocean and Cape May counties. The purpose of the phone calls was, first, to allow them to communicate to us about issues they might be of concern to them where they either had not gotten responses from the county OEM or the state OEM. Also it was to get reports from them on conditions on the ground and those four counties where we have ordered a number of mandatory evacuations.

The good news is that people heeded my subtle advice yesterday. They are off the beach. People have left the shore. The evacuation process has been successful. Over a million people have left the jersey shore in the last 24 hours. And it has been done with very little traffic disturbance, very few reports of people having to sit in long lines of traffic, and that's a credit to the local officials who helped with the evacuation. That's a credit to the DOT Commissioner Jim Simpson along with the folks at the New Jersey state police who put together the traffic plans to be able to execute on that. And so I want to thank all of them.

And thank all the people of New Jersey, both folks who are residents of the Jersey shore, and those folks who were there vacationing, for heeding our warnings and for leaving. You know, we have now according to ocean county officials 95 percent of Long Beach Island is vacated. There are few remaining residents who have refused to evacuate, but 95 percent of those folks on Long Beach Island are evacuated.

We have reports from Cape May County that 98 percent of Cape May County is now evacuated. Again, few stragglers staying over, but overall in the majority are evacuated.

In Atlantic County, we have a report from the barrier islands that about 90 percent of the people are evacuated from the barrier areas of Atlantic County. The concern in particular right now is Atlantic City. Let me talk to you about that. While we have been extraordinarily successful in evacuating most of Atlantic City, we have had some remaining people who refused to leave. These are predominantly senior citizens, about 600 of them or so that live in high rise buildings in Atlantic City. We're particularly concerned about them in these high rise buildings, not only because of their age, but because of the winds that are projected at 75 miles an hour plus to be coming to Atlantic city later tonight and into tomorrow morning. We have concerns about flying glass, et cetera, that could cause great injuries to the seniors.

So here is what we have done. At my direction, the state police, led by Colonel Fuentes, and New Jersey transit, led by, of course, the commissioner and by Executive Director Weinstein, who is also here, have sent additional buses to Atlantic City.

We're going to put the buses circling in front of these particular buildings in Atlantic City and send both county OEM officials at the direction of County Executive Levinson, and state police personnel to go up and speak to these seniors individually and try one more time to get them to leave.

If those seniors are out there now watching this on TV, I would ask you, please, allow us to help protect you. You're correct that I can't make you leave you home, and I'm certainly in the going to place you under arrest to make you leave. But we really do have your safety first and foremost in our minds. Let us just walk you downstairs, put you into one of these buses. We'll take you directly to a shelter where you can have food and something to drink and a cot to sleep in, and ride out this storm. And then as soon as we can return you to your homes, we will.

But if you stay where you are now, you're placing yourself in even greater danger and your loved ones as well. So we're going to try to make one last ditch effort this afternoon to get them to leave, but once we get to a little bit later this afternoon, it's going to begin to get to be dangerous to operate buses in these high winds, and we're not going to be able to do anything to assist them until after the storm has passed.

So other than that, other than that issue in Atlantic City, the rest of Atlantic County is well over 90 percent evacuated.

In Monmouth County, the Office of Emergency Management there has done an extraordinary job in evacuating those particular municipalities who were under evacuation orders, and including the lieutenant governor who has evacuated to an undisclosed location.

So we are meeting the first requirement that you have in any situation like this, which is to do anything you possibly can to preserve human life. The best way to preserve human life from the Jersey shore is for there to be no human beings on the Jersey shore given what is about to come.

The tracking of the storm continues to be very ominous for our state. While there has been some minor weakening of the storm to a Category one storm as it hit landfall in North Carolina and is heading up the coast, you know, decreasing the wind speeds by 10, 15 miles an hour will make little difference to when is going to cause harm to the folks here in New Jersey.

We're still looking at anywhere from six to 12 inches of rain throughout the state, high winds throughout the state, and extraordinary damage to the barrier islands in terms of both private property and public infrastructure and flooding issues that will be happening throughout the state. None of that will change even with a minor weakening from a category two to a category one.

We still don't know whether it will pick up speed and get back to a category two by the time it hits in New Jersey, but people should take no comfort if you're watching the Weather Channel or any other news coverage that there has been a slight weakening of the storm. It's not changing the fundamentals of what makes this storm so dangerous for New Jersey.

So, please, don't think that means, OK, we can go out to dinner tonight, we should be on the roads. I want to thank the owners of the Giants and the Jets for exceeding to my request to reschedule the game that was scheduled for this hour today. It was my judgment in private conversations with them that having those folks out at the stadium, having them on the road, also since we intend to use the center as a staging ground for more shelter of folks as this event continues, that it would not have been in the best interests of the people of the state for the game to continue.

I thank Mr. Mayor, Mr. Johnson, and Commissioner Goodell, all of whom I had conversations with yesterday, for agreeing to do this and rescheduling the game for Monday night at 7:00 at Met Life stadium.

In preparation for the expectation of the storm will have a substantial impact all across the state. The National Guard under the direction of General Reese has deployed 1,500 National Guard soldiers and airmen throughout the state across 12 different armories in addition to helping staff evacuation sites and shelters.

As they always do, the Guard has stepped up in extraordinary way here, citizens, soldier and airmen who have answered the call, put on the uniform and working now in partnership with the folks at the state police under the direction of Colonel Fuentes to provide safety and security at the shelters and also to help with the evacuation process.

For those people who do not have a place to go, our shelters are the place of last resort and many are now open and prepared. We are currently housing an estimated 5,300 people already, and we're prepared to accommodate more as time goes on. So far there have been a few hiccups in terms of moving folks around but things are run pretty smoothly, with our main goal getting people in places where it is going to be safe, dry, and where they can be fed and hydrated.

And 1,200 people from Atlantic County were overnighted at the Sun National Bank Center in Trenton, as we discussed yesterday. They were brought there last night and throughout early morning hours of this morning. This is a transitional point, as I said yesterday, staging area, where they were given food and water. There were no cots available there. So folks who were there over the night had to sleep in seats in the arena. But we assured them from the beginning that this was a temporary situation. All those folks have now been moved out of the Sun Center and there is no one, as far as I know now, currently housed at the Sun National Bank Center. They have been moved predominantly to two places, to Rutgers campus in New Brunswick and to the Mennen Arena in Morristown, New Jersey.

I want to thank President McCormick of Rutgers. Rutgers, when we called, stepped up immediately. Not only are they providing shelter to the folks, but they also have been providing food to them even before the American Red Cross or the state could get food and water there. Rutgers stepped up with the supplies of food and water they have and were distributing, at no cost to the shelterees, food and beverages to keep them feeling good.

We have cots available at both Rutgers sites and the Mennen sites. So these are places they'll be able to be much more comfortable. They had a rough night, be able to take a nap and relax and somewhere safe and dry to be able to ride out the storm.

We're -- the lieutenant governor went this morning to the Sun Center before folks left. There were about 500 people remaining which he went to visit this morning, getting ready to board their buses to another shelter, had the opportunity to interact with a number of the shelterees who were there and to express on my behalf and behalf of the state government our concern for them and to hear any input they had about how things have been operating over the course of the last 24 hours.

We're prepared and have identified other shelter alternatives if we need to accommodate additional folks beyond the 5,300 that are already --

WHITFIELD: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie there saying overall evacuations have gone rather smoothly there, but his greatest concern is there in Atlantic City where in some high rises there are about 600 elderly people refusing to leave, and he gave sort of a personal plea to them during this press conference to allow assistance to come in with the transportation to get them out safely and take them to shelters.

Already the governor says about 5,300 people are in shelters as a result of this storm that is on the way. We'll continue to monitor the comments from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Meantime, we're going to have much more of our continuing coverage of Hurricane Irene after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Much more of our continuing coverage of Hurricane Irene. It is hammering North Carolina and the Virginia coast right now. Our severe weather expert Chad Myers joins us now in the CNN hurricane headquarters.

So, Chad, this storm continues to be exactly on track based on your prediction as well as that of the National Hurricane Center.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Right to the mile, literally, right to the mile, right over Pamlico Sound, just to the east of the outer banks, drawing in water from the outer banks, drawing in water from the ocean and over washing parts of the outer banks. There's the low pressure center.

I don't think people understand, Fred, I know this says category one, but the pressure is low enough in this storm to be a category three. That means the energy and the pull in potential of this storm is literally the flood potential is near a category three. Due to the fact that the pressure is so low, the eye wall never formed, so that's why we don't have the real significant winds. You don't see 125-mile- per-hour wind there even though the storm did have and still does have that potential.

But very close to the jersey shore and on up into the western sections there, the western part from Suffolk and Nassau County along Long Island.

Let me take you to a couple things I think are very, very important, and the people there in this box right there, you are in the most danger at this point in time. We'll get to the northeast in a second. But we have winds coming here. We have winds pulling water from the sound into your rivers, Elizabeth City all the way to Greenville, all the way down to -- even into Henderson.

Watch this, watch what happens when you pull this water in and then you get ten inches of rainfall here. I'm going to get to this Google map right here, here is the storm track moving across here, the winds coming in. Sean, go ahead and move this in here. Elizabeth City, right there, right on the water, beautiful part of the country here, but very low, no topography here, the water is getting pushed up the bay, getting pushed up the river and 10 to 12 inches of rainfall coming down the river. It is a tremendous flood potential here.

And back toward Greenville, one more spot, I'm going to zoom in here, right along the river, another area where the water is just getting pushed back up here in Washington, and I assume parts of the city are completely underwater. I don't even have any information on it. I'm trying to get on to some of the websites, but if you can, if you can get on to ChadMyersCNN on the Twitter account, let me know what is going on here, I'll certainly relay that information to you and all your loved ones out there, because it is a dangerous situation for that area of the country right now.

I think it is probably the most important part at this point right here. This area is in the most danger of losing people due to flooding. I think this storm, I believe Irene will be a flood -- you'll remember this storm because of flooding. Maybe not because of wind or you'll of that, but this will be, in your mind, later in life, you'll think about how much flooding this storm caused.

WHITFIELD: Similar to how people remember Floyd. Floyd was a big flooding type of hurricane. Thanks so much, Chad Myers. We'll check in with you. Meantime, let's go -- let's zero in on that area that Chad says is in the most danger. We're finding Reynolds Wolf in Kill Devil Hills. Reynolds, it has been tough trying to get a signal to talk with you because of the effects you're feeling right now.

REYNOLDS WOLF, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. These effects we're getting now again, mostly wind. We haven't had a drop of rain in quite a while. We're beginning to see some of the roofing tiles, a bit of insulation here and there from buildings as the gusts push them along. These are easily some of the strongest we had so far.

This whole thing, this began basically as a cluster of thunderstorms off the coast and swept across the Atlantic, and sure enough right here to the doorstep of the Carolinas. We're feeling the fury at this point, but again it's mainly wind.

Wind, in some I was, detrimental by the debris it carries and the power outages it will cause, hundreds of thousands of people without power as we speak. It will take a while to restore everyone's power and with all the downed trees we anticipate that already have fallen. You have to remember too, the structures, spur of the moment, few drops of rain, finally feeling rain again. We are going to be seeing more of these issues, more power outages as the back half of the system comes through. As you have winds from the opposite direction, toppling over structures.

WHITFIELD: All right.

WOLF: Power is still OK for now, but --

WHITFIELD: Reynolds Wolf there in Kill Devil Hills, clearly very difficult to hear him because you can see the wind has really kicked up, now holding on to his hat there too. And the surf kicked up significantly since the last time we talk to Reynolds Wolf. We'll check back in with him. Kill Devil Hills getting hit hard by these outer bands, kind of on the tail end as that storm now makes its way, also impacting the Virginia coast.

And then when we come back, we'll talk more about the search for the missing along the coast right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of Hurricane Irene.

Tragic news from our Norfolk affiliate, Northern Virginia affiliate, WAVY television is reporting that police are confirming that a nine- year-old child was killed after a tree fell on the child's apartment. Let's listen in to their coverage, live coverage now from wavy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could you tell us what it was like at that point?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think anecdotally and --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you just recap what happened here at the apartment complex from the beginning?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. When I arrived on scene, there were about 35 emergency responders, and what happened was a tree basically split in half and fell on top of this two-story apartment complex. And above -- on the first floor was an apartment and then on the second -- a bedroom, on the second floor a living room.

From what I understand, the neighbors tell me that there was a woman and her small infant child sleeping in the upstairs bedroom and that tree fell on them. She came out screaming out of the house. This was according to the next door neighbor I spoke with, and she was screaming, where is my baby, where is my baby, referring to her other child, according to the neighbor who was a boy. That boy is now confirmed dead.

This tree is very, very large. They had to bring in special equipment to remove it from the apartment complex. They're continuing to do that right now.

But this neighborhood where we are, there are several large trees and obviously during these high winds at any moment, any of them can fall. This is a neighborhood that we come to a lot after storms because usually because of it is so many large trees, there usually is a lot of storm damage during a severe thunderstorms and now in this case Hurricane Irene.

So at this time, authorities did just remove that child from the home, and there are no more ambulances on scene because unfortunately that nine to 11-year-old boy has been confirmed dead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we're looking at the video now. We notice a lot of two-story buildings on this complex. We have lots of trees around the area, backing up exactly what you said for our radio listeners. What were the weather conditions like when you arrived on the scene a short time ago?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we have been here for an hour, and the weather conditions really just keep getting worse. The wind is starting to pick up. It comes in larger gusts. It will die down a little bit.

And then another one, which really during the surge, I was even concerned because at any moment, you know, since that tree only split in half, I was concerned that perhaps the rest of it could fall over. There is debris everywhere. There are tree limbs everywhere around us right now at this time. It's just the neighborhood itself during this type of storm situation is a major concern for trees like this snapping. In this case, unfortunately, this tree snapped and took a life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're looking at a picture of the tree there that we understand went through that apartment building. We're looking at the tree there, a pretty large tree, too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right there at the top of the screen it looks like. And I guess did this comes from one of our reporters at Wavy.com, one of our viewers sent this in?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. This tree is very, very big. These are -- as far as from where we have been on the peninsula, these are some of the bigger trees and in neighborhoods. And it did split in half. The rest of the tree is still standing. But --

WHITFIELD: All right, live coverage from our affiliate WAVY tragically reporting on the death of a nine-year-old child who was in his apartment building and a very sizable tree came down and that apartment building, and police confirming that that child was killed there in Newport News, Virginia. We'll continue our coverage of the effects from Hurricane Irene after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Welcome back to continuing coverage of Hurricane Irene.

It continues to barrel down on North Carolina and the Virginia coast. We're going to show you some new images that come from our iReporter while our correspondents are all up and down the East Coast as from North Carolina up to New England. Our iReporters were supplying beautiful pictures as well giving us a bird's-eye view of what's taking place along the coast.

This one coming from iReporter Greg Nigro sending in images of Hurricane Irene there from duck, North Carolina. He's on the phone with us right now. So, Greg, give me an idea what you've been seeing there from Duck.

GREG NIGRO, DUCK, NORTH CAROLINA RESIDENT (via telephone): Well, hey, Fredricka.

It's been very windy, lots of rain, as you can imagine, branches, trees down. Right now fortunately we still have power thankfully. But from what we're hearing locally, there are power outages up and down the outer banks specifically Hatteras and Nags Head.

WHITFIELD: And why did you decide to stay in the first place?

NIGRO: Well, we have been through a couple of these and it is really an individual decision, but we have several restaurants down here, and obviously our home so we felt we could board everything up and hunker down and ride it out.

WHITFIELD: OK, but some 200,000 people along the North Carolina coast have been without power. Say you lose power. How are you going to be able to sustain yourselves? Restaurants aren't going to be serving any food, et cetera. What is your survival plan?

NIGRO: Sure, sure. We stocked up on a lot of supplies, a generator, lots of fuel. So I think we'll be OK.

WHITFIELD: OK, Greg Nigro, thanks so much. The optimist from Duck, North Carolina. Thanks so much.

Not far away from Duck we find our John Zarrella. He too is on the North Carolina coast coming to us from Atlantic beach.

OK, so it started to look a little milder as time goes on with you, John.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A little bit. We're still getting gusty winds, probably close to tropical storm force here still at this time. We're in a neighborhood here on the sound side, the Bogue Sound side. What you can see here, Fredricka, is all this debris that littered.

This is somebody's dock, part of somebody's dock, just washed ashore here. Here is a piece of wood. I'll do the right thing and turn it over because it has a nail sticking out. And a lot of times after storms people end up with nails in their feet because of just such a thing.

Atlantic Ocean is to the south over there, the Bogue Sound to the north. They have the storm surge first from the Atlantic side as Irene was coming right at us. We saw a lot of debris piled up along the shoreline there. When the wind changed direction, the side came out of its banks and where I'm standing here was under a foot, a foot and a half, two feet of water. All of this debris washed up from the Bogue sound. Another piece of somebody's dock over here.

All of these houses in here were surrounded by water, some of them up maybe a third of the way up the garage with water. If you look on this side of the street, look at this house. It is elevated more, they didn't get any water, but lots of debris still all the way over here into their end.

And I heard Chad Myers talking about Washington, North Carolina. It is a little inland, but just up the coast from where we are. I know they get a lot of water all up in there along the Albemarle and the river. So a lot of flooding, a lot of that is that storm surge and reverse storm surge flooding as the wind just pushes that water up and out of the banks of those rivers.

The main road in and out of here was impassable earlier today. You really couldn't get through it. It was very, very deep and that was, again, from this flooding that was pushed right up and over the banks and up on the shore line from the -- from the Bogue Sound.

But right now it has receded. The water is back into the sound, at least in this particular area. But most of the people, Fredricka, did evacuate. We did see a couple of people standing at their windows earlier, but for the most part folks did what they were supposed to do and got out of here.

WHITFIELD: And none of those folks have been peeking out the window and ventured out yet?

ZARRELLA: No. No. They haven't ventured out. They're smart, doing what they should do, stay in. We get strong gusts once in a while. You know, 18 hours, Fredricka, we have been going through this or worse weather. And That's what is making its way up the Eastern Seaboard -- 18 hours and we're still getting it. WHITFIELD: And you're still getting it. All right, John Zarrella, thank you very much, from Atlantic Beach, North Carolina.

And as John was saying, all up and down the East Coast states of emergencies have in fact been declared because of Hurricane Irene and its potential. A live look from New York, which is in the bull's eye next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Hurricane Irene still churning along the East Coast. And now just hours from now, parts of Long Island, New York, could be underwater as Irene storm surge moves in.

CNN's Rob Marciano is with us now from Long Beach, New York. Long Beach was evacuated as of last night. How are things looking from your vantage point?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We have seen a slow increase in winds, but obviously, Fredricka, the big show is not coming until later on tonight and in through tomorrow. If there is anything we have learned from what we have seen across North Carolina and parts of Virginia today is that this category one storm now is nothing to be trifled with, that's for sure. The size of this thing is going to be the big story. And we have already seen rain bands come through here over 400 miles from where this center is as it marches in our direction.

Behind me is the Atlantic Ocean, give you an idea where 40, 50 miles tops, southeast of New York City. These waves have been breaking big and hard all morning long. Right now it is low tide. That may be one of the reasons the surfers, which were catching some 10, 12, 15 footers earlier today, they have since gone home. But the storm watchers are still here.

This area is under a mandatory evacuation order as of 5:00 tonight. We have seen some people taking care of their belongings, boarding up around town, securing loose items around their homes, and begin to head out of town. And we caught up with one couple with an interesting perspective on this storm.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It has been a little nerve wracking. The evacuation sucks the fun out of it, that we have to go. But it will be -- it has been a little nerve wracking the last couple of days. But I think everything looks secure enough once we're done with this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARCIANO: Taking the fun right out of this. I think some people are trying to find some fun in this and it certainly is -- a lot of curious people are here now. By this time tomorrow, the fun for everybody will be taken out of it when we see what Irene has to bring us. There is going to be some storm surge. That's certainly going to be a big story. The ocean you see behind me will be where I am tomorrow, possibly further than that, three to six foot storm surge with 10 to 20 foot wave action on top of that. Astronomically High tides at 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. will be the big player.

This is a pretty flat area. There are no natural sand dunes that protect this area like they do further down island. So what they have done with man and machine and they have built up -- some berms here, about 12, 15 feet high, to try to protect the weaker spots along this boardwalk, because this is a town that floods even during a moderate winter storm. So the locals here expect flooding. The locals here certainly expect to see some power outages and they will.

The thing with this storm, Fredricka, not only do you get a storm surge here, a bigger surge might be on the other end of the island in the sound where you get the backlash of the northeast winds, which will be piling up the water especially on the western edge of Long Island Sound, and that may be where we may see a lot of the surge in unexpected areas.

So as Irene approaches and scrapes the shoreline across the Delmarva and up the New Jersey coastline, folks here on the long island shore who haven't seen a hurricane in a couple of decades are waiting, curiously, and with some concern for Irene.

WHITFIELD: All right, pretty significant measures being taken right there in Long Beach, New York. Thanks so much. Mandatory evacuation imposed last night. They have got until 5:00 tonight in which to heed those warnings. Rob Marciano, thanks so much.

All right, so many have seen Irene's force today. North Carolina, parts of Virginia, but none like our next guest. We'll talk with a hurricane hunter who was about to fly directly into the eye of the storm.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: The force of Hurricane Irene underway along the North Carolina and Virginia coasts. And so, you know, when a hurricane typically arrives, everyone usually is being told to get out of the way. Mandatory evacuations, right?

Well, a select group of people actually suits up and flies right into the eye of the storm. They are called hurricane hunters and Captain Nicole Mitchell is one of them. She's in Biloxi, Mississippi.

All right, Captain, you are going to be heading your way right into the storm. Give me an idea how long before you are where you want to be over that hurricane.

CAPTAIN NICOLE MITCHELL, HURRICANE HUNTER: We will be taking off a little over an hour from now and with flight time. It will take us a couple of hours to get there. Within the next three or four hours we'll be in the storm, replacing another flight that was in the storm. So at this point we have flights pretty much guying around the clock into and out of the storm to finally get the data of what's going on.

WHITFIELD: What kind of data are you looking for?

MITCHELL: It depends on the storm a little bit. We always want to fix the center of the storm so that we have the best beginning point for all those forecasts to go out, all of our data goes from the plane to the hurricane center to help with the forecast.

At this point we really know where the center of the storm is, so one of the primary purposes of my flight today is going to be flying that wind field on the side of the storm that is still over water on the eastern side of it, because this storm has had an incredibly large wind field. So even though it blossomed in intensity, you still have to look at how big of a storm it is and how far out that impact area is going to go. Also a bigger storm will turn up more water, bring in more rain. So those are the things that we'll be looking at today.

WHITFIELD: So how do you fly into the wind field and remain safe?

MITCHELL: It depends how big the storm is. We'll fly anything from a lower level, maybe a 1,000 or 1,500 feet, to a storm like today, flying as high as 10,000 feet. That keeps us in the storm. If we lose altitude or hit thunderstorm or anything else, that gives us a little recovery room as to what we're doing.

WHITFIELD: And how much time do you give yourself in those kind of conditions?

MITCHELL: Well, we are all scheduled blocks of time in the storm. That's usually about six hours. So our overall flight time including getting there and getting back averages 10 hours. But usually six hours is that inside the storm. So for a typical storm not on the coastline, that means flying from one side of the storm through the center out at different side and a pattern through the storm so we can see no only where the center is, if the pressure is falling and the storm is getting more intense. But we're also flying out to the periphery several times to give us that idea of how far out those damaging winds extend.

WHITFIELD: Captain, how did you get this duty? Is this something you sign up for or are many pilots anxious to get this kind of perspective and so the line is long?

MITCHELL: Well, I'm a meteorologist. So I'm a meteorologist on a plane. So it depends on the pilots and why they want to be doing this. For a meteorologist, most of us are here because we love the weather, and so for us this is a very exciting job. And as long as you're not a person that gets motion sick very easily and have a little bit of a sense of adventure, you know, really it is an awesome job to be able to not only be inside mother nature and see it happening, but know you're doing a job that helps so many people.

WHITFIELD: All right, we look forward to that information. Be safe, Captain Nicole Mitchell, thanks so much from Biloxi.

Let's check with our Chad Myers. So a lot of the information that she is talking about that they're gathering over that somewhere between six and eight hour period, information that will go to the National Weather Service, information you can benefit from to convey to us as well.

It is exactly the reason why we know the central pressure in a hurricane, because they fly through the eye wall right into the middle of the eye. They drop a drop sign down it goes to bottom and tells us exactly what the pressure is.

And the pressure of this hurricane is still 950 millibars. That doesn't mean anything if you don't have a perspective. But that is probably a top 30 hurricane of all time to ever hit the U.S. the reason we don't have the winds yet, we don't have winds of a category three, is because we don't really have an eye wall that is very organized.

But let me tell you, it is getting more organized now. And Captain Miller, she may find something different as they fly through it, coming up today, this certainly has the ability to get -- to be a significantly more windy hurricane. I know it is already going to be a significantly -- a flood-maker everywhere. But the wind field is so large that, look, right here, this is about -- this is 7:30, 8:00 this morning.

We almost had tropical storm winds, this green all the way up to Ocean City, Maryland. I'll push it ahead. This is between 4:00 and 7:00. So 6:00 tonight, very close. That's Washington, D.C., just to the south, northern Virginia, already getting 39-mile-per-hour winds. Those are sustained winds, not gusts.

By 2:00 in the morning, there is New York City. There is Long Island, all of New Jersey picking up winds of 39 miles per hour or greater. It has been estimated by some computer models that 44 million people will have 50-mile-per-hour winds at their house with this storm, 44 million people affected with 50-mile-per-hour or more.

And then by 10:00 a.m., this is when really Long Island gets slammed. We see the storm surges, the peak of the surge in the city and also Long Island. A few more hours later, that surge will go into Connecticut and Rhode Island as well.

WHITFIELD: There is huge reach that Irene has. Chad Myers, thank you.

CNN iReporters are busy sending in pictures related to Hurricane Irene. And we're getting them on the air as quickly as we can. The latest iReports coming up next.

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WHITFIELD: All right, Hurricane Irene is making its way up the coast. And you at home, iReporters, you're on Hurricane Irene duty as well, streaming in lots of image to us. Even though we all have cameras, not all of us are along the East Coast. Your pictures are coming to life for us. Josh Levs has been pouring through all of them. What do you have in picture and video form, right? JOSH LEVS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Exactly. You know, we're getting close to the top of the hour. Let's bang right through these. Zoom into here. These are some of the latest iReport photos we have been getting from you to help us tell the story.

This one is from the Hague River in Norfolk and this comes to us from Brad, who talked about how he's near this inlet. You can see that the water has been working its way in on to the roads. Look at this, rather, we'll take a look at these. You can see the damage that the wind has done. This is over in smith field, North Carolina, from Eric Rodriguez. You see how the trees have just been torn out, way down in the roots and fallen on to the building.

I'm going to show you how we're putting all this together for you. It's on this great system we've got set up on the main page of CNN.com called open story. And everywhere you see a red eye, we're getting iReports that are telling the story. You can see that those iReports are following the path of Irene.

In some cases we're getting pictures that tell a different slice of a story. Sandbags outside an Apple store in New York, grocery stores around the country, basically completely out of milk and bread. This picture is called "That's a lot of sandwiches."

But I also want to let you know, we have been get something video that helped us tell parts of the story, like this video here. Take a look. This is from a hospital in New York. This was taken in the wee hours this morning. I wanted to mention it because we saw this. This is a hospital in Queens that was evacuating.

And after this came to us I called the hospital, and I was informed that they have 200 people at a nursing home there and 173 beds in the hospital and the woman who works there informed me, she said it has been amazing what the city has done to keep things extremely well- organized. And she wanted to praise the people there in the New York City government, saying they're doing everything they can.

So Fred, some good news there. Everything I posted is up on my page, CNN.com/Josh. I'm on Facebook and Twitter, John Levs CNN, lots of resources to help everyone through the storm.

WHITFIELD: Excellent. Thank you so much, Josh.