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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Hurricane Irene Coverage: Irene Takes Aim at Maryland; Philadelphia in State of Emergency; Sailboat Rescue in Virginia; Assessing Irene's Damage

Aired August 27, 2011 - 20:00   ET

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


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: And thanks for staying with us everyone. We continue our Breaking News coverage of Hurricane Irene.

I'm Kyra Phillips at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Martin Savidge.

It is a bad night for of much of the East Coast, but good to be with you, Kyra, and good to be with all of you at home.

Hurricane Irene, a massive Category 1 storm slowly churning up the East Coast. What it lacks in powerful winds it more than makes up in relentlessness. At least eight deaths now blamed on the storm.

Right now, Norfolk, Virginia, is getting the brunt of it.

PHILLIPS: And Norfolk is home of the U.S. Second Fleet, which put many of its warships out to sea to ride out this hurricane and they're going to stay far out in the Atlantic then circle back into port behind the storm.

SAVIDGE: Ocean City, Maryland, will feel the full force of the hurricane in - well, a few hours. Like every other beach resort along the Mid-Atlantic, it is almost deserted right now. Winds have decreased slightly to 80 miles an hour.

PHILLIPS: And those winds can be felt nearly 100 miles away from the center tropical-force winds extend out more than 200 miles. Now, already it's knocked out power to more than one million customers along the Eastern Seaboard. In North Carolina, a tornado spawned by Irene destroyed at least five homes.

CNN correspondents are strategically positioned all up and down the East Coast to give you the very latest and of course the most crucial information.

Let's get right to our Jeanne Meserve. She's standing by for us in Ocean City, Maryland. Now, Jeanne, I understand high tide there was about a half hour ago. What are you seeing now?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're feeling that wind. We're feeling the rain that got to the point where the rain feels like pellets on your back. It's coming at you so hard. But the water is the big concern. Behind me is the surf. It is just amazing to see when you get down close to it. And we have watched the waves come up not only covering about 30 feet of beach but then coming over the dunes. It's not coming over the dunes consistently, but it has breached once or twice in the time we've been watching.

Flooding is the really big concern here in Ocean City, and the mayor tells me they are seeing some limited flooding in downtown. Interestingly, though, it is not coming from the Oceanside. This is a Barrier Island, and the flooding that they're experiencing is on the inland side of the island, the fear had been and apparently what's happening is that water has come into that bay and it can't get back out again because of the strength of the hurricane and so it it's coming into the streets of the city.

As you mentioned, high tide about half an hour ago. The storm surge getting greater and greater. So the expectation is that that flooding is only going to get worse. It's not going to get better.

Chad Myers, tell me what I can expect in the next couple of hours here in ocean city?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Jeanne, as the eye gets closer to you, you're going to get more storm coverage. You're going to get the winds to pick up. Here's the - basically, the entire area, this is all Maryland here. This is all Delaware here. You are right there in the middle at Ocean City. There really is very little convection, very little storm to you right now.

Here's Salisbury, you take the road out of Salisbury and you go right to Ocean City. But as the night goes on, this will continue to get stronger and stronger, the winds will and also so will the rainfall. Every time it rains, the winds will pick up. When the rains die off, the winds die off. And this is one after another. It's like the arms of a buzz saw, one after the other, outer band after outer band.

Right now, though, you are still 100 and - maybe 120 miles away from the eye. You have another eight hours of this to get worse before it even changes direction and gets better - Jeanne.

MESERVE: Chad, thanks so much. Most of the people have left Ocean City. There are only a couple of hundred residents that are left here. The mayor and other officials are urging them to stay inside. Do not go out in this weather, which, as Chad says, is only going to get worse.

Kyra and Marty, back to you.

SAVIDGE: Jeanne, I just notice, of course, we're transitioning now from daylight into darkness and I'm wondering what problems that's going to pose for people.

MESERVE: Well, actually, the mayor says it's good news that this is happening during darkness because people will be more inclined to stay in their houses. So he, in fact, was seeing it as a plus.

Clearly emergency workers are going to want to get out at first light and do an assessment of the damage, but my guess is that the worst of the storm at first light - the worst of the storm is going to be over just at about the time they're getting to first light here. So perhaps in that respect it's not too unhappy a meeting of the weather and the hour.

Back to you.

PHILLIPS: Jeanne, we're getting word, too, that the police have been pulled off the streets. Is that right?

MESERVE: That's what the mayor told me about an hour ago. He said conditions had deteriorated to such a point that he was going to stop the routine patrols and that he would only be responding to emergency calls on a case-by-case basis.

But I went down onto the street a little time ago just to assess the sort of property damage that I could see, and I did see some vehicles out, one of them a fire department vehicle. They were out there surveying what was going on.

So apparently there is still some little activity or there was about a half hour ago. And I should mention that the property damage I saw was not extensive. I have seen on the ocean side a couple of windows blown out in hotels. But when you go back a block, thus far things don't appear too bad. But thing are only beginning here.

Back to you.

SAVIDGE: All right. Jeanne, we'll check in with you in just a bit.

We want to now go to Chris Lawrence, who's in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland. And we understand that the waters have been rising there. We also know there is a concern over the storm surge, which I think the governor put a five to seven feet in some areas.

And I'm wondering, Chris, just what you're seeing now?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Marty. I can definitely speak to what Chad was telling us just a few minutes ago about these bands, because occasionally the wind will die down really to the point of just a light rain, very light wind. And then all of a sudden, just like that, you know, we'll roll into a period where the wind gets a lot stronger and the rain just starts -

(AUDIO GAP)

LAWRENCE: -- starts to get (INAUDIBLE). Here the concern - the wind -- when I say that, I mean, they're not worried about the wind itself doing catastrophic damage to this area. The concern is that how much water will that wind be pushing onshore, especially overnight, and as we get into about 2:00, 3:00 in the morning when it's another high tide here in this area. There are a lot of homes here that are built on a cliff. There was a mandatory evacuation for anyone within 100 feet of the edge of that cliff, near those cliff side homes. (INAUDIBLE) were just rolling around, just driving around more than an hour ago and he said it looks like a lot of people have decided to stay.

(AUDIO GAP)

SAVIDGE: And you can see that signal is deteriorating somewhat due to the weather out there, understandable given the heavy amount of rain they're getting.

Jeanne, we want to bring you back into the conversation. And I'm concerned, you know, there have been evacuations from that area, but once the storm passes people will be anxious to get back home. What are they saying as far as people returning?

MESERVE: They are anxious for people to stay away from here for the time being. The mayor told me, thank you very much for going, those of you who left. That's what we needed and wanted you to do. But they want to do a very thorough assessment to make sure things are safe here before people come back into the city.

In addition, we talked to the Coast Guard about the - the boat because this is an area with many sailboats, motor boats. It's a fishing Mecca. It's a sailing Mecca. Many people did take their boats out of the water, but there are some that are still in there. They're worried about what's going to happen to them as the surge comes up and goes down, whether they'll be damaged or not, whether they may damage other things.

But in addition they say things can change, buoys can shift, navigation channels can shift. The Coast Guard needs to have time to go out there and check things out to make sure things are safe for boaters here.

I understand we can go back to Chris Lawrence now in Chesapeake Bay. Back to you, Chris.

LAWRENCE: Yes, Jeanne, here again. You know, just the incredible difference when one of those bands whips by and literally just knocks us off the air because the gust of wind is so strong.

We were just talking to folks over at the Emergency Management Center for Calvert County here. And they said we're getting to a point where we're going to be seeing pretty much sustained winds of 45, 50 miles an hour. You know, that's what we were seeing in gusts just a couple of hours ago.

So obviously things deteriorating here, you know, by the hour as we get closer to feeling, you know, the eye of the hurricane here.

I've also been trying to keep tabs - I've also been trying to talk to folks here. And they had a real question about what to be - what to be aware of when that storm surge comes in. And, Chad, I know you've been monitoring this. A lot of people here have been wondering about the relationship between the hurricane and the next high tide. They're telling us here the next high tide is about 3:30 in the morning. How is that going to affect the folks here with the track of the storm?

MYERS: Well, the track of the storm brings the water in and so does - and so does high tide. So when you push water and you push the normal tide flow, let's say your tide is about three feet, that's about where it should be, and then you push another four feet of water with the wind, then you can possibly get a seven-foot surge on top of what your low water data would be.

And that is enough to get into all of those houses that line the water all along the Chesapeake Beach area, Maryland area.

And also even on the other side, Chris. You could also get that surge, even though the water is pushing the other way, the wind is pushing the water across to the west side, you can get on the eastern shore, Easton could also pick up some added wind and also some added surge.

But the big surge is going to be all along this area here, from Virginia all the way up into the Delaware and then on up into New York City. And that's where the wind is all pushing, in this direction, and as it pushes in from the ocean, you're going to pile the water up along the shore and into the bays. From Toms all the way back up into New York City as well.

This is a visual of how big the wind field is with this storm. You go from Philadelphia/Atlantic City with green, all the way down to almost North Carolina. That's the wind field of 40 miles per hour or more. You are about - and so is Jeanne Meserve - about to get into 50 and then into 60-mile-per-hour winds as the eye gets closer to you here. And certainly Ocean City and then the Rehoboth 60 to 70-mile- per-hour winds in the next three hours.

And then by 3:00 A.M. you're up into Atlantic City with that same wind. And notice how far, we're already up here to New York City, this is 6:00 A.M. The wind is already blowing 50 to 60 and that yellow area there right there, I would call that Long Beach, New York, that would see about 70-mile-per-hour winds. And that's going to blow like that for hours, and that's the water that's going to pile up into the New York Harbor and also possibly flood I would say at least with five to six feet of water pushing into New York Harbor, we could see the Battery Park and Battery Park City flood tonight.

You are going to see at least another three feet of water rise at high tide from where you are now, so plan your adjustments and your live shots and your truck locations appropriately, Chris.

LAWRENCE: That's good advice, Chad. And I think, you know - I know this probably doesn't make anything any easier, but it looks like the pain of this storm and the effects of this storm are going to be felt - shared pretty equally up and down the Eastern Seaboard.

Just to turn around, you can see just the amount of rain that is coming down now. It's pretty intense, especially compared to what we were getting earlier. And I think it goes to what Chad was saying. As we see more wind, we are seeing a tremendous increase in rain, and obviously that's something that, you know, for the people who live so close to the Chesapeake Bay here, that's going to be a major concern.

Kyra, Marty?

PHILLIPS: All right. And then, Chris, we're just getting word here, our affiliate, WBAO now reporting that the Chesapeake Bay Bridge is closed. Once again, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge is closed that's coming to us from our affiliate WBAO. That's according to the Maryland Transportation Authority.

So we'll continue obviously to update you on all the various closings, from - I mean, people shouldn't be out on the roads anyway, as you heard from Chris. Everyone is being told to stay inside.

SAVIDGE: Especially now it's dark. Yes.

We're going to continue more of our coverage right after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Welcome back to our Breaking News coverage here in the CNN World Headquarters as we continue to follow Hurricane Irene.

Things are pretty fluid right now. We're getting a live shot, not getting a live shot. Getting the radar up. It's happening moment by moment. So hopefully everybody will stay plugged in with us as we continue to roll through this coverage.

SAVIDGE: And that's the way it will be for much of the evening, because it's a hurricane and it's a hurricane that's affecting a massive area, especially along the East Coast and major population centers.

And that is the real concern now as we go into the overnight hours and going into early morning hours tomorrow when you start talking about cities like, well, Philadelphia, when you start talking about Washington, D.C., when you start talking about New York City. That's a lot of people.

PHILLIPS: And how about Philadelphia? Sarah Hoye I understand, we're connected to her now. She's joining us live from Philly, a city anxiously awaiting Irene.

What can you tell us, Sarah?

SARAH HOYE, CNN ALL-PLATFORM JOURNALIST: Well, the latest here out of Philadelphia is that Mayor Michael Nutter issued a state of emergency, which apparently is the first time -

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER (D), PHILADELPHIA: This weather event is upon us, and quite frankly the time is ticking away. You should have already been out, and you should be seeing this broadcast in a new location.

Please sign up for Ready Notify P.A., Philadelphia's emergency text and e-mail messaging alert system at phila.gov/ready.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOYE: So the city did come out trying to beat this storm. They were out yesterday as well urging people to get out. They expect major flooding in the City of Brotherly Love. They want people who are in low-lying areas, especially in the areas that are a 100-year- old flood plain, to get moving. It's been raining here since noon, and it has not let up.

PHILLIPS: And it looks like, Sarah, the city is not going to feel the brunt of this storm until tomorrow. Is that correct? Is that what the mayor was saying?

HOYE: That is correct. We're talking about the wee hours of the morning. So when a lot of people are in bed, this thing is supposed to slam into the city. So we're thinking of a 2:00 A.M., 3:00 A.M. to the 9:00 A.M. hour that this could be just beating down on Philadelphia.

And for those who don't know, Philadelphia is surrounded by quite a bit of water. You have the Schuylkill River on one side and the Delaware River on the other. Now, August has been the rainiest month in history in Philadelphia so it is saturated, it is soaked. These streets will flood.

Also, to help beat the storm, Septa which oversees trains, trolleys, buses is ceasing all service tonight at 12:30 A.M.

SAVIDGE: And, Sarah, you mentioned, of course, all the rain that they've had there and the problem is going to be for flooding. But also I would think there would be a problem for trees coming down as a result of the high winds moving in.

HOYE: That (INAUDIBLE) in the last couple of hours, but it's been raining as well.

But Philadelphia is also a very green city in terms of trees. There's a lot of areas where they've taken down flags for major streets, in front of the art museum where the Rocky steps are. They are anticipating a lot of downed trees, which means a lot of downed power lines, which then means people out of power. It could either be a couple of days or even just a couple of hours. They don't know. Until Irene hits, it's a waiting game.

SAVIDGE: Sarah Hoye, OK, thank you very much. We'll continue to stay in touch.

You know, you're right, Kyra, you just - we don't think of Philadelphia as being so much on the water and not necessarily going to be so impacted. But clearly, as we just heard from Sarah, it is going to be, as we will wait out the night hours. And this is the kind of weather that can - can make going a few yards feel like moving a mile. Case in point, there was the sailboat stuck just 200 yards offshore in Norfolk, Virginia. The people on board had engine trouble and then emergency crews couldn't reach them initially because of the high waves.

Joining us by phone is Captain Mike Marsala of the Norfolk Fire and Rescue. And we have video, I believe, of the two people as they make it ashore. But first, explain what was the situation there, Captain, when you arrived.

CAPT. MIKE MARSALA, NORFOLK FIRE AND RESCUE (via telephone): The crews arrived on the beach and found a 30-foot sailboat that was approximately 200 yards offshore. It was moored up, that mooring gave way and the vessel was slammed against the rocks. There's some jetties that run parallel around the beach. So it made it very difficult with the high winds and the treacherous surf, we weren't able to deploy any swimmers or we couldn't launch a boat.

On the fortunate side, the winds and the current eventually carry the vessel over that jetty and moved it in a little closer, and once it turned onto its star board side, it actually blocked some of the seas and that allowed us to go ahead and deploy our swimmers and get the - the couple and their cat off the boat.

PHILLIPS: So, Captain, when you reached these individuals, what did they say to you? How did they react to you?

MARSALA: The crews that were there, once they got there and got the crew - the crew off the boat, they were very grateful, joyous to be back on solid ground. We're very appreciative that Norfolk Fire/Rescue was able to get to them. It was kind of concern at first that we weren't going to be able to get to them.

The other relief was the rescuers, as they watched for - for quite some time, trying to develop a plan on how to get those people off the boat. Naturally, they were relieved, you know, once everybody was brought ashore.

SAVIDGE: Yes. I'm curious, why were they out there? I mean, clearly they knew of this storm that was on its way. What were they doing in the water in the first place?

MARSALA: They left Port of Portsmouth yesterday morning. Their intention was to go to Annapolis. They were trying to outrun the storm. Unfortunately, they had some engine trouble and they weren't able to return back in to port. So they went ahead and anchored up. Their intent was to try to ride out the storm and it just became too much for them.

PHILLIPS: How bad would you rate these conditions, compared to times past?

MARSALA: Very treacherous. We have a lot of northeaster storms that come through. These guys today, when they were executing a rescue, they were dealing with five to six foot seas and they're dealing with winds at that particular time that were 45 to 50 miles an hour with 60-mile-an-hour gusts.

SAVIDGE: Are there other rescues that you've had to take part in today, or was that the major one of the day?

MARSALA: That's been our major rescue today. We were able to get the crew off, the Norfolk Police Department assisted us with the crew, you know, once we get them off, our medics were able to evaluate them. They suffered some exposure, cold and hypothermia. Other than that, there were no injuries to the rescuers or the crew that was on the boat.

Then we were able to turn the couple over to our shelters, the City of Norfolk has shelters that were in place. This boat is actually their home. That's where they live.

SAVIDGE: Wow.

MARSALA: So they now don't have a place to stay, so we were able to make sure we got them to a shelter and then we also used the animal control to take possession of their animal until they could make arrangements for somebody to come and get it.

SAVIDGE: OK. Captain Mike Marsala of the Norfolk Fire and Rescue, thanks very much. Thanks to all of your rescuers out there and good luck to the people in your community.

PHILLIPS: I'm getting word now that just after the break we're going to hear from the Coast Guard - from a Coast Guard Admiral. As you know, we've been talking about the Coast Guard getting involved in rescues and also preparing for what could come next.

In addition to the number of evacuations as well as you can see, we're bringing up a live picture - there we go - when we'll speak with the admiral in just a moment.

Also, all your iReports, your travel delays, Alexandra Steele with us to bring us that right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAVIDGE: Breaking News coverage of Hurricane Irene continues right here in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Martin Savidge.

PHILLIPS: And I'm Kyra Phillips at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta.

Hurricane Irene has already claimed eight lives since making landfall this morning in the North Carolina Outer Banks. More than one million homes have lost power. And it's turning up, the Atlantic Seaboard.

SAVIDGE: The massive storm is now moving north across the Chesapeake Bay approaching Ocean City, Maryland. Like other beach resorts it is now a ghost town. Irene expected to remain a Category 1 hurricane with 80-mile-per-hour winds all the way to New York City. IRENE is expected to arrive there tomorrow afternoon. PHILLIPS: Now for a Category 1 hurricane, Irene is deceptively dangerous. The greatest threat is a crippling storm surge caused by nonstop wind. And that's because the storm is moving so slowly, barely 13 miles an hour. In some places, the storm surge could be as high as 10 feet.

SAVIDGE: Right now, we want to join us - actually on the phone the Rear Admiral William Lee with the U.S. Coast Guard Fifth District. He's in Wilmington, North Carolina and he's just come back from doing an aerial survey of damage down there.

Admiral, what have you seen?

REAR ADM. WILLIAM LEE, U.S. COAST GUARD 5TH DISTRICT (via telephone): Well, good evening. We were able to get airborne this afternoon around 4:30 PM, and we flew the entire Coast Guard -- coastline from Cape Lookout south to Wilmington. And I'm -- I have some encouraging news. The damage wasn't nearly as bad as I had suspected.

The storm made landfall up in the Atlantic Beach/Cape Lookout area. We flew around it extensively. And strong storms -- the telltale signs of how intense the storm was, was how many shingles were blown off of the roofs, how many trees are down. In this particular case, I saw very few roofing shingles off of the houses that were actually directly on the beach. Very few trees were down.

I saw evidence of minor flooding. There was multiple places where the ocean had breached the Outer Banks, mostly up in the Cape Lookout area, where are the ocean had connected with the sound side. But all in all, the damage wasn't nearly as bad as we had expected.

SAVIDGE: Well, you know, Admiral, we're actually big fans of good news, so we're very happy to hear this kind of report coming from you. What about erosion, beach erosion, that sort of thing?

LEE: Well, you can always expect there's going to be a significant amount of beach erosion, and we did see that. There was a number of docks that had broken loose and a number of boats that had broken from either drogue anchor or broken their moorings and were lost up in the salt marshes. But this is to be expected. And again, I've been through several hurricanes, and in comparison to ones like Frederic, Andrew, Hugo, this one is significantly less damage.

SAVIDGE: And presumably --

LEE: And --

SAVIDGE: I'm sorry. Didn't mean to interrupt, but presumably, since you were up in the air, the situation, conditions have improved a great deal there.

LEE: They have. They have. The storm is still moving north. And I don't want anybody to take this report as a sign to not to expect the worst. They should be prepared for the worst. And I want everybody up ahead to know that we are prepared to respond and to recover. I have on deck here in Wilmington at this airport -- we have eight H-65 helicopters, two H-60s. We've got a small air force down here ready to come in and respond as necessary at first light in the morning.

SAVIDGE: You're good to go. All right. Rear Admiral William Lee of the U.S. Coast Guard, thanks for your assessment down there in Wilmington -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: I understand we've connected now with our Jason Carroll. He's joining us live in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Authorities there -- he -- actually, he's got the mayor with him, I understand. Jason, take it away.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Kyra. As you know, conditions here in Atlantic City have been deteriorating over the past few hours. Joining me now, Atlantic City's mayor, Lorenzo Langford.

Mr. Mayor, can you tell us how things are going in terms of flooding, in terms of wind? Any damage? What reports are you receiving so far?

MAYOR LORENZO LANGFORD, ATLANTIC CITY, NJ: Well, certainly, thus far, it's pretty much what we expected. This is the beginning of the worst part of it. I'm just happy to report at this time, though, that all of our residents seem to have taken heed to our warnings, and the evacuation efforts have been absolutely phenomenal. There's been a collaborative effort by the Atlantic City Police Department, the Atlantic City Fire Department, obviously, the Office of Emergency Management, the state police. Everybody has just joined forces and we've accomplished our mission. We've got about 90 percent of our people evacuated.

CARROLL: All right, we're here on the boardwalk, just so you know, Kyra, and we've seen conditions here change dramatically even just over the past hour. The winds have definitely been picking up. We've seen the surf coming in. We've seen some minor flooding.

I know you've been talking about evacuations. We were over at a senior apartment building, where a group of 92 seniors say -- and I know you know about them. They are still hanging out there, saying they are not moving. What do you do for the residents here who say they are going to stay?

LANGFORD: Well, listen, we've made three sweeps, and the most recent sweep probably was the last one. We encouraged people as best we could. We admonished them to leave while they could. Once this water starts to rise and emergency vehicles are not able to reach a potential problem, basically, they're going to be on their own. So we just hope that as many people heeded the warning as should have. And this last week, we were able to get an additional 94 people on buses and headed towards safety, so we're pleased with that.

CARROLL: I know there was a last-minute evacuation that just took place not too long ago, or is actually just about to take place. I know also, 1985, the steel (ph) pier, which is right out there sustained a lot of damage during that particular hurricane. How are you expecting the boardwalk to fare during this one, during Irene?

LANGFORD: Well, listen, we are -- we're hoping for the best, but we're planning for the worst.

CARROLL: I know I've heard that before. Mr. Mayor, I want to thank you so very much. I know you've got a busy night ahead of you.

LANGFORD: A pleasure.

(CROSSTALK)

CARROLL: Thanks a lot for stopping by.

Once again, Kyra, we were out there on the beach a little earlier, and it's just at this point too unsafe for us to be out there, so we sort of brought it back in. But it's just incredible to see how conditions can change just within an hour, just actually within a half hour, how conditions can get progressively worse. And that's what we're experiencing out here in Atlantic City. Back to you.

PHILLIPS: Jason, thanks very much. Yes, we've both seen that, Kyra, where you have to have -- be in one position and then quickly move depending on the weather.

PHILLIPS: Oh, and we were talking about the number -- almost 100 seniors there where Jason is, refusing to leave their post. You know, and you heard the mayor. He's -- people are putting their lives at risk.

SAVIDGE: Yes. The worry is, of course, that they would have to send out emergency personnel if something happened to those seniors, to aid them. But my spirit is with them.

PHILLIPS: I'm telling you, they're strong, that is for sure!

(LAUGHTER)

SAVIDGE: They are.

PHILLIPS: Well, there's a lot of local government types, as well, along the East Coast that are making emergency plans, trying to get people to follow them. And there's no doubt that that is the case for Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, New Jersey. He's on the phone with us now.

And from what I understand, Mayor -- and why does this not surprise me -- you're actually going door to door yourself. Maybe we need you to head over to where Jason Carroll is, to try to encourage some of those people to go, as the mayor's encouraging them to do so.

MAYOR CORY BOOKER, NEWARK, NJ (via telephone): Yes, we're fortunate. My man, my fellow mayor down in Atlantic City, has entirely larger portions that need to be evacuated than we do. And we gave the order to just a small amount of neighborhoods for voluntary evacuation, which afforded me to the opportunity to walk most of them myself, along with other emergency personnel, to strongly encourage people to leave, and if not, to ensure that they're safe and they have the supplies necessary if they were insistent upon staying where they are.

PHILLIPS: And how did they react to you as you went door to door? I mean, did folks argue with you? Did they say no, they wouldn't leave?

BOOKER: You know, I benefited a lot from the surprise factor, as the mayor showing up.

(LAUGHTER)

BOOKER: But I wasn't as successful as I would like to have been, not being able to encourage so many people move, but letting people, I think, to see the gravity of the situation and severity and the urgencies that they are going to be facing if they choose to stay where they are. I think they got the point, and hopefully, they'll behave appropriately. And at the end of the day, though, if they are in trouble, we're going to find a way to get to them and rescue them.

PHILLIPS: And so -- OK, so you -- you -- even though you have put out a warning and you've told folks they need to go, you're still going to respond if, indeed, they stay.

BOOKER: Absolutely. I mean, the fact is, we have a lot of great security -- excuse me -- emergency response assets here at our behest, including, frankly, little skimmers, little boats to get down some of these streets we anticipate being flooded. However, that's not an invitation for people to be irresponsible, and that's what we tried to say.

Our engineers and others who are looking at the situation don't think it will get that bad. But as you guys know, these storms can change very quickly and a situation can go from very bad to even much worse. And if that happens, we want to be ready and we want our residents not to do something foolish, like try to drive through flooded streets, which will make matters even worse, but to call 911 and we will respond.

PHILLIPS: Mayor Cory Booker from Newark, New Jersey, appreciate you calling in. I know you're in the command center now. Please keep us posted. Appreciate it, Mayor.

BOOKER: Thank you. All the best to you. I appreciate your vigilance. You're really helping a lot of people out.

PHILLIPS: You bet.

SAVIDGE: And on top of the hurricane, then, of course, you get tornadoes that spin off. And Chad Myers now joins us with a warning on that.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We talked about the tornado watch earlier. Now a warning is produced. A warning means that something is happening significant enough to put out a small box for a small area because a tornado could be on the ground at any time.

There's Dewey Beach right there. Not that far from Rehoboth (ph). And this is going to be in effect until 9:00 o'clock. These storms are moving to the northwest at 45. Tornadoes happen, small ones happen during hurricanes because the storm is already spinning by the time it hits the land. And sometimes those storms can put down small water spout-size tornadoes, but still significant -- guys.

SAVIDGE: Thanks, Chad, very much. We already saw that tornadoes did some damage, knocked down at least five homes in one state, North Carolina.

We're going to go to break right now. We'll have an update from the National Hurricane Center. Also, we will be joined by retired lieutenant general Russel Honore.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: And you're watching our continuing coverage of Hurricane Irene. We want to get straight to Jeanne Meserve standing by for us in Ocean City, Maryland. Apparently, it is picking up, Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kyra. Right now, we've got a lot of wind, not much rain at the moment. But we have lost power in this part of Ocean City. When I was last talking to you, there were a couple of bright flashes to the south, we presume transformers exploding. And then this section of the waterfront went dark. We can see lights to the south of us. We can see lights to the west of us. So this is a localized outage, and certainly exactly the kind of thing we expected to see happen in these kind of weather conditions.

We know there are many other people in this same situation as a result of this incredible weather, which continues to develop here, the worst not expected here for several more hours. Kyra, back to you.

PHILLIPS: Jeanne, you still with me?

MESERVE: I am with you, yes.

PHILLIPS: OK. So you're noticing that power is now going out. Describe to us the streets. You had mentioned before that even the police were being pulled off the streets. Everybody was being told to stay inside. The number of people that have been evacuated -- give us a sense for how it is -- what the status is right now with regard to if people are heeding those calls.

MESERVE: It is extraordinarily empty down there. I went down -- I will have to say, it's now probably about 45 minutes since I've been down on the street myself. But when I went down, there was an occasional emergency vehicle on the street, and that was it.

Not a lot of debris at this point in time, some trees that clearly had suffered some damage, some siding off a house. A tiki bar had had its roof come partway off. But really, when you consider the strength of the winds, the damage that I've seen thus far is relatively minor.

There's another hotel a couple down from us on the beach. It had a couple of windows out, but nothing too extensive at this point in time.

As for people, we're not seeing them, and that's a great thing. As I mentioned before, there were about 200,000 people expected in this city this weekend. It's the height of the tourist season and this is very much a tourist town. They stopped letting them in a couple of days ago and encouraged them all to get out yesterday. And the mayor told me that except for about 300 people, they all left by last night.

And then today, during the day, the police were still willing to do evacuations. There were some people who when the conditions picked up, realized that they had made a grave mistake and they actually wanted to get out of town and so they left -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right. Our Jeanne Meserve there in Ocean City. Jeanne, thanks. And Marty, we're getting word in now, a ninth death in Chesterfield County, Virginia.

SAVIDGE: Right, this one coming as a result of a tree down. And we've seen other deaths, unfortunately, like this during this storm. So if you have any doubts about the power of this weather system, it is still very much a killer.

We're going to come back and talk to Lieutenant General Russel Honore right after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MYERS: Hey, welcome back.

I have another tornado warning for you, this time for Atlantic City, New Jersey, a tornado indicated by Doppler radar about seven miles south of Atlantic City with this cell here, moving to the north- northwest at 45 miles per hour. Would also be near Northfield by about 9:10 PM Eastern time.

If you're in Atlantic City, you may be hearing the sirens. If not, stay away from the windows, get inside the building, the lowest level you can. Although these are small tornadoes, they can and do do damage. Guys, back to you.

PHILLIPS: All right, Chad. Thanks so much. And someone who knows military response after a hurricane, that's retired lieutenant general Russel Honore. As you know, he commanded the military response during Katrina.

So we have talked -- you've been pointing out all types of things to us throughout the day, obviously, since this started. But overall, you say we're doing a pretty darn good job. LT. GEN. RUSSEL HONORE (RET.), CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. We've seen a complete shift after Katrina. Organization of National Guard -- we now have General McKinley (ph) up there in command of it. We have Northcom in support of the National Guard. And just today, both in North Carolina and in Virginia, the National Guard has done their traditional role. They mobilized, positioned themselves at the right place and they've been out on high (ph) vehicle rescue, primarily from water areas that people couldn't get out or had been stranded, in both states. And they've done a marvelous job.

SAVIDGE: And what's the role of the military? Once the storm passes or at least the initial brunt, what do they do?

HONORE: Well, they will -- all the National Guard will start responding to their in-state governor to work with the local first responders, fire. And in Virginia right now, National Guard is helping the state police open roads so they can get to people as needed. And the ships at sea are prepared to come in behind the storm to do search and rescue.

PHILLIPS: Now, you actually said that you were concerned in North Carolina and also Virginia about the disabled, the elderly, and those in poverty-stricken areas, right, that there are folks you think could be trapped, could be in trouble that we don't even know about now?

HONORE: Oh, absolutely. The vulnerable population, the disabled, the elderly and the poor that live outside of that beach area in North Carolina and Virginia that right now have been out of power, many of them, for six or seven hours. And going into tomorrow, people will be able to reach out to them because they are vulnerable. It's the end of the month. They don't have a lot of money left. And they are isolated in country areas.

Think about it when we lose power -- no television, no phone service in many cases, no flushing toilets because our water systems run off electrical pumps. Most municipalities in America don't have backup generators to their water system. So this is going to create a lot of pain.

And then the other issue, Kyra, we were talking about is density of population. Louisiana has about 104 people per square mile. Washington, D.C., almost 10,000 per square mile. So when you put the lights out in Washington, D.C., and in that area, urban area, it's going to have a lot bigger impact than it does out in a rural area.

PHILLIPS: And that's what we're going to talk about next hour when you come back with us -- New York City, D.C., how the military is going to respond, if need be, and what we can look forward to there.

HONORE: Absolutely.

PHILLIPS: OK. Thanks, General.

SAVIDGE: Thank you.

And coming up after the break, we will check in live with New York to see how they prepare.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: All right, we were just talking with General Honore, and he was talking about New York bracing for this storm and the military on standby. We know now 1,900 National Guard troops have been distap -- dispatched, rather, by the governor.

SAVIDGE: And we also know the George Washington Bridge closed in both directions as they prepare in that city.

Let's check in with Mary Snow. She is in New York. And as we say, it's a city that is going to be under the gun starting tomorrow morning -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Martin and Kyra, and also, adding on top of everything else, the National Weather Service just about 20 minutes ago issued a tornado watch for the New York City area. No tornadoes have been reported, but conditions favorable for a tornado.

Really, what the area of concerns you just mentioned, the brunt of the storm reaching New York City tomorrow morning, and high tide is around 8:00 AM. We're here in lower Manhattan. This is one of the areas that has been evacuated, city officials bracing for the possibility of a four to eight-foot surge of water.

And as you can see behind me, you know, that -- you may be able to see the lights behind me. That is tower one at Ground Zero. That, of course, is lit up. But you might see a lot of other buildings there that are pretty dark. And these buildings -- people in this area had been ordered to evacuate by 5:00 PM this afternoon.

Many people did take -- heed the warning and left for other areas, but not everybody did. We spoke with one gentleman earlier today who lives on the 21st floor of a building in Battery Park. And he said he was taking precautions but not so worried. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM PYRON, BATTERY PARK RESIDENT: I think Mayor Bloomberg screwed up on the blizzard, and now he's trying to be proactive with the hurricane. I think they're making a lot out of something that's really not going to be that big a deal.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Some of the skeptics here in New York. Many people, though, did leave this area.

And you know, Martin and Kyra, that was one of the things that -- talking to some hurricane experts, they said one of the things that they were most concerned about were New Yorkers because they're not used to hurricanes, and they were worried about their attitude, that they may not feel that this was such a big deal. But you know, there's been unprecedented action here in this city, and that includes shutting down the entire mass transit system, subways and buses, where normally, about 5 million people would take these trains and buses every day. They came to a screeching halt around noon this afternoon. So it is really eerily quiet in this city.

PHILLIPS: And Mary, what kind of impact did you see in New York when, indeed, that happened? I mean, we know how everybody utilizes public transportation in New York City.

SNOW: Yes, you know, the streets were very quiet. There were a lot of cabs lining up in evacuation areas, including here in lower Manhattan, waiting to take people to other places of the city, whether they're staying with friends and family or they were checking into hotels outside the evacuation are.