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Hurricane Irene Coverage: Slow-Moving Hurricane Irene Will Drop Heavy Rain; St. Mary's County, Maryland Officials Issue Code Red Alert About Possible Dam Break; Storm Surge Remains Big Worry For Many

Aired August 28, 2011 - 01:00   ET

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


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, guys.

A monster storm lashing everything in its path and millions are right now bracing for more. Welcome to those of you watching here in the U.S. and from around the world. I'm Natalie Allen.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Drew Griffin. This is special live coverage of Hurricane Irene.

We are monitoring, as we have been all night, every second of this storm. For the next few hours we will continue to watch as it gets closer and closer to New York City.

ALLEN: (INAUDIBLE) been focusing on, fears are growing this late hour as powerful winds and surging water levels threaten several states along the East Coast. At least nine people are reported dead. More than 1 million people are without power tonight.

GRIFFIN: We just got some breaking news. There is an emergency center in Hoboken, New Jersey that has been evacuated, apparently, because of water. We will go there live in just a few minutes. This news as Irene is pounding the mid-Atlantic right now and heads straight for the Northeast.

ALLEN: First, let's go live to Jeanne Meserve. She is in Ocean City, Maryland. Jeanne has been pounded by wind and rain for some time now. She has been quite a trooper, and let's see if she is ready to go now

Jeanne, are you there?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, I am here. It really is picking up here. It is really intense at this point in time. We are seeing a little bit of damage here done. We are seeing some damage, and perhaps we could take a shot down here. You could see on the building next to us some of the siding has been ripped away.

The mayor of this town, Ocean City, told me that a lot of the building here are built above the FEMA code, so he was hopeful they would weather the gusts pretty well, but the gusts are pretty strong, and the water is very high. I talked the a city official who told me that the waves out here are measured at averages of 15 to 20 feet right now, and right now the tide is going out which is a good thing.

But they are very worried about the flooding and they are already having some in some parts of the city, they characterize it as minor at this point in time. But frankly, they are not going to have a full assessment of the damage being done until the conditions clear up a little bit.

It is just so stormy right now that no workers can go out, no emergency workers, no utility crews, no one is able to go out to really get a picture. We aren't able to go out and get a picture either. We are pretty much tied down to this hotel and walking around it.

I can say I have been in a lot of hurricanes and I'm seeing much less physical damage at this point in time, at least in this small geographical area than expected with winds of this force. But, of course, the worst is yet to come.

Back to you.

ALLEN: And Jeanne, you have been sitting there holding your hat for many-for it seems like hours at this point trying to maintain. We really appreciate it. How long has it just been sustained as it is that we are seeing now?

MESERVE: Oh, gosh. The hours are starting to blend to me, but I think that it started to pick up around 6:00 or 7:00 this evening. But we are feeling every hour getting more and more intense.

And by the way, I want to reassure you that in between the live shots I go out of the wind and the rain and I'm not holding my hat the entire time. So, it is not as painful as it looks. And look, I'm being brave right now and not holding it at all.

ALLEN: Well, yes, you area a brave soul. We appreciate you being there. Jeanne Meserve we'll check back in with you. Thank you very much.

GRIFFIN: And let's check in with Karen Maginnis now to find out exactly what this hurricane is doing, the strength of it.

And the timing, is what it is all about right now, Karen.

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, Drew, I have breaking news to tell you about. We mentioned just a few minutes ago and that is the potential for a dam to break at St. Mary's State Park.

I want to show you. This is our Google Earth. And just to point out, give you some direction. Here is Washington, D.C. and are going to go right along this peninsula, this is the Chesapeake Bay area. All right, let's zoom in. And it will be right across this peninsula, see, St. Mary's Lake, Maryland. This is actually two different watersheds, but there is a lot of recreational activity that take place here. We will zoom in one more time.

They have issued a code red meaning that the dam could burst. We have seen rainfall across the region and they are estimating right now, they have seen already 7 inches of rain. We know as Irene continues to pull forward it is still going to produce some rainfall across the region; 7 inches may become 10 or 12 inches. And those people who are in the wake of what could be a dam failure will experience severe flooding and flash flooding. This is not something where the water is going to rise slowly and then go back down. We are looking at some flash flooding potential, but right now they are saying that the folks who are in the path of this dam, should it burst, are in grave danger right now.

So a code red alert has been issued. There are 12 parts of this Calloway County Region and this St. Mary's State Park-well, let's zoom out once again, Brent. And we will show folks just kind of the perspective here.

But lying offshore about 90 miles or so from Ocean City, and then we saw Jeanne Meserve who is so bravely been out there and has been battling the wind and the rainfall for many, many hours. And she says that it feel likes the wind has been increasing, so that the water is piling up as it moves on shore.

We have seen the wind gusts already across this region gusting to near 50 miles an hour. We are talking about a hurricane that is a Category 1 Hurricane. It has sustained winds of 80 miles an hour, and moving toward the north/northeast at 16 miles an hour.

We will zoom in one more time. And as I mentioned this is the Chesapeake Bay area, and this is St. Mary's Lake, Maryland, and with we will zoom in one more time, and show you how close this is and the dam that has been identified as potentially bursting after 7 inches of rainfall. It does look like additional rainfall is going to materialize here as it continues to pile up. In some areas, already in North Carolina, more than 24 hours now have seen these steady downpours across this area.

Let's go ahead and show you what is happening right now. Also, here is Long Island and we are anticipating the tides, especially, right across here. And this is kind of an area that we are focused on. This is an orange shaded area, but may not mean a whole lot but essentially it is telling us that the water is just going to continue to pile up across this area, and lesser so as we go further into the sound.

But this is where the Perth Amboy is, and Stanton Island. And we could see tides running four to six feet above where they already are. And we are already seeing higher than normal and astronomical tides across this region. So this is going to be definitely in peril here.

But our very pressing situation here continues to be focused now very critically on that St. Mary's State Park area, that we showed you right as you begin to enter the Chesapeake Bay area.

As I have already said, about seven inches of rain, but because the system is just repeatedly putting rainfall across the coastal sections of North Carolina, and in some cases as much as 14 inches, but in this particular region, the ground has been saturated. So plenty of power outages to tell you about and I took a look at one area the Vanwick (ph) Parkway in New York. If you have ever been there going on to JFK, they are saying that they have shut down a portion of that parkway, because the flooding has been so severe.

So, lots of information coming in now. And definitive things that are now materializing because of what is happening with Irene as she continues to just make her way progressively towards New York City. It looks about mid-morning maybe between 4:00 and 6:00, and that is when we will see perhaps some of the worst bands move in across that I-95 corridor, as we continue to monitor the progression of Irene.

And then for Boston, we are looking at the evening hours for Sunday and into the overnight hours, and then it will quickly move away into the Canadian Maritimes.

But repeating, what the breaking news is, St. Mary's State Park that's right at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, they are saying seven inches of rainfall, in danger of breaking-and the folks who are in potential flood zone region of that could see quite a bit of loss of property, and quite a bit of damage associated with that. Now, back to you.

ALLEN: Right, well, the question is 1:00 o'clock in morning, that they know that they might need to get out of harm's way.

MAGINNIS: (INAUDIBLE) I'm sure that a lot of the folks that live in this area, they still have power here. And we are looking at people who are very aware. And I'm sure that people who live around this particular park are indeed very aware that it can only sustain so much rainfall before something gives way. I'm sure that this is not the first time they have experienced something like this, so there is a heightened alert for this particular situation.

GRIFFIN: I'm looking at the St. Mary's County has the warning on its Web site. And, basically, what they are saying is to get ready just in case. Move the family and pets upstairs. Have a means of escape, and turn off gas, electricity and the water supplies, if the water starts to rise and keep listening. They are going to be monitoring the situation.

ALLEN: And of course, don't drive through the floodwater and that could be challenging, with what they are expecting.

Karen, since this is so slow-moving.

MAGINNIS: This is a warning for this area. This dam has not burst but the prognosis is seven-inches plus an additional, maybe, four to eight inches possible. That and you have this wind-driven rainfall and certainly there is the potential. I don't want to send up an alarm and, you know, get people are hyper concerned about this. But certainly, they have issued a code red which means they really need to pay attention to this, and be ready to go.

And we are already seeing winds along the coast there, and Jeanne Meserve, as I mentioned, in some instances the winds have gusted to 50 miles an hour, it is only going to be worse. They are not even right around the core where the hurricane-force winds are, 50-mile-an-hour winds and we have core winds of 80 miles per hour.

GRIFFIN: And Karen, quickly, can we see what the he hurricane is doing now in terms of that.

MAGINNIS: Well, we will show you that. Just one second.

GRIFFIN: I don't want to stray too far from that.

MAGINNIS: Well, I want to show you what is happening as far as the winds are concerned, down here along coastal sections of North Carolina and extending into southern Maryland and also Philadelphia, we have heard a lot of reports of high wind gusts.

Now remember, that the hurricane is situated right down here. So we have a ways to go, hours in fact, during the early morning hours, before this system travels up the I-95 corridor, but we are seeing the winds coming in off of the Atlantic, and the East/Northeasterly fashion.

And then once it moves toward that Boston, we will start to see the winds out of the west/southwest. Sill pushing some of that water into some of these back bay areas, so they will be in danger, as well.

There are like two parts to this hurricane. I will show you one other thing right now, and that is: We think that as it moves begins to pull away, here are some of the time lines we are looking at. Right around, just off of Washington, Baltimore, towards Atlantic City, we go towards 5:00 a.m.

And 8:00 a.m., we are in the vicinity of Philadelphia, and towards New York City. Heading on then to the south of Boston going into Sunday about midday, but what is in particular very interesting about this is that where you see the orange shaded area, that is where we are looking at 60 to 80-mile-an-hour winds.

So from New York to Boston, that is where we are looking at some of the highest wind gusts that we are anticipating as we are going into the overnight hours and about midday coming up for Sunday.

ALLEN: All right. Karen, thank you very much, and we will be back to you.

Yes, 8:00 a.m. is high tide in New York city. We will go live to New York where the city is in high alert as Hurricane Irene gets closer and closer. CNN's live coverage continues.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The mayor announced that we had to evacuate. We kind of knew that we would evacuate so we were prepared, and then we went to Whole Foods and got a bunch of food, and we have a hotel. So it is a day and a half. I don't think it is that bad.

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GRIFFIN: Well, we all hope so. A mandatory evacuation order has been issued for all low-lying areas and all five boroughs of New York City. We are going to go to WCBS, which is doing something unique. It is having its reporters jus kind drive around. These are live shots right from the vehicles they are driving around. And, boy, if you have ever been to Manhattan, take a look at the beautiful clear street.

ALLEN: People were jogging down the middle of the street today before it started to get little bit worse. You know, New Yorkers being a hearty bunch, but at this point, you won't see too many people out on the streets tonight, hopefully not so.

GRIFFIN: We just got another update. Breaking news is what we are calling it. And it is sad news. Another person has died. We don't have details quite yet, but it brings the total of the storm to 10 people, who have died, along the East Coast here because of this storm. And the trees that are falling and the various things happening out there.

ALLEN: Right. Many of the people who are killed have been outside. There were car crashes. Someone was killed by a downed tree. So that is what we are hearing now, and we don't know the details of the latest death, but, yes, 10 people dead; 1 million without power, so far up, and down the East Coast.

We are going to go live now to Poppy Harlow, she is in Lower Manhattan, near Ground Zero.

And Poppy, what's the scene there? Go ahead, Poppy, can you hear us?

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM CORRESPONDENT: Right now, I'm at the southernmost tip of Manhattan, at a place called South Street Seaport. And I can hear you, but there is a bit of a delay here.

It is full of tourists, usually. I have not seen one person on the street. I just want to show you what the local businesses are doing here, guys. You can see how heavy the rain is, and take a look at these local businesses. This is a wine shop it is all boarded up, sandbagged up, and you will see this at every single business we have been driving to here.

We are just below Wall Street, to give you some perspective, and nothing is open. I have not seen one person. There are no cars even on the roads down here. And the only vehicles that we have been passing by as we have been driving are emergency vehicles. There are a lot of ambulances down here, a lot of police cars, because again, we are at the southernmost tip of Manhattan. We are making our way toward ground zero.

This is the area that is in the Zone A, and it is flood zone. And it is because you are right at sea level. Only a block away is New York Harbor, is the East River. I have never in my years of New York seen this place, if we can show you, so deserted. One lone motorcycle is all we are seeing. We have thousands of power outages. The flooding is getting so bad right across the river in New Jersey.

Look at that, guys! Look at that rain if you can see it flowing awe of the rooftop there.

The flooding has gotten so bad in parts of New Jersey that they have evacuated a shelter in Hoboken, which is right across the way. Mayor Mike Bloomberg is telling everyone, at this point, if you lived in this area in Lower Manhattan, you were told to evacuate. If you did not do that, the message now, from the city is stay put and deal with as best you can where you are. If you are in a high-rise building, again, we are by Wall Street, there are a lot of high-rises here.

If you are in one of these high-rise buildings, you have to get behind below the 10th floor, as the winds get higher these buildings are more susceptible. You have to stay away from the glass, glass windows, obviously and get below the 10th floor.

Look, again, we are seeing a Con Edison, a power truck here, but all you see is power trucks and emergency vehicles, Natalie.

ALLEN: I'm not sure whenever you could drive through the streets of New York City and do a live report, and not worry about the traffic around you, Poppy.

GRIFFIN: And she didn't even seem to be stopping.

And we have a little more information on the 10th death. Queen Ann's County, Maryland, is where it took place. A woman in her home, a tree fell through the roof and apparently she died in her home. That is one of those, just unavoidable, it seems, unfortunate things. This woman was obviously inside of her home sheltering and a just tree fell over. I think that we will see more of that.

ALLEN: You're right. How very tragic. Again, everyone is saying the problem is a slow-moving storm, and the rain will be continuous for so many areas for many more hours. And we are starting to see it move farther up the East Coast.

Up next here, we will talk to the man who commanded the military response to Hurricane Katrina. General Russel Honore on what the city should expect when the sun comes up. CNN's live coverage continues.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have never seen the ocean look like a river, where it is going completely north along the shore instead of right at it. I have seen it coming over the bulkheads and the dunes, but this is, I mean, this is so far we are lucky.

(END VIDEO CLIP) GRIFFIN: And very soon they will find out how lucky or not so lucky they were in Kill Devil Hills, the hurricane has passed by there, as our coverage continues, let's bring in Retired Lt. General Russel Honore. The man who commanded the military response after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.

You are looking at our coverage right now, and I'm sure checking with your sources, up and down the coast, that you have been working on with emergency response. Right now, I would say we are halfway through the entire event, and how are we doing?

LT. GEN. RUSSEL HONORE, U.S. ARMY (RET), CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, we have two quarters of the game left to play, because the storm is so big. The first thing in the morning, North Carolina and the Virginia, they will be doing extensive search and rescue, and reaching out to people who have lost power and people that might be isolated, the vulnerable population, the elderly and the disabled.

And in the northern part of the storm, up in New York and New England area, they will be seeing the worst of the storm hitting them. So we will have a two-phase operation, as we might use a military term, in responding to the storm tomorrow by doing recovery and search and rescue in the south. And still dealing with the effects of the storm way into the evening tomorrow once we determine what that tidal surge impact will have on New York.

That is the big question mark right now. That's the big unknown. If we can get by without an enormous tidal surge that will flood that area, we have been showing all evening, we will be in good shape. But if it, if Wall Street gets the foot wet, this is going to be a different game.

ALLEN: And it is certainly is, a different city than New Orleans. New Orleans is surrounded by levees, but what are the similarities that you are seeing as far as what New York could face other than Lower Manhattan, and whether people could be affected after the first storm comes ashore. That is what happened in New Orleans. They didn't know how bad it was at first.

HONORE: Absolutely. If that happens, if that scenario were to play out, that part of Manhattan called the buildings getting their feet wet. The water will go out naturally, because it is tidal water, and we don't have levees to trap it. But the impact, Natalie, right now in New Orleans, six years after Katrina next week, we are still replacing underground infrastructure that was damaged as a result of the storm.

Now, think about New York with underground metro systems, tunnels that go underwater networks. I mean this could be a real mess on our hands. And the actions that the mayor took were right on to get the people concerned and get them evacuated.

GRIFFIN: General, I just want to point out to our viewers that we have pictures of Long Beach, New York, where, you know, the brunt of the storm will hit out there. But to your point, as far as New York is concerned, and the infrastructure buried underneath of it, that I think that will prove to be a big test, because a lot of that stuff is really old. And in some cases, crumbling condition with or without a hurricane.

HONORE: Yes, I have been on that system underground, and it is a sight to see. It is functional, and the city relies on it. This is the artery of this great city. If it becomes violated, that could be a real issue in one of our world's greatest cities.

ALLEN: And they have been putting up barriers to try to protect the subways from flooding the best that they can do. But as New York has prepared for this, what have been the similarities that you see, that lessons perhaps that I are taking from the big crises, like Katrina in New Orleans? And they have the National Guard and the evacuations.

HONORE: You know in the affected states we have about 110,000 National Guard assigned to those states. And on the top of that, the National Guard Bureau have brought troops in from as far as Louisiana, Texas, Illinois, into this area, just in case they are needed to support the National Guard there in the states. In the case of New York, the enormity of the population is going to be the issue.

If a part of the city get wet, meaning the bottom of the buildings become flooded, and the infrastructure becomes violated, this will be a major, major problem may equal Katrina in terms of the infrastructure damage, and the impact of how the city will rebuild to make it safer in the future.

ALLEN: Because New York is unique, and if you go anywhere in New York, you are walking or taking public transportation. Everyone lives in high-rises and it is a city where you have to be able to get out.

HONORE: Absolutely. I think there will be a lot of work that could be done in the future to make the city safer, and once we get the impact of this, let's get it over with, take another look at it. They are very proactive.

But this will be a major infrastructure problem, that maybe they put some gates in there, like we did in New Orleans, and using the Dutch concept to prevent that water from coming in. I'm sure people will be taking a strong look at that after this storm is over with.

As you look at it right now, nightmare scenario for New York at this moment, is it power loss because of the degradation of the tunnel?

HONORE: The thing that will affect most people as they get up tomorrow will be the absence of power, because they will lose information, the ability to stay comfortable in their homes. And many of these high-rises, it is hard to get the windows open, particularly in the office buildings. And this is going to be a tremendous problem. The significance of losing power. When we lose power, it sets back the way we live 80 years. The water not going up beyond the sixth floor in many cases, I mean, this will be a big problem if we lose power for that many people.

GRIFFIN: Thank you, General Honore. Great to see you.

ALLEN: Thank you, General, we'll talk with you again.

HONORE: Hope for the best.

ALLEN: All right. Thank you very much.

Right now the coast of Maryland is getting hit extremely hard. In fact, it is like this for hours. These are live pictures out of Chesapeake Beach. And we will take you there next.

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ALLEN: Live pictures for you, and this is Long Beach, New York, and you can tell there, the water is moving in, and the winds are picking up. There, in New York, as this storm, this monster slowly and rather eerily creeping along to make its way north and everyone is waiting to see how their area will be impacted.

We want to remind the viewers that we now have reports of a 10th death, so now 10 deaths in this storm. The latest victim is a woman apparently in Queen Ann's County, Maryland, was in her house, but a tree fell and killed her, in her home. That is not the first report of people dying due to trees falling. That has been the situation with the high winds.

GRIFFIN: Natalie, it seems at this hour that Maryland is getting the brunt of the storm. We had a report earlier about a dam, St. Mary's dam, and the county had issued an alert for the people who lived downstream.

They are concerned that the water may go over the top of the dam and people who live downstream should know that if there is water coming, in the morning, that it is coming from the top of the dam. They are not saying that the dam is going to burst, but just that you should be prepare d if the water continues to come over the dam there in St. Mary's County.

Chris Lawrence, by the way, is in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland, which is on the Bay, and he is looking battered -- Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We are still getting these bands of wind and rain that come and go. Sometimes they die down, and sometimes they kick up a bit as we enter some of the outer bands of the hurricane, as it passes out to the east of us. We are a little bit north of that story you just mentioned, the St. Mary's County, where they are concerned about the dam.

Obviously, as you mentioned a very big difference between being concerned about an overflow, which water will eventually pass, and an actual breach where the water would continually pour through the dam.

Here the concern is not so much the wind, but really the speed or lack thereof of this storm. That it is going slow. It is bringing the rain. And the real concern is storm surge. There are a lot of homes this area that are set up on a cliff, and there is a mandatory evacuation for anyone who lives within 100 feet of these cliffs, but a lot of people have decided to stay in their homes.

The concern is that if you get enough water in here, it could erode enough of the soil, and destabilize the foundation of where a lot of the homes are built on. In that regard, we are keeping an eye on how the winds blow to make sure, and hopefully that a lot of the water does not get pushed into the bay, but rather the opposite way -- Drew.

GRIFFIN: Chris, it appears that the wind is at a lull. I don't want to say, you are in irons out there, but it does not seem to be blowing that briskly, but has the wind turned?

LAWRENCE: It does feel like it has turned in a very different direction. I mean, just about two hours ago the wind was really whipping, where the rain was coming sideways and hard to stand.

But honestly even at its, I would say, most intense point, you know, I remember being down in New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina, and then on the western side of Louisiana a month later, for Hurricane Rita, and there was no way during those storms that you could stand outside. The force of those winds were way too powerful.

So even at their height, the wind speed that we see in this storm is not to that extent. I think that the danger here is more how much rain is it going to bring? And the fact that it is so big and moving so slowly, it will sit over an area a much longer time rather than the fast-moving storm that blows through and just keeps right on going.

ALLEN: It certainly has also spawned tornados and tornado watches. New York is under a tornado watch right now.

Any idea of knowing in that area what the damage has been, or are you able to be in contact with any emergency folks there, who can tell you what it has done in the immediate area?

LAWRENCE: Well, I think that the first thing, Natalie, that people are dealing with is a loss of power. Thousands of people just in this county alone are already without power. We have seen some bits of debris starting to get tossed around.

I was talking to one of the police officers here an hour or two ago, and he said, look, while the storm is passing and pitch black out there at night, they are not going the send out fire crews, they are not going to respond to 911 calls, they have to wait until it passes.

So what they have been doing is, if a police officer is out, and they happen to see a downed power line, or something like that, they will try to put a flare down to a least alert people who coming up behind them, that it is there.

But any sort of assessment, as to exactly what is out there, they will probably have to wait for the sun to comes up, which coincidentally will be about the time when we are sort of past the brunt of the storm and it will have moved further up the coast.

GRIFFIN: All right, Chris, keep us posted on what is happening there at Chesapeake Beach, Maryland. Thank you, Chris.

ALLEN: When the sun comes up, that is when the New Yorkers will be up, too, trying to see what happens there. That is where Long Island is, and one bill bull's eye for Irene, and CNN's Susan Candiotti is there. Our special live coverage continues with her in a moment.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's definitely a sense of panic with some people. I'm trying to stock up on the smart stuff, not too many things that will spoil without the refrigerator.

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GRIFFIN: New Yorkers are getting ready for what is on its way. Inevitably, it is going to arrive right where you are, Susan Candiotti, and that is out in Long Beach, New York.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Drew. Yes.

ALLEN: Listen. You are trooper, Susan.

CANDIOTTI: OK, this is the point in the storm where you are starting to finally to feel it. Now, I don't know where we stand on the radar, but obviously, whoa. This is a pretty strong squall right now. At this point, this is when you start to feel the pinpricks like sharp pens bursting against the side of your rain jacket here, as the rain is starting to come sideways.

So we are in Long Beach. And we are in the middle of the street here. Moving down this way, I think that perhaps you can catch the traffic light swaying in the breeze, as they say, and you have got the power lines starting to shake and rattle and roll just a little bit now.

So, here in Long Beach, we are on a barrier island here, and this could be the impact point for Hurricane Irene. Now that is still several hours away from now, but it is a barrier island to the south of Long Island, and we are about 25 miles east of Manhattan.

It is really coming down now.

Now, we are only about two the three feet, three to four feet actually, above sea level here. And some parts of Long Beach are below sea level. The boardwalk here is 15 feet above sea level, and that is just beyond us now.

And now, look at, this all of the sudden, it calmed down, and that is how the squalls go.

So, one of the big concerns here, Drew and Natalie, is that as the storm surge comes up, and the ocean is this way, that it will be wrapping around. So it will cause not only flooding they suspect here, in this low-lying obviously closest to the beach, but when it whips around, it is going to come around the north side of this barrier island as well. So they are expecting to get a double-whammy here. The storm surge could be upwards to five feet at the very least, they say, and of course, that could vary as time goes on.

Of course, they are under a mandatory evacuation order here various parts of Long Beach. According to the city officials here, they believe a fair number of people have adhered to that. We are hearing that there have been at least 12,000 electric customers who have lost power on Long Island as a whole. Of course, those are early numbers.

But here, we have the street lights. The hotel where we are staying still has power. So, so far, so good in this particular area. In another hour or so, I will be talking to the fire chief who told me I could go ahead and check in with him at about 2:30 in the morning Eastern Time, so I will plan on doing that and see what update he might have -- Natalie and Drew.

ALLEN: Susan, I am sitting here reading about some of the officials saying about evacuations on Long Island. That some people have stayed behind. And he says it belies logic seeing what you are going through. And give us an idea where you are and your surroundings and where you guys have chosen to ride it through and where do you have shelter to go to.

CANDIOTTI: Thanks. We always look around for a hotel that has some substance to it, and some height. And next to here and just beyond your view is where our satellite truck is parked up against the building. We have talked to, you know, it is a multi-story building. It is about 10 stories high, and in this particular area of Long Beach, they are restricted as to how high buildings can be. So we are surrounded with apartment buildings of about that same size.

I talked to a family of someone who is living in a high-rise next door, an elderly couple, and the family could not convince them to leave. Especially worried that the power goes out how the elderly parents could make it down all of the flights. They may not be, but they have decided to stay.

Now, a lot of the people here, we talked with, have also decided to stay, but then again, they moved more inland and felt they would be secure. We will see how it goes. You know, when the sun comes up obviously, that is about the time when Hurricane Irene is expected to make its impact, and when the storm surge may be at its highest. It is not until it passes when authorities here will be able to really get out and about and see where things stand. It all depends on how the storm goes.

Other people in fact, have gotten off of the island altogether. And that is probably maybe a very good bet, and maybe the best bet. Other than that people are hunkering down here as we often say, riding out the storm as best they can. Because, remember, here on Long Island, it has been many, many years, decades really, before they had- since they had a direct impact of Hurricane Donna in 1960. I think it was a Cat 2 or Cat 3 storm, and before that, it was the long island express from 1938.

So there aren't very many-there may not be a lot of people around who remember what this is like. That has caused a lot of people to come out here during the evening, walk the boardwalk, and take a look at the surf. Obviously, that is not happening in the middle of the night here. But when the sun comes up, they may not go out, because that is when we do expect the full brunt of the storm to be hitting this area.

GRIFFIN: Susan Candiotti, impressive as always. I'm also impressed, Susan, that the lights are still on out there. You know, as this-

CANDIOTTI: I can't believe it. I'm really surprised. Exactly.

GRIFFIN: Yes, it's great.

CANDIOTTI: Because normally by now, we are getting the flashlights out. It hasn't happened yet. Knock on wood; if I could find any wood to knock on right now. But I mean, just since I started this report, look how, you know, the winds have calmed down a little bit. So obviously, it happens in cycles.

ALLEN: I want you to know not only can we see what you are going through, we can hear it. Can't you hear the pelting rain? It is quite evident, Susan. Thank you, we will check back in with you, thanks so much.

GRIFFIN: We will check the path of the hurricane right after the break and going to the satellite and Karen Maginnis.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It has been a little nerve wracking. The evacuation sucks the fun right out of it. You know, that we got to go. But it will be-it has been a little nerve wracking the last couple of days. But everything looks secure enough once we are done with this.

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ALLEN: New York getting ready. It is a bizarre to see all of the parts of New York City boarded up for something like a hurricane. It has been so long, but the mayor of New York saying recently that the storm is finally hitting the city.

Let's find out exactly where it is right now. Karen Maginnis is in the CNN Hurricane Headquarters.

Karen, what is the latest on the dam, too, that is threatened in Maryland?

MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, that was the St. Mary's State Park. We will zoom in. And it sits right on this peninsula at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. We will zoom in and show you this. This is where Washington, D.C. is located. And St. Mary's is right down here. They are saying it is a code red. They are saying that the dam may overflow. But it is not going to burst.

But there are some families that could be downstream from this. If it should receive more rainfall; there has already been 7 inches, so that the dam is filling up. But they are saying that there is no danger of the dam bursting. But certainly the people could have some effect from the flooding associated with overflow from the dam.

The other thing is that we are just about ready to receive from the National Hurricane Center an update regarding Irene. All right. We have seen the winds associated with this at 80 miles per hour, still a Category 1. And where Susan Candiotti is located, it is still more than 200 miles away. It is moving to the north, northeast at 16 miles an hour. So she is getting bands of very heavy rainfall. We have lots of moisture which is piling up along those beaches. There is going to be severe beach erosion.

But the ground has been absolutely saturated across the Northeast. In some instances they have seen two or three times what they normally would for the month of August. Well, with Irene they could see and additional six to 12 inches of rain fall.

High tide occurs around 7:00 o'clock. So we will see some astronomically high tides in addition to that onshore push of water. I think that Susan is going to have to go to higher ground pretty soon.

ALLEN: And so even though this storm is Category 1, it is deceptive for all of the rain that it is going to be bringing in?

MAGINNIS: Yes, because it is very persistent. As we heard the general say, when you lose power, because of the high winds, when your home has been damaged, you are reduced to a different level than your ordinary life. And it takes weeks to restore power to such a broad area along that I-95 corridor.

But New York City about mid-morning. And we think that later on in the day for Boston, but it could be at tropical storm intensity. But not to be forgiven, because it is packing quite a wallop as far as the heavy downpours are concerned. And some areas in North Carolina, it has rained more than 24 hours straight.

ALLEN: David Mattingly our correspondent in North Carolina said he had been rained on for more than 30 hours. And he has been standing out in it.

Karen, we will come back to you soon. Thank you very much.

GRIFFIN: And right now in Philadelphia, the folks there, well, they are not waiting for Irene anymore. It is there. And they are concerned about the rising rivers. Remember that city has two rivers around it. They are also dealing with tornado threats. We will take you there as CNN's special coverage of Hurricane Irene continues. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALLEN: Well, it has been almost 24 hours since Irene first made landfall in North Carolina. Our iReporters have been sending in incredible footage from the start. George Nigro took this from Duck, in the Outer Banks. When he took this Irene was blowing from the east pushing water inward swamping this pier. Yes, that is a pier there in the right corner of the screen.

GRIFFIN: And let's show the picture of Times Square in New York, as New York is waiting. It is all lit up. Not too many folks there, but you can see New York is getting pelted with rain, but it is good to see the lights on there no matter what.

ALLEN: It just goes to show that even though New York City is facing the first hurricane for most people who live there, if the not all, they are not turning the lights off in Times Square.

GRIFFIN: In Philadelphia, the city is getting ready for the impact of the storm. The airport closed at 10:15 tonight. The worry is that Irene could flood the city from the two rivers. Sara Hoye is in Philadelphia with a look at that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARAH HOYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hurricane Irene is blasting in fast and furious in the City of Brotherly Love. High winds, heavy rains has the city under a state of emergency. Sarah Hoye, CNN, Philadelphia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: And she is out of there.

GRIFFIN: Yes.

Americans may soon see a spike in gas prices after an incident at a major oil refinery. Plus, as the storm approaches New York City, Mayor Bloomberg says it is too late for some people. You will hear his urgent warning as we see yet again this live picture of Times Square. That is coming up next, with the mayor.

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GRIFFIN: OK. Here's the news that could affect all of us whether we are in this hurricane zone or not. Refineries in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware are in the danger zone as Irene is climbing up the coast, and according to the Oil Price Information Service, more than a million barrels per day of crude oil could be impacted. That could translate to higher prices at the pump because of this storm. Gas prices went up about a penny Saturday, to just over $3.60 per gallon. Refinery workers have been in emergency response mode, including moving of heavy equipment and sending large ships to sea to avoid accidents during the storm surge. But again, this could affect the price of gas.