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Irene's Death Toll Now At 10, Falling Trees Car Crashes; Reactor At Maryland's Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Plant Goes Into Automatic Shut Down Mode; Due To Flying Debris; Five NYC Hospitals Have Been Evacuated; A Surprisingly Smooth Operation

Aired August 28, 2011 - 03:00   ET

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


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: The governor of Delaware said it's still tough out here, pretty tough, and are getting hammered. That was a short while ago.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to reset the position of Irene for you now and tell you what the very latest is at this 3:00 a.m. hour, as we continue to watch with you, this hurricane move up the coast. At 2:00 a.m., an hour ago, the National Hurricane Center put the storm about 200 miles south-southwest of New York City. It is moving north- northeast at 17 miles an hour. The winds have been sustained, 80 miles per hour. That means it is a Category 1 hurricane.

And this storm has been a killer. Ten people have died from Florida through North Carolina, up into Virginia, and even in Maryland. A woman died early this morning when reportedly a tree fell on a chimney, the chimney fell through her house, and she was in her house and she was killed.

ALLEN: That's not the first report of someone getting killed by a downed tree. Also reports of people who were killed in car crashes, and the first report of a death was a surfer down in Florida, Noosvener (ph) Beach, Florida, earlier. So it's been, as it's moved, we're getting more reports of people killed.

New York City, looks like it is about to get a direct hit very soon. Poppy Harlow is near Battery Park. It has been calm down there so far. But let's check the latest from Poppy.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is getting a lot rainier here. We're not feeling the wind, which is interesting. Last hour when we spoke, we compared to what I'm experiencing here at the southern-most tip of Manhattan, with Susan Candiotti, our correspondent in Long Island is feeling. I thought she was about three hours away, turns out she's only 25 miles away. And she is just getting whipped around. That hasn't hit here yet. And that is the interesting.

I want to exemplify this. Come here, Manuel, with me, my cameraman. Look at the water here. We're looking at New York Harbor, the Hudson River. It is incredibly calm water here right now, which is a very good sign at this point. But again, the storm's still about 200 miles away from us here. The water is calm here. Still, it is completely deserted here. All of these was high-rise buildings, which are all residential, are evacuated. The only people I've seen in them are the people that maintain the buildings. It was interesting I did see some folks walking down here with big yellow boots on, and I asked them what are you doing. They told me, interestingly, they work for one of the banks. We are right by Wall Street here. They said the bank sent us out to test the water levels to see where things were. They told me the water levels at this point are just like normal. So we're not seeing flooding here yet.

However, right across here in Hoboken, New Jersey, right across the river, we have flooding. We have one shelter there that has been evacuated. And the winds here are sort of moderate. But this New York City, Manhattan, all five boroughs here are under a tornado watch until 5:00 a.m., guys. We're certainly not out of the woods yet. It feels increasingly like what they're experiencing on Long Island is coming right here to New York City.

ALLEN: Got to wonder how many people are in Manhattan at this point, Poppy. I know that they set up nearly 100 places where people could be evacuated to. But I'm not sure how many people are in those evacuation centers. Any idea?

HARLOW: That's a good question. I spent the morning, starting at 5:00 a.m., I guess it was Saturday morning at a shelter in Lower Manhattan. They were getting people in. What the mayor has said is that the shelters here, there are 91 of them, they're still under capacity. It's concerning to city officials because they feel like not everyone who they asked to evacuate evacuated. Anyone in Zone A, which was this whole area in Lower Manhattan, Staten Island, parts of Brooklyn, parts of Queens, by the airport, where we're seeing some severe winds, they were told to evacuate. And what I heard from a lot of folks throughout this day reporting is that many people would ride out the storm, that they weren't evacuating.

In total, 370,000 New Yorkers were asked to evacuate. To give you some idea of how many that is, that is the same size as the population of a pretty big city like Minneapolis, for example. Obviously not all of them did evacuate. However, if they're not evacuated, everyone down here is staying inside. I have yet to see one regular vehicle on the streets in my entire drive down from Central Park, just about 50 blocks down here. All I saw was emergency vehicles and Con-Edison vehicles. Those are the power company.

I should mention that, the question now is whether or not Con-Edison, New York City power provider is going to decide to cut off power to all of Lower Manhattan, or not. They warn they may do that to prevent from severe damage. If there's flooding and they don't cut off the power it could add a lot of long-term damage. So they haven't decided yet if they're going to do that. We should know when this storm intensifies. But people need to be aware if they're in elevator buildings and the power shuts off, the elevator will not work. It's too late to evacuate, they need to get inside and get away from the windows, because the wind is going to pick up here, the rain's going to pick up. At this point, lights are on, Lower Manhattan has power. And it's not that severe yet.

GRIFFIN: Poppy, we're going to stay with you. I just want to take a moment to explain, there is a five-second delay. So every time we ask Poppy a question, we just kind of have to wait until that sound catches up with her. Her and her crew, they have a backpack type of satellite that causes a delay.

We just got word from Reuters that 20,000 customers in New York City, Con-Ed customers are without power. Hardest hit looks like about 8,400 homes out on Staten Island.

Poppy, what is the situation in ground zero? You were telling us about that earlier, which is this big construction site just a few blocks from you.

HARLOW: It's a very good question. Ground zero is about three, four blocks from where I'm standing right now. And I spent a little bit of time there earlier tonight, at about, oh, about 1:30 a.m., or so. I talked to workers there. You know, normally, Drew, they have about 3,500 construction workers working around the clock at ground zero. I was actually in ground zero last week on a story, walking all around it. Right now there's only a handful of workers, they'll be there all night. They're sandbagging obviously to protect from flooding.

When you think of ground zero right now, it's a construction site, right? In the middle of it is stories and stories down, kind of like a bathtub that could essentially fill with water if we do see a storm surge. So they're sandbagging around that. Obviously you've got the memorial opening in just a few weeks. They're sandbagging around that. The big question with ground zero, Drew, is the cranes.

We've all heard stories of cranes falling over in high winds, and even killing people, damaging buildings. So that's the concern. At ground zero they've got a number of massive cranes. Not only are they on the ground, but they're also jacked up the sides of the buildings, including the Freedom Tower, which is about 70 towers. I asked the workers down there, how secure are the cranes? Are people around here safe? Businesses, residential buildings, the people who are in then, are they safe from the cranes. They assured me that they are, to the best of their belief. They have done even more work securing the cranes to the buildings.

There is actually interestingly, the biggest crane in the entire world, Drew, is in the middle of -- we're getting extra wind, as you examine see -- is in the middle of ground zero right now. They told me they've dismantled that crane to protect against anything falling over. So that crane has been dismantled. So at this point it looks like they're taking very good care and caution at ground zero, because it's in the middle of a very busy part of New York, Drew.

GRIFFIN: Poppy, thanks. We'll get back to you, as weather permits. And your crew permits. And your crew permits. I just want to point out something that's very kind of humorous. We talked about Con-Ed reporting 20,000 customers in the New York area without power. Guess how many customers in Manhattan are without power right now.

ALLEN: You won't get it.

GRIFFIN: It's 15, 1-5, 15. That's just unbelievable, considering that single rat in Manhattan biting a cable can probably cause that kind of an outage. That's incredible.

ALLEN: Well, you know, let's hope it stays that way.

GRIFFIN: The hurricane is on its way, it looks like around noon, by my math, is when the hurricane is going to hit New York, or certainly be approaching New York City, and Long Beach.

ALLEN: Maybe a few more than 15 out of power in Maryland. That's where we find Chris Lawrence. He is live in Chesapeake Beach in Maryland. He's been standing in the water for a few hours now.

What's the latest there, Chris?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Natalie, you know, there are thousands of people actually here in Maryland who are without power, unfortunately. But for the people sitting there in places like New Jersey and New York, can perhaps take heart from some of what we have seen in the Mid-Atlantic. As this storm starts to leave the Mid- Atlantic Region, down here, it is turning out to be quite not as bad as maybe a lot of people had expected, even a day ago.

When you look at it, yes, we got some very, very heavy rain. And we're continuing to get rain as part of this storm. And yes, we did see periods of some extremely high gusts, but we haven't seen widespread catastrophic damage, either from the wind or from intense flooding. So maybe for the people who are in New Jersey, in New York, you know, they can sort of take some solace from that. But you have to admit, look, an urban environment, a dense urban environment like Lower Manhattan, it is very different than a seaside beach community like this, the storm is very different as it moves up the coast. But when you look at it as a whole, you know, perhaps they can take some solace from what has happened in the Mid-Atlantic, where it looks like we're starting to get the tail end of this storm and things not turning out to be quite so bad.

I will say, you know, we've been talking to a lot of people who stayed in this area, who had weddings scheduled, and decided to stick it out. And even though the size of this storm has the potential to cause widespread damage, over a large part of the East Coast in a short amount of time, it also seems to be fostering a sense of, we're all in this together. In that a lot of the people we were speaking to here were intensely watching the people of North Carolina, their neighbors to the south, sort of dig out from the storm, and assess the damage, and see that they sort of came out of it OK. Even as we were getting the brunt of it, you know, a few hours ago, and they were also very intensely interested in what the storm was going to do once it got up to New York.

You know, a few people I talked to here were saying, wow, I couldn't believe that they shut down the trains in New York, and parts of Manhattan were being evacuated. So I think the size of this storm certainly has the capability to inflict a lot of damage. But I think the fact that so many people along the Eastern Seaboard are experiencing it in a very short amount of time, also has people sort of pulling together, and really being very interested, not only in what happens to themselves and their homes, but also to their neighbors, to the south and north as well, Drew, Natalie.

ALLEN: Chris, thanks. Yes, I think the last time a hurricane took this trajectory, it was Floyd, was it not, a couple of years ago? And they evacuated Florida, but it ended up being New Jersey that caught the brunt of the flooding. Everybody in the east coast in this thing together yet again.

You've got some information?

Chris is on Chesapeake Bay. This is the kind of information you don't want to scare anybody, but the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant -- we're going to - OK. Hold on one second. We are going to go to Karen, is that right? Oh, we're going to break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRIFFIN: Want to bring you an update on this nuclear power plant, that I had mentioned. We wanted to make sure we had the information absolutely correct. The Calvert Cliffs facility, unit one reactor is down right now. The communications director there says that this is -- everything is fine. There's backup power. But it appears that this ought , this unit one reactor operating since 1975, automatically shut itself down, due to heavy gusts of winds, and a large piece of aluminum siding dislodged from a building and that siding and came in contact with the main transformer at this plant.

There are two units, unit number two, one apparently still operating, the unit number two, but unit one is down. The facility is safe. The workers are safe. They have to notify, because this is called UE, "unusual event", they have to send out this notification. We just wanted to let you know that is taking place there. And that is on the Chesapeake Bay, which is why I was trying to bring that to your attention when I was talking to Chris.

ALLEN: We stopped because we just weren't sure we could go with the story after we thought we could. They said no threat to employees or neighbors, everything safe there. That's the good news. Let's get the latest on the trajectory of the storm, and the power, 80 miles per hour sustained winds. Still even though it is a Category 1 storm, it's got lots of wind and rain. Here's Karen Maginnis.

KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN AMS METEOROLOGIST: We'll show you what we think the path is going to be over the next 24, 48 hours. As you can see here by Sunday evening, and it's right under this box, it is expected to be at tropical storm intensity. As you take a look at some of these graphics, I'll also tell you what we've seen so far. As Natalie just mentioned, it's still Category 1 National Hurricane Center gave us an update as of 2:00. They sent the hurricane hunters in and they evaluated this.

What we're seeing is mostly along this northern edge and this western edge, that's where we see the deepest convection. And that's where we're looking at the heaviest bands of precipitation. Further to the south, we're starting to see a little bit of this dry air intrusion. When you see that, this is really kind of eroded this southeastern and eastern edge of this hurricane. But I'll also point out that this has picked up a little bit of speed, so that is good. The faster this moves, we will see lower rainfall totals.

But just to give you an example, this is just under 200 miles away from New York, to the south. JFK has already picked up in excess of three inches of rain, more than 200 miles way, or just about 200 miles away. LaGuardia, just about three inches of rainfall so far. They also had a 61-mile-an-hour wind gust reported in the past couple of hours. Newark has seen four-plus inches of rainfall. And Norfolk, Virginia, had a peak wind gust of around 68 miles an hour. I believe it is Susan Candiotti who is down here, right around ocean shore, so there's a little bit of a lull. But they're going to be on the back side of this system. So this will be some bands that start to come in.

She mentioned in her last cut-in, that there was a noticeable change. We didn't see those heavy bands that were whipping her around for, I don't know how many hours, as she's been out there. But it is going to be a little bit of a shift. And it will come in from a different direction, bringing bands of precipitation that could add up to another couple of inches. But before it's all said and done, a storm surge of three to five feet, maybe around the eastern edge of the Long Island, where about 40,000 to 50,000 people are reported without power right now.

GRIFFIN: When are we going to get our next update?

MAGINNIS: We will get it at, I believe at 4:00 a.m. They're going to issue an intermediate advisory.

GRIFFIN: Great. Thanks, Karen.

ALLEN: Thanks, Karen. Of course, tornado watch for New York City right now. The Atlantic Coast of Maryland has gotten hammered, but cities farther from Irene's center have seen plenty of rain and wind. Kyle sent this video from Baltimore, near Johns Hopkins University. Take a look at the sheets of rain coming down. Umbrellas quickly inverted and sirens from emergency vehicles as well in this iReport he sent us. Kyle said he was surprised by the number of people on the streets.

No matter the danger, it seems like there are always people curious enough that want to come outside. We want to remind our viewers, there have been people killed by trees, toppling trees, and in car crashes. Again, the total number dead in this storm so far is ten. So be mindful of all of the warnings.

GRIFFIN: Yeah. We want to bring you update again on this situation at the -- the Constellation Energy Nuclear Energy Group's plant, that is on Chesapeake Bay. We've been informed by the company, by the company spokesperson, Mark Sullivan, that the unit one reactor automatically went offline. It appears as if heavy gusts of winds caused by Hurricane Irene and a large piece of aluminum siding dislodged from the building. That siding came in contact with the main transformer, and that led to the shutdown.

This is from the company itself, all employees are safe. The Calvert Cliffs facility is safe and stable. But an unusual event has been declared. It is the lowest of four emergency classifications by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. We will exit the -- let me just read ahead here a little bit. What they're saying is, unit two, so unit one is shut down, unit two is stable and operating at 100 percent power. Current weather conditions and the latest support power operations. They're monitoring this. There's no trouble, no danger. The employees are safe, as are our neighbors, so says Constellation Energy Nuclear Group.

ALLEN: You see the location of that nuclear facility and how close it is to where these winds are coming in, and the rain, from this storm. We'll continue to watch that. One of the things we'll keep continuing to monitor. Major cities continue to be under mandatory evacuation orders. And that includes Atlantic City, and there are dozens of seniors refusing to leave. We'll take you there, and you can hear from some of them, coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've never seen the ocean look like a river where it's going completely north along the shore, instead of right at it. I've seen it coming over these bulkheads here. I've seen it coming over the dunes. I mean, this is -- so far we're lucky.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: A lot of folks affected by this one; millions, Atlantic City is one of several New Jersey communities under a mandatory evacuation order. Jason Carroll is there for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Atlantic City really taking a beating. Conditions here have steadily gotten worse. With each passing hour we're already experiencing tropical storm gusts of up to 50 miles per hour. Actually, earlier today, we were standing out there on the beach. But the section of the beach we were standing on has already given way to the angry surf that we've seen. Actually, this is the boardwalk here in Atlantic City. It is empty, deserted. All of the 11 casinos this the city have been shut down in preparation for Hurricane Irene. In fact, you can see the casinos have boarded up their front windows, also put sand bags down there as a precaution. One of the officials out here telling us that they expect the water to actually reach where I'm standing right now. That's why they've put out a mandatory evacuation. That certainly doesn't mean everyone has evacuated. We caught up with a group of seniors who say they are not leaving.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We come from hardy stock. We ain't moving.

CARROLL: You're not moving?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

CARROLL: Clearly that is the case. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's it. The best reality show you're going to get.

CARROLL: But in all seriousness, are any of you concerned about the storm?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

CARROLL: I'm sorry, ma'am, what?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Only our children. My son says he's going to have me committed.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're not frivolous about this. We take this very seriously. But the alternative is a nightmare.

CARROLL: The alternative being in a shelter for you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not only being in a shelter, not knowing where we will be. Not knowing where we will be. Our health does not permit most of the opportunities that have been offered to us. And I think that's serious. We haven't heard anything from the top level that takes that into account.

CARROLL: There are 92 seniors in all at that apartment building, and emergency officials are especially concerned because they say if the situation arises where those seniors need help, they may not be able to get there to give them the help that they need. Hopefully that situation does not arise. As for the situation here on the ground where we are, the worst of Hurricane Irene is expected to hit here at about 4:00 a.m. That's when the eye will pass through here. Back to you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: There are a lot of people that could be seeing danger, keeping their sense of humor, perhaps those ladies will get their own reality show. Could be a hit. Irene has lashed our reporters with wind and rain all day long. But one budding iReporter sent us her account of the storm approaching in Pennsylvania.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jane Halbrick (ph) reporting from Doylestown, Pennsylvania.

The rain's coming down more than it was before. The wind is probably going faster. I think this is just the starting of it. I definitely feel it on my head, just a tiny bit of rain. I think that this is probably going to be my -- I might think it's the last of it. But if it's not, I'll report back to you later. And that's about it. Back to you.

(END VIDEO CLIP) Thank you, Jane, for that report.

Five -year-old Jane Halbrick (ph) from Doylestown, Pennsylvania, dressed in pink. Send us your resume. Good job.

We're getting word that Maryland is no longer responding to 911 calls. We will take you live to Ocean City, Maryland, where Jeanne Meserve is standing by. Let's see if she can top Jane's report in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRIFFIN: We're continuing to follow a bit of a breaking news story in Maryland, where a nuclear power plant had one of its units automatically shut down. It's a precautionary move due to high winds that affected the transformer out there, is what we believe. Let's go right to Jeanne Meserve who is in Ocean City, Maryland, who may have more on that as she continues to follow the track of this hurricane- Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Drew, yes, Constellation Energy says this happened late last night. A piece of metal, they believe, blew off a building at the Calvert Cliffs plant and hit the main transformer. It resulted in unit one at that plant shutting down. They say there is no risk. There is no threat. Everything is safe. They have declared an unusual event. That is the lowest of four emergency classifications that the NRC uses.

As a matter of fact, Calvert Cliffs was among several plants who declared an unusual event just a week or so ago, when an earthquake shook the eastern part of the country. Constellation Energy says that unit two at Calvert Cliffs is still up and running at 100 percent capacity. Again, they say there's absolutely no threat at all to the neighborhood, to the environment, or anything else at this point in time, Drew.

GRIFFIN: And let's be clear, Jeanne. When they say they declared an unusual event, it's almost a legal -- or probably is a legal requirement by the government to tell the public what's happening, is that correct? Am I reading that right?

MESERVE: That's right. Yes, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has four of these emergency classifications. This is the lowest. My understanding is that there are certain procedures that the plant and the company will now have to go through in order to declare the unusual event over. And I presume at that point in time the plant would be able to restart if they have made that repairs to that transformer, that was injured, apparently by this piece of flying metal from another building.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Elsewhere, Jeanne, we're hearing that 911 calls in Ocean City may or may not be answered. What can you tell us about that?

MESERVE: You know, I wish I knew exactly what the update was at this moment. Because you may be able to see at the moment, right here in Ocean City, the winds are pretty calm. But a short time ago when the winds were ripping through here, and we talked to the emergency managers, they had stopped responding to 911 calls. They said the conditions were just too dangerous. Trust me, they told residents here over and over again if they did not evacuate, and the conditions deteriorated, this is exactly what would happen. They were not going to allow emergency personnel to be out on the street responding to calls.

So for at least a time this evening, that was the case. Whether it still is right now, I'm not sure. We had believed that the winds were just going to shift around and were again going to be very strong. At this point in time, at this part of the city at least, we haven't seen that happen. So I don't know if, at the moment, emergency services have resumed response to 911 calls, and they will again discontinue them later.

Another thing that happened earlier, I should tell you, they've been very worried in this city about flooding. It's a very low-lying barrier island, parts of the island do flood regularly. We've been told there is some minor flooding at the southern part of the island. But when they had stopped responding to the 911 calls, and called everybody off the street, they were unable to really get a feel for how extensive the flooding might have become. They did have cameras up. They could see through the cameras that there was some water on the street. But without people on the street, at night, they weren't able to tell from the camera image whether this was actually flooding or this was just a sheen of rainwater on the street. So they were waiting again, not only to respond to 911, but to get people out to do a more accurate physical assessment to verify what the cameras were showing, to find out exactly how widespread the flooding in this city is. It's starting to get a little lighter and brighter here. I think that's going to contribute to their knowledge base, too, Natalie.

ALLEN: Right. Certainly they have to assess every few moments, or at least every half hour on what the situation is, and what they will do. Jeanne Meserve, thank you so much. We appreciate your reporting.

To New York City, where the city and Long Island and big bull's eyes for Hurricane Irene. CNN's Susan Candiotti is there and we'll check in with her as our special live coverage continues, in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Water's going to be this high, I'm 6'4", so you're looking at, you know, 8 feet high tide. We're done, man.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN: It is fair to say that it is not going to happen. Didn't happen, thank goodness. But he was prepared.

ALLEN: But you know, you've got to do it.

GRIFFIN: Business owners in coastal areas boarded up shops and taped up windows, on one of the last weekends of summer. And iReporter Jay Armbrust (ph) shot these photos from the boardwalk, this is Asbury Park, New Jersey. You can see how they taped up the windows there to prevent shattering and houses have been bordered up. Jay says he just plans to just -- favorite word, Natalie?

ALLEN: Hunker down.

GRIFFIN: Hunker down and ride out the storm.

ALLEN: We tried to come out with another word, but hunker down is kind of the one we're stuck with. Five New York City hospitals have been evacuated because of the storm. Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has more about that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's been an unprecedented evacuation of patients from five New York City hospitals. Lower Manhattan, Staten Island, Coney Island, these are places that are high risk for flooding. On Friday morning the mayor said you need to get your patients out. Imagine trying to empty out a hospital in 12 hours.

Actually the evacuations went quite smoothly. I watched as they evacuated patients from New York University Hospital in Lower Manhattan. They did it very methodically, floor by floor, ward by ward. We are talking intensive care patients, we're talking premature babies in their isolates. Obviously, this is a very traumatic time for the patients and their families. We talked to one woman whose brother has a brain tumor and she talked about the ordeal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It just feels like what else can you throw into this. It's bad enough having to live with this diagnosis, and trying to get the medical help, and then it's just -- everything that you try to do, you just keep getting slapped back down. But, you know, we'll get him to a hotel tonight. And, you know, have an aide, and we'll just weather the storm there.

COHEN: Eileen's brother left New York University Hospital, and we're told that's one hospital in this area where they actually did keep some patients. Fewer than 10, but these patients were so critically ill, that to move them would be more dangerous than to keep them. Now, take a look at where NYU hospital is situated. You've got the East River, then you have the FDR Drive, and basically you have the hospital. They're putting sandbags all around that hospital trying to protect these patients, doctors and nurses and workers, who are staying with them. They'll be up all night. And we'll be talking to them later to see how they're doing. Back to you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: That has to be nerve-wracking. They did use buses. They used school buses to evacuate people as well out of New York City. Not easy to do, even when many people don't have cars in New York City.

GRIFFIN: So many people. So many needs. And hopefully tonight, this morning, later on today, we'll get through this, by tonight this storm -- by tonight, Sunday night, this storm should be into Canada, heading out to sea, hopefully soon. And you know what, then we start doing the political analysts to see how state officials, mayors of big cities handled this. They'll be scrutinized for what they said, what came, what didn't come. Here's just a little montage of what some governors had been telling their residents to do in anticipation of this storm.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GOV. BEV PERDUE, NORTH CAROLINA: There is widespread damage to property and infrastructure along the coast. We have ocean over wash. We have flooded roads. We have fallen trees throughout the whole east. And we continue to have damaging storm surge. The Noose (ph) and Pamlico and other coastal rivers may experience flooding over the next few days.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, NEW YORK: The National Guard, we believe will serve a vital role in this situation. The initial plan was for 1,000 National Guard to be called up. After briefings today, I will be doubling that number to 2,000 National Guard.

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK, MASSACHUSETTS: This is not a time to panic. But it is a time to be prepared. We are well prepared. We are coordinating very, very closely and well. And I want to thank all of the agencies that have made so much of their time, and energy, and effort available, coordinating and collaborating to make sure that we are doing everything possible to protect the public's safety, as we get through hurricane Irene.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN: We are getting through it, one way or another. The whole coast, from the Mid-Atlantic now up into the Northeast as the storm moves along.

ALLEN: 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 Michael Bloomberg said it's too late for some people. You'll hear his urgent warning when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRIFFIN: We're they're still waiting in Rhode Island for the powerful winds and drenching rains to come Sunday. Gary Tuchman has more on the storm preparations from that beautiful City of Newport.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Newport, Rhode Island, is hours away from Hurricane Irene. This region, New England, this state Rhode Island, this city Newport, is not used to hurricanes. The last time a hurricane came here was exactly 20 years ago last week. It was Hurricane Bob. The most famous hurricane of 1938; the hurricane killed more than 600 people, injured , 700 people.

They get Nor'easters here, but they're really not used to the hurricanes. There is a mandatory evacuation order in effect in this resort town, but a lot of people just haven't left in parts of this town. People haven't left because there's really nowhere to go. It's so much different than most hurricanes we cover. Most hurricanes we cover come to one or two spots and you can evacuate to the north, to the west, to the south. But here, the north is where the hurricane's going, the west is where the hurricane's going, it's going everywhere. So a lot of people are staying.

This town is 25,000 year-round residents, and during these tourist weekends, and this is a big weekend, more than 100,000 people are here. A lot of people still remain. We can tell you at this point this is a lot of relief that this particular storm is not as windy as they thought it would be.

There's still a lot of concern about flooding. You see the church across the street? That is a Greek Orthodox Church. Back during that big hurricane during of 1938 the water went over the steps. It church was only 14 years old when that happened. It's now 87 years old. We are fully expect it will survive after this hurricane, too. Irene is on its way, and Newport, Rhode, Island, home of many beautiful mansions and beautiful sailboats, beautiful boats. They call this the sailing capital of the world, this city is getting ready. This is Gary Tuchman, CNN, in Newport, Rhode Island.

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GRIFFIN: Pining on about Newport, isn't he?

ALLEN: Absolutely. He's enjoying the spot that he got sent to.

(LAUGHTER)

He's definitely staying dry, it seems. Thank you, Gary. We're proud of that.

Now, Susan Candiotti, on the other hand, not so dry. She's live from Long Beach, New York, where the weather's really picking up.

Susan, hello again. You don't even want to know what Gary Tuchman was just doing in the dry weather there in Newport.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, I saw his report earlier. That did not escape me at all. Oh, no. That's all right. He eventually might get some of it. We'll see what happens.

Another pretty good squall coming in here. It almost seems as though the wind is coming in from the west to the east. No, east to west, in this direction. The traffic lights were swinging pretty well a little while ago, but they're calming down a bit now. But it's a pretty heavy rain band. We're coming to you from Long Beach.

Now, this could be where Irene is headed, when it makes impact. It certainly looks like it could be the target for possibly the eye wall to come through. It's a barrier island. We're about 25 miles east of New York City. And we're only about two to three feet above sea level here. So of course, a lot of low-level -- low-lying areas will be flooded as this storm surge comes in, and sweeps around.

When they get a good rainfall here, they get flooding anyway. So right now, it appears that that's a normal amount they seem to be getting at this time. I don't know if you can make it out, but the boardwalk down there, that's the highest point in Long Beach. And it is 15 feet above sea level. Perhaps you can make out some of the water that's accumulating at the bottom there. So even the people who live along here, officials, and the people who operate this particular hotel are a bit worried to see whether that floodwater is going to come up. As the storm gets closer and closer.

This is the place where we're staying at. You can se the big satellite dish down there at the bottom, our satellite truck is parked right next to it. And that's where we're trying to shelter it the best we can, the closer the storm gets. So it isn't buffeted too much by the winds. So we can stay on the air.

Other than that, as you can see, not much going on, obviously, at this hour in the street. You see an occasional police squad car driving up and down the streets. We understand that one area just to the east of us, Atlantic Beach, has lost power. And some of the police agencies there are operating by generator power right now.

But fire official from here told me, so far, and he spelled it out, Q- U-I-E-T, around Long Beach. No emergency calls so far. And he says, I sure hope it stays that way. So we will see what happens. I'm trying to get down this way so that the lens doesn't get too, too wet. But other than that, Natalie and Drew, we're just kind of marking time here until we get much closer to landfall, possible landfall here on this barrier island. Back to you guys.

ALLEN: All right. It should be just a couple of hours from now. So, Susan, thanks so much. We'll get back to you and stay in close contact. Thanks for keeping us updated.

GRIFFIN: We have more on breaking news out of Maryland where a nuclear plant is offline but secure. We'll have that update right after this.

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GRIFFIN: We continue to follow breaking news out of Maryland. First want to tell you that 743,000 customers in Maryland are without power, according to the Emergency Management. And in is a nuclear plant shutdown, at least one unit of this plant at Calvert Cliffs, Maryland, has automatically shut itself off. It happened late last night, when a piece of aluminum, or a sheet metal -- or what exactly was it? -- vinyl siding hit a transformer. And that caused the plant to automatically shut down as a precaution. No danger, according to the company there. And no workers hurt. And they expect that that will be coming back online once they get that situation under control. But we just wanted to make you aware of it, as they are legally required to let us know about it as well.

ALLEN: Other news we're getting, New York City was under a tornado watch. Now it seems they've had their first tornado warning, that coming to Queens. Let's get the latest from Karen Maginnis at the CNN Weather Headquarters, Karen.

KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN AMS METEOROLOGIST: It does encompass three counties until 4:15. So, just a few more minutes to expected to last on this Doppler Radar indicated tornado, moving to the northwest. You don't see that too often. What we're seeing are some of the stronger bands moving onshore. Along the northern and western edge of hurricane Irene, still supporting 80-mile-an-hour winds, moving to the north-northeast at about 16 miles per hour. Let's go ahead and we'll give you kind of a different perspective as to what's happening here.

We have one of our correspondents, who is right around ocean shores, this is just a little less than 200 miles from New York City, and already at LaGuardia, JFK, and Newark, we've seen between three and four-plus inches of rainfall. We've still got a lot of time left for this to have a huge impact on what happens across New York. We mention that primarily because it's such a dense population there across that I-95 corridor.

Boston, we think this is going to be tropical storm Irene by the time it makes it in the vicinity of Boston. But Boston's already picking up some pretty good rain bands right now. Bucks County Pennsylvania , they're saying they've seen flashes all over the place from storm spotters, because it looks like electricity will probably get a number of power outages reported there, at least. In Norfolk, Virginia, a 68-mile-an-hour wind gust. At JFK-or LaGuardia, rather-we had a 61- mile-an-hour wind gust reported there in the past couple of hours. So we get this push of water that's going to be onshore for the next 12 hours or so.

There's an astronomical high tide about mid-morning. And as a result, we are looking at severe flooding from Irene. This is a broad rain shield, but also the winds, as we well know, knocking out power lines. But the ground across Philadelphia and in New York and Boston, they've seen two and three times their monthly average rainfall totals. So you get an additional 6 to 12 inches, the ground just can't take it anymore, and the trees become very vulnerable, knocking out power to a number of areas, and I dare say by the morning's light, we'll have many, many more reports of that. Natalie and Drew, back to you.

GRIFFIN: Karen, thanks for that. Appreciate it.

ALLEN: And New York City probably, some folks there not getting a whole lot of sleep, right now as they wait and see what happens as this storm moves in. Our special live coverage of Hurricane Irene continues with out affiliate, WJLA, out of Washington, D.C.

GRIFFIN: Join us again here at CNN at 5:00 a.m. Eastern time, right here on CNN for continuing coverage of Hurricane Irene.