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Hurricane Irene Makes Its Way Up the East Coast; Parts of New York And New Jersey Evacuated ahead of Irene

Aired August 28, 2011 - 05:00   ET

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


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coming up on 5:00 in the nation's capital right now. The president told members of his cabinet to keep him up to date. The president held an evening conference call with Vice President Biden, Energy Secretary Chu, FEMA administrator Craig Fugate, Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano, and top homeland security assistants.

Earlier the president offered moral support to federal emergency management workers who are hunkered down for the weekend march of Irene up the coast. About 14,000 active duty and National Guard troops had been put on standby. That's the view of the storm from the White House.

Suzanne Kennedy has a closer look to the folks who live in the District of Columbia and the situation there. In fact, Suzanne you've moved since last we talked. Where are you right now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are still at 39th and Edmonds. This is the first tree that fell --

T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everybody, 5:00 eastern time on this CNN Sunday morning coming to you an hour early and coming to you with part of this morning. Suzanne Malveaux now joining us for this coverage of Irene. Thank you for our affiliate WJLA there our D.C. for giving you that coverage for the past hour. But we are picking it up and will be with you for the next several hours this morning.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: We want to get you up to speed with what we know is a wild day that's about to dawn on the northeast as hurricane Irene continues its northern march up the Eastern Seaboard. Now, Irene is still a category one storm, pushing 75 miles an hour winds or so. The latest track has the eye of the hurricane 15 miles southeast of Atlantic City, New Jersey, heading toward New York metro area very soon.

In Delaware at least 40,000 people are now without power. Just this morning President Obama signed a federal disaster order after a possible tornado touched down.

HOLMES: All right. In New York we've been talking about you a lot the past day or so. It appears to be your turn. Time for evacuation is over according to Michael Bloomberg. The city is virtually shut down. Yes, the city that never sleeps is virtually shut down, waiting on this storm. It's getting closer. At least the outer bands are starting to arrive in the metro area. Listen to this already. Our affiliate WABC reporting that some 400,000 homes and businesses are already without power. Last night, the New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg came out again and said, New Yorkers, I know you're a tough bunch, but this is not the time to be complacent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, (I) NEW YORK CITY: The bottom line is the storm is now finally hitting New York City. The winds will increase. The rain will increase. And the tidal surge will increase, particularly in the morning.

Tomorrow morning when you wake up, whatever the conditions are, please stay inside. Too many things blow around. Whether it's tree limbs coming down or porch furniture being blown away, it's just not safe to be outside. It's cute to say I was outside during the storm, but you're much better off staying inside and looking out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Interesting how he put that. It's cute to say you're outside and to be there and you made it through a storm, but this is not funny stuff anymore. The time for evacuation is done. Just stay inside. Also this has proven to be a deadly storm already. Irene made landfall yesterday, about 8:00 in the morning eastern time, and since then 10 deaths have been attributed to this storm.

But we have team coverage this morning. We have people all over the place this morning.

MALVEAUX: Including our Ali Velshi. He is in Manhattan. We have John King on Long Island. Jason Carroll is in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

HOLMES: Of course we've got up in Philly, don lemons for us, D.C., Athena Jones. And once again Wolf Blitzer will be joining us for coverage this morning. He's on the outer banks.

MALVEAUX: So first of all I want to bring in our own John King. He's in Long Beach on Long Island in New York. And John, what are you facing there? What are you seeing so far?

JOHN KING, CNN HOST, "JOHN KING USA": Suzanne, you heard Mayor Bloomberg there talking about the worries about the storm surge. Right now we're in tropical storm winds, probably somewhere in the 30s, although we have had some heavy gusts just in the last hour. You're starting to feel the winds picking up, some of the gusts. You mentioned the storm still down a little bit south of here near Atlantic City.

But the big fear here in these low-lying communities, and this community has been evacuated, a mandatory evacuation. You can see the sign behind me for the evacuation route out. There's water in the streets. And if you think right now, you think not so bad. But if go to the other side were I am and you look out on to the water, the waters are very high, high tide about three hours from now.

The storm is making its way here, probably about two, two and a half hours away, high tide, two, two and a half hours away. That is the big fear here.

You see some water in the streets. Again, if you go this way, you head out of the town as you would go to go into New York City, some of the streets are flooded. Most of it is about ankle deep. Out in the middle of the street, it's still dry. The water is running off. The big fear is as the high tides come in here over the next couple of hours, the storm comes with it, heavier rains. There's no place for the water to go. That is the fear they have in the city and they're looking in the coastal communities.

The big question is how much water, how much of a surge comes in? We're beginning to see it right now. But the big question, Suzanne and T.J., is what happens over the next two hours or so? As the storm comes up, how much rain will be dumped? And you get the sense of it. It rains hard for a little while, then it dips for a little bit, and that's pretty typical. As the storm is getting closer to you, you have the ebbs and the flows.

What you're beginning to see, though, is the winds gust up, they stop far a bit. That tells you the storm is getting close enough to you, pretty typical in the swirl. We're in an outer band right now.

But the big question is, as the mayor did that late night briefing last night, trying to tell people what you first see this morning might not tell you much. What is going to happen just around sunrise is when the storm will hit New York its highest force. We'll know a lot more then about the power outages, about the flooding, about the road access being cut off.

At the moment things seem OK. But it's getting soggy and the winds are starting to pick up.

MALVEAUX: Don't be fooled. It's very calm now. We know things will get a bit worse. John, I know you'll be with us throughout the hours also, dipping in and dipping out and co-anchoring as well. John, we appreciate your work out there and try to stay dry if you can. It's going to be tough.

Tough way to go this morning. We know Irene is less than 15 miles southeast of Atlantic City, New Jersey. That's where we find our own Jason Carroll. And Jason, we heard the mayor earlier and we also heard the governor saying, hey, stay away from Atlantic City. Are people listening here? What are you seeing?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As we were driving through the city a little earlier, Suzanne, it appears as if a lot of people heeded that warning because it was literally like a ghost town as we were driving through. Right now it feels like hurricane Irene is right on top of us. It's difficult to stand here as I talk to you while we're doing this report.

But this is exactly what emergency officials are warning about. The heavy winds that we're experiencing right now and driving rain is exactly what New York is going to be experiencing as Irene starts to move -- starts to move closer to them.

Right now we're here on Atlantic City's famed board walk. It is empty because all of the 11 casinos have been closed as part of that mandatory evacuation.

So far here are some of the reports we are receiving. At least 160,000 people in southern New Jersey without power, 39,000 people here in Atlantic City without power. But Suzanne, despite what it looks like in terms of what I'm experiencing here, we are not receiving at least at this point, and I say that right now with a little bit of caution, at least at this point we are not hearing any reports of heavy damage in our area.

We are hearing reports about downed trees, downed wires, things of that nature. What a lot of people were worried about was whether or not the storm would produce enough energy to send the sea, which is out there moving steadily closer to the boardwalk where we are now. That's why a number of the casinos, I can show you here briefly before our camera gets too wet, how the casinos have boarded up in anticipation of the water rushing over this last dune and coming up here on the boardwalk. But so far that has not happened.

One emergency official telling us that he feels as they as bad as things look from where we're standing right now, he says perhaps Atlantic City has weathered the worst. But it might a little bit be too early for that for right now as we continue to see what hurricane Irene brings us as she comes down on Atlantic City. Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Jason.

HOLMES: Eight minutes past the hour. Let's say good morning for the first time now to our Jacqui Jeras, who's been in the Hurricane Center for us this weekend. Jacqui, we keep talking about the winds of this storm. But we think hurricane and the damage is does and the destruction. But this is kind of really a rain and wind event we're talking about here.

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Can you guys hear me?

HOLMES: Can't hear you just yet. Got that microphone all right? We can get that worked out. No worries. We can get the microphone turned back on.

But to give you an update, you see this thing churning behind us on this map. The hurricane is about 15 miles from Atlantic City where you just heard Jason Carroll. He said right now it feels like it is on top of them. It puts it 115 miles from New York City.

Now New York, we have been focusing on New York. There is a reason for that. New York is a place that has eight million, nine million people in population, almost 30 million in that metro area. So you're talking about a lot of people being affected in a place that's not known for its hurricane preparedness. New York is ready for a lot of stuff. It ain't quite ready for this. You have got the airports closed, all the public transit closed down. They're telling us -- can you imagine this, Suzanne? Tomorrow morning, rush hour, the commute, no public transit tomorrow in New York.

MALVEAUX: A lot of people don't have cars. They rely on the subway system and the busss to get where they have to go. So people are basically stuck at their homes. It's unclear -- maybe that's what they need, people to stay home for a while and maybe that's what's going to happen here.

HOLMES: The mayor is telling them to do that. He was asking everybody to evacuate. That was yesterday, the day before. That's over. Don't even try to go anywhere now. You need to stay in your homes. I believe Jacqui Jeras, we have you queued up over there at this point. Do I have you over there?

JERAS: I think you got me. Good morning.

HOLMES: All right, and you talk about the destructive power of a hurricane. But this is a wind and rain event it appears. That's the biggest threat we have.

JERAS: You know, when all is said and done, I think we'll remember Irene as being a flood-maker, right? That's what we'll think of when we're talking about six to 12 inches of rain easily. We've already seen three inches or so in New York City.

But we do have wind threats that go along with it. We have got a tornado threat and a warning right now on Long Island here. This is for Nassau and Suffolk counties. We get these little spin ups and we have got this line that's been moving in over and over. New York City was in about an hour ago. You guys are in the clear at this time. More tornadoes will be a possibility.

The storm is really bearing in on New Jersey at this time. The center of circulation is pushing in just off of Atlantic City. So this is going to be where the brunt of the surge comes in. This is going to be where the worst of the winds come in. We're getting wind gust reports up into New York City up to 64 miles per hour.

That's one big thing about this storm. This thing is a monster. I've literally never seen the wind field on a hurricane this large. The tropical storm force winds extend out more than 300 miles from the center of the storm. The hurricane-force winds stretch out 125 miles. Not even in Katrina, not even in Hugo, none of these other huge storms that we've all heard about have had winds this far out from the center. So that's just incredible to me.

Now, we have had some further weakening with this storm. It's still a category one, a minimal hurricane at this time. That's great news as this thing continues to move up the coast. It can't strengthen any more. It can only weaken at this point. But we don't expect it to weaken very much. There's very little difference between a strong tropical storm and a weak category one hurricane. So keep that in mind when we say it's gotten a little weaker. Let's talk about some of these impacts already taking place. This thing is 115 miles away from New York City, and we're already starting to get storm surge up in New York harbor as much as 3.8 feet. So this is starting to come true. That water is coming up. We're a couple hours away from high tide. That's just around 8:00 this morning, and that's when we're going to see those winds really begin to increase in New York City. So we don't like to see that.

This is a map showing you some of the storm surge estimates. We're looking at three to four feet in here, as much as five feet over here towards King's. So that storm surge will continue to rise slowly throughout the rest of the morning.

Let's talk for a second about the flooding we said, because we think this is going to be a huge deal with that storm. The forecast rainfall, look at how widespread this is. This thing goes almost all the way over towards Jamestown and goes all the way up into Canada. This is up into New Hampshire, Maine, down into D.C. as well as down towards Norfolk.

So flooding, rivers are going to rise. They're going to be up for several days. So keep that in mind. If you live in a low-lying area that is flood prone you need to be moving to higher ground and make sure you listen to authorities when they tell you that you need to evacuate.

Let's talk a little bit more about timing on this thing. It's starting to pick up a little bit forward speed, so that's a little bit of good news. And 17 miles per hour is the rate this thing is running and it should pick up a little bit quicker. The faster we can get this out of here, the less rainfall we're going to get.

So timing at this point, we think this will scrape along the Jersey coast through the rest of the morning. This will be moving over Long Island, probably midmorning, late morning, maybe midday, noonish. This will head up towards Connecticut and Boston say by midafternoon. By tomorrow morning we'll be done with this.

So a lot of impact still expected. We're going to see a lot of trees down and a lot of flooding. We're going to talk a little bit more about what to do in a high-rise building and how the winds change as you go up when I see you guys again, because there is a big difference if you're on the ground floor, say, compared to 30 stories up.

HOLMES: Jacqui, thank you. We will talk to you often this morning.

We're at quarter past the hour now. We'll be joined by John King here in just a moment for the next block of our show. And something of concern now, a lot of things to be concerned about. But now there's a nuclear reactor that has a problem. It is knocked out now by Irene. Some debris hit a transformer here at this nuclear power plant in Maryland. We don't know how big of an issue that could be. The officials at the plant saying, hey, it's nothing to worry about right now. But still, when you hear a nuclear power plant's reactor is knocked out, that is cause for concern.

It is a quarter past the hour now. Stay with us for our special coverage of hurricane Irene.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: I'm John King in Long Beach, New York, one of the barrier islands near New York City as you can see as we continue our coverage of hurricane Irene as it makes its way up the East Coast. The storm now located about off Atlantic City. You can see just in the last few minutes the wind gusts picking up dramatically, the pace of the rain some.

The biggest concern out here in the barrier islands and more so, as you head towards the heavier populated areas of New York City, flooding. The question is, how big will the surge be when the storm arrives here just about the same as high tide?

As we wait for the storm, you see some of the preparations. This community has been evacuated. You see tape on some of the windows. You're beginning to see the winds pick up. The gusts are in the 50 to 60 range. Still power here right now although a lot of power out in the New York metropolitan area and the New Jersey area. And in the area where Irene has already come through, millions without power.

I want to go now to our Athena Jones. She is in old own Alexandria, the D.C. suburbs in Virginia. And Athena, I understand you've just received an update from emergency management officials in the state of Virginia.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. You can see here in Alexandria, we've mostly been seeing wind and rain. We're told by D.C. officials, emergency officials across the Potomac they've seen downed trees and power outages.

But we just spoke with Virginia emergency operations and got this update -- about 967,000 customers statewide without power. Three fatalities reported so far in Chesterfield County, New Brunswick County, and Newport News. Those are all from fallen trees.

And so they'll still have to wait to assess more of the damage. They say they haven't received a lot of requests for assistance. Once the sun comes up they'll be able to get out and see what's going on. They'll do surveying by helicopter. We know some of the hard-hit areas, Norfolk, Hampton Road, these are some areas we may expect to see more damage, John.

And so right now they're saying we're encouraging customers to be safe, to use generators safely, and they'll wait and see what happens when the sun rises.

KING: And Athena, as you know, one of the big concerns all along the East Coast, it's been a soggy summer already, is where would the water go? I used to live in the old town area. You're along the Potomac River there. In the sense of flooding and how much water has the storm left behind, the sense of how long it would take to dry out, which complicates efforts to restore power, what's your sense? Did they get worse than they expected, about what they expected? JONES: It seems as though -- I mean, it's hard to say. Where we are right now there's not the kind of flooding that you would often expect to see in storms like this. As of right now, anecdotally, it looks as though this area did a little better than expected.

But I should mention something that T.J. brought up earlier, down a bit south from us in the Chesapeake Bay, Calvert Cliffs, there's a nuclear facility, the Consolation Energy Nuclear Group. Their unit one reactor, there was an aluminum siding that blew off one of the buildings nearby during the heavy wind gusts last night. That aluminum siding flew into one of the reactors. And so that unit one reactor is offline right now.

They say the plant is the stable, the employees are safe, there's no threat to the area. They call this an unusual event, the lowest level of emergency. So that reactor will stay offline until they can assess the situation there. But they assure us that there's no threat to the area.

But around here, immediately as I said, it seems to have calmed down. It looks like it's really just all heading your way, John.

KING: Athena Jones in Old Town Alexandria not far from Washington D.C. keeping track of the situation there. Nearly a million people in the state of Virginia without power.

As you see, the winds picking up here in Long Beach, just outside of New York City, the gateway, if you will, there. They're worried the storm will come off the water, come through here and bring the surge. They're worried about it in the heavy populated areas of New York City the winds could cause damage and power outages.

Another big urban area where they're worried about the surge and the flooding is the city of Philadelphia. That's where we find our Don Lemon this morning. Don?

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John, you're exactly right about that. I remember being here. I lived here in 1999 when hurricane Floyd came through and sat on top of Philadelphia. It wasn't a lot of wind damage or anything like this, but all the water and the storm surge caused people to lose power for days even lose their homes.

We can see the winds pick up and then they subside every once in a while. But they've gotten stronger within the last 30 or 40 minutes that we've been out here.

I want to tell you where we are. This is downtown Philadelphia. We're on Market Street and 12th, right across the street from one of the most iconic buildings in the world, the PSFS building. It's about a 33-story structure.

I know that here they've lost a couple windows and some of the high- rises have lost a couple windows. But they say it's not things they are that concerned about. About 250,000 people, according to Peco, the energy company here, 250,000 people without power.

John you know this. When you have winds like this in a hurricane, umbrellas just don't do. You need a big Morton Salt suit on like I have.

And this is really the thing that people are concerned about, the mayor and everyone and emergency officials. These are projectiles. This is the kind of stuff that's been flying down the street here in Philadelphia. That is a big giant branch.

As I'm going to walk here across next to this building that I'm telling you about, that's Septa, the transportation - the southeastern transportation, they've been shut down here since yesterday. It's really the first coordinated and planned shutdown ever in history for that organization, and it is the first time that the city has declared a state of emergency since 1986.

And this is also what we're talking about here, water, flooding. That's been happening inside the city limits of Philadelphia, that's flooded. The Schuylkill River along the Schuylkill expressway, flooding over there.

And this is how they're keeping the water out of the buildings. They're using good old fashioned sandbags, the kind you put the sand in yourself and you wrap it up. I know they're doing this here. Check this out. They have the plastic up here. They all put up here on the glass. And on the doors, they've got the sandbags to keep the water out. As you can see now, John, there's the wind starting to pick up. It will get stronger and subside. And we'll be here for you.

KING: Don Lemon live for us this morning in Philadelphia. I'm back on Long Beach, New York. As you can see, the winds are starting to pick up here. If you live in the New York metropolitan area in New Jersey and you went to bed last night and you thought you had heavy rain and perhaps you were not going to get the brunt of this storm, be careful this morning. It is beginning to arrive in the New York metropolitan area. The winds are beginning to pick up. The rains are getting heavier.

Huge concerns about flooding and power outages. Irene has made its way up the East Coast. When we come back, we'll continue our coverage, including we'll check in with the Red Cross. So many forced from their homes, so many evacuated, so many without power this morning. We'll check in with the Red Cross and the shelter situation up and down the East Coast. Our continuing coverage of Hurricane Irene in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: We are coming up on the bottom of the hour now, CNN Sunday morning coming to you an hour earlier this morning because we are bringing you extensive coverage of hurricane Irene, which is just a short time away from making it to New York City. Right now it's not too far from Atlantic City, New Jersey. Could be arriving there at any moment.

MALVEAUX: And I think the watching and waiting and the anticipation of what's going to happen is the most difficult part. So we are following this very closely. We want to get you up to speed on all elements of hurricane Irene.

It's still a category one storm pushing 75 mile-an-hour winds now. The last advisory had the eye of the hurricane 15 miles southeast of Atlantic City, New Jersey, heading towards the New York City metro area. In Delaware, at least 40,000 people are now without power. And just this morning, President Obama has signed a federal disaster order after a possible tornado touch down.

HOLMES: Again, all eyes are on New York City right now. The storm surge is the big issue there. Yes, winds could be a problem as well. But the water is such an issue. You know, 400,000 people roughly were under mandatory evacuation. They had to get out of there. But the mayor is saying now the time for evacuation is over. Everybody just needs to stay inside.

I'm hearing from a lot of you, the viewers writing in this morning and every friend I have in New York saying we are up and we are waiting for this thing to come. So the city that never sleeps is not sleeping right now. Again, the mayor has been making warnings, giving warnings to his people over the past several days. He did once again yesterday, saying you need to take this thing seriously. His word, "don't be cute."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, (I) NEW YORK CITY: The bottom line is, the storm is now finally hitting New York City. The winds will increase. The rain will increase and the tidal surge will increase, particularly in the morning.

Tomorrow morning when you wake up, whatever the conditions are, please stay inside. Too many things blow around, whether it's tree limbs coming down or porch furniture being blown away. It's just not safe to be outside. It's cute to say I was outside during the storm, but you're much better off staying inside and looking out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: All right, and this has proven already to be a deadly storm. It made landfall officially roughly 24 hours ago now. Ten deaths since then have been reported and attributed to hurricane Irene.

MALVEAUX: For the very latest, Jacqui Jeras, hurricane headquarters. And Jacqui, this is a deadly situation. I know a lot of people have been paying close attention wondering what should we be doing to prepare for this? Is it too late, time to hunker down and what are we dealing with here?

JERAS: Well, a couple of things. Mayor Bloomberg had a good point about how you need to take this seriously, that you need to be prepared for this thing, and that this is a deadly storm. You think it's cute to be out there, but it's not.

And while we're not dealing with a major hurricane, this isn't a category three we have a lot of threats. Trees are already starting to come down. Healthy trees, big limbs could come down just in tropical storm force conditions. Flooding is going to be expected. And as the wind channels through these buildings, it accelerates. And so there will be debris. Not everybody probably brought in their lawn furniture. Think of the stuff on balconies.

And the other thing to think about, the high wise wind threat. At the ground level if winds are at 60 miles per hour, you get up to the 30 story level and the winds are 20 percent greater. So we're talking 72 miles an hour. If you're up there at the 80-story level, they winds are 30 percent greater than they would be at the ground level. So that's 78 miles an hour. That can cause a lot of damage.

If you're in your building you're worried about glass, right. It's probably not the force of the hurricane winds that will break your windows. It probably will be the debris. So close the curtains, stay away from the windows, get to the interior room.

A lot of people will be dealing with power outages. So for New York, for example, if this stays at a category one, they're thinking between 250,000 to 500,000 people will be without power. How long will it take to restore it to everybody? Three to six days.

If this is a strong tropical storm, we could be looking at 100,000 to 250,000 people without power, and that will take one to three days to repair that. So just to put that into perspective for you.

Let's so you the rain, because flooding is going to be a big issue. The rainfall totals have just been incredible. Up to a foot of rain can be expected. We've already had three inches in New York City on up toward Connecticut. It's coming down very heavy across New Jersey right now as well.

There you can see the threat for tornadoes. We had a warning about half an hour ago for Nassau county. That has been expired now, but we'll see little spin-ups as these lines of storm come in off the ocean and you get that spin as it heads over shore, friction, and there's just a lot of morticity (ph) with a storm like that. The height of the storm is coming in. That storm surge as well, it's just going to be funneled up the bay. New York harbor we've already seen storm surge almost four feet. High tide just a couple hours away. So we're going to watch the water come up.

But ultimately it is going to be a rainmaker. This is going to be a whole lot of rain for a whole lot of people on already saturated grounds. The rivers will stay high. They'll stay up for days at a time. Irene will have impacts long lasting even though it's already felt like a long weekend already for a whole lot of people.

MALVEAUX: Jacqui, what do we think is the most dangerous aspect of this storm?

JERAS: You know, if you live on the coast and didn't evacuate, probably your greatest threat will be the storm surge. That comes up very high. We'll be seeing storm surge in the Mid-Atlantic, maybe four to six feet or more. As you head up towards long island, we're talking maybe four, five, six feet at the most in that area. That will be the greatest threat.

Inland, the greatest threat will be flooding. To me I think we've had 10 deaths, I believe it is. Most of them have been from trees, Suzanne. So there's not a lot you can do or expect. You don't know if your tree will be the one that comes down. You need to try to stay in interior rooms. Ride out the storm. If you're in a flood-prone area, you need to get to higher ground. There will be some wind damage, but overall, I don't think wind is the greatest threat with this thing.

HOLMES: All right, Jacqui, thank you. We'll check in once again.

We're at 35 minutes past the hour, again, coming to you a little early on this CNN Sunday morning to bring you coverage of the storm. We have folks all over the place covering hurricane Irene as it makes its way to New York City. Our Ali Velshi is among them in New York. Ali, good morning to you. Tell me where you are. Let's see, I can't make you out. Are you hearing me all right there, Ali?

ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. You got me?

HOLMES: Yes.

VELSHI: T.J., let me show you where I am. For people who know Manhattan, this is the East River right behind me. For tourists or people that come to Manhattan a lot, that's the South Street Seaport over there. That's Pier 17. This is the East River right behind me. That's Brooklyn. You can see the lights of Brooklyn behind me and the Brooklyn bridge.

We're on a bit of a pedestrian walkway over here. Not a lot of wind right now. But there was a lot more wind in Manhattan, and I hear we're going to get more of it in a little while. We saw trees that went down, some of them on cars actually on the way down here, a whole the people not on the streets right now. Manhattan is empty. It looks like a movie set. There were some people walking around, curious, but mostly emergency vehicles and police around here.

So that's the situation here. The river is looking pretty choppy, not enough to flood anything just now. But we do have reports of some power outages in New York. Most of it is still on for the moment. That's the situation in lower Manhattan at the moment, T.J.

HOLMES: All right, Ali, we'll check back in with you plenty and the rest of our crew this morning. But hello to you, Ali, just one of a number we have out there covering this storm for you.

And again, people are asking so much attention to New York. There's a reason for that just because it's such a densely populated area, as you know. Not to ignore North Carolina, Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, any of the other places. We'll be talking about all of them throughout the morning. But it's just not something you see in New York City that has 8 million, 9 million population, almost 30 million in the metropolitan area. For that big of an area to affected by this storm is going to be a big deal. Hopefully it won't be as bad as some are predicting it will be. But, still, it will be a major event. MALVEAUX: Unlike some of the areas, you're talking about high-rise communities here. So this is a different situation when you talk about the high winds and the flooding that could take place in lower Manhattan.

There are some -- about 78 shelters or so that were set up. Massive evacuations, mandatory evacuations from the mayor of New York that's was just called yesterday. I want to bring in Scott Snyder who's with the American Red Cross of Greater New York. He's joining us by phone to talk about the thousands, I think it was close to 9,000 people who evacuated, riding out this hurricane in emergency shelters.

If you would, Scott, give us a sense of how that's going. Are folks doing OK in the shelters? What is the condition now?

SCOTT SNYDER, AMERICAN RED CROSS, (via telephone): You know, we were working close with the city of New York, as you mentioned. The mayor and his team have done a phenomenal job of getting people evacuated, getting people to these centers and safe places. I stopped in at one of the shelters around dinner time. I think once the rain really started to hit, I think it set in for New Yorkers that this was the real deal and they really made the right choice to get to somewhere safe.

MALVEAUX: We saw some of the pictures. We talked to some folks who were being evacuated. There were many senior citizens. It was a very big job for a lot of people, disrupted a lot of people's lives. Is there a sense of frustration at the shelters there where people are? Do they feel like, OK, we're going to ride this out, this is the safe place to be, this is a good call?

SNYDER: You know, certainly in situations like this it's very stressful, and obviously New York City, other large metro areas like this one, it's very different than what we see in the southern states, certainly the Gulf Coast where this is an annual event, something everybody gets ready for.

But we didn't really see at the time a lot of people that were in a lot of distress. I think everybody felt safe. There was a really high level of people being grateful that they were out of the way.

And you know, takes time. We all know any hurricane is a big moving target. You never know if it's going to be the absolute worst and which way it's going to go.

MALVEAUX: Scott, real quickly here, if folks want to help out, if they're watching what is taking place and know that in these times of need there is always great need, what can they do?

SNYDER: You know, people can help by making a financial contribution to the Red Cross, to this and to the more than 70,000 responses we have every year. They can call, click, or text. Call 1-800-red- cross, RedCross.org, or text "Red Cross" to 90999. Make a simple $10 donation and us respond down the street and across the country.

MALVEAUX: All right, Scott Snyder, thank you so much. And we'll be keeping in touch throughout the morning to get a sense of how people are doing. There was a mandatory evacuation, the mayor of New York City saying that folks had got to leave certain areas, low-lying areas and buildings. A lot of senior citizens, about 9,000 people or so from hospitals from various communities who had to leave and leave very quickly within a 12-hour period of time to get to some place safe. We're going to be continuing to follow how they're doing throughout the morning.

Also coming up, we'll take a look at Kill Devil Hills in North Carolina. That is where Irene first came ashore. So we'll be checking in with that after a quick break.

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KING: Welcome back to CNN Sunday morning. I'm John King reporting live from Long Beach, New York. This is barrier island, Nassau County, a short drive from New York City.

Hurricane Irene making her way up the East Coast off New Jersey at the moment, the people of New York bracing. The rains have picked up, the winds have picked up substantially in the last hour or so. The storm still a couple hours away from the New York metropolitan area, but we're starting to see some street flooding here.

The storm will arrive in New York just about the time of high tide. That is the concern in this barrier island here, as you get closer to the urban metropolitan areas. Many in New York waking up trying to figure out just what is coming. How bad will Irene be? How heavy will the rains be? How bad will the flooding be and the power outages that come with that flooding? As New York, New England, New Jersey brace, have the questions of just what is coming, we see the winds a little bit here, some of the streetlights blowing. As of now, we're still waiting for the storm to come.

What will it deliver? Let's check in with Reynolds Wolf, who is in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. Reynolds, give us the latest there on the devastation and the sense of what is coming this way.

REYNOLDS WOLF, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We actually went out and about and actually along parts of highway 158 where it hooks up with NC-12. We have some video to show you. The flooding that we had, which is very interesting and typical when you have the barrier islands, is that the flooding was not due from the Atlantic Ocean but back from the sound, that partially enclosed body of water that separates the barrier island from the mainland.

The back half of the system started to pull that water up, pile up across the roadways. Some place, John, so impassible that at roadblocks there was a truck that tried to get through, a deuce and a half truck, a military style truck. As many people may know it has high clearance. We're talking about something that should easily get through shallow water with no problem whatsoever. It had to turn back.

Also, other places, other parts of the community that were totally inundated with water, very susceptible to flooding. That was certainly the case. We do anticipate as the winds die down, and they have really diminished over the past couple of hours, the waters will slowly begin to recede.

Something else that has really begun to increase would be power outages. Ironically enough, as the storm began to march it's way to the north, our power outage here at the hotel actually went out around 1:00, 2:00 in the morning as the winds were starting to die down a bit. We made it through the full fury of the storm before the power outages went out.

We certainly aren't along though. In fact, the Dominion Power is reporting that in parts of Virginia and North Carolina there are 700,000 customers without power as we speak. And certainly as the storm moves northward we'll see more of the power outages for different power companies and more Americans up and down parts of the Eastern Seaboard.

John, the key thing, the real lesson learned is the possibility of flooding along parts of Long Island when you see the back half of these storm systems how they can take water. In your example possibly from Long Island Sound and striking the north part of long island itself, especially something that people along those communities need to be aware of. John, let's kick it back to you.

KING: All right, Reynolds, we'll keep in touch throughout the day. And it's important for people in those areas where the storm has passed to heed Reynolds' advice. Things can happen after the storm goes through. So listen to your local officials, follow their advice.

And as North Carolina deals with the aftermath, let's bring in on the telephone Kate Meier with the Red Cross. Kate, you just heard Reynolds give his assessment. What is your immediate challenge now as you begin to get a sense as the storm begins to move off, you still have winds and rains. What's your biggest challenge this morning?

KATE MEIER, AMERICAN RED CROSS, (via telephone): You know, our biggest challenge is going to be making sure that we get to every single person who needs our help, because, as you heard, a lot of these roads are still flooded. So it might be a while until we get into the hard-hit communities to help these families.

But we will get to them. We will help all the families in North Carolina and on up the East Coast get on the road to recovery.

KING: And in terms of the demand in the Carolinas area, as the storm moves through, do you hear from more people the morning after, people that have been hunkered down throughout the day and then try to get in touch with you the morning after?

MEIER: We are anticipating as the sun comes up today, people start assessing damage and realizing they are going to be without power for a long time, we will have more shelters opening and we'll have more of a population coming into our shelters. You know, I'm in North Carolina two and a half hours inland. And the wind and rain here did not hit us until about 7:00 or 8:00 last night. So it's really going to be when the sun comes up what are people finding. KING: Kate Meier with the Red Cross, we appreciate your insight there. We'll stay in touch.

You can see the winds picking up here. This is Long Beach, New York. As Irene has made its way up the coast, not only do we have correspondents up the coast, we've been receiving help from you. We'll check in and get some of the CNN iReports tracking the storm, the devastation, and the anticipation when CNN Sunday morning continues in just a moment.

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HOLMES: Just about six minutes to the top of the hour here on CNN Sunday morning, giving you extensive coverage of hurricane Irene. All eyes right now are on New York. Our Rob Marciano is in one spot where there's a lost concern.

MALVEAUX: Rob, tell us what's going on there, because we understand that low lying areas that you could possibly get the worse effects of Irene?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. And they're getting it right now. The wind is blowing this rain sideways. We've had winds gusting over 60 miles an hour. The center of this thing is still over 100 miles south of us. How do we know that? You point to left, that's where it is.

And it's heading in this direction. Landfall is expected sometime between 9:00 a.m. and noon. And obviously the winds will be increasing as it does so. Already it's taken down trees across Long Island. There is reporting that over 180,000 people without power at this time, and that number has been accelerating.

It's a little bit less on the coastline. We have power here. Shrubbery, trees a little bit lower and less, of course. So the coast may have the power outages later on today.

But what the coast does have right now are huge waves. As the sun comes up later this morning, you'll be able to see just exactly what I'm talking about. Yesterday we were talking show you protective berms that have been built up 12, 15 feet high. Many of those have already been breached. And we're still over two hours away from high tide, water beginning to fill underneath this board walk and into the streets of Long Beach. So street flooding is already commencing and will likely rise, obviously as we go on through time.

So no hurricane force gusts yet, but we do expect that as the morning progresses, and power is still on here in Long Beach. One fatality on the island. There have been several house fires because of the trees coming down and being sparked by live electrical lines. So that obviously going to be an issue as we go through the rest of this morning as Irene makes an approach towards the south beach of Long Island. Guys?

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Rob. You know, it's good that folks still have power there. We understand from the "Washington Post" they're like reporting now more than a million folks without power in Virginia and North Carolina or they don't have phone service. That's a pretty frightening situation for a lot of people.

HOLMES: And all up and down the way, we're reporting here. And if you're lucky enough to see us right now, a lot of people who do need the information don't have power. So that's something General Honore was talking about, check on your neighbors, maybe the elderly person down the street. Check on your neighbors right now. It's a good time to do it.

Look at that. It's on its way to New York. New York, you are up next essentially with this storm. We're just a few minutes to the top of the hour. Suzanne and I are going to reset for you at the top of the hour. We'll give you the latest and the very latest on a second landfall that hurricane Irene has just made.

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