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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Continuing Coverage of Hurricane Irene's Trek Up the Eastern Seaboard

Aired August 28, 2011 - 07:00   ET

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


UNIDENTIFIED WCBS REPORTER: A lot of plywood on businesses in town, businesses have boarded up. I mean, businesses like convenience stores that you would imagine being open 24 hours. They have plywood on their doors. Nothing's open.

No one's walking around here. People are heeding the warnings.

You know, as you get closer to the ocean is where the winds pick up. I'm gauging, 50 mile-an-hour winds right now and this is probably just going to continue to get worse. But you do see some sand but I mean, that's normally sand there. And now it's just water.

And then that sand is just washing over on to the board walk and you get this foamy mix.

Jimmy, if you can pan over to the benches. It looks like they've moved. They've moved over. I mean, they've moved over.

I would imagine they would have removed these benches and taking them out because they've taken all the trash cans out. But that's cement. That was probably posted into the board walk.

So, check this out over here. There's some debris over there. I can't tell what it is. But there's fencing that's coming off of that pier over there and those waves.

Oh, boy. You're getting a firsthand look because of mobile 2. We wouldn't have been able to be out here if it wasn't for that because our satellite trucks, you can't put the satellite up. It's too dangerous. I mean, just whip it way -- the winds could whip it away.

Again, I mean, look at all this debris. You don't want to be in this. And as the governor has been saying, you'll stay home, stay out of this. And from what we've seen out here -

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: That's our affiliate WCBS in Asbury Park, New Jersey.

Let's go to John King who is in Long Beach, New York -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): I'm out on the board walk in Long Beach now. And I believe you can see a shot coming in from iPhone on the stream bar. I'm going to walk out to the edge of the board walk. The winds have picked up dramatically and what we're going to see is some dramatic flooding. As you can see the pictures here as we come through the sand barriers that were built to hold the waters back. And as you can see from the shot (INAUDIBLE) where I'm standing it was dry an hour ago. The waters were coming through.

The winds are picking up dramatically. The waves I can see are 15, 20 feet high. And I want to show you why this matters as I try to get you a shot right along the edge of the board walk. This is the barrier protecting this town, Long Beach. And one of the concerns -- I'm going to walk back this way.

Bear with me as I walk away. I'll show you the other side of this here. It was built to stop this. But instead, the water has started to pour through again. This was completely dry an hour ago. The water is more than a foot deep.

And if you fan out this way, you see the street lights in the distance. I know there's rain blocking some of the shots. But this town is beginning to get substantial flooding and the brunt of the storm is still some distance away. The winds out here on the board walk, Anderson, have picked up quite dramatically.

With the waves churning and the winds coming, there is no doubt that Long Beach is going to have substantial flooding. The question is if the storm is starting to pick up the brunt here as you get through the populated where you are, the wrath of Irene bring similar flooding to much more populated areas, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, it seems, John, from what Jacqui Jeras is saying that -- I mean, clearly, what we're seeing now in coastal areas and low-lying areas is the beginning of flooding. We're obviously seeing a lot of strong waves. It seems like for, you know, populations that are living in the cities in New York City, away from the water, at this point, it doesn't look like it's going to be that bad. Obviously, things can change.

How far is the water coming in in Long Beach? I can't see the picture that you're showing us, John. How far does the water come in?

KING: We had to relocate because where we were up the street, I was standing in the street at 5:00 a.m. this morning and the streets were dry. And then within an hour, it was up to my calves. So, it came in pretty quickly. That was in particularly low-lying area. And we've moved around trying to find higher places.

And, again, I'm going to try to walk out toward the board walk again and I may lose the signal here because the wind is picking up now. In the streets itself, the place is ankle-deep. Some places, it gets up maybe to (INAUDIBLE).

I want to show you again (INAUDIBLE) you can see the water now, it's coming right over this. And so, the waves out there, I know you can't see them because of the quality of the shot and the winds and rain, the waves are growing and growing in intensity. The storm is not here yet, the water is beginning to easily, easily reach these bar years.

So, it's flooding now. If you get away from the board walk, but right along the edge, it's some places, it's more than a foot deep, some places two feet deep. And again, there are hours, hours more of this still to come, Anderson.

COOPER: And is that an area people had been asked to evacuate? Did a lot of people leave?

KING: Yes, this is a mandatory evacuation. There are still some people in town. We went out looking around last night. There were one or two restaurant and bar owners kept their bars open. And there were dozens, not hundreds, of people by any means.

But these (INAUDIBLE) communities who will now have lot of police and firefighters at homes here. Just as I was on the board walk a moments ago, a police cruiser came by and the officer asked me if I was OK. But obviously, he can still drive on the board walk now and I'm aiming down and looking.

The water is several feet down below. But the barriers that have been constructed to stop this are obviously -- they're doing an OK job but not a great job as you begin to see the water breaching it.

And if you turn towards the ocean as I'm doing now, (INAUDIBLE) the winds have picked up in the last 20 minutes or so quite substantially. We went from 30 to 40 mile-an-hour winds at 5:00 a.m. this morning to I'm bracing myself right now. I'm not the lightest guy in the world and these winds are moving me around a little bit.

COOPER: And have you noticed a change within the last 30 minutes or so?

KING: Dramatically. Dramatically within the last 30 minutes, not just in the strength of the winds, the rain is now coming much more sideways as opposed to up and down, straight down. And the most dramatic thing you see is when you look out it is he height and power and pressure of the waves, they have grown dramatically. We're around high tide now as you can see.

And I can't tell you (INAUDIBLE).

COOPER: We're going to check back in. We're having trouble hearing John.

We're going to check back in with him in just a moment. Let's listen to WCBS who is in Rockaway Beach right now. Let's watch the scene right there.

WCBS ANCHOR: Before we let you go, as you said before, you've traveled great distances to cover weather like this, whether it's North Carolina or Florida. Different story when you're covering it in your own backyard, is it not?

WCBS REPORTER: Yes. The last time I was on a board walk, I don't want to date myself but I guess I've been around a while. The lost time I was on a board walk was in Long Beach for Gloria. And that storm blew us right off the air. This is similar to how Gloria felt, perhaps more intense. I can certainly see more of what's going on.

These storms that we went through in Florida, Jean, Wilma, and we went through Katrina, Mississippi, were terrifying events you couldn't cover during the storm because they were so intense.

But this is interesting to happen here, because it's home. You think of it as a hurricane area but it is. I mean, we've had hurricanes here throughout history. My folks told me about the hurricanes that happened when their parents were kids, you know? The hurricane of '38, the hurricane in the '40s, Hurricane Donna -- all those famous hurricanes we heard about when we were growing up here.

And this is one of them. There you can see the water sloshing up against the board walk here at beach 116. We're approaching the height of the storm. I believe at this point, we should be about a half hour from high tide. That probably means we have a little bit more, as Shawn wipes the lens so you can see us, a little bit more to go through here.

I don't see water on the (INAUDIBLE) if you look down there, and, oddly, that is still clear. We're going to walk down, back on the board walk. You're looking at the ocean there, being held back. And on the other side here, it's still reasonably clear.

So, when we start to see water creeping around and coming up and over, that's when the real problem begins.

Take a look also in what the wind is doing up top here. You can hear the rattling of the security gates. We've seen a couple of pieces of siding peel off. We see the lamp posts rocking back and forth. Some of the awnings have been shredded.

At least one of those trees on the median has been knocked over. The roots saturated by the water and knocked over by the winds. It is -- it's really getting a little intense here. The buildings are holing up rather well. So, it's not that kind of damage but it's not over yet. And this is not the worst of it.

Again, turn around and look at that storm surge. It's just so impressive to look at that. Way back there was where the waterline was --

COOPER: Obviously, the story right now is clearly out in these coastal areas, out in long beach where John King was, Rockaway, Long Island, low-lying areas where we'll see flooding, no doubt about it. A lot of folks with homes out there are obviously watching this closely. Different story here in Manhattan and areas that are not in the flood zone.

Our coverage continues in just a moment. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of Hurricane Irene here in Lower Manhattan, in the village about a block south of Washington Square Park. Also showing you the scene in Columbus Circles, some of our cameras up there.

There's a steady driving rain here but it's not the kind of sideways rain they're seeing in places like where John King is, over in Long Beach in New York, or some of these coastal areas where the winds have taken the water. And you've already started to see some flooding.

This right now is not a flood zone, which is why we picked this location. We're going to check in with our Ali Velshi a little bit later on who's at the South Street Seaport.

But let's get an overview right now of where the storm is from Jacqui Jeras in the CNN weather center. Jacqui, give us a sense of the latest, how strong it is, where it is.

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: OK. Well, you know, the latest from the hurricane center is this is still a 75-mile per hour hurricane. We get an advisory in about 8:00 Eastern Time.

And I'm telling you, this is probably a tropical storm that we're looking at at this point, and it's going to continue the structure of the storm is starting to fall apart a little bit. But, still, you guys have to stay inside, don't let your guard down because we have a lot of threat still associated with the storm, not just in New York City, but we need to start focusing on what's going on across parts of New England and Northeast here.

Look at all that rain that's out there. It continues to be extremely heavy. And we have these outer bands, for example. Take a look at this one, that's moving across Long Island on up towards Connecticut right now. This has a potential of producing tornadoes.

And we're going to see that threat through the rest of the morning in this area and that's going to start to spread northward as we head throughout the day as the spinners continue to come up. In addition to that, we've seen areas of as much as four to five inches of rain into the Northeast. If we get more filling in on the back side of the storm we could double those amounts. So, inland flooding will be a big threat.

Now, in terms of rainfall and in terms of who's getting the worst of the conditions right now, let's zoom in closer for you. And we think the center of the storm is pushing up towards Sandy Hook now, somewhere in this area here. We think the worst of the winds has pushed over towards New Jersey.

Take a look at what's going on down here, right over towards Edison. That's where you're going to see some of these strong, heavier wind gusts. Now, in addition to that, we'll take you up here north of the north, up towards Bridgeport, over towards New London, over towards Providence and Boston. Look at what's going in Welter (ph) right now and we've got those heavy showers and thunderstorms which are pushing in here.

We can expect to see 50 mile per hour wind gusts, maybe even more. You might go 50? What happened to the 100 mile per hour? Fifty miles an hour is enough to blow your garbage can down the street. It's enough to bring tree limbs down. It's enough to bring power down.

So, power outages will continue to be a big story in the next couple of days, too.

That surge continues to come up. This is the height of the surge over towards Battery Park. High tide is coming in now. This is as high as the water is going to go. It's about three feet above average tide -- Anderson.

COOPER: So, Jacqui, I mean, I think a lot of people certainly in New York City who, you know, have been anticipating the worst and, of course, the city has to do that because God forbid the storm does get worse than people think it's going to be, I think a lot of people will be feeling like, okay, this is not as bad as was predicted or possibly could have been.

What happened to the storm as it approached New York? You said it started to break up, did it continue on the same path and is just -- the storm weakened as it went over land?

JERAS: You know, actually it's been scraping over the water. We just had that second landfall just north of Atlantic City. It's pretty much behaving the way we thought it was going to, Anderson, especially in terms of the track.

I mean, this track has been right on. Once this thing got out of the Bahamas, it's really doing exactly what we thought it would do.

Now, in terms of the structure of the storm and the intensity, it went down a little bit and there are number of factors that go into play. Things like water temperature, wind shear, that all play into this. In addition, we got a cold front that came through. And so, it's interacting with that now. And the further north it goes, the weaker the storm will continue to become.

COOPER: That's certainly great news. And again, the question now is what happens to those low-lying areas, the coastal areas?

Let's check in with our affiliate WCBS who I think is in Delmar. Take a look.

WCBS TV ANCHOR: John, both explain to us as it spins in that counterclockwise.

WCBS TV ANCHOR: It gives you an idea of what to expect over the next hour or so.

So, let's turn it right now go over to Scott Rappaport. He's live in Battery Park City where there's been an evacuation order in that area, and then the worry about the flooding. SCOTT RAPPAPORT, WCBS REPORTER: Yes, Mary, to reinforce the evacuation here, you can see police officers, crews --

COOPER: Let's check in with our Soledad O'Brien, who is to the west of me, what's known as the meat packing district here in New York. Soledad, how is it there?

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Anderson. Yes.

You know, the meat packing district, of course, is a place where meat used to be packed and processed. In the last 10, 15 years it's become the center of hip and happening New York City. So, on a normal Sunday morning, what you'd have people returning from clubs. Obviously, it's not a normal Sunday morning.

Here's the issue here. Jamie, if you can look down that way, you can see through the trees there, that's water, that's the west side highway and then you have the Hudson River. So, you can see we're just about a block from the water.

Everything to my left over here is evacuation Zone A, which means this was mandatory evacuation, low-lying area -- and here is why: this used to be beach. This is landfill. These buildings built on landfill.

Over here is evacuation zone B. That means that they encourage you strongly to evacuate but you don't have to.

And as you can see, when you head down this way, I'm on Washington Street, the wind picks up because we're in a channel -- you know, the wind running through at this stage already, two hours out from the storm -- the rain coming down through the streets.

Inside this building, I want to show you a little bit, Anderson when we went inside to see what the problem is with some of these old buildings, the real issue.

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: So we're inside one of the old buildings, about 100 years old that's in evacuation area B, which means people were told they should evacuate, encouraged to evacuate but it wasn't mandatory for the people here. And this is the problem. This is one of the buildings that's built on landfills.

When you walk down here, the elevator shaft, walk down here, listen. That's water pouring in. That's not a good sign. Especially since really the bulk of the hurricane hasn't even hit yet, the bulk of the water hasn't come through.

We're going to head downstairs so I can show you what the big concern here is in this building. Be careful on these stairs. You can see it down here, 30 minutes ago, this was completely dry. Ten minutes ago the water hadn't come up this far. But, now look. Hey, Johnny, we'll get a shot in here. Johnny is the super in this building. He's getting the pump set because he's going to try to start bailing the water out. Come this way, Jamie.

You can see here, we're already up to six inches of water or so. If you look down this shaft, that's several feet. Come back this way.

Now, this is not unusual in old buildings like this. Even in a heavy rainstorm. The problem becomes, of course, when the amount of water that is expected in this area -- remember, this is landfill, this used to be a beach here when it starts -- we'll get out of Johnny's way -- when the water starts pouring in, one pump like this is going to be problematic, obviously.

So, what he's trying to do now is get the water that's already started to pour in, get it out. But, really, as the wind increases and the rain whips up, it's going to be a problem. And this is typical of what they're worried about in old buildings like this, which is how much water are you going to get? How quickly will it rise? Will it start taking out the electrical grid, all those things that are laying under the streets in New York City? That's going to be the problem here.

So, we will continue to monitor what's happening inside this building. Johnny, of course, staying through the night trying to make sure, like many supers, I'm certain, to make sure the building is safe and try to clean up as fast and as much as he possibly can. While the water really, really is not at its height yet.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: So, you're looking at Anna. That's Johnny's daughter, the super's daughter. You can see the amount of water they're trying to pump out of the building. That's going to be their big problem.

And, look, this is a good sign, the drain still working. That's positive news. A little dubious about this scaffolding over your left shoulder, Jamie. You know, the city, of course, full of things like this. We're still about two hours or so, according to Jacqui's estimation of when the storm will hit right here.

And we'll, of course, keep monitoring it for you, Anderson. Back to you.

COOPER: Soledad, thanks very much. Soledad -- obviously in the meat packing district.

Let's go to Rob Marciano who's standing by also in Long Beach.

Rob, what's it like there? We saw some big waves, some heavy wind a short time ago.

Obviously having trouble getting to Rob Marciano.

We're going to take a short break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We're coming to you from New York, from the Greenwich Village, about a block south of Washington Square Park where the rain is still coming down pretty strongly as it is going to be pretty much for the next 12 hours. But in terms of rain, according to our Jacqui Jeras, this is probably about as bad as it's going to get. The winds are another question, but the storm is definitely been breaking.

We're going to get another storm advisory at 8:00 a.m., shortly. That will give us a sense of whether it's a cat 1 storm or a tropical storm. Jacqui Jeras says she believes, looking at the radar, that she believes it is probably a tropical storm. But we'll get official confirmation of that at 8:00.

Don Lemon is standing by in Philadelphia. He has the mayor.

Don, what does the mayor have to say?

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Mayor Michael Nutter is here.

And, Mayor, you've had no sleep because you've been watching the updates through the night. Nobody's had sleep here.

Listen, tell us, there were a lot of outages. What's going on?

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER, PHILADELPHIA: In the region 297, 000 outages. In Philadelphia, about 21,000. PECO, our electrical company, energy company, has been doing a trying to stay on top of it. They brought personnel in over the last day or so from outside Philly, outside Pennsylvania to get ready to jump on that.

We've had about 100 trees in various parts of the city down and live wires down. So, we, obviously never go near live -- any wire, it could be live and literally could kill you.

But flooding is our --

LEMON: Flooding in big parts, Darby, not doing well.

NUTTER: Yes. We're seeing some of the footage from Darby. Literally, couches, furniture floating down the street -- water up to street sign levels. The Schuylkill River is already at flood stage and will not crest until about 8:00 tonight, at about 15 feet. That's the second highest in recorded history in Philadelphia.

Every river, every stream, every creek all at flood stage and we still have more rain and wind gusts and sustained winds coming later on today.

LEMON: And this is -- you think, you know, you sort of dodged it so to speak. But the backside of the storm, and then you're going to get those that wind and that surge. You were here, I was here in 1999. And we know what Floyd did. It wasn't really a big wind maker. But, boy, did that flooding caused problems. NUTTER: Well, flooding caused some problem certainly back then. This storm would be a problem anyway. But in addition, we've had the wettest, most rain hit month in the history of the city of Philadelphia.

So, the ground table was already totally saturated -- nowhere for the water to go. And we're very, very concerned about Main Street, Manayunk, over by the Schuylkill Rover, Cobb Street is flooded as well. And we'll face that challenge for the next couple of days. Big cleanup over the next few days.

LEMON: We're standing -- city hall is right behind us, one of the most iconic city halls in the country. And then you got SEPTA which is right here. And SEPTA still shutdown -- all mass transportation in the city shut down.

NUTTER: Yes, we're shut down for the first time in history. Yesterday, we took that precaution because of the rain, because of the winds, because of flooding. SEPTA will do its analysis and see when it is both safe to operate the system and quite frankly safe for people to be out trying to utilize the system. That's a judgment call.

LEMON: All right, we have to run. But what about the airport?

NUTTER: The airport is still closed. It was planned to be closed at least until 4:00. Very difficult for any kind of travel, whether you're out of Philadelphia or getting to Philadelphia up and down the East Coast. So, we're being cautious there.

LEMON: Stay inside, stay home and stay safe, Anderson. That's the message everyone has been carrying throughout the East Coast. Back to you.

COOPER: Yes, no doubt about that. Don, thanks for continuing check in with you.

Let's check in with our affiliate WCBS who's driving around in Brooklyn, see what the scene is there.

MARTY MARKOWITZ, WCBS REPORTER: -- doing everything that residents can expect and even more. So, we'll get by this. We will get by this.

TONY AIELLO, WCBS REPORTER: There are some gutsy calls involved here. When you start telling people to evacuate, that's something many have never been told to do before. And then when you make the decision in conjunction with Governor Cuomo to shut down the MTA system at noon on Saturday before the storm has even reached here, that's a gutsy call, isn't it?

MARKOWTIZ: It is but I think the mayor with his executive advises and MTA, I think they obviously have the expertise, number one is the safety of the residents of the city of New York and it's always best to side on the side of safety. That's what they did. And I believe they made the right decision. AIELLO: OK. We just passed an NYPD checkpoint here. It looks like they had staged vehicles here in advance of the storm. The park tennis center over here, Marty, what do you make of this over here?

MARKOWITZ: Well, obviously this is open right now. During the winter it's a bubble. But right now, you know, during the summer months it's open. It looks like some -- I really can't tell if there's any damage. The nets are still up, obviously.

AIELLO: Yes, some of the netting around the courts --

MARKOWITZ: Yes. But, you know, I just think because of the aggressiveness of the city administration, I think we'll keep damage minimum. The residents were obviously alerted and put a lot of concern in them. They took this seriously overwhelming. Whether they sought a shelter or not, they took this seriously. I think residents batted down everything that can move and really took this to heart this time. I think it was the right call.

AIELLO: Marty, what are you hearing from the coastal communities, the low-lying areas where the coastal evacuation was ordered?

MARKOWITZ: Well, I must tell you that from, for instance, my wife's relative lives right in the heart of Manhattan beach and perhaps we're heading there now. And she said, surprisingly, absolutely nothing.

AIELLO: OK. We're going to head to that part of Brooklyn with the borough president. We'll check back in with you. Tony Aiello, with Marty Markowitz, reporting live from Mobile 2.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you may have just witnessed the birth of a brand new reality show.

COOPER: That's our affiliate WCBS.

Let's check in with John King who's on the phone from Long Beach -- John.

KING: Anderson, I'm going to step out, my audio may go a bit. I'll step out and I'll walk back out to the edge of the board walk, I'm going to trying to stream you a wide picture.

We'll show you how the waves were beginning to deteriorate, show you the sandbags set up here to protect the town. As I was closing to the edge of the boardwalk (INAUDIBLE) the waves are now coming over that. The waves are getting more intense. You can see some of the waves hitting right now, the picture is coming in.

They are beginning to destroy this sand berm. The reason this one is here, about an inch right now and below, this is one part of the boardwalk where there's a bit of an opening. The water now going through into the town of Long Beach. Show you back along the boardwalk this way as well as I can. (INAUDIBLE) some of the projections are gone. Some things are toppled over at the beach. More and more water getting into the streets, places that were dry two hours ago are now ankle deep, in a few places, just a foot of water. It's about high tide.

The brunt of the storm is still a couple hours away. The coastal areas, you just heard our affiliate talking about, the flooding in the coastal areas is becoming a reality here in Long Beach. The question is how long this will last, how bad will be the flooding be here. And this town is under mandatory evacuation. So, there are very few left into town.

The big question is, the problems we're beginning to see here, (INAUDIBLE) do they make it to you in the more populated areas of the city? Which, of course, as you know, is a major concern. But just an hour or so ago, there's been an increase of the waves, a significant increase in the power of the water and significant evidence that the efforts along the coast here are beginning to fail, Anderson.

COOPER: John King joining us on the phone from Long Beach. Clearly, the story this morning, the effects of this storm are really being felt in the coastal areas, in those beach areas, in low-lying areas. But as far as for the majority of the population living in Manhattan, living in other areas of New York City which had been of such concern, it seems at this point if this is as -- or Jacqui Jeras had said, it's the worst of the rain we're going to see, this -- you wouldn't know this is a major storm necessarily in New York unless you'd been watching the news.

This looks like just a bad rainstorm. It's obviously, according to Jacqui, going to be lasting 12 hours. So, it's going to be a big inconvenience today. But there's no doubt folks are going to be coming out and walking around unless the winds pick up substantially.

It's just going to be an irritation, very different story, though, as we're seeing in a lot of these coastal areas. We're going to continue to check in with our correspondents all along the coastal areas. We'll be right back, our coverage continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And welcome back to our continuing coverage of hurricane Irene. We're going to get an update in a few minutes to see whether it's, in fact, still a hurricane or not. Certainly in New York City, it does not feel like one, probably just a strong tropical storm.

Rob Marciano is standing by in Long Beach where it is a different story. We're seeing high winds and a lot of effect on the water. Rob, what's it like right now?

We're obviously having problems with Rob. We'll try to check in with him coming up.

Our Elizabeth Cohen is standing by farther east from where I am. I'm around in Washington Square Park, that area of the village. Elizabeth Cohen is closer to the East River, in the one of the evacuation zones. Zone A, they call them one of the low-lying areas by the water. She's at the New York University Medical Center -- New York University Langone Medical Center, a hospital which has largely been evacuated -- although she's learned there's still a number of patients who were to sick to be moved.

Elizabeth, how many patients are actually still in the hospital?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: NYU folks tell us about that five or six patients are there and, Anderson, they say they are juts so critically ill, many of them on life support. The doctors got together and said you know what, if we move these people we could kill them. It is safer to have them weather the storm here at NYU.

And what is really so heroic, Anderson, is that about 15 to 20 doctors and nurses said, you know what, we're staying here to take care of those patients. We're not going anywhere either.

And I asked folks at NYU -- are these doctors and nurses nervous? I mean, they're practically on the East River, which will -- you know, could very likely overflow. And they said, no, you know what? They're really not. They said they're New Yorkers, they're tough. This is what they need to do.

COOPER: At what point would they know when it's OK to bring patients back? I mean, at what point would that decision be made? Because at least for now, in terms of rain, maybe the winds might pick up -- but in terms of rain, this is the worst there is. It's not as bad as I think some people anticipated.

COHEN: No, I spoke to them a few hours ago. And they said they hope to bring patients back tomorrow, that that's when they expect to bring them back. But maybe if this storm is tamer than anyone expected, maybe they will bring patients back earlier I don't know. But I know they are anxious to get those patients back, because as you can imagine, the hospitals they went to have patients of their own. So, I'm sure everyone is anxious for NYU to get their patients back.

COOPER: Yes. And, obviously, it's difficult for anyone to come visit loved ones in a hospital given the lack of the subway system, the subway shut down yesterday at 12:00, although there are right now, you can still see some taxis going around. And there were a lot of taxis out yesterday.

Rob Marciano, I think we made contact with Rob out of Long Beach.

Rob, how is it there?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I can finally hear you now. We've taken quite a beating the past couple of hours, Anderson. Our satellite truck had to be moved back away from the beach. The boardwalk has been taking some hits from the surf.

We're now approaching high tide. I'm not sure how much you can see. We're broadcasting via Internet by the way. Behind me is this boardwalk. And beyond that, are a series of 12 and 15-foot berms built up the past couple days in order to protect the town from getting an influx of water.

Also to protect the lifeguard headquarters of Long Beach -- which just in the last 20 minutes has been taken off its foundation and slammed into the boardwalk. The lifeguards and the police department have been out there to assess that situation. That is pinned right now against the board walk as the full force of the Atlantic Ocean is pounding the boardwalk here.

I just stepped back on to the board walk, then you get a sense for the winds here on the coastline. We've had winds gusting over 60 miles an hour. And that continues to be the case now with the center of the storm obviously off to my left. Probably about 50 or so miles making its way in this general direction.

Over a quarter of million people, Anderson, are without power in Long Island. Right now, the coastline for the most part lower shrubbery, fewer trees, obviously taking down less the way of power line.

But this water right now to my left has breached the berms, has come underneath the boardwalk and has made its way in to town. So, the first few blocks of Long Beach, Long Island, is seeing serious flooding and a flow rate of what looks to be rapids across the river that's flowing down National Boulevard and into the streets of Long Beach.

That's the situation behind me. (INAUDIBLE) at times snowing down. The surf here is so intense. We will se this surge continue not only for the next half hour and high tide will be within the hour, but because the winds will continue to be onshore, as the storm itself moves north of us, we're not going to see --

COOPER: I think we've lost our Rob Marciano. He was talking about how the winds and rain will be with us for a long time, the rain will be with us for as long as 12 hours. That's going to have a lot of affect, not just high tide now but over the next 12 hours.

Let's listen to our affiliate now WABC, see what they're seeing in the city.

WABC REPORTER: It's not bad. It's passable. But on any of the streets off of the main road, they go down very quickly and a lot of water really covering those waterways. You can't tell, people are driving right up to that water thinking they can make it through. They may have made it through a half hour ago but a half hour from now, it may not go that quickly.

People drove up just a few minutes ago to get coffee, told us they are now starting to see trees down. One guy said there was a tree on a car just a couple of blocks from here. So, the wind is starting to take its toll. But, mostly, again, it's the rain that's loosening the tree roots and just pulling the trees up -- Bill and Liz. WABC ANCHOR: We appreciate that.

We want to continue a whip-around with our reporters in the field because we are getting a sense that there is a sea change of atmosphere going on here as the hurricane approaches.

Jamie Roth is in Lower Manhattan where clearly the wind and the storm surge are coming aboard there.

WABC ANCHOR: Jamie, have you seen flooding yet so far?

WABC REPORTER: No flooding yet, Liz. But in just the last few minutes, the rain here has noticeably intensified. So, that we've seen.

We're starting to see high winds and the rain being pushed along the pavements by these winds. So, gusting winds, intensifying rains, possibly a new band coming through here. And the tide should be coming in in the near term.

We spoke with the arena manager here not too long ago. And his concern was that about three hours ago, the water was at the level it should be for high tide in a full moon. That was three hours before the tide was supposed to come in.

So, the water level is creeping up. It's not coming over the banks just yet. But of course, that's --

COOPER: That's our affiliate WABC, their coverage.

Let's check in with our own Jacqui Jeras in the weather center in Atlanta.

Jacqui, you have an update?

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, we got a big burst of thunderstorms that are going to be heading into New York City here, Anderson, very shortly. It looked OK where you are right now but it is coming, minutes away, heavy downpours as well as very strong winds. We could see 60 mile per hour gusts easy as it starts to push into your area.

There you can see it's moving up towards the upper bay, maybe 10, 15 minutes at the most from Lower Manhattan. This is moving up towards the north from the south. This could be the back side of that storm coming in.

And we are expecting those winds are going to be shifting on you as well. We've been seeing easterly wind, easterly wind, things will start shifting here very shortly and we're going to start to see that pull in from the west. So, it looks like we're getting the back side or second burst and second wave as the storm structure continues to kind of change and evolve as we speak.

So conditions are going to be getting worse once again in New York City. Also the other thing to keep in mind is that that storm surge is still very high right now. This is the worst of it in terms of high tide. High tide between 7:00 and 9:00 all along the New Jersey/New York shore and into New England.

And so, those waters are going to continue to stay high over the next couple of hours before they start to begin to move down. So, things getting nasty into the city once again, Anderson. Here you can see it. Yes, look at --

COOPER: So, you're saying --

JERAS: Go ahead.

COOPER: You're saying heavy thunderstorms in the next probably 15 or so minutes?

JERAS: Absolutely. Rain's going to come down heavy, your winds will be picking up, things could be strong enough they could be flying down the street and we could get more power outages with the next burst that pushes on through the city.

COOPER: Any idea of how long those kind of conditions last for?

JERAS: Well, it's starting to move pretty quick. I mean, look at how this thing is pushing up to the north quickly. I'm going to say this is going to be a good 30 minutes or more that this is going to be moving through your area, at least 30 minutes, Anderson.

COOPER: And at what point will we know if this is still a hurricane or whether it's now a tropical storm? Is that the 8:00 hour?

JERAS: Yes, 8:00 is the latest advisory that comes in. Sometimes, we sneak them in a little bit early and we'll get them as early as quarter till but we haven't seen it yet. So, as soon as we get that information, we'll pass it along to you. But, you know, I think we're going to be talking about a tropical storm status at this point.

COOPER: Yes. What is the difference in terms of -- the measurements between a tropical storm and a cat 1?

JERAS: Seventy-four miles per hour. That's the threshold. And that's for sustained winds. So, that's a three-minute average. I haven't seen hurricane force sustained winds for a really long time now.

In fact, I'm having a hard time finding hurricane force wind gusts. We've been seeing a couple 50, a couple 60-mile-per-hour wind gusts. But haven't seen anything on the lines of hurricane strength in the last number of hours, Anderson. So, this storm -- it's clearly weakening but it still has lots of threats.

It's this burst, this latest cluster of thunderstorms that's moving through that has me concerned, if people let down their guard and went outside, you better get your butt back indoors because things will get bad here in the next couple of minutes again. COOPER: Yes, it is remarkable how there's not that much wind in this area at least of Manhattan. We anticipated, you know, wind whipping through with these tall buildings around, even with the smaller buildings whipping down the streets. We haven't really seen that. But with these thunderstorms coming that could change quickly.

We'll continue to cover it.

Jacqui, appreciate it.

We're going to be right back as our coverage continues. You just heard from Jacqui, thunderstorms coming in the next 10 to 15 minutes. We anticipate wind picking up significantly. Actually instead of going to break, let's listen in to WABC where they are right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just looking at where the center is now, I'm not sure if it's going into New York city or Long Beach, which is the track of Gloria back in '85. But, yes, I mean, what Bill is talking about, you're going to get the 11:00 high tide in the sound and you're talking about water pouring back into places like Stanford, Westcott Grove and Greenwich. And then when the storm departs, you're going to get a crosswind that will come out of the northeast and pushes it into the north shore of Long Island.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And as the storm goes by, you were saying the wind is going to shift dramatically. So the trees that have been knocked one way are going to be knocked the other way?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you know, if you think -- you think the storm has passed us and said, OK, we made it and we didn't lose all our trees. Well, you know what? We have to go through the early evening hours with winds gusts that could be as strong or stronger behind the storm as it exits as we're seeing right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, what you're talking about several focal points of, you know, very bad damage, certainly the south shore of Long Island and Long Beach if it hits here. The north shore as it makes its way around at 11:00 and then the Fairfield County area of Connecticut into Westchester County.

UNIDENTIFEID MALE: Well, these storms -- a storm like this has a history of doing two things. You got the southeast wind comes in first and you get this type of surge at Long Beach. Then as the storm exits and goes into New England, you get a northwest wind and Manhattan can be flooded from the north by the Harlem River and by Western Long Island, as well as the north shore of Long Island.

Just to reach out to our viewers, if you're just joining us -- you're looking at a picture from Long Beach. What you saw was a lifeguard tower that's come loose and unhinged from its foundation and slammed into the boardwalk on Long Beach.

To our control room, if we have that tape of it happening just a few minutes ago when we were on television live and we saw it happen. For those of you who haven't seen it, we'd like to show it you again. But when we get that, just roll it, we'll take that. We have Bill Evans and Lee Goldberg along with Bill Ritter and Liz Cho here, watching the high tide start to happen on the south shore of Long Island. Here comes the tape.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here comes the video.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The tower coming loss and slamming into the board walk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was the lifeguard shack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A.J. Burkett was on the scene when it happened. He was barely holding on to a railing as you can see the wind blowing fiercely.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's 75 mile-an-hour winds there. With this video happened just about 20 minutes or so ago, and even within we switched back to the live pictures, you can see how much of the berm is now gone. It's just being eaten away so quickly by the surge that is coming ashore and al of that water rushing underneath the board walk there and flooding parts of Long Beach in that area.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How far inland it goes is still the big question. We saw in one of the shots, and John Lisoff (ph), our photographer, his truck now water seeping under the car there. At some point, John will break down and have to move that car because we don't want to lose that car.

But you can see there, the water going under the board walk and it may be one or two blocks in as we head north under the boardwalk. Those streets are now flooded.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Talk to us about the timing of the surge. We know it is approaching now. One the storm passes does the surge completely pass as well? And in terms of rivers, too, because those will still rise and they'll have to crest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're talking about a couple different areas here. One thing, I was going to refer to bill with this, I don't know if we can take the AccuTrack, because what I'm noticing is that, number one, you're seeing potentially that northern part of the circulation may have actually made landfall already right there in Long Beach. And then you see the western edge of the eye wall is right over New York City. So, I think that's what we're talking about, is we're looking at that area where that squall came over, we saw that in Staten Island and we've seen the surge come in.

So, now, that coastal surge has come in. And I saw that picture by the board walk. If we can go back to the live pictures in Long Beach, it looked like the wind has backed off there and you can see how the rain is diminishing as well. So, Bill, I wonder if we made the inroads with the coastal surge and now, we'll just have to assess how far it goes. But it may not push any more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think you're right. And, I think, you know, what you'll have here it's actually picked up speed now and it's probably moving at more or less 22, 23 miles per hour when it was at 13, 14 earlier this morning and up to 18. Now, it's quickly pushed north there.

So, you can see the red area there, the thunderstorms that were right there over Manhattan. That's another one of those spokes coming out of this. So, now, you're going to see the storm pushing into Nassau County and heading into Long Island sound.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have just not seen this in our lifetime. They want to put up the power outages because there are more than a million customers throughout the tri-state area. I know you have something else to say about this AccuTrack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Liz also mentioned the rivers. And I just wanted to mention that Rerton (ph) Bay, I mean, we'll know also the extent of the search --

COOPER: And we're back with our live coverage. We got correspondents all throughout the region. We're going to check in with our Ali Velshi. He's down South Street Seaport. And in a little bit, also Soledad O'Brien, John King out of Long Beach, Rob Marciano, folks throughout the region, Don Lemon is in Philadelphia for us.

We're going to take a quick. Our coverage continues in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Our Jacqui Jarvis told us just a short time ago, we anticipate thunderstorms, very probably in five to 10 minute here in New York, with an increase in heavy rains. We're also getting to get an advisory around the 8:00 hour, the top of the 8:00 hour whether or not this is still a hurricane.

Chances are it's now a tropical storm and we'll get the official word around 8:00. Let's check in with WABC right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Battery in Lower Manhattan, we're going to be keeping a close watch on that because once that -- if it does breach and if it comes high, the sea surge is going to make mess on the flooding situation down there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Bill Evan and Lee Berger (ph) on set with us. They are going over the 8:00 a.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Service about the latest on hurricane Irene. They're still going over that. We're going to take a quick break right now. As soon as we come back, we're going to check with them on the very latest on hurricane Irene.

We'll be right back.

COOPER: And our Ali Velshi is standing by now in the -- on Pier 17 by the South Street Seaport, which is on the East River in Manhattan.

Ali, how is it there?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, just like you said, Anderson, it just kicked up. It's gotten a lot rainier in a second.

Here is a storm sewer you were talking about. Let me give you a sense of what the flooding is like on pics. Look, it's almost up to my knee here, but it has look like it's been receding, until this last gust that we got. It looked like it was getting pretty issues.

As you know, Anderson, the issue is the electrical powers in Manhattan are underground. This is the Con Ed, the Consolidated Edison. This is the manhole here some, it looks like receded but we're about a foot from overflowing in that drain.

As you look down there, this is Lower Manhattan. There are some stores that had sandbag, not a particularly strong effort of doing so, but some of it.

But here's the more important part of the story, Anderson.

COOPER: No, it's Anderson, you're talking to.

VELSHI: -- and it's the east river. You have to take down through this alleyway to get to the East River.

When I first talked to you a couple of hours ago, it was about two feet from the top, and a little while ago it was a foot from the top and now we're getting much, much closer. It should be high tide about right now. So , this is as high as it should get if it were a normal day and we weren't looking at extra rain.

Take a look at high how the East River is. See it? It's coming right over the edge here. It's not fully up to the top. It's only when you get a wave or gust of wind.

But, Emmanuel, just take a look over. There's your East River. We're looking for this. If this gets any higher, this thing is going to top its banks. You can take a look at it -- almost there now, probably a foot and a half higher than where I first saw this when I got here.

And over to the right, over there is Pier 17, that's the South Street Seaport. You can see the buildings and the towers of Manhattan, power is on everywhere around. I can see across Brooklyn, and it's very foggy, I can still see power, I can't see enough if it's all there.

Brooklyn Bridge is there. There's no traffic other than emergency vehicles here, or in the Manhattan and here's why local tree that gives me some sense of the winds. It's picked up in the last few minutes, Anderson, but not serious yet.