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Irene Has Begun March Across New England

Aired August 28, 2011 - 12:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, HOST, "STATE OF THE UNION": Irene has begun its march across New England, now as a tropical storm, but still dangerous.

This is a special edition of "STATE OF THE UNION."

I'm Candy Crowley, in Washington, where we are left with strong winds. Basically, at this point, no real visible damage here in the city except for -- look at those flags. Enough wind last night to rip hem them to shreds. They've replaced the one in the foreground and will replace the others as we go along.

Here's what we know right now about the rest of the Eastern Seaboard.

Irene has been downgraded to a tropical storm, with wind gusts at 60 miles per hour. Over three million homes in nine states without power. At least 12 people have died, including one in Connecticut.

During this hour, we will hear from our correspondents who have been covering the storm. We're also standing by for a news conference with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

But we begin with Gary Tuchman in Rhode Island.

Gary, it seems to be headed there. I talked to you this morning and it looked beautiful. Where are we now?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's not beautiful, Candy, but I will tell you, it's a lot better than it was an hour ago.

The fear and the trepidation here is being replaced by relief, because the worst appears to have passed Newport, Rhode Island. This is a very vulnerable place because the beaches in Newport -- first of all, Newport is on an island, and Newport's beaches face to the south. So there's a lot of concern. When they get nor'easters, they get tremendous flooding.

What we have now is power out here and throughout much of Rhode Island -- more than 100,000 customers are without power. There's some minor flooding.

You can see down the street here. This is Thames (ph) Street in downtown Newport. There are emergencies. There's a fire truck, but a minor emergency. But nothing major. I think what's really interesting is talking about the hotels and the inns here, the 25,000 people who live here year round, 100,000 tourists though are here this very busy summer weekend. This is an example over here of one of the inns.

There are so many beautiful bed and breakfasts and mansions here. This is the Admiral Fitzroy Inn. The reason I mention the name of it, it's very ironic. Admiral Fitzroy was a British admiral in the late 18th century and early 19th century, and he was one of the founders of modern meteorology.

He invented the barometer. So we think it's very ironic that we're standing in front of this particular inn, which is mostly empty because of Irene. But fortunately, like much of the East Coast -- not all of the east coast, but much of the East Coast -- it's not as bad as people thought it would be -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Thanks, Gary Tuchman.

We want to go directly now to Governor Lincoln Chafee.

Governor, thanks so much for joining us. It looks as though things may not be that bad in your state. Give me an update.

GOV. LINCOLN CHAFEE (R), RHODE ISLAND: Yes. It's not that bad. Strong tropical winds, with lots of tree damage and road blockages. And as you said earlier, 100,000 people without power. So that's the challenge we're dealing with right now.

CROWLEY: And so, Governor, we are hearing a lot now about swollen streams and about flooding. What is the water damage situation in your state? Do you have a handle on that?

CHAFEE: We've been very fortunate. The tidal surge so far has not caused any kind of massive damage. We're in pretty good shape.

CROWLEY: And in the end, I think what everybody braced for was what they called the worst, and I think you may have gotten the best of this.

Does this mean that you sort of are now on standby? Have you gone over the hump on this, as it were?

CHAFEE: I wouldn't think so yet. I think we'll get through the afternoon before we'll think about being over the hump. And certainly very, very strong winds here and lots of tree damage, and that's -- still, we have to deal with that.

CROWLEY: And what about -- I know there's always erosion problems, especially when you get these huge waves and all of this wind. Is that a concern there?

CHAFEE: Yes. I think in the end, that might be one of our major long-term issues to deal with, the erosion of our coastal beaches.

I am right now down at Galilee while we speak, and just trying to assess. But with the tide so high and the water is high, it's kind of hard to assess exactly what will happen. But the wind is very, very strong here.

CROWLEY: I know it's early, and a lot of governors are looking at this. But, you know, this is a good time for tourism in your state, I know. There were businesses that had to shut down. Is this costly for you at a particularly bad time in the state?

CHAFEE: No. I think no cost is a good one, but it could have been so much worse, at down here at Galilee, our fishing port, and just assessing the fishing boats. They all rode out the storm so far very, very well. It's a big part of our industry. So I'm counting the lucky side of it. I know that Irene could have been much worse.

CROWLEY: And so when you look at -- did you have to evacuate anyone?

CHAFEE: There were some evacuations toward the shelters. Sparse attendance at the shelters, but some people were happy to get out of their houses and go to the shelter.

CROWLEY: And so when do you look for an all-clear? When can folks begin to go back? Have you seen any -- it doesn't sound like from your first answer that you've seen much damage.

CHAFEE: Right now the car that I'm in right now talking to you is shaking with the wind. So I would say late afternoon. I'm in one of these SUV cars, and it's shaking. The wind is strong. I would say late afternoon.

CROWLEY: So late afternoon today you think you might be able to give the all-clear for people to go back?

CHAFEE: Yes. That's what I would assume.

CROWLEY: And I missed the top weather forecast out of our last hour, and you mentioned the winds. Is that your biggest problem right now that you see?

CHAFEE: Yes, absolutely. We're on the eastern side of the storm, so the rain hasn't been that bad. No flooding really in our rivers. It's just high winds with tree damage, and road blockages and power outages.

CROWLEY: Thank you so much, Governor Lincoln Chafee. It sounds like you all really lucked out on this one. I appreciate your time today.

CHAFEE: Thank you very much. We'll wait until late afternoon to really see how we get through it.

CROWLEY: OK. Thanks so much.

We want to go now to -- back to New York and to Anderson Cooper.

Anderson, it sounds like Rhode Island kind of breezed through this, if you'll pardon the pun. And it even looks as though -- I remember listening to you earlier -- that while there are problems in New York, that whole worst-case scenario thing did not happen, for which we're grateful.

COOPER: Yes, that's for sure. And I think there's a lot of people breathing a sigh relief and probably frustration that they're still in their homes and wanting to come out. I think a lot of people have already started to walk around on the streets.

You know, we're in Battery Park, which was really considered one of the most vulnerable areas. This was part of the evacuation zone, so a number of people did leave their homes. But the area did not lose power at any point.

There was flooding here, but the waters have pretty much completely receded now. And now it's basically -- I mean, the sun even was poking out here, which was kind of surreal, because none of us anticipated actually seeing the sun today.

We had heard about 12 hours of rain, 20 hours of rain, and the rain has completely stopped. There was some misting off the water, but even that has stopped.

And so you still get some wind gusts, some breeze, but it's actually quite pleasant. I mean, everybody started taking off their rain jackets, and we're all just kind of drying out right now and hoping that this thing is pretty much done.

CROWLEY: Anderson Cooper.

It looks like it's pretty much done from there.

And I want to check with an expert now. We want to go to Bill Read, who is director of NOAA's National Hurricane Center.

Mr. Read, we're getting some awfully nice reports from New York, as well as Rhode Island. In what area should we be pointing our attention? Where is the concern right now?

BILL READ, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Well, I think the biggest concern now that it's gone inland is the heavy rain, flash flooding and river flooding that will occur inland across New England and extreme eastern New York State. Still some concern with the west- southwest wind as the low goes further in, that it might push some tidal flooding up Buzzard's Bay, some of the areas on Rhode Island on Narragansett Bay. They're subject to flooding with a wind direction like that, but that will be the with the evening high tide this evening.

You in the New York area, it's dealing with the runoff and whatnot of the rain in there now, but the adverse weather is gone and it should be improving steadily, as you've noticed, through the day.

CROWLEY: So it's still -- Irene is still a tropical storm, however, right? Is she -- what is happening to what we once called tropical storm? (AUDIO GAP)

READ: -- up the wind field. The rain area will be still existent. The circulation will be existent. And eventually it will exit out into Canada and merge with a frontal system, and move into the Atlantic as Mid-Atlantic type storm and not have any tropical characteristics at all.

There's still a lot of tropical moisture in this, so the rain aspects of it are going to act more like the tropical system than a frontal system.

CROWLEY: Mr. Read, hang on for a minute with me while I bring in our meteorologist at CNN, Chad Myers, because I know he wants to talk to you, as well.

But Chad, I know listening to you that it is the same -- you have the same concerns. It's those swollen streams and those flash floods. Where is that happening the most, so far as you can tell?


CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: And what I'd like to ask Bill is, this storm had so much potential pressure-wise, Bill. It had the pressure of a Category 3 hurricane the entire time, yet the winds could never get down to the surface.

Can, you explain that to our viewers?

READ: Not totally. That's one of the aspects of forecasting on the intensity. It never developed a nice, tight, solid eyewall feature.

You'll remember Hurricane Ike from several years ago, when it crossed the Gulf of Mexico, we had a very similar situation where we had very low pressure in the center, but had trouble. The storm just didn't want to get a solid eyewall feature and a consolidation of the wind near the center. So the winds were spread out on it, and the winds were spread out on this one, and fortunately, the winds were not as high as it came up the Northeast as it was in Ike, or we would have had even worse problems than we're seeing now.

MYERS: Candy.

CROWLEY: Mr. Read, let me just ask you a question sort of along the lines of what Chad just said, which is it seemed to me, though, that while the winds never kind of lived up to the reputation, that you always sort of had the direction of this right.

READ: Yes. We were -- well, we'll go back and analyze the actual numbers on it, but the track forecast skill has improved greatly over the last 20 years or so. We have less than half the error we had 20 years ago.

And if you'll recall Hurricane Floyd in 1999, it actually followed a fairly similar path and was a major hurricane in the Bahamas. And we ended up evacuating people from Florida to South Carolina, well to the west of where it actually went, because we had the uncertainty.

Now we still have some of those same uncertainties when it comes to intensity. We cannot be real precise on the intensity downstream, and we have to deal with that in the uncertainty mode more than we do with the track these days.

CROWLEY: Bill Read, director of the National Hurricane Center.

Thank you so much for yeoman's work. I understand you may be getting a break here pretty quick, so thank you so much for your time as always.

Chad Myers, we will be back with you later, and thank you.

We will be back right after this break.


CROWLEY: Welcome back to this special edition of "STATE OF THE UNION," our hurricane version.

Let me tell you what you're looking at here.

Running right to left across your screen is the New Jersey Turnpike. Running beneath it, that's the Jersey Transit line. This is why the trains are not running.

The Transit line flooded out at this point. How long that takes to clear up, how long before those trains run again, at this point it's apparently anybody's guess. It's what officials in all these states along the Eastern Seaboard are doing right now, is looking at their transit, looking at the damage.

In New York, they clearly have lots of problems. They stopped the subway system. They stopped all forms of transit in New York, and now you can see why.

Now, New Jersey, in fact, has this problem with its Transit line. So, at some point, people have to figure out when again people can get moving.


CROWLEY: Of course, every state, so many of them declaring states of emergencies as Irene worked her way up first as a hurricane, and then as a tropical storm. One of the hardest hit, New Jersey.

And just a short time ago, Governor Chris Christie held a news conference to give the state of play in that state.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: All right. Good afternoon. The good news is the storm has been downgraded to a tropical storm, and the damage is not as severe as it was initially expected. The fact that we were successful in evacuating over a million people from the most affected areas was a preemptive measure that I am confident saved lives.

Unfortunately, we have had two fatalities in the state. A woman in Salem County was trapped in her car when she came upon a flooded road. And we've learned that a firefighter has succumbed to his injuries from an attempted swift-water rescue that took place in Princeton.

We send out our condolences to both of the families of these folks and mourn their loss. They will be in our thoughts and our prayers.

So, in order to make sure New Jerseyans stay safe, I cannot urge people strongly enough -- or maybe I can -- stay inside. Please stay inside. Stay home today. Don't get out on the road today unless you absolutely have to. We're still experiencing winds of 45 miles an hour that can cause, because of the wet grounds, fallen trees and other issues on the roadway regarding flooding.

So let's talk first about road and travel.

NJDOT and their sister agencies at Transit and Turnpike and South Jersey Transportation Authority are fully mobilized and engaged in post-storm operations statewide. About 300 different road closures or obstructions currently exist across the state, and we're working to post signs where the roads are closed due to flooding or downed wires or downed trees or other obstructions.

The good news is the turnpike and the bridges are clear, so we have the ability to get equipment where we need to get it. Crews are pushing aside and removing debris from roadways where it's safe to do so. Transportation maintenance crews are coordinating with BPU and the utility companies in areas that involve downed wires in order to have them take care of the wires first before we go in.

On the parkway, as of 1:00 p.m. today, we are reopening the parkway southbound, south of Exit 98. However, the one exception, from mile marker 91 to 98 there is a closure in both directions because of extreme flooding. So we have detours set up, but you should expect congestion and delays in the area as you go because of the flooding situation. As of 6:00 a.m. tomorrow morning, tolls will be reinstated on the Atlantic City Expressway and on the Garden State Parkway in both directions south of the Driscoll Bridge.

Regarding NJ Transit, crews have become a system-wide inspection of the rail infrastructure. Once those inspections are complete, we'll begin to prepare service plans for tomorrow.

All three light rail systems -- Hudson/Bergen River Line and North Light Rail -- are undergoing inspections. No issues to report at this time, but the weekend schedule and Saturday schedule will be in place for Monday. In terms of buses, crews are inspecting equipment and facilities and preparing bus service plans for a Monday startup.

The real issue that we're going to have to deal with now is flooding. This storm is transitioning into a flooding event. We're going to experience major flooding. Some rivers haven't crested yet, and it's still raining in various parts of the state.

We are prepared for what this means for shelter, transportation infrastructure, and our positions with our urban search and rescue and are coordinating with our local OEMs. In addition, I just finished a cabinet meeting at 11:00 here at the rock (AUDIO GAP) is here. I see the attorney general is here as well. And the rest of the cabinet was on the phone to continue to work with them to make sure that we're ready for the next two days, which is going to become a major flooding incident.

Right now there are 212 high-hazard dams, most of which are privately owned, so DEP is reaching out to those owners for re- inspection. The three dams we're most concerned about, DEP already has engineers on the way.

First, the Lake Solitude Dam in High Bridge, Hunterdon County. The downstream town of High Bridge has been evacuated. Ewan (ph) Dam in Cherry Hill, Camden County, there have been some evacuations. And the Lake Neepaulin Dam in Wantage in Sussex County, no evacuations are required.

Next, the Pompton Lake Dam. As you know, we opened the floodgates manually on Friday to lower the lake in advance of the storm. The gates are close to going back to their automatic operation.

The Ramapo River continues to rise rapidly. In fact, the reports that we have now regarding the Ramapo River at the Pompton Lake Dam is that it will get up to 19.2 feet. To give you perspective, this is an all-time record. The previous record was 18 feet in 1984.

So we'll be a full 1.2 feet above the previous record. So we are going to have significant flooding in the area of the Pompton Lake Dam.

CROWLEY: That, again, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey. Just some bullet points wrapping him up.

First of all, there were no problems reported at any of New Jersey's nuclear power plants. That's the good news. The worst is over.

Also good news, all according to Governor Christie, it was not as bad as they thought it might be. As for the bad news, water, water everywhere.

There are flash floods going on from those swollen creeks and rivers. In fact, two of the most recent deaths in New Jersey had to do with a motorist in a flash flood, also had to do with a rescue worker who went to try and get someone who was the victim of a flash flood. So be careful of that.

But all in all, fairly good news out of New Jersey. The biggest headline being absolutely no problems with the nuclear reactors in New Jersey.

We are at this point standing by for a similar news conference. This time from the mayor of New York.

We will be right back after this break.


CROWLEY: Look-y here, Irene is a thing of the past for New York City, which, of course, still has some flooded streets and some digging out to do. But that's the skyline, a pretty day, and that is the Hudson River, looking up the Hudson River, which not that long ago looked pretty threatening. Right now it looks like New York City on an overcast day.

We want to bring in our Rob Marciano, who was in Long Beach for us throughout most of this morning, and I think into the wee hours -- started in the wee hours of last night.

Rob, kind of walk us through the progression of this storm.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I'll tell you what, doesn't look like much now, but during the thick of it, the early morning hours, the overnight hours, as you mentioned, there was a six-to eight-hour stretch there where it was really, really hairy and the Atlantic Ocean looked like it might take over this entire boardwalk, including the town of Long Beach.

But now obviously a whole different scenario. You have got people walking around on the beach with their shorts, bathing suits, and bare feet, like it's not a problem at all.

So what we've heard from a lot of these residents is, you know, it wasn't that bad. There's spotty power outages. We had a tremendous amount of street flooding from a storm surge that, by the way, we had our truck parked right over here and we're a little bit tied to this Internet connection.

But our satellite truck basically got flooded. We had to move it. That's how bad the storm surge was. It was worse than I had expected. And I feel bad about that, so we had to move the satellite truck.

Once the eye or the circulation center of this thing moved onshore just to our west, boy, the whole thing just fell apart. It wasn't one of these deals where you get a huge strong hurricane and a backside just as bad as the front side or even worse.

The backside of this thing had a lot of dry air into it and weakened fairly rapidly. So that's why we're enjoying a fairly tranquil afternoon. Surf though still rough. We're at low tide now. The thing came onshore right at high tide, and it's not just any old high tide, this is astronomical high tide. We're in the middle of a New Moon. So tides already are a couple feet above average.

And that siren right there that you're hearing, that's the first siren we've heard since the start of this storm. Normally even in a mundane storm or a winter storm you would hear the emergency vehicles going up overnight. I've talked to police, I've talked to the fire department. I've talked to the emergency managers here at Nassau County, and at least in this area they don't have a whole lot to report.

So that part of it, Candy, they're happy about the storm. But the people who are without power, the people who have trees down in their neighborhoods, and the people that are by swollen creeks and having their areas flooded, they're not terribly excited.

But overall it seems in this area it could have been a lot worse and it looked a lot worse five hours ago.

CROWLEY: Yes. Certainly where you are it looks a heck of a lot better than when I last talked to you. Thanks so much, Rob Marciano.

We want to move on to something that will interest all of you out there I think. Joining me now, Thomas Hendricks, senior vice president of safety, security, and operations for the Air Transport Association.

And so on behalf of all those watching, when are the planes going to start flying again out of New York, out of Washington, out of Philadelphia?

TOM HENDRICKS, SVP OF SAFETY, SECURITY, & OPERATIONS, AIR TRANSPORT ASSOCIATION: Thanks, Candy. Appreciate the opportunity to talk today. Right now we've been in very close collaboration with the FAA and the TSA through the FAA's air traffic control system command center out in Warrenton, Virginia.

We're speaking with our airlines right now. You've seen in the Washington area airports us start to begin operation. So once we saw the storm move through the area, we very rapidly started to assess the situation on the ground and move crews and aircraft back in so they get the system back up to speed as quickly as possible. We'll go through a similar process...

CROWLEY: Let me just...


CROWLEY: So you have flown aircraft. You obviously took aircraft out of harm's way. You have started to fly empty aircraft or maybe you have folks, I'm not sure, back into Washington, D.C., to start flying out again.

HENDRICKS: We are starting to fly aircraft into all the Washington airports right now. It will be a process over the next 24 hours before we're able to get our schedule up to where it needs to be to accommodate some of the backload.

But we're going through a similar situation in the New York airports right now as well. They've moved aircraft out. We'll go in after the storm passes with the Port Authority and with their own personnel and assess the situation on the ground and then start moving crews and aircraft back in so we can get the flying schedule back up to where it needs to be as quickly as possible.

CROWLEY: So obviously the airport authorities decide whether to close the airports or not, and so they have to make sure everything's safe and there's no flooding on the runways, et cetera, et cetera. Then you'll have to get your planes back into these various airports along the East Coast.

Now, how does that -- I mean, do you expect to start flying out again and in again within 24 hours? Or do you mean it will take 24 hours before there's any activity involving passengers?

HENDRICKS: No. I spoke with the operations chiefs at JetBlue, United, and Delta this morning up in New York. They're expecting to begin some limited flight operations late morning, perhaps early afternoon tomorrow.

We're experiencing some flooding at the Newark Liberty Airport right now. We need to work through that. But once we start the flying schedule, we'd like to get back up to speed as quickly as possible.

Of course, we need to make sure that our employees at those stations are well and they are able to go support the operation for us.

CROWLEY: Right. You need the folks to run the airlines.


CROWLEY: So how does this work? And I think -- let me just say part of it that I think I know, and that is that if you've got a ticket for Tuesday morning out of LaGuardia and that plane is flying, you're the first person that gets to get on that plane.

But you have got this backlog of people trying to get out. So do you bring in extra planes or do you just kinds of fill in where you can?

HENDRICKS: So it depends. There's not a lot of extra inventory of aircraft out there. There are a few operational spares, and I say "a few," a handful that each airline maintains. So it will take a few days to go through this backlog. We just recommend that all of our customers check the carrier Web sites and social media for the latest update on their particular flights.

It will take us there few days to work through this.

CROWLEY: So does the person who had a flight for today out of Reagan or LaGuardia or wherever, that person has to do what? Make a new reservation? I mean, they can just assume that they've got to start from scratch?

HENDRICKS: Well, different airlines have different systems. Many airlines have automatic systems that re-accommodate passengers on the first available flight afterwards. Again, the latest updated information for all of the airlines are on their individual Web sites or on social media, and we recommend that passengers start there before they contact the airlines in other ways.

CROWLEY: Right. But the people that had the ticket on the existing flight, if it does take off, are the first priority. So if you have a ticket for Wednesday, you don't get bumped for a guy that had a ticket on Saturday.

HENDRICKS: Right. In general, that's the case. Airlines have their own individual policies on these things, but in general, yes, if you've got a flight that leaves later in the week, you should be fine.

CROWLEY: This is going to be a crazy time. We're going to have a lot of hassled passengers at this point and need a lot of patience, I know. But does there -- is there a way that you can tell how long it will take to clear the backlog?

HENDRICKS: Well, the airlines have developed very sophisticated operational control centers these last 20 years. When I was flying 20 years ago, we didn't have such systems. So now it's a very sophisticated system of managing the inventory, passengers, matching that with the capability of the lift on the aircraft.

So this is smaller than we had for the winter storms. We canceled upwards of 50,000 flights this past winter during the big snowstorm event. We're about 20 percent of that right now. So it's going to take three to four days to clear out this inventory, to get the system back running. The airlines' one...

CROWLEY: You mean passengers that haven't been able to get out.

HENDRICKS: I do, sure.

CROWLEY: OK. I just wanted people to know what you were talking about. So it will take you three or four days for passengers who have missed their flights because of this storm to actually get where they were going if indeed they still want the flight.

HENDRICKS: Sure. And that's a general statement, Candy. It could take less depending on what market we're serving. Certainly the European flights and Asian flights out of JFK are going to be very impacted and may take a while to work through these.

But the availability inventory of spare aircraft is not particularly great as we take down the schedule after the summer flying season, which we're in the middle of doing right now.

CROWLEY: OK. Do you have a ballpark on how much this all costs?


CROWLEY: You lost a lot of business.

HENDRICKS: Absolutely. But the airlines are very good with this. We've made big investments and been able to cope with this. We want to make sure we get the word out to our customers as quickly as possible so that they don't arrive at the airport and we don't meet their expectations. So we want to communicate as quickly and as aggressively as we can with our passengers so they don't have -- we can limit the experience that they have.

CROWLEY: Do not show up for your flight unless you have a ticket for that specific flight.

HENDRICKS: Right. Absolutely.

CROWLEY: All right. Thank you so much, Tom Hendricks, senior vice president of safety, security, and operations for the Air Transport Association.

HENDRICKS: Thank you.

CROWLEY: Got that right. Thank you so much.


CROWLEY: We'll be right back after this break.


CROWLEY: That's Nags Head, North Carolina, one of the piers there, several of them actually destroyed in the storm. And that's Nags Head this morning after the storm had passed. It gives you a pretty good idea that even after the storm has passed there are still problems. Those are -- that's quite a surf. I want to bring in David Mattingly, our CNN reporter, he's in Nags Head.

You know, David, we do have a tendency to go, oh, well, storm is over, at ease, everybody back to work. It's not quite that easy.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We do have a lot of sunshine today and a gentle breeze. It's a beautiful day to go to the beach except for all the hurricane damage that's still laying around that needs to be cleaned up.

And one of the more vulnerable parts of the Outer Banks, Hatteras Island, right now there are residents there who are stranded because there were waves over-washing the dunes and onto the highway. So the highway was cut off by waves and water, sand, and now officials are trying to assess that kind of damage to figure out how long it's going to take to fix it, if it's going to be an easy fix or if they're have to come in and rebuild a road.

In the meantime, there's about 2,500 people on that island. They depend on those roads to get in and out. And they chose to ignore the mandatory evacuation orders. And when that happens, they were warned that you're going to need at least three days' worth of food and water to keep yourself supplied just in the event if something like this happens.

So right now officials are looking to see just how badly damaged that road is and how soon they might be able to make that island accessible again. Right now we have got 2,500 people who are living on an island all to themselves.

CROWLEY: Which in better times would sound sort of good, but the fact of the matter is they are stranded and you have to wonder if three days' worth of supplies is enough. Do you have any idea how many people did heed the evacuation order, which is basically how many people are permanent on that island?

MATTINGLY: No solid numbers, but officials were pleased with the response they got to the mandatory evacuation orders. Hatteras is a pretty big place, 2,500 people, probably wouldn't be unusual to see that many staying there through any sort of tropical storm or hurricane that's coming through.

They had this problem once before with Isabel, and people still talk about that. They were prepared for another hurricane coming through. They had plenty of warning this time. These are seasoned veterans, people who know what hurricanes are like and they know how to prepare for them.

Officials say that if the roads are going to be impassable for a while, they will be able to have a ferry system going by Monday to allow supplies to come in and out and people to come in and out if needed.

So, again, this is something that they live with, it's part of their DNA out here. And they are already putting plans into motion that they had in place just in case something like this happened.

CROWLEY: Right. So they won't even be stranded for three days, because Monday, as we all know, is tomorrow, if they can get a ferry in there with supplies or take people out.

David Mattingly, at Nags Head, North Carolina, today, thanks so much.

We want to now move -- I think we're going to take a -- we're going to take a break, but when we come back, we're going to move little bit north and find out what happened in the wake of Irene in Virginia with the governor there. We'll be right back.


CROWLEY: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION's special coverage of onetime Hurricane Irene, then Tropical Storm Irene, as she moves north and out of the country. Joining me over the phone, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.

I want to remind our viewers first that we are standing by for a news conference from Mayor Bloomberg of New York to get a status look at what's going on there. But for the moment, we want to check in with Virginia, because I know, Governor, you and I talked before the storm came. You had a lot of things you were worried about. I'm reminded of, I think it was a Mark Twain statement that I've been through a lot of terrible things in my life, and some of them actually happened.

Sounds a little bit like -- maybe it wasn't as bad as we thought it might be.

GOV. ROBERT MCDONNELL (R), VIRGINIA: Candy, thanks for having me on again. We prepared for the worst but came out a little better than expected. Unfortunately now four fatalities have been confirmed, preliminary damage estimates are coming in.

We've got some significant damage in some other areas, some areas from flooding, from winds a lot of trees down, 2.5 million people or more without power in Virginia. It's the second-largest outage in history. And still some rivers hitting flood stage in a couple of areas there.

The storm surge is almost record, and so we're still looking at some of the low-lying areas in Hampton Roads. But overall with the winds being down from what we had predicted, the damage doesn't appear from initial estimates to be as bad as we might have anticipated.

CROWLEY: Yes. Four deaths, 2.5 million without power. That's still a pretty darn horrible storm, that's for sure. I wanted to ask you like where you are now. I know you're doing damage assessment. Do you have -- you're looking at the preliminaries. Can you give us a guesstimate?

MCDONNELL: Well, certainly not on dollars. Our big issue today is just trying to keep people safe. We're going out and looking out in some of those low-lying areas, National Guard, police, and others to make sure that everybody is safe, removing debris from roadways.

One big caution, Candy, right now, for everybody, is we've learned from previous storms that half of the deaths occurred after the storm had passed, people going out and touching power lines or exerting themselves physically and having heart attacks or other things like that.

So caution is still the word today. We ask for patience also. It's going to be days or more before all the power is restored. We still have the potential for fresh water outages because some of the failures of pumps and some of the pump stations.

So we're working as hard as we can, local government is doing a great job leading. FEMA is here. It's a good team effort, but there is going to still be days of recovery.

CROWLEY: And, Governor, tell me about your beaches. I was a little amazed to learn during the commercial break that you've got them open.

MCDONNELL: I spoke to the mayor of Virginia Beach this morning. The beaches reopened at noon. Most of the hotels are back open. Some of the major rental companies are delaying rentals until tomorrow. We asked them to check with their local hotels and rental companies.

But Virginia Beach, I have to say, had less rainfall and actually less winds in some people 50, 60 miles inland where we had 70-to 80- mile-an-hour winds and 14 or 15 inches of rain. So they fared reasonably well.

But, again, we're still doing assessments. And now that everything is open, we ask people to come on down and enjoy Virginia Beach.

CROWLEY: Wow. What a difference 24 hours makes. When you look at the road ahead in terms of what you have to do, I'm assuming power is first on the list. After that, what most concerns you about something you've got to get done?

MCDONNELL: Well, we've got two days where several rivers, the Blackwater, Nottaway River in the south Hampton Roads are still cresting and will hit flood stage of either moderate or major flooding. We're obviously concerned about what we're still going to find today. There's some remote possibilities of gas and water outages because of these storm impacts.

And -- but overall we are getting crews out there to open the roads. All the bridge tunnels are open in Hampton Roads, which were closed during the storm. Water has been pumped out.

But the biggest issue is people just staying posted on what's going on. We still have some select curfews. We still have a couple of areas where people can't get back into yet. And we still have about 45 major roads you can't pass and people need to know what those are.

They can call 211 for emergency, 911 -- excuse me, 211 for non- emergency, 911 for emergencies to find out everything that's going on.

CROWLEY: Thank you so much, Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia. Good luck to you as the cleanup begins.

CNN will return right after this. We are awaiting Mayor Bloomberg of New York.