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California Wildfires Leads to Thousands of Evacuations; Interview with Rep. Nancy Pelosi; Interview with Rudy Giuliani; WHO Says Threat of MERS Significantly Increased

Aired May 14, 2014 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Jake, thanks very much.

Happening now, raging wildfires. Thousands of people are forced to flee. Homes and schools, they are threatened as hot dry so-called devil winds fan new blazes in the San Diego area. We're going there live.

Virus alert. Hundreds may have been exposed to the potentially fatal virus while flying on planes within the United States. So how far and fast can it spread? Information you need to know.

And backlash from a shocking political attack. I'll speak live to the House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, and the former New York City major, Rudy Giuliani. They're both here right now.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Let's get to the breaking news. A fast-moving, extremely dangerous wildfire scorching right now through Carlsbad, California. That's just north of San Diego. More than 11,000 people -- 11,000 people -- already have been told to evacuate their homes, including entire schools where students were rushed to safety. Multiple homes are going up in flames. We've seen firefighters forced to give up their battle, pull back from the burning homes. And this is one of at least three major fires burning in that area right now.

CNN's Paul Vercammen is on the fire line for us. Our meteorologist, Jennifer Gray, is tracking the extreme conditions fueling the blaze. Let's begin with Paul in Carlsbad. Paul, tell our viewers what you're seeing. What's going on right now?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right now, Wolf, I am at the southeastern flank of this fire where it's actively burning, and they're trying go ahead and get hold of it. It is so utterly smoky in here, you can't really tell what's going on.

But let me tell you: when my camera man, Sy Keenas (ph), pushes in through this smoke, there's a house off in the distance. And you can also see the faint outline just over there of a fire truck. What they've done is they're getting hose in there, and they're trying to squirt all around this area as this fire rages through Carlsbad, California.

Nearby, LEGOLAND has been evacuated, several schools. We also know, as you said before, that 11,000 people have been evacuated. That we have seen so far.

This is from ground zero looking out. We only noticed that one house had burned down. But they're having a tough time in trying to contain all this flaming that started whipping around in different areas.

And as you know, the western drought, a big player in all of this. The brush, the vegetation, just so dry that it makes it even more vulnerable to the spread of flames.

I was talking to some people at the National Information Fire Center earlier today. And guess where ground zero is for them? The state that they are most worried about is almost all of California and almost all of Oregon this season. They're also worried about parts of Nevada.

And this is unusually early in the fire season. To see three big fires like this getting whipped up in San Diego County in May. So they've got quite a fight that they're going to try to put on right now. And as we said, it's burning on several different flanks. This was one of the worst of them. You can't tell. You don't see the flames, Wolf, because the smoke is just so utterly oppressive where we're standing.

Right now back to you.

BLITZER: The smoke and that fire, that looks awful.

I want to show our viewers, Paul. Stick with me, Paul. I want to show what you went through just a few minutes ago. Watch this.




BLITZER: Paul, let's talk a little bit about this. There's these videos. Obviously, very dramatic. Tell us what we're seeing.

VERCAMMEN: Well, you're looking at another fire that broke out in San Diego County. You had said three. There was a fourth that broke out near Camp Pendleton. It's so dry this started with a truck fire, and then that spread into the nearby hillside. And because of these conditions -- and I know you were talking about these devil winds, these demonic winds. They started whipping that up. And that's what's really driving these fires right now, is the wind. It's not so bad.

There is one little silver lining in all this gray smoke. It's not so bad that they can't get up helicopters. They have been able to make some water drops. But you've got too many different flanks of this blaze, and too many blazes in San Diego County in general for them to hit one fire with everything they've got. They've got to kind of spread the resources.

I will add, though, that we know of, just one house destroyed so far. And something that's playing a big factor that you might not think of. West Coasters know all about it. Dip down here.

These are fire-retardant plants. There's a lot of this around here. An ice plant. And that does allow them to defend fires.

And of course, the other thing is, you've got plenty of asphalt sidewalk. And as the law is in most neighborhoods -- you can go ahead and show over here.

These houses are all stucco, and they all have composite tile roofs. That's important, because not only do these fires spread through the active flanks of flames. You can come back over here. I think we can show you what the big danger is. It's the embers that start floating through the air. They can be carried in big fires miles and miles, and we're not seeing any exactly on camera right now. But these embers go up. They land on a roof. They land on a house. And that's how these fires hopscotch around. We haven't seen it happen yet. And let's cross our fingers and hope that doesn't happen, Wolf.

BLITZER: Whole neighborhoods have been evacuated; schools, as well.

Stand by, Paul. Extreme temperatures. Strong winds certainly fueling the flames. Let's bring in our meteorologist, Jennifer Gray. Jennifer, these are some of the worst conditions possible for this kind of disaster. Explain to our viewers what is happening in Southern California and throughout the state moving north right now.

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, it's unprecedented, Wolf. We've had record-breaking temperatures. We've had very low humidity. We have had very strong Santa Ana winds.

Just about 10 minutes ago, the temperature in Carlsbad, California, 100 degrees. It has dropped about ten degrees within the past hour. The winds shifted a little bit, so that's good news. Temperatures are dropping just a bit. But humidity levels have been in the single digits over the past day or two with dew points in the single digits, as well.

Winds have been very, very strong. Current wind gusts right around Carlsbad, 18. Thirty-one, Ramona. We have had wind gusts in the foothills and the mountains, 50 and 60 miles per hour. So those very strong Santa Ana winds, it's creating an incredible fire threat anywhere from Los Angeles all the way down to the San Diego area and points inland. Palm Springs, of course, included in that. All these areas in the hot pink. Santa Barbara, you are on the fringes of it, as well. That high wind threat stretches all across Southern California.

The good news is, the winds should start to die down a little bit this evening. It should cool off, as well, Friday. And especially through the weekend. So that will really help firefighters tackle this.

Because today it is not possible. It is just too bad out there. Humidity levels right now, San Diego, 9. In the single digits. Unbelievable. Very, very dry and very windy. This is a normal year, Wolf. We should see those wildfires start to peak around September, October. Look at this year: June, July. We haven't even gotten there yet. And look at this. Already seeing mainly the wildfire numbers close to what they should be at the height of the season. That is just awful, awful news.

Going into a busy, busy season. Really, the wildfire season never really went away. This drought has just not let these wildfires up at all.

BLITZER: And this draught is awful. Any rain in the forecast? They could really use a little rain.

GRAY: They could really use some rain. We're also going to see, more importantly, not necessarily the rain. We're going to see the temperatures start to fall. We're also going to see those humidity levels start to increase. The winds should start to shift. It should start to die down a little bit. So even if they're not necessarily getting the rain in the coming days. They should get a little bit of relief from the temperatures and the wind.

BLITZER: Temperatures in the 90s in that area right now. All right, Jennifer, we'll get back to you.

Matthew Muench is joining us on the phone right now. He's been posting some dramatic video of the fire. Matthew, where are you now? Tell our viewers what you're seeing?

MATTHEW MUENCH, WITNESS (via phone): Yes, I'm not too far outside the La Costa Resort. I'm seeing nothing but just black, brown skies. It pretty much escalated extremely within the last two hours.

And my car came here nice and clean from a limo company, State Limo in Los Angeles. Now I've got ash all over the place. The kids, a lot of -- at least 100 kids, you know, left the school in this parking lot over here. It's really hot. My car is reading 101. It's no rain. It's not good conditions.

BLITZER: We're showing our viewers right now, Matthew, some of the video that you shot. Those black -- the black smoke. It really -- you can almost feel it, even though we're just watching it. What does it smell like? What does it feel like up close?

MUENCH: It doesn't feel like a place you want to be. That's for sure. And it's extremely hot. Hard to breathe. We've got several people already with breathing apparatuses on. It's very uncomfortable. Everything is really hot.

And, just recommend at this point, all the police and fire, they have -- I can't get any closer now. They've completely blocked off the entire area. People are trying to spray down their houses with hoses. And there's at least continuous two helicopters dropping tons of water. But honestly, as much water as they're dropping, it seems really insignificant.

BLITZER: It looks like there are major traffic problems. People trying to flee the area. Is that what's going on?

MUENCH: Yes, I mean, you have -- you have a lot of people trying to flee and a lot of people trying to stick around. Very concerned. You know, a lot of people are going to be losing their homes today. And that's very, you know, emotional. They might want to stick around the pray and hope that it's not going to happen.

But a lot of traffic for people evacuating. You know, a lot of people trying to take pictures like myself and just keep people at a safe distance.

BLITZER: Is it pretty much a suburban area? Because we know Southern California has got San Diego, got a lot of urban areas there, as well. Where is the worst of it?

MUENCH: Right, well this is definitely more of a suburban area. The biggest thing. I took some clients here to this La Costa resort. That is the most urbanized, you know, section. It's not similar to San Diego or Los Angeles. A lot of brush here. A lot of dry brush that's what's aiding this fire. So you know, most of these Southern California suburban areas are the ones that are going to get hit the hardest.

BLITZER: Have you been a long-time resident of Southern California, Matthew? Is this unusual?

MUENCH: I'm actually from New Jersey originally, but I've been in Los Angeles for about seven years now. The biggest fire I remember not too long ago, in 2008, where the Hollywood sign almost got burnt down. This is -- it is unusual. But it's not unusual considering the amount of rain we had in the winter.

BLITZER: It's been really, really dry there. That's fueling these flames. It's, what, about 90 degrees where you are right now?

MUENCH: Oh. It's just a number. It feels like hundreds right now.

BLITZER: All right, Matthew. Thanks for sharing the video. We'll obviously stay in touch with you, as well. Matthew Muench. Helping us appreciate what's going on, the breaking news out of Southern California. You're looking at live pictures right now.

Up next, we're going to have a lot more live coverage of these wildfires ranging through California. Right now thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes and their schools. Much more coming up on the breaking news.





BLITZER: Dramatic scenes coming out of Southern California right now. Let's get back to the breaking news.

Flames out of control. There's a wildfire going on. Three at least, destroying homes, forcing thousands of people to evacuate areas, including in Carlsbad, California. That's just north of San Diego.

Paul Vercammen is on the scene for us. Let's check in for an update on what else is going on? What are you seeing now?

VERCAMMEN: From what we understand, Wolf, 15,000 evacuations. We're also seeing the firefighters were able to make a stand in this neighborhood southeast here. And some of these drought-resistant plants certainly a factor in all this. Fire not, of course, going to burn right through ice plant.

Just off in the distance, through the smoke and the haze. And I don't think you can see it. A number of homes, all of them with composite roofs and stucco, making them more easily defensible in a fire. We have been talking about this, this unseasonably dry and humid conditions. I mean, not humid conditions. Extremely low humidity.

And, you know, national fire officials saying that they believe California and Oregon almost all of those states are of most concern to them. Also worried about parts of Nevada.

In contrast, there are some other states, Montana, parts of northern Idaho, where they had so much snow and precipitation this winter, little less of a focus. But this is possibly a harbinger of things to come, because you do not see this intense of a fire season so early in May.

And San Diego County, of course, has had its share of wildfires. But for this county to be dealing with four fires in one day, certainly a horrendous task for everyone involved here. We know they are now starting to pull out of this neighborhood and focus on some other areas. I can hear the helicopters up above, and that's a good sign, meaning they're able to get some water on this fire from different front. So far, Wolf, we're hearing just one house destroyed here in Carlsbad.

BLITZER: All right, Paul, stand by. Kristin Michalec is on the line with us. She's joining us on the phone. Kristen took some dramatic video.

Kristen, I want to first of all play the video that you shot, and then we'll discuss. Watch and listen.




BLITZER: All right, Kristin, where were you? What was going on? I mean, the flames are enormous from your car. You can see them up close. Tell us where you were and what it felt like? KRISTIN MICHALEC, FIRE WITNESS (via phone): I was on El Camino Real. It's a pretty popular road in Carlsbad. I was just driving by to pick something up. It was just crazy. It was within, like, five minutes. I saw the smoke.

But it was -- it wasn't getting big yet. But like, within five minutes, I was just driving by, and it got really out of control. And it was really, really crazy. I was shocked I drove through that.

BLITZER: Were their homes that were being burned or was this basically a little rural area, just some yards?

MICHALEC: There's a little veterinary place right there, and then there's apartment homes. And there are some homes actually right there, and as I was driving by, I pulled over far enough to see. I think the houses were on fire. It was just -- it was hard to see. There was so much thick smoke. Within seconds, it just consumed the whole area. So yes, there were homes over there, unfortunately.

BLITZER: Did you see firefighters on the scene?

MICHALEC: Yes. There was a helicopter, actually. I took a picture. It was dumping water already, so they got to the scene pretty quick. The helicopter was already circling and dropping water.

BLITZER: You live in that general area, Kristin?

MICHALEC: I do. I live, I would say, like five miles away. I'm more north, though. So very scary, though. It's still -- I feel like even though it's five miles, it's still close enough that it could possibly spread, which is really scary.

BLITZER: How were the folks reacting?

MICHALEC: Not well. I saw lady running out of her house. I heard -- I'm guessing a fire truck. They were saying everybody evacuate their homes now. Everybody get out of the area. There are buildings nearby for offices. So I don't know if they evacuated them. It was crazy. The streets were hectic and lots of traffic.

BLITZER: Kristin Michalec, good luck with you. Thanks for sharing the video. It's an awful, awful situation.

I want to bring in our meteorologist, Jennifer Gray. Jennifer, what kind of temperatures are these firefighters dealing with right now?

GRAY: Very, very hot conditions. Temperatures this afternoon hit 100 degrees. Right now, temperatures have dropped down to around 90. Winds have changed direction. We are starting to see winds die down a little bit.

So that is good news. It's great news that the helicopters are finally starting to get in the air. Because that's going to help things, as well.

Moving forward, tomorrow into the weekend and early part of next week, not going to see much rain in the forecast. But we are going to see those winds start to die down, and we're going the start to see the temperatures start to die down just a little bit. So with the change in direction of those winds, we'll start to see temperatures fall just a bit.

But Wolf, the state of California is dryer than we've ever seen in history. This could be one of the worst wildfire seasons ever. It's not going to be good the next couple of weeks.

BLITZER: Jennifer, when Paul Vercammen says they're worried about these fires, also not just in Southern California but moving up throughout California, maybe to Oregon, Nevada, maybe even Montana. I assume this whole area out west is pretty ripe, unfortunately, for these kinds of wildfires.

GRAY: Absolutely. We've been talking about the entire state in exceptional drought. We've seen it in the highest level of drought category there is. And so, we've been talking about this for months.

And we haven't even really gotten into the peak of wildfire season yet, and we're already seeing wildfires. So you can expect these are definitely going to head north into central California, even into northern portions of the state. Like you said, Oregon is in danger, as well.

So, going forward, the state really needs rain. Unfortunately, not much rain in the near future.

BLITZER: Jennifer, we're going to come back to you. Brian Chapman is joining us on the phone right now from Carlsbad. That's a badly hit area. It's one of the more than 11,000 people ordered to evacuate. He's joining us via FaceTime.

So Brian, tell us what it was like. What was the experience that you had to endure?

BRIAN CHAPMAN, WITNESS: I was at work. And my wife was, she works from home. We've got fire in the back yard. And we talked on the phone, said, you have to get home. We have fire in the backyard. And, we -- we talked on the phone kind of went through the important things that we need...

BLITZER: What did you say?

CHAPMAN: We talked through the important things we needed. And, she started getting those things together while I dove home. And, by the time I got there, they wouldn't let me in, into the neighborhood.

BLITZER: Where was she by the time you got there?

CHAPMAN: She had left. They kicked her out. She had a small car. Took a few things that she could carry. And the dog and -- and fortunately, for me, I found a back way in that I could get in and I assessed the situation. It seemed safe. I drove in, got six bags of pictures and videos and pictures and backup drives and all the things that are really important. BLITZER: How close was the fire, is the fire based on what you know right now to your house?

CHAPMAN: Well, when I drove out, it was within 75 yards.

BLITZER: We're showing our viewers some pictures of your home that you shared with us. Do you know if your house is OK now or what happened?

CHAPMAN: I don't know. We -- once I left, there was no way to be able to assess the situation. There was nobody in the neighborhood. So I guess I'll find out when I get back there.

Let us know, Brian. Good luck to you. Good luck to your wife. Good luck to everyone in that area. What an awful, awful situation. Too bad people have to endure these kinds of things. Brian, we'll check back with you.

Coming up, we'll have much more on the breaking news: 15,000 people, according to Paul Vercammen on the scene now for us, forced to flee their homes, their schools, their businesses. Wildfires racing toward homes and schools in the area. We'll have the latest from Southern California.

Also, other breaking news we're following, including a virus alert. Hundreds may have been exposed to the potentially fatal virus while flying on planes within the United States. So how far, how fast can it spread? What you need to know, information coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. Raging wildfires in the San Diego area. They're forcing thousands of people to flee their homes and schools, about 15,000 so far. And that number is growing.

Joining us now, the House minority leader, the Democratic leader of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi from California. You know this -- this is your home state. You see these pictures, Madam Leader. You see what is going on. People telling these stories of rushing home to get photo albums because firefighters are saying get out as these flames get closer. And it's only spreading because of the drought in California.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Well, the drought has been a serious challenge to us. So much so that our governor has stopped having the lawns watered at the capitol, the browning of the capitol by Governor Brown.

But this is so tragic, and I hope some prayers for are with those people that they will leave. The pictures -- keep them -- those memories in your heart, but leave right away for your own safety and the safety of the first responders.

But the drought, the dryness -- San Francisco, which I left yesterday, was 90 degrees. For us, that is very hot. It's even hotter in southern California.

BLITZER: Ninety degrees in May. That's unusual. It was a hundred degrees, we're told, in Southern California. No rain in sight. So presumably, it's only going to get worse.

PELOSI: Well, they increased the area. North, south or east --

BLITZER: Yes. They're saying northern California, Oregon, Nevada, maybe Montana. This is a horrible situation.

PELOSI: It is. A terrible situation. With it, it's exacerbated as you mentioned by the drought.

BLITZER: But you say Governor Jerry Brown, he is on top of this. He's doing whatever needs to be done as the governor of your state.

PELOSI: Yes, indeed.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk a little bit, some other stuff going on because I know your time is limited. So is ours. Hillary Clinton, you want her to run for president.

PELOSI: Of course.

BLITZER: What do you think of the Karl Rove statement raising questions about her health?

PELOSI: I think that Hillary's strength, her popularity, the prestige she enjoys has driven the Republicans to their wits' end. That's what I think. I think what he said is just -- he only makes her stronger.

BLITZER: But if you want to run for president, you have to open up the books as far as your health records, your financial records. All that kind of stuff becomes part of the record.

PELOSI: Well, when you talk about health here, you're equating it with age, too. He's not that much younger. Just a couple, three years younger than Hillary Clinton. Maybe he's projecting his own weaknesses on to somebody else.

But the fact is that Hillary Clinton by (INAUDIBLE) her strength, her experience, her stamina, by running for president, by being secretary of state, I feel confident about her ability to serve as the president of the United States.

BLITZER: Let's go through some other important issues right now. This select committee, this special committee that the speaker, the Republicans want on Benghazi. Are the Democrats going to participate?

PELOSI: We'll see. I mean, the point is we want to show the public how unfair this process is. It should be evenly divided. They don't want evenly divided. We said should have equal access to witnesses. They said you may not even ever have access to witnesses.

So I think what they have in mind is to control the documents, to control the witnesses, come to their own conclusions. We'll have to make a decision as to what the best way is to showcase their unfairness.

But this is unnecessary. We have had six congressional hearings, one independent hearing at the State Department and the rest.

BLITZER: But it's a done deal; they're going to do it. So the only question, I've spoken with a lot of your fellow Democrats, and they're not happy about this, don't get me wrong. But they do say this: at least if they're participating in the questioning, the testimony. Let's say Hillary Clinton comes before the panel to testify, it won't just be Republicans asking questions. There will be Democrats asking questions, making comments as well.

PELOSI: Our Democrats are divided on the issue. I'm make a decision about it. I just want to show the terms under which we would go in or not go in. But as I said -- Hillary Clinton, she can take care of herself. But nonetheless, I'm more concern about the witnesses they want to interview and not allow us to see.

BLITZER: When will a decision by you be made?

PELOSI: When I do.

BLITZER: Within a few days?

PELOSI: Well, the speaker suggested that we meet before we proceed with this. We haven't had that meeting yet. So when we have the meeting, then I'll -

BLITZER: So you'll meet with him and then make you'll make the decision. Quick question on --

PELOSI: Well, he's trying to avoid the meeting now, but we're waiting on --

BLITZER: I'm sure there will be a meeting, you'll let us know. The girls in Nigeria. Awful story. You have seen all the pictures. Our hearts go out to those families over there. Some members of Congress are saying send U.S. special operations forces in there. Get this job done. Save these girls. Get them back to their families. Is that something you would support?

PELOSI: Well, what we're supporting are a number of things. We have military intelligence, law enforcement assistance that we're providing. Also some mental health assistance for the little girls who escaped and also for the families of the girls. The - and we want to have a further designation of this group under the U.N. We've declared them a terrorist group in 2013. But they can be on the al Qaeda list of the U.N. Let's make a judgment as we give the assistance we have as to what we can accomplish with the Nigerian govern.

BLITZER: We've got to get back to the breaking news on those fires in California homestead. Let me invite you back. With you come back?

PELOSI: I will be coming back.

BLITZER: We've got a lot more time, a lot more issues to discuss. Unfortunately, we're out of time right now. Madam Leader -

PELOSI: Yes, well, the important thing is to get back to those fires and the families affected by it. Thank you for your coverage of it.

BLITZER: Thank you very much for coming in.

PELOSI: My pleasure.

BLITZER: More breaking news coming up. We're following those out-of- control wildfires burning homes near San Diego. This is a huge area.

Also, breaking news on the spreading virus that has health officials so concerned right now. Eighteen countries, including the United States, have now have confirmed cases. Stay with us


BLITZER: The breaking news we're following. Almost 15,000 people have been forced to flee homes and schools as a fast-moving wildfire threatens Southern California right now, including Carlsbad, California, north of San Diego. Amusement park rides at Legoland have also been evacuated. A lot of other places have been as well. The blaze, another one in San Diego, have been whipped up by what they call this very dry devil wind that's been going through the area. Crews are igniting backfires in the hills to try to block the path of the flames. We'll go there live in a few moments. More on the breaking news.

In the meantime, some other news we're following. I want to show you these live pictures of the new National 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City. It's about to open at ground zero tomorrow, the spot where the World Trade Center once stood.

Rudy Giuliani was New York's mayor at the time of the terror attacks.

He helped a horrified city rally and recover from the nightmare.

He's joining us now live.

Mr. Mayor, I want to talk about this memorial museum in a moment.

But, first, al Qaeda right now.

How much of a threat do you think it still poses to the United States, all these years after 9/11?

RUDOLPH GIULIANI, FORMER NYC MAYOR: Unfortunately, it still poses a major threat to the United States, possibly a different kind of a threat. Rather than one major group, we have anywhere from 12 to 20 diversified groups. Maybe they can't do something on the scale of a September 11th. Maybe they can. But maybe they can't do something on the scale of September 11th, but they sure can do a lot of damage.

And we've already seen the damage that can be done by these home-grown terrorists, which, after all, was part of bin Laden's plan. These home-grown terrorists are not just an accident. This was part of bin Laden's plan going back to '96-'97, if you read what he was -- what he was saying.

So they're still a threat.

BLITZER: Do you have confidence that the U.S. law enforcement, national security, intelligence community, the military, they are doing everything possible right now to prevent another 9/11?

GIULIANI: I believe they are. I believe they're doing everything possible. Of course, this is a situation in which things are changing on the ground very, very quickly and you've got to stay ahead of it. And predicting the next attack is much, much harder than just kind of preparing for the last one.

So no matter how good they are, either in the Bush or the Obama administration, there are always gaps.

BLITZER: Tell us what this new 9/11 Memorial Museum that will be dedicated tomorrow morning, what it means to you.

GIULIANI: Well, it means a great deal to me. I spent two hours there today preparing for the ceremony tomorrow and I must say, in some ways, I may be more emotionally affected by it now then I was 13 years ago. Maybe the passage of time and just thinking about the -- the horrors of what happened and seeing a lot of the images and some of my own personal effects, my schedule for the day and the place where I was and -- I -- I think it's going to be quite moving and a wonderful experience for Americans who lived through it and -- and those who didn't.

It captures the -- it captures the tremendous tragedy. It captures the -- the tremendous scope of it, the worst attack in the history of New York, maybe one of the worst in the history of America. It doesn't -- it -- it doesn't -- it's not euphemistic. It makes it clear that this was an Islamic extremist terrorist attack. I know that's a matter of some controversy.

But had they not done it that way, they'd have been lying. So the museum has to have a certain degree of honesty to it and it does have it. And I think people are going to find the exhibits beautifully laid out and telling a picture that is quite disturbing, but also giving you a great deal of hope, because it shows the heroism of the firefighters and the ordinary citizens and the people who cooperated...

BLITZER: We're showing...


BLITZER: -- we're showing our viewers some...


BLITZER: -- video from that day, that awful day, September 11th, 2001, when you were walking through that smoke. You remember those -- I'm sure you remember that days very vividly.

What's the most important thing you hope people who come to this memorial museum emerge with?

GIULIANI: I hope they emerge from the whole experience of going to downtown New York with the fact that resiliency is a great defense to terrorism. Here's a fact that I -- I wish, you know, was put in the museum in bold lights. There are twice as many people living in Lower Manhattan today than before September 11th.

Now, what does that mean, Wolf?

What that means is that a lot of what we feared, that people wouldn't return there, businesses wouldn't go back there, that hasn't happened. These people absorbed the attack, they know they're at risk, but they still have gone about their -- their lives and have made downtown New York a very hot place -- twice as many people living there as before.

And I believe that resiliency is a great defense against this -- this type of -- of terrorism.

BLITZER: Will have live coverage here on CNN tomorrow morning of this dedication.

Mr. Mayor, thanks very much, as usual, for joining us.

GIULIANI: Thank you, Wolf.

Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Just ahead, thousands of people are forced to flee their homes. We're going live to the front lines. There's a fast-moving wildfire in California moves on. Our breaking news coverage resumes in a moment.

Also breaking news on the spreading virus that has the U.S., the World Health Organization, so many officials around the world so deeply concerned right now. As of last count, now 18 countries now have confirmed cases, including the United States.


BLITZER: We got the breaking news. Horrible fires in southern California right now. Jennifer Gray is joining us. She is watching what is going on. Jennifer what is the latest as far as the forecast is concerned?

GRAY: The forecast is not looking better as far as the rain goes. The temperatures will drop. The winds will drop a little bit. The entire state of California is in a crucial situation. Ninety-six percent of the state in severe drought. Seventy-six percent of the state in extreme drought. It's not going to take just a couple of days of rain to reverse this. It is going to take much, much more. Unfortunately it doesn't look like things are going to take a turnaround anytime soon. Ninety-one degrees is the current temperature. We hit 100 today in Carlsbad, with humidity levels in the single digits. Wind gusts in the 50 to 60-mile-per-hour range. So just incredible conditions for these fire fighters. Going forward over the next couple of days 95 tomorrow, 87 on Friday, and 77 on Saturday, so, Wolf, the good news is even though we're not going to get rain, which we desperately need, at least the temperatures will come down by the weekend and the winds will start to die down tomorrow into the weekend as well.

BLITZER: We're talking about this whole area. From San Diego to Palm Springs, Carlsbad, up closer toward L.A. as well, is that right, Jennifer?

GRAY: That's right. We have seen wind gusts anywhere from 50 to 60 miles per hour in the foothills and mountains. All over southern California. We have seen winds 31 miles per hour. 18 in Burbank. 17 in Santa Ana. This stretches a pretty large area, Wolf, from Santa Barbara to San Diego. Very, very windy and, of course, the entire state very dry.

BLITZER: Very dry, very hot. Almost 100 degrees in parts of that area and no rain. Jennifer, we'll get back to you.

Other news we're following including the spreading virus that has the U.S. and global health officials increasingly concerned. The World Health Organization now says the threat for the Middle East respiratory virus, also known as MERS, has significantly increased. Eighteen countries are now reporting cases including two in the United States. Some of those countries are taking dramatic steps to prevent a full-blown epidemic. Brian Todd is working this story.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf we got word today, one more country, Netherlands, where there is a confirmed case of MERS. That brings it to the total that Wolf just mentioned. 18 countries now. A little less than 1/3 of the patients who have gotten the virus have dies from it. Top health officials are getting more worried. The concern about this potentially fatal virus has significantly increased according to the World Health Organization.


TODD: Health officials say hundreds of people may have been exposed to the MERS virus by flying on planes within the United States with two MERS patients who are now in Florida and Indiana. They're both health care workers who came to the U.S. after being infected in Saudi Arabia. One woman who flew on the same flight as a patient told CNN affiliate WKMG she was informed by her state health agency of her potential exposure.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They told me there was a confirmed case of the MERS virus on my flight from Atlanta to Orlando. I was really scared.

TODD: The woman says neither she or her husband have symptoms of MERS. The two MERS patients confirmed in the U.S. are reported to be getting better. What if someone with MERS got into a major city? Experts say it does take sustained close contact with a patient to get it, but also say MERS like SARS is worrisome.

STEPHEN MORSE, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: With SARS it spreads so far because people carrying the disease from Asia went to many different parts of the world and unfortunately when they got sick and went into hospitals or were being taken care of by family members, they were able to infect people who were at close range.

TODD: Is this a line of defense? A thermal imaging camera is used to try to detect elevated body temperatures, high fevers potentially associated with MERS. It was used today at a conference attended by defense secretary Chuck Hagel in Saudi Arabia where MERS originated. Similar devices are being used in airports in Asia and the Middle East.

DAVID BURSELL, FLIR SYSTEMS INC: It's displayed on our camera as a colorized image and this particular image we see cold areas that are black/blue, to medium areas that are purple to orange, and then the warmer or higher temperature area being yellow to white.

TODD: Can these cameras spot MERS?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They can't diagnose MERS with a fever scanner. The probability that somebody with a fever scanner has MERS versus the numerable other things they could have makes it an impractical tool in this current setting.


TODD: Health officials say some people who really have MERS could go undetected by a scanner because some of them may not have fevers yet and would walk right past it and it wouldn't pick it up. The incubation period for MERS is 2 to 14 days. The world health organization right now says it is not recommending that agencies use thermal imaging cameras, Wolf. They say they don't do much good in this case.

BLITZER: Health officials around the world, airlines around the world, are trying to learn more about the passengers, the potential threat out there.

TODD: That's right, Wolf. They're scrambling do learn more and working with the CDC and others to try and track some of these passengers. At least two major U.S.-based carriers, who we believe carried two patients into the U.S., are working closely with the CDC trying to contact those passengers, contact crew members, make sure they're okay and get them to a doctor to get them diagnosed one way or the other. Really scrambling to find these people.

BLITZER: We saw those posters they're putting up in airports giving a specific warning to folks as well.

TODD: Warning you specifically if you've been in the region of the Arabian peninsula any time recently and you think you might have some symptoms, a lot can feel like a common cold, cough, shortness of breath, you better get to a doctor because you could have this if you've been in that region and come back.

BLITZER: It's not just 18 countries now, potentially that threat is expanding including here in the United States. All right Brian we'll stay on top of this story. Thanks very much.

We're also staying on top of the other breaking news we're following. More live coverage of the California wildfire emergency. Take a look at these pictures. An area north of San Diego. Carlsbad. These fires are expanding right now. We're told about 15,000 people have already been evacuated.