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Flash Flood Emergency In South Carolina; Twenty Seven Million Impacted By Flood Watches, Advisories; Sheriff: Shooter Committed Suicide; Investigator: Guns Obtained Over Last Three Years. Aired 6- 6:30a ET

Aired October 4, 2015 - 06:00   ET



[06:00:23] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Catastrophic flooding. That is what the National Weather Service is expecting in parts of South Carolina. How they are categorizing it. Now the threat is spreading, 27 million people along the east coast under a flood watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How on earth could he compile 13 guns?


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: With no answers, trying to come to terms of how and why his son shot and killed nine people on an Oregon college campus before killing himself.

PAUL: Crews continue their search for a cargo ship that disappeared when Hurricane Joaquin slammed into the Bahamas. Why family members, they are not giving up hope as you can imagine. Who would?

We want to wish you a good morning and let you know that we are grateful for your company as always. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to be with you. The breaking news on what is being called catastrophic flooding is impacting 27 million people along the east coast. One of the hardest hit states is South Carolina.

Dark right now so it's hard to tell how bad it is really. I'm sure you get an idea of it. Guys, let's drop the banners so people can see it. We know dozens of people had to be rescued overnight and had to seek shelter.

PAUL: This poor man is trying to get himself and his pet obviously into safety. People are grabbing everything they can as they search for higher ground here. Official had to call rescue teams from out of state, in fact, to help.

And residents this morning are crippled with this record amount of rain, nearly a foot being dumped in the last 24 hours. Many other states are feeling the effects as well of the floods and the tidal concerns that we haven't even talked about yet. Take a look at this map, though. That gives you a good picture here showing the states under watches or advisories right now at this hour. The thing is rain is still coming. Some of the worst may still yet to be seen.

We have CNN meteorologist, Allison Chinchar, in the CNN Weather Center and Nick Valencia is in Charleston. Nick, help us understand what it's like there this morning.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christi. The flash warning is still in effect for this area. The rain has been relentless. No relief in sight for the residents of this area and the intensity of that rain has diminished. The situation remains extremely dangerous.


VALENCIA (voice-over): A massive storm trapped over the east coast from near Wilmington, North Carolina to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Millions of Americans along the eastern seaboard affected by the wind and record breaking rain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is not just any rain. This is going to be the heaviest rainfall we have ever seen.

VALENCIA: In Charleston, South Carolina, a deluge of water and roads more accustomed to traffic jams, inundated by several feet of water. These two strangers teamed up to help stranded people in their cars.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw the people and the car just floating around and decided to help them out.

VALENCIA (on camera): You don't know each other? You're just helping hands here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think we just have the same motive as far as we are stuck here any ways, might as well help somebody out.


VALENCIA (voice-over): Often where there is crisis, there are those willing to lend a hand. This stranded wedding party nearly missed the big day, if not for the last-minute aid of the National Guard.

But not everyone was as fortunate. Since Thursday, at least four people were killed in storm-related incidents in North and South Carolina. Downed trees and power outages posing problems for the first responders.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a good citizen. I'm going to obey. I'm going to hole up in my apartment and clean out my dresser.

VALENCIA: It runs with County North Carolina, the impacts from the low pressure system substantial. Up to 500 residents were evacuated in the coastal county. Flood and flash flood watches are expected to last through the weekend. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The tough news still for North Carolina and especially South Carolina is the continued rains, which we are going to be keeping track of.

VALENCIA: The severe weather is expected to persist through Sunday and perhaps beyond, with heavy rains anticipated to cause even more disaster and emergency.


VALENCIA: A federal state of emergency has been declared for the state of South Carolina. In a few hours, once the sun comes up, we will be able to show you just the extent of this damage.

But really, guys, it seems like this storm system is just hovering over South Carolina like a train. Guys, it just continues to come and pour all over us -- Victor, Christi.

[06:05:03] PAUL: All right, you and the crew take good care there. Nick Valencia, thank you so much.

VALENCIA: You bet.

BLACKWELL: We'll get to our meteorologist in just a moment, but we have on the line now Mario Formisano, director of Emergency Management for Dorchester County in South Carolina, right next door to where Nick is.

Mario, good morning to you. I want you to give me an update on the rescue operations under way we are told about.

MARIO FORMISANO, DIRECTOR, EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT, DORCHESTER COUNTY, SOUTH CAROLINA (via telephone): So we have been performing rescue operations since about 10:30 last night. Things have kind of calmed down a little bit. We have had a little bit of a lull in the precipitation, which has been, obviously, a positive thing for us.

Not so good for the folks north of Dorchester County, but we've learned from the National Weather Service that we are going to get a little bit of a break for the next few hours.

Overnight, we conducted approximately 140 rescue operations. It's a combination of rescues from residential areas and stranded motorists and a collaborative activity between county and municipal forces and municipal aid came in out of South Carolina to help us with swift water rescues.

We have 75 people, primarily those that were taken from those rescue operations, in a storm shelter at this time as well.

BLACKWELL: wonder, you know, with the context of three people having died across the state of South Carolina in the last 48 hours on the roads, we are told. Do you see that most people are heeding the warning and staying off the roads or are people trying to drive through these flooded streets? FORMISANO: Unfortunately, people are not heeding the warning. Dorchester County, earlier Saturday, convened an emergency council meeting with our elected officials of the county. We issued a state of declaration and we issued a curfew to begin at 6:00 p.m.

This was something not necessarily a county wide curfew. Some of the municipalities elected not to enforce the curfew. We sought to do that and where we had jurisdiction and we still found the people did not obey and we did run into the stranded motorists that were trying to cross waterways and actually new waterways that were making their way across these roads.

And the biggest challenge is once it gets dark, you don't know how deep that water is so just one foot of water is going to sweep away a vehicle potentially.

BLACKWELL: Even when the sun is up, you have no idea what is under that water. What you think is a road you're familiar with, may not be in these conditions.

Mario Formisano, director of Emergency Management for Dorchester County there in South Carolina, thanks so much for taking a few minutes to speak with us. I know you guys are really busy.

FORMISANO: Thank you.

PAUL: Thanks for all you do too. When you hear the weather service characterizing is at catastrophic, historic, and unprecedented, I mean, that's how people are talking about this thing in the Carolinas this morning.

BLACKWELL: CNN meteorologist, Allison Chinchar, is watching all of this for us. Allison, give us the latest.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That's right. We want to take a look at some rainfall totals overall we have seen. Berkeley County in South Carolina, 18 inches of rain. We have had 17 inches in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, Myrtle Beach, 15 inches and just under 15 inches in Charleston.

They may be just under that mark but more is expected to come, which is why we still have a lot of the flood watches out in effect. This is just kind after zoomed in image for North and South Carolina because that is where the majority of the heavy rain is.

You can see this is that plume of moisture. Look. It just keeps streaming over the same locations over and over and over again. Unfortunately, they may get a few quick lulls in between, but, overall, they are not expected to dry out until Tuesday of this coming week.

Here is what we expect on top of what we have already had. An extra 6 inches to 10 inches of rain between Charleston and Myrtle Beach, could see a few spots that still expect to get in addition of at least 10 inches. Now, again, as we mentioned, up and down the coast, with we have got flood watches and warnings in effect but also the wind. We have got that high pressure and that is pulling all of those windy conditions up along the northeast.

Take a look at some of these wind gusts in the northeast. Cape May, New Jersey, 62 miles an hour, 58 miles an hour at Big Stone Beach in Delaware, Seaside Heights in New Jersey 56 and Landenberg, Pennsylvania, 53 miles an hour.

Even though they have haven't experienced quite the rainfall that the Carolinas have, folks in the northeast still dealing with impacts from this similar system. Here you can see Joaquin. It's starting to bring that wrap-around where it pulls in those winds.

That also brings some storm surge in, especially to parts around Washington, D.C. and Baltimore where you get some of those extra strong winds pushing in the water, especially along high tide.

Here is a look at the high forecast radar. Most of the rain will keep pushing into the same spots over and over and over again. Here is Joaquin. Now down to a low-end Category 3 so not as strong as it was yesterday.

[06:10:03] If you recall, we were only 2 miles an hour off from a Category 5 storm and nowhere near that strong now and it's only expected to weaken as it slides north.

It should end up dropping about 3 inches to 5 inches of rain in Bermuda, but that's nowhere near the amount of rain that South Carolina and North Carolina have had and Charleston, by the way, has had their wettest October on record and it's October 4th.

PAUL: All right, Allison Chinchar, thank you so much for the update there.

BLACKWELL: The other story that's been developing this weekend, that bombing in Kunduz and President Obama is promising a full investigation after 19 people were killed at that hospital in Afghanistan. Was the U.S. responsible for those bombings?

PAUL: Plus, we are going to hear from the father of the Oregon college shooter, his biggest question stemming from this massacre.

BLACKWELL: On a lighter note here, Hillary Clinton, a guest appearance on "Saturday Night Live" showing off some comedic chops here.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I'm just so darn bummed. All anyone wants to talk about is Donald Trump.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump? Isn't he the one that is like, "You're all losers!"



BLACKWELL: In Oregon, Umpqua Community College will be closed tomorrow. Authorities are trying to finish your their investigation and will be sometime before students go back to that campus where gunman killed nine people on Thursday because classes will not be held all this week.

The campus will be open to students and faculty on Monday, though. Meanwhile, at least four people are still in the hospital, wounded in last week's attack.

[06:15:03] Dan Simon is live in Roseburg, Oregon. Dan, I imagine when the students will return, although there will be no classes, that is going to be difficult.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It certainly will, Victor. We are learning more details how this mass atrocity unfolded and how the shooter, himself, died. We are told that two police officers arrived on scene 5 minutes after the initial 911 call, and quickly engaged the shooter.

Now had that not happened, authorities say, there certainly would have been more carnage. We are also learning what one victim told her family about what happened and how the shooter decided that one person in particular in that classroom should have his life spared. A person he called the lucky one.


SIMON (voice-over): She is the youngest victim and survivor of the Umpqua Community College shooting. The 16-year-old Cheyenne Fitzgerald made it to college at an earlier age than most. It was her fourth day of school when the shots rang out.

BONNIE SCHAAN, MOTHER OF SHOOTING VICTIM: I heard there was a shooting at the college. I grabbed my purse and keys and flew out of my job. I text my daughter, "I'm on my way to school." But I never went there. I came here and that is how I found my daughter.

SIMON: A bullet had gone through her back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She is currently in ICU. She lost a kidney due to her gunshot wound.

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER: Dispatch as many ambulances as possible to the incident. We have upwards of 20 victims.

SIMON: Cheyenne is having a hard time reliving the terror, but told her family the gunman had singled out one particular classmate, giving him an envelope, along with a verbal message.

SCHAAN: You're going to be the lucky one and to go to the corner and he told everybody else to go to the middle of the room and lay down. SIMON: Cheyenne's family says she, too, was asked about her religion, but didn't answer. She played dead on the floor. Authorities, so far, have declined to discuss a motive and what the shooter gave to that student, but we now know of the 26-year-old gunman died.

SHERIFF JOHN HANLIN, ROSEBURG POLICE: The medical examiner has determined the cause of death of the shooter to be suicide.

SIMON: That, as reports surfaced the gunman told those who he was shooting, I'll see you soon, an implication that he was planning for his own death.

SCHAAN: I have not questioned my daughter about any of this. I don't -- I can't bring myself to do it because I know when she is ready, she will talk to me and tell me and little bits, she is starting to, you know, let out.

HANLIN: And to the families of the victims, our hearts are with you and you know that our hearts will be with you forever.


SIMON: As for 16-year-old Cheyenne Fitzgerald, she is still in the hospital and she is in ICU. That bullet clipped her lung and lodged in her kidney which had to be removed. Her family is hopeful that she will make a recovery. Her goal in life, Victor, was to become a nurse and take care of victims like herself -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: Dan Simon there in Roseburg. Our thoughts and prayers not just for the four still in the hospital, but everyone there. Thank you, Dan -- Christi.

PAUL: Absolutely. As you heard Dan mention there, 14 weapons have now been linked to this shooter. So let's talk to CNN law enforcement analyst and former FBI assistant director, Tom Fuentes, about this.

Tom, thank you for being with us. First of all, I want to talk about the report in the "New York Daily News" report that says the mother had been stockpiling weapons. Could she, in some capacity, face charges here if it is found to be true, that the mother was stockpiling weapons?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Christi, on that positive exactly of what they could do with her, based on we don't know her knowledge of him taking those guns out that day or his intentions to do that.

If she purchased the weapons legally, which we have heard from the beginning that they were purchased legally, then it's just a question of, you know, whether she is complicit in this attack or not. I have to question her mental condition.

You know, we are talking about this individual getting 14 weapons and then doing an attack, taking four of them with him that day -- or six at the scene, but four into the school. What about her? You know, anybody checking on her and whether she is getting more weapons? Is there any reason she can't purchase more? Even if the police confiscated all of the weapons in this case, can she go out and just replace them and buy some more? I have serious doubts about her mental condition and what can be done about it?

PAUL: We don't know anything about her mental condition. I mean, it's a point to make. But she is one person that we have not yet heard from. Can you help us understand what is going on in the investigative process at this point, particularly with the mother?

[06:20:00] FUENTES: Well, I mean, obviously, they are investigating her and whether all of the purchases were legal, but if she made them legally and if she has not been judged to be mentally incompetent or have a criminal record and have any reason to stop her from buying the weapons.

You know, I don't know what more they can do with it in terms of this particular case. You know, I just don't know. That would be up to the prosecutors to decide whether they can include her as possibly somehow complicit in this.

What is to stop her from buying more weapons? We haven't heard any discussion of being able to prevent her from doing more of it. Obviously, she's not going to, you know, have someone, you know, have another son to give them to, but we don't know if she would use them herself.

PAUL: All right, Tom Fuentes, so appreciate your insight as always. Thank you, sir.

FUENTES: Thank you, Christi.

BLACKWELL: Let's stay on this angle because CNN's Ryan Young spoke with the shooter's father and his main question was how were so many guns available to his son? How did he get them? Listen.


IAN MERCER, GUNMAN'S FATHER: The question that I would like to ask is -- is how on earth could he compile 13 guns? How can that happen? You know? They talk about gun laws, they talk about gun control. Every time something like this happens, they talk about it and nothing is done.


BLACKWELL: We will hear more from the gunman's father later this hour -- Christi.

PAUL: Of course, we do want to keep you abreast of what is happening in the breaking news this morning. This historical flooding hitting the east coast, as it's been characterized.

Twenty seven million of you under a watch or an advisory right now. We have got evacuations. Tens of thousands of people don't have power right now. And this is all coupled with the fact that there is more rain on the way which could make this so much more dangerous. We are going to bring you live updates throughout the morning.

A NEW DAY weekend exclusive for Facebook, what would you do if you had a crying baby on your flight and if you were the one holding the baby, if it was your child? What one woman's solution, #flightangel.

This is a story you can't seem to get enough of. Join the conversation at Don't forget to like us. We do want to hear your opinion on this, so check it out.



PAUL: This morning, 25 minutes past the hour, a desperate search for that missing cargo ship carrying 28 Americans is still ongoing today. The El Fara disappeared off the Bahamas during Hurricane Joaquin on Thursday and it's been more than 48 hours at this point since the ship was last heard from.

Search and rescue airplanes will continue scouring the waters for clues this morning. A life preserver that belongs to the ship was discovered yesterday. Family members of the crew met with the shipping company as well. Like anybody can understand, they are holding on to hope here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't say anything. You can't stop. You just keep it up and --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you hopeful?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes. Man, you got to be. It's very stressful. You know? Just hoping everything will be better tomorrow.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God is in the mix and we know. They will be safe.


PAUL: We are holding on to hope with you there, folks.

Next hour, by the way, Captain Mark Fedora is a U.S. Coast Guard and he is going to update us on the latest in that search.

BLACKWELL: All right, looking forward to that. Four students face conspiracy charges this morning after police got word they were going to shoot up the California high school on Thursday. The plot was in its early stages. Good news here, no one was hurt.

PAUL: At least 20 children were inside this high school. Look at this. Part of it collapsed. Firefighters said a large -- ran into a canopy there. Some of the students were trapped and 25 people were taken to the hospital. Obviously, some of those students were included. There are some in serious condition this morning. BLACKWELL: Millions of people, the number this morning, 27 million people in seven states under flooding threat today. Look at this video. Imagine this. We just got this in.

This is from South Carolina. People are being swept away, in some cases, half to just hold on and create these human chains to rescue one another in these floodwaters. We will have more of this video and live reports throughout the morning. Stay with us.