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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Interview With Florida Governor Rick Scott; Trump, Clinton Prepping for Second Debate; Hurricane Matthew Targets Florida; Monster Storm Drives Hundreds of Thousands from Homes. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired October 6, 2016 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:10]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: "This storm will kill you." That's the direct warning from the governor of Florida.

THE LEAD starts right now.

A wall of water approaching, Hurricane Matthew now a rare and extremely powerful Category 4 storm. And the path it's taking could wreck the U.S. coastline for hundreds of miles, 12 million people under a hurricane warning, as the state of Florida prepares for a direct hit and faces what could be its biggest evacuation in history.

Plus, in politics, practice in prime-time, debate prep typically happening behind closed doors. Tonight, we're all going to see how Donald Trump handles the warmup for his critical rematch with Hillary Clinton.

Welcome to THE LEAD, everyone. I'm Jake Tapper.

We are going to start with the breaking news, Hurricane Matthew, a monster Category 4 storm, its outer bands hitting parts of Florida now, with conditions on track to worsen overnight. This hurricane picked up steam after sweeping over the Caribbean, killing more than 108 people in Haiti alone.

Now more than 26 million Americans are in Matthew's path. Many are racing from Florida's east coast trying to head inland. The Florida governor bluntly telling people who don't obey evacuation orders from the beach -- quote -- "This storm will kill you.'

We have hurricane warnings on Florida's East Coast, tropical storm watches and warnings even for Florida's west coast and stretching up to the Carolinas. And CNN has crews positioned along the way ready to show you conditions as they deteriorate.

We're going to begin with CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray. She's in Melbourne, Florida.

And, Jennifer, the National Weather Service warning life-threatening winds from the storm could leave parts of Florida -- quote -- "uninhabitable for weeks or months."

How are the conditions where you are at this hour? JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, with the storm still more

than 100 miles offshore, conditions are OK.

But I can tell you that they have been deteriorating little by little, especially when those rain bands come in. This is what we have been concerned about. Look across the river. You can see Melbourne Beach over there, and they have been ordered a mandatory evacuation, because not only the strong winds, as you were mentioning, Jake, but the storm surge as high as seven to nine feet, and some estimates are up to 11 feet.

So the water is going to be well above my head and you're not going to be able to get to those people if they are in need. We called the emergency manager. She said she is not sure how many people got out. They won't be able to really know until calls start coming in of people needing to be rescued. And at that point, it will be too late.

So, hopefully, people on Melbourne Beach got off. Now is the time to do it. You are not going to want to drive across those bridges in the next couple of hours.

We have been here for a few hours, Jake, and the water already starting to come up just a little bit, Indian River, and it is going to come up a whole lot more. Right around that center of that storm, we have got winds of 140 miles per hour. This is going to be by far the worst storm that this state has seen in a decade, maybe even more.

Depending on where this storm makes landfall, it's going to make all the difference in the world when you're talking about impact. That's why people all up and down the east coast of Florida need to be prepared. And if this storm indeed rides up that coast, we could see miles and miles of devastation right along the coast like this state has not seen before. We could see widespread destruction, and just as you were saying, power outages for long-term.

And it may be a long time before resources are back up and running. So, hopefully, people, now is the time to get ready, to get prepared. Hopefully, your preparations are done, because, in the next couple of hours, conditions will continue to worsen, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jennifer Gray in Melbourne, Florida, stay safe. Thank you so much.

Let's go now to Daytona Beach with CNN's Sara Sidner.

Sara, tell us about the conditions where you are.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The wind is definitely picking up. And we have been watching it get faster and faster and stronger and stronger.

I do want to get you a look at the shore right now. You can see four or five people that are still out there. They have got their dogs out there. For some people -- we talked to someone earlier -- it's first time they have ever seen this beach and this coast. But this is what authorities are concerned about, Jake. They have

been telling people over and over and over again, get out now. This is a killer storm. This is no joke. And if you don't evacuate, you could get stuck in traffic or, worse, stuck in the storm. Some folks are heeding that warning, others staying put.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SIDNER (voice-over): The message from Florida's Governor Rick Scott is clear. Matthew is a killer storm.

GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: There are no excuses. You need to leave. Evacuate, evacuate, evacuate.

SIDNER: After pummelling the Bahamas, Matthew is expected to gain strength with gusts up to 165 miles per hour when it strikes the Sunshine State.

[16:05:03]

More than two million people are currently in evacuation zones. Highways headed inland are clogged, while National Guard convoys are moving in; 3,500 members have been activated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you going to do? It's just Mother Nature. Not a thing you can do. But I'm going to risk -- I will err on the side of caution, as opposed to watch it blow away. I'm not Dorothy.

SIDNER: Airlines have canceled more than 1,000 flights at Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Orlando airports.

Those who plan to ride out the storm are taking cover and putting up hurricane shutters, sandbagging their homes and trying to take care of their businesses, like Daniel Miada (ph), who is using old-fashioned plywood.

(on camera): Are you going to stay during the hurricane? Are you going to stay open?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we are.

SIDNER: Seriously?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seriously.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's no gas whatsoever.

SIDNER (voice-over): Service stations across the state are quickly running out of gas. It was all gridlock at the few that remained open.

Daytona Police Chief Mike Chitwood expects a long night ahead.

(on camera): You guys are riding out the storm here. MIKE CHITWOOD, DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA, POLICE CHIEF: We're all in. As of 6:00 tonight, the entire police department, all 250-plus officers, will be on duty and will be stationed in different areas throughout the city ready to respond and do what we can do.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SIDNER: Now, back here on the boardwalk, I want to give you a look a little bit about this boardwalk.

This boardwalk is usually filled with people. It is a very great place for families to come. And you can see that there's a place for families to enjoy some rides. A lot of folks are very worried, because the last time there was a big hurricane -- there never has there been one this big that has hit this coast.

But the last time there was a hurricane, a lot of this got destroyed or damaged and a lot of people worry that this may not be come tomorrow afternoon -- Jake.

Also want to mention this one thing. Walt Disney World -- this does not happen often. This shows you how serious this storm is. Well, Disney World is closed. They have evacuated people out of some of the resorts as well -- Jake.

TAPPER: Oh, yes, I think it's only the fourth time in the history of Walt Disney World that it's closed. Sara Sidner, thank you so much.

SIDNER: Yes.

TAPPER: Joining me now on the phone is the governor of Florida, Rick Scott.

Governor Scott, thanks for taking the time.

What are your biggest concerns right now as the hurricane approaches Florida?

SCOTT: Jake, my biggest concern is that people -- everybody won't take this seriously. Time is running out. There's no excuse.

If you're in an evacuation zone, if you're on a barrier island on the East Coast, if your house is prone to flooding, you don't have much time to get out. Our evacuation roads are open. We're monitoring them. We have shelters open all around the state. We have got them for pets, for people with special needs, the general population.

You have got to get out. This is all about saving people's lives. Look, we have already talked about how many people lost their life in Haiti. I don't want anybody to lose their life in my state. So, this is going to be bad, 140-plus-mile-an-hour winds, nine-foot-plus storm surge, plus waves on top of that, 12 inches of rain, rip currents, beach erosion.

If we don't have land -- our land -- if it doesn't hit land, we're still going to have hurricane-force winds. TAPPER: And, Governor, you know that there are people out there on

the beaches right now, last-minute surfers, people, just a minority of people, obviously, but there are people.

We're looking at live pictures right now of some of them, I believe, in Daytona Beach.

What's your message to these individuals?

SCOTT: You're risking your life.

During the middle of the storm, I can't send in first-responders to risk their lives to save yours. You are taking a chance that you shouldn't be taking. You should not put your family at risk. We're doing everything we can. We're making sure we have fuel in all of our gas stations. We have prepositioned food and water.

I have called up -- I have never called up 3,500 members of the National Guard before. We have prepositioned those assets around. So we're going to do everything we can to get ready.

But you have to take this seriously. Every person has to take this seriously. This is about protecting life, protecting life, protecting life.

TAPPER: Well, you know it. You know better than I do, sir, there are always people in Florida and other coastal communities that say, oh, the media hypes these things, but we have ridden out the storms in our homes before. We're going to be just fine.

What do you say to those people if they're watching right now?

SCOTT: Jake, we just had a Category 1 in the Panhandle.

And there was just south of Tallahassee a lady that was in a mandatory evacuation because of storm surge. She sat and waited because she wanted to take care of her four pets. She waited until it got to a foot-and-a-half of water. Fortunately, for her, there was a high- water vehicle that was able to took her to safety, because it got to three-and-a-half to four feet in her house. She clearly would have died.

If she had been outside much longer, she would have died, because this water flows in and it flows out. And you get waves. There is so much risk in not evacuating. Take care of your life, and don't put other people's lives at risk because you're going to take the risk.

[16:10:09]

TAPPER: And what do you do?

There's obviously a sizable population of seniors in Florida, sir. How are you handling the evacuation of those individuals in the coastal areas?

SCOTT: Well, first, Jake, we started doing -- I think two days ago, we started calling all around for our special needs individuals in our communities.

We have got shelters in every community. You don't have to go a hundred miles for a shelter. In every town, we have shelters inland just a few miles. So, one, we have been calling on those individuals to make sure, and we have been providing transportation.

We have over 3,000 people in our shelters. I'm sure by the end of the night, we are going to have a lot more. But we're calling on people. But I tell everybody, if you know of anybody around you that's elderly, special needs, go talk to them.

If you know somebody that you know is staying and they shouldn't, beg them to leave. This is about them living another day. I always tell people, I want to take care of every life in my state. We didn't lose a life -- we lost one homeless person unfortunately in Hermine. And that was, unfortunately, because a tree fell on him. He was sleeping outside.

I don't want to lose one life in this storm. This is an unbelievable -- I mean, Jake, 140-mile-an-hour winds, and it's strengthening. I mean, think about it, just standing in nine feet of water, nine feet of water, plus we're talking about 20-plus-foot waves coming in. And this water is going to flow in fast.

And so I tell everybody, you should not be taking risks.

TAPPER: Florida Governor Rick Scott, thank you so much. Best of luck with the storm, sir.

Now to meteorologist Tom Sater in the CNN Severe Weather Center.

Tom, your team is closely watching the eye of the hurricane, but even if the eye doesn't directly make landfall, this is still going to be an incredibly powerful storm.

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I was thinking today, Jake, what would be worse, have a six- to eight-hour period where the eye makes landfall and have a confined area with catastrophic damage or have something that hugs the coast for many more million Americans to sustain hurricane-force winds for 24 hours?

You can't make this stuff up. Today is day 4,000. It's been 4,000 days exactly since the U.S. had its last landfall with a major hurricane. That was Wilma in Florida. There are millions more that have been born, millions more that have moved into Florida that have not been there for the previous storms.

After moving through Nassau, home to 245,000, it's now on its way to Freeport. We're starting to see now that the strong winds at 140 miles per hour with gusts of 165 are producing some significant waves. Imagine, if you will, later on today when we look at the population from Miami to Jacksonville waves 20-to-40-feet high.

The engine and source behind that shoving water in the storm surge into every inlet, canal, every waterway is going to not only throw saltwater into the water treatment facilities -- they will have to shut off water -- but it's going to buckle roads, it's going to create washed-out roads.

The population area is all going to get hit with hurricane-force winds. But this is where every mile counts Jake. Take a look at this. In fact, we're going to be talking about maybe even five to 10 miles make a big difference.

In yellow, the storm force, the tropical-storm-force winds that head all the way over to Tampa, but the hurricane-force winds are going to extend well past I-95. And it's going to stay this way most likely for the entire nighttime period.

Look at high tide in Melbourne around midnight. And that's when we will know much, much better where we have landfall, if we have landfall at al. It might be better to keep it quickly in and get it over with. I think we are going to have this rake the entire coast for the next several days.

TAPPER: Tom Sater, thank you so much.

Florida not the only state about to feel the wrath of Hurricane Matthew. Mandatory evacuations are under way in two other states that could be hit just as hard. We are going to go live to those states next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:17:59] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD, and our continuing coverage of Hurricane Matthew.

Get out and do it now before it's too late. Georgia Governor Nathan Deal today issuing a mandatory evacuation order for all residents of six counties on the Georgia coast east of Interstate 95. Florida, of course, will be hit first but forecasts for Friday and Saturday are fueling fears that Hurricane Matthew which is a category 4 behemoth could claw and smash its way through Georgia and the Carolinas.

CNN is digging in ahead of this potential disaster. Stephanie Elam is in Savannah, Georgia, for us -- Savannah where the residents were part of this evacuation order.

And, Stephanie, have you talked to anyone who is staying and going to ride out the storm there?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Jake, it's kind of a tale of two coastal towns here. Yesterday, I was in Charleston, South Carolina, and I did talk to a woman who say, hey, you know, last time it wasn't so bad. We stayed. We're going to just stay here and put up a mattress against our window. But she did have a backup hotel reservation just in case.

We made our way down the coast and we came here to Savannah. And here's what's happening here. The mayor of Savannah making it very clear that people need to leave and heed Governor Deal's warning that it's time to go if you live east of the 95. So, what they're doing in Savannah, they're having the city buses go around. They say evacuation on them. They're picking up people from bus stops if necessary and they'll

ultimately bring them here to the Savannah Civic Center, which you can see behind me, I'm just going to show you. This is where they're taking them and they're moving them to Augusta. They've already taken about 400 people so far. They'll be open until midnight tonight doing that tonight, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Stephanie Elam, thank you so much.

Brian Todd is two hours up I-95 in Folly Beach, South Carolina.

And, Brian, in South Carolina, the Governor Nikki Haley said this morning that 175,000 people have already fled their homes. Right now, you can't get into nearby Charleston even if you want to.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. I-26, which is a main artery going into and out of Charleston going east-west, well, the eastbound lanes of that has been closed off.

[16:20:00] They're opening the entire highway for people to go westbound and get out, 175,000 as you mention, from the governor this morning. And she said plain and simple, that is not enough. They need at least about 250,000 more people to get out. We'll hopefully get updated numbers shortly on how many have gotten out.

We're on Folly Island right now, where you see the wave surge behind me. That's about to get a lot worse. They expect storm surges of four to eight feet, rainfall between eight and 12 inches. This is low country. That means the storm surge is going to propel the ocean water past these low-lying dunes here onto the streets of Folly Island and probably will flood them because this area floods very, very quickly.

Islands like this on the barrier chain are going to be cut off very likely if it floods like that and then people are going to have a really tough time getting out, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Brian Todd in South Carolina, Stephanie Elam in Georgia, thanks to both of you. Please stay safe.

No excuses get out. That's the order from the Florida governor as more than 12 million people prepare for the worst from Hurricane Matthew. Are people in Florida obeying the evacuation orders, however? That story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:25:32] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Our national lead, we continue to cover Hurricane Matthew. You're looking at live pictures from West Palm Beach, Florida. Florida and other states along the Eastern Seaboard currently bracing for Hurricane Matthew, more than 20 million people could be in the storm's path. And Florida alone nearly 2 million have already been ordered to evacuate.

Chris Cuomo, the anchor of CNN's "NEW DAY", is on the ground for us in Jacksonville, Florida. Chris, what's the situation where you are? Are people leaving?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": They're supposed to be, OK? Where we are here in downtown Jacksonville, if you look around you're not seeing a lot of activity. That's a good thing. Hundreds of thousands here in this immediate metropolitan area have been told to be evacuated, Duval County, which is where we are, is in a state of emergency.

But we do see a little light traffic here, the hotel we're in, a lot of people have migrated to the local hotels interestingly. Those are not shelters. People stay in the hotels at their own risk. There are shelters set up. Curfews are in effect.

Forty miles south of us, in St. Augustine and other areas, Jake, they are putting in place mandatory curfews. In Jacksonville, they just have one for the beaches so far. The concern is that you're going to have the places that are hardest hit, and then you'll have second and third tier, which is still very impressive.

Here that means 100-mile-an-hour winds are expected, the force of category 4 still being proximate to Jacksonville within the next 24 hours. But sometimes people get foolishly curious. That's why those curfews come into effect.

TAPPER: And, obviously, south of where you are, in Miami-Dade, they have a lot of preparations going on. You're farther up the coast, you're more north. Do they seem as prepared?

CUOMO: As prepared probably so, looking at the reports being put out by the mayor. It's a different type of preparation. You don't see things boarded up the way you will down south in the residential communities here. Coming in, there wasn't that level because they're not expecting it.

But it could adjust. I mean, right now, the latest review that we just saw from NOAA is that you're going to have a category 4 storm come through this area in the next 24 hours. How far off coast is the big variable right now, Jake.

If stays right along the coastline, you could have 120, 130-mile-an- hour winds. Those are going to be inherently destructive. If it moves 20 miles, literally, off east, off the coast, then you could have a very different scenario. So, they say they're prepared. You never know until the time comes.

TAPPER: All right. Chris Cuomo, thanks so much. Stay safe, my friend.

Joining me on the phone right now from Miami is Florida Senator Marco Rubio.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

Obviously, you're state has been preparing for a long time. What are you most concerned about right now? SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA (via telephone): Well, we're most

concerned about two things. Number one is people not heeding evacuation orders particularly in areas, low-lying areas near the coast and in mobile homes which are not build to withstand much of any kind of storm activity not to mention a hurricane.

A lot of people just don't want to move. It's inconvenient, I'm not going anywhere, I don't want to do it. And suddenly, that's where you get loss of life.

And more importantly that's -- and in addition to that, you also get your first responders are put in danger because they have to respond to this sometimes in the middle of a storm. So, that's equally concerning.

And, then, obviously, Jacksonville, we're talking more and more about northeast Florida. You just had the report from Jacksonville. That's a community that hasn't seen a storm in a very long time. There's the concern about a storm surge going into the bay there and pushing all of that water into the downtown area.

It's not that the people and the folks working up there don't know what to do. They most certainly do. But it's just a community that hasn't seen a storm. I spent a lot of time in Jacksonville. It's just not the same hurricane culture that you have in other parts of the state because they hadn't had a storm in a long time. So, you wonder how many people have (INAUDIBLE), that sort of thing, because they were to take the brunt of this. So, we want to keep an eye on that in the days to come.

TAPPER: Senator, where are you and your family going to be riding out the storm?

RUBIO: Well, we'll be in south Florida where we live, in Miami. That's the right place to be for today obviously. You know, my mom lives two blocks away. We want to make sure she's okay. Not good time to be on the road.

I've been visiting the emergency operations center here in Miami, Dade County, about two, three times a day to get updates on statewide situation. And we'll wait for the storm to clear through so we're not getting in the way of people working or doing. What we're asking people not to do, being on the roads and all that.

And then we'll jump quickly to make sure our federal agencies are responding appropriately and rapidly. The president thankfully a few hours ago signed a pre-storm emergency declaration, which allows the federal government to begin to coordinate assistance and preposition assets. I think that was the right decision and that's good to see happen.

And, of course, the federal government will be responding not just in Florida --