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Interview With Florida Governor Rick Scott; Irma Targets Florida; Officials: Haiti is Not Ready for Irma & Aftermath; South Florida Towns Begin Evacuations Ahead of Irma. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired September 7, 2017 - 16:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We're going to begin with breaking news in the national lead.


Its destructive power and its staying power may be unprecedented and are leaving meteorologists stunned, Hurricane Irma tearing to shreds islands along its path in the Caribbean, places such as Barbuda said to be now uninhabitable, decimated, 90 percent of houses and cars destroyed there as Irma make its way closer to the United States.

Miami and the Florida Keys appear to be right in her path. But Irma's exact destination, of course, remains unknown. Right now, the National Hurricane Center says Irma remains, remains a Category 5 hurricane with 175-mile-per-hour sustained winds at its core.

Hurricane watches have been issued for South Florida and the Keys as the hurricane passes near the Dominican Republic and Haiti. But Florida Governor Rick Scott is warning, do not wait to get out. Do not wait to evacuate, as people on long, long lines for gas hope that there's enough fuel to get them out.

And as far north as South Carolina, the governor there is already ordering hospitals and nursing homes to get their patients out.

We are set up across the Caribbean and in Florida, where millions are bracing for a direct hit. We have the latest track of this monster storm from the CNN Weather Center, of course.

But first let's bring in our CNN senior national correspondent Kyung Lah. She's on the edge of Homestead, Florida, which is south of Miami.

Kyung, where you are right now, it was devastated by Hurricane Andrew in '92. How are people in the area preparing now for this new monster storm?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is 35 miles south of Miami, and this is a city that was almost completely wiped off the map. This has been a town that we have seen trying to prepare, trying to get out, but here's the problem. You need fuel in order to escape. This gas station that we're standing at, you can see that the windows are boarded up, all this tape is up here. The reason why is, within the last 15 minutes, they just ran out of fuel. There's some diesel left.

There's a gas station over here, two more on the side. They're also out of fuel. And right across the street, that Citgo also shuttered, completely out. The options here, south of Miami, they are dwindling.


LAH (voice-over): After seeing the devastation Irma left behind in the Caribbean, Floridians are bracing for a monster, boarding up their homes and preparing to get out fast.

JOEL MELENDEZ, FLORIDA RESIDENT: Today's going to be the deadline.

LAH (on camera): Today is the deadline.

MELENDEZ: People are going to get caught in the turnpikes. They're going to get caught in the roads because they're going to do that last-minute panic and try to get out of here. It's going to be too late.

LAH (voice-over): Their urgency echoed by Governor Rick Scott this afternoon, as the Sunshine State braces for the most powerful hurricane ever recorded.

GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: We cannot save you when the storm starts. So, if you're in an evacuation zone and you need help, you need to tell us now.

LAH: From Kissimmee to Fort Lauderdale, residents are waiting hours for the fuel to get out of its path, Scott reassuring them supply is his top priority.

SCOTT: Please take only what you need. We've got to be considerate of others, so everybody can get out.

LAH: As fuel tankers make their way into Florida's ports to meet demand, smaller boats and cruise ships are heading out. At least one cruise company tells CNN it is using its vessel to evacuate employees to calmer waters.

PHILIP LEVINE (D), MAYOR OF MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA: This is a serious, serious storm. I have called it a nuclear hurricane.

LAH: The mayor of Miami Beach is also sounding the alarm as ambulances at Miami's Mercy Hospital stand ready to move the last of its patients out of harm's way.

Early this morning, Broward County's animal shelter evacuated more than 175 of its residents by plane in order to make room for displaced pets during the storm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Broward County doesn't get hit, they will be the receiving shelter.

LAH: Miami Beach is now under mandatory evacuation orders, but still some residents are vowing to stay.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe it's stupidity of the first class, but, nevertheless, I want to stay at home and I want to see if I can survive it.

LAH: Thousands more are heeding orders, crowding Florida's airports and state highways as they flee their homes, not knowing what they may come back to.


LAH: So four gas stations here just on this corner completely out of gas, except for some diesel at this one station.

The concern here is, as the weather models get scarier and scarier, the options are simply disappearing -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Kyung Lah, thank you so much.

The big question, of course, what part of the United States will take a direct hit from Hurricane Irma? As Florida braces, moments ago, we learned President Trump has signed an emergency declaration for the state of South Carolina.



TAPPER: Joining me on the phone is Florida Governor Rick Scott.

Governor, thanks again, as always.

The latest updated storm track appears to show Irma making a direct hit on Miami and the Florida Keys, though, of course, the track could still shift. Is Florida ready?

SCOTT: We're working very hard, Jake. We're very ready.

I'm just working hard to make sure our citizens are ready. Our biggest issue right now is fuel availability. I have had phone calls with the oil companies, with the carriers, with the retailers to try to get more fuel to our citizens.

We have some shortages. We have some outages. So, it's the biggest issue. I have been working with the White House, the EPA, FEMA, Department of Transportation to, you know, reduce regulations so we can get more gas in the state. But we're doing everything to get more fuel to the state. We're providing...


TAPPER: I hear that you're talking to...


SCOTT: ... escorts. Go ahead.

TAPPER: Keep going. I'm sorry.


SCOTT: And provide escorts to get the carriers out of the fuel depots, out to the stations as fast as they can without getting stuck in the traffic.

We're seeing some bottlenecks in traffic as people are evacuating, and so we're trying to make sure we get through the traffic as fast as possible, so we get everybody the fuel so they can evacuate.

TAPPER: I hear that you're talking to the federal government and to the fuel companies. Are you seeing any results?


We got some -- we're getting some additional tankers in to Port Tampa Bay. We have three tankers coming in today. Each of the tankers has 1.2 million gallons. So, we are getting some more fuel there. There was some fuel in the Panhandle and in Georgia they were able to get down into Florida that are on trucks.

So we're -- and I was with Secretary Pruitt, Scott Pruitt, this morning. And I needed an EPA waiver to get more fuel into the -- to be using some of the fuel in our state. And I got that done this morning.

I'm still working on some other regulations. I have talked to the White House. I have talked to FEMA, so, we're working on that. So, we can -- because my concern is, I want to make sure people can evacuate. They have got to have the fuel to evacuate.

And then, as soon as this thing hits, I have got to have fuel when people want to get back into their houses. And so I have got to think about how to get ready, but also afterwards, how do I make sure people can get back to normal as fast as possible?


TAPPER: Right. Of course.

Do you expect evacuation orders to expand as Hurricane Irma approaches?

SCOTT: Absolutely.

I was just -- I just finished my third city today, Jacksonville, and they're working on their evacuation orders. Here's what's different between this and Andrew. A lot of people know about Andrew.

This is a bigger storm. It has way more wind, but, most importantly, has way more storm surge. Even in a place like Jacksonville, if it continues the path that it looks like it's going on now, if it follows the National Hurricane path, they're going to see storm surge.

But in South Florida, you could have 10-plus feet of storm surge. So, your house could be covered. And so it's different than Harvey, which was a rain event. This thing is supposed to be fast-moving, so we won't get as much rain, but you can get a band of water coming off the coast and just engulf your house.

So you have got to listen to these evacuation orders and understand, this storm surge is deadly. And that's my biggest concern. People don't -- they have never -- they haven't dealt with it.

We had some last year with our first hurricane, Hermine, but it was an area that didn't have as many people, so people didn't see all the damage it caused. It causes unbelievable damage. I don't want to lose one citizen. I want to take -- I want everybody to be safe through this hurricane.

TAPPER: All right, Governor Rick Scott, thank you so much. We wish you the best of luck with your goal.

SCOTT: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Before the United States takes a direct hit from Hurricane Irma, the Category 5 storm is ripping through the Caribbean. We're going to go live to Haiti next, where Irma's impact is being felt right now, and officials tell CNN they are not ready for this storm.

Stick around.


[16:15:57] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: We're back with more breaking news in our national lead today. We're watching this deadly and storm, Hurricane Irma, still, still a category five hurricane as we all wait to see where this will slam into the U.S. Irma has already killed at least six people and brought unprecedented destruction to parts of the Caribbean. It's battering parts of Haiti right now.

CNN's Paula Newton is live in Haiti.

And, Paula, Haiti has already been devastated by other natural disasters. Officials there told CNN, told you, that they're not ready for Irma. And it's aftermath.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Point-blank, saying not only are we not ready for this storm, we're not ready for the aftermath of the storm. What does that mean? They do not have provisions in place, water. They've tried to evacuate some people but are having a hard time either because they do not have well-stocked evacuation centers or people refuse to leave. Let me tell you what's at risk here here. More than 100,000 people in

low lying areas, that's for the storm itself, which we continue to feel here, but also higher in the mountains. You're talking about the risk of mudslides and flooding. Last year during Hurricane Matthew, you had entire families swept away from their homes, you know, very basic homes swept away into the sea and that is the fear here today.

Yes, officials being very blunt. They were waiting for some help from the Port-au-Prince, from the government. As of yet, few hours ago, it had not arrived.

Jake, we are lucky here, we are getting the back end, not a direct hit. If there's any country that could use some luck right now, it's Haiti. They're praying their luck remains in the next 12 hours as they see the effect of what is still an enormous storm even if you're just getting the back end of it.

TAPPER: All right. Paula Newton in Haiti, stay safe please, thank you.

We heard Florida Governor Rick Scott tells citizens get out now. The entire state of Florida is now bracing for this monster hurricane. Hundreds of thousands of people along the coastal areas have been ordered to leave their homes and evacuate in preparation for Hurricane Irma's arrival.

CNN's Brynn Gingras is in Merritt Island, Florida.

And, Brynn, the evacuation order will take effect just hours from now.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, tomorrow at 3:00, Jake, that is the warning from the county, Brevard County, to get out. Although I have to tell you, Jake, we've been talking to a number of people, and they say, you know what, they're staying home. So, we'll see how that all works out.

Right now though, still preparations under way for people who live in this county. You can see the sandbagging operation that's behind us. Those are inmates that are actually bagging individual bags of sand and then throwing a maximum of ten into each car. Somewhat of a slow operation. There are people that we've talked to that have waited since 8:00 this morning. Just to get their hands on ten sandbags. You can see people getting out of their cars, actually losing gas in the process.

But, yes, mandatory evacuations in place beginning tomorrow afternoon, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Brynn Gingras, thank you. Please stay safe.

With Florida bracing for a worst case scenario and direct hit from Irma, are people in the mandatory evacuation zones leaving? We're going to talk to the mayor of one of those areas next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [16:23:00] TAPPER: And we're back with more breaking news in our national lead. We're watching Hurricane Irma still tearing through the Caribbean with power rarely seen from a storm in this part of the world. The projected path of this hurricane is of critical importance right now. Irma could be bringing devastation for hundreds of miles from the eye of this storm. The storm has already killed at least six people and brought unprecedented destruction to parts of the Caribbean. It's battering parts of Haiti right now.

Let's bring in Raul Valdes-Fauli. He's the mayor of Coral Gables in Miami-Dade County.

Mr. Mayor, thanks for joining us.

You ordered evacuations for zone A of your city. That's for people along the coast. Do you expect to expand those evacuations, and if so, when?

MAYOR RAUL VALDES-FAULI, CORAL GABLES, FLORIDA: At 3:27 p.m. today, I expanded them to A, which we had since this morning, B, and C.


VALDES-FAULI: Yellow and orange zones is part of the double zone. We are taking this extremely seriously.

And, you know, it's such a huge storm that we have an evacuation order for about 40 percent of our city. We're taking it very, very seriously. We have 48 miles of coastal waterfront properties, including canals, and they're very much in danger. And we are taking it very, very seriously.

Our city is up --



TAPPER: Are you concerned about evacuations whether or not they started early enough, sir?

VALDES-FAULI: I am more concerned about the earlier evacuations, I'm concerned about the people that don't leave. I called this morning the heads of many neighborhood associations and they say that we have the order to evacuate, but some people just don't want to leave.

And with Andrew, we had areas of the city that were devastated and we didn't have surge potential that we have with this one. Anybody who doesn't want to leave is really risking it, risking his or her life, and the life of a family. It's -- I hope everybody will leave within the evacuation zone.

TAPPER: What is the reason that people in Coral Gables are giving for not leaving?

[16:25:04] Do they not trust the forecast? Have there been too many incidents in the past where they were told it would be a category five and by the time it actually hit, it was a category one or two? Why would somebody not leave when given an evacuation order?

VALDES-FAULI: That may have happened in the past, although I don't remember that happening in Coral Gables. But it's my home is my castle type of feeling, and people just don't to want leave their homes. And they feel safe, of course, they feel safe.

But in this circumstance, in this situation, I urge everybody to leave, obey the evacuation order because it is most serious and when the wind goes up over 45 miles an hour, we cannot send rescue vehicles, police cars, rescue, et cetera, because we put those lives in danger too. Anything over 45 miles an hour, they don't have rescue possibilities, and this is going to go up to 175, 180.

It's -- we've got boats, extra boats to navigate the flooded streets and such, but with this wind, we're not going to be able to reach those people. And, again, I urge people to leave.

TAPPER: All right. Coral Gables Mayor Raul Valdes-Fauli, thank you. Stay safe. Best of luck to you and the people of Coral Gables.

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