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Killer Hurricane Directly Aiming At Miami In New Forecast; Florida Bracing For Direct Hit From Hurricane The Size Of Texas; National Weather Service: "Immense Human Suffering" Possible; Mandatory Evacuation, Warnings Of "Life-Threatening' Conditions. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired September 7, 2017 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: -- with Erin Burnett OutFront.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OutFront next, breaking news, a new forecast for Hurricane Irma putting Miami in line for a direct hit. Millions of Americans in the path. We're tracking the latest on this deadly monster storm.

Let's go OutFront.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

BURNETT: And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, the breaking news, a direct strike on Florida. At this hour, Hurricane Irma heading straight for a direct hit on the United States. Irma could make landfall on the three most populous areas of Florida, Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties. Home to more than six million people there alone and 37 million Americans could be impacted by this deadly hurricane as it moves up the East Coast.

The scale of Irma is hard to grasp but the storm is the size of Texas. And if you look at the most destructive storm in history to hit the state of Florida, we can show you Hurricane Andrew, that's in 1992 on the left. And then there is Irma, so much bigger on the right, dwarfing Andrew.

Here is just a bit of what is coming Florida's way. This is the Turks and Caicos where Irma is just beginning its onslaught there. They're anticipating a storm surge of as much as 20 to 25 feet.

Haiti, not prepared for this massive storm, seeing torrential rain falling right now rushed in big fear. And in Florida, it is a race against the clock and against this record-breaking storm. No storm in history anywhere has spun this fast for this long. And evacuations are underway for Miami Beach and coastal areas of Miami including the barrier islands. Thirty-one thousand people have already left the Florida Keys.

Families lining up in cars, desperately trying to beat the storm north and Irma's possible historic hit, is not the only hurricane threatening tonight. Hurricane Jose strengthening to a category 3 late this afternoon is trailing in Irma's wake on its path and Hurricane Katia, a category 1 is in the Gulf of Mexico.

Our teams of reporters covering this hurricane from the Caribbean Islands through the state of Florida are with us. I want to begin though with our meteorologist, Tom Sater, who is tracking the latest track of this storm. And, Tom, where is it going?

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, it looks like, Erin, the worst of it right now in the Turks and Caicos, they're looking at possibly a 20 foot storm surge. And on these islands, that's a devastating system not much higher, you know, above sea level.

But again, when you talked about this covering the size of Texas, 300,000 square miles, you could fit two Hurricane Andrews inside here. More in that just a little bit. It has not really budged much in its strength.

Five miles per hour but you can't tell that. We're going on hour 60 with this being a category 5. Warnings in effect for the Bahamas Islands but this is a big deal today, Erin.

The National Hurricane Center placing a hurricane watch. They do not do this lightly. They just don't slap it up somewhere in the U.S. without considerable conversation, analysis of the data because they know it costs millions and millions of dollars to do this.

Not only for federal and state and local, you know, forces to get the resources in there, to get the aid in there and the equipment but the evacuation procedure. Of course all the aid shelters opened, the evacuations, businesses closing. This is a big, big deal. It will become a warning in the next couple of days. In fact, we're about two and a half days out.

So once that watch becomes a warning, we'll watch other watches getting posted up both coasts of Florida. At the same time, in the Carolina Coast, (INAUDIBLE) still in good agreement. These are kind of hugging the coast a little bit and all the models come together around Savannah, Georgia.

But there was a difference today in the track. Yesterday, we noticed the shift eastward about 60 to 70 miles. Today, the track at 5 p.m. shifts back westward about another 15 to 20, which places Miami in the worst possible place. And takes it due south and due north across the entire peninsula.

When you have an eye right now that's 23 miles in diameter, that's where the winds are the strongest at 175, 180. Now, don't think that everyone in the state is going to feel that, but that's like a category 3 tornado on the ground for hours and of course that diameter and just outside.

The hurricane force winds extend outward 100 miles. So that is just going to be catastrophic for all of Florida if this continues to be the case. The European model --

BURNETT: Obviously, it looks like we just lost Tom's audio. When we get him back, we're going to get more and he does -- he's going to be getting more information of course as this hour goes on the storm's strengthen track. We're going to be going back to him several times here as we get those latest plots.

But you heard him say, Turks and Caicos right now could be getting the worst of this at this moment with a possible storm surge of 20 feet. These are islands that are not 20 feet above sea level just to state the obvious. Let's just let you take a look.



[19:05:05] We're heading inside. Oh, God, it's getting worse. Oh God, I've got to go.

Oh, my God. It's bad. I've got to get in. I've got to get inside.


BURNETT: Rose Chamberlain is OutFront. She took this video right outside her hotel. She is stranded on the island tonight along with her friend Kelsey Priest.

Rose, look, thank you. I know this isn't easy to be even up and stay on the phone. I know you and Kelsey are both from Colorado. You're there for work, you tried to get out. You weren't able to get a flight home before the storm.

You know, we're showing some of the video that you and Kelsey took earlier. What are the conditions where you are right now at your hotel?

CHAMBERLAIN: It's unbelievable. It's just (INAUDIBLE) the winds are horrendous. We went outfront and I had to run in because (INAUDIBLE) is flying across the (INAUDIBLE).

BURNETT: And I know you are both about, what, two minute walk from the beach and, you know, you're at sea level, if not below. Obviously, you know, we're talking about storm surges here of 20 feet. How high are you all going to be able to go up? Are you safe where you are?

CHAMBERLAIN: Well, actually, we went up. We were 60 feet up. We actually went inland and went up on a hill. So we don't have to worry about the surges right now.

It's more of the wind that we're dealing with and making sure that everybody here has food and water and just preparing as much as we can.

BURNETT: And when you all have seen -- I know where this was coming towards you, you saw Barbuda, St. Martin, those islands have been leveled, obliterate. I mean, I know you're up on high ground, the best place to be but, how afraid are you?

CHAMBERLAIN: Well, we try not to watch that news. KELSEY PRIEST, AMERICAN STRANDED IN TURKS AND CAICOS: We actually didn't look at it at all because it's terrifying. I mean, (INAUDIBLE) we're prepared as much as possible.

BURNETT: I know you've got to be eager to get home and see your families the minute you can. What have they told you about what comes next when they are able to determine the devastation of this storm where you are about getting home?

CHAMBERLAIN: Well, we have been talking to American airlines and we do have a flight going out Sunday at about 3:49. If we can't get that, Kelsey's dad is working on getting a charter flight for us.

PRIEST: To get out.

BURNETT: And I know it's got to be so scary. Thank God you guys are together. That's the good thing. That you're not alone and you are together.

CHAMBERLAIN: Well, we're in the house with some locals and they're great and we had a great meal. We're sitting in the dark, but we're trying to save on our batteries on our phone so we can text our families and our friends.

BURNETT: Well, we don't want to use anymore of your battery up. Thank you so much, both of you, Kelsey, Rose, for being with us. Our thoughts are with you that you will get through this safely, this historic moment in history to watch this. Thank you.

And that's the Turks and Caicos which as we said is about to feel the brunt of it and thank goodness for them that they have been able to find a way 60 feet up of that storm surge. They are going to be perhaps the record scene, 20 feet or higher.

Haiti, which was crippled by Hurricane Matthew last year is now bracing for one of -- for frankly, the most powerful storm ever recorded in terms of the amount of time it has been spinning at 185 miles an hour.

Paula Newton is OutFront live in Haiti. And Paula there, this will be a major hit.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It will be a major hit, and even though, you know, the interview you just had, they're on the northeast side, the (INAUDIBLE) we're on the southern end. Haiti, Erin is not going to take a direct hit. That doesn't mean there won't be catastrophic conditions here as the storm continues.

We have got a lot of bands of rain going through. We've already heard some (INAUDIBLE) reports of flooding. The most alarming to me, Erin is that, throughout the day we've had officials here tell us, look, we are not prepared for this storm. Not only we're not prepared for this storm, we're not prepared for what happens after the storm. Especially when it comes to flooding and the risk of those mudslides.

Those mudslides that literally swept away entire families after Hurricane Matthew last year. And that's what they're getting ready for here. I mean, really, Haiti was very lucky that that storm did veer north and east. This country so ill-equipped to handle it, one of the poorest countries in the world. They have already been through so much.

You know, there were many preparations, Erin here. Authorities telling us even the evacuation centers that they have set up, we've heard reports now that a few hundred people have moved into them. There has been some storm surge but really we've got a few hours yet to see how all of this is going to shape out in Haiti. And they really have dodged the worst of this storm in Haiti.

And if anyone needed to, Haiti was a country that really needed to stay out of that eye wall and stay out of those horrific winds. Erin?

[19:10:06] BURNETT: And of course, that eye wall (INAUDIBLE) spinning at least 70 miles from the eye of Irma. These new forecasts puts Miami, Florida in line for a direct strike. The warnings are as you just heard Tom Sater say are as serious as they come.

But, not everyone is heeding the evacuation orders. Kyung Lah is OutFront live in Miami. Kyung, you've been talking to people who've been through this, right? Their community was devastated by Hurricane Matthew and, yet, they're not going anywhere.

KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There are some people who are choosing to stay and that's astonishing considering where I'm standing. Homestead, Florida, 30 miles south of Miami. This is a community that was almost decimated during the 1992 Hurricane Andrew. We heard tales of people who almost escaped -- who escaped death, who almost were killed, especially for them, for some of them it is a day to get out.


LAH (voice-over): Irma, destructive and deadly, turning right towards Homestead, Florida. Joel Melendez is racing from window to window, house to house.

JOEL MELENDEZ, HOMESTEAD RESIDENT: If you are financially stable and you're able to get out of here, get out of here.

LAH (voice-over): Remembering this is what Hurricane Andrew did to Homestead 25 years ago. The CAT 5 nearly wiping his hometown off the map. This is a picture of Melendez's childhood home completely flattened. His family only survived by hiding in a neighbor's concrete house. He is boarding up homes for free.

MELENDEZ: It's traumatizing, you know. Serious, you know, this ain't no game. You know, I feel for a lot of people that I can't help that I can't get to because I'm only one guy and my brother and i, you know. So I -- hopefully I made some type of change or I save a life or two. That's all that matters at the end of day.

LAH (voice-over): Across Southern Florida in ever widening mandatory evacuation order, people packing up, crowding roads and airports to escape the hurricane. But options in Homestead, 30 miles south of Miami are dwindling, right with the gas supply.

One by one, gas stations closing and boarding up. Stay at your own risk says Florida's governor.

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

KESLYN BERTRAN, HOMESTEAD RESIDENT: I got the big pans, the little pans, everything.

LAH (voice-over): Keslyn Bertran is not heeding that order. Bertran wasn't alive when Hurricane Andrew ripped through Homestead in 1992.

BERTRAN: My plan is to just stay here, see where it takes us because if this house stayed here for Andrew, I'm pretty sure it'll hold this hurricane.

LAH (voice-over): She has weeks of food for her 15-month-old son Hayden (ph) and sacks of formula, enough to feed her four-month old Aiden (ph) for months.

(on camera) Could you be wrong? I mean, what happens --

BERTRAN: I could be wrong.

LAH (on camera): What happens if you're wrong and it's too late to get out?

BERTRAN: I just have to think positive. I have everything ready for them.


LAH: So, what you're seeing behind me is something that we've seen at gas stations, if they're open. You can see the long line of people who are waiting here to try to get gas. We seen it fluctuate from two football field lengths down to one but there's always been a line here because this is one of the few that's open. Many that we've been driven by, Erin are closed. You do after all need gas to escape.


BURNETT: All right, that's the crucial thing. and once that's gone, as you say, if you're in an evacuation zone, there is no way out. Kyung Lah, thank you very much.

And I want to go back to Tom Sater, our meteorologist. Tom, just before we lost you, you were talking about the other two hurricanes and one of them of course really tracking right behind Irma.

SATER: Yes, absolutely. So, we had a little battery power issue there. Let me go backwards just a little bit more if I can just to show you.

This is that European model that shifted westward putting Miami and all of Florida in just the wrong position right now. We also had a shift in the U.S. model.

Yesterday was well off the coast and now it's agreeing with the European. This is not good to see this kind of commonality when you're only two and a half days out.

But when it comes to our storms, Katia, do not worry about. A cold front moving through Northern Florida. I wish it was moving through a couple of days from now, but it's going to push Katia down around Veracruz.

The big concern is Jose. Yesterday, it became a hurricane with Katia at the 5 p.m. hour. It's now a major hurricane, category 3.

We talked about some intensity in becoming a fish storm. It will move to the north. But unfortunately, this is kind of frightening and sad.

Category 3 now, we've got hurricane watches for the same northern islands of the Lesser Antilles that were decimated with the prime minister of Barbuda saying it's barely habitable. Not hearing much from Anguilla that was decimated and St. Pete's and others with this kind of storm activity in this area even though it's not going to take a direct hit, Erin. Those hurricane forced winds extend outward enough that the people of Barbuda do not have any place to go.

They don't have a civic center such as Houston. They barely have buildings that are in one piece right now. So the thousands that are living there, you've got to keep them in your thoughts and prayers for protection. And with all the debris from all the buildings that are scattered all over the islands, one, they can't just take a flight out because the airport is damaged.

[19:15:07] They're going to have a lot of problems here in the next couple of days. So again, it does skirt away but it's just too close. They've been through enough suffering right now.

Can you believe if you were in Texas and you hit -- had Harvey hit 24 hours later, you get another hurricane watch.

BURNETT: And I mean, it's unbelievable and all those lives at risk. All right, Tom, thank you and Tom is going to be back with us later this hour as we get some updated information on this track. Just obviously everyone now hoping against hope that there's going to be sense of a little bit of a tweak here that could avert such a major catastrophe.

Next, as they're getting out, mass evacuation. Senator and Florida resident, Marco Rubio lives directly in the storm's path. He's OutFront next.

Plus, a storm chaser going directly into Irma's path. He will tell you what he saw.

And Irma leaving massive destruction everywhere it has struck. Hundreds of thousands of people in Puerto Rico are without power, and could be for a long time. We'll be there live.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the roof, the roof is about to come. Yes, there it is.



BURNETT: Breaking news, Florida bracing for a direct hit from Hurricane Irma, millions in its path. Miami right now directly right in the center.

Our Tom Sater saying what will be the worst of this storm. The Florida Keys, one of the state's most vulnerable locations is under mandatory evacuation.

[19:20:04] Our Bill Weir is in Islamorada, and Bill, what is happening there where you are.

BILL WEIR, HOST, THE WONDER LIST WITH BILL WEIR: Well, Erin, actually a whole lot of nothing. It is a beautiful night, it's shaping up to views, you can see the sky, one of your typical Key West (INAUDIBLE) sunsets. People, you know, spend their vacation savings on to go watch with a drink.

But, it is a ghost key, ghost Keys, one after another as they've seen evacuation levels unmatched in recent memory. And we're here between two of the Keys, if you've never been down there, it's a feed of both geology and human engineering. These 42, 43 islands connected by bridges. Some of them six miles long or so.

These were not created by volcanoes. This is an ancient coral reef where people have carved out a society on top of (INAUDIBLE). And we're talking about a storm surge from Irma about 20 feet, you've heard those.

Let me tell you why this is perhaps the most vulnerable neighborhood in the United States right now. This is a U.S. geological survey station and just to monitor the water as it comes up, the top of this screw right here is 19.752 feet. So that tells you, we're at the Everest of the Florida Keys here. This is nosebleed sea, it's about as high as it gets.

So a storm surge as you can imagine, some savvy folks have been marking their cars alongside these bridges where they can but there's not a lot of space. This is such a tight little archipelago of these Keys going north. And as you can see, the highway is virtually deserted. Just a few folks scurrying north to get out of harm's way.

BURNETT: All right, Bill, thank you very much. As Bill said, people heeding these warnings as they should.

And OutFront now, let's go to the Florida senator, Marco Rubio. Senator Rubio, I appreciate your time. I know you have been getting briefed, you've been getting constant forecasts. How bad do you think this is going to be from what you understand right now? SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA (via telephone): Yes, we've been putting up shutters at my home, too right in Miami. So, well, look, I think we have to be prepared for perhaps the most significant storm event certainly since Andrew and in many ways could be worse in terms of its trajectory.

When this thing is pushing a bunch of water from the south and east that if it strikes the way it's projected to today and that could change, it's going to have a huge impact whether it's on the Florida Keys and just listening to that report, I mean, really accurately described what it's like down there. But also Miami-Dade County, the coastal areas, you know, South Beach which is world famous, all of the areas there, they're on inland are vulnerable to that storm surge.

Palm Beach County, Broward County which has a lot of villas and then extending out to the southwest coast as well. And then it leads all the way up to this massive lake that we have in the middle of state called Lake Okeechobee which holds, you know, a bunch of water. And you also worry about the impact that wind has on pushing the water north, and we have a lot of vulnerable communities just south of that.

So, there's a lot to worry about with the wind but there's also a lot to worry about with storm surge in a state that's already very low and even at it's highest point we have mountains in Florida obviously. So, I'm concern -- you know, you can do things to protect yourself from the wind. It's very difficult to protect from the water.

You basically have to evacuate and we're hoping people are heeding those warnings. It sounds like they have in many parts of the Keys but there is still a lot of areas that remain that I'm worried about it.

BURNETT: And Senator, you know, you mentioned, you know, you're right, in the center of this, your family. You said, you're shuttering your windows. I know this is personal.

What is your family doing? Are you and they going to ride out the storm? Are you going to evacuate? What's decision have you made?

RUBIO (via telephone): You know, it's an excellent question to ask. We've been having this debate all day long. I'm sure a lot of families have as well. I certainly want to be in a place where I can be helpful after the storm but also have to be safe.

I mean, my mother is elderly and had some disabilities and we've got to make sure she's OK. She's a couple of blocks away. Luckily, I'm not on the coast and I'm not in a flooding area, so we kind of, you know, gotten our shutters up in our home and perhaps intend to ride it out there. But you worry.

If you look at the map, my house might not be flooded but basically all the streets around it could be. Not just from winds -- not just from the rain but canals overflowing nearby. So, it's still an open debate and at this point, it's not clear there is anywhere you could go in Florida to avoid this. I mean, this is a huge storm so it's going to impact everything from the southwest part of the states to the Everglades and to Miami-Dade up to Broward, Palm Beach County, even into Central Florida. I mean, this is a big, ugly, powerful storm, and, you know, a lot of people have already left the southern parts of the state and a lot of people I hope are heeding the warnings and getting to higher ground and stay sheltered away from water as well.

BURNETT: And Senator, just before you called in, we had a report from Homestead which of course obviously was decimated by Andrew. And we heard from a young woman, she has two young children, 15-months-old and four-months-old. She is not evacuating even though of course it's under a mandatory evacuation.

And I know you didn't get to hear it. I just want to play a quick clip for you of her rationale and what she said.


BERTRAN: My plan is to just stay here, see where it takes us because if this house stayed here for Andrew, I'm pretty sure it'll hold this hurricane for now.


BURNETT: Senator, what do you tell her? I mean, she's getting to the point where if she changes her mind, she's not going to even be able to get out.

[19:25:04] RUBIO (via telephone): Yes, I think it's a bad idea and I hope she's watching so she understands why. This is not about inconvenience to anyone. I know that Andrew, she may have ridden that out, but Andrew was a different storm, devastating in its own right.

But all these storms are very different. And this storm is coming from the south and I don't know if she's near the water areas or the coast but it has that impact, it's very significant. And because of the size of the storm, that's the other point, because of the trajectory in the size of the storm, getting assistance into South Florida is not going to be in the first six hours.

I mean, if that storm is brewing through the central part of the state, agencies cannot get down here with supplies until the pathway, whether it's down the (INAUDIBLE) or I-95 or I-75, until those roads are safe to navigate in and until the storm is cleared, you can't start moving stuff down here. So she could, theoretically find herself days before emergency workers and supplies and things can get to her.

So I just think she needs to put all that in perspective and understand that there's a very significant threat and a very significant storm because it has a unique aspect to it. And that is it is big, and the way it is moving, there really is no safe place south of Orlando and Florida right now that I feel comfortable telling people is not going to impacted. So, how do you get energy crews, how do you get water, food, medicine down until the storm is cleared and the roads are opened. That's why I think she really should consider she's in an evacuation zone doing that.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Senator, I appreciate, I hope she hears you. I hope anyone else who is making that wrong decision hears you as well. Takes advantage of these last hours to get out.

Thank you again.

RUBIO (via telephone): OK.

BURNETT: And Senator Rubio, I hope you and your family and your mother are safe. Thank you.

And OutFront next, brand-new video of the devastation in Saint Thomas. We're going to show you just after the break, we're just getting this in right off the aircraft that was over the storm. And then inside Irma, a man who is chasing the storm will tell you what he has seen inside the center of the deadly hurricane.


[19:30:44] ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Breaking news: Hurricane Irma tearing islands to shreds. These are brand-new pictures and video just in from Saint Thomas. A CNN photographer was up in a plane going over all of the damage.

You see the debris. You see the downed trees. I mean, you see the debris literally everywhere here. All of those little white pieces, giant pieces of wood. This is a very popular vacation spot, very high end vacation spot and you can see it, obliterated.

This is just one title little stop for Irma. That meant nothing to a storm as giant as it was. It didn't slow down, making its way towards a direct strike on the United States. The brand-new forecast outputs Miami right on the path, right exactly in the center. And the way the track is right now, in the worst possible angle of the storm, that could change. But that's the forecast right now.

And OUTFRONT now, meteorologist Brett Adair who is also personally been tracking the storm. He's stranded on a tarmac in Puerto Rico. He rode out Hurricane Irma there, chased the storm.

And I know, Brett, you have been waiting and waiting and waiting for hours. You were there though in the category five storm. And we have some video that you were able to get when you were in the midst of the storm.

What were conditions like?

BRETT ADAIR, METEOROLOGIST (via telephone): Well, here in San Juan, we were actually very lucky. The storm, the core of it actually passed about 25 miles to the north of us. We're very lucky. But there was some high wind and heavy rains and, obviously, there are hundreds of thousands of people here in San Juan without power at the moment. Even the airport, we're on generator power, and as you said, we've been on a five-hour delay to get a flight back to Fort Lauderdale.

But other than that, a lot of tree damage, a lot of power infrastructure damage. But the structure damage itself in terms of homes and property, it was relatively minor compared to what it could have been.

BURNETT: Which, of course, makes the point that we're saying, the 25- mile shift in where the storm strikes can make the difference between catastrophe and obliteration and something that is devastating but survivable. You know, Brett, you saw Irma when you were there and obviously now that storm is getting ready to turn towards the Florida Keys and Miami.

What should people expect? You are someone who's been in the midst of this storm and many others.

ADAIR: Well, get out of the way. That's the biggest thing. We had crews that were on Saint Thomas during the hurricane and they lost a root of their hotel that they were when the hurricane struck. They took a direct hit.

I was in Rockport, Texas, a couple of weeks ago and we dealt with hurricane Harvey as it hit. The devastation is seemingly pretty similar. And I'm going to tell you, you can lose your life if you do not heed these evacuation orders, these warnings to have supplies and fuel. I mean, you just need to get out of the way.

BURNETT: There are some choosing to ride out the storm. We saw one young woman with two young children, four months and 15 months. She says she's got baby formula and food for them and she's going to ride it out.

How big of a mistake is she making?

ADAIR: Well, if she's anywhere in coastal sections, I'd say that is a pretty big mistake. Anyway from --

BURNETT: Well, she's in a mandatory evacuation zone in Homestead.

ADAIR: Yes, Homestead. That's absolutely one of the worst places to be. If you get a Hurricane Andrew type wind speed and going Homestead along, with storm surge, I mean, that is actually a death wish. I would not wish for anybody to be in that area. I would evacuate.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Brett, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much. Safe travels back. Good luck. I know that obviously, it is incredible delays, as it is for so many, as thousands and thousands of flights are going to be canceled.

I want to go now to Bill Read, the former director of the National Hurricane Center, along with Reed Timmer, AccuWeather storm chaser who has witnessed firsthand some of the most powerful storms in history and, of course, now this one, the most powerful by at least one measure, it has been going at 185 miles hour longer than any storm in recorded history.

Bill, I want to take a look at the size of the storm, again, to give people the sense here at the urgency of its approach, 300,000 square miles. Put that over the United States, it covers the entire northeast, Baltimore, all the way up to Maine. Put it over Europe. It's bigger than France, it's bigger than -- including parts of Germany and Italy. I mean, the size of this storm is stunning.

[19:35:00] How alarming is that alone, Bill?

BILL READ, FORMER DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Well, that magnifies the risk because more people will be impacted by it as it makes landfall. It's right now going through the Turks and Caicos where it must be incredibly bad. And, of course, even though the center is 50 miles, either side of that front running part of the eyewall is the extent of the hurricane force winds. That would cover all of the Florida Peninsula, should it go exactly down the track forecast right now by the Hurricane Center.

BURNETT: I mean, that is the thing that is so hard to imagine here. You're not just talking about a massive urban center, one of the biggest cities in the country. You're talking about the entire state of Florida.

I mean, Reed, if you compare Irma to past hurricanes, to try to get a sense of what is about to happen in Miami and South Florida, Irma is bigger and more powerful than Hurricane Andrew, which, of course, devastated Florida, 65 deaths as well. Hurricane Katrina, you had 1,600 people die. The hurricane force winds, though, there were 86 miles out from the eye. Irma is right now about 70, we understand.

When you put all that together, how -- are we looking at a catastrophic hit or not?

READ: Yes. I think we are. I think as a meteorologist, it's just to me surreal that we're watching meteorological history go down for the second time in a couple of weeks. The big rains of Harvey, of course, and now the big winds and surge of Irma hitting a highly populated south Florida.

BURNETT: So, Reed, I mean, when you think about for a moment the fact that we're saying it is already because it's been spinning with the wind strength of 185 miles an hour for longer than any storm in recorded history, what does that alone tell you, that it has been able to sustain that strength?

REED TIMMER, ACCUWEATHER STORM CHASER: Well, it's absolutely unprecedented. Not only is it the strongest hurricane to ever be recorded in the Atlantic Ocean, it is sustaining it for an incredibly long period of time and it also will pile up that water for a long period of time as well, different than Hurricane Harvey that was last week intensified at the last second, when it came in. This one is strong for a long period of time. The storm surge will be absolutely devastating.

And here on Key Largo, you can see there is all kinds of people still filling up with gas right behind me. A gas truck had just come in and now everybody is piling in here filling up with gas in the last second to evacuate. We spoke with some of the people here, too, and they are concerned about this recent shift in the track, which would put this area underwater even more, the absolute worst case scenario here in the upper keys and for parts of Florida Keys as well.

There are a lot of people heeding those evacuations and getting out of here and getting out of the path of this thing. That's the very smart thing to do, because this is a deadly storm. It's like Andrew, except it's massive. So the impact is going to be that much more widespread.

BURNETT: So, Reed, I mean, you know, when you look at the eye of the storm and talk about it could be striking exactly where you are, Key Largo, 25 miles wide and we look at it from space and those pictures that are impossible to turn away from. It is easy to see. It's very defined. What does the eye tell you about what is about to happen where you are?

TIMMER: Well, this storm is also undergoing eyewall replacement cycles as well. It could be going an intensification trend as it approaches, but it has an absolutely perfect eye, that's what you can tell. A strong hurricane, it's perfectly symmetric as well, the storm and the convection around the center, you can see gravity waves emanating out from it.

If you are inside that eye, you look around and see the wall of convection around it. If it was at night you could see the lightening in there, and those intense storms. And that eye is headed in the direction here in South Florida, but the impacts will be very different.

If you're outside of the eye wall, the impacts will be different than the catastrophic impacts received right in the immediate eye wall, so that's what I experienced. Or you don't want to pay attention to that exact track. It's such a large storm that the impacts will be widespread.

BURNETT: It will be widespread, but, of course, Bill, the reality of it is to the point that Reed is making -- 10, 15, 20 mile shift one way or the other could make a huge difference.

READ: Well, yes, it will as far as the absolute line of the worst impacts. But again given the size of that eyewall, it's not going to make that much difference. It's going to get damaged all the way down through that eyewall.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate both of your time and, of course, Reed, I know we're going to be talking to you. You're going to be in the center of this. Thanks to both of you, Bill and Reed.

And next, Florida taking Hurricane Irma extremely seriously. Floridians not, not ignoring the warnings. I'm going to talk to a mayor of a small down in the Keys. The big question, though, is, can everyone who wants to get out of time?

And back to the weather center. We're going to get the very latest minute by minute forecast as it comes. We will be back with that in a moment.


[19:43:50] BURNETT: Breaking news: Florida preparing for a massive and direct hit from Hurricane Irma. People are trying to flee tonight. They have seen the ferocity and power of this storm already.

It has nearly wiped out entire islands, crushing 95 percent of the buildings in Barbuda, although, miraculously so far only a reported death there. The wind and waves as powerful as the strongest tornadoes, flipping boats upside down, destroying concrete structures, that it has struck thus far.

And tonight, another hurricane is strengthening in Irma's wake. Hurricane Jose, as of late today, a category 3, currently following Irma's exact path, although expected to turn north.

Leyla Santiago is OUTFRONT.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hurricane Irma leaving a path of death and destruction as it barrels towards the U.S. Homes now piles of debris. Power, communication wiped out. Devastating winds reaching up to 185 miles per hour and rain cutting off Caribbean islands completely from the rest of the world for hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Antigua, however, Barbuda, our sister island is still under threat. We have lost all communications.

SANTIAGO: One of the first government officials to establish contact called it --

PRIME MINISTER GASTON BROWNE, ANTIGUA & BARBUDA: Heart-wrenching, absolutely devastating.

[19:45:01] I have never seen any such destruction on a per-capita basis.

SANTIAGO: Devastating and deadly. The category 5 hurricane claiming the life of an infant on the island of 1,800 people.

BROWNE: We had one fatality. It could have been worse.

SANTIAGO: The prime minister expressing shock more lives weren't lost. In Saint Martin, even more deaths flooded cars and debris found all over the island. The airport known as a tourist attraction while beach goers watching planes land now being called unreachable by the Dutch navy.

The clean up is expected to cause hundreds of millions of dollars and all of this may not be the end of it or the Caribbean.

DAVID VELEZ: There it is. The roof just went, Jess. The whole roof.

SANTIAGO: These island may soon get hit by Hurricane Jose, now growing stronger in the Atlantic.


SANTIAGO: And, you know, the prime minister is expected to make a decision tonight on evacuation orders. So, tomorrow, we could hear if they will have mandatory evacuation orders for Barbuda. But, you know, for many of these islands in the Caribbean, the path to normalcy is just beginning.

Take where we are right now. Puerto Rico, for example, more than a million people without power right now, without water, tens of thousands of people, and authorities are already saying that it could take weeks, possibly months before that power is restored -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Leyla.

And now, Mayor Daniel Zieg of Marathon, Florida, which is part of the Florida Keys, of course, mandatory evacuations and right now, looking like you could be taking that direct first mainland hit, Mayor.

Look, we all hope that changes but I know that your citizens have so far at least, many in the Keys, have taken this incredibly seriously, as they should. They are heeding those warnings and they are getting out.

Have people in Marathon done as you have asked? Are they out? Are you worried there are hold-outs?

MAYOR R. DANIEL ZIEG, MARATHON, FLORIDA: For the past several days, we have had a unified message from Monroe County and Marathon to tell people to take the drive and stay alive. This is a monster, deadly hurricane with a storm surge that no one knows how much it will be when it hits our town.

So, we have felt the bulk of the residents have done as we asked. Many of them are on. We ran out of gasoline at many of our fuel sections on Tuesday.

Governor Scott and his staff were here. We had a press conference, gave them a briefing. He was able to persuade the fuel companies to bring tankers here and refuel our stations. We even had a couple today.

People are heeding. People are listening. People are leaving and that's the important thing, is leave, go to the mainland, stay alive.

BURNETT: And, you know, we know in other places. You know, we talked to one woman who isn't planning to do that. We hope she will change her mind and heed the orders.

What happens, Mayor? I mean, what is -- you have been through this. You have lived there a long time and now, we have this history-making storm coming through.

If someone stays, what will happen? How dangerous it could be in Marathon? ZIEG: Well, our hospitals in Monroe County, both in Tavernier and in

Marathon closed today. Tomorrow morning, the Key West hospital closes, and our trauma star, our helicopter emergency system seizes action tomorrow, and the helicopters will be flown out.

If someone has a problem, they are really in trouble. We just simply will not have the facilities left to take care of them. But we have warned people for many, many days about this and continue again.

We even asked deputies who are bilingual to go through neighborhoods today and do sweeps to tell people, please go. Please save yourselves and your family and go to the mainland.

BURNETT: All right. Well, we hope they are going to heed those warnings and obviously that they can't do so, if they have any issues, they are able to call. I think the governor has made it clear, they cannot rescue people. But right now if anyone is in need of help to get out, call now. They can come and help you.

Mayor Zieg, thanks very much for your time tonight.

And next, new details about Irma's path. And we have, of course, the latest on the hurricane right behind it. Tom Sater is going to have the whole forecast here, as it changes a little bit left and a little bit right can make all of the difference.

And breaking news this hour on the Russia investigation. New details tonight on what the special counsel's team is talking to White House officials about right now as Donald Trump Jr. today takes questions.


[19:53:41] BURNETT: Breaking news: we're watching three hurricanes right now. Irma, a monster category 5, heading directly for Florida from the latest forecast.

I want to go back to the weather center and our meteorologist Tom Sater.

And, Tom, obviously any little tiny tweak can make a big difference. What is the latest? And when you look at the exact track right now, where it's going to hit in Miami, what sort of damage because of the eye positioning are you looking at?

TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We're waiting for the latest update from the National Hurricane Center, Erin. It should come at any minute. But when we're talking not just about hurricane force winds but tropical storm force winds, this gives you an idea of the shaded areas of when those tropical storm force winds will approach you. You do not want to be evacuating on Saturday in southern Florida, because you don't want to be evacuating with tropical storm force winds when they can alone, you know, snap tree branches, or they could, you know, down a power line. I mean, that's dangerous enough.

Now, when it comes to the maximum winds, 175 miles per hour with gusts to 215, that's just around the eye wall. So, again, that's not going to be fanning out across all of Florida peninsula. The color of white, however, you can see how large that is, that's over 100 miles per hour.

Now, I don't want to scare anybody, but I think it's good to know, if you decide to hang out in a high-rise, the winds increase the higher you go off the ground. The forecast right now in Miami is about 145- mile-per-hour winds.

[19:55:00] If you live in a high-rise, around the 30th story, those winds increase by 20 percent, because it's not dealing with the friction of the earth. So, that 145 is 174. If you live a little bit higher, let's say toward the penthouse, you know, you're 80 to 100 stories, that wind becomes 189. Many are saying, in Miami, we don't have 90 or 100 stories, but you do have some 70s, up to around the low 80s. You get the idea.

I covered a typhoon three weeks ago in Hong Kong and these high-rise buildings lost hundreds and hundreds of window panes. They had a lot of injuries, construction cranes will be spinning and they do that for a reason, they don't lock them down. They want that momentum to continue so it doesn't fall over.

But, Erin, I mean, this is something we really have to watch because the winds are really going to be a big factor with this.

BURNETT: I'm glad you said that about the high-rise, because, you know, people may think, oh, the flooding.

SATER: Right.

BURNETT: But when you make the point there and the window panes can break, that can be deadly. People can understand, that is not a good place to be. It is not safe.

When it comes, Tom, to hurricanes hitting Florida, the comparison everybody is talking about here is Andrew. And I know you pointed, you can fit several Andrews inside of Irma, because of the size, how much bigger Irma is. But there are other ways in which Irma is now different.

SATER: I think the biggest is this issue, Erin, when you have a path coming from the south to the north, you've got a lot more real estate, that's going to have some damage. If you go back and you look at the path that we had from Andrew, 25 years ago, it came in from the due west, and sheered off the bottom section of Florida.

So, even though it devastated Homestead, Florida, and changed building codes, not just for Florida, but all of the U.S., $26.5 billion worth of damage and we still had 65 precious fatalities. And, of course, the storm surge is 17.

So, again, coming across the south, that real estate of Florida is much different than moving directly across the entire state.

The other storm that we can compare it to is Matthew just last year. We got extremely lucky as it came across Freeport in the Bahamas, it made a little wobble when it was going through a reprocessing cycle, instead of plowing into Miami, or excuse me, into Florida, it made its way up the coastline. Still, $15 billion in damage, historic flooding up in the Carolinas with that landfall.

This one can still do that, but we're trending more toward a landfall closer, unfortunately, to Miami, still tweaking it day in and day out.

BURNETT: Tweaking and, of course, hoping that you get just a little bit off the coast and, of course, lower storm surge.

Thank you so much, Tom.

As we await that next forecast from the Hurricane Center, I want to go to more breaking news. a CNN exclusive this hour, the special counsel Robert Mueller wants to interview white staffers about the meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer. Mueller is specifically interested in staffers who were onboard Air Force One. That is when the misleading statement was written about the meeting. That statement which claimed the meeting was primarily about Russian adoption, turned out to be untrue, because e-mails revealed Trump Jr. expected to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. And that statement, of course, was led by the president of the United States.

Pamela Brown is OUTFRONT now from Washington.

And, Pamela, what are you learning tonight from your sources?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have learned that there are ongoing discussions between the White House and special counsel Robert Mueller, Erin, trying to set up meetings, interviews with investigators working in special counsel and some of these White House aides that were Aboard Air Force one when that initial misleading statement was released earlier this summer. That statement was crafted, we're told through sources, aboard Air Force One on the way back from G20.

As you recall, it was misleading initially. It said the purpose of the meeting at Trump Tower with Don Jr. and a Russian attorney had to do with adoptions. And then as we found out, really the purpose was the incriminating information that the Russians allegedly had to turn over about Hillary Clinton.

So, Robert Mueller wants to interview some of the White House aides who were aboard Air Force One. He wants to learn about what these people knew. We know the president had a hand in crafting the statement. He wants to know what they knew as part of the obstruction of justice probe.

We're told through sources that the interviews haven't happened yet. And there hasn't been a request made to interview the president as part of the probe. But, of course, that could happen. This probe could go on for another year or two, we're told, Erin.

BURNETT: And, Pam, in terms of Donald Trump Jr. himself, I know he met with Senate investigators today, that's crucial. That is something they desperately wanted to do. They now had a chance to ask questions.

What did he tell them?

BROWN: That's right. He was behind closed doors on Capitol Hill for five hours today, Erin, and what he said to the people on the Hill is that he never told his dad, now the president, about this meeting between him and someone who was advertised to him was a Russian government attorney who had this incriminating information about Hillary Clinton.

He said he never told his dad. He said he wanted to go to this meeting just to scope it out to see if it anything that could go to the fitness of Hillary Clinton being president of the United States. He claimed that he was skeptical of it in the first place and that even if it was given to him that he would consult with lawyers. Now, Senators on Capitol Hill, Democratic senators are pushing for an open hearing -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you so much, Pamela.

And thanks for joining us.

Anderson starts now.