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National Hurricane Center Issues New Update On Irma; Millions Of Floridians Flee From Path Of Historic Storm; Governor: "All Floridians" Should Prepare To Evacuate. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired September 8, 2017 - 11:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- cone over the entire state, it will hit Florida, maybe all of it. Number two, the road still clear right now. Ed Lavandera out on clear roads, still plenty of time to evacuate but do it now. I'm John Berman in Miami Beach. "AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Thank you both so much. Hello, everyone. I am Kate Bolduan.

Hurricane Irma closes in and millions of Floridians brace for impact and race to get out. The chilling warning from the state's governor today. Everyone in Florida, the entire state, needs to be prepared to evacuate.

Here is why. That huge swirling cloud of power. That is Irma. It is one of the most dangerous storms on record and so big it is going to swallow the state from coast-to-coast.

Now, consider this, it also dwarfs what was the previously the state's worst storm, Hurricane Andrew that hit bac in '92. Right now, Irma is lashing Cuba. This is what happened to the Turks and Caicos. It's getting great by the high winds overnight.

We also have some new images just in of the direct hit that came to island of Barbuda where virtually every building has been damaged or destroyed. That's what the prime minister said, widespread devastation also reported in Anguilla. One woman describes the terrifying experience they lived through.


JOSEPHINE GUMBS-CONNOR, SURVIVED IRMA ON ANGUILLA (via telephone): The winds, I can't begin to tell you the zinging. That sound. It was just all encompassing. It really became, at one point, a question of whether we would live to see through it. That's literally how it felt.


BOLDUAN: My goodness. So, that's there. Now, in Florida, ahead of this weekend's landfall, evacuation orders are growing by the hour. Millions are hitting the road just as the fuel shortage grips the state. Officials in South Florida, especially the Keys, are warning that if you decide to stay, soon, they won't be able to help you.


ROMAN GASTESI, MONROE COUNTY, FLORIDA ADMINISTRATOR: You might as well leave now while you have a chance because when you dial 911, you will not get an answer.


BOLDUAN: We have breaking news right now on this storm, on the storm's track. A new forecast from the National Hurricane Center. Let's go to CNN's meteorologist, Chad Myers. He has a very, very latest for us. Chad, what do you know right now?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is still a Category 4. It turned to a 4 overnight because we are in an eyewall replacement cycle. Notice the eye is ragged there. There is an eyewall on the outside and one on the inside. The eyewall on the outside kills the one on the inside and then takes over and then gets smaller and the storm regenerates power, sometimes stronger than before.

There is the big eyewall. Now when it gets tighter, that's when the storm will gain wind speed. Wind speed is not important. This is a surge problem. This is a surge of 10-12 feet across parts of the Florida peninsula that will inundate so many low-level houses especially the Keys all the way through anywhere around the Key Biscayne, that is all very low.

On the other side, Cape Coral, Naples, Venice, all going to be inundated with six to ten feet. It hasn't changed much. We still have an 8:00 a.m. arrival somewhere very close to the Florida Keys.

Island Mirata (ph), I would say, almost to Key Largo, right in the middle. We are watching the European versus the American model yesterday to look for any differences. There were many differences yesterday.

The American model is over here in the Atlantic. Now the red line, the American model is no longer in the Atlantic. There aren't really any more places for this to go. They are now side by side, the European and American completely agreeing all the way up through Orlando and eventually even up into Georgia by the time it gets to Atlanta.

So many people came here trying to escape the storm. There could be wind around 70-75 miles per hour. So now let me get you to a couple of maps that I want to take you to. Here is Florida and the Keys. Here is Cuba. The storm right about here.

I'm going to zoom into the Keys. This is where the European model is taking the center of the eye. This is Marathon. This is Key Colony Beach. This is -- up here, the Grassy Key and then even toward Duck Key.

This, to the north is where the American model is taking it, right to Island Mirata (ph). Worldwide Sportsmen is there. The islander Resort is right there. Where does it go next? It goes into the everglades. You think, great, it's going to hit land.

No, there's no land in the everglades. It's more hot water to keep the storm going. It's going to be affecting Benetta Springs, Naples, Cape Coral, Fort Myers and then on up father to the north on the way to Sea Bring and eventually to Orlando.

It still could be a Category 2 storm when it makes land fall or runs over Orlando. Cat 2, 110 miles per hour or so, possible, with wind gusts there. So, Orlando, you are not in the clear because you are in the center of the state and it keeps going north from here == Kate.

[11:05:03] BOLDUAN: Starting to get a better picture and making more sense why the FEMA administrator said everyone from Alabama to North Carolina needs to have a preparation plan. So, you talked about it being a Cat 4. Irma was a Cat 5, became a Cat 4 overnight. What does that mean for folks facing the storm, Chad?

MYERS: The irony is, Kate, the category is only associated with the little eyewall right there. That's where the category comes from because that's where the wind speed is the greatest. The pressure of this storm is significantly lower than Harvey.

So, this inner core is such a big breathing mass that we are going to have more surge than Harvey, maybe more rain. We are going to spread it out because it's moving. We don't care about the eyewall. That's how Andrew got to be such a notorious storm.

Andrew had a very small eye and ran through Homestead. That's why we didn't see much wind damage in Fort Lauderdale from Andrew. The wind damage was tremendous over Homestead, near the Air Force base and all that up toward Coral Gables.

But farther away, 10, 20 miles was significantly less. So, what we have on the storm is not to lose your impression of where the storm is at 150 because it's still a breathing monster that will have a bubble of water that will have a storm surge and wind damage all at one time.

It is so, when we show the picture of Andrew, it is so much more powerful than Andrew, not just bigger.

BOLDUAN: I don't mean want to experience 150 like I don't want to 185. There's no difference. Great to see you, Chad. We are going to see you later in the hour for much more on this. I appreciate it.

Let's head, though, right now, to Palm Beach County, Florida where evacuations are going into effect and shelters started opening just within the past hour. CNN's Brian Todd is there. Brian, what are you seeing there?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, as we go through the final hours until the hurricane hits in this county, these are very anxious moments. You mentioned the mandatory evacuation order that started one hour ago. That is for Palm Beach.

This area to my left, your right, our photojournalist, David Brooks is panning over there. That's Palm Beach. That is the barrier island. That mandatory evacuation applies to Palm Beach with low lying areas and some mobile homes on that island.

They are trying to get people across these bridges to West Palm Beach, which is behind me. They have to get people across the water and over here to West Palm Beach. It's a challenge because a lot of people want to stay hunkered down. Some think they can ride it out.

Authorities say that's a big mistake, get off that barrier island. They expect five to ten feet of storm surge. What does that mean? The water level is five feet below where I'm standing. It's going to come up at least to where I'm standing maybe 5 feet above it with some wave activity mixed in.

So, this whole place could be inundated, but that barrier island is going to be even worse. They are telling people that they cannot procrastinate.

Just a few moments ago I spoke with Bill Johnson, the head of Emergency Management here in Palm Beach County. I said what do you most worried about. He said in a word procrastination. He does not want people caught on the roads on Saturday and especially into Sunday when this thing hits really in earnest here when it's going to feel the brunt of the storm.

Another huge challenge, especially here in Palm Beach County, not just getting people off these barrier islands and inland, but getting the elderly to safe places. There is one special needs shelter opening in Palm Beach County, in West Palm. They may open another one if they need it.

They are trying to get as many elderly people in there as possible. A lot of them want to hunker down. They have caregivers and don't want to move. That is a big concern.

I just spoke to the head of an Alzheimer's care place, a small place, a small house, but it's Alzheimer's care place. The owner said he is going to evacuate them from one of his facilities to another one, not into a shelter as of yet.

He didn't know all the details about the shelters and he's trying to find that out. I said what is the biggest challenge in trying to do this, he said, again, these are Alzheimers patients, they don't know what's going on. They ask a lot of questions.

We have to calm them down and get them to a safe. That's a huge challenge here, Kate. High concentration of elderly people here in Palm Beach County. They have to get them in a safe place. They have been doing that for days, by the way. Again, in the last, final hours, that's critical.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Knowing where to take them and making sure that it is safe, it will be open and can accommodate their needs. That is a huge deal and an important part of this. Brian, I really appreciate it. Thank you very much. Brian, you are going to stay in touch. Brian Todd is there for us.

Let's talk right now to the mayor of West Palm Beach, Jeri Mouio. Mayor, thank you so much for joining us. What are you telling residents right now?

MAYOR JERI MOUIO, WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA: Well, we are telling them that if they are in an evacuation zone, they need to evacuate. It's not safe to stay there. It is important that they move out.

[11:10:07] We have evacuation zone along Flagler Drive where your reporter was standing. That area will probably see storm surge.

BOLDUAN: Are people, as far as you can tell, as far as you are hearing, are they heeding warnings in West Palm or are people wanting to stick it out?

MOUIO: Both. You know, we do see that a lot of people have left. Roads were very crowded all day yesterday. They seem a little less so today. So, I think the people who are leaving have left, but there will always be a few people who will want to stay in their homes.

BOLDUAN: Do you expect, at this point, mandatory evacuation zones will expand today?

MOUIO: We are not projecting that. We have looked at our flood maps and it appears the areas on the flood maps that would flood coincide with the evacuation zone. So, I don't expect it. We have zone "C" as a voluntary evacuation, so people can decide to leave or not. "A" and "B" is on mandatory evacuation.

BOLDUAN: Mayor, what are you most worried about right now?

MOUIO: I'm worried about the winds. You know, we are talking about very high gusts and the kind of damage that it is going to do. I worry about everybody's safety. I want to make sure people are staying in their homes they have their windows plywooded or shutters up and food they need. They find a safe place in their home that would be protected from the wind if they are staying. The wind is going to be very strong.

BOLDUAN: At what point are you telling folks it's going to be too late to get out?

MOUIO: Well, we are telling people that they should be off the roads tomorrow. Hopefully, if they are leaving tomorrow they will do it early in the morning and get out. We are going to start seeing heavy winds by noon and, of course, later. So, people need to get out now, if they are going to get out.

BOLDUAN: The governor has been quite concerned about fuel, getting fuel to places, including I'm sure West Palm. How big of a problem is it, the gas shortage in West Palm if they want to fill up and get out?

MOUIO: There is gas now. Most of the gas stations do have gas. We received our own delivery this morning without any problem. Right now, it seems to be OK.

BOLDUAN: Right now, OK. Things are going to change and deteriorate quickly as the hours tick by as you mentioned. Mayor, I appreciate you coming on. I hope everyone heeds your warning and we will stay with you and we'll speak to you very soon. Thank you very much.

MOUIO: Thank you for having us.

BOLDUAN: Appreciate it.

Right now, millions of people are evacuating as I was talking about with the mayor, trying to get out of the way of the storm. We are going to show you what they are encountering on the road. That's going to be coming up.

Also, one of the biggest dangers for Florida from the hurricane, the mayor is worried about the winds. They are also concerned about the storm surge. They are calling it a deadly storm surge. We are going to look at the forecast and what that exactly means. That's coming up.




BROCK LONG, FEMA DIRECTOR: I can guarantee you, I don't know anybody in Florida that has ever experienced this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, they need to get out?

LONG: They need to get out and heed the warnings.


BOLDUAN: That is the FEMA administrator, Brock Long issuing the federal government's latest warning to folks in Florida right now. Heed the warning, get out. This, as Hurricane Irma takes direct aim at the southern part of the state. Officials and even some residents fear that last minute evacuees won't get out in time.


JOEL MELENDEZ, SOUTH FLORIDA RESIDENT: Today is going to be the deadline.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today is the deadline?

MELENDEZ: People are going to get caught in the turnpikes and roads. They are going to do the last-minute panic to get out. It is going to be too late.


BOLDUAN: One of the city's most under threat is Miami Beach, Florida. John Berman is there right now. John, you got on the ground yesterday and have been talking to folks. What is your sense? Are they taking this seriously?

BERMAN: Many are taking it seriously, maybe even most, but not everyone. Miami Beach alone is a city of 100,000 people. Mandatory evacuations for the city, the strip where I'm standing right now. The reason is, just about three feet above sea level.

They are expecting a storm surge of 10 feet, which means you can expect the water to come up over the area where I'm standing into the buildings behind me. Mayor Philip Levine from Miami Beach said it could be covered with sand and debris by the day after the storm.

That is why they are urging, begging people to get out of the low- lying area. It's not the wind that's the primary concern, it's the storm surge. People have left. This is not the Miami Beach you are used to if you have come down for the sun and sand. This place is a ghost town.

However, it's a ghost town with a few people out jogging. It's a ghost town with plenty of homeless people being taken care of. The parks and recreation people have been going to them person-to-person to help them get where they need to go.

We saw an evacuation bus pull out and they did get inland. A little bit inland, you can be safe. It's a much different situation, which is why all officials are begging people to pay attention.

BOLDUAN: It's confounding. You spoke to the mayor last hour. He called this a nuclear hurricane.

[11:20:03] I mean, if that's what he's warning and you hear from the governor to the FEMA administrator, if you are in a flood zone, you need to get out, why would anyone stay there?

BERMAN: Well, I did speak to a man, Scott Abraham with his 4-year-old son who said he was going to stay in his high-rise. He lives on the 11th floor. He feels like the windows won't break, they are hurricane proof.

The problem for this man is that this island here will flood. There will be a storm surge. He will be cut off in all likelihood for days from the mainland. Does he have enough supplies to last him three days?

He can't be reached. Is he OK walking up and down 11 flights of stairs? He won't have plumbing. What's he going to do about that? again, the first responders during the storm won't be able to help you.

If you call 911 during the storm, no one will answer. Right after, everything is going to be prioritized. It would take some time to get you the help. This is different than Hurricane Andrew. This is different than Hurricane Wilma.

No one has seen a storm like this, which is what we have heard from the FEMA director, the governor and every official speaking. Hopefully most people are getting the message -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: This is one of the situations that everyone, yes, you can hope the officials are wrong and hope it is not as bad as it is. It's one of those things that if 911 is not going to pick up, you can't take the chance. Again, beautiful behind you. I see people moving around. I'm sure it's less than would be on Miami Beach right now.

BERMAN: Look, it's nice today. By tomorrow at this time, 12:00, 2:00, we could see 50-mile-an-hour wind gusts. The point Chad keeps on making is the storm is so big, even if it's not a direct hit, the entire Southern Florida Peninsula from Orlando down is going to get serious Category 3, 4 storm force winds. It will be a serious major destructive hurricane. It can't miss.

BOLDUAN: Really, it cannot. You are spot on, as you always are. Great to see you, John. Where do you go now? You are going to be there all weekend. You are going to weather this out. You are going to be anchoring throughout the weekend. What are you doing?

BERMAN: I think it's an important point. People are asking, how come you are on Miami Beach? If it's going to flood, why are you here? We won't be here tomorrow. It will be flooded. We are moving to downtown Miami. There are people at CNN who have done this for a long time. They know the safe places to go.

We will pay attention to authorities. We are here to get the message out so the public officials can reach everyone to tell them where to go and when and just how to do it.

BOLDUAN: It's great to see you. I'll be with you all weekend. Great to see you, John.

BERMAN: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right. So, before Florida, Irma is headed to the Bahamas. The island chain could be its last stop, of course, before the United States. The hurricane prompted the Bahamas to order the biggest evacuation in its history.

CNN's Cyril Vanier is in Nassau. How are conditions there right now? It looks OK, but you tell me.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR: Look, it looks OK where we are. That's the key part of the sentence, where we are. The Bahamas are spread out, 700 us islands. Some parts of the country are going to get it worse than others. The southern most parts of the islands are going to get it worse.

The hurricane force winds started there last night into this morning. We saw the pictures. They are tremendous. The good thing, though, we are able to get an assessment on what that was like. There is no known loss of life.

We are still waiting on the structural damage report, find out whether buildings went down or not. Hopefully that wasn't the case. I should point out, the Bahamas experience this regularly. They are prepared.

Many buildings are built up to hurricane code. That is for the south. Where we are, the largest population center in Nassau, the capitol, another piece of good news, we are not going to get hurricane force winds here. We are going to get tropical storm force winds.

There's still a danger that there might be flooding, but we are not going get the worse winds. The worse fear people had yesterday is not going to come to pass. If you look behind me, those buildings I'm not worried about. They are built up to hurricane code.

It's brick, cement, mortar, they are not going to fall down. The roofs, maybe shingles. Structurally, they are OK. Really the concern is buildings not built up to code, the poorer parts of the capital and the flooding at this stage.

People are hunkering down. They bought food, water and bulk, and they are staying at home or going to their relatives' places when they live in those low-lying areas that are most susceptible to flooding.

BOLDUAN: All right. Bahamas in the path. Cyril, thank you very much. Really appreciate it.

[11:25:04] Coming for us still, today is the day to do the right thing for your family. That is the warning from Florida's governor. He says everyone in his state needs to be ready to evacuate. What Irma could have in store for Florida. That's ahead.



GOVERNOR RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: The storm surge watch is in effect for north of Jupiter, to Sebastian, north of Benita Beach to Venice. The storm surge is forecast to be three to ten feet. Think about that, three to ten feet in many areas, which is life threatening.

This storm is wider than our entire state, expected to cause major and life-threatening impacts from coast-to-coast. Remember, Hurricane Andrew is one of the worst storms in the history of Florida. Irma is more devastating on its current path.


BOLDUAN: A catastrophic storm like the state has ever seen. That is strong words from Florida Governor Rick Scott telling people in his state, they must evacuate from the coast if they are under evacuation orders --