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CNN NEWSROOM

How Hurricane Irma Compares to Hurricane Andrew; Irma Is Now A Category 5 Storm; Public Schools in Miama-Dade Open as Shelters for Those Fleeing Irma. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired September 8, 2017 - 15:30   ET

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


[15:30:00]

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our special live coverage of Hurricane Irma. And for those still deciding whether to evacuate coastal Florida, take a look at this stunning image. It has been edited to compare Hurricane Irma to Hurricane Andrew and it is Irma that devours the 1992 storm in size. The cloud field covers nearly 300,000 square miles. To give you some perspective - that's about the size of the state of Texas. And Irma is also breaking records left and right.

No storm on record has maintained 185 miles per hour winds for as long. It has since dipped. And with the Hurricane Jose trailing just behind - the Atlantic now has 2 hurricanes with winds blowing more than 150 miles per hour for the first time ever. George Wright as the meteorologist with Wright Weather consulting and is joining us now. So, George as you take a look at the maps, at the models - what does a trained eye see that you think is most significant?

GEORGE WRIGHT, METEOROLOGIST: Well what I see that is most significant is the more westerly track now. The storm had been moving to the West to the North West. Now it's more on a Westerly track - still moving at 14 miles an hour. And that means that it's going to start taking that northerly turn, which is what the models are predicting. So it looks like the eye will come assure near key west at 8am- or approximately 8am on Sunday morning.

CABRERA: So, you do still see it go straight up the middle - straight up the peninsula?

WRIGHT: Yes, pretty much. You know Parallel to the Peninsula bisecting it, and it also will stay on land for more than 24 hours, which is unlike Andrew - Andrew came onshore in Dave County in 1992. And then that system just continued to move from east to west. And it moved out into the golf. Now this storm will be tracking right up the Florida Peninsula. As you can see you a very powerful category four storm. Winds at 145 miles an hour expected at 8am on Sunday morning.

[15:35:00]

CABRERA: Now, as far as Andrew, a lot of people who you're hearing out there in the field have said we lived through Andrew. Our buildings survived through Andrew. Andrew was a category five right now Irma is a Category 4. What do you tell them? WRIGHT: Well I tell them that this storm will be over land for a much longer period of time than Andrew was. And it will be effecting a much larger area.

CABRERA: So this one is more dangerous.

WRIGHT: Yes. Because it will be effecting a larger area - as a matter of fact there could be flooding all the way up into Georgia and South Carolina.

CABRERA: So, also what I understand - Andrew did not have the storm surge. We're hearing 3 to 10 foot storm surge with Irma. When would that happen?

WRIGHT: Well most likely the worst of the storm surge, anywhere from 5 to 10 feet will occur late Saturday night and during the day on Sunday and then as the storm tracks to the North - -the backlash, because a Hurricane tracks in the Northern direction. The winds are blowing counter clockwise so the North Westerly winds will start to pile up water and push it on the west side of the peninsula. SO, all this water will be piling up into Biscayne Bay as it moves gradually northward - 3 to 6 foot surge of Jupiter in way.

CABRERA: So, you're saying that the storm surge actually might hit before people feel the impact of the wind?

WRIGHT: Yes, well the tropical storm force and winds are expected to move into the southern part of Florida around 8 A.M tomorrow. SO, during the day will be getting windier and windier and we have tied at noon and around midnight tomorrow. So, that's when like tomorrow night is when the maximum storm surge will start to take control - not the maximum but that's when you'll definitely see the water pile up ---

CABRERA: But that's even before the eye actually takes the center - of the wind.

WRIGHT: That's right and when that eye - that eye will be moving Northward and it will continue to pile up the water, because the winds create the storm surge, because there's frictional drag with the wind on the ocean surface. And that will pile up the water and push it into the bays. And it has nowhere to go but of course to flood.

CABRERA: So people need to get out of Dodge. George Wright thank you for explaining how that all works and the science behind it this massive storm. Now, we know of at least one man who has decided to stay in Miami. He's apparently keeping his restaurant open today at least - unless he is forced to close. He's going to join our Chris Cuomo live on the other side of the break-- back in Miami Beach. Stay with us.

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[0:40:00]

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right we're back here, we're in South Florida. This is where Hurricane Irma is now expected to hit. Where there is a range, for how long there's a range, how intense there's a range, but it's going to be bad. SO, there are a lot of mandatory evacuations taking place. The governor - Governor Scott said that all Flordians must be ready to evacuate from South Beach at the Southern end of Florida to Jackson Ville, the northern tip. Many are leaving, some are not. Some can't, some are in firm, elderly, they're in hospitals, they're too tied to the situation. They're first responders. Others are just choosing to stay. And there's a whole range of reasons for that. One such person is with me right now. His name is Adam Gersten. He is a local tavern owner of a place known as Gramps and he is staying. Why?

ADAM GERSTEN, GRAMPS TAVERN, FLORIDA: Well we want to be able to open as soon as the storm's over. That's the priority. Also the building that we're in happens to be all concrete - concrete roof. So as far as a person who chooses not to evacuate, I'm in a pretty good situation there.

CUOMO: Do you have a generator?

GERSTEN: I do, I actually have two. We'll have those on after the storm. But -

CUOMO: How many days of gas do you have?

GERSTEN: I don't know. But 70 gallons - whatever that works out to, I haven't done the math exactly but I am pretty hopeful it'll keep the beer cold.

CUOMO: Do you know what your burn rate is?

GERSTEN: No clue. I did call the cooler company, asked what the wattage was and whether the generator that I had would keep it running and they said the beer would stay cold.

CUOMO: I'm not worried about the beer. I'm worried about your life and your lights and the power that you'll need to hold up for awhile. I'm giving you hard time but it's only because I care about your safety.

GERSTEN: And I actually - I do too. I've spent the last week preparing. I was pretty sure last week that something big was going to happen. I've spent the week preparing and gathering supplies, taking care of the house, sent my daughter to Portland with my Mom (IGG). And yes, so we're just - we kind of got that list checked, checked again - checking it again today. We were planning on staying open as late as it was safe. And we're about calling it now, even though the sun's still out. Because I think that as far as safety goes that includes preparing and taking it seriously and so I don't want anyone out. Not spending these last couple hours preparing. So, we'll be there you know when it's over. But as far as our own safety, the safety of the folks that work for me, and we're a big family and everybody's concerned about each other. We spent the last 48 hours, kind of going to each other's houses. Everybody's trying to gather supplies. If anyone's missing plywood, things like that. As you can imagine you know we have a lot of tools sitting around so that's kind of been - kind of been a well for people to go to as far as that goes.

CUOMO: You can't even keep your phone safe. You just dropped it in the Sand, but you think you're going to be ok for this Hurricane? Why not just go? You're in an area where they want you to go. And you could come back immediately after it. Open up Gramps, it could be a big celebration of the response to Irma.

GERSTEN: I really just can't imagine leaving at this point. I think that window's kind of closed for me at this point anyway, and I am confident in the preparations that I've made. Anyone who's left though, I think they made the right decision. Some of the people that stayed like you mentioned, they can't for so many different reasons and I respect those as well. I just hope that everybody's safe and like I said taking the last couple of hours to really - to buckle down. I mean, you know if - if you have those last minute doubts definitely be calling friends and trying to figure out whose got the concrete block house or the impact windows, or if that isn't available just a really solid bathroom.

CUOMO: You going to take care of the first responders and those who make it through afterwards?

GERSTEN: Absolutely, absolutely. Everyone in the industry, teachers, first responders those guys - they know where we're at and we're going to be there for those guys. They know where we're at and we're going to be there for those guys.

CUOMO: You be safe. I want to see you hopefully at Gramps after Irma, all right?

GERSTEN: That sounds great thank you very much. See ya.

CUOMO: Be well, be safe. All right lets take a break here. And look there's a fine line.

[15:45:00]

You don't want to give somebody a hard time. Everybody makes their own personal choice, but remember, the first responders, they leave their families to come save the rest of us, and the people who make a choice that turns out to be a bad choice, now they have to come in. They have to do what they do best, search and rescue.

But the less need, the better. So, that's one thing staying here, he's in a big cement place, he's got the generators and the supplies that go along with the business. What if you don't? What if you're in one of the Keys? What if you're in Key West? All the way down there -- certainly in the line of what's coming, and you decide to stay? We have somebody who's doing exactly that and we'll check in with him right after this break

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[15:50:35] CUOMO: All right, you're seeing a little bit of wind here in South Beach, there's a little bit of gray sky, a little bit of rain. This is nothing. This is not the storm. We have about a 20-hour window before they believe the outer bands of Hurricane Irma is going to start making their impact. And the problem is once the window starts to close, it's going to close very, very quickly and the message from the locals, all the way up to the president, if you've been told to get out, do your best to do so now. And if you're going to shelter it place, make sure you got a plan and you have supplies.

So, change of topic but really, still related -- the Hemingway Home and Museum, you ever heard of it? Great place. The problem is it's in Key West. Bigger problem is the man who takes care of it, David Gonzalez, is staying there. Why? Well because he's very dedicated. But what about that decision? Is it the right one for him? Let's find out why he says it is. Mr. Gonzalez, can you hear me?

DAVID GONZALEZ, CURATOR, THE ERNEST HEMINGWAY HOME AND MUSEUM: Yes, I can.

CUOMO: All right, we get that you care about the museum, we get that it is a special place, but you are in Key West. That is right there in the line of danger with Hurricane Irma. Why stay?

GONZALEZ: There are two choices, really. One is to evacuate or two is to find a safe shelter. The building you see behind me has been here since 1851. It's constructed out of solid 18-inch blocks of limestone and we are not in the flood zone. We are sitting at one of the highest elevations of land in all the Florida Keys.

CUOMO: All right. I'm not going to go fact for fact with you, because you're in charge of the museum. I know you know everything. But do you have all the supplies you need? Do you have a plan for this period of up to 72 hours where people won't be able to get to you if the power gets shut off, if you don't even have access to water? Do you have what you need?

GONZALEZ: Yes, we do. This is not our first rodeo. We have ample water because our office uses five gallons of bottled water for our water fountain. We have about 30 of those 5-gallon bottles on hand. We have an ample supply of food. We have three power generators which we plan on running our refrigerators and air-conditioning off of. We also have our veterinarian visit us on Wednesday, overstocked us in medications for the cats that need them. We have first aid kits and we are stocked up, we're boarded up and we are in probably the strongest fortress in all the Florida Keys, the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum.

CUOMO: Who is "we" and are you open to taking those who decided to stay in if they can't find anyplace else?

GONZALEZ: Good question. We're not a public shelter. We have ten of our employees who have chosen to stay with us because they are either in low-lying areas, which are in flood zones, which we are not. We are at 16 feet above sea level, one of the safest places to be in the Florida Keys. So those ten employees are camping out with us right here inside this museum and our administrative offices. I personally reside in the residence in the guest quarters in the rear, so I'm just going to stay at my own home on the property. This is, again, a great shelter for those employees that were living in low-lying areas that would be subject to the floods. This is not a flood zone here.

CUOMO: I understand that, and it's a good thing, but have an open mind and an open heart. Who knows what the needs will be when the storm comes. Hopefully it is less than anticipated, but if it's equal to or more, people will be scrambling, hopefully you'll be safe and you'll be able to help others. Mr. Gonzalez, thank you for talking to us. I look forward to talking to you after Irma comes and goes. Be safe.

GONZALEZ: Thank you very much. Good day.

CUOMO: Back to you, Ana Cabrera. Look there is a whole range of what we're going to see here in the run-up to Hurricane Irma, people who stay for good reason, for bad reason, who are ready, who are not. The only thing we know for sure is it's coming.

CABRERA: And we're trying to provide the latest and most crucial information to our viewers to make sure they are ready and to make sure we get that information out so people can stay safe. Of course, the officials have been urging everybody who may be in harm's way to evacuate, to get to a shelter where they believe they have instilled the proper protocols and have the right facilities in order to get people through this powerful storm. I want to get to CNN's Rosa Flores who is at one of those shelters in Homestead, Florida. Rosa, what is the situation there?

[15:50:05] ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know Ana, a lot of people heeding the warning. You just told me a lot of schools have turned into shelters. People are heeding the warning. I'm here with Alberto Carvalho, the superintendent of Miami-Dade Schools. You were just telling me - a lot of your schools have turned into shelters. People are heeding the warning.

ALBERTO CARVALHO, SUPERINTENDENT, MIAMA-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Absolutely. We expect 100,000 residents to seek shelter in our schools. We have over 24 schools. We're built to withstand these high winds, category 4 and 5. We have principals, custodians, cafeteria workers prepared for feeding and housing every single person who comes to our schools. Throughout the day we expect based on collaboration with the Red Cross, with the National Guard, and county entities to open another 12 schools, and we'll continue to go until every single person in our community is safely accommodated.

FLORES: What is it you need right now? Because this is a huge responsibility to the superintendent of schools and also a school district, because your job really is not to house people, it's to educate people. What is it that you need at the moment?

CARVALHO: It may not be our job, but it's fundamentally our moral responsibility to serve and protect and provide for those who absolutely need the assistance right now. We have the resources we need on our side. I need swifter response in terms of Red Cross and National Guard to assist us with the processing of individuals. Our fundamental responsibility is not to operate the shelters. It is to open the shelters and to feed the individuals. And there is some degree of delays between people and our folks who

are here at 6:30 in the morning and the arrival of the true shelter managers. That needs to be accelerated a bit. Sometime tonight, the wind will start to pick up. By tomorrow, tropical storm strength winds will be in effect, and Saturday night to Sunday, the hurricane will strike. Shame on us if the cavalry does not arrive in time to ensure that every single person in Miami-Dade, those that live here, those that were born here, citizen or not as well as a tourist, is accommodated safely.

FLORES: Superintendent, thank you so much. We really appreciate everything that you're doing. And Ana, this superintendent, by the way, has been saying hello to all of these students. Not only is he doing a great job allowing people to go into his schools, also it appears he's doing a great job educating these children as well. Ana, back to you.

CABRERA: Rosa, before I let you go, I know you've also been in touch with folks at the airports to find out exactly what's happening with people who may be visiting or trying to get out. We know there are flight cancellations. Bring us up to date on that real quick.

FLORES: You know, I was just talking to the superintendent a moment ago about that. He was saying people from Miami International Airport are arriving to shelters here in Homestead, to shelters that are schools that are now being turned into shelters to make sure people are in a safe place to ride out the storm. You know, I talked to a lot of people at the airport earlier today, some of them foreigners who literally just wanted to get out of Miami to higher ground. And I haven't been inside the shelter. We will not be allowed in because it is a shelter. But from talking to the superintendent, he tells us some foreigners are here. They are seeking shelter in Homestead.

CABRERA: All right people keep doing what they can to stay safe. Rosa Flores, in one of those shelters, thank you so much. We heard the conversation there about all the meals, all the water, all the supplies that they have on scene. We know there are millions of liters of water, millions of meals that FEMA is preparing to move in as Hurricane Irma continues to get closer to Florida. Our live coverage continues in just moments.

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