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Irma Barrels Toward Florida With Category 3 Force; Storm Surge Threat Increases For Florida Coast; 6.3 Million Floridians Ordered To Evacuate. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired September 9, 2017 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:00:00]

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, here in downtown Miami, we've seen gusts up to 60 miles an hour. They are expecting sustained winds well above that when this storm hits about 20-plus hours from now.

So, this is nothing and already the shore is being overwhelmed by storm surge. They're expecting six to 10 feet, even though track has shifted of this storm. The urgency for those in in area has not.

Let's go the Chad Myers in the weather center. And it's something that we're battling here with the perception of even Floridians, which is if the storm has moved, they must be safe now.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Right. And it depends on where you are. Some people are safer and some people are certainly more in danger. Just depends on your location in Florida and if you evacuated to the west coast because the storm was supposed to be here when we talked about it three days ago.

Now that's not happening. The storm is going to be over Key West and into southwestern Florida. You know, and it still could. People have been asking, can this thing still miss Florida or miss -- you know what, Hurricane Irma doesn't know if there's a European model or a GFS model or an NAM model. It doesn't care.

It's not running on any model or any timetable. So certainly, it still could miss. It's been moving to the west all week long. Two to 4 feet up and down the east coast, this is the real dreadful area, 10 to 15 feet here anywhere from Cape Coral through Naples right on down to Keys.

That is the storm surge. If you don't understand what storm surge means it means a flood. You're going to get a 15-foot flood right over your house if you're in that little zone. If you're 30 feet above sea level you're in great shape. Don't even worry about it. Stay in your bunker. Don't move.

If all of a sudden you realize, wait a minute, I'm six feet above sea level, that's not going the work, then all of a sudden you need to start to move -- Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Chad Myers, Chad, thanks very much. Chad, if you could, talk about for the folks who are here in Fort Myers, you're talking about 10 to 15-foot storm surge south of here in Naples. Is that going to reach Fort Myers?

MYERS: It certainly could because we talked about this model or this computer not agreeing with what Irma is thinking it's doing. Irma has been shifting left. We were waiting for this turn and we've been waiting for a long time.

When does the turn occur? Well, the turn could have occurred east of Miami and everybody would have been missed even the Bahamas really would have just had a miss. That didn't happen. Waiting, waiting, waiting, and then all of a sudden, yes, you're into Fort Myers.

So, there's no question that at the 5:00 advisory if this thing doesn't start turning, the hurricane center could slide that higher surge on up to Fort Myers for sure. And it's not out-the question that this thing gets into Tampa.

That's why I need everybody on the west side of the state to watch this. You're still in the cone, Tampa, and you've never been out of the cone. Fort Myers never been out of the cone. Cape Coral, never been out of the cone.

So, you know, this is still a great forecast, 120 hours ago, we were still forecasting this hurricane center was, and they're still right on the money.

COOPER: Yes. In fact, Chad, the last thing I heard you say in the previous hit was for Tampa to expect 5 foot to 8 foot of storm surge and that's been upgraded.

MYERS: That's right. We were talking about zone one, Pinellas, and Hillsboro, I need you to keep listening to your local officials there because we may have to raise the zone from A to B around parts of Tampa if it looks like the surge may get into Tampa Bay.

Right now, it's 5 to 10. You know what, Anderson, this just a bad flashback. You and me standing in Tampa waiting for Charley, a Category 4, very strong storm and it turned right into Punta Gorda and we had to go chasing it to the south. That was 13 years or so ago.

The same thing can happen today. I have a wind gust possible in Punta Gorda, Florida, tomorrow, of 150 miles per hour. The storm is still expected to grow as it gets into the warm water. This is serious and it's the real deal.

COOPER: Yes. And people in Fort Myers know this is the real deal. Chad was talking about possible expansion of evacuation zones in Tampa. That has now happened here in Fort Myers. The mayor's office, now they've expanded the evacuation zone to Zone B as well, which is in the downtown west and south down river, and that is obviously of great concern.

There are a lot of people frankly who came from Miami, I just was talking to somebody who evacuated from Miami is now in Tampa and is now suddenly faced with the decision what shall do I do, stay in Tampa, try to go back to Miami? We just drove here to Fort Myers. I can tell you the highways are pretty much empty, certainly heading west on I-75, the highway was empty. There was a gas station open, you could buy up to $25 of gas. There were police there. It was very orderly. There weren't long lines.

[12:05:14] There is some light traffic heading back to Miami. I can only assume some people decided to try to get back there, but the situation in Fort Myers, it's always been serious, but as people are tracking this -- Governor Rick Scott is speaking. Let's listen in.

GOVERNOR RICK SCOTT FLORIDA: Hurricane Irma is battering the South Florida and the Florida Keys with dangerous winds and continues to remain a catastrophic and life-threatening major Category 3 storm with winds of 125 miles per hour.

This is a deadly major storm and our state has never seen anything like it. Millions of Floridians will see major hurricane impacts with deadly, deadly, deadly storm surge and life-threatening winds.

There's a serious threat of significant storm surge flooding -- there is a serious threat of significant storm surge flooding along the entire west coast of Florida, and this has increased to 15 feet of impact above ground level, 15 feet of impact above ground level.

Think about that, 15 feet is devastating and will cover your house. In the Tampa Bay area, the surge is forecasted to be 5 feet to 8 feet. Think about that. The typical first story is 7 feet to 10 feet, 5 feet to 8 feet. This is a life-threatening situation.

Remember, the storm surge comes in -- comes after the wind. Do not think the storm is over when the wind slows down. Local officials will let you know when it's safe. The storm surge will rush in and it could kill you.

Here in Orange County, you're under a hurricane warning and will see dangerous and life-threatening wind and torrential rainfall of more than a foot. The rainfall has already started in this area and the wind will begin tonight.

We could also see tornadoes. Please take action to keep your family safe and shelter in place or find shelter now. There is a mandatory evacuation order for mobile homes in Orange County.

If you have been ordered to evacuate anywhere in the state, you need to leave right now. Not tonight. Not in an hour. Now. You are running out of time to make decision. Evacuations are in place across the state more than 6.3 million Floridians have been ordered to evacuate.

You need to listen to local evacuation orders. I'm a dad and I'm a grandfather. I love my family more than anything and I cannot imagine life without them. Do not put your life or your family's life at risk.

Right now is the right time to do the right thing for your family. School buses are aiding in evacuations. Please take advantage of this service. If you need to leave and are unable to do so for any reason at all, call 1-800-342-3557 and we will do everything possible to get you out.

Protecting life is our absolute top priority. There will be no resource. There will be no expense that will be spared to protect lives. I urge everyone to check on your neighbors, families, and friends.

If you know someone who is not evacuating and should, please contact them and make sure they have a plan to get to safety. But you can't wait to get out. You can't wait until storm's here. You have to do it now. Possessions can be replaced. Your house can be replaced. You and your family cannot be replaced.

Shelters. We have been working with counties across the state to ensure there are enough shelters. Currently there are more than 320 shelters open across every county in the path of the storm and more opening today. More than 54,000 Floridians have already taken shelter and there's still room for more.

If you have a building and emergency officials ask you to open a shelter, please comply. You will save somebody's life. This is so important to families seeking safety. Everyone in Florida needs to find a safe place to go.

Traffic. Evacuation routes are moving and we have stopped the shoulder driving on I-75 from Wildwood to the Georgia line because traffic is moving. If there's a need to reopen this, FDOT and Highway Safety will do so immediately. Evacuations are not meant to be convenient. They are meant to keep you safe. Check realtime traffic information and evacuation routes at fl511.com.

[12:00:00] Fuel. We are still aggressively working to keep gas stations opened and filled. This won't last much longer in South Florida because it will be unsafe to be on the roads. While all the fuel ports in Florida are now closed for safety as Irma impacts our state, following the storm, state troopers will resume escorting fuel supply trucks directly to gas stations across the state.

Highway Florida motor fuel import tax for five days to help bring more fuel to our state for storm response and recovery. This will make our more efforts to bring more fuel from neighboring states after the storm.

We know fuel is important. We're doing everything we can to get more fuel in the state. Florida's prepared. Every single Florida Guardsman that can be deployed has already been deployed to prepare and respond to this storm across the state.

We have so many members of our law enforcement that are putting their lives at risk to help Floridians get to a safe place and they will not stop until it is no longer safe. We cannot thank our Guardsmen, our law enforcement, any of our first responders enough because they're putting themselves at risk to take care of everybody else. Utility providers. They're actively prepositioning resources throughout the state and in neighboring states. We all know the importance of getting power back on. We will work aggressively with our utilities to make sure it gets back on as quickly as we can.

I want to be clear. We are under a state of emergency. Employees who perform vital services including health care staff, we need you to be there to help your community. Right now, Florida needs 1,000 volunteer nurses to help at our special needs shelters.

If you're a nurse and you can volunteer, please e-mail at helpfl@flhelp.gov. You can still e-mail to prior e-mail address we were using, bprchdpreparedness@flhelp.gov. Again, we need nurses for our special needs shelters.

We've already received thousands of supplies. This is great news, but we're still acting to try to get these individuals to our shelters. We're also going to need -- continue to need volunteers before and after the storm.

So many people across the country and across the world have called to offer their prayers and support. I want to thank the governors of the other states that provided every resource we've asked for.

I know the entire country is behind us. I've been talking to the White House pretty much every day, been talking to FEMA all the time, talked to Brock Long this morning, FEMA administrator.

I've talked to almost every cabinet member and they are doing everything they can to provide whatever resource they can. We have our country's best first responders ready to help us and Florida will get through this.

If you're in an evacuation zone, you've got go. You've got to get out now, get to a safe place. This is a catastrophic storm our state has never seen. Remember, we can rebuild your house, you can get possessions again, but we can't rebuild your life or your family.

Florida is tough, Florida is resilient, Florida is unbreakable. Let's stay together and help each other. You can follow my Twitter account @flgovscott for lifesaving messaging and updates in English and Spanish.

Florida is an amazing melting pot of loving people and I'm so proud to be governor of this incredible state. (Speaking Spanish)

COOPER: You're listening to Florida's Governor Rick Scott giving just another urgent warning to people to be taking this storm seriously. He was talking about that storm surge basically swamping people's homes.

Here in Fort Myers, if you've been listening to Chad Myers over the last hour or so, they have upgraded the level of storm surge that they expect a little south of here up to Naples, possibly even as far as Fort Myers to 10 to 15 feet. That is extraordinary. Right now, for Tampa, it is 5 feet to 8 feet. This area in Centennial Park where you can see the water right here, probably about 8 feet over the water, so there will be water all throughout this area.

And as we go back -- as we join Chris Cuomo who is in Miami Beach as well, Chris, it does bear repeating that the mayor here has expanded the evacuation zone to Zone B, which is downtown south and west down river.

[12:15:07] And for anybody who has not evacuated at this point, but needs help in order to get to a shelter, the mayor is saying call 211. That is the number they of set up. Call 211 and they are going to try to help get people to these shelters.

Chris, I just drove by the Germane Arena on I-75, there were long, long lines, and I know we'll talk to our Drew Griffin shortly outside there, there were long lines, hundreds of people waiting to get in.

We'll be checking in soon, Chris, to see if those lines are moving. A very severe situation here as it continues to be for you and everybody in Miami.

CUOMO: Yes. Look, we're getting a band of just a taste of what is to come. I'm no fan of standing in the rain, but it's important to demonstrate something. If you haven't evacuated, if you need to get out, look how much more difficult it would be now.

We're getting gusts of about 65 miles an hour and now pretty I'd say medium level band of rain. Dave, if you pan to the left a little when you get a chance, Dave, look at the difference in the water that this wind picking up and the rain coming in has made.

The storm surge now is easily overwhelming all of the docks in this area and it's just a marginal uptick in wind, the addition of rain, and you know what, if you needed to hit the road now, you would be in a bad way because driving in this is not easy.

Your visibility is shot and this is nothing compared to a hurricane. Anderson, you and I have been in plenty of them. This is mild, but it changes the dynamic and that's why we just heard the governor in such, you know, serious tones telling people you need to move when the window opens.

And if you're in an area right now like downtown Miami, when this rain stops and this band moves, if you need to get out, if the government has told you to, take the chance, because once this happens, movement is hard, Anderson. It's hard.

COOPER: Yes. It's very deceptive when you're here, I mean, look right now, Fort Myers, you know, there's a gust of wind, but there's no storm. It's very deceptive. You know, I've just put on sunscreen because the sun is out behind clouds.

And the difference between when one of those bands comes, it changes on a dime. When we were driving here, one of those bands swept over the highway, we were driving on, the rain was just torrential. We had to slow down to a crawl on the highway and that was just a quick band. This thing is going to be going for many, many hours, some 24 hours from now, we will be in the thick of this as will all the residents here, frankly, all throughout Florida.

Some people may feel toward the east that it's not going to be as bad and for some people it won't be, but this storm is so big it is going to impact everybody in one way or another. We have a lot more ahead.

We'll take a quick break. We'll talk to our Drew Griffin at the Germane Arena to give you a sense, last time we checked in him about an hour ago, or about 10:00, it was supposed to be opening. There were probably hundreds if not more than a thousand people waiting to get in. We'll see what the scene is there next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:22:47]

COOPER: We are live here in Fort Myers, Florida, where the evacuation zone has now been increased because of the change in direction, the move westward of this storm, which is still many hours away, but the evacuation zone now expanded to Zone B, it's downtown, south and west, down river.

So, there's a lot of people now who may be rethinking their idea to just hunker down where they are here in Fort Myers and frankly all along the west coast. They are being urged now while there is time to try to get to evacuation centers.

We'll talk to our correspondent outside. But first, I want to go to the fire chief in Naples, Florida, which is clearly in the path of this storm, Chief Peter Demario. Chief, 10 to 15-foot storm surge possibility for Naples. How are evacuations going and do you now see more people trying to get to shelters?

CHIEF PETER DEMARIO, FIRE CHIEF, NAPLES, FLORIDA (via telephone): We think the evacuations are gone well. We just expanded the evacuation zone. We're encouraging anybody that is still in the flood area to evacuate to some of the local shelters and get themselves to safety.

COOPER: And do you have any sense of how many people are in shelters, how many people have actually heeded those warnings so far?

DEMARIO: The shelters have gotten full rather quickly. In fact, a look on the emergency operations center hotline, looks like we have two that are opening right now and we're looking to get more open as fast as possible so we can accommodate everybody willing to evacuate. The most important thing for our residents is to evacuate the area, get out of harm's way.

COOPER: For you at this point, what is foremost in your mind? What are you doing to plan for this?

DEMARIO: We've put our assets in the appropriate spots so we can respond post storm. We've safetied our personnel and we've prepared as best as possible. We're hoping that we are not affected severely, but I think that's kind of out of the question now. We're definitely preparing for some hurricane-force winds and of course, the storm surge is our largest concern right now.

[12:25:05] COOPER: Do you have all the assets that you feel you need right now in place? Obviously, it's hard to preposition for state, federal authorities, everywhere they're needed to be because of the size of this storm.

DEMARIO: We've done the best we can do with the assets that we have in Naples. We do have a fear that just because the path of the storm may cause delay in any help from mutual aid agreements that we may have.

I think everyone in the state of Florida is going to need some help if this storm continues along this path so we're going to -- we're prepared to function with the assets we have and the personnel we have and be patient with our mutual aid partners and hopefully get some help as soon as we can.

COOPER: But at this point, you still are -- how do people find out where shelters are in the Naples area if now they're deciding they're not going to hunker down and they're going to try to make it to a shelter.

DEMARIO: The city of Naples is posting the shelter sites on our Facebook page, Naples flyer, and the EOC is posting it and we're getting press releases as often as possible to let residents that want to get to a shelter the information they need.

And we want to remind everybody, go to a shelter, make sure they're prepared with three days of food and have some bedding and things to make themselves as comfortable as possible for the duration of the storm.

COOPER: Chief, thank you so much for all you're doing. We continue to check in with you. The governor asking for as many as a thousand nurses to volunteer if they can particularly at special needs shelters because there is a lot of need out there right now.

Clearly with the change in the path of this storm, more people here on the west coast are thinking about going to shelters. I want to check in with Drew Griffin outside the Germane Arena. I drove by your location about an hour and a half ago. The lines were extraordinarily long. How are they now?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: I can tell you from driving that same route you only saw half of it. We are outside the arena. This arena holds 8,000 people. There are still -- I would guesstimate, at least several thousand are still in line.

They of been in line for hours trying to get into this shelter with all kinds of needs themselves. We've seen many of them, many people had to be -- have medical help just come to them while they're waiting in line trying to get in. All of this taking place while the wind increases, while we're hoping to hold the rain off. Anderson, I want to talk to Alex and Betty. You guys have been waiting a long time. How long have you been out here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We got here about 8:30 this morning.

GRIFFIN: At 8:30 in the morning. It's now past noon, I believe.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

GRIFFIN: Your husband is actually holding his place. Adrian is holding your place in line.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Two of our children are there.

GRIFFIN: This is your mom?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's my mother.

GRIFFIN: How are you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fine, thank you.

GRIFFIN: Has it been a long wait for you out here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm sorry, no English.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She speaks Spanish. Yes. We've been here for a while and I know it's very hard, but it's also very encouraging to see how many people are starting to help us to get there, get inside, and we really thank God that we have a shelter, that we have a safe place.

It's hard for everybody, I believe, but we all have to be patient and we have to cooperate and this is an opportunity like for us it's an opportunity to take care of our mother. It's an opportunity also to serve other people and God is in control.

GRIFFIN: Thank you so much. Good luck through this storm and we hope you get in very, very soon. They of been waiting, Anderson, four hours. That sounds crazy, right, but I have to tell you, most of the people we talk to have attitudes like that. I would call this managed chaos. People are uncomfortable, but they're dealing with the situation because they know how serious this really is -- Anderson.

COOPER: It's good that they are seeking the help they need. The 211 is the number in the Fort Myers says the mayor if you need help to get to an evacuation center, they'll help you do that if you call 211.

We'll take a quick break. Chris Cuomo will take up our coverage next from Miami Beach where it is starting to come down. We'll going to take a short break. We'll be right back with Chris.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:33:38] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Throughout the day of course we are trying to get just the latest on where this storm is tracking and when it's going to get here and how powerful. Let's go the Chad Myers in the Weather Center. That was the question, Chad, as always where and when.

CHAD MYERS, CNN WEATHER METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. Is it gong to turn, does it turn into Islamorada which is kind of middle or northern keys, upper keys, or does it turn into key west and really slam into Fort Myers where exactly you are right now.

What we know at this hour is that the eye of the storm is now moving away from Cuba. That means it's going to get back into warm water and it's going the re-strengthen. It's dropped down now to about 125 or 130 but we're expecting it to go to 140 and maybe even 145 between data points here on the way to Fort Myers making that significant storm surge in the Everglades all the way from Naples back down to the Everglades and Florida Bay.

And then some spots may pick up 15 inches of water on land. This is above sea level. Doesn't matter up and down at all with the tides, above sea level, 15 feet.

The map behind me now are all the numbers that I can find from the European model that ran last night what the maximum wind gusts will be in your area. Key West, you'll get a gust of 129. Naples, 137, Fort Myers, 136, Punta Gorda, in between there, it had 150. Tampa you'll get 120. In Orlando will pick up gust of somewhere around 123.

[12:35:01] Now on the other side where the storm has moved away to the west, Miami you'll get 86, Key Largo, 86, and West Palm somewhere in the upper 70s. Here's the timing, though, that you asked for. 6:00 a.m. Saturday, we're now beginning to see hurricane force gusts in the keys. By later in the afternoon, that big, wide, that is 100 miles per hour or greater right over the lower keys.

But still, if you look at the pink area, there is going to be hurricane winds across the entire state of Florida because the storm is bigger than Florida. In fact, it's as big as Texas. Not the hurricane wind field but later on, we move this ahead and I want to talk about a few things here that we haven't talked about, how much wind surge is going to happen. Jacksonville, Savannah, Charleston, big surge here, probably 4 to 6 feet in some spots.

And then surge back here in northwest Florida with the wind coming off the Gulf of Mexico, another 4 to 6 feet here. This is mainly low land, not a lot of cities there, but certainly surge anywhere towards St. Mark's would be devastating for the people that live there. Anderson?

COOPER: Chad, just stick around because I want to bring in Chris Cuomo who is in Miami Beach for us and just have a conversation and because, Chris, we both may have some questions for you, Chad. Chris, obviously storm surge still a very big issue for Miami.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN REPORTER: There's no question about it. Chad has been keeping us abreast of the changes. And I guess the main message from him and Chad obviously, correct me if I mess it up, is a little bit goes a long way. For instance, where we've been this morning, Anderson, the original spot is gone. A little bit of wind, little bit of storm surge and all the docks were submerged.

When we got hit with just that one medium kind of storm band there, we had gusts that got up to about what? About 87 miles an hour with the gusts, not sustained wind, and that's what Chad has been saying they might get here a steady wind of 90 miles an hour. It made all the difference in the world. You couldn't see. You wouldn't have been able to drive. Water was flying over these bulkheads here, flying up into the parking lot. A little bit goes a long way.

COOPER: Yes, it sure does. Chad, just in terms of the difficulties after the storm -- I mean, you know, as you know from covering these things, first responders, one of the first things they have to do in order to even be able to get to people is just clear roads. With the kind of wind that we're expected to see on the west and also the storm surge, that may take a fair amount of time.

MYERS: Well, because the water will push trees over into the roads. And then the roads are impassable. It was very difficult even for us to get from Corpus Christi to Rockport with Harvey and Harvey was a pretty quick-moving storm, but the roads were littered with debris. Just trying to get our reporters there the next morning. It's almost like you need go there with a bulldozer, making your way clear.

But you don't know where whether the power lines are going or not. Are they still live and they're across the roadway as well. One more thing for Chris Cuomo and for you too, but more Chris, because of the side of the storm is on, a tornado watch has just been issued for south Florida.

COOPER: Chris, has there been any change in terms of --

CUOMO: Good to know. Adds to the mix.

COOPER: Has there been any change, Chris, in just how people are viewing this storm in Miami? Because clearly now that it's shifted west, obviously, people here are even more concerned. I'm wondering if you've noticed any kind of shift in people's sentiment about what they're facing.

CUOMO: A little bit of back and forth. I mean, frankly it's troubling, Anderson, because in the beginning, they didn't want to buy in. They've heard that storms are coming before and they weren't as bad as expected.

And waving the flag of Andrew in the air and what it did in 1992 as a Cat 5, the last Cat 5 to hit the country, you know, that's a big boast. So, people were doubtful. Then the information started to come in and we saw what Irma did in the Caribbean, did to Puerto Rico, now doing to Cuba. People started to change, heeding the evacuation calls, hence leading to those lines that we're seeing with Drew Griffin and where you are and other places.

But now with the storm shift, we're seeing a little bit more of a change. There were more people out here this morning than I expected. Brian Todd reporting on the curfews that are in effect down here, they will be, you know, enforced to the extent that the first responders can get out.

So, the attitude goes back and forth based on the urgency and the information they're getting. That's why it's so important that we keep telling them about the risk. Again, tomorrow, we will not be broadcasting from this spot not just because we're moving logistically but because the storm surge will be six feet high. This will be gone. This whole area will be inundated with water. And if you're in a structure here, you're in a bad way and you're in a bad way fast and you won't be able to get out.

COOPER: Yes. That's going to be the challenge even therein 24 hours from now not just where to broadcast from but whether or not we can broadcast, whether we can get signals out. That's one of the challenges obviously a lot of news crews are going to be facing.

We're going to take a short break here. A lot more with Chris Cuomo in Miami, with Chad Myers in Weather Center, with all our correspondents all across the state of Florida because there is no place in Florida that's not going to be affected by this storm. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:44:28] COOPER: I'm standing -- Anderson Cooper standing by here in Fort Myers, Florida. Chris Cuomo is in Miami Beach. There's a, obviously, a great amount of concern here in Fort Myers that has ratcheted up dramatically over the last 10 hours or so as people have seen this storm move somewhat to the west areas like Naples, Florida, Collier County, here in Fort Myers, Tampa expecting greater storm surge than predicted earlier. Five to 8 feet now of storm surge according to Chad Myers. Ten to 15 feet around Collier County and points south on the west. Again, a lot to be concerned about.

[12:45:08] If you've been watching, you saw Drew Griffin outside a nearby shelter. He said he estimates there are thousands of people lined who have been lined up for hours trying to get into that shelter. It is orderly. People are calm. But that's thankfully in large part because it is not raining yet. It is not terrible out. It's actually a pretty calm day in terms of the weather and so people are able to just stand in line and wait.

But when the rain comes as you've seen with Chris's coverage from Miami Beach, things change very, very quickly, it changes on a dime. Chris -- I mean, it's easy to get lulled into a false sense of security when, you know, you're out in weather like this and one of those bands of the storm, one of the outer bands even come along and you just get walloped.

CUOMO: Spot on, my friend. When that band of early rain just came through us, this place scattered. There were all these people out here checking it out, watching the storm surge. You know, there's a spectacle to these types of movements of nature. But everything changes. When that wind picks up and, again, the gusts were about 90 miles an hour. Imagine if that were the wind all the time. We couldn't see, the water's flying over the docks, the boats are going crazy, the parking lot gets a big gush of water into it. Everything changes. And that's why the emergency managers and the politicians here are of all one voice. If you've been told to get out, get out and stay out. Better safe than sorry.

And again, as you keep pointing out, Anderson, and rightly so, we're about a day away from the bad nature of what is coming our way in the form of Hurricane Irma according to every single model.

COOPER: Yes. So much time between now and then. And yet when you think about it for the number of people who still could possibly evacuate, who could possibly get to shelters, which are not that far away, but, again, they're now struggling to open up more shelters.

We heard from the chief of the fire department down in Naples, they are trying to open up shelters. A lot of their shelters are full here in Fort Myers as well. They are looking to expand their shelters as well because they have now expanded the evacuation zone, it's now evacuation zone be also is supposed to evacuate. That's downtown south and west down river.

So there is a lot of concern here and for just very justifiable reasons. Even people who have, you know, weathered a lot of storms, particularly now on the west coast there's a lot of concern of what is to come, Chris.

CUOMO: Absolutely. And hopefully they heed the warnings. And look, we get the frustration. It's tough on the roads. You had to deal with that getting to where you are. This morning evacuating is not easy. Now, they're curfews in effect down here.

We're take you to some reporters who are going to give us information on those, which means there's more limited window of when you can make a move if you've been told to. And of course the ultimate, the biggest window of when Irma gets here, that's starting to close as well. So there's a lot of variables, there's a lot of frustration. But people still have to make the best choice for their own safety.

So let's start with our reporter with Kyung Lah. She's in another part across this bay. She's in Miami Beach, particularly vulnerable area. Still the mayor there saying, if you are out, stay out. Kyung Lah, what are you seeing there and what was it like when that band of rain came through?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was astonishing, exactly the same for us, Chris. People who have been there, a few looky-loos still wandering the area. But what we saw when that heavy rain and wind came through, people scattered just like you saw over there.

What we're seeing now is that lull period. You can see some wind, the palm trees swaying back and forth, but this is really pretty calm. This is the lull in between all of that. I want to walk you through a little looky-loo here. This is south beach. Normally you couldn't do this on a Saturday. The windows of a lot of these hotels have been completely boarded. They are shut down.

People have heeded the warning to stay out, to evacuate Miami Beach. And what we've heard from the fire chief is if you're gone, stay gone. Here's what he told us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAH: Are you concerned that with the latest weather forecast people will say, we're done, we're coming back?

JOSEPH ZAHRALBAN, MIAMI FIRE CHIEF: And we hope not. We want them to stay safe, stay inside, because this is still a highly, highly serious situation and dangerous.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAH: So the big concern here is the storm surge. The anticipation, Chris, is that it could be 10 feet high. That is a story here. You will not be able to drive in it. The big risk here in Miami Beach is that you may drown in that storm surge. Chris?

CUOMO: All right, Kyung, thank you very much. I'm just checking the storm pattern here of where this storm is headed and what it's been doing off of Cuba.

[12:50:07] Holy cow, did the people there get hit. And I know you're hearing, you know, there's just such a disconnect between science and reality on the ground. The storm is a 3 now. First of all, it's a hurricane. You know, a category 3 hurricane, well over 100 miles an hour sustained winds.

What it did to Cuba. We have Patrick Oppmann there. We'll be checking back with him. He had to hunker down in a closet. So we'll check with him. Your thoughts and prayers should be with those people. And it is a really ugly reminder but a real one of what could be coming this way. Chad Myers keeps telling us, this storm is going to strengthen, not weaken, between Cuba, the keys, and the mainland of Florida.

Now, that wind and rain that Kyung was just telling you about, it's certainly shocking, it gives you taste of what could be to come. It's also something else. It's an opportunity. This lull now, if you're in a place where you're supposed to get out, take action now while you can see, while you can manage the situation, while you can drive. Take opportunity where you find it. Please.

Brian Todd is in West Palm Beach. OK, so that's that little barrier island just off the southeastern coast here in Florida, very vulnerable. Evacuation mandatory. Police have been going door to door. Brian, what is it like now?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, we just got our first touch of rain from the earlier bands of this storm coming this way. The rain has stopped now, but winds are kicking up. And I heard you and Kyung talking about storm surge there in Miami. It's going to be an issue here.

We're on a pier here in West Palm Beach surrounded by water. And again this is just the intercostal water way. This is not the ocean. The ocean is on to the other side of Palm Beach, that barrier island just over there. That's very vulnerable to storm surge. Storm surges here could be several feet. And once that happens, Chris, all of this could be inundated up onto Flagler drive over there on West Palm Beach.

And what we have just been told by West Palm Beach and Palm Beach county officials is that in a little over two hours they are really going the start cracking down on a curfew, 3:00 p.m. Eastern time is when they want people definitively off the roads. They wanted them off the roads hours ago, Chris, but starting at 3:00 p.m. Eastern time they do not want to see scenes like we've seen behind me here of cars coming by, people walking by, people walking on these bridges over here. Starting at 3:00 p.m. Eastern time, they say people could be arrested if they are out in this. And we're going to get tropical storm-force winds really within minutes.

Chris, another danger we've been monitoring and we're going to continue to monitor as the storm hits tomorrow in earnest. Those cranes over there, we've been talk about this all week in Miami, 25- plus cranes in Miami, we've got two large ones over there. And the one in the foreground is secured by a brace but in, you know, 90 to 100-mile-an-hour winds that we're expecting here tomorrow, that all could be compromised and you could have debris flying from that construction site. So that's another danger that we're going to be watching, Chris.

CUOMO: Scary, legitimate concern, and also we're getting lucky here, Brian, because as limited as we are in being able to talk to people because of the conditions, we have somebody who can talk to exactly that. Sir, introduce yourself to the audience. What's your name and what do you do?

PETER ZALEWSKI, CONDOVULTURES.COM: Sure. My name is Peter Zalewski. I'm a consultant expert witness and I focus on high-rise construction in coastal areas primarily what's being evacuated in south Florida.

CUOMO: Brian Todd was just talking about cranes and there are dozens. This is a high-rise city.

ZALEWSKI: More than dozens.

CUOMO: So how many?

ZALEWSKI: We have 102 buildings under construction with 12,000 units in the evacuation zone as we speak.

CUOMO: So how many cranes?

ZALEWSKI: If you go 1.5 per building, 102 buildings, we're talking north of 150 cranes, potentially.

CUOMO: OK. So, remember from Hurricane Sandy -- ZALEWSKI: Yes.

CUOMO: -- that crane that lost to the wind. What are the variables, what are the expectations here?

ZALEWSKI: Well, I'm not an engineer but what I can tell you is when Hurricane Katrina came through Miami, which it did, it actually took down a crane and that was a Category 1. It happened and knocked the crane across what everybody knows as Collins Avenue, or State Road or A1A.

CUOMO: So what do they do to these cranes to keep them secure in a situation like this? Somebody showed me video earlier this morning of a high-rise and there were about three cranes around it and they were already moving in gusts of about 45 miles an hour. Is that normal? What, you know, what is the reality?

ZALEWSKI: Generally speaking with the cranes down here, what they do is they don't lock them so they float. Think of like a propeller or think of like a helicopter. So they move around based on the winds.

I was walking around the last few days looking at the projects under construction, there's only one that I'm aware of where they took down the t-part. Think of a T where the horizontal part, they'll take that down so it doesn't spin. So far from what I've seen only one project has actually taken down the T of the crane. So chances are -- as winds get going, we could see some real damage.

CUOMO: In your experience, well two things first, in your experience, spins like a propeller, I get it. Does it keep going faster and faster like a propeller or is there some kind of ballast adjustment or some type of mechanism to keep it under control regardless of the force against it?

ZALEWSKI: Yes. You're getting out of my pay grade but from seeing and experiencing it personally it doesn't necessarily rotate based on the speed of the wind. What we'll do is it'll just sort of go in motion, sort of controlled.

[12:55:08] CUOMO: And the -- well, if it falls, dot, dot, dot, god forbid, these things are hundreds of tons of metal and mechanism that make them move and control them. They would presumably be falling to the ground and falling into other buildings.

ZALEWSKI: Well, first of all, most of the cranes that are put up, some are put up and effectively equates to like an elevator shaft, others are put up on the outside. And think of a snake biting into your skin with the two fangs.

CUOMO: Why would I want to think of that?

ZALEWSKI: But I'm just saying to give you the visual. If you think of a snake biting into your skin, that's how they put up these cranes. They actually put them into the floor of the cement, so it's bolted through. So in order to take it down, you actually have to remove that and go all the way down. It's a long process. CUOMO: We're trying to make it better for people. You're saying snake fangs into an arm that that does not do that. Look --

(OFF-MIC)

ZALEWSKI: -- will love me.

CUOMO: Any moment of levity we'll take when we have this kind of bad stuff coming. But the issue is real. It's one more factor of safety and concern. It's one more reason if you're in an area in downtown Miami, I get that the construction here is, Peter, now we're talking earlier, it's better than in other places. Its storm savvy, I get it, the windows. But --

ZALEWSKI: Can I make --

CUOMO: -- the factors -- quick on, go ahead. Quick point.

ZALEWSKI: Silicon Valley, they make technology. Miami, we make condos. Our developers know how to do stuff here better than I would say any part of the world. I've been in Dubai, I've been in Mumbai, I've been all around the world. They know what the heck they're doing here.

CUOMO: Good. But the variables remain and that's why the security calls are what they are. We're going to take a break. Peter, thank for coming out in this, I appreciate as well.

ZALEWSKI: Thank you.

CUOMO: You as well. And we're going to take a break. When we come back, we're going to try to check in with what this storm was just doing in Cuba. What is the situation there. We have someone from CNN there and we'll take you around the path of the storm, preparations, the potential.

Please stay safe. If it's time to act, do it now. Stay with CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And welcome to our continuing coverage of Hurricane Irma. Some gentle winds, frankly, blowing here in Fort Myers --