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Irma Barrels Towards Florida with Category 3 Force; Homestead Mayor Talks on Preparations; Ft. Myers Expands Evacuation Zone; Florida West Coast Prepares for Irma; A Look at South Beach; Worries about Boats as Storm Approaches. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired September 9, 2017 - 13:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:00:05] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our continuing coverage of Hurricane Irma. Some gentle winds, frankly, blowing here in Ft. Myers. It is just a hint of the horror that is to come tomorrow when all of this area is likely to be under water. Ft. Myers, they're expecting up to 10 to 10 15 foot of storm surge, certainly for areas south, Collier County, Naples, areas below that. That right now is the upgraded estimate. Could, according to Chad Myers, get that way in Ft. Myers. For Tampa, which is further north, expecting five to eight feet of storm surge. I'm on the Caloosahatchee River right now, probably seven or eight feet over the river. So this little area would not be able to -- we wouldn't be able to stand here 24 hours from now.

Chris, I imagine in the same location where you are, you're not going to be able to be there tomorrow either.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: No. Similar dynamics that you were identifying. Getting a little gust now. It's picked up, no question. But this is not the real deal, as you rightly point out. The water easily overwhelmed this area when we got that first moderate band of storm-type rain and wind here. Even though we see the shift in the path of the storm, it's projected path, nothing's a certainty here no matter how much they model, the officials on the ground have said do not come back and if you are in an evacuation zone C, the time between these bands as opportunity, do what you were told, make the choice for safety.

Let's get to Chad Myers. He's in the Weather Center.

Chad, take us through what we know. Starting with what the poor people in Cuba have been dealing with now for hours and what we think is to come.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Chris, the storm came just south of Grand Bahama into northern Cuba. There is an island chain there called the Cuban Keys and they got destroyed, literally. There's not much left. Everyone was evacuated from there because the entire government knew this was going to be a 160 storm. Now it's down to 125. So a little bit less because so much of the storm was taken out by Cuba. And the storm took out part of the island chain here. Certainly, some of the lesser buildings. Category 3 going to category 4, not that far from where Anderson Cooper is.

Here is another deal with this storm. We're going to have significant winds. The wind speed at Key West will be 129. Naples 137 and Ft. Myers. You guys were just talking, oh, we won't be able to stand here because there's wind. Yes, there's wind, going to be water, it's going to be eight feet over your head and there will be waves on top of that.

This is Deerfield Beach. We're already seeing four to six-foot swells here. And this storm is 200 miles away. So a lot of things aren't going to be going on tomorrow at all.

For Chris, here's you, you're right downtown. All of this with a six- foot surge will be under water. Everywhere you see blue on this Google Earth, that is polygon at two meters high so you will be able to see all that water no matter where you are in Miami. There's a lot of high-rises in that area. You dent want to be in those high-rises. The wind goes up, the higher you go in a hurricane. With 136 in Ft. Myers, 120 in Tampa. Those are the maximum DPUSs, though that doesn't happen until late tomorrow.

Here's how the storm shapes up. It comes off the Cuban coast. Look for white circle, the circle of 100-mile-per-hour winds right over the lower Keys. Anywhere from Big Pine Key to Key West to maybe the Tortugas. Move the into the Everglades, slightly offshore, the Everglades will enhance this thing because the same thing that happened to Wilma -- Wilma actually got stronger on the way to Ft. Lauderdale because it hit the Everglades and the water was so warm. That is years ago but you get the idea. It's called brown ocean because even though it looks like dirt, it's not. It's water. Then you go to Atlanta, Augusta, Macon, you will see wind gusts somewhere in the 60 to 70-mile-per-hour range. We're expecting wind into Jacksonville, Savannah, Charleston, all the way to Myrtle, expecting coastal flooding here and coastal flooding all the way back across parts of southwest Texas as well -- or west Florida as well as we will begin to see this storm finally move away sometime during the day on Tuesday -- Anderson?

COOPER: Chad Myers, thanks for that.

If you were out this hour and, obviously, all throughout the day, it's just crucial to try to follow this storm as closely as possible because as you saw this morning a lot of people woke up today and suddenly the storm had moved further west. That meant a lot of folks who maybe thought they had dodged the worst of it or were going to dodge the worst-it in Tampa, Ft. Myers, in Naples, they woke up today to a different reality. And that's the reality a lot-people are facing now, trying to decide, do I continue to stay in the area I'm in in my home or try to make it to a shelter nearby. They're opening more shelters in this county, in Collier County, but there are a lot- people waiting to get into a shelter.

Our Drew Griffin is outside the Germane Arena.

Drew, that's off highway I-75. How many people -- last we talked you said just estimate, several thousand people still standing in line.

[13:05:35] DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I'd say there's maybe 2,500, 3,000, still in line outside the arena. This is the front of the line. These people have been waiting on average four, five hours. Long process. We tried what the process was, what the hold-up was. First, they had to make sure it's staffed. Then they make sure they know who is in here. People holding pieces of paper. That's their registration form, one for each family. They register, any special needs, any kind of thing that might be made aware of, medical staff. Also have to figure out what to do with their pets, get the rules on that. But this line, Anderson, as you can see, it just goes down around this arena, wraps all the way around the side of the arena and out into the parking lot. People are being patient.

In fact, let's just walk ahead. This guy has an interesting story.

You're here with your whole family, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)

GRIFFIN: How long have you been here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seven thirty.

GRIFFIN: Seven thirty in the morning. So you've been

(CROSSTALK)

UM: -- since 6:00 and --

GRIFFIN: And how many family members?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ten.

GRIFFIN: And this is an interesting family. Obviously, you have an ethnic background. When we showed you on CNN --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got the message from Pakistan telling us we saw you on CNN.

GRIFFIN: Your family in Pakistan knows you're safe, knows you're OK, knows the kids are still --

(CROSSTALK)

UM: They wanted evidence and now we gave it to them, the evidence. You gave it to them that we are standing here.

GRIFFIN: We wish you luck. You're almost there, right? Almost there.

UM: Five and a half hours.

GRIFFIN: Five and a half hours.

Anderson, incredibly long wait. And just like where you are, we're feeling the increased wind. There was a rumble of thunder about an hour ago, but fortunately no rain. Hopefully they can process all these people just in the next couple hours and get them inside and ready for Irma -- Anderson?

COOPER: Drew, when you first got there, you were talking to a woman in line who had been separated from her mom. Her mom was 85 years old. Somehow got separated. She thought maybe she was further in the back of the line. How confusing is the situation? Are the people on loin getting information? Are folks coming out and telling them what's going on or what the delays are?

GRIFFIN: I have to tell you, the staff and the sheriff's department and the National Guard and the state troopers have been great. They're all trying to deal with a situation that is quite frankly unmanageable at times because there are so many people. Ambulances have been out here attending to people who have literally, Anderson, passed out in line, some of these people.

And you can see this, George, if grow up the line here on the left, these are all people who are waiting for their loved ones who are basically work the line for them. So you might see this fellow here in a walker, a couple in the back in a wheelchair, and -- in folding chairs. They are waiting for their loved one to catch up with them. That's what happened to the 85-year-old woman. She finally was connected with her daughter. They are going to be OK. And they're going to be inside this shelter for Hurricane Irma.

COOPER: Drew, we're going to go the Bill Weir in a second, but next time we come to you, if you could, while we're not on air with you, talk to some people and find out, did they decide just this morning with the shift of the storm, is that what made them decide to seek shelter, previous to that, did they plan to kind of ride it out in their homes.

We'll come back to Drew Griffin in a little bit.

Bill Weir is in Key Largo.

Bill, explain where you are and what the situation is.

[13:09:13] BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are in a part of Key largo, known as Carbineer (ph). It's a town, but this is a well-known boat harbor here. And this is where we met the gentleman on your show on Thursday night, the captain of the "Saltshaker" who vowed to ride out Irma aboard his 50-foot sailboat. That's it over there. It says, "Western Sunset." He's actually officially changed the name. Many people concerned about that decision, his wife, his two wiener dogs. We came to check on him. Turns out he had a change of heart as Irma got bigger and more pointed towards the Keys, so his family is now in a motel in Okeechobee. They got about 150 miles north of here.

But there are still some diehards, still some old salts, about five different families here in this marina who are bunking down not on their boats. We have a stone, pretty sturdy, strong structure behind us here with metal hurricane shutters. They feel good about that. And then nearby is a dive shop that's three stories tall, all stone structures. That's their plans B and C. But these people are real outliers.

In the last 48 hours, we've seen a marked shift in attitude down in the Keys. These people are notorious for not leaving, for ignoring evacuation orders, riding thins out, being fiercely independent. That shifted last night about 6:00. Emergency managers got together and when they came out of that meeting some we had met were shaken. You could see it. And they said this is a whole different deal. At that moment, they decided to evacuate the Monroe County Jail on Stock Island that they thought could survive a category 5. It's one of the strongest structures in all of the Keys. They said they felt pretty good about it. In fact, that's where their families are going to stay. Instead, they had to frantically move bus, with sheriff's deputy escorts 500 prisoners up U.S. 1 to find other places to put them until Irma blows over here. They've moved their emergency management operation from Marathon to about 40 miles north of Key West up here to Key Largo.

For those expressing concern, we appreciate it here. We have after charting the storm decided to stay here tonight. This is the highest of the Keys. We're in a very secure building. And we want to see what happens. We want to follow Irma as she pounds ashore here. For everybody else out there, who has the means, please follow the heeds and get out of here if you can.

COOPER: Yes. Bill Weir, we'll continue to check with you.

I'm glad that guy in that boat decided to leave with his family. I was very concerned about that from the other night.

I don't know if you can hear -- there's a police car come big with a police officer speaking on a loud speaker saying this is a mandatory evacuation zone, telling people to get out. Obviously, mandatory means some people aren't going to do it, they don't have to leave by law, but they are certainly strongly encouraged there. As soon as the police car starts to come by, I'll maybe have Jay turn the camera around so you can see it. Just get a sense of what it's like here. They have expanded the evacuation zone to zone B, which previously was not an evacuation zone, but they are trying to get more people go.

Let's listen to this police car as it passes by.

Actually, Jay, you won't be able to get it. The police car turned. They are driving around in Centennial Park.

I want to go to Jeff Porter, the mayor of Palm Beach (ph).

Mayor, how are things in Palm Beach, how are your preparations?

JEFF PORTER, HOMESTEAD MAYOR: Palm Beach, this is Homestead.

COOPER: I'm sorry. How are the preparations there? PORTER: Well, we kind of got ahead of the curve and I think we're

well prepared. Taking care of our employees, gotten everybody situated in our new secure facilities, category 5 facilities. We learned our lesson through Andrew. We're pleased it's taken a bit of a jog to the west. We're ready, but we're hoping for, you know, less of an impact than anticipated earlier this week.

COOPER: And as you referenced, Homestead got hit hard by Andrew, so there have been a lot of changes since then in how buildings are built there.

PORTER: Oh, absolutely. I mean, you know, before Andrew came through, you would drive through the communities and, you know, maybe 20 percent, 30 percent of the residences would have storm shutters. It's quite the difference now. Probably 90 percent, you know, have storm shutters and the others are putting up plywood. So, you know, I think the community really got ahead of it. Normally, they're real complacent about doing their preparation and boarding up and getting their supplies, but this year, I don't know if it was because of what's been -- what we of been seeing for the last two weeks coming out of Houston, maybe heightened everyone's senses, but I think everybody did a really good job. The ones that got -- evacuated are out, the streets are pretty clean right now, not a lot of traffic. We did have a pretty good squall come through this morning and knocked some trees over and some limbs down. We've soon a little bit of the -- you know, what the storm is capable of. But we're really hoping for that eyewall not to, you know, come over Homestead. That's what really does the damage. That's where Andrew really got us.

COOPER: We certainly wish you the best and we'll check in with you throughout the next several days.

Thanks for being with us.

Our coverage continues. We'll have a lot more here from the west coast of Florida.

I want to toss it back to Chris Cuomo standing by in Miami Beach -- Chris?

[13:15:18] CUOMO: We're going the take a break and be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: CNN is tracking the storm Hurricane Irma. Battering the Caribbean. Hitting Grand Bahama. Hitting Cuba now, moving past. Expected to strengthen in the gulf as it heads towards the Florida Keys and here where we are in south Florida.

We have David Halstead with us.

Dave, always a pleasure.

CNN contributor, former head of Florida emergency management.

You were the director. Right? DAVID HALSTEAD, CNN CONTRIBUTOR & FORMER DIRECTOR, FLORIDA DIVISION OF

EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: Yes, sir.

[13:19:57] CUOMO: We were talking about something before. One of the things we can bring you is information and insight from experts who understand what is to come. We talk about gusts, sustained gusts, and sustained winds. This is not a science class. It matters because sustained winds of 90 miles an hour are a totally different animal than a gust. And there's also something in-between as a dynamic that could cause real devastation. Take us through it.

HALSTEAD: Well, we were talking before about, obviously, sustained winds. What kind of damage can that do to a building. And that's what we're concerned about. Obviously, those large sustained winds. However, in between, as it dies down and you have gusts, which are typically maybe 30 miles an hour less than that, then you get a sustained gust that's in between those two. And as that moves back and forth, the sustained winds and the sustained gusts, that's where you get kind of that differential where if things have a weakened point, let's say a roof, say an air conditioning unit that's tied to a building, it starts bringing it up and down, starts working on it, those sustained winds and those long-sustained gusts will work back and forth and can loosen it.

CUOMO: A little like, for fighting metaphor, like jab, jab, cross, like the one-two punch.

HALSTEAD: Absolutely. That's what we concern ourselves with and that's why the fortified building code in Florida has been so important, certainly, in south Florida, the building code they implemented. As we talked about, not every building has been brought up to code. It will be interesting to see after the storm moves through both in southeast Florida and southwest, the buildings that able to withstand the winds.

CUOMO: We heard from the FEMA director now saying after these storms, Harvey, Irma, and god forbid, what is to come after, we have to rebuild better. That's not just Pollyannaish optimism. You have to meet the challenges as they are today which is different than what we saw in the past.

HALSTEAD: And you're talking to a very conservative person right here, but I will tell you, building codes is the only way go. You cannot change anything until you change building codes. Yes, it's America, yes, you ought to be able to build things where and when you want, but the problem is, you ask us to come in afterwards, either through insurance or federal help, and rebuild something that shouldn't have been built there in the first place or should have been built better.

CUOMO: Now, another practical difference, Dave and I are built to stand in the wind. 80, 90 miles an hour, it hits me, it wasn't really moving me. I've been in these a lot. But it doesn't take much when the wind varies to make you feel instability. And there's an analogy in that for people, the same thing that happens to us, happens to everything else, right? HALSTEAD: Absolutely. Everything that's loose in the yard, loose

near a building. I'm looking up here and there is air conditioning units that are tied onto this building here, they're rusted, how rusted are they, we'll find out when 90-mile-an-hour sustained winds hit them and try to move them, and it drops down to a sustained gust and comes back. Will that A.C. unit be a projectile into another building that may, in fact, be fortified.

CUOMO: God forbid. Last point for right now, and then we'll go to break. I've been telling people when that band comes see it as a taste, only a taste of what will come some 20-plus hours from now when Irma is here, but also to see moments like this as opportunity. If you've been told to get out, because now you can see, now you can handle things, now you can drive. Is that a fair assessment?

HALSTEAD: I think it's fair assessment. I'm not so sure about driving. Driving will have to be tens of miles, not hundreds of miles. If you have a friend inland, 10, 20 miles, absolutely, take break, you see the wind bands die down, get in the car, get to that friend's house whose home, hopefully, is more fortified than your home.

CUOMO: Dave, thank you very much.

We'll take a break. When we come back, as we've been saying, Chad Myers has been watching this storm move. Dave has been an invaluable resource in explaining the different dynamics and why the Caribbean got hit, why Grand Bahama. Each place has its own vulnerabilities, that's truth in the Key, true here. And as we move up the different places of Florida, different places are exposed to different risks. We'll take you through when we come back.

If you are in the zone of danger in Florida, be safe, and stay with CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:28:40] COOPER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of Hurricane Irma. I'm Anderson Cooper, in Ft. Myers, Florida, the west coast of Florida. I was in Miami this morning, came over here as the storm shifted here to the west.

I'm going the talk to mayor here because they are now trying to open more shelters here as people who were just planning on staying in their homes are now eager to try to get to a shelter. We'll talk to him about those efforts.

First, let's check in about the status of this storm with Chad Myers of the Weather Center.

Chad, give us an update on what this is looking like.

MYERS: It's looking like the storm is moving offshore in Cuba, great news for the people in Cuba. But now the storm is going to re- intensify in the area, the water between Cuba and Florida or the Florida Keys, called the Florida Straits. Ten to 15 feet on top of land storm surge right where you are. And that's the threat right now. That number went up at the 11:00 advisory.

We have hurricane warnings all the way to Jacksonville. So this is now going to move up along the spine of Florida. There is the center of the eye moving away from land. It is now able to breathe again. It's going to use that warm water in the Florida Straits to get stronger. We're going the see band after band across parts of Florida. That red box right there, that's a tornado watch box.

[13:30:00] Not only will you see wind, every storm that comes in can spin. Just a water spout coming onshore can do damage because waterspouts can be 100 miles per hour. Not like we'll see for tomorrow.

Notice the map. We'll see the storm move right up across parts of the Florida Keys at 1:40. Right now, the center of the cone -- because the cone is pretty close now. We're less than 20 hours away -- we're probably going to be somewhere between Key West and Big Pine Key. It may go to the west of Key West and that would be terrible for Key West because then you would be on the wrong side, the dirty side, the worst side of the eye. The same place, Anderson, that you're going to be. Look at the radar summary. This is the future radar. By 10:00 tomorrow morning, the eyewall over Key West. And by later on in the afternoon, the eyewall right over you, with wind speeds in excess of 130 miles per hour and that storm surge being deadly. Water kills more than the wind kills in a hurricane. Need to be out of that water away from the water. Chris Cuomo has been talking about it all day, how it's been coming up in Miami. Because the water in the air just pouring onshore here. Well, tomorrow, the water will be pouring into southwestern Florid Florida.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN AN CHOR: We're trying to still figure out where we'll try to ride this thing out, whether here in Ft. Myers or over in Tampa. A lot of options to this point.

I want to bring in the mayor of Ft. Myers, Randall Henderson.

Thanks for being with us.

You have expanded the evacuation zone to Zone B as well.

RANDALL HENDERSON, MAYOR OF FT. MYERS, FLORIDA: We have expanded to Zone B. We are laser focused right now, Anderson, on preservation of life and we are deploying shelters as we speak, as best we can. The challenging part of that is staffing them, making sure we document all the human beings that are coming in, the pets. And no rules and restrictions. We're urging everyone to get out of Zone B, get to a shelter, we're providing public transportation so we're in full force.

COOPER: How long is that public transportation going to go? I know you've told people call 211 if they need help to get to a shelter. You've tried the number and it's tough getting through.

HENDERSON: We are certainly experiencing overwhelming volume on the 211 line. We urge all citizens to continue the dial 211. We can safely deploy transportation units up to about 3:00 p.m. today. We've got to be concerned about safety of our drives and our first responders.

COOPER: So for a lot of the people who are calling 211 who are now going to the shelters today, these are people who thought they would ride it out at home and as the storm shifted that all changed.

HENDERSON: Tension is rising, and rightfully so. I'm proud of our citizens who have taken this storm serious. This is a beast of a storm, it's a very serious threat. We're worried about storm surge and we're dealing with that as best we can. However, we are moving around in vehicles. We have a megaphone that we're alerting our neighbors to, to please evacuate. If they need assistance, let us know, we'll get transportation for them and get them to higher grounds.

COOPER: Do you have a sense of how many people are in shelters now? I know there's a couple thousand outside the Germane Arena right now being processed.

HENDERSON: They're being processed right now. Our best estimates for city of Ft. Myers proper, 78,000 people, roughly a third of those have evacuated. And we're pushing for more.

COOPER: Just in terms of what the city has seen before, you and I were talking about hurricane charley in 2004, a change of four degrees can make all the difference. This storm for people who are breathing a sigh of relief in other areas, this storm can change track again.

HENDERSON: It can change track again. It's not unreason to believe expect it to tilt a little bit more to the west. I can share with you in charley, charley was coming right up this Caloosahatchee River and for sake of four degrees it tilted to the north and tilted towards Punta Gorda and points beyond.

COOPER: I remember driving to Punta Gorda the next day. It was a terrible scene.

HENDERSON: Very terrible, yes.

COOPER: Right now, your message to people in this county?

HENDERSON: Stay vigilant. Be bold in your decision making, seek higher ground. Reach out to your government, your city, your emergency management people. We are working in tandem to assist you. Please get in touch with us if you need help. We are working vigilantly and diligently to get to you and to help you.

COOPER: Mr. Mayor, really appreciate your time. I know you're incredibly busy.

HENDERSON: Thank you.

[13:35:17] COOPER: Thanks so much. Be safe.

The mayor in Ft. Myers really trying to send the message, don't be lulled into a false sense of security by the weather right now. Because it can change very quickly, as we have seen with Chris Cuomo on the air. Suddenly, one of those outer bands of the storm comes and you get drenched, and that is just an outer band of the storm, the real storm we have yet to really get a taste of it.

We're going to have a lot more information on what's going to be happening and the plans being made right now in Tampa, Florida. Our coverage continues after a short break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: CHRIS COMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. CNN continuing coverage of Hurricane Irma. We have been watching her as she moves past the Caribbean, through Grand Bahama. Devastation left in her wake. People are dead, at least a couple of dozen so far, probably more. Those are early estimates. Billions of dollars in damage, like we saw with the island of Barbuda. Many of these places over 50 percent, 60 percent destroyed. Now we have Cuba, that is just getting punished by this storm. Yes, Irma went from 5 to 3 in terms of category, but that is really a distinction that only matters to a scientist. Once you get winds in excess of 100 miles an hour, sustained, everything that they touch they could destroy. And the water wins every time out.

Here in southern Miami, southern Florida, in Miami, proper, we're just getting a taste. Every time the wind picks up, with just a little bit of storm surge, the docks are overwhelmed. The shore is overwhelmed. The parking lot floods. The cars there get hit by water. And remember, the reason we say that the water wins is because storm surge isn't just linear. It's not like it comes just six feet, 10 feet more up the shore. It's how high it is. The water level itself is going to be another six to 10 feet from what it is right now. That means tomorrow, you do not see a reporter here. You do not see anyone here. Because the water is this high all the way through. This entire area. This high of water. Plus, waves. And that's where the damage comes. And that's why the official recommendation is to evacuate here and many of the areas in and around where we are here. And there is South Beach. They, too, have to deal with evacuation orders. They, too, are very vulnerable to the storm surge that is expected here, even though the path of the storm has shifted to the west.

The storm is expected to strengthen as it comes to the Florida Keys and to the Florida mainland. It is expected to be a category 4 hurricane at this point. Damage potential, catastrophic. So we are now covering the west coast, dealing with the increase in urgency, the increase in need in those areas.

We have Alex Marquardt, he's in Siesta Key. That's up on the west side of this, about an hour or so from Tampa, I'm told.

You know, Alex, no small irony that in a place called Siesta Key, siesta is a nap in Spanish, nobody's resting quietly up there right now. What is the situation?

[13:39:33] ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, they really aren't. You're right. This is Siesta Beach. We're just south of Sarasota City. Just look at the scene here. If you didn't know that there was a massive hurricane barreling this way, you could never tell that anything was wrong. Look at this day we of got here. Bright blue skies, pristine beaches. The only real indication that something is wrong is how few people there are out here. There are a handful. There's a gentleman out there right now in the water. That is a handful too many for the local authorities here. They don't want anyone here. This is a mandatory evacuation zone. Once this storm hits tomorrow, they're expecting the storm surge to come ashore around three to five feet.

Now, we drove across from ft. Lauderdale across the Florida peninsula this morning, and as we got closer to Sarasota, we saw the vast majority of homes and businesses closed and boarded up. But there were still parking lots full of boats, parks full of mobile homes. You can imagine the staggering amount of damage that mare is going to do once it comes ashore.

But I do want to show you where we are right now. There are a lot of homes that we've soon that still have open glass, that have not been boarded up. We are right on the beach right now. You've got all these beautiful homes right here. There are very few people here, but very few boards as well. I was speaking with a county commissioner earlier who was saying that she thinks that they didn't board up because initially the plan or the assumption was they were just going to get heavy rains here. Now that Irma has tracked to the west, people are starting to realize the full extent of the damage that is going to take place here, but it might be too late for many of these homes.

Now, the people, the handful as I said of people right here enjoying themselves on the beach, they will be weathering the storm. They are confident that their buildings are safe enough, that they have the supplies they need, but that same county commissioner told me that wherever you plan to be during the storm, you should be there right now -- Chris?

CUOMO: All right, Alex, thank you very much.

Obviously, as this storm comes in there, the whole reality for the people up where Alex Marquardt is, where Anderson Cooper is, the reality has changed for them. They were supposed to get just a bad situation but not a potentially catastrophic one. But as the storm moves, so do the requirements, so do the risks, and so does the need for action.

So down here, I guess we're out of the woods, right? Wrong. Just because it's not a direct hit does not mean it won't be bad. In these areas, it does not take much to make a big difference.

Kyung Lah is across the bay in South Beach. She's been monitoring the situation over there.

Kyung, both of us got a taste about the same time this morning. Boy, did the dynamic change. The watchers gone, the ability to drive reduced to almost zero. How is it now?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That was just a prelude of what's to come. We're experiencing a bit more wind. Remember, this is going to intensify at night. Here's what we're seeing. You can see some of the palm trees moving

about. A lot of the buildings here are boarded up. You can see this particular hotel, that entire first floor has completely been boarded up because the anticipation here, Chris, is that there is going to be a significant storm surge.

In lieu of that, what the city has done, the city of Miami Beach has just told us they of issued a curfew. There is a mandatory evacuation order here, but there is a curfew now in place starting at 8:00 p.m. They want to try to get everybody off the streets because starting this evening they anticipate that the storm surge -- I'm about five feet tall, two of me, at the height of it, two of me could -- we could see a wall of water that could come across. That is something they are very concerned about because people here, Chris, even though it is under a mandatory evacuation order, you're still seeing some stragglers roaming around in the streets. You see this guy on a bicycle here. A few people not really heeding the order.

Generally, though, I will say that this is the place that on saturday afternoon you would normally be completely packed with people. You wouldn't be able to see anything on the beach other than people. So there are the majority of people are heeding the order -- Chris?

[13:45:50] CUOMO: Good. And unfortunately, we'll all see what happens once the storm comes, who heeded the order, who did not, who made the right choice, who did not.

What's the good news? Even if you mess up, you've got an amazing backup plan for you here with the first responders. They're one of the best groups in the country. They are uniquely equipped and prepared, but even, they say, once the sustained winds are over 40 miles an hour, and we've soon close to that here already, so it's not that high a threshold, they can't get out. It's not safe enough for them. There are so many people, millions who may be relying on their efforts. They just can't take chances and we shouldn't take chances to put them at risk. So hopefully, everybody's making the right choice for their own safety.

We're going to take a break now. When we come back, we are waiting on a picture from Cuba to see what the storm did to that island.

It is a deadly hurricane. It's taken lives just about everywhere it has touched. We'll take you through it. Please be safe. And stay with CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:51:27] COOPER: We are live in Ft. Myers, Florida, which is now expecting at hit directly from Hurricane Irma, starting tomorrow in the early morning hours. There are a lot of people now trying to get to or hoping to get to evacuation centers. There's several thousand people, according to our Drew Griffin, outside one nearby center who are being processed in order to get in. And the 211 number that the city has set up is being inundated with calls.

I want you to meet Ross Webb, who is with the Edison Sailing Center. You've been worried, obviously, about a lot of the boats in the

marina. How have you been dealing with that?

ROSS WEBB, EDISON SAILING CENTER: For the last four days, we've had 25 kids show up to help us take down masts, tie down boats. We moved about 25 boats to north Ft. Myers in a better location. And we have a bunch of them tied, 150 of them tied down there. Still a few in the water, but they're just too big to move and too bothersome.

COOPER: So do you try to tie them over?

WEBB: Sometimes you turn them over, sometimes you fill them with water and sink them so you don't have to worry about them moving too much.

COOPER: You were born here in Ft. Myers, lived here your whole life. What does this storm from what you've seen of it coming compared to what you've lived through.

WEBB: Well, like Charlie, we were almost running the same course almost, at this point. We didn't expect much then. But I think we're going to have more from this storm than we did Charlie.

COOPER: Did you ever think about evacuating?

WEBB: No, there's too many things I can do to help people once the storm is over with. And I have another business I need to help with. There's a lot of things we can do to help here.

COOPER: Your home is it on ground level? Is it raised up?

WEBB: My home's at ground level, but it's a real high spot. But I'm going down to my daughters six blocks away with a two-story house that way we can climb up it. But I've got three boats on the outside of it, so if it starts getting too bad, we'll have boats out rescuing.

COOPER: I was going to ask how many boats. Then I realized you have a sailing center. So if you don't have boats, nobody would.

WEBB: Yes, we have enough boats there, ready to go, and full of gas, and we'll help other people get rescued.

COOPER: That's your plan? You want to help other people as soon as this is done?

WEBB: Yes, that's what we try to do. This community always pulls together.

COOPER: Yes. Well, listen, I wish you the best. And I appreciate all you're doing --

WEBB: OK.

COOPER: -- not only your family but also for other people. Thanks so much.

WEBB: Thank you.

COOPER: All right, you take care.

A lot more ahead here. Our coverage obviously continues. We, of course, are all across Florida, down in Cuba, other places in the Caribbean. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:58:07] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

COOPER: It's just 2:00 p.m. here in Ft. Myers, Florida, where Hurricane Irma is headed, and headed directly. There's really no sign at this point for folks who are down here by the water watching. But there's no sign of what is to come. But everybody here knows what is coming.

As the storm moved westward earlier today, there's great concern here and a growing concern about the safety of this area down in Naples, Florida, as well. Even up in Tampa now people are reassessing the storm surge. The estimates of storm surge were raised in the 11:00 hour, five to eight feet for Tampa, anywhere from 10 to 15 feet for areas of Ft. Myers, south of Ft. Myers, like Naples, so a lot to cover.

Chris Cuomo, who's standing by for us in Miami Beach.

And it is that storm surge here that a lot of people who haven't been through a storm like this forget about. But, you know, for fatalities and hurricanes it is very often people drown.

CUOMO: Yes. Chad's been telling us about it all morning, Anderson. It's not the wind that kills you, it's the water. Let's be honest, there's so many components to potential catastrophe, there's lots of things that can get you. That's why they're pushing you, from the federal level down to the local level, to make the smartest choice for your own safety. If you're in an evac sector, you have to evacuate. You have to think about whether you have a plan and the supplies. As we heard from Senator Rubio, lifelong Floridian, he knows storms. You have 72-hours-worth of supplies, batteries, water, food. Why that long? Because it may take that long to get to you. First responders can only do so much, especially in the aftermath of something like what is expected to be coming here right now.

As the track shifts, so do the priorities. Where Anderson is, that's new ground in terms of where this storm is expected to hit hardest. They worried about the Keys. They still do. They worried about here. They still do. Even if you're not in the direct path, even if it's not within the eye, a direct hit is not the only --