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Irma Expected To Strengthen Again Before Hitting Florida; ; Storm Chaser Warns of Storm Surge; Shelter in Gainesville Caters to Seniors, Special Needs; Some Riding Out Storm in Key West as Winds Pick Up, Water Rises; Time-Lapse Video in Cuba Gives Glimpse of What's Coming to Florida. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 9, 2017 - 17:00   ET

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


[16:59:50] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: John, obviously a lot of people in Florida are watching this very closely because as we've been saying, you know, as we saw with Hurricane Charlie back in 2004 it was moving up this river and a slight -- I think it was a four degree shift made it hit the town of Punta Gorda. Not the areas that people had anticipated.

Let's go to Allison Chinchar with the latest on the storm. Allison, what have you learned from the 5:00 update?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Right. So, the latest that we have had, as we are continuing to see that turn towards the north. That is going to be the biggest update that we've been seeing. And we expected it to do this. We know that at some point, it is going to make that turn to basically almost all northward movement. It's still moving at about nine miles per hour though. So, it is still relatively slow.

But we do expect to see maybe perhaps that increase in the wind speed coming up in the next advisory because the pressure has started to drop. Now, usually the pressure drops first and the wind increase follows shortly thereafter but now it's getting back out over open water. And that's the fuel that these storms need to allow them to intensify. And as it moves further away from Cuba, it will get into that really warm water so we do expect it to get back up to a category 4 strength as it crosses over the Florida Keys and continues up the west coasts.

Places like Naples, Fort Myers could still be looking at a category 4 storm as it skirts along those areas. However, by the time we get to Tampa, we do expect some weakening and then by the time it ends up making it towards the Georgia, Florida state line, we'll be lucky at that point if it's still remains a category 1 storm. Seventy five miles per hour is that minimum threshold there to make tropical storm to a category 1 hurricane.

But again, that track does continue to take it in through Florida. We talked about the warm water. We're talking upper 80s for the temperatures in that tiny section between Cuba and towards Florida. And that's where it's going to be entering. That is why we expect it to intensify back up to a category 4 storm before it edges in towards Florida. Now, some of the main concerns with this storm, first and foremost are going to be the winds.

Especially if it really is a category 4 at landfall. We are talking max wind gusts around 135 in Key West. One thirty four in Fort Myers, even 132 around Tampa. These numbers coming to us from the National Weather Service. The other impact that's going to be there is going to be rainfall. Widespread across Florida, you're talking six to ten inches of rain. But there will be some heavier pockets that can be mixed in that could see in excess of 15 inches of rain.

That won't be widespread. But even still certainly enough to cause some flooding concerns. Even as the storm pushes farther north into other states, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, these states could also be looking widespread four to six inches of rain as that storm continues its slow movement. One of the big things people want to know about is the timing for some of the cities, so let's break that down. Naples is likely to have tropical storm force winds arrive as early as 5:00 a.m. Sunday morning.

Hurricane force winds just a few hours after that. Rainfall total again, we talk 10 to 12 inches potentially in Naples and that storm surge. That's going to be key. Ten to 15 feet. That's not only the first story of the building but that's starting to creep into the second story of the home or a business. Tampa, it is going to be a little bit later but the impacts are still there. We're talking about tropical storm force winds arriving in the afternoon, the early afternoon of Sunday.

Hurricane force winds arriving by early evening on Sunday. Rainfall about six to eight inches and that storm surge about five to eight feet. Here's a look at the radar. Don't forget, we also have the potential for severe weather. Tornado warnings have been occurring throughout the day today and we have a tornado watch in effect for much of Southern Florida through the day today. And that may even extend into tomorrow and further north as the system continues to push further off to the north.

And it's mainly from those outer bands. So, here's the look at severe weather threats for today. Damaging winds but also the potential for isolated tornadoes. And again, this is just for today. This is likely going to push off to the north and into other states as we go into the coming days and it becomes a bigger threat for places like Georgia, Alabama, as well as South Carolina.

COOPER: Allison, I'm really struck by the slowness of this storm. Just looking at your time line there, you know, Naples seeing hurricane force winds in the morning, hurricane force winds not in Tampa which is a couple of hours away drive. It is about two hours away drive from Fort Meyers to Tampa, but they're not seeing hurricane force winds until about 8:00 Sunday night. This thing is moving up the West Coast all day tomorrow.

CHINCHAR: Yes, you just talked about it. You said about a two hour drive but you have to keep in mind, you're driving a car, 60, 70 miles per hour. And this is moving only nine miles per hour. So, that's how there is such a huge there. It's not very fast, so it takes a long time to get from Naples up towards Tampa. And that's why there's such a big difference there -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Allison Chinchar, again, we'll continue checking with you.

Kyung Lah is in Miami Beach for us. Kyung, you know, obviously now the storm seems to be on the same track getting a sense of when it may make that turn. But again, for people in Miami Beach, it's really all that storm surge.

[17:05:05] KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is about the surge and they are expecting the worst of it this evening. That's why the Miami Beach Police Department has put in a curfew starting at 8:00 p.m. sending out a message to anyone who didn't follow and adhere to the mandatory evacuation that's in place here to make sure that they know that if they are out on the streets whether in their cars or they're walking around that they are subject to arrest from between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.

And this is happening just as we're starting to see some more sustained winds and heavier winds and rain. And I want you to take a look at what the ocean is looking at right now. You can see the palm trees, they're really dancing here. But out there, you can see that the ocean -- there are a lot of waves and that's really what has the Fire Department and the Police Department and this city very concerned. It is the storm surge. They still anticipate even though the eye coming across here will not happen, they are very concerned about the storm surge because this is a place that can flood even on a sunny day.

So, when you have these types of conditions, the wind and rain, there are areas where the Fire Department has already been out trying to cut through some of the branches that have fallen. They're still trying to people out who have stayed behind. The concern about the surge and whether people will be out and perhaps caught off guard and drown. A very big concern for this city -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. And Kyung, it's so important to point out as Allison Chinchar just did that it's a cat 3 storm right now but as it moves through those warm waters in the gulf, it is with all likelihood all expectations are that it will be category 4 by the time it reaches the Keys. By the time even hitting Naples, Florida.

LAH: that is a big concern. About the strength and it picking up and what it's going to mean as it churns out over those waters. Because I mean, you can see and that's something that all meteorologists are wondering what's going to happen out there in the ocean as it churns out there. Maybe not over there, but certainly as it heads further to the west.

COOPER: Yes. Kyung, thanks very much. Brian Todd is standing by in West Palm Beach. Brian, how are things there and how are the preparations going?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we are now about two hours into the curfew imposed by Palm Beach county authorities. This is the park, the Royal Park Bridge. Authorities and police are telling us that the bridges like this are going to be shut down in the coming hours. They're not giving an exact timetable of when, but when this storm hits in earnest, when the brunt of it is here. You will going to see bridges like this shut down because they are of course elevated. They don't want people on these bridges.

And I can give you kind of a sense here to your right, my left as we pan down on the Intercostal waterway. You get a sense of the approach of the storm. The clouds are darkening over there. You can see the palm trees over on the right where the wind has kicking up and the wind has been kicking up gradually all afternoon. Now, look at, you know, we have been talking about storm surge all day. Look at all the water here on the Intercostal waterway.

The storm surge is approaching four to five, six feet possibly higher here. Plus high tides tomorrow, you can see how on the right-hand side that's West Palm Beach, how that could be flooded. And if you go to the left-hand side here, that's Palm Beach. The barrier island. It's a slightly lower elevation. You can see how that could be easily and more quickly flooded with the storm surge so you get a sense of just on the Intercostal waterway here, all the water that could surge up on both shorelines here in Palm Beach County.

Another thing we have been talking about all day, Anderson, these construction sites over here, just to your right here, we're going to show you, zoom in on these cranes. These cranes are tethered to the skeleton of that 14 story building. But again, we'll going to watch the wind speed. The wind speed these things are not built to withstand a category 5. They would probably be in some trouble in a category 4.

So, it's going to be a little bit dicey watching these things sway in the wind. As we've been saying, these large horizontal booms at the top are designed to twist around in the wind like a weather vane and not offer some resistance that might topple those cranes down. But we have had local residents tell us they're concerned. Look, you have got an apartment building over there on the right-hand side of this one crane.

You've got another apartment just to the left of other crane. A lady who lives in that tall apartment building there came out and told us, she's concerned about these cranes and about that one toppling over on her building. So, that's going to be something that we'll going to be watching closely, Anderson. And authorities here are telling us the same thing that the Miami Beach fire chief told residents there earlier.

They're saying, just because there's a western track to this storm, we're still going to get the back end of a lot of that and that's some nasty stuff coming through here. Just because it's tracking on the West Coast of Florida don't get complacent. Do not come back to your homes tonight or tomorrow. Thinking, we're not just going to get much here. We are going to get it here, but, you know, they're just saying do not get complacent with this. Don't take it for granted, stay away.

[17:10:02] COOPER: Yes. Brian, it is also, I think it's worth reminding people, you know, we focus so much on the storm surge and, you know, if it's five to eight feet as people say, maybe in Tampa or 10 to 15 in a place like Naples, Florida, which is incredibly alarming. If there's high winds, you have also got potential for waves on top of that storm surge. So, you're talking, you know, a rise on the water of 10 15 feet but waves on top of that, you know, that obviously can make a lot of damage. And really that of course depends as I said on the wind.

TODD: Absolutely it does. You know, storm surge we talk about it all the time and I think we have been good over the past day or so of actually defining it for our viewers. It is that -- those levels above normal. When we talk four to six feet of storm surge here in the West Palm Beach area along the intercostal, that's four to six feet above that level right there. We're at low tide now by the way. So, the tide is going to be higher. In about 12 hours.

So, we're at low tide now. The tide is going to come up. Four to six feet above that and then as you mentioned Anderson, wave activity on top of that and that means that is going to be a wash over there probably in Flagler Avenue. Flagler Drive here in Palm Beach. So, and again, over here to the left, Palm Beach the barrier island, that's a lower elevation. They could get some really serious flooding there. You're right. The wave activity just makes it worse.

COOPER: Yes. Brian Todd, I appreciate you being there. We're going to take a short break. And our coverage continues coming up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at the size of this storm. It is wider than our entire state and could cause major life threatening impacts from coast to coast.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I met a woman that is frightened and this is frightening.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are scared right now. After they had seen what happened in Texas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't even begin to describe the feelings that I'm going through.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:16:10] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. John Berman in Miami. Hurricane Irma has begun making the turn to the north. We are feeling consistent winds now here in Miami. Thirty miles an hour maybe a little bit more. And they probably won't go down for 12, 24 hours right now. Here to stay as this storm moves ever closer to the Florida Peninsula.

Joining me now, David Halstead, the former director of Emergency Management in the state of Florida. David, thanks so much for being with us. Talking about the wind but it does seems that the real concern right now is the storm surge. Particularly on the West Coast of Florida. Talking about 10 to 15 feet in some places. And when you hear from the governor, when you hear from the director of FEMA, that's what they're watching so very closely. Why is that such a threat?

DAVID HALSTEAD, FORMER DIRECTOR, FLORIDA'S DIVISION OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: The storm surge especially on the West Coast, that's a lower area than we are here even in Miami. Ten or 15 feet would have been a real problem over here over there, it's really a hazard and a concern for life safety. So, the governor and certainly the administrator long are all saying the right things. As the local officials, remember the people are listening to their local officials, that is to evacuate or get to a shelter. We saw long lines today at a shelter. But that's cleared up and now those folks are in a safe environment.

BERMAN: To be clear, Drew Griffin was at the shelter with a long line, everyone is inside now. And there is still is a space there. Some of the free buses have stopped running, you have to get yourself there. That's a bit of a concern. People need to evacuate from these low lying areas. Why do they need to listen so carefully?

HALSTEAD: They need to listen so carefully because people are going to die because of water. Rarely are they going to die because of the winds, rarely are they going to die from other causes, what they're going to die from is flooding and storm surge. And right now, storm surge can be the real killer on the West Coast and still a big concern here on the East Coast. And I'm still very concerned I think everyone is about what's going to happen down in the Keys as that storm moves through.

BERMAN: The Keys may field a direct hit in just a few hours. As the storm passes over. Let's come here to Miami because may not get a hit from the eye. But probably expecting hurricane force winds at least guesting a storm surge of three to six feet. What should the message be to the people here who probably been inside for days now watching. Now saying, hey, the eye might not hit here. What should they be careful of?

HALSTEAD: Well, I think all of Florida should follow Miami-Dade and Miami Beach's approach to this. They're taking this exceptionally seriously. They're going to stay sheltered down. They're going to stay off the roadways until the hurricane force winds and tropical storm winds have gone by. And then another danger has the potential of coming behind it and that's people coming in too early, becoming injured. Driving on flooded streets. Not looking for downed power lines so we still have some dangers even after the storm but so far this area in particular has obeyed those evacuation orders.

BERMAN: Yes. Don't come back. Do not come back until you're told to. David, hang one second. We have some pictures I want to show people on I-4. This is I-4, the famous highway that goes across the state of Florida right now. We are seeing a lot of cars there. Long lines. People trying to move inland from the West. They still have a little time that far north, what should they be thinking? HALSTEAD: They should be thinking let's evacuate, let's get to a

shelter or let's get into a home that's been fortified to withstand certainly category 3 type storm winds because that looks like what Central Florida according to our meteorologists is going to expect.

BERMAN: And again, just to focus on storm surge for one brief moment. When we say, you know, three to six feet or 10 to 15 feet or 10 to 15 feet, it's not as if there's a wave and then it goes away. That water sticks around.

HALSTEAD: It stays around, it stays around until the winds change and then typically those winds will push it back off shore. But we could be talking four or five or six hours of these large amounts of water and high water into these areas.

BERMAN: And that means up until the first stories of the house or so. This one last thing, the Florida Keys again, they're saying, they may get a direct hit. What could happen there? Will they be cut off?

HALSTEAD: They could be cut off. What we planned for when we were at the division, Craig Fugate and I, we planned for a category 4 or 5 hitting the Keys, not so much destroying the bridges but because those bridge are pretty in tacked. all of the ways on to the bridges are susceptible to high water and high waves. So if it cuts off the roadway to get to the bridge you might as well down the bridge because you can't get to them by land. So, therefore, you have heard administrator long talk about naval vessels, helicopters. That's going to be the only way to get to those folks at one end of the keys if they're cut off.

BERMAN: All right. David Halstead, former director of Emergency Management here in Florida. I hope people have been listening to you, heeding the warnings from you and from all the current officials now warning people to evacuate while they still have time. Hurricane Irma again making that bend now to the north. Very close to the Florida Keys inching towards the Peninsula itself.

CNN's special live coverage continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:25:42] COOPER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of Hurricane Irma. Coming to you from Fort Myers, Florida. You know, if you have been watching over the last couple of hours, you know that we have been talking about people who days ago were in Miami or Miami Beach faced with the idea of where to evacuate to and they chose to move west off into Tampa, because they thought that would be safer.

Now today they woke up to a very different reality with the storm having moved to the west. Now Tampa in the line of this storm as it moves up northward here to Naples, Fort Myers, then as far as Tampa. Probably getting hurricane force winds in Tampa by Sunday night around 8:00. According to the latest.

Brynn Gingras is on I-4 East, just getting a sense of the traffic coming out of Tampa. What are you seeing there and is it -- is it people who have decided to try to leave Tampa and head to point east, to Orlando or even elsewhere or even back to Miami?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, yes. Anderson, we saw people that are trying to head east up to Daytona Beach. We saw Tucker someone who actually said he just wants to be out of Florida completely, who wants to go all the way back to New York City. Now, we're along I-4 east as you said, Anderson. And the traffic is at a pretty much a slow crawl right now. There are times we have seen it that it has been bumper to bumper.

It is certainly bumper to bumper further up as you get closer to Orlando. We are about 25 miles outside of Orlando right now but it has been like this for the past two or three hours. Me and my crew, we actually drove it for the past two hours. Stopping at different rest points along the way, talking to people because those rest stops are all full of people with their pets, giving their pets some relief.

Also just picking up on some last minute items like water and food. They are just packed at this point. Also, of course fuelling up. But that is what it has been like. At times, people are so frustrated that they have to drive on the shoulder just to get to some point where they're actually moving. We also awesome emergency vehicles on that shoulder as well, several of them giving us a thought that maybe there was some evacuations at some point.

But yes, the other thing, Anderson, you talk about the people that were seeking relief in the Tampa area and then coming back this way. We certainly saw that in Orlando. We talked to a lot of people who are staying in the same hotel with us quite frankly. And they were evacuated from the East so they moved West to Orlando and then heard that their area was no longer under an evacuation order decided to pack up and quickly get back to their homes east before the storm hits.

And they wouldn't be able to travel. So there's a lot of variables that are going on as people watch this storm closely. One thing to point out to you, Anderson though is, as all these cars are leaving the area of concern, that Tampa, Fort Myers, Naples area, we just saw about five or six National Guard vehicles heading in that direction -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. It's going to be needed no doubt about it. Looking into sizes. And you know, for the folks on the highway if there's any good news at all, is that this storm is pretty slow moving which at least for those who have already left gives them time. Even if the traffic is pretty slow. We'll continue to check in to see how the highways are on that road and others.

I want to go to Allison Chinchar who is standing by, just monitoring the tracking of this. Let's just get a sense of the latest, Allison.

CHINCHAR: That's right. So the big shift that we have seen is now, we are starting to see that turn to the north and make its way to Florida. In doing that however, it now means that the eye of the storm is back out over open water. And very warm open water at that. That is what's going to allow this storm to re-intensify over the coming hours. The official forecast from the National Hurricane Center does takes that track back up to the category 4 strength directly over the Florida Keys.

Then it continues up the West Coast. We are talking Naples, Fort Myers, into Tampa where it will weaken pretty quickly but again, the big question for a lot of people has been why is it going to take such a sharp turn to the right? Why not just go back out over the open gulf? So, here's why. The past couple of days, what's been steering this storm is this high pressure right here in the Atlantic.

Now as it edges closer to Florida it's now going to start to interact with the high pressure just off the coast of Texas. That's essentially blocking it from going too far into the gulf. Then as it goes north, it is going to interact with this portion of air but that's going to retreat, allowing the storm to be able to push pretty far inland. Maybe as far as Tennessee even into Kentucky.

[17:00:09] So, that's going to be the concern. Now the major concerns going forward are going to be storm surge. We are talking five to 10 feet south of Miami through Key West. Ten to 15 feet from Naples down towards Key Largo. Even Tampa looking at five to eight feet of storm surge. And we even see some of that creep into portions of Georgia and South Carolina with four to six feet of storm surge. Winds going to be a huge factor. Look at some of the numbers for maximum wind gusts, 134 miles an hour in Ft. Myers, 135 in Key West. Even Orlando, which is pretty far inland, looking at nearly 75 miles per hour for those peak wind gusts. And rainfall, guys.

Anderson, this is going to be the key thing to note. Storm surge is huge, but you have to keep in mind, as that water comes inland you have the water coming down as well. We could be looking at widespread six to 10 inches of rain and then some heavier pockets that could be 15-plus inches on top of the storm surge that comes in.

So again, the main thing, folks, when it starts to come in, don't get out on the roads. Don't get in the water because the storm surge alone is enough to trap your car, let alone any flash-flooding that could incur as well at the same time.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: So many things to think about depending on where you want to get to.

Allison, I appreciate that. Allison Chinchar.

We'll take another quick break. And our coverage continues.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I witnessed Hurricane Luis, but it was never like this. This one is the worst and the most devastating. Done more damage to property than any other storm that we, in our lifetime, have experienced.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:35:58] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: John Berman, in Miami. The winds and rain have picked up here. Hurricane Irma has taken that turn to the north, northwest, which means the winds and rains we're feeling now will continue until tomorrow and maybe double. And that's just here on the west coast of Florida. It could be even worse. And the storm surge there is the major concern. Ten to 15 feet of storm surge in some places.

I want to go to Punta Gorda on the west coast of Florida right now. We have storm chaser, Ben McMillen, there.

And, Ben, we can see in your shot, the water behind you there. If you have a storm surge in the west coast, which in some places would be 10 to 15 feet, what does that mean?

BEN MCMILLAN, STORM CHASER: Good evening. We're outside of Punta Gorda and we are getting three to four-foot high waves, battering the coast here. And we're still 24 hours away from the worst impact to Florida. So it will go downhill as the waves and these winds increase in size and intensity.

BERMAN: Yes. That's not a good sign if this is happening already. It will get much worse tomorrow throughout the night, and then throughout the day.

You know, Ben, you have watched a lot of storms. What's unique about Irma?

MCMILLAN: The fact that Irma is so slow moving and it's going to hug the coast is one of my biggest concerns at this point. A lot of times the hurricanes come in inland in one small area and then move on and weaken. However, she's going to stay out longer over the sea and potentially affect millions of populations along the western Florida coast, which can prolong the dangerous conditions.

BERMAN: You know, Ben, if people are watching, they have heard you say that one of your concerns is that if Irma hits where you fear it might, it can leave parts of Florida looking like a third world country. What did you mean by that?

MCMILLAN: John, we're looking at major hurricane status, which is winds of over 100, 110 miles an hour. And that major hurricane state is being maintained not only through Naples, not through Ft. Myers, but up through Tampa and points north, and that will cause a lot of folks to experience the harshest conditions of this storm throughout the day on Sunday.

BERMAN: And again, we have heard Florida officials, including Governor Scott, saying, we can replace your house or your belongings but we can't replace lives. Hopefully, the preparations are what they should be.

We've seen a lot of people move in a hurry on the west coast right now. What have you seen in terms of the evacuations and the preparations where you are, Ben?

MCMILLAN: John, Punta Gorda is only six feet above sea level so people need to get out, because storm surges of over 10 to 15 feet will overtake this area. And folks don't even act like there's a concern. We have seen several locals doing their daily business. We urged them to leave and do it soon.

BERMAN: Ben McMillen for us in Punta Gorda.

An important point to make, look, this is not about scaring people but warning people of what's to come. The forecasts are very clear, a 10 to 15 storm surge. So we hope that people are getting to safety while there's still time.

Ben McMillan, our thanks to you in Punta Gorda. Please stay safe.

I want to go up the peninsula in Florida to Gainesville. So many people have moved north in this state.

We're going to a shelter in Gainesville where Kaylee Hartung is.

Kaylee, this is catering to seniors and with special needs?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, John.

And Jim Polk here, one of the many who made the choice to come here.

Jim, you got a phone call last night that made the decision for you to come to this shelter today. Tell me about that phone call.

JIM POLK, GAINESVILLE RESIDENT: Well, my oxygen company called me and advised me to go to a shelter because they wouldn't be able to take care of me after yesterday -- or after today.

HARTUNG: So what can this shelter do for you? What services does it provide when it comes to your oxygen and the need for it that you're afraid you wouldn't get at home?

[17:40:09] POLK: Well, the loss of power was my problem and we obviously have power here. So that's about 100 percent of the solution.

HARTUNG: You have lived in Florida for a long time. You tell me 40 years, on and off. Have you ever been in a situation like this one?

POLK: Not to where I had to evacuate to a center. I have been through several hurricanes but not of this magnitude.

HARTUNG: How are the emotions of this one different?

POLK: It's a much bigger storm than usual. I feel like it's going to do a lot of damage to this part of the country.

HARTUNG: Do you think that folks here in Gainesville recognize the threat that's here? We hear our reporters from CNN over in Miami or Tampa talking about the storm surge and all the damage that can come as a result of that, but here in Gainesville, we are pretty far inland.

POLK: It will be primary wind damage. But 100-miles-an-hour wind will do a lot of damage and it will take down power lines and it will be a while before power is restored.

HARTUNG: The FEMA chief now saying millions could be without power in Florida for weeks, possibly. Now that you're here, how long are you prepared to stay here?

POLK: As long as it takes to get power back on.

HARTUNG: What did you pack with you to bring here?

POLK: I packed like I was going camping.

HARTUNG: So what's in that bag of yours underneath this cot?

POLK: A little bit of everything. A few snacks, a lot of clothing, bedding, medicines, and, you know, just miscellaneous other things.

HARTUNG: Now, this is as far as our cameras can get inside this shelter for the privacy of other people here. We really appreciate you talking to us. But for folks who can't see what's going on around us, how do you describe the set-up here and the care you feel is being given to you all.

POLK: I think they're doing a great job for the situation they're in. They may be in a learning process as well as everybody around. So they're doing well.

HARTUNG: Well, thank you so much, Jim. Good luck to you.

POLK: Thank you.

HARTUNG: John, this facility, at capacity. More than a hundred folks here in need of care.

BERMAN: Kaylee Hartung for us in Gainesville, Florida. Please give our best to Jim right there.

These are hard decisions to go to the shelters. It's hard once you are there. This is not easy to get through. And people need strength over the next few days.

So, Kaylee, thanks so much for that.

Look, one of the furthest things from people's mind right now, games. But, you know the sports teams around this state, and sports are big here in Florida. They have had to make some very major decisions. So many games in pro and college sports canceled for this weekend.

Much more of CNN's special live coverage after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:47:45] COOPER: Welcome back to continuing coverage of Hurricane Irma.

I want to show you some of the images coming out of Key West. This is a buoy, which gives you a sense of some of the wave action that we're beginning to see as the water level starts to rise. Nowhere near as much as it will be. And you see these waves. As the wind picks up, larger and larger waves. You see some of the tree action with a taste of what's to come in Key West.

I want to go on the phone to someone who owns a bar in Key West.

J.D., I understand you closed your bar because of the storm but you didn't choose to evacuate. What kind of preparations are you making right now?

UNIDENTIFIED KEY WEST BAR OWNER (via telephone): I actually put up the shutters at my home and tied up the boat. Got everything out of the yard. And my house is now loaded with everything from outside. But then I was getting riled up by everybody for staying. So I thought maybe it would be best to find a room and here I am at the Marriott Beachside.

COOPER: So how high are you off the ground? Is it multi stories?

UNIDENTIFIED KEY WEST BAR OWNER: Actually, I have a ringside seat. I'm on the third floor, with a spiral staircase going up to the rooftop, if I was that brave.

COOPER: Well, that's probably good to just have that as an option. That's great you're on the third floor because, obviously, any kind of storm surge, that, hopefully, would put you out of the way of that. With winds and waves on top of that, no telling what things will be like.

You've ridden out storms before, have you?

UNIDENTIFIED KEY WEST BAR OWNER: Yes, I have, a couple, but nothing like this. And this now is rated, I think, only a category 3 but that could change and the buildings here are rated category 5. So we have other people staying here from Key West, including some of the military, some of the police, some officials, and other people from the town that chose to not leave. So it was a very wise choice to be here. And the room has an ocean view. So I mean, I could see everything. Sail boat anchored in the harbor.

[17:50:04] COOPER: I assume you have some food, you have some supplies to last for a couple of days. Any regrets about not leaving the Keys?

UNIDENTIFIED KEY WEST BAR OWNER: No. I kind of like an exciting vacation. A little more exciting than what I like but an exciting vacation, nonetheless.

COOPER: Well, certainly.

UNIDENTIFIED KEY WEST BAR OWNER: And I have some food with me and some wine. I'm all set. And I also brought the cat. The cat did not want to stay home.

COOPER: I can imagine. Well, I'm glad you have company. And we'll check in with you when this thing is done. We wish you the best and, obviously, everybody in the Keys.

I want to check in with Tom Sater, who's following the track of the storm.

Tom, when you hear folks in the Florida Keys didn't evacuate despite the constant warnings and constant pressure from authorities, talk about where the storm is now and what the Keys should be seeing and when?

TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Anderson, we now have a tornado warning for Key West. This is one of a few we've had today. There will be many. In fact, it's not unusual to have 50, 60, 70, 75 to 80 tornado warnings. I know Harvey had over 200. But tornadoes will be an issue. For many, when they are looking at Irma making its way toward southwestern Florida, Miami, Hollywood, Boca, Delray Beach, may think, OK, maybe won't see the strongest winds, but you're in an area where you can have a higher concentration of tornadoes.

Now, again, as we continue to watch this, Anderson, make its way off the coast, very interesting now to continue to watch the eye. Already seeing on the infra-red satellite imagery more purple. That's higher cloud tops, colder cloud tops. So it's starting to generate energy. But we may be going to one of the eyewall replacement cycles. And almost the entire state of Florida under a hurricane warning. Watches to the north, will change in due time as the storm progresses northward.

We talked tirelessly about the storm surge, getting quite great. You have to understand, where you see the area of purple of 10 to 15 feet, initially, that's wetlands, that's Everglades. Barely any roads there until you get to Alligator Alley. But it extends through the Carolinas. That will continue to be the case.

Here's the eye. We've got a secondary banding in yellow that is starting to occur. We start to see that when the outer band starts to form and it shrinks in toward the center and gains strength. It's a little close to the shoreline right now, but I think it's going to happen.

Consider this. We've talked tirelessly about it as well. We've got 90 miles here from Cuba to the coast of Florida to develop. This is going to be more than 90 miles. You have to consider the curvature and its western track and then to the north. So instead of 90 miles of extremely warm water, we've got 120, 125 miles. That will intensify over time with the water temperatures at 85 or 90. Tornado watch now for the extreme southern half of Florida. We'll talk more in-depth about that as time progresses. And what to expect past Florida. There are millions of people up in Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee that's got an interesting forecast, too. We'll share that with them, Anderson, in just a little bit.

COOPER: With all the warm water, the strength of the storm increasing.

Tom Sater, thanks. We'll continue to check in with you. I want to go to break. But as we go to break, I want you to look at

time-lapse images that our patrick Oppmann has been taking in Cuba of what he has seen of this storm. Gives you a sense of what to expect here in Florida in the coming hours.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[17:53:49] PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I can barely hear you. It's coming in strong. Yes, let me get my jacket on. Whoo! It is really strong here. I think it's just the beginning of the very powerful storm. Category 5 coming to this section of Cuba.

Now feeling the wind pick up, again. Where we are, the power is knocked out. Some three or four hours ago. I don't think we'll get it back. All day long, we watched the weather get worse and worse. This afternoon, a couple of really strong bands came through out of nowhere and really almost knocked us off our feet.

The Cuban coastline has now come to us. The house and the town where we've been reporting from is now underwater. Probably a good three to four feet of water.

Irma is heading towards Florida but not done in Cuba just yet. We continue to feel strong gusts, see roofs being torn off. There are trees that have been downed. The areas I'm in, this was not underwater yesterday. It very much so is today. Many of the people live here in small one-story houses, which are now just underwater.

Oh! The storm is leaving, but it's not going.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BERMAN: Hello, there. John Berman, here in Miami.

This is Hurricane Irma. It has taken that northwestern turn and we are now feeling the strongest rain we have yet. That is here in Miami. We've consistently been feeling winds north of 30 miles an hour or so. And this is what we can expect to, more or less, continue throughout tomorrow as this storm really heads all the way up the Florida peninsula.

Of particular concern right now, the west coast of Florida. Where I am right now, as bad as it is, it might not be as bad as it is in places like Naples and Ft. Myers, along the coast where they expect a storm surge of 10 to 15 feet, which is a very big storm surge for those low-lying areas in the bay, all the way up the west coast. So we are watching this storm very closely all over the state of Florida.

We have some new information on the forecast to track when we can expect landfall in the Florida Keys here on the peninsula. Let's go to Tom Sater, at the CNN Weather Center -- Tom? [18:00:04] SATER: Yes, John, we continue to watch the storm center, now making its way away from the coast of Cuba. We knew it would make its way here. And all week long, since actually last weekend, we were saying until the storm reaches --