Return to Transcripts main page


Irma Barrels Towards Florida With Category Four Power; Irma Threatens To Barrel Florida With Monster Winds And Rains; Millions Evacuate Florida As Irma Batters Cuba; Irma Zeroes In On Florida With 155 MPH Winds; Hurricane Batters Cuba As It Barrels Towards Florida; Blood Donations Needed Ahead Of Storm; Officials: 5.6 Million People Under Evacuation Orders; Shelters Reaching Capacity, More Opening. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired September 9, 2017 - 07:00   ET


[07:00:00] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: So glad to have you with us as we watch Irma come ashore. I'm Christi Paul in Atlanta. Victor Blackwell is in Miami where the sun looks like it's starting to come up, Victor, and so the rain is coming down?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the rain is close. I actually saw one of the guys on the other side of the camera, kind of pointed behind me. They can see it coming. Chad Myers said a few moments ago, we're about to get slammed and we are. But you said, the sun is coming up over Miami, West Palm Beach, sunrise in Tampa as well. Hurricane Irma is closing in on Florida right now; a very strong category four storm. You can see the wind picking up here. The area is also expected to get some of that driving rain very soon, but as the storm, as the eyewall gets closer, storm surges as high as 12 feet are expected.

Now, these pictures of Irma were taken by hurricane hunters, and you can see this is huge, wider than the state of Florida. There've been so many comparisons to Hurricane Andrew back in August of 1992. You can fit a couple of Andrews into Irma. More than 5.5 million people, as we said this morning, have been told to get out of those evacuation areas. Road and airports had been jammed. Hundreds headed to county shelters. In some areas, thousands of people. Some spent the night on the road waiting for the shelters to open. But, for those who are planning to just stay where they are, Governor Rick Scott has these words.


GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: Stay together and help each other. Don't get on the road. We have shelters in your community. Go to those shelters. I mean, you can go to your family, go to your friends, go to those shelters, but we don't want people on the road when the storm starts to hit.


BLACKWELL: We've got a team of reporters across Florida, across the Caribbean. We're going to start in Cuba, which is getting the worst of Hurricane Irma right now. CNN's Patrick Oppmann is there live and it's been pretty rough for you for a couple of hours now, Patrick. How are the conditions now?

PATRICK OPPMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We've been getting battered all night and now all morning by Irma. You think the worst is past, and then it picks up. Furring roofs are being torn off. You'll just pan over here, you'll get a sense of the force of this incredible storm. This used to be the sea front here in Caibarien, Cuba, it is now the sea. I'm watching waves go by where there're people walking yesterday, cars driving by, it is completely underwater.

We ourselves are only able to continue to reporting here because we're on a second-floor story of a building but the water continues to come up quite quickly. It's about six feet high now. We've got about four more feet to go, probably, before we need to get to higher ground. So, it is a very dangerous situation, particularly for the people, most of this town who only have a one-story house. There were people yesterday who did not want to evacuate. They were going to stay in their homes -- I just can't imagine how they are doing now. It is a terrifying scene here, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Patrick, we've heard from government leaders across the Caribbean before Irma approached that they were not prepared for the storm. To what degree was Cuba prepared for Irma?

OPPMANN: You know, Cubans have a lot of experience with hurricanes. They don't have any other option but to prepare, and the government was moving resources into this area ahead of the storm to be ready as soon as the storm leaves to try to get immediately and begin to repair some of the awful damage that's being made right now. I don't know if anybody could have been prepared for this storm. It came into Cuba as a category five. They don't get any stronger than that. It's going to have a devastating impact. We've not heard any statistics yet on fatalities or injuries. I think it's going to take a long time for Cuba to figure out exactly how punishing this storm was.

BLACKWELL: And again, we discuss at this morning, the number of people who could evacuate, did evacuate, and how many of those people stayed and just hunkered down in their homes or in safe places across the island?

OPPMANN: So, usually out there, I could point to islands of the Cuban keys -- that's sort of like the Cuba's version of a Florida Keys, and it's also a very touristy area. We can't see them right now, because they're underwater, Victor. The hotels where the tourists were at, were completely evacuated. The government came said, nobody can say you're -- no foreigners could stay in this part of the coast. We're the only ones that are right here in this town that I'm aware of because, of course, we're journalists and we were allowed to, but by and large, they told all tourists to evacuate.

They were begging residents here to leave. They're warning up and down the streets with loud speakers saying: please go out to go to shelters, to go to caves in the mountains, to go stay with family. The people we are staying with -- who hosted us last night and gave us the ability to be here, and be in some place safe. They sent the wife and children of this family to go stay with relatives because they knew this is going to be dangerous. I don't think anybody in this town realized quite how dangerous it was going to be because now, Victor, this town is underwater.

[07:05:20] BLACKWELL: All right. Patrick Oppmann for us there. A portion of Cuba there under water as the sun comes up, we'll see more of the damage caused by the wind. They are not out of the woods yesterday. What is in Cuba is headed to South Florida. Let's now go to CNN Meteorologist Chad Myers in the weather center. Again, we've discussed this morning, Chad, about all of the preparations on the east coast, and now the west coast looks like they're going to get a lot of the really bad parts of Irma.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: In the overnight hours, the European and the GFS -- the American model -- did shift a little bit farther to the west, probably 20 miles. That is true, and so did the track somewhere in the lower keys and then on up toward Cape Coral. But let me show you where the storm is right now. There is Cuba, and there is our Patrick Oppmann. This is a 155-mile-per-hour storm. I want you to notice the eyewall. I'm going to get rid of this for a minute and bring up my Google Earth.

Our Patrick Oppmann is right there. This is Caibarien. Now, I'm going to zoom out, and you can see exactly where he is. Right there. Where is the eye? Right there. Tell me, journalist don't care? I'll show you Patrick Oppmann. He is doing a job today. So, here we go, back to this. Zoom in and show you what's going on. The storm has lost strength overnight because it did hit Cuba. Terrible for Cuba, terrible for the keys. Absolutely no question, but the storm did lose some intensity and lost some pressure.

But let me tell you: the pressure of this storm is still lower than Harvey. So, even though it doesn't look as impressive on the satellite right now, it is an impressive storm and it is still a major hurricane -- not to go back to your house with just yet. Here comes your weather, Victor, it is about eight miles offshore, maybe less. You are right there. Venetian Causeway and here comes the rain. Rain for you and every time a rain band comes in, that mixes down the wind with it, and every time it starts to rain, the rain will blow at 50 today.

Every time the rain blows this afternoon, it's going to blow at 60. Tonight, 70. Tomorrow it keeps going and the max wind in Miami-Dade all the way down toward Kendall, probably somewhere in the 100 to 105 range. So, yes, the storm shifted to the left, but you are not out of anything here in Miami. The big story, I guess, still right this morning is key west because you're going to get slammed, and also Cape Coral, Fort Meyers, and the like, and Naples, and Venice. This is the area today that we're going to take the storm -- Cuba, where it is -- and drive it into the Florida straits where it's very warm. The water is 87 degrees there.

The storm will likely get stronger again or at least consolidate the eye wall into another 150 to 155 storm, rotate right through the key west, probably Sunset Key and the Dry Tortugas, and then turn right into this beautiful area of south western Florida. Regional Southwest is the airport. You're talking all of the cities from Naples to Fort Myers, and Cape Coral. You're right under the gun of a major hurricane, and 48 hours ago you were not. People actually left Miami to go to Naples because they thought they were going to be in good shape. The storm did not cooperate.

Let me tell you this: the storm doesn't know that there's a European model. The storm doesn't know that there's an American model. It has a mind of its own. It's its own thing. Even though we think we can control it or that we think we can say where it's going to go, we can't. As good as the models are, they're not perfect. Miami, Fort Lauderdale, all in the United Key West, five to 10-foot storm surge. On the other side, eight to 12-foot storm surge from Naples, all the way down to Everglade City.

Something else I'm concerned with here: if we fill in the Everglades with a 12-foot storm surge, the wall or the levee on the back side of Miami -- all the way up to Hialeah and the like -- that's not 12 feet tall. There's no way the water is not going to come in and flood Miami, at least parts of it from the wrong side, from the back side. So, we have to watch that. Fort Myers and Tampa, you are also in it. Anywhere that you see the orange and the red, that is going to be a hurricane wind.

We're going to have hurricane winds across, obviously, the keys, clearly into Miami, blowing through Fort Myers, Naples, and Tampa. And some of these areas around Tampa could now pick up about 115 for the wind, where yesterday it was 85 -- that's a difference. And we're still bringing in this wind here on this side. We're still pushing water all along the coast making coastal flooding all the way from Fort Myers, Fort Lauderdale, all the way around maybe even toward Charleston, and then eventually this storm gets to Macon, Nuabasta, Atlanta.

OK, only 55 to 75-mile-per-hour, but that's where everybody went. Everybody left Florida to get out into Georgia and the Carolinas, and now the storm is kind of chasing them up there. At least, it's dying when it gets there. Back to you.

[07:10:05] BLACKWELL: Chad, thank you. And as soon as you said, I mean, down to the second, when you said here comes the rain, we started to feel the first few droplets of that mixed band that's coming. It's going to be, as we understand, more than we're seeing now. But Chad, thank you very much. We've just spoken with Patrick Oppman in Cuba. I want to take you back to a shot we have in Cuba. Irma, which hit as a category five with 160-mile an hour winds is now beating down on the island nation of Cuba. Patrick reported just a few moments ago that portions of where he is under water.

The Cuba's version of the keys, now under water as well. As the sun comes up, we're getting the first look at the damage that those category five strength sustained winds caused in parts of Cuba. And as we go through the morning, we'll show you more of that. But again, what is hitting Cuba now and what hit Cuba overnight is on its way to Florida. The Florida Keys, South Florida, and into an increasing degree, the western coast -- the Gulf coast, the west side of the peninsula -- will be hit as well.

Of course, we have our reporters there across Florida and across the Caribbean. Let's go now to CNN Meteorologist Derek Van Dam. He is in Miami beach. Derek, I wonder if you're getting any of the rain that we're told is just minutes away, and the strength of the storm now downgraded to a four, but still a very strong category four storm.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Without a doubt, Victor. The first glimmer of light here in South Beach, but it is obscured by the monster rain band that's about to pelt us right now. We're feeling some of the outflow boundaries of these feeder bands that are coming in. I got to take you to the shoreline, and then I want to get off this beach as quick as possible. There is a special weather -- significant weather advisory in effect for central and southern Miami- Dade County as we speak, and you can see exactly why because that off in the distance looks very ominous.

We've had these feeder bands come in all night long, and they instantly bring the wind speeds up from a gentle gust to a full on tropical storm force. I would estimate anywhere from 35 to 40 miles per hour as we speak right now. The wind has picked up significantly. And the rain is tilting us as well, and it's also picking up some of the sand here. It is going to be a rough next 45 minutes as this band moves in, and we'll continue to see that move inland as well. We know the threats here: storm surge, five t0 10 feet.

The official forecast for Miami-Dade along the coastline, this storm is so massive that they're going to feel the effects of Irma all the way inland even though we know that track has shifted ever so slowly to the west. We're going to be impacted by hurricane force winds, especially as we head into the overnight hours again tonight and into early Sunday morning. All right, this is all we've got for right now. I want to get off this beach, Victor because conditions are deteriorating quickly and this storm system is really going to pick up quickly.

You can see off in the distance some of the horizon is completely obscured by the rain and the wind, and some of the palm trees really taking a beating from this as winds easily gusting over 40 - 45 miles per hour -- almost tropical storm force. And I would imagine that this is going to create a bit of a hazard for any of loose objects out there, maybe some palm branches, some trees starting breakthrough limbs and branches, perhaps some electrical failures with this as well. So, as this band continues to move in, we're expecting the worst, Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right. Derek Van Dam for us there in Miami, South Beach. Do what you need to do to stay safe. We'll check back throughout the morning. Christi, we're starting to feel what you see hitting Derek there in South Beach here in Downtown Miami. We'll send it back to you.

PAUL: Yes. I have to tell you, Victor, I think I see behind. If you turn around, that looks like some darkness coming in even as the sun is coming up.

BLACKWELL: Yes, that would be it.

PAUL: I want you to be careful, too. We don't want anything to happen to you. Take it easy.

BLACKWELL: All right. We're ready. We're ready. [07:14:17] PAUL: I know you are. I know you are. Listen, it almost

looks like our meteorologists make their living tracking dangerous storms out there while other people are getting out. We saw that with Derek just a moment ago but there are others, the storm chasers who do the same thing. We're going to talk to one in Miami Beach as Irma making its way to South Florida. Irma, what you see right there -- the size of Texas heading toward Florida.


PAUL: 18 minutes past the hour, and look what is hitting Cuba right now. These are some of the latest pictures we're getting in as they are getting pummeled. Patrick Oppmann is there. He said it feels like -- the wind feels like a jet engine hitting him. And he is on the second story of a building, which is the only reason we're even able to get these pictures to you because said everything else is under water. He is standing on that second level hearing roofs being torn off of the building. He said that the Cuba Keys -- which are equivalent to the Florida Keys, as we know them to be -- are under water.

And that the -- this is just a punishing storm as he has defined it there. But those are some of the latest pictures coming in. 160- mile-an-hour winds and a possible 23-foot storm surge -- or wave, I should say. 23-foot waves that have already been recorded there in Cuba. And we know back in Florida some 10,000 power outages already in the Southern part of the state there, ahead of Hurricane Irma's expected arrival -- which is expected essentially overnight, early tomorrow.

Airports in Jacksonville, Tampa, say they will end commercial flights at 7:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. respectively tonight in preparation for what we just saw in Cuba that is now coming to Florida. This is a category four storm. 155-mile-per-hour winds that are heading to us from Cuba and Victor is there in Miami and starting to feel it. Victor.

[07:20:20] BLACKWELL: Yes. Christi, we are starting to feel it. It came in pretty quickly. I want to bring in former -- first authorities that are saying that the resources around this city are difficult to get to people. FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, former Administrator spoke to CNN last night; we'll hear that in a moment. But first let me get to David Halstead, CNN Contributor and former Director of Emergency Management here. David, we're starting to some of these rains, some of the wind, how long will we feel this before we get to the worst of it?

DAVID HALSTEAD, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: This is going to be increasing throughout the day, probably by early afternoon. Certainly, you're going to have stronger winds come on board, and then, of course, tomorrow when the storm strikes. Right now, though, I think as you look around, you see that there are no cars on the roadways. There are no boats in the bays. That's well for Miami-Dade that they've taken the heed and the warning of evacuation very strongly.

BLACKWELL: What do you make of this sustained strength of this storm -- now a category four but still a very strong four, and it's been around that range for several days now.

HALSTEAD: Well, if we go back to a couple historic storms: one, Hurricane Andrew, you know, was a tropical storm out no more than two days off the coast. Strength, then, came in as a four and later was upgraded to a five. Ivan did the same thing going up to the Pensacola and Gulf shores area in Alabama. It started out as a two, three, and the next thing you know it was a four as it struck the coast. So, storms do that at the last moment -- they can strengthen, they can wane, but as Florida's found out typically they strengthen.

BLACKWELL: Is this the time for people to be out on roads trying to get to shelters? We've heard from the governor that this is not the time to get on to the highways and head north to, you know, potentially, Georgia or other states that had inland. But should they be on the roads at all now?

HALSTEAD: Anyone, certainly, south of Florida or south of Orlando, Florida, should not be on the roadways. It's time to get to a shelter, get to a safe place, get with your family, make sure that you've got food and water provisions for three days and be prepared to ride out the storm. That's the only smart thing to do at this point, Victor.

BLACKWELL: What's your message to those people who are -- we've spoken with over the last 24 hours down in the keys who are part of as they call themselves the Conch Republic, and say that they are hardy people and say they will stay?

HALSTEAD: Well, as state director, I was made a member of the Conch Republic, so it's hard for me to criticize them too much. However, the eye of the storm comes over and it has the storm surge that many of us fear. There could be catastrophic results and deaths. So, we don't want that. But it's too late for them to leave now. Get to a shelter, get a -- certainly above ground, the second floor if possible of a building that has been hardened for storms, and we'll wish them good luck and see them on the other side.

BLACKWELL: Finally, as we see this gradual slight shift to the west over the last several of days and the advisories from the National Hurricane Center, what's your greatest concern for the west coast of Florida?

HALSTEAD: West coast, again, is flooding. It's low-lying areas, as you know the Everglades are built here in the southern part of the state but they lean a little bit more towards the west coast. And as you go up to the west coast, to Collier and Lee Counties, that's where Fort Myers is -- those are low areas and they flood very quickly. So, again, I think flooding is going to be a concern and our ability to respond in as a state based on the track of the storm, again, it's going to be difficult for people to get in there and help because the storm is coming almost at the depth center part of the state.

BLACKWELL: All right. David Halstead, thank you so much for being with us this morning as we continue to prepare for what we're seeing across the Caribbean, what hit Cuba overnight and is now approaching Florida. Coming up, as Hurricane Irma raises toward Florida, the Keys, South Florida, and on up the peninsula, officials are warning people to take the evacuation request seriously. One of the big fears: the storm surge. Up next, we'll break down why Irma is so dangerous.



[07:28:27] SCOTT: Look at the size of this storm. It is wider than our entire state and could cause major and life-threatening impacts from coast to coast.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a woman that is frightened, but this the frightening.

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

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


PAUL: All right. I am Christi Paul and we are watching this monster storm as it makes its way toward the Florida Keys this morning. Chad Myers has been watching it as well. Victor is down in Miami. We're having a problem with his shot because the wind and the rain has started to hit him as well as Derek Van Dam who is in Miami Beach right now, and you probably heard him say: not only is the wind hitting, and the rain in pelting me, but the sand is picking up and that's hitting me as well.

So, they're really starting to feel the first bands of this. But we know that it's hit Cuba. We know that it's been hit hard. There are people though, Chad, I wanted to ask you, that is up in Florida. They were expecting it to be as bad on the west coast as it is. How long as they start to feel these first effects and, say, they sitting in a shelter or they're sitting in their home? And then thinking how long is this going to last? Can you give them any indication of that?

[07:29:49] MYERS: Well, from eye wall to eye wall, I would say that's two hours at this speed. When you first get the worst of it, when you get the 130 going from the east, compared to the eye and it gets calm, to 130 going from the west -- which is the back side of the eye -- would be a two-hour period. You cannot go outside during that period to even check on anything because the wind will eventually pick up everything that is already displaced and blow it back on you.

So this is a two-hour process from eye wall to eye wall. But from where we are now, to when Miami finally feels less than 50 might be 36 hours. And I mean this going to blow a long time. This thing is only doing 10 miles an hour now, 12 miles an hour.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN HOST: And that's part of why it's hitting on Sunday. It's not even getting out of the State of Florida until Tuesday? Is that right, or late Monday? MYERS: That's about how long it would take you two days ago to drive out of the State. Because I have a friend who lives in Grassy Key and his regular home is in Michigan. It took him 20 hours to evacuate from the Middle Keys to Georgia, 20 hours just to get across to Florida because of the traffic jams and the lack of gas that they had. He had to wait for tankers to come in, to put gas in the gas station so they could fill up and keep going. That's what that was like to evacuate.

PAUL: So let's talk about the shift that you've seen in the last several hours. Obviously shifted more to the west than what's expected initially. Because of that, any more shifting do you suspect or once it turns, you had a pretty good indication you still pretty solid about where it's going.

MYERS: Once it turns. It hasn't turned yet. And we talked about this five days ago. This was going to be the storm that we wait for the turn and wait for the turn. When does it go? When this -- is it a wobble or is it a turn? And it hasn't turned yet. So, yes, absolutely, this could completely miss Key West altogether and then make a run into Tampa. There's no question or even like a Charley that run into Punta Gorda. Anderson Cooper and I were there, you know, 13 years ago. The place was destroyed by a category four Hurricane and that's would this would be if it doesn't fact make landfall on the West Coast.

It is forecast right now to still go through the Lower Keys, not quite to Key West and then on up to Naples, on up into Cape Coral with a category four wind of 140 miles per hour. Now, a lot of those homes were built in the 70s, then some of them time shares, they're wooden structures that are not going to hold up in a 130 mile per hour wind. They were not built after 1992 when all of a sudden Florida had a brand new code. You should know when your home is built and if it's not built strongly, you need to get a new shelter here because this is the most dangerous place in Florida right now. This is the most dangerous place to be in Florida other than Key West and you know, (INAUDIBLE) that that entire island may get over washed with water.

PAUL: What makes it so hard to the people of Florida because they were expecting an East Coast Storm?


PAUL: People -- I know people that left from the East Coast went to the West Coast thinking that they're going to be safe.


PAUL: And now are making their way back to the East Coast --


PAUL: -- before this thing hits. But you brought up a very good point that I think needs to be mentioned again and that is the Everglades. Talk to us about your concern there.

MYERS: Well, the Everglades are not land.

PAUL: Right.

MYERS: OK, so people say, oh, it's going hit at the Everglades, it will start to slow down. The Everglades are water and warm water. Warmer than the Florida Keys water and if you push 12 feet of water into the Everglades and you fill up the Everglades with water, the back side of Miami isn't 12 feet high. The levees -- the levees and the ditches that are on the west side of Miami proper -- Miami-Dade proper, that is what I believe will flood the wrong direction. It will flood from West to East until you get to 12 feet high which obviously there are many areas on Miami that are greater than 12 feet above sea level but that is a real concern for me, flooding salt water the wrong direction. You expect the water to come from the East.

PAUL: Right.

MYERS: You never expect it to come from the West. In Katrina, we expected it to flood New Orleans from the Mississippi river. We never expected it to flood from Lake Pontchartrain, and that's what happened.

PAUL: And that's what happened. So, when you are looking at what's going on in Cuba right now, does that give you any indication as to what is in store in Florida based on the models and what they're projecting at this moment?

MYERS: Just take a look in this last picture right here, our Patrick Oppmann, Patrick Oppmann right there, he is right in the eye of the storm. But the eye is just beginning to lose contact with Cuba. When that happens, the storm will re-strengthen. The storm died overnight because -- or a little bit -- because he did hit this Cuban Keys that he was talking about and that took a little stuffing out, plus there's a mountain chain right through here that brought in some dry air on the storm.

Now that the storm is offshore, now the storm is going to re- strengthen and I still think a high Cat 4 to maybe a Cat 5 right in the Lower Keys maybe the drive toward (INAUDIBLE) if Key West gets cleared altogether.

PAUL: All right, Chad, stay with us obviously to make sure that we understand where this thing is going -- and I know that we have an update coming I think from the National Hurricane Center --

MYERS: We do, we do in 24 minutes --

PAUL: In that 24 minutes, we'll bring that to you as well. We're going to take you back to Cuba and hopefully get Victor back up in Miami and see what they are dealing with there, please stay close.


[07:35:00] VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: We've got pictures coming in from Hollywood Florida of the winds from Irma starting to whip up on the beach there on the Eastern Coast not too far from Fort Lauderdale. And this again is just a taste, a small teaspoon of what is coming with this flood of wind and rain and damage with this monster Category 4 storm.

Our shot was down for a moment when we got just the edge of an outer band, with the winds and rained here We obviously have been able to re-establish here in a small moment of calm, we know that more is come -- is coming as the eye wall approaches, which will breach Florida early Sunday morning.

Now, Florida's Governor, Mayor's across this State are pleading with people who are still in evacuation zones to leave, and leave now. Don't get on the road, don't try to head to Georgia or head further inland, but get to the closer shelter.

Hurricane Irma with sustained winds at 155 miles an hour, it is heading for Florida threatening storm surge, heavy rains as we have discussed. Let's go now back to the North Coast of Cuba where our Patrick Oppmann has been seeing overnight and into the morning. The brunt of this storm, Patrick how is it now?

[07:40:48] PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Victor, Irma may be heading towards you in Florida, but she's not done with Cuba yet. We continue to feel these very powerful gusts here taking off roofs, they're knocking down trees and we just continue to feel that the storm is wreaking terrible, terrible damage.

Look over here, this was until yesterday, last night, the Waterfront of the City, now the ocean has completely taken over the City and flooded about every house in this town. That was now the sea wall, there are people walking yesterday, there were cars driving by. It is under -- I think some of those waves might be 20 feet high.

It's incredible change in just a day to see what this storm is capable of doing. We are only able to be broadcasting where we are, Victor, because we are on a second story of a very well built house, one of the highest buildings in this small town. But it even where we are, it's under threat. The water is about 6 feet high. We have another four or five feet to go before the water gets up here Obviously there is no power, so we were using a generator. We have limited gasoline, our car is parked miles away so we will continue to bring you reports for as long as we can, because as you can see, the situation here in this part of Cuba is absolutely catastrophic, Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right, Patrick Oppmann there for us on the North coast. The Cuba, we'll check back. Patrick, thank you so much and stay safe.

Christi I'm going to send it back to you again. We have just a moment of calm here, but we know that more of those outer bands as Irma approaches will be hitting us in the next few hours.

PAUL: And we are wishing you and the crew their safety for sure, Victor. Thank you so much as Victor is going to be with us all morning long, all day long really.

One of the things we talk about. We talked about the flooding, we talked about the winds. What about Post Hurricane and the need for Blood Donation? The need is urgent right now and we'll going to have that conversation in just a moment.


[07:45:00] BLACKWELL: Welcome back to CNN's continuing the live coverage of Hurricane Irma now a category 4 storm. It is expected to hit the Keys in South Florida early Sunday morning. Now, as we've said this morning there are millions of people who have been ordered to evacuate. Almost 5.6 million could be the largest mass evacuation in U.S. history, and already more than 7,000 people have seen power outages in South Florida, that number down from 10,000. Officials say that outages could last several days, several weeks in some areas. So, take that into consideration, if you're staying in this evacuation areas, you may be without power for weeks.

Another element we need to consider here, the blood supply. There will, unfortunately, be injuries, people rushed to hospitals once first responders can get to them. The supplier for the Southeast is called OneBlood. Its officials are urging people to donate. They urged before the storm because right now their Donation Centers understandably are closed. Joining me now OneBlood's Vice President of Marketing Communication, Susan Forbes. Susan, good to see you, we saw each other last at -- in Orlando after the terrible shooting at the Pulse Nightclub and what you told me then was the importance of having a ready blood supply before an emergency. First talk to me about if the centers across Florida, the 200 hospitals that are serviced have what they need at the start.

SUSAN FORBES, VICE PRESIDENT, ONEBLOOD INC.: I can assure you that our hospital partners have the necessary blood on hand. And you're right, it's the need for ready blood supply in advance of the storm, in advance of any type of tragedy, the blood has to be there. So, the Blood Center has been very, very busy at OneBlood behind the scenes really for the past week preparing for this storm. As soon as we had an inkling of an idea that this could be headed our way, the preparations begin.

So, donors have to come in before the storm, we have to get the blood to the hospital and actually get extract blood to them so that they have at on hand to ride out the storm, because we're not able to deliver blood to them when the Hurricane is hitting.

BLACKWELL: So, let me ask you this as people are sent to hospitals and the unfortunate reality is that there will be a people because of this storm who are rushed in and will need transfusions, how will OneBlood be able to get the blood to them in the storm or is that something that has not yet been determined if they have reserves right now aren't enough.

FORBES: Well, like I've said, we made sure that our hospital partners have the necessary blood on hand. We have been shipping blood and delivering blood to them the past several days so that they have extra on hand, more than they normally would have to ride out the weekend. So, we feel very confident that they have what they need on hand and that as soon as the storm starts to lift in certain areas and let's say for example to go back out, we will begin to deliver additional supplies to them as they need it.

So -- but this really, you know, shows the importance of a ready blood supply in advance of the storm. It's important to have a ready blood supply every day of the year but it's heightened when you see a Category 5 headed towards your state. So, this is why we encourage donations beforehand so that we have what's on -- what's needed to this hospitals in advance, and it's in their hospitals right now.

[07:50:26] BLACKWELL: All right, Susan Forbes with OneBlood. The folks over there, you guys do an amazing job. Thank you for spending some time with us and I'll check you in after the storm passes. Again, thanks so much.

Now, in about an hour, more shelters were open in Fort Myers, we're talking West Coast now, Florida, for those who are seeking to escape the Hurricane's path as we've seen that general and of gradual shift of the center of this cone moving to the West. And it's was of the cone now as it gets so close to Florida. Some of the people who live there in Fort Myers slept in the streets overnight hoping to guarantee a spot, cars parked outside of the shelters. CNN's Drew Griffin is in Fort Myers. Drew, good morning to you, what are you seeing and how many people are we talking about waiting to get into these shelters?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I don't have an exact number Victor, but many of the shelters filled up quickly both here in Lee County, Fort Myers, where I'm standing right now and down in Naples, Collier County when that shift to the West took place. You know for a long time, the folks on the west side thought this was going to be a more of a Miami event maybe going up the east coast, but when Irma made that jog or was potentially going to make that jog towards the West, it got real serious.

The counties distributed their Level "A" mandatory evacuation. Those evacuations are all based on potential storm surge. So you had all of the Barrier Islands, Marco Island, Pine Island, Sanibel, Captiva, all of those under mandatory evacuation. Parts of cities like Cape Coral across Caloosahatchee River where I'm standing right now under mandatory evacuation. And for wind of mobile home parks advice to evacuate. So that the shelters filled up quickly, they're adding more shelters today as you said, some are opening up within the hour three more will open at 10:00 a.m. today.

So, continually, we see people taking the threat seriously evacuating. I don't see any signs of panic, there's a lot of preparation going on. And it looks like everybody who wants shelter will be able to get into a shelter even though they will have to wait in line this morning, Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right, Drew Griffin for us there in Fort Myers. Drew, thank you so much. The wind is picking up here again. Again, Hurricane Irma is going to be here landfall, when that eye is over land here, expected to hit the Keys very early Sunday. But you're going to see this gusts of stronger winds as we get closer to that hour. Our special live coverage of Hurricane Irma continues, stay with us.



[07:55:00] GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: Look at the size of this storm. It is wider than an entire State and could cause Major life- threatening impacts from Coast to Coast.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not a woman that is frightened but this is frightening.

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

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


PAUL: Welcome back to our live coverage of Hurricane Irma. This Hurricane, the storm is the size of Texas. If that gives you any indication of what we're dealing with and Victor Blackwell is in Miami as the first bands of this storm are coming their way. And Victor, we've been watching you and the evolution of this storm, it started, you had you're -- you know, your hat was off. Looked like things were clear. Help us understand what it's been like for you the last three hours?

BLACKWELL: Yes, when we started at 5:00 Eastern, the jacket was too much, it was just windy. But the first edges of those outer bands have now started to come on and those gusts that we felt in the 5:00 hour became sustained in the 6:00 hour. And the gusts we felt at 6:00 are now sustained in the 7:00 hour. And it will continue to deteriorate, until we start to see some of those heavier rains, the heavier bands come, and then landfall in the Keys and in South Florida at some point in the early hours on Sunday. You know, I lived here Christi, you know this, for seven years before I moved to Atlanta and joined CNN.

And this is -- this is more than people who have lived here their entire lives have ever seen. If you think back to the storms of 2004 and Charley, and Francis, and Ivan, and Jeanne, that's nothing compared to this. Andrew, two of those from 1992 can fit into this storm. Craig Fugate who used to run Emergency Management here says that, Florida hasn't seen a storm like this since the 1920s. So, people who say I lived through Andrew, you haven't lived through anything compared to what Irma is bringing in the next few hours, Christi.

PAUL: And that the truth. All right Victor is staying with us obviously, bringing us the very latest as the next hour of "NEW DAY" starts right now for you.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

PAUL: And if you are just joining us, thank you so much for being with us, I'm Christi Paul here in Atlanta. We appreciate your company, Victor Blackwell is in the thick of it in Miami this morning. Hurricane Irma taking its first swipes at Florida. Victor --