Return to Transcripts main page
NEW DAY SATURDAY
Irma Threatens To Batter Florida With Monster Winds And Rain; Hurricane Batters Cuba As It Barrels Towards Florida; NWS: Nowhere In The Florida Keys Will Be Safe. Aired 8-9a ET
Aired September 9, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: 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 swipe at Florida. Victor, good morning to you. How are you doing?
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: We're good. We're good. A little windy, a little rainy, but compared to what's coming to Florida, this is crystal clear perfect weather because it's going to get really bad. It's going to happen quickly.
The breaking news this morning, very powerful Category 4 hurricane on a new track this morning and it's headed this way, of course, we're talking Irma. This deadly storm is scheduled to make landfall in the Florida Keys sometime early hours on Sunday.
The latest track now puts the West Coast of Florida in line for much of what the worst of Irma will bring. We're talking from Fort Myers through Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Tampa as well.
Florida's governor, the mayors across this state are pleading with people who are still in evacuation zones. Those mandatory evacuation zones to get out and get out now. Hundreds of people, thousands of people across the state in fact have headed to county shelters.
And some people spent the night on the west coast sleeping in their cars on the side of the road waiting to get into a shelter because this is what is coming. Look at this. Irma beating up on Cuba.
There are, I mean, feet of water in some places. That's not an exaggeration, considering what our Patrick Oppmann who is there on the north coast has been showing us, 160-mile-per-hour winds. Broke the equipment there that records the wind speed on the island.
You know, we are tracking Irma across Florida. We've got reporters, live from Miami Beach to Key Largo, Fort Myers, all across the Caribbean as well. Let's go first with the National Hurricane Center that updated advisory on the strength and the track of Irma.
Let's go to Chad Myers in the weather center. The changes we've seen overnight -- because a lot of people went to sleep, and it was a Category 5, and it was moving towards the west coast. We've seen some changes overnight, Chad. Get us all up to date.
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Victor, the storm made contact with Cuba overnight and that's the biggest change to anything here. The new models coming out later this morning, we'll have to deal with a Category 4, but only 130 miles per hour, compared to 155, which was the number at 5:00 this morning.
So, things have really improved for the U.S. They have not improved for Cuba. The northern coast of Cuba getting pounded by this storm. Also, the Cuban keys right through here.
And our Patrick Oppmann which is right there in the eye wall, picking up those winds of 130. The radar now picking up the storm. It is raining in Key West all the way up into Key Largo and into Miami.
We're going to see that rain continue across the everglades. It's going to be a little hard still to get out of Miami today, but the roads are clear. I just checked traffic. There's a lot less traffic today than there's been the past couple days.
Forecasters feel for this to regain strength. The pressure is still lower than the pressure of Harvey and that's what we saw in Texas, of course. We talk about the storm paralleling the coast of West Coast Florida and how the east coast is not in as big of trouble.
But, you know what, this is the bad side the storm. We call that the dirty side of the storm. We have to add the movement of the storm with the wind field. And so as the winds pour on shore here, you're not out of the woods by any means, Ocala, Leesburg, all the way up to the east coast from Port Jupiter, to anywhere all the way to Daytona Beach all the way down south into Miami because you're on the wrong side.
You're on the bad side of the storm also causing significant storm surge. Now let me just use a different term, flooding. Do you get that? Storm surge is water that will kill you. It is water that is 8 to 12 feet above sea level and your house, if you live the ocean, is not. That's what storm surge is.
It is the push of the water, the pull of the water by the load and the difference of pressure. And as it pushes onshore, that water will get to Everglades. It will get to you, Naples.
It will get to you Fort Myers, and we are concerned about your storm surge because the fatalities in water are greater than the fatalities in wind.
Dr. Michael Brennan from the National Hurricane Center joins me now. Thank you so much for joining me. I know you guys are busy down there. Talk us through the 8:00 a.m. update.
MICHAEL BRENNAN, CHIEF HURRICANE SPECIALIST, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Sure. While you can see the eye of Irma here on the radar from Key West skirting the north coast of Cuba. That interaction with land has brought the peak winds down a little bit, but I don't want people to focus on that because the hazards from Irma are just now arriving through the Florida Keys in South Florida.
[08:05:08] These outer rain bands are beginning to arrive so conditions are deteriorating now and we expect Irma to re-strengthen as it moves over these very warm waters in the Florida straight.
It's going to have about 12 or maybe even 18 hours over the water before it reaches the Keys and then perhaps even a little more time over water after it passes the Keys before it finally moves inland somewhere along the west coast of Florida during late in the day on Sunday or Sunday night.
So, a very dangerous situation particularly for the Keys, the Florida West Coast, all the way from Tampa Bay southwards to Naples. They could see the core of the major hurricane, and as you were just talking about that life-threatening storm surge.
The gulf coast of Florida is particularly sensitive to storm surge. It's very high inundation values that extend quite a way inland. So that's a big concern of ours today.
MYERS: The topography of the water across Southwest Florida, the bathymetry or the underwater topography is different on the southwest side than on the east side. Tell us how that will affect surge even into the everglades, Doctor?
BRENNAN: Right, yes, the bathymetry and the coastal shelf on the gulf side is very shallow. As you walk out into the water, the water doesn't get deep very fast. So, all of that water that's being pushed by the hurricane so as Irma may come up like this.
The northwesterly winds on the back side of it are going to drive that water and it piles up and can go really far inland in the Naples area. It can go up these rivers and creeks near Fort Myers, and up into the bays.
So, it can affect millions of people are at risk of life-threatening storm surge in these areas. There's still is a significant storm surge risk on the southeast coast as well, particularly Miami-Dade County along the westside of Biscayne Bay and as well as in the Florida Keys. They are all at risk of this life-threatening surge event.
MYERS: Let's shift our attention from Boca down to Miami and even to Homestead, what are the new updates for that as the storm has shifted 20 miles to the west, what are your thought processes there?
BRENNAN: Well, the surge threat is still there. We could still see 5 to 10 feet of inundation all the way from Boca down around the southern tip of the peninsula. Now on the east coast as you mentioned, the storm surge threat doesn't extend as far inland especially in Palm Beach and Broward Counties.
But here in Miami-Dade, it goes inland and a lot farther along Biscayne Bay. So, there's lots of people at risk that have been asked to evacuate for storm surge and that storm surge throughout is going to crepe northward along the gulf coast and Atlantic coast of Florida as we go through Sunday and even into Monday.
MYERS: I have not many seconds left. I am a little bit concerned, Doctor, that we flood the Everglades with 12 feet of water, and Miami, let's say, West Kendall, can flood from the back side. Are you looking at that at all?
BRENNAN: Yes, there is the potential for that. That's generally for a slower moving storm that would be the biggest threat for that type of flooding. But there's going to be a lot of water with the storm, a lot of rainfall.
There's going to be a lot of flooding problems just in general in the Florida peninsula either from storm surge and/or the combination of very heavy rain. So, everybody wants to keep an eye out for that.
MYERS: Thank you, Doctor. Also, some displaced livestock, wildlife, in particular, alligators, I don't like wildlife anyway. Doctor, thank you very much. We'll talk to you at 11:00.
People, this is the real deal. This truly is. If you are in Key West, you need to go. This could be 140-mile-per-hour storm knocking down the entire city. I was married there. I love Key West. I love how it looks, but this is the real deal -- Victor.
BLACKWELL: Yes, Chad. There echoing what we heard from the National Weather Service out of the Keys that this is as real as it gets. Take all of these warnings seriously. Chad Myers from the CNN Weather Center. Thank you so much.
We've got live pictures comes in from Orlando. Again, what is hitting South Florida in a few hours will be hitting Central Florida later in the day on Sunday. So, we're seeing a water distribution center here. There have been difficulties getting bottled water across the state.
And we know that this is one of the options here for people who are trying to get some water up in Orlando. Thanks to our affiliates for brings us that. Let's now go to Cuba, which is bearing the brunt of Hurricane Irma, has overnight.
CNN's Patrick Oppmann is there on the north coast. Patrick, I want you to give us an update on what you're seeing there. But also leaning on your years of living in Cuba, being based there. Your fears for the island, considering the conditions you're seeing as Irma passes.
PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's really just astounding as the light comes up, and you see the damage where we are and this is very concerning hurricane because I've covered a number here and Cuba always seems to miss the bullet, somewhat, they got it dead on last night.
[08:10:14] And the effects are being felt as far away as Havana and throughout the island and until, the waters recede, because right now, we're on the second floor of a house, five or six feet of water. Most of the houses in this region are single story houses, sometimes with wooden roofs. Sorry, there's another wind gust in here. It's not done yet. But some of the houses you see look like they're going to fall over on a good day. I don't know how they survived.
You know, if we would have stayed on the first floor last night, we would have drowned. Most of the people who did not evacuate lived on the first floor of their homes. I don't know how they survived the night, frankly.
I know people told me they were going to stay. I think they regretted that decision. Very few people expected Cuba would get the beating it took, but you look around this town, most of it is underwater. There are trees down.
We are continuing to see pieces of roofs fly off as the wind picks up. So, a very distressing scene. We won't have the full picture probably for several days until the waters go down and people come up to see their homes --
The family who hosted us, I'll tell you, when they came out a little while ago, they had tears in their eyes. They're looking out at their home, their town, the place they build their whole lives and it's just a tragic scene.
BLACKWELL: All right. As the sun comes up, Patrick Oppmann, thank you so much. We'll see more of the damage it's caused there. And hopefully, it's nothing like we saw across the eastern section of the Caribbean. Patrick Oppmann, again, thank you so much.
Let's go to Meteorologist Derek Van Dam in Miami Beach with more on the specific threat from Irma and what it poses to the Keys. Derek, the last time I saw you, it was getting pretty dangerous out there on the beach. The wind really picking up there. What are the conditions like where you are now?
DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, they continue to deteriorate, as one would imagine. You know, you describ3ed it really well at the top of the hour, how each hour, as we stand out in these conditions, the winds become stronger and sustained for longer.
We get these feeder bands that come in, the conditions deteriorate in a matter of seconds. Right now, we are on the South Beach. And if you've been on the South Beach on a Saturday morning, you know that this beach would be crowded.
I got the pick of the litter here. No one to talk to because everyone has heeded the warnings to evacuate. The National Weather Service just tweeted from the Miami Bureau that the international airport here had an official wind gust of 58 miles per hour.
Where I'm standing we're averaging 35 to 45 miles per hour. It's picking up sand and pelting us in the face. It's also getting a bit tricky to stand because the wind can be so gusty at times and really take your body along with it. I want to show you just quickly, because I want to shelter our camera from the storm that continues to come in. But look to the shore here, you can see that this water is really starting to pick up.
Waves earlier, one to three feet, I would say anywhere from three to upwards of five feet and the surge is definitely starting to press in. So, I would say the National Hurricane Center, there's inundation forecasts of five to ten feet, spot on.
Because we are getting that push of Atlantic water, starting to move in as the eye wall approaches closer and closer to us here. There was a significant weather advisory for central and southern Miami-Dade County.
The winds picking up tropical force winds officially. That means any of these palm trees with coconuts or perhaps their palms leaves could be flying debris. That could also mean life-threatening conditions as some of that debris makes its way down to Ocean Drive, for instance.
Fortunately, everyone's heeded the warning to evacuate. Really, there is just no one out right now with the exception of my team and I -- Victor.
BLACKWELL: All right. Derek Van Dam there for us in South Beach in Miami, Derek, thank you so much. Stand by. We'll get back to you later this morning.
I want to go now to the mayor of Naples on the west coast, Bill Barnett. Mr. Mayor, thanks for making time for us. Increasingly, with the advisories we've seen from the National Hurricane Center, about the path of the storm have crept west. Now putting your city and your constituents if greater danger, how are you preparing?
MAYOR BILL BARNETT, NAPLES, FLORIDA (via telephone): Well, thank you, Victor and good morning. We are about as prepared as we can possibly be and we've been doing that now for probably the last six days.
And our emergency -- our response -- you know, first responders and emergency services, all our city staff, you know, we're hunkered down and we're watching and we're waiting.
[08:15:05] And I think that I'm certainly -- that it certainly is not a concern of mine of whether the city has done their preparation, as well as the county, as well as Collier County.
So, for that aspect, fine. What we're going to get, you know, as well as I do, and I'm watching you, I've been watching network, and you know, Cuba has certainly slowed it down. I feel bad for those poor folks. But, you know, we'll just -- as this -- as this wears on, we'll be better prepared to give you right up to the minute updates.
BLACKWELL: So, let's talk about evacuations. Are there mandatory evacuations there in your city? And how many people, rough estimate, are heeding those, or deciding to stay exactly where they are?
BARNETT: Well, thank you for that question. They have been evac -- we are in the mandatory evacuation as of yesterday at 2:00 p.m., but I will tell you that the residents of the city of Naples pretty much listened to what I was saying and others were saying earlier in the week, and many, many, many of them have evacuated.
The town is very, very quiet, and I will tell you, you know, because we are seasonal, many of our winter residents are gone anyway. You know, they don't normally come back until October or November.
So, the attitude here was, especially after Harvey, was they took this very, very seriously and they did evacuate. And so, you don't -- from my understanding, it's someone I just spoke to on the road on I-75 said there's very little traffic this morning. So, I think that was a good thing and getting that warning out early worked very well.
BLACKWELL: Absolutely. Mayor Barnett of Naples, Florida, thank you so much for being with us. We'll check back throughout the day and you, sir, stay safe.
The mayor makes a good point there that much of South Florida is seasonal. Hundreds of thousands of people who come down for vacations, have homes here, their season typically is Thanksgiving to Easter, roughly.
So many of those people are not here. A lot of people who live here, the truth is, though, the residents here many of them have never lived through a storm like Irma. What is coming here. We'll take a quick break and our special live coverage of Hurricane Irma will continue in a moment.
BLACKWELL: Welcome back. I'm Victor Blackwell in Miami. And Florida Governor Rick Scott has one message for the people who were ordered to evacuate the state of Florida -- leave now. That warning is coming as Hurricane Irma bears down on the Florida Keys very soon, but it's expected to arrive early tomorrow morning.
Florida officials going door to door in some communities to spread the word, more than 5 million people have been urged to get out of the way of the storm. The Category 4 storm just over 200 miles from Miami and showing no signs of slowing down.
Our meteorologist, Chad Myers, said it's expected that it could strengthen over the next few hours. A 23-foot waves were recorded on the north part of Cuba overnight. Our National Hurricane Center said that Irma will gain strength once it moves away from Cuba.
Let's go to Bill Weir. He's south of Miami, on Key Largo, one of the first stops on U.S. 1 if you're headed all the way to Key West. What are you seeing there and are people heeding the warning, the guidance that we saw from the National Weather Service there in the Keys that this is as real as it gets, get out of the Keys?
BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor, let me tell you, I think that message finally cracked some of those hardened conch skulls down here. This place is famous for being stubborn and independent. I was her for Wilma and saw how many people rode it out then.
And just early in this week, we saw people who are committed not only to ride it out, some on their boats, it's amazing how those attitudes have changed as this picture of the buzz saw in the sky has gotten bigger and moved towards the Keys.
We're here at Snapper's Bar. If you've been watching our coverage for the last couple days. You saw us here Thursday night with a bunch of hurricane partiers and they were raising their rum punch and making fun of premature evacuators.
Well, a lot of those people have evacuated themselves now. The captain of that boat, the salt shaker who said he was going to ride it out aboard his 50-foot sailboat. He jumped ship. He headed north as well.
What's really interesting, down in Monroe County, the county seat there of the lower keys, they had an emergency manager's meeting last night. They were telling us all day yesterday that the Category 5 rated jail in Monroe County would be safe and the 500 prisoners housed there would ride out the storm.
But then last night, that all changed. They frantically had to move about 500 prisoners on a caravan of buses with sheriff deputies. We saw the whole convoy of cruisers screaming down Highway 1 to go pick up those prisoners and get them out.
So, there is a marked shift in attitude down here. No telling how many will end up rising it out. Maybe a quarter of the 75,000 or so who called the keys home are here. You know, Key West, is a rather sizable homeless population as well.
It brings to mind, Victor, the old big bad wolf story and the little pigs, the two made of house made of straw and sticks ended up banging on the door. The guy who lives in the brick house, I think that's happening all over the keys overnight and this morning, as the big bad wolf that is Irma blows ashore here.
[08:25:12] BLACKWELL: All right. And it is coming. Bill Weir for us there in Key Largo. And again, from the National Weather Service out of the Keys telling everyone that no one on the keys will be safe.
They are very cautious about hyperbole because they want to make sure that when they offer a warning like that that people take heed. We'll take a quick break. Our live special coverage of Hurricane Irma continues.
BLACKWELL: Welcome back to CNN's continuing live coverage of Hurricane Irma now headed to South Florida.
Joining me now, Philip Levine, the Mayor of Miami Beach. Mr. Mayor, thanks for making time for me. Since after Harvey, the models have shown that this was initially
headed toward Miami, the southeastern section of Florida. And now, some of those tracks, some of those advisory show, that the west coast will be getting much of the worse of it. What do you want to say to people who -- I believe, that there is some comfort in that new adjusted (ph) track.
MAYOR PHILIP LEVINE, MIAMI BEACH: Well, most important thing is is that, all of these models are very unpredictable. Things can turn on a dime. So I'm telling all of our residents of Miami Beach, stay inside, stay buttoned down, don't go outside, because this thing can turn, the winds are picking up. You can see them right now, there's debris that flies around. And more importantly, we're very concerned about tidal surge and storm surge. That's something which is a primary concern for us.
And, of course, I'm also thinking about the west coast of Florida. Very concerning. Our thoughts and prayers are with them. If the track doesn't take up there.
BLACKWELL: You have assigned this storm a striking moniker in calling it a nuclear hurricane, why?
LEVINE: Because it's so powerful, it's so large, twice the size of Andrew, larger than the state of Florida. We've seen the destruction of what it's done in the Caribbean, and we hope to God that it does not do the same destruction in Florida. We're ready to go here in Miami and Miami Beach.
But, once again, as I tell everyone, stay inside. We are far from being out of the woods. This can move, the winds are strong, but we're going to outer bands, we're going to get significant hurricane strength winds. You do want to be outside.
BLACKWELL: Miami Beach under a mandatory evacuation. No shelters on the island. How many people are heeding that? Are you still seeing people who were deciding to stay anyway?
LEVINE: Absolutely. You know, it's amazing though. Everyone is almost gone. The streets were disserted as of yesterday. It became a ghost town. I never thought I would be happy to see Miami Beach as a ghost town, but it is and it was, and we have to keep everybody inside.
We've been driving around, looking at what's going on, and, of course, it's very empty because the weather is getting pretty ferocious out here. But, once again, my message is, please stay inside, please stay safe.
BLACKWELL: You know, typically, we'd ask, what keeps you up at night. But on this night, everybody will be awake as the storm comes ashore. But, what's your greatest concern for the people of Miami Beach as Irma gets closer?
LEVINE: Really, one of our greatest -- it's really about the storm surge. The flooding. Miami Beach is prone to flooding. And when you have this type of a hurricane, pushing that kind of water that would go towards us, it's very concerning. That does a lot of damage and it's a lot of disruption. So we're hoping that doesn't happen.
BLACKWELL: All right. The mayor of Miami Beach, Philip Levine, thanks so much. I know you got a lot to do today. Thanks for making the time for "New Day."
Chad, I want to toss it back to you in the CNN severe weather center. We're starting to feel those winds really pick up here. But, again, I'm telling everybody, although they're seeing us kind of lean into the wind, that this is nothing compared to what we're going to see.
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely not. And the winds are from the east, the wrong direction, blowing the water into Biscayne Bay and up the intercoastal. Victor Blackwell right there.
But, look, I want you to look at the blue. I want you to look at the blue area that I've painted in here. This is what happens with a six- foot storm surge through Miami. You say, well, it could be more than that. Sure, yes, it could. But let's go six just to say that, because it's easy to put two meters in my -- in my computer here.
Look at all of this. Look at all of downtown that is completely wet. The people that think they're going to ride it out in skyscrapers are going to have their elevator shafts completely wet. Not being able to get up and down from their building and be cut off, and likely, probably, have no power. And that's if you just get missed compared to where we're seeing right now.
Because, really, Miami is a slight miss as the storm is going to the west. As the storm has moved to the west in the overnight hours, we did see a slight shift to about Key West to Naples. And now, Naples you are really in the middle of what should be the eye wall in 24 to 36 hours. The eye wall is still over Cuba. It lost a lot of intensity overnight.
The wind is now 130, but don't take your eye off the ball here. This is still a very big storm. And it's forecast to get back into warm water. And likely get back up to a Category 5 before making landfall, pushing water over Cudjoe Key, Summerland Key, Big Pine Key, Key West itself. And then, on up into the Florida Bay area, either, Everglades City, possibly to Naples or Cape Coral. That's the area that we're really watching here.
Farther to the north, Tampa, you are now closer to the eye than you were yesterday or the center. There may not be an eye by that time. But Orlando, you're going to pick up 100 to 115. And even toward Tampa, likely 95 to 100 miles per hour.
Now, there are bigger buildings in Florida than you might expect, because they don't build on sand, they build on coral. They go down and they get some bedrock. And so, there are many big buildings in Florida, and, especially in Miami, 70 over 40 stories tall. If the wind is 145, then all of a sudden, you're 174 or almost to 190. So let's reduce this, because the storm is slightly farther away. [08:35:07] If you're 100 miles an hour at the surface, you'd be 120,
30 stories up, and you'd be probably closer to 150. Another almost category higher due to the fact that there's friction up above, and the wind blows anyway that it wants to up there and blows through those buildings. Most of those windows are hurricane-rated. What does that mean when the building is not finished? And there are so many buildings in the Miami area that still have towers, still have cranes, still have some windows in, some windows up.
There you go, Key West, you're in 100 miles per hour or more, Naples, Fort Myers, Sarasota, same story. And Even into Key West -- from all the way to Key West to Tampa, could be still a hurricane Cat 1 or Cat 2. All the way up into Central or Northern Florida, winds in Atlanta probably 60 or 70.
Crazy storm. Back to you, guys.
BLACKWELL: All right, Chad Myers for us in the CNN Severe Weather Center.
We just got an update. Governor Rick Scott will be holding a -- an update, a press conference at the top of the hour, on the latest on preparations for this monster storm, Hurricane Irma. Of course, we will bring that to you in just about 20 to 25 minutes. Again, Governor Rick Scott updating the state of Florida on preparations for this major storm that will make landfall sometime in the early hours of Sunday. And after the break, we'll talk with the mayor of South Miami about what's being done to protect the power plants there.
A quick break. Our special live coverage of Hurricane Irma continues.
[8:41:02] BLACKWELL: Welcome back. Live pictures here from Altamont Springs in Central Florida, a suburb of the Orlando area, where people are now at a local hardware store buying plywood, trying to board up their houses. Many people here in South Florida have hurricane shutters that they can put up over their windows. In central Florida, some of those still but plywood here the hot commodity at this local hardware store, preparing just hours before first landfall here in Florida, hitting the Keys first in just the next several hours in the early Sunday morning hours.
Let's go now to some of the evacuation orders. And evacuation zones that we've seen that are really just emptying across the state. Florida Governor Rick Scott has told people to leave now, head to those shelters. We are expecting the governor to hold a news conference on Hurricane Irma at the top of the hour, so about 15 or 20 minutes away. Of course, we will bring that to you live.
Irma is now a Category 4 storm heading for Florida. The storm surge, one of the greater threats of this storm, heavy rains coming, the winds, of course, as you know, and a little more than an hour, more shelters were opened in Fort Myers, on the west coast of Florida for those who want to escape the path of this storm. Some of the people who live there, slept in the streets, slept in their cars overnight, some of them hoping to get a spot in one of those shelters. CNN's Drew Griffin is in Fort Myers for us. Drew, good morning to
you. And, for days now, the entire peninsula has known that they will face some threat from Irma. But increasingly, the threat to the west coast has become more and more clear.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, and it got - it came very serious yesterday, which is why you're seeing those lines for the shelters, Victor. What happened is, the shelters opened up yesterday. Mandatory evacuations were announced for what they call the level "A" evacuations, that's all the barrier islands and the low, low-lying areas that are susceptible to storm surge. The shelters filled up.
So, overnight, more people thought, wow, we've got to find shelter, this is really getting serious now. And those people went to shelters that were full, so they had to find the next shelter open. The next shelter open will be at 10:00 this morning. There are several that are going to be open. They are opening shelters. But there is some level of frustration that people are going to shelters that are full and having to drive elsewhere. That is just a little bit of hiccup in what seems to be a pretty good evacuation that's going on here along the southwest coast.
We were in Naples last night, virtually a ghost town. I was on I-75 this morning driving north, roads are empty. A couple of gas stations opened with gas. But, mostly, there is just nobody out on the street. And it's all, Victor, about the storm surge, whether or not Irma is going to churn up three, six, nine, 12 feet of water. Not only on the coast, but inland on these waterways that are just prevalent throughout Southwest Florida.
So, we're watching that closely as more and more shelters open. And more and more people heed the warnings to do exactly what their governor is telling them to do, which is to get out. Victor.
BLACKWELL: Yeah, Drew Griffin for us on the west coast there in Fort Myers. Florida is a very flat state, and people build right to the edge to get as much of that beautiful intracoastal and coastal view as possible. Again, thanks to Drew.
Now, we're just a few hours away from a curfew that goes into effect for all of Palm Beach County. We're back on the east coast of Florida. Anyone still in the area must be off the streets by 3 o'clock this afternoon. That's about an hour's drive from where I am now to Brian Todd who's in West Palm Beach.
[8:45:00] And, Brian, let us know how else the county is preparing. We saw those police officers out telling everybody that it's time to evacuate yesterday about this time, in the afternoon hours as well.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Victor. They were out telling people to get out then, they want people out now. We saw a lot of police officers patrolling this morning. They want people off the roads right now. They don't want them out.
They've told us that, at some point as the dynamics of this storm start to deteriorate in this area, they're going to shut down these bridges, like this one, that connect West Palm Beach to Palm Beach. A couple of significant threats that they're monitoring here, Victor, storm surge is one of them. We've heard Chad and other experts tell us that five to 12 feet of storm surge is possible.
We're right now at low tide right here by the Intracoastal Waterway, so when the tide rises and then you get five to 12 feet, this place could be inundated. Palm Beach across the way could be inundated. That's one threat.
Another threat here. Construction sites, like this one, and cranes, we talked about the Miami cranes and how they've had to be secured. Well, look at this. This is a very large crane here along the coastline in West Palm Beach at a construction site. This building is about 14 stories high. The crane extends far above that.
Now, if you see that, a little bit over halfway up, they have secured that crane with a large metal brace. Is that enough to keep it in place when this storm really hits in earnest tomorrow, when this place is getting, really, strongest wind surge and storm surge, we're going to see about that.
Now, like in Miami, we believe that these are cranes -- the very tops of them are going to be allowed to kind of swing around in the wind like a large weathervane so they don't meet resistance and fall over. But then, again, the debris from the site is also going to be a significant threat. So we're going to be monitoring all of that as the storms get closer and the winds pick up here, Victor.
BLACKWELL: All right, Brian Todd. Thanks so much from West Palm Beach. We'll take a quick break in our live special coverage of Hurricane Irma, now, just hours away from making landfall in the Florida Keys. We'll be right back.
[08:51:18] BLACKWELL: Welcome back. I'm Victor Blackwell.
This just in from Monroe County, their emergency operation center is going to evacuate their southern post in -- along Marathon Key. They say it is just too dangerous. They're going to be heading about 40 miles up U.S. 1 to Key Largo, where they believe it will be a little more safe for their employees. But again, in Monroe County which covers most of the Keys there, says that, they cannot stay there on the southern end of the Keys, the southwest portion of that county. They'll be heading north to Key Largo, so that they'll be able to keep a better eye on the storm.
Now, let's talk about the path and some really bad news for one city on the west coast of Florida. We have on the phone with us, Mayor of Fort Myers, Randall Henderson, Jr. Mr. Mayor, good morning to you. When we went to bed, all of us last night, this was a category 5 storm. It had crept a bit west, but now you are in the center of this cone. What are your thoughts and preps as Irma approaches Florida?
MAYOR RANDALL HENDERSON, FORT MYERS: Our primary focus right at the moment is the preservation of life. This is a worst case scenario for our city and our region. We're taking it very seriously. We are prepared for it. We have opened up additional shelters for those who need to continue
to evacuate. There's still time to do that. And we are providing public transportation for them. Our citizens should dial 211 to take advantage of that. But we're fully engaged.
BLACKWELL: So, we know that the west coast, like the rest of Florida, because of the size of the storm has been preparing for several days. We just had Mayor Barnett of Naples on a few moments ago saying that they've been preparing as well.
But, as the shifted overnight to put Fort Myers more into the center, are the people of Fort Myers taking it as seriously as you and your employees there in the city are taking this?
HENDERSON: I am happy to report to you that our citizens have taken this from the get-go very serious. They continue to take it serious. It's a source of inspiration for me, personally, that the public servants are working feverishly to preserve life. And that's from Washington, all the way to Francis Rooney, Marco Rubio, Governor Scott, Senator Benacquisto, you name it, we're engaged, including the President, and we're executing on our plan.
BLACKWELL: What's your greatest concern, now that you're seeing just how great the threat is to Fort Myers?
HENDERSON: We are watching the storm surge very closely. The -- we know that water can kill people, and we know that the wind is going to -- the winds are going to be sustained for long periods of time, with the potential for them to be well over 100 miles an hour, and that's destructive. People need to be in four to five facilities and they need to be out of the floodplain.
BLACKWELL: Yeah, you make a good point there, that the storm surge is the great danger. The drowning deaths are certainly some of the greatest threats as the storms come ashore more than most others.
Mayor Henderson, Jr., thank you for being us -- being with us this morning. And you and the folks there in Fort Myers, stay safe for us.
HENDERSON: Thank you, sir.
BLACKWELL: All right, coming up in just a few minutes. We're expecting to hear the latest on preparations for Hurricane Irma. Florida Governor Rick Scott will be holding a news conference at the top of the hour, and we will bring you that live when it happens.
Christi, back to you in Atlanta.
CHRISTI PAUL, CNN HOST: Yeah, 5.6 million people already under those orders to evacuate, millions taking shelter. Fortunately, there is still room in shelters. We want people to understand that that they do still have time, some of them, to get to some of those shelters. Get out of homes. That's something that you might not be thinking about.
But hopefully, Victor, we hope you stay safe, the crew stay safe, but we are going to take you live to Florida Governor Rick Scott as soon as he walks up to the podium there. Do stay close. You're watching breaking news coverage of Hurricane Irma, and our coverage continues now with "Smerconish."