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Two million customers without power as Irma rakes Florida; Irma's eye passing over Naples, Florida; Irma climbing Florida coast with category 2 force; Irma bears down on Fort Myers after slamming Naples; Irma now a category hurricane headed for Tampa. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 10, 2017 - 17:00   ET

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


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[17:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: You've never seen somebody my size move as quickly as I will, if any there's any air -- wind that starts coming at any dramatic fashion path.

Couple of things, you said that it will be about three to four hours for that surge that they'll have to deal with before that starts to recede?

That's an important function of time for people. We're starting to get light rain here again. Ed Lavandera, we were just talking about that island, what's the name of that island again, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Marco. Marco Island.

CUOMO: Marco Island. Ed, you were in touch with the police chief there, have you heard from him? And if not, can you try to get in touch with them and try, and get some update of what's going on at Marco Island?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have been doing that, Chris. We have spent a couple of text messages. The last time I communicated with him, the eye of the storm they were in the thick of it and he had described that they had -- they were on backup radio power. They had lost power. No water.

But -- and they were on backup using backup radios to communicate to the 80 first responders that had stayed behind and were riding out the storm there on that island. But since then, I have not heard back up.

I've sent him a couple of messages, hoping to hear back from him soon to kind of get a better sense. He was confident that they would be able to withstand the worst of this storm.

But obviously this is a very important time for them that eye is chance for them to kind of survey and work quickly to figure out what kind of damage and what kind of situation that they're in, so he's got much more important things to do right now.

I suspect if he can, he will get back to us as quickly as possible. This is the scene here in downtown Naples. You can see what a chain saw this storm was.

There were about a couple of hundred yards away from where we were reporting from just a little while ago. This is Cambier Park in downtown Naples and you can just see how much devastation this hurricane has brought here through the Naples area.

Of course we're very limited. We don't have a lot of time to be able to kind of get out and survey. So knowing that the back half of this storm is approaching, you know, we kind of venture out as quickly as possible.

Look at this palm tree here, just sawed in half and collapsing over. This is that area by the outdoor pavilion, kind of a concert area that I was talking about if you're watching over the course of the last few hours.

And if you look back here, this is the pavilion and the tarp that was on top of the structure outside, I thought for sure this was going to come shredding apart in the winds that we experienced.

But from what I can tell for the most part, that held on, obviously the trees here in this park is simply another story and giving how long and how intense the winds were for the better part of two hours, the buildings that we're surrounded by.

You know, if we walk back this way, Chris, I can show you one the -- as we were standing out here reporting part of the roof and the building that we were reporting from came flying off.

This was, you know, one of the tiles, the Spanish tile you can hear what that sounds like. Look at that. That's just a -- that can kill you obviously if it hits you. So that came flying off the roof. We pulled that off a little while ago.

These are strong buildings you see behind me, Chris and it really makes you wonder just how the rest of the structures here in this area were able to withstand those punishing winds for that long.

And here in the eye of the storm, it is always an incredibly eerie experience to describe, so much more quite that when it was for the last two hours.

And the own thing we can hear -- I don't know if you can hear this from where you are, Chris, but it is the building alarms that are just sounding and echoing through the buildings of this ghost town here. But the -- it's just an eerie sound here listening to the alarms in these buildings going off, Chris?

CUOMO: Yes. Here we have nothing but just some of the street signs and alerts, and just some dazed locals, and reporters doing their job. Chad, let me get back to you for two reasons.

One, what is our time factor here in terms of when this starts to go bad on us again? And two, where it is at its worst right now? Where has she gone? I just saw an update that it is now a category two storm. MYERS: That's right.

CUOMO: Where is it? And what's going on there and what's our timing?

MYERS: Interesting that it's a category two at 110 miles per hour and you just had a wind gust to 141. That shouldn't really -- those two things shouldn't go together but we'll let it go from there.

The storm is losing intensity because it did just make landfall over you and it's not over land -- over water any more, it's not going to gain strength any longer.

This is going to start to dis integrate and that is great news for Fort Myers, although you're going to be in the eye very, very soon.

Also, good news for Tampa, St. Pete, Pinellas, all the areas up there going to see a lesser storm than if it was just slightly offshore still in the warm water of the Gulf of Mexico. So we take it along the west coast of Florida, damage, no question about it.

[17:05:00] A 100-miles-per-hour winds into Sarasota, all the way up the coast, all the way to the bridge which is now closed. You cannot get anywhere from Sand Key back down to the south. You can't get to Sarasota there, you have to go around.

But please do not go outside. Here comes the storm right there. The center of the eye just north of Marco, just north of Tampa right now -- north of Naples right now and that's going to continue for the rest of the day to move north at 12 miles per hour.

So Fort Myers, Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte, you're in it next. This is what's going to get hit next. And I'm still going to go with 120 miles per hour for a gust even though the hurricane center says 110 sustained.

What I saw there was 130 and what the weather reporting weather vane saw at the airport said 141. So we're going to go still that this is a very strong storm.

So from Punta Gorda to Venice to Sarasota, you're still going to get an offshore flow, a wind, a heaviest wind, the northern eye wall going to come in from the east, protect yourself to the west.

Stay on the west side of your home, not the east side because you may get shingles into the east side windows that could break out from the neighbors just to your east and that's always going to be the case until the storm changes direction, and then you may get a north wind.

You're going to be in the eye. Almost every single community up the west coast of Florida will be in the eye just like what we're seeing here on the streets of Naples.

Please understand that this is half over. This is now halftime. You get to go sit it out, make sure all the windows are doing well, make sure the boards are fine. Don't do it for very long because you don't know if you're in the middle of the eye. You may be only on the edge and you may only have one or two minutes compared to where these guys are and they've already had about 20 minutes worth of eye. So you might only get one or two minutes.

Don't venture out too far because the wind can come right at you or not even stop at all if you stay with eye wall. So the surge is still with us for this afternoon and this evening all the way down through Jacksonville because of the east wind here and on the west side because of the surge here.

The wind is still blowing offshore in Tampa but that will change and all of that water will come rushing back into Tampa bay and please don't be out there like I just saw people on Twitter taking pictures and saying, look, I'm on the sand in Tampa Bay. You can't be there.

Just like, you know -- it's just -- it's the thing you need to worry about here that we say, if it's only halftime, please don't go back on the field. You cannot go back on the field here and wait and hope for this not to come in because the water is going to come in.

Ten to 15 foot storm surge for you -- storm surge for you and that means flash flooding. That means a killer water event whether you understand the word storm surge or not. That's what it means, Chris.

CUOMO: Hey, Chad, what is the time component for us on the backside of this? When will things start to cycle in that different phase?

MYERS: I got to get to a different little map right there. Chris, you're at fifth, right? You're down here fifth and park right there. So you are still in good shape for now.

You're half way through the center of the eye. There was a little spin of rain here on the just to the west of you, that's not significant with wind. Also a little spin through here.

However, we showed you earlier that some of this -- some of this a little bit spots in here, those are birds that stay in the eye until the storm dies and then they land, and they're kind of relocated. They could be from Cuba for all we know.

They could be from Key West or Cudjoe Key where the eye went over later. They stay up here, they stay flying the entire time until the storm finally dies and then they're just -- they're transplanted but they know what they're doing.

So here is the backside of this. You're still Naples manner, I would say, Chris, you have probably ten minutes before you're going to start to begin to feel the wind come in from the west and then it picks up.

Now there's not an eye wall on the south side of this storm and that's important. I think I can kind of show you as best I can. The eye wall is here and I know you can't see it, but it is two-thirds of the eye itself is eye wall.

Wind terrible, rain terrible, what we showed you on television. Back here, there's some rain but it's not a closed eye wall any more. It is not a circle any more.

The storm is dying and that's what happens. You will get wind but it may only be 60 or 70. You could get 100. There's no question.

But the eye wall itself is not a circle which means the storm is no longer gaining strength and that's the most important and best thing I can tell the people of Tampa, Chris?

CUOMO: All right. So then we got to watch and we have to wait, and we have to see what happens with this storm surge because that will be the tail of the take for Naples and communities like it that are so close to water level already.

That is the part where it can actually get dangerous and I get why people -- now I get why people get lulled into a sense of false security or a false sense of security.

[17:10:00] Chad, because it does feel like it's over and I get that it's not. Chad Myers tells us, it's true and he's got the science to back it up. We're going to take a break right now. That was a lot.

Ed Lavandera is going to reposition. So am I, we will bring you the backside of the storm from Naples but more importantly we're going to take you into the points forward where hurricane Irma is headed next. Stay safe if you were in the storm's path. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: All right. We're in our continuing coverage of hurricane Irma. We just had the eye go past us here in Naples a few minutes ago. She is now battering parts north, Chad Myers has been doing his expert job of tracking this storm, Chad, and just so you know for an update from here.

[17:15:00] I know that technically we're still in that glow period of having the eye pass over before we deal with the backside and the concern of the redistribution of energy and the storm surge coming but it does look to me like water is starting to creep up.

Am I just misunderstanding the abatement of the flash flooding that was going on here or could this be any of that or not or it hasn't started yet?

MYERS: I don't think it started yet. Plus, I just got a tweet from Frank (Inaudible) and thank you, Frank, he says the standing water that where you are standing, Chris, is 11.88 feet.

And I hope, Frank, that you are correct because that means that that's about as far as the water should come right there to that intersection but there's an awful lot of distance between that and the ocean as well.

So if we're still 10 to 15 foot surge that could be covered in five feet plus the wind that's going to come with it, Chris, so I'm still glad you're off of that street and I'm glad everyone else that I can see it on there is also gone, because this -- this is going to be interesting thing to watch. It truly is.

I don't think anybody has ever seen the backside of an eye broadcast live on television and seen a storm surge like this. But we'll just have to see how far it goes because if you are three, four, five feet above sea level, it's going to devastate your home and let's hope you're out of there right now, Chris.

CUOMO: Well, let's hope that people are out and the word from Naples from the mayor and the city manager was about -- they did believe, that they actually had better than expected evacuations here.

And let's also hope that it is more visually arresting than it is damaging, whatever there is to come. Now let's check in with Drew Griffin.

Because as, Chad, rightly points out, yes, we're dealing with the worst part of that wind and stuff is gone here but it ain't gone. It's starting to punish the people north of us.

Drew Griffin is next in line. Drew, what's the situation where you are? How are the people holding up in anticipation of what's to come?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know there's no more anticipation, it is here, Chris. We've retreated to the safety of this wall but I'm going to have George Albright just turn around and you can see why we retreated.

The winds -- this is really close to the southwest Florida Fort Myers airport, so whatever winds they're clocking there, we're probably clocking here and it is just battering right now with the wind that is coming -- get a sense of that.

Straight out of that front curve of the hurricane. This is not the backside. We're anticipating the wall will arrive and that calm will come.

But right now, this part of Florida is still getting hammered by the very front leading edge of hurricane Irma. And I think -- I don't know if you can see, Chris, or not but the wind is just incredible at this point.

CUOMO: I mean, I can't see it where you are, Drew, but Ed Lavandera and I sure as heck saw it where we are, and it is odd. It does seem as though it's getting shot through a fire hose at you.

It really kind of weaponizes the water, this wind and I think that was part of the concern from Chad Myers and the meteorological community about what this storm was capable of especially when you combine that with the duration.

So that's what, Chad, would relay to you, Drew, is that the problem isn't just the intensity, it's the time, it's going to last a while.

GRIFFIN: Yes. It's -- You can see it buffering the cars up and down and that's why the car horns keep going off, the car alarms go off. We anticipate these trees, many them will fall. We've seen debris.

We've seen gutters flying by. We have not seen thankfully roof tiles which are extremely dangerous.

But like I said, myself and the crew we had to just kind of retreat to the sanctity of this big beautiful wall that will probably kiss at the end of this thing. But we're going to stay out of harms way for now and we'll just let you look at the wind from this vantage point, Chris.

CUOMO: God forbid, stay safe. I'll check back with you in a little bit. Please, tell the control room if I need to come back to you sooner and we'll get right back to you.

Right now, I want to go to Bill Weir, he beautifully chronicled the decision making process of a unique subculture down here known as the conks, the people of the Keys. He was in Key Largo as hurricane Irma made landfall down there.

He is now driving north to survey damage as part of the next phase of recovery from this storm, once she finally makes her way through the whole state and into parts north. Bill, if you can hear us, what are you seeing?

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Chris, yes. So we are on the Overseas Highway, U.S. 1, we went south out of Key Largo. You can see some tree damage here. This is -- this is the main theme as we're seeing so many falling trees and billboards. We're seeing boats and jet-skis in the middle of the road.

We drove down actually to check out the Snake Creek Bridge we had heard from one local -- why don't we go down here and see what's going on. We heard from one local that the bridge had gone out.

[17:20:00] It's the one draw bridge in this chain of islands and if those rumors were true it would have been devastating for the people of the Keys because that would have cut them off from the mainland and made life so much harder.

So this is the Atlantic side here, that is impassable. I don't think we can get down there. But it looks like there's a boat or an awning that's blown up on to the road so bear with me. I'm going to turn us around and get back out on U.S. 1.

But so we went down to check out that bridge and around mile marker 88 or so, 87 and the good news is, it's passable. We drove over it and that's a huge sigh of relief. Now we have to conserve gasoline, unfortunately.

This is our -- this is our power source that we're driving right now and we only have so much gas to keep us powered up and keep us on the air tonight and tomorrow. Hopefully we're going to get refueled.

So we can't go all the way down to the Seven Mile Bridge which would be the next one that people are worried about and down into the lower Keys, but if the Snake Creek is good. That is -- that bodes well for folks, and I haven't heard any reports lately that it's been taken out.

But now so we're driving the wrong way -- I don't recommend this if you ever come vacationing in the Keys. We're driving the wrong way on U.S. 1. We're headed back north here because there's a big debris field I wanted to show you.

The one interesting thing we've been seeing is -- of course, this is a good time to remind people that this is the worst time to come out and check your property and poke around.

And you know, I'm here so you don't have to be because we've driven over a few live power lines. There's still enough of a stiff wind now and then that could pick up a sign or a palm frond, and turn it into a projectile.

Hurricanes and tornadoes really hate trailer parks. This is the Driftwood Trailer Park on the Atlantic side and you can see just a little sample of the damage there through the trees as the wind kicks up. Rod, our sturdy camera man keeping it out the window. I'm just rambling on as I drive.

CUOMO: You're not -- listen, my friend, there are few storytellers as gifted as you are. I could listen to you all day. But our crane here just swung around.

The crane is like a massive weather vane. Luckily it's not one of those high rise cranes like they had to worry about Miami and some of them failed or at least a couple did.

This one is now pointing in a different direction, which means Chad Myers was once again right and we're starting to get the wind to pick up here.

Before I lose you, Bill, real quickly, you didn't hear any really sobering news out of the Keys yet, did you -- while you were down there?

Did you hear anything about people who didn't make it or absolute catastrophic conditions that they need to get first responders to right away?

WEIR: no.

CUOMO: Any word yet?

WEIR: I haven't heard any of that. I mean I really...

(CROSSTALK)

WEIR: Yes. Hopefully it doesn't. I heard one man died in Marathon Shelter of natural causes, which was, you know, horrible for his family and all involved there, but nothing -- nothing urgent that I've heard of.

That doesn't mean there are not folks down here don't need help. But we have seen first responders out. I have seen -- we saw plantation Key fire department, we saw some ambulances going on and on.

I don't know if you can see this damage in front of me here, but the stone houses that I can say -- this is a pretty general statement but the post Andrew strong structures on stilts I think those homeowners are going to be pretty relieved.

I mean there's a lot of cleanup. There's a lot of downed trees, a lot of firewood, unfortunately. Not that you need it down here in the tropics.

But, you know, mostly looks like boat damage, stuff that was just loose left around, got a little room on that side. Let's see what we can look at over here.

CUOMO: That car got moved.

WEIR: Yes, that car got -- and so this is all the result, I think, of storm surge. Look at that.

CUOMO: All right, Bill, you...

WEIR: Go ahead, Chris. Take it away, bud.

CUOMO: All right, Bill, you keep driving around and please let me know when to come back to you and I will, I promise. Thank you for taking us through this early stage of seeing what this storm has wrought but unfortunately for too many it's not over.

So let's get to Miguel Marquez. He's in Punta Gorda and he has been following what's been happening up there. Take us through it, Miguel.

[17:25:00] MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, we're about 60 miles north of where you are and this is an absolutely incredible force of nature fact.

This is a marina, all the water you see here is just fresh water pouring in from the storm itself. There is almost no, zero, sea water in this marina. This thing -- the water is still just rushing out to sea.

They are expecting a storm surge in this area of five to eight feet. They believe there are going to be about three feet of water that's about up to here on land in many parts of Charlottes County here.

It is unbelievable how hard it is coming at us right now. This is what you guys were experiencing a while ago. They're expecting hurricane force winds about 8:00 P.M. locally here.

Everyone -- everything seems to be holding tight and people seem to be doing all right but you can tell the winds we were at 40 to 45 miles an hour earlier.

They're probably up around 60 and sustained right now because you can feel the sting of the water as it comes across, not just on your -- on your skin but through the coat as well, so the wind really blowing here in Punta Gorda. They are well aware of the dangers here. They had hurricane Charlie

come through here 13 years ago and nearly wiped this town off the map. They've reach the reborn and they have rebuilt since then. So we don't want to see this again.

But I'll tell you, people who live here, they've never seen this. There were some folks who were coming down here just to check things out. They've never seen -- they lived through Charlie.

This didn't even happen during Charlie. Charlie was a small storm that happened fast that was here and gone. Irma is just growing and growing, and growing. All the water is out.

When we this -- when we get on that other side of the eye wall and the storm changes directions here, it is just going to be intense and that's the big thing they're concerned about now is when that storm surge comes, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Miguel, thank you very much. Please stay safe as, Chad, has been warning us. You get this eerie feeling that something is over with this hurricane Irma and it isn't.

It's just one of the properties of the process that it goes in one direction and then the force redistributes and it comes back the other way and Punta Gorda, Naples, Tampa, these are places that are uniquely vulnerable to storm surge.

And Chad, that's why you've been tracking it so doggedly for so long. Once you saw it's origination in the Atlantic is that once you started to get some confidence in the path, you became increasingly worried about what, you know, a storm this size that could generate storm surge what it could do to areas like this.

MYERS: We saw what happened at Barbuda and we saw what happened at the BVI and the U.S. Virgin Islands and we knew that this was the biggest storm that America may have ever have to encounter.

What happened overnight was a godsend and it was a blessing for America and not so much for Cuba, because the storm ran over the northern coast of Cuba, losing significant intensity in the process but also damaging that country significantly on the north side.

As the storm exited Cuba overnight and this morning, it did not have an eye wall that could recover and become a stronger storm. It never did get back anywhere near that category five and there's no such thing.

But at 185, you make your own category because that's 185 is 28-miles- per-hour over the threshold for a category five. There's no such thing as category six. I get it. You make it up.

Anyway, so this storm had so much power with it as the entire time and it didn't hit too many things out there but when it did, it just created devastation and, you know, there was loss of life.

There was loss of economy, there was a lot of things going on out there in the middle of the Caribbean and through the Leeward Islands and then finally toward the United States.

And without that brush with Cuba overnight, this would be a completely different story and where you're standing right there, the top floors of those buildings would be gone. It's that serious.

From 130 to 160 is that much different because you take the power of the wind, the wind speed itself and you multiply it by itself, it's the square of itself to make wind load and 130 is not 160 even though it only sees like 30 miles an hour, it's a whole different animal and a whole different set of circumstances.

What you saw was a category EF2, maybe small EF3 that lasted a long time. But I think, Chris, I truly believe where you were is a microcosm. I believe it's probably even a microclimate that, yes, you had winds but the buildings that you were in were so good.

[17:30:00] And so strong that when you get a away from there. And you get into the areas that may be manufactured homes or prefab homes, or even into the mobile communities, you're going to see a whole different level of damage.

CUOMO: Well, as soon as we can we'll get out there and we will see for ourselves, and we'll help the first responders assess the situation, and deal with the people as they need it.

The weather vane, which is actually a big crane is shifting again so we're starting to get another phase of the winds here. The president of the United States has just signed a disaster declaration for the state of Florida.

Now, that's not just an official recognition that there was a storm, obviously. The federal government and the White House are well aware of that but it is about releasing funds, it's about timing of help and that will be a boost.

The governor wanted that. He wanted early action here, Governor Scott, and he has gotten it. Let's take a break here. When we come back, Irma has come through here and she's done damage.

The storm continues in parts north and we are leading up to what happens in Tampa Bay. That place is so vulnerable to a storm and yet, we still haven't seen the surge yet, the back part of the storm is on its way. We'll check back right after this break.

[17:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: West of Florida, Ed Lavandera and I were here as the eye came through. Now the good news here is the mayor says most of the 19,000 people that live here year-round, is a big Snowbird City, people that come down in the winter.

So obviously this is the off-season for that part of the population, but the good news is the mayor believed about two-thirds of the people evacuated from here.

But there's still thousands that could be in harms way and what came through here was a record in terms of -- we'll have Chad Myers come in and tell me, what did we experience in terms of significance of storms statistics?

MYERS: You had a gust to 141 and that's going to stack up, you know, extremely well to any other gust except of course for Andrew which was completely off the charts there.

But for the west side and for a west side landfall in incredible wind gusts along with such a wet, wet eye wall, here is your rain gauge, your tidal gauge and all the like for Naples, Chris. You were down here at about 2 1/2 feet below where you should be for the tide.

Now you're about 2 1/2 feet above where you should be for the tide and the water is still going up and going up rapidly. I've been trying to figure out how much surge came into Marco Island and so far, it's tough to get data out of there.

It's tough to get data out of anywhere now when you have so many power losses and also so many cell towers that aren't working because there are power losses, even many that have backup generators aren't going, so data is honestly very tough to come by.

There's Naples right there. You are on the backside. I can hear some breezes in your microphone. I can actually see the trees behind you begin to start to blow. This is now the backside of the eye and this is where we expect the surge to be.

I also expect the surge to have blown significant water into the everglades and that's good news and bad news. That may reduce the amount of surge for Naples because of the way it slid slightly farther to the east.

Now, earlier in the day, the eye was forecast to be some where over here and that would have put the surge back in here a little bit more.

But because the eye went honest were right over you, the surge may be closer toward Orangetree and even into Everglade City. We'll have to see. This is not an exact science.

Surge is very critical to reducing the amount -- number of deaths and that's why the hurricane center was so to the wall on this, in fact, calling us directly, saying, the most important thing we want you to ever tell anybody is if you have this surge, five to ten feet, that they have to leave.

And we know that they did, at least we hope that they did and right now we're waiting for that surge to come. I hope it doesn't get here. I hope it's in the Everglades but it's some where, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Chad. Well, we've seen the crane weather vane spin around. The wind is coming in almost the exact opposite direction that it was before.

It's starting to pivot a little bit more back towards us. So we'll watch and we'll wait here, Chad. I'll check back with you about us. But right now, let's get to Ryan Young because this is about the

backside of the storm but there's still so many in harms way for the front side of hurricane Irma. Ryan Young is in St. Petersburg. What are you seeing there, my friend?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We know that the wind is really picking up here, Chris. We spent the entire day not only traveling from Tampa to Clear Water to St. Petersburg.

I can tell you, look, you can see the wind and the fact that's it's picked up steadily since, clearly have been -- we are told by police officers here as soon as it reached about 40 miles per hour they were going to get off the road.

What are the things that we can't report is because we saw people who were kind of taking to the roads every now and then throughout the hour, coming just looking around to see if conditions were getting worse.

The good news is, right now the roadways are clear. We were actually standing in a creek bed earlier where we saw the water sort of leave the bay area but people were expecting to see that water come back and that's what they're worried about.

[17:40:00] Residents say they're constantly worried about flooding. They expect more water to come in. We talked to the long time residents who live here, they say look, they never expected something very powerful to come through here and they were kind of banking on it.

We even told people who were taking large pieces of wood and still trying to get it up on the windows but just this afternoon and as you know, my friend, the wind kind of picks up every now and then just hits you right in the face but you understand that.

The good news is so far, talking to emergency management officials, they said nothing significant to report so far but watching power lines and some of these signs around here.

We have seen some of the signs pop off some of these installations, even the one next door, just ripped off about a half hour ago. So you can get an idea of how the wind gusts keep coming and going but so far so good as we deal with the backside of this storm, Chris.

CUOMO: OK. All right, Ryan. Thank you very much for the report. You're lucky you got the young legs to deal with the wind that's coming your way. Right now let's check with Dori Gragg in the Brickell Area of Miami. Can you hear me?

DORI GRAGG, MIAMI RESIDENT (via phone): Can you hear me?

CUOMO: Yes, I hear you. Can you tell us, how is it where you are right now?

GRAGG: It's still really windy. Brickell is still flooded. You know, our windows are still shaking and the building are still swaying. Not as bad as it was.

CUOMO: And how are you faring? How are you feeling about everything? Are you OK? Do you feel that you're safe now? Do you have people around you who can help you?

GRAGG: No. I think we're very safe. We're in a strong building. We've maintained all of our power except we've lost the air- conditioning now.

We've got some water coming in through the sliding glass door, but, you know, I think, you know, all in all we're good. The first floor of our building has flooded but, you know, I mean there are five of us here in a one bedroom apartment and I think we're OK.

CUOMO: Do you have -- I heard you said that you lost your air conditioning. Does that mean that you lost all power? Do you have any at all?

GRAGG: No. The generator came on, so we do have some light but that's about it, just the backup power.

CUOMO: OK. I'm having a little trouble hearing you but I am still listening to you. So let me ask you something else because this is going to be about duration as much as it is about intensity.

How are you fixed for provisions and stuff if you have to go a day or so before, you know, things can really start to return to normal?

GRAGG: Oh, you know, there are five of us like I said in the apartment. I think we're fixed for a day or two. I don't think we're going, you know, maybe even a little bit longer but certainly not something like five days or a week or anything, but I think for the next couple of days we're good.

CUOMO: All right, good. That's good to hear. And also you know, a lot of this once you make it through that immediate phase of urgency is going to be about having people that you can come together with and make a go of it.

So that's good and I'm happy that the worst of it has moved through and left you relatively OK. I'm sorry if you're having trouble hearing me. The backside of this storm is now trying to make her impression on us here in Naples.

GRAGG: We're out of the thick of it then because we've not been able to see or hear anything?

CUOMO: I'm going to let you go and I appreciate you check in with us. We will check -- say it again, please.

GRAGG: I'm sorry. So we're out of basically the thick of it, it's moved on past us because we've been basically cut off.

CUOMO: Oh, OK. So let me tell you what I'm hearing from my meteorologist Chad Myers. So the storm has certainly moved past. It is an unusually big storm, so there are more bands of weather than we might see ordinarily, the eye is certainly passed.

But you know, that's only one component of what to worry about. You still have to think about those outer bands and any residual storm surge.

Where you are down there in the Brickell area of Miami, you certainly should have seen the worst of it of this storm. So now it'll be about storm surge, residual flooding and how quickly the municipality, the government, can get power back.

GRAGG: OK. All right. Well, thank you.

CUOMO: OK, so rest easy on that level and you have our number so you can check back with us and we'll tell you what we're learning about the situation as we do, OK?

[17:45:00] GRAGG: All right. Thank you. I appreciate it.

CUOMO: Absolutely. Absolutely. And that's a good point we just heard from that nice lady, which is a lot of people are cut off so that haven't been watching the coverage.

And very often as it is in natural disaster, it's like situations in major storms, the closer you are to the actual experience, the less you know about that experience because you're not getting any media. You're not getting any information.

All right, so as Chad Myers predicted, the backside of this storm is coming into effect now. The gusts have picked up significantly. They're just coming from the opposite direction.

So we're going to start watching for that storm surge. We're about three quarters of a mile away from the gulf here and we are at about sea level to five feet above sea level and as Chad was saying that's about just not enough for the storm surge to be fought back by elevation. So we're going to take a break now.

When we come back, we'll continue our coverage of hurricane Irma. She's still putting her eye on parts north on the western coast of Florida and now the storm surge is going to start hitting the parts like Naples. We'll be right back.

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CUOMO: All right. As predicted, hurricane Irma is hitting us coming and going. We're in Naples, Florida on the west coast of the state.

These areas on the west coast particularly vulnerable because of the track of the storm and because of their natural geography and their dimensions when it comes to water at sea level. We're only 5 feet above sea level.

So it's very vulnerable to storm surge and that unfortunately may be the component that's happening right now. As much as 10 feet is expected here. It could be coming up to where we are. We're three- quarters of a mile from the Gulf of Mexico and the marinas here. So this is the backside of the storm. The front side of the storm is

even more powerful by multiples in fact. So let's get to Alex Marquardt. He is in Sarasota, dealing with hurricane Irma. What are you seeing?

ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, there is absolutely no mistaking the fact that hurricane Irma is headed directly this way.

In the past hour there has been a significant uptick in this rain that is just absolutely pelting the wind that is barreling down the street, down here in central Sarasota.

Now we know that the winds are well above 45 miles an hour at this point. We were at a shelter earlier when they shut down, once the winds did reach 45 miles an hour.

As we have been reminding people, the emergency services, 911 will no longer respond to calls once the winds reach 45 miles an hour. You can see behind me, it is absolutely a ghost town.

The only vehicles we've seen are firemen, ambulances, police cars. Those lights in the distance are still on. We still have power. Like many in Southern Florida, we do expect to lose that in the coming hours.

Chris, this is really an appetizer for the storm that is coming. In comparison to what you're seeing there, we expect to see what you're experiencing around midnight our time, that's in almost six hours.

But we will begin to experience hurricane force winds around 9 P.M. Those winds will kick up to 75 to 95 miles an hour with gust going up above 100 miles an hour, so a category one, category two.

Everyone here is hunkered down. They are on 16,000 people in the shelters. Those who aren't are at home, they are preparing for things to get much, much worse in the hours to come. Chris.

CUOMO: Well, Alex, let me give you some advice having gone through it already with Ed Lavandera here. Make sure that once you deal with the front side of the storm, position yourself so that you're still facing into the wind on the back side of the storm.

We weren't able to do that because of where we are right now in Naples and where we are situated within Naples. And getting it hitting you from behind as you're trying to tell people what's going on is a little more difficult to task. So be share.

MARQUARDT: I can't hear you. The communications are going in and out. So I'm going to have to toss it back to you.

CUOMO: Don't worry about it, Alex. I'll give you the advice. I'll send you an e-mail just about how to deal with it when the storm comes from the back side, all right? So right now if I can, I'd like to bring in Chad Myers, if he's available. Is he?

MYERS: All right, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Chad. So we're dealing with the wind come in the opposite direction now, right? It's that big weather vein, the crane is making very clear.

But it's -- it's pretty intense what we're dealing with right now. So why don't you take us through what you see on the map.

MYERS: Even though there's not truly an eye wall on the bottom side of this, there's not big severe thunderstorms on the side -- on the back side of this storm where you are down here in Naples.

There is still enough spin, there is still enough low pressure right at the center of this that you're going to have winds. In fact, even today in Atlanta our winds were 45 miles per hour and we're hundreds of miles away.

So if you're only 20 miles away, you're still going to get winds, whether there's a significant severe weather event in the eye wall or not.

So easily for you, as the back side comes through, 70 to 80 miles per hour with a gust to 90 even though we're almost in clear air back out here. So that will eventually push the water into your bay.

[17:55:00] And I want to give you an idea of what's happened to this water. Here's where we are now, up five feet. This is a five-foot surge right at the tide gauge here in Naples.

We were down two and a half feet. So our surge so far is 7 1/2 feet from where we are and we're still going up. I don't know where we stop but, Chris, we'll keep watching it.

Because if -- if we get waters in downtown Naples, that's what we're expecting right there in downtown. That would be that 10-foot surge because that intersection you're showing, that was about 10 feet above sea level.

CUOMO: All right, I'm keeping eye of the street for you, Chad, and I'll let you know as I start to see any movement there at all. We can't get any closer to there and I'm not going to send anybody down there.

MYERS: Yes.

CUOMO: So let's take a break right now. And when we come back, we'll take you where Irma is headed and we'll check in back here in Naples with where she's already been and in Miami as well because this storm gets you twice, once when he comes in and once on the back end when she seems to already be gone. So our coverage will continue right after this break.

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