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First Look at Irma Destruction in Florida Keys; 2.3M Without Power, 70K in Shelters as Irma Rakes Florida; NHC: Storm Surge Jump 7 Feet in 90 Minutes in Naples. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired September 10, 2017 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:10] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Chris Cuomo in Naples, Florida, along the western coast of the state. This is an area of particular concern because it's only 5, 10 feet above sea level. And what we're dealing with right now is the back side of the storm. The eye passed over. There were gusts up to, I believe, 140 miles an hour. Chad Myers says that will stand up as some type of potential record.

But while the wind gets the headlines, it's the water you have to worry about. It is the drowning that causes the most deaths in a hurricane. Storm surge is directly related to that type of concern. So what we're dealing with now is this backside of the storm, counterclockwise the storms move, so the energy distributes on one side, now comes back on the other side.

That's why the water was getting sucked out of the bayous and the bays up on this side of the state as the storm moved here. Now we're getting that wind back in and with it will come that water and with it will come the storm surge. So we're keeping our eyes open to see how far and how much that is. And we'll use Chad to take us through it.

There are some very upsetting numbers that are coming out of this storm. Right now 2.3 million people are without power in Florida. And compounding the loss may be the length of loss. How long they go without power. It could be days or weeks, the governor's office said. So 2.3 million. And again this storm has not made it the full length of the state yet.

Also, 70,000 people are in shelters. That is actually good news because that means that people got out and got to a position of safety. We did hear about some power loss in a shelter from Drew Griffin a little further north from here but nothing disastrous or no real danger at any of the shelters and that's good news.

We spoke to Bill Weir who's doing surveillance of the debris fields and the different damage from Irma starting in Key Largo and moving north. He hasn't heard about anything disastrous or deadly yet. It's early. But take good news where we find it.

So that is the situation here in Naples. We're going to start checking around and seeing how other people are doing.

Control room, you tell me who we have because I know it's not easy to get shots up right now. All right. So we'll go to Miguel Marquez. He's north of us in Punta Gorda. That's a place that's been very hard hit in the past.

Miguel, how is it doing right now? You were showing amazing picture earlier, I'm told, of the water being sucked out of a marina replaced temporarily with fresh water, floodwater from the rain. How is it now?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We're still in that same situation. This is actually a boat ramp in the main marina in Punta Gorda. And I should be covered in water right now, sea water, but instead the entire marina is completely devoid of any sea water. The only water you're seeing there -- that ship off in the distance, that boat with the lights on, that is sitting on mud, as is the sailboat right in front of it.

All of the water in here right now is all fresh water that's just pouring in off the land. They're expecting a storm surge when this storm turns around and starts coming back the other way, a storm surge of 5 to 8 feet.

I want to show you what's going on with the trees there. I saw the lights flicker out here at least in the area we're in, in Punta Gorda. So they may have lost electricity here. But you can see the intensity of the wind here. We're probably getting 50, 60-mile-per-hour winds at this point because it hurts not only when I put my hand out, it hurts the skin, but even through the jacket it is painful to feel the water hitting the jacket. You can feel it through the jacket.

The storm really kicking up now. This is what you guys were experiencing probably a couple of hours ago. The eye wall still probably an hour out, two hours out from here. The emergency services says they're preparing for hurricane force winds in this area around 8:00 p.m. tonight. Everybody is to shelter in place and just sort of ride this one out -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Miguel, please stay safe and stay in contact and let me know when to come back to you and we will straightaway.

Let's get to Drew Griffin right now. He's in Ft. Myer. What are you seeing there right now, Drew?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have -- good? OK. All right. We're just in the cove of this building. The wind is incredible, Chris. We're going to just try to re-gather. We thought we heard something falling. There's a lot of gutters coming down the street. And here's the situation. We are very much near the southwest Florida Ft. Myers airport. So whatever wind gust Chad Myers is getting there, that's what we're getting now.

[18:05:07] Visually this is the worst wind we have had today and it seems to be increasing yet as the eye wall should be approaching us now here in the Ft. Myers area. Just incredible wind. I know you can't see it, Chris, but you might be able to hear it. It is just blasting. Blasting through here. And there's a lot -- anything that is loose, any of the debris is now flying and you really need to be sheltered from this, which we are. We are behind a solid building, four-story building, taking you

pictures of this. But the trees that were being battered are now laying down. And the actual cars -- I see a Jeep Cherokee in the parking lot. It's just getting bobbed around in the wind. So we feel like we're getting the brunt of the storm in Ft. Myers right now in terms of the wind, Chris. Be interesting to see if Chad Myers can confirm the strength of the wind that we're seeing right now right near the airport -- Chris.

CUOMO: He'll measure it and I'll pass it along straightaway, Drew. And obviously you know you've been through this before. You're going to get it one way. There's going to be a window where that eye goes over, if it does, where there will be some relative calm and then you're going to get it the other way.

That's the way we're getting it right now in Naples as the backside of the storm even though there's not a wall on the backside. It's plenty strong. The gusts we're getting are impressive and you have the added consideration of storm surge and the added consideration to that of the weak points of leverage of all the structures and the trees that took all that force in the opposite direction.

So now the way that they were leaning is getting buffeted by wind in the opposite direction. That can have a compounding effect. Makes it even more likely that you're going to have damage and extra debris in the debris field.

So, Drew, hang tight there and just give me one sense. What are you hearing from people inside those shelters? Anything? Are people relatively OK? Are they dealing with the situation well? Are you hearing anything at all?

GRIFFIN: Yes. They're dealing with the situation fine. And right now this is -- they're glad they're in a shelter, quite frankly. There were a lot of people ho-humming wondering whether or not this was going to be what it was. They're realizing now that this is the real deal, this is why they're in a shelter and this is why we're staying out of harm's way.

Chris, we'll keep our shot up as you continue to move along because the wind is impressive. It takes the breath out of me and it takes the words out of my mouth so we'll just show you the pictures.

CUOMO: Listen, I'm with you. I know from whence you speak. So look, stay as safe as you can. You know how to do the job. I'll check back with you in a little bit. Stay in contact with the control room and let us know what we need to know.

Let's go right now to Brian Todd. He's in West Palm Beach. OK. That's further south here in the Miami area, on that eastern part of the state. They got hit plenty hard there. Let's check in with him now.

Brian, what's the latest from where you are?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, the wind has not decreased in intensity at all. It is incredibly intense here. Hurricane force winds have been going on for hours and they've only been intensifying.

We are at what they called the dirty end of the storm, the northeast quadrant. And the danger that we have here in addition to the storm surge and the wind is tornadic activity. Tornadoes have been cropping up. The threats have been cropping up. We've been under warnings from the west to the north, the south. And from water stops that have been developing offshore.

You can see how it's just buffeting me right now. I have our photojournalist David Brooks pan over. You can see some very -- David has got to be steadied by our producer here. Such intense wind here. You see those watered art sculptures there. The one on the far right, that just got lifted up and moved about 40 yards to where it is. That is what we're dealing with here with some of these almost tornado-like activity and tornado threats.

What I can also tell you, Chris, we've just gotten word from authorities here in Palm Beach County, their sheriff has tweeted out a message of condolence because he has reported that two law enforcement officers in Hardy County, Florida, just north of here, have died in some kind of a vehicle crash. So you've got two law enforcement officers we're being told by Palm Beach officials who have died in some kind of a vehicle crash north of here.

The details are not great at the moment as to what happened to those two officers. But they were apparently in some kind of an evacuation zone when their vehicle crashed. That's one thing we can tell you.

Another thing is officials here have made about 40-plus arrests of people who have violated curfew.

[18:10:06] You see just how intense the storm activity is here. At times visibility has been almost nil behind us. We've got a construction site back there and debris has been flying from that thing all day long. So just about everything you can see here that's not a building can be a potential projectile.

These stanchions here from this traffic light have been wobbling for hours, as have these regular road signs over here. We've been picking -- maybe upward. Storm surge is also going to be an issue. They're worried about for flooding on Flagler Drive here. That could come anytime. The storm surge hasn't been too bad in the last few hours thankfully. That's something that they're watching very intensely here in West Palm Beach -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Brian, very sobering news about those officers. Let us know if you get any details there. But of course the priority is on keeping yourself and your team safe. Those arrests, it's also upsetting. If it was just for curfew, that's one thing. But if there's more nefarious activity, you know, a situation like this when we're dealing with the worst, we really need the best out of everybody on the ground who is going through it and to pull together. That's what's going to make this storm survivable in the main.

All right. Let's take a break right now. Brian Todd, thank you very much. We'll check back with you.

We have at CNN people everywhere the storm has been, is now and where Irma will be going. Stay with CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:15:49] CUOMO: All right. We have an update of information here in Naples, Florida. I'm Chris Cuomo. We're on the western coast of Florida and what we've just been told from the National Weather Center is that the water level has raised itself 7 feet in the last 90 minutes. The water level here in Naples, Florida, has gone up 7 feet in the last 90 minutes.

Chad Myers, if you're still with me.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes.

CUOMO: I can't see it. We can't get down there. I can't put eyes on it. I do not see it coming up this street yet.

MYERS: Right.

CUOMO: These gusts are no joke. I'm sure that's going to help motivate the surge. What do you know?

MYERS: It's the exact thing that in opposite that pushed the water away. Now we have the winds pushing back onshore there and the water from offshore being pushed not only with the bubble of surge but being pushed along just the same. There's Benito Springs, Cape Coral, and Ft. Myers right in it.

Our reporter there was asking what it was like. That was 105. 125 is still on the way, about five minutes from right now. Marco Island now beginning to flood. Marco Island PD just put out a tweet saying, "San Marco road under water. Do not try to travel on it." And there was a picture there. So the water is coming up in San Marco, the water is coming up in Naples.

And let me show you if I can get to the Naples map, here's the reason why they said up 7 feet. We were 6.09 above sea level. We -- down here we were 2.5 below. So that surge is now up 8.5 feet from where we were and that's not a straight line going up, but it's not leveling off. That water still going up in Marco Island. That water still going up here as you take a look at Naples.

And that's the next stop. I mean, the next stop for the wind coming back around is the back side of Naples. That's the wind you're seeing now.

Now, Chris, you had 141 earlier on the top side when you had the storm itself, the thunderstorms as well. You're not going to get 141 on the back side because there really isn't much of a storm system there.

You know how every time a band comes by the wind picks up? Well, there's no band there anymore. So your wind is going to be 80 or 90 miles per hour, where that's almost what they're still seeing on the east coast. The important part is there is still an eastward component to that wind pushing that water back into Marco Island and into Naples itself.

That's the big story for the rest of the night. As we push you ahead, we move the storm forward to Cape Coral, to Port Charlotte, to Punta Gorda and to Bradenton. This is where the storm is going next. It is losing some intensity but not much because the pressure is still 938 millibars. Go look on the barometer that your grandfather bought you. You're going to see 27.70. As probably as far as that thing goes.

That's the pressure right now of this storm. It is losing some wind but it's not losing pressure so it's still going to have a significant wind event, storm surge all the way up through Tampa tonight and eventually all the way up toward St. Marks and the big bend of Florida in the overnight and morning hours -- Chris.

CUOMO: Chad, give me some timing. What's over Marco Island right now, what is the ETA in terms of coming to Naples and what's your sense of duration of that backside? And I asked because contextually Brian Todd is still getting hammered. And he's in West Palm Beach.

MYERS: Yes.

CUOMO: It's a big storm. It just never seems to end.

MYERS: West Palm is still in it because that outer eye wall is still there. The outer band is still there. There's a band through here at Ft. Myers. Just look for the colors on the radar map. And that's where you know the wind is going to be strongest.

Now the win in a hurricane is strong up above. The winds up there are not two times, but 1.5 times higher than at the surface. So when it rains down, that rain brings the wind with it. It rolls the wind with it. So that's where -- when it's not raining, the wind isn't so bad. When it is raining, this is the translational wind coming from up above in the energy of the hurricane and coming down to the surface and that's what you were in earlier.

[18:20:10] This is where the translational wind is right now just to the east of Bonita Springs, to the east of Cypress Lake. And that's where the heaviest wind is now. This will rotate around and you will get to Cape Coral, you'll get to Punta Gorda. You'll get those significant winds with wind damage.

It's just the surge right now that we're waiting on. And right now the water is up about 8.5 feet from where it was when the storm just went by and it's still going up for you, Chris. I don't think that will finally end for maybe two more hours. The water will rise slowly, still one wave after another for two more hours for you. We'll see where it ends up.

CUOMO: All right. Good to know. And gain, it's not easy to stand in it. But our hearts go out to the families and the seniors who stayed behind and are suffering through it indoors right now, many of them without power. Over 2 million people, almost 2.5 million people without power. So imagine, you know, you guys who are watching this have the benefit of Chad Myers and the science and understanding the timing.

And let me tell you, it can seem like an eternity if you don't have a sense of when something is supposed to end. So our hearts go out for those people and we look forward to this being over so we can get out and see what people need and start dealing with the recovery. But we're not there yet. In fact we're not even close.

So let's get to Ryan Young. He's still on the front side of this storm in St. Petersburg.

Ryan, if you can hear me, what's the status?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, absolutely, Chris. We've seen the winds pick up here. And I'll tell you this, as someone who grew up in Florida, you know, you mark your life by hurricanes. And I can remember Hurricane Andrew just as clear as yesterday in terms of where it marked my life.

This might be same thing for this storm in terms of people talking about the power of it. Especially folks who live in this area who weren't expecting the sort of power that comes through the area. Of course talking to friends who live in Miami, they talk about the fact they're still dealing with the winds hours and hours later. But here we're starting to see things pick up.

The good news is that people have gotten off the road. We've even seen people who were desperate to get wood up on their windows, so what they did was they even took wooden benches, put them up to the windows and started drilling in.

Talked to a man who lived through Andrew, he said he never wanted to go through a hurricane again. He was boarding up his dream home but he wanted to get out of the area. That desperation, you could feel it for people who decided to get out.

Talking to folks who had gone to hotels, they said they would rather stay in a hotel than be in a home and experience this by themselves. But at this hour, as you see the roadway here, still power on. That is a key part of this point. Nothing has been gone off at this point. We heard transformers popping earlier but so far that power still remains.

Power lines above our heads at this point are shaking back and forth but nothing seriously moving or snapping. So that is the good news because I heard you talk about that snap, crackle pop earlier. Some trees have gone down but so far we haven't heard about any serious damage or of course any loss of life or anyone in trouble as we keep checking in with emergency management.

CUOMO: All right. Ryan Young, excellent reporting. Please stay safe, my friend. I put you in the wrong place. You are in Clearwater, Florida. You are dealing with Irma on the front end. Stay in touch with us. I'll get back to you in a little bit.

All right. Let's take a break right now. We are in complete coverage of Hurricane Irma. What she's done so far and where she is to go. We'll be on it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:28:07] CUOMO: All right. Chris Cuomo here in Naples on the western coast of Florida. We are tracking Hurricane Irma. Right now we want to go Omar Jimenez. He is in Miami. And even though the eye of the storm has moved, the proof of the size of this storm -- we kept saying Irma is the size of a state. The reality is that here in Naples we're getting hit, so is Omar in Miami.

Omar, what's the situation?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN NEWSOURCE: Well, we've been seeing gusts of wind throughout this afternoon. This was the day that we knew Miami was going to get the worst of it. Where I'm standing right now is sort of a good picture of what we've seen. All of these branches and dirt have come down throughout the day. Of course we've seen the images of the two cranes here in Miami that have spun, including two partial collapses as well.

This road where I am is Biscayne Boulevard right in the middle of downtown Miami. This road is now clear. But I can tell you earlier today this was filled with water, definitely not passable by cars. The main cars we've seen pass through at this point, you just saw one go by. Emergency response vehicles indicate that there is -- there are situations they do plan to respond to today.

While the rain has let up, you've mentioned a good point, that the next threat that people and officials have warned people about is that threat of storm surge that comes right after -- I can tell you here at the hotel where we are staying, this is the first day we've lost power and that is a number we've seen start to grow by the thousand and is now in the millions statewide. And that is an issue that's going to continue to plague officials.

But here in Miami would ordinarily be a very busy, busy downtown on a Sunday afternoon is desolate. A ghost town. And we've been seeing roofs come up. Some of the restaurants here as well. So, Irma, while it did not -- the eye as well did not come directly into where we are standing right now, the threat and the effects of Irma were felt very, very strongly here.

CUOMO: All right. Omar, stay safe. Stay in touch. Let me know when I need to come back to you. Let's get to Bill Weir. He was in Key Largo. He is now driving north to surveil the situation.

And, Bill, we're here in Naples and we are getting beaten up by the backside of Irma.

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Man, I feel you, brother. I've been there.

(LAUGHTER)

WEIR: We did it this morning and now we're trying to see what's left as Irma blows town. We are in Key Largo, actually heading south. And here's -- look at this pile of flotsam here in the middle of U.S.

1, the overseas highway. Looks like there's some appliances in there. That looks like a freezer. There's a jet ski, all kind of debris. And this is like -- you would think that this is windblown, but from the looks of it, it's -- it was washed up here by the storm surge.

We are actually headed, pointed, south right now. The Atlantic Ocean is to your left on the screen. And, boy, the folks who live on that side, you know, that, I don't know, maybe prime property, but they really paid the price for that real estate.

But as you can see, these are all new -- newer homes. Those are post- Andrew homes up on the stilts, solid construction. And one thing that strikes me as I drive around today, we are seeing some devastated mobile home parks, and boats and trailers tossed every which way.

It looks like there's a container here that -- that actually might have been stacked there before the storm. It looks like they used that to hold it down or weight it against the wind.

But what really strikes me, Chris, is when you look at the pictures here in the Upper Keys compared to the devastation down in Cuba and in some of the other Caribbean islands where they don't have building codes, it's a stark difference.

Let's take a left here and see what's happening closer to the Atlantic. I'm cutting across here. Here's a shot -- that's the northbound lane of U.S. 1. You can see why people are driving the wrong way on this highway.

Yes. Rod, you can roll it down.

We're just getting a new fresh rain band kicking up here. It's been interesting. Hopefully, you will -- once it gets past you, Chris, there, you'll be able to get a lull in the storm, the way we are now.

But here's a -- looks like a dock that has washed up onto the street. Coconuts and palm fronds and downed trees literally everywhere. And it literally comes down to the sturdiness of your construction, depending on what's left.

Wow, this one really took a hit over here on the left.

Oh, this is Snappers, isn't it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Snappers

WEIR: Oh, OK, this is -- yes! Wow, I forgot this is where we were. This is -- so this is -- look at that. I didn't even know where we were turning.

But this is where we were doing our Thursday night live shots. If you remember, the people partying and making fun of those who evacuated early. This is it. And my goodness.

And this is the jack -- CUOMO: All right. We lost Bill Weir. We'll check back with him.

But he is showing a stark difference between the romanticism that he chronicled of the punk lifestyle and that rugged individualism of wanting to wait out the storm regardless of the evacuation calls and the reality of what Irma did down there.

And it's still very early. We know what happened in the Caribbean, but not really. We don't know the full total of what happened there.

In Cuba, we still know very little. And we don't know a lot about what's happened here yet. So far, the news has not been that dire in terms of loss of life. That's good, but again it's early.

And the number one killer in a hurricane is not wind. It's water. And storm surge is just starting to come into effect. That's what we're dealing with here in Naples.

The eye has gone by. This is the backside. We're not getting crushed with rain the way we did the first time, and maybe the wind is not as strong but it's still plenty strong. And instead of rain this time, it's bringing with it water.

All that water it sucked out is now going to come back. And there's a multiplier effect. That's the danger of the surge.

[18:34:25] So let's take a break right now. When we come back, we'll take you to the places that are dealing with the front side of Hurricane Irma and those dealing who are still dealing with the storm surge threat, and that is the deadly concern. We'll be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: All right. Hurricane Irma is still very much in full effect from the southernmost point of Florida in Miami. We know what happened in the Keys. But now here to Naples where we are and then at points north, she's hitting it everywhere.

This is part of the story here with this particular storm, the size. Even though the eye is gone, we keep saying and we've been hearing from all our meteorologists that it doesn't matter if it's a direct hit. It's still going to be a bad hit.

They're still getting it in Miami in much the same way that we're getting it here in Naples. Some of the numbers are different. Some other relevant numbers because wind speed -- I just don't think those kinds of statistics matter, unless they are immediately predictive of what somebody is about to experience.

You know, in terms of what ranks where, everybody will deal with that in the days to come. But in this immediacy, this moment now, almost 2-1/2 million people are without power, 70,000 are holed up in shelters. Who knows how many are sheltering in place?

[18:39:56] The Miami-Dade school district is saying they are closed until further notice. The President of the United States has already signed a disaster declaration for Florida. And that's not just recognition that there's a bad storm. He knew

that. The President knew it. The White House is well aware. It's showing how urgent the situation is.

What that does, signing a disaster declaration, is it frees up funds immediately so that Governor Scott and the localities here that are adversely affected, that are hurt by what happens with this hurricane, can get help sooner. So that's a good sign. It's like beginning the recovery phase even though you're still in the crisis phase.

What we're worried about here is storm surge, OK? So it's like the dovetailing of the hurricane concern. When wind gets the headlines, wind and rain, dangerous, scary, debris, it's real.

The backside of the storm, storm surge. That's what kills you. The number one cause of death in a hurricane is water, not wind.

All right. So we're going to go now to our weather center. Chad Myers is out. And remind me, who is in there now?

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Tom Sater, Chris.

CUOMO: Tom Sater is with us now.

Tom, sorry about that, buddy. My head is completely waterlogged.

SATER: Oh, I believe it.

CUOMO: It's good to have you. We heard from the weather center that the water level here in Naples had risen about seven feet in 90 minutes.

SATER: That's right.

CUOMO: What do you know about that and what can you do with that information to project forward in terms of what we're looking at here?

SATER: Well, I'll tell you what. First and foremost, I'll answer that but, Chris, I just want to thank you and your crew for what you've done today.

It's very rare to get the pictures you have given us to match with the radar images. And there's not many times in history that all of us get to experience what it's like to batter that eyewall and then into the eye.

When it comes to the storm surge there, yes, it's been seven feet. In fact, four feet in just 20 minutes. But you've got to start at where the level of normalcy is.

So the water level is up 4.1 feet above normalcy. The forecast is actually five to eight. So it's reasonable to assume that you're getting that wrap around wind. You can actually see another 3-1/2 to four feet if we go with the forecast.

Now, word moments ago, down in Marco Island, the water is now overlapping the seawall. That's not what you want to hear. Water rides farther and faster over water instead of just land.

Now, we're hoping now that this has made landfall, that Irma is going to start to choke and sputter. Kind of like cutting the fuel line off of your lawnmower. It still has energy. Until the pressure starts to rise, we're not going to lose the significant strength as far as some wind gusts, but we'll still have damaging winds.

When you look at the radar, and you mentioned, Chris, 2.3 million without power, I want to mention, that's just customers. That's not the number of people without power. That's one home or one business.

Two point three million without power is almost 50 percent of their customers. So -- or of Florida. So I mean, that's massive to look at.

All right. We still have the tornado watch and we still have warnings. Let's not forget about the East Coast that is seeing extreme surge, band after band of rainfall. We cannot forget about that.

And we have, in fact, around just, looks like, near the Orlando area, north and south, tornado warnings. We've seen over 33 tornado warnings. That number will go up.

Now that we have the eye in the center here, we'll go in a little closer. We are about three hours from Port Charlotte. Now, again, when we make our way in the eye toward Fort Myers, you are in the northern band. And again, we're going to see probably the center of the eye get there within the hour, so they're going to go through the same thing you went through.

Three hours to Port Charlotte and then about six to even eight hours in the Tampa area. What's frightening, at this point, is that the same conditions that everybody watched, that Chris Cuomo went through, they're going to go through this but in complete darkness.

So we won't have the visuals of the flying debris, of the wall of water extending out or coming back in. So when you're flying behind, fright really starts to grip you. And it will.

But again, we're starting to see a little bit of a breakdown on that southern eye wall, which is great news, Chris, although the engine is still running and so the surge will continue to push in to every bay, every canal. And again, as we've talked about the last couple of days, we're not talking about a few hundred feet.

I believe I thought I heard you say you're like five to eight blocks in. We're looking at a surge that could be as far in as several miles. And some of the inundation mass from the National Hurricane Center were pushing in as far as eight, 10, even 12 miles in some cases on this coast.

But again, that happens when the center of the storm is to the north. Again, the wind gusts we're getting -- and this is quite interesting -- even to up toward Orlando, gusts of 43. By the time the system moves northward, it'll start to kind of stagger the imagination that, even in Orlando, if the system kind of continues to hang a little eastward, gusts at 85 are not out of the realm of possibility.

[18:45:03] Even up toward Tallahassee. They could see 70, 75-mile- per-hour wind gusts. But notice down in Naples. When you were at that 141 reported wind gusts, we have no longer any instrumentation to go with. That, most likely, will be the scenario as the storm continues. But we're hoping to lose a little bit of a punch with this as it moves in.

But again, Chris, as you've been talking about the storm surge, nine out of 10 people in hurricanes lose their lives from -- that do lose their lives from water. So it doesn't matter if it's surge or what's falling, nine out of 10, and you've been getting the message out. We all appreciate that.

CUOMO: Oh, God forbid. We'll keep an eye on it. I have eyes on this street for you, Tom. That's the best I can do in terms of monitoring what happens with this surge. We do not envy those who have to go through the eye of the storm in the dark.

SATER: Absolutely.

CUOMO: That is the stuff of nightmares. And our hearts go out to those who are doing that with their loved ones and probably don't have power, so they're not even able to follow along and benefit from your wisdom and timing.

Tom, thank you very much. We'll check back with you in a little bit.

Right now, before we go to break, let's check in with Miguel Marquez. He's in Punta Gorda.

And I don't know if you could hear Tom, Miguel, but this is a big lady --

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I did.

CUOMO: -- that we're dealing with here with Hurricane Irma. She's going to hit you hard, and it's going to last for a long time.

MARQUEZ: Irma has been hitting us for a while, and it is definitely getting worse. I don't know if we're going to have it as badly as you, but what Tom talked about, three hours from Port Charlotte, we're just south of Port Charlotte. We're about 60 miles north of where you are, so we're experiencing what you did a little while ago.

This is the marina. This is what's amazing. That water here is still going out of this side.

This is the marina. There is no seawater in this marina anymore. It's all fresh water just pouring it off the land from the storm. The boats you see off in the distance, the big one and then (INAUDIBLE) there, those are sitting on mud right now incredibly enough.

If you look over here to the left, you can see that there's a sign that's just about to come off of a pole there. That's the power of this wind. And then look at these -- look at the trees in here. These are some of the strongest winds we've seen so far.

The palm trees are just, you know, perpendicular. They don't look -- it doesn't look normal. It's amazing that these things can stay up and do fine.

All the way around, it looks like Punta Gorda, at least this section of it, has just lost electricity a little while ago as well. I think they expected that.

The emergency management folks talked about the storm hurricane-force winds around 8:00 p.m. tonight. I don't know if this storm has slowed down or not -- perhaps Tom can speak to that later -- but, clearly, it may be slowing down a little bit before we get to that other side of the eye wall when the wind will change direction and all that water that was washed out to sea will all come back.

They're expecting a five to eight-foot storm surge here, that wall of water from the ocean. About three feet on land, they're expecting, so we're going to watch for that. And maybe have to change positions before that happens -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Miguel. Stay safe. Stay in touch.

Dave, as we go to break, show them our giant size weather vane, the crane. It's not a danger here because, luckily, it's not high as those high-rise cranes in Miami proper where they had trouble with a couple of them.

But it is pointing straight in the direction of the Gulf. That's where this wind is coming from. So literally, the wind has the best advantage it could to send the maximum amount of water from the Gulf in storm surge right up into the heart of Naples.

So we're going to take a break right now. We will keep an eye on the storm surge, and we will show you where Hurricane Irma is headed next.

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[18:53:17] CUOMO: And still we're waiting on the storm surge, and these gusts are the real deal. There's a benefit for us to be here, is that when this is done, as you know, we're going to go out with search and rescue. And we're going to volunteer our time when we're not working -- oh, there are those gusts you're talking about.

And it's going to be good to know where the worst of it seems to be going. Like the branches are starting to come off this tree next to us. It was only a matter of time. She's starting to let go, fellas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The wind is just too dangerous and it's really the lack of visibility. We can barely see a hundred yards in either direction. And obviously, with the winds blowing at this speed, if there is debris flying through the air, I don't want to be out in the middle of that and get caught upside the head by some flying branch or anything like that. CUOMO: Some of these big trees are surrounding this hotel. I don't

know if they're going to make. They're starting to cleave out. That's why I just grabbed the producer and put it back inside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You likely will be fine, second and third floor, but get everybody off the street.

CUOMO: All right. Hey, Chad, water's coming up the street here. I don't know if you can see it.

Dave, show it to them. This just, like, is coming out of nowhere. All of a sudden this street is flooded. Do you see it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, absolutely.

CUOMO: This is something that they're going to remember for a really long time.

All right. So Chris Cuomo here in Naples along the west coast of Florida, areas of particular vulnerability here. Hurricane Irma took advantage of that. The eye wall coming right over this area.

[18:54:54] Chad Myers say -- says that there was a sustained gust of about 140 miles an hour. That would stand up as some type of record for a hurricane from the area from whence it came, but the statistics are relevant. And the difference between a Category 2 and 3 is mostly about the science.

It is only relevant if it's predictive of what's about to happen to the people on the ground. And what we were worried about wasn't us standing in the weather just to show you what's going on and give you information and to rest some of that curiosity. But it was just to give you a window onto what these people who stayed behind are forced to deal with. And that's here in Naples and what we've seen in Miami.

Now, after we take this break, we're going to send our coverage to Anderson Cooper. He's about 130 miles north as the storm flies. He's in Tampa Bay. They're going to deal with the same thing and in the dark.

Our coverage will continue right after this. Stay with CNN.

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