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STATE OF THE UNION

Hurricane Irma Nearing Southwest Florida Coast; Streets Flooding In Downtown Miami Aired 12-1p ET

Aired September 10, 2017 - 12:00   ET

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


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper.

This is STATE OF THE UNION. You're watching breaking news coverage now.

The eye of Hurricane Irma is barrelling towards the southwest coast of Florida, after making landfall over Cudjoe Key at 9:10 this morning Eastern.

[12:00:00]

TAPPER: This and worse is what people can expect as Irma tracks up Florida's west coast. We have reporters in the Florida Keys and in major cities along both the east and west Florida coast.

We're going to start with CNN's Kyung Lah in Miami Beach, Florida which is getting hit with hurricane strength winds right now. Kyung, what is it like there?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You can definitely feel when the bands come through because you get hit with sudden gusts, sudden very strong gusts of hurricane force winds.

I am standing next to a steel rail, so, mom, holding on. But we do want to show you what it's like here. Because in part we want people in the west to understand what is coming your way and what we are experiencing here in Miami Beach it's being viewed by the city as really dodging a major bullet here.

We have not seen a storm surge. There is hurricane force winds. It is very strong.

You can see that signs have toppled over. And I want you to take a look down the street. A major concern here is flying debris.

You can see all those branches. All of that has been flying through the streets. We've seen some of it in the form of broken street signs.

So that is a major concern. But trying to stand up right is almost impossible if you're not standing next to something. So this is the reason why the Miami Beach police department and the fire department say that they are no longer able to respond to calls.

You physically cannot respond to calls as emergency personnel without putting yourselves into danger. That's why there was a mandatory evacuation.

We have heard from the police and fire they themselves are hunkered down because they do not -- they simply cannot respond to any sort of emergencies. As far as what they did over night, though, Jake, they did try to put out some fire, did try to make some immediate rescues. But we have not heard of any major injuries or fatalities at least here in Miami Beach.

TAPPER: OK. Kyung --

LAH: So what we are expecting for the next few hours -- yes.

TAPPER: Just hold on one second because I want to bring in John Berman, who is right next door in Miami. And I want to keep both of you with us right now.

But Berman, tell us about where you are right now?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm in the wind, Jake. The wind is gusting pretty fiercely here. I'm in Miami close to downtown Miami right now getting some pretty fierce gusts.

Two things happening in downtown Miami we need to tell you about. Kyung Lah out there in Miami Beach, not getting storm surge, we are getting it here. There were pictures we showed just moments ago on CNN from Brickell Boulevard, water waist-deep in some places there. Biscayne Bay has broken through in some areas and starting to flood the streets.

The wind just pushing the water up into the streets. And behind me I don't think if you can see right now, the jet skis. The water lapping up over that dock right there.

There are all these docks you can't see that have been covered by water. And the water creeping up ever so slowly here. We're watching it very, very carefully.

The other story here in downtown Miami is the wind. All morning we were getting reported wind gusts of more than a hundred miles an hour in the tops of high rises. And that now has had a consequence.

This crane collapsed or cracked depending on how you want to call it at 300 Biscayne Boulevard. That crane, the boom has sort of fallen off the rest of the crane, appears to be resting on top of this building under construction right now.

We don't know if it's still attached in any way whether by cables or anything else. But there are dangling cables around there.

City officials telling people not to go anywhere near that area. Frankly, if you were smart right now in Miami you would go inside. There's no reason to go outside not with the winds blowing the way they are and not with these reports now, Jake, of storm surge on some of the main streets here in the downtown area.

The areas, by the way, where there were mandatory evacuations because they were worried about just this type of thing, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. John Berman, stay with us.

I want to go to Chad Myers in the CNN Severe Weather Center.

Chad, give us the big picture perspective on what we see going on. We saw Kyung Lah in Miami Beach taking the brunt of it when it comes to wind. We see John Berman in Miami getting wind and also storm surge.

What is going on?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I will try to be brief because I have stood where those people have been standing in a hurricane and know how annoying it is for someone standing in the dry studio to keep talking when you're getting blasted.

Miami going to see wind gusts probably now in excess of 15 miles per hour, greater than where you are now. Key Deer and National Wildlife that would be Big Pine Key, that is 120 miles per hour. Miami International, 94.

The higher you go up in elevation across those buildings, the higher the wind goes. Here is where the wind is right now. Right through key Biscayne and into Miami Beach.

Our Kyung Lah is there. Kyung, you are -- I know it looks bad right now for you, but your winds are going up 20 miles per hour from here.

[12:05:03]

I need you in a safe place.

TAPPER: Kyung Lah, you heard that?

LAH: We are standing next to -- yes. We are standing next to the Betsy Hotel where we're staying. There are some safe barriers.

I have a steel rail that I'm holding onto. There's no projectile that I can see that's heading our way.

But what I can tell -- oh, my goodness -- OK. So this is incredibly.

And I'm just going to call it. This is stupid. These two guys going out in the rain and in these storms.

First of all, I don't know how they're staying up on two wheels. Do not do that. They may be joy seekers, but that is absolutely unsafe.

The Miami Beach police and fire have said if those two guys get injured, they will absolutely not be able to help them out. They stopped responding to emergency calls.

If you dial 911 here, they can't physically get to you. So if you are preparing on the west side for these hurricane force winds, remember you've got to make sure that you are in a safe place that you know what you're doing. Do not be riding your bicycle out here. The winds that we're experiencing here, it makes it very difficult for me to stand. If I didn't have this steel railing, I'd be flying.

What you can see happening to the trees here, they're just blowing in the wind. When we were out here earlier -- yesterday some of those trees -- I don't know if it's those in particular, but there were trees up and down this particular street that had coconuts on them. Those are long gone because they've flown in the air.

The debris is a major issue. The fire department told us over night they had transformers blow, they had some fires, a gas leak. People who had to be rescued out of an elevator.

They tried to respond to as much as they could, try to help as many people as they could, but then all of this started. So -- yes, you know, you just want to stay inside if possible. And then for the west side you see what we're going through.

Part of the reason why we do this is to show you and to put it into perspective of what's coming your way.

TAPPER: And Kyung Lah has been reporting all morning. It has been more than three or four hours that the city of Miami Beach announced that first responders will not leave. So if people like those cyclists or anyone else does get injured, sadly they will be on their own.

Chad Myers, back to you in the CNN Severe Weather Center. Where is this storm headed exactly at this point?

MYERS: It is headed to Naples. It is headed to Everglades City. It is heading into the Everglades National Park.

When it parallels Miami, that will be its closest approach, and what Kyung Lah is experiencing now is about 80. When the storm gets closer to her it will be a hundred.

Berman, you've seen about 75 to 80 right now. You are going to a hundred as well. The problem I have with your live shot is that water will still come up two to three feet, John.

Where are you going to go?

BERMAN: Yes, Chad, we're watching that very, very carefully. If the water does increase any much more we will move inland to higher ground.

We have a route planned out here, Chad. We do appreciate that. And again, you know, the winds here already strong enough to topple that crane, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Kyung Lah is standing more safely off to the side there. And we thank her for that.

Kyung, I don't think if you can hear us still, but feel free to stay out of the shot.

LAH: I can hear --

TAPPER: Yes.

LAH: I can hear you, Jake.

TAPPER: No, stay out of the shot. Kyung, stay out of the shot. Just tell us what you see, but there's no need for you to subject yourself to 80 miles per hour winds.

John Berman, let me ask you the storm surge which is anticipated more where you are and you say you're saying witnessing it than in other parts of Florida, when that comes -- and, Chad, feel free to weigh in after John -- when that comes -- does it come gradually or does it come like a giant wave?

BERMAN: It comes gradually, Jake. But in some places like we saw in Brickell Boulevard downtown, it moves up gradually. But when it gets over a barrier, it will flow in fairly rapid fashion.

But people have been warned about this for days and days, Jake. I mean, that area, Brickell Boulevard is in a mandatory evacuation zone.

Hopefully people got out. That is why authorities wanted these areas clear. You know, they don't want you living in an island in a high rise building right now where you can't get down past the first floor.

So hopefully people did heed those warnings and moved out. And as far as where we are and Chad was talking about the fact it may be go up another two feet or so, again, we've been watching it.

This, you know, three feet higher than it was when we started. There's some (INAUDIBLE) to work in here but we've seen it coming. And if it does move up or when it does move up, we will move to higher ground, Jake.

[12:10:04]

TAPPER: All right. Good.

And, Chad Myers, I know from covering previous storms I know what a 110-mile per hour wind feels like. It feels like your face is being ripped off your skull. I experienced that in a wind tunnel, not in an actual hurricane but in a wind tunnel to try to explain it to the public what it feels like.

Randi Kaye did that a few days ago. That is what the winds are going to be like where John can Kyung are soon enough.

MYERS: Absolute. We're already at -- we're already at 90. Now every gust is 90 miles per hour.

Every time a cell comes onshore, a line of the outer band comes onshore, that wind goes to 90 to 95. And that we even get to 100 to 105. Here is the bay that we've been worried about. This is Biscayne Bay. Kendall you're already seeing winds over 90.

Easy because you're closer to the eye. Before (ph) you go Coral Gables, again easy 90, 95. Then you farther your go west the higher the winds are.

But it's this open area here, here's Government Cut where the cruise ships park, this is all open through the Key Biscayne National Park. All of this water is pouring into Key Biscayne and into Biscayne Bay.

Across the bay and across and into Miami. And that's what's flooding now.

This wind direction will not change for two to three more hours. And the water is going to continue to come up. We're at 3.5 feet right now surge -- and I think we're easily two more --

TAPPER: Let me interrupt you for one second. You're talking -- you're talking about that surge, and we're looking at images --

MYERS: Yes.

TAPPER: -- right now from a CNN affiliate in downtown Miami. And the streets look like a river. That surge has arrived.

MYERS: It absolutely has. Here's the map that I made three days ago. What we expect with a six foot surge.

All of downtown Miami will be covered in this blue color that you see there. That's the water depth if the water goes to six feet. Right now it's five and a half.

That's where the water is at this exact point and still going up.

TAPPER: Berman, the water where you are obviously the water is the deadliest force in all of this. As horrific as the winds are, it is the storm surge that ends up taking the most lives in hurricanes such as these. And where you are, you're seeing the water surge.

BERMAN: Yes, you're seeing the water rise slowly, Jake. And it has been rising slowly over the last several hours.

What Chad was talking about right there is just where it over flowed some areas as it came up and rushed down into Brickell Boulevard. That's five and a half feet. As Chad was saying, you know, they've been predicting as much as six feet of storm surge.

But there were mandatory evacuations for some 600,000 people in Miami- Dade County, Jake. And those 600,000 people were told to evacuate because of fears of storm surge. It's not the wind.

You hide from the wind. You run from the water because there's nothing you can do. Once the water starts coming, you know, if you live in one of the bottom floors, the water is going to come in to your apartment. If you live in the higher floors, you won't be able to get out and the first responders won't be able to get to you. Hopefully, again, most people did listen to those warnings and did evacuate.

Some of the biggest evacuations this county has ever seen people now sheltering now inland, hopefully not heading to Tampa to shelter because that's a whole other world of problems that you're going to get in the next few hours right now. But it is remarkable that all this has happened, Jake, even though the eye of this storm did hit Miami, there's been concern about that this storm moved west, heading for Fort Myers and Tampa, not the worst of the storm.

But we still damage that this huge wide storm has caused and is still causing, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Let me go back to Kyung Lah who's in Miami.

And, Kyung, we see different parts of the City of Miami where you are right now. Streets have turned to rivers, that the water -- the surge is coming. And it's flooding parts of downtown Miami.

LAH: And I can't see that from where we are. What I can tell you is the last time I checked in with the Miami Beach fire department, they said that as far as massive flooding, that is not something they have experienced as of yet.

But as Chad pointed out, the stronger winds still have yet to come. When my producer (INAUDIBLE) Smith (ph) went over to the beach to check out the storm surge, he didn't see all that much. That the beach looked like it had been beat up, but we didn't see the massive five foot, 10 foot storm surge that was predicted.

So, you know, what we are seeing and experiencing here right now is generally more wind. There was just a tweet by the police department asking people to remain inside because of the severity of the winds. And I also want to tell people who are watching this is that this is not the worst area to stand in.

[12:15:02]

If you walk through some of the city streets, through the commercial districts of Miami Beach, the wind there is unbelievable. It has created wind tunnels because of the buildings. And that's where a lot of people, some of the people who live in high rises live, people who have chosen not to heed the mandatory evacuation order, it's much worse over there.

So it's far more dangerous in the commercial Miami Beach district. And so that's why you're hearing so many -- why you're seeing so many tweets from the police as far (ph) as the fire to please stay inside, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Kyung Lah in Miami Beach where the winds are horrific right now and projectiles are a real risk.

John Berman in Miami, the city proper where it's both the wind and the water. John, the water behind you that you say has been rising over the last several hours, how close is it to ground level?

BERMAN: Well, look, so what this is a marina right now. So the marina it goes down to really the water's edge right now.

And I'll walk over. You see this cement where -- we're not going to get too close right now. After the cement, there is, you know, two feet to the water right now. At low tide there's probably five feet.

So it's up three feet. And right there where you see, you know, that rope -- you see that rope? That's actually tied to a dock that normally is above the water right now. It's not above the water now it's a foot under water.

So you can see where the water has crept up. Those jet skis, they're attached also to a dock where the water is lapping over right now.

We actually have seen a dock detach (INAUDIBLE) and into the bay here. So that's what we've seen in terms of the water.

As far as the wind, Jake, this is as strong as I've seen. I mean the wind has not blown like this yet here in Miami.

And Chad says we're going to see another 10 to 15 miles an hour over the next couple of hours. That's going to be pretty strong. And again remarkable given that the worst of the storm didn't even hit here, Jake.

TAPPER: And, John, we know Kyung Lah is covering the storm from the hotel. I mean, she's right outside the hotel. But she's staying in that hotel, and that is where she can get to safety in a moment's notice if need be.

What about you? People at home are watching and they're wondering about you. How quickly can you get out of there and how quickly can you get to a safe place?

BERMAN: Talking about my mom and dad who are both watching right now, we have cars parked (INAUDIBLE) corner on slightly higher ground. If this water gets much closer, we will simply pick up your stuff. And our hotel is a block away, and we have another safe location going to as soon as we need to.

Our camera under cover right now as well. We have a team here more protected by the wind a little bit than I am right now but, no, we have a plan. There is a way to do this.

We're doing it safely. We're out here so people can see the danger, so they can understand why the officials in this city and state have told them to stay inside or in some cases told to evacuate to get to safer higher ground, Jake.

TAPPER: And, John, just to explain to the people at home if the winds you are experiencing right now are somewhere in the 80 to 90 mile per hour territory, tell us what that feels like. Tell us what the experience is like, and why it's dangerous even beyond the storm surge, which is the most dangerous. BERMAN: Well, you have to do this ridiculous dance, Jake, where

you're leaning into the wind the whole time. And that if (INAUDIBLE) and when you (INAUDIBLE) or in some cases can swirl so you're in one way then the wind will come from behind you and push you around some more.

That's not even the real concern. The real concern is projectiles. Right?

I don't know how far I can go back here where the camera can still see me, but this right here is an awning that snapped off the building that used to be up there. Now we (INAUDIBLE) way so we knew we weren't going to be hit by it.

And down there you can see two-pieces of this metal flashing. That also has flown off the building. That's a giant spear (INAUDIBLE) flying through the sky.

If you were standing behind it you have to be very, very careful of that. And the rain itself, when it comes at you at 70 miles an hour or more, it's not a pleasant feeling, Jake, I can tell you that.

TAPPER: No, it feels like little needles going into your face. Let's go back to Chad for one second.

Chad, the people in Miami, not just, John, the people in Miami Beach, not just Kyung, how much longer are they going to be going through this? And we know this isn't even the eye of the storm, this isn't even the worst of it.

MYERS: This is not the closest approach to the eye of the storm yet. So it still goes worse from here. Exactly I would say we get this for another six hours before it even starts to go down.

[12:20:00]

And that's the real reason we don't want you in your home if it's not a strong house. This is a long duration. This is not a tornado that goes through in 17 seconds and it's over. This goes on and on and on.

Now, I want you to just think about this for a second. Grab a cup of coffee and blow on the top of a cup of coffee and try to cool it off. The waves your breath makes will blow the coffee to the other side of the coffee cup.

That's what's happening here. The waves, because of the wind, are blowing the ocean on the other side of the coffee cup.

And there's our Kyung Lah right there. What's happening here the water is piling up, but it's going around here through Government Cut and it's piling here. So if we keep pushing the air from our coffee cup or the wind, it's going to pileup here.

Not so much in Miami Beach because it's going to go around. Not so much on Fisher Island because it's going to go around. This is the area -- right, there is our John Berman, this is the area that's flooding right now. It's the Brickell area of Miami. And also even farther to the north we're seeing those now (ph) waves and storm surge numbers at about 5.5 feet.

That's enough to get over some sea walls there in downtown Miami.

TAPPER: All right. Chad, thank you so much.

We're going to take a very quick break. When we come back, we're going to check in with some people on the west coast of Florida, where the eye of the hurricane is headed.

Keep in mind all of this horror that we're seeing in Miami and Miami Beach, this isn't even the eye of the storm. The eye of the storm has gone through the Keys.

We don't know exactly what the situation is like there, but we're going to now experience -- the country is going to experience the eye of the storm hitting the west coast of Florida. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:26:02]

TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN STATE OF THE UNION. We're back with breaking news. This horrific powerful Hurricane Irma hitting Florida today.

We're seeing flooding in downtown Miami. And CNN's Rosa Flores is there in the financial district Brickell.

Rosa, tell us about what you're seeing right now. What are the conditions where you are?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, this area is really getting ponded (ph) not just by surge but (ph) (INAUDIBLE) as you know and a lot of people know when it rains in Miami, it usually ponds because the water has to drain out.

Take a look behind me. You'll see that this area is already ponding heavily. Unfortunately, you can also see a few people also trying to walk through this water.

It's not recommended, of course. But for people who are familiar, this is the area where the grocery store Publix is.

Now we've been trying to get the best position out here, Jake, to show you both the ponding and the surge. It's a little difficult just because there's a lot of trees down. There's a lot of debris.

You can also see lots of water on this end. A lot of the skyline from Miami you can see also here. A lot of these residential buildings.

But this is a huge problem, of course for Miami because these roads are ponding. They are receiving a lot of surge from the ocean. I'm about three to four blocks from the ocean, and you can see that ponding is occurring, surge is coming through. And, you know -- I mean, the 16 counties in south Florida have a system of about 2,100 canals, 2,000 berms and levees that protect this city.

Those structures have to work to drain all this water. (INAUDIBLE), Jake, Irma testing the structures here in Miami and also testing the decisions made by people both by public officials and people who decided not to evacuate when an evacuation order was issued. Jake.

TAPPER: Rosa Flores, we're also seeing these images from our affiliate WSVN that show a street in downtown Miami basically having turned into a river. Do you know how far away that is from where you are?

FLORES: That is probably a few streets down. We're a few streets down from Brickell Avenue. We're trying to creep closer and closer but -- I'm not sure if we're able to zoom in, but you'll see raging water behind me, in the street that's behind me.

And again, just to give people a sense of where I'm at, I'm in Brickell and right next to the Publix grocery store. Now this is both the combination of high winds, the winds pulling the water, ponding and storm surge. That's the big issue.

That all of these three things converge, and it creates a huge problem. The other thing, too, is that the drainage system has to work in order for this water to come down.

There's a lot of debris. There are trees down. A lot of the time, that blocks drains.

So even if those drains were working right now, they're being stopped because of it. Now, the South Florida Management District, did decrease the levels of the canals, Jake, that we through the 16 south Florida counties that drain out into the ocean, they lowered those water levels to make sure that there was capacity for those canal to take a lot of the water that you see around me and flush it into the ocean. But when you combine surge, these high winds and debris that are blocking those drains, it's very difficult for the system to do what it's designed to do. Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Rosa Flores, stay safe. She's in the Brickell neighborhood of Miami, the financial district.

Let me got to Chad Myers who's in the CNN's Severe Weather Center. Chad, was flooding this bad expected?

MYERS: Yes, it was. No question about it, Jake.

[12:30:00]

Earlier the numbers were somewhere between six and 10 for Miami but that's when Miami was getting a direct hit from the eye or at least a closer hit. And that was about, I would say, 40 to 50 miles farther to the east compared to making landfall over there by Cape Coral and on up toward Punta Gorda, as we start to flood the other side.

But what's going on right now is the wind is pushing the water into Biscayne Bay and eventually over what is a seawall, but it's very short, and into downtown Miami. That's exactly what we thought when the winds were going to blow this way for such a very long time.

Now we have about a three foot surge in Miami, but the wind also is pushing this way on the other side. We have a four foot inverse surge in Naples. The water is down four foot from mean sea level and that will rush back in as the eye goes by. And then the water will rush out of Miami.

But for now, we have at least five or six more hours of Miami, with this water rushing on shore, pushing in the same direction more rain trying to drain out that's never going to drain because the wind is blowing from this direction so hard.

And then eventually, we get up toward Tampa, Sarasota, Anna Maria Island.

This is where we're going to see the significant wind damage, too, wind 125. What we're showing you on TV is like 70, 75. And I know Berman was kind of in the wind, but I know he was sheltered because I've stood in that same exact spot. So I know there's kind of a little building there to protect him a little bit, but still, all of that debris that was blowing around near Berman, we had to get him out of there. So at least now he's in a safe place.

Up to the north, we're moving in now to 8:00 tonight, significant wind in Melbourne, in the Atlantic Beach, too, and then Tampa, you're right in the middle of this thing. This is what I'm really worried about, so many millions of people somewhere in the ballpark of 110 to 120 mile per hour winds with wind pushing the water out of Tampa Bay.

Tampa Bay may eventually almost empty and the then the storm goes by and it fills back up rather quickly. A surge coming from the other direction after the water has already left.

Please don't go into any water if the water has left, don't go onto that land where water should be, because that water will be back and it will be back higher than it was when it left -- Jake.

TAPPER: Indeed. In fact, don't leave. Don't go outside.

MYERS: Don't go out.

TAPPER: Right.

MYERS: Right.

TAPPER: Chad Myers, thank you so much.

MYERS: Yes.

TAPPER: I want to go to Chris Cuomo right now, who's in Naples, one of the towns where this storm is headed -- Chris, describe, if you can for us, how conditions have changed just in the last few hours.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Snotty. The wind is picking up. The gusts are measured in excess of 70 miles an hour. The rain has been constant.

This is what the vets would call the snap, crackle and pop phase of the hurricane. You're starting to hear these eerie sounds as branches and part of the structures start to give away.

You hear the crackle of the transformers as they start to fail. And you're starting to hear the sounds of the trees falling around you. And it's a little eerie, because you have to figure out where these sounds are coming from, so you can assess the risk of where they'll fall.

And the real problem is, as you were just hearing from Chad, we're still on the measuring blows phase for the west coast. The water here has been sucked out, as well. Ed Lavandera took a drive down to the Gulf side, down a few streets this way. The water has receded significantly. and when it comes back and the energy and the momentum of the storm

surge, that's where this situation is going to get very serious here.

The other problem is duration. This storm moving as slowly as it is, that means it stays in each area that it hits longer. And that's my concern here, that all of these that are starting to sway and all these parts of these buildings that are getting hit hour after hour, what will happen when this wind almost doubles in terms of the gusts?

That's the concern from here -- Jake.

TAPPER: And, Chris, tell us how Naples has prepared for this storm.

Have residents taken the evacuation order seriously?

We were check in with Kyung Lah in Miami Beach just a few minutes ago and there were two -- let's be charitable and call them thrill seekers -- literally riding their bikes in Miami Beach.

And obviously, Miami Beach, hours ago, first responders announced that the winds were such that they were not going to be -- go out -- be -- they were not going to be able to go out to save anybody.

How are people in Naples...

CUOMO: Yes.

TAPPER: -- hearing the risks?

CUOMO: Nobody is going out. The first responders can't risk it. You know, they are the best of us, as you know. You do such a beautiful job focusing on their efforts in these situations, Jake.

They just can't risk it. The best of us has to -- have to be there for the rest of us. So you can't go out in these conditions, because you don't know when something is going to fall. Just over my shoulder, this huge tree just went down a little while ago. And they go down unannounced. Trees only go down slowly in movies and when lumberjacks are chopping them down. In these storms, they go down really quickly. So the first responders have to be careful.

The city manager was here. They have a good plan and they got lucky. This is a little bit of a snowbird place, Naples. And it's not as heavily populated right now. And people took early cues and got out of here.

So they believe they're significantly evacuated. And that's a good thing. But it's also low-lying and it is spongy. And there's a lot of it that can get really damaged. That's why Ed Lavandera went down to see what's going on with the water getting sucked out and what that predicts in terms of what we're going to see with storm surge when all of that water comes back, as Chad Myers has been instructing us -- Ed, can you hear us?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Chris, I can't hear you. We are driving along the western edge of Naples. This is an area that is under a mandatory evacuation. You can see the scene here. This is a -- we're about a block off of the water here. And, you know, we're -- we probably won't be able to do this for much longer here as this -- the conditions have continued to deteriorate.

But as we drive along this street here, you can see just even on the initial stages, in the early bands of this hurricane, as they start approach southwest Florida, you look out onto the streets, this is exactly how things are quickly falling apart here on this particular street that we are on.

You can see the trees that have already started coming down. There's one up ahead here on our right that we're going to have to manage our way to get around here.

And this is already starting to be Senate all through the city of Naples here.

So this is a situation -- we won't be out here much larger, so this is a downed tree here. And we've seen several along this stretch. You can see another one right here off to your right, as well.

So again, this is just the initial bands of this hurricane, as it is several hours away from making landfall here in southwest Florida. And this gives you a pretty good sense of just how quickly things are going to deteriorate and how dangerous the situation outdoors will be even here in the probably next seven to eight hours -- Chris.

TAPPER: All right, it's Jake Tapper picking it up from here.

Ed Lavandera, please get some place safe.

Chris Cuomo, we thank you, as well.

We're going to squeeze in a quick break. When we come back, we're watching the flooding in Miami. We're watching the outer bands of Hurricane Irma as it begins to hit the west coast of Florida.

Stay with us.

We'll be right back.

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TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN's breaking news coverage of Hurricane Irma. The extremely dangerous core of the storm is headed for the southwest Florida coast. It made landfall through the Florida Keys a little over three hours ago.

It's a category four storm. It has 130 mile per hour sustained winds and it's now expected to track up Florida's west coast.

Among the cities now facing the greatest danger, Tampa, Florida.

And that's where we find CNN anchor, Anderson Cooper -- Anderson, the outer -- we've seen the outer bands of this hurricane hit Miami. Chris Cuomo is in Naples. He's starting to feel some of that, as well.

What about where you are in Tampa?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, you know, people have been watching the coverage here in Tampa, seen those images on Brickell, for instance, in Miami, with that water, just incredible pictures of that water rushing down the street.

That is a hint of what is to come here in Tampa. This is a city that has grown up so fast over the years, a lot of buildings are very close to the water.

And they have not experienced a storm of this magnitude, a cat three storm, which is what it's expected to be when it hits Tampa, since 1921. It severely damaged the city back then. It obviously was a -- not a very developed city. There weren't a lot of people living here. There was only one fatality.

But, you know, we heard Chad Myers earlier talking about the water in Tampa Bay being sucked out. This is the Hillsborough River. And I just wanted to show, this water is moving out toward Tampa Bay. And as we have been here over the last couple of hours, we've been watching the water actually go down. You can see on the other side of the river, you can kind of see a sandy embankment. We couldn't see that when we first came out here a couple of hours ago.

And as Chad pointed out, importantly, all that water that's going out, that is going to rush back in along with that storm surge. It was expected to be five to eight feet yesterday. We're still waiting. We have no idea how much that's going to be. And with the winds, waves on top of that, so how much water is going to be is a huge question. Even in the best of times in Tampa, they've been at -- you know, in a heavy rainfall, they've been having problems with flooding and getting rid of that water. The same in St. Petersburg and the surrounding areas.

There's 700 miles of coastline around Tampa Bay. It gives you a sense of so many houses built along those 700 miles of coastline. With all that water. The damage could be extreme.

I want to go to the mayor, Bob Buckhorn.

Mayor, you have been raising red flags about this. I saw a quote from you, I think it was last year. You were standing on the steps at city hall and you said if a category three storm directly hit Tampa, that area downtown would be under 15 feet of water.

How concerned are you about the flooding potential in Tampa?

MAYOR BOB BUCKHORN (D), TAMPA, FLORIDA: Anderson, I'm hugely concerned. I mean that is our worst nightmare. We are about to get our own version of what hell looks like over the next 24 hours.

Between the winds and the rain and the destruction and the power outage, what we really fear more than anything is that storm surge.

That area where you are standing, Anderson, will be underwater. My office, in all likelihood, if that storm is a direct hit, will be partially flooded. My house on Davis Island, which is right across the river from there probably will be damaged, as well.

This is a serious storm. And for those folks that are watching that have not moved to higher ground, they need to get to higher ground quickly.

COOPER: Mayor, I just want to bring in Chad Myers, as well, because I know he has a question for you -- Chad.

MYERS: Mr. Mayor, we are watching Zone A, Zone B, Pinellas, Hillsborough, now that the storm should travel right over Tampa Bay, are there any changes in the evacuation zones from what we knew 24 hours ago?

BUCKHORN: No, there's not, Chad. It is still a Zone A evacuation. The issue in Zone A will be the amount of the surge and the height of the surge. Unfortunately, this will take place at a time when the high tide is at its highest, which will be tomorrow morning.

So all of those houses along Bayshore Boulevard, Davis Island, Harbor Island, downtown Tampa, will be affected by the high tide, as well.

TAPPER: Mayor Buckhorn, Jake Tapper here.

So we've heard different things...

COOPER: (INAUDIBLE).

TAPPER: I'm sorry, Anderson.

We've heard different things about what -- the kind of threat that Tampa was under, the latest information, obviously, that Tampa might not get a direct hit, but it might actually be worse, because the storm surge will be that much worse for Tampa.

What is the latest information, as far as you understand it, about what Tampa is facing?

And what is your message to any citizens in Tampa or the surrounding area right now?

BUCKHORN: Well, Jake, what we can -- are concerned about is whether the storm continues to move to the west or not. If we remain on the good side of the storm, the back side of the storm, the surge will be less.

If the storm moves further to the west and we are on the bad side of the storm, that's going to be a real problem.

So my message is really very simple. If you haven't taken the appropriate steps to get to a Level B, C, D or E, you only have maybe two hours to do it.

If it starts blowing consistently 40 miles an hour or more, I cannot send Tampa police officers or Tampa fire rescue to come and get you. You are on your own.

We will come for you afterwards, but I can't put those men and women at risk. Do the right thing. Get out while you can. If you don't hunker down, find space in your house and just let's ride this thing out. We're going to get through this together.

TAPPER: All right, Mayor Bob Buckhorn of Tampa, which is in the eye, in the path of the eye of the hurricane, thank you so much.

Stay in touch.

We're going to squeeze in another quick break.

Our thanks to Anderson, as well.

We'll be right back with more coverage of Hurricane Irene.

Thanks for being with us.

Irma -- Hurricane Irma.

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TAPPER: We're back with breaking news in our coverage of devastating Hurricane Irma, as it begins to plow through Florida. Strong, dangerous winds continue to increase over all of southern Florida. The streets of downtown Miami are now flooding.

Brian Todd is enduring the wind of one of the outer bands of the hurricane.

He's in West Palm Beach on the east coast of Florida -- Brian, what are you going through there?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, we're inside the window now of the most intense hurricane force activity that we're probably going to get for the next several hours.

We are dealing also with tornadic activity. We're told a pop-up tornadoes are going to be hitting us for most -- much of the day. And it feels like we're getting some of that now.

When we look behind me, look at the wind here. Look at the intensity when that palm tree there looks like it could come down. These palm fronds that are flying from these trees have -- along with the coconuts, have become projectiles. We've had to make our way around some of those.

And if you see over here, we're going to walk a little bit to my left, to your right. These street signs here are really wobbling. They could become uprooted any moment.

Now we're getting pelted with a really heavy rain squall.

These stanchions that are supporting the traffic lights are wobbling.

I just talked to the mayor, Jeri Muoio, the mayor of West Palm Beach. She is fearful that this street, Flagler Street, along the Intracoastal Waterway, is going to get flooded. We see some water on the street now. So we're just now getting to the beginning of the wind activity and the storm surge on the Intracoastal Waterway, which is just over here. I'm going to walk toward it a little bit, if we can stay standing.

We're really getting nailed here with some intense wind and rain.

Also, Jake, I just talked to a fire official, on of the top fire chiefs of West Palm Beach. He said that they have -- I asked him about the construction cranes that are right near here. We might be able to get a glimpse of one over my left shoulder. There's one right up there.

People here have been very concerned about that, especially since we reported that crane cracking in Miami.

The fire chief told -- tells us that they have just done a survey of these cranes. They're OK for now. They're monitoring them closely. But there are apartment buildings right next to these cranes, Jake, some of whom -- some people in there -- these apartments have evacuated. Others have not.

So we're going to be looking at those cranes pretty closely.

TAPPER: All right, Brian Todd.

And let me bring in meteorologist Bob Ryan, past president of The American Meteorological Society.

What goes through your mind when you're watching this hurricane, Hurricane Irma?

You've covered dozens of hurricanes.

Is this one more severe, more frightening, than previous?

BOB RYAN, METEOROLOGIST: I think with the population growth that we've seen in Florida and along the coasts, and also the number of people who have never experienced something like that, that's the danger. Forecastable. And as we heard all of the authorities taking all the proper steps for preparation. But you can't prepare for something that's once in your lifetime.

Folks that have gone through this or are going through this will probably never take a second chance at this.

TAPPER: And what is it about Irma that makes it a once in a lifetime storm?

Obviously...

RYAN: The size.

TAPPER: -- the -- just the magnitude of it?

RYAN: I think when Senator McCain said -- was here, he said it's the size of Arizona. So you had hurricanes like Andrew, which was a ferocious storm, but smaller.

This is a monster, which is actually continuing to draw in moisture from Cuba and from the Gulf of Mexico. That's why the east side that Chad talked about, the east side is so dangerous. And that's why Miami is getting it so bad.

But the eyewall, the heart of that storm is still yet to go into Marco Island and on the west coast.

So it's going to be a long day, and a long night.

TAPPER: Yes. As devastating as this is, this is just the beginning.

And Bob, let me show you, this is pictures from WSBN (ph) -- if we could put those back up on the left side of the screen -- of downtown Miami flooding, those streets that look like a river. I mean this is just unbelievable. This is in downtown Miami.

RYAN: And it's 100 miles -- it was 100 miles away from the -- but those east to southeasterly winds, as Chad -- just continue to pile it up. And on the other side, the west side, if the core goes just to the west of Tampa, once those winds shift around, it could be like a -- almost a tidal wave of water coming in later on tonight. And, unfortunately, 2:00, 3:00, 4:00, 5:00 at night -- in the morning when it's dark.

Any attempts at rescue will be just terrible, just terrible.

TAPPER: It's a devastating storm and we're just beginning to see the start of it, as it starts barreling through Florida, even though it is going on the west side of Florida because of the outer bands of this enormous hurricane, it is also affecting the east.

Bob Ryan, thank you so much.

Our breaking news coverage of Hurricane Irma continues as the storm roars through Florida.

Stay with us.

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