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Record Storm Surge Underway in Jacksonville, Florida; Residents Assessing Hurricane Damage in Bradenton, Florida; Ft. Myers Resident Rode Out the Storm; Officials Still Warning of Life Threatening Storm Surges; Mother And Child Pulled from Flooded Home in Dramatic Rescue. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired September 11, 2017 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is a flash flood emergency for Jacksonville. We have never seen levels like this in downtown Jacksonville as long as they've been keeping records, since the 1800s. So this is how bad it was. Worse than 1964, the old record, Hurricane Dora. The winds have come onshore all night long, onshore, onshore, onshore. What she just felt was a 54-mile-per-hour gust. But now the winds have shifted and they are coming up from the south, pushing the St. Johns River out of the estuaries into Jacksonville. And the water can't get out yet, so that's why the water is rising so fast where she is.

Need to be careful. It's not going over the walkway, not going into the hotel, but certainly flash flood emergency. This is as high as that water has ever been.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: And, Chad, as you said, the water can't get past Jacksonville? It has to go into Jacksonville.

MYERS: That's right. Can't go out because the wind is still kind of pushing it in there through the estuary. There's only a small little river out through the Jacksonville and the Saint John's and it's not big enough to let the water out for sure.

BOLDUAN: All right.

Kaylee, you heard it from Chad. You're feeling major gusts right now and the water is still expected to be rising for a little while now. What else are you seeing there, Kaylee? Anything else?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, at least the group of folks who were gathered right here, they have headed inside. Just as I've been talking to you, the winds, just like Chad was talking about, have really picked up.

I'm trying to get a look a little bit farther down this Hogan Street that we're on, where, I mean, the St. Johns River is just flowing down Hogan Street here.

We have spectators in front of me.

Hey, guys. Am I on SnapChat? What's happening over here?


HARTUNG: Why do you think it's a good idea to check out the scene?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Same reason you do.

HARTUNG: I'm a couple blocks away.


HARTUNG: How is your home?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, it's fine. I never lost power.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The power company is not that far that way so I think we're on some sort of reinforced grid.

HARTUNG: We've heard more than 260,000 people in this area are without power. If you still got it, you're one of the lucky ones.

Let's try to get some - get some cover -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Kaylee, thank you very much. Really appreciate it. Stay safe. We'll be getting back to you throughout the hour.

Chad, give us a quick update of where this is headed so folks know where we're going.

MYERS: All the water in the Saint John's is now moving back or trying to move back out. Then you see how skinny the St. Johns River is, all the way out here to, this would be Jacksonville Beach, Bernardino Beach (ph) out here. The Concord up there, every spring break that my son and I go to. The water is funneling in here into downtown Jacksonville and that's where the significant flooding is happening, right there at that choke point where the water just can't get out into the ocean fast enough.

BOLDUAN: That's in Florida. Savannah is feeling the effects. Charleston, South Carolina feeling the effects. Atlanta set to feel some effects as well.

Chad sticking with it. We'll get back to this, of course, continue on this as this storm slowly marches forward, this monster called Irma.

Coming up for us, thousands in Florida looking to get out, but Miami International Airport still completely shut down today after taking on some serious water damage. Officials say they don't know yet when they will be able to reopen. Huge questions as Irma marches on. We'll have details on that ahead.


[11:35:37] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: John Berman, in Miami, on Brickell Avenue, which yesterday was a river, today more like a dirt road. I cannot tell you the stories we've been hearing from people as they

walk by here. One person told me he was 40 stories up in one of these buildings yesterday riding out the storm and saw glass flying out of another building. I saw a person walk home who had to evacuate because the water got into the ground level of his building. He had a clean shirt. He went home to get a clean shirt because the place he's staying is so cold he needed long sleeves.

Mostly people here grateful it is all over. And they're trying to get a sense of how long it will take to get back up on their feet. Right now, enjoying the sun here in Miami today. A welcomed sight after all these days.

Let's go over to the other coast right now. Diane Gallagher is in Bradenton, Florida.

Diane, today is about assessing the damage, finding out what was done and what is needed.

DIANE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. You know, we have to do the caveat here that everybody here on the west coast instantly started preparing for the worst. So seeing any of the damage whatsoever, maybe a little less than they were expecting.

I was talking to Gary here, who has yet to actually be in your own home to see it, but your neighbors' houses are just destroyed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they are. The -- I just went into this house and the inside is fine. It's just the porch that was added to the mobile home that's torn up on this one. I haven't seen the others. But there is a lot of damage.

GALLAGHER: Were you expecting to come home and see these homes like this or --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was actually expecting to come home and see nothing. I thought it would all be torn up. So, I guess they always say -- we bit a bullet, yes.

GALLAGHER: Thank you so much, Gary. I will let you look at your own home if you want to so you can check it out there. Good luck and I hope everything is all right.

So I want to see -- let's show you the rest of this place here. Really across the entire area in Bradenton, John, we've seen various types, mostly trees down, but you can see roofs and carports, a lot of this siding has been ripped off here. The winds are starting to kick up again. I can feel and hear it banging around here. Gary said to me that he actually was afraid -- see I'm losing my hat at this point. But he was actually afraid that this stuff may not be over. We may see more of it ripped.

You come to things like this. We knocked on this door at this home to see if anyone was here but there is not much left. There's broken glass. This used to be a sun porch. What's interesting is that some of the furniture has yet to move, and yet this entire house has been ripped off the frame. It looks almost like a can opener came and opened up this house here. The car is still there. We knocked on doors to see if anyone was home. This is a senior community. This is a 55 and older community. The hope is that, again, nobody was home. Gary said he left.

Many people evacuated because they are surrounded by water right across -- I can see here -- there is a bay that is coming in. White caps on it. They were nervous. To come in here and see something like this, even if you were expecting to come home to nothing is a bit astounding, especially when most people here are coming home and not seeing much damage whatsoever.

So, John, we're still out here looking. The fire department has been out. We've seen, you know, trees blocking roadways with live wires. And power is out in almost half of Manatee County. Almost five million people do not have power in Florida.

But it is starting to hit that, while they did dodge, as Gary said, a bullet here, it seems there is still a lot of damage. The wind is still picking up. We will probably see some more out here in this particular neighborhood.

[11:41:03] BERMAN: All right. Diane Gallagher, in Bradenton, Florida.

Right now, people returning home thrilled to see that maybe the damage wasn't as bad as they feared.

I want to go to Ft. Myers right now. Joining us on the phone is Will Hutt, who chose to ride out the storm in that city where there were a lot of evacuations, mandatory evacuations, in some zones.

Will, let's start with the now and work backwards. Give me a sense of how you are right now and what you see outside your window? How much damage is there?

WILL HUTT, FT. MYERS RESIDENT (via telephone): Well, for us we got lucky. We just lost some shingles and some screens from our back porch, as well as the hurricane shutters blew off on some of the windows. The water has drained that was out in the street, but mostly what I see when I look down the street is a lot of large trees and a lot of debris from the landscaping, some trees were just pulled out from the root and they're just laying some on top of cars, some in the street. But overall, our neighborhood really did well, compared to some of the others that I drove around to that have a lot more flooding than we did.

BERMAN: Look, the trees can be moved, the shingles can be replaced, you cannot be replaced. So we're thrilled that you made it through it.

Describe what it was like during those hours that the storm was hitting. And the hurricane shutters, the hurricane shutters are there to protect the windows from blowing out or flying through, but when the hurricane shutters flew off what was that like? HUTT: I should say, first, that we didn't -- we weren't being

defiant. We're not leaving, we're not evacuating. That wasn't our intention. Originally, it was so big and no one really knew where it was heading. Originally, he was heading to the east coast, Miami, Fort Lauderdale. Then it shifted to the center of the state, which a lot of people started heading up north, which didn't make sense because it kept going northwest, then where are you going to? That's when we ultimately decided to stay. Plus, we have two really big dogs. I want to put that out there. We weren't die-hard, we're-not- leaving kind of thing. We had to make the best decision. And our house has gone through a different hurricane before and it really held up well.

As far as the shutters went, we did hear some loud noises and everything, but didn't realize that was on the back of the house that some of them have actually literally blew off. Not really sure how that happened because they're in the pool right now. But, yes, at one point, the winds got really, really bad. It was very loud. You hear that whistle that you hear people talk about during our types of storms. And it was just pretty incredible to see, you know, what was going on outside. We kept looking out back because we have a lake -- we're not actually on the river, but the river is a few blocks back. Our lake is -- we kept watching it to see if it would, you know, come up higher because they kept saying storm surge, and nothing was happening. Maybe a little bit, a few inches higher. But I happened to look out the front window because we had our cars blocking the front windows kind of, you know, for more wind protection and I happened to look out the window and the street was covered in water up to our garage. And at that point, we made the decision that we needed to go. We did have a plan B and that was to go over to our friend's house, who lives a block and a half over, and she has a two story that was just built last year and really built to hold up to all kinds of storms.

[11:44:23] BERMAN: Well, we are glad you have friends sticking together. It's the most important thing you can do if you decide to stick around.

Will Hutt, great to have you with us. Congratulations on making it through. And good luck in the days ahead because this is going to take patience for everybody. Will Hutt.

All right, Florida waking up today, getting out. You can see people on the streets just learning now the destruction, what was left behind by Hurricane Irma. And now Tropical Storm Irma is not done yet, moving up the coast.

CNN's special live coverage continues right after this.


BOLDUAN: Some in Florida describe being in the middle of Hurricane Irma saying it sounded like war. It sounded like explosives. That is often from the brutal winds ripping through, of course. But it's not just the wind. It's the life-threatening storm surge that federal, state and local officials are still warning about this morning. We were just showing you some live pictures of Charleston, South

Carolina, where this brutal storm is headed now. Now Tropical Storm Irma headed towards Charleston, South Carolina, and points north. They're just now starting to feel the first effects of Irma.

My next guest is an expert on one of the big problems in with this storm, storm surge. Jamie Rhome, is a storm surge specialist with the National Hurricane Center. And he's joining me right now.

Jamie, I really appreciate you coming in and jumping on.

There are flash flood emergencies in Jacksonville with the St. Johns River. We were talking to Kaylee about this. What does it mean for storm surge?

[11:50:10] JAMIE RHOME, STORM SURGE SPECIALIST, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER (via telephone): A very quick and immediate rise in water levels that can be life-threatening for those in those areas. You need to heed all local authorities and their directions in terms of protecting your life.

BOLDUAN: And what does it mean to break records? We expected to see records being broken in Jacksonville. Chad Myers says the storm surge in Jacksonville is breaking all sorts of records. The water is surging in the St. Johns River, the highest since 1846. What does it mean to break a record like that?

RHOME: Just like meteorological records that you keep over time, high temperatures and low temperatures and record highs and record lows, we keep accounts of water levels, or how high water levels are measured within a given area. What that means is this particular storm is going higher than past flood events.

BOLDUAN: In terms of storm surge, this is the area where you are an expert on, where you are concerned about storm surge next. We're seeing some effects in Charleston, South Carolina. Winds are whipping there. Should Savannah be worried? Where are you watching?

RHOME: Basically, from points from Jacksonville northward through central and South Carolina. The coastal regions including Charleston, the worst is yet to be felt. Water levels are already starting to rise in Georgia and South Carolina. They'll probably continue to rise through this afternoon and evening. That's the next area working its way up the coast.

BOLDUAN: Of course, dangerous winds, Jamie, is something that folks easily understand, right? Can you explain one more time what storm surges and why it can be so dangerous.

RHOME: Basically, what happens is you have a big storm, either a hurricane or a winter storm and you have strong winds and the winds press across the ocean and push it towards the land. As the water hits the land, it has nowhere to go but up and over the land and inundate or wet normally dry areas.

BOLDUAN: Jamie Rhome, an expert on this. Watching this with us, National Hurricane Center.

Jamie, we appreciate you jumping on our special coverage of Irma, the destruction that she's left in her path and where she is headed now as a tropical storm.

Our special coverage continues ahead.


[11:55:52] BERMAN: John Berman, back in Miami. I'm standing in mandatory evacuation zone due to enormous storm surge. People coming back home right now to check out what they can. Another mandatory evacuation zone was Miami Beach and North Miami Beach.

Joining me now is Major Richard Rand, of the North Miami Beach Police Department.

Major, first, you were a voice of incredible calm yesterday in the midst of this storm, getting pounded hour after hour. Thank you for that.

I learned it wasn't just a calm voice. You have a spine of steel. Your department did a rescue in the middle of the storm for a woman and a child in dire need. Explain what happened.

MAJ. RICHARD RAND, NORTH MIAMI BEACH POLICE DEPARTMENT: Sure. We got a call yesterday from a concerned neighbor about floodwaters coming into a home. Floodwaters were about three feet high and rising quickly. At that time, the winds were high and leaves were blowing and branches were coming off the trees. Power lines were falling down. I couldn't get my emergency squad out there in the police car and rescue couldn't respond. Right behind me is the emergency vehicle MRAP. I immediately deploy the MRAP with a medic responded to the area and they were able to get it to the area. Reached the front door and they got the 4-year-old infant and the mother and take them to safe shelter.

BERMAN: It's incredible you were able to do that. I'm thrilled for the woman and her child that are OK, but this is why there are mandatory evacuations. There are dangers and perils. And had you not had the equipment you had, you may not have been able to get to her.

Give me a sense of the need right now in North Miami Beach.

RAND: I can tell you, John, that reality set in. Personally, i have been affected. For me, I got a phone call that there is a large oak tree down. I probably lost my house from what my neighbors have been telling me. I haven't been home in four days. So reality is setting in for first responders. I'm here for the citizens of North Miami Beach. And my priority is to make sure the people I serve are safe, putting my needs secondary. We have boots on the ground and are doing a survey of the area. And we have many, many power lines down. It's still very dangerous. This is a lot of water on the ground. God forbid people go outside and go in the water and get electrocuted, end of story. BERMAN: Major Richard Rand, North Miami Beach Police Department. It

took my breath away what you just said. You lost your house in the midst of the storm while you were sending people out to save others, and you can't go home to see because you need to do your job.

Thank you so much for being with us. Thank you for what you do. I can promise you, you will get an outpouring of support over the coming days as you work through your own personal recovery as well.

Thank you, Major.

Kate, we are going to go back to you in New York.

I was on with him yesterday in the 70-mile-an-hour winds and he was just as calm as he was right there. An amazing first responder, I'm sure. Not uncommon.

BOLDUAN: You took the words out of my mouth. It took my breath away when, as kind of an aside, he added that he thinks he may have lost his home but he has no way of knowing yet because he can't go home because he is serving his community. It's truly amazing. And it speaks to just what our first responders are, the best and the brightest out there helping all of these communities in a time of need.

Thank you to Major Rand, of course.

And thank you, John, so much for being with us and being there for us throughout the hour, and all of your coverage throughout the weekend, bringing the stories and showing folks what was happening there in Miami. I appreciate it.

Folks are just now, as John is laying out for us, getting a first look at what damage Irma brought in parts of Florida. Points north are still feeling the effects as we speak.

Our special coverage of Irma continues now with "INSIDE POLITICS" and John King.